Posts Tagged ‘1981’

E80's post-punk band Wasted Youthvery once in a while you come across a song with a chorus that gets stuck in your head. Recently, for me that song is “Rebecca’s Room,” by London post-punk band Wasted Youth. I dare you to not be singing along with the chorus by the end of song. The single was produced by the legendary Martin Hannett, and released in 1981. The band had a short life, only active between the years ’79 to ’82, but attained cult status in Europe. Their music was very much on the darker Goth side but they could also knock out more upbeat catchy songs, as evidenced by “Rebecca’s Room.” After the band broke up in 1982, guitarist Rocco Barker moved on to Flesh for Lulu.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Advertisements

I had a group of friends over for an ‘80s high school movie night this past weekend. Not wanting to go the John Hughes movie route, I chose films not everyone in the group had seen. The playlist for the night consisted of songs solely from the movie soundtracks. The goal was to watch three movies but as conversation and music flowed, time got away and we only got in two movies. The first film up was Valley Girl (which has arguably the best teen movie soundtrack of the ‘80s) followed by Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to the final film on the agenda, The Last American Virgin. The film has a rather interesting soundtrack, where you’ll find arena rock songs alongside new wave classics and R&B love songs. I first came across the movie on late night cable TV, where my sister and I watched it more times than I care to mention.

A remake of an Israeli movie called Eskimo Limon (a.k.a as Lemon Popsicle), The Last American Virgin was released in 1982, within a month of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Unfairly dismissed as another teen romp akin to Porky’s, the film has since become a cult classic. Not to say the movie doesn’t have its share of raunch, which it certainly does, it also has some honest coming of age moments. It also has a surprising twist ending, that I won’t give away here. The soundtrack was promoted just as heavily as the movie, with good reason, as it includes songs from The Police, Human League, The Waitresses, Blondie, The Cars, Devo, U2, The Plimsouls, Oingo Boingo, REO Speedwagon, Journey, and the Commodores. I was really looking forward to screening the film for the group because if nothing else, they would have appreciated the soundtrack. Perhaps another ‘80s movie night might be in order.

Besides the heavy hitters, there were also some lesser known bands who contributed to the soundtrack, such as The Fortune Band. Formed in the late ‘70s, the band had some minor success in the early ‘80s and caught the attention of Columbia Records. They decided to include the band’s single “Airwaves” on the soundtrack. The song is a burst of new wave, power pop with plenty of catchy synth. The video for the song is a low-budget affair and has the band performing in a studio with plenty of cheesy visual effects.

 

The Gleaming Spires also appear on the soundtrack with their 1981 song “Are You Ready for the Sex Girls?” (The song also appears on the 1984 Revenge of the Nerds soundtrack). The song was intended to be a B-side but eventually became the group’s only hit. It’s a bouncy, novelty song that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Sparks’ album, a band they would later join. The video has singer Leslie Bohem and drummer David Kendrick making a pie, of all things. After his tenure with Sparks, Kendrick would later drum for Devo in the mid-eighties.

 

Like many, I discover new music through music blogs and social media. (There’s still nothing like coming across a great find). This is how I first heard of Modern Eon, a post-punk band out of Liverpool. A page I follow – The 80s Underground – posted their song “Euthenics.” I took a listen and immediately wanted to find out more about the group. It turns out that they were a short-lived band, producing a handful of singles and only one full-length album. It’s no wonder I’d never heard of them before. Their dark and atmospheric sound drew comparisons to Joy Division but the use of offbeat drum rhythms and bursts of electronics and horns gave them a sound all their own.

Founding members Alix Plain and Danny Hampson started the band in 1978. At the time they were called Luglo Slugs but after a few lineup and band name changes they decided on Modern Eon. The group gained a following within the “New Wave Liverpool Scene,” which produced other notable acts such as Echo & the Bunnymen, OMD, and The Teardrop Explodes. After some success with the EP “Pieces” and the single “Euthenics” (and after more lineup changes), they released their only album, Fiction Tales, in 1981. Although the album didn’t do well commercially, it did receive critical acclaim. Later that year they were set to tour with The Stranglers when drummer Chris Hewitt critically injured his wrist. They went on with the tour but eventually had to replace Hewitt with drum tracks. After Hewitt’s recovery, they recorded demos for a second album that were never completed. By the end of 1981, the group had disbanded. It’s unfortunate, since it would’ve been interesting to see how their music would have evolved.

The song “Euthenics,” originally released as a single in 1980, also appears on the Fiction Tales album. It’s a soaring, atmospheric song with Hewitt’s off-kilter drumming on full display, along with a shot of special effects they were known for. The band was a big fan of composer Ennio Morricone, and he was asked but declined to produce their album. You can definitely hear his influence on this song.

  

“Mechanic” is another single off the Fiction Tales album. It’s a more melodic song off the LP with a steady bassline and great guitar work by Tim Levers, who would later go on to find success with Dead or Alive.

 

I had some friends over last night to celebrate the music and films of David Bowie. The playlist spanned Bowie’s career from the early ‘70s to the 2010s. (It wasn’t easy narrowing down Bowie’s catalog to a three hour playlist). The movie we chose to watch was Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth. As we were discussing Bowie’s music in movies, someone mentioned a film I had never heard of – Christiane F. It’s a German film about a teen growing up in a bleak part of West Berlin in the mid-70s who falls in with a drug crowd and eventually becomes a heroin addict. Bowie provided the soundtrack for the movie and also appears in the film. One of the first things I did today was watch the movie on YouTube.

Based on the non-fiction book Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, the film is about a bored young girl sick of her uneventful life who finds excitement inside the walls of the Sound, a popular youth nightclub. While there she meets and falls in love with Detlev, a 15-year-old heroin addict who we later learn supports his habit by male prostitution. By age 14, Christiane is addicted to heroin and has also resorted to prostitution to feed her addiction. The movie, directed by Uli Edel, was released in 1981 and caused a sensation upon its release in Germany. Not only was the story shocking it also brought to light an epidemic of youth heroin addiction that was sweeping across Europe. The movie was also given a somewhat wide release in the US but didn’t make much of an impression, probably due to its grim subject matter.

With how much Bowie’s appearance in the film was promoted, I was surprised that he had so little to do with the storyline. Except for a live concert appearance (which seems somewhat out of place), his music is mostly used as a backdrop to the story. Most likely the studio was trying to cash in on Bowie’s popularity. Although the movie is set in the mid-70s, the soundtrack draws largely from Bowie’s Berlin trilogy recorded a couple of years later. As Christiane first enters the Sound, “Look Back in Anger” is blaring from the speakers, and “Boys Keep Swinging” is played during a gang fight prior to a Bowie concert (both songs from the 1979 Lodger album). Regardless, the music adds to the hopelessness and despair to one of the most disheartening movies I’ve seen in a while.

In the film, Bowie performs “Station to Station” off the self-titled album. Since Bowie was performing on Broadway at the time, some of the crew and cast members were brought over to New York City for filming. If I’m not mistaken, you can see the beginnings of his Let’s Dance look.

 

After Christiane meets some new friends at the Sound, they decide to have some fun by running, and falling, and wreaking general havoc in a subway station to Bowie’s “Heroes.”

 

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.

 

Merry Christmas from Billy Squier. “Christmas is the Time to say ‘I Love You'” performed in the MTV studio in December of ’81.

 

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.

 

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.

 

I’ve been a fan of the Eurythmics since their 1983 album Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), which I had mistakenly thought was their debut album. Little did I know that they had actually released their first album, In the Garden, two years prior. I came across the album in yet another search for overlooked new wave music. It turns out the album had very little chart success and had faded into obscurity. It was considered too experimental and didn’t quite find an audience at the time. Not released in the US until 2005, anyone who has an appreciation for electropop music from the early eighties will find this album well worth listening to.

Co-produced by electronic music pioneer Conny Plank, the album is a mix of brooding electronic and psychedelic sounds. The duo had worked with Plank in their previous band, The Tourists, which they left to form the Eurythmics in 1980. Feeling that a fixed band line-up was stifling them creatively, they wanted to form a project that would allow for more experimentation with “electronics and the avant-garde.” They determined that they would be the only permanent members of the group and would collaborate with others musicians based on how compatible they were with their musical vision.

“Never Gonna Cry Again” was the first single from the album, and the first video by the Eurythmics. It’s a moody song with what is described as a reggae-style baseline, which new wave artists were experimenting with at time. The song also features a rare performance on flute by Annie Lennox.

 

Considered one of the album’s more accessible songs, “Belinda” was a commercial failure. It’s one of my favorites from the album and is included regularly on my playlists.