Anne Clark, “Sleeper In Metropolis”, (ZTT, 1984).
Anne Clark’s first single “Sleeper In Metropolis” was released on Art Of Noise co-founder Trevor Horn’s ZZT Records in 1984.
“Confined in the helpless safety of desires and dreams, we fight our insignificance. The harder we fight, the higher the wall.”
Depeche Mode, “People Are People” (Mute Records, 1984).
New Order, “Thieves Like Us”, (Factory Records, 1984).
This gem features both Depeche Mode and New Order performing live for the German television program Musik Convoy on the exact same day. Although there’s much in the way of similarity between these two acts (UK based quartets utilizing drum programming and synthetic arrangements to create forward-thinking popular music) their respective performances in this particular instance serve only to exacerbate two extreme differences in artistic approach.
And no, I’m not about to seize upon the Mode’s choice of the Yamaha DX7 and Sumner & Co.’s use of the PPG Wave 2.2 as a means of expounding the relative merits of FM and Analog synthesis. I’m talking about lip syncing vs. live singing.
From the outset, it’s very clear which band has chosen the former and latter approach. Depeche Mode is all sizzle and no steak, miming along to a backing version of “People Are People” with the carefree swagger of a group unencumbered by old-world trappings of melody, harmony, pitch and timbre. Interestingly, the crowd response is wholly positive. They’re either oblivious or careless (or both) in respect to the “authenticity” of the purely mimetic exercise which they have gathered to bear witness.
By the time New Order launch into a characteristically rigid rendition of “Theives Like Us” (with an assist from Musik Convoy host Karin Sarholz on the Oberheim DMX) it’s clear the crowd has lost interest. The fact that the band is performing their parts live is sadly irrelevant. They may be “playing” but they aren’t “entertaining”. The end credits (or televisual equivalent of the vaudevillian stage hook) appear super-imposed and scrolling atop the band before song’s end.
Legend has it they were still playing when the very last viewer changed channels.
John Cale, “Hungry For Love”, (Ze Records, 1984).
This clip for the German television program Musik Convoy is one of the most bizarre in John Cale’s online oeuvre. For starters, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a performer make their entrance from the cab of a transport truck parked side-stage. Unfortunately, Cale’s theatrics are all too soon “upstaged” by every performers’ worst nightmare: The “Drunk” Mic Stand.
Bad enough in a dive bar but downright disastrous on live television, a stand with the wobbles can throw even the very best off their game. To make matters worse, the entire thing is obviously being lip synced to a backing track, which makes the placement of the lead vocal mic all the more paramount to the preservation of the illusion of “live” performance.
It takes two sound technicians and half of the first verse of the song (which is Cale’s criminally underrated single “Hungry For Love” from 1984′s Caribbean Sunset) before things get under control. Undeterred, Cale and his backing band bash along with the style and aplomb of seasoned veterans until the radio edit fades away into the night. Brilliant.
John Cale, “The Soul Of Carmen Miranda”, (All Saints, 1989).
John Cale perfored “The Soul Of Carmen Miranda” (with accompaniment from slide guitarist BJ Cole) on the BBC 2 program The Late Show in 1989. This song was the last track on Cale’s album Words For The Dying and was co-written by Brian Eno.
The lyrics chronicle the rise and fall of Brazilian entertainer Carmen Miranda, who, after arriving in the United States in 1939, became Hollywood’s biggest earner (and America’s top female taxpayer) by 1945. Despite her success, Miranda was shunned in her home country for projecting what many considered an overly stereotypical or simplified image of the diverse Latin American culture. She died tragically of a heart attack shortly after filming a clip for The Jimmy Durante show in 1955.
John Cale, “Close Watch”, (Ze Records, 1982).
John Cale originally included “Close Watch” on his 1975 release Helen Of Troy but re-recorded a distinctively stripped down version for his relatively unknown Music For A New Society in 1982. This solo performance was recorded live in studio for the Dutch TV programme Onrust in 1988.
As a sidebar, I’d really like to know which brand of shirts Cale is wearing in this (and yesterday’s) posts! Anyone?
John Cale & Lou Reed, “Style It Takes”, (Sire, 1990).
John Cale and Lou Reed performing “Style It Takes” on Saturday Night Live in 1990. The song was featured on their 1990 concept album Songs For Drella which was commissioned by the Brooklyn Museum and dedicated to the late Andy Warhol.
Lou Reed, “Halloween Parade”, (Sire, 1989).
Freddie James, “Get Up And Boogie”, (Unidisc, 1979).
Born in Chicago and raised in Montreal, Freddie James was the child prodigy of renowned R&B singer Geraldine Hunt. His first single “Get Up And Boogie” was released on Unidisc in 1979 when he was just fourteen and climbed to #5 on the Billboard Disco charts once it was picked up by Warner in the United States.
The promotional video (above) was filmed by the Dutch TV program Top Pop and not only showcases Freddie’s effortless dance stylings but features some great B-Roll footage of the little guy walking around Holland with a giant boombox and matching headphones.
Lime, “Guilty”, (Unidisc, 1983).
Lime was comprised of Montreal based husband/wife Denis and Denyse LePage. Although the duo composed and produced their own material they rarely performed for live audiences and instead chose to hire younger, more conventionally attractive singers to appear as their soundalikes.
Of their nine studio albums recorded between 1981 and 1991 each cover features a distinctive airbrushed style and lime green palette most often credited to Studio Graffiti. The single “Guilty” was included on 1983 release Lime III.
Celine Dion, “Misled (MK History Mix)”, (Sony Music, 1993).
Pardon the interruption; this week’s Italo Disco coverage will return shortly. In the meantime, let’s talk about Celine Dion, or rather, MK (alias March Kinchen) and his house heavy remix of Dion’s single “Misled” from her 1993 album The Colour Of My Love. The “MK History Mix” went all the way to #1 on the Billboard Dance/Club Charts and one listen will give you a pretty good idea why. I still can’t quite believe this is Celine Dion.