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20 things to revere about Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' on its 30th anniversary

 

thriller-cover-640-80.jpgWant to feel old? Just keep saying this to yourself: Michael Jackson's Thriller turns 30 years old today. ... Michael Jackson's Thriller turns 30 years old today. ... Michael Jackson's Thriller turns 30 years old today.

Not to be confused with the video for the video for Thriller, which is almost a year younger (it was released Dec. 2, 1983), Jackson's followup album to Off To Wall hit stores on Nov. 30, 1982. (Yes, "record stores.") Chances are you bought your first copy that same week. Then bought it again on tape three years later. Then bought it again on CD 10 years later. Then bought it again on iTunes 20 years later.

It's impossible to understate the importance of the album, which oddly enough doesn't even break into the top 10 of Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest albums of all time. (It's at No. 20.) But maybe we can boil it down to 20 remarkable things to remember.

20 REASONS TO REVERE MICHAEL JACKSON'S THRILLER:

1. The album had nine songs and a production budget of just $750,000.

2. Of the nine songs, seven were released as singles -- each of them reached the top 10.

3. It took just more than a year for Thriller to become the best-selling album of all time.  …

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Tired of holiday shopping? 'Burn Down the Malls' with Mojo Nixon

Maybe you have gotten worn down by Christmas shopping and the materialization of America. If so, unite with '80s lunatic Mojo Nixon and his 1986 video of Burn Down the Malls. By no means do we recommend following that advice, but it's still a fun song.

Nixon (born Neill Kirby McMillan Jr.) "officially" tired from the music biz in 2004, but unretired just five years later when his album Whiskey Rebellion was released. He still has an official website, but it hasn't been updated in a while.

And remember: Whatever store you shop at this Christmas, if your store doesn’t have Mojo Nixon, your store could use some fixin’.

-- Kevin Wuench, guest blogger

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'I'm sorry your mom blew up, Ricky' ... No sweat, Dan Schneider is doing great

ricky.jpgEighties fans probably know him best for playing Ricky in Better Off Dead, you know, the chubby kid who sat around crocheting all day and snorting nasal spray. But actor Dan Schneider found slightly higher-browed success in TV's Head of the Class too.

These days, your kids ought to be worshipping Schneider as well: He's the creator and brains behind Nickelodeon hit shows such as All That, iCarly and Victorious. The Onion's AV Club has a great interview with him. Here are some '80s-related highlights:

FIRST BIG JOB: "I went to this big casting call for the movie [Making The Grade]. There was a sea of teenagers. They were doing extra casting as well. It was this huge mob scene. I almost left, and this guy comes up to me and just sort of saw me and said, 'Hey, are you here to audition for the film?' I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Come with me.' I went and read with him, and he turned out to be the producer. He didn’t even know I had an appointment. He liked my face, I guess. He hired me for that movie, and I was supposed to work for four days on it. It ended up being four weeks."

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Lost and found: Make a circuit with the Pole Cats

The Stray Cats were the darlings of the rockabilly revival in the '80s, but in 1983 the English band The Pole Cats made the irresistible Make A Circuit With Me. I’m going out on a limb, but this is probably the only '80s song to use words like diode and cathode in the chorus.

 

Wondering where you've heard the song before? It was used for TV trailer's for the animated movie WALL-E.

Formed in North London in 1977, the Polecats are still around and continue to tour. You can find dates on their official website, aptly found at www.makeacircuit.com.

-- Kevin Wuench, guest blogger

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Spoiler alert: Plot and finale of 'Star Trek' movie revealed

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According to sources, here's the plot: To save Earth from an alien probe, Admiral James T. Kirk and his graying crew go back in time to 20th century Earth to retrieve the only beings who can communicate with it. Yes, humpback whales. To snag the whales, Kirk must eat pizza and swill Michelob with a perky marina biologist, who then hitchhikes her way onto Kirk's ship for the trip back to the future, which would have made for a better title of this movie, but it was already taken. Anyway, they make it back to Earth just in time to talk to the probe into calling it quits. And then they all throw Spock, who had been pretending to be a LSD overdose victim, into the water of San Francisco Bay. The end.

Oh, you wanted the synopsis of the new Star Trek movie -- Star Trek Into Darkness. Oh, here it is. (Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home still sounds better.)

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A long-forgotten cover of MJ's 'Billie Jean'

A month ago, Steve asked for your favorite remakes in the '80s, and the nation came up with a strong list. Not mentioned was The Bolshoi’s little known live version of MJ’s Billie Jean. This recording is a perfect time capsule (recorded on March 17, 1986) as it documents the royal wedding between Sarah Ferguson (the original Fergie) and Prince Andrew in the introduction.

As a bonus we also get insults to both the royalty and America. Vocalist Trevor Tanner has fun with the lyrics and alters them to give them a snotty English touch. Just as you start getting into the Bille Jean groove, The Bolshoi mixes it up and starts to incorporate the Talking Heads Take Me to the River in the song. While I normally like to show an official video with an '80s Lost and Found tune, this rare B side gets an “A” in my book.

-- Kevin Wuench, guest blogger

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Valley Girl's Deborah Foreman still truly dazzling in newest venture

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Eighties fans are seeing Deborah Foreman everywhere these days. The star of Valley Girl and My Chauffeur has been out and about, hitting fan conventions all over the country. 

Now the former actress-turned-pilates-aficionado-turned-life coach has a side business as well: hand-crafted jewelry. Her company is called Pearl of Wisdom Jewels, and so far it's been a big hit.

"I have received nothing but love on this new business venture from family and friends," Debbie told me recently via e-mail. "Most of my clients have been from here on Facebook and it has been their word of mouth that continues to make my jewelry empire grow."

If you follow her on Facebook, you've no doubt seen photos of her creations. I asked her where the inspiration came from.

"At the end of September this year I broke apart an ugly gemstone necklace I had and made a bracelet and by Oct. 3 it was my first bracelet to sell," she said. "It then made me think I could actually start a business making handmade gemstone jewelry that had awesome meaning."

"I just turned 50 years old and started a new business," she says. "Life is awesomely good right now." …

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'And we're gonna destroy Lincoln next week! All right!?!'

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Sad irony? Abraham Lincoln, Ridgemont High School class of 1828.

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Michael Hutchence biopic in works 15 years after INXS frontman's death

hutchence.jpgINXS's Michael Hutchence died Nov. 22, 1997. And now 15 years later, Hollywood feels about ready to begin a biopic on the legendary frontman. According to Rolling Stone and 702 ABC Sydney, the movie will be called Two Worlds Colliding and will based on the book Just a Man – The Real Michael Hutchence, written by the singer's mother and sister.

"It's from the family's side as Michael being a son, a brother, a friend. It's not a sex, drugs and rock & roll tabloid situation," said Bobby Galinsky, who's writing the screenplay. Casting is set to begin next year, allowing Hollywood executives enough time to talk Galinsky into adding a little sex, drugs and rock & roll.

By the way, if you missed it, Rolling Stone did an excellent flashback to Hutchence on what would have been the singer's 50th birthday. Click here to see it.

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Getting carried 'Away' (or possibly 'A Way') with the Bolshoi

Stuck in the '80s Nation, meet The Bolshoi. Introductions are in order since we have a very special two-part episode of Lost and Found with London's The Bolshoi this week. Today’s song Away (sometimes also listed as A Way) was a single that didn’t chart in America, but made the rounds on the alternative scene back in 1986. Tomorrow’s song is the B side of Away and a remake of an '80s classic.

Like so many of their peers, The Bolshoi didn't make it out of the '80s in one piece; they broke up after their fourth album -- Country Life -- wasn't released (and still hasn't been released) by their record company.

-- Kevin Wuench, guest blogger

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Scientists spot new 'Pac-Man' in universe

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You may have given up on video games when you turned 19, but the universe still sorta digs them. I can't make this stuff up. Here's the scoop from my new favorite website, thespacereporter.com:

"The first Pac-Man-shaped feature was found on Saturn’s moon Mimas in 2010. NASA said that the pattern shows up in the thermal data obtained by the Cassini space telescope’s composite infrared spectrometer. The warmer areas make up the Pac-Man shape," the site says.

"Finding a second Pac-Man in the Saturn system tells us that the processes creating these Pac-Men are more widespread than previously thought,” said Carly Howett, the lead author of a paper on the discovery (and someone who probably blew too many quarters on the game, in a statement. "The Saturn system – and even the Jupiter system – could turn out to be a veritable arcade of these characters."

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Richard Marx interview: From nausea to nirvana with acoustic shows

marx.jpgBack in 2010, Richard Marx made a little music history when he appeared on stage -- alone -- at the historic Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater. It was, as he told a slightly skeptical crowd gathered to pay homage to the '80s crooner, his first-ever solo acoustic show

"I was never more nervous before a show in my life. Literally sick to my stomach with fear," Marx told me this week in an e-mail chat. "Then about halfway through the first song I realized this might end up being pretty fun."

The sold-out crowd of about 500 loved it too, giggling each time Marx would interrupt his lyrics to work in a "bless you" after hearing any audible sneeze in the very intimate venue. Marx has since turned the acoustic format into a staple in his touring schedule. 

"These solo acoustic shows have been the most fun I've ever had onstage," he said. "I've played them here in the U.S., in Moscow, China, throughout Europe and I just came back from Japan."

His latest album -- A Night Out With Friends -- is a live project full of hits -- Endless Summer Nights, Right Here Waiting, Angelia -- and highlights his guitar-and-a-mike talents before letting his band take over.

"It's not an all acoustic album, only the first few songs," he corrected me when I called it an all-acoustic project." No, we'd been trying to figure out a way to do a PBS show for ages and that presented itself at the right time."

Marx and I have shared a couple chats since our first interview in 2010, and he's always a blast to talk with. On Dec. 1 and 4, he returns to Clearwater's Capitol Theatre for two more acoustic shows. They're can't-miss events, blending vivid storytelling with reworked versions of his hit songs (of which he has so many more than the casual '80s fan can remember). Here are some other highlights from our most-recent electronic conversation:

Stuck in the '80s: Not to get weird on you -- but I will -- because every time I hear your new album's version of Right Here Waiting, I damn near get weepy. Okay, I openly sob for some reason. Such a strong ending.

Marx: "No worries ... I thought you were weird way before that."

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Lost and found: Leftover holiday pie in Charlie's 'It's Inevitable'

When you think of pie videos in the '80s, most will defer to Warrant’s Cherry Pie (which actually was released in 1990), but I have a fond spot for Charlie and their big hit It’s Inevitable. Released in the summer of 1983, North London-born band Charlie hit No. 38 on the Billboard charts with perhaps the greatest pie fight in '80s video history.

Charlie didn't make it out of the '80s alive, but the band did reform in 2009 and released a new album -- Kitchens of Distinction. You can hear it on the band's official website.

- Kevin Wuench, guest blogger

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'Dallas' villain Larry Hagman dies of cancer

memorable-tv-moments-pictures-6.jpgNobody had to shoot J.R. this time around; it was cancer that took the life of actor Larry Hagman on Friday at age 81. Long since inseparable from his J.R. Ewing character on Dallas, Hagman's obituaries around the world no double took note of his role in '80s pop culture lore.

"It is with sad news that we announce Larry passed away this afternoon, Friday, Nov. 23, 2012," Hagman's official website said. His family has released this statement: "Larry was back in his beloved Dallas re-enacting the iconic role he loved most. Larry's family and close friends had joined him in Dallas for the Thanksgiving holiday. When he passed, he was surrounded by loved ones. It was a peaceful passing, just as he had wished for."  …

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Rating '80s music for Sirius XM is making $40 the hard way

sirius_xm_first_wave.pngIf you think sitting around and ranking '80s tunes all day is fun and games, Stuck in the '80s Los Angeles correpondent Brad Williams has a story for you. He recently got suckered into ranking tunes for Sirius XM's 1st Wave station. Here's how it all went down:

The subject of the email was “Earn 40 dollars rating music for Sirius XM’s 1st Wave.” Forty bucks you say? Let’s do this thing. I clicked the link and was whisked away to a survey page.

The survey played short song clips, accompanied by the question "Are you familiar with this song?" If I answered "no," another clip started playing. However, when I answered "yes," I was presented with another set of questions:

How do you feel about this song? (I love it / I like it / it's okay / I don't like it / I hate it)

How tired are you of this song? (Not at all / A little / Very tired)

I had been at it for a little while when I realized that the survey “percent complete” bar wasn’t moving very fast. …

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