Wednesday, August 28, 2013

5 Random Thoughts I Had About the '70s and '80s While Watching Videos on Radio Capital TV in Rome

1. There was so much more to Bob Marley than the "hits" I used to always hear on keg-party soundtracks at the University of Florida. Interestingly (but not so surprisingly, considering how many international greats have been overlooked in the U.S.), the closest Marley ever came to scoring his own hit in the States was "Roots, Rock, Reggae." It peaked at No. 51 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1976 (his only single to reach that chart) and, ironically enough, was the Bob Marley and the Wailers single directly before "Positive Vibration," the non-charting (anywhere in the English-speaking world) one that led me to the conclusion that began this post. (Marley fared much better on the U.S. Top 200 album chart, where Rastaman Vibration, the album that contained the above non-hits, peaked at a career-high No. 8.)

2. Guys were much more secure with their masculinity back then. After Sunday night's MTV VMAs one of my Facebook friends posted a comment wondering why today's male pop stars -- even the ones from smack dab in the middle of suburbia -- try so hard to sound hood. I assume it's their way of exerting their coolness and their masculinity, which apparently, wasn't a priority for male pop stars in the '70s and '80s. Beyond the make-up and overly coiffed hair, male videos from the period featured an abundance of tight one-piece outfits, high heels and curiously feminine poses.

3. Do white people in the U.K. have more soul than white people in the U.S.? I've been wondering this for a while now, having been tipped off by a succession of British-bred blue-eyed soul acts over the years. Several days of Radio Capital TV presented yet more evidence, as I was introduced to (and reminded of) an assortment of soulful white acts from the U.K. who sang the rhythm and blues like they were born to do it.

4. The greatness of Underworld didn't begin with "Born Slippy" in the mid-'90s. Did you know that Karl Hyde and Rick Smith, who directed the music for the opening ceremonies at last year's Summer Olympics, had a pre-Underworld band called Freur? The outfit had an almost-hit in the U.K. (No. 59) with a odd but fantastic single called "Doot Doot:" that sounds nothing like the trippy-frenetic dance music that would make them stars.

5. John Waite was totally underrated. I already knew this, having been a fan of his work with The Babys before I ever heard "Missing You," but it's nice to be reminded. How many other musicians can boast of having big pop hits in three different decades in three different configurations? Robert Plant, who scored with Led Zeppelin in the '70s, solo and with The Honeydrippers in the '80s, and with Alison Krauss in the '00s with their Album of the Year Grammy-winning Raising Sand, is the only one who comes immediately to mind, though I know there are a few others. (Fun fact: Waite's 2006 cover of his only solo No. 1 reached the country Top 40 in the form of a duet with Krauss.)

Before Waite hit No. 1 on his own with "Missing You" in 1984 and as the frontman for Bad English, which reached the top with "When I See You Smile" at the end of 1989 and No. 5 with "Price of Love" in 1990, he was the voice behind "Isn't It Time" and "Every Time I Think of You," a pair of great, enduring late-'70s No. 13 hits by The Babys.

Stop me if you think you've heard this one before because I'm about to retell an often-told (by me) story: Waite once sent me a handwritten thank-you note, complimenting me on "getting it," when I wrote a review of Tina Turner's 1996 cover of "Missing You" in Entertainment Weekly in which I criticized her for defiantly screeching the lyrics (read it here), completely missing the tortured, intimate denial that Waite had captured in the original. Apparently, he's as gracious as he is underrated. (Fun fact: Turner's comeback hit, "What's Love Got to Do with It," was the song that had knocked Waite's "Missing You" from its No. 1 perch 12 years earlier.)

Five Cool Songs/Videos I'd Never Heard/Seen Before I Heard/Saw Them on Radio Capital One

"Love Festival" Kool and the Gang

"Forever and Ever" Demis Roussos

"Dancing with the Moonlit Knight" Genesis

"Jump to the Beat" Stacy Lattisaw

"More Than I Can Bear" Matt Bianco (featuring a young Basia!)

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