A Forgotten Starship Gem

This weekend’s SiriusXM ‘80s on 8 countdown featured this week 1986 — my senior year!

Just when I think I remember every tune from that year, I get thrown a curveball: a song I loved at the time but have completely forgotten about.

To wit: this one from Starship.

The Traveling Wilburys

Something I didn’t know:

In the album credits … the band members listed under various pseudonyms and pretending to be half-brothers – sons of a fictional Charles Truscott Wilbury, Sr.

In the first album, The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1:

“Nelson Wilbury” – George Harrison
“Otis Wilbury” – Jeff Lynne
“Lefty Wilbury” – Roy Orbison
“Charlie T. Wilbury, Jr.” – Tom Petty
“Lucky Wilbury” – Bob Dylan

And in The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 3 (there was no Vol. 2; truth):

“Spike Wilbury” – George Harrison
“Clayton Wilbury” – Jeff Lynne
“Muddy Wilbury” – Tom Petty
“Boo Wilbury” – Bob Dylan

“The Only Flame in Town”

This is one of my favorites from the summer of 1984 and as I remember it I only heard it on MTV, never on the radio. Having Daryl Hall in it was a bonus.

“The Only Flame in Town” is the first song on the “Goodbye Cruel World” album and ranked 56 on Billboard’s Top 100. The album reached number 35 on the Billboard 200.

In 2004, Rhino Entertainment released a two-CD set and the second disc included a live version of “The Only Flame in Town” and, man, is it about as different as a song gets.

Elvis himself in the liner notes writes that the tune was composed with Aaron Neville in mind.

Enjoy this one.

Elton John’s Birthday

If you had asked me how old Elton John is today, I probably would have guessed 76 — maybe 74.

Try 84.

Except, he’s not. He’s 74. I had written this entire post before double-checking his age. I was misled by an email from Rolling Stone magazine:

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That means he was 49 39 when my friends Rob, Colin and Paul saw him in concert on Aug. 17, 1986 at Pine Knob Music Theater. He was on his worldwide Ice on Fire* tour.

As I remember it, he was supposed to play something like seven shows at Pine Knob but came down with laryngitis and had to cancel most of them. We weren’t sure until the day of the show whether he was playing.

I can still see the two guys pacing back and forth in the aisle between the lawn seats and the pavillion section carrying a banner that read “The Bitch Is Back.” It wasn’t until later that I learned that’s one of Elton’s signature songs.

Good times.

*The phrase is in the lyrics to “Nikita.”

The ‘80s Music Project

Sometime last year, I think it was Labor Day weekend, Sirius-XM’s ‘80s on 8 channel aired a Top-300 songs of the ‘80s countdown. I think it was a listener-voted compilation.

It got me thinking about what my top songs would be, 40, 100 or 300. Then I wondered how I could even begin to narrow the list. How would I rank them?

Later that day I came up with an idea: What if I used a tournament approach, organizing each year’s Top 100 songs in a NCAA tournament-like bracket, but for a 100-team field?

So, I found a website that generates tournament brackets and created the 100-team version.

Next, I looked up and saved the Billboard magazine Top 100 chart for each year in the ‘80s.

Then, the tedious work began: filling out the bracket, year by year, song by song, from number 100 to number one. Of course, I did it all on my computer so I could print multiple copies if necessary and so I could share them with others.

It took me several weekend nights to copy and paste each song and artist from the Billboard charts to the bracket and by mid-December, I was done.

Now, I have to do the work of deciding which song I prefer in each of the 50 matchups — and it is work.

The only criteria I’ve given myself is that if I’m torn on a song, I should judge it on how much I liked it the year it first aired. Sometimes that’s not helpful.

So far, I’ve completed the brackets for 1980 and 1981. (Good God, 1980 was a dreadful year for music.)

After I’m done with all the brackets, I will have 10 songs remaining. The final step will be to create a bracket with 10 slots and rank the songs based on where they appeared on the respective year’s chart. I think that will work … ?

In the end, I should, at least theoretically, know my Top-10 songs of the ‘80s and my favorite song of that decade.

It’ll be a fun process.