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How to Get Girls through Hypnotism: The Story of Gleaming Spires
02.26.2014
09:03 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
New Wave
Gleaming Spires

Dave Kendrick & Les Bohem
 
The term “New Wave” is one that was perverted from the starting gate. But in the haze of 80’s nostalgia, so many glom onto the most superficial awfulness of that messy decade. It’s all dayglo legwarmers and tinny Casio badness, but there was an incredible amount of bands with actual depth who could not be so easily pigeonholed into the commercially-safer-than-calling-it-post-punk category of “New Wave.” Perhaps no band quite fit this bill like a custom tux better than Gleaming Spires.

Founded by Les Bohem and David Kendrick, both of whom played together during the early 80’s incarnation of Sparks, which included some of the band’s best albums, especially Whomp That Sucker and Angst in My Pants. Face it, if the eternally cool Mael Brothers approve, then you know it is gonna be good!

Gleaming Spires, while best known for their song Are You Ready For the Sex Girls? which was featured on the 80’s T&A teen film, Revenge of the Nerds, made some very singular and unique music. Even Sex Girls, which on the surface may seem like your standard id-driven, dude-anthem about ultra-willing lasses, but scratch that surface and what you will find is a strange pop tune complete with animal noises and lyrics like, “are you ready for the lonely girls? The sad, sad sad lonely girls. They got time on their hands. They got skin like seals.” All neatly ensconced in what otherwise is a song that knowingly is swimming in a sea snarking on over-sexualised beer commercial type lyrics.
 

 
Even better is the music video for Sex Girls. Lacking what Mo Fuzz, Don Cornelius’ terrific character from Tapeheads, would call “production value,” the video centers on Bohem and Kendrick, wearing slacks and nice dress shirts underneath aprons. The two then proceed to make a lemon meringue pie from scratch, with the video ending on a shot of two pie slices and black coffee. That’s it! It is almost Artaud-like in its sheer willingness to not give the audience something that would actually fit the title of Are You Ready for the Sex Girls?. Flesh, giggles and curves, for your prurient viewing pleasure? Nope, you’re getting two dudes baking, complete with Bohem miming the lyrics with nary a lurid jeer, sleazy smile or ANY type of smile at all! It’s perfect.

From the satirical to the somber is their 1982 single, How to Get Girls Through Hypnotism. The title may reek of 60’s swinging kitsch, but the song itself is an electronic tone poem about loneliness and the shallow end of the dating pool. The video is appropriately spartan, with flashes of neon colored light in stark white rooms, while Bohem mimes the words with melancholic angst, shadowed by a sinister looking Kendrick. It’s as if the latter is some kind of haunting self-doubt revenant. A revenant whom, at the infernal build-up towards the end, shaves Bohem’s scalp bald under screaming red light.
 

 
How to Get Girls Through Hypnotism is the sad-tinged, minimalist answer to the early 80’s yuppie-fied love scene and what can happen when you fake the funk to not have to face the reality of you. One would be hard pressed to craft a better visual representation of such a simultaneously artificial but right from the cerebral gut song as this music video.

As far as songs go, one of the absolute strongest in Gleaming Spires’ short but starburst quality time as a band was their song, A Christian Girl’s Problem. This was actually the song that got me hooked into this band, all thanks to its use in the trailer for the Dark Brothers’ Bosch-meets-New Wave Porn trailer for their film, Devil in Miss Jones 3. The visuals for that might have been lust in the most Hell-racked-cinemascope but the song was so hook-laden and out-right tasty, that I would catch myself rewinding the trailer, just to hear it again.
 

 
The actual music video for the song is, disappointingly, just okay. There is some terrific use of chroma key and a Video Toaster-type editor, judging by the ultra-vibrant colors, plus a ghoulish, comic-book devil pops up, which is always nice. But the video ends up a bit muted by a wholly out-of-place gladiator concept, with the whole band dressed up like 3rd tier extras from Ben Hur while jogging in place. Novel, but definitely out of place. 

In 1984, Gleaming Spires released the Party EP. Out of the six songs, only Funk for Children got an accompanying music video. The song is a cryptic anthem with a fitting video that is riddled with children’s percussive toys, ice cream trucks that alternately dispense sports equipment and musical instruments and has a strong undercurrent of school-aged gym angst. It’s an odd note but strangely fitting for a band that wiggled and shook off any notions of conventional musical chairs.

Gleaming Spires eventually broke up, with Kendrick joining DEVO after founding member Alan Meyers left and Les Bohem going into the film and television world, working on projects including 1989’s The Horror Show and the sci-fi mini-series, Taken. But as their work remains depressingly out-of-print, their mark remains. Few bands in the early 80’s took this kind of off road path and examined cartoonish sexual roles, the lonely hunting dating grounds and the ridiculousness of life itself like The Gleaming Spires. And this is why they should be loved.
 

Posted by Heather Drain | Leave a comment
I Dream of Blondie: Debbie Harry interviewed by Annie Nightingale, 1990

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In my book, Debbie Harry can do no wrong. Whether with Blondie or as a solo artiste, Ms. Harry has made this little planet of ours a much better place—even if it is for just for 3 minutes of pop heaven at a time. Here the talented and iconic singer gives an excellent interview to Annie Nightingale—who is no slouch herself, and was the British first female DJ on BBC radio 1. Interviewed for the series One to One while promoting her album Def, Dumb & Blonde, Ms. Harry allows access to all areas of her career, and gives Nightingale some very honest and revealing answers.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Blondie’s Autoamerican: A lost classic


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Nancy Nova’s ‘The Force’: a bewitching but obscure New Wave Disco classic


 
I still remember where I was when I first heard this incredible record.

It’s not THAT impressive really, as it was only around three months ago in a friend’s kitchen. It was played as part of a Siouxsie Sioux BBC Radio 6 special, wherein Siouxsie chose an hour of her favorite music from (roughly) the punk era. A lot of her choices were, surprisingly, disco tracks, and when ‘The Force’ came on all casual conversation in the kitchen stopped ,and we all simply HAD to know who sang this incredible song.

Nancy Nova is, apparently, the daughter of British TV personality and Blockbusters game show host, Bob Holness. Her real name is Carol Ann, and her sister Ros was a member of the uber-camp 80s girl group Toto Coelo (who are best known for “I Eat Cannibals”.)

“The Force” is simply epic, a gothic disco-pop song that oozes menacing, spooky appeal, the kind Alison Goldfrapp would kill for. It really does sound like it comes form another bizarro planet. Like the best horror movies, it’s scary, thrilling and exciting all at the same time. Bass heavy disco production, reminiscent of Kid Creole’s best, Broadway-inspired work, is topped off by celestial choirs that could lure passing astronauts to their rocky doom, while a spare arrangement, that hints at the then-burgeoning goth movement, makes the most of Nova’s stunning voice.

Ah yes, THAT voice. Nancy Nova is one of those singers with a startling, unique vocal style that should be irritating but actually works. At times reminiscent of Betty Boop, at others quite similar to Noosha Fox of the band Fox (previously covered on Dangerous Minds here) it really is one of a kind, and guaranteed to beguile the listener.

So impressed were we by Nancy Nova and ‘The Force’ that we based Tranarchy‘s Hallowe’en ‘Zombie Pride’ video around it, in effect creating a pop video for a song that didin’t have one, but needed it. A surrealistic tale of drag initiation (featuring stunning make-up work by star witch Grace Oni Smith) I’d like to think that we have done the song proud, and that if Nancy Nova were to see it, she would approve: 

Nancy Nova ‘The Force’ (Tranarchy Zombie Pride V)
 

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Ian Dury and The Blockheads: Live in Paris 1981

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Ian Dury looked like he could have been your Dad. Well, that is if your Dad was cool enough to front a band, and write songs that stuck in the head like a needle in the groove. I suppose it was because he looked like an old geezer and sounded like a cab driver that made him look like your Dad, but in truth Ian Dury was the Poet Laureate of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The Cor-Blimey Bard of Pop Poetry, whose exuberant lyrical dexterity at writing short memorable couplets, made him one of music’s best loved and most respected writers and performers.

In 1977, it seemed everyone had or had heard a copy of New Boots and Panties!!, the album that gave Punk and New Wave its very own T S Eliot, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Edward Lear or W H Auden. We went in-and-out of class rooms reciting “Clevor Trever”:

“Just cos I ain’t never ad, no, nothing worth having
Never ever, never ever
You ain’t got no call not to think I wouldnt fall
Into thinking that I ain’t too clever
And it aint not having one thing nor another
Neither, either is it anything, whatever
And its not not knowing that there ain’t nothing showing
And I answer to the name of Trever, however.”

Or, singing “Billericay Dickie”:

“I had a love affair with Nina
In the back of my Cortina
A seasoned up hyena
could not have been more obscener.”

It made a change from singing “Sha-na-na-na-sha-na-na-bop-de-diddle-de-bop, baby.” And if there had been an O’Level in the lyrics of Ian Dury, then we all would have passed ‘A’ band one. It wasn’t just that The Blockheads’ songs were the bollocks, it was Dury, who was the most literary thing that had happened to music since Ron and Russell told us about “Khaki-colored bombardiers…” over Hiroshima, or, Vivian sang “Sport, Sport, masculine sport. Equips a young man for society.

Here is Ian Dury and The Blockheads with ex-Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson in the line-up giving it their all and then some in Paris 1981.

01. “Wake Up (And Make Love To Me)”
02. “Sink My Boats”
03 “Delusions of Grandeur”
04. “Dance of the Crackpots”
05. “What a Waste”
06. “Hey! Hey! Take Me Away”
07. “Hit Me (With Your Rhythm Stick)”
08. “Sweet Gene Vincent’
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Simple Minds: Early live footage, New York 1979

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There was a moment back in the late-seventies / early-eighties, when Simple Minds could do no wrong. From their debut album Life in a Day, through to New Gold Dream, 81, 82, 83, 84, they were the likely heirs (by-way-of Kraftwerk) to fill the space left by Bolan and Bowie and even the Velvets, with their mix of pop (Empires and Dance) and experimentation (Real to Real Cacophony). But by 1984 and the release of Sparkle in the Rain, the Minds were a stadium band, with their own rock sound, vying with U2 for world domination.

For me amongst the highlights of being a student in the early eighties was the thrill of listening to I Travel, Chelsea Girl and Theme For Great Cities, played loud, late at night, with friends in shared apartments and rooms, listening and talking, expectant for the life to come. It all came too soon, and sadly much of Simple Minds’ early innovation and brilliance has been too easily forgotten.

Here then is Simple Minds at Hurrah’s Club, New York City, October 1979, performing “Premonition”, “Changeling” and “Factory”.
 

Simple Minds - “Premonition”
 

Bonus - “Chelsea Girl” - Simple Minds
 
More from Simple Minds, plus extra tracks and early interview, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘The New Wave’: dorky Hollywood ’77 report features the Germs & Rodney Bingenheimer

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The Germs’ Pat Smear & Lorna Doom get touchy-feely with lead singer Darby Crash in The New Wave
 
“Not exactly wholesome, you might say,” notes slick & laid-back narrator Andrew Amador at the end of this weird and rather incomplete look at the burgeoning new music scene in Los Angeles.

Inexplicably opening up with the highly New York sounds of Patti Smith’s version of “Gloria,” The New Wave seems to have been a quick segment put together by erstwhile TV host Amador and shot by someone called Andre Champagne. I wonder if and where it actually aired. It’s an interesting enough artifact in that it features:

  • The earliest footage of Rodney Bingenheimer outside of his biography Mayor of the Sunset Strip
  • Footage of The Germs with Darby Crash in full feathered-and-waxed Bowie mode
  • A Sunset Strip marquee within the first 30 seconds featuring Pasadena’s Van Halen!
  • A bit too much footage of The Quick’s heartthrob lead singer Danny Wilde dreaming of stardom. He’d later do the music scene proud by forming the Rembrandts and recording “I’ll Be There For You,” the fittingly excruciating theme for the TV show Friends.

 

 
Originally posted on 10/26/2010.

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
‘Dare’ Producer Martin Rushent has died

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It’s been a bad week for music with the passing last week of Gil Scott-Heron, and on Friday Andrew Gold. Now we have the sad news that producer Martin Rushent has died at the age of 63.

Rushent was one of the most influential producers of the late 1970s and 1980s, who created the soundscape that defined the era. If you turned on the radio back then, you were guaranteed to hear a Rushent-produced track within minutes, for Rushent was the touch of genius on some of the best work released by The Human League, Altered Images, The Stranglers, Generation X, The Associates and The Buzzcocks.

Though Rushent may be best remembered for his work producing (and performing on) the Human League’s album Dare and its hit single “Don’t You Want Me”, for which he won Best Producer at the 1982 Brit Awards, his influence was not kept to one band.

There was a trick I once heard, which claimed: if you ever travel around London, vaguely point in the direction of old churches and say Hawksmoor, you’re bound to be right, so prodigious was that architect’s work. The same can be said for Martin Rushent, hear any track from the late 1970s and especially the early 1980s, and if you can’t name the band just say, Martin Rushent and you’re bound to be right, for so prodigious, and impressive, was his output.

Dare proved “that synths and drum machines could be used to create mainstream pop.

Rushent also produced The Stranglers first three albums, which as Louder Than War states:

Rushent, born in 1948, produced the Stranglers first three albums – creating that classic sound that was clear, punchy, dark and sleazy and groundbreaking all at the same time. With The Stranglers third album, ‘Black And White’ Rushent with engineer Alan Winstanley created a soundscape that was post punk before the term was even thought of.

He had a trademark sound. Each instrument had its place. he could make the complex sound simple and harnessed The Stranglers weird imagination and pop nous into something totally original and very commercial making them the best selling band of their period with a bass sound that launched a generation of bass players.

In an interview with Uncut Rushent recalled recording The Buzzcock’ biggest hit:

“Pete [Shelley] played me ‘Ever Fallen In Love…’ for the first time and my jaw hit the floor. I felt it was the strongest song that they had written-clever, witty lyrics, great hooklines. I suggested backing vocals-to highlight the chorus and make it even more powerful. No one could hit the high part-so I did it. I’d sung in bands in my youth and I also worked as a backing singer.”

Before his career with Punk, New Wave and Electronic bands, he worked on records by T Rex, David Essex and Shirley Bassey.

Rushent was said to be working on a 30th anniversary edition of Dare at the time of his death.

A Facebook page has been set up by Martin Rushent’s family to collect memories of the great man, which you can add to here.
 

The Stranglers - ‘No More Heroes’
 

Human League - ‘Open your Heart’
 
More Rushent-produced classic tracks, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment