Smiths Complete - Available at Rhino.coma-ha "Hunting High & Low" and "Scoundrel Days" Deluxe Editions Rhino Handmade raids the vault!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Lost Down Under - Hunters & Collectors

Another band Melbourne from punk’s ashes, Hunters & Collectors began life in 1981 as a raucous, horn-fueled live act, feeding off audience participation and feel more than songwriting. Over the course of their first four albums, this changed radically, as lead Hunter Mark Seymour began crafting some beautiful and catchy melodies, climaxing with their fourth album, “Human Frailty”.

Hunters & Collectors

Now before everyone in Australia e-mails me, yes, I’m aware H&C were HUGE down there. “Throw Your Arms Around Me” was a massive, U2 sized hit for the band in 1986. However, here in the States, H&C got little more than some late-night MTV airplay and a few modern rock radio spins, which is a shame.

“Is There Anybody In There” was a “120 Minutes” staple for a few months, with the memorable image of Seymour screaming from inside a TV as it tumbled to the ground after being thrown from a building…this image ended up being used during many MTV commercials of the period. The song itself was about how, with everything going wrong in the world, TV seemed to be only concerned with trivial events. Thank God that’s all changed.

H&C’s label at the time, IRS Records, continued to push the band by using their massive hit “Throw Your Arms Around Me” as the follow up, to little success. Some MTV play again, then Lost in the ‘80s.

It wasn’t until two years later and a new U.S. label that H&C would score a Top Ten Modern Rock hit with “Back on the Breadline.” After that and several roster shuffles and record labels later, Hunters & Collectors disbanded in the early ‘90s.

Neither song charted in the U.S.


posted by John, 5:54 PM | link |

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lost Down Under Week - Wa Wa Nee

You know what the world needed more than anything in 1987? A group of white Australians trying to recreate the funk rock that was The Time! Missing Morris Day? Don’t worry, folks! Here's Wa Wa Nee's Paul Gray!

Well…not quite. I mean, Wa Wa Nee didn’t have a mirror-toting Jerome. Maybe that was the problem.

Wa Wa Nee hit the Australian charts in 1986 with a huge single, “Stimulation” that got to number two there. The next year, they had another hit, this time in America, with “Sugar Free”. Ah, “Sugar Free…”

Wa Wa Nee

Fire in your head, river in your bed
Two hundred dollar, see his face go red
Lost in a world where nothin' is nothin'
Burnt pretty bad, can't get another hit-ah

Oh, my love and me, oh, we're sugar free
Oh, this oughta be, burnin' up, breakin' down
Oh, my love and me, oh, we're sugar free
Oh, ever wanna be, burnin' up, breakin' down

Is it about a hooker? A proponent of Sweet ‘n’ Low? Who the fuck knows. It was catchy and goofy fun, though. Unlike the Time, however, it hasn’t aged well. “Sugar Free” scraped the lower reaches of the Top 40, so it came time to release their secret weapon, their big Australian hit “Stimulation”.

Nah, no one else here heard it either.

After Wa Wa Nee broke thru with “Sugar Free,” they went on to – come on! Say it with me. We all know this by now, people. – record one more album, then break up, forever Lost in the ‘80s.

”Sugar Free” peaked at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1987.
“Stimulation” failed to chart.

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posted by John, 7:09 PM | link |

Monday, March 17, 2008

"pilot of the airwaves / here is my request..."

Ah, Charlie Dore’s ode to calling the DJ request line. Every ‘80s child has been there, hanging on the phone, waiting for that busy signal to stop, finally getting it to ring, then sitting there waiting for the DJ to answer so you can make that request. Sigh. Well, Charlie had a decent sized hit with “Pilot of the Airwaves”, however, it seems to have faded into obscurity since it hit. But Charlie did okay since, writing songs for Tina Turner, Celine Dion and a little ‘80s jam for Sheena Easton called “Strut”. Who knew?

But we’re talkin’ requests…

Let’s dig into that mailbag a bit, yes?

One of the first e-mails I got from this site was waaaay back in March was from John G. who had two fine requests, one for Q Lazzarus and another for Heaven 17’s “Let Me Go”.

Let Me Go 45

Can you believe this was Heaven 17’s only Hot 100 chart entry in the States? We suck.

“letit beme” writes in with a bunch of good requests, a few I may get to eventually, but I love one in particular – Industry’s “State of the Nation”.


Industry had an EP and later a full-length release on Capitol Records. Both are long out of print, but “State of the Nation” surfaced a few years ago on a CD compilation titled “Can’t Get Enough of the ‘80s”. Without getting too political, I think the lyrics are probably more relevant today than back in 1983…

”Pilot of the Airwaves” by Charlie Dore peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980.
“Let Me Go” by Heaven 17 peaked at #74 on the Billboard Hot 100, #4 on the Club Play Singles chart and #32 on the Mainstream Rock chart (??) in 1983.
“State of the Nation” peaked at #99 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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posted by John, 7:25 PM | link |

Monday, March 10, 2008

"always someone left out in the rain / it's always the same..."

Turn on any local “Hits of the ‘80s, ‘90s and Today!” radio station, and within an hour, I guarantee you will hear either of Naked Eyes’ big hits, “Promises, Promises” or “Always Something There to Remind Me”. While “Always…” was a cover, there are two entire generations who are completely unfamiliar with the Dionne Warwick original version it completely eclipsed. It was that good. In fact, both singles became perfect pop classics that just about everyone knows by heart.

They were not, however, Naked Eyes’ only Top 40 hits.

naked eyes

Naked Eyes’ first album was successful enough to have three singles released off it, a fairly new practice back in 1983, when most albums were worked for two singles max, then off to the studio for a new one. “Always” went Top Ten and its follow-up, “Promises,” almost matched it, peaking at #11. When it was decided to keep milking the debut album, “When the Lights Go Out” was the choice for single number three, a strange but tasteful decision.

“When the Lights Go Out” was even darker than the first two singles, which, poppy synths aside, were pretty bleak lyrically. Poor Suzy lives alone at home, calling a former lover’s name each night. My life story, pretty much! “When the Lights Go Out” squeaked into the Top 40 for a few brief weeks, then was forgotten…so forgotten, that when EMI put out the first Naked Eyes Greatest Hits compilation, it was left off, even though it was only one of the bands four genuine Top 40 hits! This bizarre omission was corrected on a later re-mastered and re-titled compilation, but strangely enough, that version is out of print, while the earlier, inferior greatest hits comp remains in print.

One short year later, Naked Eyes’ second album, “Fuel for the Fire” was released, and the first single was a blazing dancefloor number, “(What) In the Name of Love,” co-produced and remixed by none other than new wave /house pioneer Arthur Baker. You may remember Arthur Baker from his work with another tiny synthpop band called New Order.

I loved “(What) In the Name of Love,” including its cutesy video featuring the somewhat faceless Rob Fisher and Pete Byrne (Naked Eyes, of course), acting as bellboys at an upscale resort and stealing old guys’ money and young dames. Actually, it may have been that very same facelessness that hurt Naked Eyes in the long run. If they had strange, angular haircuts and “hip” clothes, they may have made more of a lasting impression.

As it stands, all they left behind were some great pop songs. Sadly, keyboardist Rob Fisher died in 1999, just as he and Byrne were prepping a Naked Eyes reunion album. EMI needs to get their shit together and put both of these albums back in print. One Way Records has a nice 12” and b-sides rarities disc in print, but that’s not enough.

Damn it.

”When the Lights Go Out” peaked at #37 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“(What) In the Name of Love” peaked at #39 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Naked Eyes' Pete Byrne chimes in via comments: "When I wrote "Promises" I had no idea that Bacharach and David had written a song with that title. They must have thought we were big fans...

Funnily enough the ASCAP award for "Promises" was presented to us by Hal David.

Nice to hear you talk about "Fortune and Fame" and "WTLGO" both of which are part of the new set I'm doing as Naked Eyes."

Get Naked Eyes music at Amazon or on Naked Eyes


posted by John, 8:52 AM | link |

Monday, March 03, 2008

"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.

”Holiday” peaked at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“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.

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posted by John, 6:44 PM | link |