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Back to the 80s: Interview with Stacey Q - Kickin' it Old School
04.22.14 (9:58 am)   [edit]
As I still feel the need to say each time, I am so delighted that interviews continue to be a legitimate part of this little blog of mine! When the opportunity presents itself to ask a few questions to someone who contributed to the awesomeness of the 80s, I will continue to share those answers with you right here. Again, lucky for me (and hopefully you), I do get to share a little more awesomeness with you.Stacey Q

This time that awesomeness is Stacey Q. She is probably best known for her dance-pop single "Two of Hearts" which was one of the biggest hits of 1986. Interesting though, she didn't even want to record the song because it was written by someone else for someone else. Artistic integrity aside, it ended up turning out pretty sweet for her in this case. Stacey Q"Two of Hearts" was ranked #27 on VH1's "100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s", but she did have another minor hit from her debut album. She appeared on two episodes of The Facts of Life where she displayed some of her acting ambitions as well as performed her hit songs. Find out a little about all of that and more as we get on to some selections from my interview with Stacey Q...

Q: Please tell us a little about what you did prior to your solo career as a professional musician.

Stacey: I was a professional dancer and photographer's model. Professional here means I always tried to be professional but rarely was paid. When I was 11 years old, I was hired by Disneyland as seasonal entertainment. I later worked for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Did A LOT of live theatre. The Theatre is my first love.Stacey Q

Q: When did you know you wanted to be a professional musician? When and how did you get your own start in the music industry?

Stacey: I knew I wanted to be a professional musician in 1981, the morning after the night I met Jon St. James. Stacey QMy first singing project came one month later when I recorded some KMET (Los Angeles) radio sound-alike jingles impersonating The Motels, The Go-Go's, Joan Jett, etc.

Q: Why did you decide to go by the stage name Stacey Q rather than your real name?

Stacey: I didn't make that decision. Jon did. In 1981, Jon formed the synth-pop band Q and I eventually became the band's lead singer. The band name came from James Bond and the scientist responsible for all of his high-tech gadgets. Everybody in the band went by Q: Jon Q, Dan Q and Stacey Q. So I became Stacey Q.Stacey Q

Q: How did you become aware of and end up recording "Two of Hearts" for your solo debut album? What else can you tell us about creating your version of "Two of Hearts" which went on to have so much success?

Stacey: Jon became aware of the East L.A. dance scene which I was promptly assigned to. He brought the song to me to record. I told Jon I'd rather jump from the studio balcony than sing someone else's song. The less said the better. Jon just said to trust him, but he had to pretty much make me sing it.

Even though she wasn't crazy about singing someone else's song, many people loved hearing her do it. Better Than HeavenThe song was originally intended for Sue Gatlin who co-wrote it with John Mitchell and Tim Greene. Atlantic Records signed Stacey Q to a record deal in 1986 as a solo artist with Jon St. James as her manager and other former bandmates as backup musicians. For her debut album, Better Than Heaven, they included "Two of Hearts" which had already been included on a limited release the previous year. This time, as the first single off the new album released in early 1986, it became a smash hit. "Two of Hearts" went on to sell over a million copies while peaking #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on the Billboard Dance chart. It achieved worldwide popularity reaching the Top 20 in at least seven other countries. Here is the music video for "Two of Hearts" by Stacey Q...


Q: What changed for you personally after the song's success? Were you prepared for attention and all of the other things that come with a pop stardom? What are some of your best memories at the height of popularity back then?Stacey Q

Stacey: I opened a bank account and people stopped asking me what I was going do with my life. Attention I could handle. Cruelty and money-grubbing, back-stabbing, fair-weather poseurs I was not as gracious about. Ask anyone. There is no preparing for that. There is relatively little that I do not look back on fondly. It's like one big, best memory. Thanks to everybody for making it such fun for me!Stacey Q

Q: Your video received lots of exposure on MTV back then. What memories can you share with us about making the music video for "Two of Hearts"?

Stacey: Jon Anderson of Yes hung out with us all day and through the live shoot at the Tropicana that night. We sold out the mud wrestling venue and shot that part in black and white super 8 no less!

Q: What are your thoughts on the impact that MTV had on music in the 80s, especially in America? How do you think the video for "Two of Hearts" impacted the success of the song? Your beautiful image and dancing couldn't hurt it, that's for sure!Stacey Q

Stacey: For better or for worse, MTV was music. The New Wave was one of the best things that ever happened to American youth. The "Two of Hearts" video was the #1 request on Dial MTV from the first day for months straight. I couldn't have gotten more exposure (for free) anywhere. Timing is everything. While good looks and dancing can't hurt, champagne and my dry wit (or smart mouth) could have sent it crashing down at any time, I suppose.

Q: What do you remember best about the decade of 80s music? What lasting impact do you feel music from the 80s has made?

Stacey: What I remember best is going dancing with my best friend, Danny Medellin. When he died in 1988, nothing was the same. Especially my hair. The fact that I'm starting my ninth year on the Freestyle Explosion Tour is a reflection of the impact.The Facts of Life

Q: I have to ask about The Facts of Life, too. How did you end up getting cast to play the character of "Cinnamon" for a 1986 episode? What can you tell us about your experience on the show and working with the girls in the cast?

Stacey: The writers of The Facts of Life called my record company and inquired about my availability. Since my life then WAS being Stacey Q, I ran out to Hollywood like my hair was on fire! Stacey Q as CinnamonThe reception I received right away was that the last thing this show needs is another female. I couldn't have agreed more. I had never heard the theme song. They were mortified. Danny overheard one of them in make-up say, "She is just the type you wanna hate but you can't because she's so nice." Bless her, whichever one it was. I know which two it wasn't. If it wasn't for the great and glorious importance of ratings during sweeps week, you never would have heard of Cinnamon... or George Clooney...yet.

Stacey Q appeared on the fifth episode of season 8 of the sitcom The Facts of Life as a character named Cinnamon who beats out Tootie in a competition for the same role in a Broadway musical. She performed "Two of Hearts" in the episode (originally airing on November 1, 1986) which added to the exposure and popularity of the song. Here is that scene from The Facts of Life...


Q: On a later episode, you ended up dating the character played by a then-relatively-unknown George Clooney. Stacey Q with George ClooneyIn fact, his character decided to follow you on the road. Anything you can share with us about your brief time working with Clooney?

Stacey: He kept calling my name and singing to me this silly song over and over every day. It was getting embarrassing which made me giggle and we would laugh. It loses something in the translation without the little vaudeville melody. But it went, "I know that you know, that you know that I know, and I know that you know," and on and on everyday all day. Stacey Q on Facts of LifeStill don't know what that means, but who cares? It's George Clooney! Singing to me! Rosemary, he wasn't, friends.

Stacey Q returned for another episode of The Facts of Life later that season. The episode entitled "A Star Is Torn" (originally airing on January 31, 1987) was used to explain George Clooney's character "George Burnett" leaving the series. Near the end of this episode, she performs her second single "We Connect" which was a minor hit itself peaking at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #14 on the Dance chart. Here you can watch that entire episode to see Stacey, Clooney and more...


She continued that sitcom run also appearing on a 1988 episode of Full House and a 1989 episode of Mama's Family. Stacey QSustaining the success she had with her Better Than Heaven album proved difficult, however; unfortunately neither of her subsequent Atlantic albums, 1988's Hard Machine nor 1989's Nights Like This, produced another major hit.

Q: Please tell us a little about where your career has taken you since the 80s. Stacey QHow have your priorities or goals changed over the years? What are some of your proudest professional accomplishments?

Stacey: Somehow, it all led me straight to my Tibetan friends. [She converted to Buddhism.] My fearless leaders. I'll die trying to repay their kindness. I have never been goal-oriented. So that has not changed. If I cannot have pride in it, I prefer not to do it. I am proud of it all from beginning to end. Just wish I had done more of it. Maybe I will do more. You never know.

Stacey Q is also one of the few Westerners formally trained (and authorized to teach) by the Masters themselves in Tibetan Lama Dance, or Cham (an ancient, sacred, monastic ritual). She is still recording and performing music and acting.

Q: What else is Stacey Q up to nowadays? Any remaining ambitions or regrets?

Stacey: My ambitions are for all of us to have long, happy lives!

I am so pleased that Stacey was able to take some time to answer some questions so I could share them with you here. Special thanks to Troy Bronstein for helping coordinate this opportunity. I want to take this occasion to again thank Stacey Q for her contributions to 80s pop culture especially through "Two of Hearts" and, even more, for going back to the 80s with us here for a little while as well.

That'll wrap up another special issue of Kickin' it Old School. Thanks as always for reading and hope you are enjoying the interviews as much as I am. If you want a summary of all of my Back to the 80s Interviews posted thus far, please click on that link. Be sure you haven't missed any of them. There is a link to a summary of all of my 80s issues in the left hand column below the Archives and you can use the Google Search Box at the top of the right hand column to find any topics you are looking for or other issues you may have missed. If you are a fan of 80s pop culture and Kickin' it, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LOGO in the upper right hand column. This will take you to the Fan Page where I ask you to then click on the "Like" button. You can also follow @OldSchool80s on Twitter by clicking on the FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER LOGO also in the upper right hand column. This will take you the page and you can just click on the box that says "Follow". I am sending daily 80s tweets, so sign up to get those. You can also hook up with us on Google+. Please leave comments so we know you're out there and let other 80s fans know about us as well! Peace and much love.

Quote of the day: "An act to make another happy inspires the other to make still another happy, and so happiness is aroused and abounds. Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." -Buddha (translation from a Buddhist sutra)



 
Back to the 80s: 1984 Movie Madness winner... Sixteen Candles - Kickin' it Old School
04.07.14 (11:22 am)   [edit]
1984 Movie Madness is over and the winner, based on your votes, is Sixteen Candles. The John Hughes classic defeated all opponents, including Ghostbusters in the finals (which I admit surprised me a little), to become our favorite film released 30 years ago in 1984.

Sixteen Candles


As a reminder, I picked 64 of the top movies released in theaters during 1984, divided them into four regions based on genre and seeded them within each region. Those regions were Comedy/Romantic Comedy, Drama, Action/Horror/Thriller and Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Some films crossed genres, so I did my best to assign them where I felt they fit best. Then I allowed people to vote on each match-up to determine the winners each round. Even though I did the initial seeding, the winners were all based on your votes. I used challonge.com to keep track of votes which allowed only one vote per person, but probably also discouraged some from voting at all since it required you to register on that site. Either way, we had hundreds of voters participate and thousands of votes cast over the course of the three week event. Here is the final bracket showing the results of your votes:

1984 Movie Madness Final


I am very appreciative to all of those who voted. Special thanks to other 80s sites that helped get the word out including Like Totally 80s, Rediscover the 80s and Return to the 80s among others. I wanted as many 80s fans to have their opportunity to vote and help determine the champion.

Sixteen Candles is a coming-of-age film written by and the first directed by John Hughes. It was released in theaters in May of 1984. Based on the voting in this tournament, it certainly seems to still resonate with people 30 years later. I have had the extreme pleasure so far of interviews with four characters and the casting director from this film:

Haviland Morris who played "Caroline Mulford, Jake's original girlfriend"

Sixteen Candles

Debbie Pollack who played "Marlene aka Lumberjack, Dong's Sexy American Girlfriend"

Liane Curtis who played "Randy, Samantha's best friend"

John Kapelos who played "Rudy Ryszcyk, the oily bohunk marrying Sam's sister"

Jackie Burch, casting director for Sixteen Candles and several other 80s classics

Hopefully more will happen in the future, but please be sure to especially check out those and all of our interviews with those who helped make the 80s so awesome.

Sixteen Candles

Our 1984 Movie Madness tournament was a lot of fun and a great success. 1985 had a lot of great films as well, so I expect to do 1985 Movie Madness next March.

Thanks for reading and hopefully participating. As a reminder, if you are a fan of 80s pop culture and Kickin' it, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LOGO in the upper right hand column. This will take you to the Fan Page where I ask you to then click on the "Like" button. Please be sure to also follow @OldSchool80s on Twitter by clicking on the FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER LOGO also in the upper right hand column. This will take you the page and you can just click on the box that says "Follow". I am sending daily 80s tweets, so join us there to get those. You can also hook up with us on Google+. Please continue to let other 80s fans know about us as well! Peace and much love.



 
Back to the 80s: Top Songs of the 80s with EYE in the Title + Bonus: 80s Eye Quiz - Kickin' it Old School
03.27.14 (10:20 am)   [edit]
Top 10 lists used to be a regular feature here on Kickin' it Old School. Interviews have sort of dominated my content lately and hopefully you have been enjoying those as much as I have. I still have many Top 10 lists just waiting to be published and here is one that is loosely related to this month. When I was a kid, I incorrectly assumed that the phrase "The Ides of March" was "the eyes of March". EyesI later learned the real meaning, but like misheard song lyrics, I always chuckle to think about those eyes in March. So why not do my favorite 80s songs with eyes (or eye) in the title?

Eyes seem like the most popular body part to write songs about over the years. They say that the eyes are the window to the soul. They are also in the title of some pretty decent songs. Those songs qualify for this list if they were released between 1980-1989 and have the word "eyes" or "eye" in the title. My rankings will be based on a combination of perceived quality of work and pop culture significance, but mostly just my personal taste level both then and now (which admittedly can change daily). Videos are included for the top 5, but I am sure you can readily find the others if you want to hear them. So here is OLD SCHOOL'S TOP 10 SONGS OF THE 80s WITH EYES IN THE TITLE (+ Bonus 5):

15. "Blue Eyes" (1982) by Elton John

Blue Eyes


14. "For Your Eyes Only" (1981) by Sheena Easton

For Your Eyes Only


13. "Hungry Eyes" (1987) by Eric Carmen

Hungry Eyes


12. "Eye in the Sky" (1982) by The Alan Parsons Project

Eye in the Sky


11. "When You Close Your Eyes" (1983) by Night Ranger

When You Close Your Eyes


10. "We Close Our Eyes" (1985) by Go West

We Close Our Eyes


9. "Bette Davis Eyes" (1981) by Kim Carnes

Bette Davis Eyes


8. "Private Eyes" (1981) by Hall & Oates

Private Eyes


7. "Eyes Without a Face" (1984) by Billy Idol

Eyes Without a Face


6. "Close My Eyes Forever" (1988) by Lita Ford & Ozzy Osbourne

Close My Eyes Forever


5. "Angel Eyes" (1989) by The Jeff Healey BandAngel Eyes


4. "Lost in Your Eyes" (1989) by Debbie GibsonLost In Your Eyes


3. "Heaven in Your Eyes" (1986) by LoverboyHeaven in Your Eyes


2. "Eye of the Tiger" (1982) by SurvivorEye of the Tiger


1. "In Your Eyes" (1986) by Peter GabrielIn Your Eyes

&

There's my list. Yes, I admit the rankings tilt towards ballads (I am a sucker for a good ballad). As usual and as I mentioned earlier, these are based on my personal preferences and the order could very well change a little depending on my mood or nostalgia on a given day. Are there any songs from the 80s with eyes in the title that you feel I have overlooked? One that just missed the list was "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" by Asia. If you have others or if you'd rank any differently, please leave them in the comments section below and on Facebook. There are certainly many other great songs about eyes from other decades. Another phrase that some people mistake is "the ayes have it" as "the eyes have it". Well, when it comes to being awesome, these 80s songs about eyes have it.

That'll do it for another issue of Kickin' it Old School. Thanks so much for reading. There is a link to a summary of all of my 80s issues in the left hand column below the Archives and you can use the Google Search Box at the top of the right hand column to find any topics you are looking for or other issues you may have missed. If you are a fan of 80s pop culture and Kickin' it, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LOGO in the upper right hand column. This will take you to the Fan Page where I ask you to then click on the "Like" button. You can also follow @OldSchool80s on Twitter by clicking on the FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER LOGO also in the upper right hand column. This will take you the page and you can just click on the box that says "Follow". I am sending daily 80s tweets, so sign up to get those. You can also hook up with us on Google+. Please leave comments so we know you're out there and let other 80s fans know about us as well! Peace and much love.

Check this out: Speaking of eyes, see if you can identify each of these sets of memorable 80s eyes. Don't cheat, but the answers will be at the bottom of the page after the quote of the day. 80s Eye Quiz:

1. 80s eye quiz

2. 80s eye quiz

3. 80s eye quiz

4. 80s eye quiz

5. 80s eye quiz

6. 80s eye quiz

7. 80s eye quiz

8. 80s eye quiz

9. 80s eye quiz

10. 80s eye quiz

11. 80s eye quiz

12. 80s eye quiz

13. 80s eye quiz

14. 80s eye quiz

15. 80s eye quiz

16. 80s eye quiz

17. 80s eye quiz

18. 80s eye quiz

19. 80s eye quiz

20. 80s eye quiz

21. 80s eye quiz

22. 80s eye quiz

23. 80s eye quiz

24. 80s eye quiz

25. 80s eye quiz

26. 80s eye quiz

27. 80s eye quiz


Quote of the day: "You never know how you look through other people's eyes." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Answers to the "80s Eye Quiz" above: 1. Cyndi Lauper, 2. Adam Ant, 3. Christopher Lloyd as "Doc Brown", 4. Grace Jones, 5. Boy George, 6. Phil Collins, 7. Prince, 8. Madonna, 9. DMC, 10. Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf, 11. Christopher Lloyd as "Judge Doom", 12. Tom Cruise in Top Gun, 13. Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles, 14. Harrison Ford as "Indiana Jones", 15. Joan Cusack in Working Girl, 16. Molly Ringwald, 17. Bruce Willis in Die Hard, 18. Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, 19. Mr. T in Rocky III, 20. Pete Burns of Dead or Alive, 21. Meg Ryan, 22. model Patty Elias from the Robert Palmer music videos, 23. Kelly LeBrock in Weird Science, 24. Michael Jackson in "Thriller", 25. Michael Keaton as "Batman", 26. E.T., 27. "Sloth" from Goonies



 
Back to the 80s: Interview with Tom Whitlock, co-writer of 'Take My Breath Away' & more - Kickin' it Old School
03.19.14 (3:31 pm)   [edit]
As I still feel the need to say each time, I am so delighted that interviews continue to be a legitimate part of this little blog of mine! When the opportunity presents itself to ask a few questions to someone who contributed to the awesomeness of the 80s, I will continue to share those answers with you right here. Again, lucky for me (and hopefully you), I do get to share a little more awesomeness with you.Tom Whitlock

This time that awesomeness is Tom Whitlock. He is a songwriter/lyricist who is best known for co-writing the Academy award-winning "Take My Breath Away" with Giorgio Moroder for Top Gun. He also co-wrote "Danger Zone" for Top Gun and another Kenny Loggins soundtrack hit in "Meet Me Half Way" from Over the Top. He's worked on many other soundtracks and has written songs for many great artists. Find out more about him, writing those hit songs and more as we get on to some selections from my interview with Tom Whitlock...

Q: When and how did you get your own start in the music industry? Please tell us a little about your earlier career. Then how did you meet Giorgio Moroder and end up moving into writing songs for other artists to perform?

Tom: I was born and raised in Springfield, Missouri - the home of the Ozark Jubilee (which was the first syndicated country music television show). Everybody from Chet Atkins to Brenda Lee to Elvis appeared on the broadcast. Because of that, there were fantastic musicians around and some successful music publishers including Si Siman who also had a recording studio. One of Si's most successful writers was Wayne Carson (who wrote "Always on My Mind" and "The Letter" and many more great songs). I started playing drums at the age of 11 and pretty quickly fell into gigs and song demo sessions for some of the great writers like Wayne and Ronnie Self. There was also a huge demand for live bands in those days and we would travel all over playing high schools and colleges and crazy alcohol fueled fraternity/sorority parties.

Starting at age 15, I spent a lot of time at the piano writing songs. Lots of gigs, lots of sessions and lots of not very good songs. I dropped out of college after my first semester and went to Los Angeles where I had a deal with a major film company's music publishing company - no success, so I went back to college to study music theory. In 1976, my friends and I had a band that was signed to Mercury Records - that had a 2+ year run. So, by now you see the pattern: a bit of education and then some kind of action. In January of 1983, a friend and I headed back to L.A. to start a band with another pal who was living there. We pretty quickly found out that we couldn't make that happen - you had to pay for rehearsal space and you had to pay to get in the clubs.Giorgio Moroder

My friend, Dave Concors, was a tech at Westlake Audio and also took care of the home studios of Quincy Jones and Giorgio Moroder. A few weeks into this L.A. adventure, Dave called and asked me to meet him in the Valley at a studio that had been Davlen. While helping him remove some speakers in the main control room, the back door slammed and some guy came storming down the hall dropping some F bombs. I said to Dave, "Who is that?" and he said, "That's Giorgio Moroder; he just bought this place." I asked him to find out what was wrong and Giorgio said that the brakes on his Ferrari weren't good coming down Coldwater Canyon. I asked Dave to find out if he wanted me to fix them... so I went to Pep Boys and bought a pile of Castrol brake fluid. I had my tools in my 1970 Volvo and I went out to the parking lot and bled out the old brake fluid and replaced it with new. I had been a shade tree mechanic since I was 15 (I bought my first car for $400 - a 1959 Triumph TR3). A few weeks later, they hired me to hang around to answer phones, do some billing and run errands, etc. The sweetener was that at 5:00 or so I could hang in the studio and Giorgio's engineer Brian Reeves would teach me how to record. They were finishing the Flashdance soundtrack and I think Scarface was next. By the way, I thought I was rich because I made $5 an hour and worked 100 hours a week. Tons of amazing projects were coming through and when everybody left I would work on my songs. Eventually Giorgio's in-house publisher heard one and snagged it for a German project.

Q: How did you then begin writing songs with Giorgio Moroder?

Tom: Right after I started working for the Moroder organization, Giorgio, Keith Forsey and Irene Cara won an Academy Award for "Flashdance... What A Feeling" which was credited as music by Giorgio and lyrics by Keith and Irene. Keith had been with Giorgio since the Musicland days in Munich where he played drums and wrote lyrics for some huge Donna Summer hits and also co-wrote hits with Harold Faltermeyer. Keith was also producing the Billy Idol records in New York City which were very time intensive and he wasn't available for lyrics. Pete Bellote (who co-produced Donna Summer and co-wrote a lot of the songs) was living in the UK so he too wasn't around. Giorgio needed a lyricist and there I was... minimal talent but maximal proximity!Giorgio Moroder

Lots of demand for songs in those days (especially if you were in Giorgio Moroder's orbit). So many projects were coming through: Scarface, Beverly Hills Cop, Stallone movies, Simpson/Bruckheimer movies, etc. I fell in about the tail end of Flashdance and was busy until Giorgio sold the studios a few years after Top Gun.

Q: How did your songwriting partnership work? What can you tell us about Moroder and your experiences working with him?

Tom: The working method was fantastic: Giorgio would go to an unoccupied studio and one of us would set him up with a Linn Drum, a keyboard and a microphone. He would make a track with a melody which was mainly non-specific in terms of words. He would give me the track and I would work on a lyric from the minute he handed it over until it was time for a demo singer to sing. He would also give the track to Brian Reeves (his engineer), Richie Zito (guitars and programming and more) and Arthur Barrow (who played keys and bass and is a great sound designer and programmer as well). Those guys would work late cutting the track. The next day Giorgio might have some ideas for changes which Richie, Arthur and Brian would execute and then it was time for a demo singer. I would generally hang with the singer for a bit to help them learn the song and warm them up and then Giorgio would come in to nail it down and add harmonies and backgrounds. I always wrote the lyrics precisely to his melody - my theory was that his choices were intentional and that he had such an unbelievable knowledge of hit songs that I had no business overreaching. Sometimes he might make a change while we were singing and I would adjust on the fly - big fun!

I did whatever I could. If the Lamborghini broke down in Venice Beach, I would go sit there all night until the right kind of tow truck was available. If I needed to sleep on the floor to get up and let carpenters in at 5am, I did that. If Brian De Palma wanted bagels, I got bagels. If Giorgio's mother wanted groceries from Gelsons, I went to Gelsons. It was a blast! The rewards were immense! I got to be the fly on the wall while some of the most successful directors, producers and artists were working on some of the most successful movies and songs of the 80s and 90s. How lucky is that?Top Gun Soundtrack

Q: How did you come to work with Moroder on the Top Gun soundtrack?

Tom: Top Gun came to Giorgio's studios (Oasis Recording Studios) for several reasons. The producers, Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, had just had massive success with Giorgio on Flashdance and because Harold Faltermeyer (an alumnus of Giorgio's Musicland Studios) was going to do the score. The producers and the Music Supervisor (Michael Dilbeck) came to the studio with over 300 songs to audition against various scenes. There was a Sony TV in the studio and they would run footage and play bits of songs against various scenes. Nothing seemed to be working very well so (if I remember correctly) Jerry asked Giorgio to write something. Giorgio came up with the track that became "Danger Zone".Top Gun

Q: Speaking of "Danger Zone", what can you tell us about how that song was written and evolved?

Tom: "Danger Zone" came from the track that Giorgio cooked up for the opening carrier deck scenes. I wrote the lyrics and Joe Pizzulo sang the demo and they flew it against those opening scenes and it worked. In retrospect, I may have been a bit too clever (or obvious) with all of the allusions but it was fun nevertheless. As with most of the stuff we did in those days, everything was conceived and executed under pressure. Giorgio wrote a track and melody. Richie, Arthur and Brian recorded it and by the next day we were cutting a demo vocal with Joe. Since there was a soundtrack album deal in place, it took a while to figure out who was going to sing "Danger Zone" because the record company that was going to release the soundtrack wanted an artist that was signed to their label. I don't remember who all was considered but there was some mention of Bryan Adams (who passed reportedly because he didn't want to be involved in a military themed project). [Also reportedly offered to Toto and REO Speedwagon as well.] Kenny Loggins was eventually chosen.Danger Zone

Once Kenny Loggins was on board, I went to meet him at a house in Encino and ran the lyric down. He moved some stuff around and had a few ideas (please note that anything that makes you cringe in the song is Kenny's fault). He came over and sang it a few days later. He's masterful in how he uses his voice and extremely adept at recording. It all went down very quickly. "Danger Zone" has gone on to have an amazing run of usages in other films, on television and commercials. Crazy lucky again!

The Top Gun soundtrack was hugely successful eventually going 9x platinum. "Danger Zone" was released in May of 1986 as the lead single from the soundtrack and was quite successful in its own right. The single, which did an excellent job of setting a tone early in the film, peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Here is the video for "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins...


Q: Now please take us back to when you co-wrote "Take My Breath Away". What is the back story about how that song was conceived and written? Any other interesting details about creating this beautiful song?

Tom: A few days after we figured out "Danger Zone", Giorgio started the track that became "Take My Breath Away". Take My Breath AwayI wrote the lyrics driving home from the studio and then spent a few hours at home that night polishing it off. We did a demo with a background singer and a few days later Tony Scott [director] and crew reconvened with Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis to shoot the new love scenes - the movie had been considered done until they heard "Take My Breath Away". If you see those scenes, you'll notice that they are lit differently and there are those gauzy curtains blowing around - all of that was to disguise that some months had gone by and the actors didn't look exactly the same. It took a bit to get to the right singer. Columbia had one of their artists in mind but she wanted to change the melody and write new lyrics! We didn't call her back. Giorgio and Richie Zito had done a song with Berlin that had done well a couple of years earlier and Giorgio thought of Terri Nunn to sing the song. Giorgio had one little change in mind the day before we recorded the vocal so I came up with a couple of alternatives for that - I didn't choose which until we were walking into the room. I started recording the vocal with Terri. Giorgio joined us and Terri just plain nailed it.

Now that we had two songs that were in the movie, Top Gunit was decided that we would do three more on the off chance that we might qualify for the "Song Score" category for the Academy Awards. Unfortunately, we just missed that possibility because one song was faded too quickly (each of the five songs have to be of a certain length as well as having been written by the same composer and lyricist). We were lucky enough to win the Academy Award for Best Song. Giorgio and I had quite a few successful songs but none of them come close to approaching the success and longevity of "Take My Breath Away". ASCAP (the performing rights society) recently compiled a list of the 100 most successful songs of the last 100 years - "Take My Breath Away" was #26!

"Take My Breath Away" was released as a single in June of 1986 and grew quite popular as evidenced by its impressive ranking #26 on ASCAP's 100 most successful songs of the last 100 years list. It reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September of 1986 and made the top 5 in at least 15 other countries. This worldwide smash also went on to win both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song. I find it very fascinating that they actually reassembled to create a love scene around this song after shooting had ended, but it seems that it was well worth it. Here is the video for "Take My Breath Away" by Berlin...


The song is beautifully written including Whitlock's poetic lyrics:
Watching every motion
In my foolish lover's game
On this endless ocean
Finally lovers know no shame

Turning and returning
To some secret place inside
Watching in slow motion
As you turn around and say

Take my breath away

Q: What can you tell us about winning the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Original Song? What was it like attending those award shows, then actually winning and getting up there to accept the award?

Tom: One of the interesting things about being nominated for an Academy Award was that two other people with ties to my hometown were nominated that year: Kathleen Turner (born in Springfield, MO) was nominated for Best Actress for Peggy Sue Got Married and Tess Harper (who went to college there) was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Crimes of the Heart. That put a little extra buzz in the air. Since then, Brad Pitt (another native Springfieldian) has won two Academy Awards for his production company Plan B.Moroder & Whitlock

The Golden Globes are basically like going out to dinner except that there's a red carpet and paparazzi. It's a good time since you're at a table with some interesting people you may not have met before and there's food and drink. The Academy Awards are insane (and long). You can get up and wander around and get a drink or use the facilities (someone comes and sits in your place while you're gone so that the broadcast doesn't reveal empty seats). Another thing that was interesting that had never occurred to me was how badly some people wanted to win. It was really sad to see their faces when they didn't. I never thought about winning or losing (I didn't even plan what to say - I just tried to fill in some of the names that Giorgio didn't mention). I should have made a list because there were a few people that I forgot.

We (my date and I) ended up at a party at the original Spago above Sunset near the old Tower Records. We sat at a table with Dennis Hopper, David Lynch, Isabella Rossellini and Michael Douglas. Every time I got up from the table, Hopper would hide my Oscar someplace.

So what's it like? Surreal. Heady. You get a little bit too big for your britches for a while. And, as a friend of mine who's been to these rodeos a few times says, "It's great to be nominated but it's better to win". Did it make any difference? Sure. You go to a few more meetings that don't lead to anything. You maybe get an extra gig or two. But it was fun!

Q: What are your sentiments regarding "Take My Breath Away" now 28 years later?

Tom: All I know is that I am one of the luckiest people ever. A lifetime of fooling around with pop songs? And you get royalties? Sign me up! I've written a ton of songs - for a long time I wrote 100 songs a year (or more). None of them matter compared to "Take My Breath Away". That song is still on fire after all of these years - airplay may be tapering somewhat in the U.S. but it is still huge in Europe. Some of the other songs have done well for a time, but "Take My Breath Away" has legs.Top Gun

Some years ago, Sony Music Publishing bought the Famous Music Catalogs from Paramount Pictures (Famous had a piece of "Take My Breath Away"). When Marty Bandier was asked why they made the acquisition he replied, "We wanted to get copyrights like "Take My Breath Away". I'm happy that it's valuable. When it comes on the radio, I still turn it up. I still like the cinematic images in the lyric and I love it that even Terri Nunn says that she still doesn't know what the song is about.

Q: What were your feelings about the film Top Gun in general and how your songs were used within it?

Tom: I was very gratified by how the film evolved after we wrote "Take My Breath Away" and Tony Scott shot the love scenes to it. I think that made a huge difference in the film. It's hard for me to assess the film because I was there for almost every minute of the creation and execution of the score and songs (at least the ones that we did). That holds true for every film that I worked on in that time period - by the time it was released I had seen every scene, every change and agonized over every bit of film so many times that I couldn't SEE the movie anymore - all I see are the bits. For the time, it was a great summer movie and people loved it and continue to love it. (As I answer this question, the techs from my home alarm system company are upgrading the equipment - one of the guys saw the 9 million platinum record plaque hanging in my office and said that Top Gun is his favorite movie - I can't argue with that.)

Q: You also worked on the Over the Top soundtrack and co-wrote another hit for Kenny Loggins in "Meet Me Half Way". Over the TopWhat can you tell us about how that song was conceived and written? What inspired those lyrics? Any other interesting details about creating this song?

Tom: I remember (possibly erroneously) that "Meet Me Half Way" was originally intended to just be a 30-second piece. I nicked the title from the script (please don't tell anyone): Stallone's character [Lincoln Hawk] says something like, "The world meets nobody halfway". I took that line and then it somehow evolved into a love song. The song did pretty well, but the movie didn't. For some reason, the producers decided to market the film around the tough-guy Stallone angle instead of to a family audience. I guess I wasn't in charge of that! The movie came and went, so the albums left the stores. Meanwhile, Sammy Hagar had a #1 AOR hit with "Winner Takes It All", Kenny Loggins had a #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart with "Meet Me Half Way" and "In This Country" by Cheap Trick was used as the theme for the Tokyo Formula One race and gets airplay there... and yet we sold no albums! This is why my children have no shoes.

"Meet Me Half Way" was released in February of 1987 and is an example of the unusual successful song from an unsuccessful movie. It peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. This song has always registered with me probably due to Loggins' voice and Whitlock's lyricsMeet Me Half Way:
In a lifetime
Made of memories
I believe
In destiny

Every moment returns again in time
When I've got the future on my mind
Know that you'll be the only one

Meet me halfway
Across the sky
Out where the world belongs
To only you and I
Whitlock also co-wrote seven other songs on the Over the Top soundtrack including "Winner Takes It All" which was a hit for Sammy Hagar. Here is the video for "Meet Me Half Way" by Kenny Loggins...


Q: What do you remember best about the decade of 80s music? What lasting impact do you feel music from the 80s has made?

Tom: I best remember the vitality and the variety of music. Real people playing real instruments as well as sequenced synthesized pop music. Certainly some of the greatest albums of all time were recorded in the 80s. I love the sound of so many of those productions - the days of amazing studios with beautiful sounding analog gear manned by some of the greatest recording engineers of all time. I also miss singers that could sing without auto-tuned vocals!Tom Whitlock

Impact? How about units sold? I don't think anything since has approached the aggregate numbers of those days. Plus, the surviving (and healthy) acts from those days can still fill the biggest halls. I've seen Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as well as Aerosmith in the last couple of years and they were both sold out AND amazing!

What do you think? Wasn't radio better in the 60s, 70s and 80s? That whole targeted format thing seems to have made stations way too narrow in their scope with no fun factor. I can remember sitting in a car waiting for that one amazing song to come on the radio again.

In addition to Top Gun and Over the Top, Whitlock also helped create songs for many other soundtracks from the 80s including: American Anthem (1986), Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise (1987), Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), Rambo III (1988), Dream a Little Dream (1989) and many more since then. Hand in HandHe also wrote the English lyrics to the official theme song for the 1988 Summer Olympics, "Hand In Hand", which sold over 13 million copies worldwide and topped the chart in 17 countries.

Q: Please tell us a little about where your career has taken you since the 80s. What are some of your proudest professional accomplishments?

Tom: Songs have taken me all over the world. I have basically continued to do the same stuff (still trying to get it right!). Write, record, mix, repeat. I've also rehabbed and built some beautiful log cabins. I've had a fantastic life with my family. For many years, I had amazing recording studios with the monster SSL console and all of the toys. In the last couple of years, I've liquidated most of that stuff (I decided that 30 years of cleaning the studio bathroom was enough).

Proud? I would more likely say "amazed" and "thankful". Obviously winning the Academy Award and selling millions of records of songs that I was fortunate enough to participate in are the big ones. Having written a song which is #26 on ASCAP's list of 100 biggest songs of the last 100 years is fantastic. Tom WhitlockThat one is the most recent development that makes me laugh out loud with joy.

Q: What else is Tom Whitlock up to nowadays? Musically and otherwise? Any remaining ambitions or regrets?

Tom: Just did some songs for an Italian movie. Wrote eight or ten lyrics for Giorgio Moroder a couple months ago. I hadn't heard from him for years - he's busy doing DJ gigs of his hits. Headed to meetings with a young artist and Michael Omartian [producer] on Monday. Working on opening a business selling amazing custom one-of-a-kind pieces (furniture, light fixtures, etc.) for my 25-year-old step-daughter north of Nashville. We have a long term dog/animal rescue operation called Clover For Rover - save 'em, get 'em well and find them homes or else they live at the farm forever. We also rescue retired race horses. Still write some songs, cut some demos. All the usual stuff that an aspiring songwriter does. Ambitions? I'd like to meet somebody who'd give me some more amazing melodies and I'd like to meet a singer that can rip your heart out. Regrets? None.

I am so honored that Tom was able to take some time to answer some questions so I could share them with you here. From fixing his brakes to writing multi-platinum hits with Giorgio Moroder, it is an amazing trip. I want to take this occasion to again thank Tom Whitlock for his contributions to 80s pop culture especially through "Take My Breath Away" and, even more, for going back to the 80s with us here for a little while as well.

That's it for another special issue of Kickin' it Old School. Thanks as always for reading and hope you are enjoying the interviews as much as I am. If you want a summary of all of my Back to the 80s Interviews posted thus far, please click on that link. Be sure you haven't missed any of them. There is a link to a summary of all of my 80s issues in the left hand column below the Archives and you can use the Google Search Box at the top of the right hand column to find any topics you are looking for or other issues you may have missed. If you are a fan of 80s pop culture and Kickin' it, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LOGO in the upper right hand column. This will take you to the Fan Page where I ask you to then click on the "Like" button. You can also follow @OldSchool80s on Twitter by clicking on the FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER LOGO also in the upper right hand column. This will take you the page and you can just click on the box that says "Follow". I am sending daily 80s tweets, so sign up to get those. You can also hook up with us on Google+. Please leave comments so we know you're out there and let other 80s fans know about us as well! Peace and much love.

Quote of the day: "The world meets nobody halfway. When you want something, you gotta take it." -Lincoln Hawk played by Sylvester Stallone in Over the Top



 
Back to the 80s: Vote to determine winners in 1984 Movie Madness - Kickin' it Old School
03.15.14 (4:40 pm)   [edit]
March Madness is upon us! We decided to get in the action this year and you can help as we decide our favorite movies from 1984...1984 Movie Madness! 30 years ago now, 1984 was surely an awesome year for movies. Here at Kickin' it Old School, we are celebrating many of the highlights from 30 years ago all year long in 2014, so this seemed like a natural.

I picked 64 of the top movies released in 1984, divided them into four regions based on genre and seeded them within each region. Those regions are Comedy/Romantic Comedy, Drama, Action/Horror/Thriller and Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Some films crossed genres, so I did my best to assign them where I felt they fit best. The top seeded films from each region are:

Revenge of the NerdsAmadeusBeverly Hills CopGhostbusters

Here is snapshot of the complete tournament bracket (but you'll find all of the match-ups at the link below)...

Round 1 - 1984 Movie Madness

Now is the part where you come in! Join the madness. Voting on first round match-ups is already open. Please follow the link below to vote now:
www.challonge.com/1984moviemadness

Voting for each round will only be open for a limited time, so get your vote in now. Results will be posted and you will be notified when voting for the next round is open with a champion chosen by the end of the month.

Please help spread the word and get as many voters participating as possible. In fact, please stop by our Facebook page and let us know you voted in our 1984 Movie Madness tournament. www.Facebook.com/KickinItOldSchool80s As extra incentive, for those who share any of the 1984 Movie Madness Facebook posts throughout the remainder of this month, you will be entered into a drawing to receive a small 80s prize. Really hope we can get a lot of participation and look forward to crowning our favorite film of 1984.

Here is a video to help get you in the mood...



 
Back to the 80s: Interview with Brian Grant, a top music video director during the 80s - Kickin' it Old School
03.10.14 (1:34 pm)   [edit]
As I still feel the need to say each time, I am so delighted that interviews continue to be a legitimate part of this little blog of mine! When the opportunity presents itself to ask a few questions to someone who contributed to the awesomeness of the 80s, I will continue to share those answers with you right here. Again, lucky for me (and hopefully you), I do get to share a little more awesomeness with youBrian Grant.

This time that awesomeness is Brian Grant. He was one of the trailblazing directors on the forefront of the music video revolution. He and MGMM, the production company he co-founded, directed many of the most successful, most ground-breaking music videos of the 80s. Grant wrote and directed the video for Olivia Newton-John's hit "Physical" which won him the Grammy for Video of the Year. He also created music videos for Queen, Peter Gabriel, Duran Duran, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston among many others. Find out about those videos, working with those artists and what it was like being at the cutting edge of the music video phenomenon as we get on to some selections from my interview with Briant Grant...

Q: How did you come to start directing music videos in the early 80s even before they went on to become so mainstream mostly from the advent of MTV?

Brian: I started directing music videos in 1979. Before that I was a cameraman at a company called ATV during the 70s for about ten years. Brian GrantBut I have always loved music, I play myself and have always been interested in all sorts of musical things. One day I saw on the TV the, now very famous, video for "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen. At that time, I had never seen anything like that before. It really piqued my interest. I was already thinking about directing by then and this really seemed to spur me on. So I made some inquiries and hooked up with a guy named Scott Millaney who worked at Island Records. He used to have a little studio, a very basic studio where they used to shoot videos for Island artists more for internal use. I asked him if I could come down and shoot a couple and so I did and I just had great fun. Then one day we decided we'd try to make a go of this and formed a little production company called Millaney Grant in 1979. For the next few months, we had no money and we didn't eat a lot while we tried to hustle up some work.

Eventually, I was offered my first real job, the chance to do a video for a band called M for the single "Pop Muzik". I think we had about 2,500 pounds to make this video. In those days, you used to set up things in the studio in the morning and then shoot in the afternoon, so you basically had one afternoon to shoot the video which was all done on video tape as well. We looked at the budget and figured out that if we edited this video ourselves that we wouldn't make any money because video editing was very expensive at the time. Pop MuzikSo I came up with the mad idea of actually editing this video as we shot it. If you watch the video you will see the result. I recorded a shot, moved the camera, recorded the next shot, moved the camera, recorded the next shot and so on. What we shot was actually on the tape and all edited together. When we were done for the day, we handed the tape over to the record company, they gave us a check and that was the first video I ever made. It took just a half a day and cost just about 2000 pounds. About a week later, there was a guy who would later become one of our partners, David Mallet, he was a director on a show called the Kenny Everett Video Show, a very hot show at the time. He saw the "Pop Muzik" video, he put it on that show, everybody went mad, about two weeks later the single went to #2 on the charts and then our phone didn't stop ringing. So that was sort of the beginnings of it.

"Pop Muzik" became a hit in the UK boosted by the music video. It made it to #2 on the UK chart (blocked by Art Garfunkel's "Bright Eyes"), but was later released in the U.S. and reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as at least seven other countries. Here is the music video for "Pop Muzik" by M...


Q: What can you tell us about how, when and why MGMM Productions was formed?

Brian: Basically, Millaney Grant worked for the next year or so making little clips but not really making much money. Brian GrantThere was another company in town in London at the time called Mallet Mulcahy, they were David Mallet and Russell Mulcahy. We were the directors making most of the videos at the time, since MTV hadn't started yet and most of these clips were mainly shown on Saturday morning kids shows. There were a couple others like Julian Temple and Steve Barron, but these were the main two. We knew them and we kind of looked out for what Mallet Mulcahy were doing and then one day we were at the same party and decided it was mad having two separate companies. So we decided to combine them and that is how MGMM Productions started. It was common sense really, rather than being competition why don't we just work together. Lo and behold, over the next ten years MGMM went on to become the most successful video company in London. I believe we made over 1500 videos between us, we made five feature films including one called Sid and Nancy [1986], we made about ten television shows and about 300 commercials. Something like that, it was a big company that grew quickly and really gave us a career.

Q: Many of your videos received lots of exposure on MTV along the way. MTV really seemed to change the music landscape with image becoming much more prominent. What are your thoughts on the impact that MTV had on music in the 80s, especially in America?

Brian: At first we had few outlets for the videos, but then MTV came and we had an outlet. Yeah, MTV had a massive impact, but not straight away. In fact, when it was first suggested that there was going to be a 24-hour music network, we all thought it was mad, we all thought it would never work. But luckily for us, it did. It did change the landscape. MTVIt became the new kid on the block and because there were not that many videos being made and most of them were being made here in London, it did really pique interest. There wasn't anything on American television like it and in the first few years it really stole the show. But interestingly enough, in those first couple of years, there weren't that many videos so they were rotating the same ones quite often. There wasn't that much material and, in fact, I was the first director to ever do an interview on MTV and during that interview I was told that for a couple of years that MGMM provided at least 50% of the content on MTV.

Obviously, it has had a huge effect, not only in music, but in cinema and commercials. It changed the way people got information from the television. MTV had a massive cultural influence everywhere. Now, it is very different, though it can still have a reasonable amount of power when the big acts come out with fabulous videos. But its power has certainly diminished as other cable channels and the internet (YouTube) has grown. There was nothing like MTV, it was like the internet is now, but back then. It changed our lives. I spent most of the 80s going back and forth at 33,000 feet in an airplane having to shoot in New York and Los Angeles and in London of course. It was great and we were kind of making it up as we went along. Getting any one of your videos onto MTV and getting into heavy rotation was huge. I was very glad that I was making music videos at the dawn of it all, rather than now, because it was a very exciting time and MTV had a lot to do with it.

Q: How did you end up directing the music video for Olivia Newton-John's "Physical"?Brian & Olivia

Brian: I had done a few videos in England and Olivia's manager, Roger Davies, called us one day. He told us that Olivia Newton-John was making a brand new album and they were going to shoot every single track on the album as a music video. He asked if I would be interested and I, of course, jumped at the chance. He paid for an airline ticket and I jumped on a plane for Los Angeles. I went up to her house in Malibu, she invited me in and she was in her bedroom looking at photos with a couple folks from EMI that could be potential album covers for Physical. PhysicalThen I sat down to talk to her about ideas for the video and, as I said, it was for the entire album, all ten tracks. An hour went by and I came to say goodbye, and as I got to the front door I turned around and said it was great to have met her because I can go home to England and tell everybody that I sat on Olivia Newton-John's bed with her. She told me later on that was one of the reasons I got the job, because I made her laugh.

Q: What can you tell us about the concept for the video and how it evolved? Was the gym setting chosen to distract from the obvious sexual connotations of the song? In addition to the sexual connotations, the video also became controversial because of the depiction that some of the attractive men were gay. How was Olivia to work with? Any other interesting details about creating the "Physical" video?

Brian: When it came to coming up with the idea, my partner Scott Millaney put me together with a writer, Marcelo Anciano, on a plane to Los Angeles. Brian & OliviaHe put us up in a famous hotel on Sunset Boulevard called the Chateau Marmont and told us we'd be in there for two weeks and that we couldn't come out until we had written a concept for every single one of the ten tracks. This was a big task in that amount of time, so Marcelo and I threw them all up in the air, flipped a coin and split them all in half. He did five and I did five. We sat in two separate rooms, though we collaborated on some things, but basically just out of pure chance, I ended up with "Physical". I listened to it and I thought this is a song about two people having sex and this is not going to work as a video for Olivia. I thought the best way to do this was to come at it completely differently, just play on the word physical and then take the piss out of it, I mean have as much fun as we possibly can with it. So I wrote this concept, the obvious thing was to put her in a gym with a bunch of good-looking boys, but you always want to undercut expectations when you write anything. PhysicalSo I came up with the idea that you think she is in a gym with a bunch of good-looking boys, but then the camera pulls back and it turns out she's trying to get all of these fat guys into shape. They are really fat and not pretty boys at all. Half way through the video she gets frustrated and leaves, goes into the shower and, by magic, when she comes back out all of these beautiful hunky boys are there that she really wanted in the first place. Then to add a final twist at the end, I thought it would be good to undercut the expectation again and have it turn out that the boys are all gay. So she really doesn't get what she wants and still ends up with one of the fat guys.

I do remember going to Capitol Records with this as the concept and having a whole pile of executives in this meeting room. It was dreadful and the only person who said anything was Olivia. She just giggled and thought it was great. Despite everybody else kind of thinking it was a terrible idea, she said it was a great idea. So we went off and made that one as well as the other nine tracks. Lo and behold, "Physical" became her biggest hit, it spent ten weeks at #1, the video went all over the place and she gained a whole new audience (including gay men) and I won the first music video Grammy ever awarded to a director. All due to throwing cares to the wind, a bit of luck and serendipity.

"Physical" was an enormous hit for Olivia Newton-John. It was released as a single in September of 1981, reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart by November and spent an impressive 10 weeks at #1. You can find out a little more about the song in my interview with its co-writer Steve Kipner. As mentioned, "Physical" won the Grammy for Video of the Year in 1983. Without further ado, here is the music video for "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John...


Q: How did you end up directing the music video for Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey"? What can you tell us about Peter Gabriel and your experience working with him? What can you tell us about the concept for the video and how it evolved? Were there any difficulties from shooting with a real monkey? Any other interesting details about filming the video? How did you feel about this video when it was finished?Shock the Monkey

Brian: I ended up working on "Shock the Monkey" just because Peter had seen some of the work I had done and he liked it. Working with Peter was one of the nicest experiences I have ever had. He is a brilliant man and a total sweetheart. He is really easy to work with and will do almost anything to get it right. He's not high maintenance. He's a perfectionist, but in the nicest way.

It was a concept that came from an idea that men, as time has progressed, have sort of lost their primeval instincts. As we become more modern and the more technology takes over, the less instincts we have. That's what the two men in the video basically represent. The man in the business suit represents modern man. The man in all white is representative of his more primal side trying to tap into his subconscious. The white just felt more tribal, more primeval and we drew our inspiration from some tribes in South America. It wasn't that difficult working with monkeys. Children and animals, they say you should never work with, but I don't think we had that much trouble with the monkey.Peter Gabriel

There was lots of symbolism in the images used including the ceiling coming down on him and running through the forest. Other ideas in there, the lights inside and the lights outside, came because we had just seen a private screening of the film Blade Runner and I was fascinated by all of the machines and the lights that whizzed by outside the windows. That is where that inspiration came from and then we had to do the opposite inside. I think the "Shock the Monkey" video is one of the best things I have ever done. It's a great song, it's a great artist. We got lucky that all of the imagery worked and it can be interpreted in different ways. Something very important about music videos is that you have to be able to watch them over and over again. The imagery must be able to stand up to scrutiny. I think it does in this case. The pictures seem to work with the music and people all seem to have a different opinion about it. I'm still very fond of it and, yeah, I think it is one of the best things I've ever done.

Peter Gabriel released "Shock the Monkey" in September of 1982 and it became his first Top 40 hit in the U.S. peaking at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100. It is particularly memorable for featuring Gabriel in that white tribal face paint and a frightened-looking Capuchin monkey. Here is the music video for "Shock the Monkey" by Peter Gabriel...


Q: The following year you created the video for Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money". What can you share with us about how the concept for that one evolved?

Brian: I met Donna in Los Angeles and had dinner with her one night. I asked her where she got the idea for this song. She told me that she had actually gotten it right in that very restaurant. Brian & DonnaA very expensive restaurant in L.A. full of very wealthy people that served very expensive food. She said that if you go downstairs to the washrooms, there is a black lady or black man as an attendant who hands you a towel when you are done washing your hands or gives you perfume or aftershave. She said she was eating there one day and went down to the restroom and this little black lady gave her a towel. When she came back up, she was thinking that exhausted woman is stuck down there with no windows and she really works hard for the money. Then she sat down and wrote the song about a working women. So I thought it would be good to do the video as a tribute to working women and wrote a story based on that. I think it might've been the first proper narrative I ever directed. It's about a working woman with two unruly kids who works three jobs every day struggling to make ends meet and gave up everything she wanted to do. She'd always wanted to be a dancer. So the video shows what her life is like and then turns into a fantasy of what she really would like to have done. Like I said, it was meant to be a tribute to working women. An interesting story, when we were in pre-production Donna said she wanted to play the waitress. I wasn't sure because this wasn't a fun video, it was a serious video that had a meaning, a point. I told her that nobody would believe her as a waitress because she was Donna Summer, a famous pop star. Eventually she agreed and I told her that she should be more of the narrator like it was a documentary and she was an observer. I think that made all the difference because I think it gave the video some weight compared to if she would've just sang it the normal way.

"She Works Hard for the Money" was released as a single in May of 1983. It went on to reach #1 on the Billboard R&B chart and peak at #3 on the Hot 100. It became the first video by an African-American female artist to be placed in heavy rotation on MTV. Here is the music video for "She Works Hard for the Money" by Donna Summer...


Q: I am going to jump to "New Moon on Monday" by Duran Duran. How did you come to direct this video when Russell Mulcahy had done many of their previous hits. What can you tell us about the Duran Duran guys and your experience working with them? What can you tell us about the concept for the video and how it evolved? Duran DuranHow did you feel about this video when it was finished since have read that some of the band does not seem to like it as much.

Brian: The reason I got to direct this one is simply because Russell wasn't available. We were partners at MGMM, Russell suggested that I do it, I met the guys and they were fine with it. So I sat down with Simon [Le Bon], John [Taylor] and Nick [Rhodes] to write down some ideas. We came up with a very simple concept that there is a cultural repression in a country somewhere and Duran Duran were going to lead the revolution. That was basically it in its simplest form and we all contributed to the ideas. I wrote a story which everybody seemed to like. We then all went off to France to shoot it. We shot some of it in Paris. Simon meets a girl [played by Patricia Barzyk, winner of the Miss France title in 1980] who knows about what he does and persuades him that she can help his cause which is called "La Luna". So they go off into the country where the revolution is beginning to fester. We shot that in a village called Noyers just north of Paris during an icy-cold January.

Unfortunately, it wasn't the most successful thing I've ever done. New Moon on MondayI think the biggest problem was that it just didn't quite work. It's not one of my favorite videos and it's not one of the band's favorite videos. I also think, to be fair, it's not particularly one of the greatest tracks by Duran Duran ever made. Therein lies the problem. It's a classic case of if it's not in the music, you can't turn it into something it's not. As we were doing it, it felt right, but when we put it together afterward, it just didn't work. I just think we got it wrong in this case. But it was still a very pleasant experience working with them and I have seen them many times since. It is interesting because you just don't always know when things are going to work. When you're working on something slightly abstract, there is no guarantee. Sometimes you can do something abstract that seems to make no sense at all, but when you put it to music it works. I don't have an answer on why "New Moon on Monday" isn't a great music video, it just isn't.

"New Moon on Monday" was the second single released from Seven and the Ragged Tiger in January of 1984. It was another successful hit peaking at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100. As mentioned, the band is not all that fond of it because of the conditions and "particularly the dreadful scene at the end" where they all dance together. Here is the music video for "New Moon on Monday" by Duran Duran...


Q: What can you tell us about working with the legendary Aretha Franklin and making the video for "Freeway of Love"?Aretha & Brian

Brian: I've loved Aretha Franklin since I was about fourteen years of age. When I was offered the chance to work with her, I jumped at it. I listened to "Freeway of Love" and I thought it was a fantastic song, absolutely brilliant. When you work with Aretha, you have to go to Detroit since she is the Queen of Soul and wasn't going anywhere she didn't want to. So I got on a plane to Detroit with my crew and Arlene Phillips my choreographer. I wrote the idea for the video on the plane. It had to work in Detroit. I thought it's got to be upbeat and it's got to be fun. Then I came up with the idea that, in the video, Aretha actually works in an automobile factory.Brian Grant Eventually singing the song, it's an uplifting experience and she leads the workers away from the drudgery of making cars like a pied piper and out into the open road. That's where the initial basic concept came from. So we set it up and we used some local dancers. The first day and night we used the dancers and shot some stuff all over Detroit. In fact, there is a shot of me in that video in front of Hitsville, the original Motown studio there in Detroit.

The next day, I got a phone call from Aretha saying she didn't want to do it anymore. I was completely shocked and she wouldn't even give a reason. We didn't know what to do. We had shots of a bunch of dancers all over Detroit, but we had no shots of Aretha at all. So a little bit of panic set in and I went back to my room. While I watched the sun go down in Detroit, I decided I wasn't going to leave without getting something with her. So I found out who her record producer was, Narada Michael Walden, I called him up, told him about the situation and he was great. He got on a plane and flew over from Los Angeles, we went up to Aretha's house and talked to her. Eventually, after a lot of cajoling, she agreed to be in the video but she just wanted it to be a performance in front of a band. So we quickly put a band together, Michael was actually playing the drums [and Clarence Clemons who played sax on the actual track]. Brian & ArethaWe shot it in a nightclub. We now had a performance as well as the shots of the dancers around Detroit.

I took it back to England, went into the editing room and began cutting, but it just didn't seem to work. It needed a third element. So I started thinking and came up with the inspiration of using some stock footage of cars and what makes Motor City work. So I went back into the editing room by myself for three days and just cut the different images together with no story in my head or really any rhyme or reason. Eventually it worked. Turning it into black and white helped. The video ended up being very successful for her. So it was very successful for me as well.

"Freeway of Love" was released in June of 1985 and went on to become Aretha Franklin's biggest pop hit in over ten years and one of the biggest hits of 1985. The single peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent five weeks at #1 on the R&B chart. Here is the music video for "Freeway of Love" by Aretha Franklin...


Q: You directed two popular videos for Whitney Houston. How did you first end up directing "How Will I Know" from her debut album? This was her first up-tempo hit, so what can you tell us about the concept for the video and letting her dance? What can you share about the late, great Whitney Houston and your experience working with her on this video?

Brian: I was in Los Angeles at a music conference where I was on a panel with some other directors. Afterward, I was approached by Peter Baron from Arista Records who I had known from some previous work I did with Arista. Brian & WhitneyHe told me they had this brand new young artist on the label named Whitney Houston. He said this was her first album, she was just nineteen and asked me if I would be interested in making a video with her. By this time, I had gotten a reputation for shooting women, as a photographer and a director for making people look good. I think that helped. Anyway, I listened to the song and thought it was a great piece of pop music. So I said yes.

The concept came from a play on the words, how will I know, which led me to the idea of a maze as a metaphor for relationships. The set was basically a lot of panels made of plastic and all of those bright colors are just printer's ink thrown on there by an art director. Whitney came over to London. Lovely Whitney that she was at just nineteen. Absolutely beautiful. Absolutely lovely to work with. Nothing bad had happened to her at this point. She had come from gospel and had been brought up well. She had great manners. She had no entourage, just one friend with her. I had a technique that I always used when I shot women. No matter what other ideas we had going on, I always would spend an hour and shoot what I called a master close up of them singing the song all the way through. I'd light it and operate the camera myself and it would almost be like a photographic session. It was very personal. I would always clear the studio and it would be just me and the artist. She'd sing the song to me, basically. I still remember the first time I was looking through the lens and Whitney looked into the camera and just smiled. My knees wobbled and I thought, my, that is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. Whitney HoustonWhen you stand that close to someone like that, it is quite astonishing. Her voice was absolutely amazing. It was the most incredible sound.

Arlene Phillips choreographed all of the dancers. What we discovered, interestingly enough, was that Whitney really couldn't dance. She had good rhythm, but couldn't put one foot in front of the other. Arlene recognized that, so she surrounded her with other great dancers from England. Then we made sure that she felt comfortable and had as much fun as we could. We could hide her dancing in the edit, but what was important is that she looked great and had a good time. Which you can tell that she did and it was a hit.

"How Will I Know" was the third single released from her debut album in November of 1985 and it became her second to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. This was not a ballad and gave her lots of exposure to a wider audience. You can find out more about the song in my interview with its co-writers, George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam. The video went on to win Best Female Video at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards. Here is the music video for "How Will I Know" by Whitney Houston...


Q: Then you came back to direct "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" from her second album. What can you tell us about making that one? Any other comments on Whitney or her tragic passing in 2012?

Brian: There isn't really a concept in the song itself other than wanting to dance with somebody, so I came up with the idea of shooting every single scene in the video slightly differently. It was just about giving her lots of different looks. So we used two cameramen in a tiny studio in New York. We set up one cameraman to give it one certain kind of look and while he was shooting I set up the other cameraman at the other end of the stage giving it a different kind of look. Then we would ping pong between the two. Again, we surrounded her with a bunch of great dancers, lit it beautifully and just had some fun. Whitney at VMA'sIt was as simple as that. Both songs were great pieces of pop music and that's why they worked.

Her dying two years ago was terribly sad. I was very, very fond of Whitney. She was one of those great artists and I think about how much more music could have came out of her. I think she would've recovered and she would've gotten back on top of the game again. But it was a real shame especially the way she died. They interviewed me on the BBC here about it because I was one of the only British guys to work with her. It was a real shock and I was really, really saddened. When I met her, she was the loveliest woman to work with. The things that happened to her, who knows why they happened, that's for other people to comment on. But for me, it was one of the loveliest experiences of my life working with Whitney.

"I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" was released in May of 1987 as the first single off of her second album. Like "How Will I Know", it was also co-written by George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam of Boy Meets Girl. It became her fourth consecutive single to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Here is the music video for "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" by Whitney Houston...


Q: You worked on several videos for Queen. What can you tell us about working with Freddie Mercury and the guys?Queen

Brian: Queen, one of my favorite bands. Interestingly, I was a huge fan of them right from the beginning. I used to see them live back in the 70s and, as I said, it was "Bohemian Rhapsody" that ironically got me into making music videos in the first place. So the chance to work with them was fantastic. I ended up doing four or five videos with them myself. Fantastic bunch of guys and all very intelligent and fun. Freddie was a fantastic person. He was a dream to work with. QueenHe had his moments, but always in the right way. He was a terrific performer. We did some outrageous things with them.

We were shooting "I Want to Break Free" and I had to put Freddie on something up very high. He had a few drinks by that stage of the evening and he fell off. We had to rush him off to the hospital, but we carried on shooting the video with the others. My producer got a call from the hospital and they told us that we had to come and get Freddie because he was disturbing the other patients. So we went over there and found Freddie (with his bottle of booze that he brought with him) having a drink with some patients and singing to them in a hospital corridor. He was a real character. There are many more stories that I wish I could tell you, but I cannot. Terribly sad to see him go and especially in the way that he did. We watched a brilliant performer waste away in front of our eyes. Queen was a fantastic band to work with and really bright people really trying to do something different.

Brian Grant was one of the most prolific and influential directors in music video history. Brian & Tina TurnerHis videos often propelled the songs to greater popularity. In addition to his creativity, he really seemed to have the ability to make the artists, especially women, more comfortable and more gorgeous on screen. In addition to the many songs already discussed above, Grant also directed many other significant music videos including Kim Wilde's "Kids in America", The Fixx's "Saved By Zero", Bee Gees' "The Woman in You", Tina Turner's "Private Dancer", Moody Blues' "Your Wildest Dreams" and Jody Watley & BrianJody Watley's "Looking For a New Love". Wanted to ask him about all of them, but just couldn't. MGMM had offices in London, New York and Los Angeles and produced some of the most ground-breaking and now classic music videos ever made. Brian Grant and his partners attracted some of the other top directors to create over 1500 music videos and win over 200 awards during the 80s.

Q: What do you remember best about the decade of 80s music and music videos? What lasting impact do you feel music from the 80s has made?

Brian: The 80s, one of my favorite decades. I was lucky enough to be a teenager in the 60s and I was in my 30s during the 80s. Two decades that were a lot of fun. The 80s was obviously a very, very important decade for me. I was 29 when I started directing and coming in at the beginning of music videos. And I got to be there along with a few other very lucky directors. We got to experiment with other people's money and had a lot of fun doing it. Basically the 80s and music videos were my film school. Other people paid for me to try things out. They didn't always work but some of them worked spectacularly well. But because, as the director, you also wrote everything, you could choose to shoot in a helicopter or underwater or try anything you wanted. They were a bunch of little experiments. But I earned a decent living, got to travel all over the world, got to meet some amazing people in a time when the music was fantastic and this new art form was burgeoning. We were in the vanguard of it all. It was a wonderful time.

If I am completely honest, I don't think I would like to be making music videos now as much, Brian Grantthough the technology is there now to do things that wasn't possible back in the 80s. But I did think there were lots of very good ideas back then and not so much now. It's more difficult to be original now. You really have to troll through a lot of videos to find a good one. It takes a lot to stand out. The world (anybody with a camera) is making them now, which is great in some ways, but the downside is that everybody thinks they can. It's the democratization of the form, so I am glad I was there in the beginning. Because nobody knew anything. The record companies didn't know anything. The artists didn't know anything. We all didn't know anything and you could kind of do whatever you wanted. Where as now, I suspect it's a little bit more restrictive, in fact I know it is.

I was very privileged to be a part of it and I think the 80s made a huge impact, especially MTV, on film, on commercials, on music itself. Even on the way we, as the audience, process material with the way we increased the cutting rate compared to what television used before. It taught a whole new generation's brains how to download imagery quicker. There was a whole short-hand in film and television that was a direct result of what some of us did in the 80s.

Q: Please tell us a little about where your career has taken you since that time and why you moved away from music videos.

Brian: Towards the end of the 80s, there was a stock market crash that affected basically everything. People stopped making as many videos and commercials for a little while. We all decided that it was time to move on and try different things. Brian GrantI wanted to direct films, but I had come from television as a cameraman. I thought the best way to get into film was through television drama. So I persuaded a producer to give me a shot directing a television drama. It was an American show called She-Wolf of London. It was being shot in London at first and I did a few episodes of that. They moved the show to shoot in Los Angeles and, while there, Universal offered me a movie-of-the-week. So I directed Sweet Poison [1991] and it won a few awards. Then Universal Studios offered me a three-year contract as director and I did a whole pile of movies and television through the rest of the 90s. I got a bit homesick, decided I missed England, decided to move back home to England and carried on shooting drama here. I co-created a few shows that I am very proud of including one called As If [2001-2004], a teenage drama series that was very successful here (and, in fact, we made a little version of it for the United States as well). It wasn't as successful in America, but it was quite successful here. I have gone on to shoot all sorts of dramas like Doctor Who, Sinchronicity, Party Animals, Merlin and many more. And that's what I am doing now, I am basically producing and directing. I have shot some documentaries including some music documentaries. I don't really make music videos anymore. I've made over 250 of them in my career. As I said earlier, I was lucky to do it when I wanted to do it. So now it's really just doing television dramas and films.

Q: What else is Brian Grant up to nowadays? Any remaining ambitions or regrets?

Brian: I just want to keep directing good dramas and that makes me happy. Dramas are all about scripts and actors. I love working with actors as I enjoyed working with musicians. Any regrets? Well, you know, it's mad to have regrets. There are things I would have done better, of course, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Most importantly, the experience of making music videos has helped me so much in making drama. Music videos gave you a certain amount of money to work with and a certain amount of time to shoot it. You don't have a choice, you've got to deliver. If it rains or snows, no matter what happens you've got to come up with an idea. Very often you have to think on your feet. Many lucky accidents were just that. That happens in television and film all of the time. Being creative on the spot is a joy. I was able to hone that through music video. I will always do anything that involves music. I love music to death. If somebody asked me to do a music video today and I thought the song was good, I probably might consider it. But nothing will be like the 80s again.

I am so honored that Brian was able to take some time to answer some questions so I could share them with you here. You can find out more about him on his official website www.briangrant.co.uk/ I want to take this occasion to again thank Brian Grant for his contributions to 80s pop culture especially through the great music videos he created and, even more, for going back to the 80s with us here for a little while as well.

That'll do it for another special issue of Kickin' it Old School. Thanks as always for reading and hope you are enjoying the interviews as much as I am. If you want a summary of all of my Back to the 80s Interviews posted thus far, please click on that link. Be sure you haven't missed any of them. There is a link to a summary of all of my 80s issues in the left hand column below the Archives and you can use the Google Search Box at the top of the right hand column to find any topics you are looking for or other issues you may have missed. If you are a fan of 80s pop culture and Kickin' it, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LOGO in the upper right hand column. This will take you to the Fan Page where I ask you to then click on the "Like" button. You can also follow @OldSchool80s on Twitter by clicking on the FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER LOGO also in the upper right hand column. This will take you the page and you can just click on the box that says "Follow". I am sending daily 80s tweets, so sign up to get those. You can also hook up with us on Google+. Please leave comments so we know you're out there and let other 80s fans know about us as well! Peace and much love.


Quote of the day: "If you create a definitive image around some music, it will stay with you." -Justin Hayward



 

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