Mixtape: New Wave R&B 1

The black influence on eighties music is well-known. Just like Lennon & McCartney and Jagger & Richards spent every hour and every penny down the import stores buying every new American R&B record, so the likes of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Wham! and the Pet Shop Boys filled their formative years with disco, funk and rap 12-inchers. But did the influence bleed back to the source? Did any black act of the eighties soak up even the slightest new wave inspiration? Here’s some songs that offer evidence that they did. (To listen via Spotify, or follow any of our playlists there, click here.)

“Warm Leatherette,” Grace Jones

An iconic figure without an iconic soundtrack, Grace Jones place in the firmament changed when Island boss Chris Blackwell came up with the bright idea of sending her off to Jamaica to work with deadly rhythm section Sly & Robbie on an incredibly eclectic collection of songs. The Pretenders, Tom Petty and Sting covers were somewhat predictable. This one was not. The Warm Leatherette album and it’s two sequels were three of the most influential records of the decade.

“Dead Giveaway,” Shalamar

Jeffrey Daniel of Shalamar debuted the moonwalk on Top of the Pops while promoting his band’s “I Can Make You Feel Good.” The result: Shalamar’s “Friends” album became a hit machine and the trip spent a lot of time in the UK. When they embarked on their follow-up album, The Look”, their leathers and relaxed hair were a thing of the past. The band now sported an image not a million miles from The Thompson Twins and their hooks had a little more edge.

Somebody’s Watching Me,” Rockwell

One-hit wonder paranoid classic. The little-heard follow-up actually referenced adam Ant and Culture Club.

“Jump (For My Love)”, Pointer Sisters

I’ve written about my undying love for the Pointer Sisters Breakout album before. “Automatic”, “Neutron Dance” and, especially, this song are R&B synthpop classics.

The Belle of St. Mark,” Sheila E

It’s tough to track down even Prince-affiliated clips but there was an insane New Romantic/ funk crossover going on with a lot of his early-to-mid eighties productions and the songs he did for his right-hand woman on this and her Romance 1600 album are enduring gems.

I Sweat (Going Through the Motions),” Nona Hendryx

The most flamboyant member of Labelle, which is no mean feat, Nona Hendryx never quite managed to find the perfect combination right song and the right look but she came close a few times, such as this one.

“Bustin’ Out,” Material ft. Nona Hendryx

Bill Laswell of Material produced the Nona hendryx song above but this was their most astounding collaboration.This one track justifies the concept behind the entire concept. One of the first Ze records I ever bought, but certainly not the last.

“There But for the Grace of God Go I,” Machine

Not strictly Ze, but co-written by August Darnell later to find fame as Kid Creole. Brilliant record with a biting, Not In My Backyard lyric that hasn’t aged a day. Someone needs to do an inferior cover of this like now!

“Alligator Woman (Secrets of Time),” Cameo

When interviewing the founder members of Devo for Mad World:The Book, I never got around to asking them about their influence on eighties r&b but it’s right here in this Cameo hit.

“L is for Lover,” Al Jarreau

Dentist office smooth jazz perennial Al Jarreau may not be your idea of a new wave r&b crossover giant but this particular song was written by Scritti Politti and produced by Nile Rodgers AND it gives a shout-out to my home town of Glasgow so it more than qualifies!

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Mixtape: People Who Died 0

Just like the Academy Awards has its In Memorium segment, Mad World guest mixtape-ologist Chris Rooney presents a somber look back at those we have lost from the new wave decade.

“Walk in silence/Don’t walk away, in silence…” Ian Curtis’ opening lyrics from Joy Division’s last single, “Atmosphere” is the perfect funeral hymn to remember the small number of singers and musicians that have passed on from this era. While drug and alcohol overdoses have been the main culprit of many musicians’ deaths in other genres, the following have been lost to other ravages of time. (To listen to this or follow any of Lori Majewski’s Spotify playlists, click here.)

01. Ian Curtis (15 July 1956 – 18 May 1980) of Joy Division, “Atmosphere”
On the eve of their first American tour, troubled 22-year-old Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis took his life. The music video accompanying the song’s 1988 re-release was directed by Anton Corbijn who would later directed the 2007 Ian Curtis biopic, Control.

02. Ricky Wilson (March 19, 1953 – October 12, 1985) of The B-52s, “Give Me Back My Man”
The backbone of The B-52s, Ricky’s distinctive open tuning surf guitar sound came from playing only four strings with the third and fourth ones missing. He is reportedly once said, “I just tune the strings till I hear something I like, and then something comes out. No, I don’t write anything down. I have no idea how the tunings go.” Wilson, 32, died from complications due to AIDS in 1985, just a month after the release of the fourth B-52’s album, Bouncing off the Satellites.

03. Jimmy McShane (23 May 1957 – 29 March 1995) of Baltimora, “Tarzan Boy”
What do you get when you mix a group of Italian musicians with an Northern Irish singer named Jimmy McShane? You get Baltimora, best known for the one-hit wonder “Tarzan Boy” that came swinging through the jungle back in 1985. Ten years later, McShane fell victim to the AIDS epidemic at age 37.

04. Patty Donahue (29 March 1956 – 9 December 1996) of The Waitresses, “Square Pegs”
Aside from “I Know What Boys Like” and ‘Christmas Wrapping”, The Waitresses might still be remembered for performing the theme song to the short-lived American high school sitcom, Square Pegs at the end of the pilot episode. Lead singer Patty Donahue wouldn’t pursue music after the band broke up in 1984 and later lost her battle to lung cancer in 1996 at the age of 40.

05. Michael Hutchence (22 January 1960 – 22 November 1997) of INXS, “The One Thing”
Unlike the surviving members of Joy Division who remade themselves as New Order, the rest of INXS limped on after the 1997 suicide of their 37-year-old frontman Michael Hutchence with guest vocalists. In 2004, they even went so far as to audition a new lead singer on the American singing competition show, Rock Star: INXS.

06. Falco (19 February 1957 – 6 February 1998), “Der Kommissar”
It’s ironic that Austrian singer Falco is dancing in the street while being chased by the cops during his music video for “Der Kommissar” as he was later killed in an 1998 automobile accident. He was 40.

07. Ned “Ebn” Liben (1954 – 18 February 1998) of EBN-OZN, “AEIOU and Sometimes Y”
Recorded in 1981, EBN-OZN’s vowel-specific song has the distinction of being the first American commercial single ever recorded entirely on a Fairlight CMI synthesizer. After the duo split, Liben continued composing for others until he died from a heart attack in 1998 at the age of 44.

08. Rob Fisher (5 November 1956 – 25 August 1999) of Naked Eyes, “When The Lights Go Out”
Another two-man synth group employing the then-new Fairlight CMI sampling synthesizer, Naked Eyes had more success in the US than in their native England at the beginning of the ‘80s. Rob Fisher re-emerged a few years later as one half of the pop duo, Climie Fisher. His life was cut short in 1999 at the age of 42 following bowel surgery related to cancer.

09. Benjamin Orr (September 8, 1947 – October 3, 2000) of The Cars, “Drive”

While frontman Ric Ocasek sang most of the group’s songs, bassist Orr had the distinction of doing the vocals on their biggest international hit, “Drive”. Orr died in 2000 from pancreatic cancer at age 53.

10. Stuart Adamson (11 April 1958 – 16 December 2001) of Big Country “In A Big Country”
After leaving the art-punk band, The Skids he founded, Adamson had commercial success with his next group, Big Country, fueled by their 1983 international hit “In A Big Country” thanks in part to heavy rotation on MTV. In November 2001 he was reported missing after being estranged from his wife and ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous. Three weeks later he was found dead in a Hawaiian hotel room from an apparent suicide. He was 43.

11. Robert Palmer (19 January 1949 – 26 September 2003), “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On”
Whether performing solo or fronting the short-lived supergroup, The Power Station, Robert Palmer always lent a touch of class with his sharp attire and distinctive voice. He died unexpectedly in a Paris hotel room from a heart attack in 2003 at the age of 54.

12. Malcolm McLaren (22 January 1946 – 8 April 2010), “Madame Butterfly”
The impresario/svengali behind The Sex Pistols, Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow, McLaren also embarked on his own musical ventures with a few hits including this adaptation of the Puccini opera. McLaren lost his life to peritoneal mesothelioma in 2010 at the age of 64.

13. Mick Karn of Japan (24 July 1958 – 4 January 2011), “The Art of Parties”
Best known for his fretless bass playing in the group Japan, Mick Karn later formed Dalis Car with Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy on their only album in 1984. A few years ago, the two were working on new material when Karn’s health declined. He finally succumbed to cancer in 2011 at the age of 52.

14. Chrissy Amphlett (25 October 1959 – 21 April 2013) of DiVinyls, “Science Fiction”
While notorious for their 1990 eye-opening song, “I Touch Myself”, DiVinyls were already well-established in their native Australia since the early 80s with a string of hits like “Science Fiction”.
After a protracted battle with breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, lead singer Chrissy Amphlett passed away in 2013.

15. Bob Casale (July 14, 1952 – February 17, 2014) of Devo, “Just The Girl You Want”
A fixture since the origin of the group back in the early 1970s, Devo guitarist and keyboardist Bob Casale passed away earlier this year from heart failure at age 61. Their hyperkinetic 1980 video “Girl U Want” which came at their height of popularity was inspired by The Knack’s hit “My Sharona” from the year before. Who knows if Bob was buried wearing his Energy Dome…

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MIxtape: And The Band Played On. 0

Freddie And The Dreamers. Sly And The Family Stone. Dion And The Belmonts. Reparata & The Delrons, Booker T & The MGs. There used to be a time when a pop group had a caste system, when one member of the band was regarded as being of more importance than the other. These days are gone. Partly because pop bands themselves are pretty much extinct and partly because it’s deemed insensitive to elevate the contribution of one member over another. The eighties was the last stand of the And The bands.

“Stand And Deliver,” Adam And The Ants

Perhaps the Ants most confident record. No longer the bitter loser or the outsider with a chip on his shoulder, “Stand And deliver” saw Adam Ant as his homeland’s biggest pop star and he used his vast platform to stick two amused fingers up at the old, ugly, smelly state of rock music, those who followed it, played it, consumed it and wrote about it. He was rewarded with a single that soared straight in at number one, a rarity in those days.

“Happy House,” Siouxsie & The Banshees

There was a feeling the Banshees had blown it with their second album, Join Hands. It seemed like the work of a band bereft of ideas. “Happy House” debuted to low expectations but turned out be the start of an amazing run of singles that proved Siouxsie’s Voice of Doom was as it;s most effective when fronting a band that soared rather than lumbered.

“Rescue,” Echo And The Bunnymen

Major label debuts of bands who’d intrigued in the indie incarnations could be disappointing. Not the case with “Rescue”, the first post-Zoo Echo release. Still ominous, still enigmatic but now with a sound as big as their ambitions.

“Forest Fire,” Lloyd Cole & The Commotions

The rare case of an Englishman moving to Glasgow to find fame and fortune. Lloyd Cole’s killer combination of smugness, pretension and instant success made him an easy figure to loathe and plenty teenage Glaswegians were more than equal to the challenge. “Forest Fire” shut us up. “Total Control” by The Motels is one of my favorite example of a song that’s all tension and no release. This song exerts a similar grip but lets the listener exhale with the long guitar workout at the finish line.

“Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick,” Ian Dury And The Blockheads

Let’s take a second to deal with the notion that this song by an aging Cockney polio victim with it’s free jazz breakdown at the mid-point was not only a number one record but was never off the radio, played at every school disco and teenage party and was not his only hit. Different times.

“Do Anything You Wanna Do,” Eddie & The Hot Rods

Like Dr. Feelgood, Eddie & The Hot Rods, were stuck in the divide between pub rock and punk. They tried to bridge the culture gap by changing their name to Rods and releasing this, their best ever record. It was hailed as a classic summer single. They triumphantly reverted back to their original name and never released another song anywhere near as good or successful. This clip comes from Marc Bolan’s old, after-school TV show.

“Call Me Every Night,” Jane Aire And The Belvederes

In Mad World:The Book, we tell the story of how Akron’s The Waitresses were a record first and then a band. The same thing happened with Jane Aire And The Belvederes who were formed to take advantage of the British media’s post-Devo interest in all things form Akron. Stiff Records put out an Akron compilation album featuring the song “Yankee Wheels” and a conglomeration of local musicians working under the name Jane Aire And The Belvederes. The singer and the guy who wrote the songs moved to London, started a real band, featuring Jon Moss on drums, and took a shot at becoming an actual pop group. They made a few records, unnoticed by most but loved by Teenage Me.

 

 “Driving,” Pearl Harbor & The Explosions

Here’s a crazy coincidence. “Driving” was also recorded by Jane Aire And The Belvederes. Two female-fronted And The bands doing the same song at approximately the same period of time. Even more amazing, it was a hit for neither.

“The Lonely Spy,” Lori & The Chameleons

Yes, the great lost new wave record by our own Lori Majewski. JK!  (Her song, “I Love Shelf! has yet to be retrieved from the archives) L&TC were another semi-imaginary combo invented by Zoo Records, Bill Drummond of the KLF wrote and produced this, inspired by the wistful voice of a girl he apparently discovered on her way to class at a Liverpool art school.

“The Captain Of Your Ship,” Bette Bright & The Illuminations

Not the first appearance in this feature of wife of Suggs and Liverpool legend Bette Bright, but a fitting way to close as a female-fronted And The band from the eighties, covers a classic from a female fronted And The band from the sixties!

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