Archive for the ‘Classic Videos’ Category

I was a fan of Tears for Fears from the beginning but much like OMD, it wasn’t until years later that I truly came to appreciate their music. Although Songs from the Big Chair was their breakout album, it’s 1983’s The Hurting that finds the most play on my IPod. “Mad World” was the third single released from The Hurting, and it was also the band’s first video. The song was originally intended as a b-side and became the group’s first UK hit, reaching #3 on the singles chart. With its driving percussion and playful use of synth (belying the dark lyrics), it was a standout on the LP.

Roland Orzabal wrote the song. Not happy with how he sounded on vocals, he handed singing duties over to Curt Smith. The video was filmed on a country estate in Bath, England and the party scene is made up of family and friends – that’s Smiths’ mom as the birthday girl. About that funny dance, Orzabal made it up while recording the song in the studio. Having been relegated to the sidelines, with Smith on vocals, the record company insisted that he perform it in the video. I think it’s a nice touch.

 

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I wasn’t a fan of Devo’s in the early ’80s, probably because my older brother would play “Whip It” nonstop. It wasn’t until seeing the video for “Beautiful World” years later that things changed. I’ve since gone back and listened to their early catalog and count them among one of my favorite bands of the ‘80s. Released in 1980, Freedom of Choice was the band’s third and most successful album, reaching #22 on Billboard’s pop album chart. The album is made up of short, polished synth-infused songs. The 12 tracks clock in at just over 32 minutes. Although “Whip It” put the group on the map, I prefer the lesser-known songs off the LP like the electro “Snowball” and “That’s Pep!,” which sounds kind of like a new wave Hand Jive. In my opinion, the album is one of their best and ranks behind only 1978’s Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!.

The video for the title track has the group dressed as aliens singing about how ultimately freedom of choice is not what we want. It also has skateboarders, donuts, and Mark Mothersbaugh in a dog costume.

 

“Girl U Want” has the band performing in front of an audience of 1950s teenyboppers. Just as the video for “Freedom of Choice,” it’s quite a low budget affair and relies heavily on color saturation. I’m pretty sure they used up all their video production money on the video for “Whip It.”

 

If any song could fill a dance floor back in the day it was Killing Joke’s “Eighties.” The relentless beat combined with an infectious guitar riff made it hard to stay in your seat. The video for the song perfectly matched the frantic pace. It features singer Jaz Coleman behind a presidential podium shouting about the struggles of living in the eighties, interspersed with images of religious and political leaders, war, punk rockers, and the frivolous extravagance of the decade. As I was doing a bit of research on the song, I came across an interesting tie it has to Nirvana that almost resulted in a lawsuit.

Released as a single in 1984, “Eighties” would later be included on Killing Joke’s fifth album Night Time. The song didn’t chart in the US but did appear on the soundtrack for the 1985 John Hughes’ movie Weird Science. It also had minor success in the UK, peaking at #60 on the singles chart. The song would come into the spotlight again in 1992, when the band claimed Nirvana plagiarized the riff of the song (at a slowed down pace) for the single “Come as You Are.” There are disputes of whether a lawsuit was ever filed but by 2003 all was forgiven, as Dave Grohl took leave from the Foo Fighters to record with the band. As I listened to both songs, there is a definite similarity but I’ll take “Eighties” over “Come as You Are” any day.

 

The Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty in Pink” was a song with two lives, pre- and post-John Hughes. I prefer the grittier pre-Hughes version, which is probably an opinion shared by most Furs fans. The song was originally released in 1981 and is the first track off the album Talk Talk Talk. With its darker and moodier feel, the original is a much better fit with the cynical lyrics of the song. As many songs that fed my love of new wave, I first saw the video on MTV. I loved the song then and still do. The song reached #43 on the UK charts, but did not make a mark in the US until the mid-eighties.

Years later, Molly Ringwald brought the song to the attention of John Hughes and history was made. The band recorded a more upbeat and polished version of the song in 1986, and a new video was made to promote the Pretty in Pink movie. Even though they went along for the ride, the Furs weren’t too pleased with the changes and thought Hughes failed to capture the spirit of the song. As Richard Butler told Mojo magazine, “The song was about a girl who kinda sleeps around and thinks it’s really cool and thinks everybody really likes her, but they really don’t…It’s quite scathing.” Regardless, it was the song that really put the Furs on the US map and was their highest charting single in the UK, peaking at #18.

 

When it comes to classic songs of the eighties, you can’t get more classic than The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?” Some have called it the “Stairway to Heaven” of the eighties. I remember hearing the song on college radio in the mid-eighties but didn’t see the video until years later. Included on the album Meat is Murder, which was released 30 years ago today, the song was originally intended as a B-side. But with the perfect combination of Johnny Marr’s haunting guitar and Morrissey’s somber lyrics, it was destined to be the group’s biggest and most enduring song.

Known for its swirling, dreamy guitar work, the song was the result of much experimentation with reverb, rhythm tracks, and harmonization. Marr told Guitar Magazine that achieving the changing pitch of the guitar (vibrato) took some time and he has since forgotten how to recreate the slide guitar sound. He also lamented that not writing down the process on the slide part has been “one of the banes of my life.”

Upon hearing the single, the record company, Rough Trade, didn’t think much of it and felt it didn’t represent The Smiths’ sound. Plans for the song as an A-side were thrown out and it became a B-side to the 1984 single “William, It Was Really Nothing.” Despite this, the song was picked up by British DJs and later that year was the most requested song on many prominent shows. Although it failed to chart upon its initial release, it wasn’t until its re-release as a single in 1985 that it made the UK charts (reaching #24).

The US release of the song, by Sire Records, was accompanied by an unauthorized video. The band was not a fan of the video and thought it was degrading. Regardless, it gave the band great exposure in the US and helped make it their most famous song. The track has gone on to make numerous lists of best songs of the eighties, topping some lists as the greatest song. Although it might not be the greatest representation of The Smiths’ “sound,” it definitely earned all the accolades and its place in the annals of best and most influential songs of the decade.

 

“Our Lips Are Sealed” has the distinction of being a hit by two different artists within two years. The song was first recorded by the Go-Go’s for their 1981 debut album Beauty and the Beat, and then by Fun Boy Three two years later for their second album Waiting. The Go-Go’s version reached the top 20 in the US, while the Fun Boy Three version made the top 10 in the UK. The song was co-written by Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s and Terry Hall from Fun Boy Three. It arose out of a brief affair between Wiedlin and Hall while the Go-Go’s were supporting Fun Boy Three on a US tour. Hall had a girlfriend at the time and sent the unfinished lyrics to Wiedlin who finished the song and wrote the music. Quite different from the upbeat Go-Go’s version, the Fun Boy Three version is gloomy and dark with an almost ominous feel. The video has Hall at his morose best while amongst an audience of bopping club goers.

 

Thirty years ago today, the single “Do They Know It’s Christmas” was released. For a child of the eighties, and a British new wave music fan, it was an amazing moment in history. The biggest names on the UK music scene coming together to record one song, on one day, for Ethiopian famine relief. I recall the buzz around the release of the song and, of course, the video. I waited patiently for MTV to finally play the world premiere of the video and it didn’t disappoint. Besides being made for a good cause, the song was also catchy and embodied the spirit of new wave music at the time – plenty of drum machines and synth. Written by Bob Geldof with Midge Ure of Ultravox providing the music, it was also unlike any charity single before with intentionally dark lyrics made to grab attention.

Originally inspired by a BBC documentary on the famine plight in Ethiopia, Geldof felt compelled to do something to combat what he was witnessing. With the help of Ure, he quickly put together a plan for a charity single. (Although Geldof received most of the credit for the undertaking, it was Ure that recorded, mixed, and ensured that the actual session went smoothly). The song was recorded in one day at Sarm West Studios and released four days later. It was the biggest selling single in UK at the time and reached #1 and stayed there for five weeks. The song didn’t reach #1 in the US, only peaking at #13 on the Billboard charts.

With media in place, the artists began arriving at 9am that morning – Duran Duran, George Michael, Paul Young, Phil Collins, Spandau Ballet, members of U2, Status Quo, Ultravox, Culture Club, Heaven 17, Marilyn (although not having been invited), among several others. After noticing that Boy George was absent, Geldof had to quickly arrange for a Concorde transatlantic flight to get him from New York. In order to get all members involved, the chorus was recorded first and then Ure had to have someone volunteer to sing the body of the song. Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet bravely took the challenge and was followed by singers that had already been assigned lyrics.

Although appearing cheery in disposition, many of the musicians arrived with hangovers and many a drug and alcohol were consumed to keep the musicians going through the all-day session. There were small feuds that were put aside – Boy George continually trying to out George Michael and rivalries amongst some of the bands. There were also some who questioned the lyrics. Bono had some concerns over the line “Tonight thank god it’s them instead of you” and was convinced by Geldof that the lyrics had to be brutal in order to be effective.

Other musicians who were not able to make it to the session but contributed to the b-side were David Bowie, Paul McCartney, members of Big Country and Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The opening lines of the song sung by Paul Young were originally intended for Bowie. Since the original recording, the song has been rerecorded several times with different musicians and for different causes, the latest the fight against Ebola, but in my opinion nothing comes close to the original.

 

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.

 

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.

 

When I started going to dance clubs in the late ’80s, I’d regularly pester the deejays to play The Damned‘s “Alone Again Or.” It never failed to elicit the best goth moves from the dance floor. A remake of the 1967 song by the group Love, it’s quite faithful to the original version. (The band acknowledged Love as one of their influences). The single is off the album Anything, released in 1986. It didn’t have any chart success in the US, but hit #27 on the UK charts. The video is a surreal mix of desert landscape, horses, motorcycles, trucks, and flamenco dancers.