Posts Tagged ‘Billy Idol’

 

The genius of Duran Duran was to freeze The Beatles in that train station that was surgin’ with girls. Almost everything Duran Duran did in the 1980s was “A Hard Day’s Night.” They just added the clothes and the hair.

In addition to their big idea, Duran Duran’s first album debuted two months before MTV’s launch in August 1981. Their videos were ready when the new network needed material now now now now now. In the alternate universe where there was no MTV, Duran Duran is a cult act from the U.K. that tours America once a year, playing small clubs with Spandau Ballet and Flock of Haircuts and staging charity cricket matches against Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Nick, John, Roger, Andy, and Simon lacked John, Paul, George, and Ringo’s skills and their drive to experiment, and so most of Duran Duran’s songs are filler. You only need eight of them in your life. As a public service, I here present the Essential Eight in album order:

From Duran Duran (1981):
“Girls on Film”

Social commentary on the plight of fashion models. Home-field advantage for this group.

“Is There Something I Should Know?”
No. But I cherish this song anyway.

From Rio (1982):
[The one album to own, and an excellent place to start any scholarly study of the 1980s.]

“Hold Back the Rain”
Rocks hard for five boys who were almost as pretty as me. Plus it’s danceable!

“Hungry Like the Wolf”
Duran Duran at their most swaggering. They were young and chock-full of hormones.

Jude Law is playing Thomas Wolfe in a new movie they’re calling Genius. Why don’t they call it Hungry Like the Wolfe? Am I the only Duranimal who’s thought of this?

“Rio”
This is the big crowd-pleaser, and certainly the most fun on a dance floor. The lyrics are a mess. Everyone loves to laugh at this line:

Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand

But look how good the next line is:

Just like that river twisting through a dusty land

From Seven and the Ragged Tiger (1983):
“The Reflex”

An outstanding dance number. It’s the remix you want, not the original, though both of them were hits. All the Duran Duran hits collections use the remix; that’s the only one I remember anymore.

This is another Beatles similarity, as Phil Spector remixed “The Long and Winding Road” into the version most Beatles fans know. The difference between The Beatles’ situation and Duran Duran’s is that producer Nile Rodgers’ remix of “Reflex” didn’t make Simon Le Bon so upset that he broke up the band and nobody got all mad for like forever.

“New Moon on Monday”
This is supposed to be a sad song, but the boys can’t stay sad for long!

From Notorious (1986):
Notorious”
Its closest kin is David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” (Another Nile Rodgers production. You may remember Nile for producing Madonna’s Material Girl and for creating Chic and their 1978 disco anthem, “Le Freak.”) A big change for Duran Duran, just as “Let’s Dance” was a big change for Bowie.

From Medazzaland (1997):
[I have no idea what this title means. It sounds like an abandoned amusement park in Rhode Island.]

“Electric Barbarella”
Their most successful attempt at musical innovation, probably because all the young dudes were approaching 40 (that is, the ones who were still in the band – by this point, 11 musicians had cycled through Duran Duran, and only two of the originals were left). The story is straight out of the parallel-processor world of Gary Numan & His Tubeway Army:

I plug you in
Dim the lights
Electric Barbarella
Your perfect skin
Plastic kiss
Electric Barbarella

Whatever your feelings about dating outside your species, this is an improvement on the 50-below-zero Numan, who wrote about sex only from a distance of several light years.

That’s quite enough for one day about Duran Duran. But I must warn you that an artist or artists who go by the name Duran Duran Duran released a song called “I Hate the ’80s” in 2007. I loved the ’80s. Fail!

Random Pick of the Day
M People, Elegant Slumming (1994)
Not as commercially successful as their rivals, Deee-Lite (“Groove Is in the Heart”), but far more sophisticated. If you like dance pop with a soul flair, a woman with a deep dark voice, and Schroeder’s toy piano, you might be ready for some elegant slumming. This record deserved a better fate than selling for 75 cents on Half.com.

Random Pan of the Day
Various artists, When Pigs Fly: Songs You Thought You’d Never Hear (2003)
When Pigs Fly pairs 12 pop hits with 15 unlikely artists. The disc stumbles off the starting line with Jackie Chan and Ani DiFranco crippling “Unforgettable” and doesn’t stop until Lesley Gore lets all the air out of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”

Good thing the guy who wrote “Unforgettable” is dead.

I actually felt sorry for AC/DC.

Most of this album sucks the chrome off a trailer hitch. So why spend two seconds on When Pigs Fly when you could be listening to Shatner torturing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”? Because of Herman’s Hermits and their supernova reimagining of Billy Idol’s “White Wedding.” Far better than the original. And hey, all you screaming female tweens from the ’60s: Peter Noone is as good as ever!

 

We have a thing in our house called the Andre Norton Effect. The Andre Norton Effect states that you can read and enjoy an Andre Norton novel as an adult only if you read and enjoyed the same novel as a kid. Nostalgia always forgives. The Andre Norton Effect explains a range of mysterious activities; for example, why I still like Billy Idol’s “White Wedding,” a song that by any objective standard is a speed bump in the forward path of musical progress.

So if in this series I have trampled upon someone’s favorite band from their youth, I’d like to apologize. If, for example – and I’m speaking at random here and not from intimate knowledge of anyone I know but rather I am proposing a fictional composite – you loved folk music as an idealistic college student a certain number of years ago and you worked hard after school serving espresso coffee to beatniks at the Sugar Shack and you spent your meager paycheck on, say, an album by We Five, then you perhaps took offense at certain observations I made about the lads. And if I had had your experience, I might never have said what I said. But I lack your experience, which is why I basically said that they suck. Sor-ree.

Out already
Two disqualifications this evening:

V6
This Japanese boy band debuted in 1995 singing covers of popular “eurobeat” songs. (Eurobeat means disco updated for the new millenium.) Each V6 member is assigned a color for life, and apparently they are in V6 for life – the oldest boy is now 43. I’m disqualifying them because the whole concept is terrifyingly stupid.

Temperance 7
The Temperance Seven
The New Temperance Seven
The Temperance Eight
This is all the same group, formed in Britain in 1957. They split in the ’60s; when they reformed in the ’80s they called themselves The New Temperance Seven and then expanded to The Temperance Eight. They played jazz and engaged in low comedy.

The Temperance Industrial Complex interest me only because I read that they had a hit in 1961 with “You, You’re Driving Me Crazy.” The producer was George Martin and that was his first trip to the number-one spot. It’s kind of New Orleans-y. Their singer, Whispering Paul McDowell, has listened to too much Rudy Vallee. “Whispering” is a great nickname…but not for a singer.

OK. Let’s go 6!

Apollonia 6
Prince had a trio of female singers named Vanity 6 who became Apollonia 6 when Vanity was replaced by Apollonia. I never dated anyone named Apollonia or Vanity. I never even went to a party where they had Apollonias and Vanitys. Apollonia 6 released one album, Sex Shooter (1984), featuring the title cut, “Sex Shooter” (“I’m a sex shooter/shootin’ love in your direction/I’m a sex shooter/come and play with my affections”). Their songs are Prince’s leftovers. Watch their videos with the sound off.

The 6ths
This is a side project of indie-god Stephin Merritt, who writes emo kinds of songs and then gets other indie-gods to sing them. Merritt released albums in 1995 (Wasp’s Nest) and 2000 (Hyacinths & Thistles). I’m not sure whom to compare The 6ths to, except maybe the Paisley Underground bands I mentioned the other day when I listened to The Three O’Clock. Wasp’s Nest has grown on me over the years.

Six By Seven
Allmusic.com describes them as “drone pop.” I don’t usually understand Allmusic’s descriptions, but this one I totally get. The five Brits in Six By Seven are the musical equivalent of an airliner waiting for its turn to take off. You never leave the runway but the engines stay revved. They occasionally do better on songs such as “Candlelight” (The Things We Make, 1998), but even there it never completely takes flight.

Sixpence None the Richer
Normally, I avoid Christian rock like the 10 plagues. So it’s only because of this project that I found myself voluntarily listening to Sixpence None the Richer. Sixpence broke into the mainstream with “Kiss Me” (1999), which was featured on Dawson’s Creek, which I guess was some kind of Young Adult cultural launching pad. It’s OK. The chiming guitars sound like LA in 1983 or like someone has thrown a blanket over R.E.M.

Sixpence gained more attention with covers of two British bands: “There She Goes” by The La’s and “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House. These pleasant interpretations don’t stray far from the originals. Sixpence None the Richer is sort of like Coldplay; just turn down the intensity and turn up the God. If I ever do a project on bands with money in their names (Cash Money Millionaires, 50 Cent, Pennywise, The Dimes, Nickelback, Ke$ha, Buck Owens) I’ll give them a second listen.

7 Seconds
They started playing their brand of unlistenable punk in the first wave of California punk bands in the late 1970s and here they are in 2013 still playing their brand of unlistenable punk. Founder Kevin Seconds is still with the band. Major points to Kevin for doing what he loves to do for 34 years, even if what he loves to do is unlistenable.

7 Seconds of Love
Another comedy act, like Four Bitchin’ Babes, but with rock rather than folk. Quizno’s uses their music in their commercials. I know I’m falling down on the job here, but their music is not on Rhapsody and I didn’t feel like trolling YouTube. I’ll wait until a Quizno ad turns up in a show I’m watching.

L7
More LA punk, this time from a gang of women who have no problem with throwing a used tampon from the stage. Their album that found the greatest acceptance was Bricks Are Heavy (1992), which spawned the alt-rock Top 10 hit “Pretend We’re Dead.” Bricks Are Heavy came along right after Nirvana and was produced by Nirvana producer Butch Vig. Yes, L7 benefited from the grunge groundswell, but they’re just as good as Alice in Chains or Temple of the Dog. “Everglade” and “Shitlist” were ’90s anthems. “Pretend We’re Dead” is not only infectious, it even has fun with words (“What’s up with what’s going down?”).

Unfortunately, the singers, Suzi Gardner and Donita Sparks, sound like they’re shagged out following a prolonged sqauwk. Actually, they sound like a very tired Joan Jett. If only Jett or Pat Benatar had sung this set….As it is, the album is locked in its era and not aging well, but “Pretend We’re Dead” will always sound good and “Everglade” is still a great driving song.

Crazy 8’s
I came close to disqualifying them, as they were never with a major label and are almost unknown outside of the Pacific Northwest. But their music is available on Rhapsody, and Special D and I saw them in Seattle in 1988 when they sang “Let’s get naked!” and we could see how hopeful they were that people actually would get naked. (They were disappointed for probably the one millionth time.) So I’m leaving them in.

If you like The English Beat, General Public, and The Specials, try Crazy 8’s, especially “Scratch & Claw.” Their best songs are collected on Still Crazy After All These Beers (2000). Whether you get naked or dress in business casual is your business.

8Ball
The only thing I can say about this Southern rapper is that his birth name is Premro Smith, and why did he think he needed a new name when he was already Premro? Try being born as Steve and see what that’s like! I can only dream of a name like Premro.

Nine Inch Nails

10cc
They started out in life as Hotlegs, a group of guys from Manchester with an impressive history involving The Yardbirds, The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, Jeff Beck, and Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders. They scored a hit in 1970 with “Neanderthal Man,” which is one fun song, and became 10cc after signing with Jonathan King and being renamed by him.

(Apparently, when Jonathan King went into action, his partner could expect approximately 10ccs at the finish. Loyal Reader Bill Seabrook claims this name came to King in a dream. What an odd coincidence – I have the same kind of dream!)

10cc wrote literate lyrics for pop music that makes me ill. “Donna” is a 1972 doo-wop satire that I can’t stand. “Rubber Bullets” was another hit in 1973 and another swipe at the ’50s. It sounds way too much like ELO.

They were a smash in the UK, but they didn’t break into the US charts until 1975’s “I’m Not in Love,” which I heard every night at the restaurant where I worked as a dishwasher and back-up cook. I can’t hear it today without smelling something I’ve left too long on the grill. I’m going to stop here, even though they still have two more super explosive smash hit explosions that I would prefer to forget: “The Things We Do for Love” (1977) and “Dreadlock Holiday” (1978).

10 Years
10 Years is a ’90s alternative band that made the mistake of not forming until 2002. “Wasteland” (Autumn Effect) would’ve sounded spectacular in 1995 instead of derivative in 2005. “Beautiful” (Division) was another hit for them, this one in 2008. I would’ve enjoyed it more in 1998 before I heard a hundred other similar songs. If you’re into slow-moving, immensely heavy guitars, you might dig these guys, or you might want to stick with Tool.

Ten Years After
My feeling about Ten Years After is that they never had the material to match Alvin Lee’s guitar skills. Eric Clapton has had this problem for about 40 years. “I’d Love to Change the World” (1971) is a trippy souvenir of its time with a dynamite guitar line. “Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl” (1969) would be difficult to play today, now that we’ve learned that grown men should not be initiating sexual relationships with females who are still using Hello Kitty notebooks. “Love Like a Man” (1969) is a blues-rock hybrid that would’ve fit right in on a Led Zep or even a Steppenwolf album. In fact,  “Oo You” on McCartney (1970) sounds a lot like it, only it’s better.

Ten Years After is best known for “I’m Going Home.” It was one of the highlights of Woodstock, though at 11 minutes there’s a lot of filler to wade through. The fireworks don’t start until the 8-minute mark. The album version, which is half that length, still rocks today. At times it sounds as if Lee is trying to update Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”!

Stonedhenge is the perfect name for an album released in 1969.

Tomorrow night: 12 through 80!