That’s right: the shocking sequel to last week’s duos mixtape. This time we focus on bands that are one better.
“The Flame,” Arcadia
My entire world came crashing down when I thought John Taylor and Andy Taylor may be leaving Duran for good. Luckily, they only needed to get the hard rock out of their system (no way was Nick Rhodes going to accommodate that) with the power Station. As much as I like that DD detour, though, I am definitely more of a fan of the atmospheric, experimental Arcadia. Comprised of the non-PS Durans — Nick, Simon Le Bon and Roger Taylor (at least for a while; then he buggered off after a couple of videos), this side project produced one of my favorite videos for a song called “The Flame.” I’ll never forget watching its world premiere and screaming my lungs out when JT made a cameo, in effect signaling his commitment to the mother ship.
“King for a Day,” Thompson Twins
Someone asked on our Reddit AMA which band we came away with an even greater appreciation for than before. I should have answered Thompson Twins. You will forgive me for forgetting to say that, though — I mean, this three-piece practically vanished into thin air after their 80s heyday. (Although Bailey will be coming out of hiding this summer to tour with Midge Ure and Howard jones. I like to think that his inclusion in Mad World had something to do with that!) The Twins hit us with smash after smash back in the day. I love them all, but I feel “King For A day” doesn’t get enough love — it’s perfect, gleaming pop! So here it is once again for your listening pleasure.
“Da Da Da,” Trio
So did these guys have trouble coming up with a name and said to themselves: “Hey, there are three of us. How about Trio?”
“Robert DeNiro’s Waiting,”Bananarama
Such a strange song. I mean, Robert DeNiro doesn’t speak Italian! But that’s part of its charm. Crap! I just remember another recent interview question to which I didn’t give the right answer. When Chi of the Electricity Club asked, “Which new wave band do you wish you could be a part of?”, I should have said “Bananrama!” They were sexy without being skanky, they got to be in a group with their best girlfriends, and they were the only females in Band Aid. Can you imagine how many advances they demurred that day (or not!). Actually, now that I’ve said that, Jody Watley was also in attendance, and isn’t that where she and John Taylor hit it off, leading to a date or two? (Robert de Niro isn’t “Robert de Niro” rather an idealized figure summoned by the narrator in order to minimize her fear of being assaulted when she walks home at night- JB bringing the psychological facts)
“Take On Me,” A-ha
I was tempted to choose one of their more obscure songs, but then I felt sorry for the mega-hit that is often told to sit in the corner by it’s creators. Come out and shine, “Take On Me”! In my Mad World interview with Mags, he talks about the song’s biggest secret: It’s not as happy-go-lucky as it comes across. He played me what it would sound like if it were played on a piano (rather than a synth), and you can hear the wistfulness. Now it makes sense, that part in the video when Morten almost sacrifices himself to the scary guys with the wrench in order to get his new girlfriend out of the comic strip. ( shout-out to the excellently-named Bunty Bailey who played said girlfriend- JB, bringing the video chick facts)
“Johnny Come Home,” Fine Young Cannibals
When The Beat, or The “English” Beat, as it pains the Scots tongue in my head to call them, went their separate ways, few would have bet on the band formed by the rhythm section to outpace and outsell the duo put together by Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger. General Public were faster off the blocks with their first hit but Fine Young Cannibals went on to saturation success. And then they mysteriously evaporated. Not a tweet. Not a word. Not a reunion tour. Not a Roland Gift solo single. My favorite song of theirs remains the debut because it was so unexpected. Suddenly the ex-embers of The (English) Beat were involved in a two-horse race.
“Small Town Creed,” Kane Gang
Newcastle’s Kane Gang made better records–”Closest Thing To Heaven”– and way worse ones–their version of The Staple Singers’ “Respect Yourself”– but “Small Town Creed” captures them at their British blue-eyed socialist soul singing peak. UK readers of a certain age might also remember that the band made a jingle for Radio One daytime from the hook of this song, and that jingle continued to air years after both song and the band had been forgotten. And then it became the theme to a kids’s TV show that continued to air long after the song, the band and the jingle had been forgotten.
“Sonic Boom Boy, “Westworld
Cunningly attempting to siphon off some of Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s momentary success, a second former member of Generation X–the band, not the actual generation– fused together SSS’s rockabilly and electronic elements into a far poppier scenario, recruited a very confident and photogenic American singer and achieved exactly one hit. But it’s a good one.
“Soul Train,” Swans Way
Last week, I picked the song “No Memory” by Scarlet Fantastic and remarked that the duo emerged from obscurity, notched up a solitary hit and then vanished. Had I done any research, I would have found out that Scarlet Fantastic emerged from the ashes of Birmingham three-piece Swan’s Way, who, a few years earlier, emerged from obscurity, notched up a solitary hit and then vanished.
“Tinseltown In The Rain,” Blue Nile
Ah, Glasgow’s tasteful Blue Nile, another local band I was too unseasoned and suspicious of semi-successful fellow Scots to initially appreciate. Not anymore, though.
“Tunnel Of Love,” Fun Boy Three
Terry Hall departed The Specials at the height of their success, taking with him cohorts Lynval Golding and Neville Staples and a bunch of glockenspiels and xylophones. The trio found instant acceptance, not only scoring a bunch of hits but introducing the world to Bannanarama and Hall’s shaved-at-the-sides haircut. “Tunnel Of Love”, from their David Byrne-produced second album, “Waiting”, relied less on childrens’ music class instrumentation and more on Hall’s waspish songwriting. I wouldn’t necessarily describe the Fun Boy Three’s “Tunnel Of Love” as superior to the similarly-themed Bruce Springsteen song of the same name. But I wouldn’t describe it as inferior either.
“Thinking Of You,” The Colourfield
And after two albums, Terry Hall was done with the Fun Boy Three, complaining that the other Fun Boys were slackers who contributed nothing to the songwriting, performing or production process. He swiftly formed another trio, The Colourfield, who didn’t last much longer (After that he formed, a THIRD trio, the little-heard, Terry, Blair and Anouchka before breaking with tradition and joining Dave Stewart in the even-littler-heard duo Vegas). “Thinking Of You” is a twee, airy song made bearable by the fact that whatever Terry Hall sings he infuses it with sarcasm and spite.