Rascals in knickerbockers

Four young men, looking moody and  wearing knickerbockers and short ties. The cover picture on this EP is strange. What is this? Little Lord Fauntleroy Does Motown?

young rascalsI had not heard of the Young Rascals, the gents in the strange gear. But they were genuine stars in the late 1960s, with five US number 1 hits, including Good Lovin’, Groovin’, and People Got To be Free, a civil rights song.


An early-model Young Rascal

The Encyclopedia of Popular Music describes the Young Rascals as “one of America’s finest pop/soul ensembles” and explains:

Despite a somewhat encumbering early image – knickerbockers and choirboy shirts -the group’s soulful performances endeared them to critics and peers … one of the east coast’s most influential attractions, spawning a host of imitators

Most of their songs are smooth and soul-tinged, but the track I have chosen here has a rougher edge. It’s a stomper, a break-up song with strong vocals and nice harmonies. Ignore the knickerbockers, and just listen.

  • Artist: Young Rascals
  • EP title: How Can I Be Sure
  • Track: A2 You Better Run
  • Format: 12”, 45 rpm, vinyl, stereo
  • Label: Atlantic
  • Made in: Australia
  • Catalogue: AX-11,407
  • Year: 1968

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs



A material girl

Ah, the Eighties. The decade when marketing and pop music really hopped into bed, good and proper.

“We are living in a material world,” declaimed Madonna.

“Greed is good”, said Gordon Gecko, who didn’t actually exist though there were many like him.

Margaret Thatcher did exist, and ran a country, and she said “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families”.

I remember reading Time magazine in 1987. There was an article about how cosmetic surgery was becoming popular among young corporate achievers. I am quoting from memory, but there was one guy who said: “I can spend $10,000 on a new car to make myself feel good, or I can spend $3,000 on getting some wrinkles lifted”. Yes, it really was that shallow and revolting.Gibson front cover

Today’s record is from that period. Though I was there, I don’t remember the artist. She was not as successful in Australia as in her native America, which may have something to do with it. In the States she was huge, though. Debbie Gibson was a precociously talented singer and songwriter. She was signed to a manager at thirteen, had two top ten hits in the US when she 17, and the following year she became the youngest person ever to have written, produced and performed on a number one US single.

This album, Electric Youth, came out in 1989, and spent a month on the top of the US charts. Listening now, it is a little hard to understand the excitement. It is pleasant enough, a mix of synth-pop dance numbers with some slower ballads – I have chosen one these to share. It is sentimental, but well crafted. Gibson can sing. But it could be pretty much any girl pop act of the day.

gibson back cover

Debbie Gibson sharing the word that one Swatch just isn’t enough.

Wikipedia says of her:

In tandem with the second album, she created a perfume called Electric Youth that was distributed by Revlon, and other makeup essentials for young girls that were distributed nationwide through Natural Wonder Cosmetics, another of her sponsors at the time, among the first of artists to do so. Debbie’s trademark was her hats, usually black bowlers. She also made tight, rolled-up jeans and wearing vests over your T-shirt, friendship bracelets, and two Swatch watches popular as she is clearly seen wearing on the back cover of her popular Electric Youth album and in her “Staying Together” music video.

That was the Eighties. She was genuinely of her time. A material girl.

  • Artist: Debbie Gibson
  • LP Title: Electric Youth
  • Track: Side 1, Track 5: “Silence Speaks (A Thousand Words)”
  • Format: 12” LP 33⅓ rpm
  • Label: Atlantic 81932-1
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1989

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs