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

Monday, June 30, 2008

"now is the time / to call the doctor!"

I’m not going to ramble on and on about the genius that is DEVO. Let’s assume my readers are hip and musically sophisticated enough to know all the background – bred in Akron, Ohio, conceptualized the concept of de-evolution (“we must repeat”), groundbreaking videos and albums, blah, blah. Let’s concentrate on Devo’s downward slope period.


After releasing what I feel is their second best LP, “Oh No, It’s Devo”, to a largely indifferent reception, Devo had reached the end of their initial contract with Warner Brothers Records. Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh were uncertain about Devo’s future, so there was a lull period between 1982 and 1985 that saw only one new Devo release.

The theme for the horrific Dan Aykroyd vehicle “Dr. Detroit”.

Let’s not dwell on the bad things – the “Theme From Dr. Detroit” was a great little middle-period Devo single, with a characteristic motivational lyric and hyper beat. It was also Devo’s first chart hit in some time, bringing the band enough exposure to get them another one-album deal with Warner Brothers – unfortunately, that resulted in 1985’s “Shout”…but hey, we’re staying positive here!

Let’s give some half-hearted praise to the WB for leasing out all the Devo albums to Collector’s Choice, who has reissued them all this year. I say “half-hearted” cuz they’re pretty skimpy on bonuses, unlike the vastly superior Infinite Zero reissues from the early ‘90s. Would it have killed them to simply pick those up and put ‘em back out? Feh.

Major praise goes to Target Video, who just released “Devo Live 1980”, a full-length Devo live show from, um, 1980, complete with all the filmed segments the band would show between costume changes.

Help support this site by purchasing The Devo Catalog via this link. Thanks!

One thing you won’t find on any of those CDs is the original single version of the “Theme From Dr. Detroit”. Rhino did put an extended version on the “Pioneers Who Got Scalped” anthology, but six minutes of this tune is about three far too many. So here, direct from my little Backstreet Records 45, is the single mix. Enjoy.

”Theme From Dr. Detroit” peaked at #59 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Oh yeah, “Dr. Detroit” the movie makes is now on DVD as well, but I ain’t linking to it!


posted by John, 11:29 PM | link |

Monday, June 23, 2008

"life was so simple then/a kind of playtime/you made it easy then/we had a great time"

Like many a budding homo, I was quite the little fashion plate in high school. Yes, that's me with the grey pleather pants, white nylon vest, white leather skinny tie and man perm.

I won the Senior Class Superlative for "Biggest Individualist", which we all know was code for "Biggest Punk Faggot Who Hates Dressing Like Everyone Else". I also won "Biggest Gossip", but that's not germane to this discussion. I held the record for most different hairstyles in our senior yearbook - 11. Yes, 11. Short, long, dyed black, permed, dyed blonde, long in back, long in front, short in back while long in front, etc. Gee, and I'm bald now. Who knew. DAMN YOU, LADY CLAIROL MIDNIGHT BLACK!

My musical tastes followed fashionable trends - I've talked about my love of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and their t-shirts before, but I also was quite fond of the opening act at the second Frankie concert I attended - Belouis Some.

Born Neville Keighley, Belouis (pronounced "Blew-wee" - really) first appeared on MTV and your more cutting edge radio stations with the best Ric Ocasek/Iggy Pop club rip in years called "Imagination." "Imagination" was funky, dark and had one of the best opening lines in pop history: "She lit a cigarette, both hands behind her back". You could only go down from there. "Imagination" played peek-a-boo with the lower rungs of the Hot 100, then sank.

CAREFUL - this is the NSFW version!

Then someone in marketing hit upon a grand idea - marry Belouis with Swatch Watches, the trendy, cheap ass plastic watches which were all the rage in 1985 (YES, I HAD 20. Whatever!). Suddenly, commercials featuring Belouis Some and moronic dancers modeling Swatches were all over MTV, bopping along to the follow-up single, "Some People". The commercials mimicked the video for the single, and vice versa, creating MTV/marking synergy. "Some People" rose a little higher than its predecessor, but still not high enough.

Belouis put on a great live show, though. I still remember it being quite good, almost eclipsing Frankie.

Another album followed in 1987, with "Let It Be With You" garnering some club play, but not much else. No Belouis activity followed until 1991, when the final Some CD was released, a techno-y mess. Find it now, I dare you.

And while you're at it, find all my old Swatches. I wanna put 'em on eBay.

"Imagination" peaked at #88 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985.
"Some People" peaked at #67 the same year.


posted by John, 8:20 AM | link |

Monday, June 16, 2008

"down in alabama they like home-cooked fare, yeah! / so we're gonna strap you to the frying chair"

Joe Strummer was not a very popular guy when 1986 rolled around. The year previous, he, alongside a new crew of imposters, had taken a nice healthy dump all over the Clash name by releasing the “final” Clash album, “Cut the Crap”, picking a name that filled critics with glee, all headline pun-ready. At this point, the Clash was down to Strummer and sorta Paul Simonon (he only plays on a few cuts). “Cut the Crap” was execrable, just awful – witness the “Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees” vibe of track three, titled “We Are the Clash”. Yes, it was really that bad.

So when Strummer was asked to provide theme song for Alex Cox’s largely fictional “Sid & Nancy” biopic, no one expected too much. Diminished expectations aside, "Love Kills" was fantastic – a raw yet well produced number that would have fit nicely on “Combat Rock”. It may have been the most accessible Clash song ever, barring “Train In Vain”. Unfortunately, it was attached to a piece of trash.

Love Kills

Ah, “Sid & Nancy”…where to begin? How about with the overriding theme of the film, which was, who cares if they were two murderous junkies? THEY WERE IN LURRRVE. Wasn’t it sweet that after Sid stabbed his lover to death in a heroin haze that he was magically reunited with her in the afterlife and they took a taxicab straight to heaven? Awwwww…


Just awful. Luckily, Strummer escaped unscathed and continued his solo career, even reuniting with Mick Jones at one point to do work on some Big Audio Dynamite stuff. Unfortunately, we lost Strummer in 2002 to a heart attack, but what a body of work the man left behind. “Love Kills” should have been a big crossover hit, but hey, here it is for us today. Enjoy.

Just don’t bother with the film.

"Love Kills" did not chart.

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posted by John, 2:14 PM | link |

Monday, June 09, 2008

"it's raining / my sisters why can't we realize / that it won't be long?"

“Contentious” is probably the word I’m looking for to describe the recording of the third (and at the time – har har – final) album from The Time. While “Ice Cream Castle” (the album is strangely singular while the single, “Ice Cream Castles” is plural – hey, it’s Prince, let him explain) talks of peace and harmony, the atmosphere surrounding its making was anything but.

Ice Cream Castle

Just before recording the album, Prince informed Time members Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis their services were no longer needed. Monte Moir exited in solidarity. New members were propped up, which really meant nothing except in a live setting, since Prince did everything, with some help from guitarist Jesse Johnson and, of course, the inimitable Morris Day. Day was extremely unhappy with the controlling structure of the “band”, not to mention his payday, or lack thereof. The Time was – I’m gonna say it, I’m warning you – running out.

Ignore the credits on the sleeve – Prince, in his “Jamie Starr” mode wrote and played most everything, with the exception of some guitar, vocals (Morris, of course) and lyrics. That control was chafing other band members, so the end was inevitable. Of course, not before The Time had the two biggest singles of their career off this set, “Jungle Love” and “The Bird”. “Jungle Love”, however, was NOT the first single…

That honor went to the title track, “Ice Cream Castles (full version)”, an almost mellow, popish workout with a nice, sweet message that touched on interracial love. The album version tops out after over seven and a half minutes, but it doesn’t feel like it. A radio edit was ignored by Top 40 radio, but then “Purple Rain” hit theaters. Must I continue?

By the time The Time were crossover stars, it was over. Morris and Jesse had a few solo hits, the rest of the remaining band morphed into The Family (where is this CD, Warner Bros? And Vanity 6? C’mon.), and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis went on to become fabulously wealthy by producing/ruining the Human League and re-inventing Janet Jackson.

“Ice Cream Castles” was where this gangly white boy first heard of The Time, via a smooth video that MTV embraced for a brief time. I bought the album, loved the three singles and laughed at the amount of filler that padded the rest. But it was a nice gateway drug into the rest of Prince’s world, which I entered into freely. I’m sure I was the only 15 year old boy on my block singing “Do you think I’m a nasty girl?” and “If I was your girlfriend…”

Thank God.

”Ice Cream Castles” peaked at #11 on the Billboard R&B Singles Chart.

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posted by John, 10:06 AM | link |

Monday, June 02, 2008

"over the garden wall she said/ 'let's go to the party'"

Kissing the Pink.

Yes, that's totally what it means. Ahem.

Now that we've dispensed with all that, Kissing the Pink formed in 1980 in London and never really broke through in a big way, either home or abroad. Their first album, "Naked" came out in 1983 and MTV picked up on the moody video for "Maybe This Day", a darkish new wave/funk number featuring a sax solo perfect for stripping.


I haven't seen that video since (HELLO, VH1 CLASSIC PERSON WHO READS THIS BLOG - yeah, I see you in my stats!). As I grew older, I thought maybe I imagined this song until Napster came along (ah, memories) and I finally found it again. "Maybe This Day" even cracked Billboard's Hot 100, then Kissing the Pink went down.


Three years later, they surfaced for air, this time calling themselves the more broadcast-friendly KTP, and brandishing a much glossier sound with the album "Certain Things Are Likely". The album's first single, "One Step," got some minor club and MTV play, but the title track follow-up is what got KTP noticed in the States. "Certain Things Are Likely (Club Mix)" topped the Billboard Dance/Club Play charts in 1987, with a much funkier and superior remix of the album track that also paved the way for the emerging Chicago house scene. And hey, cowbell!

After this brush with success, the group became Kissing the Pink again, but never matched their previous heights. Another album followed in 1993, with another recorded for, then abandoned by Sony. Kissing the Pink members went on to do various production work, leaving two classic singles behind. Not bad for a band

"Maybe This Day" peaked at #87 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"Certain Things Are Likely" peaked at #97 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at #1 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play Chart.

A guide to buying Kissing the Pink albums.

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posted by John, 9:00 AM | link |