To say that our band spends a significant amount of its time trying to copy Michael Jackson’s Thriller would be quite accurate. There are two reasons why. First, the songs. Thriller is a pop music masterclass. Each song is a musical iceberg–on the surface sits deliciously effortless ear candy, but underneath lies a brilliantly crafted layering of extreme musical sophistication. As a young pop band, our goal is to make musical complexities seem easy, and no album has ever done it better.
Our second reason is, of course, Michael himself. Listen…we’re talking about an album cover where the guy threw on a white suit, lounged on the ground, and took pictures with a tiger. I mean, come on! I have no idea whose idea that photo shoot was, but I’d like to think that after hearing the album, someone walked into a meeting and said, “well, I think it’s pretty obvious what needs to happen here. Someone call the zoo.”
Joking aside, as good as these songs are, they’re nothing without someone to deliver them, and Michael does that and more. He elevates them. He embodies them. And we’re not quite sure how he was able to do that. But it’s worth noting that just over thirty years later, we, an up-and-coming pop band, are still looking to Thriller for the answers.
Thanks for reading, and in the words of the ancient Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu, “mamma se mamma sa mamma kusa.”
It might have been easy to overlook an album like This Year’s Model early on. After all, here was a set of songs that typified the insurgent attitude of punk rock in its ignominious heyday. It was the work of a petulant young upstart clearly determined to upset the pop cart — and possibly the pop charts — through a turbulent approach that turned its back on pop precedent. Early on, it came across as an intimidating affair, bolstered by songs that seemed to affirm an angry, nihilistic point of view. Indeed, entries such as “No Action,” “Radio, Radio,” “Lip Service,” and “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” took broad swipes at antagonists real and imagined, and with them, society at large and the mores that it imposed. Costello himself was the perfect outcast, a gawky persona in Buddy Holly glasses who seemed the very antithesis of the rock star ideal, a performer who seemed to have no intention of embracing his audience, but rather to further isolate them, if not from himself, then certainly from their current environs. After the free fall dissolution of the harmony and idealism of the ‘60s, This Year’s Model served as a reminder of the harsh realities and disingenuous platitudes the succeeding decade had ushered in in its place.
Nevertheless, for all its gloom and downcast pontificating, This Year’s Model did provide some promise. Only Costello’s second album overall — and the first with his remarkable new band, the Attractions (although they weren’t given the equal billing they deserved) — it heralded the continuing rise of an artist who had quickly established himself as an indelible presence, one capable of not only writing and recording great songs, regardless of genre, but inspiring others to do the same. (Graham Parker, take note!) Despite his determination to paint outside the lines, first and foremost Costello was capable of crafting great songs, flush with attitude, aptitude and, in most cases, the amplitude that all but assured immortality. Gone was the momentary self-pity of “Allison” from the first album. In it’s place was a new set of rallying cries, those garnered from the likes of “No Action,” “Pump It Up,” “Hand in Hand” and “This Year’s Girl.” They were lean yet muscular, filled with a particular tension and tenacity that ensured an immediate visceral appeal.
Likewise, the band’s flirtation with reggae rhythms and Costello’s take on Dylan-esque wordplay (which even extended to a title like “You Belong To Me,” a possible reference to the Bobster’s “She Belongs To Me”), showed this was a man and a band that had already outgrown the standard punk precepts and advanced to a particular pedigree all their own. “I don’t wanna kiss you/I don’t wanna touch/I don’t wanna see you/’Cause I don’t miss you that much,” Costello snarls on “No Action,” intersecting the same avenues of separation and alienation Dylan referred to in “Positively 4th Street” (“No, I do not feel that good/When I see the heartbreaks you embrace”)
At some point in their evolution, only a few great artists are able to outgrow their marginal trappings, elevate themselves beyond their early influences and exercise their ambitions to become something greater and more than the product of their times. Costello accomplished that early on with This Year’s Model and he was all the more remarkable for being able to do so at such an early, formative point in his still evolving career. It served as the solid foundation for a brilliant career that’s still evolving to this very day, one that shook the punk stereotype even while retaining its freewheeling everything-goes attitude, and eagerly embraced new musical spheres — rock (of course), country, adult easy listening, Americana and practically everything in between. It allowed Costello to become an equal iconic partner on the ultimate musical plateau, positioning him comfortably alongside Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Burt Bacharach, the Grateful Dead and all the other gatekeepers of modern music.
Happily then, its legacy gives testimony to that distinction. Despite the fact This Year’s Model barely scraped the U.S. top thirty (although it did manage to make it to number four on the British charts), in retrospect, it’s garnered any number of impressive kudos. It was voted the best album of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll. In 2000, Q magazine placed it at number 82 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 1987, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 11 on its list of the best albums of 1967–1987. In 2003, the album was ranked number 98 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Perhaps most telling of all is the fact it’s been re-released three times, each with ample bonus tracks to justify its reacquisition.
Thirty-six years after its inception, This Year’s Model became a model for practically every year that followed. If Costello is considered rock royalty, and damn well he ought to be, then this album in particular provided the keys to his kingdom.
– Lee Zimmerman
Blurt, American Songwriter, M Music & Musicians, New Times, Goldmine, No Depression,
Country Standard Time, Elmore, Relix, CBS Watch, Bluegrass Situation, SyndicatedNews.NET
Story by Brittney McKenna
Looking back over the last few decades of popular music, there are only a handful of albums that serve as true landmarks, points on a timeline that elucidate our musical lineage and say, “Hey, this is how we got here.” Many of these albums display a marked departure from the artistic norms of their time and, as such, often don’t find commercial success until the rest of the culture has caught up. A few, however, capture the zeitgeist of an era in such a way that everyone is forced to take notice, listen up and follow along.
Crosby, Stills and Nash’s eponymous debut is one of those albums. A gorgeous assemblage of confessional odes, spiritual meanderings and cultural commentary, Crosby, Stills and Nash was an immediate critical and commercial success that brought the music of the late ‘60s to an about-face, grabbing the crown from heavy blues-rock and ushering in the Laurel Canyon sound that would come to define much of the pop music output of the early ‘70s.
One of the original supergroups, CSN easily could have become the living equivalent of a greatest hits record – virtuosic playing from Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills here, thoughtful lyrics from The Byrds’s David Crosby there, with Hollies alum Graham Nash’s ironclad harmonies rounding out the effort – and still found commercial success. Instead, the trio found a way to transcend the sum of its parts, writing one of the greatest folk-rock records of all time and bringing forth a new dawn in songwriter-driven pop music in the process.
Written and recorded before fellow Buffalo Springfield member Neil Young joined the fold and gave the group a bit more “super,” Crosby, Stills and Nash served as the mission statement for a band that, in all its incarnations, would come to leave an indelible mark on what it means to make music in America. Despite serving as the genesis of a storied career spanning nearly fifty years, Crosby, Stills and Nash contains some of the band’s most important songs, including “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “Marrakesh Express” and “Guinnevere.” The musical output of the following years, both from CSN(Y) and artists who followed in their footsteps, like Fleetwood Mac and Jackson Browne, was irrevocably colored by the influence of Crosby, Stills and Nash, a record with so profound a genealogy that the full scope of its impact is yet to be determined.
Looking around in 2014, then, it’s easy to see descendants of the CSN family tree. The pop-Americana resurgence spearheaded, ironically, by British foursome Mumford & Sons shares a number of similarities with CSN’s early output: soaring vocal harmonies; confessional, often spiritual lyrics; and a focus on heavily rhythmic acoustic instrumentation, a style that uses crescendo as punctuation and trades more in emotional currency than it does showy feats of musicianship.
It’s hard to imagine Mumford and all his Sons – The Lumineers, The Civil Wars, even Idol-cum-pop star Phillip Phillips – existing without Crosby, Stills and Nash as their musical north star. Just as CSN found fame at the height of fuzz-drenched guitar psychedelia in the mid to late ‘60s, Mumford & Sons entered the cultural consciousness at the pinnacle of the EDM movement, offering a direct, and apparently welcome, foil to the blips and beeps of electronic music, their debut Sigh No More serving as the album that launched a thousand suspenders.
That said, how would Crosby, Stills and Nash perform were it released today? Musically, it’s rock-solid – forty-five years later and those harmonies are just as revelatory as the day they were recorded. Stephen Stills’s arrangements, replete with unconventional tunings and time signatures, still sound anything but ordinary. David Crosby’s political insights, like those on the RFK-inspired “Long Time Gone,” haven’t lost power to the relevance-stripping force of decades gone by. Graham Nash’s “Pre-Road Downs” would sound at home on Triple A Radio.
Lyrically, the record is strong but can occasionally feel dated, particularly on tracks like Nash contribution “Marrakesh Express,” which, though one of the album’s biggest hits (peaking at #28 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart) comes off a bit campy in comparison to the rest of the record. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is still one of the most heartbreaking love songs ever written, though the odds of a multi-part, seven minute folk song peaking at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart (which “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” did in 1969) in 2014 are slim to none, at best.
We’re likely fortunate, then, that Crosby, Stills and Nash was released before Spotify was a household name. Though the album is, in most regards, timeless, getting to the heart of the record requires full absorption on the part of the listener, a rarity in an age where attention runs short and the thirst for new and shiny has never been more pronounced.
It’s hard to imagine where we’d be had David, Stephen and Graham never sat around singing “You Don’t Have to Cry” in either Joni Mitchell’s living room or Cass Elliott’s dining room (the band still can’t agree on a location). We’d have folk and pop and singer/songwriters, sure, but that musical movement perhaps wouldn’t have come so quickly, or with such ubiquity. It is, after all, such a long time before the dawn, and we can thank Crosby, Stills and Nash for ushering in a new one.
Brittney McKenna is a writer living in Nashville, TN. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including American Songwriter Magazine, PolicyMic, CMT.com and Relix. For more information, visit brittneymckenna.com
Alright. I’ll come clean. I’ve never been an Elton John fan. In fact, it was my mom who turned me on to the guy. Before my sweet mother introduced me to Tumbleweed Connection, I’d only invested loosely in building up my EJ catalog. It was all a tad sensational for my blood. I believe I made an obligatory greatest hits purchase at a used bookstore at some point. Then, came TC. TC marked not only the beginning of my interest in Elton but more the start of my musical journey into the backbeat-heavy, grit-spitting, southern sophistication, and general mid-tempo genius of Leon Russel’s track “Tightwire,” all the tunes off of “Music From Big Pink,” and Dr. John’s “In the Right Place.”
There’s nothing distinctly “Elton John” about TC. In fact, there weren’t any hit singles. And, I think that lack of pretense, along with the obvious twang and groove, is what I latched onto. In projecting what they imagined an old world American west to look like, two distinguished Brits (EJ and lyricist Bernie Taupin) actually landed fantastically in it. It’s the genre equivalent of dressing for the job you want and then getting it, not something most of us underachievers can swing. The album comes across as straight from the heart.
Campfire-friendly descriptors don’t necessarily come to mind when one marinates on an EJ playlist. Whether intentional or not, submitting to the country and western template and mythology gave Elton and Bernie room to lean on the team’s previously under-used storytelling bone making for an earnestly funky and timeless artifact.
Micah Dalton, ATL-Collective Co-founder
I don’t need to tell you anything about Johnny Cash. That’s probably the greatest testament to any artist’s legacy — that their life is elevated to the stuff of myth. The problem with the mythological “Man In Black,” is that we forget all the ways he was just like us, the very reasons he was so beloved. Unlike the airbrushed pop stars of today, Cash connected with the broken down, bruised up, addicted, imprisoned, impoverished, marginalized, and misunderstood.
But make no mistake, Johnny Cash was a huge star, 0ne of the biggest stars there ever was, with over 100 top 40 country hits and 48 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop (yes pop!) charts –about the same number as the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys. Yet, turn on country radio today and it’s clear that the industry is focused on a very different kind of cash. It’s easy to sigh and lament that times have changed so much since young J.R. showed up at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, but when Johnny Cash returned to public prominence in 2002 with his heart wrenching take on the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt,” he didn’t do it by pandering to the fashions of the time. He did what he’s always done. He showed us the power of uncompromising, honest, authentic art.
As a songwriter and artist, I don’t look to Johnny Cash as simply a grand figure in the history of American music. To me, he is the quintessential example of how to live and create with integrity. When we take the stage at Eddie’s Attic on May 8th to recreate the iconic record Live At Folsom Prison, we won’t only be celebrating that now timeless, distinctive style that is a genre all it’s own. We’ll be paying tribute to man who continues to teach us about the gritty dignity of staying genuine in a world of sugar-coated copycats. We hope to see you on Wednesday. This is gonna be a good one!
There is no one like Prince. No one. I think you could make a list of things Prince has done that no one else in the world has ever done or ever could do. You can’t find him on YouTube (he has a team that takes down any footage of him). He’s not on Twitter or Facebook. He doesn’t even have a website. For a while, his name was a symbol.
He was recently on “The View” sporting an incredible tiny Afro, but still he brought his friends Rosario Dawson and Van Jones to answer the questions for him. He maybe said five sentences during the entire interview.
And did you see him on the Grammy’s on Sunday night? Dude had a chrome cane! Questlove tells an amazing story of going to Prince’s Grammy after-party with Eddie Murphy at a roller skating rink where Prince showed up with clear skates in a Pulp Fiction-esque briefcase. The skates not only lit up when he skated but also spewed a trail of sparks!
The point here is that Prince is way cooler everyone else. And he always has been. He’s unique in every sense. His music, his acting, his lyrics, his guitar playing, his clothes, his producing, his dancing: pure unaffected unique virtuosity. And when Purple Rain was released in June of 1984, his uniqueness (among other things) was on display in its highest form.
Purple Rain is undisputedly one of the greatest albums of all time. It shows up on all the lists and all the countdowns. The two main singles “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” are some of the best pop songs ever written. And the title track, “Purple Rain,” has become one of the great anthems of modern music history. The accompanying movie (which if you haven’t seen, I absolutely urge you to go watch. It will blow your mind. As an aside, I still remember my dad sitting me down when I was in 8th grade to watch the movie. Cliche aside, it changed my life. Thanks Dad.) earned Prince an Oscar and exposed the world to the performer that Prince was and still is. The tour that followed the release of Purple Rain is one of the most famed and legendary tours of all time. Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls once told me that she saw Prince on the Purple Rain Tour and was so overwhelmed by the spectacle and the energy and Prince’s true mastery that she cried (joyously) the entire performance. Now that’s a concert.
But putting all of the legend, mystique and reception of Purple Rain aside, it has always been one of my favorite albums. It was the first album I ever purchased on vinyl. Yes, I’m proud of that fact. It has inspired me as a guitar player, a singer, and a songwriter. The title track was one of the first songs I ever learned to play on guitar, and it was one of the first songs that The Shadowboxers covered. We have probably played that song 200 times in the short time we’ve been a band.
The guitar playing at the end of “Let’s Go Crazy” continues to remain a benchmark for me as a guitarist. “Darlin Nikki” was so provocative that it is often cited as the song that created the parental advisory sticker – the 8th grade version of me was intrigued. His high-pitched guttural scream at the end of “The Beautiful Ones” and “Baby I’m A Star” is otherworldly and straight up soul shaking (you know D’Angelo’s scream at the end of “Untitled”? – that’s a Prince steal). At just under three minutes, “I Would Die 4U” seems to capture the entire essence and sonic landscape of the 1980’s.
With just nine songs, Purple Rain is a perfect concise pop album (also a rock musical soundtrack, of course) that combines elements of R&B, Dance, Rock, Funk, Psychedelia, New Wave and Jazz. The entire album is masterful in every way. Many of the songs were recorded live at a concert at the First Avenue Club in August of 1983. Live!! Listen again and think about that. A few years ago, a video of the actual performance of “Purple Rain” that is heard on the album was leaked on YouTube for about 30 hours before it was removed. That recording from the album was actually played live. Incredible. Only Prince.
So go listen to the album, watch the movie, and bask in the unbelievable cool that is Prince and Purple Rain. And then come out on Valentines Day at the Sound Table (8pm sharp) to celebrate it with us. Graciously joining us to channel the purple one will be Ben Deignan, Chantae Cann, Daniel Dewitt and our featured act Rahbi. Get your ears ready, pencil mustaches trimmed, purple fluff fluffed, and high heels on (you too, guys), because this ATL Collective is going to be a special one.
Feb 11 2013
Okay. By now, you know what we do. But let’s review quickly: We hand-select the finest albums, match the songs with the best of local acts who collectively cover the record head to toe. We pair all that with a thematic food or beverage and, in short, put on a show that is always memorable. It’s a top shelf operation, our tastes are refined, our standards are sky high, our hearts are in the right place. But we’ve never yet been able to say that this month’s album is the best-selling album of all time. Yes, you read that right, assuming you didn’t stutter over the phrase: “best-selling album of all time,” This month’s album has sold more than any other. And on Wednesday the 31st of October, known by pagans as Halloween, you’ll see why.
Michael Jackson’s epic Thriller. Oh yes. The name itself sends a little tingle up and down the spine. Released in 1982 won 8 Grammies and had 7 singles that hit top 10. Most consider it to be the best album of the 80s, and well, if it’s the best album of the 80s…
Oddly, the first single released was “The Girl is Mine,” which didn’t hit as hard as most expected. But that was followed up with a little song called “Billie Jean,” and more than a handful of kids dug that one. After that, they released a tune some of you may know called “Beat it,” which actually features Eddie Van Halen on guitar. “Thriller” was the third single, and once you toss in “Wanna be Startin’ Something,” it’s hard to deny that Thriller can hold its own against nearly any record ever released.
Of course it’s hard to hear the song “Thriller,” without picturing the masterpiece video (or rather short film) that accompanied it. Its hilarious yet oh-so-cool group choreography has been mimicked all over the globe, from Bollywood to that proposal video that went viral recently. Demand was so high for that video when it was first released that MTV was playing it twice an hour. Clocking in at 14 minutes, you can do the math, it basically means that “Thriller” was virtually all they aired for a while.
We can’t promise Jackson’s dance moves. But we can promise an unforgettable evening as Ben Deignan, Sye Spence, Jeremy Ezell of the Well Reds and featured act Shook Foil conjure up the magic, the mystery, the mayhem that made Thriller the King of Pop’s crown jewel.
Michael Jackson: Thriller
No album, movie, or book should ever have to live up to the expectations attached to the label “biggest selling of all time.” Luckily for Michael Jackson’s Thriller, that moment has passed and it’s just a matter of time before the same is true for James Cameron’s Titanic (the Bible, however, will have to deal with its popularity on its own terms). It seems that moving over 40 million units of an album (that also won a then-record number of Grammies) has had a stifling effect on Jackson’s career. It’s difficult to separate Jackson’s 1983 coronation as the new “King” (or his inevitable descent from that throne) from the music on Thriller. On the other hand, it’s possible these things give a sense of character to what was, like most Quincy Jones productions, just another Epic pop monolith. In fact, perhaps a comparison to one of Q’s other early-’80s productions is key to grasping the extent to which Jacko’s star persona impacts a Thriller spin.
Take Donna Summer’s self-titled 1982 album, which is comprised of almost the very same ingredients as Thriller. Both are built on a foundation of smooth, L.A. dance-R&B, an uncharacteristic dalliance with the rock idiom (“Protection” for Summer, “Beat It” for Jackson), and a side-one-closing expansive (no, make that cinematic) blockbuster. And of course, both albums are filled with what can be best described as flawless, melodic pop. The lush disco paradise of Jackson’s “Baby Be Mine” and “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” both hint that the “death to disco” proclamations were sure to be temporary. The growling stomp-lite of “Thriller” and “Billie Jean,” both marked by Q’s fuzzy synthesized basslines, weaned millions of unsuspecting children onto low-end funk even as Prince was experimenting with bass-deficient funk. The buttery harmonies of “Human Nature” (probably the best musical composition on the album and surely one of the only A/C ballads of its era worth remembering) were so powerful that no less a legend than Miles Davis recorded a studio jazz cover of the song. Summer’s eponymous album is about Donna as much as it is about carrots and lettuce and the mystery of love. But Thriller does more than just announce Michael’s arrival as a pop superstar (he was already there)—it’s about his arrival in the same way his sister’s Control was about the arrival of Janet, period.
With three quick rimshots, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” is like the court fanfare. What is a seemingly silly fight song is actually a complicated tapestry of colliding hooks and pop references. Jackson starts with his own collection of non-sequiters (“You’re a vegetable,” “My baby’s slowly dying”) and puts them in the context of other borrowed quips. (“Too high to get over, too low to get under” is almost an exact copy of Funkadelic’s opening salvo for “One Nation Under a Groove,” and anyone who loved Manu Dibango’s underground disco hit “Soul Makossa” knows where the holy-rolling “Mama-say mama-sah ma-ma-coo-sah” came from.) By combining the hooks of earlier black pop benchmarks with his own, it’s as if Jackson was suggesting that everything in pop history was setting the stage for his arrival. One wonders if Jackson’s statement in a recent TV Guide interview that he is no longer satisfied with the way “Wanna Be” turned out is less a comment on the quality of the song than it is about the unsatisfactory implications it has for a man whose career afterglow seems scarcely worth a “coo-sah.” Think Norma Desmond watching her own youthful glory in isolation. Thriller is still big, and Jackson’s getting small only serves to highlight its pop (musical and cultural) achievements.
BY ERIC HENDERSON ON OCTOBER 18, 2003
There are few stylistic changes more jarring than the one Bruce Springsteen made between 1982’s Nebraska and 1984’s Born in the U.S.A. The first is essentially an album of demos, recorded without the E Street Band; the second is as pop-oriented as “the Boss” ever got, with the addition of synthesizers and bright, radio-friendly arrangements. While some have seen Born (which went to #1 on the Billboard charts on this day in ’84) as a reaction to the starkness of Nebraska, the fact is that many of the songs on both albums were written – and even recorded – concurrently. You could say that these two wildly different works are something akin to two halves of a whole. Born in the U.S.A.’s famous title track actually dates back to 1981, when Springsteen was asked to write a song for a Paul Schrader film tentatively titled Born in the U.S.A. (which later came out in 1987 as Light of Day).
Bruce had been working on a song called “Vietnam,” and incorporated some features of that tune into a new one, which took its title from the film. He recorded a stripped-down, non-anthemic version of “Born in the U.S.A.” and nearly included it on Nebraska, but left it off because he felt it was just slightly different, thematically, from the rest of the tracks on the album. Around the same time, in early 1982, Springsteen also had written and recorded “Cover Me” and “I’m on Fire,” but felt they would be more appropriate for a different release. In spring of that year, Bruce called in the E Street Band to lay down tracks that would be for an album that was separate from the Nebraska project. They recorded the full-band versions of “Born in the U.S.A.,” “Darlington County,” “Working on the Highway,” “Downbound Train,” “I’m Goin’ Down” and “Glory Days” in April and May at The Power Station New York City.
With Nebraska not yet in stores, Springsteen and the band had already recorded the bulk of what would be the album’s follow-up. The songs were drastically different in sound (with a shiny, rock radio sheen), but not always in tone. He would later discuss the similarities (in terms of lyrics) between the Born and Nebraska songs: “If you look at the material, particularly on the first side, it’s actually written very much like Nebraska – the characters and the stories, the style of writing – except it’s just in the rock-band setting.” Following Nebraska’s release, Springsteen and friends cut a few more of the final Born in the U.S.A. tracks – “My Hometown,” “No Surrender” and “Bobby Jean” (an allegory for his pal Steven Van Zandt, who had announced his departure from the E Street Band). But the album’s true, blockbuster hit single wasn’t written and recorded until just a few months before Born in the U.S.A.’s release in June of ’84. “Dancing in the Dark” came out of a disagreement between Bruce and Jon Landau, his manager. Landau was happy with the album, but felt it could use something aimed directly at pop-rock radio.
Springsteen was less than thrilled with Landau’s suggestion, but channeled his frustration into some lyrics (“You can’t start a fire without a spark,” “I’m just tired and bored with myself”). The synthesizer-driven song, “Dancing in the Dark,” would provide Bruce with the pop-friendly firepower that Landau felt he needed. It was released as the lead single off the album and turned into Springsteen’s biggest hit (rising to #2 on the Billboard charts, second only to Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” and Prince’s “When Doves Cry”).
Years later, Springsteen would appear conflicted about writing, recording and releasing the song. “It went as far in the direction of pop music as I wanted to go – and probably a little farther,” he wrote in Songs. “My heroes, from Hank Williams to Frank Sinatra to Bob Dylan, were popular musicians. They had hits. There was value in trying to connect with a large audience.” And Springsteen certainly connected with a large audience via “Dancing in the Dark” and Born in the U.S.A., which hit #1 on the Billboard album charts a month after its release. It would end up spending 139 weeks on the Billboard charts, and eventually be certified 15-times platinum. In the mid-’80s, as Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna were becoming music superstars, Bruce Springsteen – a guy from the rock world – was turning into an equally dominant pop idol.
An enormous world tour (which spotlight both the material from Nebraska and Born in the U.S.A.) put Bruce and the band before giant crowds. In the meantime, he equaled Jackson’s Thriller record of seven Top 10 singles from one album, set the previous year. Between spring of 1984 and winter of 1985, “Dancing in the Dark,” “Cover Me,” “Born in the U.S.A.,” “I’m on Fire,” “Glory Days,” “I’m Goin’ Down” and “My Hometown” all hit the Top 10 – flooding MTV, with videos directed by Brian De Palma and John Sayles, and radio airwaves with all things Bruce. It seemed that everything related to Born in the U.S.A. was everywhere. The album’s cover (featuring Springsteen’s behind before an American flag) became iconic. And you really know you’ve become a superstar when the President misinterprets your music.
Like many Americans, President Ronald Reagan heard a patriotic anthem in “Born in the U.S.A.” and overlooked the angry protest at the heart of the song. But, being misunderstood is part of the price you pay when you aim for superstardom. And it’s a bit tough to be seen as the voice of the common man when your album goes multi-platinum. Springsteen admitted to the changes in his life when he talked to Rolling Stone in the middle of Born in the U.S.A.’s staggering success. “Yeah, there’s a change [in me]. [Being a rich man] doesn’t make living easier, but it does make certain aspects of your life easier,” he said. “Money was kind of part of the dream when I started. I don’t think… I never felt like I ever played a note for the money. I think if I did, people would know, and they’d throw you out of the joint. And you’d deserve to go. But at the same time, it was a part of the dream.” A decade after the dust settled, Springsteen reflected about the significance of this chapter in his career: “Born in the U.S.A. changed my life and gave me my largest audience. It forced me to question the way I presented my music and made me think harder about what I was doing.”
We are so excited to announce that our very own Micah Dalton is releasing his album “Blue Frontier” on March 13. Make sure to check out the Facebook announcement for more details, and mark your calendars to purchase a copy!