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.