Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Devo - Girl U Want

Devo was one of the most interesting, creative and visual bands of the late 1970's and early 1980's.  The band was formed in 1973 in Ohio and gradually evolved into a something resembling a new wave art rock band.  With their matching uniforms, planter headgear, and campy attitudes, they seemed unlikely rock stars.  However, they were also great and under-appreciated songwriters.  Nowhere is this more evident than on their 1980 album, Freedom of Choice.

The big hit from the album was "Whip It," which reached #14 on the singles chart.  The strange western/new wave video of that song also received a ton of airplay on MTV.  However, many critics, including your humble author, favored "Girl U Want" -- a song that is somehow both mechanical and rocking.

"Girl U Want" was inspired by the Knack's "My Sharona," although in typical Devo style, it is about unrequited love; the lyrics contrasting with the uptempo melody.  As to the video ... I still have no idea what it means.  But it is definitely interesting.

More interesting stuff:  Devo created a mellowish alternate version of this song around 1982 that is worth checking out.  Additionally, both Robert Palmer and Soundgarden covered the song, and had (unsurprisingly) really different interpretations.  All three of the above covers are on YouTube, and I highly recommend a listen.

Monday, August 29, 2011

George Benson - Give Me the Night

And now for something completely different.

George Benson got his musical start playing ukulele at age 7, and later became an successful jazz guitarist.  By the late 1970's, he was an established star, and his music had evolved into something new -- not jazz, not quite disco, but something that fit in well with the emerging R&B movement.

In 1980, Benson had the smarts or good fortune (or both) to collaborate with Rod Temperton and Quincy Jones.  Quincy Jones went on to become one of the biggest record producers in the world.  Tempeton co-wrote the Michael Jackson songs "Off the Wall," "Rock with You" and "Thriller" (all produced by Jones), along with "Stomp" by The Brothers Johnson.

The resulting song, "Give Me the Night," became Benson's biggest hit, and rose to #4 on the charts.  It also hit #1 on the R&B charts.  The video received little airplay, partly due to the fact that it predated MTV by a good year or so, and partly because MTV was not very friendly to R&B acts in its early days.  It also may have something to do with the roller skates.  Just sayin'.

Cool trivia fact:  supposedly, Quincy Jones suggested the echo on Benson's guitar that drives the sound.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Re-Flex - The Politics of Dancing

Wonderful synth-dance song, and a great video to boot from the one hit wonder Re-Flex.  "The Politics of Dancing" was the lead single from the 1983 album of the same name and hit #24 on the charts, with some help from a ton of airplay on MTV.  Cool trivia fact:  the 12" version of this song was the first extended version of a song by a British band to top the U.S. dance charts.

The band recorded their follow up album, Humanication, in 1984 as a planned 1985 release.  The first single was "How Much Longer," which had an environmentalist message and featured Sting on backing vocals.  The song was released in Germany, but the record label did not like the political nature of the song/album and killed the project.  To this day, the album has never been released, although there are apparently bootleg copies in existence.  Re-Flex released two songs for the Superman IV soundtrack in 1987, but did not release another album (in the 1980s, at least).

Cool trivia fact #2: An early version of Re-Flex featured Phil Gould and Mark King who would go on to form ... Level 42.  Gould, by the way, also played with M ("Pop Muzik").

Whitesnake - Slow An' Easy

Make no mistake -- Whitesnake was lead singer David Coverdale's band, and he hired and fired musicians to suit his tastes.  By 1984, the then 33 year old Coverdale was becoming increasingly focused on commercial success, and when the Slide It In album peaked at #40 in the U.S., he made his move.  Coverdale fired guitarist Micky Moody and replaced him with John Sykes.  The 1987 follow up album, simply titled Whitesnake, went on to sell 8 million copies and rose to the #2 position on the Billboard chart.  Ironically, Coverdale and Sykes didn't get on either, and Sykes was fired just as that album was released.

While Slide It In was a commercial disappointment to Coverdale, it did introduce American audiences (including your humble author) to the band.  In my opinion, this is one of the best hard rock albums of the 1980's, and I am particularly partial to the blusey "Slow An' Easy."  Yes, the video is dated and the story makes little sense, but the song rocks.

Note that Whitesnake's "Love Ain't No Stranger" was posted on ERV in June 2014.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Cult - She Sells Sanctuary

New wave's answer to AC/DC, The Cult's LPs were maddeningly inconsistent, but their best work (and there tended to be one or two songs per album) was incredibly strong.  "She Sells Sanctuary" was the song that really launched them, from the 1985 album Love.  The song actually predates the album, and there are at least 8 versions/mixes of the song that have been released to date.

The sound of the song came about quite by accident, as guitarist Billy Duffy was goofing off with a violin bow in the recording studio, hitting lots of pedals, when the producer (Steve Brown) started yelling through the intercom, "Hold it, hold it, that's great!"  The band re-worked some of the riffs, and the result is below.

I have always had a soft spot for "She Sells Sanctuary," as it is a real oddity -- an atmospheric hard rock song.  The video captures some of the quirky nature of the band, with lead singer Ian Astbury channeling his inner Mick Jagger/Stevie Nicks as the band rocks out.

The Cult's video for "Rain" was posted on ERV in September, 2015.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

John Waite - Change

In 1982, John Waite released Ignition, his first solo album after he left The Babys (who did some really solid work in the mid to late 70's).  Produced by Neil Giraldo, Pat Benatar's guitarist/husband, the album peaked at #68 in the US charts.  It also yielded one great video -- "Change," an early story video, and a good one at that.

Waite would go on to have huge success with his next album, 1984's No Brakes, which would include the #1 hit "Missing You" and the solid but underrated "Restless Heart."  Cool trivia fact:  In the music video for "Missing You," there is a scene where a group of people are pointing to a building (around 1:17), a clear reference to the "Change" video.

"Change" was written by star songwriter Holly Knight.  Never heard of her?  She wrote:  Aerosmith's "Rag Doll," Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield," Lou Gramm's "Just Between You and Me" (love that song), Scandal's "The Warrior," Animotion's "Obsession," and Tina Turner's "Better Be Good to Me," among others.  Impressive, yo.

Cool trivia fact #2: The song "Change" charted, but not in 1982.  In spite of a bunch of airplay on MTV, the song did not break the top 200.  However, it was included on the soundtrack of Vision Quest in 1985, re-released as a single, and peaked at #50.

Cool trivia fact #3:  Tina Gullickson is the actress featured in "Change."  Although she never became a huge star, she has had a successful career as a model/actress/singer.  She is currently a singer in the Coral Reefer Band (Jimmy Buffet's backup band).

[March 2015 update].  So it turns out that Holly Knight wrote this song for her band, Spider and it came out on their 1981 LP, Between the Lines.  For those keeping score at home, that makes "Change" a cover, and of course we tracked down the original (below). 

Eddie Money - Think I'm in Love

So the Universe told me to post this ... no, really.  I dreamed about this video last week and then the next morning heard it on the radio (thanks, Mike FM).  If that's not a sign, I don't know what is.  So without further ado ...

The Money Man, Eddie Money, had a string of hits in the late 1970's and early 1980's.  Born Edward Joseph Maloney, Money was a NY cop for a while, before moving to California to try to make it in music (successfully, it turns out).  Cool trivia fact:  an older Eddie Money Song, "Can't Keep a Good Man Down," was used in the WNEW-FM TV ads for a few years in the early 80s.

"Think I'm in Love" was the first single off 1982's No Control ("Shakin' was the second single).  Personally, I think the video is tremendous and seems to perfectly fit the song.  As an aside -- isn't the intro scene reminiscent of Young Frankenstein?

Special shout out to The Universe on this one.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Producers - What's He Got

From The Producers self-titled, 1981 debut album, which is now out of print, I believe.  "What's He Got" did not get a ton of airplay on MTV, but was played a bunch on HBO's Video Jukebox.  Now mostly forgotten, Video Jukebox started as a short series of videos played to fill time between movies on HBO in the late 1970's and early 1980's.  Eventually, HBO tuned Video Jukebox into a half hour show, and it ran on the network in this format from 1981-1986.

At any rate, "What's He Got" is a rare pop gem from the Atlanta-based quartet.  And yes, that is Wayne Famous on keyboards.

Note that The Producers "She Sheila" video is also on ERV.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Producers - She Sheila

The Producers started as a Beatles cover band, but soon began performing original material and ended up as an early (if brief) MTV success story.  Their 1982 album You Make the Heat yielded this Top 50 hit, and the video went into heavy rotation on my favorite video music channel.  The band was even one of the headliners of the 82/83 MTV New Year's Eve concert.  Sadly, their label dropped them soon afterwards, although they still occasionally perform to this day.  By the way, there is another Producers video on ERV that is worth checking out, just above -- "What's He Got."

The Producers also deserve a special shout out for their supremely cool keyboard player, Wayne Famous.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Judas Priest - Breaking the Law

Wonderfully ridiculous video, but based on a true story (no, not really). I particularly like the intro, with the pigeon-feeding, guitar-carrying pilgrim/bank robbers chilling on a park bench.  The video was directed by Julien Temple, who became a mainstay on MTV in the 1980's; if he's smart he might consider leaving this one off of his CV.  The guitars here are so powerful that they can shatter glass, even without amplifiers.  (There is some metal bar bending too, but that is clearly due to the brute strength of Rob Halford.)  Spectacularly cheesey video of a great song.  From 1980's British Steel -- a classic heavy metal album. 

Priests' "Hot Rockin'" was posted on ERV in December 2014.

The Members - Working Girl

Although many sources call The Members a punk band, they sound more like a ska/rock band to me.  The band was founded in the mid-1970's, and kicked around the London music scene through the early 1980's.  Their biggest UK hit was "Sound of the Suburbs."  "Working Girl" was an upbeat, poppy song off their 1982 Uprythm, Downbeat album that received a fair bit of play on MTV in the early days.

The Tubes - Talk to You Later

From the under-rated 1981 album, The Completion Backward Principle.  Co-written by the Tubes lead singer Fee Waybill (best rock name ever?) and Toto's (!) Steve Lukather.  The Tubes would go on to have a modicum of success with "She's a Beauty" two years later before disappearing from public view.  "Talk to You Later" is a great, driving rock song and might be my favorite video ever (I especially love the closing snapshots).


Digney Fignus - The Girl With the Curious Hand

Boston-based Digney Fignus won MTV's basement tapes in 1985 on the strength of this song and video.  The female lead in the video is none other than former newscaster Gail Huff.  Yes, that Gail Huff -- wife of U.S. Senator Scott Brown.  Ironically, one of the main reasons why Huff was chosen for the role was due to the fact that she fit into the red dress that had already been purchased.  A clip of this video was also used as part of an MTV promo during the mid-80s.

Clocks - She Looks a lot Like You

The pride of Wichita, Clocks burst on the scene in 1982 with their self-titled debut.  Drummer Steve Swain wrote "She Looks a lot Like You" after seeing a Cosmopolitan magazine cover model who bore a resemblance to his ex-wife(!)  The video and song both did well, but the band seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle, and their label dropped them before a second album could be recorded.  Unfortunately, I do not believe that a CD was ever issued, which is a shame, because this is a one catchy gem.

Farrenheit - Fool in Love

Great song from Charlie Farren's band, Farrenheit, from the 1987 self-titled CD.  Farren is now playing with Jon Butcher (see below); they named the band Farren Butcher Incorporated (FBI).  Farren is another guy who kicked around the Boston music scene for years and often seemed on the brink of stardom.  He was the lead singer in the Joe Perry Project (when Perry left Aerosmith), and had several other songs that were played on MTV.  Sadly, he never quite broke through.

Jon Butcher Axis - Don't Say Goodnight

Great, nearly forgotten video and song from Jon Butcher.  I love the intro guitar hook.  Butcher was a mainstay on the Boston music scene in the 70's and 80's, and by all accounts is a nice guy to boot.  He is now in a band with Charlie Farren, another Boston guy who did some great music as well (see above).  From the 1984 album, Stare at the Sun.

Pat Benatar - You Better Run

The second video played on MTV -- Pat Benatar's great cover of the Rascals "You Better Run."  From the 1980 Crimes of Passion LP, this video shows Benatar at the height of her powers.  Crimes would go on to sell more than 5 million units, and remains Benatar's biggest selling album of her career.  The album peaked at #2, and had 3 big hits ... and "You Better Run" was the lowest charting of them at 42.

This entry will also serve as the launching post for the "songs that you didn't know were covers."  "You Better Run" was originally recorded by The Rascals (originally called The Young Rascals) in 1966, and it actually charted, peaking at #20.  As an aside, The Rascals were an American blue-eyed soul band active in the late 1960's and early 1970's.  They are best known for the songs "Groovin'," "Good Lovin'," and "Mustang Sally." (I wonder if they briefly considered calling it "Mustan' Sally?")  Anyhow, here is the original version:

Also worth noting:  Benatar's "All Fired Up" was posted on ERV in March 2014 and "Promises in the Dark" was posted in March 2018.

The Buggles - Video Killed the Radio Star

The only proper way to start the blog.  This was the first video played on MTV, and started the music video revolution that I joined at an early age.  Not as rare as much of what will follow, but a worthy start.  The song was actually recorded in 1979, but the album (The Age of Plastic) wasn't released until 1980.  For trivia buffs, this song was played on MTV at midnight on August 1, 1981.