Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Guy Named Kimberly, An L.A. Band Trying To Be British, And A Not Particularly "Logical" Video

Just follow along with me, if you can:

Kimberley Rew (actually a male) was the guitarist in the Soft Boys, a short-lived New Wave/post-punk group led by Robyn Hitchcock (also a male - hey, it's England). Their 1980 album Underwater Moonlight is one of those albums I swiftly try to recommend to people who generally share my taste in music but aren't familiar with anything that hasn't been played on classic rock radio; in other words, while it may have been a complete commercial flop in its day, anyone who likes supremely catchy, playful, and passionate guitar pop would probably like said album. But enough about music that actually, you know, means something to me. After the Soft Boys broke up, Rew formed the Waves and wrote, recorded, and sang a track called "Going Down to Liverpool."
Hey now
Where you going with that load of nothing in your hand
I said hey now
All through this green and pleasant land

I'm going down to Liverpool to do nothing
I'm going down to Liverpool to do nothing
I'm going down to Liverpool to do nothing
All the days of my life
All the days of my life

Hey there
Where you going with that UB40 in your hand
I said hey there
All through this green and pleasant land

It appeared on a UK EP called "Shock Horror!" and later appeared on the band's debut album, which was only released in Canada, for some reason I cannot establish. By this time, American Katrina Leskanich had become the band's primary lead singer, and thus the band became known thereafter as "Katrina and the Waves." They signed with Capitol in 1985 and re-recorded "Going Down to Liverpool" with Katrina singing lead, and also re-recorded another earlier Rew-written song, "Walking on Sunshine," which ... well, you know.

In come the Bangles. Vicki Peterson happened to hear "Going Down to Liverpool" (I assume the original version) from a friend. "Cool, it's all about ... Liverpool! The Beatles were, like, from Liverpool! Let's do it!" I'm not sure the Bangles fully grasped the grim Northern English economic subtext (I believe a UB40 is an unemployment card - at least when it's not a pop-reggae group), but at least they contributed to the gender confusion, since they had a female bassist named Michael. Drummer Debbie Peterson, however, ended up singing lead, and it was probably one of the stronger tracks on All Over the Place, but I don't know if it would have gone anywhere without the video. Because the video features, of all people, the recently departed Leonard Nimoy. Randomly. Just sitting there. He's not playing Spock. He's not doing the Vulcan neck pinch. He's just ... in a music video.

How did the Paisley Foursome achieve this astonishing celebrity coup? Apparently it pays to have famous neighbors. From an A/V Club interview with Susanna Hoffs:
AVC: Speaking of videos, how did Leonard Nimoy come to be driving your limo in “Going Down To Liverpool”?

SH: I had grown up with Leonard. My family was very close to his family—pre-Star Trek, even—and his kids and me and my brothers all played together. Our parents were friends. So it was kind of a natural thing for me to call and ask him if he wouldn’t mind being in a video. I was just amazed that he said “yes.” [Laughs.] And my mother [Tamar Simon Hoffs] ended up directing the video.
See, never underestimate the power of an L.A. neighborhood connection. The end result was that the Bangles suddenly had a science fiction icon at their disposal. Whether the song itself had anything to do with Klingons and Romulans was entirely irrelevant. I can just see the conversation now: "All right, we've got $1,000 dollars, a camera, a car, and Leonard Nimoy. Let's make this happen." Some YouTube comment highlights:
You know Spock has ice water in his veins when he watches four hot babes wander away from his car without even batting an eye.

What is it, Spock gets laid once every 12 years? This was that day.

Logically speaking, Susanna Hoffs is the hottest thing in music history.

According to my calculations, there is a distinct AC hum at 1:20, I would suggest a suppressor capacitor across the alternator output - I will get Scotty onto it.....
The mere presence of the late Mr. Nimoy turned "Going Down to Liverpool" into something almost kinda sorta resembling a hit. However, it would take the assistance of a celebrity even more alien and even more creepy to turn the Bangles into genuine stars.

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