Category Archives: 1983

The Police: Synchronicity

ON THIS DATE (29 YEARS AGO)
June 1, 1983 – The Police: Synchronicity is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4.5/5
# Allmusic 4.5/5 stars
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Synchronicity is the fifth and final studio album by The Police, released on June 1, 1983. The band’s most popular release, Synchronicity includes the hit songs “Every Breath You Take”, “King of Pain”, “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, and “Synchronicity II”.  In 2001, the TV network VH1 named Synchronicity the 50th greatest album of all time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 455 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Pitchfork Media ranked it #55 in their list of The 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s. In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at #25 in its list of “40 Best Albums of the ’80s”.
The album’s title was inspired by Arthur Koestler’s The Roots of Coincidence, which mentions Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity. Sting was an avid reader of Koestler, and also named Ghost in the Machine after one of his works.
The album marked a significant reduction in the reggae influences that were a part of the band’s first four records, instead featuring production-heavy textures and liberal use of synthesizers that, at times, drove entire songs (“Synchronicity I”, “Wrapped Around Your Finger”). The influence of World music can also be heard in songs such as “Tea in the Sahara” and “Walking in Your Footsteps”.
As with their prior album, the basic tracks for Synchronicity were recorded at AIR Studios, Montserrat. For sound engineering reasons, the three band members recorded their parts in separate rooms: Copeland with his drums in the dining room, Sting in the control room, and Summers in the actual studio. According to co-producer Hugh Padgham, subsequent overdubs were done with only one member in the studio at a time.
During the recording of “Every Breath You Take”, Sting and Copeland came to blows with each other, and Padgham nearly quit the project.
ORIGINAL ROLLING STONE REVIEW
Synchronicity is a work of dazzling surfaces and glacial shadows. Sunny pop melodies echo with ominous sound effects. Pithy verses deal with doomsday. A battery of rhythms — pop, reggae and African — lead a safari into a physical and spiritual desert, to “Tea in the Sahara.” Synchronicity, the Police’s fifth and finest album, is about things ending — the world in peril, the failure of personal relationships and marriage, the death of God.
Throughout the LP, these ideas reflect upon one another in echoing, overlapping voices and instrumentation as the safari shifts between England’s industrial flatlands and Africa. “If we share this nightmare/ Then we can dream,” Sting announces in the title cut, a jangling collage of metallic guitar, percussion and voices that artfully conjures the clamor of the world.
Though the Police started out as straightforward pop-reggae enthusiasts, they have by now so thoroughly assimilated the latter that all that remains are different varieties of reggae-style syncopation. The Police and coproducer Hugh Padgham have transformed the ethereal sounds of Jamaican dub into shivering, self-contained atmospheres. Even more than on the hauntingly ambient Ghost in the Machine, each cut on Synchronicity is not simply a song but a miniature, discrete soundtrack.
Synchronicity’s big surprise, however, is the explosive and bitter passion of Sting’s newest songs. Before this LP, his global pessimism was countered by a streak of pop romanticism. Such songs as “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” stood out like glowing gems, safely sealed off from Sting’s darker reflections. On Synchronicity, vestiges of that romanticism remain, but only in the melodies. In the lyrics, paranoia, cynicism and excruciating loneliness run rampant.
The cuts on Synchronicity are sequenced like Chinese boxes, the focus narrowing from the global to the local to the personal. But every box contains the ashes of betrayal. “Walking in Your Footsteps,” a children’s tune sung in a third-world accent and brightly illustrated with African percussion and flute, contemplates nothing less than humanity’s nuclear suicide. “Hey Mr. Dinosaur, you really couldn’t ask for more/You were god’s favorite creature but you didn’t have a future,” Sting calls out before adding, “[We’re] walking in your footsteps.”
In “O My God,” Sting drops his third-world mannerisms to voice a desperate, anguished plea for help to a distant deity: “Take the space between us, and fill it up, fill it up, fill it up!” This “space” is evoked in an eerie, sprinting dub-rock style, with Sting addressing not only God but also a woman and the people of the world, begging for what he clearly feels is an impossible reconciliation.
The mood of cosmic anxiety is interrupted by two songs written by other members of the band. Guitarist Andy Summers’ corrosively funny “Mother” inverts John Lennon’s romantic maternal attachment into a grim dadaist joke. Stewart Copeland’s “Miss Gradenko,” a novelty about secretarial paranoia in the Kremlin, is memorable mainly for Summers’ modal twanging between the verses.
The rest of the album belongs to Sting. “Synchronicity II” refracts the clanging chaos of “Synchronicity I” into a brutal slice of industrial-suburban life, intercut with images of the Loch Ness monster rising from the slime like an avenging demon. But as the focus narrows from the global to the personal on side two, the music becomes more delicate — even as the mood turns from suspicion to desperation to cynicism in “Every Breath You Take,” “King of Pain” and “Wrapped around Your Finger,” a triptych of songs about the end of a marriage, presumably Sting’s own. As the narrator of “Every Breath You Take” tracks his lover’s tiniest movements like a detective, then breaks down and pleads for love, the light pop rhythm becomes an obsessive marking of time. Few contemporary pop songs have described the nuances of sexual jealousy so chillingly.
The rejected narrator in “King of Pain” sees his abandonment as a kind of eternal damnation in which the soul becomes “a fossil that’s trapped in a high cliff wall/ … A dead salmon frozen in a waterfall.” “Wrapped around Your Finger” takes a longer, colder view of the institution of marriage. Its Turkish-inflected reggae sound underscores a lyric that portrays marriage as an ancient, ritualistic hex conniving to seduce the innocent and the curious into a kind of slavery.
“Tea in the Sahara,” Synchronicity’s moodiest, most tantalizing song, is an aural mirage that brings back the birdcalls and jungle sounds of earlier songs as whispering, ghostly instrumental voices. In this haunting parable of endless, unappeasable desire, Sting tells the story, inspired by the Paul Bowles novel The Sheltering Sky, of a brother and two sisters who develop an insatiable craving for tea in the desert. After sealing a bargain with a mysterious young man, they wait on a dune for his return, but he never appears. The song suggests many interpretations: England dreaming of its lost empire, mankind longing for God, and Sting himself pining for an oasis of romantic peace.
And that is where this bleak, brilliant safari into Sting’s heart and soul finally deposits us — at the edge of a desert, searching skyward, our cups full of sand.
~  Stephen Holden (June 23, 1983)
TRACKS:
All songs written by Sting except where noted.
“Synchronicity I” – 3:23
“Walking in Your Footsteps” – 3:36
“O My God” – 4:02
“Mother” (Andy Summers) – 3:05
“Miss Gradenko” (Stewart Copeland) – 2:00
“Synchronicity II” – 5:02
“Every Breath You Take” – 4:13
“King of Pain” – 4:59
“Wrapped Around Your Finger” – 5:13
“Tea in the Sahara” – 4:19
“Murder by Numbers” (Words: Sting, Music: Andy Summers) – 4:36 (Not included on original LP release.)

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Filed under 1983, Sting, Synchronicity, The Police

Talking Heads: Speaking in Tongues

ON THIS DATE (29 YEARS AGO)
May 31, 1983 – Talking Heads: Speaking in Tongues is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4.5/5
# Allmusic 4/5 stars
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Speaking in Tongues is the fifth studio album by the Talking Heads, released on this date in May 1983.  The album was a commercial breakthrough that produced the band’s first (and only) American Top 10 hit, “Burning Down the House”, which was accompanied by a promotional video. In addition, the album crossed over to the dance charts, peaking at number two for six weeks. In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at #89 on its list of “Best Albums of the 1980’s”.
The following tour was documented in Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense, which generated a live album of the same name. (The concert film and live album’s title comes from the repeated phrase “Stop making sense!” during the song Girlfriend is Better.)
LIMITED EDITION COVER (see image)
David Byrne designed the cover for the general release of the album. Artist Robert Rauschenberg won a Grammy Award for his work on the limited-edition LP version. This album featured a clear vinyl disc in clear plastic packaging along with three clear plastic discs printed with similar collages in three different colors.
ORIGINAL ROLLING STONE REVIEW
Speaking in Tongues, Talking Heads’ first studio release in three years, is the album that finally obliterates the thin line separating arty white pop music and deep black funk. Picking up where their 1980 Afro-punk fusion Remain in Light left off, this LP consummates the Heads’ marriage of art-school intellect and dance-floor soul. Imbued with an adventurous spirit that’s as close to Television’s Marquee Moon as it is to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Grand Master Flash’s “The Message” and Nigerian high-life music, Speaking in Tongues gives new meaning to the word crossover.
The impish “Making Flippy-Floppy,” the second track on side one, is an immediate tip-off that something new is going on here. “Everybody, get in line!” commands singer-guitarist David Byrne as the Heads step straight into a brassy strut counted off by a scratchy guitar figure and Chris Frantz’ martial drumming. Ominous synth-bass effects undulate beneath the surface of the beat before Byrne cuts into a bright, saucy chorus that would make Prince envious. Wobbly, whining synthesizers and a walking bass-and-piano line keep up the funk, while violinist L. Shankar shoots the whole affair into a strange Far Eastern space with his brief raga-like solo.
The Heads have never cut the funk into finer, more fluent pieces. Nor have they ever displayed such a sense of purpose and playfulness (check out, for example, the murky boogie and Byrne’s comic John Lee Hooker growl in “Swamp”). One detects here the influence of Frantz and his wife, bassist Tina Weymouth: on holiday from the Heads, they took the third-world forms and urban-funk gestures of Remain in Light and dressed them up with pop spangle and good humor on their Tom Tom Club LP.
Jerry Harrison’s experiments with polyrhythmic keyboard layers on his solo LP, The Red and the Black, have also been incorporated into Speaking in Tongues. Along with P-Funkster Bernie Worrell and reggae keyboard specialist Wally Badarou, Harrison fortifies the beat with ahem color and contrapuntal muscle without complicating it.
But it is David Byrne’s propulsive score for Twyla Tharp’s 1981 dance piece The Catherine Wheel that may be the most important influence on Speaking in Tongues. The severe constraints of matching music to movement–of making music inspire expressive movement – forced Byrne to write and arrange his Catherine Wheel score with both crisp dramatic precision and provocative imagistic flair.
The nine songs on Speaking in Tongues – the group’s first self-produced studio album – demonstrate that same precision and flair in remarkable combinations. On the surface, “Girlfriend Is Better” is a brassy, straightforward bump number sparked by Byrne’s animated bragging (“I’ve got a girlfriend that’s better than that She has the smoke in her eyes She’s comin’ up, goin’ right through my heart She’s gonna give me a surprise”) and by the kind of rapid, zigzagging synth squeals so common on rap and funk records. But the edgy paranoia smoldering underneath (“We’re being taken for a ri-i-ide again,” a double-tracked Byrne brays woefully at one point) is colorfully articulated by guitar and percussion figures that burble along in a fatback echo, sounding like a sink backing up.
“I Get Wild/Wild Gravity,” Byrne’s unsettling account of isolation and disorientation, alludes to the funky voodoo reggae of Grace Jones and is heightened by arty dub intrusions and electronic handclaps. “Burning Down the House” is busier in its rhythmic design: tumbling drum breaks punctuate Frantz’ authoritative pace, while springy synthesizer pings and the desolate chime of a keyboard solo rebound off Byrne’s brisk acoustic-guitar strumming.
But the complexity of these songs doesn’t keep any of them from being great dance tracks. They are all rooted in a shrewd yet elastic sense of rhythm, thereby avoiding the brittle, plastic feel of such glorified disco troupes as the Thompson Twins or Spandau Ballet. And unlike, say, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Byrne’s academic safari with Brian Eno, Speaking in Tongues is an art-rock album that doesn’t flaunt its cleverness; it’s obvious enough in the alluring hooks, deviant rhythms and captivating mix of rehable funk gimmicks and intellectual daring.
The real art here is the incorporation of disparate elements from pop, punk and R&B into a coherent, celebratory dance ethic that dissolves notions of color and genre in smiles and sweat. A new model for great party albums to come. Speaking in Tongues is likely to leave you doing just that. (RS 397)
~ DAVID FRICKE (June 9, 1983)
TRACKS:
All lyrics written by David Byrne; all music composed by Talking Heads.
Side one
“Burning Down the House” – 4:00
“Making Flippy Floppy” – 4:36
“Girlfriend Is Better” – 4:25
“Slippery People” – 3:30
“I Get Wild/Wild Gravity” – 4:06
Side two
“Swamp” – 5:09
“Moon Rocks” – 5:04
“Pull Up the Roots” – 5:08
“This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” – 4:56
2006 DualDisc reissue
“Burning Down the House” – 4:01
“Making Flippy Floppy (Extended Version)” – 5:53
“Girlfriend Is Better (Extended Version)” – 5:42
“Slippery People (Extended Version)” – 5:05
“I Get Wild/Wild Gravity (Extended Version)” – 5:16
“Swamp” – 5:12
“Moon Rocks (Extended Version)” – 5:45
“Pull Up the Roots” – 5:09
“This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” – 5:03
“Two Note Swivel (Unfinished Outtake)” – 5:51
“Burning Down the House (Alternate Version)” – 5:09

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Filed under 1983, David Byrne, Speaking in Tongues, Talking Heads

Dio: Holy Diver

ON THIS DATE (29 YEARS AGO)
May 25, 1983 – Dio: Holy Diver is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4.5/5
# Allmusic 4.5/5 stars
Holy Diver is the debut album from American heavy metal band Dio, released on this date in May 1983. The album has been hailed by critics as Dio’s best work and a classic staple in the heavy metal genre. The album was eventually certified Gold in the US on September 12, 1984 and Platinum on March 21, 1989. In the UK, it attained Silver certification (60,000 units sold) by the British Phonographic Industry, achieving this in January 1986, at the same time as The Last in Line.
Despite recording two hit studio albums with Black Sabbath (1980’s Heaven and Hell and 1981’s The Mob Rules) and playing throughout the world to huge crowds, Ronnie James Dio left the band in 1982-the year of his final release with Sabbath, the in-concert Live Evil. As soon as the announcement of his departure was made official, Dio began to put together his first solo project. Joining him were former Rainbow bandmate Jimmy Bain on bass, former Sabbath bandmate Vinny Appice on drums, ex-Sweet Savage guitar hero Vivian Campbell, and newcomer Claude Schnell on keyboards.
The album quickly became a favorite  worldwide and eventually earned the group platinum certification. The somewhat upbeat sounding “Rainbow in the Dark” was an MTV favorite, while the plodding title track proved to be another standout. Other album highlights include the opening anthem “Stand Up and Shout,” “Invisible,” and “Don’t Talk to Strangers.” Holy Diver proved that Dio’s departure from Black Sabbath had not affected his spirits. In fact, he sounds most inspired here, aided by his new, hungry backing band.
REVIEW
by Eduardo Rivadavia, allmusic
After playing a major role in five positively classic heavy metal albums of the late ’70s and early ’80s (three with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and two with Black Sabbath), it seemed that singer Ronnie James Dio could truly do no wrong. So it wasn’t all that surprising — impressive, but not surprising — when he struck gold yet again when launching his solo vehicle, Dio, via 1983’s terrific Holy Diver album. Much like those two, hallowed Sabbath LPs, Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules, Holy Diver opened at full metallic throttle with the frenetic “Stand Up and Shout,” before settling into a dark, deliberate, and hypnotic groove for the timelessly epic title track — a worthy successor to glorious triumphs past like Rainbow’s “Stargazer” and the Sabs’ “Sign of the Southern Cross.” But subsequent metal anthems like “Straight Through the Heart,” “Invisible,” and the lycanthrope lullaby “Shame on the Night” were no less inspired; and by injecting uncommonly catchy melodies into the heavy rock riffery still dominating more accessible numbers such as “Gypsy,” “Caught in the Middle,” and hit single “Rainbow in the Dark” (where the singer himself played rather spotty keyboards), Dio proved himself perfectly capable of competing with the increasingly commercial hard rock fashions soon to come. Although most fans would agree that Dio would arguably never again replicate the simply sublime symbiosis of beauty and brawn achieved by the all-time standout “Don’t Talk to Strangers.” And, to be fair, aside from Ronnie’s unquestionably stellar songwriting, Holy Diver’s stunning quality and consistency owed much to his carefully chosen bandmates, including powerhouse drummer (and fellow Sabbath survivor) Vinny Appice, veteran bassist Jimmy Bain, and a phenomenal find in young Irish guitarist Vivian Campbell, whose tastefully pyrotechnic leads helped make this the definitive Dio lineup. So, too, is Holy Diver still the undisputed highlight of Dio’s career, and, indeed, one of the finest pure heavy metal albums of the 1980s.
TRACKS:
All lyrics written by Ronnie James Dio.                                   
Side one                                             
1              Stand Up and Shout (Jimmy Bain, Dio) – 3:18
2              Holy Diver (Dio) – 5:51
3              Gypsy (Vivian Campbell, Dio) – 3:39
4              Caught in the Middle (Vinny Appice, Campbell, Dio) – 4:14
5              Don’t Talk to Strangers (Dio) – 4:53
                                               
Side two                                             
1              Straight Through the Heart (Bain, Dio) – 4:31
2              Invisible (Appice, Campbell, Dio) – 5:24
3              Rainbow in the Dark (Appice, Bain, Campbell, Dio) – 4:15
4              Shame on the Night (Appice, Bain, Campbell, Dio) – 5:19
Deluxe Edition Disc 2     
1.            “Evil Eyes” (studio recording, originally appeared on the B-Side of the “Holy Diver” single)            
2.            “Stand Up & Shout” (live, originally appeared on the B-Side of the “Rainbow in the Dark” single)               
3.            “Straight Through the Heart” (live, originally appeared on the B-Side of the “Rainbow in the Dark” single)             
4.            “Stand Up & Shout” (live, King Biscuit Flower Hour, Oct 30, 1983)              
5.            “Shame on the Night” (live, King Biscuit Flower Hour, Oct 30, 1983)          
6.            “Children of the Sea” (live, King Biscuit Flower Hour, Oct 30, 1983)           
7.            “Holy Diver” (live, King Biscuit Flower Hour, Oct 30, 1983)             
8.            “Rainbow in the Dark” (live, King Biscuit Flower Hour, Oct 30, 1983)         
9.            “Man on the Silver Mountain” (live, King Biscuit Flower Hour, Oct 30, 1983)

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Filed under 1983, Black Sabbath, Dio, Holy Diver, Ronnie James Dio