86: Psychedelic Furs- Love My Way (1982)
Recorded in 1982 with Todd Rundgren at the helm, Forever Now was the third album from the Psychedelic Furs and remains among the group’s most beloved releases. Down to quartet status from a potentially unwieldy sextet, the group broadened its palette and opened itself to a wider audience thanks to the single “Love My Way.” No doubt influenced by the dark and sexy atmospheres of Roxy Music while also predicting the wave of New Romantic acts that would ascend the American charts within the next few years, the track relies heavily on Richard Butler’s mysterious and emotive vocals.
Though you can hear every word, it’s not so much the words you react to. Instead, it’s the singer’s rugged timbre, the infectious hook delivered by the marimba (courtesy Rundgren) and Tim Butler’s buoyant and mysterious bass rumblings. In many ways it encapsulates the strengths of the whole album while also serving as a standalone entity, a tune that begs for repeated listens and stirs a variety of emotions within the listener
The record didn’t ignite the American charts as such. The first of three singles that would emerge from the LP, “Love My Way” didn’t crack the Top 40 but it did excite a legion of college radio listeners who would come to cite it and “Pretty in Pink” as among the group’s best. In some ways it never stood a chance: too dark for youngsters who were learning to love Duran Duran, too light for the hordes that would send Quiet Riot’s Metal Health to the top of the charts within a year, this was destined to find its audience elsewhere. The song fared better outside of North America, though you can, as mentioned, hear echoes of it in later hits, including the Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me Now” and others.
As surely as “Love My Way” speaks to the strength the Furs had at creating a perfect pop song, it also speaks to Rundgren’s strengths as a producer. Despite his reputation for ruling with an iron fist in the studio, his greatest gift has always been finding the ideal settings for the material. He achieved that with both Forever Now and this single. The Psychedelic Furs? Well, let’s just say that they’ve become synonymous with this track. For good reason. – Jedd Beaudoin
85: Bruce Springsteen “Dancing in the Dark” (1984)
Of all the Boss’s timeless songs, this 1984 hit seems most out of place. After all, this is the guy most associated with rock and roll at its purest, a believer in the mythology of Elvis, Dylan and James Dean. What the hell was a guy like this doing fucking around with a synthesizer?
Then again, Born in the USA was an album that taught us to look beneath the aesthetic trappings of a song to find its underlying message. That lesson was born out when Springsteen pleaded to then-candidate Ronald Reagan that he listen to the lyrics of the album’s title track before adopting it as a campaign anthem.
It’s a lesson that applies here as well. Beneath its sinewy, ‘80s textures lies what could be Springsteen’s mission statement, the distillation of everything the man cares about as a poet and songwriter. The Springsteen protagonist is always dissatisfied, stuck in a rut and looking for any way to get out of it. This is explored on early songs like “Rosalita” and “Thunder Road,” but “Dancing in the Dark” distills that concept into a universal language, conveying the inherent tragedy of this protagonist better than just about any other song in his catalog.
This time, the protagonist can’t quite put what he wants into words, but he knows that what he has isn’t it: “There’s something happening somewhere/ Baby I just know that there is.” He’s determined to find that better existence for himself (emphasized by the song’s driving rhythm) even as he acknowledges that it may be a futile endeavor. This is dance music for people who don’t have much of a reason to dance; “Dancing In The Dark” offers hope in the face of utter hopelessness. – Kevin Korber