Sunday, May 12, 2019

Red Rockers - China

Red Rockers was a fascinating band who never quite found their audience.  To be fair, this was at least partly due to their evolving musical style, which seemed to shift almost on a song-by-song basis.

The band formed in New Orleans in 1979 as a punk act, influenced by groups such as The Clash and The Dils.  In fact, Red Rockers (the band) is named after "Red Rockers" (the 1979 Dils' song).   However, after  their first LP (1981's Guns of Revolution), they swung wildly from punk to pop/new wave on 1983's Good as Gold album.  This resulted in a MTV hit with "China," and set off a series of internal conflicts within the band (not to mention alienating their early punk fans).

In spite of some serious MTV airplay, "China" peaked at #53, leaving Red Rockers one hit short of being a one hit wonder.  Internal conflicts and some personnel changes continued through 1985's Schizophrenic Circus, and the band broke up later that year.

In addition to the video, we found some cool behind the scenes footage shot during the making of "China":

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Del Amitri - Kiss This Thing Goodbye

Although they were stars in the UK, Del Amitri never quite broke through in the U.S., through no fault of their own.  The band's strong pop-rock songs, with folk, roots rock and even country influences, were melodic and catchy.  In spite of this, they only had 3 top 40 hits in the U.S., and only 1995's "Roll to Me" really garnered a significant amount of air play.

The band formed in the early 1980's in Glasgow, Scotland, and was named after ... well, perhaps a film producer.  It was a Scottish interpretation of the name Dimitri, and ended up sticking.  The group released a self-titled debut album on Chrysalis in 1985, but it did not gain traction, and they were subsequently dropped by the label.  Their second album, 1989's Working Hours (on A&M), did make an impact, reaching #6 on the album charts in the UK.

Del Amitri released 3 more LPs in the 1990's, all of which broke the to 10 in the UK, and had 13 top 40 singles, as well.  In the U.S., only Working Hours even broke the top 100 on the album charts.

For the blog, we went with the first single off Working Hours, "Kiss This Thing Goodbye."  It's a fine example of the band's catchy songwriting.  Interestingly, the song was released in 1989, and reached #59 on the UK charts.  A re-release in 1990 did better, reaching #43 in the UK and #35 in the U.S.

Del Amitri went on hiatus (broke up?) in 2002, but has subsequently re-formed in 2014, and seem to be active as of this writing.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

ABC - When Smokey Sings

ABC burst onto the music scene as a dashing New Romantic act in 1982.  Their debut album, The Lexicon of Love became a big hit in 1982 and made them MTV favorites for a time.  While that album remains the pinnacle of their success, they continued to release well-crafted pop songs for most of the decade.

The band formed in Sheffield and was originally called Vice Versa.  Interestingly, Stephen Singleton and Mark White (both synthesizer players) met Martin Fry (also a synthesizer player) when he interviewed them for his Modern Drugs fanzine (which may have been about synthesizer players).  Fry was asked to join the band, the name was changed and before too long they had a recording contract.

By 1987, the band had been through several ups and downs.  Singleton left the group in 1983 due to their lack of touring, and Fry spend several years in the mid-1980's being treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma.  Their '87 album release, Alphabet City (named after the area in NYC when Fry and White lived for a time) became a modest success, and featured one of our favorite ABC songs, "When Smokey Sings."

Upbeat and nostalgic, "When Smokey Signs" would go on to be a hit, reaching #5 on the U.S. charts and #11 in the UK.  The Alphabet City album would also do well, reaching #7 in the UK and #48 in the U.S.  Unfortunately, this marked the end of the band's major commercial success, and they broke up in 1991.  Fry resurrected the name in 1997 (White has left the industry) and remains active as of this writing.

By the by, we managed to find the rare extended intro version of the song:

Cool trivia fact:  "When Smokey Sings" is of course about Smokey Robinson, whose song "More Love" was covered by Kim Carnes (and featured on ERV in December 2012).

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Heart - Even It Up

The early 1980's were a difficult time in the music industry.  While the disco and punk movements had somewhat faded from prominence, New Wave was now in full swing, and the classic rock acts of the 1970's seemed outdated by many listeners.

For Heart, this transition was compounded by the changing personnel in the band.  While the Wilson sisters (Ann - vocals and Nancy - guitar) remained the constants, guitarist (and Nancy's longtime boyfriend) Roger Fisher left Heart in 1979.

Undeterred, Heart soldiered on, releasing the Bébé le Strange LP in 1980.  This is a fascinating album, as the band's music is all over the place - to my ear, this sounds like a group working to rediscover what their sound is.  In the midst of this experiment is a great straight-up rock song, "Even It Up," with a cool early video to boot.  Particularly noteworthy are sailor Nancy (who seems to really like her Stratocasters), and the sax trio.

Bébé le Strange went gold and peaked at #5, while "Even It Up" reached #33.  Heart's greatest hits album was released later in 1980, and marked the end of their first period of mainstream success.  I suspect that most listeners and critics at the time would have viewed this as the likely end of the band.  Improbably, Heart re-positioned themselves as a pop/hair band in the mid to late 1980's, ushering in a period of commercial success that was even greater than their 1970's heyday.

Heart has remained active for many years, but appears to be on hiatus as of this writing.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Kool & the Gang - Misled

This is  Kool & the Gang's second appearance on ERV, as "Get Down On It" was posted back in 2013 (and has a solid if brief summary of the band).

Unlike the funk and R&B that characterized most of Kool & the Gang's work, "Misled" is a catchy pop gem with an excellent guitar hook.  Additionally, the video is the perfect stealthy Halloween type that we love at ERV.  From the creepy guys in robes to the Indiana Jones-inspired later scenes, the whole thing is steeped in pure 1984 awesomeness.  The ghostly white dancer and that amazing blue jacket round out the major characters in the video.

The song ended up being a big hit, and reached #10 on the charts, which surprised us.  To be fair, the 1984 Emergency LP also spawned "Fresh" and "Cherish," so it isn't as if there wasn't a lot of Kool on the radio back in the day.  However, we don't remember seeing the video on MTV, which is kind of a shame.

While Kool & the Gang did have a few hits after "Misled," they had mostly faded from view by the late 1980's.  However, they remain active in the industry as of this writing.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Huey Lewis And The News - Doing It All For My Baby

Although ERV has been mostly on hiatus of late, we could not miss the opportunity to celebrate All Hallows Even.  We've been posted rare-ish, Halloweeny (is that even a word) vids since soon after we opened up shop, 7 years ago, and it's become a tradition.  So, on to this years' festivities.

By 1986, Huey Lewis and the News had become big stars.  Fore! (the 1986 LP) was their second consecutive #1 album, and between Sports, Back to the Future, and Fore!, they scored 11 top 40 hits (and 3 #1s - "The Power of Love," "Stuck With You," and "Jacob's Ladder.")

"Doing It All For My Baby" was the last single off the Fore! album, and was released in June 1987.  The video has a prefect Halloween vibe, and is actually a tiny bit darker than I remember.  After the long intro, we're treated to a campy, monstery rendition of the song, with Huey and the band playing most of the major roles.

The song would go on to reach #6 on the charts, though I think this represented the end of the band's superstar period.  However, they have remained active in the industry (with some lineup changes through the years) until the present day.   

Cool trivia fact:  The model in the video is Tara Shannon, and there is an interview with her here.

We've previously posted videos for "Some of My Lies are True," "Workin' For A Livin'," and "Heart and Soul" (which was part of ERV's first All Hallows Even celebration in 2011.

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.