I talked to my high school pal Adam about Neil Young in the 1980s (again) and the conversation morphs a few times, including a discussion about Phil Collins being the Ben Zobrist of his era.
Cam: Have you seen this before?
Adam: Can’t watch it on my phone. Thought momentarily it was the video for his song “Ordinary People” off Chrome Dreams 2. The epic 18 minute song that goes on forever but is actually pretty good. Saw him play it during the electric set at Massey for that tour. Top 10 show for me that was. I do not get crazy worked up for recent Neil as others do but I adored Prairie Wing and really liked Chrome Dreams II. Neil alone in the organ playin’ “A Man Needs a Maid” is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
A: Springsteen’s The Rising came on in truck today and I was briefly flooded with how significant this album was post -9/11.
C: It seems like 9/11 and that album totally put Bruce in a different context. Jolting him out of his 1990s slump/”slump”. Never really heard indie rock kids applauding Born to Run or The River prior. Seems like that circle complete when he led the Grammies’ tribute to Joe Strummer a few years later, alongside SVZ, Elvis Costello and Dave Grohl. Still kind of a weird moment. I feel like Neil might have one or two more “good” albums in him before he checks out. His legacy is pretty insane and don’t think it’ll fully sink in until he’s gone.
A: Of course it won’t. He had a lot of things that weren’t appreciated at the time but with time, stand as documents. If you didn’t go to the Greendale show expecting to hear “Heart of Gold”, then Greendale was fine. His live shows were disappointing for some people for that reason but it gets a lot of play. Anyway, I’ve been listening to a few songs off the Rising recently. Currently “Into the Fire”. My goodness. That song haunted me. Saw you disappear up the stairs, into the fire…love and duty called you someplace higher. That’s so powerful, I still get chills thinking of it. What a brilliantly poetic way to write about 9/11
C: Hate to say… 75 per cent of the times, I want to hear “the hits” when I go to a new concert. There’s a small # of bands where I’m curious to hear whatever they put out (Mogwai, Dinosaur Jr, Beach House) but otherwise, I’m lazy. Interesting that The Rising holds up. Seems very much like a place/time album… although I think it was all recorded before 9/11, no?
C: What are your thoughts on “Dancing in the Dark”? I love this song but an example of a tune that was turned into something quite different due to the 1980s production. Reminds me of 98.1 CHFI (not a bad thing). I can totally see the Ramones singing this! (Ed. I was thinking of “Hungry Heart”).
A: Only “City in Ruins” was written before. My God, that performance he did on the first concert on TV…. America: A Tribute to Heroes was the start of it all. No introduction. No words, just blowing into that harp like it was crying. Here’s a prayer for our fallen brothers and sisters…. There’s a blood red circle, on the cold dark ground, and the rain is falling down. I’ll never forget that. It’s a part of the narrative. The final chorus of C’mon, rise up gives me chills every time. It felt like he was telling us it was going to be OK despite the pain. It was a call to action. Nobody else could have done it. Not Bono. Not Petty. Not Dylan. That was the first step of his monumental rebirth creatively.
A: RE: “Dancing in the Dark”. I love that song. Every time. Hate it live. The synthesizer is a must. The video. The tight jeans and white top. Courtney Cox. The dance. It’s a perfect pop song.
C: Yeah, Bruce certainly pulled off the “shirtless w/ leather vest” look better than Bono, who was rocking that look at lot around the same time. I don’t know if it’s intentional but I like that that clip is literally shot with him in the dark for a lot of it. Sounds pretty sweet w/ the horns in there. Totally different song. I’m not a Springsteen completist by any stretch… did he ever veer into more R&B/Motown territory? I think his first couple of albums give nods to those eras, no?
A: He always would play the “Detroit Medley”. Back in the day he’d do “Not Fade Away” into “She’s the One”. That’s close. And speaking of the “Detroit Medley” as I’ve been going through a rediscovery and appreciation for the “Wall of Sound” and Motown and whatnot, I got onto 1980s covers of Motown classics and some new 1980s material by 1970s icons, A topic we have discussed many times, this time with a less than subtle nod to Motown. Without further ado, the playlist…
A: I’m gonna make you a mix tape, Jack. “Do you like Phil Collins? I’ve got two ears and a heart, don’t I?” – Jack and Tracy from 30 Rock. It’s hard for me to explain to my kids just how big Phil Collins was in the 1980s. They were his decade. At least on drums and a triple threat. Legitimately. Fuck Don Henley. Fronting Genesis after Peter Gabriel left, Duke!! Abacab! Dropping that solo album! Go watch the Classic Albums show on it. It’s a piece of work, or at least does a good job of looking like it. Certainly an artist who got to say something. I loved that he did a Motown cover on each album. He was charmingly self-effacing. He drops two solid solo albums, drums on Band Aid, plays both Live Aid show by way of Concorde, Then Invisible Touch, which I will fight tooth-and-nail for as one of the greatest albums of all time and certainly of the 80’s.
A: He was a natural actor. I loved his videos. He was a sharp dude. Here is where his Motown influence hit. Also with the classic we all love, our star playing all parts in the band. This was one of two songs from Buster, along with “Groovy Kind of Love”.
Rod Stewart also had a great late 1980s. Forever Young is one for the ages. Here’s the less than subtle nod to Motown…
Here is Elton John’s entry in the key of Motown though the production is a little synthy!
C: I had never really thought but yeah, 1980s/1990s interpretations of r&b/Motown faves was totally a thing. Remember rod Stewart doing “This Old Heart of Mine” with the Isley Brothers? A real “feel good” rendition. And Kim Wilde doing “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”? I like this. I like the Vanilla Fudge version.