Monday, May 21, 2012

"M¡PUNK": A Nostalgic Stumble Through the Music of 1979-1981

2 Sides To Your Mulleted Man

"Turn Me Loose” Loverboy
Label: Columbia. Single released: 1981. Songwriters: Paul Dean & Mike Reno. Producer: Bruce Fairbairn & Bob Rock. Highest Chart Position: #6. Album: Loverboy.

“Sweetheart” Franke and the Knockouts
Label: MCA/Millennium. Single released: 1981. Songwriters: Franke Previte & Billy Elworthy. Producer: Tony Camillo. Highest Chart Position: #1. Album: Franke and The Knockouts

Ladies of the Eighties, your hombre was a complex riddle. He had at least (if no more than) two sides to him: one the strutting selfish dickhead, the other an aw-shucks-girl romantic. He wore stone-washed jeans, leather vests with no shirt, embossed faux-snakeskin boots and those weird thin studded belts with the end tucked under and pointing downward like a withered dong-substitute. He feathered and treated and blow-dried his gossamer locks for about as long as you did. He fluffed and sunned his brushy 'stache until he looked like Joey Silvera. He kept an arsenal of Italian-style man panties that just broadcasted: Hey babe, I'm available. He loved parties with fondue, port-wine cheese and wall-to-wall shag. He kept an (unread) copy of Shogun on the coffee table. He had to do it his way -- or no way at all.

Summer 1981. The Beast and a friend with no driver's license were speeding through the Wisconsin cornfields on a muggy summer's night when Loverboy's "Turn Me Loose" came on the radio. We listened to the blaring cop-flick synth intro, the thumping bass line that kicks off a series of persistent demands: 'I was born to love, I was born to dream, the craziest boy you've ever seen...Makin' love to whoever I please, I gotta do it my way or no way at all...' We laughed at what a juiced-up asshole this guy sounded like.

Thing was: my friend was one of the biggest egomaniacs I have ever met in my life. He was the kind of guy who commandeered every stereo at every party he'd ever been to with a surly sense of entitlement; I actually watched him walk up to a host of a party he had no even been invited to and snapped, "Hey, whaddaya say we get those burgers on the grill now?" He was a disciple of Paul Mitchell hair care products and actually wore a pair of zippered parachute pants for a spell. He wore cowboy boots UNDER his tight jeans like Danny Bonaduce. He once wrapped a red bandanna around his neck before going out on a date and I had to intervene and tell him he looked like an idiot. He sort of reminded me of a cross between one of those cartoon roosters who wore tough-guy pompadours and Allen Covert's character Sammy in The Wedding Singer. He had a bit of the messiah in him, mixed in with an almost evangelical grandiosity that reminded me of the hair-metal ballads of the ‘80s. I could truly picture him shirtless in a flowing, windblown blonde mane and a leather vest, fist raised to the whipping fake rain, chained and painted women writhing at his feet: You can make it if you try!!!!! He wasn't so much addicted to sex as he was the sensation of the promise of sex – hence the constant mentions of the word oyster.

Suffice to say, he was aggressive and selfish in bed. He frequently hit on married women and then acted offended when their husbands protested. "Turn Me Loose" in many ways was his Neanderthal credo -- he should have had it printed on a plaque hanging in his mirrored-ceiling bedroom with the squishy, awkward waterbed and the lava lamp and the hanging terrarium.

But even the mulleted man of the Greed Decade had a trace of the incurable romantic nestled in his raven-black chest hairs. Aw shucks baby, I just, ya know, like, loved you an' thought you were a stone cold fox an' hot to trot an' you wouldn't wanna take a spin in my black Corvette with the gold eagle spreadin' its wings on the hood? I got some coke and some nitrous oxide... Enter Frank Stallone/Young Ron Jeremy doppelganger Franke Previte, who took a classic doo-wop piano riff (similar to Toto's "Hold the Line") and smeared it in Album-Oriented Rock Vaseline and got a #1 hit.

Previte actually had a decent voice -- shrill but soulful enough for Foreigner to ask him to replace their shrill lead singer Lou Gramm -- but he later cashed in his frontman chips, took an old Franke & the Knockouts demo called "Hungry Eyes," wrote a new song called "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" and made a Brinks' truck full of loot when both were included the gazillion selling Dirty Dancing soundtrack. It earned the former one-hit wonder an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Grammy nomination. You can hear the influence of Franke P. and his Knockouts -- if it can be called such -- can be heard in the melanin-challenged R&B-lite of Maroon 5 and the gayest band of the '80s, Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Believe it or else, the Knockouts' original album is going for $75.20 on Amazon.

On the Loverboy side of things, "Turn Me Loose" would have an equally unusual second act somewhere along the lines of "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" and "Venus in Furs." From Songfacts:

The S&M/leather community has noted the sadomasochistic overtones of the lyrics, what with being tied down, being on your knees, and so on. And "flying" is scene slang for the high experienced while buzzing on endorphins (natural chemicals released in the brain as a response to painful or confining stimulus), so "I wanna fly" loosely qualifies. And finally, bondage fans also claim that the only time they feel "free" is when they're tied up - hence it's like being "turned loose." Make no mistake, Loverboy very clearly did not intend the song this way, but for reasons of alternative interpretations, this song is usually part of the music playlist in your typical "dungeon" - at least at the kind of Southern California "play party" where couples swish those tacky velvet floggers around with way more dignity attached to the affair than one might expect.

Uh-huh. So basically, Ladies of the Eighties, your man was, in the words of a great philosopher, "gayer than nine guys fucking ten guys."

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