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.