Now That You've Let Me Get Started
Okay, not all of these are that obscure, but they usually were good for upsetting folks who would show up at my house with a magnum of Riunite and a bucket of KFC back around 1983. Let's just say I opened a few eyes to the world beyond the Midwest. Thus, we delve into the vinyl vaults here at the JunkPlex to recreate a summer evening around 1983.
As the wife of the founder Michael Zilka, Cristina Monet was sort of the Norma Shearer of ZE Record and the whole No Wave movement. She first put out a self-titled disc that was panned with its sort of disco parodies. For years her take on "Is That All There Is" was banned by the authors but is now on iTunes as is her seminal "Things Fall Apart" that many rank as the greatest Christmas song of all time. Today, I hear, she writes scholarly articles about the era, sort of a Louise Brooks of the early 1980s. I offer:
"Don't Be Greedy" from Cristina (1980)
"She Can't Say That Anymore" from Sleep It Off (1984)
It's no secret that Junk Thief has a thing for J-Pop and Japanese boys, though not the thin fragile types but more the tough guy detectives of the Mishima mold. But even more than that ilk of J-men, there are the early '80s punk bands, and none top the wonderful Plastics. Nothing is hotter than a manic J-boy screaming obscenities in broken English over a raunchy guitar riff. Enjoy.
"Cards" from Welcome Back (1980)
People grew to tire of August Darnell and his various incarnations, and by the late 1980s and many people dismissed his back up singers The Coconuts as vapid no talents that could shake their booties well but added nothing to the music. They did, however, put out a pretty cool live disc that included "Ticket to the Tropics" that Cristina also covered. The tune offered here is worth giving them a bit more attention in my opinion. Not deep, but damned fun.
"Naughty Boy" from Please Don't Take My Coconuts (1983)
Though their definitive song is definitely "I Love a Man in a Uniform", I also loved The Gang of Four's Hard, which many saw as a sell out. For many it sounded as if they'd gone the route of Bowie's dreadful Let's Dance. To me, there is no comparison. What do you think?
"Is It Love" extended dance mix from Hard (1983)
Maybe they're not that obscure, but I'm surprised that many people have never heard of this band, although their signature tune has been played at many sporting events. I remember it as the ultimate dance tune at certain downtown, late night haunts. Nothing spells a good party more than Pigbag. Never danced to Pigbag? You're life is a fraud!
"Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag" from the (1981)
Now that we're in a downtown instrumental groove, let's move on to Liquid, Liquid whose "Cavern" was featured in the film Downtown 81 but is best known for supplying the famed base line in Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines". This is one of their lesser known tune but proof of their diversity.
"Groupmegroup" from Liquid, Liquid (1981)
Bangles, Bananarama and any other host of 1980s girl groups pale to this, my favorite of the decade. Sadly, their best known hit was a throw away cover of "Iko Iko" on the Rain Man soundtrack, a movie I never saw mainly because it featured Tom Cruise. This, however, is what I consider to be their best tune.
"Sign of the Times" from The Belle Stars (1982)
Dinah Washington is always welcome at any Junk Thief event. She topped Hank Williams in this lively, joyous cover of one of his best known tunes with superb ad libs and fun harmonies. It feels so fresh that it makes me think it was recorded this week.
"Hey Good Looking" from The Complete Dinah Washington on Mercury Vol. 2 (1951)
Since we're going back a few years, I have to post a favorite tune from Cass Elliott's solo career. Her cover of the only hit by Hurricane Smith is a reminder that she was less flower child than old time club room performer, but she put her own stamp of verve on this version from this album that is very hard to fine but worth the search album.
"Oh Babe, What Would You Say" from The Road is No Place for a Lady.(1972)
And now (gasp) a "show tune" but not in the conventional sense. Two Gentlemen from Verona had book by John Guare and Mel Shapiro, lyrics by Guare, and music by Galt MacDermot, who wrote the same for Hair. Raul Julia headed the cast, and there was this wonderful little tune sung by Diana Davila that sums up my feelings on romance these days. Not exactly I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face.
"I Am Not Interested in Love" from Two Gentlemen from Verona - Original Cast Recording (1971)
What did a bunch of art school punk kids from Boston know about country music? Did it matter? Rubber Rodeo did a fun take on "Jolene" and were a sight to be seen, and I saw them live once at a seedy bar in St. Louis.
"She Had to Go" from She Had to Go (1982)
I know nothing about this "band" except this one hard-not-to-like-because-it's-so-inane single. My niece was about four at the time, and we'd sing it together in my car that summer even when a sun baked cassette dragged the tape at about 22rpms. I knew she was pretty cool back then, because she'd turn to me and say, "I know that they're not singing about my Strawberry Shortcake." Anyone else remember this one?
"Sweepstakes" from Nursery School 12-inch single (1983)
Personally, I preferred Fun Boy Three's tune "The Tunnel of Love" over this GoGos staple, but it was always fun to put it on to see people's reactions as something that initially sounded so odd suddenly turned into something as familiar as salt. A nice downbeat vibe to piss off any Huey Lewis and the News fans of the time.
"Our Lips Are Sealed" from Waiting (1983)
Despite her annoying "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree", I think Brenda Lee is one of the most under-rated early female rockabilly acts. She had volume, energy, verve and more range than many people give her credit for, having also recorded in Italian and German and having played a key role in the early career of the Beatles. I just love this song because it has such a feel of a little Texas girl all dressed up, able to sing with an orchestral back up but still has a bit of country holler in her voice. I especially love her "your little mama" self reference near the end.
"Baby Won't You Please Come Home" from Reflections in Blue (1969)
And finally...not exactly what I'd call a chill out record, but a reflective way to end an evening. Jon Hassell is technically a jazz trumpeter, but he makes Miles Davis sound like Doc Severeson by comparison. His distortion of the instrument and what he called his "Fourth World" recordings that brought together traditional indigenous music with his own retooling in the studio produced sounds that freaked out many of my friends, but pieces like this brought me serenity.
"Dream Theory" from Dream Theory in Malay (1981)