So, here we go, kicking off a new monthly blog, where, with your permission, we’ll check out what went on in our musical past, using the corresponding months of the various decades. Wanna join me? It’s painless and, hopefully, makes for fun reading.
While Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon” sat at the top of the British singles chart in October ‘83, and Neil Kinnock replaced Michael Foot as leader of the Labour Party, Lionel Richie released his second solo album “Can’t Slow Down”. Selling over twenty million copies, his biggest success ever, the album spawned five hit singles – “All Night Long (All Night)”, “Running With The Night”, “Stuck On You”, “Penny Lover” and, of course the UK chart topper “Hello”, where its accompanying promotional video raised eyebrows. Directed by Bob Giraldi, it featured the singer as an acting teacher who fell in love with a blind student, played by Laura Carrington. It appeared she also shared his feelings, when she sculptured a likeness of his head. However, the bust used in the video bore little resemblance to Lionel, which caused him to complain bitterly to Giraldi. By all accounts, the director’s response was – “But Lionel, she’s blind!” History tells that the offending bust was later destroyed at the hands of Mr Richie. A pity, because it was the perfect ebay money maker.
One of the major single releases this month in 1983 was a return teaming of Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson on “Say Say Say”. Their first liaison, “The Girl Is Mine”, written and co-produced by Jackson, was lifted as the first single from his sixth solo album “Thriller”, a year earlier. Although greeted by mixed reviews, the single went on to become an international multi-million seller – and, of course, you know what happened to “Thriller”! Anyway, back to the plot. “Say Say Say”, produced by The Beatles’ musical mentor, George Martin, was lifted from McCartney’s “Pipes Of Peace” album which also included a second duet, “The Man”, also earmarked for release but pulled at the last minute. Once again, critics were split in their opinions about the duet yet its sales spoke for themselves. The single soared to a UK number two position, the American top spot, and crashed the charts on a global basis. Boosted by a short video, produced again by Bob Giraldi (the man-of-the-day), it featured McCartney’s wife Linda, Jackson’s sister La Toya and Giraldi himself, through a plot featuring a pair of con artists ”Mac and Jack”, played by the two singers. George Martin recalled the recording sessions, saying “(Michael) does radiate an aura when he comes into the studio…He’s not a musician in the sense that Paul is…but he does know what he wants in music and he has very firm ideas.” On the other hand, Jackson wrote in his autobiography “Moonwalk” that working with the ex-Beatle had boosted his confidence and insisted they had worked as equals.
Before leaving Paul McCartney, another duet springs to mind here. A year earlier he hitched up with Stevie Wonder on “Ebony And Ivory”, another mega-million selling title. Written by McCartney, the lyrics were quite pointed, although in a simplistic form, dealing with racial harmony and integration: “ebony” (black), and “ivory” (white) keys on a piano.
The two artists recorded the song in Montserrat, the tiny volcanic island off the West Indies. The session took a day, with McCartney saying at the time, “I dearly wanted to work with someone like Stevie….The idea is that ebony and ivory live together on a piano keyboard so why can’t we as humans live together too.” While, Stevie commented, “…I’m in total agreement with what the lyric was saying and because of that I felt it would be right for Paul and me to do the song together.” And, once more, sales were boosted by one of the most expensive videos ever made at the time. Wonder’s contribution was filmed in America and superimposed on the final copy featuring McCartney in London, to show the two artists singing together. Oh lor, was that a secret? If so, the cat is now well any truly out of the bag!
With Culture Club, headed up by the colourfully flamboyant Boy George, sitting smugly at the top of the UK chart, others jostled against each other to replace them. UB40’s “Red Red Wine”, David Bowie’s “Modern Love” and “Tonight I Celebrate My Love” from Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack, were the main contenders. However, they were challenged by a melting pot of sounds from the rising Status Quo with “Ol’ Rag Blues”, Modern Romance’s “Walking In The Rain”, New Order’s “Blue Monday”, and pin-up David Essex’ “Tahiti (From Mutiny On The Bounty)”. And they themselves looked over their shoulders to see Black Lace; American hip-hop group, The Rocksteady Crew; Michael Lee Aday, better known as Meatloaf; Men Without Hats, a Canadian new wave/synthpop outfit, and the more local Duran Duran, rapidly gaining on them. No pressure then!
On the film front this month, Sean Connery starred as 007 in “Never Say Never Again”, his 7th and last in the role of the world famous British spy, Tom Cruise led the cast in the American sports drama “All The Right Moves”, while the horror thriller “The Dead Zone” left audiences screaming for their sanity, with the title lending its name for a future television series. There were others of course, but these seem to have grabbed the most headlines.
So, this is the sort of blog that’ll appear monthly from now on, and it’s with fingers crossed that it’ll become a part of your regular fun reading. Comments on a postcard please, if such things still exist!