"we spoke about the time and place of our first meeting / without a word i knew you knew that i cared about you"
There was a discussion over at Silence Is a Rhythm (scroll down about half a page) about the recent Human League reissues and how EMI have done an okay job with them. One thing I hated, though, is that they were so close to being perfect by only one or two tracks.
The Hysteria remaster is more than serviceable, including all the remixes of the era, but my main beef was that by including just two missing tracks from the U.S. Fascination EP, EMI would have sewn up the entire early Human League output. EMI halfway corrected these omissions by including one of the missing tracks, "You Remind Me of Gold", on the new Human League Remixes and Rareities CD. So, I'm going to take the initiative to post the other missing track.
"I Love You Too Much" was recorded for this EP (the other songs were all previously released singles or b-sides in the U.K.) and was later re-recorded for the Hysteria album. This original version is vastly superior, in my not so humble opinion. Where the Hysteria version just sorts of drones on, this version is quite the little funky number. Check out that bassline and the incredibly tone-deaf backing "Ahhhhhs" from the girls. No comparison.
But hey, good job anyway, EMI. Don't think we Leaugeophiles don't appreciate the effort. See? I didn't even bring up the "EMI stands for Every Mistake Imaginable" joke!
"i could blame it all on the heavens above / or i could blame it all on the stars"
Years before Cowboy Troy fused rap and country to create “Hick Hop”, Rhode Island outfit Rubber Rodeo, dressed in fringe jackets, cowboy boots and bolo ties, added the punk aesthetic alongside new wave’s sound to Patsy Cline-ish melodies to create “Cowpunk”, which on paper sounds like an unholy alliance, but in practice wasn’t too bad.
Fusing synths and drum machines with lap-pedal steel guitar and twangy “y’all” vocals, Rubber Rodeo’s major label debut, “Scenic View” was kitschy and catchy at the same time. I remember an initial big push from MTV for the first video, “The Hardest Thing”, which is where I first heard them (after all, radio wouldn’t touch something like this). MTV must have had the video in medium rotation, because I saw the band romping through the huge dinosaur park later featured in “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” several times. I was hooked and bought the album, but MTV dropped the video just as quickly.
I do remember seeing the video for the second single, “Anywhere With You”, a couple times, but not nearly as much as the first one, which is strange since “Anywhere” actually was a bigger hit, charting on the Hot 100 for a few weeks.
Two years later, Rubber Rodeo released a second album, “Heartbreak Highway”, featuring the single “Souvenir”, which you’ll find on one of EMI’s “Living In Oblivion” compilations. I never understood why they chose that song, since just about no one heard that second album – maybe “Souvenir” was a radio hit somewhere? – but “Heartbreak Highway” stripped away more of the country touches until Rubber Rodeo sounded like pretty much everything else in 1986. And with that, Rubber Rodeo closed up shop and rode off into the pop sunset, but not before leaving us with at least two great tracks.
"not one Picasso, he'd give me a pair/that's what I've always dreamed of"
Wrapped in taffeta and camp while sporting a foot-high blonde beehive, Mari Wilson (not the Supreme) stepped out of the mid-sixties and straight into the new wave movement with her 1983 debut, “Show People” and its centerpiece single, “Just What I Always Wanted (single version)”.
Wilson began her career with a huge backing group dubbed the “Wilsations”, including three male background singers who had the nelliest, campiest choreography ever. Mari notched a couple chart hits in the U.K. and MTV put the “Just What…” video in light rotation, where I sat waiting to see it for hours and hours, alongside the video for Tears For Fears’ “Pale Shelter” after my best friend Brandon claimed he saw once and I refused to believe him (he was right, by the way). There, tucked between such videos as Planet P “Why Me?” and Rod Stewart “Baby Jane” came Mari, all sixties girl group glam and lush production, belting a Bacharach-ish tune with electronic drums. Heaven.
Wilson’s “Show People” album was packed with such treasures, but the highlight was probably her version of “Cry Me a River”, where she very nearly ditched all the camp novelty aspects of her act and gave a stirring, moody performance. It’s quite lovely and pointed toward her future career as a smooth-jazz performer. A few more singles, a cameo in the Soft Cell video for “What!”, a record label dispute and one final jazzy album in 1991 followed, then the quiet life until this month, when Mari released her first album in 15 years, “Dolled Up”.
"we both know we're never gonna make it / but when we touch, we never have to fake it, Leah!"
Straight outta Beaver Falls, PA, came Dominic Ierace, playing in local combos until he and his band The Jaggerz hit number two in the ‘70s with “The Rapper”. After The Jaggerz dissolved, Ierace played with Wild Cherry, who had a hit with the ubiquitous “Play That Funky Music”. Then by 1980, Wild Cherry hit the pits.
That’s when Dominic Ierace, R&B/funk band sideman, became Donnie Iris, power pop/new wave hitmaker.
Teamed with keyboardist Mark Avsec, Iris had a decent run of chart singles in the early ‘80s, his biggest Pop hit being “My Girl”, a sickly sweet ‘60s-tinged Beach Boys-ish rip which peaked at #25. But thankfully, history won out over chart positions and Iris is better known these days for a brilliant 3:42 blast called “Ah! Leah!”
“Ah! Leah!” was huge in the Cleveland/Pittsburgh markets where Iris made his home(s), played in constant rotation in 1981, and spilling over nationally. It was deserved. “Ah! Leah!” is classic power pop, all crunchy chords, harmonic backing vocals and an echoing “Ah! Ah!” bridge that still gives me goose bumps. “Ah! Leah!” struggled up to #29 on the charts which is a shame – so many people still remember and love this song – in fact, I got an e-mail about it today that inspired me to finally finish this post I’ve been puttering around with for months (thanks, Mark!).
Iris returned to the Top 40 a year later with “Love Is Like a Rock”, another regional smash that if recorded by, say, Rick Springfield (ahem), would have been a Top Ten smash. As it is, it barely squeaked into the Top 40. If I asked you if you remembered this song, you’d look at me blankly – however, if I played it for you, you’d say, “Ohmigod, who did this song! I used to LOVE it!” G’head, try it.
Another year later, Iris and MCA Records wanted some of that MTV video action the kids were all hot about. Riding the new wave bandwagon, Iris released “Do You Compute”, a very timely play on TRS-80s, Timex Sinclair 1000’s, and romance. The video is HYSTERICAL, with Donnie attempting to build a perfect woman via computer, (years before “Weird Science!”), only to end up trapped in the computer himself. I wish I had it – I’d post it so you could see if my theory that the woman in the video is indeed Joanna Lumley aka Patsy Stone from “Absolutely Fabulous”. I swear it is.
What’s Donnie up to these days? Still playing dates here and there, and…well:
"i have crept in your ugly world / i have slept in every way"
I really tried to get this up by Halloween, but it took quite a bit of work, i.e. rummaging through old VHS tapes, then some encoding, blah blah. So just pretend it’s 24 hours ago for maximum effect…
For a few years on the early-to-mid ‘80s, each Halloween evening would see MTV break their normal playlist format to spotlight “spooky”, “scary” or “creepy” videos. This would be just about the only time of the year you’d see Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla” (why you’d want to is beyond me) or Edgar Winter Jr.’s “Frankenstein 1984” (seriously).
While I’m not much of a horror fan, I would make it a point to try to record or see some of this marathon each year because I knew they would play one video I’d never get to see otherwise – “Something Inside Me Has Died” by an L.A.-based goth band called Kommunity FK.
Kommunity FK was basically vocalist/guitarist Patrick Mata, drummer Matt Chaikin and a revolving door of support musicians who tended not to stick around very long. Their 1983 debut album “The Vision and the Voice”, besides being nearly impossible to find, is quite good – there’s more going on here than just droning gloom. Lots of Joy Division creeps into the mix and there are hooks aplenty. However, their 1985 album “Close One Sad Eye” is really their jewel – the hooks remain, but the production seems to be more up to the task. Everything is crystal clear and I’ll be damned if that bass isn’t downright funky at times – not quite what you expect from a goth band.
“Something Inside Me Has Died”, woeful title aside, is basically a bouncy little new wave-ish number and quite possibly, next to Bauhaus’ overplayed “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, one of the most fully realized goth rock songs ever. Mata’s voice is fantastic, the synth drones in the background and when the guitar screeches and Mata yelps “DIIIIIIIIEEED!” you’re right there with him.
The video was a combination of truly atmospheric and downright hilarious. There are some well-composed shots in beautiful black and white and some of the sets are quite effective and moody. I know goth is dress up and all, but get ready to see some serious hair violations and lots of “I’m DYING INSIDE” eyerolls to the back of the head. Keep in mind, however, that when you’re 16 years old in 1985, you take this shit seriously. At least I did enough to make sure I kept it on tape for 20 years.
* All songs are for sampling purposes only. If the album is currently in print, you'll see an Amazon link to purchase it. Supporting artists is a good thing, since labels are run by soulless whores. I KEED! Sorta. Look, if you like it, and it's in print, support 'em. If you're the artist or copyright holder, a quick e-mail to me will bring the song down ASAP. But compliment my writing first.
* Don't e-mail me asking me to repost dead links or to send you a song you can't find. Believe it or not, I have a life outside my blogging. I KEED! But don't do it.
* One more, and this is a biggie -- do NOT hotlink directly to my audio files and post them on your site, big shot. That's just disrespectful, rude, and a theft of my hard-earned bandwith.
Now, get readin', get downloadiN', and play nice. I loves me some comments. Bring it!