The top female vocal hits of the 80's. Written by...
May 11, 2012 2:09 PM   Subscribe

Thermal, CA: home to the #1 song of the '80s. During the '70s and early'80s, the small, arid farming town of Thermal was home to Freedman Co., run by Mr. Steinberg and his son, Billy, who ran vineyard operations. Billy also made music, time permitting. After his demo was secretly given to a star, he went to L.A., and met his musical collaborator, but the farm pulled him back. He kept writing in Thermal, though.

"I remember writing the lyrics. . . while driving around in a red pickup truck that I owned and I was driving around my father’s dusty desert vineyards. I had been involved in a very emotionally difficult relationship that had finally ended I had met somebody new... I came up with the line, ‘I made it through the wilderness...I was beat, incomplete, I’d been had.’ All of the lyrics just poured out".

That was Steinberg & Kelly's first #1 hit... followed by four more, along with other hits you might not suspect.
posted by markkraft (33 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is that first video correct?
posted by Edison Carter at 2:33 PM on May 11, 2012


Awesome post. I'm not a big fan of all these songs, but a few are definitely 80s guilty pleasures of mine that are so good I don't feel guilty about them.

Also, I was initially a bit frustrated by not being able to know what the songs were by reading the post or mousing over the links, but it was actually better that way because I got to click each one and go, "No! That one too?"
posted by snofoam at 2:36 PM on May 11, 2012


It was hotter thinking "I Touch Myself" was written by a chick.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:39 PM on May 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, five of their songs I do regularly in karaoke (as much as I do karaoke regularly in the first place). Next time I'm doing a full-on S&K set.
posted by snofoam at 2:40 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


*nods*

The way I formatted the post was intentional. The idea of "Like a Virgin" being written by farmer's son, booming through a vineyard in an otherwise barren, desert landscape in his red pickup truck is just too perfect, especially considering the lyrics. Spoilers would've ruined that experience.

It makes me feel shiny and new!
posted by markkraft at 2:42 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Really interesting post, I had no idea. And I feel the same way as snofoam regarding the links. I've been saying "really?!" quite a lot tonight.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:42 PM on May 11, 2012


i hate to break this to you, but "like a virgin" was not the #1 song of the 80's - billboard's list of the top 100 hits of all time, reveals it to be this

ick
posted by pyramid termite at 2:43 PM on May 11, 2012


Also, I know that the "neon tunnel" in the "his demo was secretly given to a star" link has been featured on MetaFilter, but I can't for the life of me remember when and in what context. A bit of hope me?
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:45 PM on May 11, 2012


Dudes could write a song. The modulation in 'Eternal Flame' at "say my name" gets me every time!
posted by TwoWordReview at 2:45 PM on May 11, 2012


I was going by Rolling Stone's 100 greatest pop songs, of which "Like a Virgin" is ranked 4.

All I can say about "Physical" is that obviously they lacked for solid competition during their particular time on the charts. But really... in every way that matters, socially, culturally, musically... you have to give the nod to Madonna, for good or ill. It's the era's defining pop song.
posted by markkraft at 2:51 PM on May 11, 2012


pyramid termite: That song is more enjoyable if, when she sings the words "I wanna get animal... animal," you imagine the muppet of the same name.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:53 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I saw that neon tunnel bit too, and thought it was a really cool location. I actually saw this version of the video first, with Pat Benatar talking about it. She said that it was mentioned recently in a French magazine and it's still there, but doesn't actually say where there is... you get the sense that the era was such a blur, she can't determine which continent it's on anymore... though if they shot scenes in NYC, one would hope it would be there somewhere.

I should film myself strutting down it someday in a trench coat, entourage flanking me on either side, over and over and over again.

You *know* that neon hallway is deceptive and is only about 15' long, though.
posted by markkraft at 3:00 PM on May 11, 2012


Man, I like all of those songs and I had no clue they were written by the same people. Thanks for the post.
posted by Kwine at 3:16 PM on May 11, 2012


Great post!
posted by readyfreddy at 3:17 PM on May 11, 2012


Other interesting bits:
Steinberg & Kelly also released an album as "I-Ten". I actually kinda prefer their version of "Alone". They have a handful of tracks off the album on YouTube, but most are nothing special.

While Kelly retired from songwriting, Steinberg still works and collaborates with others. A complete discography of his songs is available on his website.
posted by markkraft at 3:22 PM on May 11, 2012


Found it.
posted by pxe2000 at 3:30 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Meh. Sad to hear they destroyed the neon hallway.)
posted by markkraft at 3:44 PM on May 11, 2012


It was hotter thinking "I Touch Myself" was written by a chick.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:39 PM on May 11 [1 favorite +] [!]


Different, er, strokes for different folks.
posted by chavenet at 3:48 PM on May 11, 2012


Many of those songs defined the mid-80s for me. Interesting post, thanks.
posted by kurumi at 4:13 PM on May 11, 2012


Huh, my 9 year old self remembers the Heart version of "Alone" as this big bombastic rock number, but now that I listen to it again it really isn't, is it? The I-Ten version is way heavier. I was wondering if this song had benefited from any modern covers, and the results I found reinforce my nomination of Celine Dion for crew captain on the first manned mission to Mars, preferably tomorrow. Spaceship optional.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:25 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Edison Carter: "Is that first video correct?"

I'm with Edison. The first linked video is some dude flying a remote control glider to 'Infinite Discoveries" by Philip Chapman and has a run time of 17:50.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:42 PM on May 11, 2012


Still, this is pretty cool. I had no idea. All these years I thought that since what really sold "True Colors" was the obvious emotion Cyndi Lauper poured into the song, she must have written it.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:47 PM on May 11, 2012


ob1quixote: If memory serves, Cyndi was pissed at the Phil Collins cover version, and the subsequent Kodak ad.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:52 PM on May 11, 2012


Wow. Highly informative posts with big surprises in them are among the best on the blue. This is certainly one of them. Great stuff. Thanks!
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 5:07 PM on May 11, 2012


Brilliant post. Never cared much for the originals -- well, should I call them covers now? -- most of these songs in the 80s, though I have a soft spot for True Colors, but to see them performed by Billy Steinberg?

I think I just fell in love on the Internet for the very first time.
posted by vers at 5:08 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Billy Steinberg also wins a prize for year's most irritating mic technique in that Like a Virgin performance. Who sound checked that? If he's going to keep singing away from the mic, at least point it at him! It's galling as it's actually otherwise a fine performance of a great song.
posted by howfar at 6:15 PM on May 11, 2012


There's an interesting story behind "Like a Virgin" and it's subject matter.

You see, it's about this sexually liberated young woman who rather enjoys intercourse. At all hours of the day. Morning, midday, evening: penis, penis, penis, penis, penis, penis, penis, penis.

You know how many penises that is? Many.

Well one day, she meets this man who is renowned for the large size of his genitalia and this was quite a revelation for the young woman. They engage in coitus, and she experiences something that she hasn't experienced in quite a long time (that is, for someone who has received so many phalluses into her vagina): discomfort.

Discomfort, reminiscent of the discomfort she experienced the very first time a penis entered her.

Hence, "Like a Virgin."
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:53 PM on May 11, 2012


Billy Steinberg also wins a prize for year's most irritating mic technique in that Like a Virgin performance. Who sound checked that?

Tay Zonday?

That song is more enjoyable if, when she sings the words "I wanna get animal... animal," you imagine the muppet of the same name.

You're definitely doing it wrong.


You see, it's about this sexually liberated young woman who rather enjoys intercourse.

For years and years, I thought the lyric was this:

Like a virgin,
Touched in the crutch for the very first time...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:33 AM on May 12, 2012


The first linked video is some dude flying a remote control glider to 'Infinite Discoveries" by Philip Chapman and has a run time of 17:50.

Over Thermal, CA.
posted by Catch at 12:37 AM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find his version of "I Touch Myself" somehow less... stirring than that of The Divinyls. I'm not sure why that is.
posted by Decani at 3:05 AM on May 12, 2012


Excellent post! These guys were practically printing money during their hit-making run.
posted by alvarete at 4:37 AM on May 12, 2012


Catch: "Over Thermal, CA."

Ah. See I thought it was supposed to be "Like a Virgin". Now it makes sense. Thanks.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:09 AM on May 12, 2012


Never heard of 'em. And now that I've seen the discography, that's alright with me.
posted by Twang at 11:44 PM on May 12, 2012


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