Duran Duran – Save a Prayer

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Save a Prayer was the sixth single released by Duran Duran, making its way to the airwaves on August 9, 1982. At the time, it was the most successful Duran Duran single in the band’s brief history. Backed by an eerie synth riff that is also insanely memorable, it also serves as my favorite Duran Duran song. It appears on the band’s 2nd album, Rio. Simon Le Bon’s vocals lend a weight to the proceedings that make the listener feel a sense of spiritual yearning, though the song is mostly about a 1 night stand. For me, this is where the band began to transcend their association with the New Romantic movement of the early 80’s. Lyrically, it captures the yin and yang of wanting to let go without any worries and facing the realization that “no strings” usually is an imaginary theory. “And you wanted to dance so I asked you to dance / But fear is in your soul / Some people call it a one night stand / But we can call it paradise / Don’t say a prayer for me now / Save it ’til the morning after”. The video helped solidify Duran Duran even further with the MTV crowd. It was filmed in Sri Lanka in April 1982 and lends itself to the song’s mystique. The song hit #2 on the UK charts and was not released as an official single in the US until early 1985, when it reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100. Notably, Eagles of Death Metal covered the song in 2015 on their album Zipper Down and performed the song live with Duran Duran in the fall of 2015. Ultimately, the song serves as the best entry point into the vast discography of Duran Duran.

Billy Idol – White Wedding

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

By 1982 Billy Idol was on the verge of stardom. Following a brief stint in the punk band Chelsea, he fronted Generation X over the course of several albums and singles. After Generation X came to a grinding halt, Idol released a stop-gap EP in 1981 that featured an updated version Gen X’s Dancing With Myself. Retaining the snarling punk attitude, but layering it with an increased focus on the airwaves, it laid the groundwork for Idol’s self titled hit album of 1982. White Wedding was released as a single on October 23, 1982 and instantly became one of Billy Idol’s most recognizable songs. A propulsive beat married to 80’s synths, punk attitude, and a “Greaser” 50’s vibe, this is an absolute classic. The album and single version label the song as Part 1, and yes there is a Part 2 – you’ll have to hunt down the 1982 12″ release to hear part 2, which is a more synth heavy coda to the main song. The song peaked at #6 in the UK and #36 in the US. The video was somewhat controversial at the time, but seems relatively tame by today’s standards. As great as this song is (perhaps Billy Idol’s best, solo or Generation X), it is worth your time to hunt down Rowland S. Howard’s haunting cover version. “It’s a nice day for a white wedding / it’s a nice day to…start again”

Electrafixion – Lowdown

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

What if I told you that a band that are considered 80’s legends, responsible for some of that generation’s timeless “New Wave” hits reformed in the mid 90’s under a different name with a grunge inspired sound? Not only that, but that the guitarist of The Smiths, a certain Johnny Marr, had a hand in writing a few tunes? Echo & the Bunnymen in their original incarnation broke up in the late 80’s (let’s not discuss the album without singer Ian McCulloch). Egos, members leaving the band (rejoining in some cases), and the death of drummer Pete de Freitas seemed to put an end to the band as we knew them. In the early 90’s, with the explosion of Nirvana, singer Ian McCulloch found inspiration in the rawness of Kurt Cobain’s lyrics and the honesty of the music. He partnered up with Johnny Marr on a few demo recording sessions which proved fruitful – his muse returned. The logical next step was reaching out to Echo guitarist Will Sergeant to rekindle their partnership. It wasn’t Echo & the Bunnymen – not yet, at any rate. Electrafixion is one of the noisiest records either musician has been involved with, and I consider it a lost classic. “Lowdown” was rescued from the Johnny Marr sessions and his influence is felt throughout the track. Echo (sorry) sound f/x, with a jangle that would sound at home on a record by The Smiths, it’s a promising opening minute. Mac’s vocals slither along, he’s cool and he knows it (he’s still like that). Music builds to a garage rock type roughness that was absent on the Echo records. Lyrics seem to reference depression and trying to rise above “You wanna be up there / But you’re underground / Now, now, now / Do you feel it lowdown”. The entire album is pretty great actually, if you like this song you should seek out the double disc reissue that is the entire Electrafixion discography. It is a shame they don’t play these songs live. The rest is history – Echo & the Bunnymen reformed and the new records hold their own against the classics. This phase of their history was forgotten about, never to be revisited with the same sense of angst and noise. Fortunately, records live forever. Enjoy.

Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush – Don’t Give Up

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Peter Gabriel solo is quite a different listening experience compared to his days with Genesis. I love both parts of his career equally (about 7 years with Genesis, 35+ years solo). His solo albums have incorporated radio friendly pop anthems, post-punk inspired noise, African rhythms, and Nine Inch Nails inspired industrial compositions – sometimes within the same track. Don’t Give Up was a duet with Kate Bush, released as a single from the 1986 album, So. Kate Bush provides an ethereal voice of hope in her verses, in response to Peter’s dour voice of resignation. The musical backing segues from a dark acoustic backing during the verses (Peter Gabriel) into an uplifting anthem during the chorus (Kate Bush). This is one of my favorite Peter Gabriel songs – solo or with Genesis. The lyrics seem to be ripped from the headlines of the last 5 years, not 1986. This is not a statement of damnation – it just shows that we don’t always have the answers needed when dealing with employment needs for hard-working, honest people. Often the unemployed are judged harshly but as the great author Arthur Nersesian once wrote “I had grazed along the surface of her actions and made deep judgments”. I think that applies to how people today can judge people who are working very hard, looking for employment. That’s what this song is all about, along with retaining a belief in self and never giving up. Key lyrics:

moved on to another town
tried hard to settle down
for every job, so many men
so many men no-one needs

don’t give up
’cause you have friends
don’t give up
you’re not the only one
don’t give up
no reason to be ashamed
don’t give up
you still have us

ABBA – The Winner Takes It All

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores lesser known tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

ABBA’s impact on pop culture over the last 35 years cannot really be disputed. It used to be in the “anti-pop” days of the early 90’s (grunge anyone?) there was more of a disdain towards all things pop. Slowly this stance began to change and indie stars such as Stephen Merritt of The Magnetic Fields would openly talk about their love of ABBA (the film Muriel’s Wedding also helped). Personally – I love their singles but have had a harder time falling in love with any album all the way through. For me, the quintessential ABBA song is the British #1 hit (#8 in the US) “The Winner Takes It All”. Here we have a song that details the aftermath of a divorce that coincidentally came out almost immediately after ABBA members Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog divorced. The vocals are handled by Fältskog and in my opinion it is the finest vocal performance of her career. All band members deny that the song is actually about the real life divorce, but consider me just a bit skeptical about that claim. The video for the song brings all the heartbreaking lyrics to life, leaving me with the thought “How on Earth did they manage to take such pain and create one of the finest songs ever cut out of it?” And you know what, maybe that’s the answer – this is a song from the heart, for the heartbroken (or those who remember the pain of being heartbroken). Key lyrics:

I don’t wanna talk
If it makes you feel sad
And I understand
You’ve come to shake my hand
I apologize
If it makes you feel bad
Seeing me so tense
No self-confidence
But you see
The winner takes it all
The winner takes it all

 

New Order – Lost Sirens

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Families can be curious things, can’t they? One minute family members are fighting, swearing never to deal with each other again – the next, they are vowing to always be there for each other. I tend to think of New Order in those terms – off and on fighting throughout the years, extended breaks, and even break ups. Somehow, someway – they’ve always come back together to make music that was mostly inspiring. It is no secret that their previous incarnation as Joy Division (minus Gillian Gilbert / plus Ian Curtis) is one of those bands that I discovered early in my teen years and has inspired me to try and forge my own path in life. I tend to frustrate people when they ask what I think of New Order, because my stock answer has always been “I like the bits that sound like Joy Division”. Not entirely true, mind you – but fun to say. So here we are in 2013 with a “new” New Order record, 8 years after the last. The question on the tip of my tongue was “Well, is it worth it? Why bother?” The answer is a resounding yes – this is a classic New Order album (just stop with the mini-album subtitles)

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