Saturday, December 28, 2013

Huey Lewis and the News - Workin' For A Livin'

Before Huey Lewis and the News blew up (to the tune of two consecutive #1 LPs and 15 top 40 hits), they were just a hard working bar band out of San Francisco.  The band formed from the remains of Clover (mentioned on the blog post for the Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes song, "New Romeo.")  The new group was originally called American Express, but when the financial company complained, they changed their name, signed to Chrysalis and released their first album in 1980.

"Workin' For A Livin'" comes off the solid second album, 1982's Picture This.  The song was co-written by Lewis and guitarist Chris Hayes, and is one of the more rocking songs in the Huey Lewis and the News catalog.  Although the band's migration to middle of the road pop brought them huge commercial success, I enjoyed the more rocking songs ... but then again, I have not sold 30 million units.

The "Workin' For A Livin'" video is a great piece of straight ahead bar band rock.  Nothing fancy here, just the band playing ... ahh the early days of MTV.  By the by, the song was a slight disappointment back in the day, only reaching #41, while the album hit #13.

Note that the Huey Lewis and the News song, "Heart and Soul" was featured on our first bunch of All Hallows Even songs in October 2011, and is a cover of an Exile song (really).  We also posted "Some of My Lies Are True" in April 2014, and "Doing It All For My Baby" in October 2018.

Cool trivia fact:  Huey Lewis' given name is Hugh Cregg.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tone Lōc - Funky Cold Medina

An early and somewhat forgotten rap success story belongs to Anthony Smith, aka Tone Lōc.  Born and raised in Los Angeles, Lōc left Compton (and the infamous Crips gang) to seek fame and fortune as a rapper.  He then had the good fortune to work with Young MC and The Dust Brothers; the result was 1989's  Lōc-ed After Dark, which became the second rap album to hit #1 on the charts, following The Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill.

"Funky Cold Medina" was the second Young MC penned song to become a huge hit, reaching #3 on the charts ("Wild Thing" had previously hit #2).  The song used Foreigner's "Hot Blooded" as the main sample, but also sampled "Honky Tonk Women" and "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones and "Christine Sixteen" by Kiss.  (Ahh, the pre-litigation days of sampling ...)

Sadly, "Funky Cold Medina" was it as far as Tone Lōc's successful rapping career went -- he would never have another charting LP or top 40 single.  He then transitioned to acting, and seems to be making a decent living.

The video is Lōc-tastic and shows off his larger than life personality and sense of humor.  Definitely one of our favorites from back in the day.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Belinda Carlisle - Mad About You

I don't dislike Belinda Carlisle -- really, I don't.  While her solo work was a bit slick and commercial for my taste it was also pretty inoffensive.  And truth be told, there is nothing wrong with a good pop song.  In fact, we tend to be somewhat deferential here at ERV, recognizing the tremendous amount of skill and work that goes into writing and recording any song.

Having said that, I found Carlisle's solo career somewhat disappointing.  The Go-Go's brand of new wave and surf influenced pop rock was creative and interesting -- even at the end, they were still churning out solid material, such as "Turn to You" (featured on ERV in November 2012).  In contrast, Carlisle seemed to take the safe route, recording well-crafted but less interesting pop songs.  I wonder if part of the issue was losing the songwriting influence of Jane Wiedlin, who co-wrote many of The Go-Go's strongest songs (often with Charlotte Caffey who continued to work with Carlisle).

Anyhow, "Mad About You" was the lead single off Belinda Carlisle's 1986 solo album, and it did quite well, hitting #3 on the charts, while the Belinda LP peaked at #13.  Carlisle would go on to have 5 additional top 40 singles and two additional top 40 albums before her success waned.

The video for "Mad About You" was directed by Leslie Libman, who would go on to become a successful TV director.  The video features Morgan Mason, Belinda Carlisle's husband (in fact, they married in 1986) and Andy Taylor (of Duran Duran fame) playing the guitar solo, just as he did on the record.

Cool trivia fact:  "Mad About You" was originally intended to be a Go-Go's song when the band briefly considered recording an album without Jane Wiedlin.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Faith Brothers - A Stranger On Home Ground

The Faith Brothers were a British pop/rock band who recorded two strong albums in the mid-1980's.  Led by their passionate and political frontman, Billy Franks, their sound contained elements of rock, pop and soul.  The band was also known for their thoughtful lyrics, which often addressed social or political issues.

The group formed in Fulham, London and released their first album, Eventide (A Hymn For Change) in 1985.  "A Stranger On Home Ground" comes from this LP (it was the second single, I believe).  A second album (A Human Sound) following in 1987, but neither record broke through commercially, and the group broke up by the end of the decade.

I do not recall hearing this back in the day, but came across it while researching the blog and enjoyed it.  This is a true rare video, from a unique band who never quite found their audience.

Cool trivia fact:  In 2009, Billy Franks was the subject of a documentary called Tribute This! where he and three friends tried to recruit 10 famous artists to do a tribute album to ... Billy Franks.  (Yes, really).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Queensryche - I Don't Believe In Love

Although they were often categorized as a heavy metal band, Queensrÿche was actually more of an alternative hard rock band.  Their music combined a guitar-driven sound and Geoff Tate's screaming vocals with elements of progressive rock and Pink Floyd.  The result was some of the most unique and interesting rock music of the decade.

The band formed in 1982 in Bellevue, Washington and they released their self titled debut EP in 1983.  Two successful LPs followed in 1984 and 1986 before the group released the audacious concept album Operation: Mindcrime in 1988.

Mindcrime tells the story of a drug addict who gets involved with a revolutionary group, with disastrous results.  The story begins and ends in the same place -- with the lead character, in a psychiatric hospital.  A great review is on Something Else Reviews, which goes into more detail.  Many critics consider the LP to be one of the best concept albums of all time and one of the best hard rock albums of the 1980's.

For the blog, we went with "I Don't Believe In Love."  Interestingly, none of the singles from Mindcrime charted, although the album went platinum and reached #50 on the charts.

After Mindcrime, Queensrÿche released several strong albums, including 1990's Empire, which included the group's only top 40 single, "Silent Lucidity" (#9), making the band an official one hit wonder.

Original guitarist (and songwriter) Chris DeGarmo left the group in 1997.  In 2012, lead singer Geoff Tate was fired, which led to a court battle.  As a result, there are currently two versions of Queensrÿche using the name.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Blotto - I Wanna Be A Lifeguard

The 36th video played on MTV's first day was the humorous and slightly bizarre "I Wanna Be a Lifeguard" by Blotto.  The video music channel continued to play the video for some time, and it became something of a trendsetter -- in its early years, MTV played a small number of eccentric videos mixed in with more traditional counterparts.  This gradually ended by the late 1980's.

Blotto was an unlikely success story.  The band formed in 1978 in Albany, New York and built a small following over the next couple of years.  Named after a dog in the 1931 Thorne Smith novel The Night Life of the Gods, the group used pseudonyms -- all with the last name Blotto (a nod to the Ramones).  Their comedy-infused new wave was not totally out of place with acts like the B-52s and The Tubes leading to gigs in metro New York (coincidentally, the headquarters of MTV).

In 1980, the band cut an EP - Hello, My Name Is Blotto, What's Yours and worked with some students at SUNY Albany to make a video of "I Wanna Be A Lifeguard."  The result is below.  In retrospect, videos with any kind of story were rare in the early days of MTV, giving the band a leg up.

Unfortunately, this early exposure did not lead to a huge amount of success as MTV was just starting its meteoric rise.  Blotto did release some additional work including an LP (1983's Combo Akimbo) before breaking up in 1984.  The surviving members of the group (bassist "Cheese Blotto" (Keith Stephenson) passed away in 1999) continue to perform periodically as of this writing.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Santana - Winning

It is nearly impossible to summarize Carlos Santana's long and storied career in a few sentences, so we'll direct readers to Allmusic instead.  (how's that for a cop out?)  Suffice to say that his brand of Latin-influenced rock has been influential since the late 1960's.  It is also worth noting that the band's commercial success has ebbed and flowed through the years.

In general, the 1980's and 1990's (prior to 1999's Supernatural) were not terribly kind to the group, although they did have a few hits here and there.  One such hit was 1981's "Winning" from the Zeebop! album.  The song reached #17 on the charts, while the album hit #9.

I don't recall ever seeing the video on MTV which makes sense as Santana was seen as an older band in the early 1980's.  Additionally, the video itself is a basic performance piece that would not have stood out at the time. However, it is a solid song, highlighted by Santana's signature guitar sound and the strong vocals of Alex Ligertwood (lead singer of Santana from 1979 through 1994, with a bunch of breaks).

One cool aspect of "Winning" is that it is a cover of a song by Russ Ballard.  Ballard is an interesting figure who wrote several great rock songs, but never hit it big on his own.  His songwriting credits include:  "Free Me" (for Roger Daltrey),"You Can Do Magic," (America), "I Know There's Something Going On," (Frida), "New York Groove," (covered by Ace Frehley), and "I Surrender" and "Since You Been Gone" (both covered by Rainbow).

The Santana video:

The original version by Russ Ballard:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jody Watley - Still A Thrill

The Queen of Cool, Jody Watley, was a major star for a few years in the late 1980's.  Between 1987 and 1989, she scored two top 20 albums and six top 10 hits.  While her pop success has faded since then, she remains active and continues to have dance hits to the present day.

Watley got her start as a Soul Train dancer, and then was invited to join Shalamar in 1977.  Frustrated by the group's lack of interest in her songs, she left the group in 1982 and moved to London, where she worked with Musical Youth and Art of Noise (she was also part of the 1984 Band Aid project).  She later returned to the U.S. and released her eponymous (and hugely successful) solo album in 1987.

For the blog, we went with "Still A Thrill," a lesser-known single from her debut album.  The song only reached #56 on the charts, and I do not think that the video was widely played at all.  This is a shame, because it is a great late 1980's funk song, with a definite Minneapolis feel to it.  It turns out the Watley's co-writer was none other than André Cymone, who had been Prince's bass player (pre-Revolution).  Cymone and Watley were also married until 1995.

Cool trivia fact: Watley's dance partner (and choreographer) was Tyrone “The Bone” Proctor, a fellow Soul Train dancer from back in the day.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Bob Mould - See A Little Light

Best known for his work in the influential alternative band Hüsker Dü, guitarist Bob Mould continued recording and performing after Hüsker Dü's demise in 1988.  His work as a solo artist and in the band Sugar showed that his artistic growth, which began in Hüsker Dü, continued long after that group broke up.

For readers who  are unfamiliar with Hüsker Dü, they are simply one of the most important alternative artists of the 1980's.  Specifically, their migration from hardcore punk to a more melodic punk/rock sound laid the groundwork for the 1990's and influenced bands as varied as Nirvana, The Replacements and The Pixies.

"See A Little Light" is off Mould's first solo album, 1989's Workbook, which is a well-crafted and surprising record.  While Hüsker Dü's punk/rock songs had a definite pop sensibility, many listeners were probably still unprepared for the indie approach taken here.  The pop sound is front and center, with some strong folk influences added in.  Sadly, the song and album deserved better results than they achieved -- the song did not break the top 100, and the album peaked at #127.

After two softer solo records, Mould founded Sugar in 1992 and returned to a more alternative rock sound.  Sugar broke up in 1995, but Mould has remained active in the industry (with some extended breaks) to the present day.

By the by, Hüsker Dü's "Makes No Sense At All" was posted on ERV in March 2014.