MIXTAPE: THE SOUND OF MUSIC 5

Not a peep out of Simon Lebon? A speechless Morrissey? Robert Smith contractually obligated not to sing? Yes, there are no words simple enough to describe these instrumentals that were often intentioned as album filler or the experimental B-sides to the artists’ latest single. But  Chris Rooney  does his best to find some…

David Bowie, “A New Career in a New Town” (1977)
After recording his previous album in Los Angeles, Bowie turned eastward and recorded the first of three albums in Europe. Collaborating with former Roxy Music keyboardist and ambient music innovator, Brian Eno brought a new dimension to Bowie’s sound – a sound that would be a preview of what was to come in the 1980s. The instrumental starts out somewhat lost and distant, but there’s a glimmer of optimism that stands out in Bowie’s harmonica-playing that suggests that he could reinvent himself elsewhere.

Giorgio Moroder, “The Chase” (1978)
After his initial success masterminding Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”, Moroder’s first time composing a movie soundtrack for the film Midnight Express would win him the Academy Award in 1978. He later would produce and arrange music for Blondie, David Bowie, Sparks, Japan and Berlin. Daft Punk would cite him as a major influence on their 2013 album, Random Access Memories with their song, “Giorgio by Moroder”.

The Police, “Behind My Camel” (1980)
The trio won their second Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1982 with this dreary composition that beat out Kraftwerk’s far superior “Computer World”. Written solely by guitarist Andy Summers, his bandmates Sting and Stewart Copeland both apparently despised it.

Human League, “Non-Stop” (1981)
Void of Philip Oakey and the girls, you’d might think that this B-side to “Open Your Heart” is a Devo tune with its hyperactive quirky-jerky synth beats written all over it.

British Electric Foundation, “Groove Thang” (1981)
Former Human League members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh created the production company, British Electric Foundation just prior to forming Heaven 17 with singer Glenn Gregory. Their first release was a cassette-only collection of instrumentals entitled Music For Stowaways, intended to be listened to on a Sony Walkman, which was first marketed in the UK as the Sony Stowaway. One of the instrumental tracks, “Groove Thang” would later become Heaven 17’s debut single, “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” when lyrics and vocals were added to it.

Simple Minds, “Theme For Great Cities” (1981)
Probably the most definitive new wave instrumental ever produced. Its epic and atmospheric sound combine superb synths, a pumping bassline and rhythmic drums that hurl it all into the future.

Pigbag, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag” (1981)
A humorous nod to James Brown’s “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”, the band’s self-referential claim-to-fame was their hard-driving big band instrumental “Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag”. Today it still can be heard in football (soccer) stadiums across England before a match, at halftime and most joyously after a goal is scored.

Depeche Mode, “Any Second Now” (1981)
The B-side to “Just Can’t Get Enough” was actually two “firsts” for the band. Not only was it their first instrumental, but the band also recorded a version with vocals handled by Martin Gore for the first time.

The Glove, “A Blues In Drag” (1982)
The Glove was the side project of The Cure’s frontman Robert Smith and Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Steven Severin. Their only album, Blue Sunshine, combined their bands’ trademark goth sound with psychedelia. While most of the album was sung by a former girlfriend of Severin’s bandmate Budgie because Smith had a deal with his record label at the time not to sing with any other band, the hauntingly beautiful “A Blues In Drag” would be the sole instrumental piece.

ABC, “The Love Of Love (Part Four)” (1982)
Closing out The Lexicon of Love, this shimmering, orchestrated one-minute reprise acts like a condensed musical “review” of their sumptuously-produced debut album.

Duran Duran, “Rio” (1982)
Relish in this Simonless version of the title track to the band’s second album so that you can fully feast your ears on the epic saxophone solo towards the end that was ubiquitous to every early 80s pop hit.

Roxy Music, “India” (1982)
Tucked in the middle of Roxy Music’s last album was this short instrumental piece later played through the P.A. before the band took the stage on their final tour.

Tears For Fears, “The Marauders” (1983)
To keep the duo in the public eye between their debut album and second album, they released their stop-gap single “The Way You Are” with this instrumental as the B-side. They would later come to disinherit the A-side’s misguided direction, but “The Marauders” proved to be a catalyst for the bigger, more sophisticated pop sound that they were looking to achieve.

The Smiths, “Oscillate Wildly” (1985)
“We did it really quickly in just one evening, but it came together beautifully,” according to Johnny Marr about crafting their scintillating instrumental “Oscillate Wildly”. Marr has also said that it was never intended to have lyrics and that Morrissey supported him in this. Mozzer’s only contribution to the song probably was its pun-filled title that alludes to his literary hero, Oscar Wilde.

New Order, “Elegia” (1985)
Five years after his suicide, New Order composed this uncharacteristic ambient waltz in memory of Ian Curtis, lead singer of their former incarnation, Joy Division. Lonely and desolate, the instrumental definitely evokes the darker shades of their earlier work.

Harold Faltermeyer, “Axel F” (1985)
By the mid 1980s almost every popular Hollywood blockbuster had a pop soundtrack that would appeal to the MTV generation. The German-born studio musician scored big time with his synthpop theme song to comedic actor Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop.

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MIxtape: Royals 0

Popular music has always anointed its pioneers and stars with such honorific nicknames as the King of Pop, the Godfather of Soul, the Chairman of the Board, and the Queen of Disco. The 80s saw an abundance of songs and group names that wanted to be regal. If we all agree that David Bowie is definitely the Godfather of New Wave, then who is worthy to be crowned the King(s) or Queen(s) of New Wave?  Chris Rooney decides. (To listen to this or follow any of our playlists on Spotify, click here.) 

The Smiths, “The Queen Is Dead” (1985)
Thirty years after Morrissey proclaimed the end of her majesty; stodgy QEII is still kicking. The self-deprecating ditty is loosely based on the real account of a Buckingham Palace intruder who broke into the palace and entered the Queen’s bedroom.

Eurythmics, “The King and Queen of America” (1990)
Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were pretty spot on with their costumes and settings that parodied American culture in the 1980s from game show hosts to the Reagans to Hollywood stars to ordinary folks from the heartland. As part of Eurythmics and a soloist, Annie has earned the title “most successful female British artist in UK music history” and the “Brits Champion of Champions”. How’s that for accolades?

The B-52’s, “Queen of Las Vegas” (1983)
If Annie Lennox wanted to be queen of America, she’d have to put up a fight with Kate and Cindy of The B-52’s in order to rule over “Sin City”.

Generation X, “King Rocker” (1978)
Billy Idol’s first taste of success was with his original pop punk band before he ascended to greater heights going solo in 1981.

The Police, “King Of Pain” (1983)
Written after the separation from his first wife, Sting confessed his feelings in this song: “I conjured up symbols of pain and related them to my soul. A black spot on the sun struck me as being a very painful image.” References to the tragic stories of King Oedipus and King Midas emphasized the solitude of being alone at the top.

Prince, “When You Were Mine” (1980)
His Royal Purpleness dabbled in New Wave with some of his early work including this one. Cyndi Lauper even covered the song in 1984 on her debut album. Since Prince has a beef with YouTube, here’s Cyndi’s version.

Prefab Sprout, “King Of Rock And Roll” (1988)
Sophisti-pop makers Prefab Sprout imagined a washed-up early rock and roll one-hit wonder stuck performing his silly novelty song on the nostalgia circuit. Despite critical praise for their work in the 1980s, this song remains the band’s biggest success in their native UK, where it reached a modest #7.

Echo & The Bunnymen, “My Kingdom” (1984)
Ian McCullough in many ways is the heir apparent to the self-proclaimed “Lizard King”, Jim Morrison. Since their early days, The Bunnymen drew comparisons to The Doors and later went so far as to record a version of “People Are Strange” and employed Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek on their original song, “Bedbugs And Ballyhoo”.

King, “Love & Pride” (1984)
Named after lead singer Paul King, the video for their debut single feels like a corny 1980s Hollywood take on Peter Pan complete with preadolescent “lost boys” breakdancing and spray painting in a remote Neverland dumping ground. Paul went on to work as a VJ for MTV and VH1 in Europe after the band split.

Adam & The Ants, “Prince Charming” (1981)
Adam’s whining at the beginning of the song makes it abundantly clear that he really, really, really wants to be next in line to the throne.

Bow Wow Wow, “Prince of Darkness” (1981)
Maybe Adam Ant’s bandmates turned to the dark side when they jumped ship and formed Bow Wow Wow under then-de facto manager Malcolm McLaren’s auspices?

Thompson Twins, “King For A Day” (1985)
After touring solo for the first time in 2014 after a long absence, lead singer Tom Bailey said, “In a way, ‘King For A Day’ is a song that explains why I’ve been missing for 30 years.  It kind of says the whole fame and fortune game doesn’t ultimately satisfy me, and I got distracted by other things. So although I’m glad to be back and sorry about being away for so long, this is my excuse.”

The Dukes of Stratosphear, “The Mole from the Ministry” (1985)
Taking a cue from The Beatles’ alter ego Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, XTC released a very ‘60s psychedelic-influenced album under the pseudonym The Dukes of Stratosphear.

The Stranglers, “Duchess” (1979)
With a public image anything but choirboys, The Stranglers nevertheless dressed up like them for the song’s banned-by-the-BBC-for-being-blasphemous video. Maybe it also touched a nerve for taking a very downtrodden working class jab at England’s aristocratic pretentiousness.

China Crisis, “King in a Catholic Style (Wake Up)” (1985)
I feel like I was the only American teenager who bought the Liverpudlian band’s 1985 album, Flaunt the Imperfection, which was produced by Walter Becker of Steely Dan jazz rock fame. Just because I was a big Anglophile then doesn’t mean that I thought that the American Revolutionary War wasn’t totally worth it.

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Mixtape: Question-and-Answer Songs 0

A few years ago, the Scottish indie pop band, Camera Obscura responded to Lloyd Cole & The Commotions’ 1984 song, “Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?” with “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken”. Chris Rooney digs up a few more “questionable” songs that are followed up with musical answers from another New Wave artists. It’s a fun holiday game for all the family. (Click here to listen via Spotify and/or to follow any of our other awesome Mixtape playlists.)

Question: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, “Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?”

Answer: Camera Obscura, “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken”

Question: The Stranglers, “Who Wants the World?”

Answer: Tears For Fears, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”

Question: Howard Jones, “What Is Love?”

Answer: Culture Club, “Love Is Love”

Question: The Smiths, “How Soon Is Now?”

Answer: The English Beat, “Save It For Later”

Question: Men At Work, “Who Can It Be Now?”

Answer: Gary Numan, “Me! I Disconnect From You”

Question: Eurythmics, “Would I Lie To You?”

Answer: Deborah Harry, “Liar, Liar”

Question: Culture Club, “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?”

Answer:  ABC, “Tears Are Not Enough”

Question: The Jam, “Just Who Is The 5 O’Clock Hero?”

Answer: The Cars, “Just What I Needed”

Question: The Cure, “Why Can’t I Be You?”

Answer: Kirsty MacColl’s cover of The Smiths, “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby”

Question: Erasure, “Who Needs Love Like That?”

Answer: The Motels, “Only The Lonely”

Question: Nik Kershaw, “Wouldn’t It Be Good?”

Answer: Howard Jones, “Things Can Only Get Better”

Question: Joe Jackson, “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”

Answer: Bananarama, “I Heard a Rumour”

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