Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dazz Band - Let It Whip

The Dazz Band were part of the vibrant early 80's funk scene, along with The Gap Band, The SOS Band, Kool & the Gang and (of course) Rick James.  The band formed in Cleveland in the late 1970's, and was the result of a merger between two local funk bands -- Bell Telefunk and Mother Braintree.  The name came from "Danceable Jazz" which was the musical concept for the group.

Although the Dazz Band are an official one hit wonder on the pop charts, they were R&B stars, and had 18 charting songs between 1980-88 (plus two more in 1998).  However, only "Let It Whip," from their 1982 LP Keep It Live broke the pop top 40.  It peaked at #5.

The video is a performance clip of the band (at the LA Roxy, I believe).  As an aside, few funk bands made videos, and those that did tended to simply record their performances.  This is similar to hard rock bands of the era, and opened the door to the new wave artists who embraced the video music format.  I do not recall seeing this video back in the day (MTV was also not great about showing black artists until Michael Jackson broke through with Thriller).

The Dazz Band stopped recording in the late 1980's, but then re-formed in the mid-1990's as part of the funk revival trend.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lita Ford - Gotta Let Go

Along with Joan Jett, Lita Ford built a successful solo career after the collapse of The Runaways.  However, Ford's style was more pop/metal (as contrasted with the punk sensibilities of Jett) and in fact, it was this musical divergence that was the main cause of The Runaways breakup.

In the aftermath of the breakup, Ford took vocal lessons and worked a variety of odd jobs, including gas station attendant, perfume salesperson, fitness instructor and hairdresser (!) before she landed a recording contract.  While her first solo LP, Out for Blood (1983), did not chart, her second album, 1984's Dancin' on the Edge, hit #66.  I remember seeing "Gotta Let Go" on MTV at the time, but it did not chart in the U.S. (it did break the top 100 in the UK, though).

Of course, Ford is best-known for her 1988 LP, Lita, which yielded two top 20 hits ("Kiss Me Deadly" and "Close My Eyes Forever.")  That album broke the top 30 and went platinum in the U.S.  While Ford has only had modest success since then, she remains musically active; her last album as of this writing (Living Like a Runaway) was released in May 2012.

"Gotta Let Go" is a fun video that features Ford as a suburban housewife who can magically transform into a leather-clad heavy metal super-heroine with her trusty guitar.  Unfortunately, aside from hitting and choking bad guys (who look a lot like The Stray Cats), the guitar has limited special abilities -- no shattering glass or laser beams here.  Still, the video gets a solid from me -- good song, fun story and reasonably rare.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

MARRS - Pump Up the Volume

MARRS (or M|A|R|R|S) was formed when Ivo Watts-Russell, the head of 4AD records in London, proposed a project to blend soul with electronica.  He did this after two bands on his label -- Colourbox (electronica) and A.R. Kane (dream pop) independently mentioned the idea to him.  The project was called MARRS, after the artists' first names --  Martyn Young (from Colourbox), Alex Ayuli, Rudy Tambala  and Russell Smith (from A.R. Kane), and Steve Young (from Colourbox).

Unfortunately, it soon became obvious that the bands simply could not work together.  As a result, each band recorded material and then let the other band provide input.  Although the original idea was to record an LP, the groups recorded one song each and then the project shut down.  Colourbox contributed "Pump Up the Volume," which sampled some A.R. Kane guitars, while A.R. Kane wrote "Anitina," with Colourbox providing the drum programming.

This would have been the end of the story, except that "Pump Up the Volume" sounded really, really good.  Released as a single in 1987, it became the first #1 song in the UK that used samples. (It peaked at #13 in the U.S.)  The title comes from an Eric B. & Rakim sample (from "I Know You Got Soul"); other samples include songs from:  Fab 5 Freddy, Kool & the Gang, Public Enemy and Run-D.M.C.  In fact, some samples were cut from the U.S. version, as the rights could not be obtained.  Overall, the U.S. version has 23 samples (the original UK version has 26 samples).

In spite of the huge success, the bands had no desire to record together again, and the project was never re-formed.  Colourbox broke up in 1987, while A.R. Kane remained active until 1994. Interestingly, while both bands were well-regarded by critics, neither had much commercial success either before or after the MARRS project.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Sherbs - I Have the Skill

The Sherbs are an interesting story, especially to non-Australians, who may not know much about the band's origins.  It turns out that the Sherbs were the re-formed version of Sherbert.  And who the hell are Sherbert .... ?  [good question].

Virtually unknown outside of Australia, Sherbert were big pop stars in their home market in the 1970's.  Between 1973 and 1977, the band had ten top 10 hits and two #1s.  However, their clean-cut, teeny-booper image did not last, and by the late 1970s, their popularity had declined.  In response, the band released a record under the Highway name and then briefly broke up only to  re-form as The Sherbs.

The Sherbs released two LPs in an attempt to restart their career by tapping into the emerging New Wave movement (think: Split Enz).  Unfortunately, they did not find much in the way of success -- Australian audiences in particular seemed to go out of their way to not buy the records.  The band finally broke up in 1984.

"I Have the Skill" was from from The Sherbs 1980 debut album, (creatively called The Skill).  It  was the band's only charting single, reaching #61 on the Billboard charts.  The early performance video is not terribly noteworthy, with the possible exception of Daryl Braithwaite's perspiration (he is the lead singer, btw).

Note that ERV also featured The Sherbs video for "We Ride Tonight" in honor of Halloween 2012.

Cool trivia fact:  Daryl Braithwaite would go on to have a successful solo career in Australia from the late 1980's through the early 1990's.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Quarterflash - Take Me to Heart

Quarterflash were a successful pop/rock act from the early 1980's with a couple of unusual features.  First, the band's lead singer, Rindy Ross, also played saxophone (well, I might add).  Second, Quarterflash's key members were a married couple -- Rindy and Marv Ross.  Prior to writing this entry, I did not realize just how successful they were -- between 1981 and 1983, Quarterflash had 6 charting singles, 3 of which went top 20, and their first two LPs both broke the top 40.

The band formed in Oregon in the late 1970's as the merger of two bands, Seafood Mama and Pilot, and briefly continued as Seafood Mama before changing their name to Quarterflash.  The Australian slang term came from a book the Rosses read that described recent immigrants as "one quarter flash and three parts foolish."  It seems that they just liked the name.  (I imagine that after Seafood Mama, the bar may not have been set that high.)

Quarterflash are best-known for "Harden My Heart," the lead single off their self-titled debut album, which hit #3 in 1981.  In typical ERV style, we skipped over that (for now, at least) and went for a less well-known cut from 1983's Take Another Picture LP.  "Take Me to Heart" was the band's last big hit; it peaked at #14.  The video ... well, it features that Rosses and a bunch of manikins.  (I have to call out the turned up collar on Rindy's shirt as well ... for our younger readers, this was the style of the times).

After their 1985 LP, Back into Blue did not sell that well (peaking at #150), the band was dropped by their label, and broke up soon afterwards.  The Rosses remained together, and continued to make music, even releasing Quarterflash albums in 1991 and 2008.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jane Child - Don't Wanna Fall in Love

"Don't Wanna Fall in Love" was the hit single off Jane Child's 1989 eponymous solo album and the catchy song came damn close to being a #1 hit -- it peaked at #2 for three weeks in 1990, held out of the top spot by Sinéad O'Connor's "'Nothing Compares 2 U," which many readers will know was written by Prince.

Child has an interesting backstory, as her parents were both classical musicians.  She grew up in Toronto, but wrote "Don't Wanna Fall in Love" in New York, which is why the video was shot there.  While she is an official one hit wonder, her single "Welcome to the Real World" peaked at #49.

After her follow up album, 1993's Here Not There was a commercial disappointment, Child dropped out of the limelight, and became a session musician.  Child eventually released her third album Surge, in 2002.

Cool trivia fact:  Child wrote all of the songs on here debut album, and played all instruments except guitar.

Monday, June 11, 2012

BoDeans - Only Love

The Wisconsin-based BoDeans came onto the music scene in the mid 1980's, and were another roots rock band that was loved by critics and briefly viewed as The Next Big Thing in rock -- much like the Del Fuegos had been in 1985.  The band's breakout album was 1987's Outside Looking In, and the first single was the catchy song below, "Only Love."  The BoDeans opened for U2 and were named Best New American Band by the readers of Rolling Stone magazine.  (As many readers will know, being named best new artist by anyone is the kiss of death for most acts.  Don't believe me?  See the comments section for a list of Grammy winners for Best New Artist going back to 1975).

At any rate, Outside Looking In stalled at #86 on the album charts, and "Only Love" didn't hit the singles charts.  1989's Home did slightly worse, and while the band continued to release albums and tour, they gradually became a successful working band (their albums tended to chart in the top 200, but not by much).

The band did get a second break, when their song "Closer to Free" was used as the theme to Fox's Party of Five TV show.  The song went to #16 on the Billboard singles charts in 1996, three years after it had been originally released as the lead single from the band's 1993 CD, Go Slow Down.  [By the way, the Rembrandts followed a remarkably similar path in 1994 when they wrote "I'll Be There for You" for NBC's Friends.]

While the video for "Only Love" is a basic performance shoot, it is one of the best videos of this type -- nothing fancy, but really well-shot, and the use of still images is quite effective.

Cool trivia fact:  Jerry Harrison (of Talking Heads fame) produced Outside Looking In.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Marshall Crenshaw - Whenever You're On My Mind

For people who don't believe that a pop song can be a well-crafted work of art, may I present Marshall Crenshaw.  He wrote a truckload of great pop songs, and his first two albums, 1982's self-titled debut and 1983's Field Day are chock full of them.  It is just short of criminal that he is an official one hit wonder, as only 1982's "Someday, Someway" broke the top 40.

In retrospect, I think Crenshaw may have been hurt by the video music revolution as much as any artist -- he released a couple of performance videos in 1982, but "Whenever ..." was his first 'real' video.  My guess is that he wasn't into the whole music video thing at the time.  Additionally, his 60's influenced pop songs may have been seen as a bit dated in the early 1980s.  Looking back on them now, however, reinforces the timeless nature of his songs.

"Whenever You're On My Mind" is a great example of his work.  On its surface, it is a love song, but the catchy hook and thoughtful lyrics make it one of the better love songs written in the decade.  Plus, you have to love a songwriter who uses the word reverie (go ahead, you can look it up if you like ... I'll wait).  Amazingly, neither the song, nor the album (Field Day) even charted upon their release in 1983.

The video was played a little back in the day, and then seems to have been forgotten.  In fact, it was hard to find even today.  For folks who like it, I suggest listening to samples from his first two albums -- there are a lot of pop classics there.

Cool trivia fact:  Crenshaw co-wrote the Gin Blossom's 1995 hit "Til I Hear It from You," which peaked at #11 in 1996 (the highest charting song that Marshall Crenshaw wrote).  The guitar intro, in particular, sounds a lot like a Crenshaw lick.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Spinal Tap - Hellhole

Is there a larger, more important eighties band than Spinal Tap?  Well,  yes, but that does not diminish what David, Nigel and Derek achieved.  They brought their special blend of music to countless audiences and in the process sold dozens of records.

As many readers will know, Spinal Tap started as The Originals (later they changed the name to the New Originals, as there was another Originals) and went through several other names before settling on Spinal Tap.  They then had a period of some success, and although they have had many drummers (at least 19), the core of David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel and Derek Smalls has remained constant through the years.

For this blog, I have settled on "Hellhole," from their 1982 LP, Smell the Glove.  I know that some fans will regret that I did not consider something off Intravenus de Milo or The Sun Never Sweats, but I wanted to stay on the 1980s theme.

In any event, "Hellhole" does a great job of showcasing the band's strengths -- you can almost smell them.

As a special treat, I am also including "Rock and Roll Nightmare," a great early video from ABC's The TV Show.  This is rare and really interesting.

I also wanted to take a moment to thank anyone reading this.  This post is my 100th on ERV, and I have really enjoyed it.  Please feel free to check out the other 99 videos on the site -- I think we have a bunch of good stuff here.

For folks who are so inclined, there are a few ways to offer support to ERV.  You can: like us on Facebook (link is on the right), subscribe to the blog, tell your friends about us, leave comments and / or click on our sponsors.  And do not worry -- this is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end (but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning, as Churchill said).  As of this writing, I have 118 videos in the bullpen, ready to be added (and more are put on the list nearly every week).  It turns out that there were lots of good songs and videos done in the 1980s (even rare ones).

So rock on and thanks again for reading.

And by the way, I do know that Spinal Tap is a parody (before someone posts a snarky comment). ;)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Nazareth - Holiday

"Holiday" is a catchy tongue-in-cheek rock song that cleverly folds in several different musical styles (in particular, the chorus has a Caribbean feel that contrasts nicely with the rock verses).  It was released in 1980, and was off Nazareth's wonderfully named Malice in Wonderland LP, which goes on my "coolest album names ever" list, along with Thomas Dolby's Aliens Ate My Buick and the Hoodoo Gurus' Mars Needs Guitars.

Nazareth is an interesting band who never quite made it big, but managed to have a moderately successful career, while making some seriously good music.  The band started in Scotland in 1968 (!) and between 1975 and 1981, they had 7 consecutive albums break the U.S. top 100, although only 1975's Hair of the Dog broke the top 20.  I believe that they are an official one hit wonder, as only "Love Hurts" broke the top 40.  How "Hair of the Dog" didn't chart is beyond me.

"Holiday" did in fact chart, but it peaked at #87 in 1980.  The video combines the band performing with a young man playing a video game in a seemingly random way, but maybe it made more sense in 1980.  At any rate, it is a decent effort for an early video -- remember that MTV didn't even launch until August 1981. [As an aside, "Holiday" was played on MTV on the first day the channel was running -- it was video #138.]

Nazareth would continue to release albums on a regular basis through the 1980's, but without much success.  They continue to record and tour to this day -- the very definition of a hard working band.

Cool trivia fact that may interest only me:  The video game being played in the "Holiday" video is Super Road Champions, made by Model Racing in 1978.