Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Music Box: Tom Tom Club

I still remember how excited I was when I got the debut album by the Tom Tom Club for Christmas in 1982. It was wrapped along with Yaz's "Upstairs at Eric's," the Scandal EP (with "Goodbye to You"), and Toronto's "Get It on Credit," which I had stupidly asked for after being sucked in by their MTV hit "Your Daddy Don't Know." But it was Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz's side project -- along with Tina's sisters Lani and Laura and an exciting group of other musicians -- that most intrigued me. After hearing "Genius of Love" I was convinced I'd found my next "fave band ever," and for a short while there they pretty much were. While I'd always liked Talking Heads, the idea of Heads caliber music but with chicks singing (and not so serious!) was just what the music doctor ordered. "Wordy Rappinghood" -- with its opening typewriter "chords" and playful refrain ("What are words worth? WORDS!") -- quickly became my second favorite rap song ever (sorry, Tina. Blondie will always be on top!). And the mysterious "As Above, So Below" and "Loralei," plus the anthemic "On, On, On, On ..." and 10th-grade French lesson "L'Elephant" made for a wonderfully fun and breezy debut, cementing the Tom Tom Club's status in my heart.

Next up, the band released a stopgap a cover of "Under the Boardwalk," which was more fun than a day at the beach (admittedly I hate sand and have a thing for covers sung by the opposite sex of the original recording artist).


"I tell you he was a masterpiece ..."

Striking while the iron was hot, the Tom Tom Club released their sophomore album, "Close to the Bone," in 1983. While it was inevitable that following up such an offbeat and eclectic debut would be difficult, in a lot of ways "Close to the Bone" was the "King" to Belly's "Star": fewer "big" moments, but a much more solid and satisfying effort. The album's lead-off single, "The Man With the 4-Way Hips," kept the party going. Its even better follow-up, "Pleasure of Love," picked up where "Genius of Love" left off (it, too, has been sampled over the years). "On the Line Again," "Measure Up" and "Never Took a Penny" were as good as or better than anything they would ever do, and the album also included the ERA anthem "This Is a Foxy World," which I think may well be their best song to date. The band didn't record again until 1988 and by then they'd moved in a different direction. The albums were less about the Weymouth sisters singing and more about funky experimentation. Occasionally they'd catch my ear again -- "Suboceana" with its "boom boom chi boom boom" refrain and nice covers of Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale" and Hot Chcolate's "You Sexy Thing" -- but for the most part, to me, the band will always be those two glorious albums that came out during that exciting moment in music history that was the early 1980s.

While the band's label, Sire, did a loving job issuing the debut album on CD -- complete with three remixes and the "Under the Boardwalk" single -- they never even bothered to release "Close to the Bone." Therefore, in my never-ending role as the Robin Hood of '80s music (sort of?), I am making available to you MP3s ripped from my very own vinyl collection, complete with bonus tracks (from a 12-inch single) and homemade artwork (in case you're like me and prefer to make a CD). The sound's not perfect, but not having this album at all is far more imperfect. If interested, please e-mail me HERE (put Tom Tom Club in the subject). (This is a limited time offer, until the Feds or, better yet, Tina!, threaten me with legal action.)

(Artwork by Greg Jelinek)

  • Read all Music Box posts HERE.

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    3 comments:

    nojarama said...

    Thankies! I LOVED The Man with The 4-Way Hips (still have my 12")!

    Michael said...

    I love your music taste! Did you listen to the Housemartins? Or Big Audio Dynamite?

    Mark said...

    I have been playing the first 2 cds NON-STOP since last week! No wonder we've been girlfriends since 6th grade! LOL

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