R.E.M. : "Radio Free Europe"
On July 8, 1981 R.E.M. released their debut single "Radio Free Europe" b/w "Sitting Still" on the Hib-Tone label. With an energy that matched the excitement of punk rock and indecipherable lyrics, the single marks a brave new world for alternative rock, opening one side of the gate as Mission of Burma holds the other. Man, I wish I heard this single in the Summer of '81 but I was on my own course, buying one classic album a week as recommended by Dave Marsh's Rolling Stone Record Guide. But never fear : R.E.M's debut album and I would arrive at my college radio station the same week.
The Ramones : We Want the Airwaves
In July of 1981 The Ramones released "We Want The Airwaves", a new single produced by Graham Gouldman of 10cc fame. The Pleasant Dreams single sounds more like hard rock than punk rock to these ears. Music journalist "Chuck Eddy" described the song as " a sort of Black Sabbath punk rock". The song failed to chart.
Other great songs complaining about the airwaves : "American Beat 84" by The Fleshtones and " I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts" by X.
Squeeze : Tempted
On July 10, 1981 Squeeze released "Tempted" as the second single from East Side Story. It's strange that it took this this long because "Tempted" was the one song FM Rock Radio was playing at the time. The single was not a massive hit by any means, peaking at UK#41 and US#49, but it has become the most famous of the band's songs . It also contains Difford's favorite lyrics, as he tells What's New, " It’s so visual and again floats me back to that time when youth was a cloud I drifted around on from day to day."
The Go-Betweens : Your Turn, My Turn
In July of 1981 The Go-Betweens release their fourth single, "Your Turn, My Turn", with plans to make it the album opener for their debut. Recorded in Sydney at Trafalgar Studios. In Grant & I, Robert Forster writes "Singles were of supreme importance, like a report card of a band. Groups were conscious that everything they wanted to show the word, including how far they'd progressed since their previous record, had to be compacted into a single's release."
The video for the angular ballad is shot in Grant's flat.
Kraftwerk : Computer Love
On July 7, 1981 Kraftwerk released the eventual UK#1 hit "Computer Love", a song that predicts the loneliness of sitting in front of a home computer looking for love. Coldplay fans will recognize the melody which Chris Martin borrowed with permission for "Talk" on the album X&Y.
The Undertones : Julie Ocean
In July of 1981 The Undertones released the dreamy "Julie Ocean", a UK#41 hit. It's a re-recorded version of the Positive Touch song, which adds a tremelo guitar and nearly doubles the length of the tune. A winner!!
Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty : Stop Draggin' My Heart Around
Recorded with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for the Hard Promises album, the US#3 hit instead showed up on Stevie Nicks's debut album Bella Donna. Heartbreaker Mike Campbell explained how that happened to Songfacts:
"Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" was a song that I had written the music and Tom had written the words. The Heartbreakers had recorded a version of it with Jimmy Iovine, and Jimmy being the entrepreneur that he was, he was working with Stevie, and I guess he asked Tom if she could try it, and it just developed from there. We cut the track as a Heartbreakers record and when she decided to do it we used that track and she came in and sang over it. It became a duet. It's basically all the Heartbreakers on that record .