Yes folks, it’s time for another edition of Five Star Favs, the GMC Special Feature that has a pretty simple premise: it spotlights one of my tip-top, all time favorites. And a few of those might surprise you. For example, my infatuation with today’s featured song began about thirty years ago when I saw it on MTV, and it’s one that has had its share of controversy. (Although that has nothing to do with my fondness for it.)
With two teenagers in the house, it’s not surprising that our main TV set was often tuned to MTV in the 1980s. It also wouldn’t surprise you to hear that I was usually grumbling about those damned ‘no-talent’ rock and roll musicians, who seemed to me so inferior to those I remembered.
But one day I heard a MTV video starting that featured a pounding beat and a blazing guitar riff, a combination that’s always drawn my interest. What I saw intrigued me even more, because it featured computerized animation, something that was cutting-edge at the time. And finally — even though I’m not a lyrics guy and mostly get into the instrumental part of a song — I realized the blue-collar cartoon characters were poking fun at modern rock musicians. I was in.
When the British group Dire Straits generated “Money For Nothing” in 1985, it attracted a lot of attention for a number of reasons. Not only the song itself, but also that it was something new for the era, obviously designed for the MTV generation (MTV is even in the lyrics), and for its inventive use of computer graphics. It also didn’t hurt that Sting was involved and sang the introduction, but in any case it made a big splash and won a lot of awards, including a Grammy.
However, as time passed it also caused some controversy for its lyrics, which have been called racist, sexist, and homophobic. Defenders of the song point out that it was all in the spirit of satire, so I guess it’s up to the individual listener to make up their own mind. Below is the the full-length album version and below that the original MTV video.
Dire Straits – “Money For Nothing”
We might seem to be in a bit of a rut by featuring yet another actor/singer, but the story of Bill Hayes is a lot different from that of a recent GMC subject, Eddie Albert. For one thing, in 1955 he charted a #1 hit record — “Ballad Of Davy Crockett” — and for another, his acting career once landed him on the cover of Time magazine.
Hayes was born and raised in suburban Chicago, and pointed toward a show business career right out of college, where he’d majored in music. During the post-war years he kicked around for a while before finally hitting pay dirt in the early 1950s with a singing spot on Sid Caesar’s TV show. His subsequent popularity with fans became a springboard for his burgeoning career and he was soon finding work on Broadway too, including a starring role in a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical.
It wasn’t long before Hayes was also finding success in record sales with his chart-topper about the guy from the Alamo. (One of four hit records on the song, as described in a previous post.) Additionally, the 1950s saw him begin building an acting career, one that would eventually lead to the activity that many fans still remember him for — soap operas. He not only spent decades as a popular star in daytime dramas, but also met and married one of his costars, Susan Seaforth (pictured on the Time cover with him).
They are still a couple after almost four decades together, and during that time have often worked together, including a celebrated return in recent years to the TV program where they met, Days Of Our Lives. And even though he’s now 89 (she’s 71) Bill Hayes shows no sign of slowing down.
Bill Hayes – “Ballad of Davy Crockett”
If you’re a fan of guitar instrumentals from the early 1960s, you might remember a group known as the Tornados, a British combo that had a #1 record with “Telstar” in 1962. But we’re instead going to spotlight the Tornadoes, an American band that also had a couple of hits (although not as highly charted), one of which — “Bustin’ Surfboards” — has been called the earliest pure surf instrumental.
It was almost exclusively a family affair when the Southern California combo first appeared on the local music scene. Brothers Gerald and Norman Sanders, cousin Jesse Sanders, and their friend Leonard Delaney called themselves the Vaqueros initially, but then added a fifth member — saxophonist George White — and became the Tornadoes.
It didn’t take long for the Tornadoes to get noticed. Although the Marketts’ “Surfer’s Stomp” was technically the first surf instrumental to become a hit record, that group was more or less an anonymous bunch of session musicians. Most authorities now consider the Tornadoes to have been the first established band to do it, when “Bustin’ Surfboards” — with a no-name echo unit because the Fender reverb hadn’t been invented yet — rocketed up the charts and became a national hit in 1962.
As it turned out, that would be the combo’s biggest hit by far. The guys soon changed their group’s name to the Hollywood Tornadoes (because of the British Tornados’ success) and continued to make music, on stage and in the recording studio. Some of those records were pretty listenable, including one that was often banned from radio airplay because of its suggestive title (below). Aside from the name thing, it’s actually a rockin’ good song — in my opinion, better than the band’s big hit record.
Although the group was relatively inactive in later years, when “Bustin’ Surfboards” appeared on the iconic soundtrack of the 1994 film, Pulp Fiction, it triggered a new level of interest among modern fans. Some of the original members of the band restarted things and had — and continue to have — a lot of fun on the oldies tour.
The (Hollywood) Tornadoes – “Shootin’ Beavers”