The Boomtown Rats “The Fine Art of Surfacing” released 40 years ago today, October 9th, 1979 (at least I’m pretty sure it was – Wikipedia’s date of June 2nd 1979 is most definitely incorrect as virtually every other website says October). Post-punk/new wave with a heavy dose of organ and sneer, The Fine Art of Surfacing was Boomtown Rats’ third album and it went to #7 on the UK charts. The record has the Rats most famous track, “I Don’t Like Mondays,” which went to #1 in the UK and to #73 in the US as the lead single from the album. It received pretty decent airplay on US radio stations, though not so much in San Diego as the subject of the song was a 1979 school shooting that occurred in that city by Brenda Ann Spencer, who gave the reason for her violence as “I don’t like Mondays.” That song is a classic, but also great are “Someone’s Looking at You” (#4 UK), a song about Bob Geldof’s burgeoning infamy with political activism; “Diamond Smiles” (#13 UK), a track about suicide; and the spacey new wave song “Wind Chill Factor (Minus Zero).” Our version of The Fine Art of Surfacing seems to be an original as it has hidden tracks – Side A is a bunch of creepy laughing that goes through the run-out groove and Side B has a weird voice saying “That concluded episode three. We will return…” with then a door or something closing.
Depeche Mode “Some Great Reward” released on this date, September 24th, 1984. Mute Records. I bought this album in either late ‘84 or early ‘85 during the height of my Brit new wave/synth pop obsession and while not my favorite Depeche Mode album, it certainly still gives me all the feels with its dark industrial beats, minor chords and borderline sinister content.
Some Great Reward was Depeche Mode’s fourth album and it reached #5 in the UK and #54 in the US. The first single, “People are People,” was released about six months prior, in March of ‘84, and became DM’s breakthrough in the US market where it hit #13 (and #4 in UK) with the support of its video on heavy rotation on MTV – where I saw it and was instantly in love. The sado-maschocistic industrial dance track “Master and Servant” was the second single from Some Great Reward and, despite the controversy surrounding its material and ban on many US radio stations (I guess the synthesized whips and chains were a bit too over the top for our tender ears), it made it to #87 on the US charts and #9 in the UK. The last two singles were actually a double A-side of “Blasphemous Rumors” and “Somebody.” “Blasphemous Rumors” is, to me, their most disturbing song and one that I often find unlistenable, not because it’s bad but because it’s ridiculously painful. “Somebody” – notable for being the first DM single sung by Martin Gore (reportedly recorded nude) is also painful, but in a completely different way – it’s the desperate agony and ache of love vs. the devastation of depression, sickness, death and loss of faith.
Allmusic says about Some Great Reward “The peak of the band’s industrial-gone-mainstream fusion, and still one of the best electronic music albums yet recorded, Some Great Reward still sounds great, with the band’s ever-evolving musical and production skills matching even more ambitious songwriting from Martin Gore. “People Are People” appears here, but finds itself outclassed by some of Depeche Mode’s undisputed classics, most especially the moody, beautiful “Somebody,” a Gore-sung piano ballad that mixes its wit and emotion skillfully; “Master and Servant,” an amped-up, slamming dance track that conflates sexual and economic politics to sharp effect; and the closing “Blasphemous Rumors,” a slow-building anthemic number supporting one of Gore’s most cynical lyrics, addressing a suicidal teen who finds God only to die soon afterward. Even lesser-known tracks like the low-key pulse of “Lie to Me” and the weirdly dreamy “It Doesn’t Matter” showcase an increasingly confident band. Alan Wilder’s arrangements veer from the big to the stripped down, but always with just the right touch, such as the crowd samples bubbling beneath “Somebody” or the call/response a cappella start to “Master and Servant.” With Reward, David Gahan’s singing style found the métier it was going to stick with for the next ten years, and while it’s never gone down well with some ears, it still has a compelling edge to it that suits the material well.”
Re-blogging myself – Depeche Mode “Some Great Reward” released 35 years ago today, September 24th, 1984.
The Cars “Shake It Up” 1981. I’m spinning The Cars’ fourth LP in honor of Ric Ocasek who died yesterday at age 75 (b. Richard Otcasek 1944, d. September 15th, 2019). Ocasek wrote almost all of the tracks on Shake It Up (he shares writing credits with Cars’ keyboardist Greg Hawkes on “This Could Be Love”) and was the lead vocalist on six of the nine tracks on the album. Those tracks include all of the US-released singles (Benjamin Orr sings lead on the UK-only single “Think It Over”): “Shake It Up” was the first single and became their first US Top 10 hit (#4 on Billboard’s Hot 100, also charting at #2 on the Top Tracks chart and #14 on the Disco Top 80 chart) and its B-side, “Cruiser” (sung by Orr) also charted, going to #37 on the Top Tracks chart.Other singles from Shake It Up included “Since You’re Gone” (#41 US, #37 UK) and “Victim of Love” (#39 on the US Mainstream Rock chart). Those singles are my favorite songs from Shake It Up – it’s a pretty decent album overall: I also like the non-single, Tubeway Army-ish track “A Dream Away” and the swirling, almost Cure-like post-punkish (never thought I’d compare The Cars and The Cure) “Maybe Baby,” but I’m not crazy about the ballad “I’m Not the One,” which is a somewhat sappy simplistic synth light pop track.
The Stranglers “6 Songs” 1986. Comp EP, Liberty Records, Greek import. Today, August 28th, is Stranglers’ vocalist/guitarist Hugh Cornwell’s 70th birthday (b. 1949). UK pub rock goes punk goes new wave/post punk, this EP is a collection of singles from the 70′s through 80′s. On Side A: “Nice ‘n’ Sleazy,” which went to #18 in the UK in ‘78 and appeared on their LP Black and White; “Strange Little Girl,” a single from ‘82 that hit #7 (UK) and was originally written back in ‘74, the year The Stranglers formed; and “No More Heroes,” one of my favorite Strangler songs, all swirly keyboards, which went to #8 and was the title track from the 1977 album No More Heroes. On Side B: “Golden Brown,” a decidedly unpunk single that hit #2 in the UK in early ‘82 (their highest chart hit), it’s a sweet Donovan-esque lilting number with baroque harpsichord, some psychedelic guitar and saxophone; “Hanging Around,” definitely more of a rocker which appeared on their 1977 debut Rattus Norvegicus; and “La Folie,” an ephemeral 1982 single from their album of the same name (released in late ‘81) which went to #47 in the UK and was sung in French by bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel.
Elvis Costello “This Year’s Model” 1978. Today, August 25th, is Elvis Costello’s 65th birthday (b. Declan Patrick MacManus, 1954). This Year’s Model was his second album and the first he recorded with the band the Attractions. It’s considered one of the best albums of all-time; it went to #4 in the UK and #30 in the US. Early new wave power pop, it certainly is one of my favorite Costello records (disclaimer: I’m really not that big a fan but I like him OK), especially the track “Pump It Up” which is a super-catchy upbeat song that he released as a single. Also released were “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea” (#16 in the UK) and “Radio Radio” which did not appear on the UK release of This Year’s Model but is on the US version, which this copy is. It’s really too bad because that track is pretty great. The US version also dropped “Night Rally.” Another track, a non-single, that I like is “You Belong to Me” with its 60′s-style organ and rockin’ beat.
Depeche Mode “Everything Counts and Live Tracks” 1983. Vogue Records/Mute Records, French import mini album. Today, August 22nd, is the release anniversary of Depeche Mode’s third album Construction Time Again (1983) and “Everything Counts” was the lead single, hitting #6 in the UK and #17 on the US Hot Dance chart. Side A, or the Studio Side, has two versions of “Everything Counts” – the 7″ original single mix and the 12″ single mix. The B-side, or the Live Side, has four live tracks (recorded at Hammersmith Odeon in October ‘82) including two Vince Clarke songs, one of my absolute favorites, “New Life,” as well as “Boys Say Go!” – both from their 1981 debut LP Speak and Spell. Also appearing are live versions of the Martin Gore-penned “Nothing to Fear” and “The Meaning of Love,” both from Depeche Mode’s 1982 album A Broken Frame. I left the price tag on the Mini Album because this is an acquisition from my friend Jason who bought it and literally imported it from France in early ‘86.
Modern English “Ricochet Days” 1984. 4 AD Records. Tonight we’re seeing Modern English perform, along with The Alarm and Gene Loves Jezebel: I’m most interested to see Modern English of the three. We saw them a few years ago on an 80′s retro tour (along with artists like Howard Jones, Men Without Hats, English Beat, etc.) and their music held up well, some 35 years later. Ricochet Days is Modern English’s third album (#93 US charts): new wave synth pop at the height of its popularity though Ricochet Days is not nearly as good as their sophomore release After the Snow (1982) with its smash single “Melt With You.” It’s pretty bland with few stand-out tracks. The instrumentation and melody of “Spinning Me Round” is pleasant but not particularly memorable and “Blue Waves” teases the same flavor as “Melt With You” but is either too close to its melody or is missing that certain je ne sais quoi that made “Melt With You” a hit. The single “Hands Across the Sea,” which went to #91 in the US, is definitely one of the better songs on the record but I really only like about half the song – the chorus – the rest is a bit too Spandau Ballet-smooth for my tastes. The closing track, “Chapter 12,” is also decent and the most danceable on the LP with a pretty good synthpop riff that recalls early Depeche Mode.
Tears for Fears “The Hurting” 1983. A melancholy new wave/synthpop masterpiece, Tears for Fears’ debut album was an instant smash, going to #1 on the UK album chart within two weeks of its release. A couple of my favorite early 80′s songs are on The Hurting including “Suffer the Children,” (first released in ‘81, re-recorded for The Hurting, then re-released in ‘85 when it charted at #52 in the UK), “Mad World,” (released as a single in ‘82, #3 UK chart), “Change,” (#5 UK and #73 US) and my absolute fave “Pale Shelter” (#5 UK). At the time of The Hurting’srelease, some critics found it “terrible, useless sort of art that makes self pity and futility a commercial proposition…just the sort of doom laden dross you’d expect from the lyrics: rehashed and reheated hollow doom with a bit of Ultravox here, diluted Joy Division poured everywhere, and the title track sounding suspiciously like one of the old pompous outfits with a welter of mellotrons" (NME). I think that opinion is terribly wrong: The Hurting has stood the test of time and 35+ years later it’s recognized as complex, groundbreaking and influential on such artists (who, like Tears for Fears, lean towards dark wave) as Trent Reznor, Smashing Pumpkins and Arcade Fire (PopMatters).
Duran Duran “Duran Duran Video Album” aka “Duran Duran: The First 11 Videos” 1983. VHS. I’m treating myself to a vintage tape of Duran videos ‘cos it’s my birthday! Released in March 1983 to promote the single “Is There Something I Should Know?” and the US reissue of their debut LP Duran Duran, the video comp was a huge success and earned them a Grammy. I remember watching it on Betamax at my friend Allyson’s house, along with a small gaggle of other teenage Duranies.
Squeeze “Take Me, I’m Yours” 1978. We picked up Squeeze’s debut single at a great little record store in Brighton, England last week, a place called Vinyl Revolution which I just learned is closing its doors this weekend. It’s a sad situation when global economics and politics, legal and transportation issues all combine to push a lovely independent record store out of its brick-and-mortar business. One of the shop owner’s, Simon Parker (who can be seen in the video – linked at the bottom of this post – about the shop’s closure), chatted with me for a bit upon checkout and what a lovely guy! They will still have an online shop: here is their website link.
Me in front of Vinyl Revolution, Brighton
Joe digging through the 7″ singles.
Anyway, Squeeze’s “Take Me, I’m Yours” is a fantastic early new wave track. It hit #19 on the UK charts and appears on their debut album Squeeze. John Cale produced that LP but did not produce “Take Me, I’m Yours” nor the other single, “Bang Bang.” The b-side, “Night Nurse,” a rockin’ rhythm and blues scorcher which features Jools Holland on vocals and boogie woogie piano and, according to the video, The Invisible Man on saxophone.
Here’s the video from Vinyl Revolution. It’s a bit long but worth the time.