Friday, October 3, 2008

1979 wonderments

Let's take a little weekend journey through YouTube music postings, and I promise I won't try and sound too old and cranky ("these kids today... they couldn't craft a hooky riff if their life depended on it!"). Let's start out with two 1979 one-hit wonder bands. First, a public access clip (from San Leandro, California's "Girl George" show) of Pearl Harbor and the Explosions doing their only "hit" called "Driving." I love this song and have been haunted by the well-produced single, but this spare little performance is amazing for what it exhibits about the time and place, and Pearl's wonderfully goofy dancing:

That clip led me to this sad bit of radio history concerning one of Pearl's former bandmates, the actress/singer-turned-traffic-reporter Jane Dornacker, whose helicopter crashed into the Hudson River while she was on the air with WNBC's Joey Reynolds (who's now the all-night host on WOR in NYC, and an amazing AM-radio institution). Not something you want to listen to for a happy weekend, but it's a tragic bit of radio that comes up when you're searching for one-hit wonders (Dornacker's professional bio is fascinating, though). Back onto the happy stuff: the second 1979 one-hit wonder band, again this one was a "hit" on New Wave stations (in my case back then, WPIX-FM in NYC), the Sinceros doing "Take Me to Your Leader":

And since the poster for that vid notes that the musicians played with Lene Lovich, I must melt back into my youthful self and confess my never-ending love for Ms. Lovich. This was her own big 1979 hit, but I have chosen instead to give you an industrial-strength taste of second-LP Lene, killing me with her melodrama (yes, I loved/still love Kate Bush and Rachel Sweet also):

And since I'm in a New Wave vein on this weekend afternoon, let's remember perhaps the greatest unusual one-hit wonder band, Rockpile. Unusual in that they had two starring lead vocalists, Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe, and had been touring behind each guy, and accompanied each on his solo albums (the band was Edmunds, Lowe, Terry Williams, and Billy Bremner). This was their 1980 one-hit wonder, but I much prefer this high-energy version of Elvis Costello's "Girl Talk" from a show called "Countdown 1979." (See, there is some thought to this...) You have to love a song that includes the lines "Was it really murder/were you just pretending/lately I have heard/you are the living end..."

Here's Dave proclaimed as lead vocalist on "I Knew the Bride," one of Rockpile's absolute killer tracks, but he's actually engaged in some Everly-like double-vocals with Mr. Lowe. There is a terrific, prob alcohol-fueled version of this fronted by Nick the Knife on "Live Stiffs, Volume 2":

And, flipping back to 1978, one of the best live clips I've seen of long-haired young Nick warbling "So It Goes" (but where it's going, no one knows!) with the same band o'boys. This stuff is in my brain-pan forever, and I'm quiet pleased about it:

And since I'm on a free-form journey here, let's journey a few years hence (hence sometimes is a good direction to take) for this vintage bit of Nick with his bespectacled friend doing their greatest hit, which never dates (hippie sentiments in a "new wave" jacket):

And I'll move backwards to the early Seventies for song Lowe told us he Nicked the "Peace, Love" riff from. A beautiful ditty from a truly troubled but sublime and lovely singer-songwriter who died long before she should've, Judee Sill. Labelled a "religious" songwriter, she was actually in the vein of a lot of early Seventies spiritualists who embraced all kinds of religious imagery but favored an open theology (wherein you're allowed to worship what ya like, even nature, which the pious truly, truly hate). As a nonbeliever, I'm very touched by this song, thanks to Judee's lyrical skill, plaintive singing, and the classic early '70s arrangement (and here's the the only publicly released film of Sill performing it live). I thank Nick for confessing to his riff-copping on the "Old Grey Whistle Test" DVD:

Since there's so little Sill in existence, I might as well link to the other two extant clips, this live bit of video from USC and this UK TV appearance.

And since this whole post started out about one year, let me return to my "high" and "low" formulation by contrasting the beauty of Judee Sill with the eternal song of 1979 (and there is nothing like seeing the "group" trying to perform it in a live context, albeit lip-synching). And perhaps the finest trash legacy the year had for us (and remember this is when disco fever was at its peak, and even punk had gotten sorta silly), the German group Dschinghis Khan at the Eurovision song contest. There's nothing left to be said:

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