In 1985, a bunch of my best fag hags and I went to see Adam Ant in concert at the Cleveland Music Hall. It was far from a sold-out show, as Adam was on the downslide, supporting the Vive Le Rock album that was basically DOA in the States (although I dug it). As empty as the 3,000-seat theater was during the headlining act, it was nearly desolate earlier when the opening act took the stage.
It was a quintet dressed all in black, playing equally dark music with strange synth tones, scratchy guitar and sardonic, almost spoken-word vocals. It took a few minutes and a few bars of their current single “Far Side of Crazy” for me to figure out this was the new, Stan Ridgeway-less Wall of Voodoo of “Mexican Radio” fame. Two years earlier, lead singer Ridgeway and two other founding members left the group after tasting mainstream chart success, just after playing the Us Festival. The remaining members soldiered on with new vocalist Andy Prieboy, releasing Seven Days In Sammystown in 1985. This was the moody LP the band was promoting when they were met with complete disinterest on the Adam Ant tour. I think I was the only guy who clapped after “Ring Of Fire” and “Call Box”. In fact, I think I was the only guy there. But hey, everyone loved “Mexican Radio”!
Two years later, the band attempted another stab for more mainstream success with Happy Planet and its first single, a remake of the Beach Boys’ “Do It Again”. The remake begins with a droning synth, like a heart rate monitor, that recalls the same effect the band used for their remake of “Ring of Fire” years earlier. It then turns into a detached, ironic reading of the song, draining the joy and replacing it was cynicism – kind of a neat move, complete with the Brian Wilson stamp of approval, since he appeared in the nightmarish, surrealistic video:
The extended version brightens the proceedings up a bit for the dance floor, but at seven minutes plus, it’s a bit too much of a good thing. While “Do It Again” got plenty of play on MTV’s “120 Minutes”, that second mainstream hit failed to happen for Wall of Voodoo Mark II. This lineup would go on to record a final album in 1988, then dissolve. Skip forward to last year and in the great circle of pop life, Stan Ridgeway fronted a new Wall of Voodoo, opening for, of all people, Cyndi Lauper. I suppose Wall of Voodoo will always get stuck with inappropriate headliners.
“Do It Again” did not chart.
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