Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I Come From A Land Down Under...Well Kinda Sorta

Following on from the phenomenal success of Men At Work was always going to be a challenge for former frontman Colin Hay. With the release of his debut solo album 'Looking For Jack' - credited to Colin James Hay - the man who sang 'Down Under' but was actually born and raised in Scotland, faced a steep challenge to leave the past behind. In spite of the obvious quality of songs like 'Hold Me' and 'Can I Hold You?', both singles and albums failed to make much of an impact on the charts ('Hold Me' did reach #40 in Australia), and Hay was now consigned to trying to fill local pubs and clubs instead of stadium and arena. Gone was the pseudo Australian accent and eccentric stage presence that had been part of his role with Men At Work, but still present was an accomplished writer and performer.

Another slight tweak in moniker followed with 1990 album 'Wayfaring Sons' being credited to the Colin Hay Band. 'Into My Life' was another classy song lifted from an album that explored the singers Celtic roots but once again Hay's audience remained elusive. Two more albums followed but failed to register a blip on the chart radar, and Hay explored other artistic endeavours including acting, before taking a revamped version of Men At Work back on the road in the mid to late 90s. His latest album is 'Are You Looking For Me' released in 2007.

The track I'd like to share is 'Hold Me', taken from the album 'Looking For Jack'. I bought it on 45 at the time of its release and later found a second hand copy of the album on CD. I truly love this song, it is rich and layered and incorporates simply sublime vocal harmonies into the intro and chorus, very reminiscent of the vocal choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Although several Colin Hay CD's are available via his website, 'Looking For Jack' doesn't appear to be one of them.

To experience the splendour of Colin Hay's 'Hold Me', have a look at the following (very high quality copy) promo clip:

Check out Colin Hay's website here: http://www.colinhay.com/ where you can read about Colin's exploits with the latest incarnation of Ringo Starr's Allstar Band.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Music That Makes Me Smile

When I listen to the music of Katrina & The Waves it's hard not to develop a big cheesy grin across my dial. Their music just projects that kind of happy upbeat vibe. And it's not frivolous, bubblegum pop either - well not in my opinion - and not that there's anything wrong with frivolous bubblegum pop - with a tight knit sound and the powerful vocals of Katrina Leskanich, this band was a serious band.

The quartet comprised Leskanich, guitarist Kimberley Rew, drummer Alex Cooper and bassist Vince de la Cruz. Their breakthrough hit 'Walking On Sunshine' (U.S. #9, U.K. #8 and OZ #4) gave the impression that these trans-Atlantic popsters had just been washed on to the charts by the latest wave. But the truth is they'd been paddling in the pop-rock waters for several years previous and it was persistence and hard graft that gave them the success they richly deserved. The band had formed in England during 1981 and had released several independent label singles and two albums before achieving 'overnight success'. 'Walking On Sunshine' has become one of the quintessential 80s signature songs, but Katrina & The Waves were more than just one ray of sunshine on the pop landscape.

Other hits followed including 'Do You Want Crying' (U.S. #37), 'Sun Street' (U.K. #22) and my favourite track 'Is That It?' (OZ #82 in 1986). The group had taken some time off in the early 90s, but bounced back to prominence in 1997 with the U.K. #3 hit 'Love Shine A Light', which just happened to be the official U.K. entry in that year's Eurovision Song Contest, and indeed the winning entry!

Katrina & The Waves were a band that took music seriously, but knew how to have fun doing so.

The clip to the song reminds me more than a little bit of the fun you used to see The Monkees have on camera.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Clinton For President....George Clinton That Is

In 1983 I wasn't at all familiar with the already 27 year long career of George Clinton. But I was familiar and fanatical about his latest single 'Atomic Dog'. As soon as I heard it on an Australian released compilation called 'Keep On Dancing' it was an instant hit in my mind. The song failed to register on Australia's singles charts, but it reached #1 on the Billboard R&B chart in the U.S., where Clinton was a far more established figure on the music scene as the spearhead of the long running funk ensemble Parliament, sometimes known as Funkadelic, sometimes known as The Mothership Connection.

Clinton, AKA Dr. Funkenstein, gathered together his first lineup of musicians in 1956. Over the next 25 years they were at the vanguard of innovative funk and dance music, influencing the likes of Prince and Red Hot Chili Peppers to come. I can't help but think of the likes of Frank Zappa when considering the groundbreaking nature of Clinton's work. Mainstream chart success largely eluded him but yet his influence was deep and wide. During the 90s Clinton continued to work with his followers such as Prince and branched out to produce rap artists such as Ice Cube. If James Brown was the 'Godfather Of Soul', George Clinton must surely be considered funks equivalent patriarch.

This promo clip for 'Atomic Dog' incorporates all that was extravagant about the sound and look of George Clinton the artist, and it is the archetypal 80s video clip:

Two Of The West's Best

The Dugites and Eurogliders had a lot of things in common. Both enjoyed success on the Australian charts during the 80s, both featured a female lead vocalist, both weren't afraid to incorporate a funky brass section on some of their hits, and both hailed from Perth, Western Australia.

The Dugites formed in 1978 featuring Lynda Nutter on vocals, Peter Crosbie keyboards, Gunther Berghoffer guitar, Phillip Bailey bass and Clarence Bailey drums in their lineup. They cut their touring teeth in support of Dave Warner during 1979 before signing a recording deal with Sydney's Deluxe label. Their self titled 1980 debut album realised the hit single 'In Your Car' (OZ #34) and the album itself ascended to #22 nationally. Over the next couple of years they followed this up with another hit single 'Waiting' (#40) and recruited ex-Sports guitarist Andrew Pendlebury to replace Berghoffer. It seems a travesty to me that the Dugites (whose name is shared with that of a snake) didn't breakthrough to higher chart honours with their next two singles 'Cut The Talking' and my personal favourite 'Juno And Me'. The latter in particular was such an upbeat catchy number that it's astounding it stalled on the charts at #60 in 1984. Within 12 months the Dugites were no more.

If you'd like to witness the Dugites at their peak checkout the clip to 'In Your Car' here (Caution: may feature inappropriate use of a dodgem car):

Eurogliders enjoyed a longer run of success throughout the 80s. Formed in 1980, the band founded by Bernie Lynch (guitar/vocals) originally as Living Single, also featured Lynch's then partner Grace Knight on vocals. They released their debut album 'Pink Suit New Day' in early 1982 which featured the bands breakthrough hit 'Without You' (#32) an atmospheric synth driven song.

This attracted the interest of the CBS label and the first half of '84 saw the release of the album 'This Island'. Eurogliders lineup had settled to feature, in addition to Lynch and Knight, Amanda Vincent on keyboards, Ron Francois on bass, Crisin Ackerman guitar and John Bennetts drums. The first single 'Heaven (Must Be There)' ascended to #1 on the Australian charts mid year and even snuck a peak inside the Billboard Hot 100 (#65).

The bands next album 'Absolutely' was to my mind, there most accomplished effort. Their sound was more rounded and mature, incorporating a smoother more soul based influence seamlessly into their established synth-guitar template. The title track was simply sublime but was only one of a number of stand out songs including 'We Will Together' and 'Can't Wait To See You'. In all the album yielded four Australian top 20 hits, and sold over 130,000 copies nationally - and it counts as one of the first CD albums I ever purchased. Early '87 saw a radically revamped lineup emerge from the wake of 'Absolutely', but still Lynch and Knight remained firm at the heart of things. After one more album (1988's 'Groove'), the band glided to a halt, singer Grace Knight remaining active as an artist albeit in the jazz genre.

Check out the band having a blast in the clip to 'Can't Wait To See You':

Friday, April 25, 2008

Der Kommissar Or Just 'Commish' To His Friends

Johann Holzel, but known to the world as Falco, holds the honour of being Austria's most successful popular music export (if you discount Mozart). The Vienna born singer hit big time in Europe with his debut 1982 album 'Einzelhaft' (German for 'solitary confinement') and found even more friends with the huge European hit 'Der Kommissar' - referring to the term used for a German government official, or 'the commissioner' (no not the old guy from the 'Batman' TV show). 'Der Kommissar' failed to make an impact on the mainstream U.S. and U.K. charts (though was a big hit on the dance floor), but did attract the interest of Australian fans reaching #7 in mid '83.

The song debuted on the Australian charts in the week ending 11 April 1983, and just one week later was joined by an English language cover version by U.K. quartet After The Fire. After The Fire's version only reached #17 though in Australia, which tells me that a certain percentage of the Australian record buying public bought Falco's version just to try and learn the words phonetically to impress their friends.

After The Fire formed in 1977 and comprised Andy Piercy on vocals/bass, John Russell on guitar, Peter Banks (ex of Yes) on keyboards and Pete King on
drums. They enjoyed far greater success with 'Der Kommissar' in the U.S. where the song
surged to #5 but could only limp to #47 on their home U.K. chart. They would have one more minor hit Stateside with 'Dancing In The Shadows' (#85) before someone (possibly Falco) threw a giant bucket of cold water on their parade and they never charted again.

Falco by contrast still had his greatest chart success ahead of him. 1986 saw the release of the single 'Rock Me Amadeus', a contemporary pop-dance tribute classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart'. Falco managed to incorporate a strong German-rap element into the song and with the hip promo clip saturating the playlists of MTV and the like, the song rocketed to #1 in both the U.S. (3 weeks) and U.K. (1 week) but in relative terms only achieved a disappointing #15 in Australia (perhaps the whole phonetic German lyric recital craze had run its course by then).

Falco, whose professional name, was in reference to the East German ski jumping great Falko Weissflog, had a follow up U.S. Top 20 hit with 'Vienna Calling' but though continuing to have a strong presence on the Euro charts didn't achieve the same level of 'cross-over' success again. Tragically he was killed in a car accident in early 1998 at the age of 40.
And a big SHOUT OUT to all those fans of 80s classics in Adelaide, Australia - you know who you are ;)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

No I'm Not That Guy From Eurythmics!

David Lloyd Stewart, known to his mates as Dave, honed his music craft during the 70s as a keyboardist with various prog-rock bands in the U.K. working with the likes of Steve Hillage and Bill Bruford. In 1981 he took his first step toward a solo career when he recruited the vocal talents of Colin Blunstone (ex of 60s group The Zombies) and released a very contemporary synth version of Jimmy Ruffins classic 'What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted'. I first discovered the song via its inclusion on the compilation '1981 Over The Top' and I worked my cassette copy to breaking point playing, rewinding and playing the track over and over. The song reached #34 in Australia and a more impressive #13 in Britain.

Stewart followed up this initial success by combining his arranging talents with Barbara Gaskin on a severely reworked, but ultimately inspired, version of 'It's My Party', the old Lesley Gore hit from 1963. The song rocketed to #1 in the U.K. late in 1981, spending 4 weeks on top of the hit heap. The song climbed to #4 in Australia and even snuck a peak inside the U.S. Billboard chart reaching #72. Stewart scored two more minor hits in the U.K. but couldn't match his initial success.

Dave Stewart has continued to work in the music biz, lending his playing talents to several touring outfits and even writing a number of books and articles on music theory. I'm not sure if Dave Stewart knew or worked with his namesake David A. Stewart, he of Eurythmics fame, but it's a fair bet he was on the wrong end of a case of mistaken identity more than once.
You can have a listen to Stewart's very atmospheric version of 'What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted' here:Check out the promo clip for his version of 'It's My Party', featuring vocalist Barbara Gaskin and a surprise cameo from none other than fellow synth-guru Thomas Dolby (see earlier post) as Judy's heartthrob Johnny:

A Pair Of Levi's Finest

Four Tops are rightly recognised as one of popular music's greatest male vocal groups of all time. By the time they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990, Four Tops had been performing and recording for almost 40 years, and had amassed an incredible 45 U.S. Top 100 hit singles (not to mention their enormous influence on later acts such as Hall & Oates and the Isley Brothers). Together with contemporaries The Miracles, The Supremes and The Temptations, Four Tops represented the signature sound of Motown during the 60s and 70s in particular.

But what set the group apart, in my humble view, were the powerhouse vocals of lead singer Levi Stubbs, rounded out by the sublime vocal harmonies of Renaldo "Obie" Benson, Lawrence Payton and Abdul "Duke" Fakir. Levi Stubbs voice could just about shake a buildings foundations at times, yet Four Tops overall sound scape could be smooth as melted butter at other times. At their commercial peak they released such instant classics as 'I Can't Help Myself', 'Reach Out I'll Be There' and 'Bernadette'. Whilst the Tops continued to churn out the hits in the first half of the 70s, their sound was somewhat overtaken by the emerging disco and punk movements. They kept a low profile before in 1987 Levi Stubbs provided the voice to the blood sucking plant Audrey II in the cult film remake 'Little Shop Of Horrors'. The film introduced the unique vocal talents of Stubbs to a new generation, and whether directly or indirectly it seemed to give Four Tops a new lease of life on their career.

1988 saw the legendary quartet release two hit songs. 'Loco In Acapulco' was lifted from the soundtrack to the film 'Buster' starring Phil Collins. The song surged to #7 on the U.K. charts, and was their biggest British hit in seven years. The track 'Indestructible' was a suitably spirit inspiring track used as the anthem to the 1988 Olympic Games by U.S. television network NBC. On the back of the huge exposure it received (aside from it being a great song), 'Indestructible' reached #11 on the U.S. Billboard charts. Four Tops continued to record and tour into the 90s and kept their original lineup until the passing of Lawrence Payton in 1997. Theo Peoples was recruited to fill the void after a time, but the Four Tops wound back their career in the ensuing years.

You can check out the video for 'Indestructible' here:

A Dragon's Swansong

The 1989 release 'Bondi Road' marked the final major release of original material from Kiwi lads Dragon. It was their 8th Australian Top 30 album (excluding compilations) and was a suitable farewell to the charts for this iconic band.

Dragon had formed in January 1972 in Auckland, New Zealand. Founding member and bassist Todd Hunter invited younger brother Marc into the fold around a year later to take on the vocal duties. Within two years they had conquered the 'Shaky Isles' and set their sights across the Tasman to the bigger Australian market. Their timing was remarkably similar to fellow Kiwi act Split Enz, though the bands were poles apart in musical style and image. Dragon were the quintessential 'bad boys' of rock particularly in their early days touring. But their 'off field' behaviour didn't detract from the quality of their music, especially their studio output. In the volatile figure of Paul Hewson they had an accomplished song smith and the Hunter brothers were quickly lending ample support. Neil Storey on drums and Robert Taylor on guitar rounded out the 70s lineup for Dragon. After a string of top 20 hits including 'April Sun In Cuba' (#2) and 'Are You Old Enough' (#1), Marc Hunter was sacked from the band in February 1979 for ongoing indiscretions relating to drug abuse at the time. Dragon carried on for one album with vocalist/ saxophonist Billy Rogers at the helm, but by years end had broken up. Hunter managed to score two solo hits with 'Island Nights' (#22) in 1979 and 'Big City Talk' (#41) in 1981.

By the end of 1982 the classic lineup of Dragon was back in the studio. The ensuing three to four years would prove to be a fruitful time with 'Rain' hitting #2 on the Australian charts late in 1983, followed by a wave of top 40 hits. Tragically in early 1985 Paul Hewson died of drug related causes and long time guitarist Robert Taylor left the band soon after. Dragon's lineup took on a revolving door policy for a few years including for a time guitar maestro Tommy Emmanuel. But essentially they were the core trio of Marc & Todd Hunter and U.S. keyboard journeyman Alan Mansfield.

By the time 1989 rolled around it seemed the fire was almost out in Dragon, but they had one more set of brilliance to come, with the album 'Bondi Road' (Oz #18). The album yielded three hits, the biggest of which was a reflective effort 'Young Years' - that might have been a big clue in the band feeling a sense of closure. The trio would release the 1995 album 'Incarnations' but sadly in 1998 vocalist Marc Hunter succumbed to a long battle with cancer. Todd Hunter has more recently taken a touring lineup of Dragon out on the road.

My favourite track from the brilliant 'Bondi Road' album is 'Here Am I', a beautiful ballad that evokes a sense of tropical serenity. I bought it on 45 single originally and thankfully managed to find a second hand copy of the 'Bondi Road' CD about 10 years later, long after it had become unavailable to buy new.

It may have only reached #72 on the charts but as you'll hear via this link, 'Here Am I' deserved much higher honours.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We've Got A Mighty...

We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Gonna Use It, or just plain Fuzzbox to their fans, formed as an all female indie pop quartet in Birmingham, England in 1985. When I think of both their image and music I liken it to The Runaways meets the Bangles. They had the semi-glamorous (though more sexually overt) image of the Bangles, but with a harder edged sound drawing on punk and even goth-rock influences. Their name Fuzzbox presumably was in reference to the term used to describe an effects pedal used for guitar sound distortion (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).

The face and voice of Fuzzbox was then 16 year old Vickie Perks, joined by guitarist Maggie Dunne (the only member who had previous band experience), her younger sister Jo Dunne on bass and Tina O'Neill on drums. After securing an early independent contract and releasing a couple of EP's to local acclaim, Fuzzbox eased up on the punk edge to their image and embarked on conquering the mainstream music scene. To this end they worked with Bangles producer Liam Sternberg on their debut album 'Big Bang!'. The album lived up to its title debuting at #5 on the mainstream U.K. charts in 1989. The album yielded several top 30 hits including my personal favourite 'Self!' (UK #24). Perks took off in post 1990 to pursue an eventually unheralded solo career and the band split for a time. Maggie Dunne went on to play with respected indie outfit Babes In Toyland.

The following YouTube clip for the song 'Self!' will give you an insight into the look and image of Fuzzbox, and here's a bit of trivia courteousy of Wikipedia: the band wanted to use the Thunderbirds as a feature in the promo clip to the song 'International Rescue' (makes senses), but couldn't obtain the rights to do so. In place they came up with a spoof of the film Barberella featuring Adrian Edmondson (he of 'The Young Ones') playing the role of Duran Duran (the villian not the band).

There is an official Fuzzbox website which is actually pretty cool and features heaps of info on the band. If you like the sound of 'Self!' it'll be worth your while checking it out.

So Much Promise

Sydney band Deckchairs Overboard came to being in 1982, the aftermath of Melbourne outfit The Cheks. The original lineup featured Ken Campbell on vocals, John Clifforth guitar/keyboard, Cathy McQuade on bass and the late great Paul Hester on drums. Relentless live playing on the Sydney pub/club circuit helped build a following and led to a self titled EP release in late 1982. 'That's The Way' was the single to be released in early '83 but in spite of getting a run on Countdown's playlist the song set up anchor at #86 on the Australian charts.

Shortly after Paul Hester left to take up the post as Split Enz's new drummer and of course would go on to have a stellar career with Australasian powerhouse Crowded House. Deckchairs recruited Dennis Flannery to the ranks and added keyboardist Michael Hoste to round out the ensemble. The lineup chopped and changed markedly over the next 18 months with only Clifforth and McQuade remaining stable members.

It was during this time that the band released their one and only album, again self titled (released late '85). Featuring on the album were two pop classics (in my humble opinion), 'Walking In The Dark' released as a single in mid '84 and 'Fight For Love' (OZ #78) released a year later. Despite the obvious quality of these gems, neither made much of an impact in commercial terms, and with the album only reaching #88 in late 1985, Deckchairs Overboard's voyage soon ended with band members going their separate ways before years end.

The album is not currently commercially available (to my knowledge) and is a rare get to find second hand. I was fortunate enough to score a copy of the original 45 'Fight For Love'. Check out the promo clip for 'Fight For Love', featuring the destruction of a type writer, and some fun on Sydney Harbour.

A Mad Scientist With A Synthesizer?

I first witnessed the eccentric genius of Thomas Dolby when I saw the promo clip to his hit 'She Blinded Me With Science' back in lat '82. It was a appropriate precursor to what would pan out to be a career full of eccentricity, but equally innovation.

Dolby (born Thomas Robertson) came to a career in music via his initial obsession with computers and electronics. The professional name of Dolby was a nickname in reference to the patented British developed noise reduction technology for sound speakers. After honing is performance skills as a musician via busking in Paris and working as a sound technician for several London bands including the Members, Dolby then worked for a short time with Lene Lovich (penning her 1981 hit 'New Toy') and followed up with studio work for Foreigner, Joan Armatrading and Def Leppard. He also joined forces with another eccentric figure in the early 80s music scene, one Malcolm McLaren, on his conceptual 'Duck Rock' album.

Dolby then released his debut album 'The Golden Age Of Wireless' in 1982 and followed this up with 'Flat Earth' in 1984 (which yielded the hit 'Hyperactive'). His creative output remained at an almost frenzied level for the remainder of the 80s as producer, performer and composer. In 1988 he released the bizarrely titled (well not so bizarre for Dolby) 'Aliens Ate My Buick', featuring cover art-work reminiscent of a promo poster for a B-grade horror film of the 50s. The album sold poorly and realised only one minor hit in 'Airhead' (Oz #63, U.K. #53). I originally bought 'Airhead' on vinyl 45, then stumbled across the CD 'Aliens Ate My Buick' in a second hand shop. It was filed in the soundtracks section of the shop, presumably the cover art having something to do with its mistaken identity.

Dolby released another album flop with 1992's 'Astronauts & Heretics' then turned his attention back to his interest in high-tech innovation, founding the computer software firm of Headspace. Headspace has developed several 'virtual reality' educational products for young musicians and has even branched out to providing add-on technology for mobile phones. If you like 'Airhead' I can highly recommend Dolby's greatest hits collection 'Retrospectacle'.

The promo clip for 'Airhead' was suitably cutting edge. Check it out here:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

For A Relaxing Stay Check-In To The...

'Halfway Hotel' was the one and only big hit for UK quartet Voyager (not to be confused with the similarly named Voyage who were a European disco group around the same time). 'Halfway Hotel' reached #33 on their home charts in 1979 but the song enjoyed a longer stay on the Australian charts, spending 24 weeks inside the top 100 and peaking at #15. The song was aided by a clever promo clip that featured several times on Countdown's playlist. The band did have a second hit (in a strictly technical sense only), with 'Judas' charting for 3 weeks in early 1980 (peak #93). Both tracks were lifted from the band's eponymous debut album.
Voyager's lineup consisted vocalist/keyboardist Paul French, guitarist Paul Hirsh, bassist Chris Hook and drummer John Marter, formerly with 70s outfit Mr. Big (1977 top 10 hit 'Romeo'). They released two more albums over the next two years but failed to achieve the five star success that 'Halfway Hotel' offered them. After touring in support of ELO during 1982 the lads went their separate ways. Marter continued his status as rock journeyman by joining the lineup of Marillion (1985 UK #2 'Kayleigh'). Guitarist Hirsh played on tours with artists such as Status Quo and Chris Rea. Singer Paul French took a different musical direction becoming a fulltime composer.

Following the release of a retrospective CD in 2004, the original lineup reunited for an album of original material in 2006 entitled 'Eyecontact'. They have their own presence in cyberspace as well with a website at: http://www.supergroups.biz/voyagerhome.htm - though it's primarily a promo page for their latest album. For a more detailed account of the intervening 25 years have a look at their MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/voyageruk

For almost 20 years 'Halfway Hotel' was unavailable on CD format until it appeared on the BMG compilation 'Living In The 70s: Volume IV'. An acquaintance of mine Steve Scanes compiled the track list for this release and he told me that to obtain the release rights for the song, BMG had to send a North American rep to an old farmhouse in the Canadian countryside where the song's writer Paul French was residing at the time. But it was worth the effort for 'Halfway Hotel' is the quintessential 70s pop classic!

Check out the retro-cool promo clip for 'Halfway Hotel' here:

Monday, April 21, 2008

Irving Berlin Revisited

1983 was undoubtedly an exceptional year for pop music in general. I mean it had a lot to live up to following on from the brilliance of 1982. It was the year in which I moved to a new State and a new school, made new friends and tried new things. It was a memorable year for a lot of reasons, not least of which was the music.

One of the years highlights for me was a song called 'Puttin' On The Ritz' by an artist called Taco. At first I thought Taco was a very tasty Mexican dish, then I thought it was a group, but in actual fact Taco was the name of a man. Well, his first name to be precise, his full name being Taco Ockerse. Taco was born in Indonesia to Dutch parents in 1955 and eventually based his career in Germany - a virtual United Nations of the recording biz!
Given the dominance of the new wave and power pop sounds in 1983, and the emergence of rap as a strong musical force in its own right, Taco arguably took a risk in releasing 'Puttin' On The Ritz'. But let's face it the song had impeccable pedigree, penned by the legendary Irving Berlin and already having topped the hit parade (albeit 53 years earlier) for Harry Richman. But Taco took the brilliance that was at the heart of the tune and added an all new layer of contemporary nuance to it, and the song soared to the top of the chart menu reaching #4 in the U.S.

'Puttin On The Ritz' featured on Taco's album 'After Eight' which featured several other reworked classics of the 30s as well as some original compositions done in a similar style. The promo clip helped to sell the whole retro-package , with Taco attired in full 'Fred Astaire-esque' garb.

I purchased the song originally on 45 when it charted here in Australia in late '83 (#5), and later scored a few different versions on various CD compilations. The version available at this link seems to be an extended mix (compared to the others) and is taken from a Readers Digest box set circa mid 90s.
And check out Taco's style in this promo clip:

A Sleeping Talent Awoken

'Great Expectations' was the aptly titled 1992 debut album for British born songstress Tasmin Archer. For on the basis of her song 'Sleeping Satellite' the world was justified in thinking great things lay ahead for the then 19 year old. The song was a smash in the U.K. spending 2 weeks at #1, and made an impact on both the U.S. and Australian charts. Archer won a Brit Award in 1993 for Best British Breakthrough Act. But she could not duplicate her initial commercial success.

Her follow up album, 1994's 'Shipbuilding' was a curious choice of artistic direction as it was an album entirely of Elvis Costello covers - nothing against Elvis Costello, he is a damn fine artist - but the album failed to capitalise on the foundation laid by 'Great Expectations'.

Archer made the top 50 on her home singles charts on another five occasions but didn't score another top 50 album. Her most recent recording is 2006's 'On'.

I originally purchased 'Sleeping Satellite' on cassingle. Remember them? I obtained the song on a CD compilation a couple of years later and am very pleased to have a copy of the promo clip on a DVD compilation.

The promo clip is very cool and reminds me of a couple of other clips from around that time (actually a bit earlier), Michael Penn's 'No Myth' and R.E.M.'s 'Losing My Religion'.
Check it out here:

For A Good Time Call...

'867-5309 (Jenny)' was a smash hit in early '82 for Tommy Tutone. And if you're like me you probably thought at the time that Tommy Tutone was a guy not a group. But a group they were and '867-5309 (Jenny)' was their one and only big hit reaching #4 at home in the U.S. and #22 in Australia.

Even 20 years later '867-5309 (Jenny)' caused quite a stir but at the Brown University phone exchange rather than the charts. 867 just happened to be their new campus prefix, and when listeners of the Tommy Tutone hit decided to call the number, in a vain effort to speak to Jenny, the calls were directed to two students on campus. The chaos caused on phone exchanges at the time the song was a hit was far greater, so much so that many people in various parts of the U.S. who just happened to have that number, were forced to change their number due to the sheer volume of crank calls.

Tommy Tutone had just the right guitar driven pop sound for the time. Think Survivor, Rick Springfield, J. Geils Band, Greg Kihn Band. They formed in 1978 but after dialing the right number to reach the top 10 in 1982, Tommy Tutone hung up on chart success and disbanded for a time post 1984. They've reformed since with original vocalist Tommy Heath carrying on with a 1994 album release 'Nervous Love' and a hectic touring schedule.

The band have a really cool website worth checking out at: http://www.tutone.com/

Check out the YouTube video clip for the song here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqUPApCUt90

In keeping with the theme of phone numbers, British sextet City Boy scored a major hit in 1978 with '' (U.K. #8, U.S. #27 and Oz #11). The vocals on the track were shared between regular lead vocalist Lol Mason (who handled the high pitch bits in the chorus) and drummer Roger Kent (who sang the verses). The band's line-up was also featured guitarist Mike Slamer, keyboardist Max Thomas, percussionist Steve Broughton and bassist Chris Dunn. City Boy's members had known each other since high school and had kept in touch and played music together throught the late 60s early 70s. In 1973 they took the name City Boy and three years later released the album 'Mark I'. '' came from their 1978 release 'Book Early'. It represented the high point in City Boy's career, and despite a move to the U.S. shortly after to further their success, the band folded around 1982.

Dial up this link to have a look at the promo clip for '':

Music Veterans

The early 80s saw a bounty of novelty songs released, many of which did very well on the charts, particularly in Australia. Joe Dolce's 'Shaddap You Face' was one of the biggest spending 8 weeks at #1 over the summer of 80/81. Another novelty hit in Australia during 1980 came from a curious music ensemble calling themselves The Veterans. Hailing from Belgium (although possibly with Dutch connections), The Veterans had released the song 'There Ain't No Age For Rock 'N' Roll' in 1979 on the European Shiva Productions label. I've no information on how it faired on their native Belgian charts but the song was released in 1980 in Australia on the Festival label and thanks to a quirky promo clip aired on the ABC's Countdown, and with Molly Meldrum's seal of approval, the song rocketed to #6 on the Australian singles charts mid year. My take on the song and the group is that its' Vaudeville takes on pop - and wins!

The only name I have come up with associated with the members of The Veterans is one Jimmy Norris. I can't tell you if he was the old guy that fronted the band or anything more about the group's lineup. If you know anything more please let me know. The Veterans released two more singles in their home market, 'I'm Jogging' and 'I'm A Disco Freak'. I haven't heard either but judging by the titles both were also novelty songs.

The following promo clip isn't the official one I recall appearing on an episode of Countdown, but it appears to be a TV promo appearance from the time. Anyway you'll see an eccentric group of performers presenting a quirky little song:

And thanks to YouTube user 'gnowangerup', here is the official promo video for The Veterans' 'There Ain't No Age For Rock 'N' Roll' - this particular clip was aired on a Countdown 'Summer Special', highlighting one hit wonders (from memory). Enjoy!

When In Rome...

The 80s featured as many, if not more, one hit wonders as any other decade in pop music history. Among the 80s one hit wonders alumni are the U.K. trio When In Rome. Clive Farrington, Andrew Mann and Michael Floreale had prior form in a Manchester band called Leisure which at one time also boasted vocalist Corinne Drewery who went on to front Swing Out Sister (1987 top 10 hit 'Breakout').

The lads released one album only as When In Rome with 1988's self titled effort. 'The Promise' promised big things for the trio reaching #11 in the U.S. but surprisingly failed to make an impact in their native U.K. (#58). It is a very 'American' sounding track and not unlike The Outfield (see earlier post) When In Rome presented more of a U.S. commercial image.

A second single 'Heaven Knows' (not to be mistaken for the Robert Plant song released around the same time) only scraped into Billboard's Top 100, reaching #95 in early '89. When In Rome then went the way of the Roman Empire (only far more swiftly) and disappeared from view. But they did leave one lasting monument in song.

'The Promise' came to public attention once more when it was featured on the soundtrack to the 2004 comedy 'Napoleon Dynamite'.

You can check out the promo clip on the following YouTube link: