Archive for October, 2014

As Halloween is only a day away, I thought it was time to seek out more videos that embody the spirit of the holiday. Below are some clips that are creepy, eerie, or just plain strange (which there seemed to be no shortage of in the eighties).

A Flock of Seagulls’ video for “Nightmares” has adults dealing with severe mommy issues. The video contains an abundance of creepy dolls and a descent into madness, all of which go well with the eeriness of the song. The song is off the group’s second album, Listen, released in 1983.

 

The video for The Cure’s “Lullaby” finds Robert Smith as a victim of a man/spider hybrid, played by Smith. The rest of the band appear as cob-webbed, ghostly figures haunting Smith. The video ends with Smith being swallowed by a giant spider. Released in 1989, the video went on to win the Best British Video award in 1990.

 

“Why Me” from Planet P Project is a cross between a ‘60s B-movie and a Twilight Zone episode. The video features a woman driving at night with some unwanted visitors in the backseat, and an astronaut on a failed mission. Formed by musician Toney Carey in the early eighties, Planet P Project was an outlet for Carey’s love of prog/space rock. Watch for the Scanners-like ending of the video.

 

With her quirky style and unusual vocals, Lene Lovich was one of the most unforgettable artists of the early eighties. My first glimpse of Lovich was in the video “Lucky Number.” Although it was released in 1978, it received pretty good airplay on MTV in the early eighties. The song’s combination of punk and new wave sound fit in well with the time period. The video featured Lovich in her signature braids looking very much like a Goth flamenco dancer. I had never heard such odd vocals and seen such an eccentric performance before (I had yet to encounter Nina Hagen). Taking a look back at Lovich’s career, you realize how much she influenced artists like Cyndi Lauper, Bjork, and Gwen Stefani, among many others, and it’s evident she didn’t get the recognition she deserved.

Due to her English accent, I mistakenly thought Lovich was British but she was actually born in Detroit, Michigan (her mother and siblings moved to England when Lovich was 13). She also had a very unconventional background, which most likely contributed to her theatrical stage persona. She attended several art schools, was a cabaret and go-go dancer, played sax in a funk band, wrote songs for disco artist Cerrone, was a member of a West Indian soul band, dubbed screams for European horror films, and worked in fringe theater groups. After brief stints with other bands, Lovich and partner Les Chappell signed with Stiff Records in 1978 and released the album “Stateless,” which includes the single “Lucky Number.” The song was a hit, reaching #3 on the UK charts.

Lovich went on to record two more albums and one EP with Stiff records before breaking with the company after the release of 1982’s No Man’s Land. There were rumors that Lovich, under pressure from the record company, refused to tone down her look and act for the bosses at MTV so they broke ties. She didn’t release another album until 1989, and took a long leave and returned in 2005 with another album. Lovich continued to make guest appearances on stage with other artists and in 2012 formed the Lene Lovich Band and toured throughout 2013. That same year, she started her own record label, Flex Music, which allowed her to gain control of the back catalogue of her music. She is now in the process of getting ready for a European tour with talks of a new album and an American tour.

New Toy” is off the EP of the same name released in 1981. It was written by Thomas Dolby, who also plays keyboards and appears in the video. It was a hit in the US dance clubs and peaked at #53 on the UK singles charts.

 

The video for “It’s You, Only You (Mein Schmerz),” has Lovich dressed up as a Spanish bride and a Zorro-like character. The song was the first single released from the album No Man’s Land, and had minor success on the US dance charts.

 

On the continuing search for early live performances by new wave bands, I came across an appearance by the Psychedelic Furs on a show called Livewire. I vaguely recalled the show but remember seeing Bow Wow Wow and The Ramones perform in the early eighties. It was a kids’ talk show on the Nickelodeon cable channel that ran from 1980 to 1985. The show covered current events and was known for giving many unknown bands their first US TV appearance. The performances usually included an interview where the kids could ask the musicians questions. The format wasn’t groundbreaking but was interesting for the time. Other artists featured on the show included R.E.M, Split Enz, The Lords of the New Church, Afrika Bambaata, Twisted Sister, and Manowar, among others. I’ve tried digging up more performances but they are hard to come by.

The appearance by the Furs was probably in 1980, since they performed two songs off their self-titled debut album (released in 1980), and were just finishing up their first US tour. Besides performing, they also gave an interview where they were asked about the influence of the new “British Invasion” on the American music scene. Although the Furs do not perform live, the show would later change the format and have the artists give live performances. And for some reason the clips below are in black and white, which was not the regular format of the show.

“We Love You” was the first single released from the debut album. Richard Butler gives an energetic performance besides being up for over 36 hours (as we find out in the interview).

 

The second song they performed was “Sister Europe” – one of my favorites from the group. It was the second single released from the album and would later go on to be covered by Icehouse and the Foo Fighters.

 

New Releases

Posted: October 23, 2014 in News and Events
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New releases for the month of October.

Johnny Marr: Playland

The Dead Milkmen: Pretty Music for Pretty People

Billy Idol: Kings & Queens of the Underground

Buzzcocks: The Way

Annie Lennox: Nostalgia

Misfits: Horror Xmas

The Vaselines: V for Vaselines

Colin Hay: Man @ Work (mix of old and new material)

Big Country: Steeltown (deluxe edition)

Stiff Little Fingers: No Going Back

With Halloween approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight videos that capture the holiday spirit. One of the first videos that came to mind is Siouxsie & the Banshees’ mystical “Spellbound.” Not only because the video contains some great images (black cats, fire, masks), but the song was, and continues to be, one of my favorites from the group. With its great opening guitar, pounding drums, and Siouxsie’s signature vocals, it’s no wonder the song has found a place in pop culture, showing up as recently in the show True Blood.

“Spellbound” was the first single released from the Banshees’ fourth album, 1981’s Juju. The album was a commercial and critical success in the UK, and is considered a landmark album of the post-punk period. Melody Maker cited it as “one of the most influential British albums ever” and guitar player John McGeoch was singled out for his work on “Spellbound” by critics and fellow musicians. Johnny Marr of The Smiths praised the efforts for its cleverness and “mysterious” quality. In 2006, McGeoch was named one of the greatest guitarists of all time by Mojo magazine for his work on the song.

 

England’s Sad Lovers & Giants are one of those bands who should have received more recognition during the early ‘80s post-punk era. They had a great atmospheric sound that was prevalent during that time period but were overshadowed by bands such as The Cure, who they were often compared. They recorded under the Midnight Music record label, known for their experimental and post-punk roster which included The Essence and The Snake Corps. I first became familiar with the band through their song “Colourless Dream” and was immediately taken with the multi-layered guitar work and haunting keyboards.

Sad Lovers & Giants formed in 1980 in Watford, England, and developed a following within their native country and Europe. They released two singles in 1981 under the Last Movement record label (“Colourless Dream” and “Things We Never Did”) before signing with Midnight Music in 1982. Their first album, 1982’s Epic Garden Music, combined a psychedelic sound with gloomy layered guitars. Their second album Feeding the Flame, released in 1983, continued the melancholy, moody sound and drew comparisons to Joy Division. Just as the band was building a following outside of England, they split up in 1983. They reformed with a different lineup in 1986 and released three more albums before Midnight Music dissolved. Returning, yet again, with another reformed lineup in 2009, they are currently working on material for a new album.

The band’s second single, “Colourless Dream,” was later included on the 1988 reissue of the album Epic Garden Music.

 

“Echoplay” is the lead song off their debut album and sounds very much like a hybrid between Joy Division and The Cure.

 

Upon its release in 1980, the soundtrack to the film Times Square garnered more attention than the movie. Not surprising, as it was one of the best soundtracks of the ‘80s and perfectly captured the waning ‘70s punk scene and the emergence of ‘80s new wave. I saw the movie several times as a teen and could relate to its anti-adult authority message (what teen couldn’t), but it was the music that really stayed with me. The film introduced me to Gary Numan’s “Down in the Park,” Roxy Music’s “Same Old Scene,” and the work of Patti Smith. Directed by Allan Moyle, who would later go on to direct Pump Up the Volume, the movie was a commercial failure but has since been rediscovered and maintains a cult following.

The story of the film revolves around two teen girls from vastly different backgrounds who meet in a mental ward and find common ground in their disdain for authority figures. Pamela (Trini Alvarado) is the introverted, lonely daughter of a politician, and Nicky (Robin Johnson) is the tough street kid. They bust out of the ward and go on to form a band (The Sleez Sisters) to vent about their misunderstood lives. They get the attention of a DJ (Tim Curry) who promotes them and they soon find a following among the disaffected youth. Awareness of their differences eventually ends the union, but not before a grand finale show atop a roof in the middle of Times Square.

The soundtrack, released as a double album, has an eclectic mix of artists and covers a wide range of music from rock, punk, disco, and new wave. Artists such as David Bowie and XTC were commissioned to write songs for the film, although Bowie’s contribution was nixed due to conflicts with his record label. Other artists who contributed to the soundtrack are The Cure, The Ramones, Robin Gibb, Talking Heads, The Pretenders, Lou Reed, Joe Jackson, and Suzi Quatro (yes, Leather Tuscadero from Happy Days). The soundtrack also has original songs performed by the actors in the film, one a duet with Robin Johnson and David Johansen. The production of the film had its difficulties, Moyle being fired over his objections to scenes being cut and the inclusion of some “inappropriate” songs on the soundtrack, but it’s an interesting look at the pre-Giuliani Times Square that doesn’t exist today.

Here’s a clip from the film where Johnson’s character makes her debut as Aggie Doone. The song, “Damn Dog,” was written for the film and would later be covered by the group Manic Street Preachers.

 

The girls doing a dance to the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” on the streets of Times Square.

 

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’ debut album, Rattlesnakes, turned 30 yesterday. I wasn’t much interested in the group back in the ‘80s. Their brand of folksy alt pop and whimsical guitar didn’t appeal to me at the time. As I got older, I found my way back to the band and, specifically, this album. Upon its release, Rattlesnakes received mostly positive reviews. Among all the synthesized music coming out of the UK, it was a breath of fresh air. The album is a delightful mix of irresistible guitar hooks, a bit of blues, and some good storytelling. Rattlesnakes has gone on to make many critics’ best of the ‘80s lists and is considered a defining album of the UK “jangle scene.”

Lloyd Cole wrote most of the songs for the album and was heavily influenced by Bob Dylan, along with his English and philosophy studies. There are philosophical and pop culture references throughout, and the name of the album is a reference to the Joan Didion novel Play It as It Lays. Although the lyrics were considered witty and intelligent at the time, they now seem a bit naïve and adolescent. Cole admits to now being a bit embarrassed by some of the lyrics but claims it was the writing of “a very young man.” The album never charted in the US, but reached #13 on the UK charts and had minor international success. The group would go on to release two more albums before disbanding in 1989.

“Perfect Skin” is the debut single. Here’s a live performance with Cole singing about a girl with “cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin.”

 

The album’s namesake, “Rattlesnakes,” was the third single and gives reference to Eva Marie Saint, Simone de Beauvoir, and the film On the Waterfront.

 

Translator is another band that slipped under my radar back in the ‘80s. I was familiar with the song “Everywhere That I’m Not” but other than that, I knew very little about the group. After checking out more of their music, I was surprised to learn that they are American. With their updated Merseybeat sound, I thought for sure they were British. Not surprisingly, one of the band’s biggest influences is the Beatles. They had little commercial success, but their stripped down psychedelic, guitar-based sound appealed to college radio audiences.

Translator formed in L.A. in the late ‘70s and their first album, Heartbeats and Triggers, was released in 1982. It contains the single “Everywhere That I’m Not,” which remains the group’s most identifiable song. They recorded four albums throughout the ‘80s, and maintained underground popularity during that time period. In 1986 they recorded their last album, Evening of the Harvest, which saw the band move to a more mature, nuanced sound. The group broke up shortly after that release and pursued solo careers. They continued to reunite over the years, and released an album in 2012, Big Green Lawn.

“Everywhere That I’m Not” is the band’s first single and put them on the college radio map.

 

The single “Un-Alone” is off of their second album, No Time Like Now, released in 1983. It received some radio airplay but the group was never able to match the success of their first single.

 

Erasure is currently on tour in support of their new album, The Violet Flame. Having never seen them in concert, I decided to check out the show. I was expecting something over the top from the duo and I wasn’t disappointed. Andy Bell dominated the stage with slithery dance moves and lively interaction with the audience, while Vince Clarke took his stance out of the spotlight. Although a bit older and not able to keep the energy going through the entire show, Andy can still belt out a song, rarely missing a note. They led the concert off with “Oh L’amour,” the third single off their 1986 debut album, Wonderland. At the time, the song only reached #85 on the UK charts and the album was a commercial failure. A 2003 remix of the song, used to promote their best of album Hits!, would go on to break the top 20. It’s now considered to be one of their signature songs.