Monday, December 31, 2012

The Smithereens - A Girl Like You

The Smithereens are another in a growing list of underrated 1980's rock bands, and stood out as an unusual band that combined rock with 1960's British Invasion pop.  The result was inventive and catchy, in a Beatles meets AC/DC sort of way.  This led to some success in the mid to late 1980's, as they had three successive albums that broke the top 60.  However, they never truly found the success or recognition that they deserved.

The band was formed in New Jersey in the early 1980's, and named after a Yosemite Sam expression ("Varmint, I'm a-gonna blow you to smithereens!")  Amazingly, the original lineup of Pat DiNizio (songwriter, guitars and vocals), Jim Babjak (guitar), Dennis Diken (drums) and Mike Mesaros (bass) stayed together for 25 years, until Mesaros quit the industry to raise his kids.

"A Girl Like You" was the band's biggest hit, from 1989's 11 (named after the famous Spinal Tap amplifier).  The song peaked at #38, while the LP hit #41.  The Smithereens had a second top 40 hit, as well -- but it probably isn't the one that you are thinking of.  "Too Much Passion," from the Blow Up CD hit #37 in 1992.

While the band's period of major success was relatively brief  they have remained a working band, and continue to perform and record to this day.

Cool trivia fact:  "A Girl Like You" was originally written for the Cameron Crowe movie Say Anything... Apparently, Crowe felt that the song gave away too much of the plot, so he did not include it, but he remained on good terms with Pat DiNizio (who did a cameo in the Crowe film Singles in 1992).

Friday, December 28, 2012

Franke and the Knockouts - Sweatheart

Franke (no i) and the Knockouts were a New Jersey band, founded in 1980 by Franke (also no i) Previte.  Between 1981 and 1982, the band had 3 (!) top 40 singles, with "Sweatheart" as the highest charting hit, at #10.  [Since I know that it will come up, the two other hits were 1981's "You're My Girl," which reached  #27 and "Without You" from 1982, which peaked at #24.]

While the band's first two LPs both broke the top 50, their third album did not chart, and the band broke up in 1986.  End of story, right?  Well, not quite ...

After the breakup, Franke Previte was looking for a recording contract when an old friend contacted him.  Jimmy Ienner, former president of Millennium Records was producing the soundtrack for a movie and wanted Previte's help for the final number.  Previte co-wrote a song for the film, and had another song that was used, as well (although both songs were performed by other artists).  The film was called Dirty Dancing (some readers may have heard of it) and the soundtrack became a hit (18 weeks as the #1 album in the U.S. in 1987).  We posted more on this story on the "Hungry Eyes" entry, which includes the original and cover versions of the song.

And that, my friends, is how Franke and the Knockouts are connected to Dirty Dancing.  Unfortunately, Previte did not have another big hit, but a 2010 Reuters article indicates that he remains active in the industry (mostly helping young songwriters) and is living comfortably off the royalties (which are generating a mid-six figure annual revenue).  Nice to have a happy ending at ERV.

Cool trivia fact:  Tico Torres, who went on to fame and fortune as the drummer in Bon Jovi, played drums on Franke and the Knockouts third album, 1984's, Makin' the Point.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pretenders - 2000 Miles

"2000 Miles" came out in late 1983, just before the Learning to Crawl LP, which was released in January, 1984.  While the song does reference Christmastime, it is not a traditional Christmas song, and in fact was initially thought to be an anti-war song (in the aftermath of the Falklands war).

Subsequently, Chrissie Hynde has stated that the song is a tribute to her friend and former bandmate, James Honeyman-Scott, who died the previous year.  In any event, the result is a wonderful, haunting song, and one of my holiday favorites.  The song also gets the nob for being "the single most depressing Christmas standard of all time" according to Allmusic.

"2000 Miles" was a hit in the UK when it was released, hitting #15 in December 1983.  It was not released as a single in the U.S., although it was the B side of "Middle of the Road."  Learning to Crawl ended up being the most successful Pretenders album in the U.S. by chart position -- it peaked at #5.

The video is good cheesy fun.  It was not played much back in the day and remains a somewhat rare video to this day.

Note that "Day After Day" was also posted at ERV, last December.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Young MC - Principal's Office

1989 was Young MC's year.  He co-wrote the two major hits for Tone Lōc's smash LP Lōc-ed After Dark, which went to #1.  The two hits both broke the top 5, with "Wild Thing" reaching #2 and "Funky Cold Medina" hitting #3.  Young MC then released his first album, Stone Cold Rhymin'.  That album peaked at #9, and produced two additional top 40 hits -- "Bust a Move" (#7) and "Principal's Office" (#33).  Incredibly, Young MC never had another top 40 hit in the following years.

Young MC (Marvin Young) was born in England, but his family moved to Queens, NYC when he was eight.    While he was at college at USC, he joined Delicious Vinyl, which led to the success with Lōc-ed After Dark and Stone Cold Rhymin'.  However, he left the label after his first LP, due to a series of creative and legal disputes and eventually signed with Capital Records.  His subsequent releases did not catch on, with 1991's Brainstorm being the only subsequent album to chart (it hit #66).  While his later material was solid, it remained a bit stylized  and changes in the hip hop scene pushed him out of the limelight.  In recent years, Young MC has acted and appeared on a few celebrity-themed reality shows.  He continues to write and record, as well.

For the blog, we decided to go with "Principal's Office," as it is the rarer hit, and that's what the blog is all about.  The song relies on a cool old Lee Michaels riff from "Who Could Want More."  By the by, Lee Michaels is best known for his 1971 hit "Do You Know What I Mean?"  The video itself is full of superb 1989 fashion goodness, right down to the acid wash jeans.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Kim Carnes - More Love

"More Love" is the second Kim Carnes cover to appear on ERV, as "Bette Davis Eyes" was posted last April.  That post does a good job of summarizing Carnes' career and her long path to success -- follow the link above and check it out, if you are so inclined.  [In addition, Carnes' "Voyeur" appeared on ERV in May 2014.]

Unlike "Bette Davis Eyes," "More Love" is a reasonably traditional cover.  [For those who have not listened to the original version of "Bette Davis Eyes," I highly recommend it, as it is one of the more dramatic re-makes that I am aware of.]  "More Love" is a straightforward pop/soul song, originally recorded by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles in 1967.  The original version was a hit, peaking at #23 on the charts -- one of 26 top 40 hits for that band (!).  The Kim Carnes version charted even higher; the song hit #10, becoming Carnes' first solo top 40 hit ("Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer," a duet with Kenny Rogers, had previously hit #4 in 1980).

While all of that is interesting, it is the video of "More Love" that secured it a place on ERV.  Simply put, this is one of the great unknown early 1980's videos.  The song came out before MTV and was a little too adult contemporary for the channel; as a result most folks have never seen it.  However, it is a classic, and has a wonderful (and slightly off) sense of humor, with fork accidents, a burning piano and crashing dancers.  It is not clear how much the video helped the song, but Carnes career really took off in 1980 and 1981, so it probably didn't hurt.

The original version of the song, by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles is below:

Cool trivia fact:  the original version was written by Smokey Robinson, to his wife (Claudette Rogers Robinson) after she had a series of miscarriages (8 in total).  Claudette felt responsible for the miscarriages; the song was Smokey's way of re-assuring her.  The miscarriages also forced Claudette off the tours, but she and Smokey eventually had two children.  They were divorced in 1986, after 27 years of marriage.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Elvis Costello and The Attractions - Everyday I Write the Book

Elvis Costello (given name: Declan MacManus) recorded a bunch of seriously great pop songs between 1977 and 1979 and he probably doesn't get the credit that he deserves for this.  This is partly because his songs transcended a single genre and partly because his later material is not as strong.  Unfortunately, given the time frame he won't be appearing much at ERV, unless we add a "Near Miss" category some day.  [Hmm ... interesting idea ...]

"Everyday I Write the Book" was from Costello's 1983 album Punch the Clock.  I think that by this point his career was on the downswing, and it appears that he focused on producing a more commercial sound.  While this did not always work for him, it did fit together nicely on "Everyday."  The result was his first top 40 U.S. hit (#36); the only other top 40 hit that Costello would have was "Veronica" in 1989.

Cool trivia fact:  The video was directed by the legendary Don Letts, who worked with the Clash (and later became a member of Big Audio Dynamite).  Letts is generally regarded as the most important factor in bringing punk and reggae music together.

Cool trivia fact #2:  The backup singers are Afrodiziak (Caron Wheeler and Claudia Fontaine) who also worked with The Jam, Howard Jones, Heaven 17 and Madness.  Wheeler would go on to success as a singer in Soul II Soul.

As most readers will know, Costello remains active in the music industry to this day.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

150 Videos ... and Counting!

New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" marks the 150th video at ERV, and I wanted to take a moment to thank the reader(s) and provide a few highlights of the blog so far.

First, a few of my favorite videos that are particularly rare (and were posted way back when the blog started):

Clocks - "She Looks a Lot Like You"
The Producers - "She Sheila" and "What's He Got"
Farrenheit - "Fool in Love"
Jon Butcher Axis - "Don't Say Goodnight"
Digney Fignus - "The Girl With the Curious Hand"
Neal Schon and Jan Hammer - "No More Lies"
Martin Briley - "Salt of My Tears"

If you haven't been checking out ERV from the start, or are just curious, please give them a listen, as they represent some of my favorites.

Second, the most popular video on the blog at this point is:

The Members - "Working Girl"

While the least watched video is:

Whitesnake - "Slow An' Easy"

I have to say, there is not an obvious pattern for what is popular on the blog, with different genres all doing well (and badly) at different times.

Lastly, while the blog has been mostly viewed by Americans, there have been almost a thousand page views each from Canada and the UK, and hundreds of views from Russia, Germany, France, Australia, India and Turkey.  So a big thank you is in order to our international viewers, too.

To all of our readers, I hope that you have enjoyed reading the posts as much as I have enjoyed writing them. Please feel free to friend me on Facebook (Eighties Rare Videos), and leave comments or suggestions as the spirit moves you.  Clicking on ads is also cool, if they are interesting.

And have no fear:  while we have posted 150 videos, I have a list of potential adds that is well over 100, and seems to grow every week.  So, more to come ...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

New Order - Bizarre Love Triangle

"Bizarre Love Triangle" is one of those cool songs where the title does not appear in the lyrics, something that New Order did a lot.  It was the second single from the band's 1986 Brotherhood LP and was one of a relatively small number of songs that the famously reclusive (aloof?) band turned into a video.  The main video (the first one below) was directed by the American painter Robert Longo of Men in the Cities fame.

New Order was formed from the remains of Joy Division, following the tragic suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis.  While the band started out as stylistically similar to Joy Division, they gradually incorporated more dance and synth pop elements into their songs.  The result was a new wave dance sound that was trendsetting, and laid the groundwork for many bands to follow.

While they became huge stars in their native Britain, New Order had only modest mainstream success in the U.S.  "Bizarre Love Triangle" did not chart in 1986, although it was re-released and did hit #98 in 1995.  The Brotherhood album was also not a huge hit; it peaked at #161.

Of course New Order continued to have success (particularly in the UK and Europe) and they remain active as of this writing, although they have had at least two breakups/long hiatuses through the years.

In classic ERV style, we found a second video of the song, recorded in the famous Strawberry Studios in London.  (Sorry for the abrupt ending.)

Cool trivia fact:  New Order is not a U.S. one hit wonder.  They actually had two top 40 hits -- 1987's "True Faith (#32) and 1990's "Regret (#28).

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Britny Fox - Girlschool

By 1988, as pop metal was reaching its zenith, Britny Fox emerged out of the Philadelphia music scene.  Led by lead singer "Dizzy" Dean Davidson, the band came off almost as Cinderella lite, but truth be told, their first album is not half bad.  However, the Cinderella comparisons are not totally off base; several Britny Fox members had played in earlier versions of Cinderella, and the band took both musical and style cues from their more established compatriots.

Britny Fox' self titled debut became one of the best selling first albums of the year, peaking at #39 and going gold.  The first two singles, "Long Way to Love" and "Girlschool" both broke the top 100.  Unfortunately, weaker material, changing tastes and tensions within the band caused Britny Fox to fade from view almost as quickly as they had appeared.  While the members remained in the music industry (to this day, in fact), they have not been able to catch lightning in a bottle twice.

For the blog, we went with the second single, "Girlschool."  This song was the band's biggest hit, reaching #81 in the U.S. and #67 in the U.K.  The video is classic hair metal goodness, with the band ... and lots of girls.  By the way, the lead actress is Kim Anderson, who did a bunch of rock videos in the 1980's.

Amazingly, I also found some behind the scenes footage (this seems to be a recurring theme), which I have included for those who are interested.  I have to say, I am struck by how professional the shoot seems ... I'm not sure what I was expecting, but probably not that.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Adam and the Ants - Stand and Deliver

One of the more theatrical bands to come out of the late 1970's punk / new wave movement in the U.K. was Adam and the Ants.  The band started as an art / punk band, evolved more towards glam / new wave, and put out several solid singles (and a bunch of great videos at a time when this was rare).  The band was known for their striking look and soon emerged as one of the leaders of the new romantic movement in Britain.

Interestingly, while Adam and the Ants never charted in the U.S top 100, they had 7 top 10 hits in their native U.K., including two #1s (and yes, "Stand and Deliver" is one of them; "Prince Charming" was the other).  "Stand and Deliver" was the lead single from the third (and final) Adam and the Ants album, Prince Charming, which was released in 1981.

The following year Adam broke up the band, although he continued to work with guitarist Marco Pirroni, and began recording under the name Adam Ant.  [As an aside, this has led to some confusion over whether a song is Adam Ant and or Adam and the Ants, not that it makes a ton of difference.]  Ant continued to have success in the U.K., and even had some U.S. chart successes, helped by MTV.  However, Ant decided to focus on acting after his 1985 album, Vive Le Rock and he effectively left the music industry for the rest of the 1980s.  Subsequently, he continues to sporadically record music (and tour).  Amazingly, I believe that his  more recent efforts (albums in 1990, 1995 and perhaps 2012) are surprisingly good, and worth a listen.

So without further ado, here is the dandy highwayman himself.

More coolness:  a brief making of video for "Stand and Deliver."  Note that I have added a Making of label to the right, for those who are interested.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Run-D.M.C. - King of Rock

And after a brief delay (holidays, don'tchaknow) we are back.  Long time readers will know that ERV likes to cover many different genres from the eighties, including the then-emerging hip hop scene.  That includes arguably the most important rap band of the decade (perhaps ever), Run-D.M.C.

Run-D.M.C. was named after the two primary rappers -- Joseph 'Run' Simmons and Darryl 'D.M.C.' McDaniels (Jason 'Jam-Master Jay' Mizell was the third member of the group).  They were the first successful 'new school' rap act, and started the crossover process, where rap began to be accepted as a legitimate music genre by mainstream audiences.

King of Rock was the group's second album, and was released in 1985.  The album was produced by Russell Simmons and Larry Smith and was mixed by Rick Rubin.  It took hip hop directly into the rock scene, by using guitars and drums as an integral part of the music.  The result was something that sounded different from anything else out there, but which was accessible to rock audiences.  King of Rock was a trendsetting album, but it was not a huge hit -- it reached #52 on the album charts.  The single "King of Rock" did not chart on the Billboard 100.

The video, featuring Larry 'Bud' Melman (Calvert DeForest) from David Letterman did receive some airplay on MTV back in the day, which was a rarity for rap videos.  For example, Yo! MTV Raps was not launched until 1988.  Again, the video was not a huge hit, but it laid the ground work for what was to come.

Run-D.M.C. would go on to have huge success with their next album, 1986's Raising Hell, which included the top ten remake of Aerosmith's "Walk this Way."  They remained at the forefront of the rap scene through the early to mid 1990s, at which point they gradually faded from view.  The group officially disbanded following Jam-Master Jay's murder in 2002.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Treat Her Right - I Think She Likes Me

Boston-based Treat Her Right was an interesting band who performed a modern, alternative version of the blues.  Loved by critics and the college rock crowd, they never quite broke out, but they were one of the bands that laid the foundation for the 1990's alternative trend.

The band was named after the 1965 Roy Head and the Traits song, and had an obvious appreciation of old school and lesser-known rock, as evidenced by the two covers on the debut album (which were by James Blood Ulmer and Captain Beefheart).  In addition, they were unusual from an instrument perspective, as they used the guitar almost as a bass, and a cocktail drum kit.

Treat Her Right released three albums from 1986 - 1991.  I believe that only their self-titled debut LP charted (at #127).  "I Think She Likes Me" did not chart on the top 100, but did hit #15 on the Mainstream Rock charts in 1988.  In typical blues style, the song is based on a true story that happened to guitarist Mark Sandman in Colorado.

After the breakup of Treat Her Right, Sandman would go on to form Morphine, and would carve out a successful career playing alternative blues until his sudden death from a heart attack in 1999.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Donald Fagen - New Frontier

Donald Fagen is one of those musicians who totally marches to his own beat.  Fagen (and Walter Becker) were Steely Dan, a truly outstanding fusion (jazz-rock) band that recorded some of the most interesting songs of the 1970's and early 1980's.  When that partnership ended, Fagen went out on his own and his first solo album was 1982's The Nightfly.

Conceived as a sentimental remembrance of 1950's and early 1960's America, The Nighfly is now regarded as a classic, and further cemented Fagen's reputation as a songwriting genius and a studio perfectionist.  The album is impeccably arranged and produced and the material is extremely strong.

The video for "New Frontier" is typical Fagen -- understated and lovingly crafted as a real work of art.  No less a source than Allmusic states that it "was widely considered one of the great videos of the early MTV era."  The attention to detail, down to the animation is remarkable.  Fagen appears only in a poster seen in the video, underscoring him as the anti-celebrity.

Helped by the video, "New Frontier" rose to #70 on the charts, while the other single from The Nightfly, "I.G.Y." peaked at #26.  The album hit #11 and went platinum.

Unfortunately, Fagen then developed a case of writers block; his next album was not released until 1993.  He eventually reconciled with Walter Becker and has remained active as both a solo artist as as a member of  Steely Dan in recent years.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Was (Not Was) - Walk the Dinosaur

With a really catchy backbeat and a fun, Flintstones-esque video, "Walk the Dinosaur"  became a big hit in the late 1980's.  The song was originally released in 1987 in the UK, where it would climb to #10, but it would not peak on the U.S. charts (at #7) until 1989.  Needless to say, it became Was (Not Was') biggest hit, although it is worth noting that the band had an additional top 40 hit, as "Spy in the House of Love" reached #16 in 1988.

Was (Not Was) was founded by David and Don Was (really David Weiss and Don Fagenson) in the late 1970's, and over time the band gained a small following with their funky, slightly strange dance pop sound.  However, only 1988's What Up, Dog?  broke the top 50 on the Billboard album charts.  By the early 1990's, the band went on hiatus, as David and Don Was pursued other endeavors -- Don became a successful record producer while David became a journalist (and produced several soundtracks).  They reunited in 2004 and continue to perform together to the present time, even releasing a new CD in 2008.

Curiously, "Walk the Dinosaur" is an upbeat song with dark lyrics -- the song is about nuclear Armageddon. (Somehow that part didn't make it into the video).  Also, the song has taken on a life of its own -- it has appeared on several soundtracks (including the 1994 version of The Flintstones movie) and was used at Chuck E. Cheese's and Disney's Animal Kingdom.  Go figure.

Oh and consider yourself warned -- this thing will bounce around your head at random times for a few days. It is a damn catchy beat.  And with that warning ... "Boom boom acka lacka lacka boom."

Cool trivia fact:  Rolling Stone ranked What Up, Dog? as the 99th greatest album of the 1980's.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Go-Go's - Turn to You

Most readers will be familiar with the Go-Go's, the all-female new wave band from California.  Best known for being one of the first successful female bands that controlled their music (i.e., wrote their own songs and played their instruments), they emerged on the scene with a hugely successful debut album, 1981's Beauty and the Beat.  That LP went double platinum and was the #1 record in the U.S. for six weeks, making it one of the most successful debut albums of all time.  Unfortunately, the band only released two other albums in the 1980's before breaking up due to drug use and creative differences.

"Turn to You" was the last of the band's five top 40 hits, reaching #32 on the charts and coming off the Go-Go's final studio album of the decade, 1984's Talk Show.  Talk Show is an interesting album -- it received generally positive reviews, and was seen as a return to form after the somewhat disappointing Vacation LP.  However, it did not do well from a sales perspective, peaking at #18 and failing to even go gold.  In recent years the band has generally avoided playing material from this album in concert, leading some to speculate that the songs are associated with the difficult time around the Go-Go's breakup.

The video is something else, involving lots of early 1960's period details, a young Rob Lowe, the band members dressed as men, and the like.  It was the band's first story video and I think they did a solid job with it.

Cool trivia fact:  "Turn to You" was written by Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin and was inspired by Caffey's boyfriend at the time, baseball player Bob Welch.

Cool trivia fact #2:  The video was directed by Mary Lambert, who directed a ton of 1980's videos, including Janet Jackson's "Nasty" and "Control" and Madonna's "Borderline," "Like a Virgin," "Material Girl," and "Like a Prayer."  Lambert then transitioned to feature films; she mainly directs horror movies, including Pet Sematary and Pet Sematary II and most recently, Mega Python vs. Gatoroid.

As a cool added bonus, I found some footage on the making of "Turn to You," which is presented below, for those who are interested.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Julian Cope - World Shut Your Mouth

The ambitious, eclectic and eccentric Julian Cope has been one of the more interesting figures in the music industry over the past few decades.  Cope first showed up on the scene as the lead singer of The Teardrop Explodes, a psychedelic new wave band from Liverpool.  The band achieved a fair amount of success in the UK in the early 1980's, before creative tensions and drug use tore the band apart.

Cope then went on to a successful solo career.  To be fair, his solo work is somewhat inconsistent, partly due to continued drug use and partly a result of his avant-garde tendencies.  However, at his best, Cope recorded some truly great (and under appreciated) independent rock.

"World Shut Your Mouth" was Cope's most successful single, and was off the Saint Julian LP.  The song was a top 20 hit in the UK, but only rose to #84 in the U.S.  It remains Cope's only charting (top 100) song on Billboard.  The video is pretty straight ahead, with the exception of the jungle gym mike stand.

In the aftermath of Saint Julian, Cope remained a prolific songwriter and continues to release material to the present day.  In addition, he has written 2 autobiographies, 2 books on lesser-known music (one each on the German and Japanese underground music scenes), and 2 books on ancient monuments and sites in the UK and Europe.

Cool trivia fact:  Cope recorded Saint Julian using a Gibson ES-335 12-string guitar, but he only used 9 strings -- the E, A and D strings were singles, while the the G, B and high E strings were doubled.  This is an unusual set up, but it does seem to fit Cope.

Cool trivia fact #2:  Chris Whitten (formerly of The Waterboys) played drums on Saint Julian.  Whitten was also the drummer on "The Whole of the Moon."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Michael Penn - No Myth

The brother of actors Sean and Chris Penn, Michael Penn has had a long career as something of an anti-rock star.  While his first LP, 1989's March did peak at #31 on the album charts, most of his successive work has not had anything close to that level of success.  Nevertheless, Penn is regarded as a strong singer-songwriter and has recorded a bunch of critically acclaimed albums over the years.

"No Myth," the superb first single from March remains as Penn's only top 40 hit; it hit #13 on the charts.  The incredibly catchy song received a bunch of airplay back in the day and the video was in heavy rotation on your favorite video music channel, as well.  Penn was actively involved in the production of the video, mostly because he didn't want it to look too commercial, and I think that he succeeded for the most part.

Penn remains active in the music industry as of this writing, with his wife, Aimee Mann (formerly of 'Til Tuesday).

Cool trivia fact:  Penn may have been cursed by the infamous "best new artist" problem -- he won the 1990 MTV VMA for Best New Artist.  (Ironically, his wife also has the same award -- "Til Tuesday won the 1985 Award).  See the comments section for a list of the VMAs for Best New Artist (current as of this post).

Friday, October 26, 2012

Yazoo - Don't Go

Another superb Halloween video (if I say so myself ... and I do) is Yazoo's "Don't Go."  Long time readers and 1980's synth pop fans will recall that Yazoo (Yaz if you live in the U.S.) was formed by Vince Clarke after he left Depeche Mode.  Although they only released two albums, Yazoo produced some of the strongest synth pop material of the early 1980s, helped by Moyet's powerful vocals.

Yazoo's first album, 1982's Upstairs at Eric's was a smash in the UK, where it went to #2 on the charts.  (The band's follow-up, 1983's You and Me Both, peaked at #1).  However, Yaz had less mainstream success in the U.S., where they were mainly seen as a dance band.  In fact, "Don't Go" did not break the top 100 on the Billboard charts in the U.S., although it did hit #1 on the U.S. Dance charts (and #3 in the UK).  However, the video was popular on MTV back in the day.  I dig the Rocky Horror vibe of the video, and I think it works quite well with the song.

Yazoo disbanded after their 1983 album.  Vince Clarke would of course go on to form Erasure (ERV featured "A Little Respect" back in March) while Alison Moyet had a successful solo career (particularly in the UK).  Clarke and Moyet re-formed Yazoo in 2008, and they have worked together from time to time since then.

Cool trivia fact:  Yazoo never had a top 40 hit in the U.S., although "Only You" and "Situation" both broke the top 100.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ozzy Osbourne - Bark at the Moon

A strong candidate for the second-best Halloween video ever, "Bark at the Moon" came about in large part due to Ozzy's fascination with werewolves.  As many readers will know, werewolves were everywhere during the 1980's (much like vampires today), including in An American Werewolf in London (which inspired Osbourne and Michael Jackson) and the "Thriller" video.

Once Osbourne decided on the werewolf theme, the decision was made to use the same team for the album cover shoot and the video.  While he did not get John Landis (who directed both An American Werewolf and "Thriller"), the team that was put together consisted of horror movie professionals, and the results were quite solid, in my opinion.

The song is also noteworthy in that it was the first collaboration between Ozzy and Jake E. Lee, who replaced Randy Rhodes as Ozzy's guitarist.  Rhodes, of course, died in a plane crash in 1982.  Lee worked with Ozzy until 1987 and would then go on to form Badlands, who have already appeared on this blog and are one of the rare underrated 1980's hard rock bands, in your author's opinion.

The Bark at the Moon LP would peak at #19 in the U.S and would go on to triple platinum status.  "Bark at the Moon" (the single) would not do as well, and did not break the top 100, hitting #109 at its peak.  To be fair, few of Ozzy's singles did well.  However, Ozzy has remained successful and continues to perform and record to the present day.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Sherbs - We Ride Tonight

Long time readers will remember that ERV loves Halloween, and we put up a few Halloweeny videos last year before the holiday.  [As an aside, last year's videos can be found by clicking the All Hallows Even tag here or to the right.]

This year's All Hallows Even tribute starts with a classic by The Sherbs.  This is the band's second appearance at ERV; "I Have the Skill" was featured in June, 2012.  In short, The Sherbs were the re-formed version of Sherbert, a successful Australian pop band who changed their name, updated their sound, and released two albums in the early 1980s.

"We Ride Tonight" was from the second solo record, 1981's Defying Gravity.  The song hit #26 on the U.S Mainstream charts, but did not break the Billboard top 100.  The LP did not do well, and the band broke up soon afterwards.

The video has an eerie feel to it, no doubt inspired by the keyboard intro and unusual bridge.  Both of those sections of the song feature the motorcycle vs. strange people in robes scenes that make the video perfect for this time of year.  The remainder of the video features that band performing, often in close-up.  All-in-all, it seemed like a good way to start the season.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Earth, Wind & Fire - Let's Groove

Earth, Wind and Fire were perhaps the most successful funk/pop act of the 1970's, with six consecutive top five albums.  "Let's Groove" was on the last of those, 1981's Raise.  Although the single and album sold well, critics were less enthusiastic, and in retrospect, this album marked the beginning of the end for the band.

Maurice White, the main creative force behind Earth, Wind and Fire, co-wrote "Let's Groove," and he was clearly searching for an updated sound.  He used a vocoder to create the intro; this funky futuristic vibe is accentuated by the video.  In particular, I love the costumes and the video effects (the video was made using the classic Scanimate computer system, commonly used in the 1970's and early 1980's).

"Let's Groove" peaked at #3, while the Raise LP peaked at #5.  In my book, it is noteworthy that even during their descent, E, W & F were still churning out some really solid music.

While the band soldiered on, they did not have any top 40 hits after 1982, and their album releases became less frequent, as well.  However, they continue to perform (with Maurice White) to this day.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Guns N' Roses - It's So Easy

There was never anything easy about Guns N' Roses.  The band announced their presence with screaming vocals and howling guitars, and made music that was raw, rough and occasionally ugly -- but it was very, very real.  They also brought a level of excitement that rock had not seen in years.  For an all-too-brief period in the late 1980's and early 1990's, they were the Biggest Band in the World, before it all went south.

Between 1987 and 1991, the band released four albums, and sold just shy of 90 million units worldwide.  Appetite for Destruction, their debut LP, was a #1 record and sold 18 million units in the U.S. alone.  So how does a band this big show up on ERV?  Well, that's a funny story ...

Back in 1987, after the band recorded Appetite, they decided to release "It's So Easy" as their lead single.  The video was filmed at Riki Rachtman's Cathouse club, a run down bar that was popular among up and coming LA hard rock bands.  So the video is shot, a rough cut is made ... and the label freaks out.  The video is just way too rough to be played in the U.S.  In fact, an edited version was rejected by MTV, and Geffen drops the video (and never promotes the single, as far as I can tell).

Later, when "Welcome to the Jungle" is released, Geffen still has a hard time with MTV, but finally gets the station to air the video -- at 5AM on a Sunday.  Apparently, MTV almost immediate started getting requests for the video, the momentum built, and ... well, you know the rest of the story.

Years later, the original promo video for "It's So Easy" is leaked and shows up on the internet.  Overall, this makes it the perfect video for ERV -- totally rare video from a huge band.  Oh, and be warned, the video is somewhat explicit, so NSFW (or kids).

2018 Update:  GnR officially released a better quality, official video, so we have updated the link.  It includes a bit of behind the scenes footage from back in the day.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Peter Murphy - Cuts You Up

Regular readers of ERV may remember a post about Love and Rockets from July 2012, which mentioned that the band formed after a failed Bauhaus reunion (lead singer Peter Murphy did not show up).  Although Murphy did not attend the rehearsal, he remained active in the music industry, and carved out a solo career as an independent artist.

Curiously, in the aftermath of Love and Rockets big hit ("So Alive"), Peter Murphy has his biggest commercial success.  Perhaps it was karma, or possibly his record label made an extra effort to promote the single, knowing that his former bandmates had just scored a hit.  In any event, "Cuts You Up," from the 1989 album Deep became an unlikely hit -- reaching #1 on the U.S. Modern Rock charts and peaking at #55 on the Billboard Hot 100.  [As a fun aside, Deep was released on December 19, 1989, making it one of the last albums of the eighties.]

Deep would go on to peak at #44 on the album charts.  While Murphy had other small successes, and released some critically acclaimed material, "Cuts You Up" was his only charting U.S. single.

In spite of the first failed reunion, Bauhaus would reform several times, starting in 1998, and they actually released a new album in 2008.  However, they do not appear to be together as of this writing.

Total non sequitur, but I have always thought of Peter Murphy as a modern, new wave version of David Bowie.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The BusBoys - Boys are Back in Town

The BusBoys are another interesting rock and roll story, and are another band that by all rights should have have been more successful.  The band's big break came when they were featured in the movie 48 Hours (they were the bar band and wrote half of the soundtrack).  While the movie was a smash, the record label was slow to promote the soundtrack, and never released "Boys are Back in Town" as a single.  As a result, The BusBoys did not really capitalize on their success.

The back story to 48 Hours highlights just how unique the band was.  The studio decided that they wanted a black rock and roll band for a scene in the movie, and The BusBoys were one of the only bands that fit the bill.  It also didn't hurt that they had the same agent as Eddie Murphy.  However, their label (Arista) never did figure out how to promote the band, and dropped them after two records.  While they did have a minor hit with "Cleanin' Up the Town" from the 1984 Ghostbusters soundtrack (it hit #68), even that was not enough to convince a major label to re-sign them.

Although they never really broke out, the band has remained together and continues to perform to this day.

I also have to say, I dig the old school MTV intro.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Long time readers will know that in addition to posting rare videos, ERV also likes to highlight covers, particularly ones that fit in the category of "songs that you didn't know were covers."  That is how a totally non-rare song, such as "Girls Just Want to Have Fun"  (or "Bette Davis Eyes" or "I Love Rock 'n' Roll") can show up on the blog.

So try this one on for size:  Cyndi Lauper's breakout hit is a cover.  "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" was originally written and recorded by Philadelphia local hero Robert Hazard and the Heroes in 1979.  When Lauper was putting together her first album, 1983's She's So Unusual, the record label provided her with a bunch of material.  At that time, the label (Portrait / Epic) was interested in Lauper for her voice, but did not have confidence in her songwriting, so they relied on other material (this perception changed after the success of the Lauper co-written hit, "Time After Time").

To her credit, Lauper re-worked the lyrics to suit her, and changed the style of "Girls," making it much more upbeat.  And, undoubtedly some of the success was due to the video, which went on to win the 1984 MTV VMA for Best Female Video.

The song, of course, became a smash, peaking at #2 on the charts -- the first of 4 consecutive top 5 hits from She's So Unusual.  That album, in turn, peaked at #4 and sold 6 million units in the U.S. (16 million worldwide), launching Lauper's career.

Robert Hazard, on the other hand, never had that hit, and is another in a long list of artists who wrote strong material but never found commercial success.  For readers who are so inclined, Mr. Hazard's "Escalator of Life" is also up on the blog (click on the link to see it).  I will also point out that the original version of "Girls" is very good, in your author's opinion.

The famous Cyndi Lauper Version:

And the Robert Hazard version:

Cool trivia fact:  Rolling Stone ranked She's So Unusual as the 75th greatest album of the 1980's.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bon Jovi - In and Out of Love

I'll admit it:  I've always had a soft spot for Bon Jovi.  First off, the band is from my home state (NJ), and second, they wrote a bunch of damn good pop metal songs in the eighties, and then were able to evolve musically during the nineties.

In typical ERV form, we are not going to feature any of the videos from Slippery When Wet; instead we went with "In and Out of Love," from 1985's 7800° Fahrenheit (so named because that is the temperature at which rock melts).  7800° Fahrenheit highlighted the radio-friendly pop metal sound that would take over the music world a year or two later, but it didn't quite resonate with the listening public at the time.  It is not as if the album was a bust -- it hit #37 and went gold, but that is a far cry from the 12 million units that Slippery did.  (As a side note, 7800° Fahrenheit did go platinum in 1987, pushed by the success of Slippery When Wet.)

The "In and Out of Love" video is typical Bon Jovi -- fun and enjoyable.  The video was shot in Seaside Heights, NJ, and features a cast of locals, with a guest appearance by Father Guido Sarducci.  (I linked him to Wikipedia for our younger readers.)  The clips of London and Japan that bookend the video underscore the background of the song -- Jon Bon Jovi wrote it after the band's first tour.

After 7800° Fahrenheit, Bon Jovi focused on improving their music (and sales) and made two significant changes.  First, they brought in professional songwriter Desmond Child to help with a few songs and second, they test marketed the songs (yes, really) with local teenagers in NJ to help determine what went on the record.   The results:  two consecutive #1 singles ("You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Livin' on a Prayer") and a boatload of record sales.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lou Reed - Dirty Blvd.

Although Lou Reed had only modest commercial success, he was an important and influential musician who reshaped the language of rock.  In particular, he approached songs in much the same way that a novelist would, leading to lyrics that touched on adult and even previously taboo topics in a mature way.

For readers who are unaware, Reed got his start in the Velvet Underground.  Much has been written about them; suffice to say that they were an enormously influential band who laid the foundation for punk and new wave.  The famous quote about the VU was that "the first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band."  [This quote has been attributed to both Brian Eno and Peter Buck.]

In 1989, Reed released his 15th solo album, a concept album titled New York.  Although it was well-regarded by critics (who appreciated the back to basics approach), it was not a huge commercial success.  The album peaked at #40, and "Dirty Blvd." did not chart on the main charts (it did hit #1 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks).  I don't think that the video was played much on MTV, though it was played on 120 Minutes (the alternative video show running at the time).

At any rate, "Dirty Blvd." is vintage Lou Reed -- he does his talk/sing thing over a catchy guitar hook, telling a story with provocative lyrics.  I have to say, this is a guy who was creating solid rock songs 25 years after his first band started.  Impressive.

Sadly, Lou Reed died on October 27, 2013.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Steel Breeze - You Don't Want Me Anymore

A testament to the growing power of MTV, "You Don't Want Me Anymore" became a hit for Steel Breeze in 1982.  The song was undoubtedly helped by the quirky video, which went into heavy rotation on your favorite video music channel.

Based in California, Steel Breeze was named after a line in Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond."  [The line:  "You were caught on the crossfire/Of childhood and stardom/Blown on the steel breeze".]  The band released their self-titled debut album in 1982, and actually had two top 40 hits -- "You Don't Want Me Anymore" which peaked at #16 and "Dreamin' Is Easy" which hit #30 (and no, I don't remember "Dreaming Is Easy" either).

The band (with multiple lineups) released four albums after their debut, but none of them charted and they more or less faded from view ... until now.

Cool trivia fact:  "You Don't Want Me Anymore" was the last charting single produced by Kim Fowley, best known for being the manager of the Runaways.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sinéad O'Connor - Mandinka

Before her controversial antics turned her into a virtual pariah, Sinéad O'Connor was an important and interesting new artist.  Her debut album, 1987's The Lion and the Cobra is still viewed as a significant album for both alternative rock and female artists.  In fact, O'Connor's aggressive style set the stage for a host of female performers during the 1990's, including Liz Phair and Alanis Morissette.

For the blog, I have chosen "Mandinka," the song that really launched her career in the U.S.  The video was played on MTV a bit back in the day, including on 120 Minutes (now who remembers that show?), which helped to make it a college rock hit.  However, the song did not chart on the Billboard 100.

Of course, Sinéad O'Connor's follow up album, 1990's I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got became a huge hit (#1 just about everywhere), led by the Prince-penned "Nothing Compares 2 U" (also #1 just about everywhere).  From there, things went downhill in a hurry, as O'Connor's controversial political stands and erratic behavior hurt her popularity to the point that she was booed offstage at a Bob Dylan tribute concert.  She eventually "retired" from the music industry for a number of years, although she has released new material in recent years.

Cool trivia fact:  Sinéad O'Connor is a rare one hit wonder -- her only top 40 hit (the previously mentioned "Nothing Compares 2 U") was a #1 hit.  "The Emperor's New Clothes," O'Connor's only other charting hit in the U.S., peaked at #60.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Kinks - Do It Again

One of the amazing things about music in the eighties was how diverse it was, something that we try to reflect at ERV.  In fact, along with all of the the new bands that came onto the scene, there were quite a few older bands that were still writing good songs -- Queen, Cheap Trick, Nazareth and Roxy Music are already up on the blog, for instance.  [Interestingly, it seems to me that many of these "classic rock" bands ran out of steam in the mid-1980's.]

"Do It Again," from the Kinks 1984 LP Word of Mouth was arguably the bands' last great song.  It was unarguably the last Kinks song to chart on the Billboard 100, peaking at #41.  This made it the 23rd top 100 U.S. single from the band, highlighting a career that spanned 20+ years.  While it would be hard to put the Kinks in the same category as the Beatles or the Stones, they have always seemed to be somewhat underrated to me.  The band has an extremely strong catalog of songs that should put them in the top tier of rock bands ever ... but somehow they seem to fly a bit under the radar.

At any rate, "Do It Again" is obviously autobiographical and both the song and video come off as nostalgic and perhaps a little bit weary.  Given the bands' long history and many ups and downs, it is easy to see where this comes from.  Even so, this does not take away from the song, and it remains a solid way to remember the band.

Cool trivia fact:  "Do It Again" is also the name of a wonderful documentary, about a newspaper reporter who decided to embark on a quest to convince the Kinks to reunite.  The doc gets ERV's highest review -- see it if you get the chance.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The S.O.S. Band - Take Your Time (Do It Right)

Long time reader(s) of ERV will know that we have a soft spot for early 80's funk, and "Take Your Time" is one catchy song.  I debated putting it up, since it is not a promotional video, but then I thought of all the positives:

  1. It is a Soul Train clip ...
  2. ... which means that Don Cornelius introduces the band.  Was there a cooler, more debonair dude ever?  (Maybe, but you have to think that Mr. Cornelius is in the discussion)
  3. The song has a xylophone in it.  Funkiest xylophone ever?  (Maybe, but you have to think that this xylophone is in the discussion)
  4. I totally love how much Bruno Speight (guitar) and John Alexander Simpson (bass) are grooving to the song (around 1:43 for the best example ... bopping in time)
  5. The guitar line has to be on the short list of best funk guitar lines ever (see 2:55)
  6. The band looks like they were some kind of funky navy ... or they had been watching too many Adam and the Ants videos

So there you go ... some readers may know that this was off the first (and self-titled) S.O.S. album, from 1980.  The album sold well, driven by "Take Your Time," which hit #3.  While the S.O.S. band did not have another top 40 hit on the main charts, they had a string of R&B hits, four of which showed up on the Billboard 100.  Most of these songs were produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis; the band worked with them starting in 1983.

Although there have been some personnel changes, the S.O.S. band continues to perform to the present day.

Cool trivia fact:  S.O.S. stands for Sound of Success.  The band was originally called Santa Monica (although they were from Atlanta, Georgia, as Mr. Cornelius points out), but they changed their name prior to their first album.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

World Party - Ship of Fools

World Party are essentially a one-man band, formed by Welsh multi-instrumentalist Karl Wallinger in 1986.  Wallinger created World Party after leaving The Waterboys; he had been the keyboard player for that band from 1983 to 1986 (so he did play on the classic "The Whole of the Moon," which was previously featured on this blog.)

Wallinger recorded World Party's debut album, Private Revolution, at his home studio.  He also wrote and performed most of the instruments on the album, although he did use a few studio musicians, including a then-unknown Sinéad O'Connor.  Private Revolution was a psychedelic, retro-sounding pop album, and it did surprisingly well -- the LP hit #39 on the U.S. charts, while "Ship of Fools" clocked in at #27.

While World Party's 1990 follow-up, Goodbye Jumbo did not do as well (peaking at #73), it contains two great pop songs -- "Way Down Now" and "Put the Message in the Box" and it is recommended listening.  Wallinger continues to be active both as World Party, and with other musicians, although he did have a hiatus in the early 2000s due to a brain aneurysm (he has since fully recovered).  And for those keeping score at home, "Ship of Fools" was World Party's only top 40 U.S. hit.

Cool trivia fact:  While Wallinger did work with a few studio musicians on Private Revolution, he also listed multiple pseudonyms on the albums credits, including:  Delahaye, Rufus Dove, Will Towyn, Martin Finnucane, Ahmed Gottlieb and Millennium Mills.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Charlie Sexton - Beat's So Lonely

Part of the vibrant Austin, Texas blues scene, Charlie Sexton was taught guitar by W.C. Clark, the famed instructor of Stevie Ray and Jimmy Vaughan, among others.  By the mid-1980s, Sexton had developed a reputation as something of a guitar prodigy, which led to a recording contract.  Amazingly, his first album, 1985's Pictures for Pleasure, came out before Sexton's 17th birthday.

In an effort to make Sexton's sound more commercial, synthesizers and drum machines were added, which resulted in an inconsistent album.  However, this formula worked quite well on the lead single, "Beat's So Lonely," and the song became a hit, landing at #17, while the LP hit #15.  Unfortunately, none of Sexton's subsequent songs or albums did as well, leaving him as a one hit wonder.

Fortunately, Sexton remained in demand as a studio musician and collaborator with country, blues and rock artists including Bob Dylan, the Arc Angles, Lucinda Williams and  Edie Brickell.  He continues to write and perform to this day.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Planet P Project - Why Me?

Long time reader Krista requested this, and I have to say that it is an excellent pick, even if it did take me a minute to even remember the song.

Planet P Project (named after a planet from Robert A. Heinlein's book Starship Troopers) was an experimental band comprised of keyboardist Tony Carey and producer Peter Hauke.  Carey had previously played in Rainbow from 1976-77, and was working on his solo career in the early 1980s.  While Carey's solo work was relatively straight ahead rock, Planet P Project provided an outlet for his avant-garde side.

Amazingly, "Why Me?" caught somebody's eye at MTV and the video went into moderate rotation for a while.  It was definitely among the stranger things being played on the channel at the time, both musically and visually.  While "Why Me?" did not break the top 40, it did chart -- hitting #64, and helped the self-titled album reach #42 on the charts.  When the follow up album, 1984's Pink World only reached #121, Carey dropped Plant P, although he did reform the concept in 2005 and has released three albums in recent years.

Note that Tony Carey's 1982 single, "I Won't Be Home Tonight" was posted on ERV in July 2014.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Call - Let the Day Begin

The Call are another in a long list of bands who were critically acclaimed, but never quite found their audience.  Other artists that would I would place in this category include Marshall Crenshaw and XTC.  Note that the Underrated label to the right captures a bunch of additional bands (or songs) that by all rights should have been bigger than they were.

The Call was led by singer-guitarist Michael Been, and formed in California in the early 1980s.  Critics liked their roots rock sound and sophisticated lyrics, with some referring to The Call as a kind of updated version of The Band.  These comparisons were likely helped by Robbie Robertson appearing on their 1985 album, Reconciled.  Peter Gabriel was also a fan, and guested on the same album.

"Let the Day Begin" from the 1989 LP of the same name was The Call's biggest hit -- it reached #51 on the charts, while the album peaked at #64.  Unfortunately, the band broke up in 1990, when Been left to pursue a solo career.  The Call then re-formed in 1997 but broke up for good in 2000.

Sadly, Michael Been died of a heart attack in 2010, while working as a sound tech for his son's band (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club).

Note that The Call's "When the Walls Came Down" was posted on ERV in June 2014.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Donnie Iris - Ah! Leah!

While the lyrics hint at a great story behind Donnie Iris' "Ah! Leah!," it turns out that there really isn't one.  In fact, the song originally had an anti-war concept before turning into a love / lust song, and the name came from a previous band mates' girlfriend.  Ah well.

"Ah! Leah!" was Donnie Iris' (given name:  Dominic Ierac) first solo hit, but he had an interesting career before that. He started as the lead singer of The Jaggerz, who had a huge hit in 1970 with "The Rapper."  After The Jaggerz broke up, Iris was asked to join Wild Cherry, who were popular based on their 1976 hit "Play That Funky Music."  And after Wild Cherry broke up, Iris went out on his own with Mark Avsec, the keyboard player for Wild Cherry.

Iris' first album, 1980's Back on the Streets, went to #57 on the charts, while "Ah! Leah!" hit #29.  Iris would go on to have 5 more charting singles, including two more top 40 hits through 1985, so there is no one hit wonder story here.  However, legal problems with his record label prevented any new material from being released from 1985 through 1992, which effectively ended Iris' mainstream popularity.  Even so, Iris (and Avsec) continue to record and perform to the present day.  

Cool trivia fact:  The actress in the "Ah! Leah!" video is rumored to be Joanna Lumley, who became famous as Patsy Stone in the BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Johnny Hates Jazz - Shattered Dreams

Named after a friend of the band (who really did hate jazz), Johnny Hates Jazz was one of a series of groups who shot to prominence, only to quickly fade away.  [Spandau Ballet, Cutting Crew, Level 42 and The Blow Monkeys all come to mind right away in this category.]

Johnny Hates Jazz formed in 1986 and were ironically signed by Virgin Records after performing at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London.  Seriously.  "Shattered Dreams" was their first single on Virgin, and it became a worldwide smash -- hitting #5 in the UK and #2 in the U.S. (where it was released in 1988).  Their follow up single, "I Don't Want to be a Hero," also from their debut LP Turn Back the Clock did reasonable well, peaking at #31 in the U.S.  For those keeping score at home, this means that Johnny Hates Jazz was not a one hit wonder.

While they did not appear on the U.S. charts after those two songs, the band had four additional top 100 songs in Britain, all but one from their Turn Back the Clock album.  The band (minus original lead signer Clark Datchler) did release a second album in 1991, but it did not chart, and they officially broke up soon afterwards.

The video shows the trio in fine form, and while it is a bit reminiscent of The Car's "You Might Think," it still gets a solid in my book.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Glass Moon - On A Carousel

Glass Moon's "On A Carousel" is a perfect video for the blog because (1) it is rare and (2) it is a cover.  As many readers will know, ERV loves to highlight covers, especially of songs that are not commonly known to be remakes.  In this case, the cover was somewhat rare, so many folks may not know either the cover or the original version of this song.

Glass Moon was an early and brief MTV success story.  The band was from Raleigh, North Carolina and formed in the early 1970s.  They released three records in the early 1980s, and had three charting singles, with 1982's "On a Carousel" standing out as the only one that broke the top 100 -- it hit #50.  Unfortunately, the Growing in the Dark album did not chart, and the band broke up after their 1984 effort (Sympathetic Vibrations) did not do any better.

The video is a pretty typical early effort, mixing the band performing with some playground shots.  It is not the most polished video, but that just adds to the charm, in your author's opinion.  It did show up in moderate rotation for a time on MTV.

As to the song, "On a Carousel" is a cover of a Hollies song from 1967 that originally hit #11 on the U.S. charts (and #4 in the UK).  It is notable as the first Hollies song where Graham Nash was the lead vocalist (although it was only for the first few lines).  Nash would leave the Hollies in 1968 and go on to form Crosby, Stills and Nash.  (I think he ended up doing ok for himself.)

The 1982 Glass Moon version:

And the 1967 Hollies original -- the video filmed for a 1960's Granada TV program (or programme, if you are reading this in the UK):

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Concrete Blonde - God is a Bullet

Concrete Blonde came out of the post-punk LA scene and became an influential alternative rock band, one of several who drove indy rock's explosion in the early 1990s.  In this regard, they loosely fit in with The Pixies.  However, Concrete Blonde also had a distinct sound with thoughtful lyrics that made that somewhat unusual.  And as you'd expect, this led to more popularity among music critics and college students than the general public.

The band was led by singer/bassist Johnette Napolitano and guitarist James Mankey, who had worked together as Dream 6 in the early 1980s.  By 1986 they had generated enough buzz to be signed by I.R.S. records, where label-mate Michael Stipe (of R.E.M.) suggested their name.  The term Concrete Blond was a derogatory term referring to the bleached blonds of the LA hair metal scene, but in interviews the band claimed that they just liked the term, as it had both hard and soft connotations which seemed to suit their style.

In typical ERV fashion, we are going to skip over the band's big hit, "Joey" (which is from 1990, anyhow) and present "God is a Bullet" from 1989's Free LP.  The song did not chart on the main charts (it did hit the Modern Rock Tracks) and I don't recall seeing the video at the time. However, it is a really solid, driving rock song -- perfect for the blog.

Concrete Blonde would have major success with their 1990 album, Bloodletting (which contained "Joey") and released a few additional albums in the early 1990s before breaking up.  They re-formed in the early 2000s before breaking up again in 2006.

Monday, July 30, 2012

New Edition - Candy Girl

For better or worse (mostly worse), New Edition created the template that would be used by boy bands during the 1980s and 1990s.  Unlike many other boy bands, though, New Edition was an actual group, and the members -- Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe and Ralph Tresvant -- all grew up in Boston.

The group was spotted by promoter Maurice Starr at a talent show, who signed them to a recording contract in spite of the fact that they came in second.  Star modeled the band after the Jackson 5 (in fact, the name signified that they were a 'New Edition' of that group) and actively shaped their sound and image -- for example, he co-wrote "Candy Girl" and played guitar and synthesizers on the Candy Girl album.

"Candy Girl" was a success -- it peaked at #46 on the charts (and also became a #1 hit in the UK).  However, in an infamous story, the boys (they were 13 to 15) were dropped off after their first tour and handed checks for $1.87 each (they rest was spent on tour expenses, they were told).  Unsurprisingly, the band lawyered up, eventually firing Star and signing a lucrative contract with MCA.

From there, New Edition would go on to much larger success, with four consecutive gold or platinum LPs.  Later, both Bobby Brown and Bell Biv DeVoe found solo success, and in Bell Biv DeVoe's case, became one of the originators of what became known as New Jack Swing.

Maurice Starr would quickly move on and form a white version of New Edition, which he named the New Kids on the Block.

While "Candy Girl" is not groundbreaking, it is a solid updated version of the Jackson 5 sound.  The video (which I don't ever recall seeing on MTV) is the band singing and dancing around Boston, I believe.  And yes, they guys were really young back then.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Robert Cray - Smoking Gun

One of a handful of artists who helped reinvigorate the blues genre was Robert Cray.  In fact, his 1986 major label debut, Strong Persuader, played a key role in bringing an updated, mellow form of the blues back into the mainstream.  As a result, no less an authority than Rolling Stone magazine placed this album 42nd on its list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s.

Cray was in his early 30s when Strong Persuader was released, making him a younger spokesman for the blues.  And while some saw his mellow sound and commercial success as signs of a sellout, most critics viewed him as an artist who successfully brought the blues back to relevance in the 1980s.

"Smoking Gun" was the big hit off the album, and turned out to be Cray's only top 40 hit (yes, there sure are a lot of great musicians on this blog who are official one hit wonders).  The song peaked at #22 in 1986, while the album hit lucky #13.  The video tires to capture a performance vibe, with mixed success.

Cray would never match the success of Strong Persuader, but he has had a long, solid career, and continues to record and perform to this day.

Cool trivia fact:  Robert Cray played bass in Otis Day and the Knights' band in National Lampoon's Animal House.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Roxy Music - More Than This

The Universe made another request, playing this song serendipitously as  I was considering the next entry, and I do try to accommodate requests (especially from The Universe).  So without further ado ...

Many readers will be familiar with Roxy Music.  The English art rock band formed in the early 1970's, and went on to have huge success in Britain, where every one of their studio albums broke the top 10, including three number ones.  In the U.S., they were significantly less successful, although they built a loyal following through the 1970's and early 1980's.

The band was known for their sophistication, particularly lead singer Bryan Ferry -- perhaps the most debonair rock star ever.  As is often the case, their sound evolved over time, and gradually became less art rock and more atmospheric pop, although there was often a strong pop sensibility to their songs.  The band's final album, 1982's Avalon, represented something of a peak for the band.  Incredibly lush and layered, it is a real work of art.  Much of the music was written by Ferry while he was on vacation on the West coast of Ireland and their is something of an ethereal vibe that runs through the entire LP.

I don't use the word masterpiece much on the blog (I think the only other time that I have used it was for The Waterboys song "The Whole of the Moon") but I think that "More Than This" qualifies.  The striking guitar line, the lyrics, the synthesizers all paint a musical picture that is haunting, with a gentle sadness.  "More Than This" also has a spectacular, lingering outro that perfectly suits the song.

Amazingly, "More Than This" did not break the top 100 in the U.S. (#103), although it was a top 10 hit in the U.K. and Australia.  The Avalon album peaked at #53 in the U.S., (it was a #1 LP in Britain).  The video might be a tad bit overdone, but it does seem to suit the band and the song.

Bryan Ferry broke up Roxy Music soon after Avalon's release, and went on to have a successful solo career (particularly in the U.K).  The band did re-form and toured in the early 2000's, but Ferry has stated that he does not intend to release another Roxy Music album.

Cool trivia fact:  Roxy Music is a U.S. one hit wonder.  Their only top 40 hit was "Love is the Drug" (#30) from 1975.

Cool trivia fact #2:  10,000 Maniacs 1997 cover of "More Than This" hit #25 on the Billboard charts -- higher than any Roxy Music single ever, and much higher than the superior original version.  Go figure.

Cool trivia fact #3:  Rolling Stone rated Avalon as the 31st best album of the 1980's.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Badlands - Dreams in the Dark

By the late 1980's, hard rock was enjoying huge commercial success, a backdrop that should have made Badlands big, big stars.  Surprisingly, though, the band's blues-rock sound did not resonate with the record- buying public, making Badlands a rare case of an underrated late 1980's hard rock band.

The driving force behind Bandlands was guitarist Jake E. Lee, who left Ozzy Osbourne with the stated intention of forming a band.  The addition of lead singer Ray Gillen from Black Sabbath helped to cement that sound, which was roughed up blues-rock (think updated Led Zepplin).  Although the band was well-regarded in the music industry, their debut album (Badlands) was a commercial disappointment, peaking at #57 on the album charts.

"Dreams in the Dark" was their lead single, and it did not chart.  The video shows the band's approach -- I would describe them as a "let the music do the talking" sort of band.  Unfortunately, this image just didn't click with their audience at the time.

Their follow up LP, Voodoo Highway performed worse, and the band broke up in 1993.  Jake E. Lee has kept a pretty low profile since then, although he has put out a few solo albums and continues to play.  Ray Gillen died of an AIDS-related disease in 1993.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Divinyls - Boys in Town

"Boys in Town" was the debut single by Divinyls, the Australian rock/new wave act fronted by the charismatic Chrissy Amphlett.  The song was released internationally in 1983, as the lead single off the Desperate album.  (It had been released earlier in Australia, and was included on the soundtrack of Monkey Grip, an early Ken Cameron film.)

While the song was a big hit in their native Australia (#8), it did not chart in the U.S.  In fact, the Divinyls did not really break out in the U.S. until their eponymous 1991 CD, which includes the #4 hit "I Touch Myself."  By that point, the band was essentially a duo, with Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee (they used session musicians when they recorded or while touring).

The "Boys in Town" video is a performance clip from the Monkey Grip movie, and it shows the band in fine form.  Chrissy Amphlett really did use the illuminated mike stand in her early performances; that, combined with her schoolgirl outfit and aggressive attitude, made for a strong live show.

Sadly, Chrissy Amphlett passed away on April 21, 2013 after a long battle with breast cancer.

Cool trivia fact:  yes, the Divinyls count as a one hit wonder in the U.S., as "I Touch Myself" was their only  top 40 hit.

"Pleasure and Pain," the cool 1985 minor hit for Divinyls was posted on ERV on December 2017.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

10,000 Maniacs - Like the Weather

Few bands have as much of a disconnect between their name and their sound as 10,000 Maniacs.  The inspiration for the band's name came from the 1964 Herschell Gordon Lewis splatter film, Two Thousand Maniacs!, which is about as far from folk-pop as you can get.  As an aside, the band may not have remembered exactly how many maniacs were involved when they picked their name.

10,000 Maniacs' first big commercial success was their 1987 album, In My Tribe, and "Like the Weather" was their first charting single.  Although it did not break the top 40, it reached a respectable #68.  The band would go on to have seven additional charting singles, including two top 40 hits (but only one after lead singer Natalie Merchant left the band in 1993).  With their mellow sound and socially-aware lyrics, they became a staple of the "coffeehouse sound" and enjoyed significant success on college radio.

The video is pretty standard fare, although it almost seems to be a song by Natalie Merchant with a backing band.  To be fair, she did write the song, though.

As most readers will know, both 10,000 Maniacs and Natalie Merchant remain active in the music industry as of this writing.

Cool trivia fact:  Rolling Stone views In My Tribe as the 65th best record of the 1980's.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

J. Geils Band - Love Stinks

You have to just love a video that starts with the drummer playing on his set in an alley with frozen fish (yes, you read that correctly), followed by some great power chords and a guy playing two trumpets while bouncing on a pogo stick.  Welcome to the wonderful, slightly insane world of the J. Geils Band.

The band formed in the late 1960's, and had a solid career in the 1970's, with its blues-influenced bar rock and energetic live shows.  Their breakout album was, of course, 1981's Freeze Frame, which was a #1 LP with two top five singles ("Centerfold" and the title cut).  As is typical for ERV, we are going to dig a tiny bit deeper and go with the title song from their 1980 album -- Love Stinks.  

"Love Stinks" is a bit more rocking than most of J. Geils' early 80's songs, but shows the direction that the band was moving towards -- a more radio friendly sound with strong hooks and slick production techniques.    Ironically, this transition would lead to huge success a year later but also accelerated the end of the band, as the creative tensions between singer Peter Wolf and keyboardist Seth Justman (the band's songwriters) took its toll.

While the Love Stinks album peaked at #18, the single of the same name barely broke the top 40 at #38.  The well done video (unusual for its day) did generate some airplay on shows such as HBO's Video Jukebox, but was released before the video music revolution took hold.  Pity.

Some additional cool J. Geils insanity, also off the Love Stinks LP:  "No Anchovies, Please."

Cool trivia fact:  "Love Stinks" was the 83rd video ever played on MTV, and was played on the first day that the video channel was up.

J. Geils' "Come Back" was posted on ERV in June 2015.