Saturday, July 4, 2015

Katrina & The Waves - Do You Want Crying?

Although casual listeners may view Katrina & the Waves as an overnight success story and a one hit wonder, the truth is that they were neither.  In fact, this is the second time that they have been featured on ERV without their signature hit, 1985's "Walking on Sunshine." [The first time was when we posted The Bangles' cover of "Going Down to Liverpool," complete with Mr. Spock.]

The group formed in London in 1981 and was fronted by American ex-pat (and army brat) Katrina Leskanich.  Guitarist Kimberley Rew (the group's primary songwriter), Vince de la Cruz (Bass) and Alex Cooper (drums) rounded out the lineup.  Signed in Canada, the band released two records there before they finally scored a major deal with Capitol in 1985.

As a result of their previous work, the act's self-titled major label debut consisted primarily of reworked material - making it something of a greatest hits record.  The album would go on to become a major success, reaching #25 on the charts, led by the ever present (in the summer of 1985) "Walking on Sunshine," which peaked at #9.  However, "Do You Want Crying?" would also break the top 40 at #37, as would 1989's "That's the Way" (#16).

While Katrina & the Waves continued recording and touring in the 1990's, they did not have much in the way of major commercial success ... until a surprising win at the 1997 Eurovision song contest with "Love Shine a Light," which would go on to be a #3 smash in the U.K.  Sadly, this second period of success did not last, and the group broke up in 1998, though there have been occasional reunions in recent years.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

J. Geils Band - Come Back

Long time readers of ERV will recall that we posted "Love Stinks" back in July 2012.  And our Facebook readers will note that we would have prefered to post "Just Can't Wait" here, but alas, no video appears to have been made for that song.  Fortunately, our second choice is still quite solid indeed.

"Come Back" is J. Geils at their danciest (not totally sure that this is a word, but let's go with it).  The song is clearly influenced by the popularity of Disco, and I suspect that means that lead singer Peter Wolf had a particularly large impact on the songwriting -- though officially virtually every song on the Love Stinks LP was co-written by Wolf and keyboardist Seth Justman.

"Come Back" ended up becoming the highest charting single off the Love Stinks album, reaching #32 (the title cut hit #38, while "Just Can't Wait" peaked at #78).  However, the video was not played as much as the insanity that is "Love Stinks," making this a bit of a rare one.

As many readers will know, the J. Geils Band story is a bit sad.  The band toiled as an overgrown bar band, gradually becoming a major act, before finally breaking out with 1982's Freeze Frame.  Success seemed to ruin the group, as Wolf left in 1983 to embark on a solo career.  The remaining member released one album (1984's You're Gettin' Even While I'm Gettin' Odd) before breaking up the following year.  However, there have been periodic reunions in recent years.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cinderella - Gypsy Road

When we posted Cinderella's "Shake Me" (back in December, 2011), we pointed out that the group was not a typical hair band.  While they looked the part, their sound was more bluesy hard rock than pop metal.  This became even more evident on their second LP, 1988's Long Cold Winter.

In spite of this, the strong songwriting (and general popularity of hard rock) led to continued success.  The album reached #10 on the charts, while 3 singles cracked the top 40.  Sadly, "Gypsy Road" was not one of them -- it peaked at #51.

The video for "Gypsy Road" was filmed in Yucatan, Mexico and features footage of the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá (who says you can't learn anything from 1980's videos).  Although there is no direct connection between the song and Mexico, the video does a nice job of highlighting the vibe of the song.

Cinderella released one further platinum record (1990's Heartbreak Station) before changing musical tastes relegated the group to working band status.  They remain together to the present day -- with the original lineup, as drummer Fred Coury rejoined the act in 1996.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Rolling Stones - Undercover of the Night

The 1980's were tough on the Rolling Stones.  The group had been around for twenty years by the early part of the decade, an eternity in the music industry.  In addition, the punk, new wave, and metal scenes made their music seem old fashioned to many younger listeners.

To complicate matter further, Mike Jagger and Keith Richards had a fundamental disagreement over songwriting.  Jagger wanted to move in a more current dance/pop direction, while Richards wished to stay true to the roughed up blues sound that was the Stone's signature.  (For more on this, please see our earlier post for Keith Richards solo video, "Take It So Hard.")

The result was disjointed and mostly disappointing, though there was some solid material mixed in.  Sadly, much of this material was composed by either Richards or Jagger, due to the difficulty that they had in working together.

Which brings us to "Undercover of the Night," the lead single off the Stone's 1983 Undercover album.  The song was all Mick; supposedly Keith just showed up and played some guitar lines.  Jagger has since said that the concept for the song came from the William Burroughs novel Cities of the Red Night.

The video for "Undercover of the Night" was the first full-on production that the Stones released.  Directed by Julien Temple, the story was dark and violent -- in fact, Temple has said that he didn't believe that the band would use it.  MTV would only air an edited version of the vid (and only at night), but this did not seem to hurt sales.  The single would go on to hit #9 on the charts, while the album reached #4 (breaking a string of eight consecutive LPs to hit #1).  By the by, due to the violent imagery of the video, the band cut a second version, which is below.

As of this writing, the Stones remain mostly intact (bassist Bill Wyman left the group in 1993) and continue to  sporadically tour, although they have not released a new album since 2005's A Bigger Bang.

In the interests of completeness, here is the B version video of "Undercover:" (Not nearly as good as the original clip, in our opinion).

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Ric Ocasek - Emotion in Motion

Back in September 2011, we posted Ric Ocasek's cool, quirky "Something to Grab For," off his first solo LP, 1982's Beatitude.  Four years later, Ocasek released his second solo album, This Side of Paradise. To my ear, this record sounds a bit tired (as in exhausted).  Of course, by this point the Cars had released five albums and the band was slowly coming undone.

Additionally, Ocasek and the Cars had transitioned from eccentric new wave songs to a more traditional pop sound.  The music wasn't bad at all, and it was lushly produced (no surprise, as Ocasek would go on to become a successful producer in the 1990's.)  However, it wasn't as sharp or interesting as their early material. (The first two Cars records are simply sensational in our opinion).

"Emotion in Motion" is the strongest cut off Ocasek's album, and it would go on to become his only top 40 hit as a solo artist (#15).  To be fair, The Cars also had 13 top 40 singles (and 3 #41s), so it's not like he didn't have a ton of success with his band.

The Cars released Door to Door in 1987 before breaking up.  Ocasek has remained in the industry and has released five albums since then, but has had little in the way of commercial success.  The Cars never did have a full reunion prior to Ben Orr's untimely death in 2000.

Note that The Cars "Since You're Gone" was posted on ERV in May 2014.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

U2 - A Celebration

Many years ago (before the internet), I was involved in a conversation where the topic of rare songs came up (shocking, I know).  One of the women at the gathering (whose name I never knew) stated that she had heard that there was a U2 song that the band had pulled for some reason or other.  I remember thinking that it sounded odd, and forgot all about it until we started ERV ... and I soon discovered that not only did this rare song exist, but that there was a rare video to go with it.

"A Celebration" was a non album single, recorded in 1982, between the October and War LPs.  U2 liked it enough to record a video for it, and played in regularly at concerts through 1983.  It then fell off the face of the earth -- the band didn't play it or support the song or video, and it did not even appear on any U2 compilation albums until 2004.  Note than in the days before digital music, leaving the song off an album was the kiss of death.

The reason for all of the controversy was due to a misinterpretation of the lyrics.  The lyrics "I believe in a third world war.  I believe in the atomic bomb." were meant to be darkly humorous, but they were apparently taken seriously, particularly in Europe.  In response and to avoid any confusion about where they stood, the band pulled the song, making it and the video rare (and therefore ideal for this blog).

The video for "A Celebration" was shot in the Kilmainham Jail in Dublin, and it shows the band in fine early form.  (And man, do they look young).  The song actually charted in the U.K. at #47, prior to the controversy, but it did not chart in the U.S.

Note that U2's "I Will Follow" was posted on ERV in August, 2014.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

L.A. Guns - The Ballad of Jayne

Best known as half of the inspiration for the Guns N' Roses name, L.A. Guns was a fixture on the Los Angeles hard rock scene in the 1980's, but never crossed over to big time mainstream success.  Lineup changes, and a sound that was more hard rock bar band than glam metal likely had something to do with this.

The band formed in 1983, and an early version of the group had Tracii Guns (born Tracy Ulrich) on guitar and W. Axl Rose on vocals.  Rose would leave to sing for Rapidfire and Hollywood Rose, before rejoining L.A. Guns, and the group was later renamed Guns N' Roses.  However, after a fight with Rose, Tracii Guns left Guns N' Roses and reformed L.A. Guns.  (Quite a tangled web, huh?)

L.A. Guns released their first major label record in 1988, and the LP did well, reaching #50 on the charts.  However, 1989's Cocked and Loaded did better, and hit #38 on the charts.  "The Ballad of Jayne" became the group's only top 40 hit at #33, making the band an official one hit wonder.

While 1991's Hollywood Vampires broke the top 50 on the album charts, the rise of grunge effectively ended any chance of L.A. Guns breaking out.  The band has continued as a working band  (with a ton of personnel changes) to the present day.  In fact, for much of the early 2000's, there were two version of L.A. Guns (one with Tracii Guns and one without).  In 2013 Tracii Guns broke up his version of the group, but I believe  that the second version is active as of this writing.

Cool trivia fact:  "The Ballad of Jayne" is about actress Jayne Mansfield, who was killed in a car accident in 1967.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Apollonia 6 - Sex Shooter

The Apollonia 6 story begins where the Vanity 6 story ends.  (And another shout out to long time reader Sam, who requested the Vanity 6 video more than two years ago).  As we mentioned in the earlier post, Vanity left Vanity 6 (and Prince) in order to go out on her own.  This created a problem for Prince, as not only was he writing material for Vanity 6, but Vanity was supposed to be the female lead in Prince's upcoming movie at the time (you may have heard of it -- Purple Rain).

A casting call ensued, and Patricia Apollonia Kotero was chosen for the role.  Prince liked her middle name, and just like that Apollonia was the new lead singer of Apollonia 6 (still named after the number of breasts in the band ... really).  Additionally, Apollonia became the female lead in Purple Rain.

While Apollonia was quite beautiful, she did not have the strongest singing voice, and Prince seemed to lose interest in her (and the concept of a girl band) soon after Purple Rain.  There may or may not have been a romantic falling out, as well.  As a result, only one album was released, the eponymous 1984 LP.  "Sex Shooter" became a minor hit, reaching #85 on the charts, but Apollonia is probably best-known for the movie, and her duet with Prince, "Take Me With You," a top 40 hit from 1985 (and the last single from Purple Rain.)

Apollonia also had a falling out with Prince, and went out on her own in 1985, primarily as an actress.  She later went to film school, and I believe that she still runs her entertainment company, Kotero Entertainment.

In addition to the primary video for "Sex Shooter," we also found the performance clip from Purple Rain; in the interests of completeness both are below.

Cool trivia facts:  "Take Me With You" was originally intended to be an Apollonia 6 song, but was a late addition to Purple Rain.  In additional, "Manic Monday" (later a big hit for The Bangles) and "Glamorous Life" (later a hit for Sheila E.) we both originally written as Apollonia 6 songs.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Flesh for Lulu - Postcards from Paradise

"Postcards from Paradise" is yet another excellent reader request and we liked it enough to immediately put it up on the blog.  Thanks, cool loyal reader (you know who you are).

Flesh for Lulu was a British rock band with an interesting sound that was simultaneously alternative and retro.  Think the Rolling Stones meets the Velvet Underground.  The resulting music was critically acclaimed, but never quite found its audience, which is a real shame.

The band formed in London in 1982, and was named after the Andy Warhol movie, Flesh for Frankenstein.  Lulu was a bend member's girlfriend who sat in front of a poster for the movie, leading to an in-joke that eventually became the group's name.  Their major label debut came out in 1984, and they released several solid efforts in the mid to late 1980's.

While they attracted a cult following in the U.K., their U.S. break happened when they had a song included on the 1987 teen flick, Some Kind of Wonderful.  (Does anyone else remember that one?)  Sensing an opportunity, they modified their sound in an attempt to cross over.  The resulting album, 1987's Long Live the New Flesh, was solid, but did not advance their career.  After several more years of toiling away, Flesh for Lulu broke up in 1992, though a version of the band re-formed in 2013.

For the blog, we went with "Postcards from Paradise," a particularly strong effort from 1987.  The song was later covered by Paul Westerberg (formerly of The Replacements) and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Eric Carmen - Hungry Eyes

Dirty Dancing was one of the least likely movies to ever become a hit, and the goes doubly so for the soundtrack.  The movie was a low budget ($6 million) release by a new studio, and the initial cuts of the movie were viewed as disappointing by the studio.  In fact, the original plan was for the the film to be shown for one weekend, and then go straight to video.

Instead, positive reviews (led by the New York Times) and word of mouth turned Dirty Dancing into a huge hit.  It became the 11th highest grossing film of 1987, and had continued success as a video.  In addition, the soundtrack became a monster in its own right -- it spent 18 weeks as the #1 album and has gone on to sell more than 32 million units.

The album spawned three top five hits -- "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," (#1), "She's Like the Wind" (#3) and "Hungry Eyes" (#4).

So how does a huge success show up on ERV?  Well, we love good stories and cover songs, and "Hungry Eyes" is both.  As we noted on the post for Franke and the Knockouts' "Sweatheart," Franke Previte (the lead singer of said band) was recruited to help with the soundtrack, and co-wrote "(I've Had) The Time of My Life."  He also contributed "Hungry Eyes," a song which had originally been on Franke and the Knockouts Makin' the Point LP in 1984.

So while Franke's band did not become a household name (though they did have 3 top 40 hits, including "Sweatheart"), Franke became a huge success as a songwriter, almost by accident.  He remains in the industry, though it seems that in recent years he spends most of his time helping younger songwriters.

Lastly, Eric Carmen (who sang "Hungry Eyes" for the soundtrack) has enjoyed an interesting career as well.  Originally a member of The Raspberries ("Go All the Way"), Carmen transitioned to become a pop singer, and had a huge hit with "All By Myself."  He then saw a bit of a resurgence after DIrty Dancing, but seems to have left the industry in the early 1990's.

And (of course), the original: