Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Year's The Thing: 1984 (a twofer)

When George Orwell wrote his classic novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” he probably never imagined its impact upon society. The book introduced the idea of “Big Brother,” “newspeak,” “thoughtcrime,” “doublethink,” as well as others into the English language. In fact, dystopian societies as featured in the novel have become known by the eponymous adjective “Orwellian.”

The impact of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” has spread to rock music as well, and today we feature two songs titled as “1984.” The first of these was recorded in 1969 by the band Spirit. Originally issued as a single only release, Spirit’s “1984” was written and sung by lead guitarist Randy California.

Spirit’s “1984” made it to 12-inch disc in 1973 when it appeared on “The Best of Spirit” album. It later was issued as a bonus track on the CD release of Spirit’s third album “Clear.” The single peaked at #69 on the Hot 100.

In 1973, David Bowie began working on a stage musical based on Orwell’s novel; however, George Orwell’s estate would not give permission for its production. The music that Bowie had already recorded in preparation for this work eventually was issued as part of his 1974 “Diamond Dogs” album.

Released as single only in the US, Bowie’s “1984” failed to chart. Its funky, Isaac Hayes inspired, proto-disco production was a new musical direction for Bowie. Unfortunately, “1984” failed to chart.

Alan Parker plays the chunka-chunk, wah-wah guitar that provides the overall base for the song’s production. Ten years later in 1984, Tina Turner recorded her own version of the Bowie classic. Her version is equally as good, but I prefer Bowie’s original.

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