Continuing the chronological presentation of my 25 favorite songs…
‘Magic’ – Olivia Newton-John (1980)
We move into the 80s now, but starting with a song that has one foot firmly planted in the 70s. The 1980 film Xanadu, with its cheesy effects and kitschy “Greek muse on roller skates” vibe, was widely panned, brought down by the anti-disco movement (and the fact that it’s an awful movie).
But despite the movie’s failure, the Xanadu soundtrack was a critical and commercial hit, going multi-Platinum and earning praise for both Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra.
My second favorite album of 1983 is the fifth album by one of my favorite bands, Talking Heads. Speaking in Tongues followed the critically-beloved Remain in Light and became the band’s top-selling album to date.
In opening track ‘Burning Down the House,’ Talking Heads enjoyed the only Top Ten hit of their career, but this nine-track album boasts many more treasures. Writing for Rolling Stone, David Fricke made the spot-on observation that Speaking in Tongues “obliterates the thin line separating arty white pop music and deep black funk.”
These songs are at once deeply weird and thoroughly groovy.
Talking Heads’ 1983 album Speaking in Tongues was the band’s commercial breakthrough, to whatever extent a band this idiosyncratic can break through. The single ‘Burning Down the House’ became the group’s only top ten hit.
Speaking in Tongues followed the critically lauded but less accessible Remain in Light, and these two records form the band’s creative high point.