Last week I wrote about Justin Bieber—but long before the mentorship between Usher and the Biebs, there was the beautiful friendship between Rick James and the Murph. “Party All the Time,” co-written and co-produced by the blond Superfreak, was ready and fully-fueled for pop radio circa 1985; all Murphy had to do was get behind the wheel and not crash. He managed a perfectly competent vocal, with James adding funky flavor on backup. The song has been featured on multiple worst-of-the-80s lists, but never mind the critics: drop it any time on and watch those avatar heads start nodding.

The video is an oddly subdued and static in-studio affair; you have to guess the budget for the shoot went straight up the boys’ noses and they were afraid that if they cracked a smile, everyone would notice. Even so, it’s fun to watch Murphy try to act natural at the mic while James stands behind the soundboard nodding like a bobblehead and finally running out to grab a guitar that apparently isn’t plugged in since it appears nowhere in the mix. (Until James steps to the mic, the video cuts away from Murphy every time James’s voice is heard, the director presumably hoping no one will notice it’s him.)

For those inclined to give Murphy crap for the supposedly ill-advised jump to the recording studio on the basis of his then-massive movie stardom, remember that the 80s were also the decade that gave us successful pop songs by Don Johnson, Bruce Willis, Patrick Swayze, Billy Crystal, and Max Headroom. Even Rick Moranis (via his Strange Brew character Bob McKenzie) and Pac Man (“Pac-Man Fever”) had hits in the 80s. Why does Murphy’s top-ten outing hold up so well almost 30 years later? It’s Rick James, bitch!

Words by Jay Gabler, a co-founder and co-editor of The Tangential.

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