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.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Glenn Fry - Smuggler's Blues

It has been a tough few weeks in rockland; Atropos has been busy.  And while we already had posts up for Lemmy ("Ace of Spades") and Bowie ("Ashes to Ashes"), Glenn Fry was still in the bullpen at the time of his passing.  As a result, we moved him up in order to create a fitting ERV memorial to him.

Glenn Fry was born in Detroit, Michigan, and moved to California in the late 1960's to follow his dream in music.  This eventually led to work in Linda Ronstadt's backup band, and in 1971 he and fellow backup band members Don Henley, Randy Meisner, and Bernie Leadon formed the Eagles.

The Eagles were at the forefront of the California folk/country/rock sound of the 1970's, and became one of the best-selling acts of the decade.  And though there was some turnover among the band members, the group was more or less run by Fry and Henley.

After the Eagles disbanded in 1980, Fry continued recording as a solo artist, and had three top 40 LPs and 7 top 40 singles in the 1980's.  His solo popularity faded in the 1990's, but this was offset by the Eagles' resurgence, as they had several reunions starting in 1994.

"Smuggler's Blues" showcases Glenn Fry at the peak of his popularity, and the song was helped by the movie-like video.  Additionally, the song and theme fit perfectly with the TV show Miami Vice, and Fry (and his song) were showcased on the 15th episode, which was named (not coincidentally) Smuggler's Blues.  All this publicity helped "Smuggler's Blues" to reach #12, while The Allnighter album hit #22.

With its bluesy guitar sound and cool video, this remains our favorite Glenn Fry single and is, we think, a fitting tribute to him.

Rest peacefully, Glenn Fry, and thanks for the music.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Stabilizers - One Simple Thing

Stabilizers were another act that appeared on MTV for the briefest of time before fading from view.  The band consisted of Dave Christenson on vocals and Rich Nevens on guitar and keyboard.  By 1985, they had generated enough buzz on the Erie, PA music scene to get signed by Columbia Records, and Tyranny (their debut LP) came out the following year.

"One Simple Thing" was the lead single from Tyranny, and it picked up a bit of airplay -- even breaking into the top 100 at #93.  However, the follow up single did not do as well, and the band was dropped by the label before releasing their second effort.

There seems to be remarkably little information on Christenson and Nevens since then, so if any reader has information to share, please leave it in the comments.

"One Simple Thing" is a classic 1980's pop song, in the Mr. Mister vein (note that Mr. Mister's Welcome to the Real World hit #1 on the album charts in early 1986).

Cool trivia fact:  "One Simple Thing" was directed by David Fincher, who got his start in videos (including Jermaine Stewart's "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off" and Loverboy's "Notorious")  before transitioning to movies (Seven, Fight Club and The Social Network, among others).

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Helix - Heavy Metal Love

I remember seeing "Heavy Metal Love" back in the day, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The same holds true for Helix's earlier entry on ERV, "Deep Cuts the Knife," which was posted back in October, 2011.

As we mentioned on the earlier post, Helix is a hard working, hard rocking Canadian band.  The group formed in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada in 1974 and has been led by Brian Vollmer on vocals from day one.  At the time of this single, the remainder of the band consisted of Paul Hackman and Brent 'The Doctor' Doerner on guitars, Mike Uzelac on bass and Greg 'Fritz' Hinz on drums.

Hinz and Vollmer remain with the band to the present day.  Hackman was killed in 1992 when the band's van crashed during a tour.  Doerner left Helix in 1989, but has rejoined the act several times over the years, and  Uzelac quit in 1983.

While "Heavy Metal Love" picked up some airplay on my favorite music video channel, the song did not break into the singles chart, though it did reach #23 on the Mainstream Rock chart (based on airplay on rock radio stations).  The No Rest for the Wicked LP peaked at #186 on the album chart.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ziggy Marley And The Melody Makers - Tomorrow People

David Nesta "Ziggy" Marley was reggae legend Bob Marley's eldest son, and he built a career in the industry after his father's untimely passing in 1981.  Along with several siblings, he formed the Melody Makers in 1979 -- named after the British music trade rag, by the by.

The group released three independent albums in the 1980's and built enough of a fan base to get signed by Virgin Records.  Their first major label release was 1988's Conscious Party, and it became a surprise hit.  The album climbed to #23 on the charts, while "Tomorrow People" broke into the top 40 (barely) at #39.  The sound was undoubtedly helped by the production team of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth (both of Talking Heads fame), who helped find the pop side of the strong material.

The video for "Tomorrow People" is a well-crafted performance piece that seems to suit the song well.  The upbeat clip with the reggae-pop sound even went into heavy rotation for a time at MTV.

While Ziggy's time as a pop star was brief, he remains a major figure in the reggae scene and has continued to record and perform to the present day.

Cool trivia fact:  Ziggy Marley And The Melody Makers are a one hit wonder, as only "Tomorrow People" broke the top 40.  However, that is one more top 40 hit than Bob Marley had.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul - Forever

Yesterday, The Universe requested another video for the blog, and as per usual I am only too happy to oblige.  In this case, the rare and exceptional "Forever" by Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul made an appearance on my radio while commuting to work.  A quick google search (after safely parking the car) confirmed it an an Eighties Rare Video; and so here it is.

Steven Van Zandt (aka Little Steven or Miami Steve) is one of the most colorful personalities in rock.  He got his start in the Jersey Shore scene of the early 1970's, most notably with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (their later song, "New Romeo" was previously posted on ERV).  After helping Bruce Springsteen with the horn arrangement on "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," he became a member of the E Street Band, where he remained until 1984 (and from the late 1990's on).

By the early 1980's Little Steven was looking for additional creative outlets, and was also becoming increasingly political (more on that in a moment).  This led to several solo rock/soul albums; 1982's Men Without Women was the first (and best in the eyes of many critics).  For readers who like rock and classic R&B (think late 1960's Motown), this LP is highly recommended.

Sadly, the album never quite found its audience.  The LP peaked at #118, while "Forever" hit #63.  I remember hearing it on New York rock radio back in the day, but do not recall ever seeing the video -- which is full of NYC 1982 goodness including Times Square, old cars and at least one Mohawk.

In addition to Little Steven's solo records, he was instrumental in the formation of the Artists United Against Apartheid "Sun City" effort which has also been posted on ERV.  In 1999 he landed an acting lead in The Sopranos TV show, and has continued his work as a musician and DJ (Little Steven's Underground Garage) to the present day.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Gregg Allman - I'm No Angel

Although "I'm No Angel" and the album of the same name represented a solid comeback for Gregg Allman, they have become somewhat forgotten over time.  In part this is due to the fact that classic rock stations tend to focus on his earlier (and frankly stronger) work with The Allman Brothers.  Additionally, the production on the I'm No Angel LP sounds a bit dated, and its focus on synthesizers doesn't help matters.

In spite of its flaws, the album represented a surprising success for Allman, who had not released an album in the previous 9 years due to personal problems and substance abuse.  The "I'm No Angel" single hit #49 on the pop charts (and #1 on the Album Rock Tracks chart; it was everywhere for a time).  The album also sold well, and reached #30 on the charts.

The video is a nice performance piece involving an old saloon (that happens to have a full set of instruments) and a flashback to a version of the west where only female cowgirls exist.  But just like the song, the video seems to capture of part of Allman's personality, and it mostly works.

In the aftermath of his success, Gregg Allman continued to have substance abuse problems, though he did clean up his act by the early 1990's.  He remains active in the industry to the present day, but with a reduced schedule due to some health issues.

Cool trivia fact:  While "I'm No Angel" has become something of a Gregg Allman theme song, he did not write it -- two Brits (Tony Colton and Phil Palmer) wrote the song.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The John Hall Band - You Sure Fooled Me

Long time readers may (or may not) recall that we posted The John Hall Band's "Crazy" video way back in January, 2012.  That song became a minor hit, and picked up some airplay in the early days of MTV.  While researching "Crazy," we discovered the video for "You Sure Fooled Me" and put it in the bullpen, where it remained until today.

"You Sure Fooled Me" is a totally solid rock song -- as an aside, why wasn't The John Hall Band bigger?  Sure, they aren't exactly breaking any new ground here, but the music is surprisingly good.

At any rate, this early video includes old cars and a girl, as the band brings the song to life, in a charming, yet low-budget sort of way.  In spite of their efforts, I don't recall ever seeing the vid or hearing the song, and it doesn't appear to have charted.  As we noted on the "Crazy" post, the group released a second LP before breaking up, though Hall would remain in the industry as a songwriter before embarking on a brief career in Congress (yes, really).

Oh, and as previously mentioned, John Hall is not related to Daryl Hall (or John Oates) and got his start in the 1970's band Orleans (of "Dance with Me" and "Still the One" fame).

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Lone Justice - Ways To Be Wicked

This is Lone Justice's second appearance on ERV, as the equally strong "Sweet, Sweet Baby (I'm Falling)" showed up on our little corner of the universe back in November 2011.

As we mentioned then, Lone Justice was one of the leading acts in the cowpunk movement, a roots revival scene that merged country and rockabilly with the rough edges of punk.  Sadly, while several acts garnered critical acclaim, there was little to speak of in terms of commercial success.  Country rock just didn't sell in the 1980's, and we're all a little worse off because of that.

The band's roots go back to 1982 when the group was founded by Maria McKee (vocals) and Ryan Hedgecock (guitar).  Lone Justice eventually built a following, and signed to Geffen in 1985.  In the 'it's nice to have friends in high places' category, Tom Petty and Mike Campbell wrote "Ways to be Wicked."

In spite of the positive press, the single only reached #71 on the charts, while the LP stalled at #56.  The band effectively broke up after that, although singer Maria McKee kept the name and released a second album (Shelter) in 1986 that did not do appreciably better.

McKee officially went solo in the late 1980's, and has remained active in the industry to the present day.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Jefferson Starship - No Way Out

Rounding out this year's All Hallows Even celebration is "No Way Out" from Jefferson Starship.  The song is off the Nuclear Furniture LP, which became the last Jefferson Starship album when guitarist Paul Kantner quit the band, taking the name with him.  (Kantner was unhappy with the group's musical direction).  The act soldiered on as Starship, and found success with a slick, commercial pop sound, though it seems unlikely that any of those videos will appear on ERV.

While "No Way Out" starts off on a creepy note, the video quickly drifts from cool and campy into plain weird.  Perhaps this was intentional, as the clip did garner some airtime on MTV, which likely helped the song. (The single reached #23 on the charts, while the LP hit #28).  In addition to being downright strange, the video is noteworthy for the appearances of one Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello, who was also in Bon Jovi's "In and Out of Love").

In the aftermath of Kantner quitting, the renamed Starship would go on to have 6 top 40 and 3 #1 singles in the later half of the 1980's, before breaking up in 1990 (although singer Mickey Thomas reformed the band in 1992).  Thomas and Kantner remain somewhat active in the industry as of this writing.

Long time readers will recall that Jefferson Starship's "Find Your Way Back" was featured on ERV in April 2013.  In addition, Marty Balin's "Hearts" has also made an appearance on ERV (Balin was the lead singer of an earlier verson of Jefferson Starship).

Cool trivia fact: Kantner's appearance in this video was was his last appearance in Jefferson Starship until he reformed the band (with different members) in 1992.