Record Review: Trans-X – “Living On Video” GER 12″

Polydor | GER | 12″ | 1983 | 811 997-1

Trans-X: Living On Video – GER – 12″ [1983]

  1. Living On Video [full length] 5:55
  2. Digital World 3:30

All of this deep diving into Rational Youth has got me thinking about other Québecois Synthpop in Ye Olde Record Cell. Specifically, Montreal’s Trans-X! The middle eight of Rational Youth’s” City Of Night” really made me think of Trans-X, whose One Big Hit, “Living On Video” had a certain similarity.

I first heard Trans-X on college radio in 1983, when the irresistible synthpop of “Message On The Radio” got a play and hooked me, but hard. I was constantly on the lookout for that 12′ single but it took me some years to finally buy a copy. I had much greater success locating a single that had not gotten airplay called “Living On Video.” It was in the bins at Crunchy Armadillo, so I probably paid no more than $1.50-$2.00 for the privilege.

The track got the bass hooks in right away with a sprinkling of glissandos as the drum machines kicked in. The some outrageous space disco wooshes and melodic rondos pulled me into the stroboscopic world it had created. Vocalist Pascal Languirand sang in wryly enunciated English in a petulant tone just shy of Russell Mael. The chorus is where the venn diagram of this song and “City Of Night” overlap the greatest.

The vocoder hook in particular recalled the Rational Youth track, but the sub-bass overloads and Anne Brosseau’s bilingual backing vocals go a long way to giving the track its own charm. I also liked the use of roto-tom fills in much the same way that the 12″ of Rational Youth’s “Saturdays In Silesia” juxtaposed the live and cybernetic drums.

trans-x promo shot 1983
Pascal Languirand and Laurie Ann Gill [not the actual singer on disc, but hired for shows and PAs]

The ecstatic synth loops that erupted throughout the song were an obvious callback to the space disco roots of Languirand, but I had no idea of that at the time. It’s only in recent years in researching his background that his obvious origins became known to me. By the song’s midpoint, the sound began to veer into dub space disco, with the rubbery synth lead lines flanged within an inch of their life.

Then the classical inspired dual synth solos [split binaurally for maximum impact] kept our interest up in the surprisingly well arranged track. The score for this might look dead simple on paper, but Languirand [or producer Daniel Bernier] were canny enough to take a page from the Trevor C. Horn playbook; make sure some new sonic developments were happening every few bars and you can get away with murder on a dance record.

The band’s label even licensed Horn’s first big hit for a mind boggling split 12″ in 1986

Even as the track began to break down near the coda, the drop where a dinky rhythm box took the spotlight seemed like a shoutout to the technopop portions of “Funkytown.” The weird synthpop/disco crossover that I’m certain Languirand paid a lot of attention to. He was aiming for a hit and with “Living On Video” he certainly got one. The song was an immediate smash in his native Canada and I was astonished to find the song had a lifespan that eventually found the cut finding audiences in Europe as well as The States up to a few years later!

America got the “Trans-X” album [which I used to have] as a 1985 release and I was shocked to hear the track being played on college radio many years after I had snagged my German 12″ single of it. In a different recording of it. The one produced by Richard Buck [a.k.a. Richard Dubuc] in 1985. And a landslide of post-modern versions followed. As far as I can tell here are the versions of “Living On Video,” but I’ve got limited time to compile this list. Your mileage may vary.

  1. Vivre Sur Vidéo [original French version] 1983
  2. Living On Video [English ver.] 1983
  3. Living On Video [remix] 1985
  4. Living On Video 2003
  5. Living On Video 2K6
  6. L.O.V. 2011 [a mind-wilting 15 remixes…]
  7. Living On Video [Betoko Vs. Trans-X] 2019

There’s probably a few more hiding in some label’s closet that we don’t know about. Suffice to say, that there have been many chances for the song to reach ears through several generations of pop music fans thus far. All I really need is the 1983 version. English will do.

The B-side was another story entirely. It was a chipper little synthpop near-instrumental [the sole lyric was the title or the phrase “computer controlled”] that the just-passing-through member Steve Wyatt wrote and played in its entirety. It was less a dance number than a brief little example of ProgPop crossover. Charming but brief.

So in 1983 when I found this 12″ single, I was rewarded nicely for my interest in the song “Message On The Radio” even though I had not yet heard “Living On Video.” Even though at the end of the day my heart belongs to Message On The Radio,” there’s a reason why this brash and slightly crass dancefloor number has stuck around for so long. In the immortal words of some anonymous Philadelphia teenager, “it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.”


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Rational Youth Released The Ultimate Minimal Synth Album With “Cold War Nightlife” [part 3]

Rational Youth L-R: Kevin Komoda, Tracy Howe, Bill Vorn

[…continued from last post]

“Cité Phosphore” was a French language version of “City Of Night” available as a B-side on the 12″ single of that release. The mix seemed to be identical, but the French version came with an extended introduction that built up to to the levels of energy that the English version had straight out of the gate.

The 12″ remix of “Saturdays In Silesia” was graciously included here and the classic old school extended remix with a very different arrangement. The long buildup immediately made its differences known. Live drum overdubs by Angel Calvo did much to make the 7:17 12″ version be a whole new ballgame. the emphasis on drums instead of bass as on the LP mix minimized the “Rent” chord sequence that was still there, waiting to be discovered by Pet Shop Boys.

The interplay between the programmed and acoustic drums was a genius move here. The either/or paradigm was so limiting! The long buildup before vocalist Howe made his first appearance at the 1:30 mark was fully earned luxury. The pixilated melody benefited from the sometimes thunderous drum overdubs adding widescreen gravitas to the tale of rebellious teenagers struggling against the powers that be. The fills interjected in the climax as the leads got a little dubby were certainly unexpected. This mix was certainly advanced for 1982. I can remember many 12″ers which were much more tentative than this.

“City Of Night” also got a new arrangement for 12″ with the synth bass leading the intro buildup as the drumpulse faded up with the “string” leads and sequencers leading into the still wonderfully dinky lead hook. The groove here was given a lot of space to itself, with the vocal interjections being judiciously spaced apart to almost make one think this was a dub version… until a chorus manifests surprisingly every minute or so. Ultimately, there was not as much under the hood on this song as compared to “Saturdays In Silesia;” making the 7:10 12″ mix a little less nutritious than its counterpart.

rational youth i want to see the light cover art
The debut single from 1981 was truly amazing

The final track here was the band’s debut single, “I Want To See The Light.” The B-side, “Coboloid Race,” had been earlier in the program, but I can understand why this track was saved for the last. It’s incredible synthpop. It featured utterly yearning synth lines with low bass lines grounding the feeling of hope and optimism. The production on this track alone was by label head Marc Demouy and Pyer Desrochers. The latter only credited on this single in Discogs. It’s a pity that the album was not also helmed by this production team since the richness of the production took the vibe here from “minimal synth” to “maximal synth” aesthetics. As much as I fully enjoy this album, the pleasure centers of my brain got that much more stimulation by this song! This track took a back seat to nobody and I can only imagine how I would have crowed over this band like a new toy in 1981 had I been fortunate enough to have heard it 40 years ago!

The band quickly splintered after releasing this album with Bill Vorn exiting for acadmia. Tracy Howe formed a new lineup for a brief dalliance with Capitol records that saw their second album, “Heredity” actually get a release in The States, though I don’t recall seeing any video from it on MTV. This CD of “Cold War Nightlife” takes a good stab at being definitive, but there were some tracks missing in action:

  • I Want To See The Light [12″ ver. 4:23]
  • Plie Ou Face 5:40
  • Plie Ou Face 2:34
  • Saturdays In Silesia [7″ remix]
  • Light [inst.]

It looks like those tracks would overload the disc and maybe they were not available in any case. It did sound like a few of the bonus tracks were sourced from vinyl, due to the excessive sibilance on them, not to mention the diminished dynamic range. Thankfully, “I Want To See the Light” suffered none of these indignities. It sounded rich and vibrant.

For completists, there was a BSOG released in Germany in 2014 by Vinyl-On-Demand Recordings. Sadly, as the label name implies, the goods are on 5 LPs and a bonus 7″ single, but they capture a wide swath of the band’s activity from 1981 to 1984. The modestly priced set is € 59.00 and still appears to be in print for those interested in having everything neat and tidy. Well, as tidy as one can have with vinyl. And it’s true that the postage from Germany will not be cheap.

Vinyl-On-Demand | GER | 5xLP + 7″ | 2014 | VOD 124

I have to say at the end of the day I really enjoyed the album fully after all of the various buildup in the comments here and beyond. The last 20 years have seen the “minimal synth” marketplace rise up and make collector’s albums out of a great deal of material that didn’t have half the New Wave nous that this music did. This was the album that said “here is what Minimal Synth could aspire to.” An album of catchy, hook-laden songs made with a wide palette of analog synths and drum machine. The band could more than write their way out of a paper bag and if the production sounded like it only used ten out of the 24 tracks their board in the studio supported, then so be it.

The album actually had a thematic strength running through it as it really dealt with the “ten minutes to midnight” feel that the early 80s had courtesy of Reagan. The band themselves were a finely balanced unit with the logical Vorn programming and making soundscapes that the emotional Howe turned into songs. And they wisely added Kevin Komoda near the end of the project to provide the polish of playing that neither of them could do on their own. The most interesting this I can say about this album 39 years later is that I can listen to it and hear more music that it sounded like it influenced than vice versa. Quite an accomplishment for any young band.


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Rational Youth Released The Ultimate Minimal Synth Album With “Cold War Nightlife” [part 2]

bill vorn and tracy howe of rational youth

[…continued from last post]

“Les Meilleur Des Mondes” [The Best Of Worlds] was a change of pace, with what was side two of the original LP opening with an instrumental. The sound was deliberately paced with the music shot through with programmed glissandi of bubbling synths that highlighted the contribution of Bill Vorn, who was behind most of the music writing and programming here and he actually got the credit on the album of “Music Processing.”

The next track once more saw the band making music with a very political subtext as the experience of an armed crackdown was explored in the song as the music bed was reminding me of early B-Movie material with lead lines recalling the Manchester band’s sound.

rational youth - city of night cover artThe somber pace of the previous two songs was finally banished for the ebullience of the zippy “City Of Night.” Fast BMP sequencers and cheerful lead lines and string synths  made this track an obvious choice for a single and the bright point of optimism on what was generally a dour album not seeing too much hope in the 1982 environment. The middle eight here featured Vorn on vocoder and a vibe that was decidedly similar to what fellow Quebecois synth poppers Trans-X would put to wax the following year on their hit “Living On Video.” Hearing this, I can’t help but thing that rational Youth got some gears turning in Pascal Languirand’s skull with this song.

Given that the band were huge Kraftwerk fans, it was surprising that the only track here to recall the Düsseldorf foursome was the brilliant “Dancing On The Berlin Wall.” The phrase “Cold War Nightlife” came from this song and it was very prescient of the group to write what was the soundtrack for the actual fall of the Iron Curtain seven years hence. I appreciated the evocation of Harry Palmer in the lyric and the middle eight here was instrumental with wailing sirens over minimal synths sounding not a million miles away from the early Human League B-side “Introducing.” I also can’t help but think that John Crawford of Berlin must have been aware of this song when penning his own [less interesting, it must be said] ode to dancing in Berlin.

The 2019 CD was filled out with six bonus tracks. The first of these was “Power Zone,” another methodical, science fictional instrumental that sped up for a surprisingly vivid and fast-paced middle eight. That middle eight, in particular, really reminded me of Duran Duran’s “Tricked Out” from “Red Carpet Massacre.” Is it my imagination, or are there many ideas on this album that many others picked up and ran with?

The most severe sound here was the B-side of the band’s 1981 debut single, “I Want To See the Light.” “Coloboid Race” was a song written, lyrics and all, by Bill Vorn. It’s not surprising to hear that after this album Vorn left the band to continue his studies. Today, he’s an expert in robotic art and you can hear all of the clinical personality aspects that came home to roost on this track. Mr. Howe adopted the classic minimal synth, unemotional delivery that music like this all but demanded in the early years of the form. The ones that perhaps unfairly marked synthpop as geek territory for years to come afterward.

Next: …Cities Of Light

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Rational Youth Released The Ultimate Minimal Synth Album With “Cold War Nightlife” [part 1]

rational youth cold war night life
Musicvaultz | CAN | CD | 2019 | 5388280

Rational Youth: Cold War Nightlife – CAN – DLX RM CD [2019]

  1. Close To Nature
  2. Beware The Fly
  3. Saturdays In Silesia
  4. Just A Sound In The Night
  5. Le Meilleur Des Mondes
  6. Ring The Bells
  7. City Of Night
  8. Dancing On The Berlin Wall
  9. Power Zone
  10. Coboloid Race
  11. Cité Phosphore
  12. Saturdays In Silesia [ext. ver.]
  13. City of Night [danse mix]
  14. I Want To See The Light

It was about three months ago when I posted about the Canadian Heaven 17, that flowered and withered before the well-known British band later used that same name to much greater fame. It turned out that the Canadian Heaven 17 were also tied intimately to the Canadian synthpop pioneers Rational Youth… who completely passed by musical cave-dwellers like myself in the backwaters of Central Florida 39 years ago! In that locale, if it was not fairly well known in Britain, there was no way it was going to have any impact in that market. So I’d gone through my life never having heard Rational Youth, or their influential debut album that had success both at home and in Europe.

Commenters on that post from The Great White North and even beyond were aghast. This hayseed music fan had once again revealed one of my numerous blind spots, and amazingly, commenter KeithC saw to it that I would have a copy of this impactful recording and what else can I do but listen and share my findings with the larger world now that I can no longer say “I’ve never heard ‘Cold War Nightlife’…what’s it like?”

It started off with an insect clicking, the product of a particularly percussive synth patch, soon enjoined by a TR-808 adding its distinct club rhythms. Then the synths swelled into the mix, with squelchy lines in slow motion aiming for a modernist use of this technology. None of the synths here were trying to replicate old fashioned instruments. There were no guitars at all. This was synthpop of the era. Common in England for at least a year or two prior, but in Montreal, Quebec, this was a rare bird indeed.

Vocalist/synthesist Tracey Howe invested “Close To Nature” with a clear-eyed, declamatory delivery on the early verses. The instrumental middle eight had a delicate weave of the armful of synths the band had at their disposal. With patch cord monsters like the Roland System 100 rubbing shoulders with the newest arrivals like the Roland MC-4 Microcomposer.

A flash of light, the sky erupting

My eyes are burned

I cannot bear to see the awful power

Close to nature

Close To Nature

The nuclear anxiety that was the seed of the “Cold War Nightlife” themes manifested on the verses following the middle eight, as Howe emphasized the anguish of the lyric and the 808 patterns became more enervated in their motorik fury as the sequencers kicked in to add their intensity to the mix.

rational youth saturdays in silesia cover artMore than one commenter had mentioned “Saturdays In Silesia” as being a real highlight here. Once it began, I was shocked to hear that the melody in the song mirrored that of the Pet Shop Boys classic “Rent,” which varied so slightly from “Silesia” that I can only concur that Chris Lowe must have been a Rational Youth fan! Even the beatbox was not far from the template here! The lyrics of youth escaping into a world of music and excitement on the weekend cut across all lines of youth culture, and the heraldic synths cast a noble light on such a prosaic pursuit.

But the devil was in the details. “Silesia” was a historic region of Central Europe constituting parts of Poland, Germany, and [then] Czechoslovakia. The middle eight laid it on the line.

And if the soldiers put the padlock on the door

We’ll break it open like we’ve always done before

We don’t have much but what we’ve got we’re going to keep

Won’t you stay close to me?

Saturdays In Silesia

All of this makes this song a perfect example of the next generation of synthpop taking their cues from Bowie’s “Heroes” and recasting the setting in the new generation of synths and drum machines. Once more fitting into the thematic undercurrents of the album. The cover art looked real familiar…a riff on the Polish Solidarity logo we used to see a lot in the news back then.

Polish Solidarity logo
Polish Solidarność logo

There was a lot of gear on this album common to both Human League MK I and II, but little here was redolent of those records explicitly, with the exception of “Just A Sound In The Night.” It was a song that may have been directly inspired by “Open Your Heart,” which was released six months before the “Cold War Nightlife” album. The plaintive melody and tempo practically invited me to sing the lyric along to the music bed here. But yet in another vector pointing to “Rent,” the drum programming here was also a possible blueprint for the Pet Shop Boys to investigate five years later. Now with two songs in a row seemingly pilfered to construct “Rent,” I’m starting to go down a Rational Youth/Pet Shop Boys rabbit hole! Better to focus on the beauty of the song’s instrumental middle eight.

Next: …Dancing In Berlin II…Electric Boogaloo

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Gott Im Himmel! East-West Records Is Still Open In Orlando, Florida…50 YEARS LATER

east-west records store

I got off on a tangent the other day when discussing how I bought “Nightclubbing” by Grace Jones from a K-Mart record nook [not quite a store] back in the days when I biked to local shops to spend my lunch money. Just to jog my memory, I was looking at Maps to remind myself of the locations of stores like East-West Records, and Record Mart Oak Ridge when I couldn’t help but notice that one of the stores in my reverie, East-West Records + Tapes [as it was known] was still on the Maps app! [insert stinger]

East-West doorway
The doorway looks much the same since I was there last.

I moved to Orlando, Florida in 1972. I was nine years old. The original East-West location on Orange Avenue near Ft. Gatlin had been a landmark to me growing up. I got my first stereo in 1978 and the first thing I did was ask my dad to take me to East-West Records + tapes so that I could buy the “Black Noise” album by FM, which was the first album I wanted to hear on my stereo! The store was a smallish, stand-alone building that I had seen all of my childhood, and was now going to shop at. I entered the store and like most of them, back in the day, it also doubled as a “head shop” selling objects that were not technically illegal to be used with substances which definitely were.

East-West records shirts
The store t-shirts have not changed at all

That’s just how it was, back then. Two things young people apparently needed in the 70s were a steady supply of music and drugs. As for me, music was my drug, so the posters, incense, and bongs were surplus to my needs. But the store did have stock beyond the wildest imaginings of my local K-Mart. I got the FM album and have never stopped listening to it [even though it’s Prog…]. Most of these photos are from their Yelp! page. Look at the one below – they still have records at $2-5 and a dollar bin! And the B-52’s debut album is still there.

Shoppers filling East-West

In high school I started biking to the shop and occasionally buying things that I wanted. I would bike to K-mart [closest] but also Record Mart on Oak Ridge, or East-West on Orange Avenue. None of those stores had any import stock, which by 1979 became like a siren call to my New Wave besotted ears. And my preference want to the other Record Mart stores on Colonial or the big Warehouse, that opened when I was a senior in high school on Orange Blossom Trail. Those two stores were managed by Don Gilliland, and he made sure that any store he was in charge of was well stocked with the things I wanted most.

corner of East-West Records
This image seems like one of my memories; so little has changed since I have shopped there

As I got older and moved deeper into the metro Orlando area from the southwest corner I grew up in, I found that there was a second East-West location in Winter Park. By the time I was in my twenties and thirties, this was the East-West I did most of my later shopping in. But I do vividly remember the last time I bought anything in the original location. I was bored and wanted to shop for CDs in 1987, so I biked to the Orange Avenue East-West and bought two new titles on CD. What were they?

Those are some pretty freaky bedfellows! But they were two Atlantic Records titles, with the ELP Prog opus being fresh to the silver disc, and Mel + Kim just getting fresh [for the weekend]. I still have them. It’s still one of the two ELP albums I still have time for occasionally.

The original East-West opened in 1971, just a bit ahead of my arrival in Orlando. The same couple [Hannah and Roman Skrobko] owned and operated both stores until the Winter Park location closed down [I’d guess about 20 years ago after Napster] but the Orange Avenue location still going until they owners sold it in 2018 to Robert Serros, Jr, one of their customers who grew up to run the store. According to the current Yelp page, it’s now owned by one Emma. I also ran across this interview by Don Gilliland with the original owner Hannah Skrobko conducted a decade ago when the store was merely 40 years old!

As of this year it marks 50 years of continuous operation and has weathered the decimation of the music retail space [20 years ago] by file swapping, the real estate boom and bust cycle in the volatile Orlando real estate market, the Great Recession of 2008-9, The Covid-19 Pandemic, and has now existed long enough to reap the benefits of the swing back to LPs in this crazy 21st century. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to Florida any time soon, but if I do, then I need to stop by East-West Records [And More], just because I can!


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Record Review: Shox – “No Turning Back” UK 7″

shox no turning back cover art
Axis | UK | 7″ | 1980 | AXIS4

Shox: No Turning Back – UK – 7″ [1980]

  1. No Turning Back
  2. Lying Here

Shox were a band that I only found out about many years [decades, actually] into my Jacqui Brookes fandom. I was wondering what Ms. Brookes had been up to outside of the solo album in her own name and singles as Intro [which were well and duly in the Record Cell]. It was over a dozen years ago when I saw that she had begun her recording career as a member of the synth trio Shox, who were among the first handful of singles released in early 1980 on the Axis label, which soon had to change their name due to an earlier label with that name. Under the gun, they changed it to 4AD and you know the rest of that story.

Once I investigated this band of course I saw that their single UK 7″ was rather pricey and when reading about them at the 4AD website, I was surprised to discover that I could buy a DL from the label of this one and wasted no time in doing so. As the music on it is worlds apart from what became the established 4AD “house sound” it was probably appropriate that it came out before they had settled on that branding.

This was bright and chipper synthpop with a motorik drumbox and whirring synths blending harmoniously while Ms. Brookes sang the ebullient lyrics. There was a drop in the middle eight where most of the synths pulled away for the beat to predominate. The bubbliness of it all put the “dour synthpop” cliché on its head, though the outro did feature a lowing bass synth riff adding a subtext of disquiet beneath the relentless cheeriness. The anxiety of a phone ringing on the fade also provided complexity for the under three minute popsong.

The B-side opened with Ms. Brookes saying “lying here” four times with a beatblast of white noise demarcating it all. Interestingly enough, “lying here” was also the first lyric in the A-side as well, but that was the only vocal of Ms. Brookes on this side of the record. John Pethers sang the vocals here over a lower BPM, lurching synthpop foundation.

The bouncy quality of the sound design reminded me of two other records to come; “Marcia Baila” by Les Rita Mitsouko and Berlin’s “World Of Smiles.” The drier lyrics here were a far more typical example of New Wave with lyrics calling out to “multicolored photographs” and “selections of identity.” The hard, slapping beat from the intro interjected occasionally to add depth to the rhythm box chugging through it all. And the wooshing lead synths were perhaps down to the post-Numan environment that records like this were reliant on for commercial oxygen.

Mike Atkinson and John Pethers were pictured on the hilarious cover looking all coy beneath the covers as a fully clothed Jacqui Brookes nonetheless looked like she was basking in the afterglow. While Atkinson has been lost to the mists of time going forward, Brookes and Pethers kept their partnership going forward [at least for the next two years] int he band Siam. I have two of their three singles and am still looking for their posthumous live album, which is not getting any cheaper these days.

various - electrical languageThe six minutes of synthpop here were the only example of Shox to reach our ears, but 41 years later the sounds are easy enough to hear right now. The DL of this single is available in the usual places, and if you have a need to hear it on the silver disc, the B-side made it onto one of Cherry Red’s great compilation boxes a few years back, “Electrical Language.” I guess they picked “Lying Here” since it was a little more redolent of the Post-Punk origins of synth pop than the peppier A-side, but I would pick that one for immortalizing on CD if it came down to me. But listening to both of these tunes half a lifetime later, I can imagine a teenage John Crawford buying this single in the L.A. import bins and it having an influence a few years down the line when he was making his own technopop records with Berlin.


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REVO Remastering: David Werner – David Werner [REVO 094]

david werner cover art
REVO | US | CD-R | 2020 | REVO 0954

David Werner: David Werner + – US – CD-R [2020]

  1. Can’t Imagine
  2. What’s Right
  3. What Do You Need To Love
  4. Melanie Cries
  5. Eye To Eye
  6. Hold On Tight
  7. Every New Romance
  8. Too Late To Try
  9. High Class Blues
  10. She Sent Me Away
  11. What Do You Need To Love [live]
  12. Can’t Imagine [live]
  13. Death Of Me yet [live]
  14. Every New Romance [live]
  15. Aggravation Non-Stop [live]

In 1979 following his two RCA records by a four year gap, David Werner began writing new material that was really clicking at a higher level than ever before. He called up his guitarist Mark Doyle and the two began recording demos that caught the ear of Epic Records, leading to his third album and this time there was a song on it that radio immediately took a shining to.

That’s because “What’s Right” was a streetwise, late model Glam Rock classic. Every lick of the tune was surgically perfected to deliver the essence of urban street cool while delivered in a breathtaking T-Rex-gone-dub chassis. Sure enough, the tune was effectively built on the sturdy “Get It On [Bang A Gong]” guitar riff, as played with aplomb by fellow Pittsburgh denizen Mark Doyle [who doubled on bass], but the solid boogie of Bolan was swapped here for touches of dubspace, with the mix dropping out after the chorus for the spotlight on those taut, muscular, echoey guitar riffs that feel so right in their Glam Rock swagger.

It should be mentioned that the album was co-produced [along with Werner and Doyle], recorded and mixed by Power Station Wunderkind Bob Clearmountain at the height of his early powers, and also features personal icon Ian Hunter leaving his touches [mix and vocals] on two tracks, so definitely this pushes all of the late 70s Rock buttons. It sounds perfect. All of Rock wishes it had half the chops of this music casually dropped.

The “David Werner” album was altogether a visceral and direct album of high energy rock filled with hooks and a much more direct kind of music than he had previously recorded. “What Do You Need To Love” was practically a blueprint for the “Jack + Diane” vibe that would break John “Cougar” Mellencamp three years later; albeit with better songs and playing!

“Every New Romance” opened with the kind of space disco synth riffage [albeit in a rock context] that perhaps was a callback to The Sweet’s “Fox On The Run” that played out for over a minute before coalescing into a mid-tempo rocker. It was the one track on the album mixed by guest star Ian Hunter instead of Clearmountain. It said volumes that they also played that one on the live album also included here, complete with live synth [not a tape] on the track.

The one odd song out here was “High Class Blues” as a duet with Ian Hunter and very much a sloppy blues number that had no real place in this tight, taut, program of Power Pop and Rock. But when a Bowie casualty like Werner gets a chance to jam with Ian Hunter, he takes it, so that’s understandable.

Also included here as bonus material, was the single sided live album, recorded at the legendary Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Los Angeles on October 3, 1979 by Bob Clearmountain and Jeff Hendrickson and sent to radio stations for promo. It featured Werner and his band tearing through an intense set with music from each of his three albums. You can hear some devout fan calling out for “Cold Shivers” at one point in the set; like anyone who might have heard the obscure but classic song four years earlier.

Alas, this was it for David Werner. He finally had the right album at the right time for the radio market. “What’s Right” was a top add at the stations that mattered, but to hear Werner talk of it, Epic Records had just embarked on a “no-return” policy to distributors for their releases at just the time that his album was released and turning heads in radio. The distributors balked at buying unproven product and were effectively in a war with the label at exactly the time that “David Werner” shipped, and the right album, with the right tunes and production happened at precisely the wrong time. Due solely to the behind the scenes posturing that was going down in 1979.

Following this album, David Werner found that he was able to eke out a successful career as a staff songwriter and producer instead of as a performer. He struck Platinum in 1990 by co-writing “Cradle Of Love,” Billy Idol’s biggest hit, but you and I both know that history should remember this guy for the smoky cool of “What’s Right.”


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