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

Monday, April 27, 2009

Frankly, I'm As Stumped As Heather

Was marrying Heather Mills the most embarassing thing Paul McCartney ever did?

Unfortunately, no.

And this didn't help matters any:

So, is that the most cringe-inducing "Wacky Celebrity Cameo" video ever? Or is it the Paul Simon one with Steve Martin and repeat offender Chevy imitating MC Hammer?

"Spies Like Us" peaked at #7 (ye Gods!) on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985.
Chevy Chase recently played a batshit crazy screaming Jew-hater on "Law & Order".
Dan Aykroyd married beyond his station then got bloated.

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posted by John, 4:10 PM | link |

Monday, April 20, 2009

"twisting the bones until they snap / i scream but no one knows"

Fiction Factory is one of those bands whom I've always read about since they came and went in the early '80s, but never actually heard until a few years ago. You know how certain bands just don't interest you for whatever irrational reason, be it their name, appearance, whatever? For some reason Fiction Factory just fell into this category for me, and honestly, I couldn't tell you why. Total Blind Spot Band for me.

My loss, since their one significant single, "Feels Like Heaven", is an absolute (retroactive) classic. Evocative of Depeche Mode with a bit of Heaven 17 while sounding somewhat unique, thanks to some real piano, "...Heaven" is a deceptively simple song that reveals its complexity with repeated listens. For example, it sure seems like a love song, until you dig deeper:

See how we planned for saddened eyes
And tears to pave the way
I fought the fever as I knew
My hair it turned to grey

Study your face and fade the frame
Too close for comfort now
We can recall the harmony
That lingered but turned sour

Feels like heaven

...and you realize this dude is ecstatic because he's finally leaving a drama queen bee-yotch that he can barely stand to be near. Neato!

Unfortunately, Fiction Factory had trouble following up this non-hit-in-the-first-place single. Another album, then pffft. Their debut, "Throw The Warped Wheel Out", is still in print however, albeit as an import, and that's pretty darn impressive for an album released in 1984 that never charted.

And am I the only one who sort of hears "Feels Like Heaven" every time I hear follow one-hit wonders When In Rome's "The Promise"? Hmm. Feels like plagiarism.

"Feels Like Heaven" did not chart.

Get Fiction Factory music at Amazon.


posted by John, 7:17 PM | link |

Monday, April 13, 2009

When New Wave Happens To Old Artists - Stevie Nicks

Can't do one without doing the other, I suppose.

After seeing massive success with her debut solo album, "Belladonna", Stevie Nicks settled into more regular pattern of releasing solo works between Fleetwood Mac cash grabs reunions, delving into a bit of synth-y New Wave with her second solo album, 1983's "The Wild Heart". You probably heard the story about its first single, Top 5 hit "Stand Back" - "that's Prince playing keyboards!" Well, not really. Prince reportedly played on the demo version of the song and gets a co-writing credit, but keyboardist Sandy Stewart actually did the synth duties on the finished product. And the video is significant because it was the only time Stevie ever used a treadmill:

Yes, Lost in the '80s - home of the cheap shot.

Stewart also co-wrote "The Wild Heart's" second single, "If Anyone Falls", which was even more synth-drenched. "If Anyone Falls" is a pleasant enough tune, but those opening lyrics still crack me up:

"I hear a voice in the room next to mine
Feels good, sounds good
Closes the door from behind
And another voice comes thru the door"

...then she goes on to talk about her lover. Um, who were the other two people in the room next to hers? Her lover and a mistress? And the voice closes the door? Impressive. Huh? Coke paranoia says what?

Don't blink or you'll miss Mick Fleetwood...

Speaking of Bolivian nose candy, boy oh boy howdy, was Mizz Nicks snortin' it up by the 'dozer-full back in those days. Ever hear the urban legend about the origin of the Stevie Nicks Booty Bump? It's really not worksafe. Let's just say it involves snorting coke without using your nose, but with a straw and another orifice. If you'd like me to share further, ask me in the comments. But anyhooze, the point being is that Miz Nicks was getting progressively more and more snowblind, so outside writers were brought in, more synths were stacked up and the result was "Rock a Little". Love the title - rock a little, not a whole lot, 'k?

First single "Talk To Me" was pretty typical Nicks fare and resulted in another big Top 5 hit. The follow-up, "I Can't Wait" is quite interesting, though. Take a listen and forget it's by Stevie Nicks for a sec - get to about the thirty second mark and tell me that doesn't sound exactly like New Order at the time. The synth-bass, the sampled orchestral stings...a definite influence, and not one people would immediately associate with the Welsh Witch.

And as for the video, I have two words for you: Stairs Choreography!

After a rocky "Rock A Little" tour, marred by the ravages of coke on Nicks' voice and figure, Stevie retreated for a bit to rejoin the Mac for a couple more albums, with two disjointed and relatively ignored solo albums before finally cleaning up her act and joining the classic Mac line-up for the huge "The Dance" comeback album and tour. Since then, Stevie continues to work with Fleetwood Mac while putting out solo work in the downtime. And Nicks hasn't left the New Wave/Dance influences entirely behind her, as her #1 Dance Club Hit from 2001, "Planets of the Universe" can attest.

Oh, and uh, wow.

"If Anyone Falls" peaked at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983.
"I Can't Wait" peaked at #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1986.

Get Stevie Nicks music at Amazon or on
Stevie Nicks


posted by John, 6:54 PM | link |

Monday, April 06, 2009

When New Wave Happens To Old Artists - Lindsey Buckingham

An alarm clock rings starting from the right speaker, crossing over to the left, then back and forth. A chorus of Lindseys intones "I want you" in a robotic monotone while high pitched squeals dance in the background, as if someone is trying to tune in a radio station that isn't quite there. This continues for about forty seconds, until a happy synth riff begins, signaling a shift in tone for the song and Lindsey Buckingham's career.

The song is "I Want You" and the album is 1984's "Go Insane," Buckingham's second solo album and his first to fully embrace the drum machines, synthesizers and vocal effects that made up New Wave.

Oh, and he plays some guitar on it, too.

Big Love = Big Hair

Recorded during one of Buckingham's periodic dissastifaction with Fleetwood Mac, "Go Insane" scored a Top 40 hit with its title track. The album works as a sort of loose concept detailing the disintegration of Lindsey's relationship with his girlfriend at the time, with "I Must Go" breaking down the reasons why:

I've been trying just to get to you
Hey little girl, leave the little drug alone
I just can't seem to get thru
Hey little girl, leave the little drug alone...

...and this is why I must go

"Side one" of the album is brilliant, with four killer potential singles in a row, including second single "Slow Dancing", a strange little funk number that got some MTV video play, but failed to chart in the Hot 100. I guess we weren't ready for gothic funk yet.

While "Go Insane" did well sales-wise, Buckingham eventually retreated back to the Mac for another go 'round with 1987's "Tango In The Night", whose first single, "Big Love" sounded suspiciously like a "Go Insane" outtake (it was pure Lindsey, who played every instrument and did every vocal, including the sped-up "uh ah" grunts and moans at the end). By the time Buckingham got around to another solo album, 1992's "Out Of The Cradle", the New Wave-isms were gone, but not the great songcraft.

Score: Lindsay, 1, New Wave, 0.

"Slow Dancing" peaked at #108 on the Billboard Bubbling Under Singles Chart in 1984.
"I Want You" and "I Must Go" were not released as singles.

Get Lindsay Buckingham music at Amazon or on
Lindsey Buckingham

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posted by John, 6:00 PM | link |