Saturday, January 28, 2012

Jane Wiedlin - Rush Hour

Best known as the rhythm guitarist for the Go-Gos, Jane Wiedlin also released two albums that charted in the 1980's, and has released two more since then.

"Rush Hour" is from her second album, 1988's Fur.  Although the album received mixed reviews, "Rush Hour"  was praised as a good pop song, and would go on to become Wiedlin's biggest solo hit, reaching #9 on the Billboard charts.  Unfortunately, the Fur album did not do as well, peaking at #105.

The original idea for the song came from sitting in traffic in LA.  It occurred to Wiedlin, that "Rush Hour" sounds like it should be fun, but obviously it isn't.  She turned the phrase on its head, and came up with the idea for the song, which she then co-wrote with Peter Rafelson (a professional song writer).

The video is relatively simple, and just shows Wiedlin performing and swimming with the fishies (ok, dolphins, whatever).  Wiedlin is a well-known animal rights activist, which may have had something to do with it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rocky Burnette - Tired of Toein' the Line

Rocky Burnette (given name: Jonathan), was the son of early rocker Johnny Burnette.  Johnny wrote "You're Sixteen," later made famous by Ringo Starr, and ran in the same circles as Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins.  He was tragically killed in a boating accident in 1964.

Years later, Rocky joined the family business, and wrote updated rockabilly songs, in the same genre as his dad had in the 1950's and early 1960's.  Rocky is best known for "Tired of Toein' the Line," the 1980 single from the 1979 album Son of Rock'n'Roll.  The song was a huge hit, peaking at #8, while the album hit #53.  Although Rocky never had another big hit, he has remained a working musician, to this day, in fact.

"Tired of Toein' the Line (nice apostrophe) is a catchy song, but it appears that Rocky and his friends completely lost their minds when it came time for the video shoot.  To be fair, early 80's videos were something of an afterthought, as MTV didn't even launch until 1981 (and didn't really gain traction until 1982).  Even so, the chicks in shiny pantsuits energetically pretending to play instruments ... including trombone (yes, really), while Rocky sings with his shirt open, wearing his best Ted Nugent sunglasses ... well, the video scores high on the cheesy / WTF scale.  It might even be so bad that it's good, but you'll have to be the judge of that.

Cool trivia fact:  Rocky would go on to work with Dwight Twilley in the 1990's ... who is also on the blog for a different cheesy video.  Go figure.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Alphaville - Big in Japan

There were a number of continental European bands that had hits during the 1980's, especially in the dance and synth pop segments.  Among them was Alphaville, a German group named after the influential 1965 film by Jean-Luc Godard.

Alphaville came out of the Berlin music scene of the early 1980's -- the members had been part of the Nelson Community, a short-lived art collective.  The band consisted of keyboardists Bernhard Lloyd (real name: Bernhard Gößling) and  Frank Mertens (Frank Sorgatz) along with singer Marian Gold (Hartwig Schierbaum).

The trio released the Forever Young album in 1984, and it would go on to be their biggest LP.  In the U.S. , "Big in Japan" and "Forever Young" both charted, and hit #1 and #2 on the Dance Charts, respectively.  While the Forever Young LP barely broke into the top 200 albums in the U.S. (peaking at #180), it became a top 20 album across much of western Europe.

The backstory for "Big in Japan" is interesting -- unlike the other songs on the album, it had been originally written by Marian Gold in 1979, and the title came from the name of Holly Johnson's band at the time.  (Johnson would go on to form Frankie Goes to Hollywood.)  Gold has stated the the lyrics were inspired by a story of a couple trying to get off heroin.  The idea of going far away seemed to fit this story, so he used the phrase "Big in Japan" as the chorus.

As with many other groups, Alphaville was unable to keep it together, as singer Marian Gold left the band in early 1985.  Alphaville continued on and had some modest success in Europe in the mid 1980's, while Gold's solo career never really gained any traction, leaving "Big in Japan" as their biggest hit.

Cool trivia fact:  the video was directed by Dieter Meier of the band Yello.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Choirboys - Run to Paradise

The Choirboys (not to be confused with the London Quireboys) came out of the vibrant Sydney pub rock scene of the late 1970's and early 1980's.  In 1983, their self-titled first album rose to #26 on the Australian charts, and the band seemed posed to breakout.  Unfortunately, lead singer Mark Gable ruptured his vocal chords while performing, and the band were unable to perform or record for several years.

After several personnel changes (and on a new label), the band finally recorded their follow-up album, Big Bad Noise in 1987.  The album was a massive success in Australia -- "Run to Paradise" topped out at #3, and became the 11th highest selling single of the eighties.  Big Bad Noise peaked at #5 and went double platinum.

Their local success helped them gain some traction in the U.S., where "Run to Paradise" hit #80 on the Billboard charts.  However, their next few albums did not do as well, leaving "Run to Paradise" as their only charting song in the U.S.

Although they did not see huge success in the U.S., the band did carve out a successful career in Australia, with 6 top 40 hits, although none approached the success of "Run to Paradise" and Big Bad Boom.

Cool trivia fact: A remixed version of "Run to Paradise" (by Nick Skitz) hit #16 in 2004 and went platinum in Austalia.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The John Hall Band - Crazy

Here at ERV we are not above taking requests, even from (especially from) The Universe.  Tonight, on my way home from work, I was reflecting on which video to post next when this popped up on my local classic rock station.  I consider it a sign (or a request ... whatever), and as I have said at least once before, when The Universe makes a request, I listen.

You might not know John Hall's name (no, he was not in Hall & Oats) but you know his music.  He was a founder of Orleans, best know for their 1970's top 10 hits "Dance with Me" and "Still the One."  Hall left the band in 1977 (just after their two big hits) in search of a solo career, and as is often the case, it did not turn out that well.  The John Hall Band put out two albums (which did not break the top 100) and two singles, neither of which broke the top 40.

Hall's first solo single "Crazy" (sometimes with the added (Keep on Fallin')) from 1981's All of the Above is a typical early video -- it is just the band playing on a stage.  However, the catchy hook helped it go into heavy rotation for months in the early days of MTV.  I particularly enjoy the three lead vocals, with keyboardist Bob Leinbach challenging The Producers' Wayne Famous as the coolest 80's keyboard player.  The whole look, down to the matching blue glasses and jumpsuit is just ... Crazy, to coin a phrase.  Also, keep an eye out for the six guitar video effect (starting around 2:19).

Even with a solid song and the previously mentioned airplay on MTV, "Crazy" peaked at #42 in 1981, and the All of the Above album  was unable to break through at #158.  When 1983's Search Party LP did not fare much better (#147), EMI-America dropped the band.

During the 1980's Hall became increasingly involved in politics, eventually leading to two terms as a U.S. Representative from New York state.  Hence the Congressman John Hall Band on the video title (below).  Hall lost the 2010 election and has spent the time since with his family and performing at reunion shows with Orleans.

The extremely rare and surprisingly solid video for "You Sure Fooled Me" was posted on ERV in December, 2015, and is worth checking out.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Van Halen - (Oh) Pretty Woman

In honor of the boys (mostly; I miss Michael Anthony) getting the band back together, may I present Van Halen's first real video.  While Warner Bros. did release videos for earlier songs, they used concert footage for the videos.  (As an aside, it seems that most hard rock bands frowned on doing 'real' videos in the late 1970's and early 1980's.)

At any rate, by 1982 Van Halen were one of the biggest rock acts in the world, but they had also been touring and recording more or less constantly since 1977.  Supposedly, the band wanted to do Diver Down as quickly as possible in order to go on some well deserved vacations.  As a result, the album clocks in at 31 minutes and includes 5 covers.  The result is surprisingly good, highlighting the strength of VH's original lineup

"(Oh) Pretty Woman" is, of course, a cover of a 1964 Roy Orbison song that had spent three weeks at #1.  However, by the early 1980's, Orbison was mostly forgotten; he often credited the Van Halen cover with restarting his career.  The Van Halen version peaked at #12, while Diver Down rose to the #3 spot on the album charts.

In typical semi-self destructive Van Halen style, the video was banned on MTV due to its sexual content (the folks at MTV were apparently not amused by midgets fondling tied-up transvestites).  I remember seeing the video on USA's Night Flight, but it was not widely viewed (= rare!).

Cool trivia facts:  Van Halen's frontman, David Lee Roth directed the video, and claims that he wrote the "Intruder" synthesizer intro to fill enough time for the video.  (Yes, "Intruder" also appears on Diver Down, as the band needed every second that they could find).

In the interest of completeness, here is the Roy Orbison original.  I chose a 1964 Top of the Pops video, as it is the most like a 'real' music video.

Note that David Lee Roth's "Going' Crazy!" video (with the full intro) was posted on ERV in January 2015.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Baltimora - Tarzan Boy

A classic one hit wonder, Baltimora came onto the music scene in 1985 with the catchy dance song "Tarzan Boy."  The band was a strange Northern Irish - Italian collaboration, with an Italian producer and writer (Maurizio Bassi) and a Northern Irish lead singer (Jimmy McShane).

Bassi and McShane apparently met in Ireland in 1984, where McShane worked as an EMT.  The two quickly formed a band, with McShane as the frontman, due to his flamboyant style.  There seems to be some dispute over who actually sung the lead vocals on Tarzan Boy, with several sources claiming that Bassi did the honors.

At any rate, the song became a huge success, hitting #13 in the U.S. (although it did even better in most of Europe).  Unfortunately, the other songs from the Living in the Background album did not do as well, and a second album (1987's Survivor in Love) did not chart at all.  Baltimora disbanded soon afterwards, and neither Bassi nor McShane had much success with their future musical projects.  McShane died of AIDS in 1995.  He was 37.

Cool trivia fact:  A remix of Tarzan Boy charted, and nearly broke the top 40 in 1993 (it peaked at #51), after the song was used in a Cool Mint Listerine commercial.  Here is your special bonus, from your friends at ERV:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Romantics - One in a Million

The Romantics (named because the band formed on Valentine's Day 1977) were a Detroit-based power pop band with clear British Invasion influences.  Although they are best known for their 1980 hit "What I Like About You," it was not their biggest hit.  Instead, 1983's "Talking in Your Sleep" from the In Heat album takes that honor, as it reached #3 on the Billboard charts.

The third single from In Heat is "One in a Million," a solid song with a wonderfully campy video.  Set it some strange alternate 1950's sexy universe, the video does highlight the Romantics sense of style.  Although somewhat hard to describe, I would characterize the band's style as 1950's meets Road Warrior, with extra leather thrown in, to boot.

As is all too common a refrain on this blog, the band was unable to hold it together after In Heat, and drummer Jimmy Marinos left prior to 1985's Rhythm Romance.  While the band continued to work, they did not release another album until the web-released 61/49 in 2003.

Cool trivia fact:  Clem Burke (of Blondie fame) was The Romantics official drummer for most of the 1990's.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rick Springfield - I've Done Everything for You

After working as a musician and actor for years, Rick Springfield finally got his big break in 1981, with the Working Class Dog album.  The album peaked at #7, driven by "Jessie's Girl," a #1 hit with a corresponding video that showed the emerging power of a young MTV.

However, it is the second (charting) single that is more interesting (to me, at least).  "I've Done Everything for You" was another top 10 hit for Springfield, but is actually a cover of a Sammy Hagar song.  The song was originally released on Hagar's 1978 live album, All Night Long, and apparently Hagar had been performing it since 1977.  A Sammy Hagar studio version was released in 1982 (on the Rematch album), in order to attempt to generate momentum in the aftermath of "I've Done Everything" becoming a big hit.

While Rematch was not a big hit, Sammy Hagar's career did take off in 1981, perhaps partly due to the Springfield cover.  Of course, Rick Springfield would go on to have tremendous success in the 1980's, with 4 consecutive top 20 records.

As an aside, I think Springfield does a fine job on the cover, which sounds more polished than the original.

Note that the Sammy Hagar version is louder (!) so you might want to turn down the volume a bit ...

Cool trivia fact:  Rick Springfield played a sex and drug addicted version of himself on the cable TV show Californication, which gets ERV's highest recommendation.