Mixtape: Songs About Men 0

Inspired by last Sunday’s polarizing episode of Masters Of Sex which struggled with the thorny question of what it means to be a man, here are a bunch of new wave songs which touch, however tenuously on the subject of masculinity.

LM’s Picks:

“I Need A Man,” The Eurythmics
When I interviewed fellow forty something Amy Poehler last week, she gushed about her 80s idols — Annie Lennox, Cyndi Lauper — and how, unlike today’s female pop stars, she never got a real sense of what they looked like without their clothes. “I knew their bodies of work, not their bodies,” Poehler said. The first time we glimpsed Lennox she was pounding her fist on a boardroom in “Sweet Dreams,” and she continued that show of strength with “I Need A Man”:
“I don’t need a heartbreaker
Fifty-faced trouble maker
Two timing time taker
Dirty little money maker
Muscle bound cheap skate
Low down woman hater
Triple crossing double dater
Yella bellied alligator…”

“Demolition Man,” Grace Jones
Speaking of strong women, Grace Jones scared the shit out of me — and that was long before she was cast as Bond villain May Day in A View to a Kill. Written by Sting (and later recorded by the Police), and produced by Chris Blackwell and Alex Sadkin, it not only has a cover of “Warm Leatherette” on the b-side, but another song called “Bullshit.” (plus Grace Jones also recorded a song called “I Need A Man”- jb bringing the Grace Jones facts)

“I’m Your Man,” Wham!
George Michael would go on to write and record many a mature, sophisticated classic after his split from Andrew Ridgeley, but never again would he record anything as infectious and youthful as this number. How much fun is this to sing along to? (Although the “ain’t no such word as “no” could be misconstrued as a bit rape-u in today’s overly PC times.)

“Who Can It Be Now?” Men At Work
The charts were a paranoid place in the early 80s, thanks to a trio of stalker anthems: Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and this first big hit from these Vegemite eaters from Down Under. Men At Work would go on to be kind of a joke band (thanks to their image; the songs were solid). However, we didn’t know anything about them when “Who Can it Be Now?” was released, and this song — and creepy video with the lazy-eyed Colin Hay — was like a sneak attack.

“Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!”, Devo
Ok, so this is an album. But, continuing with the fear-factor theme,  the single “Jocko Homo” still weirds me out to this day. In Mad World: The Book, JB likens it to “the national anthem for a country I never wanted to visit.” And the video is a Twilight Zone episode.

“Mirror Man,” Human League
You learn something new every day! Apparently the titular subject is none other than Adam Ant. According to Phil Oakey, Ant was such a big star at this point (1982) that he seemed in danger of believing his own hype.

JB’s picks:

“I Love A Man In A Uniform,” Gang Of Four

Ah, the go-go eighties, when a bunch of British Marxists could write a song that mocked the patriarchy and the military-industrial complex and get America dancing to it.

“How Men Are,” Aztec Camera

Roddy Frame, troubadour of East Kilbride, on the outskirts of Glasgow. How does a guy whose songwriting abilities grew richer over the years just fade from view? Mainstream success makes some artists stagnate, it just made Roddy Frame write even more satisfying songs. Like this one, which asks the time-honored question, “Why should it take the tears of a woman to see how men are?”

 

“Marching Men,” Rich Kids

When I talked to Midge Ure for MW:TB, we discussed the massive hype the Rich Kids received and how it was never met by commensurate success. He said that this song was the direction he and drummer Rusty Egan wanted to take but the rest of the Rich Kids hated it so much it broke the band up and ultimately pointed the way towards Visage and Ultravox. The video is embarrassing on an almost heroic level.

“The Man Who Dies Everyday,” Ultravox

From the John Foxx incarnation. Too synthy for the punk audience they still courted, too sneery for the burgeoning electronic audience, early Ultravox were marooned in no man’s land. But it’s not hard to hear their influence on early Gary Numan and Simple Minds.

“I Don’t Depend On You,” The Men

After Virgin snapped up the first incarnation of The Human League, the label suddenly decided it’s new signing was a little on the strange and alienating side so it insisted they take a shot at making a commercial record. The result was this peppy number produced by early Duran knobman Colin Thurston and somewhat contrarily released under the moniker The Men. It doesn’t sound that far removed from something that might have shown up on “Dare” a couple of years down the line.

“Yesterday’s Men,” Madness

Bleak as ever, this is a long weary sigh as the promise of youth fades away and middle-aged conformity looms ever closer.

“The Man With The Child In His Eyes,” Kate Bush

Even back in the comparatively innocent days of 1978, eyebrows were raised by this song inspired by Lewis Carroll’s relationship with Alice Riddell, the seven year-old who inadvertently acted as Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland” muse. From the vantage point of 2014, when Britain is awash in a murky paedophilia-in-high-places scandal that’s only going to dig up even more geriatric politicians, pop stars, priests, dj’s and comedians previously protected by the establishment, this wistful ballad sounds like a nightmare. (Bush fans are begging her to remove recently incarcerated octogenarian child-harasser Rolf Harris and his trademark digeridoo from the title track of her album The Dreaming.)

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Mixtape: Songs About Animals! 0

Inspired by the cuteness of the internet and the awesomeness of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, here’s a bunch of new wave songs about a whole range of the animals with whom we share this world — and who could slaughter us all if they ever organized! (For the Spotify playlist, click here.)

 

LM’s PICKS

Adam and the Ants: “Dog Eat Dog”
On “Dog Eat Dog,” you can practically hear Adam unshackling himself the old sound and S&M image that made him the Rodney Dangerfield of punk. While the music is still quite raw (and ominous: how I love that OOOWWWWW OOOOWWWWW), the words herald the arrival of a new Adam primed for pop stardom. “Our first single, ‘Dog Eat Dog’ was more or less a general assault on the public,” Adam told me during our Mad World interview. “I thought our music was better than everyone else’s, as every band does, and I put it lyrically. ‘Only idiots ignore the truth’ was a result of being ignored [by record labels and the press] for three years.” Hot “Dog” — Mr. Ant had arrived!

 

The Cure: “The Lovecats”; “All Cats are Grey”
I forgot to include “All Cats Are Grey” on our recent Color Mixtape, so I’m happy for this opportunity. The opposite of the playful “The Lovecats,” the Cure’s other kitty ditty sounds as solemn as its title. Sofia Coppola selected it as the song to play over Marie Antoinette’s closing credits, to signal the end of the party at Versailles and, indeed, the end of the young queen’s life (in the final scene, she’s being carted off to Paris where she’ll be imprisoned until her beheading). Call it mood-y music.



 

Duran Duran: “Hungry Like the Wolf”; “The Man Who Stole a Leopard”
“The animal within us” and “man versus woman” — or, rather, “man falling prey to woman” — are big themes in Duran songs. Interesting that, several decades post-“Wolf” — a Simon Le Bon metaphor that suggests sex brings out the animal in us  — Duran returned to the subject with “Leopard” (lyrics by Nick Rhodes), a love story between a man and actual feline.

 

“Lions,” Tones on Tail
I haven’t thought about this song in years! Our friend Jeremy suggested it. He’s just back from an African safari expedition, so he has big cats on the brain.

 

“Rock Lobster,” The B-52’s
Another Jeremy anecdote: One of his first jobs was hosting at a Red Lobster in Kissammee, FLA. Even before I was a vegan, you wouldn’t catch me eating crustacean flesh. Gross.

 

“Bring on the Dancing Horses,” Echo and the Bunnymen
I’ve been on an E&TB kick these days, thanks to their excellent new record. But watching this video had me lusing for the Ian McCulloch of his beautiful, pillow-lipped, big-haired heyday. And what a poet: “Shiver and say the words/Of every lie you’ve heard.” Sigh. If I could go back in time, I’d be an Bunnymen groupie. Although I’d probably get punched out by Courtney Love — that was her turf.

 

“Cat People (Putting Out Fire),” David Bowie
Love the song, but the movie terrified me. I always say how I’d like to come back as a cat in my next life, but the kind who lay around all day, not the kind in Cat People. Yikes!

 

“Release the Bats,” The Birthday Party
“Bite! Bite!” This one’s for my goth buds — particularly one of my oldest friends, Stacey. As a teen she insisted we call her Vampira. She had a pen pal named Morbidia, who insisted they trade vials of blood by mail. This being at the height of the AIDS epidemic, we suggested that wasn’t such a good an idea.

 

JB’s Picks

“I Want A Dog,” Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys have this little trick they deploy here and here where they take what seems like an unremarkable dance track and infuse it with unexpected emotion. That’s what happens with this Frankie Knuckles-produced song from Introspective, which pounds away for a few minutes until Neil Tennant starts singing, “I want a dog, a chihuahua, when I come back to my small flat I want to hear somebody bark, you can get lonely, I want a dog.” And then you realize you’ve just heard the saddest song ever made.

 

“See Jungle! (Jungle Boy),” Bow Wow Wow
Technically, nothing to do with apes, but Annabella does exhort the listener to throw off the constraints of civilization and live like a shit-flinging simian.

 

“Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag,” Pigbag
“Blue Monday” was a million times more successful, but this was the other monster independent dance record of the time. With New Order, you could maintain your sullen moody persona on the dance floor, but when this came on and the horns started blaring, all pretensions went flying out the window.

 

“Lions After Slumber,” Scritti Politti
Holy shit, this is a virtuoso performance. I love the gleaming sweatless perfection of latter-day Scritti Politti, but this b-side to “The ‘Sweetest’ Girl” has some real fire in its belly. It’s less a song than a lengthy, and I think largely improvised, litany of Green Gartside’s possessions, obsessions, failings, aspirations and pretensions. He keeps the ball in the air for more than six minutes and you can hear him getting lost in the track and you get lost along with him.

 

“Welcome to the Monkey House,” Animal Magnet
How is it I can’t remember where I left my keys and yet I am able to summon up the title and performers of a song I heard maybe once more than thirty years ago? Anyone? You Tube commenters lead me to believe Animal Magnet were a big deal in Birmingham and this was a major label release so perhaps there’s a Duran connection. Anyway, kind of fun in an overblown, affected way.

 

“Crow and a Baby,” Human League
Yeah, I’m aware crows aren’t animals, but Noah made room for two of them in the ark, and he was acting on orders from God, so who am I, or you, to contradict God and Noah? We commented in MW:TB that “Being Boiled’”s “Listen to the voice of Buddha/ Saying stop your sericulture” was one of the great unsettling opening lines in music history. “A crow and a baby had an affair/the result was a landslide, the result was a dare” runs it a close second. And it still weirds me out all these years later.

 

“Evidently Chickentown,” John Cooper Clarke
AMC’s PC-saga “Halt and Catch Fire” is far from a great show, but the music supervisor is doing an amazing job. I’m hearing songs on the soundtrack I never imagined popping up on an American drama: “Germ-Free Adolescents” by X-Ray Spex, “First Time” by The Boys, even “Are `Friends’ Electric”. But I don’t think I’ll ever be as astonished as I was when the nasal Northern voice of John Cooper Clarke, Manchester’s famous punk poet, turned up at the end of an episode of “The Sopranos”. The Martin Hannett-produced “Evidently Chickentown” is almost suffocatingly bleak and ominous. It fit perfectly into David Chase’s world of grudges and simmering violence. Here’s the scene and the song. (No chickens were harmed during this sequence. I don’t know that for a fact.)

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Mixtape: Book Club! 0

We write books. We read books. We love books. We’re bookish! JB is currently physically unable to put down “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt while LM is delving into the depths of “Legend! The Unauthorized Biography of Mike Score”. Here are some of our favorite eighties songs with tenuous literary connotations.

JB’s picks:

“Dance Stance,” Dexys Midnight Runners
The original horn-dominated Dexys line-up with Kevin Rowland voicing his displeasure at the proliferation of Irish jokes in the UK media of the early eighties. The chorus to “Dance Stance” is an impassioned riposte listing all the celebrated Irish literary figures Rowland can squeeze into a few lines: “Oscar Wilde and Brendan Behan, Sean O’Casey, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Pepys, Eugene O’Neil, Edna O’ Brien, Laurence Sterne…” No love for the guy who wrote the “Leprechaun” screenplay?

“Absolute Beginners,” The Jam
Before there was a movie for David Bowie to sing a theme to, there was the original 1959 novel by Colin MacInnes, which became quite the accessory for British hipsters of the early 80s to been carrying around and, on occasion, actually reading. Forgotten for many years, MacInnes’ book about an emerging new world of teenage London with it’s own music, language and fashion struck a resounding chord in the eighties when a dozen new post-punk cults were springing up on a weekly basis. Paul Weller’s attempt to capture the frenetic atmosphere of the book is barely more successful than Bowie’s big empty ballad but at least it sounds alive and attuned to MacInnes’ rhythms. There’s sufficient distance between Julien Temple’s unloved movie–the notion to make a Vincente Minelli-style musical wasn’t terrible, but there were no good songs and the lead guy was a dud–that maybe it’s time to make a gritty, sexy, authentic BBC miniseries.

“Cloudbusting,” Kate Bush
Well, yeah, “Wuthering Heights” was the obvious pick but why go with the easy choice when there’s this “Hounds Of Love” highlight? Based, as everyone is all too aware, on the relationship between psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich and his son Peter and their doomed efforts, detailed in Peter’s memoir, to make the father’s rain-making invention, the cloudbuster, coax moisture from above. Stirring song, touching video which allows father and son the happy ending they were denied irl.

“Books,” The Teardrop Explodes
A belated welcome to our Mixtape feature to a classic Liverpool band that’s perhaps a little unsung in these quarters. In MW:TB Ian McCulloch pours good-natured scorn on the notion of any kind of formative collaboration between himself and Julian Cope. But they did write this song together and both their bands took a crack at recording it. McCulloch approached it with his usual staring-into-the-void performance while Cope sauntered through it like the affable weirdo he was and, one presumes, still is.

“Killing an Arab,” The Cure
In the unlikely event of someone writing a song like this today, I have a feeling that songwriter would make sure that even the most literal-minded listener would be aware that they’re hearing the narrator’s thoughts after having read “The Stranger” by Albert Camus. Robert Smith did not give himself the luxury of explaining the he was putting himself in the mind of the novel’s main character and this song has been something of a stone in his band’s shoes ever since.

“Everyday I Write The Book,” Elvis Costello
Back when we first announced our intentions to write a weighty tome about the new wave phenomenon, the most common reaction was “Is Elvis Costello going to be in it?” Who could have foreseen that the figure so synonymous to so many Americans of a certain age with the term new wave would end up not being included in the book, and that Kajagoogoo would? But neither of us felt that strongly about him. LM’s reaction was along the lines of “he was just a singer-songwriter” and my own appreciation hit a peak with “Get Happy” and petered out soon after. This song comes from a period when he was consciously trying to balance his own artistic instincts and meet the needs of the marketplace and the strain shows a little. I’m glad he’s still around even though his last thirty years worth of recorded output falls under the category Records I Should Get Around To Playing But Never Will.

“Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls,” Book Of Love
Yes! A band with book in it’s name and a song that blatantly references The Exorcist, based on the scarific novel by William Peter Blatty. The 12-inch, which minimizes the actual song in favor of the Linda Blair dialogue-and-screaming samples, is a complete pleasure.

LM’S PICKS

“Space Age Love Song,” A Flock of Seagulls
Here’s something else I learned from the pages of Legend! The Unauthorized Bio of Mike Score — I mean, Mad World: The Book: A Flock of Seagulls got their name from Jonathan Livingston Seagull. “I’d read [the novella by Richard Bach] and it said a lot of things I was thinking. In the book, the seagulls squabble over food, and one of them realizes he has wings and can fly. He looks at all the other birds flying and says, ‘They have wings, I have wings. Look how high they’re flying. Why aren’t I flying that high?’ That was the inspiration. I went, OK, now I want to be a seagull, and my band will be A Flock of Seagulls. We all want to fly that high.” Pure poetry.

“True Faith,” New Order
Peter Hook told me that the title was taken from a James A. Michener book on “Texan Catholicism.” He went on to say that Power, Corruption & Lies was a phrase he stole from the back of Orwell’s 1984.

“Charlotte Sometimes” by The Cure
One of my favorite Cure songs, “Charlotte Sometimes” is based on Penelope Farmer’s children’s novel of the same name. The video brings the book’s young heroine to life, as she finds herself mysteriously transported back 40 years and into the body of a 1918 boarding student named Claire.

“Whip It,” by Devo
I hate to break it to the radio disc jockeys who thought this song was an ode to masturbation, but, in Mad World: The Book, Gerald Casale says the venerable Akron rockers’ biggest hit was “a Pynchonesque parody” inspired by Gravity’s Rainbow. “[Author Thomas Pynchon]’s writing these books and lyrics, and they are parodies of Horatio Alger: You’re number one! There’s nobody else like you! You can do it! Americans, pick yourselves up by the bootstraps and we can make it! We thought, We this is like the American version of Red Chinese propaganda.”

Such a Shame,” Talk Talk
Mark Hollis was a huge fan of The Dice Man — not the Ford Fairlane comedian; the 1971 book by Luke Rhinehart. Rhinehart is actually the name of the main character (the true author: the unfortunately named George Cockcroft), a psychiatrist who decides to spice up his boring life by rolling the dice, literally. He starts making decisions based on how the die turns up, and things get really dark, really fast. I’m going to add this one to my Goodreads list.

“No Love Lost,” by Joy Division
This early track from the Mancunian quartet — recorded not long after they decided to jettison their original name, Warsaw — found doomed frontman Ian Curtis including quotes from The House of Dolls by Nazi concentration camp survivor Ka-tzetink 135633’s. He also took the group’s name from the novella’s use of the term “joy divisions,” or camp brothels.

“The Wild Boys,” by Duran Duran
I ran out and bought The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead the very day I discovered Simon Le Bon had a thing for William S. Burroughs’ apocalyptic account about the downfall of the western world. But he wasn’t the only one. Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust borrows from Boys, as does Patti Smith’s main character, Johnny, from her song “Land’; and Ian Curtis cited it as one of his favorite reads, as well. Of course, the Duran video also sought to illustrate the book’s chaotic scene post-civilization. Here’s the extended version:

“William, It Was Really Nothing” by The Smiths
It’s been said that the well-read Morrissey was inspired by Billy Liar, a 1959 novel by Keith Waterhouse about a working-class British teenager who dreams of making it big as a comedy writer.

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