Welcome to the latest edition of my Decades series, wherein I feature celebrated albums from a single year across several decades. So far I’ve covered 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 1972, 1982, 1992, 2002, and (most recently) 1971. That brings me to the year I’ll focus on over the new few weeks: 1981.
The first year of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The year of the first test tube baby. The year Raiders of the Lost Ark came out. The year I turned nine. Of the five albums I’ll count down first — my personal favorites from 1981 — I listened to only one at the time. The rest I’ve discovered since.
Today’s Random Weekend track is proof that even The Beatles’ throwaway songs were pretty excellent.
‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey,’ a John Lennon track from Side Three of 1968’s “White Album,” is distinctive for boasting the band’s longest-ever song title and not much else. But it does rock, and the instrumentation is spot on (listen to Paul’s wicked bass line).
I give Indigo Girls a lot of crap for their college-lit pretentiousness and the fact that their songs all sound alike. I don’t even know if the latter criticism is true, because I own only two of their 14 albums, but it sure feels true.
I come today not to attack but to praise. Today’s random iTunes selection, ‘Love’s Recovery,’ is a stunningly beautiful song, and the best thing on the duo’s wonderful self-titled 1989 album.
On the same college trip I mentioned yesterday, my family went into the only kind of record store that exists anymore — one that sells vinyl. My daughter Sophia, who received a turntable from a friend for her last birthday, perused the bargain bin for buried gems.
What she found was Just Sylvia, a 1982 album by country pop singer Sylvia Hutton. She didn’t know the music, but really liked the “aesthetic” of the album cover. That was worth her $1.
I recently attended a college football game and was amused by the man sitting behind me, who was more into the classic rock occasionally playing over the stadium sound system than he was into the game.
When the opening notes of The Who’s ‘Baba O’Reilly’ played, he said “Baba O’Reilly. First track on Who’s Next. 1971.”
At one point, he pontificated that the secret weapon of the band Yes was not lead singer Jon Anderson but bassist Chris Squire. You get the picture.
It took the breakup of Ariana Grande’s engagement to land her her first Billboard #1 single. Just minutes before the episode of Saturday Night Live where Pete Davidson acknowledged the unlikely couple’s split, Grande dropped this sweet ode to her exes.
In the first verse, she namedrops her four celebrity mates: Davidson, rapper Big Sean, dancer Ricky Alvarez, and late rapper Mac Miller. She doesn’t specify which taught her love, patience or pain, or why one of the four apparently didn’t teach her anything.
Miranda Lambert’s final solo track on the new Pistol Annies album is her most straight-forward response to date to her divorce from Blake Shelton.
This beautiful ballad explores the end of a relationship that existed entirely in a spotlight. She compares their marriage to a framed painting, a rodeo and a country song — all objects of public scrutiny. She recognizes that, in the general conversation, her love affair was a fleeting diversion: “We’re just another thing they’ll all forget about / They’ll be standing around laughin’ like nothing ever happened.”