ROBERT HILBURN : SUMMER POP HAS ARRIVED ON AIRWAVES
Forget what your desk calendar says: Summer is here.
Just turn on the radio.
There’s a wealth of singles on the air that reflect the playful, good time spirit and/or boundless energy that have been associated with Summer Pop since Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys and beyond.
But guess who is leading the way: Prince.
His new “Parade” album lacks the consistency and focus of his “Dirty Mind” to “Purple Rain” period, but several of the LP’s selections ideally fit the light, upbeat atmosphere of the vacation-oriented summer months. One of them--"Kiss"--tops Billboard magazine’s national sales chart.
But Prince’s contribution doesn’t end with his own records. He also played a part, at least indirectly, in two other current, summer-oriented Top 10 singles.
Using the pseudonym Christopher, Prince wrote the Bangles’ “Manic Monday,” which is No. 4 this week on the charts. And two ex-members of the Time, the Minneapolis band that Prince helped launch a few years back, co-wrote and co-produced Janet Jackson’s spunky, “What Have You Done for Me Lately,” which is No. 8.
This success indicates that Prince has rebounded nicely from the backlash that developed around him during the latter stages of the 1984-85 “Purple Rain” tour.
Some backlash is inevitable when a performer gets as much media exposure as Prince did with the “Rain” album, movie and tour, but the backlash was aggravated in his case by what many saw as signs of an arrogant, even mean-spirited attitude on his part.
So, it was encouraging to see a much warmer and more generous Prince join Sheila E. on stage last month at the Universal Amphitheatre and much of his new “Parade” album is in that same, engaging mood.
But Prince isn’t the only sign Summer Pop has arrived. Here are nine Summer Pop singles that are current radio favorites.
--The Bangles’ “Manic Monday"--The bright, bouncy song is one thing that makes this a candidate for best single of the year: a terrific look at the alarm clock blues and at the start of the working week. Sample line: “Six o’clock already/ I was just in the middle of a dream/ I was kissin’ Valentino/ By a crystal blue Italian stream.” Equally inviting are Susanna Hoffs’ perfectly tailored vocal and the Bangles’ Mamas and Papas-inspired harmonies. Trivia note: It was 20 years ago this week that the Mamas and Papas’ only No. 1 record entered the Top 40. Its title: “Monday, Monday.”
--Prince’s “Kiss"--The single combines an ever-so-cool update of a classic James Brown guitar-accented funk riff with witty lyrics that suggest a bit more humility in Prince’s sexually aggressive posture. “You don’t have to be rich to be my girl,” he advises. “You don’t have to be cool to rule my world.” Even the put-downs are tinged with humor: “Act your age, not your shoe size,” he tells one prospective lover. Keep an ear open also for two other Summer Pop jewels from “Parade”: “Girls and Boys” and “Mountains.”
--Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done for Me Lately"--Michael Jackson’s little sister grows up on this sassy, snappy declaration to her self-centered lover that she is not going to be taken for granted any longer. Jackson’s partners in both writing and producing the record were former Time members James Harris III and Terry Lewis, and the record carries a lot of the sharp, dance-floor consciousness of that old group’s work.
--Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty in Pink"--The best thing about the success of this title tune from the Molly Ringwald film is that it focuses attention on the Furs, a British band led by Richard Butler. An appealing artistic mix of David Bowie and John Lydon, he is one of the most commanding writers and performers on the contemporary rock scene--though the group’s last LP was a disappointment. For the Furs at their best and an even stronger version of this song, check out the band’s excellent, 1981 “Talk, Talk, Talk” album.
--Bob Seger’s “American Storm"--Seger may have written this rousing tune as an anti-drug statement, but it’s just as easy to think of it as a warning against any compromise or corruption.
--Erasure’s “Who Needs Love Like That?"--Agreed, Yaz founder Vince Clarke’s dance-ready, techno-pop approach was more soulful when Alison Moyet was handling lead vocals, but the percolator-styled beat is still hard to dismiss.
--Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love"--Palmer’s most appealing Top 40 entry since “Bad Case of Loving You.”
--Nu Shooz’ “I Can’t Wait"--The vitality and charm of Madonna’s best records.
--Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey"--This would rival “Manic Monday” as the best single of the year . . . if Warner Bros. ever gets around to releasing it as a single. The track from the group’s highly recommended “Psychocandy” album is an odd, but haunting mix of roaring guitar feedback and highly melodic, Phil Spector-inspired romanticism. Though unorthodox by mainstream radio standard, the record was a smash single in England and it is among the most played tracks on college radio in this country.
LIVE ACTION: Tickets for the Bob Dylan/Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers concert June 16 at the Pacific Amphitheatre go on sale Monday. . . .Tickets go on sale Sunday for Heart’s May 18 concert at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre. The group will also be at the Forum on May 16. . . . Brian Setzer makes his local solo debut May 16 at the Beverly Theatre. Tickets go on sale Monday. . . . New Edition will be joined by Force M.D.'s and Cherrelle on May 11 at the Long Beach Arena.