All posts filed under: Lost in the ’80s

spandau-ballet

FILM REVIEW: “Spandau Ballet – Soul Boys Of The Western World”

I will make no apologies for what I am about to say:  I loved Spandau Ballet and I still think their albums – especially the first two – are classics of the early ’80’s.  From the moment I first heard “To Cut A Long Story Short” in ’80, ’81, I was a fan.  Granted, as time went by and their albums didn’t seem to have the same quality (I seemed to stop paying attention around Through The Barricades), they faded from my memory – and it seems from a lot of other peoples, as well as the charts.  Certainly, aside from the success of “True” and “Gold”, they didn’t have the same star-factor as they did elsewhere.  Nonetheless, as the ’80’s ended, it seemed so did Spandau.  I’d heard over the years about their self-inflicted lawsuit against songwriter Gary Kemp; there were bits and pieces but no band, so they seemed to be a relic of the ’80’s. In 2009, it was announced the band were reforming for a British tour and a new compilation …

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ALBUM REVIEW: The Bangles, “Ladies And Gentlemen… The Bangles” (download only)

Having been a fan of The Bangles from the moment I first heard “The Real World” sometime in late ’82, I was always curious-to-irritated as to why the five song E.P., which was originally released by Faulty Products, then re-issued by I.R.S. Records (the parent label) was never put on CD – never included in any Bangles compilations and so on.  Certainly, “The Real World” was an instant classic and to me, the track that put The Bangles on the map.  So since the advent of compact discs and then digital, those five songs from their earlier, more garage/”Paisley Underground”-era have been missing in action – that period when the delightful Annette Zilinskas played bass and The Bangles were on the road with the likes of The English Beat and R.E.M. Happy to say that The (re-formed) Bangles have seen fit to finally issue those five great songs, along with some other gems and lost treasures on a new download compilation, Lades And Gentlemen…  The Bangles, through their own resurrected DownKiddie imprint.  This “album” includes …

Lost in the ’80s: Fields of the Nephilim

My colleague John Hughes has graciously let me take the wheel today for this edition of Lost in the ’80s. Fields of the Nephilim were the gothedelic deathrock cowboys of the apocalypse – dressed in cobwebby dusters, cowboy hats, and spurs – they delivered a string of singles and three solid albums before riding off into the sunset. (Sorry!) To achieve their trail-worn appearance, the Nephs famously rolled around in piles of flour. To dust their dusters, as it were. According to legend, they were late for a gig when a local constable raised an eyebrow at their suspicious sack of King Arthur all-purpose.

Lost in the ’80s: Culture Club, “Mistake No. 3”

It must have sucked to be a non-Boy George member of Culture Club.  Well, except for Jon Moss, who was actually sucking a member of Culture Club.  Okay, cheap shot.  But seriously, here you are, finally realizing your dreams of being in a hugely popular rock band and, to paraphrase Roy Hay in the group’s Behind the Music special, you’re stuck in the middle of a gay soap opera. Besides the lead singer and drummer having screaming fits in hotel hallways, you’d also have to deal with the pressure of your label demanding a third album of original material in as many years.  And to top it all off, your singer and visual focal point of the band has become a raging coke head.  Is it any wonder your third album was a comparative failure to the first two? Culture Club’s Waking up with the House on Fire was aptly named, since the band was in a shambling mess of an emergency.  After their first two multi-platinum smashes and several hit singles, expectations were extremely …

Lost in the ’80s: The Fixx, “Deeper and Deeper”

The most rock-radio acceptable of the new-wave acts (with the possible exception of the Cars and the Police), the Fixx were always unfairly slammed as a producer’s band, the mere playthings of Rupert Hine, who buffed their angular, jagged sound to an airwaves-friendly sheen. I never quite understood how this was considered an insult — why should the Fixx feel slighted because they found a great producer who knew what to do with them? Isn’t that the point of a producer? By 1984 the partnership had borne two gold albums, one platinum album, three Top 40 hits, and a few AOR staples. In fact the Fixx and Hine were producing material at such a quick clip that one of their better songs ended up as a cut on the Streets of Fire soundtrack (which was discussed here) as well as the B-side on Phantoms’s first single, “Are We Ourselves?” “Deeper and Deeper” was an oddity on that 1984 film’s soundtrack alongside overwrought Jim Steinman productions and Dan Hartman’s schlocky “I Can Dream About You.” A …

Lost in the ’80s: Freddie Mercury, “Love Kills”

In 1984, famed disco producer Giorgio Moroder got it into his head that Fritz Lang’s silent 1927 masterpiece Metropolis needed to be restored with colored tint, a new edit, and heck, a new soundtrack filled with the hottest pop and rock artists of the day.  And who else to produce that soundtrack than, say, Giorgio Moroder? With a line-up including Pat Benatar, Jon Anderson, Adam Ant, Bonnie Tyler, Billy Squier and, er, Loverboy, all produced by Moroder, the Metropolis soundtrack could have been a train wreck for the ages.  Strangely enough though, it’s a pretty compelling listen, as Moroder pushes these artists into new places, while they return the favor for the sequencer-obsessed Italian.  The best-known and probably best song on the set was Queen frontman Freddie Mercury’s “Love Kills,” (download) which was released as a single and video to promote the reissued movie.  Continuing the electronic experimentation Queen dabbled with on The Works, released that same year, “Love Kills” would have sat nicely on that album right next to “Radio Ga Ga.”

Lost in the ’80s: The Unforgiven, “I Hear the Call”

It never hurt to have a visual hook to get on MTV in the ’80s.  From Bananrama and Dexys Midnight Runners’ hobo-chic, to Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran’s new romantic ruffles, a cool gimmick was sometimes all a band needed to get them over some middling material. This was certainly the case with the Unforgiven, a power-pop/alterna-country/cowpunk act from California’s Inland Empire.  Dressed up in their best Western gear, the group emerged from the ashes of a more straight-ahead Cali punk act, the Stepmothers.  A little U2, a little Alarm, and a lot of look, the Unforgiven signed to Elektra Records and immediately set out to get their visual inspiration, Clint Eastwood, to direct their first video – a move they’d soon regret. According to the bio on their website, the group had their agents at CAA send Eastwood a copy of their album in an effort to secure his directorial duties for their lead single, “I Hear The Call.” (download) Clint politely declined, but kept the album and allegedly ripped off the cover photo, …

Lost in the ’80s: Ultravox

The recent release of a cleaned up and remastered Ultravox greatest hits compilation (including a bonus DVD with all the Midge Ure-era videos) got me thinking about how much I used to love this band, despite their being so serious all the time. Despite hooks and squiggly synths galore, Ultravox seemed to be consumed with capital-A Art.  From the somewhat pretentious nature of their lyrics (“The Voice,” “Vienna,” “The Thin Wall,” etc., etc.), to the lavish and sumptuously shot videos, the group seemed to always be on a quest to make a grand statement.  The lighter side of Ultravox’s talent seemed to be saved for Ure and Billy Curry’s work with Visage, the New Romantic vehicle for Blitz Kid Steve Strange.  But thankfully, every so often Ultravox would prove they weren’t completely devoid of humor or whimsy. To be fair, they proved this pretty early during the Ure era with “All Stood Still,” (download) the fourth single from Vienna, the band’s first album to feature Midge.  Copping Devo right down to the simply Mothersbaugh-esque vocals …

Lost in the ’80s: Thompson Twins

There are certain acts and albums I absolutely adored in my younger days in the ’80s that I don’t quite care for now. One of these groups is the Thompson Twins, the New Wave trio that broke into the charts big time with the 1984 single “Hold Me Now” and its album, Into The Gap.  As a high-school sophomore, I wore out my copy of Gap, but I really loved their 1982 effort, Side Kicks, which featured “Lies” and “Love On Your Side.” But while Side Kicks still holds some appeal, I really could go the rest of my life never hearing “Hold Me Now” or “Doctor, Doctor” again.  So, when I came across the new, deluxe remastered editions of both albums that came out late last year, I didn’t exactly rush to purchase Into The Gap.  But after staring at for a few months each time I went to the record store (remember those?) I finally broke down and bought it.  And I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it.  Again. “Sister …

Lost in the ’80s: Wide Boy Awake

Here’s an example of a great song that couldn’t be confined to a B-side. Wide Boy Awake was Adam & the Ants bassist Kevin Mooney’s first project after splitting from the Ants following 1980’s Kings of the Wild Frontier. While his new group only released a handful of tracks, two became club hits, one of which is still fondly remembered and played on “retro” club nights to this day. “Chicken Outlaw” (1982) was not that song.  It was, however, the first official Wide Boy Awake single and did fairly well in the UK, charting decently and getting the band on a few TV shows where they mimed the song in the usual fashion. It also got some scant airplay on new-wave radio stations and in progressive clubs in America, but it wasn’t exactly the group’s best tune. Wide Boy Awake’s best song was hidden on “Chicken Outlaw’s” flip side, just waiting to be spun: “Slang Teacher” is a funky new-wave number that couldn’t be denied, as club DJs gladly flipped the disc to spin this …

Lost in the ’80s: Peter Godwin, “Baby’s in the Mountains”

We’ve talked about Peter Godwin’s great lost art-rock combo, Metro, in a Lost in the ’70s post in the not-too-distant past, but most people who have a passing knowledge of Godwin’s work are probably most familiar with his 1982 single and MTV hit, “Images of Heaven.” While “Images of Heaven” wasn’t exactly a huge radio hit (it peaked at #105 on the Billboard “Bubbling Under” chart), the video got a few spins on MTV and many more in video bars and clubs with its more “adult” edit. “Images of Heaven” has gone on to become a new-wave favorite, popping up on a few ’80s compilations here and there, most notably as part of Rhino Records’ essential Just Can’t Get Enough series. Not as immediate as “Images,” it took me quite a while to warm to Godwin’s next single, “Baby’s in the Mountains” (download). In fact, it’s one of those songs I never really cared for when it was originally out, but I grew to appreciate it as the years went on. That pre-chorus is something …

Lost in the ’80s: Shakespears Sister, “Break My Heart/Run Silent”

When Siobahn Fahey left Bananarama in 1988, most people probably never expected to hear from her again.  For Fahey to return to music with a goth look fronting a Siouxsie Sioux-influenced dance/electro combo was probably the most unexpected thing of all.  But in 1988, Fahey’s solo project, Shakespear’s Sister (originally with an apostrophe, later without) released its debut album, Sacred Heart, and single, “Break My Heart.” A double A-side in the UK (teamed with “Heroine,” the first US single), “Break My Heart (Copa Mix)” (download) failed to chart.  It didn’t do much better as the second US single, but a nice remix made some minor club noise and the video was pretty to look at: I much preferred the 12-inch’s B-side, “Run Silent (Revolution Mix)” (download) that featured saving grace Marcella Detroit, who would soon become a full-fledged member of the band, making Shakespears Sister a duo.  The dance mix featured above is a driving alternative to the equally fine, if calmer album mix used in the video.

Lost in the ’80s: Total Coelo

As much as I adore the inherent goofiness that is new wave — the guyliner, the overwrought posing, the one-finger keyboard technique — sometimes I must admit some acts come dangerously close to goofy overload, camping it up far too much for even my appreciative sensibilities. Luckily, Total Coelo are not one of those acts (ha, fooled ya). A quintet of five marginally talented females wrapped in plastic bags and latex, Toto Coelo (rechristened “Total” Coelo in the United States to prevent any confusion with Toto — like that would happen) took their name from the Latin for “Heaven wide.” While the trashy, tongue-in-cheek material producer Barry Blue provided for the ladies was anything but heavenly, they had a Showgirls-level charm that laid the foundation for the Spice Girls. Their goofy apex had to be their only charting hit in the U.S., “I Eat Cannibals Part 1” (download), which contains the immortal lyrics: All I wanna do is make a meal of you We are what we eat, you’re my kind of meat Got a …

Lost in the ’80s: Devo, “That’s Good”

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  How can one of Devo’s most famous songs outside of “Whip It” be Lost in the ’80s?  How can a song whose video was in heavy rotation back in the day be considered a lost classic? Because I write this column and I said so, that’s why. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about this classic single.  While long-time Devotees may have blanched at the abandonment of guitars and real drums, synthpop fans rejoiced as the sequencers and squiggly keys joined forces with the programmed Linn drum in this ode to stuff that’s, well, good.  Reaction to Oh No, It’s Devo (the album from which it was pulled) was nearly universally thumbs-down.  The first single, “Peek-a-boo,” flopped, despite an inventive video that MTV played into the ground (after some light censorship of animated french fries entering donuts, of course).  Devo was struggling with their label Warner Brothers over promotion, but the label did pony up for another single and a video to promote it. They even …

Lost in the ’80s: Carly Simon, “Why”

Before singer/songwriter Carly Simon attempted to fully embrace the excess of the ’80s with a misguided stab at New Wave, she released this single in 1982 from the soundtrack of the forgotten flick “Soup For One.”  While it made nary a peep on the pop charts in America, it’s still fondly remembered as a dance floor classic, as well as a U.K. Top Ten hit. “Why” (download) was written and produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards as Chic and came at a time when both Chic’s and Simon’s careers had cooled a bit.  A laid back (is that redundant) reggae shuffle set to an after-hours disco beat, “Why” was certainly a departure for Simon, more noted for strummy guitar-based meditations than morning music vibes.  While her normal fanbase and Top 40 radio steered clear, the Chic cachet made it a huge hit in club land, becoming a standard in many post 1 a.m. DJ sets, especially with the slightly sped up and more percussive extended version (download) (which is damn hard to track down, …

Lost in the ’80s: The Tubes and Olivia Newton-John (?!)

All right, let me stop all you young ‘uns right there — 1980’s Xanadu is not a great movie, a lost treasure, or an overlooked masterpiece of fun. It’s a dreadful film, downright boring in parts, somewhat laughable in others, but not quite laughable enough to deserve the “campy cult classic” tag it’s earned through the years. But the soundtrack — well, it was stellar enough to keep the brand alive for nearly 30 years and even give the film new life as an intentionally campy Broadway musical in 2007. We all know the Olivia Newton-John hits and ELO classics from the album, but one number is my favorite, and it’s my pick for quite possibly the first mash-up ever. “Dancin’” (download) was the unlikely fusion of Newton-John doing her best multitracked Andrew Sisters imitation and a newly new-wave Tubes, ditching their arena art-rock pretensions for a stab at stadium-pop glory. Starting off as a big-band swing number, “Dancin’” segues into a borderline date-rape ode to having “it all my way,” with a kick-ass vocal …

Lost in the ’80s: Les Rita Mitsouko

French duo Fred Chichin and Catherine Ringer met at a theater production in the late ’70s and an instant musical bond was formed, one that took them from rock to synthpop and back again.  Recording under the name Les Rita Mitsouko, the duo found success in Europe and eventually scored an American record deal with the stateside branch of their European label, Virgin.  In late 1986, The No Comprendo was released and its first single, “Andy” (download) became a bit of an underground dance hit, with Ringer’s over-the-top vocals (she basically sounds like every crazy rock chick ever, from Nina Hagen to Bjork) and Chichin’s funky guitar fighting for supremacy. While “Andy” was burning up the dance floor, it was the video for “C’est Comme Ça” (download) that most people remember.  MTV’s 120 Minutes played the hell out of the inventive clip, and Happy Mondays completely swiped the video a year later for their “Step On” clip:

Lost in the ’80s: Face To Face, “10-9-8”

Big things were planned for Boston’s Face To Face in 1984.  Signed to Epic, the New Wave group was pushed heavily by the label as the next big music sensation.  The band was featured as the backing group in the movie musical Streets of Fire, with lead singer Laurie Sargent providing the singing voice for Diane Lane’s character.  Meantime, the band’s self-titled debut and first single, “10-9-8” (download) began climbing the charts, complete with a video in heavy rotation on MTV: A funny thing happened on the way to multi-platinum superstardom, though – their big hit single peaked at a puny #38, despite the promotional push.  Things could have looked up as a second single, “Under the Gun,” (download) was released.  A dancier number complete with a rap, “Under the Gun” was a personal favorite and once again MTV picked up on the video: But despite a 12″ remix that charted fairly high in the clubs, “Under the Gun” failed to cross over and soon Face To Face were facing a tough time on the …

Lost in the ’80s: Jules Shear, “Whispering Your Name”

I gave Jules a quick once-over a little over three years ago, so I think it’s high time I spotlighted another track of Shear beauty, this one from his stellar solo debut, Watch Dog. Bearing the distinctive production stamp of Todd Rundgren as well as guitar work from Elliot Easton, Watch Dog is one of the shining gems of 1983, or as it’s more commonly known around these parts, the Best Year for Music Ever! Besides featuring “All Through the Night,” later a top-five hit for Cyndi Lauper, Watch Dog is jam-packed with hooks and memorable tunes like “I Need It” and “She’s in Love Again.” It’s a damn shame it was only on CD for a fifth of a second; used copies, should you ever be able to find one, run upwards of $100 or more. The brightest moment on the album has to be its opener, the heartbreaking “Whispering Your Name” (download), the story of a man who discovers his lover still has another in her heart thanks to her sleeptalking. Here’s where …

Lost in the ’80s: Dexys Midnight Runners

A quickie today, folks – I’m getting ready to move in with my betrothed, and I’m currently surrounded by boxes of stuff.  Moving is such a hassle, but I can’t forget you, faithful reader!  So, howzabout covering one of the biggest one-hit wonders of the ’80s? I’ve always wondered why Dexys Midnight Runners were unable to follow up the #1 success of “Come On Eileen.”  I mean, it’s not like Too-Rye-Ay was lacking in potential singles.  The classic album was brimming with hooks, but of course, Dexys U.S. label chose “The Celtic Soul Brothers” (download) as “Eileen’s” follow-up, a single which flopped at #45 upon its initial release in the U.K. (it would later chart much higher after being re-released in “Come On Eileen’s” wake).  While it’s a great tune, much in the same spirit as the massive hit that preceded it, it wasn’t the best choice. A better choice would have been “Eileen’s” follow-up in the U.K., a remake of Van Morrison’s “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile),” (download) which hit …

Lost in the ’80s: Paul McCartney, “So Bad”

Oh, some things just write themselves, don’t they? I kid, I kid. “So Bad” is an overlooked little gem from the Paul catalog, released in the States as the follow-up to “Say Say Say,” his megahit duet with Michael Jackson. (Sorry to put that one in your head. Let’s get back to today’s subject, shall we?) “So Bad” (download) was taken from Paul’s Pipes of Peace LP (1983), which was mostly made up of leftover tracks from his previous effort, Tug of War (1982). As a result, it shares many traits with Tug, such as producer George Martin and some studio drummer named Ringo, of all things. Oh yeah, and Linda’s on it. Surprise! Okay, sorry again. That’s two cheap shots in one post about a song I actually quite like. I must be grumpy. The video for “So Bad” is sort of melancholy in light of Linda’s passing. She did the photography for all the posed shots surrounding the band, and that little freeze-frame of Mrs. McCartney winking and smiling near the end of …

Lost in the ’80s: The Wild Swans

This has been a week of happy endings for me, and I’m not referring to a trip to the massage parlor (this time). Y’see, twenty-odd years ago, I bought one of those awesome Sire Records compilations Just Say Yes, which featured a veritable who’s who of new wave/alternative rock in the late ’80s.  Amongst the Depeche Mode and Erasure remixes sat a song by The Wild Swans, a combo from Liverpool that had been kicking around in various forms since the dawn of the decade.  The Wild Swans were a little New Order, a little Echo & The Bunnymen (in fact, Bunny drummer Pete de Freitas produced their debut single), and a dash of every other jangle-rock band of the moment – Sire had a habit of signing a lot of bands that sort of blended together.  Isn’t that right Ocean Blue? In fact, vocalist/keyboardist Paul Simpson doesn’t have much good to say about his experience on Sire – from a 2004 interview: “Being on a major was just one compromise after another. To be …