Jimi Jamison

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Sorry about the extended radio silence.  I’d like to pretend it was because I was still all aflutter about the upcoming release of The Basement Tapes Complete, but really, life just kind of got in the way.  The world keeps turning.

Sadly, that is no longer true for Survivor lead singer Jimi Jamison, who passed away yesterday at 63.  I don’t know why I was surprised he was that old.  He wasn’t a youngster when he joined the band, and that was more than 30 years ago.  It still seems so weird for me that the 80s was that far in the past.  Because I still feel young, it seems like everything from my adolescence should be perpetually as it was then.

Survivor seems to be a quintessential 80s band; listening to them now is a little like going back in time.  Jamison himself was reluctant to join the band because they were more Pop than his other gigs.  He had a classic 80s Pop/Rock voice–equally comfortable with bombastic rockers and power ballads.  And he always kind of looked like he ought to be fronting some hair metal band.  But the fit with Survivor was good; 1984’s Vital Signs was a solid hit, spawning several Top Forty singles.  Including my favorite track, “High On You.”

After only knowing Survivor from “Eye of the Tiger” (which I loathe to this day), this song was a nice change of pace to me.  Now it seems a little bland, offensive only in its inoffensiveness.  It’s a very well-constructed song, the kind of music that seems designed by the label’s A&R guys.  Actually, it’s exactly the kind of music I rail most against today.  Except that there’s just the right touch of sincerity to Jamison’s voice, just the right amount of sentiment.  That might be a studio construction, too, but it takes a pretty good singer to make you believe it.  If nothing else, Jimi Jamison made people believe the words he was singing.  That’s not a bad legacy to leave behind.

“I Can’t Hold Back”

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Bad 80s music video alert!!!!!  Avert your eyes if you are sensitive to big hair, leather pants, and high heels with blue jeans.

This video is seriously cheesetastic!  I love how she seems to become possessed by a vision of transforming herself into the seductive vixen that snags the hot lead singer.  I also love how even the other women in the video are totally checking her out.  (These days, that would get the band scolded by some anti-gay rights group for “indoctrinating” young people into a “sinful” lifestyle.)  Those of you who are fans of the Rocky franchise will remember Survivor as the blue collar-ish band behind the monster hit “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky III (they also recorded “Burning Heart” for Rocky IV).  After original lead singer Dave Bickler had to leave the group, pretty boy Jimi Jamison took over the vocal duties, and Survivor was transformed into an arena-style ballad band.  1984’s Vital Signs spawned several Top Forty singles, including this song.

I’ll be honest: I totally love this song.  It’s not my favorite on the album (that would be “High on You”, but the video isn’t quite as awesomely bad).  There’s nothing to it, of course.  It’s about as substantive as marshmallow fluff, and almost as emotionally deep (if you’d had the fudge you can make with this stuff, you’d probably have the deep, abiding love I have for it, too).  Is it bombastic? Sure.  Is it clichéd and goofy?  You betcha.  But it’s got a massive hook that seemed to be made of whatever it was that attracted 80s teenage girls like flies to a dumpster–probably some mutant combination of Aqua Net, Love’s Baby Soft, and hormones.  It certainly hooked me.  I just never outgrew it.  It hasn’t aged especially well, but it retains a certain charm.  I revel in the tacky lyrics and heavy synths.  It feeds that spot in my soul that still likes the scent of Love’s Baby Soft and eats fudge while watching Lifetime movies and crying over the romantic endings.

Okay, only some of that is true.  I hate Lifetime movies.