A Different Approach to the Music of the 1980's

* Discovered?
Sure they were signed, but who knew?

* Going Solo, Going Nowhere!
The restless one's who leave behind their bandmates to briefly go it alone.

* Long forgotten one-hit wonders

* What is local?
Checking in on unsigned talent.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Every Word is True...

...Simply because there are few words on the very existence of this band. It's no mystery if you've been following my exploits here over the last couple of years that you will find a lot of this music comes from my short time spent in college radio. Non-Fiction is no exception. Hailing from the great state of Texas (something I only recently uncovered in my exhaustive research on this artist), One would not expect music of this type to emerge from the Dallas area, but then one cannot perceive that the only music out of the Lone Star State would be of the Country and Western variety. In my clueless years as a college disc jockey however, I may have construed that notion to be quite true. All kidding aside, this band may have fallen well beneath even my finely tuned radar, had it not been for the inclusion of a creatively crafted update of the Rolling Stones classic, Let's Spend the Night Together. In 1982, while New Wave had become well established in the music mainstream, I found myself a newly converted fan of music created decades earlier. Kivetsky; a local band had become my first passion on the Long Island club circuit. A group of four musicians, they recreated the 1960's nightly to exuberant, often overflowing crowds and opened my mind to music I had only been peripherally aware of. I resisted a lot of the New Wave movement during those early years in radio, yet hypocritically embraced this techno version of my all-tine favorite Stones tune. Like so many of the other bands featured here, I carried my own personal torch for Non-Ficiton. Now, nearly three decades after the release of their only record, I proudly induct them as honorary members into the Unknown 80's Hall of Fame. If anyone happens to have some viable information on this band, I'm all ears. After viewing the video below, please feel free to leave any comments and/or suggestions for future artists to be featured here. Thanks for dropping by.
- Morty
Oct. 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain!"

He was the voice behind the greatest Jersey based band that never existed, the ultimate "Milli Vanilli," (long before that sad chapter in music history would see the light of day), the poster child for identity theft, a modern day Sybil...all right, I'm getting carried away.
He did however; provide a multitude of tunes that would make up some of my very favorites from the 1980's, though it would take me until sometime in the mid 1990's to realize it. John Cafferty is one of those artists that I would truly love to sit down with for five minutes just to hear his side of the story. Does he have any regrets? Does he inwardly hate the monster he had inadvertently created? Have his musical goals and aspirations suffered due to the existence, death and reincarnation of his alter ego?
Am I reading too deeply into this?
As I return from my elongated sabbatical, eager to continue the legacy I envision Unknown 80's to become, I go back to the very roots from which this blogging endeavor found life.
"He's got something we need Doc, words and music," the great Eddie Wilson once said.
I find it ironic that more than quarter of a century following the release of the movie that temporarily thrust an unsuspecting John Cafferty into the limelight I am quoting a film that I, like the multitudes of others worldwide thoroughly ignored at the box office. Bowing down several months later to what I can only construe as peer pressure, I unexpectedly found myself a convert and part of the millions of fans who made this a pseudo cult classic through the power of cable television. I realize now that back then as cable was still a growing industry, there was considerably less than 57 Channels (and Nothin’ On). While the experience failed to make me a Springsteen fan, it did turn me on to what I always considered the Jersey Shore sound. Ten years after Eddie Wilson drove off the Stainton Memorial Causeway, I finally had the opportunity to see John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown band live on (where else?) the Jersey Shore, in a Long Branch bar eerily similar to one portrayed in the movie. Long after their brief brush with fame, the band put on a spirited set highlighting a number of cuts from both films, (we’ll leave the sequel out of this for now) and several original tunes from the band’s own repertoire. Granted all of them were Cafferty penned, but it was difficult to separate the Beaver Brown selections from those of the once mighty Cruisers. Separating John Cafferty from Michael Paré, aka Eddie Wilson proved a far simpler task. Following the evening, I made it a point to get my hands on as much John Cafferty material that I could. Until that point, I had only owned Tough All Over; the first single released under the band’s own name. I remember this tune getting some radio airplay before it, and the band fell back into relative obscurity. In 1988, they released their second album. Roadhouse is simply a continuation of the good time Jersey Shore sound that Cafferty helped to create. Granted I did not learn of the record’s existence until sometime in the1990’s which happened to coincide with the bombshell that these guys actually originated from Rhode Island.
What the heck, they have a shore there too, right?
It’s on the same ocean, in fact.
Sadly, (and I say this under my own assumption), Cafferty could never escape the legend that was Eddie and the Cruisers. It was only recently while I researched them as this month’s featured artist that I learned the CD copies I possess do not portray the original cover art, but draw attention to the face and music of Eddie Wilson and the Cruisers. Mr. Cafferty, should you have the genuine honor of accidentally finding yourself here, I appreciate the music and all that you have brought to the rock and roll world. Tough All Over, Roadhouse and the soundtracks to both of the Eddie and the Cruisers films are an integral part of the soundtrack that is my life. I consider it both pleasure and honor in doing my small part to draw some more attention to the music you have created. For first time visitors and return clientele as well, I invite you now to hit the play button below and take a trip with me back to 1988. If I may quote the late, great Eddie Wilson just one more time…
“Alright, now let’s get on with the music!”

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Return with no Return

Comebacks, Reunions and remakes all played an integral part of the fabric of the 1980's. Early on in the decade we saw the return of 50's and 60's icons including Chubby Checker, Del Shannon, and Gary U.S. Bonds, all of whom returned with new albums filled with original material. Then there were the established bands of the 80's who elected to re-visit the music of their youth, before it became somewhat of the norm. Van Halen's 1982 release, Diver Down is a perfect example. The band struck gold for the second time in their career with a monster rendition of a 1960's classic. Following the earlier success of You Really Got Me, along came an unforgettable rendition of Roy Orbison's Oh, Pretty Woman. The album featured five cover tunes and only seven originals. Whether or not VH purists embraced the record was of no consequence, as it propelled this band beyond popularity and into the realm of super-stardom. Burgeoning artist or mainstream performer, there was big money to be made in remakes; a substantial return on a return to the past. Billy Idol exploded on to the early 80's scene with the Tommy James and the Shondell's classic, Mony Mony. Who can forget Naked Eyes hitting it big with There's Always Something There to Remind Me; a semi-forgettable Burt Bacharach penned tune. Cheap Trick stayed current with a memorable version of the Elvis Presley fave, Don't Be Cruel. David Lee Roth on his solo outing continued to hit with cover tunes including the Beach Boys California Girls, and the flamboyant Just a Gigolo/Ain't Got Nobody. The medley version dated back to the mid 1950's, but the individual tunes go back to the early 1900's! Equally unlikely was the resurfacing of a 1929 Irving Berlin classic made popular by Fred Astaire. Taco's Puttin' on the Ritz put him on the map in 1982. There are certainly many more both worthy of mention, and probably quite a few that were not so worthy. This month I will take you back to 1985, 1983, and 1984 respectively. The possibility exists that some of these tunes are indeed not unknown, but most certainly have been forgotten. As curator, of an 80's museum in my mind, I felt it time to dust off the vinyl, and bring these classic tunes back from the grave to hopefully gain a small bit of notoriety, or at the very least a smile or two. I am assuming by now that all of you know the drill, however should this be your first time here, I urge you to hit the play button below, close your eyes, and journey back with me once more into the land of the Unknown 80's.
June 2009

Friday, May 1, 2009

If at First You Don't Succeed...

We have this radio station here in Manhattan, that when it made its debut back in the late 90's seemed like a much needed breath of fresh air. Of course with maturity setting in, a classic rock format centered primarily around the music of my childhood would make for a comfortable place to call home, a respite from the loud abrasive current sound that the younger generation found inspirational.
Do we eventually become our parents, closing our minds to the newer sound, finding refuge in our past?
I still enjoy the stereo cranked up to eleven; a not so obscure 80's reference, primarily when it is blasting the music of said decade now almost thirty years gone.
Where am I going with this rant?
When our beloved New York City classic rock station hit the airwaves, they boasted the largest rock and roll library in the country.
(Maybe the world, I don't pay attention to buzz words and tag lines).
Apparently, the library is not as large as we were led to believe. I figure I have counted two hundred songs (give or take), which at one time may have been considered downright bountiful, but in the days of the mighty iPod...
Thus the need for a place called "The Unknown 80's."
Somewhere beneath the radio hits and one hit wonders that current radio stations rally around during their once a week, once a day (etc.) 80's marathons lies some incredible music that inexplicably has been overlooked.
This time around, we take you to the nation's capital, home of Tommy Keene, an artist often considered one of the 1980s most critically acclaimed (and commercially ignored) singer/songwriters.
The Morty story takes us back once again to radio station WNYT, where for a limited period of time, this unknown musical talent found respect in the guise of "heavy rotation" on college radio. Whether I (permanently) borrowed this EP long after it had been forgotten, or quite possibly (yet highly unlikely) had been handed this piece of vinyl to store in a Morty musical time capsule not to be unearthed again for a minimum of a quarter century remains to be seen. While this audio treasure spent the better part of that time collecting dust, its title track remained forever locked within the fringes of my subconscious.
The result?
Surviving move after move, apartment after apartment, to deservedly find a home here on the World Wide Web, where hopefully, those well outside the circle of that small college radio station and my (thankfully) large and intact memory can come to enjoy this nugget of musical history.
As always, I ask you to leave a comment on your way out, just a small hint of your visit here. Regardless, my mission continues.
Hit the play button below, and take a trip with me once more. Tell your friends, relatives, enemies, ex-spouses...
You get the message.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Blast from Two Pasts

Well it's nice to be back here after a month long hiatus, not that too many people noticed, but I'm okay with that. My major focus has been on the alternate sight at mortmaz.blogspot.com, where following the unfortunate passing of one of my favorite musicians, and all around nice guy, I spent literally weeks combing back through my life to dredge up everything I could remember to tell my tale of a rock and roll obsession. If I have wet your whistle, or aroused your curiosity, I hope you will drop by there to see what I am talking about. That said, let's take it back to my favorite year in the unknown 80's realm, 1984. This artist comes once again from my college radio past at New York Tech's WNYT. The only vinyl I recall seeing from this guy was a 12" sampler sent primarily to radio stations in advance of the upcoming album release. Side A featured what I am assuming was the single. Music director, (we'll call him M) wrote: "I'm not sure who did the original of this classic, but you'll recognize it instantly"
I didn't.
Go back over the last few posts and re-familiarize yourselves with my ailment called Musical Cluenessness.
In fact, none of us at 'NYT could remember. I took a stab at The Dave Clark Five. It was not until 1987, following the release of an uber-popular, yet far from critically acclaimed cinematic flick, that any of us would find out who recorded this now iconic classic.
"It's a great cover, really good production, 80's sounding, yet tough enough," continues M.
Side A featured a longer club mix version of the tune, while side B featured the radio mix, and another cut, Palm of My Hand.
Musically clueless and close minded as I was back then, I never listened to the second cut, and only discovered it on this cool rainy Saturday afternoon.
"Try Palm of my Hand," M concludes. It makes a great segue with Van Halen's Jump.
I can guarantee that for the short time this record was in rotation, many a WNYT DJ tested the segue theory as per the esteemed music director.
I'll try it later and see how it sounds.
M was primarily an alternative music aficionado, thus the limited amount of information revealed about the artist. It took me quarter of a century to do the research and find out that this guy comes from an impressive rock and roll past! I am duly impressed and will reveal no more here. For that bit of info, you will have to once again hit the play button below and take another trip with me back in time to the Unknown 80's. Please make sure to leave a comment on your way out, and pass the word to other 80's enthusiasts.
See you next time,

Monday, February 2, 2009

RPM: A Long (Island) Time ago in a club scene far, far away...

With six weeks of winter ahead, what better place to hibernate than deep within the realm of the Unknown 80's?
Welcome back.
This time around, I thought I might try something different. While researching last months featured artist; Yipes, I had come across a small number of pictures highlighting the band in an early 80's live performance at a college. While there was nothing groundbreaking there, the candid's got me to thinking about the band's earlier days, before the A&R person came along with a pen in one hand and a recording contract in the other.
Everyone starts somewhere.
What were they doing in the weeks, months and years leading up to that momentous occasion?
How difficult was it to play original material in the Wisconsin club scene at that time?
What did it take to rise above the other bands and get those tunes heard?
How did it differ from that of the Long Island club scene with which I had become so familiar?
I can pretty much break down the 1980's Long Island scene into two categories:
A. Bands in pursuit of a record deal
B. Bands in pursuit of a party.
RPM fell into the latter category.
This is not to take away from the musical prowess of any of the individuals depicted here. Each and every one of them were musically gifted in their own right. RPM left an indelible imprint on the Long Island circuit. Beginning in 1984 as a cover band, they started out in smaller clubs, often opening for some of the more established local acts. It was on one such night, in a room in the New York City borough of Queens that I had first come across RPM. Specifically, it was on the eve of the historic Live Aid show that would commence the next morning several miles south in Philadelphia, Pa. I listened with half an ear, waiting rather impatiently for the main act to hit the stage, a group of friends whom I will one day write a book about as it was they, who more or less provided the soundtrack of my life during those years. RPM however had not gone forgotten. I vividly remember the band capably covering the Steel Breeze hit "You Don't Want Me Anymore," one of my favorite one-hit wonders from the early part of the decade. The memory stops there. It would be another two years yet, before I would cross paths with these guys again. By the fall of 1987, the RPM I had stumbled upon was a completely different unit. Scaled down to four members, the band was now led by renowned front man Joel Frixx. Having made a name for himself over the years with Long Island's Vixen, followed by Tara, Joel brought RPM out of the smaller rooms and into the Long Island limelight, cementing themselves as one of the top drawing bands on the copy circuit. An entirely different dynamic, the band ran through an immense catalog of tunes ranging from the 1960's through the new music sounds of the mid-80's, covering the likes of New Order, Erasure, The Cure, and Depeche Mode to name a few. The idea of performing a set of their own music had never been a priority, primarily because there just were not enough original tunes to draw from, yet in 1986, the band had been offered a gig at Long Island's legendary My Father's Place, an institution that gave rise to the likes of Billy Joel, The Police, The Talking Heads, and so many more. With less than two weeks to prepare, they put their heads together and (in what I would like to assume was an intense writing session) rapidly penned enough tunes to cover a set. Today, they laughingly admit that most of those tunes were not worth much more than the paper on which they were written. A small number of similar gigs would follow in Manhattan, but after a short period of time, the band went back to doing what they did best, conducting some of the greatest party nights that Long Island club owners and patrons would remember long after those years had become but a memory.
It is with that very thought in mind, that I happily induct into my personal Unknown 80's hall of fame; a group of guys that I am both proud and honored to consider as friends. The live footage that follows was shot in 1987 at Long Island's Rumrunner of Oyster Bay. The interviews were conducted at EKO studio's in Deer Park, Long Island nearly a decade later, in the fall of 1996 as the band was preparing for a 10 year reunion/anniversary celebration. The original music featured here is really only of the tip of the iceberg, yet briefly allows a small glimpse into Long Island's 80's music scene.
Sound Engineer, Steve Porcelli summed it up best during the recording of the '96 interviews:
"They don't want to tell you about all of the debauchery that this band has left in its wake."
What is left for me are some of the greatest memories of those carefree years, and it is my hope that for some, this preview might rekindle just a bit of the good times that transpired back then. For the rest of you; enjoy this trip back in time. Once again, I implore you to leave a comment on your way out, and spread the word. In the meantime, hit the play button below and take a journey with me once more into the world of the Unknown 80's.
See you next month!
Feb. 2009

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

YIPES!! How Did We Wind Up Here?

Happy New Year to all of you who have made your way here either in the past or now, for the first time. As we usher in a new year, I thought I might take you back to the beginning of a new decade. Alright, twenty-nine years ago it was a new decade. Unbeknownst to me then, it had become a decade that I would often defer to musically, and almost thirty years later make a valiant attempt at briefly educating other's in a subject I have come to receive an imaginary PhD in; the "Unknown 80's."

It was not until 1981 when I had accidentally stumbled across this 1980 release by a band that hailed from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Musically clueless; a condition you will find noted on this site repeatedly, I was still in the judge a book by it's cover state of mind. Generally, the bland coloring on this, their second album cover, tied in with the simplistic name of the band would have made for an instant turn-off, had I not flipped the cover over to peruse the album's contents. Stop right there, my musically uneducated mind commanded! Is that Darlin' listed on side two? Darlin' as in the Wilson/Love Darlin' made famous by The Beach Boys? This called for an immediate spin on WNYT Radio's production studio turntable, an easy task as I was already in that very space perusing the soon to be discarded records along the back wall. The space had been inexplicably reserved for albums no longer considered for radio station airplay. Most of those that had found their way to this lowly were there for good reason. This particular record however was a gem, a true piece of gold haphazardly deposited amongst the wasteland of Fool's Gold. Admittedly, had it not been for the accidental finding of a Beach Boys remake here, this musical treasure may forever have remained buried. As the album would surely not be missed, I took it home on a permanent loan basis where it now resides safely amongst the records on my back wall, a place I return to often.

The Official Story:
From Wikipedia:

Front man McCurdy was influenced at an early age by the first appearance of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. After teaching himself guitar and participating in several high school bands, he went on to front Yipes! in the late 1970s. Often described as a power pop or New Wave band, Yipes! enjoyed some moderate success after being signed to RCA/Millennium in 1978. However, the label dropped the band after only a few years.

From TrouserPress.com:

Wisconsin's Yipes! first appeared on Big Hits of Mid-America Vol. 3, the watershed Twin/Tone compilation. Their two albums are filled with sprightly, hard-edged power pop given distinction by energetic, cliché-free music, witty songs and Pat McCurdy's expressive, gangly vocals. What makes Yipes! worthwhile is their spirit of good fun, an avoidance of obvious derivativeness and well-conveyed enthusiasm.

Although I have chosen not to feature "The Ballad of Rudolf Kaiser" in this go around, I do feel the need to highlight just a bit of the quirky lyrical witticism that is Pat McCurdy.

The Ballad of Rudolf Kaiser (Einstein)
Hey Mr. Einstein brilliant as a man can be
Messing with the universe, thinking scientifically
Well, if you're so smart
Why is your daughter hanging around with me?
Hey Mr. Einstein it don't mean that much to me
If matter isn't relative or MC squared don't equal E
And my one track mind says
Your little girl was meant for me

Pat McCurdy continues to make music and tour today. Visit his website at www.patmccurdy.com/, where you can secure your own copy of this long lost treasure along with several of Mr. McCurdy's other musical contributions. Now go ahead and hit the play button below, remove yourself from the New Year and take it back twenty-nine years to the burgeoning of a new decade musically. Thanks again for dropping by. Make sure to leave a comment on your way out, then pass along the word.
See ya next month!

Jan. 2009