Not for the first time, it was the USA Network’s Night Flight that shined the light on “something new” for me. I owe that show a lot. One late Saturday night they played the video for “Dumb Waiters.” It was about one a.m. or so, and I should have been sleeping after a night of break dancing in the center oval at the local roller rink with four-pound wheeled boots laced to my feet, but that wasn’t the case. Fourteen year-olds have something called LIFE running through their veins that moves like a particle through the Hadron Collider, while adults must make do with the lower-cased “life”–a cholesterol and plaque-riddled sludge that moves through the body like peanut butter through a straw. It’s unavoidable, really.
In any case, the music and visuals grabbed me like a school truant officer collaring some delinquent down at the pool hall. A saxophone groaned over a plodding beat while twin guitars churned like a couple of Evinrudes in brackish water. And yes, even my green ears could hear that the singer owed a lot to Bowie, but what the heck is wrong with that? It’s better than watching a band with a singer who owes a lot to Christopher Cross, don’t you think?
The very next day, I tagged along with dad on a trip to a hardware store situated in a four block long strip mall that also happened to contain a retail outlet called Oasis Records. They had what I was looking for, an LP called Talk Talk Talk. Its their best record. The first, self-titled one is pretty good, but not the never-to-be-surpassed peak certain deranged Psych Furs “purists” would have you believe. They were still finding their footing on that one, like Cocteau Twins on Garlands. Forever Now is just shy of Talk Talk Talk’s greatness–Todd Rundgren was an inspired and salutary choice as producer. Mirror Moves is listenable, but a big step down–the AOR disease Simple Minds would also succumb to is creeping in fast. Midnight to Midnight I can’t really tolerate, although I do love the synth horns on “Heartbreak Beat.” They were a spent force by then, even stooping to re-record “Pretty in Pink” for a John Hughes movie soundtrack, and it’s a travesty. (The re-recorded song, not the flick) Whatever happened after that I don’t know about.
If you go watch the original “Dumb Waiters” video on YouTube, you’ll see that it only has about 24,000 views. This seems criminally low to me, a neglect I really don’t understand. I saw a Richard Butler-led hodge-podge version of the Furs perform Talk Talk Talk in its entirety in 2011 to a packed house at Slim’s in San Francisco and it was exhilarating. It’s a record that still ranks in my top 50 even today.