The Go-Go’s (somehow that always looks wrong) started out in the late 1970s as a punk band in Los Angeles, and they were a pretty solid presence in that city’s Punk scene. But as they started to grow in prominence, they moved away from that edgy sound and into more of the pop scene.
When IRS records finally signed them in 1980, they cut their first album, which included a re-recording of their first single. If you listened to college radio, you probably remember the original version of “We Got The Beat,” which was an import here in the US and was actually part of their demo record. You probably also found yourself wondering what happened to it when you finally heard the song released as a single in the early days of 1982, while “Our Lips Are Sealed” was making its slow climb back down the charts.
Well…wonder no more, because I’ve got that story for you right here.
Last week’s show was short, time-wise, and I promised I’d make up for it. And make up, I did, because this is one of my longer non-interview shows, clocking in at 20:30. If you listen to this show during your morning commute, you may have to circle the block a few times before going in to work.
But it’s so packed with stuff that I don’t think you’ll mind. This week we’re looking at songs that were inspired by books, a topic that’s turned out to be HUGE, and we’ll be visiting again in the future if you’re digging it.
It was the late 1970s and Disco was finally making that transition out of the clubs, to be replaced by Hip-Hop or New Wave, depending on where you hung out. And the members of Blondie were at the forefront of the Hip-Hop movement, going to clubs and seeing performers freestyling in the streets.
When Fab Five Freddy suggested to Deborah Harry and Chris Klein that they should write a song about him, they thought it was a good idea and came up with a song that represented several “firsts” in the music industry:
First Rap record to reach #1 on the Billboard charts;
First Rap video on MTV;
First Rap video in MTV’s 90-song rotation.
Unfortunately for the band, it was also their last major chart success in the US, but it paved the way for a bunch of other artists to move forward with the genre.
Incidentally, I mentioned this during recording and it wound up being edited out, but the sax player on this record is none other than Tom Scott.
Around the same time this record came out, the Tom Tom Club was working on a rap track of their own, “Wordy Rappinghood”. However, neither group knew what the other was up to, because Blondie was working in New York City while the Tom Tom Club was in the Bahamas.
Your podcatcher should have this show downloaded, or ready to download, by now, but if you prefer to listen here or go the DIY route on the download, feel free to have at it using the player below.
And, of course, a positive rating wherever you get your podcasts warms my heart every time.
Before I start this week’s windup, let me point you to a different podcast for a moment. The guys at the TMDR Podcast describe their show as being simultaneously about nothing and about everything, but they keep the shows confined to a couple of topics. I’ve been listening in on their discussions of the HBO series Westworld, and just this week they did a show where they spent some time reviewing several different podcasts, How Good It Is being among the shows they reviewed.
I have to say, I was blown away by the level of praise they gave to the show, and I just wanted to thank them yet again, and offer up this link (click on their logo at right). Go check them out; I think you’ll have some fun.
Back in the mid-1980s I went to a Fourth of July event on Long Island. Among the pre-fireworks entertainment was music provided by The Drifters. What I didn’t realize at the time was that there were LOTS of ex-Drifters simply, er, drifting about, and many of them had gotten together and were touring as The Drifters. What’s more, all of these groups could legally do so in many places around the country.
As it happened, I was young and naive, and kinda-sorta listening to their lead singer and the way he was singing staccato style, because he was older and couldn’t hold his notes for any appreciable length of time.
So did I see The Drifters or did I see “The Drifters”? There’s an element of “both” in my eyes, because there were so many people paid to be one of The Drifters that this group could easily be made up of former members. But that didn’t mean I was watching Ben E. King or Clyde McPhatter.
“Under the Boardwalk” was recorded the day after their lead singer Rudy Lewis died. They recruited a former member from several years ago, and before long a new version of the group had cranked out their second-biggest hit.
As usual, your podcatcher software should already have this, but if it doesn’t, you can always play it back right here:
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As a group, the Thompson Twins went through several permutations of their lineup, with the band’s membership count as high as seven in 1981. But before long they’d pared themselves down to a trio, and did terrible things to their hair, as so many of us did in the 1980s. Except me, but I’ve never been one of the cool kids, so.
This week we’re taking a look at those early incarnations of one of the bands that helped define the Second British Invasion, and helped bring New Wave music from its post-Punk roots into the Pop mainstream. And that’s about the most Rolling Stone thing I’ve written.
I don’t know where you’ve been getting the show from, but the show is now available on iHeartRadio! You can see the whole thing here. So if that’s your thing, now you have a link to me there as well. Oddly enough, though, iHeartRadio is representing all of the shows’ lengths in seconds as minutes. So this 11:14 show is listed as being 679 minutes. Weird, and I hope that this gets straightened out in a bit.
If you’re using Podcast Republic, or iTunes or something else, you should already have the show in your podcatcher. If you prefer to listen online or to download the episode, you can do that here:
And yes, I know I mis-pronounce “bass” early in the show. I gotta stop recording after midnight.
Kim Carnes started writing songs at the age of four, and was a member of the New Christy Minstrels for a little while, before she got a publishing deal with Jimmy Bowen in 1969. A couple of years after that she released her first solo album, but it wasn’t until 1980, when she re-connected with another former New Christy Minstrel, Kenny Rogers, to sing “Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer”. Later that year she covered Smokey Robinson’s “More Love” and between those two tracks, Kim Carnes was “suddenly” a famous musician.
The following year, Carnes’ album Mistaken Identity was released, and the leadoff single, “Bette Davis Eyes” took over the first half of the Summer of 1981, after which Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” picked up and finished off the next ten weeks. Even Bette Davis herself was happy enough with the song that she wrote letters to Kim Carnes and songwriters Jackie DeShannon and Donna Weiss, thanking them for making her a “part of modern times. ” And when the song won two Grammy awards, Davis sent them all flowers to celebrate.
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Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Feedback is always fun.
Related to this week’s episode, a couple of extras. One of them I had to cut from the podcast because it was getting so long, the other I’d forgotten about until a listener mentioned it to me.
Let me do mine first, because it’s a quicker bit. In addition to the covers done of “MacArthur Park”, Weird Al Yankovic did a parody song that’s quite faithful to the original, including the fact that there are different movements with different moods, and he plays it a little straighter than usual, with a lot of little shout-outs to different elements from the film. Plus, the video is done in claymation, which was still about as complicated as it got in 1993 (remember that Jurassic Park-level CGI was crazy expensive at that time):
Here’s a weird coincidence. This is the third time that 1993 has come up in connection with this song:
During the podcast I mentioned that Suzy Horton got married to Robert Ronstadt in 1993.
I also noted that Maynard Ferguson did a jazz cover of the song that year.
And now we have this Weird Al video, which was also released in 1993. COINCIDENCE? Sure, of course it is.
The other extra I have goes back to when I was a Senior in high school. I was a big fan of the show Second City Television (SCTV), which was a comedy skit series that had a fictional Canadian television station as the central conceit of the show. Everything you saw was a show on the station, or a movie they were presenting, or a “commercial” or promo for an upcoming program (which the viewer rarely saw). Later on they branched into the behind-the-scenes activity at the station. One of the shows on the SCTV Network was a satirical sendup of American Bandstand, with a host who was so incredibly uncool that he was uncomfortable to watch in this disco setting. The show was called “Mel’s Rock Pile”, hosted by “Rockin'” Mel Stirrup (played by Eugene Levy), and there was an episode of “Rock Pile”that featured a performance from Richard Harris (as portrayed by Dave Thomas). This originally aired on February 20, 1981:
I actually remember when this first aired, and it’s funny on its face just because it’s so absurd, but I recently learned that, like so many great parodies, it has a strong basis in reality. In 1972, Harris performed the song on a BBC special called “A Gala Evening of Music and Wit”. During the instrumental break, Harris sat on the stage for awhile, but then did an awkward roll with a spring to his feet, and some rather directionless dancing around. What’s also interesting is that he’s definitely singing it differently from the way he sings it on the record: a little more fully-throated, with some more actual singing involved.
Try as I might, I couldn’t find the entire performance on the Interwebs anywhere, but there are a few clips from it in this piece:
Many stories swirl around the meaning of Phil Collins’ breakout hit from 1981, and so many of them aren’t true. Collins was in a world of hurt following the breakup of his first marriage, and he channeled a lot of that energy into writing the Face Value album. This week I go into that a little bit (but only a little bit; it gets kind of tawdry), plus I talk about the sound that makes him instantly recognizable on so many records in the 1980s. And it’s a sound that’s making its way back into popular music these days.
With all the changes in the weather we’ve been having, it’s been playing havoc with my voice. So if I don’t sound quite right, there’s a reason for it. Here’s hoping I sound a little better next week.
Also: for those of you not in the know, that weird squeaky noise you hear during the Peter Gabriel clip isn’t evidence that I use a cheap office chair, although it’s true, I do. That sound is part of the Gabriel song.
As usual, if you haven’t subscribed via iTunes or your favorite podcast catcher, you can download the file or listen right here:
And of course, I wouldn’t be especially upset if you went to iTunes and gave me a positive review. Even if that’s not your podcast catcher, every time someone says something nice about me in iTunes, an angel gets his wings. Right, Clarence?
In the podcast, I mention my suspicion that gated reverb is making a comeback. Also from the Vox article is this Spotify playlist which confirms my theory. (I do hope I linked that correctly; if not then go to the Vox link and listen from there.)
Article from the Miami Herald from last year about Phil Collins finally opening up to the story behind the song.