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.
In remembering Prince on the first anniversary of his passing (on April 21), it got me thinking about Wendy & Lisa, his bandmates in The Revolution. During the interviews for the 1986 album, PARADE, and film, UNDER THE CHERRY MOON, Wendy & Lisa felt like they weren’t getting as much of the credit for their work as they deserved. Prince was ultimately unhappy about their feelings, and he convinced Wendy & Lisa to stay until the end of that tour. (Why was it again that I never ventured down to Boston in the 80s to see Prince? Sure beats the hell out of me.)
After the PARADE tour was finished, by October 1986, Prince dissolved The Revolution. Prince went straight to work on his 1987 masterpiece, SIGN “O” THE TIMES, with guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Wendy Melvoin and keyboardist Lisa Coleman venturing out on their own.
In late August 1987, Wendy and Lisa released their self-titled debut album. Wendy and Lisa both shared lead and background vocals, with Wendy on guitar, bass, drums, percussion and organ, and Lisa on keyboards, piano and synthesizer.
It was also quite the family affair. Two members of Lisa’s family helped out on the album, as did two members of Wendy’s family, including her twin sister Susannah and her brother, the late Jonathan Melvoin. Jazz great Tom Scott also provided his saxophone talents, and fellow Revolution member, Bobby Z., co-wrote five of the 11 songs on the album.
The first single released from the album, “Waterfall,” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-September 1987 at No. 80. By early November 1987, “Waterfall” had climbed to a respectable No. 56, where it peaked. It remained on the Hot 100 for 10 weeks, and Wendy & Lisa would not return. It did manage to have some success in parts of Europe, however. In Belgium, it reached No. 15, No. 17 in Holland, and in the U.K., it stopped at No. 66.
For some reason, Wendy & Lisa did not fare well with their solo career over here in the U.S., but over in the U.K., they had much better success. Their first three albums charted there, and they reached the U.K. singles chart nine times between 1987 and 1991, reaching the Top 40 once, with 1989’s “Satisfaction” (an original composition, co-written with Jesse Johnson of The Time).
Between 1987 and 2011, Wendy & Lisa released five full-length albums and one EP, and over the years, they have done session work and / or songwriting for folks like Seal, k.d. lang, Terence Trent D’Arby, Grace Jones, The Three O’Clock, Michael Penn, Eric Clapton, Scritti Politti and many more.
Prolly the biggest post-Prince success Wendy & Lisa have had is for their work scoring films and TV shows. They contributed to the 1992 Robin Williams film, TOYS, and scored the 1995 film, DANGEROUS MINDS, starring Michelle Pfeiffer. One of the songs from their 1987 debut album, “The Life,” was re-recorded and got a new life on that soundtrack as “This Is The Life.”
After DANGEROUS MINDS, Wendy & Lisa scored for TV shows like CROSSING JORDAN, HEROES, MERCY, and NURSE JACKIE, for which they received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music. They were nominated for another Emmy Award in 2012 for the TV show, TOUCH.
In honor of Prince, The Revolution has gotten back together and have started a 24-date tour, which started Friday, April 21 (the one-year anniversary of Prince’s passing) in Minneapolis (Celebration 2017 at Paisley Park). Tonight (4.23.2017), The Revolution – Wendy, Lisa, bassist Mark Brown, drummer Bobby Z, and keyboardist Matt Fink – start a two-night stop in Chicago. I’d, of course, love to see them perform, but the closest they are coming to Maine is NYC. It’s alright – just knowing they are performing together again is good enough for me.
You know, I’ve always loved the song “Waterfall.” Still kinda surprises me that it wasn’t a big hit, but at the very least, I’m glad Wendy & Lisa did find success, and on their own terms.
“People may come, people may go / Just as long as the water’s slow / But watch out when you’re headed for / The waterfall…”