Saturday, May 5, 2018

Riding the Retro Metro: Tuesday May 5, 1981!

Redartz:  Good day, all! Step right up and board the Retro; today's destination is May 5, 1981. Once again, we take a look around at the world of the day, and see the usual turmoils in the headlines. Lebanon and Northern Ireland, among other locales, are too frequently in the news for the strife therein. Here in the US, President Ronald Reagan continues to recover from the recent assassination attempt. In more uplifting news, the Space Shuttle Columbia recently made it's debut flight, returning NASA to the excitement of manned space flight.

And launching to the top  of the US music charts this week is Scottish singer Sheena Easton, with "Morning Train (Nine to Five):

Interestingly, the song was released as "Nine to Five" in the UK, but renamed "Morning Train" for US release- so as to avoid confusion with Dolly Parton's recent number 1 hit "9 to 5".
Rounding out the top five: 
2.  Grover Washington Jr;.with Bill Withers, "Just the Two of Us"
3.  Smokey Robinson, "Being With You"
4.  Juice Newton, "Angel of the Morning"
5.  Kim Carnes, "Betty Davis Eyes"

The top five this week features some really fine tunes, in my humble opinion. Especially love Bill Withers' vocals on "Just the Two of Us". And not to be overlooked are more intriguing entries further down this week's charts. Among them:   
A Taste of Honey, "Sukiyaki"- a song I never expected to hear a remake of , now with English lyrics.  John Lennon, "Watching the Wheels"- The late icon has another posthumous hit here, and a fine song it is.  Steely Dan, "Time Out of Mind"- an excellent song from one of my favorite groups; from their "Gaucho" lp; it features guest work by Mark Knopfler.  Gary U.S.Bonds, "This Little Girl"- another nearly forgotten 60's singer returns in the 80's. The Police, "Don't Stand So Close to Me" - their lp "Zenyatta Mondatta" yields a great new single with slightly creepy subject matter.


Tops in the UK:  Adam & the Ants, "Stand and Deliver". I love this group, ever since catching them on Tom Snyder's "Tomorrow" show.

We could talk music all day, but the wealth of popular culture has other areas of interest to visit. As in, what's on the tv tonight?

US Television Schedule: 

Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers of "Hart to  Hart"

ABC:  Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Three's Company, It's A Living, Hart to Hart

Laverne and Shirley have been favorites of mine for several years now, and they still make a hilarious team. ABC has another winner later on tonight with "Hart to Hart". Great show, starring Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers as jetset adventurers Jonathan and Jennifer Hart. Personally, I think  Lionel Stander ( as their aide Max) steals the show...

Laverne & Shirley

Walter Cronkite

CBS:  Walter Cronkite's Universe, Flo, The CBS Tuesday Night Movies

I've never seen "Universe", but Walter Cronkite is always my choice for news coverage. Plainspoken but dignified, "the most trusted man in America" now hosts this science series...

Lee Horsley and William Conrad of "Nero Wolfe"

NBC:  Lobo, Nero Wolfe, Flamingo Road

Sorry, can't offer much commentary on NBC's schedule tonight; perhaps one among you can do so?

BBC1:  Three Girls for Europe, The Tuesday Film: Death Among Friends, The Man of Destiny, Jailhouse Rodeo

BBC2:   Shakespeare in Perspective: Antony and Cleopatra, Hindsight, Hooked!, Crystal Gayle, Boom Boom...Out Go the Lights, Top Gear, Newsnight

Turning now from the phosphor dot screen to the printed page, let's see what comic enjoyment awaits us on the spinner racks:

Quite a few of these books will be riding home with your humble host. Defintely Dr. Strange; with ace writer Roger Stern now teamed with ace penciller Marshall Rogers. Still picking up Amazing Spider-Man, although not really enjoying the book much currently. On the other hand, I highly recommend "Ka-Zar", and "Micronauts". The Teen Titans are rocking with Wolfman and Perez at the helm. And we have a new Superman/Spider-Man team up to peruse. Featuring Dr. Doom and the Parasite by Jim Shooter, John Buscema and  a plethora of inkers. Definitely worth a look...

And just like that, we come to the end of our vicarious visit to the early 80's. It was a time with much to offer for cultural enthusiasts; kind of like our current world. Speaking of which, we now must return to that world; at least until the next journey aboard the Retro Metro!


Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, yeah, another trip to the very early '80s, my comics-reading heyday. I had nine of the titles pictured, including all of the Marvels with the exception of Micronauts (which I had drifted away from earlier). Highlights for me were that issue of DC Comics Presents, which featured art by Jim Starlin and the Prince Gavyn Starman, whose stories I loved in Adventure Comics (by Levitz and Ditko). Also JLA #193 packed a real double-whammy: the conclusion of the Red Tornado story with spectacular art by Perez, and the preview insert for All Star Squadron.
I also had the Superman/Spider-man team-up book, but mine was a pocketbook rather than a treasury edition - anyone else have that one?

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Awesome post Red! Perhaps my favorite theme of yours! Well Charlie was away at college and can only comment that he was still digging Lennons last album, which I bought in vinyl given the times lol. Adam Ant- dude started as a punk rocker and found new wave was the place to be!

Anonymous said...

Betty Davis Eyes? Red, it's Bette not Betty!!
I remember reading that Bette Davis sent flowers to Kim Carnes as a thank-you for "making me part of the modern era" but Bette Davis had starred in Death On The Nile just three years earlier and continued acting right up till her death in 1989 so she'd hardly been forgotten!

Sheena Easton got her big break in a BBC show called 'The Big Time' in 1980. The show arranged for Sheena to get a record deal, followed by the release of her first single, "Modern Girl". Without that TV show Sheena Easton might never have become a pop star.

It was around this time in 1981 that BBC TV started broadcasting Carl Sagan's 'Cosmos' series. I watched the entire series - and I bought the book.

I watched the launch of space shuttle Columbia on Sunday, April 12th 1981. It had been planned for April 10th but had to be delayed for two days - which meant the launch took place on the 20th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's orbit of the Earth in 1961.

Also on BBC Two that night - The Old Grey Whistle Test. Top Of The Pops on BBC One featured the Top 40 chart hits but The Old Grey Whistle Test was much cooler and concentrated on albums.

Hart To Hart - "When they met it was moyder".
I remember watching Hart To Hart on my portable black & white TV, in bed, drinking tea from my Incredible Hulk mug :)

Martinex1 said...

On NBC, I enjoyed that short lived Nero Wolfe series. I don’t remember much now but back then it seemed like a well crafted whodunnit show, with William Conrad as Wolfe investigating from behind a desk and Horsley as his legman. It could not keep up with the competition at ABC. Of course that is my recollection from when I was still thirteen!

It is funny that both Peter Parker and Cap found themselves behind bars that month.

I thought the Micronauts were still going strong at this point, with their search for mystic keys and good art from Pat Broderick. On the other hand, the X-Men were starting to tire me around this time. I was not getting into this run of issues by Claremont and Cockrum. I look at that cover- and despite owning that book- I could not tell you anything about that story. That is a far cry from how I felt about the X-Men just six months earlier. The cover seems too bright and cheery for the X-Men doesn’t it? What’s everybody smiling about as Kitty gets carted away?

Music seemed at a real turning point in 1981 with a seemingly very diverse group of songs on the charts. From Juice Newton to the Police, from Steely Dan to Adam Ant...very interesting.

Cheers all!

Dr. O said...

For some reason I loved "It's a Living" as a kid - I had to look it up to make sure I was right - but yeah the show about waitresses. So weird. (I guess like a high-class Alice).

I don't recall any of those NBC shows.

While this was right around when I was getting into superhero comics obsession, I didn't own any of these comics back then. I do now own the issue of Dr. Strange (b/c I own all appearances of Brother Voodoo from the 70s and 80s) and it is terrible. I mention it in post on Brother Voodoo: "The Man Who Lived Twice! (If You Can Call That Living): Marvel’s Brother Voodoo"

Edo Bosnar said...

Martinex, the main story in that issue of X-men saw Kitty, Storm, Jessica Drew (alias Spider-woman) and Stevie Hunter going to some popular night club where Dazzler had a gig that evening. Kitty is briefly kidnapped by a mysterious man who apparently came up from the subway tunnels, who turns out to be Caliban (his first appearance). Also in that issue, Angel quits the team - after basically only participating in two adventures (3 if you count the story in Marvel Fanfare) - because he's appalled by Wolverine, who he considers a psychopath, and everyone else's apparent indifference to him. To be fair to that cover, Dazzler is smiling because she's presented in a separate bubble with no reference to the action. Here's a link to a larger, higher-res. image. As you can see, Storm looks quite irate, although Spider-woman does appear to be smiling for some reason.
Even so, I have to agree with your general assessment of these post-Byrne/Austin issues; the series really seemed to lose quite a bit of its spark.

Osvaldo, I recall watching a few episodes of "It's a Living," but one thing I remember is that the show had a really long run in first-run syndication in the late '80s (at which point it was called "Making a Living"). I specifically remember often coming across it on weekend afternoons when I was in college and sitting on the couch flipping channels instead of doing something more productive (like schoolwork, or my laundry).

Steve Does Comics said...

There really wasn't much on the BBC that was worth watching that night. From what there was, I'd say the highlights were:

The Great Egg Race on BBC Two. A show in which people who clearly had too much time on their hands competed to see how far they could transport an egg in a home-made vehicle powered by a rubber band. It doesn't sound very promising but it was weirdly fascinating.

The Old Grey Whistle Test. As Colin has already said, basically Top of the Pops for those who thought that buying singles was beneath them.

As for that NBC lineup, I've never heard of Lobo. Nero Wolfe I've heard of but never seen. I did used to watch Flamingo Road, mostly because everyone in it seemed to have a name that sounded like an obscure social disease. Titus Semple was always my favourite.

When it comes to music, bearing in mind that I always view 1981 as being my favourite musical year, there's surprisingly little on that week's UK singles chart that I like. I do, however, approve of:

6. Grey Day - Madness. One of a run of about a zillion of their singles that made the Top Ten.

29. Is Vic There? - Department S. A strange and enigmatic one-hit wonder.

34. Sound of the Crowd - Human League.

43. Kids in America - Kim Wilde. One of those rare singles that feels totally emblematic of the age in which it was released. Also, it manages to be a song totally without meaning and yet somehow possesses all the meaning in the world.

GARETT said...

Titans, Justice League, Kazar and Dr. Strange-- great month! I also like the top 5 songs, which isn't always the case on these retro rides. I mostly watched the shows on ABC, but remember Flo and catching the opening episode of Flamingo Road with Morgan Fairchild.

Mike Wilson said...

"It's kind of tough to tell a scruff the big mistake he's making" Yeah, Adam Ant had some cool songs before he mellowed out. The Police had some great stuff too. I was still watching Happy Days and Threes Company, but I hated Hart to Hart.

As for the comics, I agree with what's already been said: Titans, JLA, Spidey, all pretty good. The Madame Xanadu Special was OK; the story was nothing spectacular, but the art was pretty good.

Graham said...

May of 1981 was a big month for me. I was graduating from high school with a big future ahead of me. There were lots of changes in store for that summer.....some good and some not so good, but May was a great month. I can remember watching the Columbia blast off and land at school.

Musicwise, I was in love with Sheena Easton. That was a great album cover and I later got to see her perform at college. I was about twenty feet away from her. Bruce Hornsby was in her band at the time. I was slowly moving toward the jazzy side of music at that time, so I was really digging Steely Dan's Gaucho and Grover Washington, Jr., too. There were some pretty good albums and singles floating around about that time.

I had also started purchasing the Beatles' catalog after Lennon's murder, and reading a couple of books about them at the same time. Unfortunately, the only albums available were the U.S. versions......if I start again, I'll be getting the U.K. releases instead.

On the TV side, I don't remember watching very much during that time. Happy Days and Three's Company and the rest were all kind of on the Jumping the Shark side of their tenure. I did still enjoy WKRP in Cincinnati, which I just rediscovered on MeTV a few weeks ago.....Great cast of characters in that show.

I had gotten back big into comics the summer before. I had a whole bunch of the comics pictured. I really enjoyed the Marshall Rogers run on Doctor Strange and was also into ASM and Capt. America and the X-Men with Marvel and JLA (loved the All Star Squadron insert and subsequent series, too) and the Titans, but I never was able to track down the second Superman/Spider Man story.

The Groovy Agent said...

May 1981. I was preparing for High School graduation completing my research paper (on classic horror movies), writing the Class History...busy time. I was also trying to save up money, so I "only" bought about a dozen mags that month, my personal favorites being DC Comics Presents #36 (Wein, Starlin, Superman and Starman); JLA #193 (with the All-Star Squadron preview); and Warlord #48 (Arak preview and Claw back-up). Great memories!

Redartz said...

Many thanks for commenting, all! It seems Spring 1981 was a good time for many of us.

Charlie- yes, Adam and the Ants were a highlight of early 80's music. After I was introduced to them on that Tom Snyder show, I went out and bought their album "Kings of the Wild Frontier" that week.

Colin Jones- good catch on "Betty Davis Eyes". My bad, due no doubt to "Redartz' Tired Proofreading Eyes"...

Marti- you make two good observations. Two jail covers from Marvel that month? Yeah, it kinda made you wonder. And the music world in 1981 was indeed strikingly varied.Still elements of the best 70's music, while the emerging strands of 80's themes were apparent as well. You could tune in pop radio and hear an incredible range of styles.

Osvaldo and Edo- thanks for revealing a bit about "It's a Living". So many of these shows are unknown to me- watching other channels at the time, and in those pre-Netflix days you couldn't catch them later in the week.

Steve DC- "Kids in America"; memorable song, glad you mentioned it. I recall a cookout outside our college apartment building with that song playing in the background; it seemed perfect for the time and place.

Mike W.- agree with you on that Madame Xanadu special. The story was ok, not really memorable. But the art was terrific, and that cover: dynamite.

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