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Monday, February 06, 2023

Songs of '83: "Separate Ways"

"Separate Ways" was the first single released off Journey's eighth studio album (and their last great rock album, I think most radio listeners would agree), Frontiers. By early February, 40 years ago, it was making its way up the Billboard charts, eventually cracking the Top Ten. While probably neither the most iconic nor most popular rock power-ballad which the band came up with, its R&B-plus-synths-plus-guitars-plus-Steve Perry's vocals sound is haunting, as the Stranger Things remix makes clear.

As I suggested in my original 1983 thesis, there's a dim sense in which one could argue that 1983 crystalized a transitional cultural moment, a moment when masses of, as I put it, "White, straight, suburban radio-listeners" like myself internalized, in however limited a way, a more urban, more gender-fluid, more multi-racial, more danceable and electronic and funky pop sound. Not that any of that stuff was entirely new, but as some point it became something of a norm, something that couldn't be contained and carved off, as disco at least initially was. Well, no crystalization exists without a counter-reaction. Am I suggesting that Journey, a San Francisco rock band, could be fairly appropriated as an unintentional avatar of the non-Second British Invasion, non-polyglot, White, straight, suburban radio sound of Reagan's America? The distant ancestor of the resentful, Angry White Male American rocker? Almost certainly not. But still, look at that video: they sure do look like a bunch of White dorks, don't they? I mean, that's the way I would play air guitar, if I had to. MTV wasn't their medium, but they had to pretend like it was anyway. 1983: a whole new world, baby.

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