Thursday, June 05, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Twenty-Two - Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five


We were in the middle of the decade in 1985 and things were going to change, but not quite in the way I'd imagined. It was an important year for me personally. I graduated from Beloit College in May and spent most of the summer trying to figure out what to do. As it turned out, I ended up staying in Beloit for two more years, joining the staff in the public relations office as sports information director. And although I didn't realize it at the time, the most important event of the year happened at the end, when I met a young sophomore from Minneapolis. She would become pretty important in my life later on. But that's not why you're here.


Musically, 1985 was a bit of a comedown. 1983 had been the year that Michael Jackson's late 1992 release Thriller detonated and became the soundtrack for the decade. 1984 saw the release of two landmark albums, Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. and Prince's Purple Rain. Nothing that noteworthy happened in 1985. The number 1 single of the year was the odious "We Are The World," the self-congratulatory, lowest common denominator record from "USA for Africa" that may have offered relief to the famine in Ethiopia, but was one of the worst songs of the decade in my opinion. So we'll dispense with that and look at some other things instead.


Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. was a huge seller, of course, and it spawned hit singles well beyond its initial release. One of the last singles was a hit in 1985 and it's the song I like best from the album. As I get older, the wisdom and good humor of the song is more evident, as time slips away and leaves you with nothing, mister, but boring stories of:




Back in 1980, Steely Dan tried, with evident futility, to explain why Aretha Franklin mattered to a bored ingenue in "Hey Nineteen." By the time the ingenue turned 24, she found out, as the Queen of Soul made a huge comeback with a great summertime hit. And any time you can get Clarence Clemons into a contest twice, you've got something. Drop the pedal, let's go on the:




Meanwhile in England, Mark Knopfler had been playing his guitar tastefully with Dire Straits, earning a decent living but not exactly superstardom, watching in puzzlement as Duran Duran and other similarly situated Europop bands stormed the charts with the aid of catchy music videos played on MTV - hard as it is to believe, they used to play videos on MTV. Mark wanted some of that. And he got some. With a little assist from Sting, he played the guitar on the MTV and got some:





Finally, 1985 was perhaps the darkest year in NFL history. It was the season that Team Satan, the true Focus of Evil in the Modern World, won the Super Bowl. It was those nasty ursine wretches from Chicago, da Bears. And to top off the perfidy of the season, they actually put out their own bragging music video during the season. But give them this - they backed it up. And in doing so, they created one of the strangest and most retrospectively amusing cultural artifacts of the decade. Here they are, in all their disgusting glory - the punky QB, Samurai Mike, Speedy Willie and the rest of the rogue's gallery doing the:




Polls are open. And know that any votes for the Super Bowl Shuffle will be viewed with great suspicion in these quarters.

4 comments:

Dan S. said...

Hmmm... I'm not a huge fan of "The Boss," but from this list, I gotta say "Glory Days" is my fave.

Gino said...

super bowl shuffle: for obvious reasons, though i hated the song.

Night Writer said...

I'm a big fan of Bruce (the music, if not the politics), but Dire Straits wins this song match-up for me. Classic guitar riff and a scathing commentary that went over the heads of many MTVers.

Watching this video also connected me with a video version of Brothers in Arms that I didn't know existed.

Mike said...

"Glory Days" gets my vote. This is probably the toughest vote yet, though, because "Money for Nothing" and "Freeway of Love" are great songs.

The Super Bowl Shuffle was wrong on so many levels it would take weeks to explain all the reasons.