My junior year in high school, a few friends and I decided to form a New Wave band. Our inspiration? R.E.M.? The Smiths? The Replacements? Not exactlyâ€¦
We loved â€œObsessionâ€, we loved their clothes, loved the campy video, loved the less than glamorous looks of the two lead singers â€“ basically, Animotion were relatable. And there were six of us, including one male lead singer (ahem, me) and one female lead (ahem, not me), so why not? We called ourselves â€œFax & Frixionâ€ â€“ keep in mind, this was a few years before fax machines became ubiquitous, so we were very forward thinking.
In a classic illustration of Eighties thinking, we put image before substance and immediately took some press shots, imagining our album cover and lyric sleeve photosâ€¦
Yes, Iâ€™m the dork sitting on the roof of that old, rusting vehicle staring off at something REALLY MEANINGFULLY. Whereâ€™re the other 3 in the band? In class â€“ we shot these during a study hall in the woods behind our high school. True!
And there I am on the far left dangling like a stray butt nugget. The two lovely girls were also in the band and I hope they donâ€™t mind me sharing this embarrassing moment with the whole Interwebnet. (Hi, girls!)
Fax & Frixion had a few unproductive meetings/practices where we sorta learned â€œObsessionâ€ and A Flock of Seagulls â€œSpace Age Loveâ€ song. We then began bickering over who was responsible for what and what songs to do, blah, blah, etc. You canâ€™t run a band as a democracy, sorry, and there is only room for one diva and it was NOT one of the biological girls. Ahem. Somewhere, an old 90-minute cassette tape exists of us butchering these songs. I pray it is never found.
Ah, moving on to the long, strange, incestuous story that was (is?) Animotionâ€¦
Animotion emerged from the mid-80s Los Angeles New Wave scene and were welcomed to the Top 10 with a tight, hooky Holly Knight/Michael Des Barres composition called â€œObsessionâ€, which we all know and love. â€œObsessionâ€ was actually a remake, originally recorded by Knight and Des Barres in 1983. But as any regular reader of this here blog can tell ya, itâ€™s the follow-ups that count.
Animotionâ€™s second single, â€œLet Him Goâ€, wasnâ€™t bad at all. Itâ€™s more of a showcase for Astrid Plane, the female half of Animotionâ€™s dual lead singers, but the bewildering lyrics betray the fact that it was written by the male half, Bill Wadhams:
You’re holding him so tight that he can’t move
If you never give him room you’re gonna lose.
He’s feeling like he’s tied up in a knot
Ev’ry time he comes home late he’s on the spot.
Trust him to be the kind of man he wants to be
You aren’t gonna keep him long if you give him the third degree.
Let him go
Let him go
Do the things he’s got to do
Give him the freedom that he needs even though it worries you.
Let him go
Let him go
Have the faith that he’ll be true
It’s the only way you can be sure he’ll come back to you.
Thatâ€™s right, ladies! Let your man go off and do any old thing he wants â€“ if he really loves you, heâ€™ll stumble home eventually. I kid the â€œLet Him Goâ€, but I like it quite a bitâ€¦it may have been a bit too propulsive to go much higher in the charts than it did, but it made for a great dance mix.
Animotionâ€™s next step was the dreaded second album, and in a classic case of the sophomore jinx, â€œStrange Behaviorâ€ made little noise. That may be the fault of lead-off single, â€œI Engineerâ€ (dance mix), a moody slice of electro-pop that had â€œObsessionâ€™sâ€ feel, but less of a hook. I do love the very Abba-esque harmonies that accent â€œthis game!â€ in the chorus. And â€œI Engineerâ€™sâ€ pedigree! Written by Holly Knight (why mess with success?), super-producer Mike Chapman and Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin! Yikes!
Songwriter Holly Knight went on to form Device in 1986, a New Wave-y pop band produced by Mike Chapman which featured lead vocals by Paul Engemann. Three years later, Animotion rose from the dead, but in an overhauled line-up that featured, tah dah, former Device vocalist Paul Engemann and Mrs. Richard Marx, aka Cynthia Rhodes. Gone were our funky, normal looking singers, so we went from this:
This bland, focus-group approved version of Animotion had an equally bland, focus-group approved hit called â€œRoom To Moveâ€ that was done much better a year earlier by its songwriters, Climie/Fisher. The personality and magic were gone, but there must not have been too many hard feelings, since former singer Astrid Plane married Animotionâ€™s bassist. The original line-up resurfaced last summer on (again!) NBCâ€™s â€œHit Me Baby One More Timeâ€ and continue to tour – check out some of those show line-ups! With Missing Persons and Bow Wow Wow? Wow.
â€œLet Him Goâ€ peaked at #39 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985.
â€œI Engineerâ€ peaked at #76 on the Hot 100 in 1986.
Buy Animotion music on Amazon.