It’s been a bad week for fans of the ‘80s.
On Friday we lost Eddie Money. His real name was Edward Mahoney, and he changed it early in his career to sarcastically reflect the fact that he was always broke. But his cash flow troubles didn’t last long. His first big hit, “Two Tickets to Paradise,” led off his debut album, released in 1977. I know, I know, it sounds like an ‘80s song, and it gets played on ‘80s radio. But trust me. 1977.
His biggest hit was a proper ‘80s anthem: “Take Me Home Tonight,” a duet with Ronnie Spector released in 1986. He had plenty of other hits, of course, but this is the one people will remember him for. Like a lot of ‘80s stars, he had some rough luck in the decades that followed, but always kept in the game, writing songs for TV and movies. He was set to release a new album, Brand New Day, this year, but he ultimately lost his battle with esophageal cancer at age 70.
And then on Sunday we said goodbye to Ric Ocasek. I was flying to San Francisco for a work trip when the news broke, and it was one of the first things I read when I got off the plane. It was like a punch in the gut. I have been an Ocasek fan for nearly as long as I can remember – I loved the Cars since first hearing “Just What I Needed” on the radio, probably when I was all of four or five. I am sure I had no idea who the Cars were at the time, but I definitely remember hearing that tune at a young age.
I vividly remember the Heartbeat City era, though, because everyone around my age does. “Magic.” “You Might Think.” “Hello Again.” The late Benjamin Orr’s wonderful “Drive.” This album and its quirky videos were absolutely everywhere in 1984, and even though I was only ten, I know I knew who the Cars were at that time. Door to Door, which contains the hit “You Are the Girl,” was the first Cars album I owned on cassette – I was 13 when it came out. I have, of course, subsequently bought every Cars album, most of them more than once.
Granted, I was at the right age to be bowled over by catchy synth-driven pop music. But I will never outgrow that particular love, either. The Cars created some of the most succinct, perfectly crafted pop of the ‘80s, and Ocasek continued that trend on his solo records, which I definitely did not hear until much later. By that time Ocasek was famous for another reason: he was a tremendous producer, working with some of the best in the business. (I love that he produced a Bad Brains record, and will always love him for working on the first Nada Surf album.)
And the production for which he is best known is, of course, Weezer’s Blue Album. In a lot of ways, Rivers Cuomo picked up the baton of short, sharp, goofy pop from Ocasek, and it’s the Cars-ness of Weezer’s most hummable work that I like best about it. Ocasek also produced the Green Album and the massive Everything Will Be Alright in the End, almost universally praised as a return to form for the band.
The last Cars album was Move Like This, in 2011, which featured Ocasek’s last great song, “Blue Tip.” Ocasek died at age 75 while recovering from surgery. He leaves behind an impressive legacy, songs that I’ll be humming for the rest of my life. May he rest in peace.
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This is one of those weeks when I don’t have a lot else to report. I’ve been extremely busy and haven’t had time to dig back through my archive of purchased-but-unlistened-to music. I can’t, for instance, tell you how the new Hold Steady is, because I haven’t heard it yet. I also don’t have a lot to say about the ones I have heard. The new Josh Garrels, Chrysaline, is very pretty, for example, but its straightforward worship lyrics don’t give me a lot to hang on to. His voice remains amazing, his songs this time are kind of there, not leaving much of an impression with me.
I have heard the new Death Cab for Cutie EP once through, and I enjoyed it. Death Cab have been on an upswing lately, with last year’s Thank You for Today album mostly working for me, and the five songs on the Blue EP are all nice. It’s a consistent 22 minutes, and that’s probably the best you can ask for from Death Cab these days.
If there’s one new thing I’ve heard that I am digging more than anything else lately, it’s Circle of Dolls, the third album from KXM. They’re a supergroup in my mind, bringing together Dug Pinnick from King’s X, George Lynch from Lynch Mob (and before that, Dokken) and Ray Luzier from Korn. They play tight, loud, heavy rock, Pinnick singing his heart out and Lynch showing why he is still in demand as a guitarist.
“War of Words” kicks things off with a bang, but Circle of Dolls never flags. I’m a big fan of “Time Flies,” a better King’s X song than King’s X has given us in a long time. But seriously, we’re expecting the first new King’s X album in 11 or 12 years (depending on when it comes out) very soon, and my only hope for it is that it’s as good as KXM. If not, I may have to start thinking of this as Pinnick’s main band.
That’s about all I have for this week. Next week the floodgates open, though, with the return of Keane and the first solo album from Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard leading the way. Follow Tuesday Morning 3 A.M. on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tm3am.
See you in line Tuesday morning.