Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The House Of Love - Destroy The Heart

The House of Love was a British alternative rock band who made a dent in the college rock scene of the late 1980's and early 1990's before fading from view.  The group formed in London in 1986 and was led by singer/guitarist/songwriter Guy Chadwick.

After the band gained momentum in the British college rock scene, they released their self-titled independent LP in 1988 and were soon viewed as the next big thing in British rock (the kiss of death, as long time readers will recall).  From there, a combination of drinking, drugs, and egos doomed the band and they broke up in 1993.  While they had four top 50 albums and two top 40 singles in the U.K., they did not break through in the U.S. (though they did have 4 top 10 singles on the Alternative charts, based on airplay).

"Destroy the Heart" is a 1988 non-album single that did not chart on either side of the Atlantic.  However, it does showcase the group's alternative sound -- moody, but with a definite 1960's guitar vibe folded in.  The combination was unique and interesting; with a bit of luck (and less drinking), the House of Love could have been a much  bigger band.

The group reunited in 2003, and continues to record and tour as of this writing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Judas Priest - Hot Rockin'

Way back on August 7, 2011, when we hung out a shingle and opened for business, Judas Priest's "Breaking the Law" was the last of our first nine clips.  [If readers are wondering while the commentary is so short, that partly explains it.]  We continue to love the video, and are particularly partial to the non sequitur 2 second opening.

"Breaking the Law" was off the groundbreaking 1980 LP, British Steel, which is regarded as one of the most important hard rock albums of the 1980's.  While 1981's Point of Entry is a solid album, it does suffer by comparison, if only because British Steel is just that good.  However, the high points remain quite strong; in short, this is some of the best 1980's hard rock ever made.

The anthemic "Hot Rockin'" (no "g") is representative of this period, and is just a great hard rock song.  On the downside, some critics believed that in focusing on straight up songs the band lost some of the darkness and mystique the their fanbase loved, something that Judas Priest rectified on the superb Screaming for Vengeance album in 1982.

The video starts as a workout tape, with the band exercising (and doing about as well as one would expect from a  metal band).  Apparently, leather pants sans shirts constituted metal workout wear in 1981.  We then see the band showering (unclear if they are still in their leather pants) and blow drying, before an extremely poorly lit (and shot) car scene.  Finally, we get to see the band perform, complete with fire.

Judas Priest remained popular throughout the 1980's and remains together (with some personnel changes along the way) as of this writing.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Jeffrey Osborne - Stay With Me Tonight

"Stay With Me Tonight" is a classic pop funk tune from the 1980's that clicks right from the start.  The funky bass line, synthesizer melody and eighties drums combine to shape a really strong song.  It is not surprising that it was written by Raymond Jones, the keyboardist from Chic who built a second career as a songwriter.

Singer Jeffrey Osborne (no relation to Ozzy) developed a solid career as a funk musician.  Born in Providence, Rhode Island, he rose to fame as the lead singer of L.T.D., who are best known for "(Every Time I Turn Around) Back in Love Again," a #4 hit from 1977.  Osborne left the group to go solo in 1980 and landed 6 top 40 hits between 1982 and 1987.

"Stay With Me Tonight," was a solid success, reaching #30 on the pop charts and #4 on the R&B charts in 1983, while the album of the same name peaked at #25, and eventually went platinum.  The vid appears to have been shot in NYC and plays like an eighties time capsule, complete with roller skates (0:13), old school video editing, and a neon-decorated club where the fashions of the day are on display.  I have to say, in spite of the dated look, the clip still has a certain coolness about it that suits Osborne and the song.

Although Osborne's commercial success faded after the 1980's, he remains active in the music industry as of this writing.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Pogues Featuring Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale of New York

We're sending this post out to Chris - the biggest Pogues fan that we know at ERV.


A modern classic in Britain and Ireland, "Fairytale of New York" is essentially unknown on this side of the Atlantic.  In contrast, the song has become the most played Christmas song of the 21st century in the UK and often appears at or near the top of favorite holiday songs there.

Similar to the Pretenders "2000 Miles" (featured on ERV in December 2012), "Fairytale of New York" is a different type of Christmas song.  Originally written in 1985, it took the Pogues two years to get it sorted out to their satisfaction.  As a listener this makes sense; the song treads the line between bittersweet and downright bitter, but it never becomes too cynical.  The resulting effort was more nuanced and realistic than the traditional syrupy sweet Christmas song.

This attitude suits the Pogues nicely, as they were essentially a traditional Anglo-Irish punk band.  The members (led by the hard-living Shane MacGowan) infused traditional Irish music with a punk attitude and in doing some created some of the most unique music of the 1980's.  They scored four top 20 LPs in the UK, but did not break through in the U.S.  MacGowan's drug and alcohol problems eventually became severe enough for the band to sack him in 1991.  The group soldiered on until 1996, when they disbanded.  However, they re-formed in 2001 and continue to perform to the present day.



Cool trivia fact:  Yes, actor Matt Dillon is featured in the video.

Cool trivia fact #2:   Kirsty MacColl appeared on ERV in October 2013 for "They Don't Know," as she wrote and recorded the song prior to Tracey Ullman.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Bangles - If She Knew What She Wants

This is the second Bangles cover to be featured on ERV; their version of Katrina and the Waves' "Going Down to Liverpool" (with Leonard Nimoy) was featured on ERV in May 2013.  The Bangles were known to use outside songwriters -- in addition to the 2 covers posted on ERV, their hits "Manic Monday" (Prince), "Walk Like an Egyptian" (Liam Sternberg), and "Hazy Shade of Winter" (Simon and Garfunkel) were all written by outsiders.  However, fully half (4) of their top 40 singles were co-written by a band member.

The group only managed to release three albums in the 1980's before disbanding, but they left behind a pretty strong collection of 1960's influenced pop, including "If She Knew What She Wants."  The song (off the huge 1986 LP Different Light) was released between "Manic Monday" (#2) and "Walk Like an Egyptian" (#1).  Although the song reached #29, it did not become a monster hit, and has become something of a forgotten single in the intervening years.

Interestingly, the group recorded two videos for the song.  The American version was produced and directed by Susanna Hoffs' mother, Tamar Simon Hoffs (an indie film director who also directed "Going Down to Liverpool.")



The band also produced an international version that seems to have been particularly popular in the UK:



And if that is not enough, "If She Knew What She Wants" is also a cover, as our many astute readers will have deduced.  The song was originally written and recorded by Jules Shear, who is also known for writing and recording the original version of "All Through the Night," which hit #5 for Cyndi Lauper in 1984.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Let's Active - Waters Part

Let's Active came out of the vibrant Southeastern college rock scene of the early 1980's and could have become a big time alternative band if things had broken for them.  Unfortunately, this did not happen, leaving the group as more of a footnote in 1980's music.  This is a shame, as they produced some of the best college pop this side of R.E.M.

The group was founded in North Carolina in 1981 and was led by singer/songwriter Mitch Easter.  Easter is best-known for his work with R.E.M.; he produced their debut EP, Chronic Town, and co-produced (with Don Dixon) the band's first two LPs, Murmur and Reckoning.  Easter's own sound was not totally dissimilar to R.E.M., but with more 1960's pop and less folk influences.

For the blog, we went with "Waters Part" from Let's Active's first LP, 1984's Cypress.  The song did not chart, while the album only reached #153.  Sadly, Let's Active never had a album break the top 100.  The group released additional albums in 1986 and 1988 before breaking up in 1990, though there have been some reunion shows in recent years.



Cool trivia fact:  The Let's Active name came from a nonsensical expression used on a Japanese T-shirt back in the day.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Berlin - Masquerade

Fronted by the provocative and gorgeous Terri Nunn, Berlin was a LA-based synth pop group that had nothing to do with Germany (the band admired the late 1970's German synth scene; hence the name).  The group was formed by bassist John Crawford in 1978 and featured a shifting lineup with Nunn as the lead singer, though she briefly left Berlin to pursue an acting career in 1979-80.

Berlin's first LP (1980's Information) was released when Nunn was acting and featured Virginia Macolino on vocals.  Although that album did not chart, the group's second effort, 1982's Pleasure Victim became Berlin's biggest success, and featured several early MTV staples.  "The Metro," "Sex (I'm A ...)," and "Masquerade" all broke the top 100, but none of them hit the top 40.

Berlin continued to have success with 1984's "No More Words" (#23) and 1986's "Take My Breath Away" (a #1 hit from Top Gun).  However, creative tensions over whether to focus on a pop or new wave sound doomed the band and the group called it quits in 1987.

Terri Nunn has had the legal use of the Berlin name since the late 1990's, and continues to record and perform to the present day.

For the blog, we went with "Masquerade," a somewhat lesser-known Berlin cut.  The video picked up a bit of airplay on MTV back in the day, and the song reached #82 on the charts.



Cool trivia fact:  A remixed version of "Masquerade" was featured on the soundtrack to Perfect (a no-so-great movie starring John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis ... probably the less said about the movie, the better).

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Billy Squier - The Big Beat

The previous time that we discussed Billy Squier was last August, when Squire's amazingly terrible video, "Rock Me Tonight" was featured on the blog.  "Rock Me Tonight" is sometimes viewed as the worst major video ever made, and one that may have contributed to the decline of Billy Squier's career and/or Western civilization as a whole.

While Squier continued recording through the mid-1990's, he did not have a top 40 single or album after "Rock Me Tonight," making it an interesting and somewhat sad anecdote.  And that would be the end of the Billy Squier story, except ...

Squier's trademark sound was punctuated by a driving beat, something that is particularly evident on his earlier work ("The Stroke," for instance).  Bolstered by the superb (and loud) Bobby Chouinard, this strong backbeat would differentiate Squier's songs from many of his contemporaries.  In fact, he led off his first solo album -- 1980's Tale of the Tape -- with a drum intro on "The Big Beat" (side 1, song 1).

Having a clean drum break proved to be irresistible to early rap acts, and the drum intro on "The Big Beat" was sampled as early as 1981.  Over time, the enthusiasm for the drum line has not waned, and it has been used by artists including:  Jay-Z ("99 Problems"), Run-D.M.C. ("Here We Go"), and Alicia Keys ("Girl on Fire').  As of this writing, "The Big Beat" has been sampled in nearly 200 songs, and is one of the 10 most popular samples of all time.  Other Squier songs, particularly "The Stroke" are also popular samples.

Unfortunately, this popularity has not translated to a resurgence in Squier's career, and in recent interviews he seems someone ambivalent about the sampling.  For readers who are interested, Squier's first two LPs -- Tale of the Tape and Don't Say No are particularly strong and well worth a listen.

I don't recall ever seeing the original video for "The Big Beat" on MTV back in the day, so it definitely qualifies are a rare (and cool) video.  I'm not totally sure about the yellow pants, though.  Also worth checking out:  roller skates! (1:20) and an obscure Eraserhead marquee (2:30, but blink and you'll miss it).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Devil's Night Out

Utilizing a sound that combines ska, hardcore punk, and heavy metal make the Mighty Mighty Bosstones a unique and interesting band.  The act's roots go back to the early 1980's punk scene in Boston, although the Bosstones didn't officially form until the mid-1980's.  Led by the plaid-wearing Dicky Barrett, the band built a local following and was signed by Taang! Records in 1989.

The group's first LP for Taang! was the 1989 Devil's Night Out LP, and we went with the title cut for the blog.  The song is reasonably representative of the group's early sound, which is to say a bit all over the place (but mostly in a good way).

As with many innovative acts, the Bostones built a solid following, but did not achieve huge commercial success, although their 1997 song, "The Impression That I Get" did pick up a bunch of airplay.  However, the Bosstones are viewed as one of the creators of  ska-core and their music laid the groundwork for bands such as No Doubt.

While interest in ska and ska punk waned since the late 1990's, the Bosstones have continued to record and play (with a few hiatuses) to the present day.



Cool trivia fact:  Dicky Barrett has been the announcer for Jimmy Kimmel Live! since 2004.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

EPMD - Strictly Business

Although they never became a household name, EPMD was a hugely influential East Coast rap act.  The duo from Long Island, NY formed in 1986 and took their name from the two MCs -- Erick Sermon (Easy Erick, E Double, E) and Parrish Smith (Parrish Mic Doc, PMD).  Some sources state that the group started as EEPMD, and then shortened the name to make it easier to pronounce.

EPMD's first album, 1988's Strictly Business, was a breath of fresh air in the rap scene.  Instead of using dance or electronica as the basis for their music, EPMD relied heavily on old school funk, with a dose of rock and pop thrown in for good measure.  This, combined with their strong but laid back rhyming translated to a sound that was trailblazing,

While none of the singles from the album charted on the Billboard pop charts, the album reached #80 and went gold.  Over time, it has been recognized as a classic, and was even ranked #453 on Rolling Stones' list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.  Respect.

For the blog, we went with the title cut, which nicely represents EPMD's sound and solid use of grooves.  While Eric Clapton's cover of "I Shot the Sheriff" is the main sample, pieces of "Jungle Boogie" (Kool & the Gang) and "Auto Man" (Newcleus) are also used, as is an earlier EPMD song "It's My Thing."


EPMD remained successful within the rap scene until their 1993 breakup, and had a second successful stint in the late 1990's before a second breakup.  They appear to be together again as of this writing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Michael Stanley Band - My Town

The is the Michael Stanley Band's second appearance on ERV as "He Can't Love You" was posted back in October of 2011.  (By the by, "He Can't Love You" is a great early video, and was played on MTV on day one.)

The group was formed by Michael Stanley Gee in 1974 (he changed his last name early in his career, as another musician with the surname Gee was already signed to his label).  While the band were local heroes in Cleveland and had decent success in the midwest, they never quite broke out at a national level.  This is a shame, as the group has a solid straight up rock sound and was known for their high energy shows.  In retrospect, they just never got the lucky break that helps launch many careers.

"My Town" is off the Michael Stanley Band's 1983 You Can't Fight Fashion LP, which was the band's last major label release.  The album reached #64 on the charts, while "My Town" hit #39.  The tune is a love song to Cleveland, which the video underscores.

The Michael Stanley Band remained together until 1986, but finally broke up as they were simply unable to continue economically.  They have reunited periodically, and Michael Stanley remains active in the music industry to the present day.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Frozen Ghost - Should I See

WIth a little bit of luck, Frozen Ghost could have made it big.  They had a new wave-influenced, radio-friendly sound, and their first single ("Should I See," below) picked up a bit of radio play.  However, they were unable to build on this initial success and faded from view.

Frozen Ghost (sometimes spelled Frōzen Ghōst) formed in Toronto in 1985, and were initially made up of Arnold Lanni (vocals, guitars, keyboards) and Wolf Hassel (bass).  Lanni and Hassel had previously been two-fifths of Sheriff, who had a #1 hit with "When I'm With You," (in 1989, 4 years after that band broke up).

In the aftermath of Sheriff, Frozen Ghost scored a recording contract with WEA and released their self-titled debut LP in 1987.  While the album only reached #107 on the charts, "Should I See" did a bit better and peaked at #69.  The band opened for Howard Jones and The Thompson Twins and released a follow up album, Nice Place to Visit in 1988.  It did not do well, and after 1991's Shake Your Spirit, the group broke up.

Arnold Lanni and Wolf Hassel have remained in the Canadian music industry to the present day;  Lanni has become a producer, while  Hassel has continued to play bass.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tarney-Spencer Band - No Time to Lose

It goes without saying that MTV had a seismic impact on the music business; by 1982 or so, MTV was one of the most influential factors in the industry.  However, the video music channel showed its importance virtually right from the start, even when it was not widely carried on cable systems.  Of course, the early impact was a bit hit or miss, but it did show the tremendous potential of the channel.

One early success story was the Tarney-Spencer Band's single, "No Time to Lose."  Australians Alan Tarney (guitars, vocals) and Trevor Spencer (drums) rose to prominence as members of Cliff Richard's backing group in the early 1970's, and went out on their own in 1975.  They released three LPs, the last one being 1979's Run For Your Life.  The album was a modest success, reaching #184 in the U.S., while the single "No Time To Lose" peaked at #84.  Soon afterwards, A&M dropped the band, and the duo broke up.

MTV picked up the "No Time To Lose" video (roller skates and all) in 1981, and a re-released version of the single reached #74 on the charts -- 2 years after the group broke up.  Unfortunately, Tarney and Spencer had moved on with their careers, and no attempt was made to reunite as far as I know.

Interestingly, both Alan Tarney and Trevor Spencer would go on to become producers, and remain in the industry to the present day.  Trevor Spencer moved back to Australia and is a Perth-based producer, while Alan Tarney remained in the U.K.  Tarney is best known for his work with a-Ha -- he co-produced the band's first three LPs, including Hunting High and Low (which included the huge hit, "Take On Me.")

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Oingo Boingo - Weird Science

Oingo Boingo was one of the more interesting 1980's bands, with a theatrical flair that was often compared to Devo.  The band formed in LA in the 1970's and began as an avant-garde musical theater act called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo.  Shortening their name to just Oingo Boingo, the group (led by Danny Elfman) transitioned to a ska/dance/new wave sound, and was signed by I.R.S. Records in 1980.

As a southern California band with dramatic tendencies, Oingo Boingo was tailor-made for the movies, and eventually made a series of appearances on movie soundtracks.  This continued into the 1990's as frontman Elfman became friends with director Tim Burton, and the band contributed a song to virtually every Burton film of the era.  (In addition, Elfman wrote the musical score for virtually all of Burton's movies).

"Weird Science" was on the soundtrack of the John Hughes movie of the same name, and the song was also included on the group's 1985 LP, Dead Man's Party.  The single became the most successful release of Oingo Boingo's career, reaching #45 on the charts, while the album hit #98, and eventually went gold.

Although Oingo Boingo never enjoyed mainstream success, they remained a well-known cult act until they disbanded -- after a Halloween show (!) in 1995.  Danny Elfman remains active in the industry, and has become a huge success as a movie and TV soundtrack composer.



Cool trivia fact:  Elfman wrote the theme to the popular TV show, The Simpsons.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Alice Cooper - He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)

What better way to continue our Halloween celebration than with Alice Cooper.  Cooper (born Vincent Furnier) emerged on the scene in the 1970's with the band of the same name (in fact, Cooper took the band's name on as his own).  As a cool aside, the name Alice Cooper supposedly came to the group during a session with a Ouija board.

After the act broke up in 1974, Cooper continued as a solo artist, although his success waned during the late 1970's and early 1980's due to weaker material and alcohol abuse.  By the mid-1980's, Cooper had cleaned up his act, and revitalized his career by providing a song for the Friday the 13th, Part VI movie soundtrack.  "He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)" also appeared on Cooper's 1986 Constrictor LP.  The single went to #56 on the charts, while the album reached #59.

This success helped to re-establish Cooper as a flamboyant rock star, and he has continued to record and perform to the present day.  He also expanded into movies and radio -- his syndicated radio program, Nights With Alice Cooper has been on the air since 2004 and is well worth a listen (or three).

The video below highlights Alice Coopers showmanship.  This, combined with clips from the movie, make it a superb holiday treat.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ray Parker, Jr. - The Other Woman

Well, it's that time of year again at ERV, when we kick back and jam on some Hallloweeny videos, including the awesome rare clip below.  Regular readers will recall that we love Halloween at ERV, and post a trio of videos each year that capture the holiday spirit, without resorting to to the laziness of "Thriller" or "Ghostbusters."

Speaking of "Who ya gonna call," Ray Parker, Jr. kicks of the All Hallows Even videos this year with his underrated funk pop song, "The Other Woman."  Ray Parker's early success was with his band Raydio, who had four top 50 LPs and 5 top 40 singles between 1978 and 1981.  The group was texbook pop funk, and are recommended by ERV.

Raydio broke up in 1981, as Parker wanted to go out of his own, and "The Other Woman" was his first solo single, off the 1982 album of the same name.  The song was a hit, reaching #4 on the charts (I have to admit that this surprised me; I did not think that it had done this well).  While Parker scored a #1 hit with "Ghostbusters" in 1984, in general his solo career was uneven, and he faded from view after 1990.  However, he remains in the industry and appears to be active as of this writing.

The video for "The Other Woman" fits perfectly into our theme, with vampires, skeletons, graveyards, a spooky saxaphone player, and the ubiquitous Frankenstein butler.  Oh, and there is definitely a Blacula reference (how freaking cool is that?)  The video may not make a ton of sense, but it gets a thumbs up from us.  It's also a great way to start this year's All Hallows Even celebration -- we hope you enjoy it as much as we do.


Note that Ray Parker, Jr. and Raydio's "A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)" was posted on ERV in March 2016.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Animotion - Obsession

We continue our series of songs that you didn't know were covers with Animotion's 1985 hit, "Obsession."  This song was originally written by Michael Des Barres and Holly Knight (more on them in a moment).

Animotion was a San Francisco-based band that was mainly comprised of former members of the Sci-Fi rock band Red Zone.  The six member band was also notable for having co-lead singers -- Astrid Plane and Bill Wadhams.  Their 1985 self-titled debut LP reached #28 on the charts, led by "Obsession," which would go on to become a #6 hit for them.  Unfortunately, lineup changes and weaker material would hurt the band, though they did release three major label albums before their 1989 break up.

The video for "Obsession" is a nice set up for our forthcoming All Hallows Even celebration; it looks like a cool mid-1980's costume party in California.  MTV loved the vid and it went into heavy rotation for quite some time in 1985, which no doubt helped the song.



As previously mentioned, the original version was written and performed by Michael Des Barres and Holly Knight and was featured in the 1983 movie A Night in Heaven.  By the by, Holly Knight has been previously mentioned on ERV (we now have a tag for her) as a big time songwriter.  There is more on her on the posts for John Waite's "Change" and  Lou Gramm's "Just Between You and Me" ... and yes, she wrote both of those songs too.



Cool trivia fact:  Animotion is not a one hit wonder, as 1985's "Let Him Go" (#39) and 1989's "Room to Move" (#9) both broke the top 40.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

House Of Lords - I Wanna Be Loved

House of Lords was actually the continuation of keyboardist Gregg Giuffria's solo band (creatively called Giuffria).  Giuffria actually had a modecum of success, including a #15 hit in "Call to Your Heart" and two additional charting singles -- "Lonely in Love" and a cover of Mink Deville's "I Must Be Dreaming."

In spite of their modest success, the band was without a recording contract after their second LP.  The demos intended for the third record caught the ear of Gene Simmons (of KISS fame), who signed the group with two conditions:  that the band's name and lead singer be changed.  Hence, Giuffria became House of Lords and singer James Christian took over for David Glen Eisley.

To my ear, House of Lords sounds a bit heavier than Giuffria, although they remained solidly in the commercial pop metal segment.  "I Wanna Be Loved" sounds very Whitesnake-influenced, which might not have been the worst sound to go for in 1988.  In any event, the song would go on to chart at #58, while the band's debut album would reach #78 on the charts.

The video mimics the sound of the band, and is pretty typical pop metal stuff -- not terrible, but not groundbreaking either.  House of Lords would go on to release two additional records before breaking up in 1993.

The group has re-formed several times since 2004, mostly without Gregg Giuffria, who seems to have more or less left the industry.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Knack - I Want Ya

Rock and roll's equivalent to a shooting star, the Knack burst onto the scene in 1979 with their massively successful debut, Get the Knack.  That album went to #1 for 5 weeks and reached double platinum status.  However, in spite of their success (or perhaps because of it), the band quickly fell out of favor with the listening public and broke up just two short years later.

The group formed in Los Angeles in 1978 and were led by singer/guitarist Doug Fieger.  Guitarist Berton Averre, bassist Prescott Niles, and drummer Bruce Gary rounded out the original lineup.  Although the Knack were lazily compared to the Beatles, they were a pure power pop group, closer to Badfinger.  There was nothing fancy about the Knack; they wrote straight up songs (mostly about sex), but they were really good pop rock tunes.  In retrospect, their immediate success meant that many listeners viewed them as a fad, but the Knack created a catalog of strong material, much of it after their debut record.  Unfortunately, egos, stress, and just bad luck torpedoed their career.

The Knack reunited for the first time in 1986, and worked together on and off through 2010.  They even released another solid album in 1991, Serious Fun.  Sadly, in 2006 Doug Fieger became disoriented during a show and it was eventually determined that he had brain cancer.  Fieger passed away in 2010, marking an official end to the band.

For the blog, we went with "I Want Ya" off 1980's ... But the Little Girls Understand (named after a line from Willie Dixon's "Backdoor Man.")  I don't believe that the song was released as a single, and the album reached #15 and went gold, which was considered a disappointment after Get the Knack.  "I Want Ya" is classic Knack; fun, well-crafted, and eminently listenable.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Morris Day and The Time - Jungle Love

With his larger-than-life persona, humor, and style Morris Day was the perfect frontman for The Time.  He was also a tremendous foil for Prince in Purple Rain, but had a tough time translating that to continued commercial success.

The Time began as a Prince side project and provided an outlet for some of his funkier music as he transitioned to rock and pop.  He created the group in 1981, and filled it with talented members of the Minneapolis funk scene, including Morris Day, a childhood acquaintance (who also co-wrote "Partyup" on the Dirty Mind LP).  Most of The Time came from a preexisting R&B act called Flyte Time, which included Jellybean Johnson on drums, Jimmy Jam and Monte Moir on keyboards, and Terry Lewis on bass.  With Morris Day and Jesse Johnson (guitars), the group was complete.

Though The Time released three top 50 albums in the early 1980's, there were issues with Prince from the start.  First, Prince played all of the music on their albums and required that Morris Day sing the songs note-for-note as Prince intended.  There were also problems concerning the pay and the treatment of the band; by 1984 The Time had broken up.

"Jungle Love" may be The Time's best-known song; it reached #20 on the singles chart in 1984.  It is a straight up funk jam that is captured quite well in Purple Rain.  Though it is not the rarest of the rare, it has become something of a forgotten classic.

There have been several Time reunions, starting in 1990 for the Graffiti Bridge movie soundtrack.  The group is currently together, and has been working under the name The Original 7ven since 2001.



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

R.E.M. - Fall On Me

R.E.M.'s song about acid rain (according to Bill Berry) or oppression (according to Michael Stipe) was the first single released from their 1987 Lifes Rich Pageant LP (and yes, the lack of an apostrophe is intentional on the band's part).  The record continued R.E.M.'s progression away from folk rock towards a more mainstream sound, a transition that would lead to significant success in the 1990's.

At the time it was released, Lifes Rich Pageant became the highest-charting R.E.M. album, as it reached #21 on the charts.  Of course, the group would go on to have two #1 and three #2 albums later in their career.  "Fall on Me" was not a big hit, but it did chart, reaching #94.

The video for "Fall on Me" was directed by lead singer Michael Stipe, and consists of words (mostly from the song's lyrics) that flash over upside down footage of a quarry in Indiana.  For extra points, one word in the video is famously misspelled; see if you can identify it without resorting to Google.

Note that R.E.M.'s first single "Radio Free Europe" was posted on ERV back in September 2011, when the band officially broke up.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Madness - House of Fun

While American readers may view Madness as a one hit wonder (they actually had 2 top 40 hits in the U.S. -- "Our House" and "It Must Be Love"), the group were superstars in their native Britain.  Between 1979 and 1983, every single that they released broke the top 10, except "Cardiac Arrest," which hit #14.  That translates to 15 hits during that period.  Additionally, they (along with The Specials) were the face of the 2 Tone ska revival of that time.

The group formed in London in 1976, and were called The North London Invaders and Morris and the Minors before changing their name to Madness in 1979.  The name came from a Prince Buster song; he was also the topic of their first single, 1979's "The Prince."  The band's songs were infused with humor, but it was their strong pop-influenced ska that truly made them stars.  However, at their 1983 peak, keyboardist and songwriter Mike Barson abruptly quit, leaving the industry in order to spend more time with his family.  The band soldiered on for a few years, with less success, before breaking up in 1988.  As with many 1980's acts, Madness has re-formed in recent years, and continues to perform and record as of this writing.

For the blog, we opted for the 1982 non-album single "House of Fun."  It was the group's only #1 hit in the U.K., though the song did not chart in the U.S.  We particularly like the contrast between the whimsical music and the coming-of-age lyrics.  The low-budget but appropriate video was primarily filmed in three locations -- the joke shop and chemist were in London, while the roller coaster was in Great Yarmouth.  I believe that the clip received some airplay on MTV back in the day, but it did not go into heavy rotation.



Cool trivia fact #1:  "House of Fun" charted a second time in 1992 when it reached #40 in the U.K.

Cool trivia fact #2:  The song was originally titled "Chemist Facade" and did not have the chorus, which was quickly written (by Mike Barson) and recorded.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Outfield - Say It Isn't So

When we started ERV in August 2011, the Outfield were one of the first bands to go in the bullpen, and they have been patiently waiting their turn ever since.  This is somewhat typical of the group -- they weren't avant-garde, or loved by critics, and they did not develop a large cult following over time.  What they did do, however, was produce a bunch of strong power pop songs, led by a #6 hit with one of the best opening lines of the decade:  "Josie's on a vacation far away..."

The Outfield's original lineup of Tony Lewis (bass and vocals), John Spinks (guitars), and Alan Jackman (drums) formed around 1983 in London.  The group was originally called The Baseball Boys, a name inspired by the Baseball Furies gang from The Warriors movie (a great flick that gets a thumbs up from ERV).  When the group signed with Columbia/CBS in 1984, their manager suggested that the name might be too campy.  After a discussion, the group renamed itself the Outfield.

Unlike most British acts, the Outfield were much more popular on this side of the Atlantic, where they had 5 top 40 hits and 4 charting albums.  (In the U.K., the group had 2 charting singles, but no top 40 hits).  I supposed that their sound, with soaring vocals and strong guitar lines, fit better into the American music scene of the time.

For the blog, we went with "Say It Isn't So," the lead single from their 1985 breakthrough, Play Deep.  While the song didn't chart, the next three singles from the LP did, and the record ultimately peaked at #9 on the album charts.  Sadly, the Outfield would never match the success of their debut album, though they continued to be moderately successful until the grunge era.

Although they never officially broke up, the Outfield took an extended break for most of the 1990's.  They have performed sporadically since then, but have been more active since 2009 (when the original lineup with drummer Alan Jackman re-formed).  Sadly, it is unclear what the current status of the band is, as guitarist (and primary songwriter) John Spinks passed away from cancer in 2014.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Cure - Pictures Of You

By 1989, The Cure had become big stars in the U.K. with four consecutive top 10 albums, and they had even broken through in the U.S. (1987's Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me broke the top 40 on the album charts).  However, frontman Robert Smith was depressed about turning 30 and concerned that the band's music had become too commercial.

As a result, 1989's Disintegration was broody and somewhat downbeat -- to the point that the label was concerned that the record could be considered commercial suicide (a phrase that turns up a lot when discussing this record).  But a funny thing happened on the way to the discount bins -- Disintegration became a huge hit, and received no small amount of critical acclaim as well.  It turns out that the songs' melancholy vibe had just enough pop sensibilities to appeal to a broad audience, and the sound was unlike anything in pop music at the time.

Although there are many strong cuts on the album, we have always been partial to "Pictures of You."  The song was supposedly inspired by a Myra Poleo story called The Dark Power of Ritual Pictures ... except that there is no such story or author.  Cure fans have pointed out that Myra Poleo is an anagram for Mary Poole (Robert Smith's wife), for what it is worth.  Smith has also stated that the inspiration for the song came after a fire damaged his house, and left him looking through old photographs from his wallet.  Whatever the source, "Pictures of You" remains a haunting, sad and romantic song.

Disintegration would go on to reach #12 on the U.S. album charts (#3 in the U.K.), while "Pictures of You" would hit #71 in the U.S. (#24 in the U.K.).



For a slightly more upbeat Cure song, "In Between Days" was featured on ERV in April 2013.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers - If We Never Meet Again

Your basic bar band made good (almost), Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers came onto the music scene in 1988 with their major label debut, Rumble.  Sounding like a mix of Bruce Springsteen and George Thorogood (with some 1950's rock and roll thrown in for good measure), the band was definitely cutting against the musical grain of the time.

The group formed in Philadelphia in the mid-1980's and released an independent record (Walking on the Water) in 1986.  They were signed to Columbia Records in 1988 and released two major label LPs before being dropped by the label.

"If We Never Meet Again" is off their 1988 major label debut.  The song picked up some radio play, though I do not recall seeing the video at the time.  The single never charted, while the Rumble album peaked at #103 on the charts -- the group's only charting record.

Conwell and The Young Rumblers disbanded soon after they were dropped by Columbia.  Conwell remained in the music business for a number of years, but never broke through.  In more recent years, he has taught third grade, was a DJ on WYSP (a Philadelphia rock station) and most recently is in the family's fence business.  He and the Young Rumblers continue to periodically perform, typically in the Philadelphia area.



Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers excellent first single, "I'm Not Your Man" was featured on ERV in February, 2015.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rod Stewart - Infatuation

Unlike most established rock stars, Rod Stewart embraced music videos, and he made several great ones during the 1980's.  Unfortunately, his music was not the strongest during this time (something that even he has admitted in recent years).  Even so, there are a few clips that stand out, and "Infatuation" is foremost among them.

The song comes off Stewart's 1984 Camouflage album.  The LP peaked at #18 in the U.S., while "Infatuation" hit #6.  It is not a terrible song, and is typical of the lightweight, somewhat commercial pop material that Stewart was recording in the 1980's.  However, the video is something else.

The music video was directed by Jonathan Kaplan, who is probably best-known for his 1988 film, The Accused.  Mostly taking place in an apartment complex (as a homage to Hitchcock's Rear Window), the vid features Stewart as a voyeur infatuated with a mobster's girlfriend (played by Kay Lenz).  Character actor Mike Mazurki rounds out the cast as the mobster's enforcer or bodyguard.

Shot primarily in black and white, the storytelling, camera shots, and connection to the song's lyrics made this a truly exceptional video, in your author's opinion.  Several scenes really jump out, including the intro in the pool, the goldfish feeding, and the scenes where Stewart dances in front of the oversized picture of the object of his affection.  And it has Jeff Beck, who brings his sizzling guitar with him.

Stewart would go on to have a long and successful career in the music business, though he did transition to something of a crooner in the 1990's.




Cool trivia fact:  There were two version of the video made.  In the one above, the mobster rides off with the girl.  In the second version, below, Stewart gets the girl (or maybe it is just in his head).


Cool trivia fact #2:  There is a solid interview with actress Kay Lenz at Noblemania.

Lastly, we found a cool making of video with Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck, so of course we had to include that too:

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mötley Crüe - Live Wire

Loud, brash, and borderline out-of-control, Mötley Crüe created the pop metal mold.  The band formed in 1981 in LA (of course), and were led by bassist Nikki Sixx (given name: Frank Feranna).  The original band consisted of Sixx, drummer Tommy Lee (given name: Thomas Lee Bass) and guitarist/singer Greg Leon.  When Leon left, Sixx and Lee replaced him with guitarist Mick Marrs (given name: Robert Deal) and singer Vince Neil (given name: Vincent Neil Wharton) and just like that, Mötley Crüe was born.

By combining hard rock with glam metal, Mötley Crüe stumbled upon a marketable formula.  This was helped by their solid hooks; some critics have compared the band to Cheap Trick, although I see a lot of Kiss influences as well.  The music and strong live shows would likely have made Mötley Crüe successful in any era, but the visuals proved to be a huge advantage in the MTV-led 1980's.  Unlike older hard rock bands (and even the New Wave of British Heavy Metal acts), Crüe embraced videos and became big stars as a result.

While the 1983 "Looks That Kill" video really propelled the band to hard rock stardom, we opted for their first major video, 1981's "Live Wire."  The band is not as polished as it would be in later efforts, but the vid shows a young, energetic band with some nice licks and a real understanding of visuals -- something that was often lacking in hard rock acts of the early 1980's.

Mötley Crüe would go on to sell 80 million units and have 6 top 10 LPs.  They would also have 6 top 40 hits during the 1980's, although "Live Wire" was not among them (it did not chart).  As of this writing, the band intends to go on a final tour and call it quits in 2015 or so.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Whispers - Rock Steady

The Whispers are an old school R&B act that formed in Los Angeles in 1964.  The band began regularly charting on the R&B charts (and occasionally hitting the singles charts) in 1969.  Their fortunes took a turn for the better in 1979, when the disco-influenced "And the Beat Goes On" went to #1 on the R&B charts and broke the top 40 at #19 on the singles charts.

"Rock Steady" was from the group's 1987 LP, Just Gets Better with Time.  This was the Whispers eighteenth studio album, and it became the second highest charting album of their career at #22  - only the band's self-titled 1979 album charted higher, at #6.

The video is a pretty standard performance piece, although the mustaches of Wallace (Scotty) and Walter Scott are prominently featured.  Sadly, "Rock Steady" was the last big hit of the Whispers' career, although they continue to record and perform to the present day.


Cool trivia fact:  "Rock Steady" was co-written by L.A. Reid and Babyface, who also produced the Just Gets Better with Time album (it was one of their first projects together).

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Fay Ray - Modern Lovers

Originally from Bangor, Wales, Fay Ray were a new wave act who made one really solid album before things went south.  The band was named after one of photographer William Wegman's Weimaraner dogs and was fronted by Sheila McCartney.  Other members of the band were John Lovering (guitar), Owen Hughes (drums), Tony Travis (bass), and Jeff Taylor (sax).

Fay Ray were sometimes lazily compared to Siouxsie and the Banshees, another British new wave band with a female lead singer.  However, they sounded quite different from Siouxsie, with a strong pop sense folded into their new wave sound.  This could have made them quite successful, had things broken their way a bit more.

The band released their debut album, Contact You, in 1982, but it did not chart.  They did make a couple of videos, and even picked up a bit of airplay on MTV.  However, Elektra/Warner dropped the band after the recording of their second LP, and refused to release the master tapes (!).  Fay Ray broke up soon afterwards, although they have re-formed in the early 2000's and are still occasionally active as of this writing.

"Modern Lovers" was off Contact You, and is a great driving new wave song with a cheap and colorful video to boot.  File this one under rare and really good.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Yes - Love Will Find A Way

There is little doubt that the 1980's were tough times for progressive rock acts.  In retrospect, rock audiences likely viewed the sound as dated; it certainly was out of synch with the major musical trends of the decade.

Yes bucked the trend, but at a cost; they more or less abandoned their art rock roots and turned into an arena rock band.  This is especially evident on the hugely successful 1983 album 90125 which scarcely sounds like a Yes record.

This change in style and personnel created a difficult working environment and Big Generator (the follow up to 90125) took 4 years to record.  The result is an album that is stylistically similar to 90125, even though producer Trevor Horn left early in the project.

"Love Will Find A Way" was the first single off Big Generator, and was written by Trevor Rabin.  Interestingly, Rabin wrote the song for Stevie Nicks, but when drummer Alan White heard it he convinced Rabin to keep it for Yes.  The result was a #30 hit, the penultimate Yes top 40 single ("Rhythm of Love" at #40 was the last one).

The musically differences that plagued Yes continued after Big Generator, as the group's next album (1991's Union) also took 4 years to record.  Since then the group has continued to record and tour in different permutations, and many members of the band have also participated in other musical projects.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Tourists - Don't Say I Told You So

The Tourists formed in 1975 and were originally a three member band called The Catch.  By 1977, they had become a five piece act and renamed themselves as The Tourists.  Although the group would release three top 75 LPs in the U.K and have four top 40 hits between 1977 and 1980, they would never quite break through.

Part of the issue was the band's sound, as they were viewed by fans and critics alike as a 1960's-influenced  power pop band.  Additionally, there were significant artistic differences among the band's members that would lead to the act's demise after only a few short years.

In the U.S., The Tourists barely made a dent in the market -- although their 1979 cover of "I Only Want to Be with You" did chart at #83.

"Don't Say I Told You So" was off the group's 1980 album, Luminous Basement, and was the third (and last) album that the band recorded.  The song reached #40 on the U.K. singles chart (the last charting single by the band), while the album peaked at #75.  The album was clearly influenced by the emerging new wave scene, but the band's pop image was likely one reason for the breakup.

 


And in the interest of burying the lead, it should be pointed out that The Tourists were particularly noteworthy as the group that Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox were in before they formed Eurythmics.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Owen Paul - My Favourite Waste of Time

Rare video (especially in the U.S.) - check
Cover of a song by a great, underrated songwriter - check
Solid pop song with a great hook - check

And with that, let's check out Owen Paul's cover of "My Favourite Waste of Time."  Paul ended up as a U.K. one hit wonder; while this song went to #3 on the charts, he did not have another charting single.  Sadly, both Paul and this song are mostly unknown outside of the U.K.

Owen Paul (born Owen Paul McGee in Glasgow, Scotland) reportedly decided to go into the music business after hearing the Sex Pistols.  How that path led him to well-crafted power pop is anybody's guess.  At any rate, he released several singles after "My Favourite Waste of Time," none of which charted and eventually became a producer in the later part of the decade.  In 1989, he produced the Taboo album for the Japanese rock group Buck-Tick.  During the marketing efforts for the album, he got into a dispute with the record label, and left the industry for 15 years.

Since 2002, Paul has returned to recording and performing, mostly in the U.K. and Europe.




As was alluded to above, "My Favourite Waste of Time" is a cover of a Marshall Crenshaw song.  Crenshaw is a seriously underrated songwriter who should have become more successful in my opinion.  This song was a demo recording that was used as the B side of Crenshaw's one hit, 1982's "Someday Someway."


In recent years, "My Favourite Waste of Time" has been covered by Freedy Johnston, Bette Midler, and Ronnie Spector.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Billy Squire - Rock Me Tonight

Eighties Rare Videos is filled with rare and semi-rare videos of great bands that never quite made it.  But we also like a great story, and the tale of how Billy Squier supposedly ruined his career with a terrible video is just too good for us to pass up.

Billy Squier, the pride of Wellesley, Massachusetts, had a long road to rock stardom.  He began performing in bands in 1969, and finally signed with Capitol Records as a solo artist in 1980.  His breakthrough came on his second LP, 1981's Don't Say No, which went triple platinum and peaked at #5 on the U.S. album charts.

By 1984, Squier was a well-established rock star, with two top 5 LPs and 3 top 40 hits ... which makes the "Rock Me Tonight" video all the more inexplicable.  To be honest, I just thought of it as a terrible music video, but in recent years, it has become legendary in scope (and has been requested more than once by our readers).  The story really took off after after it was featured in the 2011 Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks book, I Want My MTV.  During their research for the book, they found that the video was generally viewed as the worst major video ever made, and that it essentially ruined Billy Squier's career.  In fact, they devote an entire chapter of their book to "Rock Me Tonight."

In reality, the video was not played much on MTV, as the station realized what Squier's management and label didn't (namely, that it was effeminate and suckie).  Ironically, the song ended up being the highest charting single of Squier's career at #15, and the album also did well at #11.  While Squire had four more charting singles and two top 75 albums in the 1980's, his period of major commercial success was over.  In my view, the video didn't help but probably was not the major cause for Squier's fall in popularity (in general, rock stars have a limited shelf life).

However, "Rock Me Tonight" is a genuinely terrible (and unintentionally hilarious) video:


Billy Squire continued recording albums through the mid-1990's and remains occasionally active as a performer as of this writing.  Note that Squier's "The Big Beat," which has been sampled nearly 200 times by hip hop artists, was featured on ERV in November, 2014.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Jesse Johnson - I Want My Girl

Best-known as the guitarist for Morris Day and the Time, Johnson signed a solo deal with A&M Records when the group broke up in 1984.  His first album, Jesse Johnson's Revue came out the following year, and  reached #43 on the album charts.

Johnson's material was typical of the Minneapolis pop/funk sound of the day; a less charitable author might call it Prince light.  Still, it is very listenable music, though it does not break any new ground.

For the blog, we went with "I Want My Girl," a slow jam classic.  The song only reached #76 on the pop charts, but did top out at #7 on the R&B charts.  Johnson released two more charting albums in the 1980's, and had 4 top 100 singles led by 1986's "Crazay," with Sly Stone, which hit #53.

As his solo career faded , Johnson became involved in movie soundtracks and album production -- his credits include records by Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson.  Although Johnson has taken several hiatuses (is that a word) from the music industry, he appears to be active as of this writing.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Peek-A-Boo

"Peek-A-Boo" was Siouxsie and the Banshees first charting U.S. single, although it was the band's 15th top 40 song in their native Britain.  Led by their dramatic frontwoman Siouxsie Sioux (Susan Ballion), the band came out of the Bromley Contingent -- a group of hardcore Sex Pistol fans.  However, instead of becoming a straight up punk band, Siouxsie and the Banshees found their own sound, which fused punk with art house and postmodern elements.

The band's unique sound and appearance quickly found an audience in the U.K.  In fact, "Peek-A-Boo" was off the group's ninth studio album (Peepshow); all of the previous eight LPs broke the top 15 on the U.K. album charts.

The song also showed Siouxsie and the Banshees' continued sonic experimentation.  The idea for "Peek-A-Boo" began during the band's previous album, when they began writing a song based on playing John Cale's "Gun" backwards.  A year later, the song, with its layered instruments and cutting lyrics was ready, and became the lead single off Peepshow.

Ironically, the success of "Peek-A-Boo" came back to haunt the band, as the song was found to infringe on the 1938 standard "Jeepers Creepers." In response, Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer (who wrote "Jeepers Creepers" ) would go on to receive songwriting credit for "Peek-A-Boo."

Siouxsie and the Banshees would remain together until 1996, although the members (including Siouxsie Sioux) remains active in the industry as of this writing.



Cool trivia fact:  Siouxsie and the Banshees is an official one hit wonder, as only 1991's "Kiss Them for Me" (#23) broke the top 40 in the U.S.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Duran Duran - Girls on Film

Duran Duran were one of the first acts to truly embrace the emerging music video revolution, and their proficiency with the media helped them become superstars by the early 1980's.

The band formed in Birmingham, England in 1978, and fashioned themselves as a post-punk art band whose influences included Roxy Music and David Bowie.  The group was named after a character from the 1968 Jane Fonda film, Barbarella.  Signed to EMI, Duran Duran's self-titled debut LP was released in 1981, and they found immediate success in the U.K. (and a bit in U.S. clubs).

It was around this time that the "Girls on Film" video benefitted from almost unbelievable good luck.  Directed by future video superstars Godley and Creme, the original video was designed for late night TV shows and dance clubs, and featured a fair amount of nudity.  It was subsequently banned by the BBC, which generated a ton of publicity for the band.  An edited version of the video found its way to MTV and received some airplay, although neither the song nor the album really broke through on their initial release.

However, the success of the video seemed to solidify the band's visual focus, and led to the tremendous success of future Duran Duran albums and videos, starting with 1982's Rio.  A 1983 reissued version of the debut LP broke the top 10 in the U.S in 1983, one of 3 top 10 LPs that the band had between 1982 and 1983.

As many readers will know, Duran Duran has never officially broken up, although they have had several extended periods of inactivity and a few lineup changes through the years.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Loudness - Crazy Nights

Loudness (ラウドネス) are likely to be the only Japanese group to appear on ERV, and are one of a handful of Japanese acts that had the potential to make an impact on the U.S. charts.  The group got its start in 1981 and quickly established themselves as the premier heavy metal band in Japan.

By 1984, Loudness had released four albums, and had a following in their home market.  To my ear, their early work sounds similar to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and I think that it holds up reasonably well.  Their growing success caught the attention of the Twisted Sister management team and led to an international recording contract with Atco Records in 1985.

The act's first American record was 1985's Thunder in the East.  The album was recorded in the U.S., with English lyrics and some significant style changes, designed to appeal to the American market -- essentially, they went with a more pop metal sound, similar to Mötley Crüe, instead of sticking with their earlier, heavier music.

The results were ok, but not great.  Thunder in the East did hit #74 on the U.S. album charts, led by "Crazy Nights," which did not chart.  However, it was not the big breakout that the label had hoped for, and several subsequent records did not fare any better.  Atco dropped the band in 1991, and Loudness refocused on the Japanese market.  Though there have been several lineup changes, the band remains active to the present day.continues to record and tour to the present day.


Cool trivia fact:  The "M - Z - A" chant in the chorus has no particular meaning -- it was used as a placeholder during the initial recording, and the band could not come up with anything better, so they keep it in the final version.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jon Astley - Jane's Getting Serious

We frequently discuss one hit wonders at ERV, but it is easy to forget just how hard it is for an artist to have even one song break the top 40.  This was especially true in the 1980's, given the amount and diversity of music.  In any event, this is a roundabout way of pointing out that Jon Astley did not have any top 40 hits, although he did write and record the very catchy song below.

Jon Astley (no relation to Rick) began his career as a producer, and was particularly well-known for his work with The Who (he was, for a time, Pete Townshend's brother-in-law).  Later, Astley built a second career as an expert in re-mastering material for the conversion to CDs.

In between these pursuits, Astley also released two solo albums and managed to have two charting singles (the other one was 1988's "Put This Love to the Test" and no, I don't remember it either).  "Jane's Getting Serious" is a catchy pop song, with a choppy percussion-driven sound.  The song peaked at #77, while the album Everyone Loves the Pilot (Except the Crew) reached #135.

By the by, "Jane" was also used in a series of Heinz Ketchup Commercials, including one featuring an early role for future Friend Matt LeBlanc, so you may have heard the song there.

The video seems to take place on a deserted island and is highlighted by three dancing gorillas.  Perhaps the chaps from Haircut 100 are singing on the same island, who knows?  At any rate, it is a solid video of a mostly forgotten pop gem.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chris Isaak - Don't Make Me Dream About You

Although Chris Isaak has only landed one top 40 single ("Wicked Game"), he has built a solid career on an updated Roy Orbison-influenced sound.  This is no small feat, as rockabilly artists in general haven't exactly been burning up the charts over the past few decades.

Isaak released his first album in 1985, but his breakthrough came on his third album, 1989's Heart Shaped World.  That album peaked at #7 on the charts and went triple platinum, led by the previously mentioned "Wicked Game."  Interestingly, that song was not an immediate hit, but gained momentum following its inclusion in David Lynch's 1990 movie, Wild At Heart.  Additionally, the heavily played video (featuring a topless Helena Christensen) probably didn't hurt.

After Heart Shaped World, Isaak saw his mainstream success fade, but has retained a loyal following.  He continues to perform and record (and dabble in acting) to the present day.

For the blog, we skipped the overplayed "Wicked Game" and opted for the less well known "Don't Make Me Dream About You."  The black and white video is stylistically similar to "Wicked Game" and seems well suited for Isaak's music.  The song is a bit more uptempo and is, I believe, a good representation of the Isaak rockabilly sound.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tony Carey - I Won't Be Home Tonight

"I Won't Be Home Tonight" is a great example of one of those wonderful videos that often showed up on MTV in the Early Years.  (Actually, I don't recall seeing the video on MTV, but I do remember the song.)  The vid features women, cars, a jeep, and even has a shot of Tower Records (ahh, record stores ...)  It is not totally clear if the video has a plot, however, and the fact that the clip appears to have been shot on a shoestring budget only adds to its charm.

The song is by Tony Carey, and is off his 1982 album of the same name.  Carey got his big break when he was invited to play keyboards in Rainbow, and later he tried to jump start a solo career.  I was surprised to learn that the single actually charted, reaching  #79 on the charts -- it turns out that Carey had four charting singles in 1983 and 1984, including two top 40 hits ("The First Day of Summer" and "A Fine Fine Day").    Savvy readers may also recall that he co-founded Planet P Project as an outlet for his more unusual work; the video for "Why Me?" was featured on ERV in August 2012.

Carey's fortunes waned in the mid-1980's, although he remains active in the industry to the present day.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Timex Social Club - Rumors

Originally called the Timex Crew, Timex Social Club switched names after a lineup change and ended up as a classic one hit wonder.  The group originally formed at Berkeley High School (in Berkeley, California) in 1982. Timex Social Club's sound combined elements of R&B, jazz, hip hop and dance into something that would come to be know as new jack swing in the early 1990's, and if things had broken slightly differently for the group, they could have been major players in that scene.  However, squabbles and lineup changes prevented this from happening.

The group only released one major label LP, 1986's Vicious Rumors, which hit #29 on the R&B albums chart but did not break onto the main albums chart.  However, the single "Rumors" became a hit, reaching #8 on the singles chart.  While the follow up singles ( "Thinkin' About Ya" and "Mixed-Up World") both broke the top 20 on the R&B charts, they did not enjoy crossover success and the group broke up.

Producer Jay King, who had a major influence on the group's sound would go on to form Club Nouveau (literally:  New Club) and would land 2 more top 40 hits, including the 1987 cover of Bill Withers' "Lean on Me" which would go to #1.

Timex Social Club has re-formed in recent years and continues to perform as of this writing.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

U2 - I Will Follow

Before U2 became one of the biggest bands in the world, they were just an earnest, post punk act from Ireland.  Note that in 1980, college rock not even in the lexicon -- in fact, U2 was one of the bands that helped to create this segment in the early 1980's.

U2 formed in Dublin in 1976, and consists of Bono (given name: Paul Hewson) on vocals, The Edge (given name: David Evans) on guitar, Adam Clayton on bass, and Larry Mullen, Jr. on drums.  Signed to Island Records, the band released their debut LP, Boy in 1980, and "I WIll Follow" was the first single.

While "I Will Follow" quickly became a staple at parties and on college radio, the song did not do terribly well in the charts.  It originally did not chart (in 1980), although a 1984 live version (from the Under a Blood Red Sky LP) reached #84.  On the other hand, Boy definitely attracted some attention and reached #63 on the album charts.

Similarly, the video for "I Will Follow" is relatively rare.  By the time MTV launched in 1981, U2's October album was out, and the fledgling music video channel focused on "Gloria,"  leaving "I Will Follow" as a forgotten classic.



Cool trivia fact:  The lyrical inspiration for "I Will Follow" came from the death of Bono's mother (she died when he was 14).

Cool trivia fact #2:  "I WIll Follow" is the only song that U2 has played on every tour.

Lastly, U2 fans and other interested parties may want to check out the video for the rare and controversial song "A Celebration," which was posted on ERV in May, 2015.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Jane's Addiction - Mountain Song

"Mountain Song" is a truly great, groove-driven hard rock song that was unlike virtually everything on the radio in 1988.  For readers who only know Jane's Addiction from 1990's "Been Caught Stealing," this song is evidence that the band could rock out with the best of them.

The song came off the band's major label debut, 1988's Nothing's Shocking.  [Note that "Jane Says" from the same LP was featured on ERV in January 2014.]  The album created a stir in the music industry, but did not become a huge commercial success.  In retrospect, album sales were hurt by the lack of exposure on MTV, and by the diverse alternative feel that the record had -- remember that 1988 was the peak of hair metal.

On the exposure front, the (edited) video below was shot in 1988 at Scream (an alternative rock club in LA), and is an awesome Jane's Addiction timepiece.  The vid was banned by MTV for years, due to the nudity and general weirdness (I believe that MTV dropped the ban in 1990).

Sadly, "Mountain Song" did not chart, while the Nothing's Shocking LP only reached #103 on the album charts.



For more on Jane's Addiction (including the story behind Jane), check out the "Jane Says" entry.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Whitesnake - Love Ain't No Stranger

"Love Ain't No Stranger" was the first Whitesnake song to make a dent in the U.S. market, reaching #34 on the Mainstream Rock charts.  However, this was soon overshadowed by "Slow An' Easy" (posted on ERV in August 2011), which reached #17 on the same charts.

Both songs were off the poorly titled 1984 LP Slide It In, which turned out to be Whitesnake's breakthrough album in the important U.S. market; the album reached #42 in the U.S. and eventually went double platinum.  As we have previously mentioned on ERV, it was around this time that lead singer David Coverdale began to focus more intently on commercial success, which resulted in significant turnover among the other members of the band.  This also led to an increased focus on videos.

The video for "Love Ain't No Stranger" intercuts the band playing with Coverdale watching girls on trucks at an army base.  No, it doesn't make much sense to me, either.  The video is quite rare though, and the song is a solid, somewhat forgotten power ballad.

Whitesnake would go on to have huge success on their eponymous next album in 1987,  and Coverdale continues to use the Whitesnake name to record and perform as of this writing.



Cool trivia fact:  Whitesnake's first charting single on the U.S. pop charts (the Billboard 200), "Here I Go Again '87" went to #1.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Call - The Walls Came Down

"The Walls Came Down" was one of two charting songs by The Call, though the group never had a top 40 hit.  ["Let the Day Begin," which was featured on ERV back in August 2012 was The Call's other charting single.]  In spite of this lack of mainstream success, the band became a favorite of critics and musicians including Peter Gabriel, Jim Kerr, Bono, and Bruce Cockburn.

Led by Michael Been, The Call were known for their strong lyrics and updated roots rock sound.  The band released their first album in 1982, but it was 1983's Modern Romans that became their first hit.  Helped by MTV, "The Walls Came Down" reached #74 on the charts while the LP peaked at #84.

However, the band followed up Modern Romans with the more ethereal Scene Beyond Dreams in 1984 (which did not break the top 200), and then became embroiled in a legal dispute with Mercury Records that delayed the release of their next album (Reconciled) until 1986.  Needless to say, this damaged the group's momentum.

In spite of these issues, The Call continued to release strong albums through 1990, when Michael Been left to try his hand at a solo career.  The band later re-formed in 1997, but broke up again in 2000.  Been eventually became involved with his son's group (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) until his untimely death from a heart attack in 2010.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Martha Davis - Don't Tell Me The Time

In 1987, Martha Davis broke up the Motels in order to go solo.  Later that year,  she released the Policy LP, which unsurprisingly sounded a lot like a Motels record.  However the hard-fought success that the Motels had captured eluded Davis as a solo artist.

In retrospect, the album was likely hurt by the name change and perhaps by the evolving tastes in the music industry.  Davis' brand of melancholy-tinged new wave pop likely seemed out of place by 1987, especially as pop metal took over the charts (and MTV).  The album peaked at #127, while "Don't Tell Me the Time" only reached #80.

In the aftermath of Policy, Davis asked to be released from her contract (with Capitol Records) and did not release another solo album until ...So the Story Goes in 2004.

While the song didn't break any new ground, "Don't Tell Me the Time" is a solid Motels-ish pop song that could have been a hit with a bit of luck.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Scritti Politti - Perfect Way

Although they were a one hit wonder in the U.S., Scritti Politti were more successful in the U.K., where they had 5 top 40 hits (and 15 charting singles).  The band's origins date back to 1977, but the group (named after the Italian phrase for political writings) was essentially the musical vehicle for Welsh singer-songwriter Green Gartside (born as Paul Strohmeyer).

Scritti Politti's pop sound (with new wave and blue-eyed soul influences) contrasted nicely with Gartside's complex and interesting lyrics.  The result was music that can be enjoyed on several levels, and unsurprisingly made the band something of a critical darling.  This was no doubt enhanced by the well-crafted studio productions.

"Perfect Way" comes off Scritti's 1985 studio LP, Cupid & Psyche 85.  While this was the band's second album, it was their first major label recording, which allowed Gartside access to the money and equipment that he desired.  As a result, it was a lush sounding, lyrically dense pop record that did surprisingly well on the charts.

While Scritti did not dent the U.S. charts after "Perfect Way," the group did continue to have mainstream success in the U.K. through the end of the 1980's.  Green Gartside remains active in the industry, and continues to release the occasional album (he rarely performs, due to stagefright).

Friday, June 13, 2014

Toni Basil - Mickey

Toni Basil's "Mickey" may seem like an odd choice for a rare videos blog, but loyal readers will recall that we love our covers at ERV ... especially if most listeners don't realize that the song is a cover.  This fits "Mickey" to a T.  [For other songs of the same ilk, check out the Cover label to the right.]

While the path to success is rarely a straight line, Toni Basil's journey was particularly circuitous.  Born as Antonia Basilotta in Philadelphia, Toni grew up as the daughter of entertainers and began her professional career as a dancer.  She quickly became interested in choreography and was an assistant choreographer (and dancer) on the Shindig! TV show.  Basil also sang and acted throughout the 1960's and 1970's.

Later, Basil became interested in the new wave movement; in fact, she choreographed, and co-directed with David Byrne, "Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads in 1980.  Soon afterwards, she recorded and released her debut LP, Word of Mouth, which came out in 1981 (U.K.) and 1982 (U.S.).

"Mickey" slowly gained traction, helped by the striking music video.  Legend has it that Basil came up with the idea for the video first, and then looked for a song to act as the soundtrack.  The video is considered to be the first formally choreographed clip to appear on MTV and was an early example of the power of the new video music channel.  The song would go on to become a #1 hit in the U.S. (#2 in the U.K.), while the Word of Mouth album went gold and reached #22 in the U.S.  However, Basil never had another top 40 hit, making her a rare (#1) one hit wonder.

In the years since "Mickey," Basil has remained active in the industry, mostly as a choreographer.



"Mickey" was a cover the a song originally called "Kitty" by the U.K. band Racey.  The song was written by the songwriting team of Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, but was not originally released as a single.  It was on Racey's 1979 album Smash and Grab.



Cool trivia fact:  The cheerleaders in the video were part of a squad from Carson High School in LA.

Cool trivia fact #2:  Devo was heavily involved in the writing and recording of Word of Mouth.  At the time, Basil was involved with Devo member Gerald Casale and the group co-wrote several songs and acted as the studio band for the LP.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Brothers Johnson - Stomp!

"Stomp" is a real toe-tapper and a somewhat forgotten classic by the Brothers Johnson -- who really were brothers.  The song is also an excellent example of early 1980's dance/funk, sometimes called sophistifunk, for sophisticated funk.

The Brothers Johnson were centered around George and Louis Johnson and began as a backing band before signing with A&M Records in 1975.  The group immediately became successful, and had 4 consecutive platinum LPs between 1976 - 1980.  They also scored 4 top 40 hits (and had 11 top 40 singles in the R&B charts).

Part of their success was likely due to having the smarts or good fortune to work with Quincy Jones.  Mr. Jones produced the band's first four albums, co-wrote a few songs, and helped the group collaborate with songwriters such as Rod Temperton and Michael Jackson.  We should all be so lucky.

The video for "Stomp" is pretty standard pre-MTV stuff, and shows the brothers playing and driving in their car while people dance.  The song seems to be channeling old Kool & the Gang; I particularly dig the bass solo at 2:30.  "Stomp" ended up being the band's last big hit at #7, while the album Light Up the Night reached #5.  After a less successful album in 1981, the brothers split up, although they have reunited several times through the years.