Thursday, April 28, 2005
“distant lands I love so far away / I don’t know why we don’t go”
Another Lost in the ‘80s oddity…there’s not much biographical info or background floating around about The Other Ones, a Scandinavian-ish group who put out a single, self-titled album in 1987, and had a good-sized hit with “Holiday,” most definitely not the Madonna song.
I came across “Holiday” and the actual first Other Ones single “We Are What We Are” on a Virgin Records promotional cassette my sister got from her job as an assistant manager at Coconuts Records. In 1986, Virgin launched an American version of their UK imprint, and they had a heady roster out of the gate, including the Cutting Crew, a by this point limping along Killing Joke, Public Image Limited, and some spunky newcomer named Paula Abdul. To spotlight all these new artists, Virgin US issued this promo cassette packed with two songs each from these artists, including The Other Ones.
The Other One’s songs stuck with me for months and finally radio and MTV latched onto the album’s second single, “Holiday,” a bright, sunny romp that pretty much lives up to its title. I remember seeing some interviews with the band and gathered they were very European and foreign-y. They even had a strange bald guy who would talk over certain parts of the song, sort of ruining the whole thing with his ramblings, a move the Sugarcubes would perfect a short year later.
“Holiday” did its time on the chart, the album even charted briefly and then…Lost in the ‘80s. Years later, some surviving members of the Grateful Dead took the Other Ones name and consigned them to the dustbin for pop eternity.
Download “Holiday”.”Holiday” peaked at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Download “We Are What We Are.”
“We Are What We Are” peaked at #53 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“The Other Ones” LP peaked at #139 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart.
posted by John, 3:06 PM
Friday, April 22, 2005
Boys Do Fall In Love
Mirage Records, a tiny little label with major distribution, was on fire in 1984.
The label scored a few high-profile dance chart hits, but ended up getting their most notable hit of the year from an unlikely source…a solo Bee Gee.
And not even the hot one.
Robin Gibb had a previous solo album in the early ‘80s that didn’t cause much of a stir, and since the Bee Gees were laying pretty low in those post-disco days, he and Maurice had time to conjure up another, more successful album in 1984 called “Secret Agent”. Meanwhile, hot Bee Barry was off doing his solo thing and even scored a hit with “Shine, Shine”. Robin, however, wanted to go new wave.
Check out that cover. Those clothes. Those shades. It’s like watching your dad try to be hip after his divorce. But hey, the music wasn’t as embarrassing.
Okay, maybe a little. But I LOVED this song when it was out. I just loved it in private, lest anyone think I was a raging homo (that would come true a few years later). Radio didn’t play this much, but MTV rolled a cutesy little video that played along with the whole “Secret Agent” aspect. I thought I was alone in loving this tune, until one afternoon I was hanging out at my buddy Chris’ house – now Chris was the total high school jock, blond, blue, track team, homecoming king, you name it. We were good friends and lo and behold, I saw this 45 peeking out from under a Saga single or something.
He also had Culture Club’s “Mistake #3”, which we’ll get to someday. I wonder if Chris ever came out?
Oh yeah, the song. Cute, fun, hooky, harmless and a big gay club hit, according to my friend Joe who remembers dancing to it at Traxx. It also scraped the bottom of the Top 40, which wasn’t too shabby for a Bee Gee in 1984. The little robotic backing vox near the end remind me of “Video Killed the Radio Star,” which “Boys” actually charted higher than (people seem to forget “Video” peaked at a paltry #40 when it was out).
Download “Boys Do Fall In Love”
, straight (ha) from my old little 45. I believe there’s a Dutch pressing of the “Secret Agent” CD that exists, but sells for ridiculous amounts when it surfaces.”Do you have anything to add, Robin?”
“…no.”Pic shamelessly stolen from the great snl.jt.org”Boys Do Fall In Love” peaked at #37 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Secret Agent” failed to chart.
posted by John, 3:07 PM
Monday, April 18, 2005
"...you don't know, you better hang with me!"
I love remembering songs that are perfect for "Lost in the '80s", and Nolan Thomas' "Yo Little Brother" is so lost and forgotten, it's nearly sublime.
This is another of those tunes that everyone seems to remember, but wasn't much of a chart hit. "Yo Little Brother" was one of the first Latin Freestyle crossover hits that was years ahead of its time -- three years later, studio creations Exposé would score platinum with this sound and even the Pet Shop Boys plundered it for a Top Ten hit with "Domino Dancing". Then came Stevie B., George Lamond, etc., etc.
But poor Nolan Thomas barely scraped #57 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1985 with this nugget, and now he's truly Lost in the '80s...my Google Fu is pretty strong, but I'll be damned if I could come up with any info on this guy. All I know is that he was on Mirage Records, a tiny label with a big distribution deal that was on something of a roll in 1985 (stay tuned this week for more Mirage Records goodness), and that there was a video for this song I remember being sort of wretched and embarrassing.
I also wonder how my friends and I actually heard this song for the first time, since I don't remember radio touching it...was it via the video? Who knows. Lost in the '80s, I suppose.
Tip a 40 to the Nolan Thomases, Dinos, Georgios and Noels of the '80s and
download "Yo Little Brother" by Nolan Thomas,
ripped directly from my little 45 I've had for 20 years(!). I don't believe it's ever been released on CD."Yo Little Brother" peaked at #57 on the Billboard Hot 100, #26 on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart and #9 on the Billboard Hot Dance Singles chart.
posted by John, 11:17 AM
Friday, April 15, 2005
"Yesterday's shattered / Tomorrows don't matter..."
Hiccupy. Chipry. Helium-powered. Chipmunk.
All those descriptors have been applied to the singing voice of Altered Images' Clare Grogan, and for the most part, they're pretty accurate. While Altered Images scored quite a few hits in the U.K. with their particular brand of Martin Rushnet-sheened new wave pop, it took Dale Bozzio and Cyndi Lauper a few years later to make such vocal histrionics suitable for American chart success.
MTV showed some Altered Images love by putting early hits like "Happy Birthday" and "I Could Be Happy" into light rotation, but outside of "Happy" peaking at #45 on Billboard's Club Play Chart, America wasn't biting. So, Clare and their label, Portrait, decided to bite instead.
Altered Images' third album, "Bite", was a stab at "maturity," complete with a total image overhaul, ditching the campy pop-art dayglo and "fun" presentation for a sophisticated, glossy Altered Image. Just check out that cover. This is the same chick who two years earlier was running from a guy in a lion costume across a Warhol landscape in her video.
Tossed to the dumpster along with their old Image was longtime producer Martin Rushnet, this time around was replaced by two winning veterans, none other than Tony Visconti and Mike Chapman, who split the album nearly in half. The resulting album was a respectable attempt at grown-up disco at a time when the word "disco" was pop poison. Put Clare's somewhat limited chirps and squeals over it and you had an appealing, but utlimately destined to fail record.
Visconti seemed to embrace the new wave bent of the band a little more, and it shows in the tracks he produced, most notably "Now That You're Here," which tones down Clare a bit and creates a nice, orchestral dance groove.
Mike Chapman, though, obviously missed his most successful muse, Debbie Harry and Blondie, so each of his tracks seeks to recreate that sound. "Don't Talk To Me About Love" is the song from this album that had the most impact, hitting the Top Ten in the U.K., probably because it was a carefully constructed tribute to "Heart of Glass," a song Chapman played no small part in creating. On this side of the pond, MTV played it a bit, then it sadly disappeared, along with the band soon after. A year later, Cyndi Lauper released "She's So Unusual" and when I first heard "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," my first thought was "Clare?!?"
Clare Grogan went on to be an actress and has even toured the U.K. lately in a few 80s revival packages. The entire Altered Images catalog has been remastered with bonus tracks and comes highly recommended, although I prefer the single mix of "Don't Talk to Me About Love" which is included on a couple "Best of" comps, but left off "Bite."
"Don't Talk to Me About Love""Bite" failed to chart.
Download "Don't Talk to Me About Love [Extended Version]"
Download "Now That You're Here"
"Don't Talk to Me About Love" failed to chart.
posted by John, 11:07 AM
Monday, April 11, 2005
Not the Greg Kihn song
Visit my other blog
today for Part One of my Rock & Roll Jeopardy experience. It's 80s-riffic.
More Lost in the '80s coming up this week.
posted by John, 3:57 PM
Monday, April 04, 2005
“Came a long way from the Valley / Aim so high / Shot so true…”
When it comes to spectacular pop flame-outs, it’s still tough to match the Knack, even 25 years after the phenomenal success of “My Sharona” and their debut album, “Get the Knack.” While that debut sold millions upon millions, their second album, “…but the little girls understand” did just okay, topping out at double platinum.
That third album, though…
“Round Trip” was released in 1981, just three years after “Get the Knack”. In that short amount of time, the group had alienated the rock press and even their fanbase so much that it peaked at a partly #93 on the Billboard Top 200. The Knack were actively despised. “Knuke the Knack” buttons and t-shirts were sold at Spencer’s Gifts nationwide. “Round Trip,” a sort of head-hung-low apology of an album, was dead before it was born.
As a junior high school student, I can remember seeing copy after copy stacked in our local Camelot Music’s cutout bin, a place I haunted like clockwork for buried treasure (Fred Schneider and the Shake Society for only 99¢!?? Sold!). Of course, I had some earlier familiarity with the Knack, thanks to their massive hit and the fact that I regularly checked out “Get the Knack” from the Elyria Public Library and quite liked it.
I have distinctly vivid memories of G-98, our local Top 40 outlet, playing “Round Trip’s” first single “Pay the Devil (Ooo Baby Ooo)” during the nightly Smash It or Trash It call-in show I taped every night. In fact, I saved that tape for months and months, playing that song again and again.
It got a 78% “Trash It” rating. Well, I liked it.
You have to give Capitol Records credit for releasing a country-ish waltz as the first single from the album. Either it was a bold statement that the Knack was expanding its sound and moving away from horny teen anthems or it was a horrible blunder. Take a pick.
Soon after, I heard another song from “Round Trip” on Smash It or Trash It called “Boys Go Crazy”. Now this…this was the Knack. “The boys go crazy when the girls say ‘no.” Back to speaking from the dick, a complete retreat from “Pay the Devil’s” experimentation.
It got a 64% “Smash It” rating. It didn’t even warrant a release, Capitol pulling it from the schedule when the Knack broke up, a scant three weeks after “Round Trip” hit the stores. Had the group stuck it out, leadoff track “Radiating Love” would have made a great single.
I made the 99¢ investment in “Round Trip” several times. At one point, I owned it on vinyl, cassette and even 8-track, just to have them. It’s a decent album, sort of all over the place and it betrays Doug Feiger’s drug problem at the time in certain moments. I came back to it now and then, especially to “Pay the Devil,” which with maturity, I posited might have been written about the Knack themselves:You got it made
And you made it your way
Life’s looking great
Now you found the right games to play
Came a long way from the Valley
Aim so high, shot so true
Ooo baby ooo ooo baby ooo
Everybody got to read the review
Ooo baby ooo ooo baby ooo even you
Got to learn to give the devil his due
Contrition only gets you so far. In this case, it got the Knack in the mid-60s of the Billboard Hot 100. 21 years later, I bought “Round Trip” one more time…this time on a lushly remastered CD, complete with demos and bonus tracks.
Got to give the devils their due. Eventually.
Download “Pay the Devil (Ooo Baby Ooo)”.”Pay the Devil (Ooo Baby Ooo)” peaked at #67 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Download “Boys Go Crazy”.
“Boys Go Crazy” was pulled from release.
posted by John, 4:45 PM