Altered Images

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?

  • Share on Tumblr

Mixtape: Toys & Games 0

Once again, Chris Rooney digs deep into his sack.

Ho! Ho! Ho! and Oy, Vey! / Here are 11 fun songs you should play / A holiday mixtape about games and toys / For all the naughty or nice New Wave girls and boys!

To listen via Spotify, or to check out our other mixtapes, click here.

Visage, “Mind Of A Toy” (1981)
Frontman Steve Strange might the only member from Visage who got any face time, but the group also included Ultravox’s Robin Simon on guitar.
Recommended Game: Simon, the electronic memory game with the slogan, “Simon’s a computer, Simon has a brain, you either do what Simon says or else go down the drain!”

Peter Gabriel, “Games Without Frontiers” (1980)
Gabriel was inspired by a long-running TV show called Jeux Sans Frontières broadcast in several European countries in which teams of bizarrely-dressed neighbors would compete in games of skill.
Recommended Game: The premise of the show sounds oddly familiar to the fantasy role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons that was particularly popular with pre-adolescent males in the late 70s and early 80s before home video game consoles became so ubiquitous.

Altered Images, “Real Toys” (1981)
Altered Images singer Claire Grogan in many ways is a living embodiment of the popular toy, Barbie – cute, blonde, stylish and a poppy chirpy singing voice to boot. Heck, Altered Images even had an album called Pinky Blue, which are probably Barbie’s two favorite colors.
Recommended Toy: Barbie, the bestselling dress-up doll for the last 50 years

Level 42, “Love Games” (1981)
Many popular arcade video games in the 1980s had multiple levels players had to complete in order to advance. Level 42 seems like nothing compared to the 256 possible levels in a game of Ms. Pac-Man.
Recommended Game: Love is in the air during the first Act between levels in Ms. Pac-Man. Both she and her love interest, Pac-Man are chased by ghosts until they collide and kiss.

Toyah, “I Want To Be Free” (1981)
Even before she was a singer, Toyah Willcox exercised her rebel instincts by experimenting with hair color and style. To this day she doesn’t know why her parents gave her the unusual name of “Toyah”.
Recommended Toy: Launched as a TV show tie-in, the Barbiesque doll named Jem was a rock star like Toyah sporting a shocking pink head of hair and was “Truly Outrageous” according to the show’s theme song.

Echo & The Bunnymen, “The Game” (1988)
Ian McColloch’s piercing lyrics, “Through the crying hours / Of your glitter years / All the living out / Of your tinsel tears / And the midnight trains / I never made / ‘Cause I’d already /Played… the game” foresees the Bunnymen’s Annus Horribilis. McCulloch would quit the band shortly after this and drummer Pete de Freitas died in a motorcycle accident the following year.
Recommended Game: Banned in the United States the same year as the release of The Bunnymen’s song, the popular backyard game of Lawn Darts apparently caused a lot of injuries and one fatality. There was even a 1989 song written about them by Ed’s Redeeming Qualities called “Lawn Dart” which lamented their removal from the shelves at K-Mart.

Lene Lovich, “New Toy” (1981)
Making fun of consumer culture, Lene was sick of her television, radio and vacuum cleaner that she demanded a new toy in her life.
Recommended Toy: The timing couldn’t have been more perfect to introduce her to the 1980 Toy of The Year, the Rubik’s Cube. With over 350 million sold, it is widely considered today to be the world’s best-selling toy.

Yello, “Vicious Games” (1985)
The Swiss synthpop duo had to try hard to hop over the English Channel and the Atlantic to market themselves to a larger English-speaking audience. In the end, they were met with modest success in the British pop charts and American club charts.
Recommended Game: Frogger challenged the player to help a frog avoid being viciously run over by automobiles while crossing a busy road. By the mid 1980s, many households had home video game consoles like Atari that played many of the popular arcade games including Frogger.

The Toy Dolls, “Nellie The Elephant” (1984)
Pop punkers The Toy Dolls were known for not taking themselves or their songs too seriously when recording parodies of popular songs. Their cover of the 50s children’s song “Nellie The Elephant” was their sole hit.
Recommended Toy: While adoptable Cabbage Patch Kids dolls were the “it” toy in 1985, along came the Garbage Pail Kids series of trading cards that parodied the dolls. Each Garbage Pail Kid character had some comical abnormality, deformity or terrible fate paid off with a humorous, word play name.

The Psychedelic Furs, “Only a Game” (1984)
In order to win a pink Entertainment wedge, answer this question: Before settling on the name “The Psychedelic Furs,” what other moniker did the band playing under during their early days? Answer: “The Europeans”.
Recommended Game: Trivial Pursuit, the board game that tested your general knowledge and popular culture questions peaked in popularity back in 1984, a year in which over 20 million games were sold.

Duran Duran, “Bedroom Toys” (2004)
Ahem, well… Duran Duran’s song and companion video might actually be more fitting for Santa’s naughty list.
Recommended Toy: We’ll leave that to the grown-ups.

  • Share on Tumblr

Mixtape: Independence Day 0

“I’m Scottish. I can complain about things.” So said Peter Capaldi’s Doctor Who on seeing the face and hearing the voice of his latest regeneration. For many centuries, my people, the Scots, have complained loudly and bitterly. Mostly about the English, about being stuck on top of a country that oppresses and ignores them. And after centuries of complaining, we finally get a chance to do something about it. The race is shockingly tight, so much so that my nation has been belatedly turned into the homely girl suddenly regarded as pretty, with the leaders of all three parties desperate for her attention and approval. Although I’m many thousands of miles away, my ill-educated and indefensible vote would be Yes. We wanted this for so long. Now let’s see what happens when we get it. The following songs aren’t particularly rousing, rebellious or patriotic. But if the vote is a yes, this is what Scottish radio eighties flashback shows will sound like.

“Celebrate,” Simple Minds

Before they were deliberately anthemic, before everything they did was tailored to fit the demands of a stadium audience, this was Simple Minds starting to find themselves.

“From Pillar To Post,” Aztec Camera

The great thing about Roddy Frame’s songwriting circa 1982: the more he tried to write an out-and-out commercial pop song, the more he imbued his lyrics and delivery with out-and-out contempt.

“Blue Boy,” Orange Juice

Simple Minds were a big deal even in their formative years but Orange Juice and Postcard Records put Glasgow on the map in terms of the musically-inclined-but-directionless suddenly finding steely resolve and starting their own jangly bands, in terms of the music press belatedly bestowing regional hotness on Glasgow and in terms of record companies indiscriminately signing up Scots of varying degrees of talent.

Tell Me Easter’s On Friday,” Associates

My co-author’s been on a well-received music-now-is-empty-and-crude rant. I semi-agree but my main complaint about contemporary pop is that the chances of us ever hearing another voice like Billy Mackenzie’s in a context where it’s on the radio and on TV and high on the charts is not even unlikely. It just couldn’t happen. People rapping about their butts doesn’t make me particularly annoyed; living in a talent vacuum does.

“Bring Me Closer,” Altered Images

Gary Kemp talks in Mad World: The Book about his courtly semi-romance with Clare Grogan. For a brief period, the entire country shared his infatuation. The double-whammy of her “Gregory’s Girl” role, coy pop star persona and tremulous vocals made crushing on Clare Grogan a national pastime. Journalists, producers and DJs old enough to know better, actors and fellow pop stars all made clowns of themselves over her. Ironically, the two men flanking her in this clip went on to greater post-Images success than she did, the guy on the left produced, among others, “Mmmmbop” for Hanson, the other guy founded Texas. The band, not the state.

“Candy Skin,” Fire Engines

LOVE this. Love it. Short, sneering Velvet Underground-adjacent single with sawing violin from the great short-lived Edinburgh band who shed their indie skin and remade themselves into a Heaven 17-style ironic corporation.

“You’ve Got The Power,” WIN

And that is that self-same ironic corporation. “You’ve Got The Power”, although never a huge hit, was inescapable due to it’s widespread use in a beer commercial.

“Never Understand,” Jesus & Mary Chain

They played fifteen-minute sets that climaxed in the band half-heartedly smashing up their equipment. Their songs were drenched in feedback to the extent that they sounded like a ride on an out-of-control ghost train. The sets got longer, they dropped the distortion and stopped destroying the equipment. They were still great.

“Touch,” Secession

Try not to think less of me as I admit I barely know this song. I was aware of Secession as a Scottish synthpop outfit of little import. Many years later, I came to understand that this particular song had way bigger impact in American cities with new wave stations and dance club than it ever did in it’s ungrateful homeland. On behalf of all the other Scots who gave you the cold shoulder back when it counted, I’m sorry, Secession.

“Waiting For Another Chance,” Endgames

No apologies here but Endgames were a band that received a fair amount of mockery on their home turf but were hailed as giants across Europe.

“Tell Me Why,” Bronski Beat

Glasgow was and is a notoriously tough town but Glasgow audiences also had a love of gay disco to the degree that when records like (“You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real”) by Sylvester and “Funky Town” by Lipps Inc became hits they were propelled into the charts by the huge sales emanating from Glasgow. Bronski Beat were the product of the citywide love of that sound but they were also the product of the city wide love of beating people up because they looked or acted different.

“Abandon Ship,” April Showers

Yeah, I know. Totally indulgent. Whatever. It’s my song. I’m Scottish. I wrote it in the eighties.

  • Share on Tumblr