My Life In Music, Part 2, 1980 – 1984

Prologue

1. The Music Of My Life

Music means everything to me. It has for as long as I can remember. Each night I fall asleep listening to music. Every morning I wake up listening to music. I play music in the shower. I play music in the car. I play music at the gym. If I am not actively listening to music, I hear songs in my head. When somebody is talking to me, I hear lyrics in their words, and start singing to myself. While I have never completely written or recorded anything original, I have made mix-tapes and play-lists since the Seventies.

I have spent almost all of my free time and “disposable” income on music and music-related experiences. My first job was delivering The Daily News to a six block radius around my house on Long Island, New York. I took the job because they offered a free cassette tape of my choosing if I signed up 3 new subscriptions on my route. I took care of that task quickly, and scored what may be my most favorite album of all time – the self-titled debut from the Long Island based band named Zebra. I continued to find bargains and build my catalog thanks to the marketing efforts of BMG and Columbia House music mail order services. Eventually, I bought cheap guitars and amps, and later more expensive guitars. I have too many guitars.

Once the concert floodgates opened for me when I went to the University of Virginia, I started going to as many shows as I could, no matter where they were located. Music festivals began, locally and small at first, then larger ones able to draw a national audience of freaks like me who were willing to drive or fly all over the country, sleeping in any hotel, motel, Holiday Inn, tent, RV or Air B’n’B I could find. Woodstock ‘99, Rocklahoma, Rock On The Range, Carolina Rebellion, Welcome To Rockville, Aftershock, Earthday Birthday, Vans Warped Tour, Coachella, Voodoo Festival, Once Upon A Time in the LBC, Rock USA and KAABOO Del Mar – these are a few of my favorite things. Then the rock cruises came along, which I have enjoyed as a customer, staff member, charity worker, journalist and photographer – ShipRocked, Motörhead’s MotörBoat, MegaCruise, and Monsters Of Rock Cruise.

From 2010 to 2020, I was able to get up close and personal with the music, the musicians and the fans. I have been a photojournalist for several print magazines and online websites. I have previewed and reviewed concerts, albums and livestreams. I have interviewed artists backstage and on tour buses. I have photographed shows of every kind, from the smallest and darkest of clubs, to the largest of outdoor festivals. I have captured local artists, new acts, living legends and lifelong loves, from Aerosmith to ZZ Top.

During this mostly silent year, I decided to take a look back, to appreciate the journey so far, and perhaps to make some sense of my decisions and choices along the way. This isn’t exactly a memoir or biography, as I don’t believe that I have done anything of such consequence to merit such documentation. I won’t know if there are any lessons to be learned, or advice to carry with me on my second half, until I write it all down. The songs have been chosen, the memories have come rushing back. We will see where this experience takes me.

With 52 years of special songs to revisit, I also plan to really focus on learning to play complete songs on guitar. That gives me 2 songs to learn per week. That should hold me to a good working cadence. Is everybody in? Drop the needle on the record.

 

2. The Way I Chose The Songs

Choosing only 2 songs from an entire year was quite an ordeal. Some years had many releases that had a major impact at the time, others not as many. I chose songs based on the year that the album they came from was released. This means that the song itself may not have even been released as a single that year. Sometimes a song hits you right away, sometimes it builds slowly, and other times you discover it well after it was released. In many cases, it takes some new experience to bring the importance of the song into focus.

I suppose it generally takes some passage of time for the songs that mean the most to you to bubble to the surface. Only time will tell which ones continue to swim around in your brain, forming the soundtrack to your life’s story.

I chose the songs that have had the most lasting impression on my life, the ones that instantly take me back to a time, or a place, or a person, or an experience, or all of the above. The names will be changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike. These are the songs that mean the most to me, and nobody knows me better than I know myself, so I can’t really say if others share the same memories in the same ways.

Looking at the final list, there are sooo many songs that I love that did not make the cut. There are lots of artists that I cannot believe are not represented. I guess this should not be too surprising. Think about how hard it is to make a top 5 list in any given year. There are just so many artists and songs that I love, it is no wonder that I am almost always listening to, writing about, or photographing music. Out of the 104 songs chosen, 8 are from bands that appear twice. Those are obviously among my all-time favorites, and they are among the ones who have meant the most to me throughout my life. They are Alice In Chains, Candlebox, Creed, Foo Fighters, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Rush and Shinedown.

For more chapters of My Life In Music:

My Life In Music, Part 1, 1969-1974

 

My Life In Music, Part 1, 1975-1979

 

Part II

26. The 1980’s – The Cassette Era

Welcome to the 1980’s, the greatest decade in musical history. A lot of people will tell you that music was better in the Seventies – more “real”, more “honest”, more “emotional”, more “acoustic”. These are the same people who will tell you that music just sounds better on a record album than on any other format. You need to know two things about these people. #1. They are hippies. #2. They are, as in all things, half right and half wrong. Yes, a record played on a good stereo system, with good speakers, still does sound better than any other way of listening to music. I am listening to “Signals” by Rush on an average record player with poor speakers as I write this, and it still sounds richer and fuller than any digital copy. But just because a record sounds better does not mean that the songs themselves are inherently better written or performed.

Cassette tapes are absolutely terrible as far as quality goes, but essential in the evolution of musical enjoyment. The tape itself is exposed to the elements, it gets unraveled, it gets twisted, it gets stuck. The speed at which it plays back varies. It wears out with every play, fast-forward and rewind. I actually made it a point to never rewind a tape. Instead, I would stop it, eject it, turn it over and fast forward it. To this day I have no scientific basis for such ridiculous precautions, but I faithfully executed those procedures nonetheless. Bottom line, the defense stipulates that cassettes are inherently terrible in sound quality and only get worse over time. On the other hand, your basement stereo setup is great and all, but can you take it on the road with you? Can you take it out for a “jog”, or a walk, man? Can you pop it into your pocket and have it inspire you at the gym? Of course not. Cassettes gave us musical freedom and artistic control. You could make your own “albums” with any combination of songs that you wanted. Note: when I was a kid, we called records “albums” as compared to cassettes which we called “tapes”. Technically, an album is a collection, and it does not even have to be music, so a more accurate term would be “LP”, which turns out to be short for “Long Play” 33-1/3 RPM vinyl record. You get why we just called them albums, right? It was just easier to ask your friends if they got the new Rush album or tape. You can also see why the “mixtape” was part of the plot of every teen movie from the decade.

Rush ©2010 Johnnie Crow Photos

Back to the music. Sure, rock and roll was epic in the 1970’s, some may even say “classic”, and I take nothing away from that by saying that I like the rock and roll of the 1980’s more. That “classic” sound endures and probably always will. However, rock and roll truly evolved in the Eighties. Not everyone may like or appreciate every style and sound that emerged, but none can deny that music went in so many directions that genres and sub-genres had to be created, if only to provide fodder for the message boards of the Nineties. Punk, thrash, glam/hair, new wave, emo/goth, college/alternative, pop and hip-hop all took off in the 1980’s. There is no single sound that represents music in the 80’s, no single image, no single path to stardom or infamy. Everything was thrown against the wall, and most of it stuck. Just look at the variety of artistic excellence represented in my selections, which were extremely difficult to make from this era. Consider who did not even make the cut. U2, The Police, Scorpions, LL Cool J, Run-D.M.C., Duran Duran, Quiet Riot, Queensrÿche and Whitesnake all spent time as my favorite band in the whole wide world, yet could not make the final list. Prince, Michael Jackson, Pat Benatar and Journey were left off. I could do a whole other set of songs that are just as good as these.

Scorpions ©2012 Johnnie Crow Photos

If anyone ever asks, I say that I “grew up” in the 1980’s. I was 10 years old when they started and 20 when they ended. I made it through junior high, high school, and most of college during this musical explosion. Growing up on Long Island, I did focus most of my attention on artists from New York. People sometimes wonder why New Yorkers are arrogant, and we are, but we come to it naturally. We just take credit for everything anyone of us creates while we just so happened to be in the general vicinity. I consider 2 of New York’s 5 boroughs to be part of Long Island. They are physically connected to the same land mass as Nassau and Suffolk Counties. So even if they are logically different, the same could be said about Montauk and the Hamptons. In my mind, I credit the entire Island as the foundation of my history and personality.

I was born in Hollis, Queens, so naturally I take pride in the fact that hip-hop took off based largely on the talents and rhymes of Run-D.M.C., The Beastie Boys and LL Cool J. Run (Joseph Ward Simmons) was born and raised in Hollis, Queens. D.M.C. (Darryl Matthews McDaniels) was born in Harlem and grew up in Hollis. LL (James Todd Smith) was born in Bay Shore on Long Island just a year before me, literally the next town over from where I grew up. He grew up in (and famously “represented”) Queens, where I spent the first 3 years of my life. The Beasties were also NYC through and through. I also followed Long Island rockers especially closely. Blue Öyster Cult, Zebra, Twisted Sister, Pat Benatar, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Squier, even that other Billy who played piano. When taking credit for things, New Yorkers will even put claims on their neighbor across the river, New Jersey. Personally, I love New Jersey. I have always had family there and spent a large part of my life there. That gave me an affinity for Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi that was earned as honestly as the stories they continue to write to this day.

Zebra ©2019 Johnnie Crow Photos

Enough preamble. Rip your acid-washed jeans a little more, tease up your hair, pierce your ear, and cut up those band t-shirts. Bring your #2 pencil, tighten up those cassette tapes, grab your bucket of D batteries, and turn that boom box all the way up. This is the 80’s!

27. 1980 – I Don’t Know – Ozzy Osbourne

I am not sure how many people know the precise moment that they became a metal head. That moment was instantly burned in my brain and is as clear a memory as any that I have.

My parents grew up in Flushing, Queens, and like much of their family and friends, had moved out to a house on Long Island in the early 1970’s. Other family members moved to suburban New Jersey or even up and coming South Carolina. Some of my parents childhood friends ended up moving a couple of miles away from us, so naturally they hung out all the time, and my sister and I were forced to become friends with their kids. Which turned out to be fine, because these were cool kids. The boy and I were early software pirates, trading hacked Atari cartridges and using the Pirate’s Toolkit to bootleg and modify computer games on our Commodore 64’s. Who knew that I was actually training for my career in software development? Before all that, we would just hang out and listen to music. The adults would drink and play cards upstairs, and the kids went down in the basement to make noise.

One particular fall day, we headed over to their house and he had just started playing something new. It was LOUD and the guitar playing was insane. We were both freaking out over how cool it was. I screamed at him “What is this?!?!” He yelled back “I don’t know!!” I countered with “Look at the cover!!!” He responded with “I don’t know!!!!” I tried to ask again as he shoved the album cover in my face and said “It’s called. I. DON’T. KNOW!!!” Then we fell out laughing. Then Ozzy started laughing as “Crazy Train” kicked in. My metal horns went up that evening, and they are never coming back down.

My favorite lyric:

Don’t ask me. I don’t know!

This song is full of brilliant lines about self reliance and independent thought. With the spectacle and drama that has always surrounded Ozzy, his deep lyrical content is often overlooked. Even “Crazy Train” is really a call to stop senseless violence and conflict, but who stops to ponder such things while enjoying the spectacle? All that said, nothing tops the simple exclamation that had two 11 year old kids rolling on the floor laughing in a Long Island basement.

I Don’t Know

Written by Randy Rhoads & Ozzy Osbourne

Performed by Ozzy Osbourne

People look to me and say
Is the end near, when is the final day
What’s the future of mankind
How do I know, I got left behind

Everyone goes through changes
Looking to find the truth
Don’t look to me for answers
Don’t ask me, I don’t know (know…)

How am I supposed to know
Hidden meanings that will never show
Fools and prophets from the past
Life’s a stage and we’re all in the cast

Ya gotta believe in someone
Asking me who is right
Asking me who to follow
Don’t ask me, I don’t know (know)
I don’t know, I don’t know (know), I don’t know

Nobody ever told me I found out for myself
Ya gotta believe in foolish miracles
It’s not how you play the game
It’s if you win or lose you can choose
Don’t confuse win or lose, it’s up to you
It’s up to you, it’s up to you, it’s up to you
Go, go, go

People look to me and say
Is the end near, when is the final day
What’s the future of mankind
How do I know, I got left behind, I’m lost

Everyone goes through changes
Looking to find the truth
Don’t look to me for answers
Don’t ask me, I don’t know!

 

28. 1980 – Keep On Loving You – REO Speedwagon

Couple skate!

Were two sweeter words ever heard by pre-pubescent ears? Roller skating was all the rage in 1980. Everybody would go. There was loud music, disco lights, soda on tap, and bodies flying by in every direction. For a bunch of not-yet-teens, we felt like we were in Studio 54. When the ballads were played, the DJ yelled “couple skate!”, and shy boys had an excuse to ask a girl to hold hands with him for 3 dizzying minutes. I didn’t care what REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Journey, Styx or Pat Benatar was singing about (it was still way over my head). I just knew that when those soft piano and guitar intros played, Johnnie was gonna get … a chance to skate with a girl he liked, maybe even one he had been waiting for.

My favorite lyric:

You should’ve known by the tone of my voice, maybe
But you didn’t listen

I have always had a few issues with communication and misunderstanding, especially after leaving New York. The first thing was the accent and speed at which New Yorkers speak to each other. We are quick and blunt, and sometimes loud. No disrespect, but part of living in a crowded place is standing up for yourself and trying to get your point in as quickly as possible. People from other parts of the country consider this to be rude. My other issue is my dry, sarcastic sense of humor. This leads to a tone of voice that is not always appreciated. What are ya gonna do? You didn’t listen.

REO Speedwagon ©2019 Johnnie Crow Photos

Keep On Loving You

Written by Kevin Cronin

Performed by REO Speedwagon

You should’ve seen by the look in my eyes, baby
There was something missing
You should’ve known by the tone of my voice, maybe
But you didn’t listen
You played dead
But you never bled
Instead you lay still in the grass
All coiled up and hissing

And though I know all about those men
Still I don’t remember
‘Cause it was us, baby, way before them
And we’re still together

And I meant, every word I said
When I said that I love you
I meant that I love you forever

And I’m gonna keep on loving you
‘Cause it’s the only thing I wanna do
I don’t wanna sleep
I just wanna keep on loving you

And I meant, every word I said
When I said that I love you
I meant that I love you forever

And I’m gonna keep on loving you
‘Cause it’s the only thing I wanna do
I don’t wanna sleep
I just wanna keep on loving you
And I’m gonna keep on loving you
‘Cause it’s the only thing I wanna do
I don’t wanna sleep
I just wanna keep on loving you

 

29. 1981 – Rapture – Blondie

“Rapture” from Debbie Harry and Blondie is the first “rap” I ever heard. It was also the first rap video played on MTV when they debuted on 8/1/81. Debbie herself seemed like some kind of alien, drifting effortlessly and carelessly across the Earth, dropping dreamy hit after hit.

My first video game design was based on this song. I had written a plot and made some sketches based on the Man From Mars and his alleged adventures on earth, eating things. On each level, you would control the hungry, hungry Martian, eating one of the things mentioned in the song. Sadly, I did not have any mad programming skills yet, so it just went into the cool idea pile. I kept myself busy dropping quarters into the arcade machines at the local pizza parlors and stationery stores. Space Invaders, Missile Command, Super Cobra and Galaga ate a ton of coinage, while slaking my alien blasting thirst.

My favorite lyric:

‘Cause the man from Mars stopped eatin’ cars
And eatin’ bars and now he only eats guitars, get up

As ridiculous as the entire premise of this song is, the absurdity reaches its apex with this rapidly rhymed narrative. By now, you know the whole thing is a goof and this just sounds wicked cool.

Rapture

Written by Debbie Harry & Chris Stein

Performed by Blondie

Toe to toe, dancing very close
Barely breathing, almost comatose
Wall to wall, people hypnotized
And they’re stepping lightly
Hang each night in rapture

Back to back, sacroiliac
Spineless movement and a wild attack
Face to face, sightless solitude
And it’s finger popping
24-hour shopping in rapture

[Rap 1] Fab Five Freddy told me everybody’s fly
DJ spinnin’ I said “My My”
Flash is fast, Flash is cool
François c’est pas, Flash ain’t no dude
And you don’t stop, sure shot
Go out to the parking lot
And you get in your car and drive real far
And you drive all night and then you see a light
And it comes right down and it lands on the ground
And out comes a man from Mars
And you try to run but he’s got a gun
And he shoots you dead and he eats your head
And then you’re in the man from Mars
You go out at night eatin’ cars
You eat Cadillacs, Lincolns too
Mercurys and Subaru
And you don’t stop, you keep on eatin’ cars
Then, when there’s no more cars you go out at night
And eat up bars where the people meet
Face to face, dance cheek to cheek
One to one, man to man
Dance toe to toe, don’t move too slow
‘Cause the man from Mars is through with cars
He’s eatin’ bars, yeah wall to wall
Door to door, hall to hall
He’s gonna eat ’em all
Rap-ture, be pure
Take a tour through the sewer
Don’t strain your brain, paint a train
You’ll be singin’ in the rain
Said don’t stop to punk rock

Man to man, body muscular
Seismic decibel, bite the jugular
Wall to wall, tea time technology
And a digital ladder
No sign of bad luck in rapture

[Rap 2] Well now you see what you wanna be
Just have your party on TV
‘Cause the man from Mars
Won’t eat up bars where the TV’s on
Now he’s gone back up to space
Where he won’t have a hassle with the human race
And you hip-hop, and you don’t stop
Just blast off, sure shot
‘Cause the man from Mars stopped eatin’ cars
And eatin’ bars and now he only eats guitars, get up

 

30. 1981 – Too Much Time On My Hands – Styx

“Paradise Theatre” was a sprawling conceptual piece by Styx that was a bit all over the place. Like many bands that began in the 1970’s, they struggled to balance the rockers and the ballads. Pianist / vocalist Dennis DeYoung had some good ballads, and I do thank him for “The Best Of Times” at the skating rink. However, I prefer the guitar and the rock and roll stylings of guitarist / vocalist Tommy Shaw. That lead me to choose “Too Much Time On My Hands” to represent this year.

Night Ranger is another band with 2 singers and 2 styles. Bassist / vocalist Jack Blades is the rocker, and he and Tommy Shaw joined up with Ted Nugent to form Damn Yankees in 1990. I got to meet them after a show, and I told Jack that I loved his and Tommy’s songs the best in Night Ranger and Styx, so this was a perfect project for them.

The song also reminds me of all the high school lunch times I spent trying to beat Time Pilot at the local pizza place next to DPHS. I was so obsessed with beating that game, and making it through all 5 levels of aircraft dogfighting. You started in 1910 fighting bi-planes. Next was 1940 with prop planes and bombers. Then 1970 versing helicopters. The “present day” at the time, was 1982, dueling jets. Finally, you traveled to the future, 2001, when UFO’s were invading. Beating all of this with a single quarter was a monumental task. I always made my friends stand far behind me, quietly, or else I could blame them for my failures. One day I was locked in, and they had all headed back to class. I managed to beat the future level alien scum and wondered what could possibly be next up. It was Level 1 again – lame – but I had done it! I arrived late for class (which I NEVER did) and was questioned. My response was “I don’t even care! I finally beat Time Pilot!!” I bought a multi-game home arcade machine when the pandemic started, created a Rocker’s Dozen playlist with 13 songs about time, and it took me months to once again complete all 5 levels.

When I lived in Maryland, and had just started photographing concerts for Shockwave Magazine, Styx played a theater in Baltimore, and I was granted a photo pass. Paradise! Sometimes when you get your photo pass, you also get 1 or more tickets to watch the entire concert and write a review about it. At this show, I was handed 2 tickets in the 5th row center. As I was getting sorted, a father and son were at the ticket window next to me, and I overheard the fact that only 1 seat was left in the entire theater. Realizing I was about to let a great second seat go to waste, I told him to buy the one ticket and I would trade him my 2 prime seats so he and his son could enjoy the show together. I felt good as I walked up to the front of the stage, only to have the bouncer inform me that there is no photo pit in a theater, and I certainly could not stand in front of the people who had paid the most money to be front row. I was instructed to shoot from my seat. That’s when I realized that I had traded my photography tickets for a balcony seat against the side wall. I didn’t even have a zoom lens at the time. Well, all of my shots were of the entire stage and lower level, from a side angle. Oh well, the performance was outstanding, so I focused on my writing.

My favorite lyric:

And I’ve given up hope for the afternoon soaps
And a bottle of cold brew

This line hits me on a few levels. Growing up (and to this very day) my Mom watched General Hospital, an ABC afternoon soap, religiously. My sister and I would watch with her at 3:00 every day, whenever we were not in school, such as the summer of Luke & Laura, when they were away from Port Charles, on the run from Hutch the bounty hunter. In high school, I would walk home between class and soccer practice and watch The Young & The Restless. As for the bottle of cold brew, I have always felt that drinking a beer signaled your giving up on the day, as far as productivity is concerned. Perhaps it was this lyric imprinted on my young brain that has guided me along.

Too Much Time On My Hands

Written by Tommy Shaw

Performed by Styx

Yeah, I’m sitting on this barstool, talking like a damn fool
Got the twelve o’clock news blues
And I’ve given up hope for the afternoon soaps
And a bottle of cold brew

Is it any wonder I’m not crazy?
Is it any wonder I’m sane at all?

Well, I’m so tired of losing, I got nothing to do
And all day to do it
Well, I’d go out cruisin’, but I’ve no place to go
And all night to get there

Is it any wonder I’m not a criminal?
Is it any wonder I’m not in jail?

Is it any wonder I’ve got too much time on my hands?
It’s ticking away with my sanity
I’ve got too much time on my hands
It’s hard to believe such a calamity
I’ve got too much time on my hands
And it’s ticking away, ticking away from me

Too much time on my hands
(It’s t-t-t-t-ticking away)
Too much time on my hands
(And I don’t know what to do with myself)
Too much time on my hands

Too much time on my hands
Too much time on my hands
Too much time on my hands

Now, I’m a jet fuel genius – I can solve the world’s problems
Without even trying
I got dozens of friends, and the fun never ends
That is, as long as I’m buying

Is it any wonder I’m not the president?
Is it any wonder I’m null and void?

Is it any wonder I’ve got too much time on my hands?
It’s ticking away with my sanity
I’ve got too much time on my hands
It’s hard to believe such a calamity
I got too much time on my hands
And it’s ticking away, ticking away from me
Too much time on my hands
(T-t-t-t-ticking away)
Too much time on my hands
(And I don’t know what to do with myself)
Too much time on my hands
Too much time on my hands
(T-t-t-t-ticking away)
Too much time on my hands
Too much time on my hands
(Too much time on my hands)
(Too much time on my)

 

31. 1982 – Heat Of The Moment – Asia

When Asia burst on the scene, it was the first time I remember having a Favorite Band. I believe they were the first “Supergroup”. They took members of 4 successful bands and made something even better. Steve Howe played guitar for Yes. John Wetton sang and played bass for King Crimson. Geoff Downes played keyboards for The Buggles. Carl Palmer was the drummer for Emerson, Lake & Palmer. “Heat Of The Moment” was the first single, a classic that everyone knows and loves to this day. The rest of the album contains magical musical performances and cutting lyrics. Every note of every song is perfection.

I was all in on Asia merch. I had an Asia trucker hat, wristbands, a baseball sleeve shirt, and a sweatshirt (which I later cut off to wear bouldering). I drew variations of their logo on every textbook cover (hand made from brown grocery bags) and notebook that I owned. Needless to say, this did not make me the “cool kid”. Asia was no Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, but I was forced to like those bands in secret, due to their bad reputations.

I had tickets to see the original band on their first reunion tour, with my friend from Brick in the Wall infamy, but he tragically died and I could not bring myself to go to the show without him, so I gave the tickets to some other friends.

I did get to see the final tour with all 4 original members with my uncle and his friends, in New Jersey. They played all of their classics, some great new songs, and a song each from their previous bands. Quite a moment.

My favorite lyric:

And when your looks are gone and you’re alone
How many nights you sit beside the phone
What were the things you wanted for yourself?
Teenage ambitions you remember well

I stole this, verbatim, for an English class poetry assignment, which I had forgotten to do. I quickly scribbled this out as the teacher was collecting the assignments, one of the few times having a last name starting with a “V” came in handy. I got an “A”. I also found a creative writing assignment from 1984, which I called “The Modern Cowboys” (a title Tesla later stole from me!), where the final sentence was “We live to fight another day.”, taken from Asia’s second album “Alpha”.

Steve Howe © Johnnie Crow Photos

Heat Of The Moment

Written by Geoff Downes & John Wetton

Performed by Asia

I never meant to be so bad to you
One thing I said that I would never do
A look from you and I would fall from grace
And that would wipe the smile right from my face

Do you remember when we used to dance?
And incidents arose from circumstance
One thing led to another, we were young
And we would scream together songs unsung

It was the heat of the moment
Telling me what my heart meant
The heat of the moment showed in your eyes

And now you find yourself in Eighty Two
The disco hot spots hold no charm for you
You can concern yourself with bigger things
You catch a pearl and ride the dragon’s wings

‘Cause it’s the heat of the moment
Heat of the moment
The heat of the moment showed in your eyes

And when your looks are gone and you’re alone
How many nights you sit beside the phone
What were the things you wanted for yourself?
Teenage ambitions you remember well

It was the heat of the moment
Telling me what your heart meant
The heat of the moment showed in your eyes

It was the heat of the moment
Heat of the moment
Heat of the moment showed in your eyes

Heat of the moment
Heat of the moment
Heat of the moment
Heat of the moment

 

32. 1982 – Subdivisions – Rush

Rush is my favorite band of all time, but it took time to get there. “Subdivisions” was the song that started their ascension for me. Combined with “The Analog Kid” which immediately follows it on the “Signals” album, I heard my teenage life perfectly described. These songs expressed sympathy for the plight of youth, living in the relative comfort and safety of the suburbs, imbued with a fear of missing out. Suburban life is seen as an improvement from city life, but the sprawl and isolation actually limits your opportunities. When you are young, you can only go as far as you can walk, so your social circle is limited to your school friends. I was fortunate to have some amazing friends, some of which I keep in contact with (primarily through our common love of Rush). Then you get a bike, and your world opens up a little more, at least as far as you are willing to pedal. Finally, if you are lucky enough to have access to a car, you can do even more.

By the time I was a senior, I was still biking and walking. I found a job at a frozen yogurt / pita shop (a health food option decades ahead of its time) in a futile attempt to earn enough money to buy my own ride. Some of my friends were planning to put together a band for the annual school High School talent show. I spent months rehearsing alone in my room for months, primarily working on “Tom Sawyer” and “Subdivisions”. For the second of 3 times in my life, I had a serious asthma attack in December of my senior year, while frantically approaching the deadline to apply for Ivy League colleges, which I didn’t even want to attend. After that, I could never hold my breath long enough to sing this song right.

In 2010, I caught up with my oldest friends from the neighborhood to see Rush: Time Machine at Jones Beach Theater. That started an all too brief yearly tradition. The last show we saw together was in the summer of 2015 at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, during their final tour, R:40. Drummer Neil Peart retired after that tour, and got brain cancer soon after, eventually passing away in January of 2020.

Somehow, I was approved to take pictures of Rush while seeing them in Northern Virginia with the drummer who had encouraged me to learn to sing Rush songs for that talent show. That band ended up being called “The Misfits”, which I never even got to join, because I had work the night they finally got together to rehearse. ”Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone.“ I had just gotten my first real camera, and barely begun photographing shows. I was shocked that I even got a photo pass. When Geddy Lee looked straight down into my lens as I was shooting, I felt like Wayne and Garth – “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”. That will always stand as my most surreal concert experience.

Rush © Johnnie Crow Photos

See my article about what Neil Peart and Rush mean to me: https://gameon.media/index.php/2020/01/11/what-neil-peart-and-rush-mean-to-me/

See my article on my High School English analysis of this song as a poem by Neil Peart: https://gameon.media/index.php/2021/01/19/my-high-school-english-paper-on-subdivisions-by-neil-peart/

My favorite lyric:

Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
The future pre-decided

Oh, the irony of giving yourself an asthma attack while stressing out over a pre-decided future that you had no interest in, destroying your ability to sing, which then shatters whatever confidence you had scraped together thinking you could actually be a rock star, if only for a brief instant. “Be cool or be cast out.”

Rush © Johnnie Crow Photos

Subdivisions

Written by Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson & Neil Peart

Performed by Rush

Sprawling on the fringes of the city
In geometric order
An insulated border
In between the bright lights
And the far unlit unknown

Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided
In the mass production zone
Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone

(Subdivisions) —
In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
(Subdivisions) —
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out

Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth

Drawn like moths we drift into the city
The timeless old attraction
Cruising for the action
Lit up like a firefly
Just to feel the living night

Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight
Somewhere out of a memory
Of lighted streets on quiet nights

(Subdivisions) —
In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
(Subdivisions) —
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out

Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth

 

33. 1983 – Who’s Behind The Door? – Zebra

Zebra is the band who led me to that paper route job, where I quickly earned enough points to nab their self-titled debut album. An album that still rates in my all-time top ten, deserted island list. Zebra was the only band I managed to see live during my high school years, and I saw them many times. I continued to see them as often as I could. My parents never had cable, so I could only see cool things like HBO and MTV when I went to my best friend’s house, which was quite often. He had a basement and an in-ground pool with a diving board and slide. He also had an older sister with many cute friends, but I digress. His Dad was the O.G. “dad joke” teller. One time when I arrived, my friend excitedly told me that had seen “Who’s Behind The Door?” 4 times that day. His Dad, cocktail in hand, deadpanned “Well, who was it? You saw him 4 times!”.

Until I got to college, Zebra was actually the only band I had seen live. I have often wondered how a high school kid saw a rock band play at bars across Long Island. My Mom was gracious enough to drop me off sometimes. My little sister was infatuated with singer / guitarist Randy Jackson and even had his poster on her wall. After one show, she went with my Mom to pick me up. When I reluctantly went outside at the pre-planned time, I quickly told my Mom that they weren’t done yet, and hadn’t even played “Who’s Behind The Door?” yet. She agreed to let me go back in as my sister begged to go with me. Shockingly, she agreed. Even more shockingly, the bouncer let me back in, with my kid sister in tow! We rushed right up to the front of the stage as they began their encore of “Who’s Behind The Door?” and a brilliant cover of “The Ocean” by Led Zeppelin. I used to wear a bandana tied to my leg, just like Chachi from “Happy Days”. I had gotten a special zebra striped one to wear to the concert. My sis was so overcome, she pulled it off my leg and threw it on stage, yelling “I love you Randy!!”.

Bob Buchmann was the morning DJ on WBAB 102.3, and every winter, he did a 102 hour “Charity Begins at Home” marathon to raise money for Long Island charities. Bands and celebrities would drop by to speak on the air and help in raising money. When Zebra released their 3rd album “3.V“ and was set to appear with Bob, my friends and I went down to the hotel where he broadcast the event from. We got our cassettes signed, hung out near our favorite DJ and favorite band, and had a blast. When they left, for some reason unexplained to this day, we followed them out. Bassist / keyboardist Felix Hanemann got into his Mercedes, and we got into a Toyota Tercel and proceeded to tail him. He quickly lost us on the Southern State Parkway. To this day, we have no idea why we followed him and what we planned to do if we had somehow kept up with him. In 2018, after seeing them play in Orange County, CA I told Felix this story and he had a huge laugh about it.

I finally had the chance to photograph them when they made a surprise West Coast tour to commemorate the 35th anniversary of this classic debut album. Of all places, I was extremely fortunate to catch them at none other than the world famous Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, California. Talk about checking off some boxes! Zebra still plays a few times a year, with Guy Gelso as always on the drums, mainly in their hometown of New Orleans and their adopted home on Long Island. Randy Jackson performs marathon solo acoustic shows quite often, and he has kept that going online throughout the pandemic, bringing some joy and light into the darkness.

My favorite lyric:

Life is a waiting room
I hope they don’t call me soon

To me, this sums up a lot of what religions teach us. That we are merely passing through Earth, on our way to an eternal destination. If so, I am in no hurry to have my number called. I have no idea who or what is behind the door, and I have way too much to explore and experience here to even think about it.

Zebra ©2019 Johnnie Crow Photos

Who’s Behind The Door?

Written by Randy Jackson

Performed by Zebra

We sailed away
We walked two thousand miles and then we slipped away
We looked so hard
But couldn’t seem to find just what the world was for
Now we know
Just what the journey’s for

Looking out to the stars
Think about what you are
What do they think of you?
Animals in their zoo
They haven’t got the time
Landing is not on their minds
How do they have the nerve
We’re animals in preserve

They watch us all
They’re only making sure that we don’t trip and fall
They looked so hard
But they can’t tell us why they’re here and just what for
Because they don’t know
Who opened up the door

How can we find out more?
Who owns the keyless door?
Where does the circle end?
Who are the unwatched men?
Where do we go from here?
Faith is a fading fear
Life is a waiting room
I hope they don’t call me soon

How much more do you really think you know than a flower does about who’s behind the door?

 

34. 1983 – Photograph – Def Leppard

The “Pyromania” album by Def Leppard is another all-time classic, along with Asia’s and Zebra’s self-titled debuts, which has a hard time getting shaken from any personal favorite lists. The first song, the one that blew us all away, was “Photograph”.

In Junior High, we would take class trips to explore the history of America. Our 7th grade trip was to Washington, D.C., 8th grade was Philadelphia and other parts of Pennsylvania, and 9th grade was Boston. Apparently, the level of alcohol, drug and sexual related activity observed in the Boston hotel passed the acceptability threshold, and all future school wide “educational” trips were permanently canceled. Being a good Catholic kid, I was not party to any of these misadventures. Which brings us back to the 8th grade trip.

I always brought a boom box on bus trips, whether it was to visit my cousins in Massachusetts, traveling to another school for a tennis match or soccer game, or on an educational adventure. I did not own many cassettes in the spring of 1983, so we were listening to Philadelphia’s rock station, 93.3 WMMR when we first heard “Photograph”. Conveniently, we soon stopped at a shopping mall, for a healthy meal in the food court. I sprinted to the mall’s record store and purchased the “Pyromania” cassette, which we proceeded to listen to nonstop on the bus for the rest of the trip (except for Amish country – they are not supposed to know about such things as electricity and rock and roll). The store also gave me a WMMR sticker which I slapped on my boom box.

I probably listened to that cassette every day for a year, singing along, playing air guitar and air drums (possibly some air bass?). I wish I had somehow gotten hold of a guitar and learned to play it. If you add up the number of hours I spent imaging myself playing along, and applied that to actually practicing on an instrument, I bet I would not be half bad by now.

My favorite lyric:

I wanna touch you!

Let’s revisit that 8th grade bus trip, and appropriate levels of sexual activity. Imagine a bunch of 13 and 14 year old boys, away from home, sleeping in hotels, listening to some raunchy new music from British glam gods. It put some ideas in our heads. Something we thought would be hilarious to do is queue up “Photograph” on my boom box to just the right part of the song, and then go up to a girl we liked, and ask her if she wanted to hear this great new band we had just discovered. We would then press play and Joe Elliott would exclaim ‘I wanna touch you!’. Then we would run away and giggle. Super inappropriate, and highly ineffective as well.

Rick Allen ©2020 Johnnie Crow Photos

Photograph

Written by Rick Savage, Pete Willis, Robert John “Mutt” Lange, Joe Elliott & Steve Clark

Performed by Def Leppard

I’m outta luck, outta love
Gotta photograph, picture of
Passion killer, you’re too much
You’re the only one I wanna touch

I see your face every time I dream
On every page, every magazine
So wild and free, so far from me
You’re all I want, my fantasy

Oh, look what you’ve done to this rock ‘n’ roll clown
Oh Oh, look what you’ve done

Photograph
I don’t want your photograph
I don’t need your photograph
All I’ve got is a photograph
But it’s not enough

I’d be your lover, if you were there
Put your hurt on me, if you dare
Such a woman, you got style
You make every man feel like a child

You got some kinda hold on me
You’re all wrapped up in mystery
So wild and free, so far from me
You’re all I want, my fantasy

Oh, Look what you’ve done to this rock ‘n’ roll clown
Oh Oh, Look what you’ve done

Photograph
I don’t want your photograph
I don’t need your photograph
All I’ve got is a photograph

You’ve gone straight to my head

Look what you’ve done to this rock ‘n’ roll clown
Look what you’ve done

I gotta have you

Photograph
I don’t want your photograph
I don’t need your photograph
All I’ve got is a photograph

I wanna touch you!

Photograph
Photograph
Your photograph
Photograph
Photograph
I need more than your photograph
I’m outta love
Photograph
I’m outta love
Photograph
You’re the only one
Photograph
I wanna touch

 

35. 1984 – Dancing In The Dark – Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen is the one classic rock artist from the 1970’s who managed to become even bigger in the 1980’s. The “Born in the U.S.A.” album produced an insane 7 Top 10 singles. “Dancing In The Dark” was actually written in one spiteful night, 2 years after most of the album had already been recorded, yet another example of either divine intervention or musical magic. I actually have written a lot of good software code out of spite, so whatever motivates you is good to use for creative fuel.

The live performance video is also a classic, most notable for the moment when Bruce pulls a young fan out of the crowd to dance with him on stage. That young fan was an unknown by the name of Courteney Cox. This was years before I fell in love with her as Alex P. Keaton’s girlfriend on “Family Ties”, and way before “Friends” and “Scream”.

I played this cassette so much over the next two years, that I had to buy another copy. Then I dug deep into the back catalog, which my aunts and uncle were more than happy to help me with. One of my best memories is seeing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play for hours on end at Giants Stadium, somewhere in the swamps of Jersey, with my uncle and aunt. I collected bootleg concert tapes and became obsessed.

When I started my own software consulting company in the 2000’s, I had an NFL credit card. If you collected 200,000 points (by charging $200,000), then you could get 2 Super Bowl tickets! I put every business and personal expense on that card for years. When I finally hit the magic number, they told me that they had changed it to 300,000 points!! What?!??!? Now I was scrambling to charge anything I could, even stuff for my family, just to get to the new level. I really wanted to see the Super Bowl in Tampa, where I had lived for 6 months in the 90’s, and had seen several Buccaneers games over the years. I made it late that fall, and I was able to pay back my Dad for all that he done for me by taking him on an all expenses paid trip to the Super Bowl. I had airline miles, hotel points and 2 tickets to the big game. This was Super Bowl XLIII in 2009. Turned out to be the most dramatic and exciting game of them all, where the Pittsburgh Steelers took a halftime lead on a 99 yard INT return. Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald led the Arizona Cardinals back to take a late lead, only to have Big Ben pull off a 90 yard last second drive where Santonio Holmes allegedly got 2 feet down, even though I have never seen that second foot touch grass. We had already had a great week, eating dinner next to ESPN hosts, spending time playing games at the NFL Experience, and seeing concerts by 3 Doors Down and Journey. We told each other that no matter what happens at the game, it was all worth it. Besides, the halftime show was Bruce Springsteen. Not only did we get one of the best games ever, we got one of the best halftime shows ever.

My favorite lyric:

I check my look in the mirror
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face

Anyone who does not feel this way from time to time must be a model or actor. I could have picked any line from here s my favorite. They are all perfect in their own way. This song only enhanced for me what Rush had started. I knew that there was a whole wide world out there somewhere, and I had to figure out a way to get there.

Bruce Springsteen © Johnnie Crow Photos

Dancing In The Dark

Written by Bruce Springsteen

Performed by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

I get up in the evening
And I ain’t got nothing to say
I come home in the morning
I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain’t nothing but tired
Man, I’m just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help

You can’t start a fire
You can’t start a fire without a spark
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark

Message keeps getting clearer
Radio’s on and I’m moving ’round the place
I check my look in the mirror
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face
Man, I ain’t getting nowhere
I’m just living in a dump like this
There’s something happening somewhere
Baby, I just know that there is

You can’t start a fire
You can’t start a fire without a spark
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark

You sit around getting older
There’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me
I’ll shake this world off my shoulders
Come on, baby, the laugh’s on me

Stay on the streets of this town
And they’ll be carving you up all right
They say you gotta stay hungry
Hey, baby, I’m just about starving tonight
I’m dying for some action
I’m sick of sitting ’round here trying to write this book
I need a love reaction
Come on now, baby, gimme just one look

You can’t start a fire
Sitting ’round crying over a broken heart
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark
You can’t start a fire
Worrying about your little world falling apart
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark

Even if we’re just dancing in the dark
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark
Hey, baby

 

36. 1984 – The Warrior – Scandal featuring Patty Smyth

“The Warrior” by Scandal is forever linked in my mind to Victory Soccer Camp. For two summers in a row, I got to spend a week in the Connecticut country side, with my closest friends and family, doing nothing but play soccer. Naturally, I had by boom box, and the 2 most played albums that first summer at camp were from The Cars and Scandal. That first trip to Victory Soccer Camp is my favorite week ever. My sister was there. My best friends were there. My cousins who lived in Massachusetts were there, and I never got to see them enough. Plus it was soccer, soccer everywhere. Soccer drills, soccer skills, soccer matches, soccer patches. Somehow it got even better. I met a girl named Amy who was perfection. She had the athletic soccer body. She had long dark hair. She loved rock and roll. We fell in love that week, that perfect teenage love that they make movies about.

On the last night of camp, some of the parents came to collect their kids. Sadly, she was one of them leaving early. My parents planned to arrive the next morning. After I kissed her goodbye and watched her drive away, I was floating. A bunch of my friends were scheming to sneak into the girls dorm. I had no reason to do so, after all, my true love had just left. I followed along anyway, we got spotted, and ran in every direction. I made it back to the boys dorm and dove under the covers. Bad move, as the counselors went in each room, and my Catholic guilt over “almost” doing something wrong must have showed on my face. They hauled me off to the office, called my parents and demanded that they come get me immediately. My parents laughed them off and told them they would be making the 3 hour drive in the morning. Once again, I was the only one to get caught. Everyone who was hiding in the woods had snuck back into the dorm while I was being held in detention. The whole time, I just kept thinking about Amy, and didn’t really care about getting in trouble. My heart had followed her down that dusty road.

My favorite lyric:

I’ll hold you close in Victory

Victory soccer camp. My first love. My first soccer chick / rocker chick. I have been “chasing Amy” for the rest of my life.

The Warrior

Written by Holly Knight & Nick Gilder

Performed by Scandal featuring Patty Smyth

Ohhh, oh, oh, ohhh, oh, oh, oh, oh

You run, run, run away
It’s your heart that you betray
Feeding on your hungry eyes
I bet you’re not so civilized
Well, isn’t love primitive
A wild gift that you want to give
Break out of captivity
And follow me, stereo jungle child
Love is the kill. Your heart’s still wild

Shooting at the walls of heartache
Bang bang
I am the warrior
Well, I am the warrior
And heart to heart you’ll win if you survive
The warrior. The warrior

You talk, talk, talk to me
Your eyes touch me physically
Stay with me, we’ll take the night
As passion takes another bite

Oh, oh, oh, oh
Who’s the hunter, who’s the game
I feel the beat call your name
I’ll hold you close in victory
I don’t want to tame your animal style
You won’t be caged in the call of the wild

Shooting at the walls of heartache
Bang bang
I am the warrior
Well, I am the warrior
And heart to heart to win if you survive
The warrior. The warrior
I am the warrior

Shooting at the walls of heartache
(Shooting at the walls of heartache.) The warrior
I am the warrior and heart to heart you’ll win
Heart to heart you’ll win if you survive
The warrior. The warrior

Shooting at the walls of heartache
Bang bang
I am the warrior
Yes, I am the warrior and victory is mine
(Shooting at the walls of heartache.) The warrior
I am the warrior
Shooting at the walls of heartache

 

My Life In Music, Part 2, 1980 – 1984 first appeared on Game On Media.

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