Category: synth pop

On this day in music history: July 3, 1982 – &…

On this day in music history: July 3, 1982 – “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also peaking at #3 on the Club Play chart on May 15, 1982. Written by Philip Oakey, Jo Callis and Philip Adrian Wright, it is the biggest hit for the Sheffield, UK based synth-pop band. Lead singer Phil Oakley comes up with the initial idea for the song, taking inspiration from a story he reads in a magazine and also by the film “A Star Is Born”. First issued in the UK in late 1981 as the fourth single from the bands third album “Dare”, the band are initially hesitant to release it as a single, especially lead singer Phil Oakey. In fact it causes a huge argument between Oakey and producer Martin Rushent over including the song on the album, after Rushent changes the bands original arrangement. Finally, Oakey agrees, but only if it is inserted into the album as the final track. Oakey’s fears are unfounded, as the single quickly becomes a smash. “Don’t You Want Me” tops the UK singles chart for 5 weeks, selling over 1.4 million copies, and becoming the top selling single of 1981. A&M Records picks up the record for the US, releasing it in January of 1982. Entering the chart at #86 on March 6, 1982, it begins a long, slow climb up the Hot 100, finally topping the chart seventeen weeks later. The track is groundbreaking in the States, being the first synthesizer driven single to top the US pop charts. It also is the first major hit record to utilize the newly introduced Linn LM-1 drum machine, which becomes a staple of pop, R&B, and dance music throughout the decade and beyond. The US chart success of “Don’t You Want Me” also marks the beginning of the second British Invasion of the American record charts with acts like Soft Cell, ABC, A Flock Of Seagulls, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Wham! and numerous others following in their wake. “Don’t You Want Me” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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Born on this day: June 26, 1961 – Singer and a…

Born on this day: June 26, 1961 – Singer and actress Terri Nunn of Berlin (born Terri Kathleen Nunn in Baldwin Hills, CA). Happy 58th Birthday, Terri!!

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On this day in music history: June 24, 1983 – …

On this day in music history: June 24, 1983 – “Tour De France” by Kraftwerk is released. Written by Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Karl Bartos and Maxime Schmitt, it is the twelfth (ninth US) single release for the electronic synth pop band from Dusseldorf, Germany. Following the release of their eighth album “Computer World”, the electronic music innovators begin work on the follow up. In 1982, Kraftwerk start writing and recording an album titled “Technicolor”. The band discover that they are unable to use the name, due to its trademarked status. Changing its title to “Technopop” (aka “Electric Cafe”), work continues on the project. Becoming obsessed with cycling and vegetarianism, Ralf Hütter encourages his band mates to embrace a similar healthy lifestyle. Out of this, comes the first song to emerge from the recording sessions. “Tour De France” marks a dramatic departure from the technological themes of their past work. It features the sounds of sampled breathing, and bicycle gears in motion used as secondary percussion, against the up tempo electronic rhythm track. The lyrics trace the route of the twenty three day long 2,200 mile race, painting a vivid aural picture of the cyclist’s experience. Hütter pushes for it to be the center of a concept album about cycling, but the idea is abandoned. Instead, “Tour De France” is released as a stand alone single, just weeks before the 80th anniversary of the race. The single sleeve features an illustration of the four band members riding in a pace line formation, superimposed against an angled background of France’s national flag colors. It is a sizable hit across Europe, peaking at #22 on the UK singles chart. “France” is not released in North America by Warner Bros. Records, until November of 1983. First issued as a 12" only, it includes the original mix, and a remix by veteran club DJ and producer Francois Kevorkian. The latter is the one favored by DJ’s and club goers, peaking at #4 on the Billboard Club Play chart on February 18, 1984. Its popularity is such, that it inspires a cover by one off studio group 10 Speed. Also favored by breakdancers, poppers and lockers, “Tour De France” is featured in hit film “Breakin’” (aka “Breakdance”). The song is used in an electrifying dance sequence with actor and dancer Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers. With the track playing in the background, Chambers dances while sweeping out in front of a corner store. At times he appears to make the broom levitate and float through the air. The remixed single is released in Europe, re-charting at #24 on the UK singles chart. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France, Kraftwerk expands it into a full album titled “Tour De France Soundtracks”, released in August of 2003. Surprisingly, it is Kraftwerk’s only chart topping album in their home country.

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On this day in music history: June 17, 1985 – …

On this day in music history: June 17, 1985 – “Crush”, the sixth studio album by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark is released. Produced by Stephen Hague and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, it is recorded at Amazon Studios in Liverpool, UK from Late 1984 – Spring 1985. Following the release their previous album “Junk Culture” and the singles “Tesla Girls” and “Locomotion”, OMD continue to move forward and evolve musically. The band ignore criticism from British music critics from New Musical Express and Melody Maker, after they blatantly thrash it. The follow up “Crush” marks the beginning of a new musical direction for the Liverpudlian synth pop band. They consciously move away from their experimental electronic dance music of their previous work, towards a more accessible mainstream pop sound. It is the bands’ first album to be co-produced by Stephen Hague (The Pet Shop Boys, New Order, Erasure), and is aimed primarily at the US record market. It significantly increases their previously underground fan base in the US, giving them their first taste of mainstream success. The album spins off two singles including “Secret” (#63 Pop) and their first US top 40 hit “So In Love” (#26 Pop). “Crush” peaks at number thirteen on the UK album chart and number thirty eight on the Billboard Top 200.

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On this day in music history: June 11, 1979 – …

On this day in music history: June 11, 1979 – “Duty Now For The Future”, the second album by Devo is released. Produced by Ken Scott and Devo, it is recorded at Chateau Recorders in Hollywood, CA from September 1978 – Early 1979. Less than a month after their debut album “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!” is in stores, Devo quickly begin recording the follow up. The band work with Ken Scott, best known for his work with The Beatles, Pink Floyd and David Bowie. Much of the material on “Duty” has been performed live since 1976, penned mostly by Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale (with writing contributions from Bob Casale (aka “Bob 1”) ). The lone cover is of Johnny Rivers’ 60’s classic “Secret Agent Man”, featuring a guitar solo that has been distorted through microphone preamps, then fed into headphones and recorded with a mic taped to them. The album features more of an emphasis on guitars, with the band and Scott employing various techniques to alter their texture and sound. The opening track “Devo Corporate Anthem” is inspired in part by the sci-fi film “Rollerball”. The cover for “Duty Now For The Future” is designed graphic artist Janet Perr (Cyndi Lauper, Run DMC), satirizing the use of UPC codes (Universal Product Code), on the back of album covers. At the time of their inception, many musicians feel they distract from carefully conceived artwork, and stand out like a sore thumb. However, Devo respond by having them positioned all over the front and back of the colorful album cover, reacting to the “Orwellian” look of the UPC symbols. The original covers feature an illustration of the band in the center, that is perforated and can be removed. Issued only ten and a half months after their debut, the initial reaction to “Duty” is largely mixed from both fans and critics. Many feel that it is “transitional” and darker, lacking the same type of humor and tongue in cheek attitude of the first album. Though in time, it is re-evaluated and is regarded as a “seminal new wave synthpop album”, and one of Devo’s best. Other tracks like “The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprize”, “Pink Pussycat” and “Smart Patrol”/“Mr. DNA” all become part of the band’s classic canon, and are performed live frequently in later years. Largely neglected by Warner Bros. due to its meager original sales, the album isn’t reissued on CD until 1991, with subsequent reissues in 1994 (w/ two bonus tracks), and 2010 (w/ five bonus tracks). Out of print on vinyl since its original release, it is also reissued briefly in 2010, and again in 2019 as part of the limited edition Record Store Day release “This Is The Devo Box”. The latter is pressed on purple vinyl, matching the shade of the LP’s inner sleeve. “Duty Now For The Future” peaks at number seventy three on the Billboard Top 200.

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On this day in music history: June 3, 1983 -…

On this day in music history: June 3, 1983 – “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats is released. Written by Ivan Doroschuk, it is the debut single release and the biggest hit for the synth pop/new wave band from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Founded in 1977 as a punk rock band and first known as Wave 21, it features brothers Ivan Doroschuk (lead vocals), Stefan Doroschuk (bass) and Colin Doroschuk (guitar), along with Pete Seabrooke (guitar), Dave Hill (bass) and John Gurrin (drums). They change their name to Men Without Hats after punk gives way to new wave. Their quirky name comes as a result of the brothers’ refusal to wear hats during Canada’s often bitterly cold winters. The band features a rotating line up, with Ivan and Stefan being only constant members. After more changes in personnel, Men Without Hats are then signed to Statik Records (distributed by Sire Records internationally). The band record their debut album “Rhythm Of Youth”, issuing “I Like” as the first single. It fails to chart in Canada or Europe, and is followed up by “The Safety Dance”. The song is a result of an experience during Men Without Hats’ early days. Bouncers in a club they were playing in, were admonishing patrons stop pogo dancing. The dance consists of someone jumping up and down like a pogo stick, while either flailing your arms. Regarded as the predecessor to moshing and slam dancing, some venues ban it, to avoid injuries. Released in Canada and Europe first, “The Safety Dance” peaks at #11 on the Canadian singles chart, and #6 on the UK singles chart in early 1983. Off of the back of that success, it’s licensed to MCA distributed Backstreet Records in the US. “The Safety Dance” is supported by a music video directed by Tim Pope (The Cure, Soft Cell), inspired by 17th and 18th century English folklore and culture. Filmed in the village of West Kington in Wiltshire, UK, actors in period dress are seen dancing in groups and around the maypole. British dwarf actor Mike Edmonds (Flash Gordon, Time Bandits, Return Of The Jedi), as the jester who accompanies Doroschuk. Throughout the video, Ivan makes the distinctive movements of jerking his arms into the shape of an “S”, to signify the “safety dance”. A big hit on American dance floors first, an extended version (included on the “Rhythm Of Youth” album) spends one week at #1 on the Billboard Club Play chart, on July 2, 1983. The original single mix crosses over to radio, peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 on September 10, 1983. Regarded as an 80’s new wave classic, Men Without Hats will find following up their big hit nearly impossible. They chart in the US only two more times with “I Like” (#84 Pop) and “Pop Goes The World” (#20 Pop). In 1984, “Weird Al” Yankovic spoofs “The Safety Dance” with “The Brady Bunch” on his album “In 3-D”.

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On this day in music history: June 1, 1985 – &…

On this day in music history: June 1, 1985 – “Hunting High And Low”, the debut album by a-ha is released. Produced by John Ratcliff, Tony Mansfield and Alan Tarney, it is recorded Eel Pie Studios in Twickenham, London, UK, and Rendezvous Studios in London from June 1984 – March 1985. Formed in their native Oslo, Norway in 1982, a-ha take their name from song written by Pål Waaktaar early in band’s existence. They choose the name as a word that is easy for English speaking people to remember and pronounce, and has the same meaning in Norwegian and English. Realizing that their chances for success are limited in Norway, a-ha relocate to London in 1983. They begin recording demos, secure management, and within a year begin to attract record label interest. Signed to the US branch of Warner Bros Records in early 1984, the Norwegian pop trio begin work on their first album with a trio of producers, including their manager John Ratcliff, and UK pop/rock veterans Tony Mansfield (Naked Eyes, The B-52’s, Captain Sensible) and Alan Tarney (Cliff Richard, Leo Sayer). It spins off three hits in the US including the chart topping “Take On Me” (on October 19, 1985) and “The Sun Always Shines On TV” (#20 Pop, #6 Club Play). It sells over six million copies worldwide, also earning them a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. In 2010, a two CD remastered version of the album (by Bill Inglot, Dan Hersch and Dave Schultz) is issued including demo versions of several songs, previously unreleased tracks, 12" single remixes and the original 1984 version of “Take On Me”. Out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, it is remastered and reissued by Rhino Records in 2015. Another limited edition LP, pressed on clear vinyl, is issued as part of Rhino’s “Back To The 80’s” series in July of 2018. “Hunting High And Low” peaks at number fifteen on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 20, 1985 – &…

On this day in music history: May 20, 1985 – “Youthquake”, the second album by Dead Or Alive is released. Produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman, it is recorded at PWL Studios in London from September 1984 – March 1985. Following the departure of founding member and guitarist Wayne Hussey to join the goth-rock band Sisters Of Mercy in mid-1984, Dead Or Alive continue on as a quartet. The Liverpool, UK based band completely abandon their early goth/post-punk sound which they had begun moving away from on their debut album “Sophisticated Boom Boom”. Dead Or Alive work with the fledgling production team of Mike Stock, Matt Aikten and Pete Waterman (aka Stock, Aitken and Waterman. The first product of the bands fully revamped Eurodisco/Hi-NRG sound is the single “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)” (#1 UK Pop, #11 US Pop), which Epic Records has such disdain for it initially, that they refuse to fund its recording. Lead singer Pete Burns believes so deeply in the songs hit potential that he takes out a loan to record it independently of the label. After the song is recorded, Epic releases it, but again refuses to provide a budget to shoot a music video. The self financed clip directed by Vaughan Arnell and Anthea Benton (George Michael’s “Fastlove”, The Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There”) begins to receive play on UK television and in clubs, helping the record move on to the charts in December of 1984. The song moves slowly up the charts until Dead Or Alive appears on Top Of The Pops in February of 1985. That lone television appearance helps propel the single to #1 on the UK singles chart in March, prompting its US release. The album meets with similar success as it spins off three additional singles including “Lover Come Back To Me” (#11 UK Pop, #75 US Pop), “In Too Deep” (#14 UK Pop), and “My Heart Goes Bang (Get Me To The Doctor)” (#23 UK Pop). The albums striking cover artwork is designed by British graphic design firm Satori (Def Leppard, Thompson Twins), and features an enigmatic photograph of the flamboyant Burns on the front, taken by famed fashion photographer Mario Testino. The original European CD and cassette versions of the album include the Performance Mix of “You Spin Me Round” and the extended dance mix of “Lover Come Back”, as well as the remastered release in 1994. The US and Japanese CD’s contain the original vinyl LP track listing. Out of print on vinyl since its original release, it is remastered and reissued by Music On Vinyl in 2018. The LP comes pressed on standard black or limited edition purple vinyl (1,500 numbered copies). “Youthquake” peaks at number nine on the UK album chart, number thirty one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 16, 1980 – &…

On this day in music history: May 16, 1980 – “Freedom Of Choice”, the third studio album by Devo is released. Produced by Robert Margouleff and Devo, it is recorded at The Record Plant in Los Angeles, CA from October 1979 – January 1980. The pioneering new wave bands third release sees their sound become more keyboard driven, incorporating them into their trademark guitar/bass and drums configuration. For this release, Devo collaborates with producer and musician Robert Margouleff (Stevie Wonder, Tonto’s Expanding Head Band). The unique hybrid results in their most successful album, and is regarded as a landmark album in the new wave genre. It spins off four singles including “Whip It” (#14 Pop, #22 Club Play) and “Girl U Want”. When the album is released, Warner Bros chooses “Girl U Want” as the first single, over the band’s choice of “Whip It”. Though regarded as a classic today (later being covered by Soundgarden, Superchunk and Zombie Ghost Train), the single fails to chart in the US. It’s only after DJ’s in various parts of the country begin playing it off of the album, that “Whip It” is released as a single in August of 1980. Supported a tongue in cheek video (costing only $15,000), is set on a dude ranch and is inspired by an issue of the men’s life style magazine “The Dude”. Though some misconstrue the song as being about sadomasochism or masturbation, it doesn’t stop it from becoming Devo’s biggest hit, and only million selling single.The original twelve track album is remastered and reissued in November of 2009, pairing it with the bands 1981 live EP “DEV-O Live”. A month later, a further expanded edition titled “DEVO-LUX” that includes demo versions of “Gates Of Steel”, “Snowball” and “Time Bomb”, and the bands debut album “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!”. In January of 2016, Rhino Records reissues “Freedom Of Choice” as part of their “Start Your Ear Off Right” series, as a limited edition vinyl LP pressed on red, white and blue multi-colored vinyl, also replicating the original inner sleeve. The vinyl edition is reissued again in April of 2019, for Record Store Day. Pressed on red vinyl, the LP is included in the box set “This Is The Devo Box”. “Freedom Of Choice” peak at number twenty two on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 10, 1986 – &…

On this day in music history: May 10, 1986 – “West End Girls” by the Pet Shop Boys hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Club Play chart for 2 weeks on May 3, 1986. Written by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, it is the biggest hit for the British synth pop/dance music duo. The worldwide hit version of “West End Girls” is actually the second version of the song recorded by the duo. Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe originally record the track with new wave/dance music producer Bobby Orlando (aka “Bobby O”) in 1984. Released on CBS’ short lived Bobcat Records imprint, it becomes a sizable club hit in parts of Europe and the US. Tennant and Lowe have a falling out with Orlando prior to signing with EMI Records and subsequently re-cut the song with producer Stephen Hague (OMD, Erasure, New Order), in 1985. The re-recorded version also features background vocals by Helena Springs (Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Matt Bianco). Released in the UK in October of 1985, the single shoots to number one in the UK in January 1986. Off the back of its chart topping success in the UK, it is released in the US in February of 1986. Entering the Hot 100 at #71 on March 1, 1986, it climbs to the top of the chart ten weeks later. “West End Girls” also top the charts in Canada, Norway, and New Zealand as well as reaching the top five in another nine countries. The success of the single propels their debut album “Please” to Platinum status in the US.

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