Thursday, March 8, 2018

Pat Benatar - Promises In The Dark

Pat Benatar's Precious Time album showcases the singer at the height of her powers and to this day it remains your author's favorite Benatar album.  While the LP didn't break new ground, it did show a refinement in the songwriting.  This combination of sharp, straight up rock and that voice (certainly one of the strongest in 1980's rock) proved irresistible to fans and led to huge commercial success.

While "Promises in the Dark" only reached #38 on the charts, the album went to #1 and ended up going double platinum to boot.  Sales were likely helped by the performance video, which was prominently featured on MTV, as was the sister video for "Fire and Ice."

After Precious Time, Benatar's sound evolved in a more of a pop direction, and eventually she even got into jump blues (on the True Love album).

Long time readers will recall that we featured Benatar's "You Better Run" cover as the second post on ERV in August 2011 (not coincidentally it was also the second video ever played on MTV).  In addition, her cover of "All Fired Up" was on ERV in March of 2014

Cool trivia fact:  "Promises in the Dark" is one of only two top 40 singles entirely co-written by Benatar and Giraldo (out of 15 top 40 hits).  The other one: "Ooh Ooh Song" from 1984's Tropico.

Cool trivia fact #2:  "Take It Anyway You Want It," (from the Precious Time LP) was co-written by Neil Giraldo and Martin Briley. (Yes, that Martin Briley, featured on ERV in October 2011 for "Salt of My Tears.")

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Divinyls - Pleasure and Pain

"Pleasure and Pain" is the second Divinyls video to show up on ERV; "Boys in Town" was posted back in July 2012, shortly before the untimely death of lead singer Chrissy Amphlett.  We view Divinyls as a unique and underrated band who were likely hurt by their hard to categorize sound that managed to combine rock, new wave, and pop elements all at once.

Interestingly, "Pleasure and Pain" was not the lead single off their 1985 What a Life! LP.  It was actually the fourth single released - perhaps because it was not written by the band.  The song was actually co-written by producer Mike Chapman and 1980's songwriter extraordinaire Holly Knight.  (Knight has shown up on the blog before; click on her name in the labels section for more info.)

I remember "Pleasure and Pain" picking up a fair bit of airplay on Boston rock radio when it came out, but the song only reached #76 on the charts, while the What a Life! album peaked at #91.  To be fair, the band did become stars in their native Australia, but it did seem like they never really broke through in the U.S. in the 1980's. (Although "I Touch Myself" did become a big hit in 1991.)

The energetic video featuring Chrissy Amphlett was filmed in the closed Balmain power plant in Sydney, Australia.  In our view it suits the song pretty well:

In addition to the vid, we also found a cool making of video, showing the somewhat boring hard work that went in to making music videos during MTV's heyday.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Neneh Cherry - Buffalo Stance

Although American readers may remember Neneh Cherry as a one hit wonder, she actually had two top 10 hits ("Kisses on the Wind" is the song that you forgot about).  And while her period of commercial success was brief in the U.S., she had a longer stretch in Europe.  For instance, in Britain Cherry had 10 top 40 singles, running through the late 1990's.

Interestingly, Neneh Cherry was born in Sweden, and is the stepdaughter of jazz musician Don Cherry (hence the surname).  After moving to London as a teenager in the late 1970's, she became active in the punk scene but soon expanded into other musical genres.  This would eventually lead to catching lightning in a bottle, as "Buffalo Stance" became a huge hit (reaching #3 in both the U.S. and U.K.)

The song refers to a photo shoot stance, and is named after the Ray Pretri's Buffalo group.  It also pays homage to Malcolm McLaren's 1983 song "Buffalo Gals" (which it samples from).  The catchy tune combines dance and hip hop elements, while the video is a perfect late 1980's timepiece:

However, the 1988 hit version of the song was actually a re-make (cover?) of a 1986 Morgan McVey B side, "Looking Good Diving With The Wild Bunch" that featured Neneh Cherry.  Morgan McVey were comprised of Jamie Morgan and Cameron McVey, and released one single ever - 1986's "Looking Good Diving."  Two years later, Cameron McVey and Neneh Cherry were an item (they married in 1990) and McVey was producing Cherry's solo album ... and well, you know the rest.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Dio - Last in Line

After years of playing in bands, Ronnie James Dio (born Ronald James Padavona) came into his own in the early 1980's, helped by his MTV-friendly videos.  Dio's band (cleverly named Dio) scored two platinum records and added a gold one to boot before their popularity declined in the later part of the decade.

Although Dio's career traces back to the early 1960s (!) he is best known for being the frontman of Elf (1967-75), Rainbow (1975-78) and Black Sabbath (1979-82).  After leaving Black Sabbath, Dio opted to form his own band with drummer Vinny Appice, guitarist Vivian Campbell, and bassist Jimmy Bain.

"Last in Line," from the 1984 album of the same name, suits our All Hallows Even theme perfectly, and has been on our list for some time.  From the elevator ride from (to?) hell, to the weird goings on in the basement, this is one odd and creepy video.  I particularly like that the band plays only supporting roles in the clip, though Dio is pretty visible towards the end.

Though Dio's popularity faded, Ronnie James remained active in the music industry until his death in 2010.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Golden Earring - Twilight Zone

Welcome to ERV's 6th annual All Hallows Even celebration.  Yes, we've been doing our version of a Halloween party since we started -- way back in 2011.  Older videos can be found using the All Hallows Even tag to the right.

While "Twilight Zone" isn't the rarest of the rare, it is an excellent video and song that suits the seasonal theme to a T.  And it has become somewhat of a forgotten gem in the 35 years (can it really be that long) since it hit our favorite video music channel.

The song is by the Dutch group Golden Earring, who are not a one hit wonder by virtue of their 1973 hit "Radar Love."  That song hit #13 on the U.S. charts only to be topped by "Twilight Zone" 9 years laters, which peaked at #10 in the U.S.

"Twilight Zone" was written by George Kooymans (Golden Earring's guitarist), and was inspired by Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity (before it became a hit movie).  The band translated that inspiration to the excellent video, directed by Dick Maas, and it caught the eye of the folks at MTV for pretty obvious reasons.  The result was a video in heavy rotation for months, and a hit song.

While Golden Earring would not become huge stars in the U.S., they remained successful in Europe (especially their native Holland), and remain active in the industry to the present day.

Oh, and one word of caution -- this is the uncensored version of the song, which includes brief nudity and a drug injection.  (These scenes were removed from the U.S. version back in the day).

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Genesis - Land of Confusion

For the second video of our "confusion" double shot, we went with Genesis' "Land of Confusion" - one of the more overtly political songs of the 1980's.

By 1986 Genesis (and Phil Collins separately) were huge pop stars, and the band seemed far removed from their art rock roots with Peter Gabriel.  In fact, 1986's Invisible Touch would be the third of four top 10 LPs in the U.S., and the fourth of five consecutive #1 albums in the U.K.

"Land of Confusion" was one of five top five singles from Invisible Touch and hit #4 on the U.S. charts.  The video featured puppets from Spitting Image (a British TV show that was popular at the time).  Interestingly, Spitting Image often made fun of Genesis, which led to the idea of using them in the first place.  The political lyrics from Mike Rutherford suite the theme perfectly, and older readers will recall that "Land of Confusion" went into heavy rotation on MTV for a time.

 Eagle-eyed readers may want to try to identify the many politicians and celebrities caricatured in the video.

As many readers will know, Genesis remained major stars through the early 1990's, before fading from view.  In recent years, the band has sporadically re-formed for reunion tours.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Kinks - State of Confusion

We're back, and what better way than with a song that may be more apropo today than when it came out. 

The lyrics of "State of Confusion" touch on both personal and global stresses, and remind the listener that Ray Davies had been on the rock scene for a long time by 1983.  Musically, the strong pop rock sound fits in nicely with the Kinks' early 80's work.

Interestingly, "State of Confusion" was not released as a single in the U.S., although the song did hit #26 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart (based on airplay).  The album of the same name hit #12 on the charts, driven by the success of "Come Dancing" - the Kinks most successful song in decades.

The video seems a little bit more lighthearted than the song, but still conveys the intended message.  I particularly like how Davies singing is out of synch with the song at several points.

While State of Confusion (and "Come Dancing") were the last big successes of the Kinks storied career, long time readers may recall that we featured "Do It Again" on ERV in September 2012.  We encourage folks to check that one out, as well.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Peter Gabriel - I Don't Remember

For this years' slightly abbreviated All Hallows Even celebration, we are going with Peter Gabriel's excellent, creepy, and underrated video for "I Don't Remember."

As many readers will know, Peter Gabriel left Genesis in 1975, and released his first solo album in early 1977.  [As a side note, the first four Peter Gabriel solo albums are all untitled, and are often referred to by the cover art.]  While Gabriel's first two solo albums sold well, it was his third LP, 1980's 'Melt' that broke him as a solo artist.  The album was a sonic breakthrough with a modern, driving sound.  As one example, the album did not use any cymbals at all, which led to the innovation of the gated reverb drum sound.

'Melt' would go on to hit "1 in the U.K. and #22 in the U.S., led by "Games Without Frontiers," which reached #4 in the U.K. and #48 in the U.S.  The album also drew no small amount of critical acclaim; Rolling Stone ranked it as the 45th greatest album of the 1980's.  The LP is remarkably strong from cover to cover with lyrics that are creative and political, and a sound that was unlike anything on radio at the time.

In the All Hallows Even spirit, we opted for "I Don't Remember," which has a genuinely unnerving video.  The song only reached #107 in the U.S. and did not chart in the U.K., and I doubt that the video would have been played by most mainstream outlets back in the day.  However, it fits seamlessly into our theme of the season here.

Also note that previous All Hallows Even videos can be selected by choosing the Label to the right.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Dokken - Just Got Lucky

While Dokken's version of melodic hard rock seemed tailor made for the pop metal era, they never quite landed the big breakout song or album.  To be fair, though, they did have three consecutive platinum (and top 50) LPs in the 1980's, which is more than most groups can say.

The band's roots date back to 1976, when singer/guitarist Don Dokken formed Airborn in Los Angeles.  The name change to Dokken occurred in 1979, when the group discovered that there was a signed band with the Airborn name.  Four years later Dokken had gathered enough of a following to land a recording contract with Elektra.  Unfortunately, their first album (1983's Breaking the Chains) did not do well -- to the point that convincing the label to finance a second album became quite an ordeal (as an aside, this led to the LP's name -- Tooth and Nail).

Though Tooth and Nail didn't become a smash hit, it did establish Dokken as a legitimate rock act, and eventually reached #49 on the album charts.  "Just Got Lucky" did not chart on the singles charts, but hit #27 on the Billboard mainstream rock chart.  It remains our favorite Dokken song, though we don't recall seeing the video back in the day.

The vid is pretty standard stuff, though it does look as though portions of it may have been filmed in a dressing room (mirrors!).  The guitar solo was shot in Hawaii, near an active volcano that apparently made breathing difficult.

As previously mentioned, Dokken would go on to have further successes in the 1980's, before the simmering tensions between Don Dokken and lead guitarist George Lynch caused Dokken to break up in 1989.  However, there have been multiple reunions since then, and the band seems to be doing reunion shows as of this writing.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

a-ha - Take On Me

No one in their right mind could consider a-ha's monster hit "Take on Me" to be a rare song or video, which begs the question:  have we (finally) lost our minds?  The answer to this question may well be yes, but there is a method to our madness for this video.

Let's get the obvious out of the way first:  "Take on Me" was the song that seemingly every teenage girl (and many boys) loved during 1985.  The song hit #1 all over the world, including the U.S.  The video was in heavy rotation for seemingly all of 1985 and beyond, and won six MTV VMAs.  Video savant Steve Barron combined pencil animation with live action in an innovative and creative way; I think it is fair to say that many critics would view "Take on Me" among the greatest music videos ever made.  For younger readers, folks who want to reminisce, or anyone who was locked in a closet for 1985, the original clip is below.

Yep, still a great video.  a-ha would go on to have a second top 40 hit in the U.S. with "The Sun Always Shines on TV" and became bonafide stars in Europe through the mid 1990's.  Since 1994, a-ha has broken up and re-formed several times, most recently in 2015.

In order to get to the rare video, a little about the song itself is helpful.  The origins of "Take on Me" go back to two earlier songs -- 1981's "The Juicey Fruit Song" which evolved into "Lesson One" which in turn became "Take on Me" in early 1983.  The band recorded a demo shortly afterwards, and recorded a different version after they were signed to Warner Bros. in 1984.  The second version of the song was released, and a video was made - so here is your rare video:

Though the song and video are fine, I think it is fair to say that they were unexceptional.  At this point, the band caught a huge (and I mean huge) break.  Warner Bros. in the U.S. took a liking to the group, and decided to invest in them.  First, Warner helped a-ha re-record the song (with producer Alan Tarney, who was previously featured on ERV for "No Time to Lose"). Then, they brought in Steve Barron to make the top video.  Lastly, Warner aggressively promoted the video, even showing it before movies.

Needless to say, this record company support led to the huge success of the single (and album).  Unfortunately for the group, synth pop fell out of favor, and it appears that Warner's promotional efforts turned elsewhere.  Still, a-ha can't complain too much:  they became the first Norwegian act to have a #1 hit in the U.S.