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

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"When you come 'round I never get down, I fly across the floor / I can see you coming on me, and I can't ask for more"

Is Billy Squier gay?

I ask not because it matters in any way, (I mean, really, it is 2009), but because I swear I read/saw an interview with him about five or six years ago where he quietly came out, and now I'm unable to find any evidence of such. So I just want to make sure I'm not going completely senile just yet.

I mean if he isn't, that's okay. I won't reject him or love him any less. After all, this is the guy who gave us "The Stroke", perhaps the beefiest song about whackin' it ever. And "The Big Beat", whose, um, big beat has been sampled too many times to count, most notably in Jay Z's "99 Problems". But let's review the evidence:

• "The Stroke" (duh) - includes lines such as:
Stroke me, stroke me
could be a winner boy, you move mighty well


Put your left foot out, keep it all in place
work your way right into my face
First you try to bet me, you make my backbone slide
When you find you've bled me
(oh dear!) slip on by

"In The Dark" - includes such couplets as:

Life isn't easy from the singular side
Down in the hole some emotions are hard to hide


Can you break away from your alibis
Can you make a play, will you meet me
In the dark

"My Kinda Lover" - which, besides being totally friggin' awesome, no irony whatseover in that statement - contains these little tidbits:

I feel the magic when we do what we do

and some very damning evidence in the bridge:

When you come 'round I never get down, I fly across the floor
I can see you COMING ON ME, and I can't ask for more
Rock me, sock me, baby you got me RIDING TO THE END
Rake me, shake me, baby you make me, turn me on again

...I need a cigarette after typing that.

• Commissioned Andy Warhol to paint his portrait for the cover of his third album, Emotions In Motion - check.

• The video for "Rock Me Tonight" - the "Flashdance" wardrobe, the mincing, Ed Grimley-esque choreography, the...well, just watch the damn thing:

Particularly this moment:

...that's the sight of a man ripping his career in two. And, to quote a very witty YouTube commenter, Billy rips off his gayish shirt only to replace it with an ever gayisher one (yes, it's pink!). Oh, Billy.

In all seriousness, I love these songs - sure, they're ear candy, but every once in awhile we all get a craving for something sweet and bad for our health. And do I really care if Billy is gay? Sure! Why? Anyone who can whip up tasty hooks like these I want to be able to point at with pride and say, "Hey! He's ours." Let me put it this way - I'd rather have Billy on my softball team than Elton.

"In The Dark" peaked at #35 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart and at #7 on the Mainstream Rock Chart in 1981.
"My Kinda Lover" peaked at #45 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart and at #31 on the Mainstream Rock Chart that same year.

Get Billy Squier music at Amazon or on
Billy Squier


posted by John, 10:06 PM | link |

Monday, July 20, 2009

"gimmie a break! it's a tricky situation / don't give it all away / i gotta have my digital fix today!"

Ah, Stacey Swain aka Stacey Q aka sweet, innocent "Cinnamon" from "The Facts of Life". Not so innocent, are we? Oh, I know alllll your dirty little secrets, missy.

But let's start at the beginning.

Stacey's singing career started when she joined the synthpop outfit known only as Q, after the James Bond villainweapons specialist (D'oh! Thanks, folks!). Q also featured synthpop icon Jon St. James, who produced quite a few memorable tracks for other synthpoppers, including Anything Box. After an EP, Q became SSQ, got signed to indie label Enigma Records and released their first full-length album, Playback. A lucky break followed, as Enigma got a major-label distribution deal with EMI and Playback's first single, "Synthicide" got a snazzy little video and some MTV play (watch Stacey's expression after each time she says the song's title in the chorus and purses her lips - hysterical!):

...but Stacey, dear, some of us remember your oh-so-naughty, Cinemax After Dark turn on SSQ's next video for the Berlin-a-like "Screaming In My Pillow" (WARNING: Boobies, some which may or may not be Stacey's!):

See it here, since embedding has been disabled...

Playback didn't set the charts on fire, though, and Stacey and the boys soon found themselves without a major label deal. It was back to the drawing board where someone along the line made the smart decision to cut out the middle men and put Stacey right up front. Soon, Atlantic Records came calling and released SSQ's second, er, Stacey Q's debut album, Better Than Heaven. In all fairness, while the SSQ personnel remained the same, the sound did change quite a bit, becoming much more pop-oriented, with the soft-core porn lyrics first glance. The make-over resulted in "Two of Hearts", a Top 3 smash that everyone knows.

And hey, you probably know the follow-up single "We Connect", too, since it was, I don't know, THE SAME FRIGGIN' SONG! "We Connect" was always a source of laughs for me and my friends due to its "Two of Hearts" Xerox nature - we'd sing the lyrics to "Two of Hearts" over "We Connect" and of course, they fit perfectly. But "We Connect" had

We Connect
When we're together, it's so perfect
Boy, you shock me with your white, hot love
I start to overload
I explode when we connect


Stacey Q went on to release a couple more albums, with one single, "Don't Make a Fool of Yourself" making some Dance Chart noise, but that was pretty much it. But we'll always have Stacey's special moments with Mindy Cohn.

"Synthicide" did not chart.
"We Connect" peaked at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at #1 on the Dance Club Play Charts.

Get Stacey Q music on Amazon or on
Stacey Q

Labels: ,

posted by John, 7:25 PM | link |

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"if she's a lady, i'm her man / if she's a man, i'll do what i can!"

Let's start this off by Snopesing what I believe to be apocryphal - just about every overview about Alphaville I read says something to the effect that "Forever Young" was the prom theme at high schools nationwide in the 80s. In fact, "Forever Young's" review on says, "'Forever Young,' a stark, epic song that would become essential for every post-1984 high school graduation..." blah blah, etc., etc.

I'm calling bullshit on this urban myth.

No one in the 80s had Alphaville's "Forever Young" as their prom theme. Rod Stewart's, maybe, but not Alphaville. Can anyone prove to me their high school prom theme was Alphaville's "Forever Young?" I'll need supporting documentation. Maybe it's the Midwest in me, but no one knew who the hell Alphaville were in 1984, besides the super-hip artfags and new wavers that were populating schools nationwide in groups of four or five. I think a lot of music critics have a slightly skewed retroactive memory as it relates to "Forever Young's" impact. Maybe you West Coasters had some big Alphaville movement happening at the time. I'd love to be proven wrong here, so scan those prom programs!

Moving on, "Forever Young" was Forever Young's second single, following the middling chart non-success of "Big In Japan". Both songs are now synthpop classics, but I always had a special place in my heart for the album's closer and third single, "Jet Set", a ridiculously over the top spectacle matched only by its even campier video. With its drag queens, hyperactive choreography and questionable dance moves, the video seemed to take its visual cues from one of my all-time favorite piece of poop movies, The Apple:

Alas, "Jet Set" did nada and Alphaville moved on to album #2, "Afternoons In Utopia" and its lead-off single, "Dance with Me". A zippy little number, "Dance With Me" did okay on the Dance Charts but didn't crossover like it should have. Alphaville went on to record well into the Nineties, but didn't make much more chart noise. But somehow in the time since, they've become big ol' prom stars.

Not! Nyah!

"The Jet Set" did not chart.
"Dance With Me" peaked at #22 on the Billboard Dance Club Play Chart in 1986.

Getcher Alphaville tunes at Amazon or on


posted by John, 9:53 PM | link |

Monday, July 06, 2009

"no more babysitting for neurotic girls today"

Hi, kids! Little lesson in prevention today. This is your brain:

Alain Jourgensen, 1983

And this is your drain on brugs:

Alain Jourgensen, 2006

Any questions?

Okay, okay, put all your hands down. We'll get to you each, one at a time. For all our advanced students who have covered this, please be patient and feel free to add to the discussion.

You all know Ministry, right? The aggro-industrial-metal revolving-member combo led by Alain Jourgensen, mostly known for their mid-90s alterna-crossover hit "Jesus Built My Hotrod," yes? But are you aware that Ministry had much milder origins, starting as a New Wave dance club synthpop duo? And that With Sympathy, the duo's first album, is still my favorite (and yes, I also adore everything else up through and including Psalm 69). Sympathy's first half is a fairly solid synthpop collection, much in the Soft Cell vein, complete with Chicagoan Jourgensen singing in a snotty British accent and even, GASP, rapping at one point on the single, "I Wanted To Tell Her". "I Wanted To Tell Her", along with "Work For Love" were respectable club hits, and who was around early MTV that doesn't remember the video for "Revenge"?

And golly, through the magic that is YouTube, how about a live version of such from 1983? Yowza!

...but a personal favorite was the last song on the album, "She's Got A Cause", with its off-beat snare and extra snotty vocal delivery ("SHE'S. GAUGHT. A CAWWWZE!"). It's like Marc Almond, but straight.

Now, of course, Alain disowns this album, to the point of letting it lapse out of print for quite a few years now. He claims his record label at the time, Arista, pushed this poppier sound down his throat, but I do have to take issue with that - I certainly wasn't there, but songs like "Cold Life" and "(Everyday Is) Halloween" were done before AND after Arista came into the picture. Besides, can a record company actually force you to write a song? Certainly they can pick and choose compositions you don't prefer, but I've yet to see Joe A&R Guy worm his way into someone's brain, take control of their fingers and hit the DX7 keys for you.

Whatever the issue was, Ministry went on to discover guitars, machine-gun drum loops and lots and lots of drugs. But I don't understand the hatred for this album, a nice little time capsule of perfectly acceptable synthpop that deserves a nice remastering and re-release. Maybe now that Al's clean (since 2003!), he can look back on his misspent youth with a little more understanding and lift the embargo.

"I Wanted To Tell Her" peaked at #13 on the Billboard Club Play Singles Chart and at #106 on the Bubbling Under Chart in 1983.

Amazon has a nice selection of Ministry, including "Early Trax", which compiles some early work from this period. "Early Trax" and more are also available on


posted by John, 8:00 AM | link |