Self-help music: Will Powers, “Adventures in Success” (1983)

friday night videos

(Above: What a Friday night at home looked like, 1984.)

If you lived in a place without cable television in the early 80s, you weren’t a part of the revolution that MTV was bringing to music distribution, at least not directly.  The success of music video led other networks and even local stations to offer alternative outlets for showing the top videos of the day.  Perhaps the best-known of those was Friday Night Videos, NBC’s offering of the week’s biggest songs. “FNV” was necessarily mainstream in what it offered; you were guaranteed to see “Billie Jean” or “Hungry Like the Wolf,” but not as likely to see anything off of the beaten path.  For that, you were relegated to other offerings.  TBS (which still necessitated cable) proffered “Night Tracks,” which went deeper into the music catalogues.

But even local stations got in on the craze.  Even though we had MTV, I would make it a point to tune in to “Rock On Chicago” on WLS-TV.  The show was simulcast onto WLS-FM so that you could hear the music in stereo.  (Ah, for the days of analog television, without its digital delay, making such a simulcast easy.)

(I found a promo for the show here.)

Given that “Rock On Chicago” was also a radio project, the playlist was mostly mainstream.  Except, of course, when it wasn’t.  Like any nerdy 80s-kid, I was in the habit of taping my favorite songs off of the radio.  (Don’t tell the RIAA!)  Later, I moved on to taping my favorite videos off of the television.  Some of these tapes still exist in my basement, and I should do a quick sample of them to see what I was into 32 years ago.  That’s a project for another day. I do know, though, that this was one I not only recorded but then asked classmates the following Monday if they had seen.

This video stands out as being decidedly non-standard. The version that I would have recorded would have had WYTZ disc jockey Brant Miller talking it up, effectively introducing a song that wasn’t getting much air time (if any) the rest of the day. Clearly they needed to program something visually interesting to go in-between the standard singer-walks-around singing videos of the time. The video caught attention for the “cool” effects and nifty editing tricks in a pre-Video Toaster world. Listening to it closely, though… upon further review… what is this, a self-help manual?

Will Powers wasn’t so much a group as much as a person.  Lynn Goldsmith was the woman behind the album “Dancing For Mental Health.” The project was aimed at parodying the self-help book craze of the early 80s, when authors like Dr. Wayne Dyer and Leo Buscaglia were selling books by the millions. Goldsmith enlisted some top names in music – Steve Winwood, Carly Simon, Todd Rundgren, even Meat Loaf (watch the video closely) – to help with the project. The writing credit on this track is split between Goldsmith and Sting.

And it’s catchy – at least I thought so.  Unfortunately, the single “Adventures in Success” didn’t make the Billboard chart, nor did the album make the album chart. (A subsequent single, “Kissing with Confidence,” co-written with Todd Rundgren and Nile Rogers, made it to #17 in the UK.)  That’s OK – you are welcome to borrow my copy. Just don’t make it habit.

The groovy video, with assorted early-80s production magic, can be seen here.

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