Friday, July 29, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 24- Slang Teacher

Today's forgotten classic comes to us from former Adam and the Ants bass player, Kevin Mooney aka Wide Boy Awake. 'Slang Teacher' was the one notable hit from the band.

Slang Teacher- Wide Boy Awake (1982, RCA Records)

Slang Teacher- Wide Boy Awake

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 23- Hey Little Girl

Roxy Music knockoffs Icehouse had a top 40 hit with this slick little number in early 1983 . The song peaked at #31 and was one of several charting songs for the band including 'Electric Blue', 'Crazy' and 'Great Southern Land'. The Australian band is still active today.

Icehouse- Hey Little Girl (1983, Chrysalis Records)

Hey Little Girl- Icehouse
Bonus: Electric Blue- Icehouse

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 22- Guilty

Figured this fit today.

From the ashes of X-Ray Spex, Classic Nouveaux reached #43 on the U.K. charts with 'Guilty' in November of 1983. The band would go on to have six other songs to make the charts.

Classic Nouveaux- Guilty (1981, Cherry Red UK Records)

Classic Nouveaux- Guilty

Monday, July 4, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 21- 4th of July

We celebrate the 21st day of our 80's Days of Summer as well as our nation's 235th birthday with a no-brainer. X's '4th of July' from their 1987 album See How We Are. This was the first X album without founding member Billy Zoom on guitar.

The original, reunited lineup including Exene Cervenka, John Doe, Billy Zoom and D.J. Bonebrake continue to perform to this day.

Havy Independence Day everyone.

X- 4th of July (Demo Versions, 1986)

4th of July - X

Sunday, July 3, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 20- A New England

So here we are, just hours away from Independence Day. I thought this might be a fitting song. And it's a two-fer.

Originally written and recorded by Billy Bragg in 1983, the song (with an additional verse) was also a hit for the late Kirsty MacColl just a year later. Produced by her husband Steve Lillywhite (of U2 fame, among others) it peaked at #7 on the U.K. charts.

Billy Bragg- A New England (Live, 1985)

Kirsty MacColl- A New England (1984, Stiff Records)

Billy Bragg- A New England
Kirsty MacColl- A New England

Saturday, July 2, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 19- Is Vic There?

Spending the extended holiday weekend at our annual family reunion. Most of the family is here, question is, Is Vic There?

One-hit wonder Dept. S asks the question and no one really knows the answer. Or cares. The song peaked at #22 on U.K. charts in early 1981.

Dept. S- Is Vic There (Top of the Pops, 1981)

Is Vic There-Dept. S

Thursday, June 30, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 18- What Do All The People Know

What do all the people know about the Monroes? Not much. These San Diego New Wavers fell off the map just as quickly as their 1982 hit put them on it.

For what it's worth, they did make it to Merv.

The Monroes- What Do All The People Know (Live 1982, Merv Griffin Show)

What Do All The People Know- The Monroes (1982, Alfa Records

80's Days of Summer: Day 17- Just Got Lucky

The British-American group JoBoxers 'Just Got Lucky' with this one-hit wonder from the summer of 1983 which made it onto both the U.S. and U.K. charts.

The band was never heard from again.

JoBoxers- Just Got Lucky ( 1983, RCA/Sanctuary Records)

JoBoxers- Just Got Lucky

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 16- Oblivious

By all means 1983 was a watershed year for New Wave. Hardly a day passed without the release of a drop-dead, instant classic. Today's 12-string, flamenco inspired opus provides a perfect example and comes to us via Glasgow's Roddy Frame and Aztec Camera. 'Oblivious' was the band's highest charting hit, reaching #18 after it's release in April of 1983.

The band would go on to have a few other minor hits before their break up in 1995. Today, Roddy Frame continues to produce and perform as a solo artist.

Aztec Camera- Oblivious (Live, 1983)

Aztec Camera- Oblivious (1983, Sire Records)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 15- Forever Young

Today's blast from the past comes to us from German synthpop trio Alphaville. The title track off their 1984 LP of the same name, 'Forever Young' (or as my wife Laura would say for-evaaah) has the distinction of being the very last song played on Long Island's iconic New Wave station WLIR before the infamous format change in 2004.

Irony notwithstanding, the song itself has enjoyed some measure of longevity. There were two different versions originally released, a slow ballad and a dance remix, the latter reaching #65 on the U.S charts in 1984 and also becoming a WLIR 'Screamer' in December of that same year. Over the years, it has maintained it's youthful charm through several updated remixes and featured appearances in commercials and films. Most notably in the 2003 Saturn Ion commercial 'Now Leaving High School', 2004's 'Napoleon Dynamite' and most recently in 2010, revamped and retitled as Jay-Z's 'Young Forever'.

Since I'm a sucker for sentimental songs of my youth as well as for embedding videos in my posts, I bring you 'Forever Young' in several iterations and adaptations.

FYI, The slow version is my fave.

Alphaville- Forever Young: Slow Version (1984, WEA Records)

Alphaville- Forever Young: Fast Version (1984, WEA Records)

Saturn Ion Commercial (2003)

Jay-Z/Mr. Hudson- Young Forever (2010, Roc Nation)

Forever Young- Alphaville

Monday, June 27, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 14- What I Like About You

So, I'm in the Motor City takin' care of business, yet another of the seemingly endless perks associated with a career in pharmaceutical marketing. What better way to celebrate this road trip then with the ultimate 80's power-pop party anthem 'What I Like About You' by Detroit's own Romantics.

Formed on Valentine's Day 1977, the quartet channeled the British Invasion sound of the 60's with charged 3 minute bursts just like this one. A little more polished than the the Ramones, the Romantics enjoyed a string of radio-friendly hits throughout the early 80's including 'Talking In Your Sleep' and 'One In A Million'.

This particular song, sung by spiky-haired drummer Jimmy Marinos originally peaked at #48 on the Billboard charts in 1980 but gained even more notoriety after being featured as the theme in Budweiser's consumer advertising campaign towards the end of the decade. The song also enjoyed the #16 position on WLIR's top 200 songs of the 80's.

The band, featuring two original members, guitarists Wally Palmar and Mike Skill are still performing to this day.

The Romantics- What I Like About You (1980, Nemperor Records)

What I Like About You- The Romantics

Saturday, June 25, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 13- Love Is A Stranger

Prior to their breakout hit 'Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)', which propelled the Eurythmics to international stardom, they released 'Love Is A Stranger' Featuring a clean, minimalist arrangement with their trademark synth sound. The song did not chart until it was re-released after the success of 'Sweet Dreams'.

It also marks the first time since Bowie that androgyny hit the Top 40.

Eurythmics - Love Is A Stranger (1982, RCA Records)

Eurythmics-Love Is A Stranger

80's Days of Summer: Day 12- Make A Circuit With Me

Today it's all about Rockabilly. This sub-genre of New Wave enjoyed a large resurgence in the late 70's and early 80's, and one of the bands leading the twangy revolution was the London trio, the Polecats. After a series of singles including covers of David Bowie's 'John, I'm Only Dancing' and T-Rex's 'Jeepster', they had their own bona fide hit, 1983's 'Make A Circuit With Me'.

While the sound of the tune was retro, the lyrics were as modern as Commodore 64.
Who needs love when you can have microprocessors? Can you say facebook?

The Polecats-Make A Circuit With Me (1983, Mercury Records)

The Polecats-Make A Circuit With Me

Friday, June 24, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 11- Do You Wanna Hold Me?

One of Malcolm McLaren's more successful experiments during the early days of New Wave was Bow Wow Wow. Formed in 1980 by the agent provocateur, it featured the enticing Burmese/English chanteuse, 14-year old Annabella Lwin on lead vocals. Cashing in on the Lolita factor, McLaren featured the underage Lwin fully nude on the cover of their 1981 LP 'See Jungle! See Jungle!, etc.' (See above). Most people had no idea it just another of McLaren's cheeky send-ups of refined culture/culture as commerce, or something like that. The composition of the cover photo was a reproduction of 19th century painter Edward Manet's 'The Luncheon on the Grass'. (See below).

Beyond the sexpot appeal of Lwin and quasi-exploitation of Native Americans, McLaren (and the band) produced a string of killer singles. My favorite being the February '83 release 'Do You Wanna Hold Me?' The song peaked at #47 on the U.K. charts.

30 years later, the band (in different incarnations) continues to perform, albeit sporadically.

Bow Wow Wow- Do You Wanna Hold Me? (1983, RCA Records)

Bow Wow Wow- Do You Wanna Hold Me?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 10- Our Lips Are Sealed

Since I've fallen a little behind with the 80's Days of Summer, today I'm throwing out a two-fer. A staple 80's New Wave hit and an example of power pop at it's best.

Co-written by Jane Weiden and Terry Hall, 'Our Lips Are Sealed' was a huge hit for both Weiden's Go-Go's in 1982 (reaching #47 on the Billboard singles chart) and a year later for Hall's Fun Boy Three (peaking at #7 on the U.K. singles chart).

The video for the Go-Go's version of the song helped propel the fledgling MTV into supernova. The video was played every hour on the hour when it was first released.

Little known fact: David Byrne who produced the Fun Boy Three's 1983 LP 'Waiting' is also credited with lead guitar on the track.

Although both versions are equally unique and amazing, I have to go with the Go-Go's on this one. The bass line is just too infectious.

The Go-Go's- Our Lips Are Sealed (1981, IRS Records)

Fun Boy Three- Our Lips Are Sealed (1983, Chrysalis Records)

The Go-Go's-Our Lips Are Sealed

Fun Boy Three-Our Lips Are Sealed

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 9- Synchronicity II

I always liked the Police, but disliked Sting. I find him to be arrogant and elitist, his music maybe not so much. And this brings us to today's song. Of the entire Police catalog, I think this is the most interesting and best written Sting composition. It also marked a departure in the sound of the band, almost an attempt at Prog rock.

The third single off of 1983's Synchronicity LP, 'Synchronicity II' is straight up Jungian theory set to music. Based on the Swiss psychiatrist's theory of synchronicity, in which two or more unrelated events occur simultaneously in a meaningful way.

Sting brings the notion to fruition by pairing the bleak, banality and anguish of a man's life with that of the Loch Ness Monster ominously coming ashore somewhere far away.

For a guy who repeats variations of 'day-oh' in his most of his songs, this is some pretty deep stuff. He paints a pretty good picture with words in the space of three minutes, jumping back and forth between the two events to draw the parallels.

Meanwhile, Stuart Copeland's machine gun drumming pairs up brilliantly to Andy Summer's apocalyptic, buzz-saw guitar work. The result is an amazing piece of pop music. The accompanying 'Thunderdome'-styled video was shot by auteurs Godley & Creame.

The song simultaneously reached #1 in both the U.S. and U.K. Talk about synchronicity.

The Police-Synchronicity II (1983, A&M Records)

The Police- Synchronicity II

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 8- Eyes Without A Face

Sticking with the summer of 1984, today's New Wave classic comes to us from punk-pop bad boy Billy Idol. 'Eyes Without A Face' was the second single from his multi-platinum 'Rebel Yell' album, peaking at #4 on the Billboard charts.

After splitting from Generation X in 1981, Idol achieved breakthrough success with the release of Rebel Yell. His crossover pop-punk was mainstream accessible–mohawks for the masses.

Singing backup on the track is French chanteuse Perri Lister. Lister was an 'it' girl back in the early 80's, appearing is several films as well as popping up in the occasional music vid. Her backup credits also include work with Visage.

Billy Idol- Eyes Without A Face (1984, Chrysalis Records)

Billy Idol- Eyes Without A Face

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 7- My Ever Changing Moods

Today I present the top down Blaupunkt-blasting hit from the summer of '84, The Style Council's 'My Ever Changing Moods'. An armageddon protest song with a beat you could dance to, it was sooo 80's. It also happened to reach #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Just a year out from the breakup of the legendary Jam, Paul Weller pulled a musical about-face and along with keyboardist extraordinaire Mick Talbot and percussion phenom Steve White generated some of the slickest, cafe-cool tunes of the 80's. Repleat with capri's and docksiders, Weller emulated Neo-Mod chic.

In the years since, he's proven himself an adroit musical chameleon, effortlessly changing styles resulting in a rich and eclectic catalog.

The Style Council- My Ever Changing Moods (1984, Polydor/Geffen)

The Style Council-My Ever Changing Moods

Monday, June 13, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 6- The Perfect Kiss

New Order's 'The Perfect Kiss' dominated my summer in 1985, most of which was spent pumping gas at the local Gulf station. I can still remember the smell of diesel and the sound of 'Low Life'.

As good as the song was, the live in-studio video shot by Jonathan Demme was even better.

Hats off the the E-mu Emulator.

New Order- The Perfect Kiss; FAC123 (Factory/Quest Records, 1985)

The Perfect Kiss- New Order

Sunday, June 12, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 5-Breaking Glass

A few of my all-time favorite songs just happen to be Nick Lowe creations. The reason: his straightforward songwriting approach. Catchy melodies married to simple lyrics resulting in pristine, three-minute pop gems.

Today's jewel was his highest charting hit, reaching #7 on the U.K. charts. From his 1978 debut, Jesus of Cool.

Piano as breaking glass. Brilliant.

Nick Lowe- I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass (Top of The Pops, 1978)

I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass- Nick Lowe

Saturday, June 11, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 4-Rock Lobster

Summer weekends are reserved for the beach and there is no better beach tune than the B-52's frenetic opus, Rock Lobster. Featured on their 1979 debut LP, the 6+ minute song garnered tons of airplay to help catapult the Athens, Ga quintet to success, eventually reaching No.1 on the charts.

The B-52's- Rock Lobster (Live)

Friday, June 10, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 3- Pyjamarama

This 1973 single by London's proto-New Wave Glamsters, Roxy Music featured not one but two Brians; Bryan Ferry on vocals and Brian Eno on synth.

The song reached #11 on the UK charts with a Greatest Hits re-release in 1977.

Shout out to the white tux on Mr. Ferry. Très chic.

Roxy Music- Pjamarama (Live, 1974)

Roxy Music- Pjamarama

Thursday, June 9, 2011

80's Days of Summer: Day 2-Melt With You

Oft considered the 'Stairway to Heaven' of the New Wave era, this synthpop classic from the Essex, UK quartet Modern English remains the quintessential, post-punk dance track. Although branded a 'one-hit wonder' the band did have a string of smaller hits including 'Hands across the Sea' and 'Ink and Paper'.

The song was WLIR's 'Screamer of the Week' on August 4th, 1982. It was also prominently featured in the 80's teen flick 'Valley Girl' (starring Nicolas Cage).

Valley Girl- Full Theatrical Trailer (1982)

I Melt With You- Modern English (1982, 4AD Records)

80's Days of Summer: Day 1- Summer Love

So, the novel idea here is to combine two of my favorite things: 80's New Wave and Summer. Let's see if I can actually deliver 80 straight posts. With some luck, by the end of the summer you'll have built yourself a bitchin' playlist.

Day 1: Blue-eyed funk from Scotland' apb. A slight departure from the signature slap-bass sound featured on their earlier releases, This guitar heavy hit was WLIR's 'Screamer of the Week' on July 2, 1985. Shades of Eddie Van Halen courtesy of the multi-talented Ian Slater.

Summer Love- apb (Red River, 1985)

Summer Love-apb

Monday, March 28, 2011

If It Pleases The Court

In a deal struck with a Texas prosecutor to avoid potential jail time in association with his pot bust last November, outlaw legend Willie Nelson will play one of his signature tunes, 'Blue Eyes Cryin' In The Rain' in open court.

The full story is here.

Here's Willie performing the classic on the CMA's way back in 1975.

Friday, March 25, 2011

So Happy Together

On this day in in 1967, The Turtles' Happy Together became the No.1 song in the country.

The southern California pop group founded in 1965 by Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (later known as Flo and Eddie) rode the musical wave of the hippie movement with this saccharin-sweet diddy in the spring of 1967. That wave would later crest in the Summer of Love.

Not unlike the Byrds, The Turtles initial claim to fame was derived from a Bob Dylan song. A few years earlier, their cover of It Ain't Me Babe reached the Top Ten.

Happy Together was written for the band by Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon. The duo also penned minor hits for The Lovin' Spoonfuls, Petula Clark and Three Dog Night, but none would achieve the status of Happy Together.

It's interesting to note that this song knocked The Beatles Penny Lane out of the top slot and remained there for three weeks. It was the Turtles only No. 1 hit.

Happy Together- The Turtles (Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, 1967)

The Turtles - Happy Together by scootaway

Friday, March 18, 2011

In The Midnight Hour

Happy (posthumous) 69th birthday to Wilson Pickett.

In The Midnight Hour- Wilson Pickett

Mustang Sally- Wilson Pickett

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

20 Years Out, of Time

It was 20 years ago today, Peter Hosapple taught the band to play.

On this day in 1991, R.E.M. released it's breakthrough, cross-over 'Out of Time'. From that point forward, for better or worse, things would never be the same for the quartet from Athens, GA.

Their seventh studio release, OOT was recorded at an eclectic mix of facilities including Bearsville Studios (Woodstock, NY) and Paisley Park (Prince's digs in Minnesota). It was the third collaboration between R.E.M and über-producer Scott Litt.

Interesting sidebar on Litt's association with the band: He had previously worked with the db's in 1982 which included none other than R.E.M's 'unofficial 5th member', Peter Hosapple. Litt first worked with R.E.M on Romance for the soundtrack of the 1987 film 'Made in Heaven'. He would go on to produce six of their most successful albums including: 'Document', 'Green', 'Out of Time', 'Automatic for the People', 'Monster' and 'New Adventures in Hi-Fi'. No surprise that after Litt's departure (along with Bill Berry) in 1997, the band released the dismal 'Up'. But we'll leave that critique for another time.

'Out of Time' continued a distinctive evolutionary period for the band and their music, which had commenced with 1988's 'Green'. Through their own volition, a bevy of talented session players and guidance from Litt, they explored and utilized a variety of different instrumentation in the recording of the album. Several tracks featured mandolin, violin and cello prominently while a touch of flugelhorn was thrown in for good measure. Buck's arpeggio playing technique married seamlessly with these lush new arrangements, and as a result their music became much more deeply textured. Stipe also employed a novel approach to his vocals. You could actually hear and understand all the words in the songs he was singing. Go figure.

The band already had cred among it's throngs of loyal followers and had gained altitude into the rarefied air that few 'college bands' had before, yet hovered just under the stratosphere of cross-over success. They were poised to breakthrough at some point, but it was the unlikely radio-friendly hit Losing My Religion that got them there. A mandolin solo on a Top 10 record? As if? The song was certified gold for the band. It reached No. 1 on Billboard's 'Mainstream' and 'Modern' Rock charts and No. 4 on the Hot 100. If that weren't enough, the multi-platinum album went on to earn the band three Grammys in 1992. Indie darlings turned AOR darlings virtually overnight.

For once, it seemed possible that 'college music' was fit for the masses. Specifically the slow, southern drawl of melodies and bucolic musings that had been R.E.M's SOP. They had honed their craft for over a decade and 'Out of Time' was deliberate in it's attempt to showcase these different sounds with a distinct southern twang attached. A few standouts from the album include: Belong, Half a World Away, Low, Mike Mills' Texarkana and the Stipe/Kate Pierson duet Me in Honey.

Oddly enough, the album was their first to feature a few throwaways. The ill-conceived attempt rap/pop mashup, Radio Song (featuring KRS-1) and the still-to-this-day awful Shiny Happy People. Stipe may have been coming out of his shell during this period, but he over-stepped it on this syrupy sweet nonsense. As soon as I heard it, I knew it was destined a Karaoke fate.

'Out of Time' holds many personal memories for me. It was R.E.M.'s second release while I was going to college and played as a perfect soundtrack for this awkward, young hipster who was trying to make a go of it in art school. Yet even for this die hard fan, OOT was nowhere near as earth-shattering as, let's say 'Reckoning' was. They were clearly my favorite band at the time and when I graduated school a few years later and set out cross-country on my bike, Athens was one of my first stops. I had to see where it all happened.

OOT might not be their best album, but it remains their most important. If only for the fact that it got them tons of exposure, commercial success, a fat contract with Warner and was the beginning of the path that led them to 'Automatic For The People'.

This was the album whose songs I would hear wherever I'd go. It was the one that further solidified and justified my appreciation of them. It was the record that other people heard on the radio and I'd say," Yeah, that's R.E.M, that band I've been telling you about for the last 10 years. Now you understand what I was talking about?" Finally, they delivered an album that enabled them to belong.

Although the band did not tour to support the album, they did record one of, if not the best MTV's 'Unplugged' sessions ever in April of that year. If you don't already have it, you can get it here.

I'm not sure if time caught up with the band or they just went to the well one too many times, but unfortunately it ran dry about 15 years ago. 'Collapse Into Now', their latest release, coincidentally scheduled to drop today, is a far cry from 'Out of Time'. After a recent string of lackluster albums, if I were in the band, I'd be weary of using terms like 'collapse' and 'now' in the title of anything I released, but maybe that's just me. With their contract with Warner expiring, I have a feeling that they are poised to become an indie band once again. I haven't listened to the new record enough yet, so I'll reserve judgment. But I think R.E.M. has been out of time for quite a long time.

I'm just sayin'.

Half A World Away- R.E.M (Unplugged, 1991)

Belong- R.E.M (Unplugged, 1991)

Losing My Religion- R.E.M (Unplugged, 1991)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Road Case

Lately I have been listening to two of my favorite performers. Willy and Lemmy. Although musically they may seem worlds apart, they actually have a lot in common, namely: successful careers spanning decades.

Upon further inspection the similarities become more apparent:
• Both are easily recognizable by just one name
• Both are true renegades in their respective styles of music
• Neither can be easily labeled
• Both have spent the majority of their professional career on the road
• Both are Grammy winners (like that really matters)
• Both seem to enjoy certain substances, whether liquid or otherwise
• Both could be mistaken for homeless drifters
• Neither seem ready to stop touring or making music

I could probably find more similarities, but you get the idea. Most important of all the qualities they may share, these two legends have always remained true to themselves and their music.

Wille Nelson & Family- Whiskey River (Live, 1974)

Motorhead- Ace of Spades (The Young Ones, BBC 1984)

Wille Nelson & Family- Angel Flying To Close To The Ground- (Honeysuckle Rose, 1980)

Motorhead- Stay Clean (Live, 1983?)

Willie Nelson- Night Life (Later w/ Jools Holland, 1996)

Motorhead- Dancing On Your Grave (Live, 200?)

Friday, February 4, 2011