Men Without Hats: I Got The Message / Utter Space

menwithouthats_message

Format: 7″
Label: Statik (STAT 20)
Country: UK
Year: 1982
Price paid: $4
Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

“It’s long and hard, this road to Mars.”

For my money Men Without Hats was the greatest New Wave band to come out of Canada, with Martha and the Muffins a close second and Trans-X not far behind. Truth be told, when compared to the musical juggernauts in the US and England churning out vast piles of tunes during this period, the Great White North doesn’t immediately comes across as a locus of international chart-topping acts…

‘I Got the Message’ was a single released from Men Without Hats’ first album ‘Rhythm of Youth.’ First released in 1982 (this version), With the success of their runaway hit ‘Safety Dance’ in 1983 it was re-released both as a ‘special edit’ (TAK 20) with alternative artwork and as a shaped picture disc. The single eked in #99 on the UK charts in late ’83 and #53 on the US Dance chart.

I love this cover. With its searing electric pink and caustic yellow palette it positively screams eighties like a three ton electric python full of pop rocks.

 menwithouthats_message2

 

 

 

 

Adam and the Ants: Prince Charming / Christian d’Or

 

adamant_prince charming
Format: 7″ (gatefold)
Label: CBS (A1408)
Country: UK
Year: 1981
Price paid: $6
Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

“Ridicule is nothing to be scared of…”

‘Prince Charming’ is the second single off the 1981 album of the same name. It was Adam & the Ants second UK #1 hit (the first being ‘Stand and Deliver’); Adam would have one last UK #1 upon going solo with 1982’s ‘Goody Two Shoes.’ The single failed to chart in the US, but reached #4 in Australia and #8 in the Netherlands.

Due to similarities to Rolf Harris’ 1965 ‘War Canoe’ and an out court settlement was reached, with a not inconsiderable amount of royalties going to Harris for infringement.

The sleeve is a classy affair, with a rather subdued pallet in browns, reds, and gold. The single was also released in non-gatefold form (yawn); the B-side is spelled ‘ CHRISTIAN DIOR’ or ‘CHRISTIAN D’OR’ depending on release. The change could be due (once again) to possible copyright infringement. Oh those naughty music pirates!

The Go-Go’s: This Old Feeling / It’s Everything But Party Time

gogos_this old feelingFormat: 7″
Label: IRS Records
Country: US
Year: 1982
Price paid: $2
Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

 

Talk about decorating, a room that needs sophisticating

When conversations become straining, no one’s good at interest feigning…

gogos_this old feeling2The Go-Go’s were a pretty big deal back in the day. One the best selling and hit-making female bands of all time, they chiseled away at the sausage factory that was pop music and opened the doors for many female artists to follow.

Their record label IRS knew this, or a the very least could smell the money to be made from a bunch of skirts holding guitars, and exploited their resource for all it was worth. In their zeal to release Go-Go’s product questionable choices like this single came about…

Both tracks hail from the band’s sophomore effort, 1982’s US certified gold album ‘Vacation.’ The LP spawned three hit singles- the title track, which reached #8 on the US Hot 100, ‘Get Up And Go’ which reached #46 on the US Mainstream Rock chart, and ‘ He’s So Strange’ which also reached #46 on the same chart.

‘This Old Feeling’ is decidedly a second-tier offering, coming off as a 7″ hoping to ride the coattails of the ‘Theme of Summer ’82’… and as such it’s one of the rare Go-Go’s singles that DIDN’T actually chart. It’s notable that sax is provided by Steve Berlin, a member Los Lobos and the Blasters; as a session musician he’s worked with such varied acts as The Dandy Warhols, Sheryl Crow, and The Tragically Hip.

The generic yellow Go-Go’s sleeve is believed to first used on this single, but also sheathed the ‘Yes Or No’ 7″ (both versions) released in 1984,

The Dishes: Hot Property! EP

dishes1Format: 7″
Label: Regular Records
Country: Canada
Year: 1978
Price paid: $4
Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

Canadian band The Dishes formed in Toronto in 1975 and were an early example of the Queen West scene, a ‘movement that would spawn arguably Canada’s best New Wave act Martha and the Muffins.

dishes3The band released two 7″ EPs- ‘Fashion Plates’ in 1977 and this EP in 1978. They disbanded shortly thereafter, but a retrospective CD ‘Kitschenette: The Best of the Dishes’ (Bullseye Records) was released in 2002. Perhaps their brightest moment was opening for Talking Heads in a small local club circa 1978.

Little is known of the ‘Regular Records’ label. It is believed that the two Dishes 7″ were the only product they ever released.

Sleeve design was done by the Canadian artist collective General Idea (Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal and AA Bronson), a group active from the late sixties to the mid-nineties.

dishes2

Generation X: Valley of the Dolls / Shakin’ All Over

genX_valley
Format: 7″
Label: Chrysalis (CHS 2310)
Country: UK
Year: 1979
Price paid: $4
Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

 

In the valley of the dolls skank girls shanking

In the valley of the dolls I saw love vibrating…

‘Valley of the Dolls’ was the second single released from the 1979 album ‘Valley of the Dolls.’ It reached number 23 on the UK charts and was their second highest charting single, bested only by the first single off of VOTD, ‘King Rocker’, which came in at number 11. The B-side ‘Shakin’ All Over’ is a cover of the 1960 Johnny Kidd & the Pirates tune (made famous internationally when it was covered by The Guess Who in 1965.)

The disc was released in a variety of colors from pale butterscotch to raspberry to splatter dirty-rainbow, and many stages in between as chance and the skill of those pouring the admittedly odd mix of vinyl dictated.

genX_valleyb

The version displayed here is by far the ugliest (and least expensive) variant. When I first pulled it out I thought ‘baby diarrhea with hints of blood in the stool.’ I’m guessing this is probably not the look they were going for; based on the theme of the song I like to think of it as ‘hot lady flesh’ version.

With its shiny black and hot pink aesthetic, the sleeve foreshadows what would quickly become a New Wave cliche. At this early date, coupled with the giggle-inducing scowls of the bands, it must have been an edgy presentation to contemporary consumers.

genX_valleya

Jill Kroesen: I Really Want To Bomb You / Jesus Song

Jill Kroesen

Format: 7″

Label: Infidelity

Country: US

Year: 1980

Price paid: $5

Purchased at: Angry Mom Records, Ithaca NY

“You’ve been fearing the moment so much you didn’t hear the warning ring.”

Jill Kroesen bThe Jill Kroesen story is a complicated and convoluted affair. Suffice it to say she was a late 70s NYC performance artist and composer of some note. This single, along with her 1982 LP ‘Stop Vicious Cycles’, appear to be her only ventures into what could loosely be deemed ‘pop.’

I’d love to know more about how this single came about. There’s got to be a story here. The music is a rambling disjointed thing, while the vocals are ‘less than polished.’ Or to put it bluntly- they kind of suck. No level of conceptual veneer can disguise what’s probably best left unheard.

But, as is the case with many of these nearly-lost gems, the parts are far greater than the whole:

Fred Smith provides bass. He was the original bassist for Blondie and replaced Richard Hell in Television when Hell left to form The Heartbreakers.

Arthur Russell provides cello. He has worked with David Byrne and wrote/produced the first disco single released by Sire Records. He died of AIDS in 1992.

Tony Machine provides drums. He’s got a long rap sheet including working with such acts as The Criminals and David Johansen.

Engineer Jay Burnett is a prolific artist probably best known for his behind-the-scenes remix work for artists such as Kim Wilde, Oingo Boingo, Colourfield, Katrina and the Waves, and Rick Springfield.

The sleeve art was designed by Jill herself. I’m really fond of its crude but honest look. Low budget and ill-conceived, it nonetheless evokes the spirit of the times. Very DIY, very NYC.

Jill Kroesen a

The League of Gentlemen / Robert Fripp: Dislocated / 1984 (January 13th- May 16th)

fripp_league of gentlemen

Format: 7″

Label: Editions EG (EGEDS 2)

Country: UK

Year: 1981

Price paid: $3.50

Purchased at: Angry Mom Records, Ithaca NY

 

The League of Gentlemen were a short-run band comprised of guitarist Robert Fripp (King Crimson), bassist Sara Lee (later of the B-52’s, Gang of Four, and Indigo Girls), keyboardist Barry Andrews (later of Shriekback), and percussionist Johnny Toobad who was replaced late-on by Kevin Wilkinson (Kevin would later join China Crisis and Squeeze.) It is not to be confused with Fripp’s band of the same name from the 60s.

During their brief existence lasting from March to December 1980 they toured widely, amassing enough material for a full LP with spin-off singles and several live/compilation albums the were released later in the decade into the mid 90s. The B-side ‘1984’ is all Fripp, taken from his 1981album ‘Let The Power Fall.’

contemporary gig poster

contemporary gig poster

The League’s sound is certainly not for everyone, being a jaunty rambling free-form highly experimental affair. Very ‘Fripp’, it nonetheless has strong connections- both in terms of personnel as well as stylistically- with the New Wave. Bands such as Flying Lizards undoubtedly borrowed heavily from their intense playful methodology.

The sleeve art is sparse and just a tinge haughty; in that regard it’s representative of the music itself. The salmony-pink color choice lets you know it’s ultimately all in good fun.

 

fripp_league of gentlemen2

Talking Heads: Road To Nowhere / Give Me Back My Name

talkingheads_roadtonowhereFormat: 7″

Label: Sire

Country: US

Year: 1985

Price paid: $2

Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

Well we know where we’re goin’

But we don’t know where we’ve been

‘Road to Nowhere’ was the second single released from Talking Heads’ sixth studio album,1985’s ‘Little Creatures.’ It charted a modest #105 in the US, but #25 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. It fared better in Germany, Ireland, South Africa, and the UK where it rose to #6, but charted highest in New Zealand at #5.

The main sleeve art was designed by Reverend Howard Finster, a pop-influenced naive Georgian artist born in 1916. Finster also designed the art for the iconic ‘Little Creatures’ cover, as well as other Talking Heads releases such as the ‘And She Was’ and ‘The Lady Don’t Mind’ 7″ singles. His nervous fussy swirling imagery helped to define the look of the Heads during this period, Although there is no direct connection, it’s interesting to note that the Tom Tom Club (Frantz and Weymouth side project) also used a roughly analogous (or at least equally fastidious) outsider/naive artist (James Rizzi) several years prior on releases such as ‘Pleasure of Love.’

talkingheads_roadtonowhere2

 

The Shams: Only A Dream / 3 a.m.

shams1

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.

 

shams2

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.

berlin_takemybreath2