pure imagination.

To borrow from the beautiful and sweet gem from 1971’s WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, “pure imagination” are two words (of many) to describe the brilliant Gene Wilder, who passed away today (8.29.2016) at the age of 83.

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Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner, 1986.

 

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Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks, 2007.

Gene Wilder was a comedic genius and then some, from his films with Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor to his Emmy-winning guest spot on WILL & GRACE in 2003 to “Pure Imagination,” that gorgeous piece of music and movie history that will always be with me, at any age.

He was an accomplished actor, screenwriter, singer, author and film director, was nominated for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards.  I love that his first film was BONNIE AND CLYDE (released six months and a day after I was born), though his first big film was 1968’s THE PRODUCERS, which gave him his first Academy Award nod.  And, I had forgotten that he directed and wrote at least four films – and starring in all of them – including 1984’s THE WOMAN IN RED (adapted from the 1976 French film, PARDON MON AFFAIRE).

the woman in red

When I started the FOREVER YOUNG bloggy thing here back in January, I had no intention of posting a song from 1971 on a blog that focuses on music from the 1980s (and some from 1979), unless it had a connection to the 80s (like a reissue or something like that).  And, as much as I love Stevie Wonder, I can’t in good conscience post “I Just Called To Say I Love You” (from THE WOMAN IN RED) as a tribute to Gene Wilder.  That just wouldn’t be right.  So, for Gene, I’m breaking my “rule” today.

pure imaginationThe name of today’s post is taken from that gorgeous song Gene sings in the 1971 masterpiece, WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (all the while maintaining his gift for comedy).  (A link to “Pure Imagination” from the film is attached below).  I believe “Pure Imagination” might be one of the most-covered songs of all-time, and over the years, it has been covered by the likes of Kenny Loggins, Mariah Carey, Jazz great Bob James (who did the TAXI theme), and even Primus back in 2014 for their album, PRIMUS & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY WITH THE FUNGI ENSEMBLE.  I’d say my favorite modern version of “Pure Imagination” is a lush 2013 cover by Fiona Apple.

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Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, 1989.

While I am saddened by the loss of Gene Wilder, I am grateful for the movies and memories he leaves behind, and I think it’s pretty cool we were on the same planet for nearly 50 years. R.I.P. Gene, and many, many thanks. You’re missed already…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVi3-PrQ0pY

gene wilder

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song of the day – “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” | THE POWER STATION | 1985.

What do you do when one of your favorite bands splits up and goes their separate ways?  Well, in the case of Talking Heads, you keep listening to the music you fell in love with, enjoy the solo projects they all have, and keep wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ that they’ll get back together for a reunion tour (or just watch STOP MAKING SENSE again). 

In the case of The Police, you keep listening to the music you fell in love with, enjoy the solo projects they all have, and see them on their 2007 reunion tour (like I did), because it’ll prolly never happen again.

And, in the case of Duran Duran in 1985 – one of the first bands that meant a lot to me during the early 80s – you keep hoping they’ll get back together in some form and keep listening to the music you fell in love with.  Duran Duran actually made it easy.  After their 1983 album, SEVEN AND THE RAGGED TIGER, the band went on a “planned” hiatus, splitting into two side projects, but not without giving us the live ARENA album and their second No. 1 song, “A View To A Kill,” from the James Bond film of the same name. 

arcadiaband

Arcadia: Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor.

Frontman and lead singer Simon LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor went on to form Arcadia, which was reminiscent of their work with Duran Duran.  Bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor went a different route with their band, what would become the “supergroup” The Power Station.

The Power Station had an edgier Rock / Funk sound that John and Andy Taylor weren’t able to pull off with Duran Duran.  In 1984, Bebe Buell, singer and former model, part-time Portlander and the biological mother to actress Liv Tyler, was dating John Taylor, and she wanted to do a cover of T. Rex’s 1972 classic, “Get It On (Bang A Gong).”  John proceeded to get some of his famous music friends together to help out, and instead, it turned into something more.

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Bebe Buell and John Taylor.

John and Andy reached out to their idols from the 70s Dance/Soul band, Chic.  The amazing Tony Thompson was on board as the drummer, and Bernard Edwards would be the producer.  Now, they needed a singer.  John and Andy approached folks like Billy Idol, Mick Jagger, Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs and Mick Ronson, who had worked with David Bowie and Morrissey. 

Originally the band was to be called Big Brother, and the initial idea was to have a revolving door of lead singers, each one singing on a different track on the album.  English singer / songwriter Robert Palmer – who had released several albums since 1975, but with limited success around the globe – had performed live with Duran Duran once in 1983, and was the invited vocalist for the song, “Communication.”  Robert had heard they were doing a cover of “Get It On” and wanted to try out for it, and instead, the band ended up doing the whole album with Robert Palmer.

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The Power Station: Tony Thompson, John Taylor, Robert Palmer and Andy Taylor.

The entire band – Robert Palmer on vocals, John Taylor on bass, Andy Taylor on guitar, and Tony Thompson on those amazing drums – appeared on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE on February 16, 1985, and were introduced to the world.  And from there, The Power Station was a hit, as was their self-titled album, which was certified Gold in the U.K. and reached the Top 10 on the BILLBOARD album chart. 

the power station LPThe “supergroup” also had three Top 40 singles on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “Some Like It Hot” (No. 6 for 2 weeks, May 1985), their cover of “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” (No. 9 for 2 weeks, August 1985, surpassing the No. 10 peak of the T. Rex original) and “Communication” (No. 34 for 2 weeks, October 1985).  (“Get It On” also reached No. 22 in the U.K., and No. 8 in Australia.) 

For those keeping score, The Power Station did fare better overall than the other equally short-lived Duran Duran side project, Arcadia, whose album, SO RED THE ROSE, was certified Platinum here in the U.S., and they had a couple of Top 40 singles – “Election Day” (No. 6, 1985) and “Goodbye Is Forever” (No. 33), as well as a MTV video hit with “The Flame.”

By the end of 1985, The Power Station was no more.  But, the experience breathed new Addicted_to_Lovelife and then some into Robert Palmer’s career.  Before the year was out, his eighth studio album, RIPTIDE, was released (recruiting fellow Power Stationers Bernard Edwards as producer, Andy Taylor on guitar, and Tony Thompson on drums).  It was the biggest album of Robert Palmer’s career.  Remember those memorable drums and that guitar solo on his No. 1 hit, “Addicted To Love?” – it was courtesy of Tony and Andy. 

Tony Thompson went on to provide drum support for some acts, and appeared in a few bands, along with the brief return of Chic in 1992.  John Taylor opted to return to Duran Duran, while Andy Taylor did not return in lieu of a solo career.  Both John and Andy had separate Top 30 singles on the Hot 100 in 1986, and both were movie songs.  Andy Taylor could also be found on other hit singles in the second half of the 80s, providing his guitar talents for several artists, notably on Belinda Carlisle’s “Mad About You” (1986) and “Lost In You” and “Forever Young,” from Rod Stewart’s 1989 album, OUT OF ORDER.

They would all get back together in 1996 for their second album, LIVING IN FEAR, though John Taylor had to drop out of the project and wasn’t on the record.  Bernard Edwards was all set to tour with The Power Station, but tragically died during a trip to Japan.  Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson both sadly passed away in 2003, within a couple months of each other.  Robert had just released a Blues album. 

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Duran Duran, 2015: Roger Taylor, John Taylor, Nick Rhodes Simon LeBon.

Today, Duran Duran is touring in support of their fourteenth studio album, the wonderful PAPER GODS (Andy Taylor did rejoin the band for their 2004 album, ASTRONAUT, but it was not to be, and the other band members have continued on without him).  With my dear friend Shawn, we saw Duran Duran (with Chic opening) in Brooklyn back in April 2016.  Both bands were brilliant, and both paid tribute to David Bowie.  It is one of THE best shows I’ve ever seen in my life.

And “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” is one of THE best covers I’ve ever heard.  You can hear John Taylor’s impressive, funky bass work; Andy Taylor’s killer guitar; the booming drums courtesy of Tony Thompson; and, the memorable, passionate vocals of Robert Palmer.  One of the things I loved most about The Power Station – and you can especially hear it on this song – is that every member of the “supergroup” is represented, and they never let you forget that… 

get it on

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2vHbXI2p4k

the power station

song of the day – “Lovesong” | THE CURE | 1989.

Amazing as it sounds, Goth Rock heroes The Cure have been together 40 years this year.  And in their U.K. homeland, the band – led by singer, guitarist and songwriter Robert Smith – has amassed 34 hits on the U.K. singles chart.  Out of those 34 hits, 23 reached the Top 40, and four of those reached the Top 10.  Their highest-charting U.K. single to date is “Lullaby,” a No. 5 hit from The Cure’s eighth studio album, DISINTEGRATION.

disintegration

Over here in the U.S., The Cure hasn’t fared as well as in their own country, but they’ve done alright for themselves, with three Gold records and five Platinum and Multi-Platinum records to their credit, as well as placing 14 songs on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1985’s “Inbetween Days” and 1996’s “Mint Car.”  And, along the way, three of those songs also managed to reach the Top 40 of the Hot 100 – 1987’s “Just Like Heaven” (No. 40), 1992’s “Friday I’m In Love” (No. 18), and on this week in 1989, they debuted with their second Top 40 hit, “Lovesong” (also from DISINTEGRATION).

“Lovesong” debuted in the Top 40 the same week as three other great songs – “Bust A Move” by Young M.C., “Runnin’ Down A Dream” by Tom Petty and “Don’t Look Back” by Fine Young Cannibals.  And “Lovesong” would surprise them all.

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The Cure’s Robert Smith, from the “Lovesong” video.

Out of all the songs on DISINTEGRATION, “Lovesong” is the fastest.  It was also written by Robert Smith as a wedding present for his then-fiancée, Mary Poole.  As for writing a love song, Robert Smith said, in a 2005 interview, “It’s an open show of emotion.  It’s not trying to be clever.  It’s taken me ten years to reach the point where I feel comfortable singing a very straightforward love song.”

As for the song’s place on DISINTEGRATION, in the same interview, Robert Smith said that, without “Lovesong,” the album would have taken on a whole different feel: “That one song, I think, makes many people think twice.  If that song wasn’t on the record, it would be very easy to dismiss the album as having a certain mood.  But throwing that one in sort of upsets people a bit because they think, ‘That doesn’t fit’.”

lovesong

“Lovesong” would spend a week at No. 2 on the Hot 100 in October 1989, held off from No. 1 by Janet Jackson’s huge hit, “Miss You Much.”  It would also reach No. 2 on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart and No. 27 on the Mainstream Rock chart.  Around the globe, “Lovesong” reached No. 18 in the U.K., No. 13 in Ireland, the Top 30 in Canada and Germany, and the Top 40 in New Zealand.  It’s also been covered by the American Rock band 311 for the 2004 Adam Sandler film, 50 FIRST DATES, and in 2011 by the biggest pop star on the planet right now, Adele.

Though they haven’t released a studio album since 2008, The Cure toured this year (including Tin Machine guitarist Reeves Gabrels on guitar), playing Boston in June 2016 on a tour that promised “37 years of Cure songs, mixing hits, rarities, favourites, and as yet unreleased tracks in a brand new stage production.”

Over 20 years of hosting and producing STUCK IN THE 80s, my little 80s radio show on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine, “Lovesong” has consistently been one of THE most-requested songs in the show’s history.  Though not my favorite song by The Cure, I still have the import Fiction Records 12” single and the domestic Elektra Records CD single, and to borrow from the song’s lyrics, it’s a song of which I can safely say, “However long I stay, I will always love you…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXCKLJGLENs

the cure

song of the day – “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” | PAUL SIMON | 1986 / 1987.

Today (8.25.2016) marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Paul Simon’s seventh solo studio album and masterpiece, GRACELAND.  After Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel parted ways in 1970, Paul embarked on a successful solo career in the 1970s, picking up multiple Gold and Platinum albums, five Top 10 hits on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 – including two No. 2 hits (1973’s “Kodachrome” and “Love Me Like A Rock”), and a No. 1 single (1975’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”). 

The first half of the 80s were not as good to Paul Simon – his 1980 film and soundtrack for ONE TRICK PONY did not fare well (though “Late In The Evening” reached the Top 10), nor did his follow-up album, HEARTS AND BONES.  Paul’s marriage to Carrie Fisher (HEARTS AND BONES was about their relationship) lasted less than a year (they had dated for six years before that).

Sometime after the divorce, Paul Simon became interested and intrigued by the music of South Africa.  Before leaving with his co-producer, Roy Halee, for a two-week trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, to work with musicians there, he was talked into contributing to the historic recording of “We Are The World” (Paul was the third person to sing on the song). 

we are the world

From the day “We Are The World” was recorded: Clockwise from left: Lionel Richie, Daryl Hall, Quincy Jones, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder.

At that recording, Paul asked the charity song’s organizers, Quincy Jones (who produced the song) and Harry Belafonte, if he should make the trip (it was right around the time of the Apartheid backlash and “Sun City”), and they both encouraged him to go.  Personally, I don’t think Paul Simon broke any “cultural boycott” in recruiting South African musicians for the recording of GRACELAND.  If anything, I think he just wanted to share what he discovered with the rest of the world.  And share he did.

GRACELAND would win the Grammy Award for Album Of The Year, it would reach No. 3 on BILLBOARD’s album chart and has sold more than 16 million copies worldwide since its release.  In 2007, GRACELAND was added to the National Recording Registry, for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important.”

graceland

The response to GRACELAND was unbelievable – it was universally loved by fans and critics alike.  ROLLING STONE’s Rob Tannebaum called GRACELAND “lovely, daring and accomplished.”  The magazine would later say that GRACELAND is “an album about isolation and redemption that transcended ‘world music’ to become the whole world’s soundtrack.”  High praise indeed.

Musicians were also mesmerized by GRACELAND.  The late, great Joe Strummer of The Clash brilliantly said this about the album in a 1988 interview: “I don’t like the idea that people who aren’t adolescents make records.  Adolescents make the best records.  Except for Paul Simon.  Except for GRACELAND.  He’s hit a new plateau there, but he’s writing to his own age group.  GRACELAND is something new.  That song to his son [“That Was Your Mother”] is just as good as ‘Blue Suede Shoes’: ‘Before you were born dude when life was great.’  That’s just as good as ‘Blue Suede Shoes,’ and that is a new dimension.”Diamondssoles

The fourth single released from GRACELAND is the gorgeous “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes,” with guest vocals by South African choral music legends Ladysmith Black Mambazo, an act that’s been around since 1960 and still going strong today.  GRACELAND introduced the rest of the world (and yours truly) outside of South Africa to Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

While in South Africa, Paul Simon wrote this song with Joseph Shabalala of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  Paul finished the album in New York City, but not without bringing the South African artists back with him.  And on May 10, 1986, Ladysmith Black Mambazo performed (singing in Zulu) with Paul on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.  The Zulu to English translation is, “It’s not usual, but in our days we see those things happen.  They are women, they can take care of themselves.”  Yes they can!

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Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, SNL, 5.10.1986.

Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour (who would also work with Peter Gabriel in 1986, notably on “In Your Eyes”) helped provide percussion on “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes,” which wasn’t really a hit anywhere, save for a Top 30 ranking in Belgium in 1987, though it’s always been a hit with me. 

It’s hard to believe GRACELAND is now 30, and harder to believe Paul Simon is turning 75 this year, in October 2016.  But, not at all hard to believe is how GRACELAND and songs like “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” have aged well and both will be shining like those diamonds for a long, long time to come…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-I_T3XvzPaM

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(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “I Still Want You” | THE DEL FUEGOS | 1986.

Between late 1979 and the end of 1989, there were nearly 500 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just one time, a list that includes Soft Cell, Gary Numan, Timbuk 3, The Church, Bronski Beat, Nik Kershaw, The Buggles, The Waitresses, Ultravox and two different bands named The Silencers.  Once a week, I’ll highlight a (real) one-hit wonder for you.

The 4-man Rock band The Del Fuegos were formed in Boston in 1980, and were comprised of Tom Lloyd (bass), Woody Giessmann (drums), and brothers Warren Zanes (guitars) and Dan Zanes (guitars / vocals). 

The band paid their dues and played wherever they could – bars, lofts, art galleries, clubs, frat houses, gymnasiums and even a state prison, which, over the years led to bigger venues like auditoriums and bigger theaters.

In 1984, the band released their debut album, THE LONGEST DAY, on Slash / Warner Bros. Records.  ROLLING STONE magazine named the band the Best New Band of 1984.  Tom Petty was apparently a fan (the band opened for him on one of his tours), as was Bruce Springsteen, who jumped on stage with them at one show to play the 60s classic, “Hang On Sloopy.”boston mass

The Del Fuegos were even in a Miller beer commercial in 1985.  Later that year, the band’s second album (of four) would become their biggest album – BOSTON, MASS.  Released in 1985, BOSTON, MASS. featured the singles “Don’t Run Wild” and “I Still Want You,” the latter of which became the band’s lone hit on the BILLBOARD Hot 100. 

For months, the momentum for BOSTON, MASS. continued to build, and in late May 1986, “I Still Want You” made its debut on the Hot 100 at No. 96.  I remember the first time I heard the song, I initially thought the vocals belonged to Billy Idol, who I love, and once I realized who The Del Fuegos were, I went out and picked up the album.

horny mixYears later, I was excited to find the 45 of “I Still Want You” at a record show in Portland, Maine, and had to laugh, because it was an alternate version of the album version – it was called the “Horny Mix.”  It wasn’t anything sexual, it was a play on words, just meaning there were horns added to the mix.  Funny guys.  (You can even hear the horn section in the video.)

“I Still Want You” spent a couple weeks at No. 87 in June 1986 and was gone from the Hot 100 after just four weeks.  The following year, The Del Fuegos released their third album on Slash, STAND UP, which did not not fare as well as BOSTON, MASS., and Warner Bros. dropped them from the label.  The relationship of the Zanes brothers over time was strained, and after they lost their record deal, Warren Zanes and drummer Woody Giessmann left the band. 

Dan Zanes and bassist Tom Lloyd picked up a couple new members for the band, and they released their fourth album, 1989’s SMOKING IN THE FIELDS, on RCA Records.  Though the album did almost as well on the BILLBOARD album chart as BOSTON, MASS., the band broke up within a year, and of the experience, Dan Zanes said, “The ‘80s were over, we were over.”

After the demise of The Del Fuegos, in 1995, Dan Zanes would release a children’s album (as Dan Zanes and Friends), which won a Grammy Award.  Warren Zanes earned himself two Master’s Degrees and a Ph.D. in Visual and Cultural Arts, and is currently the Vice President of Education at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (didn’t know there was such a thing, but that’s pretty cool).  Original bassist Tom Lloyd also earned himself a Ph.D., in Envrionmental Engineering, from CalTech in 1999, and original drummer Woody Giessmann founded Right Turn in 2003, a rehab program to help fellow artists with drug addiction and other mental health issues.

i still want you uk

Cover art for the U.K. single version of “I Still Want You.”

For a couple of dates in June 2011, the band got back together for the first time in 21 years for two performances at the famed Paradise Rock Club in Boston, Mass., where the shows raised money for Woody’s Right Turn rehab program.  That led to a reunion tour in 2012 and an 8-song EP titled SILVER STAR. 

Whether or not you consider “I Still Want You” a hit or the band as a (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s, one thing’s for sure – The Del Fuegos were a great Rock band, and a band (and song) I still want in my record library forever…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0bAX_iQ2rY

song of the day – “Paranoimia” | THE ART OF NOISE with MAX HEADROOM | 1986.

Up until a few minutes ago, I was unsure as to what today’s “song of the day” would be, but, with the help of my dear and sensationally-talented friend, Hope, she suggested I find out what was No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 30 years ago today (8.23), and it was Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach.”  Then, I looked further down the chart, and noticed one of my favorite acts was climbing the chart at No. 80 – “Paranoimia” by The Art Of Noise with Max Headroom.  And we both decided it was the right choice.  Thank you Hope!

The Art Of Noise, London’s premier Avant-Garde / Synthpop masters, had already scored their first Hot 100 hit a month earlier, in July 1986, with their brilliant (and Grammy-winning) cover of “Peter Gunn” (No. 50, with Duane Eddy). in visible silence

Both “Peter Gunn” and “Paranoimia” were from the band’s second album, IN VISIBLE SILENCE.  And, while the ol’ memory is a bit foggy, I believe “Paranoimia” also introduced me to Max Headroom, a witty, computer-generated, sharply-dressed, Wayfarer-sporting character voiced by American-Canadian actor Matt Frewer (who chose the MARY TYLER MOORE character of Ted Baxter – the shallow, annoying, funny, trying to be serious but really not, goofy news anchorman; played so well by the late Ted Knight – as the inspiration for Max Headroom’s demeanor).

In five short weeks, the sweet quirkiness of “Paranoimia” had already surpassed the peak of “Peter Gunn,” and the following week, it became the band’s first U.S. Top 40 hit.  For “Paranoimia,” The Art Of Noise not only recorded an extended mix of “Paranoimia” (as most acts in the 80s were doing in 1986), but each version had a different recorded vocal track with Max Headroom. 

The 12” mix features Max Headroom as a master of ceremonies, talking mainly about the music and his band, which he claimed included Peter O’Toole (trumpets), the Pope (drums), Martina Navratilova (bass), and on mic, “the lovely Cher!”

The 7” mix featured Max Headroom’s monologue about being scared and unable to sleep (“paranoimia” – or, the merging of “paranoia” and “insomnia”).  The 7” mix spent a week at No. 34 in early October 1986 and spent nearly three months on the Hot 100, while the 12” mix reached No. 14 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.

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The special limited edition U.K. picture disc of “Paranoimia.”

Around the globe, “Paranoimia” was a Top 10 hit in Holland and New Zealand, a Top 20 hit in the U.K., Belgium and Ireland, and reached the Top 40 in Canada and Germany.  

The Art Of Noise would reach the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 one more time, with their excellent 1988 cover of Prince’s “Kiss” (with Tom Jones).  It peaked at No. 31. 

catch the wave

After the success of “Paranoimia,” the character of Max Headroom would become the spokesperson for New Coke (not that disastrous 1985 replacement attempt, but “New Coke” AFTER the return of Coca-Cola Classic) – remember the “Ca-ca-ca-ca-ca-catch the wave!” ad campaign?  He was also the namesake of a dramatic sci-fi TV show for two seasons (14 episodes) from 1987-1988 – MAX HEADROOM, which starred Matt Frewer (in two roles), and also starred gifted award-winning actor Jeffrey Tambor and the lovely British actress Amanda Pays (who reprised her role from the 1986 British version of the show for the American version). max headroom

For the most part, both The Art Of Noise and Max Headroom have been away from the spotlight for many years, but for about a quarter of 1986, they teamed up and invaded radios and record stores and dance clubs with one of the quirkiest singles ever and one of the best one-time collaborations ever.  And, for that, I’m forever grateful.  You know, maybe if I have trouble sleeping again tonight, I can put this on for inspiration.  Nah, if I do that, I’ll prolly just stay up dancing all night…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6epzmRZk6UU

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song of the day – “Road To Nowhere” | TALKING HEADS | 1985.

Tonight (8.21.2016) on STUCK IN THE 80s, my 20-year-old radio program on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine (and what my dear friend Michelle kindly refers to as “the best little 80s show on the planet”), it’s a show called “Road To Nowhere,” inspired by the 1985 Talking Heads song of the same name.  I’ll be featuring songs about roads, streets, boulevards, avenues, highways and other destinations unknown (thank you Missing Persons). 

road to nowhere 8.21.16

I’ve thought about doing a “Road To Nowhere” theme show for some time, and now that I’m officially in the last half-year of STUCK IN THE 80s, other theme shows I’ve long thought about doing will be airing on a radio or computer sometime soon. 

In the first half of 1985, the best year of my youth, I wasn’t much of a Talking Heads fan, save for “Burning Down The House.”  But, LITTLE CREATURES, released the week after I graduated from high school, changed all that.  There were no Top 40 hits from the album (although “And She Was” came close), yet the songs were everywhere, like the aforementioned “And She Was,” “The Lady Don’t Mind,” “Stay Up Late,” “Television Man” and “Road To Nowhere.”

little creatures

“Road To Nowhere” was written by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, it is the closing song on LITTLE CREATURES, and, according to the liner notes of the band’s ONCE IN THE LIFETIME set, a song David Byrne wanted to write “that presented a resigned, even joyful look at doom, at our deaths and at the apocalypse… (always looming, folks).  I think it succeeded.  The front bit, the white gospel choir, is kind of tacked on, ’cause I didn’t think the rest of the song was enough…  I mean, it was only two chords.  So, out of embarrassment, or shame, I wrote an intro section that had a couple more in it.”

road to nowhereThough it just missed reaching the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “Road To Nowhere” has been part of our culture’s road ever since.  The music video was co-directed by David Byrne and Stephen R. Johnson, who directed the “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time” videos for Peter Gabriel in 1986.  The video for “Road To Nowhere” was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for Best Video Of The Year (losing out to Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing”).  The song has also appeared in films like 1994’s REALITY BITES, and has been covered by many acts over the years, including Nouvelle Vague (the 80s Bossa Nova covers sensation from Paris) and Manchester’s A Cappella masters, The Flying Pickets.

Around the globe, “Road To Nowhere” reached No. 5 in New Zealand, No. 6 in the U.K., Germany and Ireland, No. 10 in Holland, No. 16 in Australia and No. 25 on BILLBOARD’s Rock chart.

In the 1985 ROLLING STONE review for LITTLE CREATURES, Rob Tannenbaum says of “Road To Nowhere”: “[David] Byrne admits that he’s lost, but wanders happily toward nowhere because he’s got company.  You can hear him smiling, and he doesn’t seem to care too much whether we follow or not.”  Well, I’ve been following Talking Heads for a long time, and while I still hold out hope for a reunion tour that will never happen, I’ll continue to follow them on that road to nowhere, or anywhere.  And baby, it’s all right…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWtCittJyr0

TALKING HEADS ARCHIVE PHOTO

Talking Heads, from the 1985 SPIN magazine photo shoot.