Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Who Is Klark Kent?

Klark Kent : Away From Home

In the Summer of 1980 the mysterious Klark Kent released an eight-track self-titled mini album on green vinyl. After the band's appearance on Top Of The Pops performing "Don't Care" in 1978, everybody knew Kent was Police drummer Stewart Copeland's alter-ego. Copeland plays all the instruments. But the charade continued.

In the liner notes,  supposedly written by Sir Robinson Jeffries-Elder, Q.C., M.P., ex-diplomat, lecturer, bon vivant, and principal stockholder in the Klerk Kant Foundation, Limited, we read:

“Klerk Kant”, as appears to be his name, first came into my life as he was sitting next to me on the Concorde flight from Washington, D.C., to London. Speaking in what he claimed to be his native Sanskrit, he explained that he had been in Washington testifying before a congressional committee on church politics. His expertise in this subject had been attained while studying in a Moslem seminary in India. He underlined his religiosity (he claimed to be a “Sufi”, a kind of Islamic mystic that is rarely seen on the Indian sun-continent) by saying his noonday prayers in the aisle of the jet air-plane, jostling the stewardesses as they were trying to serve lunch, and annoying the passengers with his shouts of “Which way is Mecca? Which way is Mecca? Which way is Mecca?” while shifting his body to accommodate to the turns in the direction of the aircraft.

Later, he confessed, in sub-standard broken English, that he was “a mere computer programmer”, currently out of work but living on the sum of one million four hundred thousand dollars which he had won from I.B.M. in a successful suit against the company for stealing his “invention”. He was most secretive about the invention (“Do you want me to sue you? he asked coyly when I questioned him about it), but he adumbrated the notion that it had to do with capturing radio signals from distant galaxies, systematizing them through computer analysis, and reducing them to simple melodies which he played on the various instruments on which he is proficient.

I saw a great deal of Kent over the following weeks, sometimes in his elegant suite at the Dorchester and sometimes at my more modest digs, a bed-sit on Grosvenor Square. Sometimes he was morose to the point hostility, barely replying to my concerned questions with monosyllabic grunts. At other times, he was almost euphoric, waxing eloquent on his wide-ranging political philosophies. He would often descend to the vernacular, but his normal mode of speech was iambic pentameter in a-a-b-a rhyming pattern in which he produced perfectly worded, poetically beautiful expressions of deep moral intensity. (“I am a child ancient Syria / Suffering the pains of all this area” is an example.)

It is this peculiar combination of the profane and sacred which gives his music its unique appeal to young and old, simple and sophisticated, bovine and leontine, illiterate and intelligent, A/C, D/C, and A/C/D/C I, for one, like the underlying jazz sub-motif. My sons, being of primitive mold, see nothing in him but what they call “white collar punk”. In any case, to one and all, Klerk Kant’s music is the work of “true genius come home from a visit to the cosmos”, as the New York Times critic says. The eight songs of the disc run the gamut of KK’s extraordinary talents.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Introducing The Plasmatics : Tits Over Talent

Plasmatics : Butcher Baby

In June of 1980 Stiff Records released "Butcher Baby", a four song EP by The Plasmatics. Pressed in red and white striped vinyl, it confirmed suspicions that the band's talent was not in in the music but in the live show. Even so, critics were not fans. Paul Rambali of NME said The Plasmatics were:

"...a bunch of low-rent sleazo degenerate New Yorkers scumsurfing their way into the public consciousness on the strength of a highly visible pair of female mammary organs belonging to the 'colorful' Wendy O. Williams. Wendy seems proud of her endowments, such as they are. Two old  but stil firmly rounded orbs about the size of ripe Spanish oranges that jut our proudly from her fulsome torso and ...It's no good. I can't go on...What I mean is, if you want to see porn, why waste your money on this stuff? The real hard stuff is just as cheap, and just as squalid, and just as boring.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Joy Division releases "Love Will Tear Us Apart", the song of the year

Joy Division : Love Will Tear Us Apart

On June 27, 1980 Joy Division released "Love Will Tear Us Apart". It entered the UK charts at #45 on the 29th. Released a month after Ian Curtis's suicide, this is the most memorable and celebrated single of 1980. It is also the saddest. A breakup song with lyrics full of misery (Why is the bedroom so cold?/ Turned away on your side) and a beat that welcomes everyone to the dance floor. 

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" was named NME Single of the Year in 1980, and was listed as the best single of all time by NME in 2002. Rolling Stone critics named it the best single of the year ands The Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critic's Poll ranked the single #2 behind Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks".

Recording the song was a marathon, in the words of bassist Peter Hook. Drummer Stephen Morris recalls getting awakened at 4 AM by producer Martin Hannett to come back into the studio to play snare drum. 

Hook says Hannett 

kept remixing it and must have done it ten to fifteen times; then (Factory Records owner )Tony Wilson pulled the plug on him because it was costing so much money. Martin was never happy with it and kept searching , constantly , for the great mix He tried different engineers but could never get the definitive mix. Funnily enough, I now don't like the mix he eventually chose for the single, I like the one that's got a dead-loud guitar over-dub on it, a radio mix.

Its title etched on Curtis' gravestone, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" can't be separated from its circumstances. Curtis is witnessing the end of his marriage, suffering an increasing number of epileptic fits, and is losing his interest in life.  In the Spin Alternative Record Guide, Evelyn McDonnell writes "this pop song seemed to hurl its burden of prophetic tragic doom heavenward." 

Friday, June 26, 2020

With Underwater Moonlight The Soft Boys launch the jangle pop era of the 80's

The Soft Boys : Kingdom of Love


On June 28, 1980 The Soft Boys released Underwater Moonlight, the band's second album. Led by art school dropout Robyn Hitchcock and featuring guitarist Kimberly Rew, The Soft Boys provided the rock world with a bridge from the John Lennon/Syd Barrett/Byrds sounds of the 60's  to the jangle pop of R.E.M./Replacements/The Smiths and so many other bands. 

What no band could imitate is Hitchcock's bizarre sense of humor. On "Kingdom of Love", he compares infatuation to insects crawling under his skin:

You've been laying eggs under my skin 
Now they're hatching out under my chin 
Now there's tiny insects showing through 
And all them tiny insects look like you 

When the band broke up Hitchcock began releasing solo material that appealed to college radio DJ's like myself while Rew went off to form Katrina and the Waves. A 2001 release of Underwater Moonlight contains 36 songs on two discs, including a cover of Roxy Music's "Over You". 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Tom Snyder Vs John Lydon: a classic late night TV interview

Public Image Ltd. : Chant

On June 25, 1980 Tom Snyder had Public Image Ltd's John Lydon and Keith Levene join him for a confrontational pair of segments on NBC's Tomorrow Show. Snyder had trouble with the name Public Image Ltd asking the pair "Limited. What is that? Is a band? Is it a public relations firm? What does it do and what is it?" 

Lydon responds  "We ain't no band, we're a company. Simple. Nothing to do with rock 'n' roll. Doo dah." 

After trying to convince Snyder they were interested in doing soundtrack, Lydon goes on a tear about rock'n roll: 

"It's dead. It's a disease. It's a plague. It's been going on for too long. It's history. It's vile. It's not achieving anything, it's just regression. They play rock 'n' roll at airports. It's about as like advanced as it can possibly get!"

After a stern talking to over the break, Lydon and Snyder return for Round Two. Snyder asks the two whether they care what their audience thinks about them. Lydon confesses he doesn't:

"If people appreciate it, that's fine; but we're certainly not going to condescend. Too bad if that makes us look like snot-nosed little gits, but that's probably what we are. At least we're doing it. This ain't no armchair outfit"

Snyder is fed up and can't wait to end the interview."It's unfortunate that we are all out of step except for you. I wish that something could be done."

Lydon "This is what I've been telling the world for about five, six years now! I wish you'd all grow up!" 

Snyder responds  "Well, I hope we do," 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Bill Nelson asks "Do You Dream in Colour?"

Bill Nelson : Do You Dream in Colour?


Having disbanded Red Noise and left EMI Records, former Be Bop Deluxe frontman Bill Nelson released the UK#52 hit "Do You Dream in Colour?" on his own Cocteau label in June of 1980. Clearly a song from its time, you can play pick the influences from the Bowie/Eno Low-era production, to the M styled keyboards and herky-jerky rhythms of XTC or Devo. Still, it's a delightful surprise to hear this again after so many years!

Nelson says on his website that the song's lyrics troubled the BBC:

"There was also a problem with the lyric 'video junkie looking for a fix' which the BBC interpreted, (quite wrongly), as being indicative of heroin addiction. It was merely about people who can't pull themselves away from their tv set, people whose lives exist only via an obsessive involvement with tv soap operas and suchlike. Anyway, the BBC refused to play the record with those lyrics and I seem to recall eventually having to make a mix with the offending line replaced by something else, purely for radio."

Nelson also made the video on a shoe-string budget.

Filmed it on my super-8 home cine-camera in Haddlesey house which was then my home. My brother Ian is in the Monroe mask, me in the Superman and old man mask. My ex-wife Jan is the Pierrot on the rocking horse at the end. Lighting was done by borrowing a couple of old coal miner's pit lamps from a friend who worked as a mining engineer. I had no means of auto-synching the film to the soundtrack so the final edits were synched by hand, which took AGES. Nevertheless, it's a quirky, humorous and surreal piece of filmic art, is it not?

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

With Saved, Bob Dylan adds a second chapter to his polarizing era as an Evangelical Christian

Bob Dylan : Solid Rock

On June 23, 1980 Bob Dylan released Saved, his second album as a born-again Christian. This time, he didn't have Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits adding emphatic guitar lines or a single as catchy as "You Gotta Serve Somebody". Saved sounds even more like a gospel album, dripping with sanctified organ lines and soulful call and response vocals. And there's no shortage of Mr. "Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall" spitting out lyrics full of doom and gloom. Still, bored-again critics dismissed Dylan as a spiritual pamphleteer and this album, also recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, failed to convert them. It peaked at #24 on the album charts .

This baffling period in Dylan's career was captured on film and released in 2017 as Trouble No More: A Musical Film. We can find clips of his spirited performances on YouTube. By now audiences who came to hear "Blowin' In The Wind" and " Like A Rolling Stone" were subjected to nothing but Dylan's born-again music. Not that it was bad. "Solid Rock" sounds like something the Allman Brothers would have recorded ...and how many times have we seen Dylan pick up the mike and dance along to his tune?

As I've written, at the critics were stumbling over themselves to dismiss the new Dylan.

From Robert Christgau of the Village Voice a grade of  C+:

 In case you were wondering, Slow Train Coming wasn't Jerry Wexler's album, or the former R. Zimmerman's, or Jesus Christ's. It was Mark Knopfler's. Anyway, the first flash of faith is the deepest. May Bobby never indenture soul sisters again.

And from Kurt Loder of Rolling Stone:

The only miracle worth talking about here is Bob Dylan’s artistic triumph — qualified though it may be — over his dogmatic theme. Musically, Saved may be Dylan’s most encouraging album since Desire, yet it’s nowhere near as good as it might have been were its star not hobbled by the received wisdom of his gospel-propagating cronies. Dylan doesn’t stand much chance of becoming the white AndrĂ© Crouch (or even the next Roy Acuff, who was no slouch with a gospel number either), not just because he lacks the vocal equipment but because he’s too inventive, too big for the genre. Because he’s Dylan. 

 As born-again gospel LPs go. Saved is a work of some distinction. Now that Bob Dylan’s had his shots at that old-time religion, perhaps his secular fans may be forgiven for hoping that this, too, shall pass.

With the 2017 release of Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981, critics returned to Dylan's born-again years with fresh ears. Pitchfork's Sam Sodomsky sums up the reason Dylan might have responded to this spiritual awakening the way he did:

For Dylan, they signified a rebirth, both creatively and personally. By the end of the decade, his longevity as a rock icon was unprecedented: Elvis was gone; The Beatles had been broken up as long they’d been around; the “new Dylans” like Springsteen were now welcoming their own disciples. When the “old Dylan”—just pushing 40—found himself uninspired on what had become known as his “Las Vegas Tour,” the Bible offered a way forward, even if it didn’t provide the answers he might have wanted.

Dylan would release one more Christian album in 1981, Shot of Love ( US#33) before slowly moving on to other things. Perhaps we have his son Jesse to thank. Dylan's teenage song was playing a lot ofThe Clash, Elvis Costello, Squeeze, and X for his dad. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Kurtis Blow's The Breaks is rap's first gold single

Kurtis Blow : The Breaks

In June of 1980 Kurtis Blow released "The Breaks", the first certified gold rap song  and the #1 single of the year according to the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics poll. 

Blow, whose real name is Kurtis Walker, had grown up in Harlem and been a competitive breakdancer since the age of 13. 

Breakdancers literally get their name from dance moves inspired by funky breaks in soul songs. When DJs like Grandmaster Flash figured out how to extend those breaks with two turntables playing the same song, club announcers started rapping over them and a new musical genre was born.

After the success of  1979's "Christmas Rappin'", Blow's producers asked him what he would like to do next.

I said, “Well, I want to do a song with a lot of breaks in it for the B-Boys to get down; A song that we can dance to with a lot of funky breaks that we can just do our B-Bboy moves!" ... So we took those good things and bad things in one’s life as a break, a good break or bad break in one’s life. So that became one of the connotations of the song. And not only did we have funky breaks, but we had a message like the good or bad things that could happen in one’s life… it’s like a break. Or breaks on a bus, breaks on a car, breaks that’ll make you a superstar [laughs]. So the song was birthed.

Blow's single  hit #87 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, #4 on the U.S. Billboard R+B chart, and #9 on the U.S. Billboard dance chart. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

"Holiday in Cambodia": America's greatest punk song?

Dead Kennedys : Holiday in Cambodia

In June of 1980 the new Dead Kennedys single, "Holiday in Cambodia", was climbing the UK Indie singles chart. Eddie Vedder once said of frontman/provocateur Jello Biafra "you couldn't have invented a more ethical anti-hero". In "Holiday", Biafra's target is hypocritical liberal-arts college students who slander Blacks with the n-word. He suggests if they really want to know how the world works, they march into Cambodia, at the height of the Khmer Rouge massacres, when two million people were put to death:

Well, you'll work harder with a gun in your back 
For a bowl of rice a day 
Slave for soldiers till you starve 
Then your head is skewered on a stake

The b-side, "Police Truck", has a surf vibe and is sung from the point of view of cops getting psyched for a night of rape and violence. 

Pull down your dress, here's a kick in the ass 
Let's beat you blue, 'till you shit your pants 
Don't move child, I gotta big black stick 
There's six of us babe, so suck on my dick

Saturday, June 20, 2020

With Emotional Rescue The Rolling Stones revert to bad habits

The Rolling Stones : Emotional Rescue

On June 20, 1980 The Rolling Stones followed up their comeback album Some Girls with Emotional Rescue. The album misses the tension of Some Girls while sounding, in places, like its following the Some Girls formula.  "Dance Part 1 " is another "Miss You" style disco-rock number while "She's So Cold" and "Where The Boys Go" aren't quite up to the raw rock'n'roll of "Shattered" and "Respectable". Even "Send Her To Me" can't keep up with the bawdy lyrics of "Some Girls", though Jagger will mail-order any bride you can find: "She might be Ukranian/She could be Australian/ She could be The Alien...Send her to me!". "Indian Girl" may be the worst song the Stones had yet recorded. 

If Some Girls was a response to punk, Emotional Rescue's title track sounded like a response to the Bee Gees:

Only "All About You" still fascinates these ears, a preview of that fantastic Keith Richards solo album Talk Is Cheap. Whose the dog he is so sick of hanging out with? Mick Jagger or Anita Pallenberg? In Life, Richards says it was probably more about Mick.

I realized that Mick had quite enjoyed one side of being a junkie--the one that kept me from interfering in day-to-day business...The phrase that rings in my ears all these years later is "Oh shut up, Keith". He used it a lot, many times, in meetings, anywhere. Even before I conveyed the idea, it was "Oh shut up, Keith. Don't be stupid." he didn't even know he was doing it--it was so fucking rude. I've known him so longh he can get away with murder like that. At the same time; it hurts.

The album sold well, topping the charts in the US and UK. Hit singles from the album include the title track, which reached No. 1 in Canada, No. 3 in the US, and No. 9 in Canada and "She's So Cold", which was a top-40 single in several countries. But it's not an album that satisfies. 

The critics were not stunned the way they were were by Some Girls. Writing in Rolling Stone, Ariel Swartley stated that "as far as the music goes, 'familiar' is an understatement. There's hardly a melody here that you haven't heard from the Stones before".

NME's Nick Kent said compared to the latest albums by Graham Parker and Peter Gabriel, "Emotional Rescue is devoid of passion, bloated with clumsy posing and artifice".

From Robert Christgau of the Village Voice a grade of B+:

 No one will ever mistake this for a great Stones album, but I bet it sounds more interesting than It's Only Rock 'n Roll should we take the time to compare and contrast in our respective retirement communities. The mid-'60s charm of such tossed-off tropes as "Where the Boys Go" and "She's So Cold" goes with music that's far more allusive and irregular and knowing: for better and worse its drive isn't so monolithic, and the bass comes front and center like Bill was James Jamerson. Looser than you'll ever be.

From David Hepworth of Smash Hits

But apparently the band was inspired enough to hold some tracks from the sessions for their next album, the far better Tattoo You, including "Hang Fire", "Little T+A", and "No Use in Crying" 

Friday, June 19, 2020

Ric Ocasek helms Suicide's second album and it's a grower

Suicide : Diamonds, Furcoat, Champagne

In the late Spring of 1980 Suicide released its sophomore album, produced by Ric Ocasek of The Cars. Slicker than the debut album, with a motorik drum beat, Alan Vega - Martin Rev is one of those criminally under-appreciated albums that still stands in the shadow of its legendary 1977 debut.  Alan Vega, who was 42 when he recorded the album with Rev,  told Pitchfork's Simon Reynolds about the lifestyle that led to the second album's sound:

It was beautiful, you’d go from one club to another. And when the clubs shut at 4 a.m., you had all the after hours joints like Berlin, which was across the street from Danceteria. It was a never-ending thing where I’d go out around 2 a.m. and stay out until 8 in the morning. You’d walk out from the clubs into the painful sunlight, stoned out of your mind, and there’d be all these people going to work—straight people looking at you pissed as hell because you were looking all fucked-up and going home to sleep, while they’re off to work. I never had to pay for a drink—there was an unwritten law that if you had performed in a club, you didn’t have to buy a drink there forever after. So I’d come in with my entourage.

Suicide had opened for The Cars on a tour and Ocasek was obsessed with the band. ZE Records owner Michael Zilkha thought the band could take dance music to a new place and gave Ocasek a copy of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" as a starting point. The album was recorded at the Power Station, where Bruce Springsteen was working on The River next door. 

Suicide's hard edges were smoothed down, but it's still menacing and twitchy. It also foreshadows the synth pop sound of the decade. In his Trouser Press review Steven Grant says the first listen made him believe the duo had sold out by recording watered -down "over-embellished electronic junk". But by his fifth listen he's sold.

Among the album's fans is Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shjips/Moon Duo) who told Fact in an article called the 100 Best Album Of The 1980s :

“Suicide’s Second Album manages to be both cinematic and claustrophobic at the same time, and you can clearly hear the seeds of 80s electronic pop in its dark textures and rhythms. But it cut a trail that proved hard to follow, despite being produced by pop star super-fan Ric Ocasek. It has the benefit of actually being a product of 70s NYC, but, more importantly, the advantage of Alan Vega’s and Martin Rev’s unique vision and dedication to their art.”

Thursday, June 18, 2020

With Bass Culture Linton Kwesi Johnson releases another ageless masterpiece

Linton Kwesi Johnson : Inglan Is A Bitch

In June of 1980 dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson was out promoting his follow-up to the critical favorite Forces of Victory. Bass Culture is full of powerful political lyrics chanted in Jamaican patois with a seductive reggae backing performed by some of best British-based musicians. The albums sounded so cool but the lyrics always had bite. Johnson explained the songs on the album were "basically talking about art and experience--I don't want too much eyebrows raised now! I mean they're about how you feel and how you translate that into meaningful entertainment that inspires and motivates at the same time."

 "Inglan Is A Bitch"  is an angry song about the abuses West Indians suffer in their new country. Sadly the song's topic is not in the least bit dated. 

On the Old Grey Whistle Test Johnson performed the song without musical backing.

Here, in contrast, is the song as it appeared on the album:

This would be one of the final albums Johnson would make. At 67, Johnson still takes to the stage at times but he  has been devoting himself to community politics, journalism and teaching,

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

"Wednesday Week" almost sneaks The Undertones into the UK Top Ten

The Undertones : Wednesday Week

In June of 1980 The Undertones released their UK#11 hit "Wednesday Week". The single rose in the charts while The Undertones tried to conquer America on a four week tour. Michael Bradley remembers the tour this way :

"Two shows a night" looks great on a poster, but to actually do two shows on one stage on one night was a new experience for us. I was especially concerned as I was wearing the same shirt on stage as I had put on that morning getting dressed. I would wear it for the second show as well. Change my shirt in front of the rest of the band? Are you mad? One of the support bands was called the Psychotic Pineapple - they had a large walking pineapple which arrived on stage during their performance, as far as I remember. All we had was Feargal's naked chest. Jimmy Carter was the President and still we weren't successful in subjugating the USA. I'll never understand show business.

The band made fans out of some American critics. Trouser Press sent Ira Robbins to interview the daring boys from Derry moat of whom still live at home with their parents. Robbins' conclusion:

  So there you are: a glam-rock singles band that is decidedly unglamorous. A punk band that's as smooth as you'll get 'em. A bunch of nice guys that don't take shit from anyone. A group from Ulster that doesn't feel the need to constantly remind everyone of that fact. A pop band that may never make it big in America. The only group on earth that objects to overly favorable reviews and articles. Undoubtably the most exciting new thing to come along all last year. And the last to admit it.

The B-side " I Told You So" was originally recorded for a Smash Hits flexi-disc. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

"Sleepwalk" introduces a new Ultravox sound that sells

Ultravox : Sleepwalk

On June 16, 1980 Ultravox released the UK#29 hit "Sleepwalk". When John Foxx left the band a year earlier to pursue a solo career, Ultravox had dissolved. Then keyboardist Billy Curie met journeyman Midge Ure while working on the Visage album with Steve Strange. They decided to regroup and "Sleepwalk" is the first song Ulktravox ever recorded to feature Ure. Produced by Krautrock pioneer Conny Plank, the song helped Ultravox Mach II land a record deal with Chrysalis. It is also our first peek at the band's new sound which would propel the forthcoming album Vienna to UK#3.

-Smash Hits

Monday, June 15, 2020

Why Capitol Records shelved Mink DeVille's 1980 masterpiece

Mink DeVille : This Must Be The Night

At the end of 1980 when Rolling Stone critics came up with their list of the 5 best albums of the year there were the usual suspects: The Clash's London Calling, Bruce Springsteen's The River, Talking Heads Remain in Light, Captain Beefheart's Doc at the Radar Station and one more album that time has since forgotten, Mink DeVille's Le Chat Bleu

Recorded in Paris with Elvis Presley's former rhythm section, and with some songs co-written by the legendary Doc Pomus  ("Save the Last Dance For Me","Can't Get Used to Losing You") Le Chat Bleu combines standard rockers like "This Must Be The Night", "Savoir Faire" and "Lipstick Traces with melodramatic cabaret songs like fan favorite "Heaven Stood Still". Deville says the music of Edith Piaf was one of the reasons he chose to record to Paris.

Yeah partially, but it was for the chance to work with some incredible people as well. Charles Dumont who had written a lot of the music for Edith, and Doc Pomus. You know the first day I walked into the studio and they were working with an orchestra, and I heard the strings playing one of my songs. I had to go into the bathroom and shed a tear. Seeing these guys playing their instruments, with long white hair hanging down over their collars, looking like what classical musicians are supposed to look like, doing a song I wrote, really got to me.

The album went well over budget. Capitol Records had no idea how to market the Le Chat Bleu  so the record company delayed its American release. "It says something about the state of the American record business—something pathetic and depressing—that Willy DeVille's finest album fell on deaf ears at Capitol," wrote Kurt Loder of Rolling Stone in his review of the album that year.

DeVille told Leap in the Dark :  

On Le Chat Blue we had all these great people involved, you know, and we thought we had something great. I came back to America, and my label at that time said, “Well, we think we should put it on the shelf for a while.” This was right before Christmas for God's sake when you know people are going to be buying stuff, so I asked them what the problem was. 

They said they had never heard anything like it before and didn't know what to do with it. We had Charles Dumont, Elvis's goddamned rhythm section, and they say they've never heard anything like it.I was heartbroken and angry. Finally Maxine Schmidt from my distributor in France (EMI Paris) phones and he says, “Willy what's going on?" So I told him. He said don't worry we'll release it over here. We did, and then it became a matter of not what are we going to do with Willy Deville, but who the hell let him get away. As an import it was wracking up great sales here. Capitol finally went and released a copy of it, but never did too much work on it."

Deville's career would never take off despite his enormous talent. Drugs certainly played a role. But so did bad management. And decisions like the one Capitol Records made.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Boston's Lyres bring back garage rock with 1980 single

The Lyres : Don't Give It Up Now

In 1980 Boston's best garage band, Jeff Conolly's  Lyres, released their debut single  "How Do You Know?" b/w "Don't Give It Up Now". Here's how Trouser Press reviewed the single:

These fellows used to be DMZ (more or less); why they would want to advertise that fact is way beyond me. "Don't Give It Up Now" is one of the better 1966-ish one-finger organ ravers ? And The Mysterians never recorded. Nuggets fans should dig it; it's a real neat little song, and superior to the alright-but-so-what powerpap on the A side. Produced bu the somewhat legendary Oedipus and Mono Mann Jeff Conally ( sic) , the band' singer composer. 

"Don't Give It Up Now" would be the lead off track of the Lyres debut album, On Fyre, which got a ton of airplay on college radio. We also played "Help You, Ann" which featured the same tremolo guitar sound as "How Do You Know". Kind of jealous of my music-loving friends who would up going to college in Boston in the 80's. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

1980's goofiest song is released by Albany bozos Blotto

Blotto : I Wanna Be A Lifeguard

In June of 1980 the Dr Demento Show, WNEW-FM and college radio stations all across the land began playing "I Wanna Be A Lifeguard", a song by the goofy Albany NY band Blotto, who released the EP Hello My Name Is Blotto on their own label. The song is about a guy who's sick of selling shoes at the local mall. His dream is to "Wear hardly any clothes/Have sand between my toes/White stuff on my nose!" and to meet "Summer blondes, revealing tan lines/I make more moves than Allied van lines". The music video , shot by SUNY Albany students, was played in the first day MTV began broadcasting. God help us, we were still getting regular requests for this song on WTUL-FM in 1983.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Elvis Costello dives into his rhyming dictionary for New Amsterdam

Elvis Costello and the Attractions : New Amsterdam

In June of 1980 Elvis Costello released the UK#36 New Amsterdam EP, featuring the Get Happy!! single and three more tracks. Most Americans would have to wait for the Taking Liberties compilation later in the year to hear these tracks. "New Amsterdam" was recorded in a demo studio. Costello writes in the Girls! Girls! Girls! liner notes: 

As you might guess I didn't use a metronome but I did employ the owner's exotic equipment; vibes! a fretless bass! a very nasty synth! even God forbid, DRUMS!!!The first in an occasional series: A bewildered lad, alone in New York, except for his rhyming dictionary. 

The single is followed by "Dr Luther's Assistant", about a young man who is filmed making time with Dr Luther's wife by none other than Dr. Luther himself. Pete Thomas joins Elvis on this one.


The Smash Hits review:


Flip it over and you have "Ghost Train", recorded by Costello alone at the same demo studio as "New Amsterdam". Costello plays Spanish guitar, marimba and fretless bass .

The final track is "Just A Memory", recorded with Steve Nieve on keyboards. It was first performed in concert in Seattle in 1981 and was apparently reworked for Dusty Springfield. 

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Mission of Burma releases an instant post punk classic

Mission of Burma : Academy Fight Song

In June of 1980 Boston's Mission of Burma released their debut single "Academy Fight Song"/"Max Ernst" two songs that pack enough punk energy to fuck up folks as far away as Foxboro. The band is made up of four noisy musicians, guitarist Roger Miller, bassist Clint Conley, drummer Peter Prescott and tape loop manipulator Martin Swope. 

I was attending an academy at the time and I can vouch for the psychological impact that come across in this punk Holden Caulfield analysis. How many times did someone walk into my room to ask jerky questions? and there's this:

The halls smell like piss 
The rooms are underlit 
Still it must be nice 
You're such a perfect fit

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Uprising: the last studio album Bob Marley would release in his lifetime

Bob Marley and the Wailers : Could You Be Loved

On June 10, 1980 Bob Marley and the Wailers released Uprising, an album that bounced back and forth between  the joy of living and loving and the gloom of pessimism and dread. Sometimes the songs answer each other. "Real Situation" suggests "total destruction" in the only solution. But that's immediately followed by "Forever Loving Jah", where Marley sings of a  faith that "will cast away the fears forever".

The single "Could You Be Loved" is one of Marley's biggest hits. 

When Marley handed Uprising in, label exec Chris Blackwell felt something was missing. The next day Marley played him "Redemption Song", an acoustic number that encapsulates Marley's philosophy. Rolling Stone critic Chris Morris took note in his review:

Bob Marley leaves us with a stark testament: “Redemption Song,” which he sings solo, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar. As the artist performs this folk ballad (with its aching cry of “Won’t you help to sing, these songs of freedom/’Cause all I ever had, redemption songs,” so reminiscent of the young Bob Dylan), one feels a man reaching out and grappling with the dreadful possibilities of liberation and disaster. Such a tour de force, like much of Uprising, is as moving as it is deeply troubling.

From Robert Christgau a grade of A -. It's not clear whether this review occurred before or after Marley collapsed on a jog through Central Park in September and learned his cancer had spread to his brain. Marley had been given three weeks to live but the grim news was not made public.

Except for "Jamming," a title that sums up the period perfectly, nothing since his solo-with-band debut Natty Dread has had the instant-classic immediacy of two very different offerings here: the dancy pop shot "Could You Be Loved" and the spirit anthem "Redemption Song." "Real Situation" ("It seems like total destruction/ The only solution") and "We and Dem" (need dey say more?) are apocalyptic enough to scare the bejezus out of Babylonian well-wishers, "Coming in From the Cold" and "Forever Loving Jah" mellow enough to hold out hope. Pray for him. Pray for all of us.