Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bang-Bang - Life Part II


Sometimes everything that could possibly go wrong for a band goes wrong: the wrong look, the wrong music, the wrong time. Certainly, this was the situation for Bang-Bang, a marketing and promotion team’s worst nightmare.


Emerging from the glam and sleaze scene of West Hollywood in the mid-eighties, it seems that everything Bang-Bang did was wrong. Just look at the cover of their only album, Life Part II, and you can see part of the problem. Their look, a glammed out fusion of tailored designer suits and more hair than one had ever seen losing a battle with Aquanet, was more in tune with Duran Duran or a glammed out Japan than the exploding hair metal scene in LA. Unfortunately, those who bought the album expecting bouncing, happy, eighties dance cuts were in for a rude surprise. Their music, a fascinating hybrid of sleaze rock, glam and eighties new-wave wrapped up in songs about reincarnation, religious alienation and the loneliness of love, was far too dark to be Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet. Unfortunately, their off-brand of pop music wasn’t nearly dark enough for the goth crowd over at London’s Bat Cave either. To make matters worse, their driving, synth-laden, funk bass heavy sound was completely out of touch with Motley Crue, Ratt or Poison any of the hundreds of hair metal bands that exploded through the Sunset Strip.


Like I said, sometimes, every thing is wrong.


Even though they were signed to a major label (Epic) it’s clear that the promotion people had no idea how to get the band past those massive hurdles. In the end, they’d just be relegated to the bargain bins of history if it wasn’t for one thing; they were so damn much fun. Some people find the band a guilty pleasure, some find them annoying. I find them oddly irresistible.


Filling a nearly indefinable chasm between new wave and hair metal, Bang-Bang was defined by Julian Raymond, the band’s architect, song-writer and lead hairdo; mixing their own brand of poppy dance rhythms, funk bass and heavy guitars, with Raymond’s dark lyrics and bleeding throat vocals. Like it or hate it, there’s no other voice like Raymond’s, an amazingly unique and expressive instrument, stretching his voice to the breaking point, singing on the very last fiber of his vocal chords.


“Rodeo,” leads us off with a jaunty, bouncy, soul-filled song that at first glance could roll onto Duran’s Rio album, but then, there’s that voice. Instead of giving us a gentle pledge of love to dance across the funky guitar fills, Raymond gives us, “I can’t tell the way I feel, about her/I can’t tell the way I feel, not for sure/about Rodeo.” It’s unclear whether he’s referring to a girl or Rodeo Drive, but the song works either way. “Fallen Leaves,” emerges next, all dark synth-bass and pounding drums, with the amazing juxtaposition of some of the eighties funkiest new wave horns playing behind Raymond’s protestations that, “I see pictures of voices I hear in the night/ I see reasons for living alone in my life.” Again, it's the uncanny contradiction of absolutely funky new wave with out-of-the-blue darkness in lyric that must’ve left the promotional team just scratching their heads.


Bang-Bang did touch upon the hit charts with “This is Love,” about as straight-forward a pop song as they could write with a truly Duran-esque bouncing beat, synth, horn fills and light-hearted tone. But again, look under the surface and the darkness lurks “Taking a chance on a brand new baby/Sitting on a branch with a thousand maybes.” In the end, other than a slightly dated, synth sound and production, the song still bops today.


Other songs hold up just as well. “Shilo,” would be one of the most beautiful love songs of the eighties, easily on par with the best of OMD, if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s singing, “we always fight about nothing/she prosecutes with them eyes.” “No Dependencies,” rips out of the speakers, scratching heavy guitar, more in line with Bang Tango than Spandau, as Raymond declares his independence from the church, marriage or any thing else that could tie him down. “Religious Holiday,” a potent anti-religion tirade and the funky-as-hell “Art of Emotion,” still rank up there with the best of the eighties in terms of craft, emotion and balls out fun. Guilty pleasure or not.


Julian Raymond went on to explore his more rock/metal tendencies in the short-lived band Dear Mr. President, before developing a very successful producing career, working with the likes of Fastball, Everclear, The Dandy Warhols, Shawn Mullins, and Cheap Trick. Epic hasn’t re-released Bang-Bang on CD yet, and may never do so. They’re probably just as confused today as they were when the band first came out. But do yourself a favor, track it down on vinyl, find Julian Raymond and send out a demand for a re-issue or keep your eyes peeled and hope. This band is just too damn fun to be lost forever in the annals of the could’ve-beens.



Sing to me, Julian, sing to me.—Racer


35 comments:

Ray said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto!! I remember thinking "So This Is Love" had a "Church of the Poison Mind" feel, but with a metal soundtrack! I used to LOVE this band! I was a 19-year old Duran Duran/fashion geek in '85, but deep down I was missing the "You Shook Me All Night Long" sound of '80. Bang Bang was my answer! You didn't mention the haunting, yet desperation of "Dark Intentions", my favorite track: "Sunlight shines in my eyes as the rain pours/ I fall apart" and the chorus "Oo, dark intentions are my right/ It's time for a change in my life" (It touched me cause that's what my girlfriend of 4-years said to me that year). Thank you for your review and suggestion. I'm really not alone in this world!

The RIpple Effect said...

Thanks for the comments, Ray. "Dark Intentions," is indeed a great song off the album, but space limitations made me leave it out. You're not alone, my brother, you're not alone!

Anonymous said...

Julian Raymond has recently resurfaced as the producer of the new Glen Campbell album, "Meet Glen Campbell" on Capitol Records, released this past week.

Rory6 said...

Hey there,

Great review. Does anyone have mp3s of this album? If so, can you post, or please email me?

I interviewed Julian for a magazine I wrote for as a teen. He was a nice guy, but kind of all over the map. When I saw them play I was given a T-shirt that I wish I still had.

I also heard that Gilby Clark was once in Bang-Bang prior to his tenure in Candy and GN'R.

Thanks,
Jim

The RIpple Effect said...

Jim, thanks for the comments. I'm finding lots of people remember this guilty pleasure rather fondly. I'd post a link to download the album if I knew how. Write to me at The Ripple Office, tseverin@aol.com and we can discuss it all.

Michelle said...

My best friend and I have been looking for Bang-Bang for years. Everywhere we turned people thought we were crazy -- they had never heard of that band. We used to listen to "Dark Intentions" over and over. Unfortunately the single got lost about 20 years ago. If anyone knows where I can find it in Los Angeles or a site where I can download please let me know.
Thanks!

The RIpple Effect said...

Michelle,

Thanks for writing. Send me your email!

Anonymous said...

I found a Bang-Bang cassette at Big Lots sometime in the late 80's... and LOVED it! Dark Intentions is also my favorite song from that album. My tape is totally hosed and won't even play anymore. I would LOVE to get a new copy of the album or at least the song. HELP!?!

marc said...

I've got an MP3 of Dark Intentions if anyone's interested. It was made from a cassette I had from the 80's. If anyone's interested, let me know...

Marco57 said...

I've got an MP3 of Dark Intentions if anyone wants it. I made it from a cassette, so its not perfect, but its not bad at all--like "very good" vs "great".

Anonymous said...

If you liked the dance/rock music of the mid 80s, this was good. I heard about it from a friend who happened to buy it for no reason, went and found it and bought it ASAP back then. Had a huge system in my car and it just pounded, played it at parties all the time. Had them playing it at dance clubs too. I still have the album, would have to hook up a turntable to play it/rip it. Does it really take that much effort to release this stuff on CD?

Not sure how I would describe it; maybe a mix of Duran Duran, with more of a Wham kind of beat, plus just a little side of Def Leppard vocals and guitar for some abrasiveness, and last a sprinkle of darkness...maybe some Ozzy is in there. Pretty fun music with a good dance beat. I think nearly every song was good too.

Glambone said...

For those of you wanting to hear a little more on this one time band, Bang Bang, you can find a track on my
podcast this month by downloading it free from:
http://glambone.mypodcast.com
And more information about the band can be found on my blog page http://glambone.blogspot.com

Less Lee Moore said...

Oh my god! Thank you so much for this post. I have been trying to find someone else who remembers Bang Bang for MANY years. I still have my single for "So This Is Love" AND my "Life Part II" album!!

I found this post because I just heard that Julian Raymond was producing the new Cheap Trick album and I thought, "The VERY Julian Raymond from Bang Bang?"

Also, I am pretty sure that one of the other band members wrote some TV theme songs along the way, such as the theme for "Full House" or maybe "Growing Pains?"

windigo said...

I happened to catch Bang-Bang doing "This Is Love" on late-night TV in the mid-80s. The quirky, straining vocals got me and I got the album.

"Shilo" and "Religious Holiday" I found I liked even more than "This Is Love." Julian Raymond, as songwriter and vocalist and chief creative force, impressed me greatly as these songs were unique-sounding and beautifully rendered.

But nothing took me over like "Dark Intentions."

I have listened to probably 20,000 songs, maybe more, over the decades. This song is in my top 5 all time. Sounding like it's coming out of a 1920s Victrola with all the pops and crackle and cable car references it is a poem of lost love set to music. It is off-the-scale evocative, raising goosbumps every time.

The only other song remotely like it is "Gloomy Sunday" by Peter Wolf.

Damn it to hell I wish it would come out on CD.

~windigo

Todd said...

After emailing you I located this link!

http://soakthecork.blogspot.com/2009/11/before-becoming-a-man-for-record.html

Although the post is more negative than I would go along with, it looks like the music is there.

James said...

Thank you so much for the link to the Bang Bang album. I loved this album when it came out. I had it on album and cassette I believe. I would try to tell people about the band and the songs (even sing them). No one new what I was talking about. Thank you again.

Anonymous said...

i can't even tell you how much of a bang bang fan i was. i was fortunate enough to live in orange county and was a total sunset strip club kid in the 80s. i was able to see bang band several times and even got to know them a little bit too. ironically through friends on facebook i was able to find tristan deville (aka: cj devillar) today. i told him that to this day i still listen to my bang bang album, and i have a dear mr. president song on my ipod. i even have my bang bang tee-shirt from 1985 still! hahaha - totally worn to death! it would be awesome to have the bang bang album on cd! i am so happy to have found this blog and be able to see the so this is love video. thank you for the blast from the past!

The Ripple Effect said...

I love all the comments on Bang Bang. When I first posted this review I wasn't sure if any one was going to know who they were. In truth, I don't even know how I heard of them. I was living in LA in the early '80's, and a DJ at KSPC FM. I'm pretty sure the album must have fallen into my hands through the station, but I don't recall. I do know that I'd never seen them before, never heard of them, and never saw the video.

Then I heard that voice! That glorious Julian Raymond voice and I was hooked.

I've since tracked down Dear Mr President and Babylon Minstrels, and while they each have their moments, neither is Bang Bang to me. An absolute unheralded classic of LA '80's new wave.

It warms my heart that so many of your loved them and remember them so passionately. Good music never dies.

I'd love to release their album on CD some day, but I'm sure the rights are all tied up with the major labels. Who knows . . . maybe someday.

Thanks for reading, y'all.

Melanie said...

I have been looking for anything about Bang Bang and no one seems to know who they are! I loved this band in the 80's. I was lucky enough to find their Life Part II album on ebay. I would love for them to release their music on CD. Thanks for your review, I'm so Happy i was able to see this cool video again!

Anonymous said...

i actually have this old fave on vinyl... AND the dear mr president album. great stuff!

db121966 said...

Ok, for about 20 years, I have had this song stuck in my head.. and it ended with "that's my Shilo"... just the end of the song. I knew that the next song on the album was the hit,(This is love) but could not even remember that hit songs name!! So until now.. I found it again. I totally listened to that album front to back.. and then it vanished..

Anyway, Bang Bang! Yes. and I think this was a great group.. Different, hard and poppy at the same time.. Loved them! I think someone said guilty pleasure... I agree.. Guilty as charged.
Thanks
Scott.

db121966 said...

Ok, for about 20 years, I have had this song stuck in my head.. and it ended with "that's my Shilo"... just the end of the song. I knew that the next song on the album was the hit,(This is love) but could not even remember that hit songs name!! So until now.. I found it again. I totally listened to that album front to back.. and then it vanished..

Anyway, Bang Bang! Yes. and I think this was a great group.. Different, hard and poppy at the same time.. Loved them! I think someone said guilty pleasure... I agree.. Guilty as charged.
Thanks
Scott.

Anonymous said...

Talk about going back to the beginning of Bang Bang...I lived in the San Fernando Valley area of LA and I was friends with all of those guys. In fact I even saw them play WAY back in their early days when one of my best friends at the time, Todd Engel, was the drummer...WAY before they got signed. I have an old flyer in my possession that says "BANG BANG at the BLA BLA" from the early 80's I think when I went to see them perform live at a local place on Whitset and Ventura (that is long since gone) called The Bla Bla Cafe'. Everyone I knew had a crush on Tristan of course. I can still remember every word to every song on the album and still have it on casette. Glad to see this site is still keeping their music alive. They were fun and talented guys!

The Ripple Effect said...

Now that's a cool story! Love to see that flyer

Richard Morris said...

Simply brilliant. Not only did I know these guys, my band, Cafe Society, opened up for Bang Bang at The Troubador back around 1984. They were so close to the bigtime that everybody who knew them, played with them or heard their music could taste it. Thanks for sharing this, it brings back some great memories.

Anonymous said...

I was lucky enough to see Bang Bang at the now defunct Golden Bear in Huntington Beach. Got to see Dear Mr. President a few times in LA. I remember once they played at the Roxy and they had the stage curtain closed. When they opened the curtain there was just a wall of fog that rolled out into the audience. Great staging.
Thank you for this great article. I actually have a full demo of what was supposed to be DMP next album on cassette somewhere. I need to transfer that to digital.

The Ripple Effect said...

@ Richard; great story, you know, I think I remember Cafe Society. Think I saw you guys back in the day.

@Anon - yes, if you do transfer that demo, please send it my way!!

Leon Rosado said...

Please, ¿someone could send me this album tomy email, or post on this blog or something? I am spanish very die hard fan of DMP and i cant' find this album nowhere.
Great post, Ripple Effect.
A lot of thanks.

Leon Rosado said...

Please, ¿someone could send me the file of this album to my email, post on this blog or whatever? I am a spanish very die-hard fan of DMP and i can't find this album nowhere.
Great post, Ripple Effect.
Thans a lot.

Melissa said...

I have been looking for info about Julian Raymond for years. I met him when I was 15. He was in the band Moviestar...They came to Redmond Oregon to play at our high school. Julian looked at me and said," I want to get married." :) He slept on my couch that night. The next morning we watched Wiley Coyote cartoons. He was sweet and respectful. I will never forget it! He called the next day from Portland and said he might be moving to LA. I never heard from him again. Black and Blue formed and he wasn't with them. B & B also came and played at our high school. I hung out with Tommy Thayer but he wasn't nearly as sweet and magical as Julian!! :-)

The Ripple Effect said...

Amazing Story, Melissa. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I loved Bang Bang - Life Part II and to my dismay when I went to digitize my cassette collection earlier this year, I had a cassette case for Bang Bang, but no Cassette! I've been on a quest ever since to locate the album.

I went to

http://soakthecork.blogspot.com/2009/11/before-becoming-a-man-for-record.html

But the link to the music is dead.

Anyone have the album in mp3, or, hell in any format? Happy to pay my way.

I can be reached at dricework@gmail.com and appreciate any and all help.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

great live band both the Geoff Rexx/Michael Graves version or the "Modern Design" with Ron Mancuso & Joey Depompeis. Record company mismanaged them. A friend managed them and I booked them at some shows, later managed Poison

Julian is producer was VP at Capitol records & Hollywood I think
Tristan is a sound engineer, Bennett doing movie sound tracks, Desi & Joey ?? Ron Formed Beggars & Thieves, some nice material


http://www.totallyfuzzy.net/ourtube/beggars-thieves/we-come-undone-video_e9346ea93.html



Dominik500 said...

Here's the Bang Bang - Life Part II LP for download. Enjoy!

http://www.mediafire.com/download/h8r442hzvrcz6zm/Bang_Bang_-_Life_Part_II_(1984).zip

Dominik

Shellie Yale said...

I actually became friends with "Tristan" CJ DeVillar on Facebook. I've been a fan for 30 years. It's nice to see someone give them credit. Thank you for that. Now....any idea how to find Julian on Facebook????

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