Alison Moyet

MIXTAPE: CREEPY CRAWLIES 0

Spring’s here. Summer’s right around the corner. And you know what that means. Things with wings. Things that crawl. Things that bite and sting. That’s right: insects. Here’s some songs about the nightmarish creatures who share our planet. (To listen to this or any of our other playlists via Spotify, click here.)

“Antmusic,” Adam And The Ants

“Don’t step on an ant, you’ll end up back and blue, you cut off his head, legs come looking for you.” Ugh…

“Insects,” Altered Images

Before they were cute, before they embraced pop stardom, Altered Images were Lil’ Siouxsie and the Banshee Babies. This is them at their most Junior Banshee-esque

“The Butterfly Collector,” The Jam

Lyrically, this song is close kin to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John. Paul Weller’s loathing of the upper-class dilettante slumming in his milieu is just that bit more visceral. There was time when Weller was writing good enough songs that he could throw this away as a b-side.

“Hey There Little Insect,” Jonathan Richman And The Modern Lovers

Many artists have attempted to present themselves as wide-eyed naive grown-up children and it generally comes off creepy and uncomfortable. Jonathan Richman just about stayed on the right side of the man-child divide.

“Honey For The Bees,” Alison Moyet

From the debut solo album that was supposed propel her to international mainstream superstardom but ended up convincing her that the last thing she wanted to be was an international mainstream superstar.

“Human Fly,” The Cramps

We will never see their like again. Thankfully.

“Caterpillar,” The Cure

Almost every Cure song sounds like it could be about an insect.

“Dragonfly,” Blondie

From the universally-dismissed The Hunter. Perhaps better than it originally seemed?

“Loco Mosquito,” Iggy Pop

Iggy’s Eighties Arista era was a weird half-hearted attempt to make him MTV famous and radio friendly. Here is evidence as to why that was never going to happen.

New Romance,” Spider

Written by Holly Knight, covered by Lisa Hartman on Knots Landing, should have been a HUGE hit. Still sounds great.

“Love And A Molotov Cocktail,” The Flys

Endearing post-punk anthem with a once—heard-never-forgotten chorus.

“King Of The Flies,” Fad Gadget

More flies. How do they know to get in the house but they never know how to get out?

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Sizing Up Fashion Rocks’ Booty Call 4

While doing interviews for Mad World, I’m often asked about the current state of music, and how it’s changed since the early 80s. The first thing that comes to mind: The music charts are no longer about music.

I know, I know. That’s some statement from an author whose book highlights the artists from the dawn of MTV — the music video era! But while the bands in Mad World were certainly concerned with how they looked — after all, almost all of them were formed from the rib of Bowie — first and foremost, they wanted to make music.  ”Our managers drove the video agenda; we were like, ‘Oh man, a video‘,” John Taylor says in the book, recalling how Duran Duran’s reps pushed them to make James Bond-ian mini movies.

While watching Fashion Rocks at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn the other night, I couldn’t help thinking that, for many of today’s biggest stars, it’s the other way around — the music hardly matters. The reps for Jennifer Lopez and Nicki Minaj should remind them their charges that they’re singers, not strippers giving lap dances (although, to be fair, the managers and labels are a big part of the problem).Three Lions Entertainment Presents Fashion Rocks 2014 - Show nicki-anaconda-fr

“She got a big booty that’ll swallow a thong,” sang (lip-synched?) J.Lo as she shoved her infamous, barely-covered bottom in our faces. (Yes, her mid-forties ass looks mighty fine, but that’s besides the point.) A few numbers later, Minaj came out flaunting so much tush it would’ve made Daisy Duke blush. Among her poetic lyrics: “Say he don’t like ‘em boney, he want something he can grab.”

The morning after, my Mad World co-author asked how it all went. I told him how thrilled I was with Duran Duran’s performance — though, to be honest, they barely had any competition, with J.Lo and Minaj’s lame twerk-off coming more than a year after Miley’s bouncing butt hijacked/headlined the MTV Video Music Awards.

“I like Nicki,” JB said in her defense, explaining that she’s a really talented rapper. Rapping — oh, is that what she was doing on stage? I failed to notice.

Look, I’m not a prude, and I did notice that Minaj was flanked by a bunch of shirtless male dancers — perhaps an attempt at equal-opportunity eye candy? But is she really lighting the way forward for women? Is showing everything you’ve got onstage really how you show you’re a feminist, a word Beyoncé flashed at her recent VMAs performance.

JB argued that Nicki needs the butt antics to keep everyone’s attention. Hold on — I thought you said she was talented.

In Alison Moyet’s day, talent was what counted. ”Once upon a time, our attractive girl pop stars were Bananarama, who presented themselves with light independent spirits, but you never felt they were whoring themselves,” she told JB during their Mad World interview. By contrast, ”young women seem to have given up” and are “giving it all away” these days. In the early eighties, “there was less sexism, bizarrely, in the creative arena”; today “all [the female singers are] doing is playing to a sexual fantasy, and they are no more esteemed and stronger — they’re just being sex toys.”

Ironically, it was an 80s artist who drew up the blueprint. But while J.Lo, Minaj, et. al. latched on to Madonna’s shock-and-awe way to the top, they didn’t bother to learn her main lesson: Fantastic, unforgettable songs is the route to longevity. They’re cribbing from her Sex book, her “Justify My Love” video, when they should be paying attention to “Like A Prayer,” “Express Yourself,” “Papa Don’t Preach.”

And Madonna was always changing it up, trying to do something different. J.Lo and Minaj’s booty battle wasn’t nearly as shocking as it was been there-done that. “There are times now when I feel like it’s shocking when you see someone with their clothes on,” Moyet said. ”It’s shocking when someone’s not offering their arse to imagine yourself penetrating when they sing.”

 

 

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Mixtape: A.K.A. Stage Names, Pseudonyms and Alter Egos 0

Charli XCX. Ty Dolla $ign. Zedd. Bobby Shmurda. We certainly don’t lack for creative stage names these days. Just creativity. Unlike the eighties, when we had artists whose music was as fascinating as their alter egos.

“Goody Two Shoes,” Adam Ant

What a malleable stage-name-for-all-seasons the young Stuart Goddard chose for himself. Adam Ant seemed all creepy and netherworldy when he was an underground icon, then when he was a mainstream favorite, it was exciting and alliterative. I wonder if Marvel will use this song on the soundtrack on the Ant-Man movie.

“Electric Co,” U2

It is easier for a camel to crawl through the eye of a needle than it is for me to find a U2 song I can halfway tolerate. However, we are here to celebrate the wise choice made by Paul Hewson when he renamed himself Bon O’Vox. And then O’Vo. And finally, Bono. Yes, he made himself a target for people like Bernard Sumner to refer to him as Bongo and for me to call him Bonio, after a once-popular brand of dog food, but its is also a name that crosses national boundaries.

“Miss Me Blind,” Culture Club

The roads of the record industry are built on the broken bones of unmemorable artists. George O’Dowd was not one of those. His look, his voice, his songs all stood out and so did his choice of moniker. Smartly anticipating the reaction of the nation’s parents who would be forced by their offspring sit through Top Of The Pops, his name was an answer to the UK’s– and soon the world’s– outraged mums and dads demanding of their TV screen, “Is that a boy or a girl?”

“Calling Your Name,” Marilyn

And after the world’s mums and dads were miraculously unaffected by their exposure to Boy George, there was a brief record company gold rush for another gender-ambiguous popstar. The resulted: long time George frenemy Peter Robinson aka Marilyn– a notorious figure –who, if the BBC biopic ‘Worried About The Boy’ is to be be believed, turned aan entire city of straight men gay– wound up in the UK Top 5 with this slice of fake Motown which predates the auto-tune era but comes smack-dab in the middle of the time when producers swamped thin voices with masses of backing vocals.

“Never Ending Story,” Limahl

If there’s been one sour note struck during the whole, generally positive Mad World:The Book experience, it’s...me! Some readers have taken issue with my sullen attitude and lack of blanket approval regarding every single act we covered over 36 chapters. To which I say, fair enough. You can’t please everyone. However. If I have one regret about my cynical nature, it’s perhaps over my commentary about the Limahl chapter in which I made a flip remark about shitting on his band. Now, I’m not a Kajagoogoo fan and I never presented myself as one, but Limahl gave me one of the best and most unexpected interviews in the book, which is why the chapter is so insanely long. I didn’t have to build a statue to his greatness but I also didn’t need to direct quite so much snark in his direction. So, I will take this opportunity to apologize to the former Chris Hamill and applaud this song which, I imagine he will agree, is the finest melody he ever sung.

“Imagination,” Belouis Some

I would like to see the list of names Neville Keighley rejected before deciding Belouis Some was the pseudonym that was going to rocket him to international stardom. I have to think that his choice is one of the main reasons “Imagination,” which was a hot record then and remains a hot record now, never took off. Bonus points to anyone who can make it all the way through this extended, uncensored, ridiculous video.

“Just An Illusion,” Imagination

See what I did there? Imagination’s lead singer John Leslie McGregor made what might have seemed an even more ruinous choice than Neville Keighley when selecting his stage name. He went with Leee John, the extra E completing the acronym, “Extra Erotic Energy”. Despite this, Imagination were a huuuuge influence on the British pop scene of the early eighties. In MW:TB, Gary Kemp talks of hearing them and seeking out their producers, Jolley & Swain, for the True album. Alison Moyet and Bananarama also used Jolley & Swain’s services. Imagination don’t benefit a whole lot from eighties nostalgia but they were the one of the premier UK r&b acts that wasn’t attempting to xerox what they bought from the US import bins, and for that they deserve that extra e in their singer’s name.

“One Better Day,” Madness

Graham McPherson probably didn’t think he was going to be lead singer of Madness for life when he called himself Suggs but it seems like it’s going to work out that way. The name is evocative of a kind of minor Dickensian villain which is appropriate seeing as the band have come to embody a timeless London seediness.

“When You Were Mine,” Bette Bright & The Illuminations

We couldn’t feature Suggs and not shout out his wife, could we? Bette Bright, born Anne Martin, was one of the focal points of Liverpool’s Deaf School, a highly-touted art-pop band who were utterly annihilated by the rise of punk. Regrouping as Bette Bright & The Illuminations, she banged out a series of cover songs, all of which were awesome and none of which came close to being hits. This is her version of Prince’s “When You Were Mine” which–and I might be wrong here– predates the Cyndi Lauper cover.

“Ashes and Diamonds,” Zaine Griff

Known to his parents as Glenn Mikkelson, this Bowie imitator obviously had a bunch of people convinced of his star potential because he kept pumping out records. He came closes to a hit with this one, produced by Bowie’s frequent right-hand man, Tony Visconti.

“Can’t Stop Running,” Space Monkey

Okay, Paul Goodchild, the awesome news is, the guy who discovered and signed both Wham! and ABC thinks you’ve got what it takes to go the distance. the less awesome news: he thinks you should rename yourself Space Monkey. (It probably didn’t go down like that at all. It probably happened more like Dirk Diggler coming up with his porn name in Boogie Nights.)

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