Thursday, March 29, 2012

Benjamin Orr - Stay the Night

Benjamin Orr (Orzechowski) was the co-vocalist and bass player for the Cars, the seminal 70s and 80s new wave band out of Boston.  He released one solo album, 1986's The Lace, which peaked at #86 on the Billboard album charts.  The Lace also produce one hit single, "Stay the Night," which hit #24.

The Lace came out during a down period for the Cars; in fact, Ric Ocasek and Elliot Easton also released solo albums around the same time.  While the band did manage to churn out one more album (1987's Door to Door), in retrospect this was the beginning of the end.  Interestingly, the break up does not seem to have been terribly acrimonious, as many of the members stayed in touch.  It just seemed as if they were tired of working together as a band.

Orr continued to play music, but curiously never did a follow up album.  He apparently recorded some music for an intended CD in the 1990s, but it never materialized.  However, Orr continued to play music until his death (from pancreatic cancer) in 2000.

By the by, an earlier Ric Ocasek solo song ("Something to Grab For") was previously posted on this blog (September 1, 2011).  We also posted the Cars "Since You're Gone" in May, 2014.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Erasure - A Little Respect

If you are not a big 80's synth pop fan, the name Vince Clarke may not mean anything to you, but he wrote some of the strongest songs of the genre, and was a writing force behind several successful bands.

Clarke got his start in Depeche Mode, where he wrote most of the songs for 1981's Speak and Spell, including "Just Can't Get Enough."  A disagreement over the musical direction of the band led to his departure that same year, and he formed Yazoo (Yaz if you live in the U.S), where he again wrote most of the material, including "Don't Go."  When Alison Moyet opted to go solo in 1983, Clarke worked with Eric Radcliffe and Feargal Sharkey (yes, the same one who was highlighted on this blog on November 15, 2011 ... small world, huh?) in a project called The Assembly who actually had a top 5 hit in the UK called "Never Never" that was written by Clarke (of course).

The Assembly did not work out, and Clarke started Erasure (with Andy Bell) in 1985.  After a slow start, they had a string of hits in the UK and Europe, with 22 consecutive top 20 hits in the UK, including 12 that peaked in the top 10.  In the U.S., Erasure was more of a cult dance/synth pop band, and had only 2 top 40 hits -- "Chains of Love" (#12) and "A Little Respect" (#14), both from 1988's The Innocents LP.

"A Little Respect" has become one of Erasure's signature songs, and is a great example of a strong dance/synth/pop song.  However, it would have to go on the list of least imaginative (i.e., most literal) videos ever.  Just check it out (but consider yourself warned ...)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Prince - Dirty Mind

Although Prince was a huge success in the 1980's, this is his second time on the blog ("Controversy" was posted on September 23, 2011).  And I believe that this is justified -- both Prince posts are great songs and rare videos.  In fact, I don't believe that "Dirty Mind" was even played much on MTV -- the only time I recall seeing it was on the old USA show Night Flight (and yes, I did watch Night Flight a lot).

(In fact, seeing this video as a young lad in the early 1980's was a memorable experience.  My thought process went something like this ... "hey this is a really good song ... wait, is that dude wearing panties and garters and a trench coat?  Man, he seems odd ... but I really dig the song.")

"Dirty Mind" was the title cut of the 1980 LP that showed the eccentric music genius of Prince.  He had released two solid, if unspectacular albums in the late 1970's.  However, on the Dirty Mind album, he broke all of the rules, fusing rock, pop, new wave and R&B in a way that hadn't been done before.  He also went way over the line of good taste -- it was an insanely raunchy album for the time.  This combination of weirdness, hyper-sexuality and great music in many different styles would lead Prince to superstardom in a few short years.

The song itself  is driven by a keyboard riff by Doctor Fink, one of the few Prince songs that he did not exclusively write.  It also does not have a chorus -- it is a groove driven song (unconventional, and very cool).  While the Dirty Mind album is now regarded as a masterpiece by many critics, it was not a huge commercial success, peaking at #45 on the album charts.  The single did not even chart.  However, Prince was comfortable with the new direction, and it would lead to tremendous commercial and artistic successes just a few years later.

Ladies and gentlemen, for your audio and video pleasure ... His Purpleness.

Cool trivia fact:  Rolling Stone rated Dirty Mind as the 18th best album of the 1980's.  Purple Rain was ranked second (behind The Clash's London Calling), making Prince the only artist to have 2 LPs in the top 20.

Note that "Uptown" was posted on ERV in January, 2015.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Go West - We Close Our Eyes

Few acts capture that somewhat hard to describe "mid-80's sound" as well as Go West.  The English duo of  Peter Cox and Richard Drummie released a bunch of cotton-candy sweet, but really likable dance/pop/synth songs from 1985 to 1992.  While they are best-known for "King of Wishful Thinking" (their only top 10 hit, from the soundtrack of Pretty Woman), they actually had 7 charting singles, 3 of which broke the top 40.

"We Close Our Eyes," the duo's first single, barely missed being a top 40 hit (and I do mean barely; it peaked at #41 in April of 1985).  The relentlessly happy song, accentuated by keyboards was also an MTV favorite for a time.  The video, directed by 80's video savants Godley and Creme, contains marionettes, lots of exercise, and a really big wrench.  It also feature a cut about every second or so, and seems well-matched to the almost unnaturally happy song.

Go West went on hiatus after 1992's Indian Summer CD, and were dropped by Chrysalis Records.  However, Cox and Drummie remained on good terms, and continue to perform (and even release new material) to the present day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

John Hiatt - Slow Turning

How can you tell if an artist is a great singer-songwriter?  Well, how is this for a partial list of performers who have covered John Hiatt songs:   Bob Dylan, Willy DeVille, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Three Dog Night, Joan Baez, Paula Abdul, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Buffett, Mandy Moore, Iggy Pop, Emmylou Harris, Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Rosanne Cash, Jewel, Aaron Neville, Jeff Healey, Keith Urban, Joe Cocker and Chaka Khan.  Impressive, yo.

John Hiatt put out his first record in 1974, but it took him years to find his voice (and his audience).  In addition, his career was almost ruined by years of alcohol abuse.  His breakthrough came on 1986's Bring the Family, which had two notable songs -- "Have a Little Faith in Me" and "Thing Called Love."  Since then, virtually all of his album have had strong sales, and end up peaking between 110 and 50 or so on the album charts.

Amazingly, in spite of critical acclaim and solid LP sales, Hiatt has never had a top 100 single.  "Slow Turning," from the 1988 LP of the same name, is his biggest hit -- it reached #8 on the Mainstream Rock Charts.  It is also a great song and quirky, cool video.  And, as a bonus, it has one of the great lines in rock and roll:

"Now I'm in my car
Ooh, I got the radio on
And I'm yellin' at the kids in the back
Cuz they're banging like Charlie Watts"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts - I Love Rock 'n' Roll

Yes, this is not a rare song or video, but our loyal reader(s) will know that we like to post songs that you didn't know were covers, and this puppy qualifies.  "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" catapulted Joan Jett to stardom, and was a monster hit -- 7 weeks at #1 in early 1982, and it became the 56th best selling single of the rock era.

What you may not know was that the song is a cover of an Arrows song.  Who are Arrows?  (I'm glad that you asked).  The Arrows were a British pop rock band active from 1974-77, who had a TV show on Granada Television in the UK (this becomes important in a moment).  The song was written in response to the Rolling Stones "It's Only Rock and Roll;" the Arrows felt that the Stones' song was an apology, and this was their response.

The Arrows version was originally released as a B side, then re-recorded and released as an A side in 1975.  However, it did not chart -- but it did show up on the Arrows' TV show.  (Remember how I stated that this was important ...)  Well, Joan Jett saw the song on the TV show while she was touring with the Runaways in 1976, and liked it ... a lot.  She apparently tried to convince the Runaways to record a cover, but her bandmates did not feel the same, so they passed.

Jett eventually recorded a version in 1979, as part of three songs that she recorded with Paul Cook and Steve Jones (of the Sex Pistols) as she tried to start a solo career, but the songs were not released (until years later).  Finally, Jett recorded the song on her second album, which she also titled I Love Rock 'n' Roll ... and the rest, as they say, is history.

Here are the two videos, starting with the original Joan Jett & the Blackhearts vid from 1981 (I love how it starts with Jett's "Bad Reputation" from the her previous album of the same name):

And here is the Arrows version, from TV -- which is, I believe, the version that Joan Jett saw in 1976 (and loved):

Lastly, we recently found a color version of the video, which is below.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Hooters - Karla With a K

The Hooters were formed in Philadelphia in 1980, and were driven musically by the partnership between Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman (who met at Penn in 1971).  The band's style was rocked up folk music (or, if you prefer, folk influenced rock) and sounded quite a bit different from most of what was on MTV in the mid 1980s.

"Karla With a K" was the third single off 1987's Long Way Home, and (unfairly, I think) broke the band's streak of six consecutive singles that charted in the U.S.  The video is a performance clip, with some European travel shots thrown in.

In retrospect, "Karla" was the beginning of the end for The Hooters; while the band's cover of "500 Miles" from 1989's Zig Zag did chart, it was the last Hooters song to do so.  In fact, the poor sales of Zig Zag led Columbia to drop the band.  Although The Hooters soldiered on, and even released an album on MCA, they had little success.  The band unofficially broke up in 1995.

Bazilian and Hyman have remained active in the music industry to this day.  Fittingly, their biggest success was as a team; they co-wrote and performed on Joan Osborne's triple platinum 1995 album Relish ("One of Us" in particular, sounds like it could have been a Hooters song).

Cool trivia fact:  The band took its name from the Melodica (which they called a "hooter"), a combination keyboard/harmonica instrument played by both Bazilian and Hyman.

The Hooters' highest charting single, "Day by Day" was posted on ERV in February, 2016.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Y & T - Summertime Girls

Y&T was a band that was playing the right kind of music at the right time, but somehow never really broke through.  The band formed in Oakland in 1974, and were named after the Beatles LP, Yesterday and Today.  After they signed to A&M in 1980, they shortened their name to Y&T, probably because it sounded more metal.  They would go on to release six radio-friendly hard rock albums in the 1980's, but somehow never found their audience, in spite of the fact that their high energy live shows were legendary.  In retrospect, much of the blame likely lies with the label, as A&M had few hard rock bands (and seemingly had no idea how to promote them).

"Summertime Girls," from the 1985 album Down for the Count was the closest thing to a genuine hit that Y&T had, but it peaked at #55 on the Billboard charts, so the band does not even count as an official one hit wonder.  The video is a cheesy masterpiece of 1980s fun, complete with lots of girls in bikinis, a few metal babes, and roller skates.  And, I found a version that includes the somewhat rare 30 second intro.

While the band broke up in 1991, they reformed in 2001 and are still performing, although I believe that the only original member left is singer/guitarist Dave Maniketti.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Missing Persons - Surrender Your Heart

Missing Persons were an iconic early 1980's MTV band.  With their visually flamboyant style, including singer Dale Bozzio's pink highlights and fishbowl bras, they seemed tailor-made for the new music video channel.

The background story of the band goes back to 1976, when Bozzio ran into Frank Zappa in LA (after walking out of an interview with Hugh Hefner to be a valentine for the annual Playboy party).  Zappa hired her on the spot, and she performed with him throughout the late 1970s.

In 1980, Dale Bozzio, along with her husband Terry and several other member of Zappa's band ventured out on their own as Missing Persons.  Two years of working the LA club scene led to a record deal, and Spring Session M (an anagram of the band's name) was released in 1982.  It became a huge hit, and videos for "Words" and "Destination Unknown" went into heavy (and I do mean heavy) rotation on MTV.

For their second album, the band decided on a somewhat more experimental sound.  Although many critics think that 1984's Rhyme & Reason was their strongest album, it did not resonate with fans.  1986's Color in Your Life did even worse, perhaps impacted by the deteriorating marriage of the Bozzios (they divorced and the band broke up in 1986).

Dale Bozzio went on to record one album on Prince's Paisley Park Records, and then mostly disappeared from view.  Terry Bozio continued on as a session musician, and worked with Andy Taylor (of Duran Duran fame) on his only solo hit, "Take It Easy."

For the blog, I went with "Surrender Your Heart" from Rhyme and Reason.  The video uses paintings from Peter Max and is one of the more interesting/artistic videos of the era.