A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.
If there were a year I was least interested in music, it would be 1981. And it was a remarkable turn of events, because I had amassed quite a 7-inch collection the year before.
Duran Duran, Duran Duran
Lou Harrison, Three Pieces for Gamelan with Soloists / String Quartet Set
Eurythmics, In the Garden
The Police, Ghost in the Machine
ABBA, The Visitors
Black Flag, Damaged
Brian Eno and David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
Bucker and Garcia, Pac-Man Fever
Rick Springfield, Working Class Dog
Other favorites from the year:
Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat
Gang of Four, Solid Gold
Grace Jones, Nightclubbing
1981 marked the start of my fascination with the classic video games of the era. I would also take an interest in computers and programming. My parents actively discouraged me from pursuing either interest, but it would not stop me from sneaking away to the arcade when we went to the local malls.
That didn’t mean I was totally unaware of music. Of the titles on this list, I would have listened to the Police, ABBA, Rick Springfield, the Go-Go’s and Buckner and Garcia. And I would have definitely seen Grace Jones in the press.
If there was one album I really wanted to get at the time, it would have been Pac-Man Fever by Buckner and Garcia, mostly for the maze patterns on the inner sleeve that would have help you to win the game.
They thought Rick Springfield was dreamy. My brother and I dug the catchiness of “Jesse’s Girl.”
Mom intervened in this fight, letting me take possession of the 7-inch singles, while my brother took the full album. He wasn’t about to share, of course. My sisters just wanted to look at the covers.
I was 9 years old when Working Class Dog turned Springfield into star, but looking back, I had to admit I wanted to look at the covers too.
Springfield was indeed dreamy, and I recognized it even if I was a few years away from translating that to actual desire.
By the time that inkling turned into a confusing suspicion, Springfield’s star had waned. It was all about Duran Duran, Huey Lewis and Sting then.
As the ’80s turned into the ’90s, the only Rick Springfield album you needed was a greatest hits collection, just for “Jesse’s Girl.”
That does Working Class Dog a disservice.
From start to finish, the album doesn’t let up its frenetic pace. Springfield does some hard swinging on “Red Hot and Blue Love” before stepping off the accelerator for the concluding track, “Sylvia”. In an interview with the AV Club, Springfield says he would lean more toward a heavier sound than his producer preferred.
For good or no, Working Class Dog became a template from which the Outfield and Bryan Adams would eventually draw. It’s tough to picture the ’80s without it.