Tag Archives: 80s music

Introducing Pop Culture Confessions…

So, I’ve been thinking that it’s high time that I set the record straight and unburden my soul a bit here at Branded by talking about some of the 80s era pop culture that’s either eluded, intimidated, or out and out confounded me.  This is sort of a Pop Culture Confessional, a place where I can take a look at stuff that I feel like I should be familiar with, but am not, for whatever reason.  I think running a site like this can sometimes give off the wrong impression, that I know more than I do, whatever.  So with that in mind, I couldn’t think of a better topic to break in this new column than one of the most recognizable heavy metal bands of the last quarter century, Iron Maiden.

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Though I’m not 100% oblivious to this operatic British metal band, I have never sat down and listened to any of their albums.  Like most kids growing up in the 70s and 80s I had a fascination with their twisted ghoul of a mascot, the glowing-eyed zombie Eddie, but beyond this and their seat belt commercial from the 90s, this is pretty much where my exposure ends.  What’s strange to me is that there is absolutely no reason why I should have gotten into the music when I was 9 or 10.  It was around that time that I met and befriended a kid in the fifth grade who schooled me in heavy metal, though he was pretty heavy-handed with his infectious love of Metallica.  So while I was becoming a tried and true Metalli-Cat, banging my head along with Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, it would take another couple years to open my eyes to other bands.  With Peanut (my friend’s nickname), it was pretty much Metallica or nothing.  There was one opportunity to listen to some Maiden back in 1988 though.  Another older kid down the street from me had seen me proudly wearing my only Metallica shirt (the “Metal Up Your Ass” shirt featuring a knife-wielding hand coming up out of a toilet bowl), and he asked me if I was into Maiden.  I didn’t want to seem uncool, so I said yeah, but only some of their early stuff (what a dork I was.)  So he ran home and quickly came back with the Somewhere in Time album and he told me I needed to hear this.  I eagerly took the album from him and then ran back into my house excited and depressed at the same time.  See, he lent me the album on CD, and at the time our family didn’t own a player.  Heck, they were still like $300, and there was absolutely no way I was going to convince my parents that we needed one just so that I could finally hear what all the fuss was about with this mysterious band.

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Time passed and I eventually opened up musically, but for the most part my interest in metal kind of waned.  I was getting into some weirder stuff like Faith No More, Devo, and eventually Ween.  As intriguing as the visage of Eddie was, getting into Iron Maiden was put on the back burner.  The next thing I know I’m 35 and now I’m almost a little ashamed that it’s taken me over 20 years to catch back up with the band.  There have been signs recently, little things here and there that have been peaking my interest and nudging me back towards the band.  Whether it was scoping out some of the awesome NECA Eddie toys that were on the pegs right next to the Robocop figures I was buying, friends posting facebook updates about attending Maiden concerts (consequently Mark also co-hosts the awesome Requiem Metal Podcast), or even when I started getting into an author’s work recently and while checking out her youtube page I found the most adorable karaoke video of her performing the intro to Number of the Beast with backup by her cats.  Iron Maiden just seems to continue to jump out at me.  Well, last night, after holding a regular movie night with my friend we started talking music, and I couldn’t help but lead the conversation over to my eagerness to finally dive into Maiden.  Lucky for me he had a handful of albums that I swiped off his shelf and am preparing myself to gorge on over the next week.  For the record I have copies of The Number of the Best (1982), Piece of Mind (1983), and Somewhere in Time (1986).

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Anyone have any suggestions as far as the order I should listen to these?  Over the years I’ve realized that there tend to be key albums by bands that can really do wonders for unlocking their catalog.  Chocolate and Cheese for Ween, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots for the Flaming Lips, or how Stephen Malkmus’ first solo album opened me up to the entire Pavement catalog.  So any suggestions for listening to Iron Maiden?  Am I missing a key album?

Don’t Talk to Strangers, said the toughest man in the world…

So I’m a little late to the 60th birthday celebration of Mr. T, but I want to rectify that today by sharing this trade advertisement for the Mr. T’s Commandments EP record that was released back in 1984…

I came across this while flipping through back issues of Billboard and was immediately struck by the Godzilla-sized version of Mr. T standing head and shoulders above the building-tops of what I’m assuming is the south side of Chicago (I’m not great with skylines, but that’s what’s referenced in track 3, The Toughest Man in the World.)  I love flipping through these old magazine back issues because it gives me a chance to find stuff I never knew existed, like this EP, and then I get a chance to seek this stuff out and experience it with a fresh perspective (like finding the movie The Quest.)  I was able to track down a copy of the album, a collection of pseudo-rap/r&b aimed at kids and containing 7 tracks of inspirational and educational warnings and thoughts, and give it a listen.  Man, I’m pretty sure at the age of 7, the gruffness in Mr. T’s voice would have easily deterred me from thinking twice about back-talking to my parents or mainlining heroin…

The whole dichotomy between Mr. T’s brutish image and his gospel of walking the straight and narrow is interesting.  I know all the positive vibes are genuine, but the whole massive amount of bling deal and his roles as Clubber Lang and B.A. on the A-Team have always seemed a bit in opposition to his message.  It doesn’t help when he’s belting out lyrics like, “It’s a dog eat dog world, and you have to play the game…”, especially when they’re balanced by “…the toughest man in the world is the one that knows the right way to go…he’s the strongest guy, he don’t never hide…”  I’m not bashing on the T though, trust me I like my teeth just right where they are, in my head and not in a puddle of blood at my feet.  Anyway, adding to the novelty of this record is the rap-direction by the one and only Ice-T.  I have to assume that was a weird combo in the production booth…

On a personal level, I feel a rather weirdly deep connection to this album because even though I don’t remember ever owning or listening to it when I was a kid I did record myself singing a who slew of songs that are almost identical.  I guess it’s probably just a phase that some 80s kids went through.  I mean we had these sort of slogan based anti-everything-bad campaigns hammered into our heads from every direction.  I guess it’s pretty natural to make up songs about not taking drugs or talking to strangers.  Now I wish I still had the audio tapes from when I was a kid to compare them to this album, maybe I did have it and I’ve blocked it out…

There is some pretty fun backing music/beats on the album.  Hints of Parliament, though subtle, and an overall old school hip hop feel.  If you’re interested in hearing this lost gem, head on over to the Lost Turntable and give it a listen.