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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Return Of The Sunday Jukebox!

I have to say that music became so much better when technology made it possible to take your music with you.  It seems hard to believe that it has been thirty-six years since the Walkman first hit store shelves.  And while we now have the iPod, iPhone, and mp3 and mp4 players to take our music on the go, I have a bit of a soft spot for the Walkman.  I still have memories of borrowing my sister's bright yellow one to listen to the radio (and children's books on tape).

Of course, one thing that I like about the iPod as opposed to the Walkman is that you can put the iPod in your pocket, or clip it on a belt.  Have you tried doing that with a Walkman?  You'd either weigh yourself down, have your pants fall down, or destroy the pocket.  None of those seem like a great option.

I absolutely love bringing my iPod to work with me every lunch hour.  It provides a nice escape from listening to the same 48 songs played at my workplace over and over again, and besides - an iPod in your ears makes a great gossip deflector.

And it got me thinking about the blog and what I used to do in it, and I thought - it's been a really long time since I wrote a Sunday Jukebox entry.  Sunday Jukebox entries have always been some of my favourite pieces to write about, and I sort of put them on the backburner when I devoted the first six months of this blog to more personal entries.

Well, I officially declare that the Sunday Jukebox entries are BACK!

Oh, how I missed doing these!  And for what it's worth, I think I've chosen a great song to talk about in this entry.  I decided that since I have over a thousand songs downloaded onto my iPod, I'd set it to shuffle and just pick the first one that popped up.  If it was a song that I had already done, then I'd choose song #2, and so on.

So, today's Sunday Jukebox entry just happens to be on...

...FOREIGNER!  And here's the song that's up for discussion.  Feel free to share your memories of this song if you like in the comments section.

ARTIST:  Foreigner
SONG:  Urgent
DATE RELEASED:  June 22, 1981

1981 was a big year for the group "Foreigner".  The group (which at the time was made up of members Lou Gramm, Dennis Elliott, Rick Wills, and Mick Jones) had released their fourth studio album, which would spawn quite a few hits.  The album contained the Top 30 hit "Juke Box Hero" as well as "Waiting For A Girl Like You", which was only kept off the top of the charts by Olivia Newton-John's "Physical".

But there was just something about "Urgent" that made the album really pop.  I suppose part of it could have been that it was a song that was really unlike anything that the band had recorded previously.  I consider 1981 to be the true start of the "New Wave" movement, where synthesizer heavy artists such as Duran Duran and Thomas Dolby were beginning to appear on the charts.

(An interesting fact about Thomas Dolby before I continue.  That's him playing the synthesizers on "Urgent", two years before he had a worldwide hit of his own with "She Blinded Me With Science".)

Part of the reason for the bold sound behind "Urgent" was largely due to its producer, Robert "Mutt" Lange.  This is the same man who also penned huge hits for Bryan Adams, Def Leppard, Huey Lewis & The News, and AC/DC, so a hard rock edge was nothing surprising.  Add a little saxophone flavouring by Motown legend Junior Walker, and you had the ingredients for a great song.

The song hit #4 in America, but topped the Billboard Rock Tracks charts in the autumn of 1981.  It became a #1 hit in Canada in September 1981 and was a top 30 hit in Sweden and Australia.  Interestingly enough, the single didn't do so well in the UK (where half of the band's original members hailed from).  It initially peaked at #54, but was re-released in early 1982 following the huge success of "Waiting For A Girl Like You", where it rose nine spots to #45.

Now, as far as personal memories of this song go, I really don't have any.  When the song first debuted on the charts in the summer of 1981, I was only a month old.  I think the only song I listened to back then was the one that played on my Fisher-Price mobile. 

But I do seem to remember listening to a lot of 1980s radio when I was a teenager.  Right around 1997, 1998, I began to lose interest in current Top 40 radio, and often listened to stations that had 80s music programming like "Backtrax USA with Kid Kelly" or a local music program which aired 1980s tracks every Saturday night.  "Urgent" was played a lot, and I suppose it was a great song to listen to while finishing up a chemistry assignment or typing out a history essay.

Basically, every time I hear "Urgent", I think of urgently finishing my homework.  Not quite the song message that "Foreigner" intended, I'm sure.  But that's why I have the song downloaded.  It's got a killer hook, a great beat...and if I'm procrastinating on something, it helps me get in the mood to get things done.

Why, I could be listening to this song right now as I type this...

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