Saturday, September 27, 2014

Chrysalis Records: Doctor Doctor

Formed in England in 1969 under the name Hocus Pocus, UFO took its new name several months later in honor of the London club where they were discovered. In 1974, the band signed to Chrysalis Records and released their fourth LP “Phenomenon.” 

Our final look at Chrysalis Records is UFO’s first American single. While, “Doctor Doctor” failed to chart both in the UK and the US the first time it was released as a single, the band later released a live version of the same song in 1979. This second time around, it peaked in the UK at #35, but again, it failed to chart in the US.

It is the original studio version that I am using for our final look at Chrysalis Records.  By the way, former Ten Years After bassist Leo Lyons produced this cut.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fifth Anniversary - Chrysalis Records: Heartbreaker

Well, it’s our birthday – well anniversary really – for Reading Between the Grooves. Five years ago today, I came up with the idea to pass along my passion for recorded music to the masses and it has been a great ride. Nearly 160 thousand people have stumbled onto this blog since that rainy Saturday in 2009. Currently, I’ve penned 1,524 posts. Since I recently elaborated on the blog’s stats for our 1500th post, I won’t do that here. See me on the 1600th post after the first of the year.

For our Fourth Week Label feature and Feminine Fridays, I present a cut from the diminutive diva of rock: Ms. Pat Benatar. “Heartbreaker,” her first major single release, was issued during the fall of 1979. It was Benatar’s third single and her second release from her debut album “In the Heat of the Night.”

Although Benatar had a possible future in classical voice, she didn’t pursue this career path. Choosing to rock instead, Chrysalis Records gave her a shot and she became one of the better known female vocalists in the 1980s. Although receiving a great deal of airplay, “Heartbreaker” only charted at #23. Although it wasn’t her best known recording, “Heartbreaker” served to introduce this musical legend to the rest of us.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Chrysalis Records: Only When You Leave

Spandau Ballet, another Chrysalis act that fit the New Romantic musical genre, had a moderate hit in 1984 with “Only When You Leave.” While the band would never see the success that drove them to the #3 slot in the US with “True,” Spandau Ballet continued to put out excellent albums and singles.

Although the band had nine Top 10 hits in the UK, that success wasn’t mirrored in the US and only three singles charted in the Top 40: “True,” “Gold” at #29, and “Only When You Leave” at #34. As good as their recordings were, they never a received gold or platinum certification in the US.

“Only When You Leave” features the talented vocals and keyboards of Tony Hadley, the guitars of Gary Kemp, the bass of his brother Martin Kemp, and the drums of John Keeble. The best part of this song, in my estimation, is the saxophone work of Steve Norman. Norman, who also plays congas on the track, started out as a guitarist for the band. His saxophone work in Spandau Ballet is a testimony that he made the right decision in adding the instrument to his sound arsenal.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chrysalis Records: Bungle in the Jungle

Only two songs by Jethro Tull ever made it into the Top 40 and both were released by Chrysalis Records. The highest charting of the two, “Living in the Past,” was a reissue of a 1969 single release on Reprise. It peaked at #11 the second time around in 1972. Two years later, “Bungle in the Jungle,” charted at the #12 position. Recorded in late 1972 or early 1973 in Paris for an ill fated project and film, “Bungle in the Jungle” eventually found its way onto Tull’s 1974 LP “War Child.” It was a good thing, as it was the album’s best known track.

Lead singer and flautist Ian Anderson is quoted as saying that Jethro Tull was probably the catalyst for Chris Wright and Terry Ellis to form Chrysalis Records. Jethro Tull was having difficulty securing an album deal with a major label and the only single release that the band had up to this point was on MGM. Even with that, the label failed to get the band’s name correct, as the single, “Sunshine Day” backed with “Aeroplane,” was credited to “Jethro Toe.” Their management company, the Ellis-Wright Agency, rose to the occasion and started its own label and the rest is musical history.

While “Living in the Past” charted slightly higher, “Bungle in the Jungle” is probably the better known song of the two. Enjoy this blast from the past.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chrysalis Records: Pinball

I want to personally thank Ron Richards for today’s selection. I’ve known Ron since grade school and I must give him the proper respect for this suggestion. I had completely forgotten about Brian Protheroe’s near hit from 1974, “Pinball.” The song also inspired me to look at Chrysalis Records as my Fourth Week Label feature.

I categorized this as a near hit, as while it received some radio play in the US, the song only inched up the Hot 100 chart but failed to make it into the Top 40. Additionally, this recording was only a Top 30 hit in Protheroe’s native UK.

While it garnered some album play in 1974, you won’t hear this one on the radio today – which makes it a perfect selection for our Chrysalis Records’ feature. Martin Sutton, the music director for BRMB (Radio Free Birmingham), told Billboard in 1974 that songs like Protheroe’s “Pinball” were too good for radio. He may have had something there. It’s not always what is good that sells – some great music is often overlooked.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Chrysalis Records: Eyes Without A Face

Day Two of our look at Chrysalis Records takes us back to 1984 with Billy Idol’s first Top 10 hit in the US. Co-written by Idol and guitarist Steve Stevens, “Eyes without a Face” pays homage to the 1960 French horror film “Les Yeux Sans Visage,” which was released in the US under the title of “The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus.” “Les Yeux Sans Visage” can be translated as “Eyes without a Face”

The film’s inspiration on the writing of “Eyes without a Face” is additionally noticeable with the backup vocals sung by Perri Lister. Throughout the song, Lister sings “Les yeux sans visage.” While sometimes considered a soft rock track, “Eyes without a Face” dispels this proposition with the searing guitar work from Steve Stevens.  While the guitar break is excellent, it is Judi Dozier’s keyboards and Idol’s voice that make this cut spectacular.

As the second of four singles issued from the “Rebel Yell” album, “Eyes without a Face” was the highest charting cut from the LP. It peaked on the Hot 100 at #4 and placed almost as high on the Rock chart where it placed at #5. As expected, “Eyes without a Face” failed to chart very high on the Dance chart and only made it to #63. It’s inclusion on this chart was probably due to Idol’s previous success on this specialty chart with “Dancing by Myself,” “Mony Mony,” and “White Wedding.”

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Chrysalis Records: Reap The Wild Wind

Since it’s the fourth week of the month, I typically feature a record label and this month it’s Chrysalis Records. Founded in the UK in 1969, the label’s name was twofold. Chrysalis referenced the pupal stage of a butterfly as well as an amalgamation of the names of the founders: Chris Wright and Terry Ellis.

Before Chrysalis became a full-fledged label, its recordings were distributed in the UK by Island Records. Since Island had no outlet in the US at the time, Chrysalis artists were represented by a number of US labels. For example, Jethro Tull appeared originally on Reprise, Ten Years After’s Chrysalis recordings were issued on Columbia (US), and Procul Harum continued their relationship with A&M that had been established by their former UK label, Regal Zonophone.

Because of Jethro Tull’s relationship with Reprise, an arm of Warner Brothers, Chyrsalis debuted in North America as a Warner’s distributed label in 1972. In 1976, the label shifted to an independent distribution status and they were no longer represented by Warners.

In 1990, EMI purchased 50% control in Chrysalis and by the next year gained full control of the label. Eventually Chrysalis ceased to be an imprint with EMI Records being the successor label for Chrysalis artists. Warner Music Group currently owns the Chrysalis catalog – a full circle arrangement.

In the 1980s, a number of New Romantic artists were signed to the label with some having marginal to good success in the US. One of those acts that had marginal success was the British band Ultravox. Singed to Chrysalis when Midge Ure replaced John Foxx as lead vocalist in 1979, Ure’s line up of Ultravox recorded five albums for Chrysalis.

While Ultravox never achieved the success in the US as they did in their native UK, their sound is indicative of the New Romantic musical style of the 1980s. All five Ultravox’s Chrysalis albums were Top 10 releases in the UK; however, in the US only one LP, “Quartet,” charted in double digits when it peaked at #61 in 1982.

While their singles did exceedingly well in the UK with 16 charting in the Top 40 and one of those, 1980s “Vienna,” charting twice (at #2 and as a 1993 reissue at #13). Only two Ultravox singles charted in the US. “Dancing with Tears in my Eyes,” their second highest charting UK single at #3, only made it to #108 in America.

Today’s feature, 1983’s “Reap the Wild Wind,” peaked at #71 in the US despite its success at #12 in Britain. Unfortunately, it was greatest level of success that Ultravox garnered on this side of the Atlantic. “Reap the Wild Wind” was the debut single from their best selling US LP “Quartet.” Good stuff from a little known band in the US.