Thompson Twins

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: The Best John Hughes Playlist, Pt. I 0

Thanks to Mad World guest-mixtaper Chris Rooney for giving us another party playlist…

The cinematic voice of a generation, John Hughes’ films helped to define American teenagers in the 1980s. With a John Hughes movie usually came a great soundtrack chock full of New Wave songs, mostly by British acts. Hughes knew the importance of music to a movie, and he helped launch many Brat Pack careers, introduced New Wave to many in the American heartland, and created lasting moments intrinsically tied to his soundtracks. Everyone has a favorite movie that Hughes either wrote or directed, everyone has a favorite quotable line from his canon of 80s flicks, and, surely, they also have a favorite song…

Lindsey Buckingham, “Holiday Road” from National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
“I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life developing newer and better food additives. I guess I’ve missed an awful lot. At first, I didn’t want to take this vacation. But, now I’m glad I did. It’s given me a chance to spend a lot more time with you and… uh…”
Hughes was only the writer for this Chevy Chase-starring film, but its success helped earn him a three movie deal with Universal Studios. Dabbling in New Wave, Fleetwood Mac member Lindsey Buckingham had his biggest solo hit with this song used in the opening credits.

 

Altered Images, “Happy Birthday” from Sixteen Candles (1984)
“I can’t believe this. They fucking forgot my birthday.”
Hughes’ directorial debut found his muse in Molly Ringwald, the typical American teenage girl hoping to make her “sweet sixteen” special. Altered Images’ light and fluffy 1981 song was a perfect match to Ringwald’s character, Sam.

 

Thompson Twins, “If You Were Here” from Sixteen Candles (1984)
“Yeah, you!”
Two teenagers sitting on a glass top table with a lit birthday cake is probably not the safest thing in the world to do, but Sam’s wish did come true on her sixteenth birthday.

 

Oingo Boingo, “Weird Science” from Weird Science (1985)
“Gary?… By the way, why are we wearing bras on our heads?”
Hughes showed his sophomoric side in his sci-fi fantasy movie about two goofy teen boys starring Anthony Michael Hall (Gary) creating their dream woman. Oingo Boingo’s off-kilter song with the same name definitely captured the weirdness of the film’s premise.

 

Killing Joke, “Eighties” from Weird Science (1985)
“So, what would you little maniacs like to do first?”
Every time I listen to the bass line from this song, I wonder how much it really influenced Nirvana’s 1992 song, “Come As You Are”. Then again, maybe Killing Joke was influenced by a similar riff on The Damned’s 1982 song, “Life Goes On”.

 

Simple Minds, “Don’t You Forget About Me” from The Breakfast Club (1985)
“Saturday, March 24, 1984. Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois, 60062. Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did *was* wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed.”
The song so synonymous with the movie was originally offered to Billy Idol and Bryan Ferry before Simple Minds agreed to record it, thus leading to their only American #1 hit back in April 1985.

Wang Chung, “Fire In The Twilight” from The Breakfast Club (1985)
“When you grow up, your heart dies.”
Anthony Michael Hall by this point was appearing in his fourth film penned or directed by John Hughes. Hall would also be a cast member on the 1985-86 season on Saturday Night Live along with other John Hughes movie alums, Robert Downey, Jr and Joan Cusack.

 

Psychedelic Furs, “Pretty In Pink” from Pretty In Pink (1986)
“This is a really volcanic ensemble you’re wearing, it’s really marvelous!”
Molly Ringwald’s New Wave princess Andie was from the wrong side of the tracks, so it’s only fitting that this Psychedelic Furs track serves as her theme song. The Furs’ 1981 song inspired Hughes to create the film of the same name and the band re-recorded it five years later.

 

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, “If You Leave” from Pretty In Pink (1986)
“God, Andie, Id’ve died for you!”
Hughes originally planned to end the movie with OMD’s “Goddess of Love”, but changed all that after the final scene received poor test audience reactions. Hughes rewrote the scene and in under 24 hours, OMD wrote and recorded “If You Leave”. Thanks to the movie, the song would be the synthpop duo’s biggest American hit.

 

The Dream Academy, “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
The Dream Academy’s exquisite instrumental cover of The Smiths during the art museum scene makes skipping school for the day all worthwhile.

 

The English Beat “March Of The Swivelheads” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
“Don’t get up…Smells delicious…Dinner’s ready!”
Hughes located and shot most of his movies in and around Chicago where he grew up, but for Ferris’ house and neighborhood in the final racing home scene, he used Long Beach locations in Southern California. Watch out, Ferris! Principal Rooney is on to you!

 

Stephen Duffy “She Loves Me” from Some Kind Of Wonderful (1987)
“Because I’m driving you crazy and you’re driving me crazy and I’d rather not see you and have you think good things about me than have you see me and hate me. ‘Cause I can’t afford to have you hate me, Keith. The only things I care about in this goddamn life are me and my drums and you.”
Hughes only wrote the script for this movie, but it has his teen angst trademark all over it.
The song playing when Keith (Eric Stolz) and Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) practice kissing is sung by Stephen Duffy, the original vocalist and bassist for Duran Duran. Duffy left the band in 1979 to later pursue a solo career and was replaced with Simon LeBon. The following year Duran Duran signed to EMI and became big. Duffy had some minor success afterward.

 

Lick The Tins, “Can’t Help Falling In Love” from Some Kind Of Wonderful (1987)
“Well, I like art, I work in a gas station, my best friend is a tomboy. These things don’t fly too well in the American high school.”
To make up for Andie not picking Duckie (Jon Cryer) in Pretty In Pink, Hughes redeemed himself by having another redhead choose the best friend over the object of desire. Stoltz and Lea Thompson (Wonderful’s Amanda) almost worked together in the 1985 hit, Back to the Future before he was dropped from the film in favor of original choice, Michael J. Fox.

 

Kate Bush, “This Woman’s Work” from She’s Having a Baby (1988)
“And in the end, I realized that I took more than I gave, I was trusted more than I trusted, and I was loved more than I loved. And what I was looking for was not to be found but to be made.”
Tracing the lives of a young couple from marriage to the birth of their first child, She’s Having a Baby was the last in a series of Hughes’ coming-of-age movies in the 1980s. Specifically written and sung for the film by Kate Bush, Hughes used the song during the film’s dramatic climax when Jake (Kevin Bacon) learns that the lives of his wife (Elizabeth McGovern) and their unborn child are in danger.

 

Everything But The Girl, “Apron Strings” from She’s Having a Baby (1988)
“Promise not to get mad? I stopped taking the pill over two months ago.”
Married in real life, Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn and Ben Watts have had three babies together.

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Mad World Meets Midge Ure 0

Am I a hopeless romantic because I love new wave? Or do I love new wave because I’m a hopeless romantic?

I’d have to say the former. I was barely of menstruating age when I found myself being wooed by new wave’s poetic lyrics, melodramatic music, and beauteous boys in puffy shirts and eyeliner. After falling head over heels for the likes of Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, and Ultravox, how could the “regular” boys at school and their scruffy sneakers ever compete?

Midge Ure was a knight in new romantic armor. Cocking one eyebrow, sucking in his cheekbones, and sporting the most immaculate mustache, the swoonsome Scot owned me the second I heard him sing, “This means nothing to me — oh, Viennaaaaaaaaaaa!” It certainly didn’t hurt that the serenade took place in the fog of dry ice.

It would be many years before I realized those lyrics literally meant nothing to him. As he recounts in Mad World: The Book — and he did again on Sunday, for all of the good people gathered at Rough Trade in Brooklyn for my Mad World Conversation With Midge Ure — at the time of this classic song’s writing, Midge had never even been to Vienna.

“I was out to dinner with my old Rich Kids manager and his wife, who was a bit pissed [inebriated],” he recalled. “She said, ‘You need to write a song like that “Vienna”.’ And I was like like, ‘What song “Vienna”?’ She said, ‘You know that Fleetwood Mac song: Vieennnnnnnaaaaa: She was singing ‘Rhiannon.’”

That was just one of the tales spun by the Midgester at our Mad World tribute to the OBE (that’s right: he’s an officer of the Order of the British Empire, as proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth). During the 90-minute Q&A, he also reminisced about his new romantic anthem “Fade to Grey,” resurrecting Ultravox after John Foxx’s and Robin Simon’s sudden departures left it with barely a pulse, and co-organizing Band Aid and Live Aid, as well as his excellent new album, Fragile.

In this video clip, Midge talks about his participation in the recently wrapped Retro Futura Tour, which also included Thompson Twin Tom Bailey’s triumphant return to the stage following a 27-year absence, along with sets by Howard Jones, China Crisis, and Katrina and the Waves singer Katrina Leskenich:

Thanks to Midge for all the beautiful and hopeful music he’s contributed to the soundtrack of our lives — and for our favorite DJ, The Big PA, for spinning an excellent set of it (see below, or follow the Spotify playlist here). Thanks also to Rough Trade for their continued support of Mad World, and to everyone who came out!

 

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