Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Patrice Rushen - Forget Me Nots

Patrice Rushen was part of the cool jazz scene of the early 1980's with artists such as George Benson and Al Jarreau.  As was the case with many R&B artists, Rushen began her career as a traditional jazz artist (piano and vocals) and transitioned to R&B in the late 1970's.  She actually had a fair amount of success on the R&B charts, with 8 singles that broke the top 40, but mainstream success was more elusive.

"Forget Me Nots" was off Rushen's seventh studio album, 1982's Straight from the Heart.  This record was her biggest commercial success, reaching #14 on the charts, led by "Forget Me Nots," which hit #23 on the singles chart.  By the by, Rushon co-wrote the song (with Teri McFadden and Freddie Washington) and co-produced the LP (with Charles Mims).

While Rushen did not have another big hit, she had continued success on the R&B charts throughout the 1980's.  She has sporadically released albums since then, and also transitioned to become a renowned music director.  In addition to working with Janet Jackson, Rushen also became the first female musical director of the Grammy Awards.  She remains active in the industry as of this writing.

Cool trivia fact:  Patrice Rushen is a one hit wonder, as only "Forget Me Nots" broke the top 40.

Cool trivia fact #2:  "Forget Me Nots" has been frequently covered, most notably by Will Smith in 1997's "Men In Black."

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Warrant - Down Boys

Warrant was the band that everybody loved in 1989, and many claimed to hate by 1991.  The truth is Warrant were neither rock gods nor demons.  Instead, they were a successful glam metal hair band out of the late 1980's LA scene whose image and pop sensibilities led to 2 top ten albums in 1989 and 1990.

The group was formed by guitarist Erik Turner in 1984.  After some amount of turnover, the lineup became Turner and Joey Allen on guitar, Jani Lane (vocals), Jerry Dixon (bass), and Steven Sweet (drums).  By 1987, Warrant had increased their visibility and were regularly playing on the Sunset Strip, which led to a recording contract with Columbia Records.

The band's first album, 1989's Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich went to #10 on the charts, helped by 3 top 40 singles -- "Down Boys" (#27), "Heaven" (#2) and "Sometimes She Cries" (#20).  1990's Cherry Pie hit #7 on the album charts, and the band managed to squeak out another charting album (#25) with 1992's Dog Eat Dog.  However, the rise of grunge effectively ended Warrant's main period of success, though they have continued releasing albums (with somewhat shifting lineups) to the present day.

For the blog, we went with "Down Boys," the first single off the first album.  The song is a bit harder than the rock ballads that the band became known for, but it does show off the pop hooks.  The video is a masterful job of image creation and I think that most readers will be able to easily identify why the genre became known as hair metal.

Sadly, Warrant's original lead singer, Jani Lane, died of alcohol poisoning in 2011.  He was 47 years old.

Cool trivia fact:  The Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich album was delayed for months after singer Jani Lane had a nervous breakdown after finding his best friend and girlfriend in bed together.  The incident became the inspiration for "I Saw Red," a #10 hit from the Cherry Pie LP.

Cool trivia fact #2:  Many of the lead guitar parts were recorded by studio musician Mike Slamer, who was brought in by producer Beau Hill.  This led to rumors that the Warrant guitarists Erik Turner and Joey Allen did not play a note on the debut album, which seems to be untrue.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Greg Kihn Band - Reunited

Greg Kihn followed up the success of 1983's "Jeopardy" (featured on ERV during our 2013 All Hallows Even extravaganza) with another catchy pop/rock song, "Reunited."  Unfortunately, the song and video did not gain traction on our favorite music video channel.  In fact,  "Reunited" did not break the top 100, while the Kihntagious album stalled at #121.

In retrospect, this is less surprising, as MTV was continuing to look for the next new thing, and Kihn's brand of straight up rock and roll may have seemed too basic.  However, "Reunited" is a totally solid song, and the video was an entertaining remake of The Wizard of Oz.

Without MTV's support, Kihn's success waned, although his 1985 LP, Citizen Kihn did reach #51 (led by the #30 single "Lucky").  However, that was his last charting alum.  Kihn continued to release albums on a regular basis through the 1990's (releases have been less regular since then), and became a DJ on San Jose's KFOX radio station for 12 years, ending in 2012.

As an extra bonus, we found a short feature on the making of "Reunited"

Cool trivia fact:  Joe Satriani was briefly a member of the Greg Kihn Band (in 1986) before he left to embark on a solo career.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Information Society - What's on Your Mind (Pure Energy)

Information Society could have easily become big stars if things had broken their way just a bit more.  The band's sound was early 1980's synth pop meets late 1980's techno, which could have made them the perfect dance band to transition into the 1990's.  However, things didn't work out that way, and they ended up having a brief period of success in the late 1980's before fading from view.

The group formed in Minneapolis and the core consisted of James Cassidy, Paul Robb, and Kurt Harland (Valaquen).  The band's name came from Ingsoc (newspeak for English Socialism) from the Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.  In fact, the band's debut EP was called The InSoc EP (and came out in 1983).

However, it was Information Society's self-titled 1988 LP that catapulted them onto the scene, led by "What's on Your Mind."  The song plays like an updated early 1980's synth pop gem and became a huge hit, reaching #3 on the charts, while the album hit #25.  Surprisingly, "Walking Away" also broke the top 10, though I only vaguely remember it.  By the by, the band also had a third top 40 hit with 1990's "Think."

After the group's big breakthrough, their popularity steadily waned in the 1990's and they officially broke up in 1997, before reforming in 2006.

Cool trivia fact:  As many readers will know, "What's on Your Mind" sampled two Star Trek lines, including Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) saying "It's worked so far, but we're not out yet!" in the intro and (of course) Mr. Spock's (Leonard Nimoy's) "Pure energy" line used in the chorus.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

AC/DC - Flick Of The Switch

As regular readers know, sometimes outside events influence ERV, and sadly today is one of those days.  Earlier today, AC/DC announced that longtime guitarist Malcolm Young would be taking a break from the band due to illness.  Considering that Malcolm and his brother Angus have been the only constant members of the band since its 1973 founding, this is likely to be bad news.  So this clip goes out to Malcolm, his family and the boys in the band with our thanks.

AC/DC built a career on straightforward, anthemic rock.  While some albums were stronger than others, the basic formula and style of the band has remained relatively constant since its founding.

The group formed in Australia in 1973, with Malcolm Young on rhythm guitar and his brother Angus on lead guitar.  Singer Bon Scott, bassist Mark Evans and drummer Phil Rudd rounded out the lineup.  From the start, AC/DC was a powerful live act whose songs were minimalist and power chord driven.  Over time, the band refined their songwriting which led to several strong albums, most notably 1980's Back in Black, one of the highest selling LPs of all time.

For the blog, we went with a rarer clip -- the title song from the band's 1983 LP, "Flick of the Switch."  This is the first album with Simon Wright on drums (Phil Rudd was fired during the recording sessions due to drug and alcohol problems but rejoined the band in 1994).  The only other change from the original lineup was Brian Johnson on vocals (Bon Scott died in 1980).

The clip was made during rehearsals for AC/DC's 1983 Flick of the Switch tour.  The video was filmed in an airplane hanger while the band was really rehearsing -- the group gave the film crew total access, on the condition that the shoot was finished in one day.  The result is a simple, effective video that fits well with the music.

Although the Flick of the Switch LP was considered something of a disappointment, the album hit #15 on the charts and went platinum.  While the group never topped Back in Black, they have remained a popular act long after most of their contemporaries have faded from the scene.  As one example, their last album (2008's Black Ice) hit #1 on the album charts and sold 2 million units in the U.S.  Not too shabby for a band that had been around for 35 years at that point.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Huey Lewis and the News - Some of My Lies Are True (Sooner or Later)

This one goes out to long time reader Sam, who recommended it when we posted the last Huey Lewis and the News video, for "Workin' For A Livin'" in December 2013.  (We have also posted "Heart and Soul" in October 2011 as part of our first All Hallows Even celebration, and posted "Doing It All For My Baby" in October 2018 as part of a more recent All Hallows Even.)

"Some of My Lies Are True (Sooner or Later)" was off the 1980 self titled debut for Huey Lewis and the News.  The album was released just after the band changed its name (from Huey Lewis and the American Express) after Chrysalis Records expressed concern over the threat of lawsuits from the financial services company.  Sadly, neither the album nor the single charted, although I think that things turned out just fine for Huey and the band.

To my ear, this is the most new wave-influenced song from the band, and I don't think that they had quite found their sound.  However, I really like it.  Huey Lewis and the News always had a strong pop sensibility, but I especially enjoyed the songs where they showed their bar band roots and just rocked out a little.

The video is a classic and rare early clip, with the band playing on a beach (in Northern California, I presume).  I particularly like that the folks at MTV put the wrong song down (for "Don't Ever Tell Me That You Love Me," which was a different song off the same LP).

I also found an alternate version of the video (and song), for folks who are interested.

Cool trivia fact:  A remixed version of Some of My Lies Are True" was released in 1986 as the B side to the "Hip to Be Square" single, and generated a bit of airplay at that time.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Patty Smyth - Never Enough

In some ways, it is surprising that Patty Smyth didn't become a big star in the 1980's.  Of course, ERV is littered with talented bands who never became big, big stars due to bad timing or just plain old back luck.  In Smyth's case there is unsurprisingly some of each.

Patty Smyth got her start in Scandal, who were featured on ERV for the "Love's Got A Line On You" video (and demo) in November, 2013.  Scandal flirted with success, but only recorded one top 40 single prior to breaking up in 1984.  Smyth then passed on joining Van Halen as the replacement for David Lee Roth, as she was pregnant with her first child (with then-boyfriend Richard Hell).  She did sing on the Hooters 1985 LP Nervous Night (on "Where Do the Children Go") before finally releasing her first solo album in 1987.

The Never Enough album reached #66 on the charts, while the single of the same name climbed to #61.  Smyth's 1992 eponymous second album did somewhat better, helped by two top 40 singles ( "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough" [with Don Henley] and "No Mistakes.")  After the 1992 album, Smyth wrote a few songs for movie soundtracks before fading from view.  In recent years, she has been a bit more active, and there was even a Scandal reunion in 2004 (and a new album in 2008).

The video for "Never Enough" is pretty standard fare, but it is still totally enjoyable.  In addition, it's a (reworked) cover of a song by Baby Grand.  (Baby Grand?)  Baby Grand featured Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman (who would go on to form the Hooters in 1980).  The group released two LPs in the 1970's but obviously did not break through.  Here is the Patty Smyth version:

And the Baby Grand original:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Whodini - Magic's Wand

Brooklyn rappers Whodini were pioneers in the emerging New York rap scene, and are especially notable for their musical approach, which combined R&B with rapping.  As a result, many critics credit the band with laying the groundwork for the New Jack Swing genre that took off at the end of the decade.

The group consisted of Jalil Hutchins and Ecstasy (John Fletcher).  From 1986 on, the act also included DJ Grandmaster Dee (Drew Carter).  The group originally formed when DJ John "Mr. Magic" Rivas asked an intern (Jalil Hutchins) to write a song for the Rap Attack show (originally on WHBI, then on WBLS in New York).  Hutchins wrote and recorded a song, but decided that he needed another voice, and asked Ecstasy (a rival rapper) to join him.  "Magic's Wand" became the theme song for the Rap Attack show and eventually led to a recording contract for Hutchins and Ecstasy.

The act was named Whodini due to the single "Magic's Wand".  Interestingly, Thomas Dolby co-produced the band's debut record on Jive Records -- Dolby had become interested in rap, as many early artists used electronic music, and Dolby had sent a demo recording to Jive Records, who proceeded to hook him up with Whodini.  Small world, huh?

The video for "Magic's Wand" was one of the first rap videos made, but did not receive much airplay on MTV.  Along the same lines, the group picked up airplay on urban stations but never crossed over, and saw their popularity decline during the 1980's, hurt by management and label changes.  While Whodini's output dropped over the years, they remain together and still perform as of this writing.