Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Babys - Back On My Feet Again

The Babys were a British-American power pop act who by all rights should have become big stars in the 1970's.  Guitarist/keyboardist Mike Corby and manager Adrian Miller formed the band in 1974 and held auditions to fill out the roster.  Tony Brock (drums), John Waite (vocals/bass) and Wally Stocker (guitars) made up the original lineup.

The group were signed by Chrysalis and seemed to be building an audience, but a dispute with the record label resulted in Corby and Miller being fired in 1978.  Soon afterwards, Americans Jonathan Cain (keyboards) and Ricky Phillips (bass) joined; this lineup continued until the group broke up in 1980.

While The Babys has some modest successes (3 top 40 hits and 2 top 40 LPs), their hard work never really paid off, and this frustration eventually led to their breakup.  John Waite would go on to have some success in the 1980's as a solo artist, while Jonathan Cain would join Journey right as that band became megastars.  In 1989, Waite, Cain and Phillips would reunite in Bad English (with guitarist Neil Schon and drummer Deen Castronovo).

For the blog, we went with the group's last top 40 single, 1980's "Back on My Feet Again."  The song peaked at #33 on the charts while the Union Jacks album only hit #42.  However, it is a solid representation of the band's later material.



In 2013, original members Tony Brock and Wally Stocker reformed the band.  Additionally, John Waite has been know to perform Babys songs at concerts from time to time.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Wang Chung - Everybody Have Fun Tonight

A wonderfully catchy piece of dance-pop, "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" was the peak of Wang Chung's career, and might also be the most dangerous eighties video ever made.  (More on the second point in a bit.)

Wang Chung (originally spelled  Huang Chung) was a British new wave act that formed in London in 1980.  The group was comprised of  Jack Hues (born as Jeremy Ryder) on vocals and guitars, Nick Feldman on bass, and Darren Costin on drums (though he left the group in 1985).  Named after the first note in the Chinese classical musical scale, the band released their first LP in 1982, using the original spelling.  However, it was 1984's Points on the Curve that put them on the map (in the U.S., at least), as "Don't Let Go" and "Dance Hall Days" became top 40 hits.

The band continued to have success in 1985 with the soundtrack of To Live and Die in L.A, but 1986's Mosaic contained their biggest hits, with two top 10 singles -- "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" (#2) and "Let's Go" (#9).

Unfortunately, Wang Chung's 1989 LP, The Warmer Side of Cool did not do particularly well, and the band broke up in 1990.  The did re-form in 1997, and remain together as of this writing.

Now, as to the video ...  The clip was directed by the famous duo of Godley and Creme, who opted for a strobe effect of rapid cuts.  Unfortunately, someone at the BBC became concerned that this cause trigger epileptic seizures, and the network banned it on health grounds.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Shannon - Let The Music Play

"Let the Music Play" was a successful and influential single that helped create the dance sound of the eighties.  When the song was released in 1983, dance had mostly fallen off the pop charts, as nothing had filled the void left by the collapse of disco.

With its Latin beats and use of drum machines and synthesizers, "Let the Music Play" pointed to a new sound, that was initially called the "Shannon Sound," but eventually evolved into Freestyle music.  Unfortunately, Shannon did not remain at the forefront of the scene, as other acts such as Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam and The Jets became far more successful.  However, "Let the Music Play" really opened the door for much of mid to late 1980's dance pop.

Shannon (born Shannon Green) was in the business in New York City when she met producers Mark Liggett and Chris Barbosa.  She auditioned for them, they liked her voice, and soon afterwards they were in the studio recording "Let the Music Play."  The success of the single (it hit #1 on the dance charts and #8 on the pop charts) led to a 1984 LP of the same name, but that turned out to be Shannon's commercial peak.  Although she had several dance and R&B hits, she did not break the top 40 again, and she asked to be released from her contract in 1987.  However, Shannon remains active in the industry as a working musician to the present day.

In spite of the song's success, the video for "Let the Music Play" remain somewhat rare, exacerbated by the fact that MTV (and many other video channels) were more focused on rock and new wave at the time.  As a result, it's perfect for ERV.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Jimmy Page - Wasting My Time

It goes without saying that it's not a bad thing to be considered one of the greatest rock guitarists ever.  I suppose it is also not surprising that Jimmy Page seemed to have trouble figuring out what to do after the demise of Led Zeppelin.

As most readers will know, Jimmy Page became a well-regarded studio musician in Britain in the 1960's before forming Led Zeppelin in 1968.  Books have been written about Led Zep, but suffice to say that they remain one of the most important and influential rock acts of all time.  The sudden end of the group (in 1980, due to the death of drummer John Bonham) left Page without a clear direction, and for much of the next 15 years he embarked on short-lived collaborations.

In 1988, he released his first solo studio album, Outrider.  The album sounded a bit like a (slightly) updated Led Zeppelin, with its stripped down blues/rock sound.  Unfortunately, it didn't do all that well -- the album peaked at #26, and none of the singles charted.

In spite of the lack of success, we've always been partial to "Wasting My Time," which was co-written and sung by John Miles.  Jason Bonham (Drums) and Tony Franklin (Bass) round out the lineup.  While the song doesn't break any new ground, it is a solid track which isn't helped much by the standard performance video.  [As an aside, has there ever been a performance video made where the singer is show less frequently?]

Page continued with short-lived projects through the 1990's, but has re-connected with (Led Zeppelin) singer Robert Plant with greater frequency since the mid-1990's.  He remains active in the music industry as of this writing.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Steve Winwood - Still In The Game

Steve Winwood got his musical start at the tender age of 14 when he joined the Spencer Davis Group, though he would go on to even greater fame in Traffic and Blind Faith.  However, by the mid-1970's his career was on the wane.  In fact, when his first solo album performed poorly in 1977, he apparently considered leaving the music business altogether.

This all changed with the success of his second solo LP, 1980's Arc of a Diver.  The synthesizer-driven pop album sounded fresh and original, and would go on to become a huge hit, reaching #3 on the charts.

Winwood tried to capitalize on this success, releasing Talking Back to the Night in 1982.  This album sounded a bit like a reprise of Arc of a Diver, and did not do as well  (though "Valerie" became a top 10 hit when it was re-released in 1987).  Interestingly, Winwood may have realized that the formula wasn't working, and soon shifted into more soul-influenced pop.  The result was even greater success by the end of the 1980's.

While the LP was not a big hit, we've always been partial to "Still in the Game," a synth pop gem that picked up a bit of airplay on MTV back in the day.  The song became the highest charting single off Talking Back to the Night, but only reached #47 on the charts, while the video was only aired for a short while.

Although Winwood has slowed down in recent years, he remains active in the industry as of this writing, both as a solo artist and in occasional projects with other classic rock stars.


Cool trivia fact:  The woman in the video is Nicole Winwood, who sang backup on "Still in the Game" and was Steve Winwood's wife from 1978 - 1986.  Sadly, she passed away in 2005.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Long Ryders - I Want You Bad

This is the second appearance on ERV for The Long Ryders; the superb "Looking for Lewis and Clark" was posted on our little blog in October, 2013.

Regular readers will recall that The Long Ryders were a roots rock act associated with the LA Paisley Underground scene.  They made a bit of a ripple on the college radio scene in the middle part of the 1980's, but never quite found their audience.

"I Want You Bad" was the lead single of the group's 1987 LP, Two Fisted Tales.  It is a cover (more on that below), but highlights the band's style and musicianship.  Unfortunately, I don't believe that either the LP or single charted.

While The Long Ryders remained well-regarded by critics, their big breakthrough never happened and in 1987 and the strenuous touring schedule finally did the band in.  Bassist Tom Stevens and guitarist Stephen McCarthy left the group by year end, and the remaining members (vocals/guitarist Sid Griffin and drummer Greg Sowders) chose not to continue.  However, the group did re-form in 2014, and plans to tour and perform some more as of this writing.



As mentioned above, "I Want You Bad" is a cover of an NRBQ song, below.  NRBQ is an influential and eclectic rock band who are known for their live shows.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Ray Parker, Jr. and Raydio - A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)

Ray Parker, Jr. formed Raydio in 1977 with with Vincent Bohnam, Jerry Knight, and Arnell Carmichael.  The group's smooth pop/funk quickly led to success, with "Jack and Jill" and "You Can't Change That" as strong examples of their style.

First among equals bands, where there is one dominant member, often have trouble staying intact and Raydio was no exception.  By 1980, the group was called Ray Parker, Jr. and Raydio; this only lasted around a year before Parker left Raydio to go out on his own.

"A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)" was off the last Raydio LP of the same name, and the success of the song and album likely encouraged Ray Parker, Jr. to go solo.  The single reached #4 on the charts, while the album peaked at #13 and went gold.

While the song picked up a significant amount of airplay on pop and adult contemporary radio, I don't recall ever seeing it on MTV.  The combination of the soft pop sound and MTV's initial positioning as a new wave/rock video channel probably account for this.  However, the vid is an awesome timepiece -- from the time Parker gets out of his Porsche, I was hooked.  Smooth, relaxed love advice never sounded so good (at least in 1981).

As regular readers will know, Parker's solo career go off the a strong start, with "The Other Woman," featured in our All Hallows Even celebration of 2014.  However, his career was inconsistent from there, though he did score a #1 hit in 1984 with "Ghostbusters."

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Hooters - Day by Day

After a long, bumpy road, Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman finally saw significant success with The Hooters 1985 Nervous Night LP.  The album peaked at #12 on the charts and went double platinum; it also featured all three of the group's top 40 singles.

In fact, the Bazilian/Hyman partnership (sounds dirty but isn't) dates back to the early 1970's when they met as students at Penn.  Their first group (Baby Grand) recorded some decent material, but did not break through.  [Baby Grand also recorded the original version of "Never Enough" which was covered by Patty Smyth in 1987 and featured on ERV in April, 2014.]

Bazilian and Hyman formed The Hooters in 1980 and played extensively in the Philadelphia music scene before breaking up in 1982.  However, the group re-formed the following year and released their first (independent) album.  Their big break came when an old friend (Rick Chertoff from Baby Grand) asked Bazilian and Hyman to work with him on Cindy Lauder's She's So Unusual album.  The success of that project led to The Hooter's signing with Columbia Records.

Many readers will be surprised that "Day by Day" was the highest charting single from Nervous Night -- it hit #18 on the charts.  The song (co-written with Chertoff) is pretty typical of the band's music from this period -- upbeat roots rock, with some new wave and folk elements, to boot.

Sadly, Nervous Night was the peak of The Hooter's success.  Though their material remained strong, the albums did not sell as well.  The band broke up in 1995, but has reunited from time to time in the intervening years.  


Note that The Hooters excellent and underrated "Karla with a K" was featured on ERV in March, 2012.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The B-52's - Private Idaho

New wave and surf rock might seem like an odd combination (ok, it is an odd combination), but somehow the B-52's hit on a sound that was pure campy fun.  Sounding simultaneously  modern and vintage, the band sported an odd look that included the high beehives that gave the band its name.  Combine that with some seriously catchy material, and it is not surprising that the group made a name for itself in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

The B-52's emerged out of the growing Athens, Georgia music scene, and would soon be joined by fellow Athenians R.E.M.  However, the group's sound was more Devo or Talking Heads than southern rock.  After forming in 1976 with little musical training, the band had progressed enough to make a demo of "Rock Lobster" in 1978.  That song would go on to become an independent hit, and would lead to recording contracts with Warner Bros. and Island Records.

"Private Idaho" was off the B-52's second LP, 1980's Wild Planet.  The single hit #74 on the charts (the group's second charting single, after "Rock Lobster"), while the album hit #18.  From there, things became more challenging -- the next few albums did not do as well, and founding guitarist Ricky Wilson (whose sister Cindy was also in the band) died of an AIDS-related illness in 1985.

As many readers will know, that wasn't the end of the story.  The B-52's 1989 comeback album, Cosmic Thing, became a huge surprise hit and led to a second period of success.  The group remains active as of this writing, though there have been some personnel changes and periods of inactivity through the years.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Indigo Girls - Closer to Fine

Indigo Girls were part of the late 1980's folk revival scene that included 10,000 Maniacs, Michelle Shocked, and Tracy Chapman, among others.  While they never became superstars, the duo has maintained a strong following through the years and is still active as of this writing.

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers met as students at Emery University in the mid-1980's and began performing together around the same time.  Their first independent album was released in 1987, but it was their 1989 major label eponymous debut that brought them national attention.  As the lead single off the LP, "Closer to Fine" was a major part of that breakthrough.

Interestingly, Ray and Saliers write separately; Saliers tends to favor a more traditional folk sound, while Ray's songs often incorporate more rock elements.  "Closer to Fine" was written by Saliers, and is loosely based on her experiences.  The song would go on to become the group's biggest hit, reaching #52 on the singles charts.  The album would peak at #22 and eventually go double platinum.

The video is a straightforward performance piece that highlights the strong songwriting and crisp harmonies that are the signature of the group.  It remains one of our favorite 1980's folk tunes.