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.

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