John Parr

John Parr

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1984 was a terrific year for music, certainly the best of the decade, so it was easy for somebody like John Parr to sort of slip in underneath the radar with a record that was teasingly, tastefully raunchy -- a strip anthem for civilized bachelor parties, a perfect compliment to the Reagan era. This turned out to be a pretty good touchstone for the album, which was a far bigger hit than anybody that views Parr as just a man in motion would expect. It didn't just reach the Top 50, spending half a year on the Billboard charts, but spawned three Hot 100 hits -- with "Love Grammar" and "Magical" hitting the lower regions after "Naughty Naughty" peaked at 23. These two songs don't have the thematic hook of "Naughty Naughty" -- which, let's face it, has the kind of attitude that results in a classic one-hit wonder -- but they're both good mainstream-oriented album rockers that try to come to terms with the synth-saturated style of the new wave. That would be a reasonable assessment of this self-titled album, actually, since it's immaculately produced, filled with cavernous drums, pristine synthesizers, sequenced rhythms, slick surfaces, and big hooks that don't really catch -- everything that would fit both pop and album rock radio in the mid-'80s. And that's really what is the most interesting thing about the album, years after its initial release. This is what the mainstream of rock sounded like, as it desperately attempted to assimilate the advances (or at least quirk and style) of new wave, relying as much on synths and slickness as hard rock. Looking back, it's easy to see why the producers of St. Elmo's Fire picked Parr to deliver their theme for a quintessentially '80s movie. This record proves that even if Parr didn't stand out from the pack, he certainly captured the times.

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