Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tesla - Little Suzi

Some videos just cry out for inclusion on ERV; Tesla's cover of "Little Suzi" being one great case in point.  The single was from Tesla's debut LP, 1986's Mechanical Resonance.  Although the song picked up a bit of airplay on rock radio, it barely dented the charts at #91, though the album went platinum and peaked at #32.

Telsa is an interesting band -- they were positioned as a hair metal group, but never quite fit the bill, and were in fact more of a straight up hard rock act.  They originally formed in Sacramento in 1982 and performed under the name City Kidd for several years, before changing their name (due to their manager's suggestion and during the recording of their first LP).  The band's jeans and T-shirt image, along with more complex songs (often with somewhat unconventional lyrics) differentiated them from the run-of-the-mill pop metal act.

The group released four consecutive albums that broke the top 40, and even scored two top 40 singles ("Love Song" and "Signs") between 1986 and 1994.  In 1994, guitarist Tommy Skeoch left Tesla due to drug problems, and the group broke up shortly afterward, before re-forming in 2000.  They continue to perform as of this writing, though Skeoch left the band again in 2006.

The video for "Little Suzi" is a pretty standard staged performance clip, but it does fit the band and the song reasonably well.

"Little Suzi" is also noteworthy to us as is it a cover of a song by the British act Ph.D.  The original version of the song was called "Little Suzi's on the Up" and was from that band's self-titled 1981 debut.  By the by, Ph.D. got its name from the last names of the three members -- Simon Phillips, Tony Hymas, and Jim Diamond.

Neither the single nor the LP charted in the U.S., but the somewhat eccentric video for "Little Suzi's on the Up" was the fifth vid ever played on MTV.  (Other first day videos featured on ERV can be located by using the MTV First Day label on the right.)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Kim Carnes - Voyeur

Although Kim Carnes has been featured on ERV twice before (for "More Love" and "Bette Davis Eyes"), those songs were both covers.  As Carnes is a prolific songwriter, we thought that it would be appropriate to highlight a song that she wrote (co-wrote in this case), which leads us to "Voyeur."

Carnes co-wrote "Voyeur" with her husband Dave Ellingson and songwriter Duane Hitchings.  The song was the lead single off the 1982 album of the same name, the follow up to the massively successful Mistaken Identity.  As ERV readers know, the music industry can be a capricious place, and although Voyeur was a well-constructed new wave/pop album, it fell flat with the listening public.

It's not that Carnes had a terrible career -- she generated 5 top 100 LPs and 7 top 40 singles before moving to Nashville with her husband and repositioning herself as a songwriter.  But it is a shame that she didn't stay at the top of the charts for longer.  Her unique voice and solid songs, which bridged the gap between new wave, pop, jazz, and folk would have made her an interesting pop star.

"Voyeur" is a strong video of a really decent song.  As was alluded to, the song only reached #29 on the charts, while the album stalled at #49.  Carnes would continue to release solo albums through the early 1990's and continues to sporadically perform to the present day.

Cool trivia fact:  Carnes only had one top 40 album in her career -- 1981's Mistaken Identity, a #1 LP.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Ravyns - Raised on the Radio

"Raised on the Radio" is a superb fit for ERV, and is by the Ravyns, a Baltimore-based rock band.  The song was originally on the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack, which led to a recording contract with MCA and a 1984 LP (which also contained the song).

The band then released three videos (including "Raised on the Radio," below) and won the 1985 MTV basement tapes competition with a video for their song "Rhythm of the Heart." Unfortunately, neither the songs nor the album did that well, and MCA dropped the band.

The band broke up in 1985, but continues to sporadically play to the present day.

By the by, the song starts around the 2:00 mark in the video below, for readers who want to skip over the dramatic intro.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Midnight Star - No Parking On The Dance Floor

One of several successful acts on S.O.L.A.R. Records, Midnight Star had 12 top 40 R&B songs during the 1980's, although only one of them (1984's "Operator") broke the pop top 40.  The band was formed at Kentucky State University in the mid-1970's and was led by the Calloway brothers (Reggie and Vincent).  In fact, Reggie's production skills played a central role in the band's success.

As an aside, S.O.L.A.R. (Sound of Los Angeles Records) was the re-formed Soul Train Records.  The label started as a partnership between Dick Griffey and Don Cornelius (Soul Train's creator and MC).  However, Cornelius quickly realized that he did not have the time for the TV show and a record label, and backed out of the project.  Griffey remained with S.O.L.A.R., but the change was amicable, allowing S.O.L.A.R. to leverage Soul Train's connections.  While Shalamar was the most successful act on the label, Midnight Star, Klymaxx and The Whispers (among others) had some success as well.  The label eventually closed in 1992, a victim of changing tastes.

For the blog, we went with the title cut from the 1983 LP, No Parking on the Dance Floor.  This album was Midnight Star's most successful LP, reaching #27 on the charts.  The single did not do as well, and only reached #43 on the dance charts (and #81 on the pop charts).  However, the song is an eighties funk/dance classic, complete with a Roland SVC-350 Vocoder.  We also dig the video, which highlights 1983 fashion trends.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Lou Gramm - Midnight Blue

"Midnight Blue" may not be the rarest song on ERV, but it has become something of a forgotten classic.  The song was the first single off Lou Gramm's 1987 solo record, Ready or Not, and it became a hit, reaching #5 on the charts.  In fact, Gramm had three solo top 40 hits, including "Just Between You and Me" (not the April Wine song) which was featured on ERV in April 2012 and "True Blue Love."

The Ready or Not LP was a collaboration between Gramm and Bruce Turgon, who had worked together in the band Black Sheep.  When Gramm joined Foreigner, Black Sheep disbanded and Turgon became a working musician in LA.  However, the two artists remained in touch, and as the chemistry in Foreigner deteriorated, Gramm invited Turgon to work with him on a solo project.

The video for "Midnight Blue" is pretty standard fare, but that doesn't make it bad.  By the by, the actress in the video is Traci Lind, who left the industry long ago (there is an interview with her on Noblemania for those who are interested), while the actor is Joe Holland, who died in 1994.

While "Midnight Blue" may not have broken any new ground creatively, it is a damn fine rock song, in your author's opinion, helped by a catchy guitar line.  And Lou Gramm has a voice that sounds like it was made for rock.  It adds up to one of the better rock songs of the decade.

Cool trivia fact:  R.E.M. covered "Midnight Blue" on a bunch of their shows in the fall of 1987, and an audio version from one of these concerts has survived:

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Cars - Since You're Gone

Long time readers will note that we have previously posted solo videos from Ric Ocasek ("Something to Grab For') and Benjamin Orr ("Stay the Night"), so it seemed appropriate to roll out a Cars video as well.  In fact, "Since You're Gone" was on the original list of videos to be posted from August 2011, so we suppose that it is about time.

The Cars were at the forefront of the new wave scene; the band's blending of new wave, rock and pop made for interesting and radio-friendly music that justly made them stars.  The band's roots go all the way back to Columbus, Ohio in the early 1970's where Ric Ocasek (Otcasek) and  Benjamin Orr (Orzechowski) met.  Relocating to Boston, the duo went through several musical styles before becoming a new wave act with Greg Hawkes (keyboards), Elliot Easton (lead guitar) and David Robinson (drums).

In 1977, a demo recording of "Just What I Needed" caught the ear of WBCN DJ Maxanne Sartori, which led to a recording contract and tons of success.  We view the first two Cars LPs as classics, with strong songs from cover to cover.  The band's music is also noteworthy for their use of interesting rhythms and offbeat lyrics.  Sadly (for the blog), they were released in the 1970's.

"Since You're Gone" was off the Car's fourth album, 1981's Shake It Up.  This was the last Cars LP produced by Roy Thomas Baker (he did the previous three, as well as albums from Queen).  Shake It Up was more pop than new wave, and after a few years off the band returned with 1984's Heartbeat City, which was even more top 40 oriented.  At the peak of their success, the band took a break and released a half-hearted effort (1987's Door to Door) before breaking up.

Original vocalist and bass player Ben Orr died of pancreatic cancer in 2000, ending any hope of a true reunion.  However, Easton and Hawkes formed the New Cars (with Todd Rundgren, Prairie Prince, and Kasim Sulton) and released Move Like This in 2011.

Friday, May 9, 2014

300: The Beatles - I Feel Fine

In August of 2011, nearly 30 years to the day after MTV blasted off, we started Eighties Rare Videos.  This is our 300th post since then, and I have to tell you the truth: it has been a blast.  As long time readers will know, we try to do unusual posts on our round numbers (feel free to click through for the 50th (51st in actual fact), 150th and 200th posts).

For this post, we decided to look back on the history of rock and roll music videos.  It is actually a confusing and somewhat controversial topic, as artists have been filmed for nearly as long as there has been rock and roll.  However, for the purposes of ERV, we consider it a 'true' music video if it was a clip filmed solely for the purpose of promoting a song.  This excludes appearances on TV shows, concert footage, and scenes from movies -- which significantly reduces the number of clips.

As we were exploring the topic of music videos, it occurred to us that the most important band in creating the genre was the Beatles.  It's not that the Beatles made the first music video (they didn't) but they did use the form as a way of generating visibility when they couldn't possibly be on every TV show that wanted them.  This situation worsened after the band stopped touring and became ... well, the greatest rock band ever.

This led us to wonder ... what was the first Beatles music video?  Remember the rules: no concert or TV footage, and no clips from movies.  We went looking for the first promotional video, and I think that we found them.  We believe that the first clips were the 1965 videos of "I Feel Fine."  Interestingly, the band shot two videos, both directed by Joe McGrath:

So there you have it -- the first Beatles videos; the start of a path that led years later to MTV and eventually to ERV.  We hope that you like it.

Lastly, thanks again to our readers -- we truly enjoy sharing the music with you, and we're happy to hear from you.  Please feel free to leave comments, email us, or friend us on Facebook.  And don't just keep us to yourself -- share us with your friends.

We'll be back in a few days time with more rare eighties videos.  Until then, keep the faith.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Smiths - How Soon Is Now?

The Smiths were an interesting band whose fortunes widely diverged on each side of the Atlantic.  In Britain, they had 3 #2 and 1 #1 LPs and 18 top 40 singles.  In the U.S., they did not have a top 50 album or a charting single.  Nevertheless, they were critically acclaimed in both countries and widely seen as perhaps the most important British alternative act of the decade.  In particular, their use of guitars and rejection of dance beats cut strongly against the grain, and laid the groundwork for the 1990's alternative scene in the U.K.

The band formed in Manchester in 1982 and consisted of Morrissey (Steven Patrick Morrissey, vocals), Johnny Marr (John Maher, guitar), Andy Rourke (bass) and Mike Joyce (drums).  The Smiths was chosen as the most ordinary name they could think of, to contrast the band with the synth pop scene, where names such as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Spandau Ballet were used.  After an indy single was picked up by John Peel, the influential BBC Radio 1 DJ, the band landed a recording contract which led to nearly immediate success in their home market.

"How Soon Is Now?" was originally the B side of "William, It Was Really Nothing." As the song gained momentum, it was released as a single in its own right, and was added to some versions of the Meat is Murder LP.  The single reached #24 on the U.K chart in 1985 (and re-charted at #16 in 1992).

Although "How Soon Is Now?" is not viewed as a typical Smiths song, it is a lush, atmospheric masterpiece.  The opening line was inspired by a quote from the George Eliot novel Middlemarch.  Johnny Marr's guitars were painstakingly crafted using multiple amps, which made the song difficult to play live in the 1980's.  (In fact, the band rarely played it live).  The video was put together by Sire Records; the band only found out about it after the fact (and by all accounts, was none too pleased).  Both the short and long versions of the video are below:

Cool trivia fact:  The 1990 Soho hit "Hippychick" starts with the famous guitar intro from "How Soon Is Now?"

Cool trivia fact #2:  A Love Spit Love cover was used in the movie The Craft, and as the theme to the U.S. TV Show Charmed.  (Love Spit Love was the Butler brothers' band after The Psychedelic Furs broke up).

Cool trivia fact #3:  Many critics believe that the intro was influenced by the Rolling Stones' 1964 cover of Bo Diddley's song, "Mona (I Need You Baby)."  Decide for yourself:

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Pet Shop Boys - West End Girls

One of the many great things about writing blog entries for ERV is that is provides an opportunity to link seemingly disparate songs (and bands) in assorted crazy ways.  For some examples, check out the first two singles by Feargal Sharkey, or the Hoodoo Gurus' song that sounds a bit like a Robert Plant single.  In this case, there is a surprising connection between The Flirts and Pet Shop Boys ... more on that in a moment.

Pet Shop Boys (no 'the') are an English duo of Neil Tennant (vocals, keyboards) and Chris Lowe (keyboards, vocals).  The group formed in 1981 and were originally called West End (after the section of London), before changing their name to Pet Shop Boys, after a friend who actually worked in a pet shop (and was a boy).

In 1983, the duo met New York producer Bobby Orlando (Bobby O); they were big fans of his dance-driven productions.  Bobby O agreed to produce some Pet Shop Boys songs, and worked on 11 songs, including "West End Girls," which became a minor U.S. club hit.  The group dropped Bobby O in 1985 (only after agreeing to pay him of cut of their royalties) and signed to EMI/Parlophone.

By the way, Bobby Orlando was also the producer/creator of The Flirts. (!)

Pet Shop Boys remixed the Bobby O songs for their major label recordings, and went on to become big stars.  "West End Girls" became a #1 hit in the U.S. and U.K., and their 1986 debut LP, Please, broke the top 10 in both countries.  The duo would go on to have 42 top 30 singles in the U.K. and 6 top 40 hits in the U.S.  They have sold more than 50 million units over their career and remain active as of their writing.

 The original "West End Girls" video is below.  Note that the song was inspired by the T.S. Eliot poem 'The Waste Land.'

And, of course, the original version, produced by Bobby O: