These are the shownotes that go with The Infected Podcast 11, season 3;
The Lebanon – The Human League (1982)
The name of the band The Human League was taken from a sci-fi board game called Star Force. One playable empire in the game was called The Human League. The group was formerly called The Future. Like so many of the early synthesizer and new wave bands from the Space Age they took their inspiration from science fiction and futuristic entertainment, like this space game.
Oakey was working as a hospital porter at the time he was approached to be Human League’s vocalist. As he recalls: “I was a hospital porter out of absolute desperation. I’d worked at a book shop for two years where their wages were £9.50 a week; at least with portering I was earning £50 a week. That was the only reason I did it, I was finished otherwise.”
The group split up after releasing their first two albums. Ware and Marsh left to form new band the British Electronic Foundation which later became known as Heaven 17.
Wright and Oakley then formed the new Human League with a bass player and two additional vocalists who were… school girls!
Yes, Phil Oakey first approached Joanne Catherall and Susanne Sulley to join Human League in 1980 when he spotted them dancing together on the dance floor. Neither had any experience of singing or dancing professionally. Sulley recalled to Q magazine in 2016:
“He came over, he was very serious and said, ‘I don’t know if you know but I’m Philip Oakey from the Human League. Our group has just split up but we’re contracted to do a tour of Europe in three weeks and we’re looking for a female singer. I saw you and your friend together and wondered if you wanted to audition.”
The music video for the song was filmed in the Theatre Royal, London in March 1984. The video at first sight appears to be filmed at a Human League concert with the band playing live on stage. The concert was in fact staged and was filmed in takes as the band mimed to playback. The audience were invited extras and bit part dancers were placed in the front of the stage. This is very noticeable when the camera pans onto the audience where certain extras desperately try to play up for their ‘shot at fame’.
Even though it was a faux concert, the band’s appearance on stage is notable for its layout and behaviour. The three vocalists are in a straight line at the front of the stage, a very energetic Susan Ann Sulley on the left, a serious Philip Oakey in the centre and a cool, laid back, sashaying Joanne Catherall on the right, with the instrumentalists to the rear. This arrangement and performance style is still often used when the band plays live.
The song was written about the Lebanese civil war of the 80s fuelled by the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982. Oakey is in no hurry to make another statement.
In the episode, Goof mentioned that The Human League, keeping up with the times, have also released some house tracks. Here is an example of one of those:
Philip Oakey of The Human League now wonders if getting political in song with his song ‘The Lebanon’ was a mistake for his band.
“I think the world is so confused that I don’t even think you can make a statement. I have often wondered if ‘The Lebanon’ was a mistake,” Oakey said in 2017. “I’m not so sure groups should do political songs because I write a few lyrics and then one day the drummer is walking along the road and then someone asks him whose side he is on and starts a punch-up. I sort of think that politics is more for solo artists. Anyone who can make sense of what is working in the world today would be doing better than me”.
Buzzcocks – Why Can’t I Touch It
Back in 2016 I had a job in the center of Amsterdam, really downtown. During one of my afternoon walks I stepped into a recordstore on the Prinsengracht called “Second Life Music”. At the time it was an unorganized, small but fully packed with records and a stale smell of old albums.
The clerk was playing the compilation album “Singles Going Steady” from Buzzcocks. I knew of their existence, but never really heard anything by them consciously. While I was digging for gold, the album kept playing and in the end of my visit I told the store owner I needed to buy it. He was a bit bothered because he had to take it off the turntable and it was one of his favorites. The raw energy of Buzzcocks is very addictive and never gets old.
For our listeners that are unfamiliar with them: They were an English punk rock band from the town of Bolton and started in 1976. Howard Trafford was a student at Bolton Institute of Technology. He placed a notice looking for musicians that shared a liking for The Velvet Underground. Peter McNeish, a fellow student at the institute, responded and the rest is history.
About the bandname: The “buzz” is the excitement of playing on stage; “cock” is northern English slang meaning “friend”. They thought it captured the excitement of the punk scene, as well as having humorous sexual connotations following Pete Shelley’s time when he was working in a Bolton adult shop.
They are regarded as an enormous influence on the Manchester music scene and punk in general.
After recording demos for a fourth album the group disbanded in 1981, when Shelley took up a solo career. They reformed in 1989 and I believe they are still active.
During their earlier years they had commercial success with singles that merged poppy and catchy hooks with rapid-fire punk energy. These singles were collected on Singles Going Steady, the album I mentioned earlier. A true punk masterpiece and available on Spotify.
I Coldly Stare Out – Pink Turns Blue (If Two Worlds Kiss, 1987)
Pink Turns Blue started out as a student band, originally founded in Cologne by Tom Elbern (vocals, guitars) and Mic Jogwer (vocals, bass), who was studying bass at the Music Conservatory in Cologne. The duo was soon completed by Marcus Giltjes (drums), who then studied fine arts and Ruebi Walter (keyboards) who was working at a factory in Emmerich, a small town where both Mic and Marcus went to high-school.
The sound was heavily influenced by the members’ love for post-punk bands like Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, early Cure, The Velvet Underground, Killing Joke, Jesus & Mary Chain and last but not least Hüsker Dü. Always striving for a „deep, “atmospheric sound with multi-dimensional lyrics, the band chose to sing in English, which was a disadvantage for the German market but an advantage to reach an international fan base.
This is the story of how a factory worker and some students finally achieved to get a record out and achieved their break through.
The band won a competition with German radio station WDR with songs from their first recording session. The band got to play a WDR festival for newcomers and was discovered by two amateur bookers who got the band to play in small clubs all over Germany. Also, the WDR paid for a second studio session in Studio N., a big facility usually reserved for German popstars. In this session, the band got to play the producer’s impressive EMU-Sampler, which you can hear on the album’s „That Was You. “ During this session, the band agreed that it would be better to have just one lead singer to sing all songs, and with the support of the producer, Mic became the lead singer of the band.
The band sent their recording to several record companies, but they were only interested in the German language. It was the time of „Neue Deutsche Welle“ with more tongue-in-cheek lyrics, humorous. The Pink Turns Blue songs were much too downbeat to get the record companies interested. Only one publisher (Arabella) was interested in letting the band record another four songs in a small studio. During this session, Tom was getting uneasy about Mic singing his songs. Plus, he got a job at WDR to become the presenter of ‘Grafitti,’ a cool late evening radio show presenting new music (like John Peel on BBC). During this session, Tom mentally was already leaving the band. Without a record release, it was challenging to get many people to their shows, so people would often pop by to listen to a few songs and then move on to a club to dance or have a drink. In spring 1987, Tom played his last show with the band and left the band without a guitarist and only one songwriter. To give the songs of both songwriters a fair chance, Tom and Mic had agreed to share the copyrights on all songs (like Lennon/McCartney). That is why most songs on the album are credited „Elbern/Jogwer. “
When Tom left the band, the rest had to audition guitarists. Unfortunately, they did not find anyone really exciting. They also had to do a few more already booked shows and quickly decided that Mic had to try to play guitar, and Ruebi had to take up bass additionally to keyboards. So on some songs, Ruebi played the bass with his left hand on keyboards, and on other songs, he played just bass.
Surprisingly, people suddenly had much more sympathy with the band as a three-piece, started to stay throughout the show, and after three months, they got offered a record deal by a small independent label in Münster, FunFactory!. The manager, Axel Seitz, was a big fan of Andy Warhol, his factory, and the Velvet Underground, and he did everything to get the band good support-gigs, radio plays, and press. He got the band to record a few more songs somewhere near Münster. There they recorded „I Coldly Stare Out. “
The record came out at the end of 1987 and changed everything. People started to know the songs, and fans came to the shows. Suddenly they were a real band. They were booked on TV and would go on to have several hit singles in Germany and abroad.
This is from that breakthrough debut album ‘If Two Worlds Kiss’, this is “I Coldly Stare Out”
MOEV – Madhatter (Zimmerkampf 1982)
MOEV is a synth-pop band based from Vancouver, Canada. Founded in 1981. In an interview I read where this name comes from. The color mauve is a pretty purplish pink color and is also associated with insanity.
If Siouxsie Sioux would sing in a synthpop band, it would probably sound a lot like MOEV. At least on this track from their first album Zimmerkampf. It was only released on vinyl and cassette, never on CD. Sales were poor and they were soon kicked out by their record label GO! Records. The label even went bankrupt in the following year.
Also the lead singer Madeleine Morris left the band after “Zimmerkampf”, and then they hired another female singer, that left after the second album, and then they hired a male singer.
What a mess right?
Their sound evolves more towards goth, and away from synthpop with their following albums. In the late 80’s they were picked up by Atlantic Records for the next and most successful album “Yeah Whatever”.
I guess that if you were a Canadian that was into new wave and alternative music in the 1980s, you would probably know a few songs from MOEV, but the band was largely overlooked. A constantly changing line-up, vocalists, and sounds didn’t help the band with growth and consistency and stood in the way of building up a core audience.
MOEV was at the forefront of the new wave and dark-pop sounds of the early ‘80s, but by the time they found their groove they were the momentum was gone and people were listening to more modern rock.
The founding father of MOEV, Dean Russell, died in 1994 of complications due to AIDS, and the band broke up. In recent years some of the remaining bandmembers revived MOEV with new bandmates.
Although they are only a footnote in the rich history of New Wave, I still like quite a few songs by them and wanted to bring them to light in the final episodes of our podcast.
Nutshell – Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains came out of the Seatlle grunge scene just like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.
Alice In Chains came together in 1987, when singer and songwriter Layne Staley met up with guitarist and songwriter Jerry Cantrell at the infamous Music Bank, a Seattle warehouse-practice facility for several Seattle bands. Cantrell brought in a recent bandmate, bassist Mike Starr, who in turn brought in his friend Sean Kinney on drums.”
“The Music Bank was open 24 hours. You could go there and knock on the door at 3 in the morning and the guy that was working the keys would come, look through a peephole, let you in if you had a room there, walk you to your room, unlock it with the key—he had a huge key ring with probably 150 keys on it—and you were good to go.
“Layne Staley was one of the key guys, and he usually worked the graveyard shift. Jerry Cantrell, was living in our jam room, so in the middle of the night, Jerry would be in the office with Layne, watching TV with his guitar in his hand saying, ‘Hey, dude, check out this riff. I got this idea.’
Their debut album, Facelift, was released in 1990, before Grunge was recognized as a genre, so they had to open for bands like Van Halen, Anthrax and Poison.
There live shows were full of energy but they quickly got the reputation to be a “difficult” band to manage, partially because they didn’t want to play along in the celebrity game, they all but refused doing interviews, which made them impopular with the press. One story I like is about Jerry Cantrell, the guitar player and song writer. He likes to go on extensive hunting trips, sometimes for days at a time. Once, when Alice in Chains was touring with Van Halen in 1991, they had a few weeks off before the tour would resume in Memphis on December 2nd. AiC didn’t make that show because Cantrell was on a hunting trip and forgot that November had only 30 days. To make sure it didn’t happen again, Columbia Records gave him a calendar.
“Nutshell” is a song by Alice in Chains which originally appeared on their 1994 EP, Jar of Flies. It was part of their famous 1996 MTV Unplugged performance. Although never released as a single, despite not hitting any U.S. Billboard chart or any charts around the world, it is still today one of Alice in Chains’ best known songs and considered a staple of 1990’s alternative rock. The song is notable for its emotion, acoustic instrumentation and its electric guitar solo. “Layne put everything he had into that song and the lyrics,” says bass player Mike Inez.
The song was written after the band had been out touring after the release of their 1993 album Dirt. When they went home to Seattle they found out they had been evicted from their apartment in the Music Bank, since they had failed to keep up on their rent. They had to move to another studio and began working on some new music, which became the EP known as Jar of Flies.
Check out the lyrics if you can. This is Nutshell.
The lyrics deal with loneliness, despair, and death. They are very personal. The first two lines are about the many tough press about the band, from members’ lack of professionalism to their fame, which they found hard to deal with.
The first two lines are
We chase misprinted lies
We face the path of time
In these first two lines, Layne uses, “we,” referring to AIC and how they stand and struggle together, in the face of bad press, adversity and despair.
In the next two lines, Layne gets personal, expressing the gravity of his drug addiction and the loneliness that comes with it.
And yet I fight, and yet I fight this battle all alone
No one to cry to, no place to call home
“No one to cry to” refers to the feeling of loneliness of being on the road and also to personal demons Layne had been batling at the time, alone.
“No place to call home” refers to the fact they had been kicked out of their apartment and were basically homeless, as well as Layne generally feeling that he doesn’t belong anywhere.
Layne felt this perhaps more acutely than his band-mates because he felt he was to blame. His battle with addiction was his responsibility and his alone, but it affected the band as a whole, with tours and shows being cancelled.
These two lines both refer to issues Layne is experiencing, but caused by two very different sources.
My gift of self is raped
My privacy is raked
The first seems to his drug addiction. His dependency has “raped”, his ability to be himself and there is nothing he can do about it.
The second line is about the media publicizing his addiction. Throughout the 90’s, the media openly publicized his issues, both true and false information, compounding the issue.
And yet I find, and yet I find repeating in my head
If I can’t be my own, I’d feel better dead
Frontman Layne Staley died in 2002, from a drug overdose, alone in his apartment, having not seen anyone for weeks. He had been dead for some time when his body was found.
Celibates – Coming Alone (A Shameless Fashion 1981)
If you’re into early 80’s Minimal Synth and New Wave, you are in for a treat with Celibates. A band that consisted of Terry Sullivan, David Kane and Kent Weber. They became one of Buffalo New York’s first original synth-based pop trios playing sold out shows at the Continental and many West New York colleges. Celibates recorded one independent LP, ‘A Shameless Fashion,’ which was recognized and rotated on many college radio stations.
They manage to mix powerful and dark passages with fun lyrics and a certain lightness overall.
That’s all the background I could find on Celibates but it’s such a fun and cool little track that I just had to play it. Hopefully our listeners can discover something new that they like this way..