20th August 2008
1980s hitmakers team up for the Regeneration Tour.
You knew it would come to this one day. Back in the '80s we were rocking out to ABC, The Human League, A Flock of Seagulls and Naked Eyes, to name but a few. Acts from the '60s, much as we liked them, were mostly nostalgia acts. It's the destiny of many artists, from every phase of the Rock & Roll era.
I'm sure in 20 years or so a journalist will write about the upcoming Return of the Century Tour featuring All-American Rejects, Weezer and maybe Phantom Planet. Then he'll strap on his jet pack (we'll surely have them by then, right?) and head to the show.
It would be easy to slough off the Regeneration Tour as a mere nostalgia show. But in these parts, at least, there's a bit more to it. If you grew up in the Tristate, you actually heard the aforementioned '80s acts extensively on the radio (mostly WOXY) and saw them a lot on MTV. Certainly those who listened to Top 40 radio back in the day would likely recognize the big chart hits, but each of these artists has a healthy canon of songs which they'll bring to the National City Pavilion this Monday.
"We're really lucky we've got quite a good catalog," Human League lead singer Phil Oakey says from the band's studio in Sheffield, England. "I think as you get on you realize that that's almost the biggest thing about what you do. If you've got enough songs to cover the time then you'll probably get away with it."
Oakey adds that many people who come to their live shows these days are surprised at just how many songs by the band they actually recognize.
"One hit wonder" is term associated with some of these artists, a description that is accurate only by narrow definitions. A Flock of Seagulls, for example, made just one trip into the Top 10 ("I Ran") but had two other Top 40 hits and many more songs widely played on MTV and other video outlets.
The term doesn't bother Flock leader Mike Score. Well, not too much. "It only irks me partly because Jimi Hendrix only ever had one major hit. Pink Floyd only had one major hit," Score says. "So I don't mind being classed with those people as a one hit wonder. But if people say it to denigrate the band it just shows how little they actually know about music."
Score also points out that "if
you're a fan, everything a band does is a hit."
"I think if it was anymore than
that," she says, "it might not be so fun."
even though some would say those efforts look almost cheesy today. ABC's Martin Fry, of course, is not among them.
"Today videos are pretty boring really," he says. "They're either very corporate and contrived or they're just a guy strumming a guitar. Back then being in a group was like being in a gang and you kind of had to make your statement as different from the other groups around as possible."
For ABC that included making a short espionage-type film called Mantrap, which featured live performances from their debut The Lexicon of Love.
"Ah, yes that was our film noir," Fry says with a laugh.
Members of Human League also quickly found out that film crews had little interest in them.
More than 20 years on, all of these acts have some new material either just completed or in the works, and a return to the charts shouldn't be ruled out for any or all of them. Back when all of these bands were becoming popular, The Beach Boys, then viewed as a nostalgia act, took "Kokomo" to No. 1 in 1988, so who can say?
Of course, after two decades some tragedy could be expected. For Naked Eyes it's been a bittersweet journey indeed.
For now, these artists will do the time warp again. That leaves us to scramble to find a babysitter and hope we're not too tired for work the next day.