Who Writes The Songs That Make Those Old Blokes Cry: 1980s Tearjerkers

It’s all radio presenter Nick Abbot’s fault. On a recent podcast, he mentioned finding himself with a tear in the eye when listening to David Gilmour’s second guitar solo on Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’ in his car.

But it’s a subject almost totally ignored in print outside scientific works: music’s effect on body and mind. If you love it, surely it’s supposed to create a molecular change.

The last few years may also have precipitated a more emotional relationship to music than usual, despite the current industry obsession with data and algorithms.

So, hide the onions and pass the sick bag: here are a few tracks from the 1980s that may have occasionally been known to put a lump in this correspondent’s throat, driven by nostalgia, musical excellence, loss of innocence and who knows what else.

19. Tina Turner: ‘Private Dancer’
She wants a husband and some kids but somehow the music tells you that the protagonist is never going to get out from under…

18. Johnny Gill: ‘Half Crazy’

17. Keith Jarrett: ‘Spirits 2’

16. The Kids From Fame: ‘Starmaker’

15. Peter Gabriel: ‘Lead A Normal Life’
Hard to think of a piece of music that better expresses loneliness, but there’s compassion too.

14. Christopher Cross: ‘Sailing’

13. Blondie: ‘Atomic’

12. The Pretenders: ‘Hymn To Her’

11. Art Pepper: ‘Our Song’
Gratuitous sax and violins. Recorded 18 months before his death, inspired by meeting his widow Laurie, Pepper seeks redemption for a largely selfish, itinerant life – does he find it? He tries bloody hard.

10. Jaco Pastorius: ‘John & Mary’

9. Pino Donaggio: ‘Blow Out (closing titles)’
The melody maestro’s beautiful theme from Brian De Plasma’s 1981 film starring John Travolta and the director’s then-wife Nancy Allen. A critic once said that her character’s death in the movie is the first one De Palma seems to care about – Donaggio’s music is the reason.

8. Madonna: ‘Oh Father’

7. David Bowie: ‘Absolute Beginners’
It’s the hope, not the despair. Maybe THIS time it’s all going to work out, ‘just like in the films’…

6. David Sanborn: ‘Imogene’

5. Dexter Gordon/Herbie Hancock: ‘Still Time’ 
The double meaning of Herbie’s title says it all – Dexter’s beautiful soprano playing is fragile yet also somehow ageless.

4. Prefab Sprout: ‘Moving The River’

3. Janet Jackson: ‘Livin’ In A World (They Didn’t Make)’
Just for the sheer beauty of Jam and Lewis’s composition. Janet’s words augment that.

2. Scritti Politti: ‘Oh Patti (Don’t Feel Sorry For Loverboy)’

1. The Police: ‘Driven To Tears’ (only joking – that’s enough tearjerkers… Ed.)

If you’ve got the stomach for it, chime in with your tearjerkers below.

Conspiracy Theories Of 1980s Music

Bob Carolgees and friend

‘Conspiracy theories’: you can’t move for ’em these days, and things aren’t much different here at movingtheriver.com.

The 1980s: a decade when uncredited ‘guest’ performances were many, producers demanded rip-offs of other musicians (a popular drummer joke* of the 1980s, with many variations: how many drummers does it take to change a lightbulb? Ten. One to change the bulb, nine to talk about how Steve Gadd would have done it…), hits came with writs and things were never quite what they seemed.

So it’s not surprising that conspiracy theories flourished during the 1980s. Here are some good ones (swearing alert). Bullsh*t or not? YOU decide. (Maybe none are as famous as the ‘Paul Is Dead’ saga, but wtf…):

8. Kirsty MacColl sings backup vocals on Dire Straits’ ‘Walk Of Life’
Uncredited of course, but these pre-chorus stacks, first heard at 1:19, sound very much like the much-missed vocalist.

7. Donna Summer performed all of Irene Cara’s vocals
Come on, they are interchangeable. Apologies to anyone in Cara’s family or Cara herself but she sounds freakily like Summer on ‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance (What A Feeling)’.

6. George Michael wrote ‘Round And Round’ for Jaki Graham
In exchange for what? The classic single is just so in George’s ballpark, of course helped by Derek Bramble’s sparkly state-of-1985 production (he gets the songwriting credit too).

5. Adrian Edmondson of ‘The Young Ones’/The Comic Strip/’Bottom’ fame made the spoof 1984 jazz/funk classic ‘F*cking C*unt/Awkward Bastard’
Rumours abound that it’s Ade, or a few members of The Damned. No one is quite sure and no one has ever owned up, but it’s still brilliant.

4. The Dukes Of Stratosphear’s ‘Brainiac’s Daughter’ is actually a Paul McCartney joint
No one has done ‘Happy Macca’ circa 1968 as well as the Dukes, AKA XTC. But was this ACTUALLY a lost Beatles track?

3. John Bonham stuck around long enough to drum on Survivor’s 1982 hit ‘Eye Of The Tiger’
It’s just sounds so much like the Led Zep sticksman, who died in 1980. It’s the feel, and the sound of his kick and snare drums.

2. Level 42’s Mark King played bass on David Bowie’s ‘Tumble And Twirl’
Actually this one is probably ‘true’. He doesn’t get a credit on the album liners but King himself mentioned (in this podcast) doing a few sessions at the Townhouse Studios in Shepherds Bush around spring 1984 with producer/engineer Hugh Padgham so it’s quite probable. In any case it’s certainly right in his ‘Lopsy Lu’/’Heathrow’ comfort zone, and brilliant slap playing.

1. Bob Carolgees played the famous sax melody on George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’(That’s enough ‘conspiracy theories’, Ed…)

*Here’s a bonus drummer joke, because I’ve just read and loved it: What does a drummer use for contraception? His/her personality.

The Movers And Shakers Of 1980s Music: Their Real Names Revealed

Captain Sensible, AKA…

During the punk era, musicians often chose stage names so that the dole office wouldn’t identify them from album covers or gigs when they came in to sign on.

One wonders how much of an issue that was for Gordon Sumner, Paul Hewson and David Evans, AKA Sting, Bono and The Edge, but you never know.

But as the 1980s wore on and the post-punk era became the hip-hop era, a whole new generation of rappers, DJs, producers and musicians felt the need to create pseudonyms.

But what did their mums call them? Here, for your dubious pleasure, are some of the most intriguing real names. It’s fair to assume that most probably don’t like being reminded of these, for various reasons. YOU go taunting Ice-T with his real name (Tracy Marrow). But, on the other hand, kudos to The Cure’s Robert Smith for NOT using a pseudonym…

Terminator X (Public Enemy DJ): Norman Rogers

Melle Mel (Furious Five rapper): Melvin Glover

Cheryl Baker (Bucks Fizz vocalist): Rita Crudgington

Grandmaster Flash (superstar DJ): Joseph Saddler

Kidd Creole (Furious Five rapper): Nathaniel Glover

KRS-One: Lawrence Parker

Siouxsie Sioux: Susan Ballion

Sebastian Bach (Skid Row singer): Sebastian Bierk

Marilyn (‘Calling Your Name’ star): Peter Robinson

Don Was (Was Not Was co-founder/superstar producer): Don Fagenson

Falco (‘Rock Me Amadeus’ one-hit wonder): Johann Holzel

Steve Severin (Siouxsie and the Banshees bassist): John Bailey

Budgie (Siouxsie drummer): Peter Clarke

Flavor Flav (Public Enemy rapper): William Drayton

LL Cool J: James Smith

Tone Loc: Anthony Smith

Bonnie Tyler: Gaynor Hopkins

Yngwie Malmsteen: Lars Lannerback

Young MC: Marvin Young

Ice Cube: O’Shea Jackson Sr.

Shakin’ Stevens: Michael Barratt

Donna Summer: LaDonna Gaines

Captain Sensible: Raymond Burns

Rat Scabies (Damned drummer): Christopher Millar

Vanilla Ice: Matthew Van Winkle

MC Hammer: Stanley Burrell

DJ Kool Herc (hip-hop pioneer): Clive Campbell

Duke Bootee (hip-hop pioneer): Edward Fletcher

Afrika Bambaataa: Lance Taylor

Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue bassist): Franklin Ferrana

Skip McDonald (On-U Records/Sugar Hill guitarist): Bernard Alexander

Billy Idol: William Broad

Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones bassist/solo artist): William Perks

Fish (Marillion singer): Derek Dick

Fee Waybill (The Tubes vocalist): John Waldo

Billy Ocean: Leslie Charles

Posdnuous (De La Soul rapper): Kelvin Mercer

Maseo (De La Soul rapper): Vincent Mason Jr.

Chris De Burgh: Christopher Davidson

Kool Moe Dee: Mohandas Dewese

Youth (Killing Joke bassist/superstar producer): Martin Glover

Geordie (Killing Joke guitarist): Kevin Walker

1980s Albums That Always Appear In Charity/Secondhand Shops

So it’s official: old music is hugely outselling new music. And vinyl is the most popular physical format again.

Go into a record shop and likely you’ll be stunned at the price of secondhand vinyl, not to mention new catalogue LPs that can cost up to 25 quid for a posh reissue.

All of which might amuse/surprise music fans of my vintage who kept hold of their record players through the years and spent the noughties digging around the vinyl discount stores, often picking up ‘esteemed’ albums for anything between 10p and a quid (the price of a postage stamp, for readers outside the UK).

So what were those 1980s vinyls that were/are ALWAYS in secondhand shops and, by extension, still ever-present in charity shops? And why were they always there?

Most smack of the impulse buy by people who get one album a year, or the ‘difficult’ follow-ups to a smash. Some are tainted by an almost ineffable naffness. Most were deemed surplus on vinyl once CD became the format of choice, and most are weirdly genre-less.

Stacked high/sold cheap, you’d think they’d be reissue-proof, never to be seen again. But not so fast: ‘deluxe’ editions of these are probably on their way to a shop/streaming service near you, or have already arrived…

The Beautiful South: Welcome To The Beautiful South

U2: Rattle And Hum

Del Amitri: Waking Hours

Bros: Push

Hothouse Flowers: People

Michael McDonald: Sweet Freedom (The Best Of Michael McDonald)

T’Pau: Bridge Of Spies

Foreigner: Agent Provocateur

Michael Bolton: Soul Provider

Meat Loaf: Dead Ringer

John Cougar Mellencamp: The Lonesome Jubilee

Enya: Watermark

Five Star: Silk And Steel

Arcadia: So Red The Rose

Sade: Diamond Life

Chris Rea: The Road To Hell

Phil Collins: No Jacket Required

Bryan Ferry: Boys And Girls

Genesis: Invisible Touch

George Michael: Faith

Tracy Chapman: Tracy Chapman

Fleetwood Mac: Tango In The Night

Wet Wet Wet: Popped In, Souled Out

Fairground Attraction: The First Of A Million Kisses

Paul Young: No Parlez

Tom Petty: Full Moon Fever

Michael Jackson: Bad

Tina Turner: Private Dancer

Lionel Richie: Can’t Slow Down

Alison Moyet: Alf

Patti Labelle: Winner In You

Howard Jones: Human’s Lib

Simply Red: A New Flame

Whitney Houston: Whitney

Paula Abdul: Forever Your Girl

Bon Jovi: Slippery When Wet

Madonna: True Blue

Tears For Fears: Songs From The Big Chair

1980s Podcasts Ya Know, 1980s Podcasts Ya Don’t

One of the legacies of the wretched last few years is that everyone and their little brother has started a podcast.

Of course there’s a lot of flim-flam but the good news for fans of 1980s music and movies is that many of the decade’s big names are getting involved. They are in bullish, talkative mood, still full of ideas and enthusiasm.

Elsewhere podcasters of all stripes are revisiting key (and not-so-key) works of the 1980s and beyond, offering fresh perspectives. Here’s a selection of podcasts that have held movingtheriver’s attention over the last few years.

Electronically Yours is helmed by Human League/Heaven 17 co-founder and producer/synth pioneer Martyn Ware. He opens his formidable address book to speak to some big names as well as influential but less well-known figures who helped shape 1980s music. Ware seems an amiable fellow and he extracts some intriguing revelations from his guests, sometimes even getting closure on issues that affected his career 40 years ago (see the Bob Last and Simon Draper interviews).

Though he occasionally sounds a bit like Gareth Keenan of ‘The Office’ during one of his Health & Safety seminars, Edward Russell’s podcast Inside the Groove takes an indepth, entertaining look at Madonna’s music and career. There are intriguing bits of studio gossip and great chances to hear exposed multi-tracks of the hits – ‘Borderline’ and ‘Open Your Heart’ are doozies.

Smersh Pod is a look at the Bond films and their connections, expanding out to discuss notoriously cruddy cult movies such as ‘Bullseye’ and ‘Death Wish II’. John Brain presents with vigour and chats with a lot of amusing guests mainly from the comedy world.

Breakfast With Vinnie is the unique podcast of drum hero Vinnie Colaiuta. He generally eschews celeb interviews (though John McLaughlin makes a lovely appearance) in favour of philosophical musings about music, society and culture.

Rockonteurs, co-helmed by Spandau man Gary Kemp and Floyd/Bryan Ferry bassist Guy Pratt, is a series of informal chats with friends and colleagues. Their repartee is sometimes a little grating but interviews with Level 42’s Mark King, Boy George, Trevor Horn and key Madonna/Ferry collaborator Patrick Leonard are particularly memorable.

Word in Your Ear is the brainchild of ‘Whistle Test’ presenters and founders of Q/The Word magazines Mark Ellen and David Hepworth. It won’t surprise anyone that it’s witty, entertaining, opinionated and always worth a listen.

Bass Culture UK is a valuable portrait of the movers and shakers of British reggae and soundsystem culture, featuring excellent interviews with key figures like Don Letts and Dennis Bovell.

For you jazzheads out there, Guitarwank, Jazz United and Jazz Bastard have been consistently entertaining.

But – drum roll – the movingtheriver.com Podcast of the Year is… 80sography. It’s mostly a series of extended interviews with key producers of the decade and a must for anyone who wants to know what went on in studios during the 1980s. It also serves as a good ‘making of’ many classic albums. The Stephen Hague, Langer/Winstanley, Hugh Padgham and Stephen Lipson interviews are all entertaining and comprehensive.

Any other cool related podcasts? Leave a comment below.

Misheard Lyrics Of The 1980s

Adolescence: a period of chaos and confusion. There’s little rhyme or reason to one’s heightened sensibilities, and it doesn’t help when pop songs have such bloody weird lyrics.

Initially, maybe it was a crap hi-fi/radio signal that sent you down the wrong track, or maybe some jackass got in your ear.

Either way, a song’s lyrics were often lost in translation, the meaning – such that it was – got skewed and from that moment on you couldn’t hear it without factoring in your messed-up version. And it didn’t matter if it was a tune you loved or hated.

Sad to report, to this day, when I hear these songs/lines, I get the lyrics ‘wrong’. And yes, it has to be said, you don’t have to be Dr Freud to see that sex was usually the driver. That’s adolescence for you…

Blondie: ‘Island Of Lost Souls’
Misheard line: ‘I’m f*ckin’ near/Can you help me put my truck in gear’
(Correct line: ‘Oh buccaneer/Can you help me put my truck in gear’)

Irene Cara: ‘Flashdance (What A Feeling)’
Misheard line #1: ‘Take your pants down/And make it happen’
(Correct line: ‘Take your passion/And make it happen’)

Misheard line #2: ‘I can have it off/Now I’m dancing for my life’
(Correct line: ‘I can have it all/Now I’m dancing for my life’)

UB40: ‘Food For Thought’
Misheard line: ‘I’m a prima donna’
(Correct line: ‘Ivory madonna’)

Bryan Adams: ‘Heaven’
Misheard line: ‘Love is all that I need/And I found it there in your shirt’
(Correct line: ‘Love is all that I need/And I found it there in your heart’)

Billy Joel: ‘An Innocent Man’
Misheard line: ‘Some people live with the fear of a touch/And the anger of having dinner poo’
(Correct line: ‘Some people live with the fear of a touch/And the anger of having been a fool’)

Lionel Richie: ‘All Night Long’
Misheard line: ‘Everybody’s seen everybody dance’
(Correct line: ‘Everybody sing/Everybody dance’)

Steely Dan: ‘Glamour Profession’
Misheard line: ‘When it’s all over/We’ll make some colds from my cough’
(Correct line: ‘When it’s all over/We’ll make some calls from my car’)

Boomtown Rats: ‘Banana Republic’
Misheard line: ‘Banana republic/Set to climb’ (To be honest, I didn’t have the faintest idea what Sir Bob was singing… Ed.)
(Correct line: ‘Banana republic/Septic isle’)

It Bites: ‘Calling All The Heroes’
Misheard line: ‘High on a mountain the men looked below/Cucumber pineapple something and Poe’
(Correct line: ‘High on a mountain the men looked below/Cooked up a plan that would outwit their foe’)

The Police: ‘So Lonely’
Misheard line: ‘Simone/Simone’ (There was an Italian bloke at school called Simone…)
(Correct line: ‘So lonely/So lonely’)

The Beatles: ‘The End’
Misheard line: ‘Matthew/Matthew’
(Correct line: ‘Love you/Love you’)
(That’s enough misheard lyrics, Ed…)

Check back here for updates; doubtless other examples will crawl out of my memory banks… And feel free to add your own (from any decade) in the comments section below.

12 Angry Men: The Midlife Crisis Collection (Part Two)

Yes, they’re back, those undesirable, middle-aged, ‘legendary’ white males, with more songs that you probably couldn’t release on a major label today, more’s the pity… Check out the first six mid-lifers out of the traps here.

Lou Reed: ‘The Gun’ (1981)

39 at the time of recording, Lou brings the white heat of a Scorsese or Tarantino movie right to your door, taking on the character of a gun-wielding psychopath – maybe not that much of a stretch… But this shocking, seemingly stream-of-consciousness piece expunges a lot of bile that seems to have built up in Lou over the 1970s, fuelled by alcoholism, drug addiction and…everything, really. Key moment: the terrifyingly blank ‘Watch your wife…’. Quite brilliant, if totally unacceptable these days.

John Martyn: ‘Never Say Never’ (1981)

If Grace And Danger generally portrayed Martyn’s more tender/wistful feelings about his marriage breakup, the following year’s Glorious Fool was decidedly more barbed. ‘Never Say Never’ is Exhibit A, with a 32-year-old John opening up with ‘Shut up! Close your mouth!’. Things get weirder/more intense from there, propelled by Phil Collins’ battering drums reverberating mightily off the Townhouse studio’s stone walls.

Neil Young: ‘Don’t Cry’ (1989)

Neil (43 at the time of recording) surveys the detritus of a relationship breakup from a scarily blanked-out perspective, though his real feelings about the matter are maybe revealed by some of his most extreme guitar tones on record. Exciting, life-affirming stuff, even if the lyric suggests otherwise.

Robert Fripp/Peter Hammill: ’Disengage’ (recorded 1978, released 1985)

Fripp, 32 at the time of recording, lets it all hang out with his pals Peter Hammill on vocals and a Mr P Collins on drums (yes, Philip again…), a seriously paranoid tale of a relationship schism from a certain ‘Mrs Marion’ with Hammill delivering a deranged, brilliant vocal over a mixed-meter groove and some exciting modal riffs. Funny, scary, and pretty warped.

Frank Zappa: ‘We’re Turning Again’ (1982)

42 at the time of recording, Uncle Frank skewers 1960s heroes Donovan, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Mama Cass, Janis Joplin, Keith Moon and The Byrds, and the piano motif may take the mickey out of Harry Nilsson’s ‘Everybody’s Talkin’’. Ike Willis even pops up with an impersonation of legendary newscaster Walter Cronkite. Apparently guitarist Steve Vai was so offended by ‘We’re Turning Again’ that he refused to play it live, though Frank later said he was just making fun of the whole sixties media circus. For FZ-haters, it probably contains everything they despise in one song, but for fans it’s a typically provocative mix of ‘happy’ music and uncompromising lyrics.

Randy Newman: ‘My Life Is Good’ (1983)

39 at the time of recording, this track came from 1983’s Trouble In Paradise, the thesis of which seemed to be that there was something very rotten inside The American Dream. The ‘beauty spots’ of LA and Miami were struggling, and toxic celebrity was the true currency of Reagan’s America. But, in this song, he’s completely complicit in the whole thing, totally part of the scene, and he hates himself for it. Luckily for us…