Australian Pop/Rock band Men At Work hit me — and many other music fans around the world — at just the right time. I was 12 when the single “Who Can It Be Now?” exploded onto the charts. I was intrigued by the group’s quirkiness, but it was singer/guitarist Colin Hay’s voice that initially drew me in. As a huge fan of The Police, I found Hay’s effortlessly high-pitched vocals highly appealing.
In the summer of 1983, Men at Work’s Cargo came out and instantly became my favorite album. I got to see the band perform live on that tour — at Kings Island’s Timberwolf Amphitheater with a new, unknown Australian band called INXS opening — and I spent that summer in France as an exchange student with Cargo (and The Police’s Synchronicity) at my side.
Though I didn’t fully yet understand the emotions being expressed on Cargo’s first single, “Overkill,” they still hit me like a ton of bricks and the song was played on my Walkman (for younger readers, that was akin to a wooden MP3 player with various levers and pulleys) more than any other that summer. Just the sound of it (as well as the visuals in the accompanying video) matched up perfectly with my bouts of homesickness.
To this day, when I hear “Overkill” — no matter if it’s the original, a great cover version (the band that did the theme song to the TV show Scrubs, Lazlo Bane, did a fantastic version with Hay and Dashboard Confessional’s version was also pretty strong) or Hay singing it solo acoustic — it sends shivers, particularly when it hits the intense release of the last verse. I remember that ancient sense of loneliness and isolation, but also various heartbreaks I’ve suffered — as a young adult, I finally got the “ghosts appear and fade away” bit and it made the song resonate within me even more.
“Down Under” might be Men At Work’s most known song, but “Overkill” is the tune that will stand the test of time for eternity.
Hay is far removed from his Men at Work days now. The band broke up in 1986 (though they reunited for concerts in the late ’90s) and Hay has managed to have a modestly successful solo career, still touring the world and releasing strong solo efforts, including his most recent (and 11th overall), Gathering Mercury, perhaps Hay’s finest solo moment yet.
Hay's songwriting still has emotional weight and substance (as well as great hooks) and if you catch his local show tonight at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley, he’ll definitely play some old favorites, will surely says some words about his recently deceased fellow Man At Work, Greg Ham, and undoubtedly charm the pants off the whole crowd with his legendary sharp wit.
Here's my video playlist tribute to Hay and one of his greatest songwriting achievements.
Today is the 46th anniversary of one of the most memorable "heckles" in entertainment history. And the response was pretty classic, too.
In July of 1965, Bob Dylan shocked the audience at the Newport Folk Festival (where he was virtually a god after performing the previous two years) by performing "electric" and with his full band. Those who wanted to hear solo, acoustic Dylan booed as the group launched into "Maggie's Farm," though some in the audience cheered the bold move. He finished the set with a solo, acoustic encore. Lore has it that the boos were from those upset Dylan was playing electric, though his organist Al Kooper said it was because the sound sucked.
Still, Dylan would deal with such polarized reactions for the next year or so as he continued to rock electrically (the sound couldn't have been bad everywhere, right?) for part of his sets. On May 17, 1966, Dylan played the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England. As documented on bootlegs, film and the official release, The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert, which came out in 1998 (the "Royal Albert Hall" referring to the common misconception that the notorious show was in London), one disapproving fan shouted "Judas!" Dylan responded to the reference to the New Testament tale of Jesus betrayer Judas Iscariot by saying, "I don't believe you, you're a liar." The strange yet perfect response may have been a come-back to the "Judas" yelp, but some believe he was responding to another less audible heckle: "I'm never listening to you again, ever!" Which makes more sense. Sorta.
The young man who shouted the heckle broke his silence after three decades and did a few interviews, calling the moment "embarrassing" for himself. The man, Keith Butler, was also interviewed right after the concert, footage of which popped up in the Eat the Document documentary. The then 21-year-old told an interviewer, "Any pop group could produce better rubbish than that! It was a bloody disgrace! He's a traitor!"
Video of the "Judas" moment was discovered and featured in the biographical documentary film, No Direction Home. Go to the 56-second mark of the clip to hear it.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 17 birthday include original bass singer for The Spinners, Pervis Jackson (1938); eclectic Blues legend Taj Mahal (1942); drummer for Prog heroes King Crimson and Yes, Bill Bruford (1949); Irish New Age goddess Enya (1961); keyboardist/songwriter for Phish, Page McConnell (1963); hunky New Kids of the Block star Jordan Knight (1970); former Stoner Rock pioneer with Kyuss turned Hard Rock star with Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme (1973); original vocalist for Florida Metalcore band Underoath and current frontman for "Southern Metal" crew Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Dallas Taylor (1980); and Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor (1965).
Reznor — an Ohio native — was awarded the ASCAP Golden Note Award last month for his work in music over the past 25 years. Presumably not including his time with the early ’80s Cleveland Synth Pop acts Exotic Birds (which opened for Culture Club!) and Slam Bamboo, which sounds nearly identical to Howard Jones.
Pretty fun stuff, actually. The haircuts … not so much.
Today in history was not kind to some major Pop Culture icons. Today we lost the Master of Muppets, Jim Henson (in 1990), Andy Kaufman (1984) and lead "Untouchable" Eliot Ness (1957). On the musical tip, we lost masterful, hugely influential Hot Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (1953), Rat Pack singer/performer/actor Sammy Davis, Jr. (1990) and, just two years ago, Metal superstar Ronnie James Dio.
Fun fact: Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, which featured Dio on the mic after Ozzy left, was hugely inspired by Django; both had finger injuries that forced them to adapt — and redefine — their playing styles. Things didn't turn out too badly for either.
Rest in peace, all!
On this date in 2000, frontman for Punk/Pop band The Offspring, Dexter Holland, testified on behalf of Jello Biafra, leader of Punk pioneers Dead Kennedys and both a friend of and huge influence on Holland. Biafra was being sued by his former DK bandmates for allegedly mismanaging royalties from their back catalog and failing to promote their music. Many felt the lawsuit was the result of Biafra not allowing the band's song "Holiday in Cambodia" to be used in a commercial for Levi's, though his former bandmates denied it. (Why Levi's thought that song would be great for selling khakis is another story …)
Holland was on hand at the trial to testify that, in his opinion, if a Dead Kennedys song was used in a commercial, it would taint their legacy and credibility.
"The punk-rock movement was supposed to be a very rebellious movement," Holland told the court. "Anything that connects the band to what is considered mainstream goes against what the band stands for."
While Biafra claimed his solo work and spoken word gigs were, in essence, promoting the Dead Kennedys catalog, and that he himself had never been properly compensated in terms of royalties, the jury agreed with his ex-bandmates. Biafra was ordered to pay $200,000 to the other band members. A later appeal was denied.
The "Dead Kennnedys," minus Biafra, began doing "reunion" shows in 2001, originally replacing Biafra with Brandon Cruz, the former child star of ’69-’72 sitcom The Courtship of Eddie's Father. Biafra responded in song, collaborating with The Melvins on the track "Those Dumb Punk Kids (Will Buy Anything)."
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 15 birthday include union organizer and Folk singer/poet Utah Phillips (1935);’80s/early ’90s Country star K.T. Oslin (1942); Prog-to-Classical-to-Electronica-to-New-Age instrumentalist Mike Oldfield (1953); leader of Goth Rock stars The Sisters of Mercy, Andrew Eldritch (1959); Rap music pioneer Gradmaster Melle Mel (1961); founder of shocking Grindcore favorites Anal Cunt, Seth Putnam (1968); and musician/composer/producer Brian Eno (1948).
From his early ’70s time with Roxy Music and his thrilling solo works that came after he quit the band in ’73 through his endlessly adventurous solo and collaborative works since and his revolutionary production jobs, most notably with Talking Heads and U2, Brian Eno is one of the most important figures in contemporary music in terms of influence. Today's Modern Rock, Indie, Dance music and Electronica landscape is filled with artists who might sound differently were it not for Eno's work. Although known as the godfather of Ambient music, Eno's influence goes beyond that. Eno's legacy is more about sound, mood and feel.
AllMusic says that Eno "forever altered the ways in which music is approached, composed, performed, and perceived, and everything from punk to techno to new age bears his unmistakable influence."
In 1996, Eno literally became a part of a lot of people's everyday lives when he composed the six-second start-up sound for Microsoft's Windows 95 OS. Meaning every time your PC crashed (I've used a Mac forever, but from what I understand, that was/is a lot), you heard a little Eno. (Ever the rascally rascal, Eno told BBC radio he created the sound on a Mac because he doesn't like PCs.)
And, yes, people still need Brian Eno, now that he's 64. Eno has never stopped releasing or producing new music in some form. Last year, he released Drums Between the Bells on the Warp label. (Pitchfork — which has numerous Eno releases on their "Best of the Decades" overviews, in multiple decades — described Eno signing to Warp as like being The Beatles joining the Elephant 6 collective). The album was a collaboration with poet Rick Holland.
And this past Sunday, Eno won his first BAFTA award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for his soundtrack work (something else for which he's very well known) on the BBC Channel 4 mini-series Top Boy.
Below is a playlist featuring several of Eno's Ambient works, plus a clip from his earlier, ingenious "Art Pop" days.
Baltimore Noise Punk foursome Dope Body introduced itself to the Indie Rock world with the donkey punch that was last year’s Nupping,
the band’s first full-length. A chaotic barrage of guitar harmonics,
muscular drum/bass pummeling and howling vocals combine in Dope Body’s
assault, resulting in something that sounds like The Jesus Lizard jacked
up on speed (or Gang of Four jacked up on The Jesus Lizard).
There is an artfulness to the noise, but it’s the group’s hectic energy level — which sometimes makes it seem like they’re going to fall apart at any second — that first draws the listener in, as if sucked up by the tornadic swirl, Dorothy-and-Toto-syle. The herky-jerky rhythms are also alluring, occasionally falling into a seemingly impossible groove that feels like some sort of alien Funk. You can dance to Dope Body — you just might look a little convulsive.
The band formed in 2008 and released a couple of EPs before Nupping came out on HOSS Records. For the band’s new LP, Natural History, Dope Body moves over to the higher-profile, much-respected indie label Drag City. Keep an eye out for the new release May 22.
The band performs a free show at The Comet tonight at 10 p.m., joined by lo-fi, D.I.Y. icon R. Stevie Moore. Here is Dope Body's music video for the track "Enemy Outta Me."
On this date in 1993, Elvis Presley died. For real this time. This according to the tabloid Weekly World News, which has given the world such groundbreaking stories as the trials and tribulations of Bat Boy (half-boy, half-bat, of course), the capture of various mer-people (mermen and mermaids) and the secret romantic relationship between Saddam Hussein (former gay porn star … ALLEGEDLY) and Osama bin Laden.
Presley died from diabetes, according to WWN's exclusive report.
Alas, the King didn't stay dead long in the pages of the tabloid. In 2005, everything in the universe was back in its right place as the Weekly World News published the cover feature "Elvis IS Alive." Not only was he still alive, but he was going to run for President. I don't recall that actually happening, but they wouldn't print it if it wasn't true, right? Either the lame-stream media just ignored Elvis' campaign or the King was just gearing up for a 2012 run. I hear the Republicans need a viable candidate.
What's Elvis been up to lately? Last summer, WWN reported he was hanging out on Barack Obama's tour bus. As for Obama, the President's foes are apparently way off base with the whole "secret Muslim" thing. Among other things, WWN has reported that Obama is a — duh! — alien from outer space. Oh, and he won the "Who is a bigger enemy of dogs?" war handily by kidnapping "Republican campaign dog, Huckabee." Holding him hostage? Nope. According to WWN, the President "had a Huckabee burger.” (Actually, WWN seems almost reasonable compared to the "birther" movement. Now THAT'S scary.)
Until the next time Elvis dies, just remember the words of Mojo Nixon, poet and prophet:
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 14 birthday include ’50s/’60s Pop star ("Mack the Knife," "Beyond the Sea") Bobby Darin (1936); one of Rock's greatest bassists, Cream's Jack Bruce (1943); original drummer for legendary Canadian Rock trio Rush, John Rutsey (1952); frontman for British rockers The Cult, Ian Astbury (1962); guitarist for glammy Hair Metal heroes Poison, CC DeVille (1962); bassist for Alice in Chains, Mike Inez (1966); the still-alive half of Milli Vanilli, Fabrice Morvan (1966); one of the less-celebrated New Kids on the Block members, Danny Wood (1969); bassist for Modern Rock band AFI, Hunter Burgan (1976); half of the killer Hip Hop duo Clipse, Terrence Thornton, known professionally as Pusha T (1977); Disney actress/Pop princess Miranda Cosgrove (1993); and Soul/R&B singer/songwriter/musician/producer Raphael Saadiq (1966).
Saadiq's career began in the early ’80s when he got a job as bassist for Sheila E and toured the world with Prince. He returned to his native Oakland after the tour and formed the R&B/Pop trio Tony! Toni! Tone! with his brother and cousin. The band scored several hits, notably the upbeat "Feels Good," their only Top 10 hit on the Billboard singles charts. In 1997, Saadiq formed Lucy Pearl, a supergroup of sorts, featuring members of A Tribe Called Quest and En Vogue.
Saadiq has worked behind the scenes with several popular artists. He collaborated with D'Angelo for "Untitled (How Does It Feel," which won D'Angelo a Grammy, and also worked with Whitney Houston, Macy Gray, Jill Scott, John Legend, Joss Stone and many other star performers. In 2002, he put out his first solo effort, Instant Vintage, a brilliant throwback/old-school R&B album that scored Saadiq five Grammy nominations. He has since released a string of strong solo works, including 2011's great Stone Rollin' and 2008's even better The Way I See It.
Recently, Saadiq was one of a small handful of musicians named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People In the World," joining Rihanna, Adele and others. Elton John wrote the blurb about Saadiq for Time, writing "Immaculately dressed (a Saadiq trademark) and moving like the soul stars of old, (Saadiq) confirmed that great black music is alive and well and not just a string of hip-hop monotony."
Happy 46th birthday to Mr. Saadiq. Here's a clip for the title track from his most recent solo album.