Real Girl Power- The Underrated Women of 1980’s Music.

 

susanna hoffsolivia newton johnsheena eastondebbie gibsonbelindathe jets

 

When naming female music artists from the 1980s, most will name Madonna, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, or Cyndi Lauper. Hard Rock fans will mention Lita Ford, Pat Benatar, or Joan Jett. There are some artists who had just as many hits, and were just as talented. My list of underrated female artists is just that; talented females who had several hits on the U.S. Charts but seem to be forgotten, either by music radio or by critics in general. In no particular order, here are some of the underrated (and sometimes forgotten) talents from the era.

  1. Sheena Easton. It’s hard to believe that she is not given more credit as a top artist in the 1980s- she was everywhere in the decade. She was the first artist to have a top 5 hit on 5 different charts (Pop, Country, Dance, R&B, and Adult Contemporary).  She was an actress on Miami Vice (THE show of the decade), had a James Bond hit, “For Your Eyes Only” (#4 Hit) worked with Prince on the songs “Sugar Walls” (which made Tipper Gore’s Filthy 15 list) and “U Got the Look.” She also had a #1 hit with “Morning Train (9 to 5)” Not only did she have the looks to attract the male audience, she had a great voice, from ballads to Pop songs. Her vocal range on the song “You Could Have Been with Me” is one example. Easton did it all in the era, and according to her official website she still tours.
  1. Belinda Carlisle. She had hits with her all girl band The Go Gos (who sold over 7 million albums in a short time) and went solo in 1986 with songs like “Mad about You“ (#3 Hit), “Heaven On Earth” (#1) , and “I Get Weak” (#2). She also had a hit with “Circle in the Sand” (#7). The song “Mad about You” also had a guitar solo from Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor.  Carlisle proved she could hit gold as a band member or solo act, which is rare for any artist male or female.
  1. Debbie Gibson. When she first came onto the scene in 1987, I admit I was not a huge fan of hers; however, I did like her ballad “Foolish Beat.” Throughout the years I have gained more respect for her as an artist than when I first encountered her music. Between 1987-1988, she had 4 Top 5 hits on the charts, and was one of the youngest females to write, produce, and perform on a number one single. Since then she has been in movies for the Syfy Network and has performed on Broadway. In the era where the artists were controlled by the management and record companies, which seems more the case today than back then, Gibson had control over her music and what was put out with her name on it.
  1. The Jets. This family act from Minneapolis is one of the most underrated acts of the 1980s. With hits like 1986’s “Crush On You” (#3), “You Got It All” (#3), 1987’s “Cross My Broken Heart” (#7) and “I Do You” (#20), and 1988’s “Rocket 2 U” (#6) and “Make It Real” (#4), the Jets were all over the airways. “You Got It All” was written by Rupert Holmes of “Escape (The Pina Colada Song” fame. Vocalist Elizabeth Wolfgramm sang lead on my two favorite songs of theirs, “Make It Real” and “Got It All.”  Her soulful voice added to the great Pop ballads that the band released, which were staples at my school dances. She left the band in 1990, but they fused Dance, Pop, Latin, and R&B into their songs.  The band was underrated for its time for mixing many genres.
  1. Olivia Newton John. How can Sandy from Grease be on my list? Because most people forget how great of a singer she was in the 1980s. Her 1970s songs like “I Honestly Love You,” “A Little More Love,”and the songs from the movie Grease were well known, but some think of her as a One Hit Wonder in the 1980s with “Physical” in 1981, when in fact she had hits like 1980’s “I Can’t Help It” with Andy Gibb (#12 Pop, and #8 AC Charts),  1982’s “Make A Move on Me” (#5) and “Heart Attack” (#3), and 1980’s “Magic” (#1). She also had two soundtrack hits with 1980’s “Xanadu” (#8) and 1981’s “Twist of Fate” (#5), from the movie “Two of a Kind,” which she was cast with Grease co-star John Travolta. Even though the movie was a failure, the soundtrack had hits with John and with Journey. She also starred in Xanadu, which is considered a horrible movie, but has gained a cult following (the film actually broke even at the Box Office).  Much like Sheena Easton, Olivia Netwon John was able to record and act in the era, and had one of the purest voices.
  1. Susanna Hoffs. After the success of The Go Gos, another all girl group came onto the scene in 1986, although they formed in 1980. It took a Prince Song in 1986 called “Manic Monday” (#2) for the world to embrace The Bangles, made up of Susanna Hoffs, Vicki and Debbie Peterson. Like The Go Gos, they played their own instruments, which was rare for the time. The other hits by the band included 1986’s “If She Knew What She Wants” (#29), 1986’s “Walk Like An Egyptian” (#1) and “Walking Down Your Street” (#11), 1987’s remake of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade of Winter” (#2), 1988’s “In Your Room”( #5), and their 1989 #1 Hit “Eternal Flame.” Hoff’s also tried her luck in acting in the 1987 film “The Allnighter,” a disaster at the Box Office even with the success of Hoffs as a sex symbol. The band was even voted into the Vocal Hall of Fame in 2000. I was never a fan of “Egyptian,” preferring the more rocker songs like “In Your Room,” and “Walking Down Your Street,” however Hoffs had a unique voice and was a very good front woman for the band, which she doesn’t get as much credit for.

Hoffs went solo and had a hit with “My Side of the Bed” (#30) and still tours solo and with The Bangles. She also works with Matthew Sweet releasing cover albums. I have recently started listening to her solo stuff and they are really good, including 2012’s “Someday.”  I also watched the Vh1 “Behind the Music” documentary recently which shows a unique insight to the band that I found entertaining.  I recently saw a concert of the Bangles online and they, along with Hoffs, still have the great musicianship that many bands have lost throughout the years. Definitely check out Hoff’s solo work.

Don’t forget to subscribe to this page by clicking the Follow button. It’s free and by subscribing, you will get this sent to your email when a new post comes out. I do not see your address, but it will help increase the page’s numbers.

 

Advertisements

Holy Heels!! Ranking Batman’s Villains!

Batman and Robin

One of the best DVDs released in the past few years was the long awaited collection of the 1966 Batman TV Series. Like many TV Shows that have not been released, the show was owned by several companies, so the legal battles to what company gets a certain amount of money took years to determine. The series was only 3 Seasons long, but the collection was separately sold in 4 sections, because of the Season 2 having more episodes than the others. Unless you bought the collection all at once in the DVD or Blu Ray packaging, which was over $100, it was sold separately by season (Part 2 was in two different packages) for anywhere from $19-$30 apiece.

Regardless of how many people ridiculed the cheesiness of the show and it’s unbelievable plots (especially how Batman and Robin got out of every cliffhanger), I still enjoy the show along with the music and actors.

In his book The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, author Glen Weldon writes that even though the show got made fun of for its plots, Season One had ten of its episodes taken from the Batman Comics, and Season Two had two of its stories from the comics (Season 3 had none). Those that thought the show was an insult to the character of Batman, some of it was straight from the comic, which Weldon says was one of the problems with the show, claiming  the studio did not adapt the stories and action to the screen and left it as a 3 dimensional version of the comics. But by Season 3, the budget for the show was cut drastically from Season 1, which may also have been a factor.

In researching this topic, I decided to contact someone who I knew was a fan of the show, Chris Yambar. Yambar has painter, cook, public speaker, and comic illustrator on his resume. He also has organized his own comic conventions.  A resident of Youngstown Ohio, he worked on The Simpsons Comics, is the Creator of Mr. Beat, and is well known for being a Pop Culture fan and expert.

Yambar says “The 1966 Batman was groovy and corny. Also it was designed to take the character mainstream. Let’s be honest; in reality, the whole concept of Batman and any costumed character is totally insane. So they decided to have fun with it.”

Many actors appeared during the TV Show’s run, including Bruce Lee, Liberace, Leslie Gore, Ethel Merman, Milton Berle, and Art Carney to name a few. There were several villains that were made just for the show, along with the comic book favorites. Here are my favorite Batman Villains in order.

egghead
Vincent Price’s Egghead.
  1. Egghead (Vincent Price). This character was created just for the TV Show, and is not a well known character when discussing the show, but is one of my favorites because of actor Vincent Price. Even though he had some Egg-aggerated comments, Price, like in his horror films, understood the humor in the role. I have always been a huge fan of Price, who did so many different things in his life from chef, painter, editor, actor, and Shakespearian expert.
riddler
Gorshin’s Riddler.
    1. The Riddler. This character was played by 2 different actors during the TV Series; Frank Gorshin (Season 1 and 3) and John Astin (Season 2). Although he wasn’t a favorite villain of mine in the comics or movies (Jim Carrey was just awful in his interpretation in the movies- like everything else he does), it is Gorshin that made me like the character in the show. Astin (who played Gomez in The Adams Family) came in Season 2 after Gorshin wasn’t available, but the writers even had plots written for Gorshin if he showed up (one story was used for Maurice Evan’s The Puzzler character in Season 2).  Austin’s Riddler was dry and not really entertaining compared to Gorshin’s. Also of note: Austin wasn’t the only Addams Family alum to be in the series- Carolyn Jones (Morticia) played Marsha Queen of Diamonds, and Ted Cassidy (Lurch) appeared in a wall climbing scene. Jones also was in the TV Show Wonder Woman, and had a small part with Price in House of Wax.  Of the two actors, Frank Gorshin was by far the better of the two, and came back in Season 3.
penguin
Burgess Meredith
  1. The Penguin. The rumor was that Spencer Tracy was going to play the lover of birds, but was denied after he wanted producers to agree to let him kill off Batman. Nonetheless, Burgess Meredith was cast, and was brilliant in his role. The Penguin has the most appearances in the TV series, which had to prove his popularity of the character. Just like Batman and Robin, the Penguin had many gadgets as well, such as his Pengymobile, various umbrellas, and other strange weapons. Unlike the Danny Devito’s dark and twisted version of the characters in the film, Meredith had a likeness to the character, even though he was a villain.
catwoman
Julie Newmar.
  1. Catwoman. There were 3 people who played this villain; Julie Newmar in Season 1 and 2, Lee Merriwether in the 1966 Batman Movie, and Eartha Kitt in Season 3. Merriwether took over the part for the movie when Newmar could not make the filming. Merriwether also had parts in the show as Lisa Carson in a King Tut episode. Even though Kitt was probably the bigger star when she was the character, my personal preference is Newmar, who in Season 2 showed more of her attraction to Adam West’s Batman than in the first season. Newmar’s costume is in The Smithsonian Museum, which shows her popularity of the character. Most people name Newmar when they think of Catwoman, with good reason. She was Purr-fect.

 

 

the joker

  1. The Joker. No surprise here. The character was Batman and Robin’s most famous enemy in the movies, TV, and comics. The TV Show was no different with the great Ceasar Romero playing the Clown Prince. Just like Vincent Price, the range of Romero’s acting shows in his character; the actor was in such films as The Cisco Kid, The Thin Man, and the original Ocean’s 11, opposite Frank Sinatra. Many laugh at the character’s face paint because the audience could see his mustache underneath the paint, but that was something Romero refused to shave for the show. To me, this makes the character even more off kilter and shows a somewhat insane look to him. Romero will always be The Joker, with Jack Nicholson coming in second of all the actors who’s played the villain.

 

There were many great actors that showed up on the TV Show during its run. At the time, the show was THE show actors wanted to be on, even though it only lasted 3 seasons. The skills of the actors are underrated due to comedic aspects of the show. Burt Ward’s Robin may have been known for his “Holy” comments, but Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl showed some female scrappiness to it (Let’s face it, she was in movies with Elvis Presley and was on shows like Star Trek, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, The Wild Wild West, and The Big Valley).

batgirl
Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl

Weldon writes in his book that the producers wanted a co-star that was “a young female who could offer the girls in the audience a strong role model and the dads a reason to tune in for the Non-Catwoman episodes.”

When Batgirl appears in Season 3 (which became my favorite hero of the show), the ratings were so bad that it did not matter. However, Weldon writes in the book that:

“Her Batgirl was forthright, no-nonsense and, when the mood hit her, flirtatious. Craig’s dance training translated into a combat style composed of high kicks and balletic spins. The producers’ intention had been to introduce a fresh, invigorating element to the show, and Craig delivered.”

It has only become in recent years that the TV Show has gotten a second look and some new fans. When Season 1 started, the Batman Merchandise made over $70 Million Dollars, and this was in 1966! After the show, there was a decline in sales until the Michael Keaton Batman movie appeared. In the book, Weldon says that:

“DC Comics, which until very recently discouraged its creators from making even oblique references to the show in its pages, has come around, granting rights for an animated series (Batman: The Brave and the Bold) that gleefully embraced the show’s sensibility and even publishing a tie-in comic (Batman ’66) written and drawn in the series’ distinctive style.”

There were plenty of skilled actors in the show. Maybe it’s time to check out the show again, even for nostalgia purposes.  To me, the Batman Series was underrated for a show, where today’s shows are all Reality Shows and shows with bad writing. At least in this show the audience knew they were getting funny lines and fight scenes.

Yambar listed his favorite villains, based on how “well they played into the classic designs established in the comics of the time.” His list: 1. Joker 2.Penguin 3.Gorshin’s Riddler 4. Catwoman (Julie Newmar, then Meriwether). He also lists Egghead and Bookworm as his “B Villains.” He also says “most of the others were just stupid.”

When I asked him to tell me his thoughts on the show overall, Yambar summed it up by saying “The Adam West dialogue was always the biggest keeper of the show. I loved the car, the cave, copter, boat gadgets. Mega-super infinity loved Batgirl. I still have a thing for librarians to this day. I have friends who are in the comics industry today because of the show, which they saw as young children. Before even having read comic books. “

Now if a respected person in the industry like Chris Yambar speaks highly of the show, shouldn’t you take another look at the series? Don’t just take our words for it, but TAKE OUR WORDS FOR IT. Or as Robin would say “Holy Binge-Watching!”

 

A HUGE thanks to Chris Yambar for contributing to this story and his support throughout the years. We are talking Stately Wayne Manor huge!

Glen Weldon’s book is available anywhere you get books.

(Weldon, Glen. “The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016. Print. )

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to this page by clicking the Follow button. It’s free and by subscribing, you will get this sent to your email when a new post comes out. I do not see your address, but it will help increase the page numbers.