Episode 16 – Songs from 1985
0:00 – New Wave news
5:24 – New Wave songs from 1985
New Wave News
Soft Cell’s Last Show
First up, Soft Cell will be reuniting… for literally one concert. And then they will allegedly be broken up forever. In a statement, singer Marc Almond said the concert will help close “unfinished business”. They will be playing September 30 at London’s roughly 20,000-seat O2 arena. I am guessing that will be a pretty hot ticket. Marc Almond last year released an album with ‘60s crooner-style covers dubbed “Shadow and Reflections”. According to Songkick he has 30+ concerts coming up. But as I said, just one as Soft Cell. After their 1st dissolution in 1984, the band had had only 1 reunion and tour, which was around 2001.
Dave Stewart mentioned to the news outlet the List that he would like to team up with Annie Lennox to reform Eurythmics. Though he would love to do live shows again as the band, Stewart emphasized that he does not want to record new music. I am not sure if Annie Lennox would be receptive to the idea. The band has not performed live or released a new album since 1999’s “Peace”, almost 20 years ago. I listened to some of their songs live and I must say they sound very good; highly recommended. Besides the Grammy’s in 2014 Lennox has not had a concert in 6 years.
Chris Difford Memoir
Chris Difford of Squeeze talked with the Sandusky Register about his upcoming book “Some Fantastic Place”, which will be released in October. The book shares a title with a 1993 Squeeze song and album. The song was about their friend who had passed away recently. The preliminary reviews so far for the book are pretty good! According to Mail on Sunday, “With hilarious honesty, Squeeze’s frontman reveals how his pop career went well and truly Up The Junction!”. Though Difford told the register that fellow Squeeze member and longtime collaborator Glenn Tilbrook was not so thrilled about the book, though he would not go into details about why.
Kim Wilde’s Rise
Team Rock had an interesting article about the serendipitous Kim Wilde became a star with the song “Kids in America” in 1981. This song was written by Kim’s brother Ricky, who was heavily influenced at the time by various punk and new wave bands. Progressive rock drummer Chris North wound up playing on Kim Wilde’s first album, including “Kids in America”. Kim mentioned of her dad, who helped out with the track: “My dad’s head went into a fantasy, this idea of everything being better in America,” says Kim. This provided some of the inspiration for writing the song. Give the article a read!
OMD Goes Truly Orchestral
OMD have been around for 40 years now, and they are going to celebrate in style. They will be performing with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra this October 6 and 7. They had previously performed together 9 years ago. I think this has potential to be a great show, as I really liked when fellow new waver Falco had a symphonic tour in the ‘90s. OMD is expected of course to play their ‘80s hits and songs off their new album, but also some others that have may not have gotten a lot of live love previously. Richard Haswell, the Philharmonic’s Head of Programme, mentioned that they have done some great cross-genre collaborative performances before. Tickets are on sale now.
Ric Ocasek Art
Ric Ocasek, lead singer of the Cars, also makes paintings. In fact, he recently appeared at a mall in Bethesda to show off his work, titled the “Abstract Reality” collection. He had been making artwork ever since he was a child. In speaking with NBC Washington, Ocasek described painting as “sort of meditative”. However, they never saw the light of day until the owner of the Wentworth Gallery convinced Ocasek to show them off. In looking at his artwork on the Wentworth Gallery site, most of it is indeed abstract, though there is a portrait of Andy Warhol that is interesting.
David Byrne’s recent single “Everybody’s Coming to My House” has been getting good airplay in Chicago-based radio stations. In fact, in the United States the song just climbed to #8 in the Adult Alternative Songs airplay chart. This is arguably the best chart success for Byrne or Talking Heads since the band broke up in 1992. For his upcoming tour Byrne has tapped various world musicians to support him. This includes acts Perfume Genius, Benjamin Clementine, and Ibeyi in the US leg of the tour. According to news outlet Nonesuch, Byrne “has long championed younger, innovative artists from varied backgrounds. Should be a great show!
New Wave Songs from 1985
1985 was an interesting year in the new wave world. That year new wave and other artists teamed up for a large concert dubbed Live Aid to help combat Ethiopian famine. Around that time there was a lot of change with new wave bands. For example, Duran Duran shrunk to a trio, Depeche Mode changed up their sound, and so on. 1985 had the largest number of new wave bands or artists who had songs in the Billboard year-end charts, I counted over 10.
A-Ha – Take On Me
Let’s start out with “Take on Me” by Norwegian band A-Ha. A-Ha was a little late to the new wave scene, debuting in 1985, but their 1st album “Hunting High and Low” was full of synth-pop goodness. They were influenced by several earlier new wave / new romantic bands, including Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet. Its 1st single “Take On Me” was not only 1 #1 hit in the US, but was in the top 10 in the year-end charts as well. Singer Morten Harket has a high register that can soar with the best of them. The chorus features great vocal range which makes it hard for karaoke, but great singing nevertheless. The synths are effervescent and supplement the vocals nicely. The bridge has a memorable rapid-fire synth section. The drums are somewhat vigorous and remind me of those in Devo’s “Whip It”, covered in my 1981 episode. Judging from the lyrics I think the song might be about a proposed one-night-stand. He tries to convince a love interest to take him on, so to speak, and that “It’s no better to be safe than sorry”. In the chorus Harket sings “I’ll be gone in a day or two”. The music video for “Take On Me” is one of the most famous around, garnering over a ½ billion views on Youtube. It features memorable pencil-sketch animation. In it, a woman is mentally absorbed in a black-and-white comic book featuring Harket. Harket then pulls her in, literally absorbing her in the comic. They go on an adventure, which includes running from a group of guys with wrenches. Spoiler alert: by video’s end Harket’s comic character becomes a real person. A-Ha had some more minor hits through the rest of the ‘80s, kept recording into the 2000s, and after a long hiatus in the 2010s are touring again.
Simple Minds – Don’t You (Forget About Me)
Next up is “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds, hailing from Scotland. Simple Minds actually had been around in 1979, early on in the new wave. Their anthemic rock at times was sometimes compared to U2, but with more of a new wave flair. “Don’t You Forget About Me” was actually around the time of their 8th album, and topped the US charts. This song was featured in the ‘80s classic movie “The Breakfast Club”. Singer Jim Kerr sings in sort of the a middle range and has good presence. At least in this song, Kerr’s delivery reminds me a bit of a lower-pitched Bono. The synth during the verses, while subtle, gives them a lot of their color and thus makes them sound interesting. The chorus has more soaring synths. The drums are pretty good too, sounding military-sounding a little before the outro. I think the song is about a breakup, and the singer’s desire to get back together: to not be forgotten by her. For instance he says that “slow change may pull us apart” but also says “I’ll put us back together at heart” and “It’s my feeling we’ll win in the end”. The narrator sounds a little desperate toward the end, so my guess is his efforts will be futile, but I am curious on your take on this. The video mostly consists of the band performing, along with a few clips from “The Breakfast Club” playing on a television. The room they are in is full of toys and is dimly lit, giving their performance a homey feel. After several more hits in the ‘80s Simple Minds disappeared from the music charts. However they have been making albums and touring ever since, exercising great longevity. For what it is worth, Billy Idol in the 2000s covered “Don’t You Forget About Me, which sounded pretty good.
Tears for Fears – Shout
Let’s now talk about “Shout”, not by the Isley Brothers, but by new wave duo Tears for Fears. Tears for Fears consists of singer, lead guitarist, and synth guru Roland Orzabal and bass guitarist and backup vocalist Curt Smith. Their debut in 1983, having a loose theme of suffering trauma, was naturally followed up by one in 1985 with a loose theme of therapy. Indeed, the 6-minute single “Shout” on the surface may allude to primal scream therapy. It may, on a deeper level, be about expressing oneself and being heard, whether through political protest or in general. About the music: the ominous baseline is quite catchy. The synths sound a little like early Depeche Mode in spots, which is fine by me. The lead guitar toward the end provides a good contrast from the synths. The guest drummer and producer, Chris Hughes, lent his skills from being in Adam ant the Ants. Orzabal has a resonating, powerful voice which adds well to the instrumentation without drowning it out. The video has the band performing in an isolated and picturesque landscape. Halfway through, however, they are performing in a studio and are joined in song by a crowd of men, women, and children. The duo look a little pained in the 1st half when by themselves but look happier when they are joined by the crowd, almost as if singing the song and being in company had a therapeutic effect. It is a powerful, mobilizing, and ultimately uplifting video. “Shout” was good for a #1 in the US and #4 in the UK. That same album later spawned the equally popular single “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. Tears for Fears didn’t have another album until 1989, which made them lose a bit of momentum. After a breakup in the ‘90s the duo came together again and is still touring.
Katrina and the Waves – Walking on Sunshine
4th on our list is “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves. The band reminds me somewhat of the Go-Go’s what with their punkish new wave energy, with a bit of a retro vibe. Originally a ballad released on their debut album in 1983, “Walking on Sunshine” was re-recorded and released as a single in 1985, walking it’s way to a top-10 showing the both the US and UK. The fast drum intro sets the tone for the rest of the song nicely. Indeed, the “Walking on Sunshine” is vigorous in all aspects. Katrina’s vocal enthusiasm is infectious and catches you right away, in particular in singing the song title and subsequent “W-o-o-w!”s. The guitars at the end of each line drive the song further. I think the topic of the song, like the melody is upbeat. The narrator loves someone and feels great when he is around or coming to see her. Indeed, she says “‘Cause I just can’t wait ’til you write me you’re coming around”. Later on she proudly proclaims “I feel the love that’s really real”. There is the possibility that the narrator’s love is unrequited and is in denial, but I am going to go with the “cigar is just a cigar” angle on this one. The video has Katrina dancing around parts of London, interspersed with shots of the band performing in front of a black backdrop. Ironically, the video was recorded on a cloudy day in sometimes-stark-looking parts of town. Perhaps this was intentional, as Katrina looks and feels she is walking on sunshine despite the gloomy weather and environs. Unfortunately Katrina and the Waves were a one-hit wonder, unable to replicate the chart success of “Walking on Sunshine”. The band’s last album was in 1997, though Katrina herself is still out there touring.
Howard Jones – Things Can Only Get Better
Let’s conclude today’s episode with “Things Can Only Get Better” by Howard Jones. The synth-wizard Jones debuted in 1984 with a shimmering set of synth-pop, little guitar to be found. He followed up in 1985 with “Dream into Action”, which contained his largest hit up to that point, “Things Can Only Get Better”. The gloomy synth in the beginning is a good counterpoint to the rest of the song which is upbeat. After all, Jones is saying that things can only get better. The song is straightforward as its a call to keep on moving forward despite success or failure. Like a lot of Jones’ other work, it is a song of positivity. Combined with the melody, this song truly is uplifting. Jones hits some high notes for emphasis and does it quite well, and he sounds passionate and positive. The synths are quite catchy to boot. The horn section throughout the song adds some good variety to the song as there are little to no guitars. The video for “Things Can Only Get Better” has Jones and stage crew preparing for a performance. Jones appears kind of nervous, but in line with the song’s lyrics, he “won’t stop and falter”. At some point Charlie Chaplin enters Jones’ dressing room. About halfway through its showtime and Jones starts performing enthusiastically for the crowd, decked out in orange. His live show looked like a lot of fun! “Things Can Only Get Better” was a top 10 hit in both the US and his native UK. Jones had a big hit the following year with “No One Is To Blame” and had some minor hits into the early ‘90s. He occasionally makes new albums and still tours. In fact, on a personal note, I will be seeing him live in less than two short weeks.