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Music Review: Rick Springfield – We Are The ’80s

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Even though Rick Springfield is one artist who transcends the eighties — his first album was released in the early seventies and he continues to put out new albums and tour to this day — those songs from the '80s are still firmly entrenched in the minds and hearts of most who came of age in that decade. His We Are The '80s collection spans the entire decade, including songs like his breakout hit "Jessie's Girl" from Working Class Dog (released in 1981) through the title song from Rock of Life (1988) – a total of 14 tracks from six different albums.

Working Class Dog, just released in a 25th anniversary CD, complete with expanded liner notes from Springfield himself, first hit stores' shelves within weeks of him first appearing as Dr. Noah Drake on the mega-popular General Hospital, a role he also returned to late last year. Though the role on the soap is often credited with launching the album to the top of the charts, it's hard to dismiss the songs. "Jessie's Girl," "I've Done Everything For You," and "Love is Alright Tonight" are the singles from WCD featured on We Are the '80s.

B000002W55.01.MZZZZZZZWhat can be said about "Jessie's Girl?" Kept alive in recent movie soundtracks such as Boogie Nights and 13 Going on 30, as well as any and just about every compilation disk honoring the decade, there is hardly a soul alive who doesn't know the words. But I think the appeal goes beyond the catchy lyrics and memorable tune; it's about the underlying emotion – the longing. Wanting someone you shouldn't or can't have is a pretty universal and identifiable feeling.

"I've Done Everything For You" and "Love is Alright Tonight" come down to that same basic principle. You can relate to it, whether it's the resentment and anger over a one-sided relationship or the burning need of a young couple to get away from everything and everyone and just cut loose. Yes, those early lyrics appealed to the teen set ("I'm picking up my baby tonight/though her daddy's making trouble it will be alright") there was something deeper, more universal ("Everyone's saying the sky's gonna fall/Don't know where it's going to stop if it stops at all").

It's evident by the selections from later albums featured on We Are the '80sLiving In Oz, Tao and Rock of Life — his music matured along with the subject matter. From Tao, "State of the Heart," is a wispy romantic ballad still featured in his live concerts. The song is a Mondo Rock cover Springfield made his own. "Celebrate Youth" addresses how the ugliness of the world (racism and hate) are taught and don't exist in a child's eyes.

As with most of the artists featured in this series, Rick Springfield was able to maximize his exposure by producing videos that became staples on MTV. Featured here is the one for "Affair of the Heart" from the Living In Oz album. Though most of his songs seemed to come down to the most basic of emotions, this was one of the first where it was laid so plainly on the line. The video, however, is a more candid look at a life in the spotlight.

"Rock of Life," the title track from the album of the same name, was the last album he would release in the '80s, and yet another showing maturity and development of his music. Springfield has often been quoted as saying the song is about the birth of his first son, and the emotions he experienced, though the lyrics state it plain enough. "Is it something in my head (look up)/Or the time of season/Or the little boy in my hands (must be a reason)" speak of the universal emotions a new parent experiences when they realize the responsibility they bear for the new life they've created.

Also present are singles from Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet, and the Hard to Hold soundtrack. Though the movie was ill-fated, the songs that came from it, "Love Somebody," "Don't Walk Away" and "Bop 'til You Drop" are classic mid-eighties fare, and did quite well on the charts.

Right behind "Jessie's Girl," "Don't Talk to Strangers" from SHSMY is probably the second song most can name in five notes or less. The song, like many of Springfield's, is rooted in the angst and emotions of the romantic relationship and sings of the jealousies and insecurities involved when one gives their heart away.

rscl0601Whether it is the lustful wishes of "Jessie's Girl" or the deep contemplative "Rock of Life," Springfield was a mainstay in the '80s because of the songs and the way listeners were able to connect to the emotions and ideas contained therein. Delivered on catchy melodies and executed with rocking guitar riffs, it is what set his music apart then and is still very much the basis of what he produces today.

As is evident through the songs contained on We Are The '80s, Rick Springfield's music grew and changed throughout the decade to keep him current and topping charts, making his name one of the first mentioned when conversation turns back to the decade of leg warmers and colored Converse tennis shoes. His continued dedication to the music not only put him in a headliner role on this past summer's We Are the '80s tour, but keeps him churning out new music as well as touring the country on his own.

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About Connie Phillips

  • http://clatch.blogspot.com A.L. Harper

    “Jesse’s Girl” still makes my heart go pitter-patter. *SIGH*

  • Kelley Pearson

    I have to commend you on writing such an insightful article on Rick Springfield. You detailed many things that the casual fan would probably not know. He truly is a gifted musician, and as a die-hard fan, I am thrilled he is still in the music scene. Thank you so much for this article!
    Kelley

  • http://www.nationalvanguard.org Jill Henry

    “From article:
    “Celebrate Youth” addresses how the ugliness of the world (racism and hate) are taught and don’t exist in a child’s eyes.”

    Hate is an emotion. Emotions are instinctive and aren’t “taught,” just as anger is not taught.

    And racism is a nonsense word, because it implies that our species is peaceful, by nature, rather than the truth that we are predatory, by nature.

    And it is also a nonsense word because it implies that the reason that Jews and nonwhites, minorities, support a minority empowering ideology called egalitarianism is for altruistic reasons, rather than for ethnically motivated reasons.

    It is also a propaganda word, because 99.99999% percent of the time only white Gentiles are depicted as “racist” in the media, giving the impression that only white Gentiles are racially aggressive.

  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal/ Connie Phillips

    Thanks A.L., but if Jesse’s Girl makes your heart go pitter-patter, I suggest you look a little deeper into Springfield’s catalogue. Having read your reoccurring articles Songs That Touch My Heart… May I suggest “Woman” and “Soul to Soul” from Rock of Life as a good place to start.

    Kelley – Thank you.

    Jill – Wow, pretty heavy analysis of a very small snippet of the review. The lyric in question I was referring to is “Looking in a child’s eyes/ there’s no hate and there’s no lies/There’s no black and there’s no white” I still stand by my statement that the message is hate and racism are taught.

    Yes, hate is an emotion, but I would certainly say it is possible (though horrid and ugly) to teach a child to hate what he doesn’t understand.

  • http://shorelinehomeloans.com Jay Rafuse

    SAW HIS CONCERT IN CLEARWATER, FLORIDA ON 9/23/2006…PART OF THE WE LOVE THE 80S TOUR ALONG WITH EDDIE MONEY, LOVERBOY AND SCANDAL. GOTTA SAY THAT AMONG THE FOUR ACTS RICK WAS DISSAPOINTING AT BEST. HE WAS BORING, RUDE, AND CONDESCENDING TO THE FANS…NEVER WAS A BIG FAN OF HIS, BUT EVEN MY GIRLFRIEND WHO HAS SOME OF HIS ALBUMS THOUGHT HE WAS BOORISH AND NOT AT ALL ENTERTAINING. HE IS A DEFINTELY A TALENTED MUSICIAN, BUT CAME ACROSS AS A TOTALLY POMPOUS ASS! I WOULDN’T PAY TO SEE HIM AGAIN.

  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal/ Connie Phillips

    Jay,

    I’m sorry to hear you were disappointed by the show. I’ve seen him live many times, the first time in 1982 and most recently just a few months ago and must say I’ve never witnessed anything like you’re describing.