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10:53 a.m. - March 29, 2007
URGH! A Music War!
Oh, no, Smed is going to write about something obscure in music again.

Oh, yes, I'm going to talk about a movie that highlighted some great new wave and punkish bands in 1980 and 1981.

URGH! A Music War!

Well, yes, and no. I mean, it was just on VH-1 Classic and has been on VH-1 and also Sundance and IFC in the past couple of years.

I remember the advertising for this movie when I was a teenager, and I do believe I saw the soundtrack in record stores (though I never bought it), but am happy that I can see it now, even if it is on VH-1 Classic with commercials.

The producers of the movie had a grand scheme, and invited a lot of bands to appear. It happened that the main backer of the movie was Miles Copeland, brother of Stewart Copeland of the Police and founder of IRS Records, which at that time was distributed by A & M. Some of the bands, like the B-52s and the Talking Heads, were prohibited from appearing in the movie because it would be 'working for the competition', so at times they had to scramble for bands.

But they showed a lot of bands from the States and the UK in the movie, and many of them did get some record deals (many of them FROM IRS) after the performances.

Anyway, I sat down and watched the latest screening from VH-1 Classic, and made notes, and well, here ya go:

The Police - Driven To Tears - A great way to start the movie, with a known band that was big at the time. Sting was dressed in a sleeveless "Beat" T-Shirt (for the English Beat) while Stewart Copeland was wearing short shorts and Andy Summers was rockin' a pinstripe suit with a white t-shirt underneath.

The performance was great. I love that guitar sound that Summers had during that era, and he really got to stretch out to 16 bars on the solo! Copeland was bashing all of the drums like a madman, while Sting was his normal competent self. What I did notice that it looked like something was blurred on Copeland's drum. I wonder if that was a 'rude word' that they couldn’t show on VH-1 Classic.

Wall Of Voodoo - Back In Flesh - This was the original five-piece Wall of Voodoo, but its basically the same sound that made it big with "Mexican Radio". The same sequenced arpeggios and wacky percussion, though the percussion is basically lost in the recording. Stan Ridgeway's got a very unique vocal style. I have another live version of this that I've mixed for people.

Toyah Wilcox - Dance - She was a relatively known person amongst the punk / new wave circles in the UK, and her career has lasted as she's branched out into acting in movies and on stage. Some would say that such careerism and opportunism is the antithesis of punk principles, but ya gotta eat, right? Anyway, she does what seems like calisthenics on stage, and is very energetic. The song is pretty good, with a martial beat and strong bass line (with a funky sound envelope filter on it). I wish this was on iTunes.

John Cooper Clarke - Health Fanatic - Ah, a poet, and he knows it. Yes, for a while, he made live appearances and made albums reciting his poetry. When I want to rock out, I don't want some bloke reciting poetry at me, ya dig?

OMD - Enola Gay - This is classic early techno-pop, but with a live drummer and the lead singer plays bass (and it's a pretty strong bass line). The up-front keyboard player looks like Gary Numan's brother. This is a great song to search out on iTunes. The skinny knit ties on the drummer and the up-front keyboard player really dates this.

Chelsea - I'm On Fire - It's kind of a shame that they didn't get much of a chance in the first wave of punk rock in the UK, because they were there. By this time, though, it sounded pretty generic, even though it's a bit energetic. The hipsters here in the crowd were the same hipsters at the Wall of Voodoo show, as they imported some UK bands over to LA for the movie.

Oingo Boingo - Ain't This The Life - The crowd was slam dancing to this song, which is cool, because this is a great song from their first EP (coincidentally released on IRS). The band looks a bit cramped on the small stage, but they're tight. A couple of the band members are wearing suits on stage. Oh, the sweat. Danny Elfman is in a wife-beater, though, for better or worse. The mohawked punk in the crowd doesn't quite know what to make of them.

Echo And The Bunnymen - The Puppet - This is probably the best song they ever did, and maybe one of the strongest performances by them. They nailed it, though one of the guitarists just looks at his guitar all of the time. He's into it!

Jools Holland - Foolish I Know - I could never tell if this was supposed to be ironic or a tribute to pop of the olden days. Jools' voice grates on me after about a minute or two, and without Squeeze around him it's the lesser of the two.

XTC - Respectable Street - Many of you know the story that Andy Partridge developed a crippling case of stage fright and gave up live performance all together in 1982. It's odd to hear that seeing this performance, since Partridge is a very energetic front man. He's fiery and animated throughout. The music is harder edged than XTC is in the studio, and loses subtlety, but the harder edge adds another dimension.

Klaus Nomi - Total Eclipse - Um, seeing is believing, and so is hearing. So I'll just link to his tribute site. He was one of the first performers to die of AIDS. As for the song, he's got a great operatic voice that comes out of nowhere. I think he influenced Shudder To Think, a bit.

Athletico Spizz 80 - Where’s Captain Kirk - They were rather much punk pranksters that changed their name every year, but really, nothing was remarkable about them but that, from what I've heard.

The Go-Go's - We've Got The Beat - Belinda Carlisle looks like a punk rock princess here, with her short blonde do. Jane Weidlin is still the girlfriend I wanted in high school. The original bassist is with them on this cut. They released this as an early single, and this is the early single version as the backing vocals trail after the end of each verse, which they don't on the IRS release. This is just a great, fun song.

Dead Kennedys - Bleed For Me - This isn't on the 'official' soundtrack album. East Bay Ray is the epitome of cool spewing out his psychobilly and punk rock riffs. Jello Biafra has the crowd transfixed, as usual. Oh, to see them in their heyday. What a treat that would have been.

Steel Pulse - Ku Klux Klan - Even before the song was over I was upstairs on the computer downloading this song via iTunes. It's classic reggae, and I love the fact that the guitarist in the back is just hanging out by the drummer, almost motionless, then cuts loose a blistering solo. Get the 12" mix!

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - Bad Reputation - Um, I really don't need to tell you how much this KICKS ASS, do I?

Magazine - Model Worker - I’ve never really been a big Howard Devoto fan. His voice doesn't agree with me, and his songs never really appealed. This one, though, is pretty great. Perhaps it’s because it's in a live setting with an edge and energy that I never picked up on in studio recordings. He looks like he's 45 or so, though.

The Members - Offshore Banking Business - They were pretty much chameleons, always trying something different to try to get a hit. This is punky ska / reggae and it's hard to believe it's the same group that did "Working Girl" just the next year.

The Au-Paris - Come Again - They're verrry influenced by the Gang Of Four, and have that same kind of sound, which is great. They sing about sexual issues instead of political issues, for the most part. Which fits, because it's a two man / two woman group. I recommend them highly.

Pere Ubu - Birdies - Oh, David Thomas is a sight to see. The song is very strange, but it's a very strange band. Most of the song, one guitarist just faces the drummer, while the bassist, I think, becomes a lycanthrope. Everyone is wearing a suit, and man, the cleaning bills…

Devo - Uncontrollable Urge - Wearing their flower pots, Devo puts on a great choreographed show to this song and totally rocks it out. Yeah yeah yeah yeah y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-yeah!
The Alley Cats - Nothing Means Nothing Anymore - They were pretty much sorta kinda like X, in that they had a rockabilly motif sound but with a punk rock edge and had a male / female vocal tandem. The guitarist is great, and doesn't use a pick, and the female bassist (married to the guitarist - just like Jon Doe and Exene) has some wild hair. I found a single version of this song on iTunes, and it doesn't match the version here (because Donna Chai's backing vocals are muted on the single). They didn't make a ripple, though that probably wasn't all their fault, and they should be remembered somehow. This movie is a good way to do it.

John Otway - Cheryl’s Going Home - He looks totally mental on stage. Well, he may have been. He did a lot of stunts in the UK, like pressing a few copies of singles without his vocals, and if you got one of those he’d come by your house and sing it to you live. This looks totally like unhinged madness, buy you can tell it's well rehearsed, well, except for when he looks like he strangles himself with the mike cord.

Gang Of Four - He'll Send In The Army - I love the pinched guitar sound, the stop-start rhythms, the heavy bass, and the political urgency. Yep, it's typical Gang of Four, if that's typical. Those of you not familiar with them, get their OLD stuff and get familiar.

999 - Homicide - Old school punk! Great song! Great sound! Great energy!

The Fleshtones - Shadow Line - I admire the Fleshtones for what they were trying to do but never really got into them 100%. They always seemed to be a bit forced to me. They do have a lot of energy, though, but I question wearing a sport coat at CBGB's on stage. The smell.

X - Beyond And Back - You can talk all you want about Jon Doe and Exene, and they deserve the talk, but Billy Zoom is the man. He's the epitome of cool. By the way, Exene's legs are whiter than white! They almost blinded me with the glare.

UB40 - Madame Medusa - This isn't on the soundtrack, either. I've never really been sold by them. Having Steel Pulse in the same documentary as them just shows me who the real deal is.

The Police - Roxanne - I think by this time they could do this song in their sleep, so they had to change it up a bit. Sting doesn't do the high "put on the red light" part in the chorus until the very end. They make it into a semi-dub version halfway through, and Stewart Copeland hits EVERYTHING on his drum kit.

After that, they do a bit of "So Lonely" and Sting invites all of the bands that were with him at that show in France onstage (which was XTC, Jools Holland, UB40, and Skafish…wait...) Wait!

Yeah, Skafish. I remember seeing a version on either Sundance of IFC that had Skafish doing "Sign Of The Cross", and it was...weird. Cool, but weird.

So I looked at the credits, and there were six bands listed that weren't on this cut on VH-1 Classic. I know they had to cut some stuff out because of licensing or time, but to cut out Skafish, which is just defining, is odd.

They also cut out the Cramps, which is very odd, because Lux Interior was featured on the movie posters and a lot of advertising for the movie.

Anyway, the songs that were cut out of this VH-1 version:

Gary Numan - Down In The Park - Also cut out of the other version I saw, and I think this is due to the fact Numan owns the rights to this piece of the film.

Surf Punks - My Beach - Good riddance, eally.

The Cramps - Tear it Up - See above. This is a baffling thing to cut out.

Invisible Sex - Valium - See it for yourself

Splodgenessabounds – Two Little Boys - I had never seen it before, but I found it on You Tube – it was cut out of every version in the US, I think. This band has a very interesting history in the UK, with all kinds of shenanigans going on their live shows.

Skafish - Sign Of The Cross - Oh, You Tube HAD this, but it was taken down. Pity. Anyway, it's very odd. Here's a link to his MySpace and one of the songs listed is the URGH! version.

Anwyay, I'd definitely recommend seeing this movie. It's well worth the two hours, and you can definitely find some of the stuff on iTunes that intrigue you!

Oh, and you can friendthem too!


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