Wham!

Mixtape: 12 Days Of New Wave Christmas 0

Its almost here. There’s no escaping. The season of enforced joy is right around the corner. To help get you through, here’s a selection of naughty and nice Christmas-themed songs. (To listen via Spotify and/or follow our Mixtape playlists, click here.)

1)“Christmas Wrapping,” The Waitresses
Waitresses founder and friend of Mad World: The Book, Chris Butler, told us about throwing this song together for a Ze records Christmas compilation album and instantly forgetting about it. Never officially a hit, “Christmas Wrapping” is now a permanent fixture in the season playlist

2)”Last Christmas,” Wham!

It may have been the season of goodwill to all men but that didn’t stop George Michael indulging inches favorite activities: feeling sorry for himself and hating women. The moment December turned into January, the single flipped over and George really let his bile loose with “Everything She Wants.”

3) “A Fairy Tale Of New York,” The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl

Who could have predicted a Christmas perennial would feature the heart-warming lines “You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot, happy Christmas your are, I pray God it’s our last”? That’s the magic of the season

4) “2000 Miles,” Pretenders

Don’t think for a second that the sentimental requirements of a Christmas single cause Chrissie hyde to lose her ineffable cool.

5)”Things Fall Apart,” Cristina

From the same Ze Records Christmas album that spawned “Christmas Wrapping” comes this slice of existential crisis from Cristina Monet, the label’s resident jaded socialite depressive. For anyone driven to dead-eyed numbness by the onslaught of good cheer, this is for you.

6) “Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant,” Siouxsie And The Banshees

And speaking of dead-eyed numbness… The loveliness of S&TB’s rendition of this French hymn is hilariously undercut by the clip below where they strive to perform it with out losing an iota of their trademark contempt.

7) “It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas,” Pet Shop Boys

Although they had an actual UK Christmas Number One with “Always On My Mind,” this is the PSB fans-only seasonal song.

8) “Silent Night,” Erasure

From last year’s “Snow Globe” Christmas album.

9) “Winter Wonderland,” Eurythmics

Well, they gave it a shot…

10) “December Will Be Magic Again,” Kate Bush

Weirdly botched release for this typically heady offering. It was supposed to come out in 1979 with expectations of it being the year’s big Xmas song. One year later, it was issued to little acclaim.

11) “Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth,” Bing Crosby & David Bowie

It’s great that Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett are kindred spirits who love and respect each other. But, for me, no May/December artistic pairing has ever been as awkward, agonizing and uncomfortable to watch as this. Just that Bowie line about Hudson the butler makes me wish there was a whole album filled with such moments.

12) “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” Band Aid

The new version’s laudable, of course, but this one actually changed the world for a few minutes.

  • Share on Tumblr

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.)

  • Share on Tumblr

Mixtape: It’s Raining Songs About Men! 2

Inspired by last Sunday’s polarizing episode of Masters Of Sex, which struggled with the thorny question of what it means to be a man, here are a bunch of new wave songs (or artists) that touch, however tenuously, on the subject of masculinity. (To listen via Spotify, click here.)

LM’s Picks:

“I Need A Man,” The Eurythmics
When I interviewed fellow forty something Amy Poehler last week, she gushed about her 80s idols — Annie Lennox, Cyndi Lauper — and how, unlike today’s female pop stars, she never got a real sense of what they looked like without their clothes. “I knew their bodies of work, not their bodies,” Poehler said. The first time we glimpsed Lennox she was pounding her fist on a boardroom in “Sweet Dreams,” and she continued that show of strength with “I Need A Man”:
I don’t need a heartbreaker
Fifty-faced trouble maker
Two timing time taker
Dirty little money maker
Muscle bound cheap skate
Low down woman hater
Triple crossing double dater
Yella bellied alligator…

 

“Demolition Man,” Grace Jones
Speaking of strong women, Grace Jones scared the shit out of me — and that was long before she was cast as Bond villain May Day in A View to a Kill. Written by Sting (and later recorded by the Police), and produced by Chris Blackwell and Alex Sadkin, her “Demolition Man” not only has a cover of “Warm Leatherette” on the b-side, but another song called “Bullshit.” (Plus Grace Jones also recorded a song called “I Need A Man”- JB, bringing the Grace Jones facts.) (I know, but I already had Eurythmics’ “I Need a Man.” Although that could’ve been a cool juxtaposition.—LM_

 

“I’m Your Man,” Wham!
George Michael would go on to write and record many a mature, sophisticated classic after his divorce from Andrew Ridgeley, but never again would he record anything as infectious and youthful as this number. How much fun is this to sing along to? (Although the “ain’t no such word as “no” could be misconstrued as a bit rape-y in today’s overly PC times.)

 

“Who Can It Be Now?” Men At Work
The charts were a paranoid place in the early 80s, thanks to a trio of stalker anthems: Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and this first big hit from the Vegemite eaters from Down Under. Men At Work would go on to be kind of a joke band (thanks to their videos; the songs were solid). However, we didn’t know anything about them when “Who Can it Be Now?” was released, and this song — and creepy video with the lazy-eyed Colin Hay — was like a sneak attack.

 

“Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!”, Devo
Ok, so this is an album. But, continuing with the fear-factor theme,  the single “Jocko Homo” still weirds me out to this day. In Mad World: The Book, JB likens it to “the national anthem for a country I never wanted to visit.” The video is a Twilight Zone episode.

 

“Mirror Man,” Human League
You learn something new every day! Apparently the titular subject is none other than Adam Ant. According to Phil Oakey, the white-striped one was such a big star at this point (1982) that he seemed in danger of believing his own hype.

JB’s picks:

“I Love A Man In A Uniform,” Gang Of Four

Ah, the go-go eighties, when a bunch of British Marxists could write a song that mocked the patriarchy and the military-industrial complex and get America dancing to it.

 

“How Men Are,” Aztec Camera

Roddy Frame, troubadour of East Kilbride, on the outskirts of Glasgow. How does a guy whose songwriting abilities grew richer over the years just fade from view? Mainstream success makes some artists stagnate, it just made Roddy Frame write even more satisfying songs. Like this one, which asks the time-honored question, “Why should it take the tears of a woman to see how men are?”

 

“Marching Men,” Rich Kids

When I talked to Midge Ure for Mad World: The Book, we discussed the massive hype the Rich Kids received and how it was never met by commensurate success. He said that this song was the direction he and drummer Rusty Egan wanted to take, but the rest of the Rich Kids hated it so much it broke the band up and ultimately pointed the way towards Visage and Ultravox. The video is embarrassing on an almost heroic level.

 

“The Man Who Dies Everyday,” Ultravox

From the John Foxx incarnation. Too synthy for the punk audience they still courted, too sneery for the burgeoning electronic audience, early Ultravox were marooned in no man’s land. But it’s not hard to hear their influence on early Gary Numan and Simple Minds.

 

“I Don’t Depend On You,” The Men

After Virgin snapped up the first incarnation of the Human League, the label suddenly decided its new signing was a little on the strange and alienating side, so it insisted they take a shot at making a commercial record. The result was this peppy number produced by early Duran knobman Colin Thurston and somewhat contrarily released under the moniker The Men. It doesn’t sound that far removed from something that might have shown up on Dare a couple of years down the line.

 

“Yesterday’s Men,” Madness

Bleak as ever, this is a long, weary sigh as the promise of youth fades away and middle-aged conformity looms ever closer. (SIGH—LM, bringing the, er, sighs.)

 

“The Man With the Child in His Eyes,” Kate Bush

Even back in the comparatively innocent days of 1978, eyebrows were raised by this song inspired by Lewis Carroll’s relationship with Alice Riddell, the seven year-old who inadvertently acted as Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland” muse. From the vantage point of 2014, when Britain is awash in a murky paedophilia-in-high-places scandal that’s only going to dig up even more geriatric politicians, pop stars, priests, dj’s and comedians previously protected by the establishment, this wistful ballad sounds like a nightmare. (Bush fans are begging her to remove recently incarcerated octogenarian child-harasser Rolf Harris and his trademark digeridoo from the title track of her album The Dreaming.)

  • Share on Tumblr