Originally posted December 30, 2009:
I spent much of my time during the last week of 1982 riding on buses, and it was one of more fun weeks of my life. I was accompanying – and covering for the Monticello newspaper – the Monticello High School marching band as it toured Southern California and prepared to march in Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day, 1983.
During that week, we did a lot of the standard Southern California things: Universal Studios, a Hollywood bus tour, the Farmers’ Market, Sea World in San Diego and Disneyland. The band marched during the daily parade during our day at Walt Disney’s brainchild, and the band also performed during a men’s basketball game between the University of Southern California and Georgetown University. (That Georgetown team was led by Patrick Ewing, who would lead the Hoyas to the NCAA championship during the following season, 1983-84.)
And the band marched the long Tournament of Roses parade on New Year’s Day, bringing to its small-town high school in Minnesota one of the most sparkling accolades a marching band can ever earn. That meant, of course, that I got to see the parade from a front-row seat set aside for photographers. I had to work – getting as many shots as I could – during the forty-five or so seconds it took the Monticello band to march past my position. Other than that, I could sit back and enjoy the parade.
(About six of the men on the trip – me, my editor and four high school faculty members – ended the trip’s activities by taking in Rose Bowl game between Michigan and UCLA. As was its habit in those days, Michigan lost the game. But the highlight of the afternoon for me was seeing the Wolverine band march across the field in its big block M, playing the best college fight song in the land, “The Victors.”)
All of those activities meant a lot of time on the bus, heading from our hotel in Newport Beach to those various points. And where teens go, of course, goes music, and in those days before iPods allowed each person his or her own personal playlist, that meant a radio. So as we meandered along Hollywood Boulevard, as we found our way to Disneyland, as we headed south along the freeway to San Diego, and everywhere we went, the bus I was on had a radio playing the current hits of the day.
That’s why hearing almost any tune that was on the radio during the last week of 1982 triggers memories: The kids stepping into footprints left in cement by movie stars at Mann’s Chinese Theatre. The view from the stage at the Hollywood Bowl. Dolphins posing for a picture at Sea World. Fireworks over the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. And, too, the gasps of shock from a cluster of Midwestern boys when they realized that the cute Hollywood Boulevard gal they’d been waving to from the bus wasn’t really a gal at all.
Here are five tunes that can trigger some of those memories and one that’s just too good to pass up.
A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, December 25, 1982)
“The Girl Is Mine” by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney (No. 3)
“Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye (No. 8)
“Africa” by Toto (No. 14)
“Rock the Casbah” by the Clash (No. 15)
“Love In Store” by Fleetwood Mac (No. 27)
“Forever” by Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul (No. 81)
I know I heard the first four of these as I rode that bus around Southern California during that last week of 1982. And I think we heard the Fleetwood Mac single, maybe on our longest ride of that week, from Newport Beach to San Diego. I’m certain, however, that we didn’t hear “Forever” by Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul.
“The Girl Is Mine” was in its eighth week in the Hot 100, and it would peak at No. 2 on the chart from January 8, 1983. (That was the next chart issued, as Billboard decided not to issue a chart on January 1, 1983.) The record did hit No. 1 on the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts, though. As for me, I thought the record was pleasant; it was sweet and melodic, and Jackson’s and McCartney’s voices blended well. But it was also lightweight enough that I doubt that it would end up ranked among the best bits of work in the career of either man.
“Sexual Healing” was Marvin Gaye’s last hit, pulled from Midnight Love, the last album Gaye recorded before his death in 1984. The record went to No. 3, and on the R&B chart it held the No. 1 spot for ten weeks. The record’s success, says Jason Elias of All-Music Guide, was understandable: “It was the perfect time . . . Al Green had gone to church, Prince was too weird, and Teddy Pendergrass was still recovering from his near-fatal crash. Music had been missing this kind of mix of sex, humor, and romance.”
My sense of Toto at the time – and for years to come, as it happens – was that the band didn’t get much respect. Made up of studio pros, Toto ended up with ten Top 40 hits from 1978 through 1988, and if some of them were carefully crafted to climb the charts, well, so they were. And so they did. I confess to not having any Toto in my collection during the early 1980s, but then, I wasn’t buying stuff by other new bands, either. But I liked “Africa” right from the start, and I still do. The single spent sixteen weeks in the Top 40, one of them at No. 1. And I have a sense that Toto sounds a lot better these days than a lot of things that were coming out of the speakers in 1982.
I didn’t get the Clash at the time or for a long time after. Among the excess records I got during the early 1990s from my friend Fran at Bridging Inc. were near-mint copies of London Calling, Sandinista! and Combat Rock. I sold ’em all, not yet plugged into the group’s aesthetic (and not yet committed to creating a rock archive in my living room). I still don’t listen often to the group’s work, but I now understand the historical and musical trends that brought the Clash its attitude and sound. All of that means that I quite like “Rock the Casbah” and a few of the group’s other efforts. “Casbah” was the group’s second hit – after “Train In Vain (Stand By Me)” went to No. 23 in 1980 – and peaked at No. 8 during a fifteen-week stay in the Top 40.
“Love In Store” came from Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage album, its studio follow-up to the idiosyncratic Tusk. (A live album was released and went to No. 14 on the album chart between the two studio efforts). Had Tusk scared off the less-committed listeners who’d bought the group’s mid-1970s chart-topping albums as if they’d held the secrets to perpetual bliss? Not at all. Mirage went to No. 1 as well and stayed there for five weeks. “Love In Store” peaked at No. 22, the third single from Mirage (after “Hold Me” and “Gypsy”) to hit the Top 40.
The Little Steven who fronted the Disciples of Soul was, of course, Steve Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. All-Music Guide notes that while Springsteen was working on Born in the U.S.A., Van Zandt gathered in a group of like-minded musicians and put together Men Without Women, which Mark Deming of AMG calls “the finest album the Asbury Jukes never made.” Deming continues: “Like the Jukes [sic] best work, Men Without Women blends the muscle and swagger of Jersey shore rock & roll with the horn-fueled heart and soul of classic R&B, and here Van Zandt was willing to push himself further in both directions at once.” As a single, “Forever” got to No. 63 and stayed there for two weeks during an eight-week stay in the Hot 100.
Four of these are album tracks and thus may differ from the singles that were getting airplay. “Africa” as presented here is shorter than the album track, and I think it’s the single mix, but as I no longer recall where I got it, I cannot say for certain. Nor do I recall where I got the Marvin Gaye track, but based on running time, I’m guessing without certainty that it’s the track from the album Midnight Love and not the single edit.
My thanks to the proprietor of Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas for his own post about riding a bus during school days that accompanied some tunes from late 1982. His memories triggered my own, and I’m grateful for that.