Boy Bands

These bands epitomize what music groups from the eighties were really about.  Sublime songs, distinctive looks and unmatched style.

S.B.Spandau Ballet is an English band who were part of the New Romantic movement formed in 1976 and consisted of  Tony Hadley, Steve Norman, John Keeble along with brothers Gary and Martin Kemp.  They had originally gone by the names of  The Cut then The Makers but changed it after one of their friends noticed the words Spandau Ballet written in graffiti on the wall of a restroom in a Berlin nightclub.  They released their first album titled Journeys to Glory in 1981 which featured songs such as “To Cut a Long Story Short,” “Musclebound” and “The Freeze.”  A year later their album Diamond came out including the songs “Chant #1,” “Paint Me Down” and “She Loved Like Diamond.”

While their first two albums had several songs which landed on the music charts it wasn’t until 1983 when their album True was released that the group reached stardom.  It was also when Steve Norman who had previously been the guitarist began playing both the percussion and saxophone creating an unmistakable sound that is classy to this day.  The title track “True” was an international hit and even appeared on the soundtrack to 16 Candles.  The music video for “True”  is pure elegance as all five guys are distinguishably dressed in  suits.  In 1984 they released their follow-up album Parade which wasn’t nearly as successful as True and the song “Only When You Leave” was the first as well as last song that charted in the U.S.  The band also performed on both Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and Live Aid at Wembley Stadium in 1985.  That same year their album The Singles Collection which was a compilation of all of their hits songs was released.  The following year after signing to another record label Spandau Ballet released their fifth studio album.

In the fall of 1989 after the band had gone on a hiatus for several years during which time Gary and Martin Kemp began their acting careers Spandau Ballet released Heart Like a Sky but this was a far cry from their other albums as it didn’t do well in sales and wasn’t released in the states in addition to only being released  in certain countries.  By that time since the Kemp brothers had begun acting music was no longer their main priority and they felt things were changing within the group.  Not long after the release of their most recent album the band broke up.   More problems arose years later in 1999 when Tony Hadley, Steve Norman and John Keeble tried sung Gary Kemp who was the main songwriter of Spandau Ballet for alleged unpaid royalties but ultimately lost the case.  The three were also forced to sell the shares they owned in Spandau Ballet’s company to Gary Kemp in order to pay their legal fees.  As a result the three began touring under the name of  Hadley, Norman & Keeble and even released a DVD from one of their concerts shot in the fall of 2002 titled Hadley, Norman & Keeble An Evening of Gold which contained new renditions of Spandau Ballet songs along with a couple of covers.

In March of 2009 after their legal problems and other issues were finally resolved many rumors had been sparked regarding a reunion and Spandau Ballet announced at a press conference that they were in fact launching a comeback tour.  They were so in demand with fans wanting to see them that their first show sold out in no time at all and more dates were added to their tour.  A month later the group who had last played together in 1990 performed and granted an interview on the BBC television show Friday Night with Jonathon Ross.  In October of that same year Spandau Ballet’s new album fittingly titled Once More was released featuring two new songs in additition to revised versions of other previous material.  They were also awarded Best Comeback of 2009 by Virgin Media.

Spandau Ballet is an amazing group beginning with their name.  Of the numerous ballads to emerge from the 80’s “True” stands out as one of the best.  The song was also sampled on P.M. Dawn’s “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss”  in 1991 and while “True” was the band’s biggest hit of their career in my opinion “Gold” is just as fabulous if not better from the bongos and synthesizer to the heavy sighs that no other song can compare to.  The music video is all-out 80’s from beginning to end.

 

DuranOne of the original boy bands before many others entered the eighties scene soon after were Duran Duran.  The group took their name after the villain Dr. Durand Durand from the movie Barbarella.  While the English New Wave band was originated by Nick Rhodes and John Taylor in 1978 due to the original members departing while others were in and out at various times by 1980 Andy Taylor, Simon LeBon and Roger Taylor had joined cementing all five.  Not only were the bandmates good looking which earned them the nickname “the prettiest boys in rock” they were also very chic having worked with fashion designers as well as a stylist which helped to create their image.  The British press even dubbed them the Fab Five comparing them to the Beatles who were referred to as The Fab Four.  While their early songs such as “Girls on Film” and “Planet Earth” became hits a new music channel called MTV began playing their videos which helped to launch their career.  They were also one of the first groups to have their music videos shot by directors using 35mm film movie cameras which made their videos appear more professional.  Duran Duran were so widely popular that in 1982 Princess Diana of Wales declared them her favorite band.

By the time their second album Rio was released in 1983 their music videos which included “Rio” and “Hungry Like the Wolf”  among others were in heavy rotation on MTV.  Similar to that of Beatlemania girls throughout the world would scream in excitement just looking  at them evident at concerts, record signings and other places where fans encountered them and even called themselves Duranie’s.  Many girls including myself had their own favorite member and in addition to having posters of the group hung up on their bedroom walls they may have even written his name on their folders, book covers or other areas to express their adoration as on my folders I drew large hearts and would write his name inside of it.  My first major crush.  In addition to having many hit songs and selling millions of albums Duran Duran have won numerous awards for their achievement in music and even had a documentary about their 1983-1984 World Tour called Sing Blue Silver which aired on MTV under the title Blue Silver which is derived from the song  “The Chauffeur” off their album Rio.  In 1984  to coincide with the documentary the group also released a book of the same name containing pictures, biographies and information on them while on their World Tour.

By 1985 though they were still a group bandmates decided to branch out and do side projects.  Andy and Roger Taylor (as none of the Taylor’s are related) joined the band the Power Station alongside Robert  Palmer and Tony Thompson while Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and John Taylor formed Arcadia.  While both groups were successful fans breathed a sigh of relief as that same year all five original members reunited to record the song “A View to a Kill” for the James Bond film of the same title.  Despite the fact that all the members were still in Duran Duran by that time things were not the same as they had been just a couple of years earlier as their screaming and idolizing fans were now older and the guys were no longer gracing the covers of teen magazines.  The band also contributed their vocal talents to Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in 1984 and on July 13, 1985 they sang at the Live Aid charity concert in the John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, PA.

By 1986 transitions in the group had begun as Roger Taylor decided to leave followed by Andy Taylor.  The three remaining members continued to play together and had several replacements for both Roger and Andy Taylor though without all five original members it just wasn’t the same.  In 1986 Warren Cuccurullo who had previously worked with Frank Zappa and was a founding member of the group Missing Persons was hired by the group when they recorded the album Notorious but the songs were entirely different than their prior albums as the genre had changed compared to the way they sang and played years earlier.  By 1989 the four members consisted of Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Warren Cuccurullo and Sterling Campbell.

By the nineties the group had once again gone through a transformation as Sterling Campbell left in 1991 while the remaining four members continued to record.  In 1997 John Taylor exited the band leaving Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and Warren Cuccurrillo as a trio.  Several years later in 2000 members of Duran Duran decided to reform the original group so they fired Warren Cuccurrillo and John, Roger and Andy Taylor all rejoined as countless fans throughout the world had been awaiting this for years.  In 2003 the group comprised of all five original members performed live as the last time they all played together was at Live Aid eighteen years earlier.  They also began working on new material and even went on tour.  In 2004 they released the album Astronaut though the formation didn’t last long as in 2006 Andy Taylor left the group for a second time.  Since then the four remaining members have continued to work together by performing at concerts and in late 2007 they released their twelfth studio album titled Red Carpet Massacre.  Despite the departure of Andy Taylor Duran Duran are the same group millions of fans love and they still perform, tour and release new music which is quite an accomplishment for a group who have been around for more than thirty years.

Duran Duran are the true definition of heartthrobs as girls went absolutely crazy for them in the ’80s and both their songs and music videos are still terrific to listen to and watch.  Though several members left, were replaced then re-joined at various times throughout their career the fact that four out of the five original bandmates are still together is not only rare it’s truly impressive.

 

KajaThis British group created in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire in 1979 had previously gone by the name of Art Nouveau was comprised of bassist and vocalist Nick Beggs, guitarist and vocalist Steve Askrew, keyboardist Stuart Croxford Neale and drummer Jeremy “Jez” Strode.  They released a song titled “The Fear Machine” but sales were disappointing as it only sold a few hundred copies and even though they were a band were unable to get signed to a recording contract.  Several years later the group realized they needed a change so they advertised for a lead singer and Christopher Hamill who went by the name of Limahl which is an anagram of his last name auditioned and made the cut.

After Limahl joined the group in 1982 they made a wise decision to change their name to Kajagoogoo.  The unique yet perky name was devised by cleverly writing out the first sounds a baby makes which gave them GagaGooGoo and by slightly modifying the word they came up with Kajagoogoo.  Soon after becoming Kajagoogoo they were signed to EMI Records.  In the early part of 1983 their smash hit “Too Shy” was released off their debut album White Feathers. Unbeknown to some the song was produced by Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran.  The song instantly rose to No. 1 on the U.K. Singles Chart and No. 5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.  While the group released several other songs off their album “Too Shy” was the only song that charted in the states which is why it’s widely considered a one-hit-wonder.  The music video is one of the all-time dreamiest videos as it features the spike-haired group performing on stage in a nightclub and as the waitress is cleaning up she looks onto the dance floor and begins having visions of the dancers at various periods of time making it even more enthralling.

While they were enjoying their success as is the case in many groups jealousy among members began to arise resulting in Limahl being fired by the rest of his bandmates.  After Limahl was no longer in the group rather then replace him with someone else the remaining four members chose become a quartet.  They released their second album Islands in 1984 which had a couple of hit songs but was met with moderate success.  The group also changed their name to Kaja but only in the U.S.  In the U.K. they still went by Kajagoogoo.  Meanwhile Limahl who had gone solo had a hit with the song “Never Ending Story” from the movie of the same title that same year.

By this time Jez Strode decided to leave the group so the other three members then changed the name of the group from to Kajagoogoo to Kaja.  In 1985 Kaja released their first and only album titled Crazy People’s Right to Speak which sold poorly and shortly after that they called it quits.  Years later in 2003 band members all got together for VH1’s Bands Reunited which for many people who are nostalgic about the 80’s was fabulous.  After appearing on the show the group was besieged by offers to continue playing together but once again members of the band began disagreeing about things which basically nixed any plans of them all getting back together.  While Bands Reunited was able to bring all of the members together again for a performance it wasn’t until several years later in 2007 when Nick Beggs, Steve Askrew and Stuart Croxford Neale who now went back to their original name Kajagoogoo decided to go forth with the reunion but without Jez Strode and Limahl so in essence it wasn’t really a reunion but rather a get together for some of the bandmates.  The trio released the single titled “Rocket Boy” later that same year.

In the early part of 2008 Kajagoogoo released their album titled Gone to the Moon.  Shortly after this and much to people’s surprise it was announced that the three members would reunite with both Jez Strode and Limahl making them the Kajagoogoo fans remembered and missed.  Since reforming the entire group Kajagoogoo has written new material as well as toured.  That same year the group released Death Defying Headlines E.P. with all five original members as the last time this occurred was back in 1983.  In 2009 Death Defying Headlines (The Dance Remixes) was released which included remixes of the same four songs.  In the latter part of 2009 they also released a compilation of their songs with a CD/DVD titled Too Shy – The Best of Kajagoogoo & Limahl which not only contains two new songs but also a promotional video for a song called  “Space Cadet” and not only featured their previous hits but also two new songs one of which was entitled “Space Cadet” that also included a promotional video for it.  In December of that year in conjunction with the release of their recent compilation the group released the album White Feathers (Manhattan Clique Remixes) much to fans’ delight.  While their songs are a far cry from “Too Shy” at least they’re back together despite changing times.

Kajagoogoo is one of those groups who whenever you hear their name you automatically think of the song “Too Shy.”  Not only is the name of the group appealing but the song is still catchy all these years later.  Of all the music groups to get back together I’m so glad Kajagoogoo is one of them.  They may have only had one hit song in the states but it will always remain a classic.  I can remember watching the video when I was younger and each and every time I’d wish that I were the girl staring at all the dancers as each era transformed.  Even now whenever I see the video it’s like looking at an ever changing fantasy.

 

MenudoMenudo is a Puerto Rican band founded in the late 1970’s by producer Edgardo Diaz.  He had previously managed a Spanish teen group made up of both boys and girls from 1973 to 1976 but decided to have an all boy band comprised of five members.  The one difference between the previous groups he had managed and this one was that there was a rule to being in it which stated once any of the bandmates turned 16, their voices changed, they grew facial hair or grew too tall they would be removed and replaced with someone else as Edgardo Diaz’s intention was to keep the group young.  The name of the group came about when one of the original members’ sister was entering the driveway of their house and when she saw five young boys singing and dancing she exclaimed loudly, “i Quanto menudo hay aqui” which meant “What a lot of young folk we have here” and thus Menudo was born.

When they first started out they toured Puerto Rico and performed at shopping malls (long before Tiffany) in addition to other events where they could showcase their talent.  The group not only sang but also danced which is a definite crowd-pleaser.  In 1977 their first album Las Fantasmas was released and they not only had a hit song off the album they even got their own television show that aired every Saturday night.  The next year their follow-up album titled Laura came out.  After that they released several more albums during the late 1970’s that were somewhat successful at which time the rotating of certain members began.  Soon after the group became very popular throughout Latin America as well as other countries.  They were so famous they even had their own private jet which had their name on both sides of the aircraft.  Despite the fact that bandmates were constantly being added and replaced they had such adoring fans that the words “Menuditis” referring to the fact that they were contagious to the group and “Menudomania” describing the craze surrounding them became part of the Spanish language.  They even starred in their own movie called Una Llamada Menudo which featured some of their songs.

Though the group was well known among various parts of the world they hadn’t yet conquered America until 1983 when they appeared on an episode of Silver Spoons entitled “Menudo Madness.”  That same year they also appeared in “Menudo on ABC” which were several music spots that aired during the fall of ABC’s Saturday morning programming block as they were now international superstars.  In 1984 they released their first English album titled Reaching Out by which time members were coming and going like a revolving door.  That July Ricky Martin who would go on to have the most prominent career of all the boys in Menudo replaced Ricky Melendez who was the only original member remaining.  A year later their second and self-titled English album was released as both albums were very successful in the states and now American girls had become enamored with them.

By 1987 the band began a complete about-face going from being young, cute popstars to more of a good looking guy band as their music was changing to a harder edged sound while bandmates continued to alternate.  Throughout the 1990’s Menudo released new music as well as toured but in 1997 creator Edgardo Diaz decided to sell the rights and name of Menudo resulting in the band changing their name to MDO which became an entirely different group than Menudo.  The differences between Menudo and MDO were that instead of being removed from the band because of ridiculously enforced rules there were no restrictions and rather than have the group be made up of young boys MDO were young guys.  The one significant thing about MDO which was comprised of five members was that four of them were former bandmates in Menudo with the exception of one.  In 1997 MDO released their self-titled Spanish album that sold very well in Latin America.  By 2000 the group had released two more albums one of which featured several English songs but by 2003 changes had begun as members started departing ultimately causing them to disband as they chose to pursue other projects.

By 2005 the original members of MDO had all left and since the world had become consumed with reality shows it was decided that a new MDO would form so three of the members were contestants on the Puerto Rican reality/talent show Objecto Fama along with a fourth member who completed the group.  Unlike the previous group that had five members this one consisted of four.  Their first album Otra Vez sold quite well and they toured through Latin America.  Not wanting to accept the fact that nobody really cared about Menudo or MDO as one group’s members had been shifted in and out for more than thirty years while the other that lasted no more than a few years, would break up and then be replaced with completely different people in 2007 an entirely new Menudo was featured on the MTV reality series titled Making Menudo but it got very poor ratings (who’d have guessed?) and they broke up a little over a year later.

Surprisingly in 2008 MDO who were still the same group since starting out in 2005 released their new album Sabe A Ti but they emerged with a more mature look as this time instead of  singing and dancing as they had been doing since they began performing they were now playing their own instruments.  Though they haven’t put out any new material since this last album they still appear to be a group.  So far.

When Menudo became known it couldn’t have been a more perfect time for an all boy band during that particular period as girls of all ages worldwide had crushes and dreams about their favorite member.  The only problem was the constant changing of bandmates.  Not only did it probably sadden countless girls who favored that one person only to have their hearts shattered when someone else replaced him but more importantly what did it do to the kids in the band?  Just think each and every one of them knew upon entering the group that for whatever reason whether it be that they hit puberty or became 16 they’d eventually be thrown out.  Talk about a confidence booster.  It’s no wonder so many child acts turn to drugs and a life of crime.  So much for stardom.

 

Musical YouthMusical Youth is a  British reggae band who came together in 1979 in Birmingham, England and were comprised of two sets of brothers Michael & Kelvin Grant, Patrick & Freddie “Junior” Waite and Dennis Seaton.  The fathers of both the Grants and the Waites decided to put a band together as the Waite’s father Frederick had been a member of a Jamaican reggae group called The Techniques.  When they originally created the group it was made up of the Grant brothers and the Waite brothers along with Frederick who was the lead singer.  They began performing at various pubs and got signed to 021 Records which was a local record label.  In 1981 the group released a double single titled “Political” and “Generals.”  They appeared on an evening show on BBC Radio and MCA Records spotted their talent and soon signed them.  At that time Frederick Waite realized he didn’t quite fit in being the only adult in a band with four young boys so Dennis Seaton was hired as his replacement on lead vocals.

In 1982 their debut album titled Youth of Today was released and that fall the song “Pass the Dutchie” came out quickly becoming No. 1 on the U.K. Singles Chart soon after in addition to being the fastest selling single of the year and going on to sell more than 5 million copies. Though it was the only song the group released in the U.S. they still had a fanbase.  “Pass the Dutchie” is based on a song called “Pass the Kouchie” by the Mighty Diamonds as it was a drug terminology referring to passing a marijuana pipe but due to the ages of the kids in Musical Youth ranging from 11 to 15 to avoid harsh criticism and possibly even banning of the tune their manager suggested they change the lyric by replacing “Kouchie” with “Dutchie” which is a Jamaican cooking pot.  With that done they were able to get radio stations to play the song in addition to the airing of their music video as  MTV rarely played music videos by black artists.  Their album contained several other songs titled “Youth of Today” and “Never Gonna Give You Up” both of which landed on the U.K. Singles Chart.  Other songs such as “Heartbreakers” and “Tell Me Why” were also released but failed to become hits.  The group also collaborated with Donna Summer on “Unconditional Love” and the following summer their second album Different Style! was released but had changed from their previous one which was more reggae whereas this was more R&B/pop and lacked the success that Youth of Today had as their final hit song was called “Sixteen.”

Similar to that of child stars once their careers come to an end Musical Youth were no different and shortly afterward some of the members began to suffer from financial as well as personal problems while others continued to work in the music industry.  In 1985 Dennis Seaton left the band resulting in them splitting up but by then they hadn’t been heard from in quite some time.  Though many people had been hoping for the group to jump on the bandwagon and have a reunion as so many others have they were dashed when, in 1993 Patrick Waite who had a criminal record and was awaiting a court appearance collapsed and died at the age of 24 from a heart condition brought on by a rare virus while at his uncle’s.  While both Michael Grant and Dennis Seaton planned on reforming Musical Youth in 2001 despite the fact that it wouldn’t have been the real group anyway since both Kelvin Grant and Junior Waite were no longer in it due to the events of September 11th any plans for a tour were now cancelled.  In 2003 Musical Youth performed as part of the Here and Now Tour that featured concerts played by musicians of the 1980’s.  In 2005 they also performed at the Wiesen festival in Austria.

Widely regarded as a one-hit-wonder “Pass the Dutchie” is a unique song not only in terms of the lyrics but the rhythm is so laid back and relaxing it might even make people want to sip juice out of a coconut or drink some other beverage while lying on a hammock or possibly do other things seeing that the true definition of the song “Pass the Dutchie”  is in fact about passing a blunt yet more than three decades later it still remains cleverly ambiguous because of the fact that the reference of “Dutchie” could be perceived as a Jamaican cooking pot, a joint or even a political statement.  Touche.

 

ABCABC is an English New Wave band who had a string of top ten hits on both the U.K. and U.S. charts during the ’80s.  ABC  formed in 1980 when Mark White a guitarist and Stephen Singleton a saxophonist had their own group called Vice Versa and were interviewed by Martin Fry, a music journalist for a magazine which he edited called Modern Drugs.  Not long after he met them Martin was asked to join the group and play synthesizer alongside other members drummer David Robinson and bassist  Mark Lickley.  Within a short time of Martin Fry becoming a member the group changed their name to ABC and he took over as lead vocalist.  Shortly after their first single “Tears Are Not Enough” was released  David Robinson left and was replaced by David Palmer as bandmates left and were replaced quite frequently throughout the group’s career.

In 1982 their debut album Lexicon of Love was released and reached #1 in the U.K. Albums Chart which included the mega-hits “Poison Arrow,” “Look of Love” and “All of My Heart.”   Their music videos were classy yet cool at the same time featuring the guys in stylish suits and who could forget Martin Fry’s trademark gold lame suit worn like no one else could.

Their second album Beauty Stab came out toward the end of 1983 and while a couple of songs off it were released it didn’t compare to the massive success of their previous one.  By the end of 1984  Martin Fry and Mark White were the only two remaining members of the original line-up as other members were various session musicians.  In 1985 they released How to Be a …Zillionaire! which contained the songs “Be Near Me” and “(How to Be a) Millionaire” which were the only hits off the album.  By 1987 things had begun changing in the band as Martin Fry who had gone on a hiatus while being treated for Hodgkin’s Disease and original founding member Mark White recorded their next album titled Alphabet City as a duo.  The album was inspired by the Alphabet City section of Manhattan where they had both previously lived.  The album was well-received as “When Smokey Sings” which was a tribute to Motown legend Smokey Robinson was its biggest hit.  In 1989 ABC released their fifth album simply titled Up but unlike their earlier music which was infectious pop this was more along the line of house music and was a complete change.  Several songs were released off the album but they didn’t have the huge success of their songs from years earlier.  A year later their greatest hits album titled Absolutely hit shelves which included a revised version of “Look of Love” titled “The Look of Love ’90.”

In 1991 after changing record labels from Polygram to EMI the two remaining members released the album Abracadabra which was similar to their previous one which had a techno sound and got both positive and negative feedback.  By 1997 ABC released Skyscraping which was was an homage to some of Martin Fry’s musical heroes but by that time Mark White had left and was replaced with Glen Gregory of Heaven 17 and Keith Lowndes making them a trio.  Several singles were released and while the reviews were rather good as the songs were both pop and dance-oriented overall album sales didn’t do as well as expected.  In 1999 ABC released their first live album though Martin Fry was the only original member as everyone else was different.  Two years later the Very Best of ABC was released which was basically the same as their Greatest Hits album released eleven years earlier except it featured two new songs by Martin Fry plus a DVD and a bonus disc of their remixes.

With many people yearning to see reunions of many eighties bands in 2004 VH1 Bands Reunited attempted but failed to get the original line-up back together as Martin Fry and David Palmer were the only two who agreed to it while the other members declined to participate. As a result of the partial reunion both Martin Fry and David Palmer toured the United and States and following that in the summer of 2006 began working on a new album titled Traffic released two years later.  While Martin Fry has continued to perform and tour using the name ABC he is the only original member so technically speaking it’s not really the group but if he still wears his retro shiny suits it will no doubt bring nostalgia to many people.  Myself included.

ABC is an altogether excellent group.  While all of their songs are great “Look of Love” is quintessential pop.  Not only is the tempo fast combined with a synthesizer and saxophone but they took a classic fable and reworked it brilliantly as the verse “If you judge a book by the cover then you judge the look by the lover” not only rhymes perfectly but makes so much sense at the same time.  I should know.

 

Culture ClubIn the early ’80s the British band Culture Club which included Boy George,  Jon Moss, Mikey Craig and Roy Hay had international hits with songs such as “Time (Clock of the Heart),” “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” and “Karma Chameleon” just to name a few.  Much of the group’s attention focused on lead singer Boy George born George Alan O’Dowd who dressed extremely androgynous from his long dreadlocks and glamorized makeup to his outlandish clothing.  The singer, who was influenced by acts such as David Bowie and Iggy Pop had previously performed with the group Bow Wow Wow under the pseudonym “Lieutenant Lush” but was quickly booted out by their manager following a live disastrous performance as he felt the singer was too effeminate.  Following this Boy George met former DJ and bass player Mikey Craig who asked him if he wanted to form a band to which Boy George agreed.  The duo had planned on naming the band In Praise of Lemmings but after adding guitarist John Suede they renamed themselves Sex Gang Children.  Following this Jon Moss, who had been a drummer for acts such as Adam and the Ants, The Damned and London was added along with guitarist Roy Hay as he replaced John Suede and they now began going by the name of Culture Club.

In 1982 while there were a number of music groups around Culture Club’s new wave sound blended perfectly with their image creating an instant fanbase.  By 1983 their songs as well as their music videos were being played quite often and it seemed like Culture Club would be around for years to come.  Unbeknown to many at the time some of the group’s songs were of the heartbreak Boy George suffered stemming from his relationship with Jon Moss as rumor has it he left the singer for a woman though Moss has never publicly admitted to it.

By 1986 personal issues between Boy George and Jon Moss in addition to the singer’s battle with drug addiction and other problems within the band resulted in the dissolution of Culture Club in spite of the fact that they never officially made an announcement.

Culture Club was a major eighties group because their songs are classic pop and their entire look screamed 1980’s.  While the other three guys were good looking they weren’t nearly as eccentric as Boy George whose style alone stirred publicity.

* I still remember the time my grandmother visited us and when she came into my room and saw my Culture Club poster she uttered the words “She has way too much makeup on” referring to Boy George.  My thoughts exactly.

 

Wham!Wham! was a British duo composed of George Michael and Andrew Ridgely in 1981 who have sold over 25 million albums worldwide.  Due to an American group having a similar name they went by the name Wham! U.K. in the United States for a brief time until they were established then just went by the name of Wham!  George Michael born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou and Andrew Ridgely first met while they were students at school in Bushey, Hertfordshire, England and in 1979 joined a ska band called the Executive with three of their friends for a short time until they broke up resulting in the forming of Wham!  They initially signed with Innervision Records in 1982 but later sued the label in order to be released from the contract they were under along with agreeing to forfeit any future royalties they would receive from all album sales.  Shortly after they signed with CBS Records.

While the group consisted of just the two men George Michael was mainly the one who was in charge as he not only wrote, produced and sang lead occasionally he even played an instrument.  Although their album hadn’t yet been released their single “Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)” was one of the first singles sung by a British group that included rapping.  While their first single wasn’t a big hit several months later “Young Guns (Go For It)” was released and when the group got their chance to be on BBC’s show Top of the Pops it instantly became a hit and got people’s attention.  Their look was quite noticeable as the two often dressed in apparel such as leather and denim outfits.  In addition to the two rapping their clothing matched the tough-guy persona they were projecting which was something no other artist nor group had done before and it really caught people’s attention.

In the summer of 1983 their debut album Fantastic was released but some people were familiar with the band since a few of their songs had already gotten airplay and appeared on television before.  At the same they were enjoying the success of  their album their former record label Innervision Records released non-single album songs from Fantastic entitled “Club Fantastic Megamix” as the company owned all rights to the album.  The group was not at all pleased with Innervision’s decision and not only publicly condemned the move they also urged fans not to buy it.  Even though Wham! was no longer signed to Innervision Records their legal battles with the company continued to wage on as the record label admitted that there were royalty discrepancies with Wham!’s contact and the repercussions resulted in the bankruptcy and the undoing of Innervision entirely.

In 1984 they released the album Make It Big which turned out to be the most successful album of their career.  The album included hit songs such as “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go,” “Careless Whisper,” “Freedom” and “Everything She Wants.”  George Michael wrote “Careless Whisper” when he was seventeen-years-old and was boarding a bus on his way to his job as as an usher at a cinema.  The now classic “Last Christmas”  was not on the album Make It Big but instead was on a double A-side for “Everything She Wants.”  At Andrew Ridgely’s insistence the duo’s image had begun to dramatically change beginning with the surly dispositions, leather bad-boy clothing,  rapping and risque lyrics they had previously displayed which were now replaced with clean-cut young men wearing preppy clothing and singing more positive upbeat lyrics which only furthered their popularity especially in the U.S.

In the spring of 1985 Wham! embarked on a world tour of China and footage taken was seen in their music video for “Freedom.”  Unknown to most people this would unfortunately be the last time Wham! would be a group as the following year in 1986 George Michael and Andrew Ridgely officially announced the disbanding of Wham!  They did reveal that their final single and album would be released soon along with a final concert appropriately titled The Final.  “The Edge of Heaven” became the long awaited final single and “Where Did Your Heart Go?” was their last single in the United States. Their final appearance as Wham! was at London’s Wembley Stadium on June 28, 1986 much to the dismay of fans. Following the much publicized break-up of Wham! George Michael went on to have one of the most successful careers as a solo artist while Andrew Ridgely began racing cars.  In 1990 Andrew Ridgely released his first and only solo album titled Son of Albert but sales were disappointing.  In January 1991 he joined George Michael on stage for several songs at the end of his performance at the Rock in Rio event at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janiero as it marked the last time the two performed together live.

At a time when groups from the 1980’s are reconciling and reuniting for tours and performances unfortunately Wham! is not one of them. In 2012 rumors swirled regarding the celebration of the 30th anniversary of Wham!’s first record but George Michael dismissed them as just that saying there was no truth that the group would reform for a one-off concert no mater how much their fans were hoping there would be.

Wham! is an extremely talented group whose songs are not only sensational pop but their ballads are beautiful.   While most bands were made up of four or five members Wham! was one of only several that had two.  No matter how many years it’s been since their last hit the group’s songs won’t ever become outdated especially “Last Christmas” as it’s now traditional to play it at the holidays and “Careless Whisper” that is utterly incomparable especially the sax solo at the intro and the music video really depicts the lyrics of the song.

 

New EditionIn the mid-80’s Pop/R&B group New Edition surfaced and gave listeners a change from the norm.  Bobby Brown, Michael Bivins, Ricky Bell, Travis Pettus and Corey Rockley who were all friends from elementary school formed in the Roxbury section of Boston in 1978.  After attending a talent show in Roxbury they met local manager and choreographer Brooke Payne.  They auditioned  for Payne and he decided to manage them along with naming the group New Edition signifying that they were a new edition to the Jackson 5.  Changes were soon to come as Corey Rockley left and was replaced with Ralph Tresvant who had been acquainted with several members of the group.  Not too long after that Travis Pettus departed and Brooke Payne’s nephew Ronnie DeVoe became his replacement.

With the newly reformed group they performed at Boston’s Strand Theatre for the local Hollywood Talent Night held by singer and producer Maurice Starr in 1982.  Though the band failed to win coming in at second place Starr saw something in the five boys and brought them back to his studio the following day to record their debut album Candy Girl.  The album was released in 1983 on Starr’s record label Streetwise Records and featured the songs “Popcorn Love,” “Is This the End” and “Jealous Girl” which went to #1 on both the American R&B singles chart and the U.K. singles chart.  Yet after all their hard work from rehearsing to sacrificing many things they were each given a check in the amount of $1.87 which was completely ludicrous not to mention beyond insulting and were told the reason for this was because of the cost of the tour budget in addition to other expenses.  As a result of this New Edition severed all ties with Maurice Starr in 1984 and sued his company to get out of the unscrupulous contract he had them under.

After the group was released from their agreement with Streetwise Records they signed a bigger recording deal with MCA Records that same year.  Maurice Starr sued them for the name but ultimately lost the case.  Not long after that their second and self-titled album was released and both “Cool It Now” and “Mr. Telephone Man” became immediate hits.  While things should have been great for the members who were between the ages of 15 and 16 it was anything but as their legal issues were far from over and they soon discovered that they weren’t actually signed to MCA Records but rather the production company Jump and Shout who had its own deal with MCA making it so that the company had complete control over the group.  Wanting out of that cooked arrangement each member of the band had to borrow $10,000 from MCA which got them out of the deal with Jump and Shout and were now signed directly to MCA Records though they had now become in debt to the label.  Due to their financial obligation all five kids had to continually record and tour in order to pay MCA what they were owed.

Their third album titled All for Love was released in the latter part of 1985.  While it didn’t do as well as their previous album “Count Me Out,” “A Little Bit of Love (Is All It Takes)” and “With You All the Way” made it onto the charts and received airplay.  The group was so popular they even appeared in the movie Krush Groove and recorded a Christmas album titled All Over the World.  By the end of the year; however, problems had begun arising regarding Bobby Brown’s behavior.  Due to this he was voted out of the group by the rest of his bandmates and embarked on a successful solo career.  Throughout 1986 the group remained a quartet but knew they needed a replacement for the fifth member.  A year later Johnny Gill was voted into the group and became part of New Edition.  While the change of members upset many fans the group not only remained together but in the summer of 1988 they released their fifth album titled Heart Break which featured Johnny Gill as co-lead vocalist.

By the late eighties since members were no longer the young, cute kids they were when first starting out they wanted to do their own thing which included side projects.  In 1990 at the suggestion of producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe formed Bell Biv Devoe and just like Bobby Brown had a flourishing career. At around the same time both Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill released solo albums but fans longed to see the group in its entirety.  They didn’t have to wait long since later that year New Edition which now included Bobby Brown totaling six members performed at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards.  In 1996 all six bandmates recorded Home Again which was their sixth and best-selling album as it had several top ten hits.  Unfortunately the tour didn’t go as well as planned as fights broke out over control of vocals and egos which resulted in both Bobby Brown and Michael Bivins leaving while the remaining four finished the tour.

In 2002 after their contract with MCA had ended New Edition minus Bobby Brown signed with Sean Combs’ record label Bad Boy Records and in 2004 they released the album One Love but all wasn’t well between the group and Sean Combs and troubles began over creative control resulting in them being released from the contract at the end of 2005.  Despite all the tribulations which occurred New Edition continued to tour from 2005 to 2007.  By the fall of 2005 Bobby Brown had reconciled with the band as was apparent while they were performing on BET’s 25th Anniversary Special singing “Mr. Telephone Man” and brought him onstage to sing with them which was a nice not to mention long awaited sight to see. While the group had made peace with Bobby Brown they continued to tour without him though he did make appearances occasionally.

In 2008 Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill formed a group called Heads of State which is kind of ironic how three of the members of New Edition are in a group seeing that Bell, Biv DeVoe still perform together and now the remaining three members are in another.  By 2010 since they were no longer under any contract New Edition signed with Geffen Records.  Now that they’re older and have matured problems within the band seem to have dissolved evident on May 3, 2011 when they issued a press release on their official website announcing that all six members were reuniting as New Edition to kick off the 30th anniversary celebration of Candy Girl and were preparing for a world tour.  Since then the group has continued to tour which I’m sure brings happiness along with nostalgia to numerous fans throughout the world.

New Edition is a superb group with upbeat songs and fantastic ballads.  While it’s misfortunate but certainly not uncommon that they unknowingly signed a shady recording contract they overcame their obstacles and worked through personal issues within the band to come out more resilient than ever.  Kudos to New Edition.

 

NKOTBDuring the latter part of the 1980’s New Kids on the Block emerged and went on to become teen sensations.  The group also referred to as NKOTB  is another to hail from Boston and was created by Maurice Starr who discovered New Edition several years earlier.  Donnie Wahlberg, Joey McIntyre, Danny Wood along with brothers Jordan & Jonathon Knight made up the band.  In 1984  after Maurice Starr parted ways with New Edition he along with business partner Mary Alford decided to form a similar group but that were caucasian.  Auditions were held around Boston and hundreds of boys tried out including 15-year-old Donnie Wahlberg who became the first member of the band.  Donnie Wahlberg was instrumental in the forming of the group as he recruited younger brother Mark and best friend Danny Wood.  Jordan Knight who had previously attended school with Donnie auditioned as did his older brother Jonathon and they too were admitted into the group.  Due to the constant demanded rehearsals Mark Wahlberg chose to leave the band and was replaced with another of Donnie’s friends named Jaime Kelly but because of personal issues his stay in the group didn’t last long.  Shortly afterward 12-year-old Joey McIntyre became the fifth and final bandmate.  Initially the other members harbored resentment against Joey McIntyre who also happened to be the youngest because he took their friends’ place but over time they accepted him as part of the group.

The original name of the band was called Nynuk which no one liked and was later changed to New Kids on the Block after a rap song taken from their debut album.  In the spring of 1986 their self-titled album was released but sales were less than expected.  Though they toured at the time the group was still relatively unknown and ticket sales were disappointing to say the least.  In the fall of 1988 the single “Please Don’t Go Girl” off their sophomore album Hangin’ Tough came out and began receiving a lot of airplay on radio stations throughout the country along with heavy rotation of their music video prior to the album coming out.  They also appeared on programs including Showtime at the Apollo and Soul Train and were well liked.  The group not only sang but were as equally skilled with their dance moves. Once they became known among audiences New Kids on the Block began touring and were an opening act for Tiffany in her U.S. concerts.   By that time innumerable girls including myself had their own favorite member they majorly crushed on and possibly even dreamt about as their popularity began to soar.  Ironically enough while New Kids on the Block were originally the opening act for Tiffany they got so big that she ended up opening for them.  Unlike their previous album which was pretty much overlooked this one had single after single top the charts and fans couldn’t get enough of them.  The group was so widely known they were often compared to the Beatles because of the adulation created by fans who at times would do almost anything just to get close to them.  At the time there were no other boy groups competing with New Kids on the Block which made them even more favorable.  By the end of the year their second single “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” was released but by that time they were cemented as teen heartthrobs.  A year later in September of 1989 they released their holiday album titled Merry, Merry Christmas which sold very well.

On April 24, 1990 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts declared it as “New Kids on the Block Day.”  In the summer of 1990 they released their third studio album titled Step By Step by which time members had begun co-writing and producing many of the songs.  The title track “Step By Step” was the first single off the album and went on to become their biggest selling single.  Other songs followed including “Tonight,” “Let’s Try It Again” and “Baby I Believe In You” which were all hits.  New Kids on the Block were so hot they embarked on a worldwide concert tour called The Magic Summer Tour sponsored by Coke.  They also became heavily merchandised ranging from T-shirts, dolls, a Saturday morning cartoon, bed sheets and so much more.  I actually remember asking for a set of sheets for my birthday and felt closer to the members each night when I went to sleep and every morning when I woke up.  Aah memories.  New Kids even had an official fan club consisting of more than 200,000 members and a 900 number that when called were able to hear a message left by each member as I recall getting into trouble for phoning several times.

In February 1991 No More Games/the Remix Album came out which was a compilation of hit songs from their previous albums but just as the saying goes of how all good things must come to an end by 1992 following allegations of the group lip-synching in addition to the genre of music changing from pop to rap and grunge their popularity began to decline.  In 1993 the band dissolved relations with Maurice Starr similar to what happened between he and New Edition.  Hmm.  Tired of the bubblegum pop image they’d projected since entering the music industry the band wanted more of a tougher persona so they shortened their name to N.K.O.T.B. and released the album Face the Music. While the majority of the songs were written and/or co-produced by the group the album didn’t achieve the success as their prior ones had since the songs were less pop and more hard core.  Things were also entirely different then compared to just a few years earlier when it seemed like New Kids on the Block fever was everywhere.  Girls who’d waited in line for hours just to see them in concert or who screamed at the mere sight of them were now older and members were no longer the object of fans’ desire.  The only single off the album released in the U.S. was titled “Dirty Dawg” and their sound had completely changed from when audiences had last heard them.  While they went on tour to support the album unlike years earlier when they played to sold-out arenas and stadiums the group now performed in smaller venues such as clubs and theaters.  Not long afterward Jonathon Knight who had always been the shy one left the group due to increased panic attacks and anxiety he had been experiencing for some time.  Shortly after that the remaining members parted ways.

After the disbanding of the group some of the members focused on their careers while others chose to maintain a low profile.  Following two failed attempts to reunite the group one being for the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards and the other in 2004 for VH1’s Bands Reunited in 2008 Donnie Wahlberg confirmed that New Kids on the Block had gotten back together and planned on recording new material along with touring which they did and the following month the single “Summertime” was released.  Several months later their long awaited album was released suitably titled The Block and thankfully they once again began going by the name of New Kids on the Block.  They also went on a world tour to promote the album and a concert cruise that unfortunately I was unable to attend.  Since then they’ve continued to perform on various cruises as well as tour with other acts and even after almost 30 years since first starting out many fans who grew up listening to their music in addition to new listeners want to see them perform.  Especially me.

When Hangin’ Tough came out New Kids on the Block exploded onto the scene.  Between their songs which were danceable as well as romantic, their dancing that was choreographed to perfection and the fact that they were all good looking made them the ultimate group. This was also during a time when bands were required to have talent and weren’t marketed nor handed a recording contract simply for being voted on by a panel of judges, the audience or television viewers.  Oodles and oodles of girls of all ages adored them and at the time I was a teenager and would fantasize that I was married to my favorite member.  Sad but true.  I admit I was very disappointed when all of the members didn’t agree to reform on Bands Reunited and I know I wasn’t the only one but the fact that all five original bandmates have finally gotten back together and are once again touring is truly awesome.