Single of the week

Right Here Waiting (Richard Marx)

Richard-Marx - Thumb

When Richard Marx first arrived on the British chart in 1988, he was 24 years old and was seemingly a new kid on the block, but in truth, Richard had been involved in music in one form or another for almost 20 years.

Richard’s father wrote jingles and his mother sang them, so by the age of five, Richard, who had been accompanying his parents to the recording studio, was now singing them himself. As a teenager he began writing songs and when he was 18, in 1981, he sent a demo tape to Lionel Richie who acknowledged his talent and suggested he came to Los Angeles where he was invited to sing backing vocals on Lionel’s 1983 album, Can’t Slow Down.

The following year he co-wrote ‘What About Me’ with Kenny Rogers which Kenny sang with Kim Carnes and James Ingram. Later that year he met Cynthia Rhodes, the lead actress in Stayin’ Alive and also the girl seen dancing in Toto’s video for Rosanna, they dated and married in 1989.

In 1987 he released his debut album, Richard Marx, and the first two singles, ‘Should’ve Known Better’, with backing vocals by Fee Waybill of The Tubes and the Eagles’ Timothy B. Schmit and ‘Endless Summer Nights’ both made the top three in the US and both peaked at number 50 in the UK.

Due to Cynthia’s filming commitments and Richard’s touring schedule, the couple were apart for about three months. Despite a few attempts to meet up, it didn’t happen. He went to a friend, Bruce Gaitsch’s house and decided the only way he could carry on without his love by his side, was to write a song about her. Richard recalled how it happened, “I wrote the song for Cynthia who was in South Africa shooting for a film. We were not married at the time but I wanted to meet her because I had not seen her for a few months. But my visa application was rejected and when I came back I wrote this song which was more of a letter from me to her. It was the fastest song I wrote, in barely 20 minutes. This was the time when there was no Skype and Social networking so I had to ship the track to her. The song was very personal and was not intended to go public. But my friends pursued me to record it.” The song was eventually included on the parent album Repeat Offender.

In the Nineties, Richard had further UK Top 20 hits with Hazard, Take This Heart and Now and Forever. He also wrote hit singles for Barbra Streisand & Vince Gill (If You Ever Leave Me) and Nsync (This I Promise You). In 2004 Richard won his first Grammy for Song of the Year with Dance with My Father as sung by Luther Vandross. He recalled, “I’m very proud to have co-written that song. I helped Luther write it musically, but lyrically it was all him. It was a tribute to his father.” Richard accepted the award on the night but he said, “I couldn’t really celebrate because Luther was not there. He was recovering from a debilitating stroke and it was sad. It felt wrong.” Luther never recovered and passed away on 1st July 2005.

In the summer of 2006, Richard was asked to join Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band for a North American tour of 22 cities. He played guitar in the band supporting Ringo and performed his own hits at each show. In 2008, he began touring with former Vertical Horizon lead singer, Matt Scannell, as an acoustic duo and released a CD called Duo. The following year Richard’s latest CD Emotional Remains was released which features contribution from Jennifer Hanson and Kenny Loggins.

Please follow and like us:

Wordy Rappinghood (Tom Tom Club)

tom tom club - thumb

The first number one in the UK that contained rapping in came in 1983 in the shape of New Edition’s Candy Girl, but commercial rap was being tested as early as 1981. Remember Blondie’s Rapture? The Human League gave it a go in Love Action and two members of the Talking Heads gave it a different dimension as the Tom Tom Club.

The Talking heads were formed in New York in 1975 and got their break supporting the Ramones at the CBGB’s club. Arguably one of their greatest singles, Psycho Killer, never made the UK chart but their first success came in 1981 with Once In A Lifetime reaching number 14 but the next three hits failed to make any great impact. Their only other visit to the top ten came in 1985 with Road to Nowhere.

With the ever changing music scene of the early 80s, a diversion was needed and so the husband and wife duo Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth – the Talking Heads’ drummer and bassist respectively – temporarily broke away and formed the Tom Tom Club in March 1981. Not only that, they did it in style by relocating to Nassau, the  capital of the Bahamas where they bought a house right next to Island record label owner Chris Blackwell. He owned Compass Points Studios and he invited the pair to record some tracks. He said that if he liked their sound he would record a whole album. Frantz and Weymouth brought in Steven Stanley, a 21 year-old keyboard player who was the sound engineer on Ian Dury’s Lord Upminster album and they found a fantastic bass player called Monte Browne who had been a member of T-Connection.  Chris Frantz explained what happened after Blackwell approved, “So we then went back into the studio and did the rest of the album including this track called Genius Of Love which was eventually released as a single in America in 1981, but only after Island Records had shipped and sold like 100,000 12″ singles. Seymour Stein and the people at Warner Brothers sort of said ‘Oh, maybe Chris and Tina are on to something. We should release this album over here.’ So they did and to date it’s still one of the biggest selling records we’ve ever had, either with Talking Heads or Tom Tom Club.”

Their original intention was to record and released only one track, but they found they all inspired each other sufficiently to carry on. The band’s line up grew too and now included Weymouth’s two sisters, Laura, a freelance video technician, and Lani who was a New York student studying psychotherapy. They trio called themselves the Sweetbreaths. Wordy Rappinghood obviously impressed the reviewers in Smash Hits who exclaimed that it was ‘Aimed at the more intelligent end of the market’. At the time, Weymouth said in an interview, “When we did Wordy Rappinghood, we didn’t really know what we were doing. I think a lot of people thought Chris and I were going to do something really self-indulgent, and David (Byrne) and Jerry (Harrison) (Talking Heads members) were going to do something more legitimate.”

Wordy Rappinghood open with the tapping of a keyboard with an intellectual keyboard beat follows, setting a creative tone. The first verse, Tina noted has a vocabulary that exists for newspapers. “It’s tighter and precise. Words exist to create hundreds of pages of a book. They are spoken. There are also negative connotations. Guilty and steal are reserved for crooks. I will be with you are said to convey comfort. Surrender and truce can stop war. Stop, go, can’t express permission. Words build relationships, form bonds, and employment. I advise people to dine on the finest conversations and stimulate their minds. Swears are junk foods and leave people feeling unsatisfied. The pre-chorus is a bunch of nonsense words jumbled together.”

Blackwell had the idea to team them up with legendary reggae producer Lee Perry, but the day before, Perry and Blackwell had a falling out and Perry failed to show up. Instead they worked with a young Jamaican engineer called Steven Stanley, who later went on to have a successful career as a songwriter and is best remembered for the beat behind Mariah Carey’s 1995 hit Fantasy, mainly because it sampled Genius Of Love.

After Wordy Rappinghood, they added Steve Scales on percussion, Alex Weir guitar and Tyron Downie on keyboards. In 1986 they replaced Scales with Gary Pozner and Downie with Mark Roule. Their next album came in 1988 with Dark Sneak Love Action and despite a guest vocal appearance by Kirsty MacColl on the title track, the album failed to generate sales. In 2000 two further singles, Happiness Can’t Buy Money and The Good, The Bad and the Funky, were released and equally did nothing and so the band finally split.

In 2003, Wordy Rappinghood made a comeback in Europe in what was known as the Electroclash scene. Weymouth explained, “Those new electronic kids really dig it and they’ve used that little opening keyboard riff over and over again in remixes and stuff. It’s even been used in France for a cookie commercial…a children-oriented commercial for a French cookie called Le Petit Ecolier.” In 2011 the track was used again, this time on UK TV, to advertise Evian water.

The Tom Tom Club were the first white band to appear on the legendary programme, Soul Train. Chris Frantz explained what it was like, “It felt like a wonderful crossover. Here we are on this really cool TV show called Soul Train and that must mean we’ve got soul! That’s what we wanted – to have soul.”

Wordy Rappinghood discusses the importance of communication. “People are talking even if they don’t realise it. It’s a natural thing to do and something that’s taken for granted. Without language, people would struggle to relate to each other. Words define people and express their personalities,” Weymouth explained. In a world of texting, tweeting and Facebook, it’s doubtful that a song like this could be written now that a younger generation can understand.

Please follow and like us:

Wide Open Space (Mansun)

 

Wide Open Space - thumb

When Mansun landed on the musical map in 1996 their lead singer and main songwriter Paul Draper exclaimed “Exhibitionism is back” by sporting a new shiny houndstooth suit alongside blue eye liner and nail varnish on his right hand and then proclaimed, “I should have worn my nail varnish on my chord-playing hand really that way it’ll get more noticed.”

The band were formed as a trio in Chester in 1995 and originally called Grey Lantern after one of Draper’s songs. Whilst in a recording studio and technician claimed “That name is the worse fucking name ever”. Draper had a Verve EP in his collection and it contained the track A Man Called Sun which then got concertinaed down to Mansun. The other two members were Stove King on bass and Dominic Chad on guitar and they eventually added Andy Rathbone on drums.

Between March 1960 and December 1967, the chart compilers tracked an EP chart with the Shadows leading the way with 38 charting extended plays. Had this EP chart still been going, Mansun would have had a chance to be high up on it as their first 11 hit singles were all EP’s entitled numbers One to Eleven. Their debut in April 1996 had the lead track Egg-Shaped Fred – a small town ligger and their first top 20 hit was Stripped Vicar about a transvestite.

Wide Open Space was the lead track from their fourth EP and was the track that enhanced their career as it was their most successful single in the USA where it reached number 25 on the modern rock chart. The song took a while to write; in the sleeves notes of Legacy: Best Of, Draper explained how he recorded the entire song without the vocals six months before he wrote the lyrics. He remembered, “”I struggled for six months to find the lyrics, but I eventually got them from absorbing someone talking on TV which gave me the title, then I painted the imagery around that.” The song reached number 15 in the UK chart and was promoted by two different videos. The first was directed by Paul Cunningham and featured the band playing in a small dilapidated room while Martino Lazzeri (who played Joe Williams in Grange Hill) walks around a city alienated and paranoid amongst a vampire-like atmosphere. The American’s probably wouldn’t have got that so a second and simpler video was made and that was directed by Nigel Dick.

The track is included on the million-selling album  Attack Of The Grey Lantern, but that wasn’t the original title as Paul recalled, “No, it was originally called Attack Of The Green Lantern, but then we talked about it amongst ourselves we realised that none of us are into green, so we changed it to grey.” The American version of the album was quite disastrous with many unnecessary changes. The album has all the tracks segued together but Stripped Vicar was replaced by the early single Take It Easy Chicken which didn’t seem to fit with the grandiose feeling of the album and other tracks were chopped into a different order which made it lose its feel, as journalist Stephen Thomas Erlewine put it, ‘it ludicrously robs a fine concept album of its concept.’

Eighteen months later Mansun unleashed their second album, Six, which reached a respectable peak of number six, but within four weeks it had disappeared from the chart completely. Their third long-player, Little Kix, did even worse, reaching number 12 in the UK and barely registering in the US when it appeared in the summer of 2000. One track from it, Electric Man, had heavy rotation in all the men’s toilets of UK Cineworld cinemas, but may weren;t in there long enough for it to register and turn it into sales. Work began on a fourth album in 2002 but Mansun split up in May the following year. The results of the new material appeared on the double CD Kleptomania in 2004.

The reason for their split was unknown at the time but it transpired that Paul Draper was undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the time, having been diagnosed with cancer in 2002. Paul had made a full recovery, but did have to have half a finger removed during surgery which resulted in a slightly different sound because he had trouble with some of the chords.

In 2009, at the last ever gig at London’s Astoria, Paul appeared with the My Vitriol performing a version of Wide Open Space. In 2010 Draper started promising fans new solo material which hasn’t, as yet, materialised. Now it doesn’t look likely because during 2011 he contacted numerous internet forums and blogs requesting that all dialogue relating to his solo material be removed.

Please follow and like us:

Sartorial Eloquence (Elton John)

21 at 33 - thumb

Elton, after years as a jobbing musician, finally made his name on the UK music scene in 1971 with his hit Your Song. Many musicians will wonder how long their career would last and no doubt Elton did the same, but 41 years on, he is still doing it with immense success.

Throughout the 1970s he racked up 25 hit singles including; Rocket Man, Crocodile Rock, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,  his first number one Don’t Go Breaking My Heart with Kiki Dee on board and Part Time Love. His albums included Tumbleweed Connection, Honky Chateau, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player and Blue Moves. As the 1980s arrived, Elton was keen to let everyone know how successful he’d been by the title of his next album, 21 At 33 – his 21st album at the tender age of 33!

Although his albums were regularly making high chart positions, his singles were in a lull. Was there a reason for this? not really is probably the answer, the music scene was changing a little, disco was in full force, new wave was new on the scene and new romantic was on its way. Things were also turning a little electric and Elton had changed producers from Gus Dudgeon to Clive Franks. He and his long time lyricist Bernie Taupin were on a ‘break’ after Elton declined to use any of Bernie’s lyrics on the 1978 album A Single Man. The 1979 album Victim of Love was a disaster with most songs co-written by former Chicory Tip and Donna Summer collaborator Pete Bellotte. The only track not written by him was a bland cover of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode which failed when released as a single. Although 21 At 33 saw Elton and Bernie reunited, it was only on three of the nine tracks, Chasing The Crown, Two Rooms At The End Of The World and White Lady White powder. Elton began working with song writer Gary Osborne who had written Take Me Back, Dear God and the first single released Little Jeannie (misspelt on the label as Little Jeanie).  Give Me The Love was co-written by recent hit maker Judie Tzuke and the other two tracks, Never Gonna Fall In Love Again and Sartorial Eloquence were written by Tom Robinson.

Two Rooms At The End Of The World was about how Elton and Bernie got together, then parted and reunited again. Chasing The Crown lyrically resembled The Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil in as much as they are both puzzles where the listener has to identify the culprit who causes misery and conflict. White Lady White Powder features three members of the Eagles, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Timothy B. Schmit on backing vocals.

Sartorial Eloquence opens with Elton at the piano sounding despondent. The song expresses a homosexual longing, the object of affection for a stylishly dressed, emotionally unrevealing man, who prefers to leave an intense affair for other pleasures down the road. Could this be because of the sexuality of both its writers? According to the book, His Song, by Elizabeth J. Rosenthal, the music evokes the disappointment of a man left behind which grows in volume and despondency with the introduction of supporting musicians an backing singers finally reaching the chorus ‘Don’t wanna play this game no more’, which, interestingly became the main title of the song in the USA and Sartorial Eloquence only preceding the title in parenthesis, probably catering for the less liberated minds of the American record-buying public. Around the same time Robinson wrote a song about a boy in boarding school who had a crush on another pupil which he called Elton’s Song but it was held back and released the following year on the album The Fox.

When the single was released, it was Elton’s third (after Rocket Man and Saturday night’s Alright for Fighting) to contain two tracks on the B side. Cartier was a 53-second track about Elton’s favourite jewellery. He once explained on an American TV interview, “I feel that in these depressing times, I would write something to cheer myself up.” The other tracks was White Man Danger which hasn’t yet appeared on any album nor issued on CD.

During the 1985 World snooker championship (the one with Dennis Taylor beating Steve Davis in the final), the song was used to great effect as the backing to a montage of impeccably dressed snooker player being knocked out in the earlier rounds.

The image attached is my personally signed copy of the 21 At 33 album when I met Elton in 1980.

Please follow and like us:

Iris (Goo Goo Dolls)

Goo Goo Dolls Iris - thumb

One thing many songwriters suffer from is writer’s block. It’s when you’re not inspired and nothing comes. One of the best known cures is to write everyday and approach your song writing from different angles, probably easier said than done. Quite often after a long period of not managing to put pen to paper, all of a sudden it flows and that happened to songwriter John Rzeznik who is the lead singer and guitarist with the New York based trio the Goo Goo Dolls.

They formed in Buffalo in 1986 with Robby Takac on bass and drummer George Tututska. Takac was the original lead singer because John was too shy but he eventually overcame this. They picked their name from a True Detective ad for a toy called a Goo Goo Doll. John remembered, “We were young and we were a garage band not trying to get a deal. We had a gig that night and needed a name. It’s the best we came up with, and for some reason it stuck. If I had had five more minutes, I definitely would have picked a better name.”

In 1987 they signed to Mercenary records and released their debut self-titled album, the following year they changed to Celluloid records and released their second album, Jed. It was with their third album, Hold Me Up in 1990 that they made their mark in America. Their next album, called Name, was their fifth and was called A Boy Named Goo, but soon after recording it Rzeznik and Takac decided to replace Tutuska with a new drummer Mike Malinin. After a legal dispute with their record label, they re-signed to Warner Brothers and released their sixth album, Dizzy Up The Girl. This brought more success which led to a cameo appearance on Beverly Hills 90210.

It was in 1998 that Rzeznik suffered from writer’s block and was on the verge of quitting the band when he was approached to write a song for the film City Of Angels. He accepted the offer and the result was Iris. The song came fairly easily and John explained how, “I think the biggest difference is when writing the songs for a film, you sort of have your subject matter in front of you and the concepts right in front of you. The emotional aspects of whatever part of the film you are writing for are laid out in front of you. It gives me a bit of a format to work under, you know to work with. When you are writing songs strictly for yourself, sometimes you’re pulling stuff out of your hat. You’re sort of making up stories or reflecting on conversations you had with someone. I think it’s easier to write songs for film because you have that road map in front of you and put the pieces together.”

Iris is about a person with an invisible identity who no one understands. Then, he finds true love. He wants his true love to know that he exists and that she is the only person in the world who can understand and love him – hence the last line, ‘I just want you to know who I am.’ The name Iris was inspired by a Country singer named Iris DeMent, whose name Rzeznik came across while reading a magazine.

The song topped the U.S Billboard airplay chart for a record 18 weeks but in the UK, despite masses of radio airplay, it stalled at number 50. The follow up, Slide, only went seven places higher but it gave their UK record label, Hollywood, incentive to re-issue Iris, but without the budget for vast promotion it disappeared from the chart after only two weeks although it did peak higher at number 26.

In October 2011 the song got a new lease of life when two X Factor contestants, Frankie Cocozza and Joe Cox, both performed it on the show. Unlike most of the X factor winners and contestants whose career has a limited shelf life, this song had the appeal and remained on the chart for over 30 weeks and reached a new high of number three some thirteen years after its initial release.

The track has also proved popular as a first dance at weddings including Avril Lavigne who chose it to start her evening when she married Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley in 2006. The same year Ronan Keating decided to have a go at it and somehow took it to number 15 in the UK chart, but thankfully after four weeks it was gone.

Please follow and like us: