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.