Friday, August 02, 2013

Friday 80s Flashback for August 2, 2013

[Pure Energy!] -- Earlier this week, I listened to the Mission Log Podcast's review of Star Trek (TOS) episode #26, "Errand of Mercy." Now, what does a 1967 sci-fi television episode have to do with 80s music? Well, "Errand of Mercy" featured Mr. Spock describing an advanced race of alien beings as being pure energy: "Fascinating. Pure energy. Pure thought. Totally incorporeal. Not life as we know it at all."

Fast forward 21 years, and synthpoppers Information Society (or InSoc to the initiated) samples "pure energy" for their 1988 hit, "What's on Your Mind (Pure Energy)" which appeared on the band's second full-length, albeit self-titled, album. And, of course, it's the one song just about everyone knows: It shot to #1 on the Dance chart and peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 pop chart. After name-checking this pop classic, Ken Ray asked his Mission Log Podcast co-host, John Champion, if he could name any other songs by InSoc. Ken was certain John didn't know even one other song, and he was right. Ken took this as irrefutable proof that no one could possibly name other InSoc songs. Of course, as soon as I heard this, I easily rattled off at least five other tunes. I immediately realized I had a theme for this week's Flashback. Regulars to the Flashback know I just love to avoid a band's more popular tunes when there are also overlooked yet wonderful gems in their catalog. If you'd like to check out a few of these lesser known, but no less awesome, songs, just read and hear more after the break.

Flashback #1"Hot steamy night alone | I wait for you. | Cold brittle morning alone | And I cry for you. | And when you finally call | You cloak your moves in the shadows."

There was InSoc before 1988. The band had released The InSoc EP in 1983 as well as their first full-length album one year later. Creatures of Influence (1984) was released on Wide Angle Records, and it was the first home of the band's very first hit: "Running." I say Creatures of Influence was the single's first home because it was later released as a Maxi-Single and it was also included on Information Society's major label debut in 1988. "Running" was a big hit in clubs, particularly in the freestyle scene, and it reached #2 on the Dance/Club Airplay charts. "Running" is also one of the few songs recorded and sung by short-time band member, Murat Konar, rather than the band's lead vocalist,  Kurt Harland. For the first Flashback of the day, we go to the remixed version of "Running" that appeared on Information Society (1988).

Flashback #2"Cold winds blow around me | And I can't help but think of you | All the things we wanted | All the things we had to do."

"Walking Away" was the second single released off of Information Society (1988). As such, it had the unenviable task of following up "What's on Your Mind (Pure Energy)," but it did pretty well as a top ten hit on two charts, peaking at #9 and #3 on the Pop and Dance charts respectively. You can hear an alteration of the baseline from "What's on Your Mind (Pure Energy),"and much of the synth programming is the same, but "Walking Away" is a slightly more sedate tune. Well, about as sedate as InSoc gets.

Flashback #3"There's something in the air that feels like winter | The kind we used to know | Yesterday can feel like such a long, long time ago."

You should know that I tend to count 1990 as part of the 80s. As the saying goes, there was no year zero. Hence, the first decade of the common era was years one through ten, not zero through nine. That means the 80s spanned from 1981 through 1990. Of course, I also include 1980 when I catalog 80s music, so my decade of music is actually 11 years in duration. But, hey, that just means there is a bonus year of music either way you slice it. Besides: My blog, my rules!

Anyway ...

The success of Information Society encouraged vocalist Harland to ask the band to explore more radical, harsher sounds. The other members were game, but they also wanted to keep their level pop sensibilities. The result, Hack (1990), is a rather diverse record, with only a few tracks having a passing resemblance to its immediate predecessor and other songs like "Seek 200" (or "Seek 2000" as some believe the title to be). Although critics were disappointed with repetition and excess on the record, there are several songs that are quite good and do a great job of showcasing Information Society's strengths. One such tune is our final Flashback of the day, and the album's first single: "Think." This tune peaked at #28 on the  U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and broke through to #5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play. For my visitors who were born after, say, 1986, you might find it interesting that the cassette single of "Think" was once offered through a cereal box promotion. Frosted Lucky Charms, indeed!

Once again, I remind you that the rule of three applies when doing Flashbacks. As I've made my three offerings, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the archives. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

And if you are on Twitter, and feel so inclined, please +K my influence in Music on @klout.

I'll see you in seven!

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