It’s been a few days but I’m still buzzed from my Clockenflap experience. Kil Sun Moon, Rachael Yamagata, The Skatalites, Clean Bandit, Earth, Wind & Fire Experience, Swervedriver, cold beer, good food, best friends, EO and YO having a blast. And I haven’t even mentioned Sunday night! Oh Lord.
But before I get to that thrilling climax, let me tell you about a group of très intéressant folks I met at the festival. I spotted them as soon as I arrived on Saturday. Dressed all in black, they stood looking out at the harbor away from the crowds before wandering over to the Yamagata show. There they sat on the ground, passing around bottles of Smirnoff and playfully photo-bombing the family snap occurring in front of them. They seemed to inhabit their own little galaxy of urban style, as if they had landed in Hong Kong from another, cooler (and colder) clime: the West Village, Rue Bichat, Shoreditch, a Fellini sound stage?
Maybe I don’t get out much (truth: I don’t), but this foursome exuded a confidence and panache I don’t see very often in HK. Yet they didn’t strike me as posers. Who were they?
So I asked.
Ashley, Anthony, Carmen and their shy friend all grew up in Hong Kong and range in age from mid-20s to early 30s. The chatty ones were best friends Anthony and Ashley who met at Clockenflap two years. Anthony runs his own clothing store specializing in Korean and European fashion while Ashley is a graphic designer interested in branding and typography. The duo said their coordinated look was not actually inspired by Paris but it was designed for impact. As Anthony explained, “Maybe it’s too hot and no one will wear a long coat today so you think we will look more outstanding.”
When I asked what’s been the reaction so far to their collective chic, Anthony laughed and said people wonder, “Do you feel hot today?”
Style knows no pain (or heatstroke).
In a town where business dress rules, you’ve got to admire the modish quartet – celebrating, enjoying and perpetuating the long relationship between music and fashion. And by the way, Yamagata was also dressed in all black so they were in good company.
I saw a lot of great bands over the weekend, and judging by their comments, they had a fun time here too. Many acts were Hong Kong newbies, and they seemed a bit surprised and overwhelmed by the dramatic setting as well as the enthusiastic crowds. The festival was incredibly well-organized, and the staff super friendly. I mean, if the beer sellers are still smiling at 9pm on Sunday night then you know some positive vibes are permeating the Clockenflap grounds. My only complaint was that I couldn’t be in two places at once!
But as the sun set on Sunday evening, there was only one place I wanted to be: as close to the front as possible at the Harbourflap stage. That’s where Nile Rodgers and his talented, airtight band were tearing through dozens (and I do mean dozens) of songs that he wrote, co-wrote, produced, played on and/or infused with his magic disco touch. A collection of hits and acts that span four decades: CHIC, Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, Madonna, David Bowie, Duran Duran, Daft Punk. Rodgers spoke of surviving cancer and realizing every day is a gift, and he was generous in praising his bandmates. When he introduced the last song, ‘Good Times’, he said the tune always inspired a disco party on stage. And then he brought out Unsung Heroes, a Hong Kong domestic worker choir, to dance, sing and take selfies with him and his band. It was a party, absolutely.
I had a half hour to grab a beer and a box of Vietnamese noodles before the last act of the weekend, New Order, took the stage. My day had started at 5:30 in the morning, and my knees were aching from a.m. hiking on DB and p.m. dancing to CHIC. But I didn’t want to go home early because hey! how many times will I get to see New Order? My hardcore-fan friends made their way to the front, but I moved over to the left with another friend, strategically close to the exit, and on a set of stairs where I could rest my weary legs. The location afforded us a view of the stage, the crowd and the entire HK Island skyline across the harbor. The pano function on my phone camera just couldn’t do justice to the surreal and wondrous night.
When New Order gifted us with an encore of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and ‘Blue Monday’, we ascended to another plane of existence – somewhere between the suburban innocence of the ‘80s and the vibrant metropolis that is Hong Kong, 2015.
I haven’t witnessed this much ecstatic mopey-head dancing since prom night.
Thanks Clockenflap and see you again next year!
Randy from Baton Rouge
Randy from Baton Rouge who was a great dancer not so great kisser took me to the Propaganda concert Fall semester which I thought was a date but asked me after to reimburse him for the ticket not that I would have minded if the evening had been prefaced by this request and if the band had blown my mind instead I resisted paying for weeks and was relieved we weren’t running in to each other on campus until I heard he’d taken medical leave before finals due to emotional issues which my roommate said was despair at being outed by a Classics major who’d broken his heart and he ended up transferring anyway so that I never did pay him back and we truly stopped running in to each other, Randy from Baton Rouge I’m sorry.
Consider seriously if I really wanted to get back together or did I say yes because he had sixth-row seats to David Lee Roth’s first solo tour and I was curious to see if Diamond Dave was going to be better or worse than the Sammy Hagar-led Van Halen which I’d seen less than two weeks prior with my best friends not that either of those bands were my absolute favorites not even top ten but it was almost summer and I missed having a boyfriend and I thought maybe just maybe those old feelings would return but in the end what I realized was obvious, nothing could ever be as good as Van Halen circa 1984.
That Velvet Jacket
You try going to a Bryan Ferry concert where the theater is Art Deco and the cocktails are strong and Bryan’s singing in a maroon velvet jacket and not feel something for your date who happens to be the consensus best-looking guy in the graduate film program what with his dark ponytail and the way he wears a tool belt and gloves when he’s gaffing though you know you shouldn’t even call him your date because he has a girlfriend and you’re practically engaged and you’re just going together because you both love Roxy Music and no one else can afford tickets or wants to skip that night’s seminar on Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole, did I mention how strong the drinks were?
A little flash (absolutely) fiction on a Friday night.
© Jennifer S. Deayton
So I set two small goals for myself this summer: to read Middlemarch and to watch the FOUR-hour, Peter Bogdanovich-directed Tom Petty documentary: Running Down A Dream. It’s slow going on both fronts, but I am loving each one. Friends had warned me that George Eliot’s writing wasn’t quite as ‘readable’ as say Jane Austen, but the novel doesn’t feel like a chore by any means. It’s got all the hallmarks of a classic English novel: a will is read, feelings are restrained, money’s a problem, love is unrequited and a young man finds out there is a fortune waiting for him. Great stuff.
I’ve just gotten past the mid ’80s and have reached the Dylan years with the TP and the HBs doc. Fantastic archival footage, performances and loads of interviews, as you would imagine in such an exhaustive documentary. I really enjoyed hearing about their work with Stevie Nicks and how influential their music videos were in the early years of MTV. I mean, seriously, when you look at Tom Petty’s body of work, the sheer number of incredible songs he’s written, he is right up there with the greats.
The doc inspired me to check out his latest release, Hypnotic Eye, as well as all that great early stuff. Just stop to consider his output in the 1980s: Hard Promises (’81), Long After Dark (’82), Southern Accents (’85), Let Me Up I’ve Had Enough (’87), closing out the decade with Full Moon Fever (’89). Come on! The man is a huge talent.
Funny how when we think of ’80s music, we tend to think of every genre – New Wave, Heavy (Hair) Metal, Rap, Punk and Pop – except Rock. (Not including Bruce Springsteen of course, who was kind of a genre unto himself in the ’80s.) But plenty of rock musicians who’d gotten started in the ’70s were still releasing albums, touring and making interesting music videos that sustained rock radio through the decade. You could call this music kind of boring, MOR stuff but a lot of it is pretty darn good – a blend of blues, rock, jazz, New Wave. And I think these ‘oldies’ acts mix in well with college-radio rock bands such as REM and The Pretenders that went on to huge careers themselves.
So here’s a playlist of ’80s rock to start your weekend. Let me know what you think!
Hi all, how’s your summer going? It’s EIGHTIES WEEK at therockmom as I revisit and revise one of my most popular posts: Can It Really Be Summer Without ’80s Music? New! Improved! Now with Spotify playlists!
It’s a funny thing, nostalgia. Recently, I found myself sitting in the way back of my stepmom’s minivan listening to her Best of Hall & Oates CD as we drove to dinner. Now if that’s not a recipe for summertime teen regression I don’t know what is. But there I was, YO sitting next to me, both of us enjoying ‘Maneater’. See a cover version of that track (by Grace Mitchell) was used in the recent Ben Stiller movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. YO’s good pal likes the new, cover song while YO is partial to the original. Me too. That groovy rhythm section to begin, then the sneaky guitar line, a hint of sax and… oh oh here she comes. We sang the chorus together – a small but sweet mother-daughter bonding moment – and I wondered: is it weird to be proud of my child’s taste in music?
On a slightly more musi-cophical note, I don’t know why bands/singers/artists insist on covering ’80s songs because it’s extremely difficult to improve on the original. I’m talking specifically about Moby’s recent ‘Rio’ cover as well as London Grammar’s take on the INXS tune, ‘Devil Inside’ – used for a Game of Thrones trailer. While I’m a big fan of both acts, I have to say these cover tunes were overly serious, dreary and well, just plain boring.
Eighties music is supposed to be fun!* So don’t forget the lightness, the slinky-ness, the insouciance. Guys in deconstructed linen blazers on the bow of a sailboat in the tropics!
I’ll leave you with that image as well as the first of FIVE ’80s playlists – all killer, no filler – to get you through the week. Enjoy!
*Unless of course you’re Morrissey.
There was a time when I thought ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ was an H&O original.
We grow, we learn…
You do realize that the ’80s are to our children what the ’60s were to us? A fascinating period of ancient history that produced a lot of good music, and fashion that was both embarrassing and strangely inspiring. I don’t know how many Hong Kong boys I see around town these days dressed in their porkpie hats, capri jeans and plimsouls+no socks and I think: you probably don’t even know Dexy’s Midnight Runners!
I hear overalls are making a comeback btw.
My sister and I leaned more to the cocktail era of the late ’50s, early ’60s, not so much the hippie/Hendrix upheaval later in the decade. We wanted to look like Audrey Hepburn and sip drinks with a Cary Grant type to the music of Henry Mancini. Swap Audrey for Ann Margaret and you basically have ’80s era Belinda Carlisle. Of course there were tons of ’60s influences on ’80s music, from the beatnik pop of The (English) Beat to the typefaces on many a Go Go’s album cover to the entire oeuvre of The Style Council.
Now that EO is discovering ’80s music, I’ve enjoyed introducing her and YO to some key dance tracks, most notably “Situation” by Yaz. Or Yazoo if you like. I don’t know why this song hasn’t been covered, redone, remixed – celebrated!!! – by one of these dance-pop princesses. It’d be perfect for a young girl with a big voice. Over the years it’s shown up on a couple of midrange movie soundtracks, along with Yaz’s other big hit, “Don’t Go” (in which Teri Hatcher strips/dances to said song for a mullet-wearing Kurt Russell in the movie Tango & Cash. Cringe-worthy on so many levels.) However it doesn’t have the pop culture pervasiveness of a Simple Minds or Tears for Fears tune. It’s a shame really, since it has such a great groove and still sounds so fresh. Not bad for a song that came out in 1982.
The only ‘music’ video I could find is this bit of DIY moviemaking. Must be the YouTube equivalent of fan fiction. But enjoy the tune and tell your kids: “Situation” is an underrated gem.
Have a good week!
“I must have got lost… I must have got lost…”
If you had told me when I started this blog three years ago that I was going to be writing about Peter Wolf of the J Geils Band, actually writing about him in a semi-serious fashion and not comically or sarcastically, I would have said you were crazy.
But there I was, Saturday night in Santa Barbara with my good friend and concert pal Kristin, bouncing on my toes, holding my iPhone in my hand (clichéd I know!), watching Wolf and his band work through the last songs of their show. And, you know what? I enjoyed it.
For several reasons:
1. We arrived late, after several strong drinks at the hotel down the street and well after anyone was checking tickets, so we skipped the $25 cover charge. Always nice.
2. We missed “Centerfold” and “Love Stinks” – whew. Though I wouldn’t have minded hearing “Freeze Frame” with its upright ‘80s bounce, hand claps and synth-bop.
3. I’m pretty sure we were the youngest people there. Not counting the second wives and girlfriends of the 60-something, casually wealthy guys. A certain California-specific species that probably made their money in Cupertino or with a shed load of B movies marketed to non-native English speakers. These guys like water sports, the occasional toke and Tommy Bahama shirts. You know, the gospel according to Jimmy Buffet.
But I digress.
In a live setting, decades after his ‘80s hits, Wolf’s blues roots could take center stage. Most people – myself included – associate him with “Centrefold” and that silly schoolroom video. But he’s recorded and performed with The Stones, The Boss and The Queen of Soul to name a few. The J Geils Band is long behind him – on his last solo album, he recorded with country legend Merle Haggard and two of my favorite alt-country voices: Neko Case and Shelby Lynne.
His band – with their ponytails and grey-brown beards – was about the same age as the audience, and you could tell they were there for the music, not for some Rhino-retro paycheck. The venue was small, after all, so how much could they really earn on the night? This was a well-rehearsed barroom band, channeling the classic sounds of The Meters and The Rascals and just enjoying good old rock-n-roll. People wandered in and out, some sat outside on the patio while the waitresses went back and forth with cold drinks. Wolf told stories between songs, in this scattershot reminder of his early career as a disc jockey. It was relaxed. It was refreshing. It was something I don’t get to experience much in Hong Kong.
The best part was being able to hang out with Kristin. Trying to squash over a decade’s worth of conversation in to a visit of just a couple of days. Talking, talking, talking. Laughing over a shot of Goldschlager. Taking pictures of her pugs. We did our best.
And now I’m looking at Peter Wolf in a different light. I listened to his duet with Neko Case and it is really, really lovely. And I wonder how it feels to be most famous for your worst song? That while millions buy a couple of your hits on iTunes, only a few hundred in a bar in Santa Barbara can hear what you’re really like.
It was good to be there.
It started with Haircut 100.
My search, that is, for summer songs to play in the car with the kids – on the way to the pool, beach, movies. I was looking for clean, happy songs. I thought first of The Go-Go’s, of course. Playful songs with a girl power streak – just what my seven and nine year old daughters need! But then I couldn’t believe it when I realized: I do not own a Go-Go’s CD. How can that be?
So I pulled out Haircut 100 (Pelican West – see even the album name sounds fun!) along with The English Beat (Special Beat Service) and put them on heavy rotation in the car. Well, when I could get a break from Disney’s Girlz Rock 2 and Abba Gold – damn you Mamma Mia!
The next night, with my husband on a business trip, I went online to rectify that Go-Go’s omission…
See here’s the problem with iTunes and your husband being away.
FORTY-SIX song purchases later, it’s one a.m. and like a mad musicologist, I’m sitting before the glow of the computer screen creating for my children MY DEFINITIVE ’80s PLAYLISTS!
I’m putting that in all caps because when you’ve grown up in the ’80s it really deserves emphasis. And even though you might call it lame nostalgia I’m labeling it an Important Learning Experience, like the time my mom made us watch Easy Rider on Christmas Eve by explaining, “Kids, this is your history.”
So, now that you are intrigued, what is on these precious playlists?
I’ve created five playlists, each with 20 to 22 songs, each playlist with a different theme (okay wiseguys, go ahead and joke). If you listen to all five lists, you’re introduced to a glorious 100+ of pure ’80s pop and you basically become a diehard OMD, Yaz (aka Yazoo) and/or Talk Talk fan forever.
I consider these tunes quality ’80s music – some were big hits, some more obscure. I like to think of my taste as a bit left of field, so instead of Huey Lewis and The News, you get Colourfield. No Wang Chung or Cyndi Lauper but plenty of The Smithereens and Scritti Politti. And when I do pick the mega stars I like the lesser known tunes like Spandau Ballet’s “Only When You Leave” or “Hazy Shade of Winter,” which is an absolute underrated gem from The Bangles (on the Less Than Zero soundtrack, written by Paul Simon btw).
Theme One – Favs
These are my top picks. Here I’ve got a cross-section of favorite tunes from around the globe, heavy on the British contingent however: Bananarama, ABC, Haircut 100, Human League, Tears for Fears, Simple Minds, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Wham, Spandau Ballet, Talk Talk, The Smiths and rounding out with the classic “Blue Monday” from New Order. To represent the Yanks, I’ve included Madonna and Michael Jackson (“P.Y.T.” not “Beat It!”) as well as Prince and The Revolution and Nenah Cherry (remember her? She’s half-American, I think). And last but not least a couple of Australian bands (no, no, not Men At Work, get serious), namely INXS and The Divinyls. Listen to it again and again – “Pleasure and Pain” is divine.
Theme Two – Brits & a Kiwi
Let’s go deeper in to Brit pop, which had such a strong influence on me. Heck, I was a Texas kid in the suburbs – crazy hair bands from the UK were the exotic and sexy lead characters in my Eurorail-pass escapist dreams.
Here we have more contributions from the bands I listed above as well as Echo and the Bunnymen x 2 (“Rescue” and “The Cutter” kill me), Love and Rockets, Elvis Costello, A Flock of Seagulls, The Cure, Yaz, Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark (“Women III” – check it out!), The Psychedelic Furs, The Style Council and The Colourfield. I sneak in a quirky contribution from Kiwi band Split Enz – “Dirty Creatures” and top off the list with two definitive New Wave tracks: The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary” and The Smiths’ “How Soon is Now?” Now we can all do that head-down, asymmetrical hair, mope-y dance.
Unfortunately I couldn’t include the sitar-bop of Blancmange’s “Living on the Ceiling” because it’s unavailable on iTunes! Any thoughts/suggestions on that would be most appreciated.
*UPDATE: since I wrote this, Blancmange has appeared on Spotify – yeah! So we can all now enjoy their exotic cool.
And can I just make a career suggestion here – one of you Mileys-Britneys-Demi’s-Selena’s-Ashley’s could kick so much pop ass if you did a Pharrell Williams-produced remake of “Situation” or “Don’t Go”. Think about it. (Katy P and Ke$ha, please don’t bother because we’re just counting the days til you go away.)
So at the risk of this turning in to my senior thesis (we don’t need that much nostalgia), I’ll wrap things up and run through the rest of the lists.
Theme Three – Dance
Think more Prince, Michael Jackson and Madonna, Sheila E, George Michael, Rob Base and Eazy E and again with the techno-booty-shaking Yaz.
*UPDATE: I would have preferred to include Scritti Politti’s “Lover to Fall” but alas not on Spotify so we’ll have to enjoy “Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin”. Hope you’re all okay with that.
Theme Four – Rock & Pop
This list is reserved for all those pop-rock artists who weren’t necessarily groundbreaking but made some great music in the ’80s: The Police, The Pretenders, The Cars, Midnight Oil, Talking Heads, U2, Lone Justice, The Reivers (Texas band alert!), Paul Kelly (covering Crowded House), etc. plus my beloved R.E.M. and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
*UPDATE: Very limited selection of Lone Justice, Paul Kelly and The Reivers on Spotify, so I’ve had to improvise. But I added some Marshall Crenshaw for good measure.
Theme Five – A Little Edge
These songs close out the education with a slightly edgier look at ’80s rock plus a peek at rap beginnings: early Jane’s Addiction and Guns N’ Roses, Living Colour, Fishbone, The Replacements, Sonic Youth, The Plimsouls, The Sugarcubes (Bjork’s original band), Run DMC and LL Cool J (“Going Back to Cali” makes me think I’m cool), more R.E.M., a little Bowie and one of the GREAT college bands of all time: Guadalcanal Diary.
Oh, and a little Concrete Blonde.
Once when I was with my mom, “California Dreaming” by The Mamas and the Papas came on the radio and I sang along. My mom was surprised I knew the words and said, “You must have heard that in the womb!”
Now do I expect my girls to jump up and say, “Mommy this ’80s music is just so awesome, what IS it?”
But the hours I spent buying and organizing, rearranging and previewing were immensely enjoyable. Yes, I am the musical equivalent of a policy wonk. Yes, I indulge in a bit of nostalgia. Who doesn’t?
And maybe one day, I’ll catch my daughter singing, “We are young despite the years, we are concerned, we are hope despite the times.”
Long live the ’80s.