Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Psychedelic Furs - The Ghost in You

The Psychedelic Furs are another in a growing list of under-appreciated bands on ERV; highlighting videos like "The Ghost in You" is one of the reasons why I started the blog.  In the Furs case, I think the combination of a relatively short period when they were at the top of their game and a somewhat evolving sound combined to limit their success.  However, at their peak (say from 1981-84), they made some of the strongest music of the decade.

The band started in England in 1977 and was formed around the Butler brothers (Richard sang and Tim played bass).  Their name was an allusion to a Velvet Underground song "Venus in Furs."  Some readers may be surprised at how little commercial success the band had in the U.S., where they are an official one hit wonder.  Yes, the Furs only had one top 40 hit ("Heartbreak Beat"), although they did have three other charting singles in the top 60, including "The Ghost in You," which hit #59.

"The Ghost in You" was written by Richard and Tim Butler, and was the second single off the 1984 album Mirror Moves.  It is a lush, atmospheric song, with interesting, ambiguous lyrics.  The mostly monochromatic video tries to capture the atmosphere, with some success.

Although their 1987 LP, Midnight to Midnight was a commercial success, the band seemed to have lost their way musically -- something that Richard Butler has admitted in recent interviews.  The Furs released two additional albums that did not do as well, before breaking up in 1991.  Richard and Tim Butler would go on to form Love Spit Love before reforming the Psychedelic Furs in 2001.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Terence Trent D'Arby - Wishing Well

Mixing old school R&B with modern pop and rock elements, Terence Trent D'Arby briefly looked like The Next Big Thing in music.  His debut album, Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby hit #4 on the U.S. album charts, and was a huge international hit as well.  However, his follow up efforts did not generate much commercial success, leaving him as an interesting one album wonder.

D'Arby was  born in New York City (as Terence Trent Howard), but grew up with his stepfather, which is where the Darby comes from.  As a young man, he was a boxer and joined the U.S. Army, a path that led him to Germany and eventually London, after he left the army.  Several years of working the London music scene led to a recording contract, and his first album was released with a ton of publicity and immediately became successful in Britain.

Although success in the U.S. was slower, his material gained traction in late 1987 and into 1988.  "Wishing Well" was his big hit, and it reached #1 (for 1 week) in May 1988.  From there, his career slowly fell apart, due to arrogance (he once proclaimed that his album was the most important LP since Sgt. Pepper), and weaker material that did not connect with his audience.  He eventually changed his name to Sananda Francesco Maitreya, but continues to write and record music.

Cool trivia fact:  D'Arby (Maitreya) was the guest lead singer of INXS in 1999, when they performed prior to the Sydney Olympics (their original lead singer, Michael Hutchence, died in 1997).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

John Waite - Restless Heart

Long time readers of ERV will notice that this is the second John Waite video on the blog ("Change" was posted last August). Waite is another artist who fits in perfectly here, as he recorded a ton of great pop and rock songs, with some success, but never really became a big big star (as Counting Crows might say).

Case in point:  The Babys (Waite's band before he went solo) never had a top ten single or a top 20 album.  Case in point #2:  While Waite's breakout 1984 album No Brakes hit #10, and produced a #1 hit with the ever-present (in 1984) "Missing You," the other singles did not do that well.  "Tears" barely broke the top 40 (#37), and "Restless Heart," a solid song with a strong video peaked at #59.  Go figure.

At any rate, "Restless Heart," a well-crafted song with a black & white 'story' video, would be on my short list of the best lesser-known videos.  It is well worth a look.  By the way, I think the hat the Waite wears at the start of "Restless Heart" is an allusion to a similar hat that he wore in the "Change" video.  Or, maybe he just likes hats.

After No Brakes, Waite released two more studio albums in the 80's, and then joined Bad English, who released two albums before breaking up.  Waite then returned to his solo career and continues to record and tour as of this writing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Stacey Q - Two of Hearts

Although she is thought of as a one hit wonder, Stacey Q actually had two top 40 hits ("We Connect" was the other, and no, I don't remember it either).

Stacey Q (real name: Stacey Swain) had an interesting career prior to her 1986 breakout.  Among other things, she was an entertainer at Disneyland and an elephant girl for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus.

In the early 1980's, Stacey Q became involved in the emerging electronic music scene, and became the lead singer of Q (later renamed SSQ after ... Stacey Swain).  While the band did not become successful, Stacey began using the Stacey Q moniker, and she kept it when she started her solo career.

1986's Better Than Heaven was her second solo album, and became a huge dance LP, peaking at #59 on the album charts, and providing two top 40 dance hits -- "Two of Hearts" and the aforementioned "We Connect."

While many readers will recognize "Two of Hearts," I think that few people know that it is a cover. The original (also from 1986) was co-written and performed by Sue Gatlin; the extended version of the original is below.  Also of note, the song's big breakout came when it was used in an episode of "The Facts of Life" TV show.  Yes, really.

As with many artists, Stacey Q was unable to maintain her success and quickly faded from view.  She has released five albums since Better Than Heaven and I believe that she continues to perform to this day.

The Stacey Q version of "Two of Hearts" (a #3 hit in 1986):

The original Sue Gatlin version of "Two of Hearts":

Monday, May 14, 2012

Prism - Don't Let Him Know

Prism's "Don't Let Him Know" seems like the perfect follow-up to Bryan Adams, as their one U.S. hit was actually written by Adams and Jim Vallance.  The history of Prism, however, goes all the way back to the early 1970's, when producer Bruce Fairbairn and songwriter Jim Vallance formed the band.  Over time, Prism became successful north of the boarder, with ten top 100 hits between 1977 and 1981.

Even when Vallance started working with Bryan Adams, he remained active (as a songwriter) with Prism, and in the summer of 1981, Vallance and Adams wrote "Don't Let Him Know" for Prism.  Vallance has subsequently stated that the song was influenced by "Bette Davis Eyes," and I think that you can hear that, especially in the drums.  In any event, "Don't Let Him Know" would go on to be Prism's only top 40 hit in the U.S., making them an official one-hit wonder (although, to be fair, they had three other songs that broke the U.S. top #100).

I don't think that an official video was ever made for the song (if any readers know of one, please let me know in the comments).  As a result, I have gone with a clip from Solid Gold, although, sadly, the Solid Gold Dancers do not make an appearance.  Prism broke up in 1982, although the band later re-formed and continues to play to this day.

Coll trivia fact:  Bruce Fairbairn would go on to become a hugely successful record producer for KrokusLoverboy, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, and AC/DC among others until his untimely passing in 1999.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bryan Adams - Hearts on Fire

The "every man" rock star, Canadian Bryan Adams seems to have flown under the radar during his career -- until you consider the large number of catchy rock songs he has written and the 75 million (or so) records that he has sold.

Although Adams released his first album in 1980, it was 1983's Cuts Like a Knife and 1984's Reckless (a #1 album that went 5x platinum in the U.S.) that really launched his career.  However, in typical ERV style, we are not going to go with anything off those smash records.  Instead, we dug a little bit deeper into his catalog.

"Hearts on Fire" was originally written during the Reckless recording session with Adams' longtime songwriting partner, Jim Vallance.  Two years later, Adams recorded the song and it became the second single off his 1987 album, Into the Fire, where it peaked at #26 on the U.S. charts.  While it was not a huge hit, it is a solid, and pretty typical Bryan Adams song.  No question about it; the dude knows how to write a decent rock song.  The video is about as straightforward as they come (much like Mr. Adams, I imagine) -- it is a performance clip, from a 1987 concert in Florida.

Cool trivia fact:  Bryan Adams sang backup on Mötley Crüe's 1989 album Dr. Feelgood (other artists who sang backup on the album include:  Sebastian Bach, Robin Zander, Jack Blades, Rick Nielsen  and Steven Tyler).

Monday, May 7, 2012

Femme Fatale - Falling In and Out of Love

Femme Fatale was a pop metal band from Albuquerque, New Mexico who were led by the charismatic front woman Lorraine Lewis.  The band formed in 1987, and quickly moved to LA -- the center of the pop metal movement of the late 1980's.  From there, they signed a record deal, and put together an album (their 1988 self-titled debut).

While the singles "Waiting for the Big One" and "Falling in and out of Love" both received some airplay on MTV, the album's sales were only so-so.  Neither single charted, and the album peaked at #141.  This was likely due to the abundance of similar bands; I think Femme Fatale simply got lost in the mix.

After touring as the opening act for Cheap Trick, Femme Fatale went back to the studio to work on their follow up effort,  which was to be called Lady in Waiting.  However,  it was never released, as they were dropped by their label (MCA).

The video for "Falling in and out of Love" is classic late 1980's hair metal goodness, complete with headbanging, swirling cameras and lots of lights.

Lorraine Lewis has remained in the industry without much mainstream success, but she continues to perform Femme Fatale songs to this day.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Beastie Boys - She's On It

Every once in a while, outside events will influence a blog posting and sadly, today is one of those days, as Adam Yauch (MCA) has passed away.  For those who don't know, MCA, along with Michael Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) were the Beastie Boys.

Eighties Rare Videos previously highlighted "Shadrach," from the inventive and influential Paul's Boutique album, but the impact of the Beastie Boys extends beyond that one album.  In fact, the band's longevity and innovation really stand out in an industry where neither is common.

While the Beastie Boys started as a punk band in the late 1970's, they had evolved into a hip hop band by the early 1980's.  They then worked with Rick Rubin and Def Jam on the License to Ill LP, and became huge stars.  However, instead of continuing with the party/hard rock/rap formula, the band expanded and produced some of the most interesting music of the 1990's.

"She's On It" was an early example of the Rick Rubin rap/rock style and Rubin even appears in the video.  The song was on the Krush Groove soundtrack (now who remembers that movie).  The song did not chart, but the video was played on MTV and laid the groundwork for what was to come.  It also seems appropriate for today, as MCA has the first line: "There's no confusion / in her conclusion."

Cool trivia fact:  The model in the video is Sharon Middendorf and there is a link to an interview with her from in the comments section.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Gap Band - Party Train

Originally called the Greenwood, Archer and Pine Street Band, after their neighborhood in Tulsa, the Gap Band produced some of the catchiest funk this side of Rick James.  The band was centered around three brothers -- Charlie, Ronnie and Robert Wilson, who started playing music in the late 1960's.  They eventually moved to LA, and released their first album in 1974.  However, it wasn't until the early 1980's that the band really took off.

"Party Train" is from 1983's Gap Band 5: Jammin', the last of 4 straight gold or platinum albums for the band. While the song peaked at #3 on the R&B charts, it surprisingly did not break the top 100 on the Billboard pop charts.  The album peaked at #28, although it did hit #2 on the R&B album charts.

The video is classic Gap Band -- flashy, exuberant and fun.  Yes, the Wilsons loved their cowboy hats and boots (they were, after all, from Tulsa).  However, the video is just a crazy, funky California beach scene.  With the exception of Charlie Wilson's ill-advised (really small) bathing suit, this clip is a winner.  And there is even dancing with roller skates (briefly, around 4:37).

Although the Gap Band's popularity declined after the 1980's, they continued to perform until Robert Wilson's untimely death from a heart attack in 2010.

A rarer Gap Band classic, "Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)" was posted on ERV in January 2014.