I guess you could say I’ve been on a bit of a nostalgia kick lately. On a trip to my local record store recently I was given access to leaf through an as-yet put out collection of records and see if anything tickled my fancy. Within this “like, totally” 80s dive I located some truly most excellent spins from my formative years and without even thinking of what I was doing I’d pulled these 80s metal wonders from the lot and said “I want.”
After John at Karma had given the records a good looking over and had arrived on a price for these albums I paid the man and brought them home. What records am I talking about here? Dokken’s Under Lock And Key, Cinderella’s Night Songs, and Tears For Fears’ Songs From The Big Chair. Yeah I know, they seem like random impulse buys. And really they sort of are, but they also hold some significance in my pre-teen/teen years.
Dokken’s Under Lock And Key was a no-brainer(I guess in more ways than one) for me. Over the last few months I’ve collected a couple of their records, Back For The Attack and their last and live record Unleashed In The East. For me, Dokken towed the line between metal and hard rock. They came up in the early 80s LA where bands like Ratt and Motley Crue mixed glam and metal. Dokken toned the glam down a notch and concentrated more on intricate songwriting. Don Dokken had a good mid-range voice that lent itself well to banshee wails and warm balladeering rather well. Mick Brown and Jeff Pilson were a solid rhythm section, albeit nothing showy, while the ever tan and shirtless George Lynch excelled at lightning fast runs and melodic wailing better than most at that time. I fell for their heavy and serious rock music in 1985 when I swiped a dubbed copy of their album Tooth And Nail from my older brother. That album was part of the reason I wanted to learn guitar. I couldn’t get over how good George Lynch was. Up to that point it was Eddie Van Halen and Warren Di Martini that impressed me. Lynch seemed to be on a whole other level.
I first owned Under Lock and Key in December of 1986. December 2nd to be exact. I’d received a copy on cassette for my 13th birthday. I’d heard “In My Dreams” and “It’s Not Love” pretty frequently on MTV, Friday Night Videos, and on the radio show Metal Shop late Friday nights on 95.3 WXKE out of Niles, Michigan. Having the album I could fixate on some of the other tunes. “Unchain The Night”, “The Hunter”, “Lightning Strikes Again”, and the ballad “Will The Sun Rise” were all solid songs that were pretty much ignored by everyone else. This was the time of the singles, where record labels pushed two or three tracks and left the rest to collect dust somewhere on the back end of the LP. When I bought an album I gave the whole album a shot. Sometimes there wasn’t much else besides the singles, but occasionally you’d stumble across some buried treasures. I found that to be the case with Dokken, actually.
I was a huge fan of the band till I was 14 or 15 years old. Eventually what killed them for me was their self-serious nature. At first them taking themselves seriously was a good thing to my ears. It made their music seem heavier and legitimate. But as the years went on and their albums became less heavy and more ballad-filled the serious nature made the songs seem all the more, well, lame. George Lynch left the band and it pretty much became Don Dokken’s time to turn the band into a ballad machine.
But still, spinning Under Lock And Key over the last week or so has been a nice nostalgia trip. I’m not looking to rekindle any hard rock relationships, but it’s nice to step into the time machine now and then. And yes, if I ever see a vinyl copy of Tooth And Nail for sale on the cheap I’m buying it.
About three weeks after my birthday, the first week of Christmas break in 1986 to be exact, I’d headed to Butterfly Records in downtown Warsaw and bought a copy of Cinderella’s Night Songs. I’d given in to the fun and catchy first single “Shake Me” and felt I’d needed to dig into that album a little deeper. It turned out that the rest of that album was pretty solid. Opening track “Night Songs” was pretty damn heavy, really. Ballad “Nobody’s Fool” was enough to get the girls excited while still retaining some metal-ish edge to it. “Hell On Wheels”, “Somebody Save Me”, and “Push Push” were also pretty solid tunes.
This album became a staple of my 7th grade year. I played it pretty much all the time till spring. Coming back to this one recently I was again reminded of how solid this album is. While not seeking future records of theirs on vinyl, I’m glad to have this one as it’s a reminder that not all those 80s glammy hard rock records were completely bogus. Plus, it pays to dig into the deep tracks. I still think Tom Keifer has a great hard rock voice.
So that leads us to Tears For Fears and Songs From The Big Chair. I was never a huge Tears For Fears fan. I liked the songs when they came on the radio, but I never owned any of their records. They were too pop and radio for my eccentric pret-teen tastes. But over the last few years songs from this album began to come back to me and reminded me of a certain road trip my family took in the summer 1985.
My parents rented a house in Englewood, Florida, for us to stay in on a week-long vacation in the sunshine state. We packed our bags and loaded into our 1984 Honda Accord and headed south. This was a long, long, long drive. It was filled with card games, naps, arguing, burger joint stops, and lots of radio. Tears For Fears’ “Shout” was huge that summer so we heard it A LOT on our way to and from Florida. So much so that it felt as if it had become a part of my DNA. I seem to remember hearing “Head Over Heels” as well quite a bit, though I may have just grafted those memories onto this vacation road trip. Either way, it was one of those situations where at the time I was thinking “Not this song again!”, but unbeknownst to me it had taken hold and had connected with my 11-year old brain. I’d never thought about it, but whenever I’d hear that song over the last 15 years or so it made me feel good. I wanted to hear it more. It was a pleasant surprise when it would come on some 80s radio station or 80s mix I might be listening to. That trip was the reason, I think. So when I saw Songs From The Big Chair in that stack of records I knew I needed to take that one home with me.
Spinning the record I was amazed by just how good of an album it is. It’s catchy, kind of quirky, and a completely different trip from what was coming out in 1985. The singles were massive, and as a whole the album was wonderfully produced and engineered. No wonder it became a permanent part of my DNA.
So there you have it. My walk down memory lane, or nostalgia avenue. There’s one more album I picked up in that lot, but I’ll save it for another post. Until then, go put on some of your or your significant other’s eye liner and throw on Night Songs or Under Lock And Key.
Or better yet, don’t.