Saturday, July 22, 2017

Oingo Boingo: From Gong Show To Weird Science

The name Oingo Boingo brings to mind the quirky new wavish '80s for many of us. But the group has a more extensive history.  It started back in the early '70s as a performance art group called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo.  One of their more noteworthy performances at that time came in 1976, when they appeared as contestants on the original version of The Gong Show with their then wacky host Chuck Barris. (Acknowledgement to junkfoodforworms for the video.)

In the '80s came New Wave, a genre the group took to well, changing their name to simply Oingo Boingo, and adopting a ska-influenced New Wave style.  Here's my fave song from them, the very catchy "Stay" off of their Dead Man's Party album.  (Acknowledgement to Boingo Vision for the video.)

They are probably most well known for the theme song to the very '80s John Hughes film Weird Science in 1985.  (Acknowledgement to NewOrderUp for the video.)

In the '90s, they briefly shortened their name even further, to Boingo, and followed new musical directions.  The group's frontman, Danny Elfman also made a name for himself with his work on movie soundtracks, including Pee Wees Big Adventure and Men in Black.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Dream Academy (Life In A Northern Town)

The Dream Academy is a unique '80s group whose work has included elements of psychedelia, melodic pop, classical music, and ethereal chanting. The combined effect is quite magical. 

The group's most well-known song was the extremely popular 1985 hit "Life In A Northern Town." The song was intended in part as a tribute to '70s musician Nick Drake, and contained melancholy references to '60s memories, mentioning specifically JFK and the Beatles. Its quite a haunting, sentimental record.  The song and the album from which it came were co-produced by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, with whom the band often collaborated.

In 1986, the band also did a dreamy version of the Smiths' "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want."  This was the song that played in the background during the museum scenes in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Here's one more from Dream Academy: the follow up single to "Northern Town," called "The Love Parade." 

(Acknowledgement and thanks to The Dream Academy for the videos.)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Getting In Trouble With Heavy Metal


I'm feeling like being rebellious and getting into trouble. The problem is that I'm in my 40s, so maybe being bad isn't such a good idea. So, how about the next best thing: listening to some '80s rebellious heavy metal and watching some videos about misbehaving.

First, lets rebel against parental authority at home. The best song for that is Twisted Sister's 1984 classic metal anthem, "We're Not Gonna Take It." (Acknowledgement and thanks to RHINO.)

Now, lets rebel at school. The song for that has got to be Motley Crue's "Smokin in the Boy's Room" from 1985. (Acknowledgement and thanks to Louder Noise.)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

For July 4th: When America Came Together

I wish all of my readers in the United States a great Independence Day. 

In honor of July 4, I am re-posting a post which originally appeared May 21, 2016.  Its a post commemorating an event which brought Americans together, back when doing so seemed much more common than it does today. Hands Across America brought together Americans of very different politics, lifestyles, and viewpoints to call attention to the needs of the homeless. The event consisted of creating a human chain across the United States made up of people from all walks of life. 

I post this today in commemoration of my country, the United States of America, and also to remind us that we can come together again as we once did in the past.

Hands Across America (May 25, 1986)

On May 25, 1986, a truly unique event occurred which I think has some lessons for us today.  In an effort to draw attention to the plight of the homeless, over 6 million people joined hands in a chain that crossed the United States from coast to coast.  The effort was called Hands Across America.

The event drew support from across the political spectrum, and included participation from many political, artistic and religious figures.  These included Yoko Ono, Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, Michael J. Fox, Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Liza Minelli, Kenny Rogers, John Cardinal O'Connor, and the Reverend Robert Schuller, all of whom joined the human chain at some point along its lengthy route.

In Washington, D.C., the event included President Ronald Reagan at the White House, and House Speaker Tip O'Neill at the U.S. Capitol.

I think this wonderful event, which went on to raise $34 million for homeless charities, is an example for today.  Now that there is such division and mistrust in the U.S., we need a reminder that it doesn't always have to be like this.   As we approach the aniversary of Hands Across America, we could do well to look back and see that we came come together with hopefullness and idealism to do good, and to see the best in one another.

hands across america
hands across the land i love
united we fall
united we stand
hands across america
mother and father
daughter and son
learn to live as one
i can not stop thinking again and again
how the heart of a stranger
beats the same as a friend
learn to love each other
see these people over there?
they are my brother and sister
when they laugh i laugh
when they cry i cry
when they need i’ll be there by their side
we are the river of hope
that runs through the valley of fear
and there is a lady whose smile shines upon us
saying all is welcome here.
learn to love each other
see the man over there?
he’s my brother
when he laughs i laugh
when he cries i cry
when he needs me
i’ll be right there, right by his side
the kiss never felt so sincere
full of countless dreams
this earth, it never smelt so sweet
cradles a song in it’s great heartbeat
learn to love each other
see the man over there?
he’s my brother
when he laughs i laugh
when he cries i cry
when he needs me

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Thomas Dolby: "She Blinded Me With Science"

Thomas Dolby - She Blinded Me With Science from Mad Hatter on Vimeo.

Here's one of the more creative videos from MTV's golden age, Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me With Science."  The quirky song was often on the radio during 1982-83, and the video is very memorable for its mad scientist storyline.  One of the interesting aspects of the music video was its inclusion of Dr. Magnus Pyke, a real life, well known but eccentric scientist.  As described in the Wikipedia article on the song:
In the music video, Dolby commits himself to a Home for Deranged Scientists. Various mad scientist types operate fanciful inventions on the grounds of the home and act insane with normal scientific items. Throughout the course of the video Magnus Pyke(as the Home Doctor) tries to diagnose what he is suffering from, all the while being seduced by Miss Sakamoto, a secretary in the home.
In Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and the Songs that Defined Them (See here), Dolby describes the experience of working with Pyke on the video:
"I asked him to say, 'She blinded me with science!' But he did it like a question, not a statement: 'She blinded me with science?' I was like, 'It's really more of a statement, Dr. Pyke," and he was like, "Yes, but it would be a bit surprising if a girl blinded me with science."  . . . He didn't exactly get in the spirit of it. The last time I saw him alive, he'd just come back from a lecture tour of the U.S., and I asked him how it went. He said, 'Badly Dolby.' I asked why, and he said, 'Every time I walked down the street, someone would come up behind me and shout, 'SCIENCE!' It frightened me out of my skin. Your MTV video is better known than my body of academic work.'"

Saturday, June 17, 2017

For Father's Day: "The Leader of The Band"

In commemoration of Father's Day, I offer a song that I think is very appropriate: Dan Fogelberg's 1981 tribute to his own father, "The Leader of the Band." This song provides some tender and thoughtful lyrics which describe my own feelings toward my father, now as he finds himself in the later years of his life.
  The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old                             But his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul               My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man                                           I'm just a living legacy to the leader of the band

My father was a teacher who taught High School history with great concern and care for the subject he was teaching. He had many ups and downs through his life, including having to leave the nation of his birth due to oppressive political conditions, to start life anew in the United States. He is now enjoying a well deserved retirement.  I am blessed to still have him with me, and to be able to still express my love and appreciation to him.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

E.T. Commercials

In continuing celebration of the 35th anniversary of the classic 1982 movie E.T., the Extra Terrestrial, here are a bunch of E.T.-themed '80s era commercials. As you can see, E.T. was just about everywhere in the '80s.