Yello

St. Paddy’s Day MIXTAPE 2: LITTLE POTS O’ “GOLD”! 0

Gold! Always believe in your soul!

From the gold lamé suit worn by ABC’s Martin Fry to the bleached golden locks of Blondie’s Deborah Harry, the new wave era has always had the Midas touch. Follow Chris Rooney’s rainbow of songs to the very end to find your very own pot of gold standards. (To listen to this or any of our other playlists via Spotify, click here.)

 

 

Spandau Ballet, “Gold” (1983)
Spandau frontman Tony Hadley’s recent thoughts on the tune: “’Gold’ is the song which even today’s kids enjoy singing along to in student bars up and down the country, and is one of main reasons I get so many corporate shows. It’s requested all the time at awards shows.” Ironically, the single only achieved Silver in the UK, unlike their previous single, “True,” which attained Gold status with sales of over 400,000 units.

 

The Human League, “(You Remind Me Of) Gold” (1982)
If Philip Oakey was resistant about releasing “Don’t You Want Me” as a single, he probably later kicked himself for relegating this synthpop gem to second fiddle as the B-side of the Human League’s single, “Mirror Man.”

 

Marian Gold of Alphaville, “Sounds Like A Melody” (1984)
Born Hartwig Schierbaum, the Alphaville frontman changed his name to Marian Gold. Perhaps he was inspired by another singer with a big, operatic voice and a stage name taken from another element in the periodic table – Queen’s Freddie Mercury?

 

The Stranglers, “Golden Brown” (1982)
If you were concocting the perfect playlist for a heroin addict, The Stranglers’ hypnotic waltz would lay strung out well between the Velvet Underground’s  “I’m Waiting for the Man” and The Las’ “There She Goes.”

 

Simple Minds, “New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)” (1982)
“Every band or artist with a history has an album that’s their holy grail,” said vocalist Jim Kerr. “I suppose New Gold Dream was ours. It was a special time because we were really beginning to break through with that record, both commercially and critically. The people that liked that record connected with it in a special way. There was a depth to it: it created its own mythology. It stood out. It was our most successful record to date and, critically, the (music journalist) Paul Morleys of this world were writing very nice things about it.”

 

David Bowie, “Golden Years” (1975)
Bowie allegedly offered the song to Elvis Presley to perform, but that Presley declined it. Ironically, Bowie can still enjoy the song in his golden years unlike Elvis who died two years later. Want to bet that probably only second to The Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four,” this song has played at more AARP conventions than any other?

 

Golden Earring, “Twilight Zone” (1982)
The Dutch band had been kicking around since their inception in the mid-1960s with some minor success until they finally struck gold in the America thanks to their cinematic video played endlessly on the fledgling music channel, MTV. Interestingly enough, the song was inspired not by the famous TV series of the same name, but by the Robert Ludlum novel The Bourne Identity, which would later be turned into a popular movie twenty years later.

 

Annie Golden, “Hang Up the Phone” (1984)
Former lead singer of the power pop band and CBGB regulars, The Shirts, Golden went solo for this oh-so-1980s-poppy song used on the Sixteen Candles soundtrack.

 

The Smiths, “Golden Lights” (1986)
Ah, the pitfalls of fame and the ones you leave behind. Originally written and sung by the melancholic teenage singer, Twinkle back in 1964; “Golden Lights” is only one of two covers that The Smiths ever recorded in the studio. The other was a cover of a Cilla Black song, “Work Is A Four-Letter Word” which Morrissey insisted upon and is what supposedly was the straw that broke the camel’s back when Johnny Marr decided to quit the band in 1987.

 

Yello, “Goldrush” (1986)
There are two mysteries behind Yello’s music video for “Goldrush”. First, is everyone clamoring for an actual nugget of gold in his pocket or is it something more euphoric like a pocketful of poppers? The lyrics ”You’ve got that nugget in your hand..clouds, love, stars colours…rush” would certainly suggest so. And second, why doesn’t Billy MacKenzie from The Associates make a guest appearance since he’s singing the chorus? William, it was really nothing.

 

Aztec Camera, “Just Like Gold” (1981)
The debut single by Roddy Frame and the boys shimmers and shines with its jangly guitar work and jazzy drumming. Frame’s quest for more gold came with the band’s 1988 single, “Working In A Goldmine”. No wonder the invading Spanish conquistadors were so interested in fortunes of the Aztec Empire.

 

Johnny Hates Jazz, “Heart of Gold” (1988)
Johnny may have hated jazz, but he always loved a hooker with a heart of gold. I get the feeling that with Johnny’s luck, it will end with “Shattered Dreams” and a case of venereal disease.

 

Siouxsie & The Banshees, “Ornaments of Gold” (1988)
Siouxsie’s exquisite, exotic teaser invites you to a hedonistic world of “silver couches to recline upon / and ornaments of gold / silver moonbeams dance in fountains / below shining citadels”. Nothing is too good for Siouxsie.

 

The Stone Roses, “Fool’s Gold” (1989)
As the 1980s drew to a close, new wave was in the rear-view mirror. After The Smiths’ demise in 1987, the British music press was on the hunt to rave about the next big indie sensation. Lurking in the shadows were The Smiths’ fellow Mancunians, The Stone Roses. The band’s breakthrough came in 1989 with “Fool’s Gold”, their epic ode to pyrite.
This helped to set off the gold rush-like frenzy known as Madchester, the new decade’s short-lived Northern England music scene that mixed alternative rock, psychedelic rock and electronic dance music.

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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.

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Mixtape: Songs With “Color” 3

White Stripes. Black Keys. Green Day. Pink. Just some of the names who do not appear in this selection of new wave-ish artists and songs with a color connection. (To listen on Spotify, click here.)

LM’s picks:

“Everything’s Gone Green,” New Order
Despite the title, New Order was hardly raking it in when they released this 1981 single, which was one of the first to find the group moving away from the Joy Divison sound and embracing computer generation as a way to make dance records. During our Mad World interview, Peter Hook reinforced the popular belief that Factory Records founder Tony Wilson was a rather poor businessman, in both senses of the word. That didn’t stop them from sinking what little they had into Manchester superclub/money pit the Hacienda a year later.

 

“Dressed in Black” Depeche Mode
During my sophomore and junior years in high school, Depeche dictated my look. My hair cut — shaved on the sides and in the back — was achieved by bringing a photo of Dave Gahan to Astor Place barbershop in Greenwich Village. And  most of my clothes were black, thanks to this song. My favorite outfit was a black turtle-neck leotard worn with a long black skirt, black opaque tights, and black ballerina shoes. The only skin showing aside from my hands was from my chin up, but, for the first time in my young life, I felt sexy. I imagined my crush taking notice and thinking: ”She’s dressed in black again. And I’m falling down again. Down to the floor again. I’m begging for more again. But, oh, what can you do when she’s dressed in black?” Here’s a recent-ish in-concert take on the song, delivered by Martin Gore instead of Dave Gahan. Maybe it’s a tad cabaret, but I still find it hot.

 

“White Wedding,” Billy Idol
It looks a little silly now, but to an 11-year-old girl who was too afraid to watch horror movies, “White Wedding” was pretty eerie. Remember the gothic wedding ring that makes the bride’s finger bleed? The nails being hammered in the coffin? The exploding appliances? This was also the first Billy Idol video I’d ever seen, and I thought he was one of these “punks” I’d heard about. I was close, as he had been one several years before as the frontman of Generation X. But with “White Wedding” Idol became a straight-up pop star.

 

Runner-up Billy Idol selection: “Blue Highway”
Just because John Taylor looks so sexy singing along to it in the Duran Duran documentary Sing Blue Silver.

 

“Behind the Mask,” Yellow Magic Orchestra
My memories of Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Riyuchi Sakamoto will always have a greenish tint. That was the color of the Northern Lights that streaked the sky of the High Arctic when Sakamoto-san, his wife, and I first glimpsed them while we traversed the icy waters of Greenland in a row boat. On that trip — which was an expedition put on by Cape Farewell, a London-based org that uses the arts to communicate the realities of climate change to the masses — Sakamoto put together an audio collage of sounds we’d encountered on our walks through the sub-zero wilderness, like water dripping as a result of the rapidly melting ice.  But YMO was known for making sounds not found in nature, their “orchestra” an orgy of synthesizers and sequencers. And that’s exactly what “Behind the Mask” sounds like: an electronic jam session.

 

“Song Sung Blue,” Altered Images
Americans’ only real exposure to Altered Images was “Happy Birthday,” which was featured in 16 Candles (although the single “I Could Be Happy” was a minor dance hit). But Brits know the Scottish band for the dozen singles they released in the early 80s, while many British males came of age pining for the group’s perky singer with the little-girl voice, Clare Grogan. Apparently lots of male pop stars were smitten with Grogan, but it was Gary Kemp who put his “unrequited romance” to music. In Mad World, Gary Kemp talks about how Grogan gifted him with a copy of Nabokov’s Lolita, thus inspiring the Spandau Ballet smash “True.”

 

“Electric Blue,” Ice House
They had lush production, the Roland-Orzabal-from-Tears-For-Fears mullet, and, in “Electric Blue,” a 1987 top-ten single co-written by John Oates. But I may never have thought of this song ever again if I weren’t on the hunt for songs and bands with color in their names.

“Silver Blue,” Roxette

I know JB’s going to get all “That’s not new wave” on me, but this Roxette song is SO new wave-inspired. It’s my favorite song by the duo, a b-side to their breakout hit, “The Look.” There was a time when at the end of the 80s when I was obsessed with all-things Swedish. I wanted to have two towhead children by a Swedish hockey player, and I sought out Marie Fredriksson’s and Per Gessle’s pre-Roxette records because they sing in Swedish! Anyway, JB, I absolutely dare you not to love this pretty little ditty, which somehow seems to sound as silvery-blue as its title!

 

JB’s picks:

“The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme,” Colourbox
Timely! History could stand to be little more generous to Colourbox, who predated Massive Attack and the rise of trip-hop. But then, they mutated into M.A.R.R.S and made “Pump Up The Volume,” so it all worked out well for them, if not us.

 

“The Race,” Yello
Bit of a gift and a curse to have your name eternally synonymous with “Oh Yeah.” But shed no tears for Yello duo Dieter Meyer and Boris Blank — they made a little go a long way.

 

“The Sweetest Girl,” Scritti Politti
Because Green!

 

“Lean On Me,” Red Box
A perfect example of what we, in Mad World: The Book refer to as Last Gasp New Wave. Red Box were a marriage of two pop culture tropes: twee and tribal. ”Lean On Me” is sappy enough to be a cheery knees-up from a middle school musical but the pounding percussion has a calculated eye on the dancefloor.

 

“Bury My Heart,” White & Torch
Remember “No More I Love Yous” by The Lover Speaks? Covered by Annie Lennox, sampled by Nicki Minaj? These guys were The Lover Speaks and they had no more success releasing swelling, over-dramatic Scott Walker-esque songs under their own names than with their absurd collective moniker. No point pretending the production and the insanely pompous vocals don’t date this, but it’s dated in an awesome way.

 

“Millions Like Us,” Purple Hearts
So, it’s 1979. The Quadrophenia movie is released in the UK and instantly inspires a massive mod revival. It’s a movement with a look, a mode of transport, a movie: everything but a soundtrack. The new mods love The Who, The Small Faces and sixties ska but they want something of their own. A bunch of modern day mod bands are formed to satisfy the new audience. Bands like Secret Affair, Merton Parkas, Back To Zero, The Chords and The Purple Hearts. The new audience smartly rejects them all and embraces The Jam, skyrocketing them from the comparative doldrums to Britain’s biggest band, and 2-Tone. They may have been roundly rejected by their peers but let’s take a second to remember a doomed new mod band’s attempt at a rallying anthem and how non-prophetic it would prove.

 

“101 Dam-Nations,” Scarlet Party/ ‘Danger Games,’ The Pinkees
So it’s 1982. Amid the post-punk, the ska, the synth-pop, the white funk and the androgyny, a few music industry hustlers decide the time couldn’t be righter for a Beatles revival and so a wholly misbegotten British powerpop scene is willed into being. Accommodating young Englishmen were squeezed into suits, given Rickenbackers and copies of “A Hard Day’s Night.” The highest-profile and most derided of the new Fabs were Scarlet Party, reportedly signed to EMI for a shitload of money, and then swiftly dropped before an album of songs featuring the percussive sounds of John Lennon rolling in his grave could be released. Another Beatley band with a color in their name, The Pinkees, introduced in this clip by a wildly impressed John Peel, pay even more gruesome tribute to their heroes. Makes you re-think your low opinion of Oasis. Almost.

 

“White Mice,” Mo-Dettes
In Mad World: The Book, Kim Wilde talks of traveling to London to see and be inspired by girl band The Mo-Dettes. In the swirl of late-seventies female-fronted music, the world inhabited by The Slits, The Raincoats, Delta 5, The Au Pairs and Essential Logic, The Mo-Dettes were looked upon somewhat derisively as too poppy and too girly and insufficiently radical. I can’t make a hugely convincing case for the rest of their oeuvre —thank me profusely for not selecting their cover of “Paint It Black” — but I played this song to absolute death on its initial release and still find a warm place in my cold heart for it.

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