Carol Anne! Go Into The Light!
November 7, 2017 11:17 PM   Subscribe

Chris de Burgh's 1986 album Into The Light [50m35s] was released at the height of the Reagan-era Cold War and is a document of its time.

Track by track:
Last Night [how else to open up an album but with a tension-filled track about victory at war and unified nationalistic pride?]
Fire On The Water [ancient fortress? fire? water? what?]
The Ballroom Of Romance [WARNING: contains 80s attitudes toward relationships]
The Lady In Red [if any of you ever bought this album, this song is probably the reason why. very romantic song. worth listening to again "for the first time" if you burned out on it decades ago.]
Say Goodbye To It All [this song is actually a sequel to Borderline, a song from a previous album. also, cold war WWII themes.]
The Spirit Of Man [this kind of song was happening a lot in Europe while Reagan was POTUS.]
Fatal Hesitation [lost romance song, effective but very 80s]
One Word (Straight To The Heart) [cold war spy melodrama metaphor applied to a love story.]
For Roseanna [written for his 2 year old daughter. enough said.]
The Leader / The Vision / What About Me? [imagine a prog rock epic. now imagine that without any prog in the rock. okay, now we're on the same page. also: cold war.]
posted by hippybear (40 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
For me, no album gives me the cold war feels like Chess! The Musical.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:11 AM on November 8 [19 favorites]


And what could be more 80s than being 'perhaps Princess Diana's most favourite' singer?
posted by robself at 12:27 AM on November 8


Why is the lady in red ?
posted by fairmettle at 12:36 AM on November 8


That was what is wife was wearing when they met, and he wrote the song about her. She divorced him because he had an affair with the nanny while she was recovering from a broken neck. Kind of like a more dramatic version of the story behind Eric Clapton's Wonderful Tonight.

Romance, eh?

According to Wikipedia, that two-year-old daughter became Miss World.

(I'm still unreconstructed enough to want to put in a reference to not inheriting his eyebrows here, sorry.)
posted by Grangousier at 2:11 AM on November 8 [6 favorites]


My manager would only let us listen to this album and Howard Jones Dream Into Action all day for the whole summer of '86. Sure, they're both good, but burned out doesn't cover it.
posted by Dhertiiboi at 4:08 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


That was what is wife was wearing when they met, and he wrote the song about her. She divorced him because he had an affair with the nanny while she was recovering from a broken neck. Kind of like a more dramatic version of the story behind Eric Clapton's Wonderful Tonight.
Hey now, Chris and Diane managed to keep their marriage together, meaning that the only permanent damage created by the affair was the production of "Blonde Hair, Blue Jeans" (allegedly, anyway).

Thanks for the post, hippybear! I've never been a big Chris de Burgh fan but it's nice to be reminded that there's more to him than "Lady in Red". "A Spaceman Came Travelling" is legit, if pretty goofy (which sort of sums him up in general, perhaps).
posted by Zeinab Badawi's Twenty Hotels at 4:34 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


For those who haven't heard it, Vektroid's “Nobody Here”, a vaporwave track based on a sample of Lady In Red, which masterfully turns it into something like a dialogue between malfunctioning machines in a shopping mall after closing time. Get your postmodern late-capitalist ostranenie here, kids!
posted by acb at 4:57 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


No mention of "Don't Pay the Ferryman"?
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:00 AM on November 8 [17 favorites]


Also, there seems to be a microgenre circa the late 80s, bracketed on one side by Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time and on the other side by pseudo-opera, consisting of songs like Lady In Red and Berlin's Take My Breath Away (and, on a Lynchian flip-side, Julee Cruise's Falling); expensive digital synths, simplified neoclassical flourishes (like the musical equivalent of the postmodern colonnades of 1980s architecture), and the epitome of Reagan/Thatcher-era bourgeois good taste: coded as “sophisticated”, but unchallenging and easily digestible.
posted by acb at 5:11 AM on November 8 [6 favorites]


I see this microgenre, and raise you my heightened interest in finding more representative music to further expand it. I offer Savage Garden's Truly Madly Deeply.

What do we call this? Lushcore?
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:34 AM on November 8


Ah, the monobrowed purveyor of ultimate filth.
posted by pseudocode at 5:44 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


I'd have said sophistipop, but that's more Style Council and such; considerably leaner and less bombastic.

One could probably adjoin Malcolm McLaren's "Madame Butterfly" to this. Come to think of it, were one to do a playlist, there'd almost certainly be some Lloyd-Webber in it.
posted by acb at 5:48 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


this post really needs a trigger warning for gen-xers
posted by entropicamericana at 5:49 AM on November 8 [8 favorites]


Had an affair with his kid's 19 year old nanny while his wife was in hospital with a broken neck. Stay classy, Chris.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 6:01 AM on November 8


In 1986 I was 13, had a crush on a girl in my class who often wore a red sweater, and would listen to "Lady In Red" (which I had taped off the radio) and pine pine PIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE.

(see also: "Alone" by Heart and "Don't Give Up" by Peter Gabriel)
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:03 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


"This video is not available."

That's fine. I didn't like de Burgh then and I'm quite sure I don't like him today.
posted by ashbury at 6:04 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


No mention of "Don't Pay the Ferryman "?
Personally, my archetypal Chris de Burgh track is Patricia the Stripper, which probably explains my, uh, attitude.

(I was sure the got divorced... no? Oh, well, that's good, I suppose, isn't it? I stand corrected. Jolly good.)
posted by Grangousier at 6:09 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


No mention of "Don't Pay the Ferryman"?

A staple of my Saturday D&D marathons back in the day...
posted by darkstar at 6:29 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


songs like Lady In Red and Berlin's Take My Breath Away (and, on a Lynchian flip-side, Julee Cruise's Falling)

Not sure that I'd put those in the same box. "Lady in Red" is pretty much straight up MOR; "Take My Breath Away" is Giorgio Moroder's version of MOR, but it's still very Moroderesque, with the synth hook dominating the song; and Julee Cruise's song, which is really David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti's work (along with the rest of Floating Into the Night), is too heavily tied into Twin Peaks to be "unchallenging and easily digestible" IMO. Even "Mysteries of Love", which was featured in Blue Velvet (and is pretty Moroderesque itself; it really stands out from the rest of the album), is colored by the movie that it's in. (Fun fact, which I did not know until looking at the Wikipedia entry for the album: "Mysteries of Love" was composed and recorded only because the rights to This Mortal Coil's cover of "Song to the Siren" were too expensive.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:40 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


The whole 80s "slow dance prom song" thing was pretty gigantic in the 80s. Journey's "Open Arms", Foreigner's "I Want To Know What Love Is"... Those leap immediately to mind. I could probably come up with another dozen if I sat and thought about it.
posted by hippybear at 6:44 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


....Paul Young's entire oeuvre, for example.
posted by Quindar Beep at 6:57 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Personally, my archetypal Chris de Burgh track is Patricia the Stripper, which probably explains my, uh, attitude.

That's a good'un. "Don't Pay the Ferryman" with its Bruckheimer-esque video* is my favorite, followed by "A Spaceman Came Traveling" (The best Christmas aliens-meet-Jesus song ever!), then probably "Crusader," a song who's jingoism feels troubling today, but which was great D&D background music back in the day. The Getaway is the only De Burgh record I own, tho I'd buy the early ones for a buck or so.

Mentally, I've always grouped De Burgh with other solo song-storytellers like Al Stewart, Gerry Rafferty, and that other husky-voiced Chris, Chris Rea. (Over the stretch of his career, I probably prefer Mr. Rea to Mr. De Burgh.)

*Nothing will make you feel like a 16 year old lying on the sofa and watching MTV like that video.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:11 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


there seems to be a microgenre circa the late 80s, bracketed on one side by Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time and on the other side by pseudo-opera,

There's definitely a moment in the early/mid 80s where these bombastic story songs are popular. De Burgh, the Chess soundtrack (Murray Head on one, Anthony Head on "Don't Pay the Ferryman") ... I'd have to think of others, but it's a kind of art pop that seems to trace its ancestry through bands like the Moody Blues, The Alan Parsons Project, ELO, The Sparks, 10CC, and certainly Lloyd-Webber.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:35 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


JFC, my husband plays that DeBurgh "Jesus was totes an alien" song every year on our Xmas show, and every year I get to go "whyyyyyyyy." He is also fond of the song where the Devil and God are playing cards on a train, IIRC?
posted by Kitteh at 7:46 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


I find I prefer Chris De Burgh's earlier hits, notably Spanish Train (the one with with the card playing), and Crusader (great tune, now-deplorable message).
posted by PennD at 8:08 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


I'm partial to his tune "High on Emotion," which pushes my schlock rock buttons.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:35 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


Kitteh that is the fantastic Spanish Train. I have unironically loved CdB for years, he was my first concert when I was about twelve and that entire ballad album (Spanish Train and other stories iirc) was a staple of our scout troop. There is a lot of weird shut on that album, The Painter anyone? You haven't lived till you've been one of thirty early teens bawdily roaring "aaaand with a swiiiing of her hips, she undid alllll her clips" at the top of their lungs, and the unbearably pretty junior leader growling "its running still" under his breath is a memory that still gives a shiver to this old dyke :D

I had a great CdB mix tape on my Walkman and High on Emotion is a great auld belter, Feeryman is too and Spaceman adds a lovely weirdness to my Christmases. But if I had to pick one non-ballad song it would be In a Country Churchyard which was played at the first wedding I went to as a kid and is still, to me, hopelessly romantic.
posted by Iteki at 10:09 AM on November 8


When it was on the bloody radio all the time, I made up the alternative words "There's nobody here, it's just you and me, and a wallaby" to defuse it. I've heard that version in my head so many times that the song will always be about the singer and the lady in red and a certain wallaby. In my head, I can see the three of them all dancing cheek to cheek to cheek.
posted by pracowity at 10:20 AM on November 8 [11 favorites]


I'm partial to his tune "High on Emotion," which pushes my schlock rock buttons.

At 2:15 of that video, I'm pretty sure the guy in the flannel shirt is feeling up a girl he never clapped eyes on until 1:38. But life was short in those long-ago days. No time for romance and names and stuff. I think she's pregnant by the end of the video. And so the circle of life continues.
posted by pracowity at 11:03 AM on November 8


Oh wow. Spotify shows he's been releasing albums steadily the whole time. Including last year. Dipping through post eighties stuff isn't yielding anything appealing however.
posted by Iteki at 12:17 PM on November 8


there seems to be a microgenre circa the late 80s, bracketed on one side by Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time and on the other side by pseudo-opera,

All this and no mention of Sade, who was the epitome of this very, very sophisticated pop music for people who don't actually like pop all that much?
posted by MartinWisse at 1:31 PM on November 8 [1 favorite]


In 1986 I was deeply in love with Stan Ridgway's solo debut, "The Big Heat." (It's one the few albums I know all the lyrics all the way through.) My boyfriend at the time made me a bunch of tapes to listen to while I was studying abroad in Costa Rica, including that, and as a result, he really got into Stan's music as well. Stan's noir storytelling and nasal vocals are way more than my style than that stupid "Lady in Red" song, which I never really got into.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:18 PM on November 8 [1 favorite]


All this and no mention of Sade, who was the epitome of this very, very sophisticated pop music for people who don't actually like pop all that much?

Sade's more connected to soul/lover's rock, and ebbs into the likes of Lionel Ritchie, Terence Trent D'arby and such. Basically, it has something vital that stereotypical whiteness is the absence of.

In this microgenre, there is something very white and unfunky. A sort of alienation from one's body or congenital inability to dance, perhaps. Or perhaps the other coolness that is an absence of warmth, the process of dissociation, abstraction and commodification, that ties into 1980s postmodernism but also into the Faustian bargain of sacrificing one's roots and “losing one's medicine” for a tilt at mastery of the world. Or something.
posted by acb at 4:43 PM on November 8


We are not going to put Sade, or good God forbid Terence Trent D'arby, in the same box with "Lady in Red".
There will be words.
posted by bongo_x at 10:14 PM on November 8 [4 favorites]


But but but... the dancing... it's cheek to cheek!
posted by hippybear at 10:41 PM on November 8


Ah yes, the Slow Motion Fist Pump genre. Lovely stuff.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 11:22 PM on November 8


the epitome of this very, very sophisticated pop music for people who don't actually like pop all that much?

It's a pretty narrow definition of "pop music" that insists that Sade isn't actually "pop." I have trouble even parsing the meaning of that sentence except as a prolix way to say "I don't like it."

(Anyway, Sade Adu is awesome and I will brook no dissent.)

A sort of alienation from one's body or congenital inability to dance, perhaps.

The Skids' "Scared to Dance" and Genesis' "I Can't Dance" to thread.

Of "Lady in Red," I think it's sufficient to say that it's one in a class of pop songs that simply emphasize the lyrics and the story over any other quality. The tune's just (barely) there to keep De Burgh from having to speak the lyrics instead. And that's not an uncommon type of pop song, so common that examples exist in every decade since the invention of modern pop music. I hear a lot of Bro-country in thrift stores these days and that seems to be a genre that's practically defined by a similar emphasis on lyrical content, simple tune, and chorus. (The only difference being the kind of speaker the song conjures.) Compare also Christian pop music, where the lyrical content is the whole point of the song. (And, of course, it shouldn't be surprising that this type of pop song is so common, since the type goes back to the folk song, the ballad, and the hymn.)
posted by octobersurprise at 7:27 AM on November 9 [1 favorite]


I'm with octobersurprise and acb; it seems like this putative microgenre is way more connected to the melodrama of Jim Steinman or the ethereal inhumanity of Enya. Not to mention 80s Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music.
posted by mubba at 7:54 AM on November 9


Well, also include Alphaville - Forever Young.
posted by hippybear at 8:45 PM on November 10


Also, bonus points for the direct Cold War reference in the Alphaville song.
posted by hippybear at 8:45 PM on November 10


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