Friday, March 16, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: Alphaville - Universal Daddy

Here it is, the song Marian Gold refuses to play live anymore. The song that Alphaville is embarrassed of. The song they have disowned.

"Universal Daddy" was the second single off Afternoons In Utopia, the band's 1986 masterpiece. The poppiest single in their entire discography, it became a top 15 hit across Europe and reached #35 on the US dance chart. A success by any measure, right?

Alphavile disagrees. Calling the song "immature", frontman Marian Gold has blacklisted it from the band's concert setlist for the past several decades.

I actually like the song a lot and considered it for my Top 200, on which Alphaville took the #182 ("Big In Japan"), #112 ("Golden Feeling"), and #34 ("Jerusalem") spots. Despite the band's disavowal of the track - and its extremely cheesy video - "Universal Daddy" almost made it as their fourth entry.

Bonus! Here's "Ariana", from Alphaville's 1988 sales disaster The Breathtaking Blue, the album that almost ended their career.

After the one-two gutpunch of the failed pop turn ("Universal Daddy") and then the bomb that was The Breathtaking Blue, it's a wonder that Alphaville was able to right the ship with later songs like "Hurricane"...

..and the amazing "Elegy"...

I also like their version of "High School Confidential" much better than the original by Rough Trade.

Be back next week with another song that didn't quite make the list.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song of the Week #20: Combo Audio - Romanticide

This week we go back to 1982 and dig deep into the “long-lost cache of awesome New Wave” to pull out a one-hit wonder that is the very essence of early 80s synthpop !

Combo Audio were an Illinois-based band that came and went in a very quick flash.  They released one EP in 1983 and were gone by 1984 despite touring extensively in the American midwest and even opening concerts for U2 & Talking Heads.  Their New Romantic yearnings, flagrant use of synths and melodious songcrafting had everyone listening absolutely convinced that they would be the ‘next big thing’.  Sadly it was not to be. But Combo Audio fortunately left us with one pure nugget of white-hot brilliance before they vanished forever - the song (and equally awesome video) that is …. “Romanticide” !  



Saturday, March 10, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: Pukka Orchestra - Listen To The Radio

The Pukka Orchestra formed in Toronto, Canada in late 1979.
Frontman Graeme Williamson and guitarist Neil Chapman blended post-punk and new wave elements in a quirky, unique mix.

Finally scoring a record deal in 1983, the band released their eponymous debut LP in early 1984. Leadoff single "Cherry Beach Express" got the attention of the alternative rock crowd, becoming favorite on shows like The New Music and City Limits in Canada.

Their second single, "Listen To The Radio" cracked the lower reaches of the Canadian Top 100 and remains my favorite Pukka Orchestra song.

It's difficult to explain the Pukka's style. Best way to do it is to play "Listen To The Radio". If you like it, you will like the rest of their music. If not, you won't!

Here's "Cherry Beach Express" as well.

Be back next week with another song that just missed my Top 200.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song of the Week #19: The Flying Lizards - Sex Machine

The Flying Lizards were a collective of musicians who made bizarre original works and also “re-imagined” songs by others in their droll, mechanical, British-humoured avant garde style. Deconstruction at it’s finest, the Lizards took apart songs and then rebuilt them form the ground up, using instruments in odd disjointed ways and utilizing industrial machine samples, all overlaid with a cold, emotionless (yet oddly sexy) vocal.  “Money (It’s What I Want)” is their biggest hit and still is played today in movies and on 80s stations. 

My favorite track of their oeuvre, “Sex Machine”, is a rarely-heard track.  In 1984 they released an entire an album of covers called “Top Ten” and on it they covered this James Brown hit.  This one is particularly good because it is a clean, efficient, sparse and minimalist reading - the exact opposite of the emotional, soul-filled, sweaty original.  Genius!  
"Sex Machine" (and the Flying Lizards in general) are an acquired taste… 3:25 of "Sex Machine" is probably enough but if you’ve just got to have more, one of my favorite vinyl appreciation sites has re-mixes of six and eight minutes for you to immerse yourself in!  


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: Japan - Visions Of China

Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge Japan fan. When it came time to create my Top 200, I pared the choices down to my four favorite Japan songs: "Ghosts" (#163), "Quiet Life" (#123), "I Second That Emotion" (#81), and "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" (#31). But that left some great songs, like "Halloween", "Life In Tokyo", "In Vogue", "Adolescent Sex", "All Tomorrow's Parties", and especially "Visions Of China" out in the cold. Let's fix that, starting now!

The second single off their 1981 Tin Drum LP, "Visions Of China" reached #32 on the UK chart, making the song one of Japan's biggest hits. With it's militaristic percussion and great vocals by David Sylvian, it's some damn good new wave music. "Visions Of China" just missed becoming the fifth Japan song included on my list.

Bonus! Here are "Adolescent Sex" & "In Vogue" as well!

Be back next week with another great song that almost made it.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song of the Week #18 - Oingo Boingo - We Close Our Eyes

This week’s featured song is from a band that is another one that seemingly can “do it all”…  Performance art, musical theater, soundtracks, rock, ska, punk, new wave, synthpop, tribal beats, horror movies, Mexican holidays!  

Oingo Boingo started in the 1970s as a performance art group called the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo and shortened their name twice, finally ending up as just Boingo at the end of their career 20 years later.  Although best known for their work in the mid-80s on the classic album "Dead Man’s Party” and the movie Weird Science, their entire catalog has gems throughout.  Besides contributing to many soundtracks through the 80s, they also physically appeared in many classic movies as well - Rodney Dangerfield’s Back To School and Tom Hanks’ Bachelor Party among them.  Must have been how lead singer Danny Elfman went on and scored about 98% of everything Hollywood has made since ! 

My fondest memories of Oingo Boingo are of their synthpopiest platter - one called “BOI-NGO” released in 1987.  "We Close Our Eyes” is a bit less rockin and shockin than their typical fare; their sound mellowed and flowed more in their later years and this song is my favorite of the “mature” Boingo.  Also of note is that in 1988 they recorded a double-CD set on a soundstage with all the best songs of their whole career… "Boingo Alive” is a great best-of of a great band.

Let’s go back to 1987 this week and listen to Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: Devo - That's Good

Devo had one entry on my Top 200, "Beautiful World", at #63. Another song from the band that's right up my alley is "That's Good", from their 1982 LP Oh, No! It's Devo.

Written by Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh, "That's Good" features pulsing synths, driving beats, and a video that had to be heavily edited before MTV would agree to air it.

The single only made it to #102 on the US charts, which is mystifying in retrospect. The album went on to sell 1.1 million copies worldwide, so I guess the band got the last laugh, didn't they?

Be back next week with another great song that almost made my list. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song of the Week #17: The Plimsouls - A Million Miles Away

The Plimsouls came out of Los Angeles, California in 1978 and quickly became a staple on the LA live music club scene.  Their music was a mix of my favorites: power pop with rock and new wave mixed in, and a strong sense of urgency!  Their first EP Zero Hour and their self-titled first album got play on west coast new wave radio station (and home of Richard Blade) KROQ-FM.  

By 1983 The Plimsouls were on fire … they released their second album, the superb Everywhere At Once - and their best song “A Million Miles Away” was released as a single - and it was featured on the the soundtrack of the Nicholas Cage movie Valley Girl.  Although conceived as a low-budget cheesy teen flick, Valley Girl became a minor hit which got the band some decent exposure as they had several songs in it. And the soundtrack of "Valley Girl" became an underground sensation - it was a literal encyclopedia of awesome new wave songs and bands. But the infamous “contractual issues” problem reared it’s ugly head and an official release of the soundtrack on CD was held up for over a decade until the great people at Rhino Records released not one - but two! - CDs of songs from the soundtrack in 1994.  

Even though the release was more than a decade late and well past the new wave heyday of the 1980s, the soundtrack still made the Billboard Top 200!  But by that time the Plimsouls were no more.  They broke up in the mid-80s, their best album serving as their swan song. What could have been…  They resurfaced in the late 1990s and made a reunion album but alas the magic had faded and it was not that great.


BONUS: Another great Plimsouls song off Everywhere At Once and the Valley Girl soundtrack is "Oldest Story in the World". 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: John Foxx - No One Driving

John Foxx left Ultravox in 1979, after the debacle that was the Systems of Romance tour. Seeking to strike while the iron was hot, he released his debut solo album Metamatic the very next year. Lead single "Underpass" reached the British top 40, and made waves around the world. Follow-up "No One Driving" replicated this feat, giving Foxx a one-two punch of success to launch his solo career.

Foxx has previously made my list with "Europe After The Rain" (#128) and, as the frontman of Ultravox, "Hiroshima Mon Amour" (#29).

With "No One Driving" Foxx combined his trademarked haunting vocals, eerie synthscapes, and a bizarre, futuristic video into a sonic tour de force that just missed making my Top 200.

Bonus! Here's "Dancing Like A Gun", another great Foxx track from the same time period.

 Be back next week with another song that almost made it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song of the Week #16: The Polecats - Make A Circuit With Me

Ah, the 80s … such a glorious time to be alive… Especially if you were a science nerd in engineering school !

Home computers were popping up everywhere….. Apple and Microsoft were starting to soar … Blade Runner was in the cinema… and music was shifting from disco and arena rock to … new wave!

We were trading in morons like Tony Manero and his Saturday Night Fever muscle-head nonsense for new & wondrous more cerebral sounds ….

Kraftwerk tapping on their Pocket Calculator
Thomas Dolby getting Blinded by Science
OMD singing of the virtues of Electricity and Tesla Girls
Oingo Boingo getting their Weird Science on
and a little-known band called the Polecats inviting you to … “Make A Circuit With Me” !

The Polecats were a punky - new wavey - rockabilly band out of London, kind of a cooler more glam version of the Stray Cats (who would come along with a very similar routine in the US slightly later).  The Polecats released a fistful of singles, EPs, and an album before a series of breakups & reunions.  Their best song came in 1982 towards the end of their initial run - a twangy, rocking gem that we used to call the ‘national anthem’ of our engineering college…. “Make A Circuit With Me”.  The lyrics are a what’s what of serious electrical componentry!  The video features the P-Cats running around in some kind of Orwellian dystopian future to sneak in a band practice and bring a blow-up doll to life, all Weird-Sciencey-like.  

They didn’t last long after this but what a great tune it was for nerds everywhere in 1982!


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: Strange Advance - She Controls Me

Before "Love Becomes Electric" (#70 on my Top 200), before "Perfect Day" (#19), even before "We Run" (#134), way back in 1981, at the very dawn of Canadian new wave, Strange Advance released "She Controls Me".

This fantastic song is an important piece of synthpop history from up here in the Great White North. "She Controls Me" just missed making my list.

Be back next week with another tune that almost made it.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #15: The English Beat - Save It For Later

The English Beat emerged in the late 70s as part of the first wave of the British ska movement, which featured black & white musicians combing styles to make a new sound that featured the best of rock, reggae and rhythm. Other popular bands of the era with a similar sound were The Specials and The Selector - all of them recorded for the aptly named Two Tone Records. 

The English Beat only released three albums but all of them were great (as evidenced by the fact that the have more compilation albums - 7 - than originals!). I originally bought their first compilation “What is Beat?” on vinyl when it came out in 1983 and listened to it constantly - it’s truly great from start to finish.  

My favorite song on it is from their last studio album “Special Beat Service” in 1982.  It’s an instant classic with a great melody and fantastic sax solo.  It hasn't aged a bit and still appears in movies 35 years later … most recently in Spiderman: Homecoming.  

Like Marc always says about the top of his Top 200, it’s a song I never get tired of listening to!  


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: Depeche Mode - See You

Depeche Mode took the #161 ("Puppets") and #38 ("Enjoy The Silence") spots on my Top 200. Since the countdown ended, my partner in crime WAS has also featured the band in the tenth edition of his Awesome New Wave Song of the Week series ("New Life"). I think Depeche Mode deserves yet another mention, this time under my Just Missed It banner.

I actually like quite a few Depeche tunes, and it was difficult to decide between "Everything Counts", "Dreaming Of Me", "Policy Of Truth", "Just Can't Get Enough", "Never Let Me Down Again", and my eventual choice, "See You".

The lead-off single from the band's second LP A Broken Frame (and first without new wave wizard Vince Clarke as a member), "See You" reached #6 in the UK, cementing Depeche Mode's status as superstars. The album went on to sell over one million copies, and the rest is history.

Oh, okay, here's "Everything Counts" and "Policy Of Truth" as well...mainly because I still can't really decide between them. Three amazing songs.

Be back next week with another great song that didn't quite make my Top 200 (or maybe 3 songs, who knows!).

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #14: Ad Infinitum - Telstar

This weeks’ Awesome Song is a first on Marc’s Blog...  That’s right, after 200+ songs we have not yet seen … an instrumental !   The honor of the first vocal-free track was a real toss-up.  I was going to go with “DNA" by Flock of Seagulls, which is fantastic but the Flock is already well-represented and well positioned.  Another favorite is of course the B-52s' extended instrumental mix of “Party Out of Bounds” which was used as backing music by new wave radio stations everywhere.   But I wanted a song that was not just a voiceless mix but an original instrumental … and being first, it also had to have some gravitas.  

So we go back to 1984 when a band very briefly known as Ad Infinitum put out their one and only release called “Telstar”.  That’s right, they were not a one-hit wonder … they were a one-song wonder!  Released by New Order’s production firm Factory Records, and with Peter Hook on bass, Ad Infinitum made just a single song (the B-side being a piano version of the same).  It was named after the Telstar 1 communications satellite launched in 1962 and popularized the same year by a group called The Tornadoes.  The Tornadoes released it at the height of the ‘space race’ of the time and it rocketed to #1 on the charts.  I especially like that the 1962 original includes some very nice synth-work (on a prehistoric doohickey known as a “keyboard”) while some of the remake’s actual synths almost sound like french horns.  Ad Infinitum never did anything else but their 1984 version of ‘Telstar’ was a great one-and-done release.  And it was also the first record ever released with a holographic cover… now that’s gravitas!   Telstar 1 the satellite is non-functional but still orbits the earth today.  And like new wave, the brand is timeless … Telstar 18V will launch later this year.

Here's the original from 1962!