1985 ended up being a pretty stressful year. It began with a wedding in February, having a baby in July (yeah, I know) and starting my internship two days after my older son was born. Plus, I had graduated in May, on the very same day I was a groomsman in my former roommate’s wedding. We were all jumping headlong into adulthood, whether any of us were ready or not.
Needless to say, my album purchases were curtailed quite a bit as the need for diapers, food and all living expenses trumped my little hobby. We lived in a scary little apartment in Anderson, Indiana, as I did my year-long internship at St. John’s Medical Center School of Medical Technology. As you can imagine, though nowhere near as bad as what physicians have to do, I was totally immersed in lab work and schooling. Every day, we came in at 5:00 am to help the phlebotomists do the morning blood draws. When we completed those, it was off to our assigned laboratory department to learn all the testing done there. For six hours, we first had to do “shadow” testing on specimens which had previously been tested by your teaching tech. And, your results better be as close to the reported results as possible or your had to retest the sample all over. Of course, the tech got to do the automated technique which is quick and accurate, while we did the manual test in which the automated test was based. After completing about 10 samples accurately of each test in that department, then you got to work with the machine under supervision for a day. This went on five hours a day, five days a week. Then, we got to go to lunch, where the 11 of us sat around bitched, laughed and compared notes.
After lunch, we would return to the classroom for three straight hours of lectures on the theories behind each test; learn about the physiology, chemistry, anatomy and pathology of the testing we were doing and learn to think like a physician, even though we would rarely, if ever, use that capability in the clinical setting. Looking back, it was time-consuming and tiring and, dare I say, boring, but at least I got to go home to a family. After about six months of this routine, I took my first job in the lab. I was the person who received, logged, prepped, stained, cover-slipped, labelled and arranged PAP smears for the pathologist to read. Of course, the slides were gross, but it was a pretty easy job. Plus, I could study while the staining procedure, which was not automated back then, was going on. Overall, the whole process took three hours to complete, which meant I was getting paid way more in that time period than I would have delivering pizzas for six hours four nights per week. And, it was an impressive line on my resume. Oh, and I gained the respect of many of the same techs who would become my colleagues five years down the road.
Yet, during that year, I still read my Rolling Stone magazines and going to the local record store to hear the latest releases, even if I couldn’t purchase them. The clerks were very sympathetic to my situation. Plus, they liked it when my little rocker-in-training came in with me.
So, let’s get on with the music! 1985 it is.
a-ha – Hunting High and Low (1985). Unfortunately, in America, a-ha is considered a one-hit wonder with their great single “Take on Me.” But, this Norwegian synthpop band was much more than that song, especially on their debut album. This band had way more going for them than that great single. a-ha continues to be a huge presence in Europe.
Camper Van Beethoven – Telephone Free Landslide Victory (1985). How does one describe Camper Van Beethoven without that description being misconstrued? Allow me to at least give it a go. If the Grateful Dead had started after the punk explosion, taken more mushrooms than LSD, grown up in Southern California, had a wicked sense of irony-based humor in the vein of David Letterman, they MIGHT sound like CVB. And, yet, that is way too limiting. CVB was a favorite of the guys in R.E.M. Part of the band became Nineties alternative darlings Cracker, whose bass player is now a part of Elvis Costello’s Imposters backing band. Personally, I’ll just let their fantastic single “Take the Skinheads Bowling” speak for itself.
Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms (1985). Dire Straits made some outstanding albums during the years between the debut and this one, but none resonated with the public as this album did. You just could not escape it. Of course, the album is remembered for “Money for Nothing” and Sting’s vocal hook “I Want My MTV.” There for a while, this album was consider to be the greatest album of all-time in England. I think the public was just a little caught up in the moment, but it is awfully good.
Eurythmics – Be Yourself Tonight (1985). Who said that new wave, synthpop, soul and hard rock could not coexist in a musical sound? Well, the Eurythmics made it all happen on this album. This was their most commercially successful album and spawned a handful of hit songs. But none were as cool as “Would I Lie to You?”. Though the Annie Lennox/Aretha Franklin duet on “Sisters Doin’ It for Themselves” was pretty close.
Fine Young Cannibals – Fine Young Cannibals (1985). In 1984, the English Beat splintered into two great bands, General Public and these guys. While General Public had the main vocalists of the former group, Fine Young Cannibals had the creative forces plus a terrific young vocalist they discovered. Of course, FYC had the bigger commercial success, however fleeting it was. I first saw these guys on the old David Letterman show doing their excellent cover of the Elvis Presley classic “Suspicious Minds” and was immediately hooked. FYC remain one of the great lost bands of the Eighties.
Heart – Heart (1985). Honestly, I have mixed feelings about this album. While it sounds great and was a big seller for a band I love, the songs were forced on the band. Oh sure, they played the hell out of these songs from outside writers and made some very sexy videos for them. Still, I was sad for these great women being made into pawns of the industry. Yet, they triumphantly complied then re-exerted themselves afterwards to show they were never complete sellouts. They were simply backed against a wall and came out kicking.
Hüsker Dü – Flip Your Wig (1985). 1985 was a huge year for Hüsker Dü, with two albums and a single cover of The Byrds’ psychedelic classic “Eight Miles High.” Flip Your Wig was the band’s second album released that year. This time the band embraces their love of Sixties pop music, so this album sounds like a pop album being played as a punk album. The big song is Bob Mould’s Eighties classic that rings true today “Makes No Sense at All.” If I were Joe Biden, I’d be playing this song at every campaign stop.
Hüsker Dü – New Day Rising (1985). The first of two classic albums released in 1985, New Day Rising represents the band honing its songs to sound even more relentlessly vicious than those on Zen Arcade. Yet, this album also stresses the songs’ melodic sides, making this something of a hardcore pop album. It was as if the band were gearing up for Flip Your Wig on this album.
John Cougar Mellencamp – Scarecrow (1985). Well, John finally did it! He created an album that was both innately universal and very Hoosier at the same time. The problem is that most Hoosiers (it’s the nickname for those of us from Indiana and no one knows why) totally missed out on the condemnation of conservative principles that caused the farmers’ plight back then which continues today. Many consider this album to be his best, while I believe John was only building the foundation for the true vision he will display later.
Kate Bush – Hounds of Love (1985). Finally, Americans embraced the expansive sound of the great Kate Bush. It took a fantastic single in “Running Up That Hill” for Bush to crack our market, but the rest of the album is simply downright consistently terrific. If the States could take to the campiness of Queen in the Seventies, why not the poetic art rock musing of Kate Bush in the Eighties? I’m sold!
And that wraps up Day 1 of 1985. Peace!