Friday, November 29, 2019

No Dark Sarcasm in the Classroom

Pink Floyd : Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2 

On November 30, 1979 Pink Floyd released The Wall, four sides of dark, dismal and gloomy dread that spent 15 weeks atop the U.S. album charts. Sales have surpassed 20 million. One of those copies was purchased by my dad, who would play it in the car as he drove me up to boarding school. If there is one album you do not want to be listening to on a two hour drive wintry drive to a boarding school, it's The Wall. My dad thought it was brilliant. He was still buying  one album a year, and this was his purchase in early 1980. When I said the school master in "Another Brick of the Wall, Part 2" reminded me of Oliver Twist ("If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding"), he thought I was making fun of the Floyd, and him. And I could sense his anger building in the silence we shared.

With the exception of "Comfortably Numb" and a few others, The Wall was written and composed by Roger Waters. The spark that inspired the album began on the Animals tour. He began to feel alienated on stage and contempt for the people who paid to see Pink Floyd in concert.

Mojo Magazine sums up Waters' mindset in this way:

Waters, so disillusioned by stadium shows that he spat at a fan and fantasised about dropping bombs on the audience, said he would only perform again behind a wall.

The recording was fraught with tension. Producer Bob Ezrin, who made his mark with Alice Cooper and Kiss, was brought in as both a collaborator and as a bridge between Waters and the other members.  Keyboardist Richard Wright was dismissed during recording but stayed on as a salaried musician. David Gilmour and Waters managed to compose "Comfortably Numb" together but, again, almost everything else was Waters.

Adding to the tension was a deadline imposed by the record company to get the album out by the Christmas 1979 season. Waters cracked the whip, calling in band members from family vacations. Waters had his vision but he did allow Ezrin to suggest a disco beat be added to "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2".  He also recorded some school children to sing with a cockney accent. According to Ezrin, when he played the children's vocals to Waters, "there was a total softening of his face, and you just knew that he knew it was going to be an important record".Waters said: "It was great—exactly the thing I expected from a collaborator."  As a single, the song would hit #1 in the U.K., the United States and Germany, propelling more sales of the double album.

Reviews of the album were mixed at the time. Robert Christgau gave The Wall a B-, writing:

For a dumb tribulations-of-a-rock-star epic, this isn't bad -- unlikely to arouse much pity or envy, anyway. The music is all right, too -- kitschy minimal maximalism with sound effects and speech fragments. But the story is confused, "mother" and "modern life" make unconvincing villains, and if the re-contextualization of "up against the wall" is intended ironically, I don't get it.

The album would finish #40 in the 1980 Pazz and Jop Critic's poll.

From Kurt Loder, writing for Rolling Stone:

This is very tough stuff, and hardly the hallmark of a hit album. Whether or not The Wall succeeds commercially will probably depend on its musical virtues, of which there are many...Even Floyd-starved devotees may not be sucked into The Wall's relatively flat aural ambiance on first hearing. But when they finally are -- and then get a good look at that forbidding lyrical landscape -- they may wonder which way is out real fast.

And from Melody Maker:

I'm not sure whether its brilliant or terrible but I find it utterly compelling.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Voices From Outer Space

Adam and the Ants : Never Trust A Man With Egg On His Face

On November 30, 1979, before the face paint and incessant drum sounds, Adam and the Ants released Dirk Wears White Socks, the band's debut album. It would be the first number one album on the UK Independent Albums Chart when the chart debuted in Record Week in 1980.

The album has the honor of making Rolling Stone's list of 20 Terrible Debut Albums by Great Artists. Adam Ant refers to it as "the album that got the shit kicked out of it by journalists at the time" and Rolling Stone writer Reed Fischer calls it an "all-pretentious, oft-laborious...sloppy attempt to capture the prickly subversive sounds of Wire, Television or Talking Heads."

Almost every Ant who played on this album left the band before the 1981 follow-up Kings of the Wild Frontier.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Who Said Anything About Love?

Joe Jackson : It's Different For Girls


On November 30, 1979 Joe Jackson released "It's Different For Girls", the second single from I'm The Man. Critic David Hepworth's reaction: "a very good song but a mite too sprawling and unfocused to be much of a hit". It would actually be the biggest U.K. hit of Joe Jackson's career, peaking at #5.

The song reverses the classic roles between a man and a woman. He wants to connect on a more intimate level. She just wants sex:

She said, "Just give me something 
Well give me all you got but not love" 

Jackson told Songfacts in 2012

It was something that I heard somewhere that struck me as a cliché. The sort of thing that someone might say. And again, I thought, What could that be about? And that maybe the idea was to turn it on its head and have a conversation between a man and a woman and what you’d expect to be the typical roles are reversed. So that was the idea of that.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Always the Same

The Cure : Jumping Someone Else's Train

In November of 1979 The Cure released "Jumping Someone Else's Train" b/w "I'm Cold". The single failed to chart but it's impressive nonetheless. Writing for Smash Hits, David Hepworth raves:

The Cure at last live up to and surpass all that promise with a crisp, biting attack on fads, fashions and oneupmanship. Robert Smith takes the vocal in front of a sparkling zigzagging lead line and a wicked leaping bass. It's the first of their records to actually sound finished and the first of many classics I would venture.

Smith wrote the lyrics about the mod revival or maybe it was the ska revival. He tells the Belgian Magazine Humo:

I loath the snobbism and elitism of it all: ‘I was already acid[-house music] when you were still new wave’ – that stuff. In fact it’s all as small as the ska revival where I wrote an angry song about: Jumping Someone Else’s Train. Now I read articles everywhere about the new ska revival. Despicable. At this rate, we’re having 5 revivals every year. I’m probably old fashioned, but I like music that’s not limited to a certain time.

The B side features Siouxsie Sioux on backing vocals and anticipates the bleak sound of 1980's 17 Seconds.

Monday, November 25, 2019

UK Top 10 November 25, 1979

The Police : Walking on the Moon

On November 25, 1979 The new Police single, "Walking On The Moon", debuted at U.K. #5 despite the unimpressed critics. From Melody Maker: "Perversely, this is actually the one Sting performance I actually like, though this peculiarly empty song, based around a stalking bass figure, probably wasn't a smart choice as a single" and from Smash Hits' David Hepworth  " a pleasant, almost casual reggae affair".

The U.K. Top 10:

1. Dr. Hook When You're in Love With a Beautiful Woman
2. Queen Crazy Little Thing Called Love
3. Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand No More Tears ( Enough Is Enough)
4 The Commodores Still

5. The Police Walking In The Moon
6. Gary Numan Complex

7. Madness One Step Beyond
8. Electric Light Orchestra Confusion/Last Train to London

9. The Jam The Eton Rifles
10. B.A. Robertson Knocked It Off

And debuting at #26 the first single from Pink Floyd's forthcoming album, The Wall.

Friday, November 22, 2019

The Cassette Played Pop Tones

Public Image Ltd : Poptones

On November 23, 1979 Public Image Ltd released Metal Box, an appropriate title for an album that arrived in record stores as three 12" 45 RPM singles inside a round metal canister. Though the packaging was innovative and relatively inexpensive, John Lydon writes the band had to pay for it, not Virgin Records, adding:

How the boxes themselves turned out was awkward in the extreme...They were hard to prise apart, and it was impossible to get the records out. It was appropriate, though , because what you were about to listen to could've been construed as distinctly unpleasant--it was made for those consumers who were prepared to put in a bit of effort.

The music inside is challenging: the tracks are longer, shambolic, challenging to listeners, inspired by dub and the music of Can. "Poptones" is the song that haunts Lydon to this day. I's inspired by the rape of a young girl who had been captured by two men, blindfolded, stashed in the trunk of a Japanese car where she could hear a Bee Gees song playing on the cassette deck, thus the line "And the cassette played poptones".

"Albatross" is about the man who haunts Lydon's nightmares, Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. It runs 10:35. 

"It deserved that length," Lydon writes. "You let the song dictate the pace and the time rather than you trying to master it and control it and make it all note-perfect. I find those kinds of approaches to be  stifling, a contamination."

The reputation of Metal Box has grown. At the time, critics weren't sure what to make of it, though NME writers ranked it the second best album of the year after Talking Heads' Fear of Music.

Red Starr, writing for Smash Hits, gave the album a 6 out of 10 writing:

Scrawny, metallic guitar, steely, mechanical drumming, bumbling bass, JL wailing and sneering watery melodic themes ( no tunes) --rock n roll it ain't. 60 minutes of challenging but chilly music--the barest, most humorless, heartless and generally unfriendly sound since The Banshees. Brilliant or barren, breaking barriers or cornering themselves? You decide --I can't. Best tracks : "Albatross", "Radio 4".

From Chris Bohn, writing for Melody Maker, calls Metal Box a perfection of the debut album:

The basic thrust comes from a driving, single-minded drumbeat and (Jah) Wobble's wanderings to and from the forefront of the mix. Keith Levene alternately attacks and tacks on raggedly spiky guitar, which occasionally spirals excitedly around the sound, otet times dropping in and out. Ditto Lydon, whose voice and words have you straining to catch what he's saying.

  Robert Christgau had more time to digest his copy which came out on Island Records as Second Edition in 1980. He gave the album an A- writing:

In which former three-chord savage J. Lydon turns self-conscious primitivist, quite sophisticated in his rotten way. PIL complements Lydon's civilized bestiality by reorganizing the punk basics--ineluctable pulse, impermeable bass, attack guitar--into a full-bodied superaware white dub with disorienting European echoes. Much of the music on this double-LP version of the exorbitant three-disc, forty-five r.p.m. Metal Box is difficult; some of it fails. But the lyrics are both listenable and readable, and thanks to the bass parts even the artiest instrumentals have a leg up on, to choose a telling comparison, Brian Eno's. Don't say I didn't warn you, though--it may portend some really appalling bullshit. No matter what J. Lydon says, rock and roll doesn't deserve to die just because it's twenty-five years old. J. Lydon will be twenty-five years old himself before he knows it.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Tough On My Emotion

The Raincoats : In Love

On November 21, 1979 The Raincoats released their debut album on Rough Trade Records. Inspired by The Slits, this all-female band produced what Pitchfork calls "34 minutes of clattering feminist outsider art"  that may take multiple listenings before connecting. The band lived as squatters, paying no rent and living on air and the occasional meal and bath. 

“It was a homemade, chaotic sound,” bassist and vocalist Gina Burch says. “The way we lived seeped in.”

From liner notes by Kurt Cobain, who listed the album among his Top 50 favorites: 

"I don't really know anything about the Raincoats except that they recorded some music that has affected me so much that, whenever I hear it I'm reminded of a particular time in my life when I was (shall we say) extremely unhappy, lonely, and bored. If it weren't for the luxury of putting that scratchy copy of the Raincoats' first record, I would have had very few moments of peace. I suppose I could have researched a bit of history about the band but I feel it's more important to delineated the way I feel and how they sound. When I listen to the Raincoats I feel as if I'm a stowaway in an attic, violating and in the dark. Rather than listening to them I feel like I'm listening in on them. We're together in the same old house and I have to be completely still or they will hear me spying from above and, if I get caught – everything will be ruined because it's their thing."

From Robert Christgau who gives the album a B+:

In their dubious pro-am musicianship and unavoidably spacy ambience, both of Rough Trade's very modern girl groups recall late-'60s art-rock of the Cantabrigian school--Kevin Ayers, Soft Machine, that ilk. But where Essential Logic also recalls art-rock of the Juilliard school, the Raincoats' punk-goes-folk-rock feels friendly even in its arty hostility. If the tentativeness of the rhythms and vocals is accentuated by the medium tempos they prefer, the unevenness of their songwriting means some of it is very good. Sure the multiple genderfuck "Lola" is what sucks you in, but you may end up preferring the other side. As with Lora Logic's sax, the signature and hook is Vicky Aspinall's violin, which she saws rather than plays.

From Red Starr, writing for Smash Hits a 7/10:

The Raincoats play vigorous, passionate, unorthodox music but the sound here is so woefully thin that it doesn't really do justice to their challenging songs and arrangements. Whereas The Slits sounded bold and confident, The Raincoats mostly come across shrill and desperate, though Side 2 is much more like it. But try and hear it. Best tracks: "You're A Million", "No Looking At Me".

From some guy who calls himself Weekend Cigar Smoker on Rate Your Music:

1st listen: What is this shit? You'd have to be a total cunt to listen to this 
2nd: This is mad. Its shit 
3rd. Why do I keep listening to this? What brings me back? 
4th. Its interesting i'll give it that. I dont think ive heard anything like it 
5th. Fuck me its brilliant. I am a total cunt. But a happy one

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Never Heard About Oscar Wilde

Dexy's Midnight Runners : Dance Stance


In November of 1979 Dexy's Midnight Runners released its debut single "Dance Stance" on the independent label Oddball Records. It would reach #40 on the UK Singles Chart in early 1980. Kevin Rowland, an English songwriter proud of his Irish roots, references a range of Irish playwrights and writers including Oscar Wilde, Brendan Behan, Seán O'Casey, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, Eugene O'Neill, Edna O’Brien and Laurence Sterne.

 "I was sick of hearing anti-Irish prejudice all the time from really thick people and the lyrics just spilled out of me," he recalled to The Guardian. "I had this biography of Brendan Behan and on the back it said: 'Some say Behan has the potency of Oscar Wilde...' and listed all these other great writers: Sean O'Casey, George Bernard Shaw and so on."

 Rowland added, "I'd heard of them – that was all – but thought: 'I'll put them in!' I don't think I was ever claiming to have actually read them. I was saying: 'If Irish people are so thick, how come they've produced all these great writers.'"   

To be a member of the Dexy's all members had to quit their day jobs and practice  at all hours. They also had to follow Rowland's costume ideas. The early look was based on Robert DeNiro's Johnny Boy in Mean Streets. The dedication would pay off with two #1 U.K. hits, "Geno" and "Come On Eileen", which topped the U.S. charts in 1983.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A Star Chaser

Sheila + B. Devotion : Spacer


On November 19, 1979 Sheila and B Devotion entered the U.K. singles charts with "Spacer", a Top 10 hit throughout Europe that would sell 5 million copies thanks in large part to  the can't miss production of Chic's Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers. The duo would spend most of December producing Diana Ross' biggest selling album of her career, Diana, which would feature "Upside Down" and "I'm Coming Out".

Sheila was a popular ye-ye singer in the 1960's who scored a European Top 10 hit with the disco tune "Love Me Baby", sung in English and performed without shame years before Madonna would do the same. Her voice is of the generic breathless variety but that's hardly the point. Chic is going to outer space!

"Spacer" was ranked at number eight among the top "Tracks of the Year" for 1979 by NME.

Monday, November 18, 2019

And the Taxman's Shouting

The Jam : Burning Sky

On November 16, 1979 The Jam released Setting Sons, their fourth album. One of Paul Weller's favorite bands, The Who, recorded a very famous fourth album, Tommy --a concept album about a deaf dumb and blind boy who becomes a kind of Christ figure. It has been suggested that Weller's Setting Sons began as a concept album about a trio of friends who go to war only to return as strangers to each other.

In his book That's Entertainment : My Life in The Jam  drummer Rick Buckler disagrees with the theory:

The notion of Setting Sons being some kind of concept album is quite loose and that certainly wasn't on our minds while we were recording it. It most definitely wasn't an attempt to be The Jam's Tommy or The Wall. All Jam songs--and Paul's lyrics--are open to any interpretation from whoever is listening...It just so happened that when Setting Sons was released in 1979 it was exactly 40 years after the outbreak of the Second World War.

OK, but there is plenty of literature to suggest at least five songs came from a scrapped concept album ("Private Hell", "Little Boy Soliders", "Eton Rifles", "Burning Sky", and "Thick As Thieves"). But the concept falls apart on "Smithers-Jones", the string version of the song bassist Bruce Foxton wrote about his dad, and on the band's live in the studio recording of "Heat Wave".

Red Starr of Smash Hits gave the album 9 out of 10,  writing:

In a word; brilliant. Paul Weller has always tried to be good and different, but this time he's excelled himself. Excellent lyrics ( as always), strong melodies this time ( eg "Eton Rifles", included here)  superbly executed--power, precision and imagination all around. It's all dynamite stuff that gets mightier with every play. Simply amazing. Best tracks: "Private Hell", "Girl on the Phone".

From Robert Christgau a B+:

Likable lads, as always, and improving themselves, too. The music has gained density and power, and they do OK with the social commentary--nice to see some empathy for doomed middle-class plodders like "Smithers-Jones" instead of the usual contempt, and "The Eton Rifles" and "Little Boy Soldiers" place them firmly on the left. On the other hand, some of this is pretty dumb ("Wasteland," ugh), and overarrangement (not so much extra instruments as dramatic vocal shifts) is no way to disguise thin melody.

Setting Sons was ranked number four among the top "Albums of the Year" for 1979 by NME, with "The Eton Rifles" ranked at number one among the year's top tracks.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Dancing Across the Water

Neil Young and Crazy Horse : Cortez The Killer

On November 14, 1979 Neil Young summed up the decade with one final album, Live Rust, a performance of songs actually dating back to his days with Buffalo Springfield ("I Am a Child") all the way up to 1979's Rust Never Sleeps. The latter was mostly recorded live with the sound sof the audience removed, leading some critics to wonder if Young was repeating himself.

Live Rust was accompanied by a film of the same name, directed by Young under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, shot at the Cow Palace outside San Francisco. I haven't seen it all, but I understand the stage hands dressed as jawas from Star Wars

The album begins with Young on stage alone, only accompanied by his guitar, piano and harmonica. Crazy Horse joins Young for Sides 2, 3 and 4. Most of the live performances are tighter than "Cortez The Killer", but this is the only clip I could find.

Robert Christgau sums up the critical take in his A- review,

John Piccarella thinks this is the great Neil Young album, Greil Marcus thinks it's a waste, and they're both right. The two discs are probably more impressive cut for cut than Decade, but without offering one song Young fans don't already own. I prefer the studio versions of the acoustic stuff on side one for their intimacy and touch. But I'm sure I'll play the knockdown finale--"Like a Hurricane," "Hey Hey, My My," and "Tonight's the Night," all in their wildest (and best) recorded interpretations--whenever I want to hear Neil rock out.

Live Rust finished #22 on the Village Voice Pazz + Jop critics poll, 20 spots behind Rust Never Sleeps.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Life Is Quite Absurd

Monty Python : Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

On November 16, 1979 Monty Python released the single "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life", written by Eric Idle for The Life of Brian. It failed to chart until the 1990's when it reached U.K.#3. Idle would tell BBC Radio 4 Inheritance Tracks programme :

"I think it has a good moral philosophy. It's very encouraging for people and it sort of inspires them and I'm happy to say it's the number one song at British funerals.

The song was written when we were writing the Life of Brian with Python and every one of characters were all headed for death. We didn't know how to end the film and I suddenly suggested 'Well, we should end with a song' and they went  'Oh, that's a good idea' and I said "But it should be a song that is sung from the crosses and it should be a cheery, happy song. It should be looking on the bright side. And it should maybe be like a Disney song . There should be a little whistle to it'. And they said 'Oh that's good' and (Terry) Gilliam said 'They can dance as well' and so  they said 'That's good. That's great. There's our ending' and in the wrote in the script "Ends with a song: I'm looking on the Bright Side " and now we can all go home and have tea.

"I went home and I wrote it very quickly...and I changed it to 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life'. Well of course it's very ironic.  There is no bright side if you're being crucified. To me, it's  a parody of a war time song of my father's generation which were always about the White Cliffs of Dover...and one day things will get better and 'Bright Side' is sort of in that genre.

"It's in the lyric actually. 'Always remember that the last laugh is on you'. So it will be, you know. one day."

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

People Call Me Villain

The Damned : Smash It Up (Pt 2) 

In November of 1979 The Damned released Machine Gun Etiquette, a rebound from that most slumpish of sophomore albums, the uninspired Music For Pleasure. With the departure of guitarist Brian James and the addition of Saints bassist Algy Ward, the band reformed ( with original members Captain Sensible, Rat Scabies and Dave Vanian) and sounded excited to be back in the studio. 

The result may be their best album of all.

"Love Song" hit #20 on the UK singles chart. Their appearance on Top of the Pops is a classic moment, especially with Captain Sensible's furry suit. "Smash It Up", which would become The Damned's theme song,  made the Top 40.

Mojo Magazine has declared "Machine Gun Etiquette is up there with the best, most original, and meanest underground rock from the '70s.."

Mean? I don't know. Despite the band's name and its goth lead singer, The Damned has always struck me as the punk band with the best sense of humor. Note the performance below and how it ends.

"Noise, Noise, Noise" features vocal assistance from Joe Strummer whose bad was recording London Calling next door.  There's an MC5 cover ("Looking At You") , the melodic instrumental "Smash It Up (pt 1)" and  "Plan 9 Channel 7", dedicated to actress Vampira and her role in Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space

Once thought dead, The Damned were just getting going.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Detroit Leaning

Pretenders : Brass In Pocket

On November 11, the new Pretenders single, "Brass In Pocket", entered the U.K. charts at #57. By January of 1980, the month the band's debut album finally came out on Real Records, it would top the U.K. charts. The tune would also be a U.S.#14 hit, even inspiring a few to learn what the Yorkshire term "brass in pocket" means ( spare change) though nobody has really deciphered the phrase "Detroit leaning".

Many male critics were taken with singer-songwriter Chrissie Hynde's sex appeal in this song. Here's David Hepworth's review in Smash Hits:

Well, they may be keeping us waiting a sinful long time for their debut album, but as long as they can put out singles as simple and easy as this then they've got good reason to be confident. This is less of a song than a series of remarks that gets its hooks in you with one simple guitar riff over a light and lovely rhythm. I think she's got a sexy voice.

That may be true but Hynde also spoke to women in a way no rocker has before. Here's what Ann Powers wrote about this song and the debut album as a whole:

In the same way that The Cather in the Rye gave generations of undergrads ab way to make sense of their own alienation, or Fear of Flying taught secretaries and schoolteachers how they might articulate desire, Pretenders pinpointed the thrills and frustration felt by  the women musicians, record store clerks, band managers, scenesters, and fans living in the shadow of a male-dominated rock + roll --but also daring the rebel moves it seemed to make possible.

The B-sides, sadly, are both uninspired instrumentals.

I just watched "Lost In Translation" for a second time last week. Scarlett Johansson performs the song in a karaoke bar in a memorable scene that has the audience wondering what exactly is happening between her and Bill Murray.  One of those odd moments when my musical life crosses over into my real one.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

A Beautician At The Wheel

ZZ Top : I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide

After a two year break in which guitarist Billy Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill grew their chest-length beards, the band released the platinum album, Degüello. It's my favorite of their albums and some top notch critics agree with me. Robert Christgau gave the album a grade of A-, writing:

These guys got off the road for real--sounds as if they spent all three years playing the blues on their front porch. The strident arena technique is gone, every song gives back a verbal phrase or two to make up for the musical ones it appropriates, and to vary the trio format they not only learned how to play horns but figured out where to put them. I've heard a shitload of white blues albums in the wake of Belushi + Aykroyd. This is the best by miles.

Another fan was Lester Bangs whose review contains the following wildly written statement:

“Punks used to wear razor blades, but these guys play ’em, lividly. It’s fun, like eating tequila backward. They’re bound and determined to suck you into their cliché–but, hey, everybody has to search for roots, remember? Alex ‘n’ Newsweek said so. ZZ Top just laid off awhile to dig up more of theirs. Yet listening to Degüello really is as painful as trying to swallow tympanic jalapeños, so proceed with caution (and eat your “high energy” hearts out, mush-grooved power poppers). If you lose control, you can always douche with guacamole.”

This is serious pick up truck driving and beer drinking music, ten times better and smarter than it probably needs to be. Also includes "I Thank You" and "Fool For Your Automobile".

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Their Eyes Go Blank

The Brains : Money Changes Everything

When "Money Changes Everything " by The Brains made the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critic's singles poll, tying The Flying Lizards' "Money" at #9, producer Steve Lillywhite added the band to his list of projects following XTC's Drums and Wires and the Psychedelic Furs' debut.

Big things were expected. Critic Greil Marcus, listing it at number 10 of his Real-Life Rock Top Ten 1979, said, "Singer Tom Gray told his story in a strangled voice, as if he were trying to explain, but instead he laid a curse. This damned single ranks higher than I've placed it, but if it were anywhere else I couldn't end with it, and there's no other way the decade could end. "

The self-titled debut album would get critical praise in 1980 though it has been lost among all the faceless new wave rock albums that came out around then.

The version of "Money Changes Everything" the world knows is Cyndi Lauper's. It was the fifth single from 1983's She's So Unusual and charted at US#27 and #3 in Chile!!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Wipin' Out Brain Cells

Mental As Anything : The Nips Are Getting Better

In November of 1979 Australia's Mental As Anything released their debut album Get Wet, featuring the single "The Nips Are Getting Bigger". The song has nothing to do with breasts and everything to do with the dangers of drinking:

Sometimes I wonder 
What all these chemicals 
Are doin' to my brain 
Doesn't worry me enough 
To stop me from doin' it agai-ai-ain

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Freeze Frame

Godley + Creme : I Pity Inanimate Objects

In November of 1979, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley released Freeze Frame, their third album since departing 10cc. My favorite track is "I Pity Inanimate Objects" which anticipates the use of autotune. 

In an interview for The Idler magazine in 2007, Kevin Godley explained how that song was realized:
Recently, I played I Pity Inanimate Objects from Freeze Frame and I remembered how and why we actually did that. The idea was driven by a new piece of equipment called a harmoniser. It's used in studios all the time these days as a corrective device to get performances in tune, but this early version came with a keyboard. You could put a sound through a harmoniser and if you wanted an instrument or voice to hit a certain note that it hadn't, you could play that note on the keyboard. So we got to thinking, 'Let's forget about singing for the moment. What happens if I vocalize these words in a monotone - do an entire song on one note - and get Lol to play my vocal on the harmoniser keyboard?' That was the experiment. It worked pretty well. Predated Cher's digital gurglings by a few years. I don't know where the lyric came from. Maybe because the harmoniser was inanimate.

Paul McCartney provided vocals on album closer "Get Well Soon",  but the most famous track on the album is "An Englishman In New York". Released as a single, it charted in Germany (no. 25), Australia (no. 17), the Netherlands (no. 7) and Belgium (no. 4) 

You can often find Freeze Frame with 1978's superior L on the same CD. That's a keeper!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

John and Yoko Farming Beef

Tim Curry : I Do The Rock

On November 6 , 1979 Tim Curry entered the Billboard Hot 100 at US #96 with "I Do The Rock". Four years after playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and about 11 years before he played Pennywise the Clown in the mini-series It, Curry teamed up with producers Michael Kamen and former Lou Reed collaborator Dick Wagner on the album Fearless which would hit US#53 on the album charts.  

A+ M Records promoted the album with the lines "Straight talk from a man who's not afraid to be different. It's music that takes chances. An album with guts. If you've got the nerve, you'll listen...carefully."

The album features a rocking version of Joni Mitchell's "Cold Blue Steel + Sweet Fire". 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

It's Crazy But It's True

The Tourists : I Only Want To Be With You

On November 5 1979 The Tourists entered the U.K. charts with their cover of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want To Be With You", a single that would peak at #4 there and #83 in the United States. There's nothing remarkable about this new wave band except that it included future Eurythmics Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Your Careless Way of Love

The Shoes : Too Late


On November 4, 1979 The Shoes, a power-pop band from Zion Illinois, entered the US charts at #86 with "Too Late", the first single from their album Present Tense. The single would peak at US#75, and get airplay in the early days of MTV

Made up of brothers John and Jeff Murphy and their friend Gary Klebe and an assortment of drummers, Shoes specialized in love songs coated in misery. "Don't say goodbye," begins the more polished version of the Black Vinyl Shoes standout "Tomorrow Night","'cause you're the one that I need". In "Too Late", they sing "Every time I see you/ I wish I could believe you/ Do you ever mean a thing you say?” 

If Shoes were ever going to hit in big, it was in the jet steam of The Knack. Present Tense, recorded in England with producer Mike Stone ( who engineered all the great Queen albums),  peaked at US#50 in sales but snuck into the Village Voice's Pazz and Jop Critics poll at #36 thanks to support from Tom Smucker, Robert Christgau gave the album an A- writing:

A formalist's delight--the three principals pursue their theme of Sad Love as obsessively as a cavalier writing sonnets to his lady. Their voices are interchangeably breathy, their tempos unflappably moderate, their guitar hooks unfailingly right. And when for a change of pace one of them sounds bitter the effect is as startling as a Johnny Ramone guitar solo.