NOTE: Well, where the hell have I been? Check out my other blog later this week for details if you care, but hey, I’m back. Sorta. Fresh, new posts this week, but first, here’s a re-presentation of this blog’s “pilot episode”, originally posted here way back in Feb. 2005. Enjoy!

1983. Pop music was in constant, upheaveled flux – American radio = Journey and Foreigner, so British acts looked to music video as an outlet. As a result, the MTV, Night Tracks and Night Flight (God, I miss that show) playlists ended up looking like a Kentucky Beef Stew, made up of anything left over in the fridge from meals before. Michael Jackson snuggled up next to Killing Joke, while Killing Joke took Def Leppard and After the Fire from behind.

Out from this wonderful orgy skipped Bananarama.

Made up of three girly-friends from the outskirts of the punk/new wave/ska scene, Bananarama couldn’t sing, couldn’t dance, couldn’t miss. It took a few tries, but they finally broke the U.S. with “Cruel Summer”, a song most consider to be about lost love in the summertime, when in fact, it’s about sheer boredom. But that’s exactly what Bananarama were clever at – musical misdirection.

Bananarama songs were chirpy, singsongy pop confections which brought sunny days, happy times and slumber parties to mind. The lyrics, however…

…the lyrics…

…that was were they completely snowed over the American public.

Bananarama songs were often lyrically dark, dense, multi-layered affairs that completely contrasted their happy-go-lucky accompianment. Take for example, “A Trick of the Night”, one of their minor hits from 1984. On the surface, the chorus sounds like a typical love song:

Whatcha doin’
Hey, whatcha doin’
Walking through danger
Can’t see the wrong or the right
Whatcha doing,
Tell me whatcha doing
Can’t be a stranger
Must be a trick of the night

…but then you dig deeper and find:

When the day is over
And the work is done
Well it’s a different story
As the darkness comes around
I tried to let you know
You’re going the wrong way

And the streets you thought
Would all be paved with gold
But when the wind cuts through
You’d even try to sell your soul
Everywhere you go
It’s the long way

Now you’re no longer
Just the boy next door
When they were falling in love
With that clean cut smile
Change of style
Just for a little while

…and you look at the title of the song again and realize it’s about a sad, young male hustler. Brilliant and completely underrated.

My favorite Bananarama misdirection has to be “Robert DeNiro’s Waiting.” For years and years, I thought the song was basically about a girl with a “Taxi Driver” fetish, nothing more. Until I read an interview with former head Banana Siobahn Fahey who revealed the true nature behind the lyrics:

Hope’s dashed to the floor like shattered teenage dreams.
Boys living next door are never what they seem.
A walk in the park can become a bad dream
People are staring and following me.
This is my only escape from it all:
Watching a film or a face on the wall.

Robert de Niro’s waiting
talking italian.

…is about a girl who’s been raped and now cannot connect with anyone, save her celluloid hero, Robert DeNiro.

Of course, great things that get a taste of mainstream success can never last in their pure form for very long, so Bananarama succumbed to the Stock/Aiken/Waterman hit machine, having huge hits with “Venus” and “I Heard a Rumor,” et al.

But for a while there, they had us all fooled.

Download “Robert DeNiro’s Waiting”

“Robert DeNiro’s Waiting” peaked at #95 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984.

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