There once was a time when radio stations weren’t interested in a homogenized sound, and even promoted local bands by playing them during prime listening times. That was how I discovered The Look.
After the release of their debut album, “We’re Gonna Rock” in 1981, The Look seemed poised for national, even worldwide fame. They had a national hit single with the title track from their debut album. The video for that same song was getting regular airplay on MTV, making them the first Detroit area band to be played regularly on the fledgling cable TV station. They were getting lots of local radio air time at Detroit radio stations WRIF, WABX, and WWWW (W4). And they were opening concerts for the likes of Cheap Trick, The Kinks, John Cougar Mellencamp, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Joe Cocker, and the J. Geils Band. It looked like they were going to be the next big thing from Detroit.
Unfortunately, that never happened. Because of the shifting focus of local radio stations to have a more nationally familiar sound as they were bought up by large broadcasting conglomerates, their playlists started catering to national hits, with very little emphasis on local talent, and The Look faded away nationally after only a couple incredible albums that never achieved the recognition they were worthy of.
The Look was inducted into The Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame in 2016. It was an honor they well deserved.
But they also deserved so much more.
Golden Earring was almost a one hit wonder in the United States. In 1973 they released their album “Moon Tan”, which spawned their hit “Radar Love”, which hit number one on the Billboard rock charts in the U.S.. Although the Dutch band remained extremely successful in the Netherlands, they failed to have any further hit records in the United States. That is, until nine years later.
In 1982, Golden Earring released their 16th album. With the help of a spy themed video that got heavy airplay on the newly launched MTV, the song “Twilight Zone” became Golden Earring’s second number one hit in the United States. Following the success The “Twilight Zone”, he band released a follow-up single, “The Devil Made Me Do It”. Unfortunately, that song failed to do well in the U.S. because it contained the word “bullshit”, and was not released with an edited version – consequently, many U.S. radio stations refused to play it.
Although they had continued success in the Netherlands, Europe, in the U.K., Golden Earring failed to see any significant success in the United States following “Cut”. They continue to perform over 200 concerts a year to capacity crowds in those areas of the world. They released their 25th album “Tits ‘N Ass”, in 2012 under the same band lineup they have had since 1970. That album hit number one on the Dutch record charts.
In their 15 years together, from 1982 to 1987 The Call released 8 albums. This is the only one I ever owned – actually, it’s the only one I ever even listen to – and I can’t say why. I loved this album when it came out in 1983. I still do today.
“Modern Romans” has a perfect blend of political reverence and musical sensibility and originality. Every song strives to make a statement. And that can be dangerous territory to tread for risk of losing the focus on the quality of the music. I always felt this album hit both marks in perfect balance.
When “Modern Romans came out, the video for “The Walls Came Down” received significant airplay on MTV (back when MTV used to play music videos almost exclusively) and the song became The Call’s biggest hit. In it Michael Been sings “I don’t think there are any Russians/And there ain’t no Yanks/Just corporate criminals/Playing with tanks”. Words that some might say are more relevant today than they were when he sang them back in 1983. Whether you agree with the sentiment or not, it’s still good music.
WhIle the video for “Money For Nothing” certainly helped Dire Strait’s fifth album’s popularity, it was the strength of the eight other songs on the record that made it sell more than 30 million copies.
The songs on this album are as varied as they are timeless; and Mark Knopfler’s guitar tone and playing are absolutely exquisite. This is a record that anyone who calls themself a music lover, should be required to have in their collection in one form or another.
…But vinyl is best.