Saturday, June 16, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: Divinyls - Science Fiction

Christina Amphlett's band Divinyls formed in 1982 in Sydney, Australia, and went on to release five studio albums. "Science Fiction", their biggest early hit, was released as the second single off their debut LP, Desperate, in early 1983. Reaching #13 on the Australian charts, the song served as a springboard to the band's later international success.

More hits followed, including 1990's "I Touch Myself", their biggest chart success, which hit #1 down under and #4 on the US Hot 100.

Later, in 1993, the band contributed the song "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" to the Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie soundtrack. The band then broke up in 1996 and Amphlett died in 2013 after a long battle with cancer. 

"Science Fiction" is my favorite track by Divinyls and I did consider it for my Top 200.

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #33: Pauline Murray & the Invisible Girls - Searching for Heaven

This week’s awesome song is a gem from 1981 that features an all-star line-up … yet it’s a song that hardly anyone has ever heard of !

Produced by “Manchester Sound” creator Martin Hannett… featuring Bernard Sumner of New Order … AND The Mission UK frontman Wayne Hussey on guitars… no wonder this song is Awesome!

Along with this team, Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls released the last of three singles they made (in addition to one album) in April 1981 before calling it a day.  “Searching For Heaven” is a glorious New Wave gem, with sweet vocals and that lovely sense of romantic urgency that makes songs like this so great.  Although the song was short-lived in popularity even in its day, thanks to the internet it lives on - on YouTube and wonderful stations like SOMA-FM’s Underground 80s, where I heard it recently.

But we don't have to search for heaven - we live it twice weekly on Marc’s Top 200 - The Extended Edition!  


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: Kon Kan - Liberty

Kon Kan (a play on the term "Can Con" which stands for Canadian content) hit it big in 1988 with "I Beg Your Pardon", a song I've never really cared for. The band, composed of Barry Harris and Kevin Wynne, rode their first single's success (#19 in Canada, #15 in the USA) to stardom with their Pet-Shop-Boys-like musical sensibilities.

Other songs followed, like "Harry Houdini", "Move To Move", "Sinful Wishes", and "Liberty", which was the first single from Kon Kan's 1990 album Syntonic.

"Liberty" was a failure on the pop charts, peaking at a lowly #91 and marking the beginning of the end for Kon Kan. The band released one more unsuccessful album in 1993, then broke up, with both members going on to mediocre solo careers.

I've always loved "Liberty", however, and its failure was mostly due to the changing tastes of a fickle music-buying public, not any fault of the band.

More Kon Kan below!

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #32: Echo & The Bunnymen - The Cutter, & The Alarm - The Stand

The Awesome Song this week comes as a pair of songs with the similarity that they both start off with a bang !

Echo & The Bunnymen hit Top 200 paydirt at #121 with “The Killing Moon”.  A great song off what is likely their best album, "Ocean Rain". However, the first song of theirs I ever heard, and also my favorite by the the band, is “The Cutter” - off their 1983 album “Porcupine”.  "The Cutter" is one of those songs that grabbed me from the moment it begins, with that whirling dervish of an intro reminiscent of what you would hear in a New Wave club located in a hidden corner of a distant Moroccan casbah.  Love how it kicks off the song, which is a manic rant with opaque lyrics and odd references. Lead singer Ian has a field day with the tune, and I never get tired of hearing it.  Epic 80s New Wave at its finest.
Around the same time "The Cutter" came out, a Welsh band named the Alarm released their own song that opens with a harmonica and drum blast!   When I first heard "The Stand” I loved the explosiveness of the opening and how it grabs your attention.  The song is anthemic and enduring and once again, we have a situation where the band’s first release is likely their best work.  It was voted “Screamer of the Week” by listeners on legendary radio station WDRE on July 2, 1983, and 3 more songs off the first Alarm album also got that honor over the following months.   But to me “The Stand” was the best of the lot by far.

As a DJ at the time, I used to play both “The Cutter” and “The Stand”, often on the same show - or even back to back!  And still love both of them today!

Enjoy !

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: The La's - There She Goes

The La's were formed by Mike Badger, John Power, and Lee Mavers in Liverpool in the early eighties. Because of lineup changes, record label switches, and a hodgepodge of other factors, their debut self-titled album wasn't released until 1990. "There She Goes" peaked just inside the top 60 in the UK, a relatively disappointing result. The band soldiered on into the late-90s, but never achieved a big breakthrough on the pop charts.

"There She Goes" was covered by US Christian-pop band Sixpence None The Richer in 1999, getting the song to #32 in the States and a surprising #14 in Britain.

In my opinion, the La's version of the song is better than the Sixpence version, though I must admit, I like that one too. Not bad for a track that's 90% chorus and 10% bridge with no real verses at all.

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #31: Flash And The Pan - Hey St. Peter

This week’s Awesome Song has it’s roots in the 60s, was released in the 70s and then hit its stride in the very early 80s !

Flash & The Pan was started in 1976 in Australia by two former members of The Easybeats, famous for their 1966 hit “Friday On My Mind” (which was later memorably covered by David Bowie).  One of these members was the legendary George Young … older brother of Angus and Malcolm of Oz heroes AC/DC.  Although they lasted until 1993, their one-hit wondrousness peaked early with their debut song “Hey St. Peter”.  Released in 1976, but not making its way to north America until July 1979, “Hey St. Peter” was an early New Wave classic, featuring innovative vocals, unique song structure, inventive synths and even a really bad video!  Watch for George Young playing dress-up like little brother Angus in it.

It was one of those songs that radio wasn’t really sure what to do with…  I remember it being played on rock stations in NYC, and then later on it was also played on new music stations as they came into being - a rarity that any song would be on both at the time.  It even turned up on Richard Blade's Flashback Favorites, Vol 1 so it’s New Wave heritage is not in doubt.  I see it as an early example of what New Wave would soon become - an early foray into something different, unique & AWESOME!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: Fiction Factory - Hit The Mark

Fiction Factory grabbed the #27 spot on my Top 200 with "Feels Like Heaven", their greatest chart success. "Hit The Mark", another song from the same album (1984's Throw The Warped Wheel Out), is one of my favorite tracks by the band.

"Hit The Mark" was never released as a single, a fact which illustrates once again the general uselessness of most music label A&R men. For a band so starved for hit songs to not even release a potental charting track is inexcusable.

The funky bass work and gutteral synths alone make this song one of Fiction Factory's best efforts. 

Ultimately, however, "Hit The Mark" Just Missed It!

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #30: Pet Shop Boys - Go West

Classic synthpop duo Pet Shop Boys have had a storied career - hits, awards, accolades…the list is endless.  And they recently reached the very pinnacle of awesomeness… by winning spot #79 on Marc’s Top 200 with the great song “Opportunities"!   

I remember hearing “West End Girls” on NY New Wave radio station WDRE when it won “Screamer of the Week” honors in November 1984.  It’s OK, but I prefer their more upbeat tunes like “It’s a Sin” and “Always On My Mind”.  But my favorite song of theirs and this week’s Awesome Song, has to be the one that solidified with a bear stranglehold their status as long-standing premiere gay dance icons.  The timeless anthem known as … “Go West”!   
The song, originally by the inimitable Village People, is a soaring hymn of open frontier, new life and endless opportunity.  The video is mind-blowing too, with CGI effects and primary color cold war imagery interlaced with muscular flag bearers in spandex & wife-beater shirts, their buttocks patriotically clenched, as they march up the stairway to socialism.  Never did figure out what it all means … but it does seem to work.

Much as I like the Pet Shop Boys and their Go West …. I have to admit … I like the Village People’s original version of the song better!  Total guilty pleasure…. I am not that much of a fan of their other music, but something about their Go West is just amazing.  Let’s enjoy both versions of this superb song!  


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: Stephen Duffy - Kiss Me

After leaving experimental band Tin Tin in 1984, English new waver Stephen Duffy recorded his debut solo LP, The Ups and Downs, in 1985. Lead-off single "Kiss Me" was actually a reworked Tin Tin song from 1982.

This new version of "Kiss Me" caught lightning in a bottle, surging to #4 on the UK charts and making Duffy a solo star almost overnight. Unfortunately, the next two singles languished at the lower reaches of the British charts and Duffy was unable to replicate the success of "Kiss Me".

By 1986 he had abandoned his solo career and put together a new group, Lilac Time, which also contained his brother, Nick Duffy. Lilac Time went on to achieve moderate success in Europe over the next few years, until it too broke up in 1991.

Be back next week with another tune that almost made the cut.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #29: D.L. Byron - Get With It

As New Wave (as we know & love it) was coalescing in the late 1970’s and early 80s, it drew upon many different styles and musical influences.  Many artists emerging at the time were rooted in other styles .. but still had an element of New Wave to them.  Many touched upon New Wave just for a bit, while others went whole hog into it.  In the late 70s UK “male singer-songwriter” realm, everyone knows Elvis Costello - his first 3 albums (his best!) had elements of punk and a heavy reliance on synth’s cousin, the Hammond organ.   We saw pub-rock acts like Graham Parker and Nick Lowe incorporate New Wavery things into their music every now & then.  Eddy Grant did pop-reggae with a new wave edge.  Joe Jackson definitely fit the bill - his first two albums in 1979 were fantastic … the title track of his second album “I’m The Man” was even good enough to score #147 on Marc’s Top 200!   

On the other side of the pond, New Wave was a little later in fully forming… and most of the male innovators in the pre-new-wave-period were front men for bands, like David Byrne (Talking Heads), Jonathan Richman (Modern Lovers), Rik Ocasek (The Cars) etc.  While not are all thought of as pure New Wave today, at the time their music was definitely part of the new wave of sound that was happening, and most of it was coming from groups in North America.  There was however one notable exception, a New Jersey talent very much in the vein of the Englishmen mentioned above.

In 1980 a fellow named D.L. Byron released his first album, an edgy power-pop gem called “This Day And Age”.  It had the manic energy of Joe Jackson, new romantic yearnings and that wonderful sense of urgency that makes such music great.  No synths here - the new wave is all in the attitude - just like the other artists in England at the same time.  We could literally pick any song off D.L. Byron’s first album as the Awesome Song of the Week. I’ve been listening to it in full for over 35 years now and I still never get tired of it!  I’ve been calling it “The Best Album Never Heard” for a while now, and incredibly it still stands up to the test of time.  

Trivia: D.L. Byron wrote “Shadows Of The Night” (Pat Benatar) and was on the soundtrack of the “trying too hard to be punk” movie “Times Square” in 1980 as well.

Let’s rock out in This Day And Age with D.L Byron … and if I have to pick one, well, we’ll have to just “Get With It” !


Bonuses (all off "This Day And Age"): 

"Love In Motion"

"Listen to the Heartbeat"

"21st Century Man"

"No Romance, No Weekend, No Love"

"Big Boys"



Saturday, May 12, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: Xymox - Imagination

I'm not a huge fan of dark wave music, and I find most (Clan of) Xymox songs all sound the same. But "Imagination", from the band's 1989 album Twist Of Shadows has a pop sensibility that I like. They also allowed Anka Wolbert to sing, which to my mind is a definite step in the right direction.

Xymox's highest-charting song of all time, "Imagination" hit #85 on the US Hot 100 and peaked inside the top 50 in the UK. It also just missed making my Top 200 list.

Be back next week with another song that didn't quite get there.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #28: The Jetzons - Hard Times

Tempe, Arizona was best known for being a prodigious 'college rock' incubator in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Bands such as the Gin Blossoms, The Refreshments, The Chimeras, The Pistoleros, Gloritone and Dead Hot Workshop (amongst many others) came out of the desert with original alt-rock college tunes at that time.   The real first Gin Blossoms LP was called “Dusted” and was a late 80s pinnacle of vinyl (before they lost their lead songwriter/guitarist to suicide and got corrupted by the A&R men).   The Refreshments are best known for their song “Banditos” which was on heavy rotation on alternative stations at the time… as well as their instrumental which kicks off every episode of the cartoon series “King of the Hill”.  But the Refreshments did much more than that - their (only) two albums are amongst the favorites in my collection!   Dead Hot Workshop are more of a ‘cult’ band … their best two songs are “River Otis” and “Burger Christ” … all of these bands are worth a listen, a great snapshot of the early 90s Tempe scene.

But for this week’s awesome song we go back even further … to Tempe AZ in 1982.  At that time an obscure band called the Jetzons crafted their one and only album, “Made in United States”.  An uptempo, rocking, new wave gem it contains synths, complex vocal tracks, infectious grooves and funky danceable melodies galore.   The best song on the album is this week’s awesome song, a number called “Hard Times”.   But here’s the thing - although made in 1982, “Hard Times” wasn’t properly released until 2008!   See, in 1982 the album didn't get much traction (like most of the later bands mentioned above) and was mainly a cult phenomena.  It took over 25 years for their record company to compile all the Jetzons recordings and they were all re-released with “lost tracks” including “Hard Times”.  The Jetzons found new audiences … as well as … controversy! 

Seems that after The Jetzons originally faded from memory, the music for "Hard Times” was “appropriated” for a Sonic the Hedgehog video game by none other than the sleazy posse of the late, not-so-great, chart-topper, nose-chopper (and suspected kid-bopper) Michael Jackson !    Of course everyone involved denies everything (sound familiar?) but judge for yourself - after you enjoy this weeks’ obscure but awesome song, “Hard Times” … by The Jetzons (not Michael Jackson and not Sonic the Hedgehog!)

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Just Missed My Top 200: Robin Gibb - Robot

Neil Young had "Computer Age", Alice Cooper had "Clones", Ministry had "Revenge", and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees had "Robot", from his 1984 LP Secret Agent.

Synthesizers, robotic voice effects, syncopated drum machine beats, scratching, this tune has it all! "Robot" was never released as a single, but I really like the song, and considered it for my Top 200. 

I also like Gibb's "Juliet", from his previous album, 1983's How Old Are You? (which has got to be one of the worst record names of all time).

P.S. Speaking of new wavish songs from non-new wave artists...Kim Carnes had "Crazy In The Night" in 1985!

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

WAS's Awesome New Wave Song Of The Week #27: New Order - Age Of Consent

New Order made one appearance in Marc’s Top 200 with “Regret” at #87.  One of their more upbeat tunes (despite the title), it undeniably qualifies as a solid 80’s New Wave synthpop gem … despite being made in 1993!  

The first New Order song I ever heard was "Blue Monday” which was being played everywhere when it originally dropped in early 1983… every New Wave dance club and bar had it on heavy rotation.  It came in a mysteriously unmarked disc sleeve and was followed by an equally inscrutable video.  Timeless gem of a song that put them on the map, big time.  Needless to say New Order and Factory Records went on to a storied career, hit after hit, neatly summed up with the release of the singles compilation “Substance” in 1988.

But my personal favorite New Order tune and this week’s Awesome Song is on their second LP, “Power Corruption & Lies”.   The song “Age of Consent” opens that LP (the first real New Order LP in my opinion - the actual first New Order LP “Movement" was more a transitional segue from Joy Division) with that superb bass line from Peter Hook… then the drums … then the guitar … then the intensity of Bernard Sumner’s singing comes in…..and finally the incredible string synths ….followed by 5+ minutes of grooving…all while building up to the spectacular soaring outro.  It never was released as a single so it didn't make "Substance” … but in my opinion it was their finest release - and of course it’s a song I never get tired of !  

Enjoy “Age of Consent”!