Monday, June 13, 2011

Music On Monday: Wall of Voodoo

Dark Continent / Call of the West

The Stan Ridgway era Wall of Voodoo was an amazing band, which unfortunately is remembered by most people as a one-hit-wonder for the (semi) hit "Mexican Radio", which, well, okay, let's just get this over with:

You know it, everyone knows it, and truth be told it's pretty great. But MTV played it to death and it has totally overshadowed the rest of their work. Not that there's all that much of it - just two album's worth before the band broke up in 1983 (although two members immediately re-formed with a different line-up and continued to work under the name Wall of Voodoo*). A favorite track of mine was their cover of "Ring of Fire" -- I still have the 7"! You can hear the shortened single version here, but here's a great live version of the whole thing -- warning, the full version can make some people go crazy. Bail out anytime after about 3:15 if it's getting on your nerves.

Finally, what was probably my favorite song of theirs, "Call of the West". For me, this song totally sums up everything about Wall of Voodoo that I loved, the creepiness, the Morricone influence, the not-exactly-nostalgic feel for the West, and of course, Stan Ridgway's weird narration/vocal style.

Just about everyone in the band did lots more after they broke up (for the first time) in 1983, but I don't know that anything ever lived up to this handful of recordings that they made.

A funny bit of trivia: according to legend (i.e. Wikipedia), the band got their name when Stan Ridgway was playing some tracks for a friend (Joe Berardi of The Fibonaccis). Stan joked that the music had so many layers of organ and drum-machine it was like a "wall of sound", and Berardi countered that it sounded more like a "wall of voodoo". Stan, being no dummy, obviously realized that was a brilliant name and used it for the band. The funny part? The drum machine was a gift from voice actor Daws Butler. I say, "?!?"

*Personally, I was never a fan of of Wall of Voodoo 2.0 -- I know there are people who feel the exact opposite though, so feel free to check them out. Marc Moreland, the guitarist, was in both versions, and he was fantastic. So I thought maybe I should give them another chance, and I checked out their hit. Nope, still don't like them...but you may feel different!

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