Ranking Mainstream Rock tracks, 1990 edition

In 1990 the evidence of crossover between the Mainstream and Modern Rock chart happened with a song that everyone promptly forgot by the end of the year: Midnight Oil’s followup to “Beds Are Burning,” which I’d praised as sound, solid entertainment last week but surrounded by these lonely inferiors it has the force of a bell in the night. Continue reading

Ranking Best Actor, 1960s edition

Marlon Brando receded in the decade when the studio system collapsed, replaced by corporate fealty to youth culture in all its forms even if it meant John Wayne and Kirk Douglas growing mutton chops. At the end the decade Bonnie and Clyde and Midnight Cowboy would scare the hell out of the geezers. Peter O’Toole became the hot young British actor, which meant Hollywood had to slip into sandals and robes. Close behind was Richard Burton, O’Toole’s co-star in the queer royal drama Becket (both actors know exactly what they’re doing), yet his two best film performances were in contemporary fare (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). Continue reading

Screenings #41

first-time viewings included Seijun Suzuki’s nightmarish vision of post-war Japan, a couple of restored von Sternberg classics and not quite classics, and Peter Bogdanovich’s They All Laughed, in which John Ritter, Ben Gazzara, and Audrey Hepburn trail each other or are being trailed on the excellently photographed Manhattan streets. Some of the dialogue is so far from glittering that I’m sure Bogdanovich thinks his script is Samuel Raphaelson material. It defines a mess, and I can understand why someone would hug it close based on what I’ve written. Continue reading

Ranking Mainstream Rock Tracks, 1989 edition

Boomer rock triumphed in 1988: the year began with #1s from the barely functional CSNY and in the last quarter saw two singles from the Rolling Stones’ Steel Wheels top the chart for a collective ten weeks. Not one single from Dirty Work or Undercover did that. Aerosmith consolidated their comeback with the loudest, busiest of their singles. Eve the Doobies scored a pop top ten with a Tom Johnstone vocal and guitar work that made Eric Clapton’s “Pretending” sound like “Sister Ray.” Amid this tastefulness, Don Henley released “The End of the Innocence,” Bruce Hornsby-composed rat-tat-tat “The Way It Is, Part II” that’s meaner to the reluctant virgin he threatens to deflower than to tired old elected king Ronnie Reagan.

At last a woman elbows into this men’s club, a former lover of Don Henley’s, here to rebuke him with her own crystal visions. Fresh off a successful world tour in Fleetwood Mac without their second most crucial member, Stevie Nicks got off coke and, thanks to what she says was an unscrupulous psychiatrist, started on Klonopin. Before she receded into the fog of lethargy, she recorded The Other Side of the Mirror, her first sober album since 1975. Rupert Hine confuses Nicks for Rush, so many songs have billowing synth parts that fans of “Show Don’t Tell” will recognize, but those synth parts suit the dreamy material, her strongest batch of songs in a decade. Blessed with crisp drumming, unrhymed lyrics, and a daffy chorus that only one person could have written (“Well, there is magic all around you/If I do say so myself”), “Rooms on Fire” joins “Stand Back” on the short list of Stevie solo tunes I’ld play to a skeptic.

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Ranking Mainstream Rock Chart, 1988 edition

In 1988, Robert Plant’s “Heaven Knows” spent six weeks at the top of the chart — an expected turn, for the AOR boys whom Plant had courted were always going to reward him (follow-up “Tall Cool One,” which sampled Zep at the same time the Beasties Boys did, followed it two weeks later for four more weeks at the top). The runners-up? U2’s wretched ‘Angel of Harlem,” tied for six weeks, “Desire,” five weeks. Followed by David Lee Roth’s “Just Like Paradise,” his last pop top ten, forgotten today; and, uh, Little Feat’s “Hate to Lose Your Lovin’.” I had no idea they were a going concern at the dawn of the Poppy Bush Interzone. Continue reading

Singles 2/15

At the same time she has explained Ryan Adams’ malignancy, Phoebe Bridgers has been promoting excellent music she co-wrote with Conor Oberst under the Better Oblivion Center moniker. Give it up to Mariah Carey too, who recorded her best album since the Clinton years.

Click on links for full reviews

Mariah Carey – With You (8)
Better Oblivion Community Center – Dylan Thomas (7)
Russ ft. Taze, LD, Digga D, Ms Banks & Lethal Bizzle – Gun Lean (Remix) (6)
Shizzi ft. Mayorkun & Teni – Aye Kan (5)
Dua Lipa – Swan Song (5)
Mabel – Don’t Call Me Up (
Hozier – Almost (Sweet Music) (4)
Josh Ritter – Old Black Magic (4)
J. Cole – Middle Child (4)
Kacey Musgraves – Rainbow (3)
Greta Van Fleet – You’re The One (3)
Sabrina Carpenter – Sue Me (2)
Julia Michaels ft. Selena Gomez – Anxiety (2)
Martha – Love Keeps Kicking (1)

Ranking Mainstream Rock, 1986

Not much separates these #1s from what we’d see on the pop or MTV charts. I will note the brief incandescence of Julian Lennon, whose “Stick Around” got airplay thanks to a sped-up video starring Michael J. Fox and a fabulous Manhattan apartment, and Van Hagar’s only good-to-great single, and Eddie Money ceding the mike to Ronnie Spector, in one of the great WTF moments in pop history. As WTF is how Dave Stewart allowed linguini to colonize his head.  Continue reading