OK, So Sue Me...

These Two Artists Only Needed One Name...The One Of A Good Lawyer

Thomas Dolby

You have to figure if you name yourself after a noise reduction process--you should be able to proceed without static...But when Thomas Robertson began using his nickname "Dolby" (Given to him because his non-stop attachment to his cassette player) as his performing surname, Dolby Labs threatened legal action.

The "lab" wanted the "performer" to stop using the "Dolby" name, or his next hit would be him getting hit with a lawsuit. The problem was that Thomas had been "Dolby" for years. In addition to performing and writing songs for Lene Lovich and Bruce Wooley and Camera Club, he did mos
t of the synth work on Foreigner 4. Normally in cases like this, no one cares what you do until there is some money to take. With the success of his album "The Golden Age Of Wireless" both on the radio and MTV, the money was there for it to suddenly become a problem. This was not Thomas Dolby's first run in with lawyers. After failing to secure a record deal in the late '70's when he left Lovich's band, he was so in debt he moved to France. The cash from the sessions with Foreigner paid off his debts and allowed him to produce demos for the some of the songs that would be on "Wireless". Eventually, the 2 parties finally came to an agreement. As long as the artist kept the use of the name to "Thomas Dolby", and nothing else, the matter was done.

The album "The Golden Age Of Wireless" was far from done. This record was a big hit across the board, reaching the top 15 on Billboard's album charts and top 50 on the urban charts. There was heavy video airplay on MTV and 3 singles on the Top 100 and Album Rock charts as well. Technically adept with a quirky oddness, this is a solid record that pre-dates the "Dork Rock" of bands like They Might Be Giants. In addition to the hits, there are some worthwhile deep cuts (songs that got some play on College stations, some of the braver rock stations, and the handful of "alternative" stations at the time) to be had here. "Flying North"
, a song where the narrator imagines his plane breaking the stratosphere into space, only to eventually touchdown to reality via the runway, has Dolby working both the synthesizer and the delay machine to optimal aural effect.

Listen to "Flying North"

Comsat Angels

For every kid who dreams of being a rock star, there is a parent whose dream is a for their kids to get involved in something more grounded--like the legal profession. When The Comsat Angels became plaintiffs, somebody's parents got their wish.

The Comsat Angels were a New Wave outfit from Sheffield, England who had some critical success in the UK with 3 tense atmospheric records. Commercial appeal and a US record deal eluded them until they changed direction toward a synth/pop sound. That wasn't the only change they had to make...The Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT) took issue with the band's name, claiming copyright infringement. After adjudicating (look it up...) the issue, the band was known as The C.S. Angels in the US. The band was actually named after the science fiction writer J.G. Ballard's story "The Comsat Angels", so perhaps as a nod to Ballard they shortened Comsat to just 2 initials. It made better marketing sense than F.U. would have...

After all the B.S. was over The Comsat/C.S. Angels scored a College and Alternative hit with "Will You Stay Tonight"
ng on the current sound of the time (1983) without looking like fashion tools or pouters, this song captured both radio and club play and continued to be one of the most requested songs on the lunchtime or Sunday Morning "Flashback" shows, until the fall of the independent alternative radio station.

Listen to "Will You Stay Tonight"

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Mise En (Music) Scene

The Tragedy Of These Comedies, Is That The Highlight Of The Film Might Be The Soundtrack.

Up The Creek

Hollywood is an amazing place. It is amazing that really bad films like "Up The Creek" actually get made. But one of the most amazing things to me, is that someone actually said at a pitch meeting: "It's "Animal House" meets "Cannonball Run"... but on a raft!" and didn't get punched in the head straightaway. The ONLY people that ever profit from stupidity like that are cocaine dealers. So... with all that whiff talking, "Up The Creek" stands out as a very bad movie.

Bad college movies are like strip clubs--they both feature naked women, which is cool... until they start talking. That's why strip clubs have pool tables, and movies like this have rock soundtracks to make you forget the dialogue. Now, if a band is going to play a bad strip club, they should have good songs, the ability not to take themselves too seriously and the credibility to walk in and out of the place--reputation intact. "Ladies and Gentlemen...please welcome...Cheap Trick!"

Cheap Trick are one of a handful of bands that could be associated with a movie like this and still be cool.
"Up The Creek" doesn't have the flavor of a throwaway soundtrack song that "Spring Break' (released with the film of the same title the following year) seemed to have. This very well could have been on the album "Next Position Please", for it's Power Pop, in all it's electric glory, with the power coming from Rick Nielsen's dastardly guitar work and the dynamic throat of Robin Zander.

Bachelor Party

A bachelor party never seems to end up how you think it should. You get dressed to nines, ready to party and you end up eating chicken fingers with guys wearing sweatshirts and khaki pants. Your goal is to get arrested and you end up going home with a Brazilian stewardess. The movie "Bachelor Party" had the same vibe.

At first glance, this film looks like the "Bosom Buddies" movie with Tom Hanks joined on screen with 4 other cast members from that TV show. Hanks was not the original lead in the film, however. He replaced Paul Reiser (Wow! That is a completely different film!) and before that, Jim Carrey and Tim Robbins were being seriously considered for that part.

The soundtrack for the movie looked like a big winner. I.R.S. Records, which did the soundtrack, was having it's greatest year in 1984. Many of the artists had big albums in '84, and they were on the soundtrack (REM, Oingo Boingo and The Alarm), plus, radio had warmed to "alternative" music to the point that it was a big chunk of rock radio programming. But instead of being the New Wave "Footloose", this record was "Cut Loose" due to lack of promotion and label support.

"American Beat '84" by The Fleshtones should have been a big radio hit that summer but no one noticed. This was The Fleshtones 1st single (originally released 5 years earlier), an updated re-release of suped up Garage Rock, clean and fun, with bounce and bite. This song should have been on every car radio and beach sand infested boom box. Whose wife did this band have sex with to kill the careers? Their debut album peaks at #174 on the charts and is the highest charting position of any of their records. Lead singer Peter Zaremba appears on MTV's "The Cutting Edge" every week and still no ones buys the records. Eventually the band and I.R.S. parted ways. Undeterred, The Fleshtones continued to play "Super Rock" to this day, most recently on Yep Roc Records.
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Necessity Is The Mother Of Re-Invention

Two Artists Try To Get A Second Chance At A First Impression By 86'ing Their Previous Guises.

Flash And The Pan

If Caller I.D. existed in 1979, the 3 AM drunk dial by Harry Vanda and George Young would have started by dialing *67. But instead of the
display reading "Unknown Caller", the incoming transmission was titled "Flash And The Pan".

Vanda and Young got their careers started with "The Easybeats" in the '60's. Then they went on to writing and producing other acts, the most noteworthy of which was the Bon Scott fronted AC/DC records (George being the older brother of Malcom and Angus Young). So when on break from making some of the toughest, loudest rock records ever pressed, Vanda and Young decide to write, play and record a very cool, distant and mysterious
New Wave album.

This was the prototype of the faceless studio records that became a big part of the early 1980's New Wave scene. The record sleeve gave nothing away about the band. There was no tour or live performances. The vocals were produced to sound as if they were broadcasting immediately after Roosevelt's State Of The Union Address. "Flash And The Pan" did not do cuddly... but what they did do was haunting. "Walking In The Rain"
 was the 2nd stab at American rock radio following the moderate success of "Hey Saint Peter". A simple bass line underlining a rough Australian accent, gives this song the sonic feel of digging into your jeans for your last wet dollar. Most of America did not know what to make of this record so they were written off as a novelty act. Not being most of America, Grace Jones covered "Walking In The Rain" on her 1981 LP "Nightclubbing".

Listen to "Walking In The Rain"


Evolution can be a strange thing. For every fish that walked out of the ocean to become the next phase of the eventual Human Race, there is another fish that grows pockets. Great for storing plankton, but they slow you down in the water.

Ronnie Montrose is a brilliant guitar player and was the namesake for one of the absolute pillars of stadium rock, the band "Montrose". When "Montrose's" front man Sammy Hagar left the band after the 2nd album for his own career, Ronnie put out a few more albums as "Montrose" then went solo himself. Then in 1979 he formed the band "Gamma" with Davey Pattison (who was recommended by Bill Graham). This seemed like a perfect setup, Montrose, a name guitarist in need of a solid front man. This fish had legs and was going to kick your ass! Unfortunately the fish grew pockets again.

s a band "Gamma" kept evolving, that gave them an identity problem. The fist album sold fairly well but the single ("I'm Alive") was a cover. "Gamma 2" was more straight ahead rock, but more lineup changes (including former "Montrose" drummer Denny Carmassi) did not do the trick. "Gamma 3" went to more of a synth/keyboard sound. Not having the guitar driving the sound of the band hurt album sales somewhat, but this album produced their biggest rock radio song ,the ironically titled "Right The First TimeRonnie Montrose went solo again in 1986. Gamma reformed for 1 album in 2000.

Listen to "Right The First Time"

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Through The Power Of Television

Powerful Images From 2 Power Pop Bands.


When MTV first went on the air, the channel only had 80+ videos to play. The band Shoes accounted for 4 of these videos. Quick math will tell you that these 4 videos showed up more often than a "Win A Free Play Station 3!" banner. With that kind of exposure it would seem brisk album sales and notoriety were sure to follow. Sadly, Shoes got kicked to the curb.

1) Not everyone had MTV right away (MTV did not get in to Manhattan and Los Angeles until September 1982--a full year after launch) so exposure was light.

2) The album for these videos was 2 years old. Wow! 1979? Who was president back then? Shoes had released another album ("Tongue Twister") as well, a full 7 months before the MTV debut. So the tour that would have supported this newly found steam had most likely seen its last show.

3) By the time everyone had figured out what to do, the channel was invaded by haircuts and bigger budgets.

Other than that, everything was great.

The Shoes "Present Tense" was released in October 1979 and was/is an amazing record. Shoes 1st album "Black Vinyl Shoes" (considered to be the grandfather of DIY recordings) was recorded on a TEAC 4 track machine in one of the band members' living room. Now with a full studio to work with, Shoes created a Power Pop classic that was a hit in Chicago (the band hails from nearby Zion, Illinois) but not really anywhere else. "Tomorrow Night" originally a Bomp Records single, leads off the album. Everything works. The production, the harmonies and the instrumentation, a perfect sonic balance of sparse and vastness. This song has a vital anxiousness that seems to be timeless.

Those that paid attention to these 4 videos were rewarded on the 25th anniversary of MTV's 1st broadcast when the 4 Shoes videos took a long awaited return to heavy rotation.
Watch the video for "Tomorrow Night"

Paul Collins

A few years ago I had a Paul Collins CD that I had put up for Internet auction. During the auction, I received an e-mail from Mr. Collins mentioning the auction and inviting me to view his web site. My first thought was "SHIT! He's watching me!" Then after checking the room for hidden cameras, my paranoia subsided into thinking "Paul Collins just emailed me...cool." I wonder what he will say now.

The Paul Collins Beat followed up their critically acclaimed debut album with 1982's "The Kids Are The Same". 1982 was a strange time in music. Punk, New Wave and Roots Rock bands had spent the last few years trying to get back to basics--substance over style. Sadly, however, it had come full circle, style was all the rage. Everything was visual now thanks to MTV.

Not everything was a beauty school student art film. "On The Highway" was a simple, low budget performance video. Why go this direction? Maybe they wanted the song to speak for itself, or perhaps there was no money... Clocking in at 5:46, this song is not like other highway songs. Instead of gunning at top speed it feels more like a long ride through the desert at night in a David Lynch movie. Oddly, once this song started to get some radio and video airplay, the band was dropped from its record label. Not giving up, the band booked their own shows in support of the album and continued recording and touring in that DIY spirit until the late 1980's.
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