A certain time, a certain place: Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tango in the Night’

A few years ago I found this story about the recording of Tango in the Night, Fleetwood Mac’s fifth with Lindsey Buckingham and first with Stevie Nicks as a triggered Fairlight sample. Press around the album centered on Buckingham’s exit after the band announced its world tour, replaced by the hapless Billy Burnette and RickContinue reading “A certain time, a certain place: Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tango in the Night’”

George Michael: notes on a brilliant career

I’m happy with how my George Michael essay for Billboard turned out. I’ve had time to think about him since my first reevaluation in October. Because of space and thematic limitations I couldn’t fit a few other points. First, the “producer” part of George Michael’s list of talents gets short shrift. Genre hopping is impossibleContinue reading “George Michael: notes on a brilliant career”

We know about time: The best of R.E.M.

In 1995 the only band bigger than R.E.M. was U2. In 2005, the only band less relevant than R.E.M. was Reel Big Fish. When the fingers of time ripped the calendar page from January 2015 I was asking my students at the radio station if they listened to R.E.M. It was like asking a studentContinue reading “We know about time: The best of R.E.M.”

I was waiting for him: The career of George Michael

It could have been the pinstriped jacket. But credit the combination of thick generous hair and stubble. When George Michael, then and forever of Wham!, faced the camera in “Careless Whisper” (what a title!) and shared the story of how his character had acted like a cad, I felt the first stirrings of the homosexualContinue reading “I was waiting for him: The career of George Michael”

Something happens and I’m head over heels: the best singles of 1985

Often dismissed as the hangover after two years of consecutive partying, 1985 does indeed have explaining to do on both the British and American charts. But I still had no trouble finding plenty of R&B and dance tracks I adore, and quite a few pop songs that didn’t hit number one. 1. Madonna – Angel/IntoContinue reading “Something happens and I’m head over heels: the best singles of 1985”

‘If my heart could do the thinking, will my head begin to feel?’ — Van Morrison remastered

It can’t have escaped the grouch’s notice that his seventieth birthday lands three days after his catalog gets digitized. I’m not much of a Van Morrison fan — I prefer Saint Dominic’s Preview and Tupelo Honey to the earlier classics when I remember I own them — but it took this kind of availability forContinue reading “‘If my heart could do the thinking, will my head begin to feel?’ — Van Morrison remastered”

Butterflies in me arise

Before streaming and the Internet, used CD stores stocked a dozen copies of one of the nineties best and least heralded albums, priced at pennies. But Symphony or Damn is available for a couple bucks on Amazon. Buy it. I didn’t hear Introducing the Hardline… in its entirety until a couple years ago. In 1988Continue reading “Butterflies in me arise”

“No coward soul is mine – “

After completing a round of triumphant returns to the UK stage, Kate Bush deserves to bask. Audience responses validated her decision to limit set lists to albums recorded after 1985. Before Stylus Magazine folded, the editorial board on which I sat chose her as the third member of our artist hall of fame. A roundContinue reading ““No coward soul is mine – “”

On the Communards’ “Don’t Leave Me This Way”

A synth pop act covering a Giorgio Moroder-helmed electronic piece was one thing; keeping the spirit of Thelma Houston’s biggest hit with falsetto was another. It’s to Richard Cole and Jimmy Somerville’s credit that they wanted “Don’t Leave Me This Way” to sound as huge and campy as possible. In the era of Parting GlancesContinue reading “On the Communards’ “Don’t Leave Me This Way””

I really really really really really zig-a-zig-ahh: Spice Girls’ “Wannabe”

Tom Ewing arrives at Spice Girls’ “Wannabe,” a single whose impact in America paled beside what the British experienced. Spicemania wasn’t an American phenomenon; we could barely tell the Spices apart. A couple of facts: we got “Wannabe” almost six months after its UK release; and unlike many of the mid-nineties’ biggest hits (No Doubt’sContinue reading “I really really really really really zig-a-zig-ahh: Spice Girls’ “Wannabe””

U2’s War: “It…felt like being hit on the head with a rolled-up copy of the Christian Science Monitor for forty-two minutes.”

I don’t care much for War, and Marcello explains why: So U2 felt moved to prove they were Men. The cover star of War – Peter Rowen, who had also been the cover star of Boy some twenty-nine months earlier – was still youthful but now scowled, looked both angry and afraid, hands up behindContinue reading “U2’s War: “It…felt like being hit on the head with a rolled-up copy of the Christian Science Monitor for forty-two minutes.””

If a love song could climb over mountains: Bowie’s “Absolute Beginners”

David Bowie essaying a straightforward love song is usually cause to head for the hills (rather like learning that Paul McCartney will record one of those I’m-gonna-play-all-the-instruments-cuz-I’m-a-pop-genius albums he does from time to time). Generally the poseur is most moving when he reminds us that he is one, albeit one blessed with a preternatural giftContinue reading “If a love song could climb over mountains: Bowie’s “Absolute Beginners””