Tuesday, January 16, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #12: Murray Head - One Night In Bangkok

The Cold War … ABBA … Tim Rice musicals… US & Soviet chess-masters competing in exotic locales … nothing screams “The 1980s” like all of these things.  But did you know that they were all successfully combined into a London West End musical called “Chess” ? Developed by Tim Rice and the two dudes Benny & Bjorn of ABBA, and released as a concept album in 1984, “Chess" went on to open as a show in London in 1986 and run for three years.  Both the album and the play were critically and commercially acclaimed and the album charted on both sides of the Atlantic, and even hit #1 in (where else?) ABBA’s homeland of Sweden.

“One Night in Bangkok” is the new wave gem of the project.  The song is sung by Murray Head, an English actor-singer who was chosen to play the American chess-master for “Chess” by Tim Rice because he had previously sung the part of Judas Iscariot in Rice’s 1970s longhair rock-opera spectacle “Jesus Christ Superstar”.  His tune “Superstar” was the most famous song of that production and was released as the first single of the show in 1969.  While ”Superstar” involved the affectation of a soul-style hippie boogie complete with backing gospel choir, “Bangkok” was a very different song. Murray Head absolutely nails it, singing with the precise sense of aloof detachment required, exactly what you would expect a cerebral chess master touring a city of sin to sound like.  Many killer double-entendres in the lyrics allude to some of Bangkok’s more infamous lures and the chorus has a backing choir of sorts again, and a killer hook too.  

And finally - the best news of all - 2018 will see the “Chess” musical revived both in London and on Broadway! 


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: A Flock Of Seagulls - Telecommunication

A Flock Of Seagulls appeared three times on my Top 200 list (#122 - "Messages", #15 - "Space Age Love Song", and #2 - "Modern Love Is Automatic"). They almost made it four, because "Telecommunication" just missed making the list.

Clocking in at a brisk 2 minutes and 31 seconds, "Telecommunication" is a bright, up-tempo track featuring a mechanical, tinny-sounding drum machine beat and sparkling synthesizer work. From their first, eponymous LP, "Telecommunication" was released as a single, and reached the US dance chart's top 20. In my opinion, however, it's a fantastic track and should have had a much greater impact on the charts.

Part of the essential sountrack of 81/82, "Telecommunication" will always find a welcome spot on any early 80s new wave playlist.

Be back next week with another great song that didn't nab a spot on my Top 200.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #11: Edelweiss - Bring Me Edelweiss

After last week’s very traditional new wave synthpop entry "New Life", this week we shall jump to the other end of the 80s new wave spectrum !

By 1988 New Wave had peaked … the fresh, new & interesting musical releases that were previously happening constantly seemed to be petering out, and the movement was starting to morph into other things like goth, grunge, industrial, house, alternative and a bunch of other sub-genres.    However that didn’t mean that there weren’t total surprises sometimes!  In a manner reminiscent of innovative musical-fusion huckster Malcolm McLaren - who had previously marketed punk-rock (Sex Pistols), dub-scratching (Buffalo Gals) and operatic-electronica (Madame Butterfly) - an Austrian group calling themselves Edelweiss came out of nowhere and brought us into the never-heard-before world of … hip-hop-yodeling!   

“Bring Me Edelweiss” was a monster of a song that went to the highest mountaintops of the charts all over Europe and hit the North American dance charts too, but never really got mainstream attention and remained a cult hit on this side of the pond.  It’s a unique song that is like a pot-luck special of musical styles and nothing before or since sounds quite like it.  And the only thing more cuckoo than the Edelweiss song … is the Edelweiss video!   Alpenhorns, chameleon-colored cows, drunken buffoonery, massive mammaries, slapping, nose-picking, whips, an African rhythm section sporting lederhosen and a dwarf are all in there... I shit thee not.   So sit back and let’s go to the wintry mountains and enjoy the yodeling-laden one-hit wonder that is …“Bring Me Edelweiss”!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: Doug & The Slugs - Day By Day

Formed in 1977 by Doug Bennett in Vancouver, Canada, Doug & the Slugs combined rock and new wave elements to produce an extremely unique sound. They had 10 top-40 hits in Canada from the late 70s to the mid 80s, including "Day By Day", my favote song of theirs. 

Released in January 1985 from their fifth album, Propaganda, "Day By Day" features Doug's distinctive vocal stylings combined with great percussion and a minimalist keyboard line.

Sadly, Doug Bennett lost his lifelog struggle with alcoholism in 2004 when he died of liver failure. Doug & the Slugs music continues to live on, however, and his tunes are still played on Canadian radio to this day. 

Be back next week with another song that just missed making my Top 200.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #10: Depeche Mode - New Life

Ah, the New Year … a time of rebirth, resolutions, joy and a celebration of the newness of life.  In that spirit we return to a time when new wave, synthpop and the 1980s were all newly born… 1981, the year when a fresh-faced and unusual new band called Depeche Mode emerged and released their first album,”Speak and Spell" the first song of which was … “New Life”!  

"New Life” began off a stellar album that kickstarted a long career for the young English boys …  "Speak and Spell” was light, poppy, tuneful, innovative, ahead of its time … basically everything that Depeche co-founder Vince Clarke has always been known for.  Vince went onto other things after this first album (ever hear of Yazoo or Erasure?) and Depeche Mode still made some good stuff albeit much of it was downbeat and could be used for the soundtrack for a funeral.  

But in 1981 Depeche Mode was like a newly minted baby celebrating ... New Life!

Happy New Year!  


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Just Missed My Top 200: Big Audio Dynamite - E=MC²

After his career with The Clash came to an end, Mick Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite in 1984. The new band's first album, This Is Big Audio Dynamite, dropped in 1985. It was an eclectic mix of post-punk, new wave, and rock that caught on with the music-buying public to the tune of half a million records sold. Second single "E=MC²" was a catchy tribute to the films of director Nicolas Roeg, a favorite of Jones's. It reached #11 on the UK chart and #37 on the American dance chart. It also just missed my Top 200.

See you next week with another entry, the first of 2018.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #9: The Greedies - A Merry Jingle

This week's entry comes in between Christmas and New Year's so let’s do a holiday song!   It isn’t exactly a new wave song or a synthpop song … or even an 80s song for that matter … but it’s close enough!  

First, it appears on the infamous CD “Punk Rock Xmas”.  Punk Rock?  Well, there is a CD called “New Wave Christmas” … but it’s just OK.  It does have the absolute classic “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues on it (which isn't exactly ”New Wave” either) - but for the most part the songs are forgettable (I’m looking at you Pretenders and 2000 Miles).  

"Punk Rock Xmas" on the other hand is filled with a abundance of yuletide joy, and contains such heartwarming holiday nuggets like “Homo Christmas” by Pansy Division, “Daddy Drank Our Christmas Money” by TVTV$ and that heartwarming chestnut “Fuck Christmas” by Fear.   Sure, great songs all, but the best song on the CD is “A Merry Jingle”.   It’s a hummable zinger from a short-lived band called “The Greedies” that was crafted in 1979.  It features Sex Pistols Paul Cook & Steve Jones (punk rock royalty!) along with Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy (!).  The song combines “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” into a tuneful romp through the holiday season and is one of the more upbeat songs on the disc (as you probably already guessed from the other titles). The band is clearly having a blast doing it and living in the moment… despite the Sex Pistols having disbanded and Phil Lynott still being 5 years away from the high-water mark of his career …  which was of course the day in 1984 that he gave the annoyingly self-righteous Morrissey a sound thrashing on the music trivia game show “Pop Quiz”!   

So yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus .. and today he brings us “A Merry Jingle”!   Happy New Year!


Bonus: A plethora of New Wave artists playing Pop Quiz!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Just Missed My Top 200: The Cure - Boys Don't Cry

This is the song that made The Cure stars. The year was 1979, disco and punk were waging war on the charts, and along came Robert Smith and his band of dark, brooding goths. The look was different, the sound was different, and the record-buying public ate it up. The Cure's career was off to a flying start. Note: avoid the awful 1986 re-recording of this song, which seems to have had every ounce of soul and emotion drained from the vocals by studio shenanigans and a misguided desire by Smith to sound more "mature". No, like most things in life, the original is the best (by a mile in this case).

The Cure appeared on my Top 200 at #190 ("Just Like Heaven"), #77 ("In-between Days"), and #49 ("Close To Me"). "Boys Don't Cry" just missed becoming the band's fourth addition to the list.

See you next week with another great song that almost made it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #8: Paul Haig - Justice

If you say the name Paul Haig to the less scholarly music fans of the 1980s, you may get a glimmer of recognition, and maybe a dim recollection that he crafted a nifty number called “The Only Truth”.  But Paul Haig was no one-hit wonder - far from it.  He started out with a post-punk band named Josef K that was interesting but not very melodious, ultimately making for a monotonous listening experience.  It was when Josef K began to break up that Paul was freed to do his own thing, and began his most prolific period of awesomeness.  After he cleared his pipes out with a cassette-only release of home-recorded electronica called Drama (parts of which are reminiscent of Lou Reed’s contractual obligation album “Metal Machine Music”. i.e. unlistenable garbage) — he got serious.  

In 1982 and 1985 Paul delivered a one-two punch of synthpop perfection - the album “Rhythm of Life” followed by “The Warp of Pure Fun”.  Both albums are full of absolute gems, hooks, innovative melodies, and plenty of synth perfection.  My current favorite off his 1982 album is “Justice” but I love the entire platter.  The vocals, beats and synth always lead to intriguing places; nothing formulaic in these songs.  

Enjoy the right jab to the head of “Justice” and check back … in the future we will return with a left hook from “The Warp of Pure Fun”!


Friday, December 15, 2017

Just Missed My Top 200: Propaganda - P:Machinery

Propaganda took the #16 spot on my Top 200 with "Duel", the fantastic song from their debut 1985 album A Secret Wish. Another song from the album, "P:Machinery" was also considered for the list, but ended up not making it. With a fantastic synth hook and driving beats, "P:Machinery" reached #50 on the British charts and was also a success in American clubs.

Propaganda broke up soon after the song charted, but they ended up re-uniting 18 months later (with lineup changes) for their follow-up LP, 1234.

I've always liked "P:Machinery" and it's amazingly weird video. It's a solid song that had a real chance of appearing on my Top 200.

I'll be back next week with another song that just missed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #7: Kraftwerk - Home Computer

Achtung!  Hear me now und believe me later meine freunde.  Now it is the time when we address der Elefant in der zimmer.  We can go no further down this treacherously delightful path without paying homage to the Grand Opas of New Wave…. the Obergruppenfuhrers of Synthpop.  Yes, but of course I am referring to the man-machines … the ones who we would gratefully submit to as our robotic overlords …  KRAFTWERK.   Oh, just saying their glorious name intimidates me to the point of humiliation.  They are so beautiful and angular. I am filled with anticipation … and it is most delicious.  

Whilst their genius dates to the early SEVENTIES and the classic album Autobahn, it was in the 80s where they really hit their stride, with the release of “Computer World” in 1981.  Not only were all the songs techology-oriented (computer, calculators, numbers) - the band is featured on the cover on the screen of a Hazeltine 1500 VDT in all of their green-screen glory.  Holy RS-232, (Adam West) Batman !  Pioneers of the finest kind, Kraftwerk set the tone for much of the electronica that come would later.  Would new wave, synthpop and techno even exist without Kraftwerk ?

While the entire Computer World album is great start to finish, my favorite song (currently) is “Home Computer” with its action-oriented melodies and fantastically vague lyrics - ''I program my home computer... beam myself into the future’’.   Timeless, ahead of its time, and so forward-looking.. its frightening.  

Und now is ze time on Marc’s Blog vhen ve dance!   TO KRAFTWERK…


BONUS: Video of the 1986 song “The Telephone Call” is all it’s Sprocket-ian Glory !

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Just Missed My Top 200: Rational Youth - City Of Night

Rational Youth (Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn) came out of the sizzling Montreal new wave scene in 1981, along with fellow Canadian bands Men Without Hats, The Box, Trans-X, and many others. They had a string of hits from their first few albums, including "Saturdays In Silesia", which took the #198 spot on my Top 200. It was close between that song and "City Of Night", which ended up just missing the list. From Rational Youth's 1982 album Cold War Night Life, "City Of Night" did not crack the Canadian charts (which were full of rock and disco at the time), but the record itself went on to become the most successful Canadian synthpop album to that date. The band broke up after several more less-successful LPs, but reunited in 1997 and still tour in Canada and Europe, where they also have developed a following.

Here's a live performance from 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden:

See you next week with another song that just missed.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #6: Gleaming Spires - A Christian Girl's Problem

Much like our #4 Awesome Song artist Sigue Sigue Sputnik, this week’s band was another that popped up all over the pop culture landscape in the early 80s, but was largely even more unknown… 

Gleaming Spires had backing members of Sparks & Devo in their band and were produced by Steven Hague, who later went on to 80s fame producing New Order, OMD & Pet Shop Boys. The peak of the Spires' mainstream career likely was when they appeared on the “Last American Virgin” soundtrack in 1982 with “Are You Ready For the Sex Girls?” which was a minor hit that got major play on the standard-bearer of West Coast New Wave, L.A.’s KROQ-FM. “Sex Girls” was also featured in “Revenge of the Nerds”, along with the intentionally monotonous and ironic “All Night Party”. They also touched the art world, with a Kostabi-designed album cover, and the other, errr.. more interesting "art world" … providing much of  soundtrack to the legendary and ground-breaking porn flicks “Devil in Miss Jones, Parts 3 & 4”, which starred the ultimate new-wave-punk-porn-provocateur, Lois Ayers. 

1983’s “Walk on Well Lighted Streets” was the Spires best album and contained their catchiest song - one that likely would land them in big trouble today - “A Christian Girl’s Problem”.  Glorious synths underpin provocative lyrics as the band has way too much fun jogging in place in a ridiculous video where they are dressed as Roman Soldiers … yes the Gleaming Spires were not exactly subtle in anything they did.  But the song is an awesome one and seldom heard these days despite it being as infectious as herpes and catchy as Hell…. which is exactly where Miss Jones ended up... no doubt because she dared to groove to The Spires!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Just Missed My Top 200: Peter Baumann - Metro Man

Peter Baumann landed the #185 spot with "Be Mine" and the #22 spot with "Strangers In The Night" on my Top 200. "Metro Man", a third track from Baumann's blockbuster 1983 album Strangers In The Night, was another contender to make the list. A sparse, futurist tune that features cold synth lines and robotic vocals, the song is like a blend of Gary Numan and early OMD. I considered giving it a spot, but it in the end "Metro Man" just missed my Top 200.

Another great song by Peter Baumann is "Repeat Repeat", from the album just before Strangers In The Night, 1981's Repeat Repeat. I also considered this song for the Top 200. Here it is:
  ...and today, Baumann still rocks, although he has once ahgain turned his back on pop music and has returned to his Tangerine Dream-era roots in synth-instrumental progressive rock. His 2017 album Machines Of Desire is a masterpiece, including the mesmerizing track "Valley Of The Gods", which is my favorite on the LP.

 See you next Saturday with another song that just missed!