With guest musicians like Sting, the Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey, Nile Rodgers, Carly Simon, Todd Rundgren, and Steve Winwood, Will Powers’ Dancing for Mental Health is probably the most star-studded and downright strangest New Wave album you’ve never heard — and it could have only happened in the ’80s. So who is Will Powers, what was this album all about and where did he get such famous friends?
Will Powers was the comedic self-help guru played by noted rock photographer Lynn Goldsmith. Using the Will Powers persona, Goldsmith intoned typically banal motivational speeches set to pop music, many of the songs co-written by Steve Winwood. The first single, “Adventures In Success” (download), co-written by Sting, is a typical example of the album, as “Will” urges the listener to believe in himself, the background singers affirming, “It’s you! Only you! Make it habit, make it happen!” This brand of self-entitlement was ripe for parody in 1983, and Dancing for Mental Health did a good job of it. The first single’s video, with its early computer animation, captured MTV’s attention as well — count the cameos!
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The album featured other motivational tunes targeting more specific needs, such as facing growing old, job satisfaction, and my favorite, learning how to kiss with confidence. “Kissing With Confidence” (download) was the second single, spotlighting Carly Simon on the chorus singing the immortal line, “Will I spoil it / with my overbite?” Hey, you said it, Carly, not me. “Kissing’s” video was a particular favorite on Night Flight:
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Only in the ’80s would a major record label finance a faux self-help album by a rock photographer and her famous friends recorded in the Bahamas. In fact, if you threw in the words “coke” and “neon” that could have been the most quintessentially ’80s sentence I’ve ever typed. Amazingly, the album is still in print, ready to motivate you and recharge you for those tough work days or that dreaded first date. Remember, as Will says, no one has ever gotten pregnant by kissing.
“Adventures In Success” peaked at #33 on the Billboard Club Play Singles Chart in 1983.
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