memories of the ’80s – Sheena Easton

This wee Scottish siren took the radio airwaves by storm – and all because of she wanted to be in The Big Time.

Born Sheena Shirley Orr, the young Scot was inspired by seeing Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were to become a singer.

She won a scholarship to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama where she studied for three years, while at night performed with band Something Else in the Glasgow club scene.  In 1979 she married Sandy Easton who she divorced eight months later, but kept the surname.

In 1980, the BBC was launching a new series called The Big Time, which wanted to chronicle the rise of an unknown to become a pop star. Sheena Easton became the subject and for the next year was documented as she worked to become a pop star, was signed by EMI Records and worked on her first single, Modern Girl.

The single did ok, but it was her second single 9 to 5 which captured attention, went to number three on the UK single charts and earning her a string of best new vocalist awards. Modern Girl was re-released, hit the top 10, and earned Easton two songs in the top 10 simultaneously. In the US and Canada 9 to 5 was released as Morning Train (9 to 5) to not cause confusion with Dolly Parton’s hit single Nine to Five. It earned Easton a top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary Charts.

In 1981, Easton was asked to sing the title track of the new James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only. The single soared to the top of the charts, earning Easton a nomination for Best Original Song at the 1982 Academy Awards and winning Best New Artist at the Grammys for 1981.

The next few years were hot ones for Easton with duet and collaborations with country star Kenny Rogers and Mexican singer Luis Miguel, as well as releasing her next single Telefone, from her album Best Kept Secret. Next she teamed up with Prince on several songs, including the top 10 hit Strut. Her follow up single Sugar Walls (also a collaboration with Prince) was banned by several radio stations because of the explicit lyrics, hit the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and was named one of the Filthy Fifteen songs by Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Council.

In the late 1980s, Easton kept making albums, but ran into problems when EMI was merged into EMI/Manhattan and her album No Sound but a Heart was delayed in distribution. Easton had several of her songs covered by other artists including Celine Dion, Pia Zadora, Yuri, Patti Labelle and Crystal Gayle.

Easton worked again with Prince in 1987, with the hot single U Got the Look, focused her efforts on the R&B and Dance and signed with MCA Records. The album and single The Lover in Me, brought Easton back to the top of the US charts with the album featuring collaborations with Prince, Babyface and Jellybean Benitez.

Meanwhile, Easton also became an actress – with a role 1980s series Miami Vice as a witness to be protected by Don Johnson’s character Sonny Crockett. Her single episode became a five episode story-arc, with the character gaining acclaim from viewers and Crockett’s heart as the two characters married.

Easton was a definite favourite for the dances at my highschool – especially her songs by Prince, which always seemed very naughty and we always felt we were sneaking them into rotation despite the approval of the playlist by the teachers.

Easton may have started out as a TV pop idol, but hard work and determination made sure she was a pop star of the 1980s from end to end.

memories of the ’70s – Leif Garrett

A poster boy of the ’70s  with his blonde hair and slightly bad boy reputation – was certainly one many remember – Leif Garrett.

Starting his acting career at age five with his sister in the 1960s, Leif Garrett made his Hollywood debut in the 1969 film Walking Tall, and appeared in the consequent sequels to this ’70s action series.

 He also had two reoccuring tv roles – one as the son of Tony Randall’s character Felix Unger in ABC series The Odd Couple and as Zack Russell, the love interest for Kristy McNichol’s character in the series Family.

During 1975, Garrett was one of the stars of CBS series Three for the Road with Alex Rocco and Vincent Van Patten.

He was featured in all the magazines from Tiger Beat to Teen Beat and then expanded his repertoire for his fans with the creation of his first self-titled album in 1976. His cover of the pop classic Runaround Sue reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 1979, Garrett recorded his second album, Feel the Need, with a hit pop single – I Was Made for Dancin’, which hit top 10 status on record charts in North America and Europe. Although he continued to record, his music was never to hit the success levels in the future again.

Garrett was the hot commodity of the decade, the one that everyone wanted to hang out with, party with and date. British actress Nicolette Sheridan started a relationship with him in 1979  while he was a pop idol, which lasted six years. But as the decade ended, so did his time in the spotlight. His acting and music continued, but the fixation of the entertainment media had moved on.

I remember seeing huge posters of Leif Garrett in the t-shirt shops and record stores - he was everywhere. He was the California blonde hunk of the day, the one that most teen girls happily chose to paper their bedroom walls. The transition from his teen career to an adult career seemed to be one that just didn’t happen easily for him.

In consequent years his battle with addiction and career resurgence thanks to reality tv series has brought his name back in vogue. Although he is no longer the easy-going teen whose mix of good looks and bad boy sensibility was what made the girls swoon in the 1970s, Leif Garrett of the past was a teen phenomenon who made his mark.

memories of the ’80s – Jody Watley

This American pop star got influenced by Brit pop, and used her stylish ways to be come a pop diva in the late 1980s as solo artist Jody Watley.

As a young girl from Chicago, Watley her first start as a dancer on Soul Train at age 14, thanks to a referral from her godfather, soul singer Jackie Wilson.

Watley was then chosen with fellow Soul Train alumni to become a member of the group Shalamar in 1977. Although she benefitted from the group’s success, Watley felt limited in her attempts to get her songs on Shalamar albums and left the group in 1984.

Watley moved to England, immersed herself in the happening pop music scene and was included in Band Aid’s Do They Know its Christmas as a featured performer. Returning to the US in 1987, Watley recorded her first solo album, with the lead single “Looking for a new love”. The self-titled album did well, with her lead single staying at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks. Her song’s memorable ending  ” hasta la vista, baby”, was a popular edit for radio across North America.

The album produced many hit singles including  “Don’t you want me”, “Some kind of lover” and “Still a thrill”, as well as a duet with George Michael. At the Grammy Awards in 1988, Watley was awarded Best New Artist, nominated for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance as well as nominated for four MTV Video Awards and four Soul Train Awards. Watley was the first pop/R&B artist to work  with hip hop on a song collaboration; her work with Eric B & Rakim on “Friends” is now copied by so many other artists.

I remember being fascinated with Watley’s stylish look and massive amounts of hair. Soon after her award wins, she was photographed by Franceso Scavullo for Harper’s Bazaar Magazine, and I looked at those photos at the store each time I could while the magazine was on the stands. I admired her strength and poise, looking like an adult, but not cheap or trashy. I played her single endlessly at home, much to the dismay of my parents, who were hoping it was a phase, like so many performers and songs before.

Watley’s second album Larger in Life was released in 1989 and did almost as well as her first album, with its hit single “Real Love”. Once again she was found on the pop and R&B charts, and her videos playing endlessly on both MTV and MuchMusic. Touring in support of her album, Watley appeared on the covers of magazines around the world, and was featured again in Harper’s Bazaar as one of the 10 most beautiful women, photographed by Matthew Rolston.

Although as a pop star Watley’s star faded out of the teen consciousness, she continues to make music, has her own label (Avitone Records) and pursues experimentation with many different kinds of artists, not just limiting herself to the traditions of pop and R&B. And she’s still a lady with style and great hair!