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).