Boneyard Media

Archive for the ‘80s Music’ Category

Song ID: The Marina Swingers – “Casual” (1982)

Thursday, August 6th, 2015


Maybe you’ve been doing web searches for “going all the way to Casualfornia in my Volkswagen bus” the way I did off and on for many years, and now you’ve found yourself here. Maybe you, too, had an old VHS tape with fuzzy dubs from Night Flight or New Wave Theater circa 1982, including a clip from this mystery band featuring a front man in flippers, running shorts, a Mike Nesmith cap, and sunscreen on his lips and you had no clue who it was, and no sleuthing had seen you through. I finally had to follow a hunch and ordered this Sunken Treasures CD by the Marina Swingers, and lo, therein lay knowledge and peace.

Excerpts from the liner notes’ “cranky band history text” by keyboardist Esteban Elka:

“We weren’t sure if we wanted to be an artsy-intellectual new-wave act, a bloodthirsty dance-band, a multi-media comedy round-up, a surf/swing/big-band/punk ensemble or just an experiment in soul-splitting personality exploration (therapy that doesn’t work). So we did all of the above, often at the same time….

“We got to open for some zesty acts… Not one of them put in a good word for us with their management.

“…We don’t expect you to just listen to this CD. We think you’ll wish you had been there. We want you to be sorry that you weren’t. Where were you when we needed you?

“Come to think of it, where are we now?… One of us had a stroke, one of has leukemia, one of us had a brain tumor, two of us used drugs way too hard, one of us is wearing a crooked toupee, but two us are bald. One of us still gigs, most of us still record and we all walk, talk, pass wind and lie, except maybe the dead guy.

“Someday, you will be dead too.

“Special thanks to: A lot of you tried but it’s results that count. We didn’t make it, so the bulk of you shouldn’t expect a major pat on the fanny…”

For more information about the Marina Swingers, order Sunken Treasures on CD Baby, like I did.

The Marina Swingers – Casual (live at the Sweetwater in Redondo Beach, CA) (1982)

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Adam Ant and Michael Jackson

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

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And there’s this from Ron Weisner’s book (pp. 141-142):

“Later that week in London, Michael and I were relaxing in his room, watching Top of the Pops…Halfway through the show, the host – I think it was Simon Bates – said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Adam Ant!’

“Michael and I knew of Adam, but we had yet to see him perform. He sounded great, but more important for Michael, his look was arresting: He was clad in full military gear. Michael stared at the screen, silently, intensely. I could see the wheels spinning, but I wasn’t sure in which direction.

“…For the rest of his life, Michael was rarely seen in public wearing anything other than a military uniform. And for that, you can thank Adam Ant. (P.S. Michael never credited Adam. Whenever he was asked about his military obsession, he’d say, ‘I was inspired.’ That’s all. Just, ‘I was inspired.’) “

Ron Weisner on Madonna

Monday, November 10th, 2014


P. 176-77: “The first show [of the 1985 ‘Virgin Tour’] was at the Paramount Theater in Seattle… An hour before the show, I went outside to get a breath of fresh air. As I stood near the theater’s front entrance, I watched car after car pull up and drop off several young girls, all dressed in their Madonna-like sleeveless tops, studded black gloves, and dangling necklaces. The majority of the other attendees were a mother or a father with their kid in tow. I’d guesstimate that 75 percent of the audience was under the age of fifteen – some accompanied by their parents, some not – and the other 25 percent was gay men.

“When the show started, the kids went nuts, screaming and screeching as kids are prone to do. I don’t know if this was in reaction to the kids’ reaction, but Madonna got raunchier than I’d ever seen her… while saying the filthiest stuff you can imagine. As she extolled the joys of masturbation, I scanned the crowd, taking in the adults’ shocked, appalled expressions…

“After the show, I tracked down Freddy [DeMann, Weisner’s business partner] and asked him ‘What’re we doing here? Is this how we want to be represented? Do we want to be associated with some girl who thinks it’s okay to finger herself in front of a roomful of junior high schoolers?

“Freddy scoffed, ‘They loved it! Madonna’s going to be huge!…”

P. 178 [discussing dissolving his partnership with DeMann and splitting up their clientele]:  “We went down the roster, and when we got to Madonna’s name, I said, ‘You can have her. You belong together.’  The second those words left my mouth, I felt like a huge, vulgar, surly, masturbating-on-stage weight had been lifted from my shoulders.”

Song ID: Bill Nelson – “Acceleration” (1983)

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010


In 1982, a shortlived Salt Lake City radio station called Super 107 (KABE-FM) took its cues from KROQ in Los Angeles and aired mostly new wave ear candy. It always felt kinda secret, which is probably why it folded within a year. Modern/alternative radio would soon recover and eventually thrive in SLC, an area that’s perhaps clung to the ‘80s like no other. This song by Bill Nelson, the Be Bop Deluxe frontman gone solo, reminds me of those happy 107 days, though, when it all really did feel like forward motion.

Bill Nelson – “Acceleration” (1983)

Song ID: The Beach Boys – “Beach Boys Medley” (1981)

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007


Medleymania was essentially nostalgia-based, so I think we’d be pretty safe to chalk it all up (in the US, at least) to the media-generated “new morning in America” mentality that the Reagan speechwriting team cultivated like plastic flower bouquets. Capitol records was first to answer the Stars on 45 smash with a hasty, patchwork Beach Boys medley which hit #12 the same year and has never been released on CD.

A quick chart rundown of Medleymania as I remember it, which means I’m probably forgetting some entries. But the big ones are all here (dates refer to first chart appearance):

Stars on 45 – “Medley” (4/11/81, #1)
Stars on 45 – “Medley II” (more Beatles) (7/18/81, #67)
Beach Boys – “Beach Boys Medley” (7/25/81, #12)
Stars on 45 – “More Stars” (60s hits) (9/26/81, #55)
Louis Clark Conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – “Hooked on Classics” (10/31/81, #10)
Meco – “Pop Goes the Movies (Part I)” (2/13/82, #35)
The Beatles – “The Beatles Movie Medley” (3/27/82, #12)
Stars on (A Tribute to Stevie Wonder) (sic) – “Stars on 45 III” (3/27/82, #28)
Larry Elgart and His Manhattan Swing Orchestra – “Hooked on Swing” (6/5/82, #31)

The Beach Boys – “Beach Boys Medley”

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Song ID: Stars on 45 – “Medley” (1981)

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007


Thoughts of the early ’80s and the Beatles have led me to this inescapable checkpoint: the Stars on 45 medley that absolutely owned the US airwaves (a Billboard #1 hit) during the summer of ’81 and which most of us had completely forgotten by the end of the year. It was the slick product of a gang of Dutch session players doing dead-on impersonations against a disco/handclap backdrop. Other aspects of this single were clear as mud, especially the song choices: “Beat the Clock” (Sparks), a “Stars on 45” disco theme inspired by “Stayin’ Alive” (Bee Gees), “Venus” (Shocking Blue), “Sugar Sugar” (The Archies), “No Reply” (Beatles, along with the next 8), “I’ll Be Back,” “Drive My Car,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” “We Can Work it Out,” “I Should Have Known Better,” “Nowhere Man,” “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl,” and closing with a reprise of the “Stars on 45” disco theme.

It’s a favorite game of mine, the attempt to ascertain what psychological aspects of society demand that certain songs become hits, but this one’s not so tough – it was a well-timed beneficiary of US Beatle nostalgia just a handful of months after Lennon’s murder in December ’80 (it entered the Billboard charts early the following April). I think it’s the only way a song with a blatant opening disco chant in a very acutely disco-hungover era could have gotten any significant airplay. (The actual disco sound, of course, never really went away, but flaunting the passé word “disco” certainly did.) But in retrospect, this song ultimately had less to do with Beatlemania and more to do with Medleymania, which kicked in in a big way because of it. More tomorrow.

In the American chart listings, by the way, every song in the Stars on 45 medley was listed as part of the title, making this the wordiest chart entry in Billboard history. But the short snippet of Sparks’ “Beat the Clock” at the beginning was never included among the titles. I wonder what the story is there.

Stars on 45 – “Stars on 45” (1981)

Song ID: Boomtown Rats – “I Don’t Like Mondays” (1979)

Monday, February 26th, 2007


During my three years in junior high school in Salt Lake City (1981-1984), they marched all students into the auditorium one time each year to watch a 45 minute pop music show. I’ll bet all junior high schoolers in the area during those years saw the same three assemblies/shows, each of which featured a brief “don’t do drugs” or “don’t drop out” message. The shows were:

1 – A rock group of frizzy-haired characters called “Freedom Jam.” They dressed in Revolutionary War suits like Paul Revere and the Raiders and played a whole bunch of covers, mostly from REO Speedwagon’s Hi Infidelity album. Their keyboardist, who looked like a member of the Bus Boys, would bend over impossibly far to the side when it was time for a solo. At least half the school behaved as though this were a real rock show, leaping out of chairs and high-clapping.

2 – A guy and girl duo with British accents. The guy stood behind a synth console and occasionally picked up an electric guitar after he got the loops going. The girl sang and skank-danced and reminded me of one of the female Jetsons. The only songs I remember them doing are “Tainted Love” and “I Love Rock and Roll.”

3 – A one man band synthesizer/karaoke guy also with a British accent. He may well have been one half of the duo from above. He had a microphone headset and regularly stepped away from the console and gesticulated along with the lyrics he sang. The only song I remember is “I Don’t Like Mondays.” He spent quite some time on the song’s back story, telling us about the girl who went on a Monday shooting spree, which now strikes me as strange. And I’ve never been able to hear that song since then without thinking of him in his headset, fluttering his fingers in the air to the Telex machine inside his head.

(Not posted, because the song’s on my don’t-mind-if-I-never-hear-again list.)

Song ID: Alice Cooper – “Clones (We’re All)” (1980)

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007


This is the only Alice Cooper song I ever lived. Too young to have taken in his shock-rock heyday in real time (only through my friends’ big brothers’ record collections), “Clones” is the song that blasted irresistibly at the roller rink and circled around and around in my head until I’d finally drop allowance money on the 45. Outside Skateland, though, Alice was being run down for losing his balance in a disorienting new decade.

Alice Cooper – “Clones (We’re All)” (1980)