The 90s were the golden era of killer indie rock bands fronted by chicks and one of the best of the bunch was Washington D.C.'s Velocity Girl lead by Sarah Shannon. The band put out three albums in the mid-90s before calling it quits. Sarah got married, moved to Seattle, and embarked a mildly successful solo career before turning her attention away from the music industry. Just then, an opportunity to start a children's rock band called The Not-Its became a reality. Think the power poppy guitar of vintage Velocity Girl mixed with lyrics your children will enjoy. Now, Sarah's back in the rock game, although from a completely different perspective. She's also the mother of two young girls and she shares her views on parenting as a former rock star. Fascinating stuff!
In this special Prince-themed bonus episode of The Hustle, we're joined by popular blogger and host of the beloved Stuck In The 80s podcast, Steve Spears, another die-hard Prince fan. We discuss what he meant to us, his legacy, our faves, and the rumors surrounding how he died. Huge thank you to Steve for being our special guest!
American Noise were one of the great "should-have-been" bands. They were one of the hottest tickets in the thriving Cleveland rock scene of the 70s when they were signed by legend Richard Perry and sent to LA to work on their debut album. Released in 1980, their self-titled masterpiece is a power-pop lovers dream. However, the label didn't get behind them and American Noise dissolved into obscurity. Over the years, however, that album has grown a deserved reputation as "the great lost guitar record".
Todd Pipes was the lead singer of Deep Blue Something, who hit it big in 1995 with the seminal "Breakfast at Tiffany's" which reached #5 on the US charts. Sadly, it was their one and only hit and after a couple more albums that received less attention, the band slowed way down. Todd is now an English teacher in Dallas and makes music when he wants to, including an excellent ep from last year called Locust House. We talk about music in the 90s, the aftermath of having such a big, divisive hit, and the other bands they blew off the stage. My personal feeling is that there has always been more to this band than "the hit" and the deserve to have the rest of their music discovered.
Ranking Roger is a music and style icon that needs no introduction. He was a founding member of one of the most important and beloved alternative/ska bands of all-time with the English Beat. Then, he and fellow front man Dave Wakeling broke off and formed General Public to even greater chart success ("Tenderness" #27 in 1984). Today the former partners function as two separate groups - Dave carries on as The English Beat in the states while Roger is The Beat throughout the rest of the world. We discuss the dynamic between the two, the state of potential reunions, Roger's excellent solo work, and his views on marijuana. And, he announces new Beat music coming in 2016!
Guadalcanal Diary were one of the seminal College Rock bands of the 80s. With a sound forever described as "like REM", over the course of four albums they gained success and respect by playing the pop game by their own rules. But, by the end of the decade the band broke up and frontman Murray Attaway set off for a solo career. Unfortunately, that only last one album, after which he decided to step away from the music business altogether. For the last 25 years, he's lead a life similar to many of us - working in IT and web design.
Joe Frank Carollo is the Joe Frank of popular soft rock group Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds who had a number of hits in the first half of the 70s topped off by the sweet as honey "Fallin' In Love" which reached #1 in 1975. That was their last hit, unfortunately, and after a few years on the casino circuit, Joe Frank focused on the "real job" he had all along, working in camera stores. Dan Hamilton passed away in the 90s and Tommy Reynolds gave up the music industry for his religion, leaving Joe Frank the last man standing. This charming 76 year old southern gentleman tells us what it was like being signed to Playboy Records, how some of their biggest hits came about, how proud he is of his successful composer son, and the band he plays in now.
Billy Vera and the Beaters can claim one of the flukiest #1 songs in pop history. In 1986 a song they wrote and recorded in 1981. "At This Moment", was chosen to appear in an episode of Family Ties. It caused such a stir that it eventually propelled the song to the top of the charts in January of 1987. What most people probably don't realize is that Billy had already been around for 20 years writing songs for artists like Ricky Nelson and Dolly Parton, not to mention a couple of hits on his own. And, he's continued to reap loads of success since "At This Moment" by diversifying into acting, voice-over, and jingle writing.He's done and seen it all and conquered almost every corner of the music industry.
Reacharound were a killer rock and roll band (think Social Distortion mixed with Rev. Horton Heat) in the mid-90s that had one hit on alternative radio with "Big Chair" in 1996. But, after one album (and only one single) the band was done. Lead singer Matt Caisley has bounced around L.A. working regular jobs while continuing to follow his rock star passions. Today, his primary creative outlet is the more electro-industrial band Former Human Beings. We talk about the highs he experienced in the 90s, the inspiration for his biggest hit, the very ambitious project Former Human Beings are working on now, and why you should never give your band a sexually suggestive name.
I hit David with a list of some of my favorite credits of his. The artists include Scritti Politti, Phil Collins, Steve Winwood, Chaka Khan, Billy Idol, Billy Squier, and Rod Stewart.
David Frank was one half of the highly influential r&b group The System, who released a string of trendsetting dance hits throughout the 80s culminating with their biggest hit, "Don't Disturb This Groove," which hit #4 on the pop charts in 1987. Along with his musical partner Mic Murphy, they did some great soundtrack work on classic films like Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America, and Beat Street, in which they also appeared. After the duo went on hiatus, David pored himself into writing and producing with upcoming artists like 98 Degrees and Christina Aguilera. He co-wrote her first hit "Genie in a Bottle" which changed his fortunes forever. He's one of the all-time greatest minds in r&b.
Simon Toulson-Clarke is the mastermind behind the incredible, but overlooked, British band Red Box who released their debut album The Circle & The Square in 1986. It is one of the most amazing bursts of creativity I've ever heard on a debut album. Many different genres, especially various styles of world music, are touched upon within an 80s pop construct. As usual, the label wanted to compromise what made the band unique leading to their second album, the also wonderful Motive, being shelved for a couple years before finally eking out in 1990. By then, Simon had had enough and began working behind the scenes. Years later his creative juices began flowing again when he joined forces with his neighbor Derek Adams, who had also done time in a couple iconic 80s British bands. Eventually, they put out a third album under the Red Box moniker in 2010 with Plenty. Randomly enough, Plenty was a huge hit in Poland, where they've maintained a healthy fan base. They're now feverishly working on a fourth album that will hopefully see the light of day in 2016. Red Box is a band that deserves your time and attention. It'll blow your mind.
John Pazdan was a founding member of two of the greatest power pop bands of the 70s. He formed Pezband, but left before their first album came out (he would rejoin in the 80s). He and singer Cliff Johnson left to form Off Broadway, but he only stuck around for that band's debut album, which spawned the #51 US single "Stay in Time" in 1979. In the 90s he was a member of the cowpunk band Big Guitars From Memphis, who were relatively successful at the time, but has mostly been lost to history.
David Bowie has been my #1 since I started keeping track at 10 years old. He's had more impact on me than any other public figure alive in my lifetime. I remember thinking last Friday on his birthday how grateful I was that he was still out there producing art, but it hit me that at 69, I should start mentally preparing myself to see an old David Bowie. That it was time to especially cherish anything and everything he gives us from here on out. Two days later he was gone.
Today, Tony Ortiz is about as regular a guy as it gets. Normal desk job, family, friends, grandkids, a mortgage, etc. But, in 1982 he was on the road to something bigger. Tony was the lead singer of the rock/new wave band The Monroes who's lone single, "What Do All The People Know" was climbing the charts, reaching #59 in the U.S., before the bottom fell out. Just as the Monroes debut EP was also gaining momentum, their Japanese record label went bankrupt grinding everything to a halt and thwarting the hopes and dreams of the band. After a couple more years of trying to pick up the pieces, Tony left for Minnesota, where he settled into a normal life, leaving his rock and roll fantasies behind (and largely unfulfilled). Tony talks about what that brief chapter of his life was like, how it felt to play before 20,000 people, how he's trying again now to make another go of it, and how difficult it is to convince his co-workers that he is in fact the guy singing that song whenever it comes on (and it does a lot, as it's continued on as a cult favorite). These stories are what this podcast is all about!
Dom Mariani is a bit of an underground legend in his native Australia. His career goes back nearly 40 years and in that time he's fronted more bands than I can count. His first real success came with his garage rock band The Stems who got pretty popular down under in the mid-80s. From there he started the band that turned me on to his immense talent, The Someloves who only released one album in 1990. What is clear about Dom is that no matter what band he's in or what style of rock he's playing, there is an amazing level of quality to everything he does. That ability has given him a place in an Australian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Surprisingly, he choses to hold down a day job so that he has the freedom to make whatever music he wants with whatever band he wants without money or fame being the motivator. Get turned on to some great music you may not know already.
The Kane Gang were one of those wonderful bands that came to the states from the UK as part of the Sophisti-pop or Blue-Eyed British Soul movement of the mid-to-late 80s. They only released two albums and had two hits in the states (more back home in the UK), the biggest of which was "Motortown" which reached #36 in 1987. The Kane Gang were done after that, but come to find out lead singer Martin Brammer has carved out a hugely successful songwriting career penning hits for everyone from Tina Turner to Sheena Easton to Nick Carter to the Lighthouse Family. In this conversation, Martin helps us understand exactly what a publishing deal is and how you make a living as a songwriter.
The Hooters were a pretty big band back in the mid-to-late 80s with three top 40 hits (and a few others that barely missed). Sadly, sales started to sag around the beginning of the 90s, but the band continues on to this day in some form, still drawing large crowds in parts of Europe. In this interview we talk about fickle American crowds, The Hooters slot playing at Live Aid, Eric and his Hooter partner Rob Hyman's involvement in the recording of Cyndi Lauper's smash debut album She's So Unusual, and him writing Joan Osbourne's "One Of Us", one of the biggest songs of the 90s. Eric remains a relentless artist, praying his muse will point him toward the next big hit.
Dig grew up in Cambridge, Ohio where he was turned on to all genres of music from the Temptations to Alice Cooper. But, what really did it for him was rockabilly, which inspired him to move to New York and start an authentic rockabilly band called Buzz and the Flyers. From there, he headed to London where he fronted the excellent 80s band JoBoxers, who had one of the greatest singles of all time with "Just Got Lucky". That song reached #36 in 1983 in the US, but was their one and only hit and after one album the band dissolved and Dig lost some of his taste for music. Today, Dig is an acting coach in L.A. We go deep on the music and moments that changed our lives forever.
Martin Page is a song-writing legend. Among his biggest hits are "These Dreams" by Heart, "King Of Wishful Thinking" by Go West and the immortal "We Built This City" by Starship, which remains completely ubiquitous despite topping many "worst song of all time" type lists. He started out in a funky synth-pop band called Q-Feel that may be best known for the song "Dancing In Heaven" from the Girls Just Want To Have Fun soundtrack. His song-writing success and collaborations with further artists like Robbie Robertson, Kim Carnes and Earth Wind & Fire have made him one of the most successful songwriters ever. Not to mention, it's freed him up to pursue a successful solo career ("In The House Of Stone and Light") on his own terms. The man is a Hall of Famer, plain and simple.
Randy Hall has had a long and storied career that includes collaborations with legends like Miles Davis, The Jacksons and Ray Parker Jr. as well as his own solo career in the mid to late 80s. It was during that chapter of his life that he made an appearance in the movie Can't Buy Me Love. You remember the African Ant-Eater Ritual scene at the school dance when everyone mindlessly follows Ronald Miller's lead? The guy performing at the dance is Randy Hall. He went on to work with Dr. Dre and Tupac at Deathrow Records before spending the last 20 years or so as Joe Esposito's musical director in Las Vegas. The guy's music is great, but his stories are even better.
You've seen the movies, you've heard the voice, now meet the man. Joe sang or wrote some of the most iconic soundtrack songs of the 80s including "Lady, Lady, Lady" from Flashdance, "Come Into My Life" from Coming to America, "Hearts On Fire" from Rocky 4 and, the legendary, "You're The Best" from The Karate Kid. But, he started in a dance/disco group in the 70s called Brooklyn Dreams where he hooked up with Donna Summer to not only sing on her hit "Heaven Knows" but write "Bad Girls" for her. He's been a successful Vegas act for over 20 years now. He's quite a character with great stories.
Gerard McMahon (G Tom Mac) is the man behind one of the most iconic and beloved soundtrack songs of all time with "Cry Little Sister" from 1987's The Lost Boys. But did you know the guy has had a successful career going back 40 years, including numerous other songs from classic films and television shows (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Players Club, Roseanne, Scrubs, Fame, etc), as well as his own solid solo career? He's also written songs for legends like Kiss, Roger Daltrey, Chicago and Carly Simon. He's not only a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of many. He's also doing something very unique with his career these days. Fascinating guy.
Eight Seconds were a Canadian synth-prog/pop band in the late-eighties who had one minor hit in the US with a song called "Kiss You (When It's Dangerous)". Their unique sound (think The Fixx) set them apart from a lot of what else was happening at the time, but the dreaded label politics held back the release of their second album and the band sank into obscurity. After trying out several music-related projects, frontman Andy del Castillo started his own media production company in 2004 and hasn't looked back. I've always felt Eight Seconds deserved more attention, especially from 80s music fans who appreciate epic, anthemic songs with a little more going on.
Walter's the self-proclaimed "Forrest Gump of rock" and the man behind one of the most enduring hits of the 70s "Magnet and Steel" which reached #8 in 1978. His career was launched with the support of producers Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, who were also in the throes of their own drama recording the landmark Rumours album. Walter got caught up in that as well, and he drops the bomb of hooking up with Stevie around that time! In fact, his love life becomes a hot topic of discussion as well as the rest of his musical career outside of his biggest hit, which deserves more attention.
Peppy's music career goes back 50 years, from his one-hit-wonder 60s band Blues Magoos, to his one-hit-wonder 80s band Balance. The guy's never stopped, collaborating with Paul Stanley, teaching Ace Frehley how to play guitar, and writing songs for Diana Ross. His greatest monetary success might be writing and singing some of the most iconic jingles of the last 40 years. He even released his first solo album in 2013. He doesn't stop. He also has great stories!
Walter Wray was the lead singer of the excellent alternative rock band King Swamp who had a minor hit in 1989 with the song "Is This Love". The band had a great pedigree, as it featured members of Shriekback, as well as Dominic Miller, who has played with Sting for the last 25 years or so. Walter stepped away from the music biz in the early 90s, but has recently started a unique new project with the Shriekback guys called LiTTLe MaCHiNe. King Swamp is another in a long line of great bands that deserved more.
In the States, the Blow Monkeys are best known for their #14 1986 hit "Digging Your Scene" and their appearance on the multi-million selling Dirty Dancing soundtrack. But, Dr. Robert has never stopped in Europe releasing several solo albums as well as re-igniting the Blow Monkeys in 2007. We talk about how the band's sound changed over time, his conflicted feelings about his 80s work, why he can be difficult to work with, and how he almost became the next Barry Manilow!
Bertie Higgins is the man behind one of the quintessential yacht rock classics of all time, "Key Largo", which reached #8 in 1982. But, did you know that he's still huge in other parts of the world, including the Pacific Rim where he still plays to thousands of fans? There are so many interesting bits of information in this interview, including the ups and downs of his career, how he got into the movie business, and his friendship with Burt Reynolds. And, wait til you find out who his son is!
The Crazy 8s were an American ska band in the 80s and 90s out of Portland. While they had some regional success, they never completely broke nationwide, although they did get major national exposure when they appeared on Star Search! They were a band of high ideals and a strong DIY attitude, but it may have ultimately cost them the brass ring. They deserved more.
Oingo Boingo are still one of the most beloved bands of the last 35 years. When they called it quits 20 years ago Danny Elfman went on to bigger things and has never looked back, but what about the other guys. Johnny tells us about his life before and after Boingo, what music he's doing now that gets him excited, and why Oingo Boingo were especially big in Salt Lake City of all places.
Your band gets launched into worldwide fame as your debut album sells four million copies. Shortly after your second album comes out your lead singer, the face of your band, suddenly dies of a drug overdose. What now? Blind Melon's Christopher Thorn answers that question in stunning detail. He also shares his new project, Sonny Boy Thorn, which might be his best work yet.
Jimmer was the frontman of the seminal 80s college rock band The Rave-Ups who were forever immortalized when they appeared the movie Pretty in Pink. After three critically-acclaimed albums the band broke up and Jimmer basically disappeared for the next 25 years. Unfortunately, he had a rough go during that time, some of which we talk about here. Thankfully, he's finally back making music, including his excellent solo album The Would-Be Plans.
Here's another "first day of MTV" band. After over 40 years as a group, we felt Shoes deserved an in depth career retrospective. Jeff Murphy tells the stories behind each album, how him being a gearhead from a young age influenced the band's sound, and war stories with the likes of Gene Simmons and Butch Vig. There've been highs and lows, but Jeff's come out the other end as a balanced, kind gentleman.
In honor of MTV's 34th birthday, we talk to a guy that was there on day one. Slim Man was the driving force behind a hard rock group in the early 80s called Bootcamp who appeared a couple times on MTV's first day on the air. But, for the last 20 years he's taken on the Slim Man moniker and made a living as a smooth jazz lounge singer. It's a mind-boggling transformation, but he's good at it.
Not everyone would be able to go from frontman to sideman. To go from lead singer of your own modern rock band to sidekick for oldies acts may take some pride swallowing, but Rich Spina has had nothing but success (and a steady paycheck) since making the switch. Here's the story of a man who achieved success through a much different route than he expected.
I first heard Chaz Jankel on the soundtrack to Real Genius, but it turns out the guy has had a storied career in the UK going back 40 years. From his rise to prominence in Ian Dury and the Blockheads, to the amazing dance music he's produced as a solo artist, Chaz deserves to be up there in the ranks of Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder. Oh, and none other than Quincy Jones had one of his biggest hits with a cover of a Chaz song. We're talking royalty here.
Jim Walker recorded a beloved (but obscure) song for a beloved (but obscure) cult 80s teen movie soundtrack. This lead him to playing the Hollywood game for a few months, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Tom Petty, Courtney Cox, and many others. Movie stardom may not have lasted, but a career in production doing what he loves did. This is his crazy story.
This week we hit Canada to talk to two awesome rock bands from the Great White North. First up is the early 80s rock band Toronto. They were a pretty big deal north of the border, but never got the credit they deserved (in more ways than one, as you'll hear) in the States. Then we talk to the legendary Robb Reiner of Anvil to find out what his life has been like since the success of their 2008 documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil.
Baxter was the lead singer of the British new wave band, Re-flex, who had one hit in the states when "The Politics of Dancing" reached #23 in 1983. They continued to make music, but label politics made it difficult for the work to get released. We talk about that, what he's been doing since, his experience with early Re-flex band member Mark King (now of Level 42), and we clear up those rumors that "Politics" was rejected for the Footloose soundtrack (or do we?)
Clive is the man behind one of the most enduring hits of the 80s, 1988's "The Promise", which was reborn when it was featured in Napoleon Dynamite in 2003. Unfortunately, his band, When In Rome, quickly broke up and there's a lot of bad blood that's still very toxic to this day. Clive is working hard to take his destiny into his own hands and keep his name alive. It isn't easy.
Brian Canham fronts the Australian band Pseudo Echo, who hit it big in 1986 when their cover of "Funkytown" reached #6 in the states. We talk about why the band dissolved a couple years later, how they ended up on the North Shore soundtrack, why he was memorably wearing a New York Yankees t-shirt in the "Funkytown" video, and what Pseudo Echo is up to now.
Do you know anyone that's sung on some of the biggest hits in rock history, been friends with Bruce Springsteen and Steven Tyler, and performed with Pavarotti and Paul McCartney? I do. Her name is Marge Raymond and this is her story. She's the "most famous rock star you've never heard of."
AndyO was the lead singer of the 80s British band Blue Zoo whose biggest hit was "Cry Boy Cry", reaching #13 in the UK charts in 1983. In our conversation, Andy discusses his conflicted feelings about his musical legacy, how he tried to continue in music when Blue Zoo ended, and what he does now, which is about as far away from rock and roll as you can get.
The self-proclaimed "King of Power Pop" tells the brutally honest story of his career ups and downs - from his early days with The Nerves to his promising solo career, to hitting rock bottom in the 90s only to finally be taken seriously again in recent years.
Mister Zero is the guitarist and primary songwriter of the Canadian power pop band The Kings who reached #43 in 1980 with "This Beat Goes On/Switching To Glide". We talk about working with Bob Ezrin on their debut album, his time in movies after music ended, and how a recent health scare may jeopardize the future of the band.
Bruce Blackman was the lead singer of the 70s band Starbuck, who had a #3 hit in 1976 with "Moonlight Feels Right". When the band broke up in 1980 Bruce turned his attention to other things until 2014 when he released his first solo album. We find out what he did in his time off, what motivated the comeback and how he got his famous style (check youtube to find out what I mean).
An explanation of the mission and inspiration behind the Hustle podcast.