Category Archives: The Monkees

#202 – Hold Me Now

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#202 – Hold Me Now by Thompson Twins

Thompson Twins – We were definitely into the MTV era when this song was riding high on the video charts during the winter into spring 1984. That’s when the network’s initials really meant what it provided: Music Television. And for that reason, Hold Me Now seems more of a fashion statement to me than just a catchy tune. It also stirs thoughts of a reality statement that carries a deeper message.

Let me explain that better…

MTV ran 24/7 and during the early years it was the same format as AM Radio. VeeJays played music videos, instead of spinning disks. And for the artists to make a splash – an impact – the visuals became just as important as the music.

But in reality, it’s always been that way with pop music – and real life.

Elvis’ greasy hair, sideburns and gyrations were visual magnets to teenagers and a nightmare for their parents. The same could be said about The Beatles’ mop tops and high heeled, pointy-toed boots. Along with the music, their appearances made enough of a splash to be the topics of news reports, comedian punch lines and an older generation’s scorn.

Thompson 2

A different look

Much of what made them different was how they looked.

Part of being an artist is having a recognizable image and as pop progressed into rock it seemed the coming generation has always tried to outdo its predecessor. Jimi Hendrix, Alice Cooper, The Ramones… Okay, those are only a few off the top of my head, but you know what I mean. Mention any of them and chances are good you’ll also have a strong mental visual image because they looked different.

So by the time MTV was pushing both visuals AND music into our lives 24/7 the artists that wanted to make a splash had to go all out. For your own visual think of the two biggest pop stars at that time – Michael Jackson and Madonna. Their songs alone were good enough to be hits on the radio, but add their unique images and the combination is a reason why both are still considered icons today. Mention Michael’s sequined glove or Madonna’s wedding veil and you’ll immediately “picture” the songs (Billie Jean and Like A Virgin).

You might also remember a portion of society did not like them because of how they looked.

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Hold Me Now had the same visual effect in 1984. (The) Thompson Twins were noticeable to a lot of us at first because there were actually three members instead of (two) twins. Funny. Also MTV threw this song into heavy rotation so it seemed whenever we actually looked at the television screen rather than treating it as background music, we would catch the video. And from my memory, it was part of the Big Hair Era the 80’s is still famous for.

Some liked the look – some didn’t and still don’t.

My NYC cohorts (as part of the boomer generation) were past the age of trying to shock the older generation with our looks. And I don’t remember being a big fan of 80’s music or fashion while it was happening. It all seemed more comical to me than cool. But I’m totally into creative artists expressing themselves through whatever medium they choose to work in. And during this segment of the 80’s it seemed like pop musicians were more concerned with grabbing attention visually rather than with music.

The Midnight Runners with Dexy

Looking different

They wanted to look different.

An example of what I mean would be Dexys Midnight Runners in 1983 with Come On Eileen. They wore bib overhauls and came off more as street urchins than musicians. And why am I suddenly thinking of the Broadway musical Oliver as I write this…?

Okay, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that when you consider all the fashion trends we’ve lived through. Even Ann and Nancy Wilson from one of my favorite rock bands from the 1970’s, Heart, moved into bigger success with the 80’s MTV generation when their managers reinvented the sisters with teased hair, frilly dresses and too much makeup. I read Nancy’s book and they weren’t happy about it. They were rockers closer to Led Zeppelin than The Go Go’s, but it was standard wear if you wanted to sell records and concert tickets via MTV.

You had to sound AND look different to stand out from the crowd. If you don’t believe me, ask Boy George.

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Thompson Twins are remembered because of Hold Me Now and a look that’s somewhere between big hair and street urchin. It’s a catchy song and definitely memorable since I’ve never owned a copy, but woke up with it in my mind on April 27th. That gives it a hold in the subliminal playlist of Dream Songs.

No, look at me now!

Way different!

A lot of the girls I ran with or saw around NYC were into the Madonna look that included teased hair and worn high. Yeah, a few even wore their bras outside their shirts. And Thompson Twins included three distinct looking characters that could be called MTV fashion icons in 1984. As the music scene continued through the decade, the clothes seemed to get even more outrageous and hair on both girls and guys was teased and sprayed higher and higher.

And you know what? Not everyone liked the look. It seemed some people were more concerned about it, rather than simply hearing the music. In a visual society first impressions often make lasting opinions.

And it’s always been like that.

But the good thing about being different simply through fashion is that images are easy to change. That’s why we can look back at the 1970’s fashions and cringe (at least some of us!) but not be labeled with how we looked in the past. Leisure suits, big bellbottoms, platform shoes, droopy mustaches and… Well, I’m done cringing. They’re all long gone and I won’t be looking at any old photos from that era any time soon. I’ve changed.

Which brings me to a more important opinion.

With the benefit of hindsight, I’ll compare the general outrageousness (looking to make a splash) of the 80’s to the 1960’s. But it’s not the 1960’s of shocking society with Beatles haircuts or hippie clothes. I’m talking about the differences in looks that lead to inequalities.

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For a showbiz example (this is The Classic Rocker after all), what I’m talking about is depicted in the 1988 movie Hairspray and the later Broadway musical and film. In the story there was a segment of society that wanted to hold back – discriminate against – people because of how they looked. It’s about the struggle and fight for equal rights and not being accepted based solely on appearance. The main characters were not accepted by the powers that be. The message is racism, but it occurs on many levels. Motor Mouth and Seaweed weren’t accepted because they were black. Tracy was kept out of the “in-crowd” because she was overweight.

Some people make judgments only on appearance. But wait, am I getting too deep based on a simple 1980’s pop song that actually has nothing to do with this topic? Well, as The Classic Rocker I’m allowed an opinion – and in my opinion that’s despicable, racist and wrong. It just took Hold Me Now with a visual image that some people didn’t like to remind me of it.

Too different?

Too different?

Like Elvis in the 50’s and The Beatles in the 60’s, many pop stars of the 80’s including Thompson Twins, Dexy, Michael, Madonna and Boy George were often judged on their appearance. They were expressing themselves as artists, but some people wouldn’t listen because they didn’t like the way they looked. And using Hairspray as a fictional account for what was actually going on in real life, it was much deeper than that. Some people are too quick to judge based on first impressions. And when it comes to equal rights you can’t just change your status by changing clothes or hairstyle.

It’s a problem that rocked the 60’s and is still around today.

But other than the more important and continual campaign for equal rights, a common thread between the two decades was making a splash. The ones who appeared different were the ones that were noticed first and were either admired or scorned because of it. So when I hear Hold Me Now I have a visual image of an era when the trend was big hair – teased, shaved, weaved, braided, curled, uncombed and sprayed. I thought the visual was comical in some ways, but didn’t knock it because it was different.

It also didn’t affect how I heard the music.

In the BIG picture we’re still looking for many preconceived opinions and inequalities based on appearances to disappear from society forever. The BIG fight for equal rights should never stop until it’s won. But in a very small way, fortunately for me and other boomers we were past the stage of shocking the older generation with our looks when Thompson Twins and the others were dominating MTV. And for that reason, our 80’s photos aren’t as cringe-worthy as they could have been. At least for some of us…

Here’s the video of Thompson Twins that was in heavy MTV rotation in 1984.

To purchase Thompson Twins – Greatest Hits with Hold Me Now visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

#208 – Lady Godiva

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#208 – Lady Godiva by Peter and Gordon

Peter and Gordon – For a change of pace, we’ll dwell on the past by starting from a futuristic point of view. Let’s pretend aspiring pop culture historians a few decades from now are given the title of this song as a research assignment. They’re familiar with the story of Lady Godiva, who rode on a horse naked through the streets of Coventry, England to protest high taxes imposed by her husband on his subjects. That legend has been passed down since the 13th Century, so it’s safe to assume they’ll know that much (and now you do too).

Armed with only the title, they’re assigned the task of looking back into the 20th Century to find a pop song with the same name and the artist(s). Of course you already know that much (I gave you the answer above). But where do you think these futuristic researchers might start their search?

With Peter and Gordon? Let’s discuss…

Paul and Peter

Paul and Peter

The British Invasion duo was known mostly for their mid-tempo love songs World Without Love and Woman. And as pointed out in an earlier article by The Classic Rocker, both songs were written by Paul McCartney and given to Peter and Gordon. That’s what can happen when a Beatle is dating your sister and living in a spare bedroom in your parents’ house. In this case, it was Peter’s sister Jane Asher and the Asher mom and dad. It’s also one of the reasons Paul became the richest Beatle. While the others were spending their residuals buying mansions in a rich neighborhood, he was living rent free.

But in the fall of 1966 Peter and Gordon released a different style of song. Lady Godiva showed they had a sense of humor while also adding a little sense of risqué to their reputations.

Seriously – risqué?

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Okay, it’s not like they suddenly became the Hugh Hefner’s of The British Invasion, but this song’s storyline was different. While artists that year were singing about falling in love, making love, getting high and in many songs doing all three, P&G were actually singing about a naked girl riding a horse down a city street, being discovered by a Hollywood director and becoming a star in pornographic films.

Lady Godiva with P&G

P&G (with deejay) and The Lady

It had been a long ride from World Without Love.

But do you think our futuristic pop culture historians could find Peter and Gordon based only on this song title? It might take them a while since the above mentioned teenage angst love songs of their earlier career never came close to referencing “All the cats who dig striptease” and “Certificate X.” Peter and Gordon were more aligned with the smiling, clean-scrubbed, blow-dried hair and “I wanna hold your hand” image of The Beatles rather than the scruffy, dirty and scowling members of The Rolling Stones looking for some satisfaction.

Future pop historians may toss artists of The British Invasion into one lump category, but those of us that lived through it know there were differences. It’s like comparing The Animals to Herman’s Hermits.

Eric Burdon would sing about Lady Godiva. Peter Noone’s mum probably wouldn’t let him.

At this particular time in 1966 pop music was still pretty innocent.

Bob Dylan was talking over a lot of teenager’s heads with songs like Subterranean Homesick Blues and no one in my junior high class knew what the heck John Lennon was singing about in Tomorrow Never Knows. In the fall of 1966 the Beatles were limping off their last-ever tour and The Monkees were bringing innocent pop hits to primetime television. From our futuristic point of view we could say Peter and Gordon were only doing the same. But when it came to their latest single the subject matter felt a bit stronger than Davy Jones looking into a beautiful girl’s eyes and singing I Want To Be Free.

peter-gordon-lady-godivaI’m not exactly sure of this, but I seem to remember Lady Godiva was banned from the radio in certain areas including a bit of protest about the storyline in Coventry, England. I guess the residents needed to protect their reputation and a 13th Century naked lady on a horse was a lot more innocent than a 1960’s naked lady scoring big in Hollywood.

Lady Godiva road onto this Dream Song List the morning of March 26th. It falls into the category of recent memory since I had just heard it. It also falls into one of my favorite genres of pop music – Music Hall Rock. With the jangly banjo, hook-driven verses and Peter and Gordon harmony, the song is a classic example of a popular 60’s trend that past and future pop culture historians should understand.

For other examples of Music Hall Rock check out Daydream by The Lovin’ Spoonful, Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks, and Good Day Sunshine by The Beatles. With the roots of these songs influenced by the pop hits of the 1920’s, it’s obvious that sometimes you need to dwell in the past to find futuristic trends.

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And speaking of a futuristic point of view, what might happen to our future pop historians searching for any information about this song simply based on its title? If it were me I’d round up the usual suspects of rock stars with oversexed images – which would eliminate Peter and Gordon. I can envision a research team swarming through a dust covered warehouse (think ending of Raiders of the Lost Arc) and excavating through bins and bins of vinyl records until they reach…

The late 1970’s?

Not Peter and Gordon

Not Peter and Gordon

Yeah, that’s where I’d start my search for a record titled Lady Godiva. And to narrow my research, I’d head straight for the Rod Stewart section and examine the song titles on the back covers of his LPs. He had the reputation for asking, “Da’ya think I’m sexy?” more than Peter and Gordon or any other smiling, clean-scrubbed and blown-dried hair pop stars of the 60’s.

In fact, I can dwell back into teenage angst mode and envision a music video for Rod Stewart’s version of Lady Godiva. Basically, he’d come out in his 70’s spandex and rooster hair while a string of Hugh Hefner worthy blondes recreate the naked ride on horseback. At the end of the song Rod jumps on the back of one of the horses – riding bareback (meaning no saddle – he’s still in spandex) – and rides off into the sunset. Ooh-la-la!

Of course this non-existent music video is nothing more than fun speculation and fantasy, even though it’s probably closer to what was riding through the minds of many teenaged males at the time. Looking back from a futuristic point of view it wouldn’t be a song title or storyline expected from Peter and Gordon. But then again, no one else expected it from them either in 1966.

For a video of Peter and Gordon performing Lady Godiva – featuring McCartney’s ex-girlfriend’s brother on jangly banjo and a bonus introduction by comedy legend Milton Berle – check this out.

 

 

To purchase The Ultimate Peter and Gordon with Lady Godiva visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2016 – North Shore Publishing