Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Hump Day Shuffle: 1984

1. Prince - The Beautiful Ones - Purple Rain
1984 belonged to Prince, with his masterpiece Purple Rain topping the charts for a solid five months on its way to selling 13 million copies. Since I've never been a huge Prince fan, some of it can't help but sound synth-heavy and dated, like "The Beautiful Ones" in fact. But in all, it's a fantastic album, and "Purple Rain" is as transcendent as the 80s ever got.

2. Bruce Springsteen - Working On The Highway - Born In The U.S.A.
No shit, this is the curveball shuffle decided to throw out after Prince. It's also from the album that Prince knocked off the top spot in 1984. It's hard to wrap my head around how massive this album was at the time - seven singles charted, plus two songs that weren't even released as singles. Not this gem, though, which ended up with a glorious rockabilly kick after it had gone through several revisions since it's early life as a Nebraska outtake called "Child Bride."

3. The Smiths - You've Got Everything Now - The Smiths
Not one of the fantastic singles from The Smiths debut record, this is the sound of a great band stretching into their style. It sounds a little tight and stilted, but it's nonetheless distinctive, groovy and gives a clear window into the charm of one of the UK's best bands of the decade.

4. Depeche Mode - People Are People - People Are People (originally a single from the Some Great Reward album)
The industrial-sounding synths never fail to make me think of people working in some sort of a high-tech warehouse. The lyrics are borderline terrible, but there's an overall catchiness that pushes the song over into the "Like" column for me.

5. The Minutemen - History Lesson Part II - Double Nickels On The Dime
Shuffle is on the ball tonight! I barely know this album, despite so many recommendations and all sorts of references, but I just started reading "Our Band Could Be Your Life," by Michael Azerrad, which takes its title from the opening line to this song. In all honesty, this is the first time I've listened to this song, but it could come at no better time.
I wish I was part of that era, discovering new underground bands via sketchy zines and mail-ordering LPs from the likes of the Minutemen. This song hits like a ton of bricks, and I can't help but think of it's connection to Wilco's "Sunken Treasure," with its similarly soul-baring confession of "I got my name from rock and roll." Fittingly enough, Jeff Tweedy also wrote a song called D. Boon, in honor of the Minutemen's lost leader.

6. Willie Nelson - Wind Beneath My Wings - City of New Orleans
From heartfelt to outright sappy, now I think shuffle is playin' tricks. As much as I love Willie Nelson, I can't step up to justify shit like this. I mean, I have it in my library, but that's not out of unfettered love for the song. Actually, I have to call out Adam Becker here, for putting this song on a mix tape he passed around to some of us in 1996. I only have the song digitally because I'm a completist like that.

7. U2 - Pride (In The Name Of Love) - The Unforgettable Fire
This album, and this song in particular, marked the change in U2, when the band went for soaring anthems above all else. And it worked. This song is big in every way, from the castle on the album cover to the boldness in bringing Martin Luther King into pop music, and it was the first U2 single that was truly memorable.

8. The Del Fuegos - I Should Be The One - The Best of The Del Fuegos (originally on The Longest Day)
This one is fairly new to me, something I picked up in my ever-present search for the roots of the movement. From Boston, this Slash Records group was named Rolling Stone's Best New Band in 1984 and counted both Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen among their fans. Yet another band that now goes from the "should hear" to the "should hear more" pile.

9. Fishbone - Skankin' to the Beat - Essential Fishbone (originally from 1984 self-released EP)
Fishbone would grow into one of the most versatile and party-heavy bands of the 1980s and 1990s, but this early track is pure ska, hardly hinting at the horn-heavy rock & funk mixture the band would become known for. One of the most amazing live shows I've ever seen.

10. The Replacements - I Will Dare - Let It Be
I wrote last week that I hoped more "real" Replacements songs would come up on shuffle, instead of the moderately interesting throwaway studio outtakes that populate the deluxe reissues. Well here goes, the opener to the band's breakthrough album and one of the best things Paul Westerberg ever wrote. This is definitely the song of the week for this Hump Day Shuffle.

The Replacements - I Will Dare (live)
The Del Fuegos - I Should Be The One
U2 - Pride (In The Name Of Love) (live)

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