Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ziggy Marley And The Melody Makers - Tomorrow People

David Nesta "Ziggy" Marley was reggae legend Bob Marley's eldest son, and he built a career in the industry after his father's untimely passing in 1981.  Along with several siblings, he formed the Melody Makers in 1979 -- named after the British music trade rag, by the by.

The group released three independent albums in the 1980's and built enough of a fan base to get signed by Virgin Records.  Their first major label release was 1988's Conscious Party, and it became a surprise hit.  The album climbed to #23 on the charts, while "Tomorrow People" broke into the top 40 (barely) at #39.  The sound was undoubtedly helped by the production team of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth (both of Talking Heads fame), who helped find the pop side of the strong material.

The video for "Tomorrow People" is a well-crafted performance piece that seems to suit the song well.  The upbeat clip with the reggae-pop sound even went into heavy rotation for a time at MTV.

While Ziggy's time as a pop star was brief, he remains a major figure in the reggae scene and has continued to record and perform to the present day.

Cool trivia fact:  Ziggy Marley And The Melody Makers are a one hit wonder, as only "Tomorrow People" broke the top 40.  However, that is one more top 40 hit than Bob Marley had.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul - Forever

Yesterday, The Universe requested another video for the blog, and as per usual I am only too happy to oblige.  In this case, the rare and exceptional "Forever" by Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul made an appearance on my radio while commuting to work.  A quick google search (after safely parking the car) confirmed it an an Eighties Rare Video; and so here it is.

Steven Van Zandt (aka Little Steven or Miami Steve) is one of the most colorful personalities in rock.  He got his start in the Jersey Shore scene of the early 1970's, most notably with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (their later song, "New Romeo" was previously posted on ERV).  After helping Bruce Springsteen with the horn arrangement on "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," he became a member of the E Street Band, where he remained until 1984 (and from the late 1990's on).

By the early 1980's Little Steven was looking for additional creative outlets, and was also becoming increasingly political (more on that in a moment).  This led to several solo rock/soul albums; 1982's Men Without Women was the first (and best in the eyes of many critics).  For readers who like rock and classic R&B (think late 1960's Motown), this LP is highly recommended.

Sadly, the album never quite found its audience.  The LP peaked at #118, while "Forever" hit #63.  I remember hearing it on New York rock radio back in the day, but do not recall ever seeing the video -- which is full of NYC 1982 goodness including Times Square, old cars and at least one Mohawk.

In addition to Little Steven's solo records, he was instrumental in the formation of the Artists United Against Apartheid "Sun City" effort which has also been posted on ERV.  In 1999 he landed an acting lead in The Sopranos TV show, and has continued his work as a musician and DJ (Little Steven's Underground Garage) to the present day.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Gregg Allman - I'm No Angel

Although "I'm No Angel" and the album of the same name represented a solid comeback for Gregg Allman, they have become somewhat forgotten over time.  In part this is due to the fact that classic rock stations tend to focus on his earlier (and frankly stronger) work with The Allman Brothers.  Additionally, the production on the I'm No Angel LP sounds a bit dated, and its focus on synthesizers doesn't help matters.

In spite of its flaws, the album represented a surprising success for Allman, who had not released an album in the previous 9 years due to personal problems and substance abuse.  The "I'm No Angel" single hit #49 on the pop charts (and #1 on the Album Rock Tracks chart; it was everywhere for a time).  The album also sold well, and reached #30 on the charts.

The video is a nice performance piece involving an old saloon (that happens to have a full set of instruments) and a flashback to a version of the west where only female cowgirls exist.  But just like the song, the video seems to capture of part of Allman's personality, and it mostly works.

In the aftermath of his success, Gregg Allman continued to have substance abuse problems, though he did clean up his act by the early 1990's.  He remains active in the industry to the present day, but with a reduced schedule due to some health issues.

Cool trivia fact:  While "I'm No Angel" has become something of a Gregg Allman theme song, he did not write it -- two Brits (Tony Colton and Phil Palmer) wrote the song.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The John Hall Band - You Sure Fooled Me

Long time readers may (or may not) recall that we posted The John Hall Band's "Crazy" video way back in January, 2012.  That song became a minor hit, and picked up some airplay in the early days of MTV.  While researching "Crazy," we discovered the video for "You Sure Fooled Me" and put it in the bullpen, where it remained until today.

"You Sure Fooled Me" is a totally solid rock song -- as an aside, why wasn't The John Hall Band bigger?  Sure, they aren't exactly breaking any new ground here, but the music is surprisingly good.

At any rate, this early video includes old cars and a girl, as the band brings the song to life, in a charming, yet low-budget sort of way.  In spite of their efforts, I don't recall ever seeing the vid or hearing the song, and it doesn't appear to have charted.  As we noted on the "Crazy" post, the group released a second LP before breaking up, though Hall would remain in the industry as a songwriter before embarking on a brief career in Congress (yes, really).

Oh, and as previously mentioned, John Hall is not related to Daryl Hall (or John Oates) and got his start in the 1970's band Orleans (of "Dance with Me" and "Still the One" fame).

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Lone Justice - Ways To Be Wicked

This is Lone Justice's second appearance on ERV, as the equally strong "Sweet, Sweet Baby (I'm Falling)" showed up on our little corner of the universe back in November 2011.

As we mentioned then, Lone Justice was one of the leading acts in the cowpunk movement, a roots revival scene that merged country and rockabilly with the rough edges of punk.  Sadly, while several acts garnered critical acclaim, there was little to speak of in terms of commercial success.  Country rock just didn't sell in the 1980's, and we're all a little worse off because of that.

The band's roots go back to 1982 when the group was founded by Maria McKee (vocals) and Ryan Hedgecock (guitar).  Lone Justice eventually built a following, and signed to Geffen in 1985.  In the 'it's nice to have friends in high places' category, Tom Petty and Mike Campbell wrote "Ways to be Wicked."

In spite of the positive press, the single only reached #71 on the charts, while the LP stalled at #56.  The band effectively broke up after that, although singer Maria McKee kept the name and released a second album (Shelter) in 1986 that did not do appreciably better.

McKee officially went solo in the late 1980's, and has remained active in the industry to the present day.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Jefferson Starship - No Way Out

Rounding out this year's All Hallows Even celebration is "No Way Out" from Jefferson Starship.  The song is off the Nuclear Furniture LP, which became the last Jefferson Starship album when guitarist Paul Kantner quit the band, taking the name with him.  (Kantner was unhappy with the group's musical direction).  The act soldiered on as Starship, and found success with a slick, commercial pop sound, though it seems unlikely that any of those videos will appear on ERV.

While "No Way Out" starts off on a creepy note, the video quickly drifts from cool and campy into plain weird.  Perhaps this was intentional, as the clip did garner some airtime on MTV, which likely helped the song. (The single reached #23 on the charts, while the LP hit #28).  In addition to being downright strange, the video is noteworthy for the appearances of one Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello, who was also in Bon Jovi's "In and Out of Love").

In the aftermath of Kantner quitting, the renamed Starship would go on to have 6 top 40 and 3 #1 singles in the later half of the 1980's, before breaking up in 1990 (although singer Mickey Thomas reformed the band in 1992).  Thomas and Kantner remain somewhat active in the industry as of this writing.

Long time readers will recall that Jefferson Starship's "Find Your Way Back" was featured on ERV in April 2013.  In addition, Marty Balin's "Hearts" has also made an appearance on ERV (Balin was the lead singer of an earlier verson of Jefferson Starship).

Cool trivia fact: Kantner's appearance in this video was was his last appearance in Jefferson Starship until he reformed the band (with different members) in 1992.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

David Bowie - Ashes To Ashes

What better way to continue the Halloween celebration than with a song from the Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) album.  Many critics view Scary Monsters as the last great David Bowie record, and while that is somewhat debatable, it was a classic Bowie album; odd, artistic and interesting.  In addition, it had more than a bit of funk added to the mix.

A discussion of David Bowie could fill a blog, making it hard to do justice to him in a few sentences.  The lazy narrative is that he is a musical chameleon, shifting his style to capitalize on emerging trends in popular music.  While there is some truth to this, I have always though of Bowie (especially in the 1970's through Scary Monsters period) as more of a restless artist, indulging in whichever tickles his fancy.  Although the results were inconsistent, there were more highs than lows.

"Ashes to Ashes" was the lead single off Scary Monsters, and plays like a requiem for the 1970's.  The video was rumored to be the most expensive music video made to that point (at £250,000; this was still a year before MTV).  Bowie wanders about in a Pierrot costume with strange color effects and odd characters (including many Blitz Kids).  The video is iconic in Britain, and some critics believe that it accelerated the New Romantic movement that would dominate the British charts for most of the early 1980's.

The song would go on to become a #1 hit in the U.K., but it barely dented the U.S. charts at #101.  Scary Monsters also did better in the U.K. (#1) though it did reach #12 on the U.S. album charts.

Bowie would of course go on to significant commercial success in the 1980's and would remain active in the industry until his untimely passing in January of 2016.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Rockwell - Somebody's Watching Me

Welcome to ERV's 5th annual All Hallows Even celebration, and feel free to click on the (appropriately named) All Hallows Even label to the right if you'd like to catch up on our earlier videos.  In short, we try to come up with rare and interesting Halloween videos to celebrate the spooky time of year.

Leading off this year is an artist who had some definite career advantages.  For instance, although being Barry Gordy's son may not ensure that you make in the music business, it sure can't hurt.  Ditto for having Michael Jackson (yes, that Michael Jackson) sing backup on your first single.

To be fair, Rockwell (born as Kennedy William Gordy) used a stage name, and may have even signed to his father's Motown label without the old man knowing.  Rockwell's first single was released in 1984 and is a perfect Halloween video (it has been in the bullpen from our first All Hallows Even post).  One viewing and you'll see (or remember) why.

"Somebody's Watching Me" turned out to be a big hit for Rockwell, reaching #2 on the charts, while his debut LP of the same name hit #15.  However, that was the peak of his success, and after his next two albums failed to break the top 100, Rockwell left the industry.

Cool trivia fact:  Rockwell is not a one hit wonder, as "Obscene Phone Caller" off Somebody's Watching Me reached #35 on the chats.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bananarama (featuring Fun Boy Three) - Really Sayin' Something

This is Bananarama's second appearance on ERV for a cover, as "Venus" was posted on our little blog back in January of 2013.  To be fair, the members of Bananarama also co-wrote much of their material, often with the Stock Aitken Waterman team.

The group initially consisted of Sara Dallin, Siobhan Fahey, and Keren Woodward -- three friends who sang in unison, instead of using harmonies.  They started the band in 1979 and created the name by combining the TV show The Banana Splits with Roxy Music's "Pajama Rama."

Amazingly, Bananarama got not one but two big breaks to help launch their career.  First, the group happened to live above a rehearsal room used by Steve Jones and Paul Cook (formerly of the Sex Pistols); this led to their first recording contract in 1981.  Later that year, an article in The Face (a U.K. fashion magazine) in support of their first single ("Aie a Mwana") was read by ex-Specials singer Terry Hall.  Hall reached out to Bananarama to work with his new group (Fun Boy Three) on  "T'ain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It)" which led to a second collaboration on "Really Sayin' Something."

Both Fun Boy Three songs became top 10 hits in the U.K., and launched Bananarama as a major pop act in their native country.  During the 1980's they had 18 top 40 singles in the U.K., though they had only 3 in the U.S. ("Cruel Summer," "Venus," and "I Heard a Rumour").

Siobhan Fahey left Bananarama in 1988 and was replaced by Jacquie O'Sullivan (who left in 1991).  Since then, the group has been a duo, and remains active as of this writing.  Fahey went on to form Shakespears Sister with Marcella Detroit.

"Really Sayin' Something" (with a g) reached #5 on the U.K. charts, but did not break the top 100 in the U.S.  It was off Bananarama's 1983 debut LP, Deep Sea Skydiving, which hit #7 on the U.K. album charts, and #63 in the U.S.

The original version of the song ( "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'" with no g at the end) was recorded by Motown group the Velvelettes in December 1964 and became their biggest hit, reaching #64 on the U.S. charts.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Digital Underground - The Humpty Dance

By mixing old school beats with goofy lyrics, Digital Underground (DU) created a cool and unique sound that led to one big hit, though by all rights they could have been much more successful.  The group was led by Greg Jacobs, who went by Shock G -- though in DU he played a character called Humpty Hump.

Jacobs grew up in Tampa, Florida, but formed Digital Underground after relocating to Oakland, California in 1987.  The group's sound relied heavily on old school samples, especially from Parliament Funkadelic and Sly and the Family Stone.  (Not coincidentally, both acts were sampled for "The Humpty Dance.")  DU's debut LP, 1990's Sex Packets became a hit, reaching #24 on the charts.  However, this proved to be Digital Underground's biggest success, though the band continued to record and perform through 2008.

Needless to say, "The Humpty Dance" was DU's biggest hit at #11.  The video became a mainstay on MTV for a time in 1989 (the song and video came out prior to the LP).  The crazy lyrics, and Humpty Humps' Groucho Marx glasses and vintage clothes created a visual image completely different from anything else on MTV at the time.  Unfortunately, this momentum proved hard to maintain.

Although Digital Underground soldiered on for years, Jacobs (Shock G) was no one trick pony, as he also has worked as a solo artist and producer.  He remains active in the industry as of this writing.

Cool trivia fact:  None other than Tupac Shakur got his start as a member of Digital Underground, starting in 1991.  In addition, G Shock produced several early Tupac songs.

Cool trivia fact #2:  Digital Underground is not a one hit wonder, as 1991's "Kiss You Back" reached #40 on the charts.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Cult - Rain

"Rain" was the second single off The Cult's 1985 Love album (or perhaps the first, as "She Sells Sanctuary" was actually released prior to the LP).  This is another atmospheric rock song that makes one wonder why The Cult weren't even bigger stars.

The group formed in Yorkshire, England in the early 1980's, and started as a goth rock band called Southern Death Cult.  Lineup, name, and style changes followed with the band really taking shape in 1983 or 1984.  Led by the mystical singer Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy, The Cult crafted a unique hard rock sound with atmospheric and new wave influences.

The video for "Rain" is a cool, slightly freaky clip that alludes to the song's subject matter (in a word: sex).  I don't recall seeing this one back in the day, but it is a strong if somewhat odd effort.  The single did not chart in the U.S., but did pick up a bunch of rock and college radio airplay - similar to "She Sells Sanctuary," which was posted on ERV in August, 2011.  However, the Love album would reach #87 on the charts and go gold.

The Cult would go on to have significant success before breaking up in 1995, though there have been numerous reunions since then.

Cool trivia fact:  The Cult are a no hit wonder in the U.S.; their highest charting single was 1989's Fire Woman (#46).  (They did have #11 top 40 singles in the U.K.)

Cool trivia fact #2:  Prior to joining The Cult, guitarist Billy Duffy played with a pre-Smiths Morrissey in the Nosebleeds.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Daryl Hall & John Oates - How Does It Feel To Be Back

Although they would go on to become the most successful duo of the rock era,  Daryl Hall & John Oates had a choppy career before becoming superstars for most of the first half of the 1980's.

Hall and Oates met in 1967 in Philadelphia, and began working together in 1970.  While their first three albums (for Atlantic) were unsuccessful, 1975's self-titled album (on RCA) made them pop stars.  Between 1975 and 1977, they had three top 10 hits with "Sara Smile," "She's Gone," and "Rich Girl."  This run of success ended with "Rich Girl" and they had no top 10 hits through the end of the 1970's.  In fact, 1979's X-Static was the duo's first non-Gold record on RCA.

Needless to say, this made 1980's Voices album a really important record for the group, and they opted to go with the John Oates track "How Does It Feel To Be Back" as the lead single.   Had the duo not gone on to become hugely successful, this would have become a forgotten track.  Perhaps it still is.  The strong pop song doesn't even really sound like a typical Hall & Oates single, mostly due to Oates' voice (Hall sang most of the big hits of the 1980's).

"How Does It Feel To Be Back" did not become the big hit the the band had hoped for -- it stalled at #30.  However, the next single, a cover of the 1964 Righteous Brothers hit, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" became a surprise success at #12, and "Kiss on My List" became the duo's second #1 hit (after "Rich Girl").  The rest of the story is history, as they say.

Monday, September 7, 2015

They Might Be Giants - Ana Ng

They Might Be Giants (TMBG; named after the 1971 movie) was an odd yet interesting band that started showing up on MTV (mostly on the 120 Minutes program) in the late 1980's.  The group consisted of two Johns (Flansburgh and Linnell) who met as teenagers in Lincoln, Massachusetts and eventually moved to Brooklyn, New York to pursue a career in music.

Not surprisingly, the music industry had absolutely no idea what to make of the band, so TMBG promoted themselves through Dial-A-Song.  The group posted ads in local newspapers (such as The Village Voice) with a phone number, which led to an answering machine with a taped song.  The band maintained the service even after they were signed; some listeners estimate that more than 500 songs were recorded over the years.

Helped by Dial-A-Song, TMBG generated enough interest to be signed in 1985 and their self-titled debut LP came out the following year.  The album even picked up some college radio airplay.  1988's Lincoln actually charted (#89) and "Ana Ng" picked up some mainstream radio airplay as well.

Of course, the band's big break came in 1990 with the Flood album ( "Birdhouse in Your Soul" and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" may both be familiar to readers.  TMBG's period of major success was relatively brief, but they maintained a loyal following, and expanded their audience in the mid-2000's with a series of children's albums.  The band remains active in the industry as of this writing.

Cool trivia fact:  At their first concert, They Might Be Giants used the name, El Grupo de Rock and Roll.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Jam - Town Called Malice

The Jam were a popular, influential, and interesting band in Britain, but couldn't get arrested in America.  Between 1977 and 1982, the group had 18 top 40 U.K. singles and 6 top 25 LPs without any real success in the U.S.

The band formed in Woking (England) in the early 1970's, and burst onto the scene in 1977.  While their early work fit into the punk scene, they had a stronger melodic sense and more obvious 1960's soul influences than many of their contemporaries.  Over time, this soul sound became more pronounced, though they remained popular throughout this transition.

At peak of their popularity, singer/guitarist/songwriter Paul Weller decided to disband The Jam in order to form a full-on soul band, which led to the creation The Style Council in 1983.  When The Style Council's popularity faded, Weller ended that group in 1989 and has remained a solo artist to the present day.

"Town Called Malice" was off The Jam's last studio LP, 1982's The Gift.  The title was inspired by Nevil Shute's 1950 novel A Town Like Alice, though the content was not.  The contrast between an upbeat melody and more downbeat lyrics (reflecting the mood in Britain at the time) made the song a huge hit; it reached #1 on the British charts.

The video is all 1982 goodness, and shows the cool, mod-revival style that led to Weller's nickname "The Modfather."  We're particularly partial to the soft ultra-white lighting.

Cool trivia fact:  Not only did every Jam single break the top 40 in the U.K., but two import singles also charted (1981's "That's Entertainment" at #21 and 1982's "Just Who Is the 5 O'Clock Hero?" at #8).

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bruce Cockburn - If I Had a Rocket Launcher

"If I Had a Rocket Launcher" was one of the more political songs to hit the charts during the 1980's.  The song was written by Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn, who built a successful career in his home country, but saw little mainstream success south of the Canadian border.

Cockburn was born in Ottawa and entered the music business in the late 1960's.  His big breakthrough was 1979's "Wondering Where the Lions Are" which led to an extended period of chart success in Canada.  Between 1979 and 1997, Cockburn had 8 top 40 singles (and another 12 songs that charted but did not break the top 40).  In contrast, only  "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" and "Wondering Where the Lions Are"  broke the top 100 in the U.S.

Interestingly, prior to 1984's Stealing Fire, Cockburn was not considered an unusually political songwriter, though his humanist and pacifist leanings were known to his fans.  However, an Oxfam sponsored trip to Central America underscored the troubles there, and led to much of the material on his album.  "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" was inspired by an actual event, where Cockburn saw Guatemalan refugees fired on by helicopters.

Although there was some controversy around the song -- particularly the last lyric, Cockburn has said that it is not a call for violence, but a cry for help.

"If I Had a Rocket Launcher" peaked at #88 in the U.S., while the Stealing Fire LP would reach #74.

Cool trivia fact:  Bruce Cockburn is a one hit wonder in the U.S.; only 1979's "Wondering Where the Lions Are" (#21) broke the top 40.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Tora Tora - Walkin' Shoes

Tora Tora (named after the Van Halen song, not the movie) was a Memphis blues rock band that came close to a major breakout at the end of the 1980's.  The group consisted of Anthony Corder (vocals), Keith Douglas (guitar), Patrick Francis (bass), and John Patterson (drums).

After recording an independent EP, Tora Tora generated some local buzz, which led to a recording contract with A&M.  The band's debut LP, 1989's Surprise Attack reached #47 on the charts, while the single "Walkin' Shoes" hit #86, thanks in part to some airplay on MTV.  The band also landed a song ("Dancing With a Gypsy") on the soundtrack to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

However, Tora Tora's second album did not come out until 1992, right as grunge was changing the rock scene.  That album (Wild America) did not break the top 100, turning Tora Tora into more of a working band.  They were subsequently dropped by their label in 1994, after recording their third album (which was not released until 2011).  After losing their recording contract, the band broke up.

The group re-formed in 2008 and have been performing and releasing material since that time.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Commodores - Lady (You Bring Me Up)

A nearly perfect 1981 time capsule (right down to the short shorts and high socks), "Lady (You Bring Me Up)" captures the Commodores at the end of the Lionel Richie era, when they were still one of the biggest acts in pop/funk.

The group formed while at the Tuskegee Institute in the late 1960's, and signed with Motown Records in 1972.  They quickly rose to become one of the most popular acts in 1970's and early 1980's pop/funk; between 1975 and 1981 they had 10 top 30 LPs and 15 top 40 singles.  As many reader will know, the Commodores sound evolved over time, becoming more pop and less funk.  This migration to pop was driven by singer/songwriter Lionel Richie, which created tension in the band and ultimately led to Richie leaving in 1982.

In the aftermath of Richie's departure, the Commodores soldiered on as a working band, but without a ton of major commercial success.  Lionel Richie would of course go on to become a major pop star, before going into semi-retirement in 1987.

"Lady (You Bring Me Up)" became a #8 hit in 1981, while the In the Pocket LP would peak at #13.

Cool trivia fact:  The Commodores had great difficulty picking their name, and ultimately chose it by picking a name out of the dictionary.  This led the band to joke that they almost became known as the Commodes.

Cool trivia fact #2:  The group is looking at a Billboard magazine at the start of the video, and eagle eyed readers may notice the back page advertisement for Van Halen's Fair Warning album (our favorite Van Halen LP), which was released in April, 1981.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Housemartins - Happy Hour

The Housemartins were the rock band equivalent of a shooting star.  In Britain, they enjoyed some mainstream success, with 7 top 40 singles between 1986 - 1988.  However, the band barely made a ripple in the U.S., though they did pick up a modicum of airplay on college radio in the mid 1980's.

The group formed in Hull (U.K.) in 1983 and jokingly referred to themselves as the fourth best band in town (after Red Guitars, Everything but the Girl, and the Gargoyles).  However, their seductive combination of upbeat guitar hooks and cutting lyrics endeared them to critics and fans alike.  John Peel (the influential DJ) became an early supporter, and the Housemartins' first album, 1986's London 0 Hull 4 became a surprise hit, reaching #3 on the U.K. album charts and going platinum.  Our pick for the blog, "Happy Hour" was the big hit off this album, and reached #3 on the U.K. singles chart.

While 1987's The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death (yes, that's really what they called their sophomore effort) did not do quite as well, it still reached #9 on the charts, and their non album single "Caravan of Love" (a cover of the Isley-Jasper-Isley song) became a #1 smash in the U.K.  However, inside the band, things were not going well at all.  Singer Paul Heaton was interested in sophistipop, while bassist Norman Cook was more interested in club and dance music.  As a result, the band amicably called it a day in 1988.

For most of the acts on ERV, that would be the end of the story (except for the reunions).  However ... Paul Heaton along with drummer Dave Hemingway and roadie/bassist Sean Welch formed The Beautiful South, who would go on to have massive success in the U.K. through 2007.  Not to be outdone, Norman Cook also became a big success; you may know him by his pseudonym, Fatboy Slim.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Joe Satriani - Satch Boogie

How prevalent were rock guitarists in the 1980's?  So much so that even Michael Jackson inserted a blistering solo into "Beat It" (with Eddie Van Halen, no less).

However, even among guitar heroes Joe Satriani stood out as a king among kings.  His effortless technical prowess, use of multiple styles and abilities as a teacher made him a living legend in the hard rock scene of the 1980's.  Surprisingly, a combination of great musicianship, good timing, and a bit of good luck led to some commercial success, in spite of the fact that his work was entirely instrumental.

Satriani was born on Long Island and gained local notoriety as a player and teacher.  In the late 1970's he moved to California to pursue a career in music, which eventually led to a gig in the Greg Kihn Band (seriously!)  After former student Steve Vai joined David Lee Roth's solo band, Satriani became better-known, and he eventually released his second solo LP in 1987.

Surfing With the Alien became a surprise hit that same year, reaching #29 on the charts, and the title cut and "Satch Boogie" both hit the Mainstream Rock Charts, due to FM radio play.  The video for "Satch Boogie" is relatively basic, but this is definitely a 'let the music do the talking' sort of song.

 Joe Satriani's  commercial success faded somewhat in the 1990's, be he remains a working musician, and seems to enjoy performing with other guitarists.  (For example, G3, a working group that originally comprised Satriani, Steve Vai, and Eric Johnson has continued in various versions to the present day).

Cool trivia fact:  Satch is Joe Satriani's nickname.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Styx - A.D. 1928 / Rockin' the Paradise

Long time readers will recall that videos which were played during the first day of MTV (August 1, 1981) have a special place in our hearts at ERV.  Is this rational?  Probably not. (Especially since we did not get MTV on our cable system until the following summer).  But there you have it.

Which brings us the Styx' "A.D. 1928 / Rockin' The Paradise," the 10th video played on MTV (yes, ever).  "A.D. 1928" is the piano and keyboard intro, while "Rockin' the Paradise" begins with the guitars (around 1:10 below).  The song is a good example of the band combining different musical styles, while the live (ish) video highlights the band's showmanship.

Styx are an interesting band and an unlikely success story.  The group formed in Chicago in the late 1960's and officially became Styx when they signed their first recording contract in 1972.  Originally a prog rock act, the band's style become progressively more pop rock during the 1970's, leading to their 1977 breakout, The Grand Illusion.

"Rockin' the Paradise" was off the group's 1981 Paradise Theater album, a concept album based on the opening and eventual closing of a theater in Chicago.  By this point, the tension between guitarists Tommy Shaw / James Young (who were more rock oriented) and keyboardist Dennis DeYoung (who was more pop ballad focused) were nearing a breaking point.  The conflict would eventually boil over during the 1983 Kilroy Was Here album and the group would break up the following year.

In spite of this, the Paradise Theater album would reach #1 on the charts, although "Rockin' the Paradise" surprisingly did not chart.  However, "The Best of Times" (#3) and "Too Much Time on My Hands" (#9) would both break the top 10.

Styx re-formed in 1989 (without Tommy Shaw, who was in Damn Yankees at the time), broke up in 1992, and reformed in 1995.  They remain together (with some personnel changes) as of this writing.

Tommy Shaw's solo video for "Girls With Guns" was posted on ERV in September 2013.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Katrina & The Waves - Do You Want Crying?

Although casual listeners may view Katrina & the Waves as an overnight success story and a one hit wonder, the truth is that they were neither.  In fact, this is the second time that they have been featured on ERV without their signature hit, 1985's "Walking on Sunshine." [The first time was when we posted The Bangles' cover of "Going Down to Liverpool," complete with Mr. Spock.]

The group formed in London in 1981 and was fronted by American ex-pat (and army brat) Katrina Leskanich.  Guitarist Kimberley Rew (the group's primary songwriter), Vince de la Cruz (Bass) and Alex Cooper (drums) rounded out the lineup.  Signed in Canada, the band released two records there before they finally scored a major deal with Capitol in 1985.

As a result of their previous work, the act's self-titled major label debut consisted primarily of reworked material - making it something of a greatest hits record.  The album would go on to become a major success, reaching #25 on the charts, led by the ever present (in the summer of 1985) "Walking on Sunshine," which peaked at #9.  However, "Do You Want Crying?" would also break the top 40 at #37, as would 1989's "That's the Way" (#16).

While Katrina & the Waves continued recording and touring in the 1990's, they did not have much in the way of major commercial success ... until a surprising win at the 1997 Eurovision song contest with "Love Shine a Light," which would go on to be a #3 smash in the U.K.  Sadly, this second period of success did not last, and the group broke up in 1998, though there have been occasional reunions in recent years.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

J. Geils Band - Come Back

ERV regulars will recall that we posted "Love Stinks" back in July 2012.  And our Facebook readers will note that we would have prefered to post "Just Can't Wait" here, but alas, no video appears to have been made for that song.  Fortunately, our second choice is still quite solid indeed.

"Come Back" is J. Geils at their danciest (not totally sure that this is a word, but let's go with it).  The song is clearly influenced by the popularity of Disco, and I suspect that means that lead singer Peter Wolf had a particularly large impact on the songwriting -- though officially virtually every song on the Love Stinks LP was co-written by Wolf and keyboardist Seth Justman.

"Come Back" ended up becoming the highest charting single off the Love Stinks album, reaching #32 (the title cut hit #38, while "Just Can't Wait" peaked at #78).  However, the video was not played as much as the insanity that is "Love Stinks," making this a bit of a rare one.

As many readers will know, the J. Geils Band story is a bit sad.  The band toiled as an overgrown bar band, gradually becoming a major act, before finally breaking out with 1982's Freeze Frame.  Success seemed to ruin the group, as Wolf left in 1983 to embark on a solo career.  The remaining member released one album (1984's You're Gettin' Even While I'm Gettin' Odd) before breaking up the following year.  However, there have been periodic reunions in recent years.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cinderella - Gypsy Road

When we posted Cinderella's "Shake Me" (back in December, 2011), we pointed out that the group was not a typical hair band.  While they looked the part, their sound was more bluesy hard rock than pop metal.  This became even more evident on their second LP, 1988's Long Cold Winter.

In spite of this, the strong songwriting (and general popularity of hard rock) led to continued success.  The album reached #10 on the charts, while 3 singles cracked the top 40.  Sadly, "Gypsy Road" was not one of them -- it peaked at #51.

The video for "Gypsy Road" was filmed in Yucatan, Mexico and features footage of the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá (who says you can't learn anything from 1980's videos).  Although there is no direct connection between the song and Mexico, the video does a nice job of highlighting the vibe of the song.

Cinderella released one further platinum record (1990's Heartbreak Station) before changing musical tastes relegated the group to working band status.  They remain together to the present day -- with the original lineup, as drummer Fred Coury rejoined the act in 1996.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Rolling Stones - Undercover of the Night

The 1980's were tough on the Rolling Stones.  The group had been around for twenty years by the early part of the decade, an eternity in the music industry.  In addition, the punk, new wave, and metal scenes made their music seem old fashioned to many younger listeners.

To complicate matter further, Mike Jagger and Keith Richards had a fundamental disagreement over songwriting.  Jagger wanted to move in a more current dance/pop direction, while Richards wished to stay true to the roughed up blues sound that was the Stone's signature.  (For more on this, please see our earlier post for Keith Richards solo video, "Take It So Hard.")

The result was disjointed and mostly disappointing, though there was some solid material mixed in.  Sadly, much of this material was composed by either Richards or Jagger, due to the difficulty that they had in working together.

Which brings us to "Undercover of the Night," the lead single off the Stone's 1983 Undercover album.  The song was all Mick; supposedly Keith just showed up and played some guitar lines.  Jagger has since said that the concept for the song came from the William Burroughs novel Cities of the Red Night.

The video for "Undercover of the Night" was the first full-on production that the Stones released.  Directed by Julien Temple, the story was dark and violent -- in fact, Temple has said that he didn't believe that the band would use it.  MTV would only air an edited version of the vid (and only at night), but this did not seem to hurt sales.  The single would go on to hit #9 on the charts, while the album reached #4 (breaking a string of eight consecutive LPs to hit #1).  By the by, due to the violent imagery of the video, the band cut a second version, which is below.

As of this writing, the Stones remain mostly intact (bassist Bill Wyman left the group in 1993) and continue to  sporadically tour, although they have not released a new album since 2005's A Bigger Bang.

In the interests of completeness, here is the B version video of "Undercover:" (Not nearly as good as the original clip, in our opinion).

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Ric Ocasek - Emotion in Motion

Back in September 2011, we posted Ric Ocasek's cool, quirky "Something to Grab For," off his first solo LP, 1982's Beatitude.  Four years later, Ocasek released his second solo album, This Side of Paradise. To my ear, this record sounds a bit tired (as in exhausted).  Of course, by this point the Cars had released five albums and the band was slowly coming undone.

Additionally, Ocasek and the Cars had transitioned from eccentric new wave songs to a more traditional pop sound.  The music wasn't bad at all, and it was lushly produced (no surprise, as Ocasek would go on to become a successful producer in the 1990's.)  However, it wasn't as sharp or interesting as their early material. (The first two Cars records are simply sensational in our opinion).

"Emotion in Motion" is the strongest cut off Ocasek's album, and it would go on to become his only top 40 hit as a solo artist (#15).  To be fair, The Cars also had 13 top 40 singles (and 3 #41s), so it's not like he didn't have a ton of success with his band.

The Cars released Door to Door in 1987 before breaking up.  Ocasek has remained in the industry and has released five albums since then, but has had little in the way of commercial success.  The Cars never did have a full reunion prior to Ben Orr's untimely death in 2000.

Note that The Cars "Since You're Gone" was posted on ERV in May 2014.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

U2 - A Celebration

Many years ago (before the internet), I was involved in a conversation where the topic of rare songs came up (shocking, I know).  One of the women at the gathering (whose name I never knew) stated that she had heard that there was a U2 song that the band had pulled for some reason or other.  I remember thinking that it sounded odd, and forgot all about it until we started ERV ... and I soon discovered that not only did this rare song exist, but that there was a rare video to go with it.

"A Celebration" was a non album single, recorded in 1982, between the October and War LPs.  U2 liked it enough to record a video for it, and played in regularly at concerts through 1983.  It then fell off the face of the earth -- the band didn't play it or support the song or video, and it did not even appear on any U2 compilation albums until 2004.  Note than in the days before digital music, leaving the song off an album was the kiss of death.

The reason for all of the controversy was due to a misinterpretation of the lyrics.  The lyrics "I believe in a third world war.  I believe in the atomic bomb." were meant to be darkly humorous, but they were apparently taken seriously, particularly in Europe.  In response and to avoid any confusion about where they stood, the band pulled the song, making it and the video rare (and therefore ideal for this blog).

The video for "A Celebration" was shot in the Kilmainham Jail in Dublin, and it shows the band in fine early form.  (And man, do they look young).  The song actually charted in the U.K. at #47, prior to the controversy, but it did not chart in the U.S.

Note that U2's "I Will Follow" was posted on ERV in August, 2014.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

L.A. Guns - The Ballad of Jayne

Best known as half of the inspiration for the Guns N' Roses name, L.A. Guns was a fixture on the Los Angeles hard rock scene in the 1980's, but never crossed over to big time mainstream success.  Lineup changes, and a sound that was more hard rock bar band than glam metal likely had something to do with this.

The band formed in 1983, and an early version of the group had Tracii Guns (born Tracy Ulrich) on guitar and W. Axl Rose on vocals.  Rose would leave to sing for Rapidfire and Hollywood Rose, before rejoining L.A. Guns, and the group was later renamed Guns N' Roses.  However, after a fight with Rose, Tracii Guns left Guns N' Roses and reformed L.A. Guns.  (Quite a tangled web, huh?)

L.A. Guns released their first major label record in 1988, and the LP did well, reaching #50 on the charts.  However, 1989's Cocked and Loaded did better, and hit #38 on the charts.  "The Ballad of Jayne" became the group's only top 40 hit at #33, making the band an official one hit wonder.

While 1991's Hollywood Vampires broke the top 50 on the album charts, the rise of grunge effectively ended any chance of L.A. Guns breaking out.  The band has continued as a working band  (with a ton of personnel changes) to the present day.  In fact, for much of the early 2000's, there were two version of L.A. Guns (one with Tracii Guns and one without).  In 2013 Tracii Guns broke up his version of the group, but I believe  that the second version is active as of this writing.

Cool trivia fact:  "The Ballad of Jayne" is about actress Jayne Mansfield, who was killed in a car accident in 1967.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Apollonia 6 - Sex Shooter

The Apollonia 6 story begins where the Vanity 6 story ends.  (And another shout out to long time reader Sam, who requested the Vanity 6 video more than two years ago).  As we mentioned in the earlier post, Vanity left Vanity 6 (and Prince) in order to go out on her own.  This created a problem for Prince, as not only was he writing material for Vanity 6, but Vanity was supposed to be the female lead in Prince's upcoming movie at the time (you may have heard of it -- Purple Rain).

A casting call ensued, and Patricia Apollonia Kotero was chosen for the role.  Prince liked her middle name, and just like that Apollonia was the new lead singer of Apollonia 6 (still named after the number of breasts in the band ... really).  Additionally, Apollonia became the female lead in Purple Rain.

While Apollonia was quite beautiful, she did not have the strongest singing voice, and Prince seemed to lose interest in her (and the concept of a girl band) soon after Purple Rain.  There may or may not have been a romantic falling out, as well.  As a result, only one album was released, the eponymous 1984 LP.  "Sex Shooter" became a minor hit, reaching #85 on the charts, but Apollonia is probably best-known for the movie, and her duet with Prince, "Take Me With You," a top 40 hit from 1985 (and the last single from Purple Rain.)

Apollonia also had a falling out with Prince, and went out on her own in 1985, primarily as an actress.  She later went to film school, and I believe that she still runs her entertainment company, Kotero Entertainment.

In addition to the primary video for "Sex Shooter," we also found the performance clip from Purple Rain; in the interests of completeness both are below.

Cool trivia facts:  "Take Me With You" was originally intended to be an Apollonia 6 song, but was a late addition to Purple Rain.  In additional, "Manic Monday" (later a big hit for The Bangles) and "Glamorous Life" (later a hit for Sheila E.) we both originally written as Apollonia 6 songs.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Flesh for Lulu - Postcards from Paradise

"Postcards from Paradise" is yet another excellent reader request and we liked it enough to immediately put it up on the blog.  Thanks, cool loyal reader (you know who you are).

Flesh for Lulu was a British rock band with an interesting sound that was simultaneously alternative and retro.  Think the Rolling Stones meets the Velvet Underground.  The resulting music was critically acclaimed, but never quite found its audience, which is a real shame.

The band formed in London in 1982, and was named after the Andy Warhol movie, Flesh for Frankenstein.  Lulu was a bend member's girlfriend who sat in front of a poster for the movie, leading to an in-joke that eventually became the group's name.  Their major label debut came out in 1984, and they released several solid efforts in the mid to late 1980's.

While they attracted a cult following in the U.K., their U.S. break happened when they had a song included on the 1987 teen flick, Some Kind of Wonderful.  (Does anyone else remember that one?)  Sensing an opportunity, they modified their sound in an attempt to cross over.  The resulting album, 1987's Long Live the New Flesh, was solid, but did not advance their career.  After several more years of toiling away, Flesh for Lulu broke up in 1992, though a version of the band re-formed in 2013.

For the blog, we went with "Postcards from Paradise," a particularly strong effort from 1987.  The song was later covered by Paul Westerberg (formerly of The Replacements) and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Eric Carmen - Hungry Eyes

Dirty Dancing was one of the least likely movies to ever become a hit, and the goes doubly so for the soundtrack.  The movie was a low budget ($6 million) release by a new studio, and the initial cuts of the movie were viewed as disappointing by the studio.  In fact, the original plan was for the the film to be shown for one weekend, and then go straight to video.

Instead, positive reviews (led by the New York Times) and word of mouth turned Dirty Dancing into a huge hit.  It became the 11th highest grossing film of 1987, and had continued success as a video.  In addition, the soundtrack became a monster in its own right -- it spent 18 weeks as the #1 album and has gone on to sell more than 32 million units.

The album spawned three top five hits -- "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," (#1), "She's Like the Wind" (#3) and "Hungry Eyes" (#4).

So how does a huge success show up on ERV?  Well, we love good stories and cover songs, and "Hungry Eyes" is both.  As we noted on the post for Franke and the Knockouts' "Sweatheart," Franke Previte (the lead singer of said band) was recruited to help with the soundtrack, and co-wrote "(I've Had) The Time of My Life."  He also contributed "Hungry Eyes," a song which had originally been on Franke and the Knockouts Makin' the Point LP in 1984.

So while Franke's band did not become a household name (though they did have 3 top 40 hits, including "Sweatheart"), Franke became a huge success as a songwriter, almost by accident.  He remains in the industry, though it seems that in recent years he spends most of his time helping younger songwriters.

Lastly, Eric Carmen (who sang "Hungry Eyes" for the soundtrack) has enjoyed an interesting career as well.  Originally a member of The Raspberries ("Go All the Way"), Carmen transitioned to become a pop singer, and had a huge hit with "All By Myself."  He then saw a bit of a resurgence after DIrty Dancing, but seems to have left the industry in the early 1990's.

And (of course), the original:

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fiona - Talk To Me

It is easy to forget how difficult it is to become a rock star.  Even if all of the pieces are there, sometimes they just don't fit together.  Case in point: Fiona, who had the attitude, looks and voice to be a star, but never made it.

Fiona Flanagan was born in New Jersey, but moved to New York City when she was 18, and began her career as the frontwoman of several bands.  This led to a recording contract with Atlantic, and a 1985 self-titled debut album produced by Beau Hill, who had worked with Ratt and Sandy Stewart.  (Hill would later produce albums for Winger, Warrant, and Europe.)

Fiona's debut album generated some traction, but never delivered the breakout song to launch her career.  The album reached #71, while "Talk to Me" peaked at #64.  I seem to recall seeing the video on my favorite station, but I don't think that it went into heavy rotation.

A guest spot on Miami Vice ("Little Miss Dangerous") and a second album followed in 1986.  In 1987, Fiona co-starred in the Bob Dylan movie Hearts of Fire, which did so poorly in its limited U.K. release that it was sent direct to video in the U.S.  After two additional albums did not succeed, Fiona left the industry, although she did return in 2011 with Unbroken, which has received positive reviews from AOR rock aficionados.

For the blog, we went with "Talk to Me," which does a nice job of highlighting the charismatic singer and her hair.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Jack Green - One by One

Jack Green is a Scottish guitarist who played in three famous bands.  Green was in T-Rex for five months in 1973, and was later a member of The Pretty Things from 1974 - 1976.  He was also a member of Rainbow for three weeks (apparently) in 1978.

Green was able to turn his experience in the industry into a recording contract, and he then released four solo records between 1980 and 1986.  "One by One" comes off Green's second album, 1981's Reverse Logic.  I remember the song from HBO's Video Jukebox, a program that played music videos between movies on the channel.  In fact, the main version of the video below comes complete with a HBO Video Jukebox intro.

The video includes a bowling alley, women (including Vanna Bonta) , and a trampoline.  Ahh, those early 1980's videos.  Sadly, neither the song nor the album charted.

As an added bonus, we found a version of the video with what appears to be the director's commentary:

Green apparently left the industry years ago, and now teaches guitar.  He also has a small film production company.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Sonic Youth - Teenage Riot

Readers who aren't big time eighties or alternative music fans may not know much about Sonic Youth, but the alternative cult act is hugely important in the development of both the grunge and industrial  scenes.  The band formed in New York City in the early 1980's, and was comprised of guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, along with bassist Kim Gordon. (Sonic Youth went through four drummers in their early days, though Steve Shelley has held this role since 1985).

Musically, the band is often associated with the noise rock scene, and early releases were somewhat experimental in nature.  Not unlike earlier experimental bands (like the Velvet Underground) this resulted in critical acclaim but only modest record sales.  Over time, Sonic Youth's sound evolved and songs incorporated more traditional rock structures and sounds, though they maintained a bit of an experimental feel.  This music was loved by alternative musicians and helped lay the groundwork for the 1990's.  [As an aside, if this sounds like Sonic Youth took a similar path to Hüsker Dü, well ... they did.]

"Teenage Riot" was the song that blew the lid off Sonic Youth in the emerging college rock scene.  Although the song is still edgy, it also has a more traditional structure and sound, which found a new and larger audience for the band.  While Sonic Youth never became mainstream stars, they did become heroes in the college rock community, and provided an inspiration to countless 1990's bands -- everyone from Nirvana to Nine Inch Nails.

Sonic Youth remained together and relatively vibrant until  Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore divorced in late 2011 (after being married for 27 years).  While no official announcement has been made, it appears that this marked the end of the band.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Iron Maiden - Flight Of Icarus

We have posted many acts on ERV that were (are) one hit wonders, often with the caveat that there is no shame in having only one top 40 hit.  Case in point: Iron Maiden, who scored exactly zero charting singles in the U.S. (Yes, that makes them a no hit wonder, I suppose.)

"Flight of Icarus" is a retelling of the Greek myth of Icarus, although in the Iron Maiden version, Icarus' father (Daedalus) betrays Icarus by encouraging him to fly too close to the sun.  (In the original version, Daedalus warns Icarus not to fly too high, but the boy doesn't listen, with disastrous consequences).

The song works on a number of levels, and is helped by the mythological theme.  Maiden cultivated a fantasy-driven image, which was strengthened by singer Bruce Dickinson's lyrics.  [As an aside, Dickinson is an interesting person with expertise in fencing, aviation, writing, and broadcasting; these varied interests have resulted in at least once source naming him as a polymath.]

Directed by Jim Yukich, the video brings these darker elements to the fore, which are contrasted with the band playing the song in a studio.  While the song was not a huge hit, the Piece of Mind LP reached #14 in the U.S. (#3 in the U.K) and went platinum in both geographies.

The band would remain heavy metal stars through the early 1990's, and remain together (with some personnel changes along the way) to the present day.

Another Maiden classic, 1982's "The Number of the Beast" was featured on ERV's first All Hallow's Even celebration in 2011.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cameo - Candy

So here's a handy tip from your friends at ERV:  If you see an eighties video and it features a red codpiece, then you're probably watching something by Cameo.  (This is especially true if the song is funky.)

We previously featured Cameo's smash "Word Up," which was the group's breakthrough song.  The second single off the Word Up LP was "Candy," and it would be the only other Cameo song to break the top 40 at #21.  In contrast, the band had a string of charting R&B songs from 1976 through the early 1990's.  Cameo had a remarkably long and interesting career, and managed to change with the times during the 1970's and 1980's.  It's a shame that they didn't have more crossover success, but that's the way it goes, sometimes.

The video for "Candy" was directed by Zbigniew Rybczyński, using Times Square, New York (circa 1986) as the backdrop.  It was technically advanced for the time, with multiple images appearing one after another.  And yes, many of the images are wearing a red codpiece, starting 9 second in.  In our view, the video captures the energy, funkiness and strangeness of Cameo; we're fans of it.

As we mentioned on the "Word Up" post, Cameo had continued R&B success until the early 1990's, then faded from view.  Frontman Larry Blackmon remained in the industry as an A&R executive, though there have been occasional Cameo releases in recent years.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fischer-Z - So Long

Fischer-Z (named after two of Ronald Fisher's statistical formulas) was a quirky British new wave act.  The group had the potential to be akin to Talking Heads, even if Americans didn't pronounce the name correctly (Fisher's Zed, not Fisher Zee).  Mixing new wave, reggae and rock with interesting lyrics, the act became somewhat successful in Europe, but never enjoyed more than cult status in the U.K. and U.S.

The band was formed in London in 1978 by John Watts (vocals, guitars) and Steve Skolnik (keyboards), but it was really Watts' band from the get go.  They quickly signed to United Artists and released their debut album in 1979.  Their second LP, the wonderfully named Going Deaf for a Living (1980) built on their success in Europe, and the "So Long" single even reached #72 on the U.K. charts.

Skolnik quit after Going Deaf for a Living, but Watts released a strong follow up (1981's Red Skies Over Paradise) before deciding that he did not want to be constrained within a band.  (Even if it was his band).  Watts released three solo records before resurrecting the Fischer-Z name in 1987; he seems to have used both names during most of the ensuing years.

The video for "So Long" is awesome, in a totally 1980 sort of way.  Shots of the band playing are mixed with vintage cars and a Humphrey Bogart look-alike private eye (no relation to Hall & Oates).  The results are ... well, see for yourself:

Cool trivia fact:  "So Long" was the 112th video ever played on MTV, and was played on the first day.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sandy Stewart - Saddest Victory

Best-known for her collaborations with Stevie Nicks, Sandy Stewart is a singer/songwriter who could have become a successful pop star if the pieces had fallen into place.  The fact that she ended up as more of a musical footnote says more about the vagaries of the industry than her talent.

Stewart grew up in Houston, and met Stevie Nicks through a mutual friend when Stewart was trying to break into the industry.  Initially, Stewart was seeking some help writing lyrics for a song, but she soon partnered with Nicks and co-wrote three songs for Nick's 1983 LP, The Wild Heart. Two of those songs, "If Anyone Falls" (#14) and "Nightbird" (#33) broke the top 40.

Unsurprisingly, this led to a recording contract and Stewart's debut solo album, Cat Dancer, came out the following year.  Although "Saddest Victory" picked up a bit of airplay on MTV, neither the song nor the album charted.  A collaboration with Nile Rodgers for the soundtrack of White Nights followed in 1985 ("This Is Your Day").

In 1987, Stewart co-wrote the Fleetwood Mac song "Seven Wonders" (with Stevie Nicks), which would reach #19 on the charts.  While that was it for her major hits. Sandy Stewart remained in the industry, and has collaborated with Stevie Nicks several times in the intervening years.  Most recently, Stewart has been involved with the Purple Songs Can Fly organization, which helps pediatric cancer patients through music and songwriting.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Stone Roses - She Bangs the Drums

By the end of the 1980's, the music industry seemed to be at an inflection point.  The trends that had held for much of the later half of the decade seemed to have run their course, and many critics (and even some fans) were looking for something new and fresh.  (This eventually led to the grunge scene of the early 1990's, though that was not on anyone's radar in 1989).

In Britain, the trend that seemed to have the best chance of being "The Next Big Thing" was the Madchester scene.  Based in Manchester (of course), this music was a combination of 1960's power pop and electronic dance, with elements of rock thrown in for good measure.

While there were several bands thats became associated with the Madchester scene, the Stone Roses were the poster children.  They formed in 1983, and by the late 1980's the lineup had become settled with Ian Brown (vocals), John Squire (guitars), Mani (bass), and Reni (drums).  The group's debut album was released in 1989, and slowly gained traction during that summer.  By 1990, the band had become a bonafide sensation in the U.K., with 4 top 40 hits, and a #5 album.  In contrast, the  Stone Roses never really broke through in the U.S., as neither their singles nor their album broke the top 40.

Sadly, after their breakout in the U.K., the band slowly fell apart.  Egos, lawsuits and the rock lifestyle delayed their second album until the end of 1994.  Although the appropriately named Second Coming did well in their home market, it was viewed as a weaker album by critics.  The strains of touring in support of their second LP proved to be the nail in the coffin and the group officially broke up by the end of 1996.  However, the group did re-form in 2011 and appear to be together as of this writing.

For the blog, we went with "She Bangs the Drums."  The song was released in July 1989 and became the group's first top 40 hit.  It remains as our favorite (favourite if you are reading this in the U.K.) song from the band.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Little Heroes - Young Hearts

When we started ERV, we originally envisioned posting only really rare videos (such as "Young Hearts"), as a way of highlighting some of the (mostly) unknown music from our favorite decade.  However, it soon became apparent that this would likely result in a blog viewership of two, including your humble author.  As a result, we expanded our playlist, but continue to mix in some really rare music on the blog.  We hope that many readers will take the time to meander through the site, uncovering forgotten and rare gems along the way.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that "Young Hearts" is a really rare song and video, particularly for our non-Australian readers.  It is by The Little Heros, a Melbourne band that formed in 1980.  The group was comprised of veterans of the Melbourne pub rock scene and was led by guitarist/singer Roger Hart-Wells, along with an ever-changing lineup around him.

The band released their self-titled debut in 1981, but it was their second LP, 1982's Play By Numbers that helped them break out in their native Australia. That album featured two successful singles, "One Perfect Day" (#12) and "Young Hearts" (#42).  Unfortunately, while the LP reached #37 in their home market, it did not generate any real traction in other countries.

The Little Heroes released a follow-up album in 1983 (Watch the World), which performed worse than its successor, and broke up the following year.  Roger Hart-Wells would go on to become a writer and meditation coach, and most of the other members of the group likewise left the industry.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Ratt - You're In Love

There is no right way for a band to become successful, but there is a wrong (or hard) way: burst onto the scene with a huge first album before a strong fan base has been established.  While it is not the kiss of death, successful first albums can lead to oversized expectations and pressure that can be hard to live up to.  This likely hurt the careers of The Knack, The Outfield, The Hooters, and Young MC among many others.

Viewed from this perspective, Ratt didn't do half bad.  True, their first album (1984's Out of the Cellar) was their commercial peak, but they were able to maintain a significant amount of success all through the eighties, helped by the popularity of pop metal and their generally solid music videos.

The origins of Ratt go back to the mid 1970's when Mickey Ratt was formed by singer Stephen Pearcy.  The band went through a series of lineup changes, and eventually became regulars on the LA Sunset Strip scene.  Ratt's 1983 independent EP sold well, which led to a major label contract, a video with Milton Berle, and no small amount of success.

"You're In Love" was the second single of the group's 1985 LP, Invasion of Your Privacy.  The video features mostly live footage, and was filmed at shows in Mississippi and Louisiana in August 1985.  The single only reached #89 on the charts, while the album peaked at a strong #7.

Ratt maintained its string of successful albums through the 1980's, before breaking up in the early 1990's.  There have been several reunions since the late 1990's, but none with the classic lineup.  (Sadly, original lead guitarist Robbin Crosby died of a drug overdose in 2002).  A version of the group appears to be together as of this writing.

Coll trivia fact:  Ratt was very nearly a one hit wonder.  While "Round and Round" hit #12, the band's only other top 40 single was "Lat It Down," which reached ... #40.

Cool trivia fact #2:  Jake E. Lee (later of Ozzy Osbourne and Badlands) and Marq Torien (BulletBoys) were both briefly members of Ratt in the early 1980's, while Michael Schenker was briefly a member in the early 1990's.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The System - Don't Disturb This Groove

By combining two seemingly disparate musical styles -- synth pop and soul -- The System created some very interesting music in the 1980's and pointed the way forward towards the modern dance and electronic era.

The duo formed in New York in 1982 and was comprised of Mic Murphy (vocals and guitars) and David Frank (keyboards).  The group's interesting musical style and strong production values caught the attention of many industry insiders (especially in the dance segment), but failed to break through to the general public.  In fact, The System only had two charting singles -- 1983's "You Are in My System" (#64) and "Don't Disturb This Groove," which went to #4 on the charts (yes, that makes The System an official one hit wonder).

Although their success as a band was modest, Murphy and Frank remained active in the New York studio scene as performers, and Frank transitioned to helping with arrangements and production.  [Frank contributed to Chaka Khan's "I Feel For You," Phil Collins' "Sussudio," and Mtume's "Juicy Fruit."  He also worked on Scritti Pollitti's Cupid and Psyche 85 LP.]

In 1989, The System went on hiatus, and Frank moved to LA and opened the Canyon Reverb recording studio, which became quite successful.  He is perhaps best known as the co-writer and co-producer of Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle."  Murphy briefly pursued a solo career in the early 1990's.

The System has also periodically re-formed in the ensuing years, and has released material in 2000, 2009, and 2013.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Featuring Stevie Nicks - Insider

Long time readers will recall that we love a good rock & roll story at ERV and "Insider" totally fits the bill.  Eighties music fans will also remember that Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks had a smash hit with their other duet (done around the same time), "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around."  That song (the 25th video ever played on MTV) would go on to reach #3 on the charts making it anything but a rare song or video.

The collaboration between Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty began while Petty was recording his 1979 breakthrough LP, Damn the Torpedoes.  Nicks was in the early stages of putting her first solo album together and asked Petty to write a song for her.  Although Petty didn't respond at first, Nicks was persistent and eventually got Petty to agree around a year later, as he and the Heartbreakers were working on the follow up to Damn the Torpedos.

Here's where it gets really interesting.  The song that Petty wrote for Nicks was "Insider."  After it was recorded (in post-production, I imagine), Nicks realized that Petty really loved the song and gave it back to him for his album.  In response, Petty offered Nicks a different song, one that he (and guitarist Mike Campbell) had written earlier called "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around."  The rest is history.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 1981 album eventually was named Hard Promises after a line in "Insider."  While the song never became a hit, it is a great song in our humble opinion and a rare video, too.

Cool trivia fact:  "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" was the highest charting single ever for both Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty.

Cool trivia fact #2:  The working title of Hard Promises was Benmont's Revenge, named after keyboardist Benmont Tench, who was mentioned in our salacious post on Feargal Sharkey's "A Good Heart" and "You Little Thief".

Note that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers "Change of Heart" (directed by Cameron Crowe) was posted on ERV in October, 2013.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers - I'm Not Your Man

Last September, we put up "If We Never Meet Again," a solid pop/rock song by Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers.  This was a surprisingly difficult decision, as the band had two strong cuts off their 1988 major label debut, with "I'm Not Your Man" as the other. [In fact, it was the rareness of "If We Never Meet Again" that finally broke the tie.]

"I'm Not Your Man" shows the bar band in fine form, and was a solid choice as the first single off Rumble (the aforementioned 1988 debut LP).  Interestingly, while the song picked up a significant amount of radio airplay at the time, the single only reached #74 on the charts.  "If We Never Meet Again" somehow managed to reach #48 on the singles chart with less airplay.

Rumble did not break to top 100 on the album charts, and when the act's 1990 Guitar Trouble LP didn't chart, that was it for the band.  [Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers actually recorded a third album, but Columbia Records chose not to release it; it has been made available in recent years.]

Conwell remained in the industry for years but was unable to break through and eventually moved on.  However, he continued to periodically perform reunion shows to the present day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Big Country - Fields of Fire (400 Miles)

This is Big Country's second appearance on ERV, as "Look Away" was posted on the blog last August.  While U.S. readers will remember the band for their eponymous single (the group's only top 40 U.S. song), "Fields of Fire" was the first of 15 top 40 singles in their native U.K.

Similar to "Look Away," "Fields of Fire" is a grand anthemic rock song, punctuated by the bagpipe-like guitar sound that was Big Country's trademark.  It is also my favorite Big Country song.  The video, with the train, bagpipe player and toys generally works quite well (although the WWI scene seems a bit forced to me).  The song peaked at #10 in the U.K. and #52 in the U.S., and helped launch the band's debut LP, The Crossing (which would hit #3 in the U.K. and #18 in the U.S.)

From an American perspective, the band faded from view after The Crossing, although they remained popular in the U.K. for the remainder of the decade.  As was mentioned in the previous Big Country post, the group remained together until lead singer Stuart Adamson's suicide in 2001.  They have re-formed in recent years, although ex-Alarm singer Mike Peters departed the band in November 2013.  It appears that the current lead singer is Simon Hough and the group remains active as of this writing.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

David Lee Roth - Goin' Crazy!

For my money, David Lee Roth's 1985 departure from Van Halen was a real musical tragedy.  Led by Diamond Dave's showmanship and Eddie Van Halen's guitar licks, Van Halen had become superstars by the mid-1980's.  Both factions seemed to suffer after the breakup, and it is hard not to wonder what they would have produced together.  In fact, the parties involved also seem to have (eventually) realized this as there have been several reunions since 1996.

But in 1985, these reunions were very far away.  Inspired by the success of his Crazy From the Heat EP, Roth put together a group to rival Van Halen.  Guitarist Steve Vai, bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Gregg Bissonette were all outstanding musicians, but the songwriting and chemistry just did not seem to click as much as they had in Van Halen.

On the other hand, Roth's campy and slightly insane worldview remained front and center -- and was well-suited for MTV.  As an example, the video for "Goin' Crazy!" has a nearly three minute intro (skip to 2:36 if you would just like to see the song).

"Goin' Crazy!" reached #66 on the charts, while the Eat 'Em and Smile LP hit #4 and went double platinum.  While 1988's Skyscraper was a hit, Roth's fortunes then faded; by the early 1990's he was no longer a major star.  Van Halen saw a similar trend, and the group has reunited with Roth several times since 1996.  The most recent incarnation of Van Halen has included DLR since 2006 or so, and even released an album (A DIfferent Kind of Truth) in 2012.  They appear to be together as of this writing.

Cool trivia fact:  "Goin' Crazy!" was originally intended to also be the theme of Roth's movie of the same name, but the project was shut down.

Note that Van Halen's cover of "Pretty Woman" was posted on ERV in January 2012.

[January 2019 update]  So it turns out that DLR made a Spanish version of "Goin' Crazy" called ..."Loco del Calor." See it for yourself, below:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Prince - Uptown

"Uptown" is the answer to a great trivia question -- it was the first single released off Prince's classic Dirty Mind album.  The song was named after the bohemian uptown neighborhood of Prince's hometown (Minneapolis) and touches on themes of tolerance and bigotry, which would be recurring concepts for Prince.

Long time readers will recall that we have previously posted videos of "Dirty Mind" and "Controversy" on ERV, as these videos may also be less well-known to our readers.  Due to the fact that Prince was not an overnight success, his early material did not get the exposure that it deserved, in our humble opinion.  As an example, "Uptown" certainly qualifies as a rare video and I don't recall ever seeing it on MTV back in the day.

The "Uptown" video appears to have been shot at the same time as "Dirty Mind," using the same set and audience.  This was a common occurrence in the days before MTV, when videos were used as promotional tools.  From a sound perspective, "Uptown" is more of a straight up dance number, in contrast to the electric funk of "Dirty Mind."  Again, this is typical Prince, as his ability to write songs in different musical styles really differentiates him from most other artists.

Released in September, 1980, "Uptown" was not a huge hit, but did chart, reaching #101 on the singles charts.  This was also sadly typical of Prince in this period, as he only had one top 40 single (1979's "I Wanna Be Your Lover") prior to the 1999 album.  Of course, that LP changed everything, and catapulted Prince into superstardom for the remainder of the decade (and beyond).

Ladies and gentlemen, for your audio and video pleasure ... His Purpleness.