Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Exotic and Erotic by Sandy Marton

The italo-disco genre is unusual.  Not only did it eventually spread throughout Europe and evolve into what we today call "Eurodance", but even when it was somewhat localized, not all of the artists were really Italian (Taffy was from New York, for instance.  The lead-singer for Baltimora was Irish--although the rest of the band was Italian.  Fancy was German.  And Sandy Marton was Aleksandar Marton, born in Zagreb in what was then Yugoslavia and what is now Croatia.  Produced and marketed in northern Italy as part of the italo-disco fad, in 1984 Sandy Marton had a hit in several countries (#1 in Italy, but it also charted in Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, and Switzerland.)  "People From Ibiza" is generally his only well-known song today.  His single output was compiled into a single album, released in 1986, but he never really had another hit like "People From Ibiza."  A few of his other songs charted (although not particularly highly) in Italy, and "Exotic and Erotic" charted in a few markets.  The lyrics tell a rather muddled story of a soldier who gets drunk and conned by a "honey trap" style exotic tropical girl in Singapore.

While the lyrics (as in most italo-disco songs) are muddled and barely intelligible to native English speakers, also as is typical of the genre, the song itself is infectious, cheery, and fun, as well as highly danceable.  No doubt meant to be little more the disposible 80s club music, Marton has--as has much of the italo-disco genre in general--picked up an enduring cult following in the years since, and I--well, heck, I guess I belong to the cult.  I think italo-disco is fun, and I still have a fair bit on my phone.  Sure, it's a bit on the breezy, disposible side compared to synthpop from the same time-frame, but in reality, the two genres share much more than they don't. 

I first heard "Exotic and Erotic" as part of a "megamix" called Lo Mejor de Gapul, which was a spanish language and probably bootleg compilation put together in 1987 or so.  Since this was the "seed" from which I discovered and eventually hunted down most of the italo-disco genre that I have, the tracks on that original megamix were the first ones I found.  In that sense, "Exotic and Erotic" holds an important place in my own journey to discover the entire genre.

Sandy Marton himself, though, is probably not really very important, even in the relatively small pond of italo-disco artists.  It's generous to call him more than a one-hit wonder.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Space Age Love Song by A Flock of Seagulls

A Flock of Seagulls are mostly now the butt of a series of jokes about being a one-hit wonder with really bizarre hair.  In reality, when their first eponymous album came out in 1982, it was rather highly regarded as a bit of a concept album--and the video for "I Ran (So Far Away)" was reportedly so ubiquitous on early MTV that they played it literally every ten minutes.  Of course, this kind of ubiquity can really sink a band, but in reality, they had more than one hit (although none as big as "I Ran" certainly.)  I picked up their Greatest Hits (on cassette tape) a few years after the fact, so without preconception, I actually didn't necessarily like "I Ran" the best of their songs--"(It's Not Me) Talking" and even moreso "Space Age Lovesong" were always my favorites.  In fact, I've seen some really good cover versions of "Space Age Love Song" from guys like Count to Infinity, and a "pseudo-cover" called "Dream of a Disco" by Marsheaux.

A Flock of Seagulls postdates the "classic" synthpop stage, but they also still exist in a period in which music which is retroactively called synthpop actually featured a fair number of non-synthesizer instruments.  In fact, they were a regular band with a regular guitar player, bass player and drum player, while the lead singer was also a keyboard player.  While many patently non-synthpop bands had pretty much the exact same line-up, A Flock of Seagulls were clearly New Wave and sound like synthpop, whereas someone like Journey, for instance, does not.  Possibly the guitar and bass players simply weren't talented enough to "showcase" their performances, so they faded more into the background, making the keyboard elements appear to stand out in comparison.

Then again, bands like New Order had pretty much this same line-up too (although in their case, it was the guitar player, not the keyboardist, who did the vocals.)  And Depeche Mode, who in 1980 and beyond for a few years, were an exclusively electronic band, now use an awful lot of guitars.  In reality, synthpop seems to be a somewhat nebulous category of music, wherein music that sounds just like synthpop (like some work by Cher or Madonna) is not called as such, whereas music that doesn't (a la recent Depeche Mode) still is.  Exactly how this came to be is not entirely clear to me, although it is clear (although I can't put my finger on exactly why) that A Flock of Seagulls sounds like the same kind of music as synthpop, even as it is heavily guitar-driven in most respects.  In any case, here's "Space Age Love Song."