Saturday, 5 January 2013

The Rest Of The '80s: A-Z of '80s Bands - part 2

In Part 1, we remembered a heap of '80s bands - both big names and long-forgotten flash in the pans. Picking up with the letter K, here are a few more groups it's worth revisiting...



Best '80s song: "Too Shy" (1983)

I've spoken about original lead singer Limahl elsewhere, but before he was unceremoniously dumped from the band (and replaced as vocalist by bass player Nick Beggs), things were going swimmingly for Kajagoogoo. Their debut single, "Too Shy", was a huge success (number 1 in the UK, number 6 in Australia, number 5 in the US) - being co-produced by Nick Rhodes from flavour of the month Duran Duran didn't hurt its chances. The remaining singles from album White Feathers kept their profile high, while Limahl's sacking in the latter part of 1983 ensured "Big Apple", the first single without him, was also a top 10 hit in the UK. That's when things started to go wrong, despite the fact that 1984 single "The Lion's Mouth" was one of their better releases. After an attempt to reunite the original line-up in 2003 ended in tears, the original five-piece is now back together, playing the retro concert circuit.

Kane Gang

Best '80s song: "Respect Yourself" (1984)

They were together for about a decade, but this British trio only really made any headway between 1984 and 1988, with songs like "Closest Thing To Heaven", "Motortown" and "Respect Yourself" all minor hits in various countries around the world. I remember their cover of The Staples Singers' "Respect Yourself" from plays on Countdown and Take 40 Australia - and it would go on to reach number 19 on the chart here, 38 spots higher than Bruce Willis' 1987 remake.


Little River Band

Best '80s song: "Playing To Win" (1985)

Being a lead singer for a successful band could sure be a tough gig in the '80s - with original LRB vocalist Glenn Shorrock finding himself out of a job in 1982 and John Farnham inserted in his place. It's hard to imagine it now, but John was coming off the back of a dire couple of years in terms of his solo career, so fronting LRB must have seemed like a real lifeline. 1982's "Down On The Border" was a big hit - but LRB didn't hit the Australian top 10 again until John had left and Glenn returned for 1988's "Love Is A Bridge". My favourite from the decade was the title track to the Playing To Win album, but the '80s were nowhere near as fertile a period for the band as the previous decade, when they enjoyed a number of US hits on top of their success back home.


Men At Work

Best '80s song: "Down Under" (1981)

There are some songs that are so big they overshadow everything else an act releases in their lifespan. "Down Under" is one such song - so massive that it's also one of the first things many people in other countries would think of when asked to name an Australian rock song. A number 1 hit in 1981 and a number 9 hit again in 1983 following Australia's victory in the America's Cup that year, it was also a chart-topper in the US and UK. In fact, it was the second of two number 1s in America - "Who Can It Be Now?" also hit the top, while two other tracks hit the top 10. In truth, it is the band's best song (nicked flute riff included), but their other hits, "Overkill", "Be Good Johnny", "Everything I Need" and "Dr Heckyll & Mr Jive" shouldn't be forgotten.


Best '80s song: "Castaway" (1982)

Here's another band forever associated with one massive hit - 1979's "Computer Games", which beat other computer-themed hits by Player [1] and Dear Enemy into the charts. The '80s weren't as successful for the New Zealand band, despite a series of decent singles like "People", "Falling In And Out", "Castaway" and "Blue Day". Mi-Sex split in 1984 and, tragically, singer Steve Gilpin passed away in early 1992 following a car accident a few months earlier that left him in a coma.

Missing Persons

Best '80s song: "Words" (1982)

A much bigger success in Australia (number 10) than back home in the US (number 42), "Words", the debut single by Missing Persons, is classic synthpop (or New Wave, if you prefer). The group initially comprised of singer Dale Bozzio, husband Terry and future Duran Duran member Warren Cuccurullo pretty much count as one-hit wonders, except for the fact that I like follow-up "Destination Unknown", which also peaked at number 42 in the States.

Mondo Rock

Best '80s song: "No Time" (1982)

Ross Wilson has had an enviable career in Australia - from fronting Daddy Cool in the early '70s and working as a producer before forming Mondo Rock in 1976 to his stint as a judge on It Takes Two in the '00s. OK, the less said about the latter, the better - but he's a certified music legend in this country (he's even in the ARIA Hall Of Fame twice). I don't care much for Daddy Cool, but have a number of Mondo Rock songs in my iTunes library. "Come Said The Boy" was the biggest hit, reaching number 2, but there was also "State Of The Heart", "Primitive Love Rites", "Chemistry", "Summer Of '81", "Cool World" and my favourite, "No Time". The hits dried up in the late '80s and Ross went on to release solo album Dark Side Of The Man in 1989, but never quite recaptured his previous glory.

The Motels

Best '80s song: "Take The L" (1982)

Featuring the distinctive vocals of Martha Davis (who herself had a hit with 1988's "Don't Tell Me The Time"), California band The Motels were responsible for some of the early '80s most subtle singles - including the one that started it all (at least in Australia) in 1980, "Total Control". It almost didn't happen, with the band breaking up in 1977, before a revised line-up signed with Capitol, the label from which they'd earlier turned down a contract. "Suddenly Last Summer" and "Only The Lonely" both peaked at number 9 in the US, although singles like "Take The L" and "Shame" didn't hit the same heights, here or in the States. Today, Martha still tours with a version of The Motels (and gets separate billing), with a handful of new studio and live albums released in recent years.

Moving Pictures

Best '80s song: "What About Me" (1982)

Before Shannon Noll got his hands on it (and took it back to number 1), Moving Pictures' "What About Me" was an Australian '80s classic, a chart-topper for six weeks and 1982's second highest-selling single (behind Survivor's "Eye Of The Tiger"). Like Men At Work and "Down Under", it would end up being the song that defined them, despite "Winners" reaching number 12 that same year and debut single "Bustin' Loose" also being a great track. "What About Me" was also a hit in the States - twice, since it returned to the top 50 there in 1989. The band's final single was "Never" and appeared on the soundtrack to Footloose in 1984, which was also the year founding member Garry Frost quit. The band carried on touring until 1987 before calling it a day, while Garry went on to form 1927.

Mr Mister

Best '80s song: "Kyrie" (1986)

Success was short but sweet for this mid-'80s band, who finally struck gold with their second album, Welcome To The Real World. But, after two US chart-toppers in the form of "Broken Wings" (number 4 in Australia) and "Kyrie" (number 11 in Australia), and another top 10 hit with "Is It Love" (a flop here), the good times vanished as suddenly as they'd started. A third album tanked and when their fourth, recorded in 1990, didn't even get released (although it received a belated release a full two decades later), the group split.


New Edition

Best '80s song: "If It Isn't Love" (1988)

Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, Mike, Ralph and, later, Johnny didn't quite make my list of all-time favourite boy bands, but, besides paving the way for pretty much every modern boy band, they had some OK tunes, too. "Candy Girl" and "Cool It Now" were fun, but I prefer the post-Bobby Brown era and songs like "Can You Stand The Rain" and "If It Isn't Love" (the video of which features some amazing footwork). After impressive '90s careers pretty much across the board (three of them as soloists and three as the group Bell Biv Devoe) and a quieter '00s, all six members now tour together.



Best '80s song: "Going Back To My Roots" (1981)

While the post-disco era was particularly harsh in the US for many disco/soul/funk artists, some found a more receptive audience in the UK. Odyssey was one such act to do particularly well in Britain yet have a non-existent career in the States. Debuting in 1977 with "Native New Yorker", it was the string of '80s hits like "Use It Up And Wear It Out", "Going Back To My Roots" and "Inside Out" that kept Odyssey riding high in the charts there until 1982.

Oingo Boingo

Best '80s song: "Weird Science" (1986)

And now, the group fronted by the guy who'd go on to write the themes to The Simpsons and Desperate Housewives, among many other films and TV series. Oingo Boingo were actually around for 23 years, but they're best known for two singles from 1986 - the theme to Weird Sciene and "Stay", which was the much bigger of the two here in Australia. It only peaked at number 30 but stayed on the top 100 for 37 weeks.


The Power Station

Best '80s song: "Some Like It Hot" (1985)

In 1985, Duran Duran split down the middle, with three members forming Arcadia and the other two - John Taylor and Andy Taylor (no relation) - joining singer Robert Palmer and Chic's Tony Thompson in rockier outfit The Power Station. Although I prefer Arcadia's "Election Day" overall, I don't like anything else that group released, but I do enjoy both "Some Like It Hot" and T.Rex cover "Get It On (Bang A Gong)" from The Power Station. Their 1985 self-titled album seemed like a one-off until a decade later when the Living In Fear album was released. The same line-up started the project with producer Bernard Edwards (also from Chic), but John Taylor pulled out due to problems in his personal life and Bernard took over on bass. However, Bernard passed away as the album was being launched, casting a shadow over the promotional efforts. With Robert and Tony also no longer with us and John back with Duran Duran, it's likely the end of The Power Station story. 

The Psychedelic Furs

Best '80s song: "Love My Way" (1982)

Even though we had two chances to do so, Australia never made "Pretty In Pink" into a hit. Originally released in 1981, it was re-recorded for the soundtrack of the film of the same name and was much more successful globally in 1986. Still, we did get it right with "Love My Way" and "Heartbreak Beat", which both made the top 30 locally. Led by the Butler brothers (Richard and Tim), the group took a break in 1991, but have been touring since the turn of the millennium, even if no new music has been forthcoming.

That just leaves the end of the alphabet for Part 3 - including, surprisingly, two bands that aren't Queen for the letter Q!

1 comment:

  1. I love Men at Works song Overkill, but only after discovering Colin Hay sing it acoustic on the show Scrubs in the early 2000's. Finn.