Friday, January 31, 2020

My Top 10 by Bill Hurley of The Inmates

The Inmates : Dirty Water

In January of 1980 The Inmates, a British pub rock band, had a live version of The Standells' "Dirty Water" riding the lower half of the Billboard Hot 100 charts. It was enough to get an opening spot on the Joe Jackson tour and an invite from Smash Hits to have vocalist Bill Hurley present his all-time Top Ten. Most are classics from the 60’s. Only a Sex Pistols tune was recorded in the 1970's. Later in the year The Inmates would score a  Top 40 UK hit with "The Walk". 

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The death of the "Bach of Rock"

Professor Longhair : Big Chief

On January 30, 1980 Professor Longhair, the man Dr. John called "the guardian angel of the roots of New Orleans music", died in his sleep of a heart attack at the age of 61. Allen Toussaint called Fess the "Bach of Rock".

There are countless classic  New Orleans tunes that owe their rhumba rhythm to Fess, whose left hand held down the bass while his right hand slipped up and down the keys, celebrating like every day was Mardi Gras. have the kind of rhumba beat Fess played on his piano. No, it wasn't the rhumba of the ballrooms so much as a starting off point for a special kind of New Orleans funk. Fess only had one national hit, 1950's "Bald Head", one of the songs he re-recorded before his death for the essential Crawfish Fiesta , which came out the day after his death.

After more than a decade of writing and recording New Orleans classics like "Mardi Gras in New Orleans", "Tipitina" and "Big Chief", Professor Longhair ran out of money and took a job as a janitor and played the cards. By the late ‘60s many people on the New Orleans music scene thought that Professor Longhair had either left town or died when a film maker discovered him in 1969.

In the 70's, his musical career revived,  Professor Longhair played the festival circuit and recorded albums. A new nightclub opened uptown and named itself Tipitina's, after Fess's tune. Alligator Records signed Professor Longhair and got him into Toussaint's Sea-Saint studio with Dr John and drummer Johnny Vidacovich for a tight set of classics.

Fess wouldn't be around to see Crawfish Fiesta win the first W.C. Handy Blues Album of the Year award in 1980 or be voted as one of the Top 10 Albums of the Year by the New York Times. Maybe he's in heaven with Dr. John keeping watch over the New Orleans music scene. 

In 1992, Aaron Neville inducted Fess into the Rock Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Fall's pub inspired 'Fiery Jack' named Single of the Week

The Fall : Fiery Jack

On January 29, 1980 The Fall released "Fiery Jack", their fourth single. Produced in Wales, with Mark E Smith recording his vocals outside in the studio courtyard, the three-song single was selected as 'Single of the Week' by Sounds. According to Mick Middles the song saw the band "perfecting pomposity, the Fall jump into the rough and raw world of rockabilly with confidence in excess. 'Fiery Jack' sees the band at their painful best, a number that glides on and on and on." 

As Smith tells it, Fiery Jack is about the kind of middle aged pub regular he's see around Manchester who ate hot dogs and pies and complains of a bad kidney:

I sat and drank 
While my dreams decay 
I'm 45 
Cause I am Jack 

In his autobiography, Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E. Smith, Smith wrote of early 1980:

“That whole pre-Grotesque period was a phenomenal learning curve. It’s horrible how much people try to shape what you do. At the time I was very sensitive about this; I still am, but I don’t beat myself up about it as much. I had a lot more untapped anger back then. And hearing other people’s silly verdicts on what I did just made me worse. I wrote about what was around me; that was the whole point – to get down the experiences, scenes, people, etc. But some people are so daft they don’t understand that writing about Prestwich is just as valid as Dante writing about his inferno.” 

"Fiery Jack" came with a double B side ,"2nd Dark Age" and the Dragnet track "Psykick Dancehall #2".

The single entered the UK Independent Chart on 23 February 1980, peaking at number 4, and spent twenty weeks on the chart. "Fiery Jack" was voted by listeners to John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show at number 38 in the 1980 Festive Fifty.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Sparks album too weird for an American release

Sparks : When I'm With You

On January 28, 1980 Sparks released Terminal Jive, their danceable follow-up to the classic 1979 album No 1 In Heaven. Produced in name by a very busy Italo-German Giorgio Moroder, most of the work was actually done by synthesizer master Harold Faltermeyer, who would later score his own big hit with "Axel F" from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. Terminal Jive is the only Sparks album not to be released in the United States. 

Perhaps their label Virgin didn't know how to market it in America where Russell Mael told  Smash Hits they've run into trouble commercially:

In the States we've always had a tough time as have a lot of newer band because we just don't fit into the nicely labelled categories American radio stations work upon. We don't fit into the brackets--in the past were we rock or pop? Now are we disco or just plain weird? If you don't fit it's easiest for them to ignore you."

Terminal Jive did find critical success in the U.K. with Red Starr of Smash Hits opining:

'This is a fine album by anybody's standards. Simple but effective synthesized arrangements give full backing to Sparks superbly catchy tunes...with excellent quality throughout. Far and away the best thing Sparks have ever done and highly recommended.'

And from Harry Doherty of New Musical Express:

'Terminal Jive...has Moroder playing on Sparks' court, applying his skill to the production of a rock album. It’s an even more compelling venture than last years. Terminal Jive is given further depth via the quality of the Maels' songwriting...the three tracks that open side two are percussive arguments in favour of this being their best-ever album'

Despite the critical success, Terminal Jive and its contagious lead off single "When I'm With You" only found commercial success in Australia and in France, where Sparks released a second single.

That single is "Young Girls", which is an unfortunate subject matter for two brothers in their mid-30's: "And they will hold you, though it might not be tight /And they will kiss you, though it might not be right /'Cause they are young girls". 

Sparks would soon tire of hauling all the electronic equipment necessary to perform their electronic disco songs and return to rocking out in 1981.

Monday, January 27, 2020

A killer New Wave track from Holly and the Italians

Holly and the Italians : Tell That Girl To Shut Up

In January of 1980 Holly and The Italians looked like the next big new wave band to break in the UK thanks to their debut single "Tell That Girl To Shut Up". The band was actually made up of Americans, including singer-songwriter Holly Beth Vincent. She convinced most of her LA bandmates they had a better shot on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean where she lived with Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits. He introduced her to BBC disc jockey Charles Gillett who owned Oval Records and has been credited with discovering Dire Straits and Ian Dury. "Tell That Girl To Shut Up" has the era's requisite power pop chords and plenty of attitude. Mojo Magazine would later call it "one of the Top 20 Killer New Wave Tracks from the US." 

David Hepworth of Smash Hits sounded a bit like he was doing somebody a favor at the time when he wrote:

This first vinyl from a much-fancied new band comes on like early Blondie in a fighting frame of mind. The chorus, while tuneful and confident enough to get your attention, does overstay its welcome a little but it's a sound that promises good things to come.

  Released from a tour with The Selecter because audiences only wanted to hear ska bands, Holly and the Italians never fulfilled its promise. But "Tell That Girl To Shut Up" would return to the UK charts in 1988 when Transvision Vamp  took the song to UK#45.

Holly would team up with Joey Ramone for a new wave version of "I Got You Babe", outdone in sales by UB40 and Chrissie Hynde in 1985.


We'll see how long this link below stays up.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The single that nearly broke up Tom Petty's Heartbreakers

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers : Refugee

On January 26, 1980 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released "Refugee" b/w "It's Rainin' Again". The single would peak at US #15, but its recording nearly broke the band. Producer Jimmy Iovine had the band do more than 70 takes, as he and Petty tried to find the right feel. Part of the problem: drummer Stan Lynch and Iovine kept butting heads. Lynch was fired and rehired and in the meantime version of "Refugee" were recorded with Phil Seymour and session drummer B.J. Wilson.

“Iovine really disliked Stan,” Benmont Tench tells Petty biographer Warren Zanes.. “I think they didn’t like each other. I owe Jimmy a hell of a lot. He gave me a career as a session musician, expanded my life in a million ways. But I think he poisoned the well a little bit with Stan, starting with Damn the Torpedoes. Jimmy and Shelly put Stan through the fucking ringer. He’s not a session drummer. He’s not supposed to be a session drummer. He’s a band drummer. Of course, I’m not in charge, and that’s probably a good thing. But Jimmy came from the East Coast, from working with East Coast drummers, like Max Weinberg. Now he’s on the West Coast, working with a southern drummer who listened to English drummers who listened to black drummers.”

Lynch wasn't the only member having trouble with the "Refugee" sessions. Guitarist Mike Campbell, who wrote the music, walked out of the Damn the Torpedoes sessions for a few days thanks to all of those takes.

“On ‘Refugee,’” Campbell tells Zanes, “I had a mental breakdown. I just couldn’t take it anymore. It was my song, a cowrite with Tom, and we kept playing it over and over and over, changing the thing, changing the sounds. It sounded like Nazis marching. There was no groove. We got into this hole of misery cutting that song. And I said, ‘I need to get out of this room for a few days. This is not healthy.’ It’s the only time I’ve walked out of a session.”

"It's Rainin' Again" is the 91-second B side. An amusing throwaway.

The Heartbreakers would spend March touring the UK where they first received critical and popular acclaim.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Selecter is the 2-Tone band that became three minute heroes

The Selecter : Three Minute Heroe

On January 25, 1980 The Selecter released "Three Minute Hero"b/w "James Bond", the band's first single from their debut album Too Much Pressure. NME called it the "Rude Boy" single of the week adding "sooner or later 2-Tone are bound to release a single which by some quirk of fate fails to chart. I doubt very much, however, that this is the one." In fact the single would peak at UK#16.

"Three Minute Hero" is the dream so many musicians have, to escape the drudgery of a 40 hour work week by becoming pop stars on the radio. 

Drag yourself along the road 
Sit on the bus 
Switch on your transistor 
Causes a fuss 
It's 11 PM and you're on your way home
 Just another night with that endless grey drone

The B-side is a menacing take on the infamous James Bond Theme. 

The Selecter is still touring with Pauline Black and "Gaps" Hendrickson. Last year they celebrated 40 years with a massive tour of the UK and Ireland. They have concerts planned this year in the late Spring and Summer.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The single that vaulted The dB's to power-pop glory

The dB's: Black and White

On January 24, 1980 The dB's released their single "Black and White" b/w "Soul Kiss" on New York's Shake Records. The disc earned NME's "Single of the Week" title with editors praising: "This is the sort of single that could make people want to grow up and form a group". 

Originally from Winston-Salem, NC, home of Mitch Easter's Drive-In Studio, The dB's had already become pop favorites in their new hometown of New York City. Holsapple's "Black and White" is a multi-faceted, jangly power pop masterpiece

The B side is Chris Stamey's take on the kind of 60's psychedelia found on the Nuggets compilation. Stamey was earning a philosophy degree from NYU at the time. In his entertaining and very smart memoir, A Spy in the House of Loud, Stamey explains the lyrics:

“Soul Kiss” was a kind of reverse sexual innuendo—I knew that the term was used for French kissing, but after having spent many collegiate hours debating Aquinas, Socrates, Plato, et al., I was thinking more of a connection that was soul to soul, essence to essence. I can’t claim that this is clearly presented in the lyrics, but that’s the skinny. 

London's Albion Records liked what they heard and signed the dB's to a UK recording contract that would lead to the critically acclaimed 1981 debut album Stands for deciBels. A few tracks were recorded at Power Station in NY down the hall from where Bruce Springsteen was making The River. Half the tracks were recorded with Easter at his studio in Winston-Salem. 

I played a lot of dB's on my college radio station and met the Stamey-less dB's during their Like This tour. Always been a fan and always will be.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Why The Ramones hated their biggest UK hit

The Ramones : Baby, I Love You

On January 23, 1980 The Ramones biggest UK hit, a cover of The Ronettes' "Baby I Love You", spent its first week at #60. It be the band's biggest it in the UK, peaking at #8. Despite the success, The Ramones hated the song which was produced by Phil Spector. Johnny Ramone calls it "the worst thing we ever did".

It should have been a dream come true for the Ramones to record with Phil Spector. You can hear his influence in many of the band's earliest songs: simple hooks, catchy choruses, lots of repetition. After five years, it was time for The Ramones to get a hit and Spector got the call.  But Spector was a perfectionist and The Ramones liked to get things done quickly. When Spector was hired to produce End of the Century, the band and producer clashed at gunpoint.

In his book Lobotomy -Surviving The Ramones, Dee Dee Ramone writes about one incident at Spector's Beverly Hills mansion where he'd been sitting for three hours waiting for Spector to finish his conversation with Joey:

Phil must have thought I was an intruder. I really don't know what provoked him, but the next thing I knew Phil appeared at the top of the staircase, shouting and waving a pistol. The he practically field-stripped the thing in two seconds flat, put it back together in two more seconds flat,. He has all the quick-draw, shoot-to-kill pistol techniques....

Dee Dee told Spector he wanted to go back to the motel

"You're not going anywhere, Dee Dee," Phil said.

He leveled his gun at my heart and then motioned for me and the rest of the band to get back in the piano room. Everybody sat down on the couch and had another beer. We were all very drunk by then - I was fed up, confused, and hungry. Phil was a merciless host. He only holstered his pistol when he felt secure that his bodyguards could take over. Then he sat down at his black concert piano and made us listen to him play and sing "Baby I Love You" until well after 4:30 in the morning. By 5:00 AM I felt as I was going to completely lose my mind.

Both Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone had left California by the time Joey Ramone sang "Baby I Love You" with an orchestra. That song and the album would be a disappointment for the rest of Johnny's life. In his autobiography Commando, Johnny Ramone dismisses the song as something only Joey did with Phil Spector.

No wonder we never went gold. Chasing some kind of commercial success is more like just sitting there ready to give up. I would never have put  something like a hit song just to have a hit if it wasn't in our style. I would have had to live with that  for the rest of my life, and I don't think I could look myself in the eye after I did something like that.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Boomtown Rats scurry up the charts with "Someone's Looking At You"

The Boomtown Rats: Someone's Looking At You

On January 22, 1980 The Boomtown Rats third single from The Fine Art of Surfacing, "Someone's Looking At You", had a new single entering the UK charts at #45. The "gently humorous song about paranoia" peaked at UK#4. "I wrote Someone's Looking At You in 1980," said BobGeldof in 2013. "But when we rehearsed it again the Guardian front page was Obama spying on the American people ...This shit has actually gotten worse".

The Boomtown Rats have reformed in a big way this year and have declared 2020 the Year of the Rat. A UK Tour to support Citizens of Boomtown, their first album since 1985, begins in March.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Kiwi New Wave smash

Split Enz : I Got You


On January 21, 1980 the New Zealand band Split Enz released their most commercially successful single, "I Got You", a #1 hit in both New Zealand and Australia that peaked at US#53 and UK#12. 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.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Ska EP that topped the UK charts

The Special A.K.A. featuring Rico: Too Much Too Young

On January 20, 1980 The Specials live EP Too Much Too Young entered the UK charts at #15, credited to The Special A.K.A. Within  a week it would leap over Madness's "My Girl" and The Beat's "Tears of a Clown" all the way to #1. Aside from the well known title track, the extended play also includes ska standards like The Skatalites's "Guns of Navarone", The Pioneers's "Long Shot Kick The Bucket", The Harry J Allstars 1969 hit "The Liquidator" and "Skinhead Moonstomp", by Symarip.

"Too Much Too Young" might have been a good description of Specials keyboardist Jerry Dammers, who was also the running the Two Tone label. With an American tour, the label, a soundtrack that needed to be mixed for Dance Craze, Dammers was working himself to the point of collapse. 
At the same time,  2-Tone inspired suits, sweat shirts, hats, badges and t-shirts were being sold by companies that paid his label nothing. This ad is from a 1980 copy of Smash Hits.

By the Fall of 1980, The Specials would unveil a new sound and by the following year, tensions with the band would become insurmountable. 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Album of the Month: The Pretenders

The Pretenders : Tattooed Love Boys

In January of 1980, The Pretenders released their self-titled debut album, a commercial and critical hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Within a month, the UK #1 hit "Brass in Pocket" would be racing up the American charts to #14. Not bad for a song Chrissie Hynde never wanted anyone to hear.

"I didn't like it very much," she told BBC2's "The Art of Artists"."It was one of the few collaborations I did at the time because I brought the songs in on my own. And thats what I did like about it . Jimmy ( Honeyman-Scott) played this great riff in the studio one day and I went 'Wow, what was that?' and I managed to tape it so I could write a song around it. That was great. I wish we had time to develop that because collaboration is the most fun thing. But I didn't really like my voice. I didn't like my contribution to it and I said 'That goes out over my dead body'".

Raised in Akron, Ohio, "The Rubber Capital of the World", Hynde was immediately drawn to rock music, getting most of her education from the radio. She moved to London in 1973, working odd jobs, writing for NME, surrounded by friends who were making headlines in punk rock bands.

"I wanted to be in a band so bad. And to go to all the gigs, to see it so close up, to be living in it and not to have a band was devastating to me," she told Rolling Stone.

In 1978 she met bass player Pete Farndon, guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and Martin Chambers, musicians from the cathedral city of Hereford. They practiced seven days a week, developing a sound that was heavy on riffs and more pop-oriented than punk (though "Precious" is about as punk as punk can get). By securing a demo session with Honeyman-Scott's idol Nick Lowe, Hynde convinced everyone to move to London and give The Pretenders a go.

The debut album, produced by Chris Thomas ( Roxy Music, Sex Pistols)  heralded a band of rockers lead by a woman, which may not have been a big deal in the egalitarian punk rock scene, but was the subject of a lot of writing by mainstream journalists.  

“It’s not easy to be in her position,” Pete Farndon told Rolling Stone. “You know— locked up with four or five guys who are talkin’ about tits and ass all the time. On the road, you’ve got nothing that most women would want. Chris isn’t like most women.” 

On the first American tour in March, The Pretenders ended their show with the Kinks cover that had been their first UK single. By now the reviews were all in and The Pretenders were on their way.

From Robert Christgau of the Village Voice, a grade of A-

Tough gals, tough gals--suddenly the world is teeming with tough gals. And Chrissie Hynde is a good one. Maybe not all of her songs are championship singles, but she's got more to offer emotionally and musically (and sexually) than any of the competition, unless Patti counts. She's out for herself but she gives of herself as well; when she alternates between rapacity and tenderness you don't feel she's acting coy or fucked up, although she may be. And she conveys these changes with her voice as well as with her terse, slangy, suggestive lyrics. James Honeyman Scott's terse, slangy, suggestive guitar steals don't hurt either.

   From Red Starr of Smash Hits a 9/10:

GREAT hard sound, especially guitar, 46 minutes playing time, high writing ability throughout, concentrated rock'n'roll energy, staying power...As one who'd previously thought The Pretenders nothing more than a collection of pleasant odd bits cobbled together, this comes as a very welcome surprise/ I'm converted! Great album. Best tracks "Tattooed Love Boys", "Brass in Pocket".

By the end of the Summer of 1983, drugs had taken the lives of both both Farndon and Honeyman-Scott. Forty years later, Hynde and Chambers are still touring as The Pretenders, performing on a double bill this coming Summer with Journey.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Marcel Duchamp of Electropop

John Foxx : Underpass

On January 18, 1980 ex-Ultravox singer/lyricist John Foxx released his debut solo album Metamatic. Infused with synthesizers at the height of Gary Numan's popularity, the album reached #18 in the UK album charts and featured two UK singles, the UK#31 "Underpass" and UK #32 "No One Driving".

Anyone who had listened to Ultravox's last album, 1978's synth-laden Systems of Romance, could hear an exciting new direction for music. Produced by Kraftwerk's Conny Plank at his studio near Koln, the album was full of atmosphere and alienation. In his book looking at the postpunk scene from 1978 to 1984, Rip It Up and Start Again, Simon Reynolds suggests Numan was listening and taking notes ( and I see from my own post on Systems that I made the same suggestion).

For Metamatic, Foxx not only abandoned his band, but guitars and drums. The only human sounds came from Foxx's vocals and from Jake Durant on the occasional bass track. Of the sessions, Foxx writes on his website:

I was in retreat from bands, touring, etc. mightily convinced that electronics were the future, and reading too much J.G. Ballard. I lived alone in Finsbury Park, spent my spare time walking the disused train lines, cycled to the studio every day and wobbled back at dawn, imagining I was the Marcel Duchamp of electropop. Metamatic was the result. It was the first British electronic pop album. It was minimal, primitive technopunk. Carcrash music tailored by Burtons.

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Rude Boy band with a Gift

The Akrylykz : Smart Boy

On January 17, 1980, the Hull-based ska band The Akrylykz released "Spyderman" b/w "Smart Boy". This single, originally released on Red Rhino Records, sold quite well, peaking at #17 on the UK independent singles chart. The Akrylykz toured with The Specials, Madness and The Beat. I can only guess how many times the band's name was misspelled on the marquee. 

When the latter broke up, The Beat's Andy Cox and David Steele asked Akrylykz lead vocalist Roland Gift to join them in Fine Young Cannibals.  In 1989, they would score two #1 songs in the US, "She Drives Me Crazy" and "Good Thing"and Gift would be named one of the "50 Most Beautiful People" in the world by People Magazine.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Beatle gets busted in Japan

Paul McCartney : Frozen Jap

On January 16, 1980 Paul McCartney was arrested at Tokyo's Narita Airport when authorities discovered half a pound of marijuana in his luggage. McCartney claimed it was all for personal use but, in Japan, that's enough to warrant a smuggling charge and a seven year prison sentence. Instead of celebrating the Beatle's first tour of Japan since the Fab Four did it in 1965, McCartney spent nine days in the Tokyo Narcotics Detention Center. Those nine days were the longest he ever spent away from his wife Linda.

That McCartney would bring in so much weed after years of Japan refusing his visa due to other marijuana arrests isn't easy to understand. But in 2004, McCartney offered up this explanation:

“We were about to fly to Japan and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get anything to smoke over there, This stuff was too good to flush down the toilet, so I thought I’d take it with me.”

Later that year, after disbanding Wings, McCartney released a solo album, McCartney II, featuring a 1979 Kraftwerk-inspired instrumental with the unfortunate title "Frozen Jap". Again, this one isn't easy to understand. Here's Paul's reasoning:

Now, I’m sure people will think it was recorded after that incident in Japan. We decided to change the title to Frozen Japanese for the album release in Japan, since we didn’t want to offend anyone over there. But when the Japanese were told of the album’s track listing, they went spare. They thought it was connected with the fact that I had been busted there. They regard it as an incredible slur.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Bauhaus unleashes a Goth classic

Bauhaus : Dark Entries

On January 16, 1980 Bauhaus released their second single, the thundering "Dark Entries" on Axis Records, a label that would soon change its name to 4AD. Raised in the flat fields of Northhampton, singer Peter Murphy wrote lyrics as dark as his hopes.

 "Dark Entries" seems to be about male prostitution with the lyrics "I came upon your room it stuck into my head/ We leapt into the bed degrading even lice /You took delight in taking down /All my shielded pride".

Murphy would tell Kerrang in a  recent interview:

I suppose ("Dark Entries") is dark, but it’s, well—it’s not punk, either. It’s a very unusual writing style. It’s almost like 16th century type of language. Not on purpose! I’m well-read, but I’m not a geek. I’m kind of, very retiring actually. Shy almost. I’m the youngest of seven children. Very emotional and very artistic — and very beautiful. When I was 17 I saw my beauty, and I thought, that’s my way out. I swear to you. Something was calling to me. So that’s where that comes from.

 Sounds magazine will feature the band in February, writing:

 "Whatever it is these Phantoms of The Teenage Opera have got, it's worth checking out. They've got a sound as clean as a razor, and a vision that doesn't need dressing up in angry rhetoric or android accessories to make its point. Their music may have the shadow of the tall steel over it, but there's a heartbeat you can hear throbbing in the background. Not a ring modulator."

The B-side is "Untitled":

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Wee Boy behind Aztec Camera

Aztec Camera : Real Tears

In January of 1980 the newly formed Glasgow band Aztec Camera had three songs featured on a now impossibly rare cassette called Urban Development that was given away with "Fumes", a local fanzine. The songs "Abbatoir", "Stand Still" and "Real Tears" sound a bit like Joy Division though the band claims to be inspired by The Fall and Velevet Underground. The link above goes to a soundcloud page run by Scottish Post-Punk. (Among the other artists featured on the cassette were bands featuring Edwyn Collins (Orange Juice) , Bobby Bluebell (The Bluebells) , Jake Black and The Standards).

  Aztec Camera is led by sixteen year old Roddy Frame who would tell Dave McCullough of Sounds "I hate being thought of as a child prodigy. Because I don't feel that young. It's like, when you play places in Glasgow they treat you like a wee boy: "O, he's got a wee guitar for Christmas. Let's see what can do wiv it".

With Frame the only consistent member, Aztec Camera would become a US college radio favorite in the early 80's and score a UK #3 hit in 1988 with "Somewhere In My Heart".

Monday, January 13, 2020

New Musical Express spotlights Dexys Midnight Runners

Dexys Midnight Runners : Geno

On January 12 1980 NME featured an article about the up and coming Birmingham band Dexys Midnight Runners. The band had just completed a tour with Two-Tone bands The Specials and Selecter and were now taking the stage dressed as New York City dock workers. Leader Kevin Rowland says a big influence on the band isn't the Ska sound of the 60's so much as the British R and B sound of the 60's, especially Geno Washington's Ram Jam Band.

"The greatest soul singer in the world," is how Rowland refers to Washington when introducing the band's song "Geno".

Rowland defends Geno's talent with as much vigour as The Osmonds defend Marie's virginity. It transpires that when only 11, not only was Geno Washington the first live act he ever saw- his older brother took him along to a gig - but when the idea of Dexys Midnight Runner was first conceived in January of 1978, Rowland turned to the recorded output of the flamboyant soulster.

"I was totally fed up with everything else at that time and so I started listening to all of Geno's old records and any other soul single I could pick up for 10p around the markets."

Released in March of 1980, "Geno" would top the UK charts for two weeks. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Madness scores with "My Girl"

Madness : My Girl

In January of 1980 Madness became the first band of the decade to perform on Top of the Pops. They played "My Girl" on the January 3 show before setting off on a tour of Europe. In the meantime, their second single from the debut album One Step Beyond spent ten weeks in the UK charts peaking at UK#3. Madness could do no wrong for most of the decade.

Keyboard player Mike Barton wrote the song in 1978 when he was delivering Flyffes bananas. He told the Kent Messenger Newspaper "The bloke I worked with on the lorry was always talking about 'My girl and me, we're going to live in Essex. My girl and me, we're going to the coast this weekend."

He adds "I didn't last at that job long, but after that, when I was writing that song it just came to me. My girl this. My girl that. Cuz it wasn't something I would ever say, my girl. "

Here's Barson explaining the inspiration for the song with a surprise appearance from a former girlfriend who claims to be his muse. She complains that Barson would never talk to her thus the lines "My girl's mad at me /Been on the telephone for an hour 'We hardly said a word".

And here's Barson teaching us how to play it on the keyboards.