Saturday, July 26, 2014

Loudness - Crazy Nights

Loudness (ラウドネス) are likely to be the only Japanese group to appear on ERV, and are one of a handful of Japanese acts that had the potential to make an impact on the U.S. charts.  The group got its start in 1981 and quickly established themselves as the premier heavy metal band in Japan.

By 1984, Loudness had released four albums, and had a following in their home market.  To my ear, their early work sounds similar to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and I think that it holds up reasonably well.  Their growing success caught the attention of the Twisted Sister management team and led to an international recording contract with Atco Records in 1985.

The act's first American record was 1985's Thunder in the East.  The album was recorded in the U.S., with English lyrics and some significant style changes, designed to appeal to the American market -- essentially, they went with a more pop metal sound, similar to Mötley Crüe, instead of sticking with their earlier, heavier music.

The results were ok, but not great.  Thunder in the East did hit #74 on the U.S. album charts, led by "Crazy Nights," which did not chart.  However, it was not the big breakout that the label had hoped for, and several subsequent records did not fare any better.  Atco dropped the band in 1991, and Loudness refocused on the Japanese market.  Though there have been several lineup changes, the band remains active to the present day.continues to record and tour to the present day.

Cool trivia fact:  The "M - Z - A" chant in the chorus has no particular meaning -- it was used as a placeholder during the initial recording, and the band could not come up with anything better, so they keep it in the final version.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jon Astley - Jane's Getting Serious

We frequently discuss one hit wonders at ERV, but it is easy to forget just how hard it is for an artist to have even one song break the top 40.  This was especially true in the 1980's, given the amount and diversity of music.  In any event, this is a roundabout way of pointing out that Jon Astley did not have any top 40 hits, although he did write and record the very catchy song below.

Jon Astley (no relation to Rick) began his career as a producer, and was particularly well-known for his work with The Who (he was, for a time, Pete Townshend's brother-in-law).  Later, Astley built a second career as an expert in re-mastering material for the conversion to CDs.

In between these pursuits, Astley also released two solo albums and managed to have two charting singles (the other one was 1988's "Put This Love to the Test" and no, I don't remember it either).  "Jane's Getting Serious" is a catchy pop song, with a choppy percussion-driven sound.  The song peaked at #77, while the album Everyone Loves the Pilot (Except the Crew) reached #135.

By the by, "Jane" was also used in a series of Heinz Ketchup Commercials, including one featuring an early role for future Friend Matt LeBlanc, so you may have heard the song there.

The video seems to take place on a deserted island and is highlighted by three dancing gorillas.  Perhaps the chaps from Haircut 100 are singing on the same island, who knows?  At any rate, it is a solid video of a mostly forgotten pop gem.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chris Isaak - Don't Make Me Dream About You

Although Chris Isaak has only landed one top 40 single ("Wicked Game"), he has built a solid career on an updated Roy Orbison-influenced sound.  This is no small feat, as rockabilly artists in general haven't exactly been burning up the charts over the past few decades.

Isaak released his first album in 1985, but his breakthrough came on his third album, 1989's Heart Shaped World.  That album peaked at #7 on the charts and went triple platinum, led by the previously mentioned "Wicked Game."  Interestingly, that song was not an immediate hit, but gained momentum following its inclusion in David Lynch's 1990 movie, Wild At Heart.  Additionally, the heavily played video (featuring a topless Helena Christensen) probably didn't hurt.

After Heart Shaped World, Isaak saw his mainstream success fade, but has retained a loyal following.  He continues to perform and record (and dabble in acting) to the present day.

For the blog, we skipped the overplayed "Wicked Game" and opted for the less well known "Don't Make Me Dream About You."  The black and white video is stylistically similar to "Wicked Game" and seems well suited for Isaak's music.  The song is a bit more uptempo and is, I believe, a good representation of the Isaak rockabilly sound.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tony Carey - I Won't Be Home Tonight

"I Won't Be Home Tonight" is a great example of one of those wonderful videos that often showed up on MTV in the Early Years.  (Actually, I don't recall seeing the video on MTV, but I do remember the song.)  The vid features women, cars, a jeep, and even has a shot of Tower Records (ahh, record stores ...)  It is not totally clear if the video has a plot, however, and the fact that the clip appears to have been shot on a shoestring budget only adds to its charm.

The song is by Tony Carey, and is off his 1982 album of the same name.  Carey got his big break when he was invited to play keyboards in Rainbow, and later he tried to jump start a solo career.  I was surprised to learn that the single actually charted, reaching  #79 on the charts -- it turns out that Carey had four charting singles in 1983 and 1984, including two top 40 hits ("The First Day of Summer" and "A Fine Fine Day").    Savvy readers may also recall that he co-founded Planet P Project as an outlet for his more unusual work; the video for "Why Me?" was featured on ERV in August 2012.

Carey's fortunes waned in the mid-1980's, although he remains active in the industry to the present day.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Timex Social Club - Rumors

Originally called the Timex Crew, Timex Social Club switched names after a lineup change and ended up as a classic one hit wonder.  The group originally formed at Berkeley High School (in Berkeley, California) in 1982. Timex Social Club's sound combined elements of R&B, jazz, hip hop and dance into something that would come to be know as new jack swing in the early 1990's, and if things had broken slightly differently for the group, they could have been major players in that scene.  However, squabbles and lineup changes prevented this from happening.

The group only released one major label LP, 1986's Vicious Rumors, which hit #29 on the R&B albums chart but did not break onto the main albums chart.  However, the single "Rumors" became a hit, reaching #8 on the singles chart.  While the follow up singles ( "Thinkin' About Ya" and "Mixed-Up World") both broke the top 20 on the R&B charts, they did not enjoy crossover success and the group broke up.

Producer Jay King, who had a major influence on the group's sound would go on to form Club Nouveau (literally:  New Club) and would land 2 more top 40 hits, including the 1987 cover of Bill Withers' "Lean on Me" which would go to #1.

Timex Social Club has re-formed in recent years and continues to perform as of this writing.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

U2 - I Will Follow

Before U2 became one of the biggest bands in the world, they were just an earnest, post punk act from Ireland.  Note that in 1980, college rock not even in the lexicon -- in fact, U2 was one of the bands that helped to create this segment in the early 1980's.

U2 formed in Dublin in 1976, and consists of Bono (given name: Paul Hewson) on vocals, The Edge (given name: David Evans) on guitar, Adam Clayton on bass, and Larry Mullen, Jr. on drums.  Signed to Island Records, the band released their debut LP, Boy in 1980, and "I WIll Follow" was the first single.

While "I Will Follow" quickly became a staple at parties and on college radio, the song did not do terribly well in the charts.  It originally did not chart (in 1980), although a 1984 live version (from the Under a Blood Red Sky LP) reached #84.  On the other hand, Boy definitely attracted some attention and reached #63 on the album charts.

Similarly, the video for "I Will Follow" is relatively rare.  By the time MTV launched in 1981, U2's October album was out, and the fledgling music video channel focused on "Gloria,"  leaving "I Will Follow" as a forgotten classic.

Cool trivia fact:  The lyrical inspiration for "I Will Follow" came from the death of Bono's mother (she died when he was 14).

Cool trivia fact #2:  "I WIll Follow" is the only song that U2 has played on every tour.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Jane's Addiction - Mountain Song

"Mountain Song" is a truly great, groove-driven hard rock song that was unlike virtually everything on the radio in 1988.  For readers who only know Jane's Addiction from 1990's "Been Caught Stealing," this song is evidence that the band could rock out with the best of them.

The song came off the band's major label debut, 1988's Nothing's Shocking.  [Note that "Jane Says" from the same LP was featured on ERV in January 2014.]  The album created a stir in the music industry, but did not become a huge commercial success.  In retrospect, album sales were hurt by the lack of exposure on MTV, and by the diverse alternative feel that the record had -- remember that 1988 was the peak of hair metal.

On the exposure front, the (edited) video below was shot in 1988 at Scream (an alternative rock club in LA), and is an awesome Jane's Addiction timepiece.  The vid was banned by MTV for years, due to the nudity and general weirdness (I believe that MTV dropped the ban in 1990).

Sadly, "Mountain Song" did not chart, while the Nothing's Shocking LP only reached #103 on the album charts.

For more on Jane's Addiction (including the story behind Jane), check out the "Jane Says" entry.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Whitesnake - Love Ain't No Stranger

"Love Ain't No Stranger" was the first Whitesnake song to make a dent in the U.S. market, reaching #34 on the Mainstream Rock charts.  However, this was soon overshadowed by "Slow An' Easy" (posted on ERV in August 2011), which reached #17 on the same charts.

Both songs were off the poorly titled 1984 LP Slide It In, which turned out to be Whitesnake's breakthrough album in the important U.S. market; the album reached #42 in the U.S. and eventually went double platinum.  As we have previously mentioned on ERV, it was around this time that lead singer David Coverdale began to focus more intently on commercial success, which resulted in significant turnover among the other members of the band.  This also led to an increased focus on videos.

The video for "Love Ain't No Stranger" intercuts the band playing with Coverdale watching girls on trucks at an army base.  No, it doesn't make much sense to me, either.  The video is quite rare though, and the song is a solid, somewhat forgotten power ballad.

Whitesnake would go on to have huge success on their eponymous next album in 1987,  and Coverdale continues to use the Whitesnake name to record and perform as of this writing.

Cool trivia fact:  Whitesnake's first charting single in the U.S., "Here I Go Again '87" went to #1.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Call - The Walls Came Down

"The Walls Came Down" was one of two charting songs by The Call, though the group never had a top 40 hit.  ["Let the Day Begin," which was featured on ERV back in August 2012 was The Call's other charting single.]  In spite of this lack of mainstream success, the band became a favorite of critics and musicians including Peter Gabriel, Jim Kerr, Bono, and Bruce Cockburn.

Led by Michael Been, The Call were known for their strong lyrics and updated roots rock sound.  The band released their first album in 1982, but it was 1983's Modern Romans that became their first hit.  Helped by MTV, "The Walls Came Down" reached #74 on the charts while the LP peaked at #84.

However, the band followed up Modern Romans with the more ethereal Scene Beyond Dreams in 1984 (which did not break the top 200), and then became embroiled in a legal dispute with Mercury Records that delayed the release of their next album (Reconciled) until 1986.  Needless to say, this damaged the group's momentum.

In spite of these issues, The Call continued to release strong albums through 1990, when Michael Been left to try his hand at a solo career.  The band later re-formed in 1997, but broke up again in 2000.  Been eventually became involved with his son's group (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) until his untimely death from a heart attack in 2010.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Martha Davis - Don't Tell Me The Time

In 1987, Martha Davis broke up the Motels in order to go solo.  Later that year,  she released the Policy LP, which unsurprisingly sounded a lot like a Motels record.  However the hard-fought success that the Motels had captured eluded Davis as a solo artist.

In retrospect, the album was likely hurt by the name change and perhaps by the evolving tastes in the music industry.  Davis' brand of melancholy-tinged new wave pop likely seemed out of place by 1987, especially as pop metal took over the charts (and MTV).  The album peaked at #127, while "Don't Tell Me the Time" only reached #80.

In the aftermath of Policy, Davis asked to be released from her contract (with Capitol Records) and did not release another solo album until ...So the Story Goes in 2004.

While the song didn't break any new ground, "Don't Tell Me the Time" is a solid Motels-ish pop song that could have been a hit with a bit of luck.