Posted tagged ‘1984’

Freed, Nelson Mandela

July 1, 2013

Among my great memories of the mid-’80s are the politically-tinged protest songs so often heard on WORT-FM, then and now the intensely local, intensely progressive radio station in Madison, Wisconsin.

There was “If I Had A Rocket Launcher,” Bruce Cockburn’s lament for the plight of Guatemalan refugees in Mexico.

There was “World Destruction,” a fierce, desperate, bleak view of the future from John Lydon and Afrika Bambaataa working together as Time Zone.

There was “Five Minutes,” the  hip-hop tune that used snippets of Ronald Reagan’s radio gaffe to satirize Reagan’s policies, with Jerry Harrison and Bootsy Collins and pals billing themselves as Bonzo Goes To Washington.

Those songs shared a sense of anger, and rightly so, given the world in 1984.

There was one more that year, another call for action. It was no less urgent.

But unlike the others, “Free Nelson Mandela” by the Special A.K.A. was a joyful noise, a ska song written in England by Jerry Dammers, its rhythms partly inspired by South African music.

Unlike the others, it expressed hope.

Hope that the anti-apartheid activist would be freed from prison after what was then “21 years in captivity.” Hope that came to pass in the decade that followed the release of “Free Nelson Mandela” in 1984. Apartheid was ended. The song became an anthem. Mandela was elected South Africa’s president, served for five years, then remained active in the cause until retiring.

Nelson Mandela is much in the news, much in our thoughts these days, gravely ill. But he long ago passed into legend, one of the giants of our time.

special aka free nelson mandela lp

“Free Nelson Mandela (instrumental)” and “Free Nelson Mandela (LP version),” the Special A.K.A., from “Free Nelson Mandela: The Special Remix,” 1984. This is Side 2 of the 12-inch American release on Chrysalis. It runs 8:20.

I’ve had it since 1984. Tonight, it emerges from that not-so-long-ago time as our side on The Midnight Tracker.



Summer’s guilty pleasure

July 30, 2008

As I was having my mind blown by all kinds of new music in 1983, the first full year I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, I somehow came to know the British pop trio Bananarama via the British New Wave trio Fun Boy Three.

Siobhan Fahey, Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin sang backup on the Fun Boy Three single “It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It).” I want to say I heard it first on the (still) wonderfully diverse WORT-FM, a listener-run radio station in Madison.

Later that year, I heard the first true Bananarama single — “He Was Really Sayin’ Something” — on which Terry Hall, Neville Staples and Lynval Golding of Fun Boy Three returned the favor of backup vocals. Only much later did I learn it was a cover of an old Motown tune done first by the Velvelettes in 1964.

Sucker for sunny pop goodness (and for charming ladies) that I am, I must confess that Bananarama has ever since been one of my guiltiest pleasures.

What follows is not a side of the first Bananarama album I ever had, but a side of the first one I really liked from beginning to end. In the summer of 1984, Bananarama became MTV faves with the video to “Cruel Summer,” the biggest single off their self-titled album.

The critics said Bananarama’s lyrics were getting more serious, and perhaps so. To my ears, though, “Bananarama” simply had a more mature sound. Tony Swain and Steve Jolley’s music behind those sweet vocals became more interesting.

As always, decide for yourself. Here’s Side 1.

“Cruel Summer,” “Rough Justice,” “King of the Jungle” and “Dream Baby,” Bananarama, from “Bananarama,” 1984. It runs 16:06.

(If you’re a Bananarama completist, you’ll be happy to know this side has a secret cut at the end. “Link” runs 1:31 and comes uncredited after “Dream Baby” on some of the original vinyl pressings. And, yes, this comes from my old vinyl LP.)