The Fancy Plans Guide to Rock & Roll Vol. 12December 5, 2009
It’s been awhile since the last volume of the never-ending Guide to Rock & Roll. The last time we gathered to enjoy libelous tales of the has-beens and never-weres of the rock world, we tackled only requests. This time around there isn’t a request to be found. It’s not because I don’t take requests. It’s more likely due to my scattershot posting schedule, shortened attention span and mandatory attendance of several premature funerals for rock and roll.
Hall & Oates
1/2 moustache, 1/2 blond, Hall & Oates epitomized 80’s pop in a way few others did, except possibly Wham!, whom they were often confused with. The parallel chart success of this pair of duos saw tanned and well-rested men jousting for the affection (and money) of “the ladies.”
They deployed every weapon imaginable, including smoldering good looks (Wham!, Hall & Oates), short shorts (Wham!), moustaches (Oates) and prolific hitmaking, all despite being saddled with an underperforming partner (Andrew Ridgley, John Oates).
Once their made-for-VH1 meteoric rises and falls were over (“falls” being more accurate, especially when handcuffed to “meteoric” by some hack blogger), it became apparent that only one band was truly in it for “the ladies.” (Not Wham!) However, the information came too late to affect anything more than their respective solo careers (except for Andrew Ridgley, who ran down today’s specials for me at the local Outback).
Known as the “fifth Beatle,” after being displaced by Yoko Ono and Linda McCartney, respectively, Harrison nonetheless had a successful and prolific solo career which spanned over 20 years. Famed for his combination of psychedelia and folk rock, Harrison proved that there is life beyond the Beatles (although not so much for Lennon) and enjoyed some chart success (although not as much as Paul McCartney, who was upgraded to “The Only Beatle”).
In addition to his musical contributions, Harrison was also known for:
- Not being Ringo.
- Not shoving his vegan ideals down his touring bands’ throats.
- Impressive facial hair.
- Being slightly smaller than Jesus.
As one of the forerunners of the New Romantic movement, Britain’s Human League found itself defending its turf (and pedigree) against all comers, including the Anti-Nowhere League, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the newly-minted (and freshly dead) Zombie Nation.
They enjoyed a seven-year run on top of the musical heap before succumbing to hair metal, synthpop backlash and internal wrangling (which is not so much a reference as an indication that more people should be listening to Clinic).
As the band slowly fell apart, their legacy lived on with multiple appearances on 80’s compilation and the Grand Theft Auto:Vice City soundtrack, which would mark the only time 50 million people purchased the (Keep Feeling) Fascination single, which came bundled with a lawsuit-baiting, open-world murder simulator.
Known for a single track (In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida) which spanned three albums due to the space limitations of vinyl. Their monstrous hit song was one of the first singles to “go platinum,” albeit in a stripped-down three-minute version, which trimmed off nearly 90 minutes of psychedelic excess.
The track’s title (loosely translated by Hooked on Phonics as “In the Garden of Eden“) was a staple of their live shows, thanks to its sprawling length, which gave each band member a chance to dick around while their audience members retrieved their drugs, took their drugs or purchased more drugs.
During their brief heyday, the average Iron Butterfly set list looked like this:
Encore (In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida [reprise])
Having paved the way for mainstream awareness of psychedelic hard rock, Iron Butterfly abruptly lost all relevance and faded into obscurity, leaving behind an overwrought back catalog, which proved useful for seed-and-stem sorting.
Rick James (born Dave Chappelle) took the late ’70s funk scene by storm with his hit single Superfreak, which set the stage for the brief flareout of a “career” that was the Reverend MC Hammer. Following his own blueprint for brief success followed by spectacular failure, James made some runs at chart success with a few other, less sample-worthy singles before deciding to follow his true calling: drug addiction.
After joining nearly every other musician ever in eventual irrelevance, Rick James briefly lifted his head from the dusted mirror to release an album in the mid-’90s, approximately 15 years after anyone gave a shit. Unable to produce the “skills” to pay the “legal bills,” James returned to obscurity and blow, taking with him his talent (which at this point was as weak as the 3/4-baby laxative blend “coke,” whose possession resulted in immediate arrest).