I’m a bit ashamed to admit that it took me until a week ago to acquire this seminal new wave classic, The B-52’s self-titled debut from 1979. For years I thought I’d already owned it, which is why I’d passed it up so many uneducated times, but now, all those misfortunes are a thing of the past, because Rock Lobster (final track on side 1) has finally come home.
Men at Work debuted in 1981 with Business as Usual. With the help of two, knockout singles (Who Can it Be Now? and Down Under), it’s (fairly) easy to see how BaU spent 15 weeks at the No. 1 spot on the US Billboard 200. One of the (if not the) most successful Australian-released pop albums, Business as Usual would serve as the band’s high water mark, and would be one of only three studio albums released (1983’s Cargo, and 1985’s Two Hearts). If in the mood, she still holds up, some 37 years later.
I was a little surprised to discover that I’d not touched upon arguably one of the greatest singles compilations ever to emerge from the early 1980s… Singles – 45’s and Under by Squeeze. She was my first introduction to the band, and I thought little to nothing about it upon first spin. Now, she’s one of my top 20 all-time releases. Copies are cheap, so if you find one, snatch it up!
Argybargy is a fun word to say in your head with a Morgan Freeman voice. It’s also the title of Squeeze’s third studio album. Release in 1980, Argybargy (thanks, Mr. Freeman) is home to the charters, Pulling Mussels (From the Shell) and Another Nail in My Heart. If I Didn’t Love You also appears on Argybargy but failed to chart even though it received decent airplay.
New Wave has always been a savory and integral source of audio protein. As a child of the 80s, the synth-lead, bass-droning enormity of some of my New Wave Favs (Bangles’, Walk Like an Egyptian, Animotion’s Obsession, and Dead or Alive’s You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) to name only a few) still offer a wealth of fascinating childhood memories that seem not to go away with sequential spins; for this, I am ecstatically appreciative.
So, leave it to ol’ K-Tel to put together a 1982 comp (featuring none of the above mentioned personal favs), with a cover that’s two-parts Take on Me, and one part opening credits to Saved By the Bell. Overall this comp is a fairly decent representation of New Wave up to 1982. Personally, Squeeze should at least have had Cool for Cats on here, if not their more excitable, Slap and Tickle, but they didn’t ask me to contribute to this compilation… no sir they did not. I’m not entirely sure what I could have offered at the ripe age of three, but personal preferences aside, The Beat by K-Tel is a welcoming trip down (I Want) Candy Cane Lane, even if the sum of its parts comes a bit short of the high water mark.
I’ve set the new-wave-turned-dangerously-industrial wheels in motion, so why stop now? I can picture you penning an extensive list of (possibly legitimate) reasons exactly why to stop, but I’ll ignore that. I assure you, this won’t turn into the Ministry-all-you-can-eat-buffet hour. It’s just that I’m currently locked inside this early-Ministry shmorgishborg and I’m enjoying these hidden new wave masterworks as though it were my first time. You can imagine my excitement… or, you can’t… but NOW you can.
Released in 1983 (or 1982, depending on your source), Work for Love was one of three singles from early-Ministry’s debut album, With Sympathy (the others being I Wanted to Tell Her and Revenge). I’m in love with the cover art almost as much as I am with the mind numbing catchiness of the song. This single houses three, that’s right three versions of the track, Extended, Short and Dub, and believe it or not, you really don’t have to work very hard to fall in love with this 30-year-old gem (I’m sorry).
Editor’s note: I’ve been in a digitizing mood lately, so if there is anything you guys want that I may have on vinyl, email me and I’ll rip it for you. For some self-loathing reason, I thoroughly enjoy the process.
Squeeze snuck up on me. Hold on, let me start over. It’s imperative to mention how apropos that 1979’s post, the post representing the year in which I came into this world, contains the word, “Cats.” If you know me, you saw this one coming. If you don’t know me… I like cats.
Squeeze are like a sieve, an attention grabbing ear-whore in the best sense of the term. Not unlike The Kinks, Squeeze’s music is so damned good, so damned catchy, and so damned clever, that once you start listening to their music… THAT’S ALL YOU LISTEN TO! When I got into Squeeze, shamefully only a few years ago, I didn’t listen to anything else for nearly 3 months, and I’m not exaggerating. They’re that damned good!
With a hint of Punk’s aggression, and all the electronic qualities that make up good New Wave, Squeeze tickles your fancy in that slightly awkward, slightly dirty way, but leaves you begging for more… and more… you get the point.
The astute penning of Squeeze songs are attributed to Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook. According to Stephen Thomas Erlewine over at allmusic.com, “Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook were hailed as the heirs to Lennon and McCartney’s throne during their heyday in the early ‘80’s.” Are you starting to get an idea of how good this band is?
Slap & Tickle is a fun little romp referencing the British euphemism for sexy times.
Then while she turned to kiss him
And very nearly missed him
She put her hand on his leg
He felt her tongue in his head
Up the Junction is a very sad tale about the rise and inevitable fall of a doomed relationship. A child is involved and the once adored couple no longer speaks.
Alone here in the kitchen
I feel there’s something missing
I’d beg for some forgiveness
But begging’s not my business
I can’t tell if Goodbye Girl is about a woman drugging our protagonist and robbing him, or if it’s a story about the beginnings of a failed marriage. Either way, Goodbye Girl is a catchy little ditty, and in my opinion, Squeeze’s best.
Sunlight on the lino
Woke me with a shake
I looked around to find her but she’d gone
Cool for Cats showcases Squeeze at the height of their innovative career. It’s a crowning representation of the stunning song-writing talents of Difford and Tillbrook. If you’re serious about music, and you don’t already own Cool for Cats, drop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW and find this album. You won’t be disappointed.
Pseudo Echo’s version of Funky Town was my first favorite song. At 7-years-old, that was a big deal (and since I never really grew up, it’s still a big deal some 26 years later). After watching the video as a child, I was transformed in believing that my purpose in life was to play the Keytar (or keyboard that looks like a guitar). More than that, I was CONVINCED. I was to master this ornament of musical ecstasy in a New Wave band consisting of me and my closest grade school friends (none of whom, like myself, had ever even touched an instrument). Since my elementary school didn’t offer the Keytar in our rural town’s marching band, I decided on the Alto Saxophone instead.
Funky Town was originally recorded by Lipps Inc. in February of 1980. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts and blah blah. It is my humble opinion that had it not been for Pseudo Echo’s version, I may very well have never been jettisoned into the vast musical universe. Simply put… I LOVED THIS SONG! There may in fact be an old VHS tape of a 7-year-old me singing this song while miming the Keytar, but that is a story for another time.
Like Lipps Inc., Pseudo Echo’s 1986 incarnation reached No. 1 in Australia (outlasting Lipps’ Inc.’s version by 5 weeks). At the age of 7, charts and prestigious awards didn’t concern me. What concerned me was dialing into the only radio station playing pop music that my little red Sony cassette player/radio combo could pick up in the desperate hopes of hearing Pseudo Echo’s illustrious, Funky Town. Anyone remember Z-104 transmitting out of Madison, Wisconsin? Probably not.
I think it was Dick Clark that said something about music being the soundtrack to our lives. I’ll subscribe to that. Funky Town would then serve as the first “single” in my life’s album of Greatest Hits.
I think people overlook Wang Chung, or at least they’ve forgotten about them amongst the economic woes of 2013. Everybody Have Fun Tonight is, among many other things a brilliant marketing technique that associates having fun with Wang Chung by, wait for it, rhyming “have fun” with “Wang Chung.” See what they did there? Clever bastards!
These guys aren’t domestically minded either… these British chaps are international: across the nation, around the world… Wang Chung wants EVERYBODY to have fun tonight. And the joy of this song as I see it, is that, ok, I’ll put on this 45, rock out with my New Wave British mates, and potentially WILL have fun tonight. Cut to tomorrow morning and the usual “what the hell happened?” After a shower and a shave, I’ll play this same 45 and BAM! Tomorrow night is another night to have fun! I tell you, Wang Chung were geniuses!
If “fun” ever had a theme song, Wang Chung nailed it. I know this is redundant but quite simply, all Wang Chung wants is for everybody to have fun tonight. A bit of a tall order? Sure, but hopefully optimistic? You bet your 1986 stonewashed-jean-wearing ass!
Why this isn’t the most popular song in the world I’ll never know. The next time you’re in the mood to “have fun,” remember who your sponsor is… it’s Wang Chung!
The B-Side to this 80’s time capsule is a Everybody Have Fun Tonight remix of sorts; a couple swaying closer to a fun filled night. I imagine New Wave chicks with their New Wave heads resting on their New Wave boyfriend’s New Wave shoulders as they slowly oscillate amongst a sea of other New Wave couples in the wee hours of a New Wave morning in someone’s New Wave flat, all the while listening to Wang Chung’s musical nightcap, Side B’s Fun Tonight: The Early Years.
There is something to be said about New Wave. What that is I have no idea.