As Women’s History Month rolls ever onward, we’ve got another playlist to keep the celebration going...and this time it’s really going to be a party, because every song on this list topped the dance charts at some point or other. Some of the tracks have been seen as classics since the first time they were spun (Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family”), others are oft-forgotten gems (Stacy Lattisaw’s “Dynamite!”), and a few of ‘em even may make you do a double-take if you weren’t paying attention at the time the songs were successful (it’s still strange to think of k.d. lang and Jewel as having done time as dance floor divas), but they’re all likely to make you shake your tail feather.
Today marks the 28th anniversary of the release of the debut album by a former editor for Smash Hits and the UK branch of Marvel Comics and an occasional architect. You may know them better as Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, respectively, but still more know them simply as Pet Shop Boys. And the album in question? Please.
We’re not just being polite. That’s actually the name of the album...although the band did reportedly name it that because they couldn’t resist the idea of consumers strolling into their local record stores and asking, “Can I have the Pet Shop Boys album, Please?”
And, yes, those really were their occupations before they became pop stars. Indeed, in Pet Shop Boys: Catalogue, the book by Philip Hoare and Chris Heath which explores the visual side of the band, it’s said that Tennant’s department from Smash Hits to pursue his musical aspirations led the magazine to write an “obituary” for their departing editor, in which his cohorts can be found “bidding him a sad adieu and predicting that in a matter of weeks Neil’s pop duo ‘will be down the dumper and he’ll come crawling back on bended knees, ha ha ha.’” (We also heard that Smash Hits predicted a landslide victory for Michael Dukakis in 1988, but that may only be a vicious rumor.)
I referred to my pal's copy of Waylon Jenning's biography, Waylon: An Autobiography, as his spirit guide this weekend. Unconventional, sure, but there are many a life lesson to be gleaned from old Waymore, the man called Hoss. And one doesn't have to pour through 300+ pages to unearth them, just listen to his music.
This week's playlist rounds up twenty favorites, with the following caveat: if I was to recommend any one Waylon lp to the uninitiated, I would begin with Honky Tonk Heroes. Released in 1973, the album was, save for a few tunes, penned entirely by (the then unknown singer) Billy Joe Shaver. I invite you to google the colorful exchange between Jennings and Shaver following Waymore's initial refusal of the material. Again, life lesson's y'all. A man has to keep his word.
In what we can only presume is some sort of unlikely 35th anniversary celebration of the last time she embarked on a proper tour, Kate Bush left fans reeling today when she dropped the bombshell that, in August and September, she’ll be playing a series of 15 shows at London’s Hammersmith Apollo.
In a pleasant, politely-worded announcement on her official website, Bush described herself as “delighted” about her declaration on the upcoming performances, adding, “I hope you will be able to join us and I look forward to seeing you there.”
The “Before the Dawn” dates – that seems to be the name of the concert series, based on the fact that the phrase was hash-tagged along with the announcement on Twitter – are as follows:
A SONG FOR JEFFREY
Purists believe the initial album is best, "This Was," the one before Mick Abrahams left. If nothing came after, Tull would be seen as English blues progenitors, but a hit changes all perceptions. There were no hits on "This Was," but I'd start here, with the signature flute intro and then the instant groove. "A Song For Jeffrey," all of "This Was," is Jethro Tull for people who think they hate Jethro Tull.
MY SUNDAY FEELING
The opening cut on "This Was," and probably the most famous. Most jam bands can't hold a candle to this.
The instantly accessible rearrangement of Bach's composition is the signature track on Tull's second album, "Stand Up," which did, i.e. when you opened the gatefold cover, the band popped up inside.
The musical movement known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, which kicked off in the late ‘70s, is one which never really managed to cross the pond and make a major impact in America, but a few bands in the bunch did make a bit of headway here. Certainly, that list starts with Def Leppard, with Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Motorhead also hovering near the top of the pack, but one which often gets lost in the shuffle – even though they developed a considerable following in various pockets of the country – is Saxon.
While Saxon’s era of Stateside success basically consists of the four albums they released between 1983 and 1986 – Power & the Glory, Crusader, Innocence is No Excuse, and Rock the Nations – you’d have a good chance of finding yourself trading fisticuffs if you suggested to a British fan that any one of those albums should be deemed one of the band’s best. (Their three most successful albums in the UK all came out prior to the four that proved popular in the US.)
Thankfully, you can now enjoy a fuller exploration of Saxon’s glory days and figure out your own favorites, thanks to the release of a new box set: Saxon: The Complete Albums 1979-1988. We had an opportunity to chat with Steve Dawson, a founding member of the band and their bassist through the majority of the albums in the set, and he talked us through Saxon’s birth, success, and creative struggles, their influence on Spinal Tap, and his exit from the band, along with a look into his life in the wake of his departure.