The Shams: Only A Dream / 3 a.m.

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Format: 7″

Label: SOL

Country: US

Year: 1990

Price paid: $2.50

Purchased at: Angry Mom Records, Ithaca NY

 

Folksy New York girl group active during the late eighties and into the early nineties, The Shams were Amy McMahon Rigby, Sue Garner, and Amanda Uprichard. Their sound and ethos (proto-No Depression) may only tangentially warrant their inclusion on this blog, but they serve as an interesting stylistic juxtaposition to contemporaries such as the Riot Grrrls.

‘Only a Dream’ was their first and only single, released on Bob Mould’s ‘Singles Only’ Label. The band would go on to release an EP and full album on the Matador label before they split to pursue solo ventures.

Member Amy McMahon Rigby has released five studio albums between 1996 and 2005, but appears to have gone dormant musically for the last decade. She is currently married to former Stiff Records’ artist Wreckless Eric. They live in upstate New York.

Sue Garner was also active during the late nineties into the early 21st century, releasing three studio albums. The last- ‘Shadyside’- came out in 2002.

Amanda Uprichard’s whereabouts are unknown, no relation to the fashion designer/clothing line of the same name.

 

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Cha-Cha soundtrack

chachaFormat: LP

Label: Ariola

Country: Holland

Year: 1979

Price paid: $5

Purchased at: Angry Mom Records, Ithaca NY

 

I have never seen the movie ‘Cha Cha’ and despite it being basically a documentary centered around two of my favorite artists (Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich) I’d barely heard of it. Enter Youtube and suddenly this obscure thirty-six year old Dutch indie film is right there with no effort on my part. Call me old fashioned, but I find that a little magical.

chacha4Anyway, I have yet to sit down and spend the full 90 minutes watching it, but a quick flip through reveals it to be a precious slice into a bygone age. Lene and Nina are at the top of their game here, at the peak of their popularity, and (Sexist Mode engaged) debatably at their most lovely, vibrant, and optimistic.

chacha3Ultimately though ‘Cha-Cha’ is Herman Brood’s baby. Brood was a complex and fascinating character, a true renaissance man with occupations ranging from painter to musician to poet. During the period this film was made he was romantically involved with Hagen; her song ‘Herrmann Hiess Er’ from the 1979 album ‘Unbehagen’ is supposedly about Brood and his very public drug use. Sadly Herman died of suicide performed by jumping off the roof of the Amsterdam Hilton in 2001 at age 54. His cover of Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ (covered by Hagen since 1979 as well) posthumously rose to #1 on the Dutch singles charts.

Track listing:

  • Herman Brood, Nina, Lene, Less and Wild Romance- I Love You Like I Love Myself
  • Lene Lovich & Less Chappell- Home
  • Phoney & The Hardcore- Pick Up Floor
  • Van Zutphen- Sweet Memories
  • Hugo Sinszheimer & the Meteors- Take It All In
  • Inside Nipples- (You Don’t) Fit
  • Nina Hagen and the Wild Romance- Herman’s Door
  • Monica Tjen A Kwoei and the Houseband- Two Together
  • Sonny and the Dulfergang- Blues
  • Herman Brood & His Wild Romance- Doin’ It
  • Hugo and the Meteors- It’s You (Smersz)
  • Herman Brood & His Wild Romance- Beat
  • Streetbeats- (No More) Conversation
  • Dulfergang- Bop
  • Nina and the Wild Romance- Herman Ist High
  • Herman Brood and the Dulfergang- Jilted
  • Hanneke and White Honey- I Don’t Wanna Loose You
  • Phoney and the Hardcore- (Can’t Stop) Foolin’ Myself
  • Herman Brood & His Wild Romance- (For Elvis) Never Be Clever
  • Sonny & Dulfergang- The Blues

The sleeve art- although most probably just a scaled-down version of the movie poster- is colorful and evocative, a blazing neon affair with crudely executed yet nonetheless evocative portraits of Brood, Lovich, and Hagen painted by Dick Van Der Meijden.

chacha6Confusingly ‘Cha Cha’ was is the name of a live 1978 album by Brood, released about a year prior to the soundtrack. It has little if anything to do with this soundtrack. The sleeve art, again designed by artist Dick Van Der Meijden, sports a (coincidentally?) similar palette dominated by vibrant reds, blues and peaches. The microphone shoved into a sweaty armpit motif certainly ranks up their as one of the most unattractive images ever created by man…

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Berlin: Take My Breath Away

berlin_takemybreathFormat: 7″

Label: Columbia

Country: US

Year: 1986

Price paid: $1

Purchased at: Books and Melodies, Syracuse NY

 

Watching every motion in my foolish lover’s game

On this endless ocean finally lovers know no shame

 

‘Take My Breath Away (Love Theme from “Top Gun”)’ or as it’s more commonly known ‘Take My Breath Away’ appears on the band’s fourth album ‘Count 3 & Pray’ (1986) and- not too surprisingly- on the ‘Top Gun’ soundtrack.

It went all the way to number one in the US, UK, and Belgium (#2 in Canada and the Netherlands, #4 in New Zealand) and is by far the band’s highest-charting single; its nearest competitor was ‘No More Words’ which went to #23 in the US in 1984 and ‘The Metro’ at #58 in 1981.

The song was written by Giovanni Giorgio Moroder (with Tom Whitlock), a musical artist with a long an impressive history. Some of the notches in his belt include co-writing credits on Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’, worked with the Human League to compose ‘Forever in Electric Dreams’ for the film ‘Electric Dreams, and more recently contributed to Daft Punk’s 2013 album ‘Random Access Memories.’ The B-side of this single is his composition ‘Radar Radio’ (featuring Joe Pizzulo.) Mr. Pizzulo also makes appearances on the soundtracks to ‘Scarface’ (1983), ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ (1986), and ‘Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders’ (2000.)

‘Take My Breath Away’ won the 1986 Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. It’s been covered many times by everyone from Diana Ross to Jessica Simpson.

Typical of US 7″ sleeves of the period (and soundtrack singles in particular) the artwork is serviceable, but unremarkable. At least the band makes an appearance on the cover, so that’s something I guess.

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Picture Discs of the World

picturediscsoftheworld
Format: book
Publisher: BIOdisc
Country: US
Dimensions: 8.5 X 11″
Year: 1990
Purchased at: Knuckleheads, Syracuse NY

 

Picture discs often get a bad rap, usually due to their purported inferior sound quality. But if you’re buying a picture disc primarily for the listening experience then you’re kind of missing the point…

I love picture discs. There’s just something about those vivid image-infused objects that, when sent spinning on a turntable, fill the soul with hypnotic joy. You’ll be seeing a lot of blog posts on them in the future as I slowly unearth them from my collection.

Although dated, ‘Picture Discs of the World’ is still an invaluable resource for information on this niche vinyl, exhaustively covering just about every disc known to man up until the book’s publication in 1990. Purely by chance I’m sure, the 1990 date is a perfect termination point for the first edition (there was never a second) as it documents the last fading moments of vinyl in the popular consciousness.

Picture discs were really prevalent in the late eighties, garish baroque expressions of a collapsing industry desperate to squeeze out a few more dollars from those loyal enough to still cling to the vinyl format. Although not the book’s primary focus, it’s immediately apparent that good portion of this flavor of vinyl hails from the decade where style often eclipsed substance. I have no problem with that.

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sample page

The book appears to be a ‘vanity’ publication, that is, it has all the earmarks of a publication that was put together and then farmed out for printing by a press that would print anything as long as you paid them in advance for the honor. What’s often lacking with books of this sort are the hand of a good editor and layout artist. The book idea may have been shopped around to the ‘legit’ publishers of the day, but being such a niche title, going the self-publication route was probably the only way this thing was going to see the light of day.

Evaluating the book from this perspective it’s clear that it’s a labor of love. Naive in many ways, such as the odd font choices and sizes, it nonetheless is a well-organized and extremely thorough. I find its dense presentation, littered with many photos (most black and white, but a few color plates thrown in), a very satisfying experience. It’s a tome you take your time with and explore.

Rather rare and pricey today (going for $50 and up on AbeBooks) it’s a must-have if you’re into pre-nineties record collecting

The table of contents are worth sharing:

  • Picture Discs, By Definition and Scope
  • A Goal toward Completeness
  • Laser-etched and Other Pseudo Picture Discs
  • Picture Discs Included
  • A Word on Record Numbers #
  • Conflicting Release Dates
  • How to Use and Misuse This Book
  • What about the Prices?
  • The Dollar versus the Yen versus the Pound
  • Condition & Value
  • Grading
  • The Value of Cut-Outs
  • The Pre-shaped, Pre-cut 12 Inch Record
  • Interview Picture discs
  • About Plinths, the Stand-up Displays
  • Bootlegs
  • One-of-a-Kind Oddities, Private Pressings
  • Alphabetical Listings
  • Chronological History of Picture Discs
  • List of Discographies
  • Coming in the Second Edition
  • General Listings (Microgroove)
  • Various Artists Section
  • Radio Station Promo (Compilations)
  • 78 RPM Section
  • Index (For General Listings)
  • Index (78 RPM for Section)
  • Photo Identification
  • Directory of Buyers/Sellers

 

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Stray Cats: Stray Cat Strut / You Don’t Believe Me

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Format: 7″

Label: EMI

Country: US

Year: 1982

Price paid: $1

Purchased at: Books and Melodies, Syracuse NY

 

Get a shoe thrown at me from a mean old man

Get my dinner from a garbage can

‘Stray Cat Strut’ originally appeared on the band’s debut album ‘Stray Cats’, released in the UK in 1981. A year later it would again appear on their third album  ‘Built For Speed’, which was their first LP to be released in the US.

It was the band’s second most successful single in the US, reaching #3 on the charts, only topped by ‘(She’s) Sexy + 17’ (which came in at #2) in 1983. It reached #11 in the UK and the B-side ‘You Don’t Believe Me’ (which was released as its own single in Britain) got to #57.

The sleeve art is pedestrian, paling in comparison to the earlier UK release. Typical of a US mass-produced 7″ single of the period, the package is made with flimsy easily tearable paper and the overall layout has a cheap ‘it’s good enough’ feel to it. I didn’t bother to scan the backside as it’s identical to the front with minor text variations.

Trio: Anna Letmein Letmeout / Kummer Live Im Fruhjahr 82

trio_dadada

Format: 12″

Label: Mercury

Country: UK (made in West Germany)

Year: 1982

Price paid: $3

Purchased at: Books and Melodies, Syracuse NY

 

Laß mich rein laß mich rauß.

The German group Trio are probably best known today for their smash hit and cult classic ‘Da Da Da, Ich Lieb Dich Nicht, Du Liebst Mich Nicht, Aha Aha Aha” (aka ‘Da Da Da’.) They released four studio albums between 1981 and 1985 and no fewer than ten singles.

‘Anna Letmein Letmeout’- aka ‘Anna (Let Me In, Let Me Out)’- was their third single released, immediately following ‘Da Da Da.’ It failed to have an impact in the US or UK, but undoubtedly charted handsomely in their homeland (citation needed.) Stylistically and lyrically it’s very similar to ‘Da Da Da’ with its simple deadpan tongue-in-cheek delivery.

The sleeve is rather unattractive, to my sensibilities anyway. It’s a scaled-up version of the 7″ art (or the 7″ art is a scaled-down version of this 12″); I don’t own the 7″ so I can’t tell you which size works better aesthetically. The grainy (probably copyright free) image is a dull grey field graffitied up with greenish felt tip marker scribbles. Whatever potency/serenity the original design might have had is marred by a large yellow circle (not sticker) proclaiming that this is a ‘MAXI LONG VERSION 45.’ The original 7″ version runs about 2:40 while this extended mix stretches out an expansive 4:45, prolonging your enjoyment of this slow plodding tune considerably…

 

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Bette Bright and the Illuminations: Hello, I Am Your Heart / All Girls Lie

bettebright_helloFormat: 7″

Label: Korova (KOW 3)

Country: UK

Year: 1980

Price paid: $3.86 (incl. ship)

Purchased at: eBay

 

“Well hello… I am your heart!”

Released in February of 1980, this was Bette’s third solo single, preceded by ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ (1978), and ‘Captain of Your Ship‘ (1979.) It was her highest charting single, reaching #50 in the UK in March of 1980. In 1981 the single would appear on Bette’s Korova LP ‘Rhythm Breaks the Ice.’

I’ve had a copy of this single in my collection for some 25 years now and embarrassed to say I never caught on that it had a wrap-around cover. I only discovered this when scanning the front and back for today’s entry. So enjoy my reunion of the front and back displaying the image as it was meant to be seen.

bettebright_hello3

I’m a little torn on the sleeve design. On the positive side its rich deep purple hues are very eye-catching and most have really stuck out on record store shelves back in the day. But the overall layout is rather weak, the front image unengaging, and the wording- although clever- rather hard to read. British photographer Colin Thomas provided the images for the single. Former roadie for ‘Kilburn and the High Roads’, Thomas is still active today as a book/publication photographer and portraitist; having shot celebs such as Ian Dury and more recently Graham Norton.

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Cocktail Slippers: St. Valentines Day Massacre / Heard You Got A Thing For Me

cocktailslippers_valentineFormat: 7″

Label: Wicked Cool Records

Country: US

Year: 2009

Price paid: $4

Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

“I appreciate the glimpse into your misery…”

There has certainly been an explosion of top-notch girl groups and female-fronted bands coming out of Europe over the past decade. Sahara Hotnights, Vibeke Saugestad, and The Sounds to name but a few. The Cocktail Slippers hail from Norway and must certainly be that country’s greatest musical export since the world took on A-Ha.

cocktailslippers_valentine3I picked this single up cold, based solely on the killer cover art and the fact that they’re a girl group. Since I’m kind of a sucker for both. All too often female bands of the past twenty years have relied on their sex appeal to sell their music… I know that’s always been the case- and not unique to women- but it frequently results in a pretty package masking a dreadfully bland creamy center. I was braced for the worst, but upon spinning this disc I was pleasantly surprised…

The Slippers have an enjoyable sound, not totally dissimilar to The Dum Dum Girls with a tinge of sass ala Tuuli or Halo Friendlies. Melodic, upbeat, and unabashedly pop. The band has been around since 2001, releasing three studio albums and appearing on stage with the likes of Crowded House and Elvis Costello.

The sleeve art is magnificent and stylish, continuing a surprisingly long tradition of ‘mock movie poster’ design in music art. The sleeve was created by Louis Arzonico (aka ‘Arzonisaurus Rex’), an artist who’s designed posters/cover art for such indie artists as The Infinities and The Rascals.

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Animotion: Room to Move / Send It Over

animotion_roomtomove

Format: 7″

Label: Polydor

Country: US

Year: 1988

Price paid: $1

Purchased at: Books and Melodies, Syracuse NY

 

I need time to work things out, oh baby

 

animotion_roomtomove4My blog posts are in essence reviews- reviews sprinkled with a little history, an attempt at humor, and hopefully some insight as to how the object in question fits into the larger topic of music, New Wave specifically. I try to keep them positive, and when sarcasm is brought to play hopefully an equal amount of admiration is able to seep in, bringing balance to the analysis. I won’t lie, this one’s gonna be rough…

MSDMYST EC004Animotion were probably best known for their 1984 hit ‘Obsession’, a sleazy little ditty who’s video had all the subtly of a spaceman writhing on a bed. I’ll give credit where it’s due however, the band released three albums throughout the late 80s, charting six successful singles in the US. Their eighties output hasn’t aged very well however- considered ‘synthpop’, it comes across today as tame and safe with strong tinge of pandering to the mainstream. As of 2008 they were still at it, often reuniting for limited tours and special events.

‘Room to Move’,amazingly, rose to #9 on the US charts and- proving that it wasn’t just the Americans that had bad taste- it charted at #11 in Canada, #34 in New Zealand, and #87 in the UK.

Back in the day movie soundtracks were a good source of revenue for those holding their licenses. Even a crappy movie could sell a fair amount of  LPs if the music was good. ‘My Stepmother is an Alien’ was a laugh-a-minute sci-fi comedy in the vein of contemporary genre films like ‘Earth Girls are Easy’ and ‘Date with an Angel.’ It is held in high regard today with an impressive 13% Rotten Tomatoes rating. I’m sure many people ran out of the theaters after watching the film and straight to their local record store to purchase the musical bliss that the previous105 minutes have given them…

animotion_roomtomove3The single’s sleeve is basically a scaled-down version of the full soundtrack art. Making it smaller doesn’t reduce the crappiness however, as the design is uninspired late-80s cheese consisting of Kim Basinger’s leg and a star-field. The flip-side reveals a group shot of the band sporting an embarrassing array of perms, mullets, and perm-mullets.

 

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