Aimee Mann is alive and well and playing bass

I feared for Aimee Mann. She was the lead singer, bass player and chief selling point of ‘Til Tuesday, a band which was, in the mid-1980s, the Next Big Thing. Until, suddenly, it wasn’t.

Another casualty of the star machine?

‘Til Tuesday was a Boston synth-pop outfit with a hint of punk, which burst onto the scene in 1985 with “Voices Carry”. With the help of a striking video featuring Mann, she of the platinum hair and wide eyes, it was a huge hit.

TT VC 1985

Industry executives looked at her and saw dollar signs. There was a rash of publicity. I remember reading a profile in Rolling Stone. There was a picture of Mann, looking moody. The caption: “C’mon, Aimee, how can someone who looks so good feel so alienated?” This remains possibly the stupidest thing ever written, even in Rolling Stone.

Early success was not replicated. Label heavyweights demanded hits. The hits failed to come, and the band fell apart under pressure. ‘Til Tuesday; gone Wednesday.

I looked up Aimee Mann, expecting a sad story of bitterness, break-up and drug abuse. I am happy to be completely wrong. She built a solo career, worked on film music and a variety of other projects, and still performs. She has won Grammy awards, done heaps of stuff. This is her in 2008: looking healthy and happy, a woman in control of her own destiny.

Aimee_Mann_October_2008 Against all expectation, Aimee Mann is alive and well and playing bass. Her most recent album is called Mental Illness, and it is, frankly, wonderful. I have bought the download — I encourage you to do the same.

Here she is, back in the ‘Til Tuesday days, with “Don’t Watch Me Bleed”, a B-side breakup song with angsty vocals and moody bass to suit the title.

  • Artist: ‘Til Tuesday
  • A Side: Looking Over My Shoulder
  • B Side: Don’t Watch Me Bleed
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm, vinyl, stereo
  • Label: Epic
  • Made in: Australia
  • Catalogue: ES 1057
  • Year: 1985

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

 

 

 

 

An insult to cheese

Oh dear. There were some unfortunate fashions in the 1980s. Maybe it’s because I was there at the time, but when I see a picture like this, I shrink inside.

ricky-skaggs-live-in-london-2-ab

This is Ricky Skaggs, one of the greats of country music, on the back of his 1985 LP, Live in London. That’s Westminster Bridge in the background there, and Ricky looks as though he feels like the dang handsomest fella to ever pull on a pair of snakeskin books, y’all. I would have felt the same, dressed like that, only I couldn’t afford the boots and I would have drawn a line at the mustache. Oh dear.

But here on Planet Vinyl, we don’t get phased by fashion, or deterred by dud record covers. We just listen. And when it comes to live albums, we go further. I love live recordings, don’t get me wrong. But a live album should be long on music and short on stage patter, because what can be fun and part of the show when you are there, can be embarrassing committed to vinyl. This is certainly true of Ricky. Maybe it is being an American abroad, or something, but to call Skaggs’ patter cheesy would be an insult to cheese. Exhibit A.

But, it’s about the music here. Can the boy play? Yessir, he can. Skaggs and his band are hot, drawing on bluegrass and country and fusing it with rock and making it all something new. Personally, I rate his playing, on guitar and mandolin especially, more highly than his singing, but that is a matter of taste.

Ricky Skaggs has been described as the man who single-handedly rescued country music in the 1980s. That may be overstating things, but his willingness to hoot and holler and wear cowboy boots but merge styles and collaborate with unlikely partners – it did re-energise country and bring it to a new audience. He even shared the stage with … spoilers! You’ll have to listen to find out which unlikely figure joined him for the encore number at the Dominion Theatre, London, in 1985.

  • Artist: Ricky Skaggs
  • LP Title: Live in London
  • Side 2, Track 5 “Don’t Get Above Your Raising”
  • Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm, stereo
  • Label: Epic
  • Catalogue number: ELPS 4525
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1985

Many of the records featured on Planet Vinyl are for sale on Discogs.

Listen without prejudice

Stage names are funny things. Sometimes a white sandwich loaf is re-labelled as a baguette, or pane de casa, or Tibetan mountain bread. And sometimes horiatiko psomi is re-labelled as … white sandwich loaf.

This is pretty much what happened to Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou. Born in London of Greek heritage, he became known to the world as George Michael. He was, first off, part of a boyband with possibly the stupidest name in the long history of stupidly-named boybands.Wham!

There is a 1948 movie called Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House, which stars Cary Grant as an advertising executive. It is a comedy, poking fun at American consumerism. A subplot deals with the Grant character’s struggle to come up with a slogan promoting a variety of tinned meat called Wham. It is obvious that Wham is actually Spam, and Spam is what you slice up and put in a white-bread sandwich.

blandings 2

Mr Blandings’ slogan. He basically pinches the idea from his black housekeeper, Gussie.

It is unlikely that whoever coined the band name Wham! was thinking about Mr Blandings. What they were thinking about is anybody’s guess. Anyway, George Michael has had to carry the burden of having been half of Wham! ever since.

“Faith” was the title track of his first solo album. I was intrigued to discover that while I have heard the song perhaps hundreds of times on radio, that the DJs don’t have to nerve to play the whole thing. There is an into, played on a church organ. Sounds like this:

But the Radio Rule (if you can hear it on commercial radio, you won’t find it on Planet Vinyl) dictates that we go for the B-side.

“Hand to Mouth” is lower-key, different. It is smooth synth-pop, but it is – well, it’s a protest song, about the gross inequality of American society. And it’s nicely done – the slick production draws you in, and the lyrics are sufficiently subtle that you only gradually realise that George is singing about violence, poverty and prostitution. It is, in musical form, the irony of American life, a polished Cadillac cruising past a crack house.0075 B label

One of George Michael’s albums was titled Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1. I don’t think there was ever a volume two, but clearly it was partly a plea for people to stop judging him for the early-1980s blonde tips and just listen. Do that, and you might discover unexpected substance in the white bread.

  • Artist: George Michael
  • Single Title: Faith
  • Track: Side B “Hand to Mouth”
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: Epic 6511197
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1987

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