Remember when we used to argue about Days of the New?
This was back in the mid-nineties when Geffen Records was the king of rock, just before that format imploded and so did the label. Before videos were all about the production and not the music, before rap went on a victory lap.
It's almost like it didn't happen. Days of the New was huge, and then they disappeared. You see the "creative genius" of the group, Travis Meeks, fired the rest of the act after the initial success. Which he could then never duplicate. Did he lose the formula, or was the effort of the rest of the band key?
We haven’t really done much in the way of compiling video playlists for Rhino.com, but there’s no time like the present to remedy that situation, and we thought we’d kick things off with one that spotlights some videos from the days when MTV actually still stood for “Music Television.”
(Yes, we know it’s an overplayed joke. But we also know it’s still an accurate one.)
Some of these videos are from the earliest days of the network, while others are from a few years farther down the line, but they’re all very much from the ‘80s, a.k.a. the glory years of music video. Some of them were MTV staples in their day, like a-ha’s “Take on Me” and ZZ Top’s “Legs” – hey, we just took it from A to Z! – while some may have escaped your notice until they turned up on 120 Minutes several years later, like Echo and the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” or The Smiths’ “This Charming Man.” If you lived through the ‘80s, though, then you’ll no doubt enjoy reminiscing about that time Milton Berle hung out with Ratt, or when Devo introduced one generation to the Rolling Stones while another generation decided that they’d just heard musical blasphemy at its worst, or when Al Jarreau actually got airplay on MTV.
Today would have been the 55th birthday of INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, but as he’s no longer with us, it’s instead a very good day to celebrate the legacy that he left behind.
Since you already know there’s no way we’re going to end this piece without providing you with a playlist of his best efforts with INXS (plus Hutchence’s collaboration with The Heads, “The King is Gone,” which somehow felt appropriate), we thought we’d make note of three of his additional contributions to pop culture – two musical, one cinematic – that might not immediately leap to mind when you think of the late Mr. Hutchence’s back catalog of accomplishments.
31 years ago today, Yes made the sort of comeback that rarely comes around anymore, taking more than a decade’s worth of history as prog-rock superstars, setting those aspects slightly to the side, and transforming their sound so successfully to match current musical trends that they secured the first – and, to date, only – #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Owner of a Lonely Heart” was predominantly – but not exclusively – a Trevor Rabin composition, with frontman Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, and producer (and former Yes member) Trevor Horn making additional contributions to the final version of the song. Rabin, formerly of the band Rabbitt, was a new addition to the Yes lineup, having first crossed paths with Squire and drummer Alan White in 1980 while Yes was…well, let’s just say they were on a hiatus, shall we? The three started working together under the name Cinema in early ’82, bringing in another former Yes member, keyboardist Tony Kaye, to assist them on concert dates. Between Rabin’s material and some stuff that Squire and White had brought along from an aborted project called XYZ which had temporarily teamed them with Jimmy Page, Cinema soon had enough tunes for an album, which Horn helped them put together. Unfortunately, Horn and Kaye didn’t really get along, so Kaye left, leaving Rabin to pick up much of the keyboard work, and since neither Rabin nor Squire were really the most distinctive of vocalists, Squire decided to reach out to Jon Anderson, and…well, you can probably figure out what happened next.
Here’s what I remember about 1980: pretty sure Reagan was elected President...not sure who shot JR...definitely sure that the Pac-Man arcade game made its debut...not sure whether paste was technically considered a food group. Hey, let’s boogie!
36 years ago today, the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever – and, in a very real way, the soundtrack to the late ‘70s – made its debut at the pinnacle of the Billboard Top 200, which is where it stayed (alive) for an astounding 18 consecutive weeks.
Much of the Bee Gees’ material on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack was intended for what would’ve been the group’s follow-up to 1976’s Children of the World...or, if you’re counting live albums, then it was the follow-up to 1977’s Here at Last…Bee Gees…Live. But, really, who counts live albums? Either way, though, the brothers Gibb first started the recording process for what was going to be their next album with “If I Can’t Have You,” and by the time all was said and done, the Bee Gees ended up with six of their songs on the soundtrack…and that wasn’t even one of them!
55 years ago today, a jazz legend dropped a legendary jazz album, one which is part of the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry and is generally considered by music fans – yes, even those who don’t generally care for jazz – to be one of the greatest albums of the 20th century.
Giant Steps was Coltrane’s fifth album fronting his own band, but it was the first one that really put him on the map within the jazz community, possibly because his profile had been raised considerably when he signed to Atlantic Records. It probably also didn’t hurt that the material contained therein, which was produced by Nesuhi Ertegun and engineered by Tom Dowd, found Coltrane taking – forgive us – giant steps forward in his sound, offering his unique melodic phrasing as well as his delving into third-related chord movements, a.k.a. Coltrane changes.
43 years ago today at the Brighton Dome in Brighton, England, Pink Floyd took their first shot at playing The Dark Side of The Moon live...and they would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids!
Oh, wait, sorry, we were thinking of something else. What we meant to say was that they would’ve gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for technical problems marring their performance, leading them to bail out somewhere in the middle of “Money.”
But what’s particularly interesting about the performance – and if you’ve done the math, you may have already realized it – is that it took place about 14 months before the album was actually released. Can you imagine a band of Pink Floyd’s stature pulling off something like that nowadays? No, you can’t, because it would’ve been bootlegged to kingdom come and back within a couple of hours of that performance, thereby negating most listeners’ interest in ever hearing the studio version of the album. At the time, though, it was something that was more or less as standard practice amongst musicians, where they worked through material live for ages before it ever made its way to record store shelves.