Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Clash return to the charts with "Bankrobber"


The Clash: Bankrobber


On August 3, 1980, "Bankrobber", a new single from The Clash, debuted on the UK Charts at #60. Produced by reggae great Mikey Dread, who mixed Paul Simonon's bass up high in the mix, the non-album single would peak at UK#12. 

To promote the album, The Clash made the low budget video below. Roadies Baker and Johnny Green are wearing masks in the open and 40 years before a worldwide pandemic what could be more suspicious? Police questioned the pair who thought they might actually be the real thing.



LESTER BANGS TEN FAVORITE SINGLES OF 1980: 

 Au Pairs: “Diet”/”It’s Obvious” (021 import); 
 Teenage Jesus & the Jerks (Migraine EP); 
 Mars (Lust Unlust EP); 
 The Mekons: “Snow” (Red Rhino); 
 The Clash: “Bankrobber” (CBS import); 
 Lipps, Inc.: “Funkytown” (Casablanca); 
 Ramones: “I Wanna Be Sedated” (RSO); 
 Was (Not Was): “Wheel Me Out” (ZE/Antilles); 
 Public Image Ltd.: “Memories”/”Another” (Virgin import); 
 Bush Tetras: “Too Many Creeps” (99).

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Associates' The Affectionate Punch is excess at its best


The Associates : The Affectionate Punch


On August 1, 1980 The Associates released their debut album The Affectionate Punch on Fiction Records, the New Wave label they shared with The Cure. Not everyone knew what to make of the Edinburgh duo featuring singer Billy Mackenzie and Alan Rankine. They had both made a living performing in cabarets before deciding to develop the unique pop sound you hear on this album. It's a sound, notes Rip It Up And Start Again author Simon Reynolds  "based around their mutual appreciation for the more eccentric end of glam ( Roxy Music, Sparks), disco and movie scores. Rankine was the musical genius. But MacKenzie's voice brings to mind the golden age of torch singers and, quite clearly, David Bowie. 

Give the first single, the title track, a listen:



"We threw in everything but the kitchen sink," Rankine told Reynolds. "When we recorded, we never had enough time or tracks."

Upon its release, The Affectionate Punch was declared “a kind of masterpiece" by Paul Morley of the NME, who described it as “a passionate cabaret soul music, a fulfillment of the European white dance music Bowie was flirting with back then.”



The second single , "A", recites the alphabet in a post punk setting. That guitar sound is at least four years ahead of its time.



For reasons I can't hear, Rankine went back and remixed the entire album the following year while The Associates were releasing six singles in quick succession, including their best song "White Car In Germany". 

In retrospect listeners have locked into the gloom that pervades some of the songs. Billy Mackenzie died of an overdose in 1997.

In the meantime this is an album that grows on you. You have to force yourself to listen a few times because there is so much going on here.  Overwhelmed by the "kitchen sink" arrangements at times, I find myself preferring something along the lines of "Deeply Concerned". By the mid-80's the radio was filled with swaying synthpop tunes like this, but at the start of the decade I imagine this is likely where it started.



With Kaleidoscope Siouxsie and the Banshees find a colorful way into the UK Top 5


Siouxsie and The Banshees : Lunar Camel


On August 1, 1980 Siouxsie and the Banshees released Kaleidoscope, the band's third album and first with a new line-up that included former Slit Budgie on drums and ex-Magazine John McGeoch on guitars. Siouxsie Sioux herself learned to play the guitar after she was prescribed a month of rest following a major tour.

Fans had already heard two singles from the album, "Happy House" and "Christine" so this was an opportunity to dig a bit deeper and find out why the album was called Kaleidoscope. The answer is because the band was adding new colors to their sound as well as new instrumentation including synthesizers, sitars and drum machines 



The album sold well, peaking at UK#5 , and leading to the band's first tour of America. This review is from Smash Hits:


Melody Maker's Paulo Hewitt gave the album qualified praise, summarizing it as "a kaleidoscope of sound and imagery, new forms, and content, flashing before our eyes".

The album ranked #47 in NME's year end list but it has grown in stature over the decades. 


Friday, July 31, 2020

Hell Freezes Over


The Eagles : The Long Run


On July 31, 1980, in Long Beach, California,  The Eagles played their last show together for 14 years. Don Henley famously said that they would only reunite ‘when hell freezes over’. 

"It had stopped being fun," Glen Frey later told the Independent. "We no longer trusted each other's instincts, so there was considerable disagreement. Plus, both Henley and I had developed drug habits, which didn't help matters."

It all came to a head onstage after Don Felder said "You're welcome...I guess" to Sen Alan Cranston who thanked the band for playing a fundraiser for his campaign. Frey took it personally.

On stage Frey can be heard muttering: “Three more songs, asshole, and then I’m gonna kill you.”

"We're out there singing Best of My Love, but inside both of us are thinking, 'As soon as this is over, I'm going to kill him.' Frey said.

Some believe the bad blood went all the way back to the recording of Hotel California.



In any case, fans got a live album and that was it. There were some solo hits by various members of the band throughout the 80's, and their songs were classic rock staples. But it all ended on the evening known as Long Night At Wrong Beach


Thursday, July 30, 2020

What they sounded like in 1980: from Depeche Mode to Duran Duran


Some bands emerge fully formed. But most are works in progress. Some of the bands I played most as a college radio DJ in the mid-80's were still trying to figure out their sound in 1980, sometimes to comic effect. Here are just a few:



Depeche Mode has already performed in front of their schoolmates in May of 1980, where there is a plaque commemorating their gig. "Let's Get Together", with its happy little synth hooks,  is an example of the kind of demo tapes they were dropping off at record labels. They would demand the companies play it; according to Dave Gahan, "most of them would tell us to fuck off. They'd say 'leave the tape with us' and we'd say 'it's our only one'. Then we'd say goodbye and go somewhere else. 



NME described Graduate's single single as an "energetic little beast of comedic intent, with a nice line in machine-gun burst guitar jabs. Difficult to tell which Elvis they mean, the old one should be fairly two-tone by now anyway." In a few years the band will break up and members Curt and Roland, seen singing above,  will reform as Tear For Fears.



Opening for Hazel O'Connor on her 1980 tour was the big break for Birmingham's Duran Duran who had just added Andy Taylor and  London singer Simon Le Bon to the roster. They became the subject of a bidding war which EMI eventually won. Here, on a demo cut in July of 1980,  they weat their Ultravox/Roxy Music influences on their shiny sleeves.


Before she became so unusual, Cyndi Lauper was singing with the new wave band Blue Angel. Her talent is apparent thirty seconds in. When the band broke up, the manager sued the band. Lauper filed for bankruptcy, temporarily lost her voice and began waitressing at IHOP. 


Two years before "I Melt With You", Modern English area  4A.D. band performing noisy and dark songs, more melodic than label mates Bauhaus. The song is rumored to be about cocaine.


Formed in early 1980, Australia's The Church sounded a lot like Ultravox but they claim The Byrds, Big Star and Pink Floyd are the real inspirations. They'd be recording their debut Of Skins and Hearts before the year was out. 


We're two years out from "Uncertain Smile" when The The releases its first single, "Controversial Subject". Matt Johnson would often tackle dark subjects but bounce them off catchy, melodic music. Not here. 


The Smithereens, a New Jersey cover band released an EP of mostly originals in 1980.The band's name derives from the cartoon character Yosemite Sam who had the expression, "Ya better say your prayers, ya flea-bitten varmint … I’m-a-gonna blow ya to smithereenies!". 


At the last second Pete Burns changed the name of his Liverpool band from Nightmares in Wax to Dead or Alive. Overwrought with a nod or four to Iggy Pop, the band would hit UK#1 in 1985 with "You Spin Me Round". 


Reviewers said the early incarnation of Thompson Twins sounded like a cross between Dire Straits and The Cure. They would score a string of major US and UK hits beginning in 1982 with songs like "Hold Me Now", "Lies", "Doctor! Doctor!" and "You Take Me Up". 


And finally here's Madonna, modeling clothes in a Village Voice article

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Birth of New Order


New Order : Dreams Never End


On July 29, 1980, at the tiny Beach Club in Manchester, a band billed as the No Names performed a set of instrumental music. Word quickly spread that these were the surviving members of Joy Division.

New Music News reviewed the impromptu concert:

No one could agree as to whether the material was modified instrumental versions of familiar material or new compositions in the established vein, but we were all agreed that the intensity and novelty of the performance conspired to produce an overall effect rarely equalled. If the band can maintain this level then their future is assured, whatever their name, and without the needing either to play greatest hits or even to recruit a vocalist, whether a pale imitation of Ian Curtis or someone with a distinctive style of their own.

Here are some demos which I believe were recorded in September of 1980. Drummer Stephen Morris believes the songs they played at the Beach Club show included "Dreams Never End", "Ceremony", "Truth" and "In A Lonely Place".


Peter Hook writes 

...We wanted to continue as a band, to carry on making and playing music. From a purely practical point of view, we did have the core of a band so it seemed right to carry on. There was, of course, the problem of who was going to sing the songs. That wouldn't be resolved for a while. In fact, right up until we played our first gig as a three-piece, all three of us were singing two or three songs each, but we got there in the end. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

10 funkiest songs of 1980


A few very famous funk anthems lead this list but  stick around. If I turn you on to Defunkt and Junie Morrison my work here is done.



1
Zapp : More Bounce To The Ounce


Dayton Ohio's Zapp recorded the funkiest song of the year, a #2 hit on the R+B charts.


2
The Gap Band: I Don't Believe You Want To Get Up And Dance 


Oops Upside Your head! Inspired by his cousin Bootsy Collins (ding!), The Gap Band's Charlie Wilson pays tribute to the P-Funk sound with an unforgettable anthem.

Prince : Head


Prince's song about oral sex just might be the funkiest song he ever recorded.


Defunkt : Strangling Me With You Love



Funk meet jazz with a side order of punk. Partially responsible for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.


Fatback: Gotta Get My Hands On Some Money



A #6 R+B hit for this NYC funk outfit. Even features some old skool rap.


6
Cameo : Throw It Down



Aaron Mills's pulsating bass gets the lead off track from Feel Me on he list. 



7
Sweat Band : Freak to Freak



When Bootsy Collins (ding!) lost the name Rubber Band in a lawsuit, he changed the band's name to Sweat and invited all of his P-Funk friends to the party.

9
Bootsy Collins : Fat Cat



The Sweat Band sessions also lead to Ultra Wave, Bootsy's ( ding!) solo album.

9
Con Funk Shun : Got To Be Enough



This #8 R +B hit also got a lot of play at the disco for obvious reasons. It makes the list for the bass line by Cedric Martin. 


10
Junie Morrison : Love Has Taken Me Over (Be My Baby)




The musical director of P-Funk recorded this Bread Alone track in 1980. De La Soul sampled the solo on "Me Myself and I". 

Monday, July 27, 2020

Adam And the Ants are the new kings of the Wild Frontier


Adam And The Ants : Kings of the Wild Frontier



"A new royal family, a wild nobility We are the family"

On July 27 1980 the new Adam and the Ants single "Kings of the Wild Frontier" debuted at UK#53. The song would peak at UK#48 this time but return to the charts a year later, following the success of "Dog Eat Dog" and "Antmusic" to reach UK#2. 

"We stole what we could like magpies,"Ant's guitar playing co-writer, former Banshee Marco Pirroni recalls. "We used ocarinas, echo chambers, textures from John Barry and Ennio Morricone soundtracks, rockabilly guitar riffs from Duane Eddy and Hank Marvin. We were even twanging rulers on desks and recording the results!".

And then there were the Burundi drumbeats rattling all the way through. One of the year's most memorable singles, and a clear sign the musicians Malcolm McLaren stole for Bow Wow Wow would not be missed. 



From Smash Hits:




Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Jam showcase an explosive version of "Start!" on American TV


The Jam: Start!


On July 11, 1980 The Jam performed "Start!" and "Private Hell" on the ABC Saturday Night Live clone Friday's. Their energy is remarkably high considering the fact that they were on their way back from a tour of Japan. Even so, The Jam has yet to break the Top 100 on the US Billboard albums chart.

"Start!" was a new song they'd already recorded for their upcoming album Sound Affects. "Start!" had a "Taxman" bass riff, a "She Said, She Said" solo, and "Norwegian Wood" lyrics about a one night stand ( presumably--Weller has said it's about the Spanish Civil War). It would be a UK#1 hit in August.




Among the cast members of Friday's are Michael Richards, seated, and Larry David , standing far right. They would reunite for Seinfeld, a TV show you may have heard of. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

With Back In Black AC/DC unleash a monster


AC/DC : Back in Black


On July 25, 1980 AC/DC released Back in Black, the album that would help the band finally conquer America while paying tribute to its original singer, Bon Scott who died in February.

"There was a nothingness around everyone," Malcolm Young told MOJO Magazine. "At the funeral Bon's dad said 'You can't stop, you've got to find someone else', and our manager came up with a list of singers --but we weren't interested. We thought, we can't replace Bon. He was unique."



Eventually the band chose Geordie singer Brian Johnson, who joined AC/DC in the Bahamas with Mutt Lange to record an album that already had a title and cover art concept. It would be called Back in Black to pay homage to Scott. Johnson wrote the lyrics of the title track under strict orders not to make it morbid. 

"I thought, 'Well no pressure there, then' (laughs). I just wrote what came into my head, which at the time seemed like mumbo, jumbo. 'Nine lives. Cats eyes. Abusing every one of them and running wild.' The boys got it though. They saw Bon's life in that lyric."


As hurricanes struck the Bahamas, the band focused on the album creating classic track after classic track.  "You Shook Me All Night Long", "Hell's Bell's", Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution". They had the riffs, the beats, and everything going for them.

And just in case anyone thought the Young brothers et al had suddenly matured, they also recorded songs with lyrics like 

She takes you down easy 
Going down to her knees 
Going down to the devil 
Down down to ninety degrees 
Oh, she's blowing me crazy 
'Til my ammunition is dry




Back in Black would sell 50 million copies worldwide, 10 million in the US alone, even if it only managed to convince some critics of its greatness.

From David Fricke of Rolling Stone :

Back in Black is not only the best of AC/DC’s six American albums, it’s the apex of heavy-metal art: the first LP since Led Zeppelin II that captures all the blood, sweat and arrogance of the genre. In other words, Back in Black kicks like a mutha.


From Robert Christgau of the Village Voice a grade of B-

Replacing Aerosmith as primitives of choice among admirers of heavy machinery, these Aussies are a little too archetypal for my tastes. Angus Young does come up with killer riffs, though not as consistently as a refined person like myself might hope, and fresh recruit Brian Johnson sings like there's a cattle prod at his scrotum, just the thing for fans who can't decide whether their newfound testosterone is agony or ecstasy. AC/DC can't decide either--"Shoot to Thrill," "Given [sic] the Dog a Bone," and "Let Me Put My Love Into You" all concern the unimaginative sexual acts you'd imagine, and "What Do You Do for Money Honey" has a more limited set of answers than the average secretary would prefer. My sister's glad they don't write fantasy and science fiction, and if you're female you're free to share her relief. Brothers are more deeply implicated in these matters. 

 And from Smash Hits a dreadful review:





Thursday, July 23, 2020

Kid Creole and the Coconuts debut gets Sgt Pepper-like praise in the UK


Kid Creole and the Coconuts : Darrio...


In July of 1980 Kid Creole and the Coconuts released Off The Coast Of Me, their debut album. Rising from the ashes of Dr Buzzard's Original Savannah Band ( "Cherchez La Femme") the zoot-suited August Darnell took the name Kid Creole. His three skimpily dressed back up singers became the Coconuts. They combined Latin, reggae, calypso, disco, rap and rock and, as you can see below, their live shows were glorious! Without the visuals, this debut suffers a bit but the UK press ate it up."It was reviewed like Sgt Pepper," says Darnell, who recalls virtually "living in NME", so frequently did he appear in it. 


Back in America, Robert Christgau gave the album a grade of B+ writing:

Reformed high school teacher August Darnell having split with black-sheep bro Stoney Browder, the music thins out--Dr. Buzzard's progressive retro is hard to top, Darnell's naturally sarcastic voice short on bottom. So the not exactly all-embracing "Calypso Pan-American" and "Off the Coast of Me" neither justify nor transcend their distanced tone (typically, the title tune affects a megaphone filter), while comedy numbers like "Bogota Affair" (the effete Creole as cuckold), "Mr. Softee" (the effete Creole as limp-dick), and "Darrio . . ." (the effete Creole as new-waver) are simple and strong. When clever means this clever, maybe we should settle.

And this from Smash Hits:



Kid Creole and the Coconuts would live up to their hype with the sophomore album Fresh Fruit in Foreign Places, which would make NME's top10 albums of 1981. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

With The Fall's "Elastic Man", Mark E Smith again bites the hand


The Fall : How I Wrote Elastic Man


In July of 1980 The Fall released the UK Indie #2 single "How I Wrote Elastic Man", which perfectly summarizes how Mark E Smith must have felt about fans and critics and reporters asking him about his craft: 

They'll stop me in the shoppes 
Verily they'll track me down 
Touch my shoulder and ignore my dumb mission 
And sick red faced smile 
And they will ask me 
And they will ask me 
How I wrote "Plastic Man"


“1980 was a bad year," Smith would write in his memoir Renegade."“New decades tend to make people fragile and more unsure than they’ve ever been, but 1980 seemed to be particularly barmy.” 

It's a hell of a bitching session, that book. In the following pages he takes on his record labels, The Smiths, Aztec Camera, Scritti Politti, Duran Duran, Gang of Four, Bob Geldof, Bono and Joe Strummer.



“Anybody who came up to me in America asking about the British music scene, I’d just tell them it was dire – stick to what you know, stick to driving music. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been proud of where I’m from. I’m just not into that musical imperialism that so many bands suffer from. You need a bit of it, but when you start crusading into America with that sort of attitude you just end up looking potty. They’re not as vapid as you think, Americans. They concocted their entire history from lies, so they’re not going to buy into some limey’s glorified head-trip.” 


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Bow Wow Wow debuts with a song celebrating home taping


Bow Wow Wow : C-30, C-60, C-90 Go!


In July of 1980, Bow Wow Wow entered the UK charts with the UK#34 'C-30, C-60, C-90 Go!', a song that celebrated the bane of the recording industry, home taping. Written by former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren with members of the band, the single was released on cassette with a blank B side so buyers could presumably follow the instructions of 14 year old singer Annabella Lwin : "Off the radio I get constant flow/Hit it, pause it, record and play/Turn it, rewind and rub it away". Sounds Magazine named it the single of the year.


Home taping had also become the first form of peer to peer file sharing, with friends taping each other's albums. The latest fad, the Sony Walkman, made it practically necessary. McLaren's slogan was "Music for life for free". The UK music industry would respond to such piracy a year later with a campaign built around the slogan "Home taping is killing music—and it's illegal" .


We would be hearing more from Bow Wow Wow in the 1980's. Built around the original Ants, sans Adam Ant, Bow Wow Wow's David Barbarossa brought the distinctive Burundi drumming style to his new band. But it was the young dry cleaner employee Annabella who would become a star in the new video-friendly decade.


Monday, July 20, 2020

WIth "I Got You" Split Enz score their biggest hit


Split Enz : I Got You


In July of 1980 the New Zealand band Split Enz earned Single of the Week from Sounds which writes "Another fantastic love song, 'I Got You' only teases you with its lackluster title, while in reality its wall-to-wall teeming production and Force Ten hook-line ends shivers down your back". A UK 12 hit, it would only peak at #88 in the US. Written by 21-year old Neil Finn and produced by 19-year old David Tickle, the lead-off track from the upcoming True Colours is one of the most infectious songs of the new wave era.

I can remember feeling especially lucky to record the song off the radio one afternoon at school.

In America, Split Enz were considered an overnight sensation but "I Got You" is the band's 13th single and True Colours their 5th studio album. An eclectic art rock band that took the stage dressed as bizarro clowns in the mid 70's, the band had worn out their welcome in the UK a year earlier, heading home without a record contract.



With time on their hands, Neil and Tim Finn concentrated on writing song. Neil remembered the moment with BBC2's Johnny Walker:


"Tim and I were having sessions where he'd throw me a title and I'd throw him a title and we'd go off to our respective rooms and write a song. And he gave me the title 'I Got You,' and I went in and I wrote it, and I thought the verse was pretty good but I thought the chorus was only a bit average and I should change it at some point, but in fact it was never changed and it became... it just goes to show I don't know a hit when I hear one really."


  Split Enz would record together until they broke up in 1984. Neil Finn would founded Crowded House with Split Enz drummer Paul Hester and bassist Nick Seymour.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Joy Division's Closer is a breathtaking trip into darkness


Joy Division : Isolation


On July 18, 1980 Joy Division released Closer, the band's final album and one that is impossible to separate from the tragic circumstances of frontman Ian Curtis's suicide. It would be years before we learned what led to the tailspin that ended with Curtis hanging himself May 18, 1980:  his worsening grand mal seizures due to epilepsy, his marriage falling apart and the pressure to try to shelve all of his troubles away to prepare for the band's first American tour. 


In retrospect the album reads like a suicide note but at the time the young members of the band really weren't paying attention to the lyrics.

"We'd go to rehearsals and sit around and talk about really banal things," says guitarist Bernard Sumner."We'd do that until we couldn't talk about banal things any more, then we'd pick up our instruments and record into a little cassette player. We didn't talk about the music or the lyrics very much. We never analysed it." 

They have all had to carry on with a certain amount of guilt, especially as the album's legacy has grown. Bass player Peter Hook says "people that are left behind are the ones that suffer".


The cover of the album is a photograph of a family tomb, selected before Curtis's death.


The band were not happy with producer Martin Hannett's studio wizardry but his reverb and delay treatments are  part of what makes the album so haunting. It sounds like it was recorded behind the "doors of hell's darker chambers".


Closer has become one of the best regarded albums of the entire decade. This review is from Smash Hits.


The band never got to promote Closer. They barely had time to grieve before reforming as New Order, adding drummer Stephen Morris' girlfriend Gillian Gilbert on keyboards.


In 2011 Peter Hook finally got to play some of the Closer songs live, standing next to his son. He said he got chills down the spine and that it was a wonderful moment he wished he could share with the other band members.



Thursday, July 16, 2020

Echo and The Bunnymen stun with their debut Crocodiles


Echo and the Bunnymen : Do It Clean


On July 18 of 1980 Echo and the Bunnymen ushered in the "New Psychedelia" or "neopsychedelic" scene with their UK#17 debut album Crocodiles. Forging 60's rock and lyrical imagery with punk anger, the Liverpudlian quartet would consistently release decent albums throughout the 80's. Frontman Ian McCulloch, however, quickly tired of the "psychedelic" description.

"Whoever the turd was who first said that, they should chop his head off," Mac the Mouth said. "It doesn't mean anything, 'psychedelic'. If only rock critics could learn to be as original as we are. If the music's got a dreamlike quality, maybe it comes from dreams. It doesn't have to be drug induced. We get drunk like once in a blue moon but that's about it."


Despite the silly name, Echo and the Bunnymen were seeking to record an album that was anything but. McCulloch has told Smash Hits earlier that year " I reckon it's more to do with a dark mood; dark music you play on your own in the dark, which is how I like listening to my favourite music: stuff like Bowie and Leonard Cohen."

There are also echoes of  Love and especially The Doors. Rob Dickens, who signed the band to Warner's Korova imprint said of McCulloch:

 "The singer looked so charismatic. He was beautiful. His voiced had that Jim Morrison ring to it. The songs weren't well-formulated, but you say 'Star' in neon above his head."


Contemporaneous reviews were mostly ecstatic.Writing for NME in 1980 Chis Salewicz described the album as "being probably the best album this year by a British band".  And there was this review in Smash Hits



In the US Robert Christgau gave the album a B , writing :

 If anything might convince me that the term "psychedelic revival" means something it's "Villiers Terrace," a real good terror-of-drugs song. And the music flows tunefully, in a vacant, hard-rock sort of way. But oh, Jimbo, can this really be the end--to be stuck inside of Frisco with the Liverpool blues again?




And Rolling Stone's David Fricke gave the album 4 our of 5 stars writing

Instead of dope, McCulloch trips out on his worst fears: isolation, death, sexual and emotional bankruptcy. Behind him, gripping music swells into Doors-style dirges (“Pictures on My Wall”), PiL-like guitar dynamics (“Monkeys”), spookily evocative pop (“Rescue”) and Yardbirds-cum-Elevators ravers jacked up in the New Wave manner (“Do It Clean,” “Crocodiles”).


Recent releases include ten extra tracks, mostly early versions and live versions of the songs on the album. There will be many more posts about these Happy Death Men to come.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Diana Ross and Chic team up for 1980's most infectious single


Diana Ross : Upside Down


In July of 1980 Diana Ross returned to both the UK and US charts by joining forces with Chic to produce "Upside Down". The song, written by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edward and performed by their band,  hit #1 in the US and #2 in the UK. Though  "Love Hangover" ushered in the disco age in 1976, Ross had gone four years without a #1 hit. Then she caught a Chic concert in Santa Monica, California.

"Diana couldn't believe the crowd reaction," Rodgers told Billboard magazine. "She said, 'I haven't seen this since the Jackson 5.' She was backstage, dancing and into it. 'My kids made me come and see this show, all they were talking about was Chic, Chic, Chic. That's what I want my record to sound like.'"



But Ross only wanted to sound like Chic up to a point. When she heard the final mix, she went into the lab with Motown producer Russ Terrana and remixed the whole thing, pushing her vocals further to the front. This pissed off Rodgers and Edwards to the point where they almost had their names taken off of the project. 

"The basic problem was that we had two different concepts of what her voice should sound like," Rodgers told Billboard. "She hears her voice in one way and we hear it in another way. When it got a point where she wanted her voice to sound a certain way, we couldn't take the responsibility for it because that's just not how we make records."

The single helped sell ten million copies of propel Diana worldwide and introduce a new 80's vibe to the dance club scene.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Remembering Malcolm Owen: The Ruts 5 Best songs


The Ruts : Something That I Said


On July 14, 1980, just weeks after Ian Curtis's suicide, Malcolm Owen of The Ruts died at the age of 25 from a heroin overdose. The charismatic frontman with the hoarse voice had hit rock bottom earlier in the year. He had been kicked out of the band, sold all of his possessions, separated from his wife and moved in with his parents. He had just persuaded The Ruts he was ready to rejoin the band when he was found dead of an overdose in the bath at his parents' home. 

For 18 months The Ruts were among the most exciting bands in the U.K. Here are 5 Ruts songs you need to know.

1. Babylon's Burning


One of the great singles from the Summer of '79, "Babylon's Burning"peaked at UK #7 while providing a soundtrack as Margaret Thatcher's anti-union, anti-immigrant, monetarist policies took effect. Appearing on the Times Square soundtrack in the US, this is far and away their best known song.

2. In a Rut


John Peel championed this song which sold 20,000 copies. Enough to be a UK #1 these days, but too few to break into the UK Top 75 in '79. Considering the fate of the singer, its chorus "If you're in a rut You gotta get out of it, out of it, out of it" resonates as much as its anti-heroin B-side "H Eyes".

3. S.U.S.


From the Ruts debut The Crack, which Henry Rollins calls "the best album ever made". The band's roadie Mannah assisted in writing "S.U.S" which deals with the vagrancy act, widely used by London's Metropolitan Police Service in the late 1970s to hassle anyone they wanted.

4.  Staring At The Rude Boys


This UK #22 hit, the last before Malcolm's death, celebrates crowded night clubs, invoking a special kind of nostalgia in this day of social distancing: 

The skins in the corner are staring at the bar 
 The rude boys are dancing to some heavy heavy ska 
 It's getting so hot people are dripping with sweat 
 The punks in the corner are speeding like a jet 


5. Something That I Said


One more from The Crack. this UK#29 hit is a message to all the rude boys,"So get off your pedestal Before you ain't got no friends no more".