Posts Tagged ‘Herman’s Hermits’

 

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!

 

Let’s give a big Run-DMSteve welcome to today’s contestants:

Golden Oldies: Radio programming.
Golden retrievers: Dogs.

Are you ready to rumble?

Golden Oldies
In 1966 my parents gave me my own radio, with a primitive earbud. They were sick of listening to my music on the family radio, which sat on the kitchen counter beside the bread box. Looking back, I can understand what Mom and Dad were up against. My musical sensibilities at the age of 11 were the equivalent of Lady Gaga and the Jonas Brothers. Who wants to listen to Herman’s Hermits and the tragic story of Mrs. Brown and her lovely daughter?

When I was 11, I certainly did, and when I got to see Herman’s Hermits in concert for a friend’s birthday I was thrilled. But before my 5th-grade colleagues and I could sing along to “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am,” we had to survive the opening act: The Who. (They weren’t famous yet, at least not on this side of the Atlantic.) What followed was, by the standards of that era, full-blown insane flying carnage. Fun!

Wherever you are today, Mrs. M., I’d like to thank you for not taking us home early, though I plainly remember your shock, particularly when the audience was hit by drum sticks and guitar shrapnel.

As the 1960s continued, The Beatles and The Who became more experimental and The Rolling Stones more savage. Other bands followed. Radio stations sprang up to play this music (the first “alternative” outlets). In the early 1970s I noticed that there were other stations, usually on the AM side, that were still playing Herman’s Hermits and similar bands. They didn’t seem aware of Sgt. Pepper’s or Tommy or Beggar’s Banquet. Their playlists stopped in the mid-’60s, and they included songs from a decade I knew nothing about: the 1950s, which in my mind meant crooners (Frank Sinatra) and cool jazz cats (John Coltrane).

As we moved into the 1980s and I learned more about the history of pop music I realized that Golden Oldies radio wasn’t just something I listened to when I didn’t like what was playing on the other stations. Golden Oldies was cultural propaganda, like Fonzi and Happy Days. All of the ’50s music these stations played was white-washed white pop. The only black artists I remember hearing* were Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Bo Diddley – and by the time we moved into the ’90s, Bo Diddley had disappeared and the other three were restricted to a song or two each.

What about all the other black R&B artists? What about rockabilly? What kind of country is this where we have to learn about our heritage from Led Zeppelin?

Today, in 2011, even that remnant of the 1950s is gone. The Golden Oldies songbook begins in the early ’60s with The Beach Boys and The Beatles. Jan & Dean and The Everly Brothers have vanished. Golden Oldies extends into the early 1980s now, and though blacks and women have been allowed into the club (no soul, no Golden Oldies), this format continues to perpetuate atrocities. Where else are you going to hear Chicago, The Dooby Brothers, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and Bread? Excuse me while I rinse my brain out.

* Not counting doo-wop. I’m not sure that doo-wop is music.

Golden retrievers
Golden retrievers love chasing tennis balls. They love standing around chewing tennis balls. They love you. They love whatever you’re doing. They would never ever rewrite musical history or suppress music created and performed by women, minorities, or gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered individuals. They wouldn’t make me listen to Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park.” And if I secretly played “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daugher,” they wouldn’t tell.

Winner: Golden retrievers. W00T! (And w00f!)