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

lit80s

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, font and hell, the band’s name for his movie of the same name.  The band soldiered on and MTV jumped on the video anyway, for a brief moment at least:

Despite a decent song and a great look, the Unforgiven didn’t set the charts on fire and after releasing a single album, they went their separate ways.  They’ve kept a rabid fan base, however, and even saw their long out-of-print album finally released on CD in 2006.  It’s gone out of print yet again, though, so if you want one, I’d grab it now while it’s still going for $15.98 or so used.

“I Hear The Call” did not chart.

Get Unforgiven music at Amazon.




  • http://www.iblametheparentsrecords.com iblametheparent

    God, thought it was only me that bought these things in the 80s! I'm doing my new music listening image no good with these admissions.

  • http://www.iblametheparentsrecords.com iblametheparent

    Was trying to think of another band around this time produced by Todd Rundgren (thought it might have been this but Googling showed it was) Hunter. As I'm new to these blogs ever done Tubes (thinking of Todd), Red Rider or Trooper?

  • JohnHughes

    Trooper is definitely in the queue for Lost in the '70s and I've done a Tubes (with Olivia Newton-John!) recently – I imagine I'd get to “Love Bomb” eventually…

  • RoyBatty

    Ever interested in doing one on Irish rockers Therapy?…? They had a semi-hit, “Screamager” back around 1994. Great catchy, pop-punk with an edge.

  • JohnHughes

    Yes! That's a good one, thank you!

  • RoyBatty

    Awesome. Look forward to it. The boys have been so criminally ignored in the US, it would be great to see them get a little love!

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    Love Bomb! Saw the Tubes on that tour (with Utopia as the openers). I remember loving that album. Time has changed my opinion of it somewhat since.

    Wow, I don't remember this song or video at all. I love videos of the Old West where everyone has '80s hair. Ooh, key change!

  • OJ Incandenza

    It's okay … I bought it thinking it sounded as much like Fields of the Nephilim as it looked.

    About ten seconds into “All Quiet on the Western Front” I realized it emphatically didn't.

    Never thought of there as being any Alarm in there either, but damned if it ain't pretty obvious from this track.

  • http://garagerock.wordpress.com edmur

    The Tubes / Utopia opening? Wow, that brings me back…that was one of the first shows I saw at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom (NH) waaaaaaay back in the day.

  • http://www.iblametheparentsrecords.com iblametheparent

    Ahh. Xanadu…

  • http://www.jonathanrundman.com/ Jonathan Rundman

    I love this album. Bought it after seeing the “I Hear the Call” video on MTV and it was a major part of the soundtrack of my teenage years. Truly amazing guitar playing by Johnny Hickman, who went on to play with Cracker.

  • http://www.jonathanrundman.com/ Jonathan Rundman

    I love this album. Bought it after seeing the “I Hear the Call” video on MTV and it was a major part of the soundtrack of my teenage years. Truly amazing guitar playing by Johnny Hickman, who went on to play with Cracker.

  • http://www.jonathanrundman.com/ Jonathan Rundman

    I love this album. Bought it after seeing the “I Hear the Call” video on MTV and it was a major part of the soundtrack of my teenage years. Truly amazing guitar playing by Johnny Hickman, who went on to play with Cracker.

  • Ron smith

    My dad was in this video, we owned the horses they rode in the video. His name was Hondo Smith. Still love the video and song father all these years!!!