"i've been sleeping twenty years or more / i remember a long time ago..."
In 1988, after four years of dormancy and a record label change, DEVO unleashed Total DEVO upon the spuds and spudettes of the world. As a huge DEVO-tee since the early '80s, I was beside myself with excitement.
Then I heard the first single, "Baby Doll", and nearly cried.
The previous DEVO album, Shout had been such a profound disappointment (excepting the genius, mutated remake of Hendrix's "R U Experienced?" and a great album track called "The 4th Dimension") that I thought a four-year layoff would help the band who was once responsible for such classics as "Girl U Want", "Mongoloid" and yes, "Whip It" recharge their creative batteries.
"Baby Doll" depressed me. It was more of the same, professional, smooth synthpop DEVO had been reduced to. I wasn't looking forward to the rest of Total DEVO, but as a true fan must, I soldiered on. Unfortunately, nothing else on the album (which was among the first purchases I ever made in the still-emerging CD format) struck me, and Total DEVO sat on the shelf.
For 17 years.
2003 rolled around and saw the long-awaited release of DEVO's video compilation DVDThe Complete Truth About De-evolution (which, missing "Experienced" and "Dr. Detroit", is not quite Complete). I sat entranced by the band's subversive genius, and when the video for "Disco Dancer" came on, it hit me - the song may seem on the surface to be about a disco dancer waking up ten years too late from hibernation and trying to fit in with the modern world, but dig deeper...it very well may be about DEVO themselves and their place in pre-grunge alternative music:
I've been sleeping twenty years or more I remember a long time ago Now I'm back to change your mind Now I'm moving right in time In a world that's turned unkind I can see what's going on behind my back
Now it's one of my favorite DEVO songs. I still hate "Baby Doll", though.
And since I haven't posted a Brain-Melting Video in a few weeks, please enjoy Jermaine Jackson and DEVO, performing "Let Me Tickle Your Fancy" in 1982. Yes. Oh, yes.
"Disco Dancer" peaked at #45 on the Billboard Club Play Chart in 1988.
"you treated me like your doormat / and walked all over my heart"
Despite becoming a homeowner this year, I've discovered that I still owe taxes...so much for all those huge deductions. When I need a quick infusion of cash, the first thing I do is flip thru my CDs, looking for stuff to sell back. Of course, that's always tough because I can never seem to part with anything, no matter how long its been since I listened to it. While doing a bit of research into some of the rarer titles I have, I about plotzed when I saw Re-flex's one and only album, The Politics of Dancing, going for just a hair under $400.00 on Amazon.
That's right, $400.00. The decimal point is not misplaced. Huh, wha, huh?
While Politics is one of my favorite releases from 1983 (the absolute best year ever for music - trust me - someday I'll tell you all the reasons why), I have to admit, I'm having trouble justifying paying $400 for it. The hit title track is readily available on several compilations and the rest of the album is, mmmm, okay. Not $400 okay. More like $18.99 okay. One of the better songs from it was the second single, "Hurt", which, admittedly, sounded a bit like "The Politics...". I vaguely remember seeing the video once or twice on MTV, something to do with a male and a female robot at home, getting into a fight with the male robot exploding or something. Unfortunately, the label's assholism aggressive protection of its copyright has made it impossible to find on YouTube. I also had the 12" mix of this single, but thank my Mom for selling it in a garage sale while I was in Army Basic Training. Thanks, John's Mom!
After "Hurt's" anemic charting, Capitol Records tried again with a third single, "Praying To The Beat, that fared even worse. Not for trying, though..."Praying..." is a nice little driving number, and was the perfect album opener, if not third single. It looked like Re-flex was headed for one-hit wonderdom, unless their second album made a splash...
...alas, that second album, Humanication never saw the light of day, thanks to internal band squabbling and record company indifference. Humanication was completed, but Capitol chose not to release it, shelving it, where it collected dust for years and years until someone leaked a nice, clean DAT copy of it over the internet. A band member perhaps? Thanks to long-time LIT80s reader - let's just call him "D" - we can all hear what Humanication would have been like - here's the title track.
Wonder if that one would fetch $400?
"Hurt" peaked at #82 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Praying To The Beat" did not chart. "Humanication" was never released.
Get re-flex music on Amazon for...heck, I'll sell ya mine for just $350 and throw in free shipping! Stupid IRS...
Of all the mainstream artists to co-op New Wave, the most successful chart-wise by far was Kim Carnes. And I'm going to posit a fairly radical opinion - she may most successful on an artistic level as well, synthesizing New Wave's flourishes and mechanical trappings into her own sound without losing or embarassing herself in the process (with one notable exception, which we'll get to).
Carnes was floating around most of the '70s as more of a folky singer/songwriter with little to minor success until she hit MOR paydirt with a Kenny Rogers duet, "Don't Fall In Love With a Dreamer". A solo hit with a remake of The Miracle's "More Love" followed, and it looked like we might have a nice, comforable, hit-generating female Kenny Loggins on our hands.
"Bette Davis Eyes" changed all that.
It was another remake, this time of a 1974 Donna Weiss/Jackie DeShannon tune...the difference this time was producer Val Garay's decision to record it live to tape with Carnes' band drastically rearranging the song, shrouding it in drum machine hand claps and moody synth chords. The result was a timely, fresh Number One hit that topped the charts for nine weeks and won two Grammys.
The rest of the album Mistaken Identity isn't quite all New Wave-y. In fact, there are several songs like "Hit and Run" and "Miss You Tonite" that are more like the Adult Contemporary Kim Carnes of old, which makes the choice of "Draw of the Cards" as the second single all the more intriguing. "Draw..." is dark, arty, atmospheric...pretty much like "Bette Davis Eyes", only without the killer hooks. Don't get me wrong - I love "Draw...", especially because it got so far up the Top 40 without any real melody, save the repeated title as a chorus. And the video is creepy delicious, like Carnaval in Rio gone horribly wrong - don't say I didn't warn you in advance about the scary guy at the end:
Carnes wisely continued in this dark, dancey synthpop vein for her next album, Voyeur. The album's lead single and title track was another great tune, but not as immediately catchy as "...Eyes", yet it still made it into the Top 40, accompanied by a little-seen, spooky video where Kim is chased after witnessing a hooker get beaten - she hides out in a bar, slinks through dark alleys and runs into, um, a white horse and a ninja. I dunno. It was the Eighties.
After being part of the "We Are The World" recording and video (hey, if Dan Ackroyd can be there...), Carnes released "Invisible Hands", a track and album that began to reflect the diminishing returns of her "Bette Davis Eyes" good will. The song is a bit of a dancefloor stomper though, all about the groove, personified by a killer synth bassline, but after about two and a half minutes, you've had enough. So, here's the extended version! I'm a sadist, what can I say.
Carnes had fallen into a bit of a predictable pattern by this point - release a synthy, danceable lead single, follow that up with a more traditional ballad that would flop, repeat. The nadir of her New Wave flirtation was also her final solo appearance in the Top 40, "Crazy In The Night (Barking At Airplanes)", a song just as embarrasing as its title. Wisely, Carnes then retreated back into duets with Kenny Rogers and Barbra Streisand, eventually settling in Nashville, where she has carved out a nice career as a songwriter while still recording the odd album here and there. But that's how you do it, people - flirt with New Wave just long enough and know when to quit.
"Draw of the Cards" peaked at #28 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart in 1981. "Voyeur" peaked at #29 on the same chart and at #52 on the Club Play Singles Chart in 1982. "Invisible Hands" peaked at #40 on the Pop Singles Chart in 1983.
* 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!