Posts Tagged ‘1983’

New Zealand electronic '80s band Car Crash SetNew Zealand wasn’t known for producing many electronic acts in the eighties, and perhaps that’s why Car Crash Set slipped under the radar. It’s unfortunate, because during their short existence, from ’83 to ’86, the Auckland act turned out some pretty great music. Their sound has been described as experimental Human League with an occasional venture into “New Order-esque amalgamations of guitar and synths.” The song “Toys” is off the 1983 LP We’ll Do Our Best, a compilation of bands from New Zealand. It’s also included on the compilation LP Join The Car Crash Set, released in 2008.

Ice the Falling Rain were a short-lived English band that played synth-driven new wave. The group was founded by former members of the aggro punk band Violators. Taking a sharp turn from their punk roots, the 1983 single “Lifes Illusion” is pure, infectious synthpop. This was the only output by the band, as they disbanded soon after its release.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Not many recording groups can say they played live only a handful of times in their whole existence, but System 56 was one of those bands. They were referred to as the Howard Hughes of bands, since they only performed live five times. I came across the band only recently, as I continue on my never-ending quest for obscure new wave bands. I was really surprised to discover that they are American, as they have a sound very similar to early ‘80s new wave bands from the UK. Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, they were another band that had an all-too early demise. Fortunately, in their short career, they released some pretty great songs.

Founded by guitarist and lead vocalist Steve Simenic in 1981, the group was often compared to Ultravox. This was primarily due to their ability to create a seamless mix of synth and guitar-driven music. As for the lack of live performances, this was mainly caused by a revolving-door of band members over their three-year run. It seems when new material was released, internal conflict arose and members left. At one point the band was down to two members. Nevertheless, local radio stations, especially college radio, gave the band generous airplay. In all, the band released three singles and one 6-song EP, 1982’s Beyond the Parade. In 2003, a compilation of the group’s music was released, Retrospective: 1982-1984, which contains some previously unreleased material.

The song Metro-Metro was the first single released by the band. It was recorded within a month of the group’s formation. It’s a synth-dominated track with a driving rhythm and signature guitar work. Every time I put this song on a playlist, someone rarely fails to ask “who is this?”

 

In 1983, the band released the single “Life on a Cool Curve.” It perfectly showcases the band’s adeptness at merging synth and guitar. They would go on to release one more single in 1984. Later that year, they disbanded.

 

Like many, I was first introduced to The Plimsouls through the 1983 movie Valley Girl. They appeared as a club house band in the film, where three of their songs were featured. (If only I were so lucky to have had them as the house band at my regular haunt back in the day). The group’s dynamic power pop, garage sound was hard to resist. Well-known on the thriving L.A. music scene for their energetic lives shows, they seemed primed for bigger things but it was not meant to be. Unfortunately, the band disbanded in the mid ’80s due to solo career pursuits.

The group was formed by singer/songwriter Peter Case in California in 1978, after toiling around in two previous bands. They quickly became favorites on the early ‘80s L.A. club scene, and Case was gaining critical attention for his songwriting. They released their first EP in 1980, Zero Hour, which showed promise and received heavy airplay on the legendary L.A. KROQ radio station. Their first album, 1981’s The Plimsouls, managed to capture the vitality of their live shows but had poor sales. They would go on to record the 1983 LP Everywhere At Once, before parting ways due to Case’s pursuit of a solo career. They did reunite in the mid ‘90s and released the album Kool Trash but it received little notice. Case found some success as a folk-rock artist and continues to tour to this day.

Featured prominently in Valley Girl, “A Million Miles Away” was the song that propelled the band into the spotlight. With no record contract in place, the band self-funded the single. After the song was selected for the movie soundtrack, and with a new contract with Geffen, they quickly re-recorded and included on the Everywhere At Once LP.

 

The song “Everywhere At Once” is the reason I bought the cassette of the LP, and played it to ruin. It also appears in the Valley Girl film. From the first guitar chords I was hooked. The song then builds to a rousing, almost perfect power pop anthem.

 

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.

 

“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.

 

It’s time to post more cold war videos. As I had mentioned in a previous post on the subject, the ‘80s were filled with videos of nuclear war, nuclear bombs, and world annihilation. During the early ‘80s, the threat of war was an integral part of our lives. We saw it on TV, read about it in the papers, heard about it in songs – and there was no shortage of songs on the topic. So here are a few more videos about the dreaded destruction of the planet that poured out of our television sets at the time.

“Stand or Fall” is the first single off the The Fixx’s 1982 debut album Shuttered Room. Singer Cy Cumin wrote the song out of frustration over decisions being made by Ronnie and Margaret. The video, directed by Rupert Hine, was banned by some UK shows due to what some considered a violent depiction of a horse falling to the ground. The horse in question had been in several movies and was trained to fall on command. As luck would have it, on the day the video was shot the horse would not comply with the command to fall and was brought down by a rope. In the early days of pre-MTV Europe, most videos were shown on kids’ TV shows and this was deemed too graphic, as they felt the horse looked as if it was dying. The song charted both in the US and the UK but was particularly successful in Canada, reaching the top 40.

 

The video for the 1983 Men at Work song “It’s a Mistake” doesn’t ponder the question of whether or not war will take place but a matter of when and how. Meant as a parody of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, the video takes place in an underground bunker as the future of the world is considered. The song was the third single from the album Cargo and reached #6 in the US but only reached #34 in their native Australia. In the video, Colin Hay portrays an officer wondering whether or not his men will be called to go to war. The video ends with Hay accidentally pushing the “button” by stubbing out a cigarette in an ashtray unfortunately placed next to the button.

 

Although the OMD song “Enola Gay” references the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, it was meant to bring attention to the cold war of the ‘80s. The song was the only single released from the 1980 album Organisation, the group’s second album. Upon its release, “Enola Gay” received critical praise. Critic Dave Thompson called the track a “perfect synth-dance-pop extravaganza” and NME listed it as one of the best 100 songs of the ‘80s. The song also caused controversy as some who were unfamiliar with the bombing of Hiroshima thought it had a pro-homosexual meaning. As a result, the song was banned on some radio stations in the UK. Regardless, the song was a huge international success and became the group’s first top 10 UK hit.

 

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.

 

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.

 

In looking up early live performances from R.E.M., I came across their appearance on Late Night with David Letterman in 1983. It was their first national TV appearance, and the performance was quite raw and contained no shortage of enthusiasm. Besides performing two songs, they also gave a mini-interview. Michael Stipe, known for his shyness, sat quietly in the background while Mike Mills and Peter Buck handled Letterman. They started with “Radio Free Europe” and finished with a song that was so new it did not yet have a name. It would later evolve into “So. Central Rain,” which would later show up on their second album, Reckoning.

Here’s the band performing “Radio Free Europe,” with Michael Stipe hiding behind his hair and Peter Buck doing his signature shuffle.

 

The yet untitled “So. Central Rain.”

 

Side note: This November, R.E.M. will release a 6-DVD box set (REMTV) that spans 30 years of live TV and concert performances.