The wordplay on the Eurythmics song for the title? Nice touch.
The road between the initial concept of Drink A Toast To Innocence, A Tribute To Lite Rock was pretty long, but the time between that Here Comes The Reign Again didn’t appear to be long at all. What caused you to jump back in so quickly?
There were a variety of factors that made me want to dive right back in. The simplest explanation is that I just had a bunch of fun putting Drink A Toast To Innocence together, and I wanted to keep the good times rolling. But there were some practical considerations as well. First, I had a small window of availability with a few of the musicians, and I knew that if I didn’t act quickly, I’d likely miss the chance to have them involved. Artists like Mike Doughty and Rachael Yamagata were already working on other things, so I knew they’d have studio time (not to mention a recording mindset) to devote to my project right then and there. I knew that once they had their own projects to finish and promote, I would have a harder time finding my way on to their calendars. With that in mind, I dove right in.
Chronologically, it makes sense to move from a 70s pop form to an 80s pop form. Yet I don’t think people would have immediately considered the next project would focus on European acts. Why did you decide to take that direction?
When I was researching the Lite Rock record, I wanted to make sure that the songs fit together well. So I tried to pinpoint the specific time frame that was the heyday for these songs. After a period of narrowing things down, I decided that the Lite Rock songs I wanted to focus on had their peak years on the American charts from about 1976-1982. Once I had the era defined for my purposes, I started thinking about what sorts of things led to the end of Lite Rock’s chart success. What happened in 1982, specifically, that would lead to bands like Ambrosia and Little River Band finding themselves shut out of the music scene? Obviously, tastes change. So that was part of it. But the other thing that happened in 1982 was the emergence of MTV, which really became a cultural force. And, with all due respect, Randy VanWarner and Robbie Dupree just were not built for MTV.
As I thought of ideas for a follow up to Drink A Toast To Innocence, I knew that I wanted to do something that had more of a specific theme than just “Early MTV.” Were there sub-genres that were particularly important to the rise of the channel? It didn’t take long to hit upon the fact that dozens of new British acts were finding big success on MTV. And there were so many of them that had hits in those days, that I knew a compilation could be put together without any trouble. I didn’t even have to repeat artists. (As with the Lite Rock comp, I had a strict “one-song-per-original-artist” rule.) After that, the compilation to shape fairly easily.
Give us a rundown of the songs that are being covered here…
There were really two parts to the Second British Invasion. There was the alternative side, which included bands like The Smiths, XTC, Aztec Camera. These were bands with sizeable fan bases in the United States, but who were not cracking the Billboard charts. Casey Kasem wasn’t making any room on his show for “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” or “Making Plans For Nigel.” And while MTV would play these acts on occasion, it was usually on their specialty shows like 120 Minutes. As much as I love those songs and bands, I consciously decided to make my project more about the Top 40 side of the Invasion. Bands like Duran Duran, Culture Club and Human League were obvious choices. Then, I started focusing on the bands that maybe only had one or two hits, but those hits were so iconic and representative of the era that including them was an easy decision. So artists like The Dream Academy and Nik Kershaw were included. Not every song had to be a massive hit. (“Life’s What You Make It” by Talk Talk got to #90 on the American Charts. “Only You” by Yaz hit #67.) But they did have to be representative of the sound and the vibe of the movement as a whole.
Some of the artists from the first collection are returning for the new one. Who are they?
Returning artists include Mike Viola, Kelly Jones, The Davenports, Linus Of Hollywood, Bleu, Cliff Hillis, and Eytan Mirsky,
Likewise, there are some new names that have signed on to this project. Who and what songs are they handling?
There are lots of great new people I’m working with this time. Names include Mike Doughty (doing Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax”), Rachael Yamagata (Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me”) Tracy Bonham (Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”, Freedy Johnston (Naked Eyes’ “Promises, Promises”), Fountains of Wayne’s Chris Collingwood (Dream Academy’s “Life In A Northern Town”), The Posies’ Ken Stringfellow (The Blow Monkeys’ “Digging Your Scene”), and David Mead (Duran Duran’s “Save A Prayer”). Power pop fans will certainly recognize other participating artists, including Taylor Locke, The Nines, The Wellingtons, and The Corner Laughers.
Was there an artist or band you thought you had zero chance of getting that, amazingly, wound up playing a part?
I’ve been a Freedy Johnston fan for more than twenty years. Sending him a request was mostly just so I could say that I did. So when he responded (and said yes) immediately, I was truly blown away. And having Freedy on board made it easier for me to sign other musical heroes of mine, like Chris Collingwood and Ken Stringfellow.
What are some of the lessons you may have learned from the first project that have come in handy for the second — some of those “if I knew then what I know now” moments…
Oh, all of them. Seriously. I can’t emphasize enough how much on-the-job learning I was doing during the first project. Beyond settling on a concept and making a dream line-up of musicians, I didn’t have the foggiest idea what had to happen next. Now I’m aware of all the legal and business aspects that have to be addressed. Those aren’t always the fun parts of a project like this, but they make up more than half of the time I devote to making everything happen.
There will be a crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter. What are some of the options that will be available to people when that goes live?
The project is up and running on Kickstarter now, and there are some fun offers available. The Corner Laughers have agreed to specially record any Second British Invasion song that’s not appearing on the comp. Eric Barao has designed and built a “Here Comes The Reign Again” guitar effects pedal. Mike Doughty has contributed copies of his 2012 memoir, The Book Of Drugs, along with his entire solo discography. Those are just a few of the great stuff that people can get if they pledge.
What stage of completion is the project at, at the moment?
All the tracks are in, and I’m working with the mastering engineer now. Artwork is designed and ready to go off to the manufacturer once funding is completed. I’ll license the songs at the end of the whole process.
The complete tracklist:
Life In A Northern Town – Chris Collingwood (Naked Eyes)
Do You Really Want To Hurt Me – Rachael Yamagata (Culture Club)
Save A Prayer – David Mead (Duran Duran)
Dancing With Myself – Taylor Locke (Billy Idol)
Promises, Promises – Freedy Johnston (Naked Eyes)
Life’s What You Make It – The Nines (Talk Talk)
Everybody Wants To Rule The World – Mike Viola (Tears For Fears)
Relax – Mike Doughty (Frankie Goes To Hollywood)
Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) – Tracy Bonham (Eurythmics)
Goody Two Shoes – Jim Boggia & Pete Donnelly (Adam Ant)
Something About You – Kelly Jones (Level 42)
Every Time You Go Away – Linus Of Hollywood (Paul Young)
Digging Your Scene – Ken Stringfellow (The Blow Monkeys)
Don’t You Want Me – Chris Price (Human League)
They Don’t Know – Graham Alexander (Tracey Ullman)
Tainted Love – Eric Barao (Soft Cell)
Only You – The Wellingtons (Yazoo)
Cruel Summer – People On Vacation (Bananarama)
Tenderness – TeamMate (General Public)
Our House – The Corner Laughers (Madness)
West End Girls – Secret Friend (Pet Shop Boys)
Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Bleu (Simple Minds)
Freedom – The Davenports (Wham!)
Wouldn’t It Be Good – Cliff Hillis (Nik Kershaw)
Kids In America – Big-Box Store (Kim Wilde)
True – Minky Starshine (Spandau Ballet)
No One Is To Blame – Eytan Mirsky & Alyson Greenfield (Howard Jones)
To check out the Kickstarter campaign for this project, click here.