As a baby DJ in the 1980s, I always tried to find some fun songs that you wouldn’t hear on the radio every 10 minutes. I always tried to fill the dance floor with a track that the audience might know, could probably be able to sing to but more importantly, would get them moving. I like to think that this approach made me a successful club DJ back in the day. One such song was from 1985. It was a top 10 track called “Don’t You Want My Love” by Nicole, sometimes billed as “Nicole McCloud”.
If you follow along with me on Twitter, you probably know that Earl has somehow roped me into watching “The X Factor” with him on selected evenings during the week. Over the past several years shows like this have made me cringe for a number of reasons, including the fact that there is way too much in the way of urban-yodeling, people are screaming more than they are singing and quite frankly, sometimes it feels rigged. Once in a while a story will come along that tugs at your heartstrings and this makes it feel worthwhile. For instance, 54-year old contestant Lillie McCloud.
Ms. McCloud can definitely sing. She has a very impressive voice and when she gets a record contract, I’m sure her album will be impressive. She has the gift and she knows how to use it.
The folks at “The X-Factor” have shared the backstory about Lillie, she’s a 54 year old grandmother who is anxious to share her artistic abilities with the world. She has experience.
Mother of three and grandmother of 7, Lillie McCloud has experience on her side. Find out what went through her head when her first audition made the judges cry.
She has a beautiful stage presence. Kelly Rowland has even commented about her seemingly very natural presence on the stage. Well there’s a reason for that, Lillie McCloud is the aforementioned Nicole McCloud.
I thought shows like “The X-Factor” were touted as a vehicle to showcase otherwise unknown talent. Now granted, Ms. McCloud has been out of the public spotlight for over a decade, and one can not deny her gorgeous talent, but I have to admit that I feel a little cheated when the folks at “The X-Factor” don’t really mention her previous abilities in her backstory.
Earl says I worry too much about little things. I probably do.
On my way home from work yesterday I dialed up tracks by The Human League for my listening pleasure. I haven’t listened to The Human League in a long while, partly because I never quite got over being snubbed by them years and years ago at a concert in Saratoga Springs when I asked if we could meet them backstage (they shunned my Program Director powers of radio!). However, I decided that they had punished for long enough and I would give their classic stuff a listen again.
I dialed up “Dare” and its instrumental counterpart, “Love And Dancing” on my iPhone. It made my commute home quite enjoyable. While the Human League was ground breaking with their use of synthesizers back in the day, I think a good portion of the success of “Dare” can be attributed to producer Martin Rushent. After a nasty conversation between him and Susan Sulley1 during the production of their follow-up to “Dare”, “Hysteria!”, Martin left the studio and never returned to work with The Human League, which probably explains some of their uneven success after “Dare”.
One of the things that I have always enjoyed about The Human League is that, like me, lead singer Phil Oakey is a baritone and because of this, I can sing along with his vocals without having to tighten my innards to the point of having my jewels up over my stomach. I think Phil’s natural range was ignored by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis during the recording of “Crash” and that’s why that album just feels weird to your average Human League connoisseur.
My fascination (ha! get it?) with The Human League continued into the evening last and I dialed up some of their videos on YouTube. I was particularly intrigued in the video of their most famous hit, “Don’t You Want Me”. Labeled the “uncensored”/”director’s cut” version of the famous video, the astute observer will notice that the ending of the video is completely different and a bit darker in tone.
It also explains why the mainstream version of the video has rather rough edits in the audio and weird slow motion shots near the end of the video.
Here’s the Director’s Cut of “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League. Things are different starting around 2:30. For the life of me I have no idea why it would be considered necessary for censorship other than the presence of an extra gun or two.
1 Susan and Joanne grew very impatient with the time it was taking to sequence a drum track for one of the tracks on “Hysteria!”. Susan made an off-the-cuff insulting remark to Martin and Martin decided that he had had it with the group. I guess no one realized that it was Martin’s precision on “Dare” that made it the famous album that it is, which one could safely say is one of the best albums of the 1980s. Quick aside, Susan’s vocals in “Don’t You Want Me” took over 65 takes to record. She’s never been one for vocal precision.
So I’ve been reading and hearing about Pet Shop Boys’ latest concert tour and from what I can ascertain, it is amazing as always. I have never seen Pet Shops Boys in concert before and perhaps if they ever tour again I’ll take the opportunity to see what they’re all about.
The reason that I haven’t gone out and seen them on tour is because, well, I’m not really that big of a fan of Pet Shop Boys. I like some of their songs, but I guess my favorite Pet Shop Boys-esque songs would have to be when Neil Tennant sang with the group Electronic. “Disappointed” is one of my favorite dance tracks from the 90s.
I’m also a fan of Electronic’s “Getting Away With It”. Neil sings backups on that one.
I think one of the reasons I wasn’t a Pet Shop Boys fan back in the day was because I didn’t “get” them. Musically I have always found them to be quite good but they never really looked particularly happy on their album covers. This was always disconcerting to me. If you’re going to sing somewhat happy sounding pop music, you should look mildly happy or at least somewhat engaged on your album cover. At least, that was the logic I was processing in my at the time 16-year-old mind.
Like I said, I didn’t “get” them.
As I DJ I didn’t really spin their music that much. They were never really in my “OMG I have to play this record!” category when I had the ability to pack the dance floor by playing the proper music on Technics SL-1200 turntables, but I would play one of their tracks once in a while. Anyone that worked at Wow-FM back when I was program director can probably attest that there wasn’t a lot of Pet Shop Boys in rotation on the dance-oriented station. I guess that wasn’t a fair decision for me to make but we didn’t get a lot of requests to support otherwise, I guess.
There is one track of there’s that I have always enjoyed. It came out in 1987 and peaked at #2 on the Billboard Top 40. Now this track I like, musically, lyrically and throughout its video presentation.
Here’s “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” by Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield.
The other night I told Earl that I didn’t want my DJ gear anymore. At the time I thought I spoke the truth but I have since realized that I was completely wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. I used to be good at DJing and mixing. Back in the day I had mixes and edits that were played across the country, and those were made with vinyl records, four track tape and a bunch of splicing equipment.
I have to find that groove again. I have little interest in what passes for popular music today but I think I could do some pretty nifty things with some well-known tracks. I have some ideas. My creative streak wants to be addressed. I need to get these ideas out of my head and into something that others can enjoy.
It’s not time to get rid of my DJ equipment. It’s time to fire it back up.
So yesterday I posted a link to a review of the latest album by Agnetha Faltskög, the first “A” in ABBA. I listened to the album several times while in my home office yesterday and I absolutely adore it. Comprised of all original material, Agnetha’s voice sounds almost identical to what ABBA fans are familiar with and the quality of the tracks is excellent. It’s a pop album for grown ups and quite frankly, it’s a nice breath of fresh air.
I listened to the album today via Spotify, since I’m working at the office today and it’s the easiest way to listen to stuff. The Spotify version of the album has commentary on each of the tracks in between each of the songs and it’s kind of interesting to hear the backstory on the tracks. One piece of commentary that got my attention was regarding the disco-flavored track, “Dance Your Pain Away”.
One of the writers/producers of the album was in Sweden at a gay club when a patron motioned to him to come over. Intrigued, the producer went over and talked to the “small gay” as he describes him (at least I think that’s what I heard) and the man said, regarding Agnetha’s album, “don’t forget about us.” The producers had been feeling that thus far the album had been missing “something” and that comment from the “small gay” made him realize that there was no “anthem” on the track. The customer went on to say how Agentha was an icon in the gay community and that was important to include something for her gay fans.
Enter “Dance The Pain Away”. It’s a really fun disco themed track. I’ve listened to it several times and I really think I can hear a sample of an ABBA song in the bass line but I can’t put my finger as to which track it is. This particular track, just one gem in a treasure box of an album, feels very familiar. It’s like one step away from being a full-out ABBA track and it’s kind of fun. I hope it makes some inroads into public exposure. I know that if I were still DJing I’d spin it up in the mix to see how the crowds react. I can definitely see it being one of those summer anthem tracks.
It has been a long time since I’ve been excited about an entire album by an artist. It’s good to know that music can still excite me. Thank you for the music, Agnetha.