Episode 10 – Songs From 1982
Happy Sunday from New Wave Beat! This is your host, Jason D’Orazio. I will talk about some great songs from 1982, but first let’s see what’s going on in the New Wave world.
0:00 – New Wave News
5:24 – New Wave Songs From 1982
New Wave News
Depeche Mode Book
2 months ago Dennis Burmeister and Sascha Lange released a comprehensive, 400+ page book on all things Depeche Mode called Monument It includes a detailed discussion of all of their singles. Popmatters wrote a glowing review of this book, calling it a completist’s dream while calling it essential reading as well. It also discusses Lange’s experiences as a Depeche Mode fan living in East Berlin during the Cold War. Popmatters pointed out a funny nugget from Monument. A concert review for an early Depeche Mode concert went something like this: “Their sophisticated nonsense succeeds only in emphasising just how hilariously unimaginative they really are.” The reviewer: none other than Morrissey. However, it is safe to say Depeche Mode proved to be a quite adept band.
Duran Duran Demo
Cleopatra Records has released a Duran Duran demo EP from 1979, featuring Andy Wickett, not Simon LeBon on vocals. It features an early version of Girls On Film, what would later become “Rio”, and 2 other songs. I gave it a listen and the songs have more of an edge to them than Duran Duran with Simon LeBon. However, I could not get into Wickett’s vocals. The EP is available as a digital download, as well as on CD and 2 versions of vinyl. Wickett has performed quite a bit since leaving Duran Duran, and is in fact coming out with new music in a couple of months.
New David Byrne Album
As mentioned before, David Byrne is releasing a new album titled “American Utopia”. It comes out in a couple of months. In speaking with Substream Magazine, Byrne said “American Utopia” is about seeing the world we are living in and asking ourselves if we can do better. To whet the fans’ appetite for the album, the lead single “Everybody’s Coming to my House” has been released, along with an animated video. It’s a solid song with the worldly rhythms and tense vocals that you would expect from Talking Heads or David Byrne. Byrne promises his upcoming tour to be quite ambitious.
Howard Jones Tour
Howard Jones will be doing a US tour early this year, dubbed “The Songs and the Stories.” Early last year Jones released a 3-album greatest hits album, which contained some live performances. In talking with Diffuser he mentioned that, in reference to the song “Things Can Only Get Better”, “I think we’re living in times where people need that kind of encouragement.” Rachael Sage will be opening for him, who is a prolific indie musician. She cites Jones and similar artists as influences. I have tickets to see Howard Jones at City Winery in Chicago, which is an intimate venue. I am really looking forward!
Kim Wilde Album
Kim Wilde has announced a new album, and it’s coming out in 2 short months. It is called “Here Come the Aliens”, and will be the 1st album from her in 7 seven years. It will be available digitally, and on CD and vinyl. She will be touring the UK around the same time to support the album, the 1st such tour in 30 years. “Here Come the Aliens” was recorded at RAK studios in London, the same place where she started her career in the early ‘80s. According to Wilde’s Facebook page she has recently been shooting a video or 2, I am assuming to support one or more tracks off “Here Come the Aliens”.
Costello Oscar Nomination?
There is a bit of Oscar buzz around Elvis Costello’s song “You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way”, off the movie“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”. And upon listening the song, I can absolutely see why, as Costello really ups his piano game for this one. Costello is no stranger to making songs for films, as he has had songs in Godfather 3, E.T., among others. He is compiling some of these songs for an album titled “In Motion Pictures”. He had been nominated for an Oscar for “Scarlet Tide” from the movie “Cold Mountain” in 2004, so let’s hope he can be nominated again!
Tears For Fears
News outlet Express and Star had an interesting article about Tears For Fears this past week. In it they talk to singer Roland Orzabal, who is grieving over the loss of his wife last July. He mentioned that work is catharsis in dealing with his loss. Orzabal went on to say that he is flattered by the support of all of their fans for their music, despite not being the most prolific band. The article also has a summary of Tears For Fears’ history, including their acrimonious breakup in 1991 and subsequent reunion about 10 years later. I would recommend giving it a read!
Songs from 1982
Now I would like to dive into some songs from 1982. Synthesizers continued to be more prominent in new wave hits, thanks to Duran Duran, Thomas Dolby, Flock of Seagulls, and others. That being said, there were still other good guitar-oriented new wave songs by the likes of Squeeze, Men at Work, etc.. The key takeaway is that there was plenty of room for all flavors of new wave music.
Toni Basil – Mickey
Alright, let’s kick off our list with “Mickey” by Toni Basil. Basil released her energetic debut album “Word of Mouth” in 1982, which contained “Mickey’. A drum beat at the beginning the song establishes a school marching band or cheerleader feel, done of course with a new wave flair. Instrumentation-wise, a ‘60s organ is played throughout the song and is the highlight of the choruses. This type of organ is a new wave hallmark also done by the likes of Elvis Costello and the B-52s. In the verses, the guitar and drums take center court and have a punkish energy and temp to them. Basil’s vocals are histrionic and aggressive in a good way with vocal inflections this side of Adam Ant. Indeed, the vocals really pump up the intensity of the song. I believe “Mickey” is more straightforward in terms of song meaning. The protagonist has a strong crush on a guy named Mickey. She says “You’re so fine you blow my mind”. Lines like “You take me by the heart when you take me by the hand” and “don’t break my heart” suggest that while the love is not necessarily unrequited, she may like him more than vice versa. The video has Toni Basil dressed like a cheerleader, with her band dressed in all sorts of colors and styles. For instance, one is wearing a Mexican hat and lime green shirt, and another has a mohawk and punk regalia. I must say Basil’s dancing is terrific in the video for “Mickey”. At 38 her dancing was better than many other contemporaries who were mainly in their 20s. In fact, at one point she does a full split. “Mickey” hit the top of the US charts, but unfortunately it would be Toni Basil’s only hit, and she only had 1 more album.
Men At Work – Who Can It Be Now?
Let’s now go over Australian new waver band Men at Work’s “Who Can It Be Now?”. Men at Work, not to be confused with Men Without Hats, started out in 1982 with their album “Business as Usual”. It was influenced by fellow new wavers the Police and the Cars. “Who Can it Be Now?” starts and continues with a 6-note saxophone riff, which is the main hook of the song. There is also a good saxophone section in the bridge. The bass guitar is very good, especially in the verses. Singer Colin Hay starts out singing a little on the mellow side but increases the intensity in the chorus for maximum impact. His voice reminds me a little of Sting’s, strengthening the similarity with the Police. It sounds like “Who Can it Be Now?” is about a paranoid individual who wants to shut himself in his home. The narrator wants visitors to stay away, is afraid that men will take him away, and implores them not to invade his home. Indeed, the singer tries to convince the audience that there is no issue with his state of mental health. The chorus is simple as it consists solely of the title track repeated 4 times, a legacy of the punk era of repetition for emphasis. The video has Colin Hay home alone acting shifty and paranoid, making contorted faces for the camera. A parade of people come to his door, but it is unclear whether or not they are figments of his imagination. The bridge and ending have the band playing live. “Who Can It Be Now” garnered a #45 ranking in the UK but hit the top of the charts across the pond in the US. After a few more albums in the ‘80s and late ‘90s, frontman Colin Hay still tours.
Thomas Dolby – She Blinded Me With Science
Next up let’s talk about “She Blinded Me With Science” by Thomas Dolby. After producing for rap artists Whodini and new waver Lene Lovich, Dolby released his 1st album, which contained “Science”. “She Blinded Me With Science” was an out-of-left-field, eccentric hit. That is one of the things I like about New Wave is that it was more open to experimentation than some of the other subgenres. Dolby’s synthesizers in “She Blinded Me With Science” have many layers and fit each other well. Appropriately, these synths kind of have a sci-fi, mad scientist vibe to them. Throughout there is an ominous 4-note synth riff followed by Magnus Pyke yelling “Science”, adding to the quirkiness. Dolby’s “Ha”s and “Mmm”s and a female high-pitched vocal saying the song’s title contribute as well. Dolby’s tense, occasionally over-the-top vocals remind me a bit of Talking Heads’ David Byrne, which I like. The lyrics are quite tongue-in-cheek but I think they are about the scientist narrator falling for another scientist. Lines like “Good heavens Miss Sagamoto, you’re beautiful” suggest this. According to the lyrics, his love interest failed him in biology and other subjects, so the song suggests Dolby is more junior-level than her. The self-directed video is… interesting. It features Thomas Dolby as a patient in a mental asylum. A psychologist subjects him to therapy and a series of tests. He has eyes for a woman that is part of the asylum team, and imagines himself dancing with her. By video’s end Dolby gets his comeuppance against the psychologist. “She Blinded Me With Science” was a top ten hit in the US but oddly didn’t do nearly as well in his native UK. Dolby was not the most prolific artist but had some good albums later on, though he veered somewhat from his synth-pop format.
Adam Ant – Goody 2 Shoes
Next up is the upbeat sounding “Goody 2 Shoes” by Adam Ant. Adam Ant started off as a punk singer, then transitioned to a more new wave sound with his band Adam and the Ants. In 1982 he went solo again, and released “Goody 2 Shoes”. “Goody 2 Shoes” has 3 major instrumental elements throughout the song. The 1st 2 are a strong drum beat and Marco Pirroni’s guitar, carryovers from Ant’s earlier work. The third is a cheerful horn section, more prominent in “Goody 2 Shoes” and most of the “Friend or Foe” album for that matter. Adam Ant’s vocals are energetic, though not quite as intense as when he was with Adam and the Ants. The song is about Adam Ant’s feud with the press during his Adam and the Ants days, as well as the beginning of his solo career. He says that the media insistently tries to dig dirt on him, as evidenced by the lines “don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?” and the press’ insistence that “there must be something inside”. Another theme is that the press likes to quickly proclaim artists stars and then proceed to tear them down. There are The video is hilarious as Adam Ant is playfully mocking the media, his fans, and even himself. Like the song, the video has the theme of Adam vs the media, but it adds a plot of him successfully seducing one of the reporters. By the end of the song, she is chasing him to his bedroom, and the rest is left up to the viewer’s imagination. Goody Two Shoes made a goody run up the charts, being a #1 in the UK and #13 in the US. Adam Ant would have another American hit with Wonderful in 1995 and returned to a music scene several years ago after a long absence in part due to personal problems.
Flock of Seagulls – I Ran
Let’s conclude our retrospective of 1982 with Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran”. Flock of Seagulls released their self-titled debut in 1982. “I Ran” was the fourth single off this album but was the biggest hit, similar to the Human League’s situation with “Don’t You Want Me”. The song begins with a half-minute intro featuring a space-age-sounding synth. This synth permeates throughout “I Ran”. A short, fast guitar riff is also a highlight of the song, along with a guitar section during the bridge. Mike Score, the vocalist and keyboardist, has a nasal, slightly-detached vocal style, the latter of which matches the futuristic-sounding instruments well. The lyrics for “I Ran” are not extensive. I think “I Ran” is about being smitten with a woman, but being afraid of his love for her. The narrator describes her beauty; for instance, “The kind of eyes that hypnotize me through”. But then he talks about running so far away, showing his fear. As it stands, he cannot escape his feelings for her. There is an alternate theory that the song is about being abducted by aliens, but I think in this case a cigar is just a cigar. The video for “I Ran” is pretty basic: it has the band performing in what seems like a hall of mirrors. The camera gives the impression that the room is rotating. A futuristically-dressed woman appears, corresponding to the narrator’s love interest. However this is de-emphasized in the video and I would have liked to see more about the relationship. But then again, I am biased against videos that lack a narrative. “I Ran”, well, ran it’s way to the top 10 in the US. As far as other songs are concerned, Flock of Seagulls had a few minor hits but nothing approaching “I Ran”. The song was later covered by diverse artists such as Tori Amos and Bowling for Soup.