Best Local Performances: Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett at Constitution Hall in April -- solo, acoustic, brilliant; "The Gospel at Colonus" at Arena -- some of gospel's finest voices in the service of Greek tragedy; Stevie Wonder performing a luminous concert at the Capital Centre in January, celebrating the legislating of a new national holiday and leading 20,000 voices in a jubilant "Happy Birthday" to Martin Luther King Jr.; local hero Nils Lofgren making a triumphant return as Bruce Springsteen's new guitarist; Lena Horne and Patti LaBelle holding forth regally for a week each at the Warner; Sisterfire, the all-day women's music festival and cultural celebration, expanded to two glorious days.
Disappointments: Julian Lennon, who was both too much and not enough like his father; the Honeydrippers; Madonna, a white distaff Prince, without the smarts; Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A"; misreadings of popular song from Linda Ronstadt, Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand; David Bowie, who spent more on a video from his new album than he did on the album itself (and it showed); the Jacksons' Victory Tour and album.
Fiascoes: The Victory Tour -- never have so few done so little or taken so much from so many people in the ugliest possible public manner; also, taking videos on the road -- the Jacksons spent much more on the visual aspects of the Victory tour than on their tinny sound system. It showed.
Comebacks: Major comebacks were made by a number of '60s veterans, but the most rewarding were those by Tina Turner (and love had a lot to do with that), Patti LaBelle and Bobby Womack. Teddy Pendergrass couldn't sing as well as before his paralyzing accident but that he could sing at all was marvelous. The Everly Brothers started talking to each other again, and when they started singing, it was the '50s all over again. Also making a comeback: the records of Elvis Presley, in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of his birth in January.
Hopefully, a lot of people will remember that the same month marks the centennial of the birth of Jerome Kern, the father of American musical theater.
Controversy: Which comes first, the video or the music? This is the question being asked more and more, not just on MTV and other video shows, but by record company A&R men. And with the average cost of filming a rock video now approaching $40,000 -- that used to be the average cost for recording an entire album -- money has gained the upper hand on art, and style is usurping the substance.
Merit: See Recordings, Page K3.
Important Developments: MTV simply got stronger, thus continuing to change rock's musical foundation (make that audio-visual foundation) even as its blatant sexism and role-fixing set back the women's movement 20 years. The beat box -- synthesized drums -- loomed and boomed large in more 1984 hits than you would imagine. And technology in general gained more control, to the point where computer know-how is becoming at least as important as rudimentary musical skill.
Arriving in Style in 1984: Journeymen rockers Huey Lewis and John Cafferty; the Pointer Sisters, who finally got so good they could no longer be denied; Herbie Hancock, disguised as a funkateer; Cyndi Lauper, whose bizarre speaking mannerisms can't conceal a wealth of singing talent; the Judds, country music's first mother-daughter star team and the best thing to happen to Nashville since Ricky Skaggs.