This Week in '82

5. ''Freeze-Frame,'' The J. Geils Band
Although the previously released ''Centerfold'' remains their real masterpiece, this blues band finds stadium-sized success once again by providing an excuse to holler nonsense (in this case, na-na-naas were replaced by shoop-shoop, deeleedeeleedees), clap vigorously, and experience four minutes of pure joy while thinking about pictures of hot models. Truly, there is no better way to make the menfolk like you. Kudos, Mr. Geils. And hey, are those the same cameras from ''Girls on Film''? B

4. ''Don't Talk to Strangers,'' Rick Springfield
Oh, Rick. Rick. We've never met, but after this milkshake-smooth, eerily sinister cut, how could I not talk to you? You have managed to capture my very favorite '80s vibe — I've talked about it here before — in which a slightly mysterious bassline conjures up the image of a nice-looking woman, getting on in years, sitting at a neon-lit bar, idly swirling a martini glass filled with a day-glo-colored liquid. She is wearing shiny metallic accessories, and her hair is teased; her eyes are circled in black, and her lips are red as the cherry she just popped into her mouth. She is hopelessly sophisticated, and even though she is probably a hooker, the seven-year-old me wanted to be her. Of course, I grew into an overall-sporting tomboy who swills beer from the bottle, but that's not the point. The dark, very adult world Rick lives in is something I still dream of discovering, a goal I may never achieve — and luckily, back when I was seven, this song also provided a very handy public service announcement. (Perhaps he should have written a follow-up entitled, ''Don't Get Into Cars with Strangers in the Mall Parking Lot, Even If They are Promising Just to Drive You Back to the Entrance So You Can Find Your Mom.'' I could have used that one.) Extra-special bonus points for a) the guitar lick that steps down with ''You know he'll only use you up,'' b) the super-creepy video (the phone is on fire, people! don't you get it??) and c) the French part. A-

3. ''I Love Rock n' Roll,'' Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
Okay, if we're being honest with ourselves, we can all agree that the old SNL parody of those VH-1 Behind the Music commercials had this one spot-on: Someone (who? anyone remember?) playing Jett was explaining the origin of the song's chorus. ''And then I said to him, 'I love rock n' roll','' she said, with great earnestness. ''So put another dime in the jukebox...baby.'' Oh, that killed me. (Somewhat topically, from the same series, you'll remember the great Hall & Oates imitation in which it was revealed Oates was in charge of handclaps. I like to bring that up whenever possible. Because I have limited reserves of knowledge.) So yeah, maybe the lyrics here aren't the deepest or the most artistic or brilliant or whatever. (It's not her fault. No matter what SNL tries to tell you, she didn't write them.) But I'll say one thing: The woman knows how to get the most bang for her buck. Thanks to an unforgettable riff and her vicious snarl of a voice, the fact that there are like 20 words to this song couldn't matter less. I plan to sing along with every single one. Before I do that, I shall first compile a list of all the people who should never, ever have covered this song: 1. Britney Spears. Okay, I'm done. B+

2. ''Ebony & Ivory,'' Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder
A lovely statement from two musical geniuses that also happens to be syrupy, overproduced, and pretty much unlistenable ever since — speaking of SNL — Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy butchered it (''You are blind as a bat/and I have sight...''). This song is also guilty of trying to make ''piano'' into a two-syllable word. Inexcusable. If I want to hear Paul McCartney sing a duet with a fellow musical superstar, I will almost always turn to ''Say Say Say,'' his duet with Michael Jackson, which has the following benefits: better song; better, though slightly more nonsensical video (I'm still waiting for that Macca/Jacko touring production of Oklahoma); no heavy-handed social content. And one of my most enduring childhood memories (my sister and I rewrote the lyrics, courtesy of American Express, to ''Say, say, say, what you want/but don't leave home without your traveler's checks''). Meanwhile, ''Ebony & Ivory'' just makes me feel bad about my personal contributions to global unity (approximately zero), and makes me fear the all-consuming power of the Casio. Also, whoever directed the video should have his or her guild privileges suspended for the literal depiction of ''side by side on my pya-no'' as well as for the image of McCartney playing the bongos, two things that have haunted me for years. C+

1. ''Chariots of Fire,'' Vangelis
It's as though the elevator-muzak programmers of the world rose up as one to anoint a champion. Sure, this is a beautiful movie soundtrack, but as a single — standing all alone on my radio dial, no dramatic beach jogging scenes to be found — it mostly just makes me sleepy. (I never thought I'd say this, but...can I get a dance remix up in here?) Now, I understand that my point of view may be controversial, but I ask you to imagine it in the context of everything else we're talking about here: You are riding your bike around the neighborhood, your trusty yellow Sony Sports Walkman clipped to your belt, and the flimsy yellow headphones jammed into your ears. The local pop station has just finished playing an awesome rock block of ''We Got the Beat,'' ''I Love Rock n' Roll,'' ''Don't Talk to Strangers,'' and ''867-5309/Jenny.'' And then, just as you're approaching the long, newly paved street that never has any traffic and thinking about going no-handed as you dance along to whatever comes on next, you hear it: bing- bing- bing- bing- bing- bing- bing- bing- bing-. And at first you think, Wait, is that the theme from Top Gun? before you remember Top Gun hasn't come out yet, which is when you realize, Ah, crap. It's freakin' ''Chariots of Fire.'' And now you can't go no-handed, because you have to put your head down and bike for all you're worth, because that is what Olympians do. But then after about 100 meters, you are tired, and you are not an Olympian, and this song is boring, and really, you'd take four rounds of ''Did It In a Minute'' if it meant you could avoid ever hearing this total mom music on your radio ever again. It is a feeling you will only experience once more in your life, circa 1985, when for some reason the Miami Vice theme will not stop playing over and over and over again, when really, you'd rather be listening to Tears for Fears. However, the Miami Vice theme was okay, because that show was cool, and not for moms, so you gave it the occasional pass, but really, if it ever came on the radio you were more likely to switch over to your tape of Thriller. All right. I'm confident we are all on the same page now. C

Originally posted May 03, 2007 Published in issue #933 May 11, 2007 Order article reprints
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