Monday, November 27, 2017

A Christmas Song With Tons Of Stars...What Could Go Wrong?

Do They Know Its Christmas? by Band Aid

Released on December 3rd, 1984 after it was recorded only 8 days earlier, this charity single was the biggest selling single in the UK (with over 3 millions copies sold) until Elton John's reworking of Candle In The Wind to honor Princess Diana following her death surpassed it in 1997. In fact, the song reached #1 in nearly every country it was released in: France, Japan and the US being the exceptions (in the US it reached #13 but sold over 2.5 million copies.....I have two copies in my house, mine and my wife's).

The song came about after Bob Geldof, lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, saw a documentary about the famine in Ethiopia and felt he had to do something. Geldof contacted fellow musician Midge Ure, lead singer of Ultravox, and they agreed a charity single would raise awareness. Geldof handled wrangling stars for the single while Ure worked on setting up the recording studio and writing a suitable song. The team approached much in-demand producer Trevor Horn, (he had recently produced three #1 singles for Frankie Goes To Hollywood) he was unsure he could participate but he was willing to donate the use of his studio for 24 hours.

With the studio secured and with Geldof promoting the single on every form of media he could get on, the song was becoming the hurdle that loomed the highest. Ure spent some time coming up with a "Christmassy tune" but Geldof mocked it as sounding like a cheesy british tv show. Geldof dusted off a tune he had written for his band and re-wrote the lyrics. Just like that, the only thing left to do was to record the whole thing.

For several days before the actual recording, Ure spent time in his home studio laying down keyboards and programing drum tracks. The day before the recording, John Taylor of Duran Duran came in and recorded bass tracks and Paul Weller recorded a lead guitar part that was later left off the single.

At 8am on the morning of November 25th 1984, members of the newly formed Band Aid began to arrive. The first thing to do was to record the group vocals at the end of the single.

After several takes, the plan was to move on to the solo parts. One of the singers that Geldof wanted for a solo was Boy George.....and he wasn't there. Several calls were placed and eventually it was discovered that he was in New York and had only just gone to sleep (apparently forgetting he had promised to be at the recording). Eventually he was convinced to get on the Concord and fly directly to London, arriving at 6 pm and being the last one to record his part.

One musician went above and beyond that day, Phil Collins. Arriving that morning with a full drum kit, he intended to lay down live drums over the programed drums and was forced to wait until all the solo parts were recorded (considering how late Boy George was that day, Phil was quite the trooper). Collins recorded the drums in one take that Ure considered perfect but Collins wanted to get it "perfect" and tried one more take.

With that, the only thing left to do was to mix and master the single and the video and get them sent out to the world......and wouldn't you believe it, but they did it.

The original hope was that the single would raise £70,000 but it ended up raising over £8 million for Ethiopian Famine Relief in just twelve months. In 1980's money....that's a lot.

Please enjoy.......and tonight thank God its them, instead of you (that still seems like an insensitive line)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Bad Ass Song...But What A Bunch Of Dorks

Eye Of The Tiger by Survivor

Released May 29th 1982 (the day after the movie Rocky III came out, from which it is the theme song), this was a made-to-order song from the star, writer and director of the movie, Sylvester Stallone after he was denied permission to use Another One Bites The Dust by Queen. The song was written by the guitarist and keyboard player and is the demo version of the song, so they must have felt that they got it right on the first try. It reached #1 on the US and UK charts and in seven other countries so the demo didn't need any improvement. It has sold nearly 10 million copies worldwide so its very popular.

The video is........interesting. Showing the band gathering on the sleazy streets of New York, the entire band seems to own leather jackets...except the keyboard player (his light blue shirt is not the tough image the rest of the band was hoping to project). And could any other group of guys look less comfortable walking down the street? But fear not, they've reached their rehearsal the back of a crowded warehouse (like seriously crowded with way too much stuff). As the song continues, they move on to a stage performance and for some reason every band member has to have a "wet hair" moment....its just weird.

Please enjoy this great song.....the video?....not so much.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Kurt Cobain Must Have Loved This Song

Eighties by Killing Joke

Released in April of 1984, this punk single about the decade we all love, reached #60 in the UK but didn't chart in the US. Describing some of the excesses of the decade (and only based on 4 years of it) it really captures some of what was wrong and great about the decade.

But the video is the magic here. It is filled with images that capture the politics and some of the over-the-top-ness of the 80's. There's British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, American President Ronald Reagan, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (don't go to the parade!!), Russian leader Brezhnev, Pope John Paul II but there's also rockets, female body builders, and punk fans of the band (hey, their fans deserve some love, so why not?). There also footage of dogs getting married.....yep, that's an 80's moment.

I'm sure at this point you're wondering why I mentioned the lead singer of the 1990's band Nirvana in the title (if not, you are now). When Nirvana released their single Come As You Are in 1991, the members of Killing Joke noticed that the Nirvana guitar riff was very similar to their song. For years there was rumors of a legal challenge in a court....somewhere...over the similarities. In the end, no lawsuit was ever filed and in 2003, former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl played drums on Killing Jokes self-titled album (it was the second album they released that was self-titled.....figure that one out). The joke's on everyone, anyway because in 1982 (2 years before this song was released) The Damned released a song called Life Goes On that contains the exact same guitar riff as this song and the Nirvana song. The members of Killing Joke say they don't know anything about this.

Please enjoy.....

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Great Song For A Crappy Movie

A View To A Kill by Duran Duran

The band had spent 5 years becoming huge stars and touring the world. Then they took a break and formed two different bands (see previous posts). Now it was the spring of 1985 and they were back to work on their first contribution to a movie soundtrack. As a life long James Bond fan and a Duran Duran fan, for me, this was the perfect marriage of a band at a very hot point in their career and a movie franchise that was looking to really embrace the decadent, 1980's, flashy, music video world.

The movie is about a KGB trained agent (gone rouge) who is planning to flood the Silicone Valley so he can control the microchip industry. Yes, its VERY 1980's and yes, it's as bad as it sounds. But every James Bond film is about sitting in a dark theater and escaping into Bond's world for a few hours so we'll only hold our nose at this stinker when the movie is over.
The band was picked to do the song after bassist John Taylor approached the producer at a party and drunkenly asked him when they were going to get a good band to do the theme song. The producer (and several, really great, previous musicians) should have been really offended by that comment but the song that Duran Duran created is still the only James Bond theme to reach #1 on the US charts (it reached #2 in the UK).

The music video is classic Duran Duran. The band is milling about on the Eiffel Tower in Paris as James Bond is attacked by one of the henchwomen from the film. But as we can see, the band members are also there as spies and its hard to keep track of which side they're on. It's all a bit cheeky (as the British would say) but I'll be honest, if I had the chance, I'd play a spy in a Bond film, so they're forgiven for being silly.

Please Enjoy.