During the 1980s, being a self-confessed pop music snob was easy. Only on a few occasions did I break my resolve for the sake of higher art.
The music of Rick Spring was not the highest of art, but it was very much the soundtrack to my high school years, weather I wanted it to be or not. My pop embargo was difficult to maintain with the onslaught of hits that came from Working Class Dog and the equally successful Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet. In addition to being all over the radio and VH-1, Springfield also had a stint as a daytime (soap opera) TV star. High art was about to get a downgrade, or so my snobby teenage self thought.
Despite being around since the early ’70s and even playing in a band that included a future member of the Little River Band, Rick Springfield seemed like one of the ’80s exciting new Australian imports. All the hoopla caused some critics, (no doubt aesthetically challenged or art snobs themselves like me) to discount Springfield as just another pretty face with a guitar.
So to set things right on his ninth album (3rd as a big star in the US), Springfield would release his most personal and musically ambitious album to date. It even included synthesizers, a tool he publicly loathed in the past. It was a guilty pleasure that I could check off on my Columbia House Record club list without anyone knowing I had ever ordered it. It arrived in a brown box like some exotic porn magazine.
1983’s Living In Oz was a reference to Springfield’s status as a transplanted Australian living in Los Angeles. Despite his new environs, Living In Oz was a deeply personal album with songs about childhood memories in Sydney, his father and best friend. Despite the potentially teary eyed subject matter, Living In Oz was brashly modern with synthesizers set to dance pop melodies. The basically cold metallic arrangements were balanced by the warmth of deeply personal subject mater.
There was still the big guitar solos that inspired suburban air guitar fantasies well before Guitar Hero. Songs like the title track and “Alyson” proved that Springfield’s guitar skills were not substuted by plug and play programming in any way. Some of the songs like “Human Touch” even hinted to the alienation by technology, a theme so popular in New Wave and New Romantic music.
Living in Oz was Springfield at his creative peak. It deftly combined the anthem rock sounds of the past with synthesizers for an aggressive (if not dated today) sound. After this album Springfield’s music would go post modern and eventually fall into obscurity (by early ’80s standards).