Image via WikipediaCan you name the hit song recorded in 1984 by Robert Rosen and Ned Liben?
Nancy Foltz can, and she made it her request for NW4NW All Request Month! Nancy was a fellow DJ on our college radio station (WDCE, University of Richmond. ) She wrote, "I was trying to think of something quintessentially new wave (as opposed to an 80s tune that's more dear to my heart)..." She managed to to choose a song that scores on both counts - well done!
Yes, I said she chose a song, not an artist, because in this case, the two are inextricably linked. Rosen and Liben collaborated on one album in support of their massive hit song, and although a follow-up single was released, it went nowhere. No, these guys were simply one-hit wonders, but oh what a hit!
Would it help if I flipped the names around? Ned Liben and Robert Rosen. Still can't name the band? How about if I write it as their names would be listed on the songwriting credit? Liben/Rosen. Not yet? Well, do what they did. Drop the leading consonants from their names and phoneticize the remainder using three letters each:
Remember them? Well, even if the name doesn't ring a bell, if you were anywhere near a radio in the summer of 1984, you know their song: "AEIOU Sometimes Y."
A slinky mish-mash of synthesizer bloops, vocal processing, and danceteria rhythms, the song's insidiously catchy playground-rhyme chorus connected with seemingly everyone that year. It was one of those records that came out of nowhere to conquer the world, even though it sounded like nothing else to make the charts before or since.
Robert Rosen's affected spoken-word vocals tell the story of a date with an "incredible looking Swedish girl" that just doesn't end up well (culminating in the most wonderful usage of the word "Damn!" in music history), while an intertwined lesson about global languages hints at the miscommunication that must have caused the disaster. Brilliant.
As the song raced up the charts, EBN-OZN released a full album, Feeling Cavalier, which will go down in history as the first American album to be recorded completely on a computer. Armed with noting but synthesizers, they created an album that strived to be too many things at once: they flirted with hip-hop, they enlisted mambo legend Tito Puente to play drums on one song, they unnecessarily covered "Rockin' Robin." Resultantly, the album is frustratingly unfocused. The larger problem, though, was underscored by the follow-up single, "Bag Lady (I Wonder)" - they really only had one great song in them, and everything else they did was simply awful. (One exception: the Devo-esque "I Want Cash.")
Thankfully, they didn't take another crack at it. After that one album, they went their separate ways. Robert Rosen changed his name officially to Robert Ozn, formed a club band called Dada Nada (the less said about them, the better), and then got involved in the movie business as a screenwriter and producer. Ned Liben went into record production, working most notably with Scritti Politti. Liben passed away in 1998 after suffering a heart-attack.
But, as EBN-OZN, they had their one shining moment, and thanks to Nancy's request, they are the current entry in the NW4NW series. Enjoy the video for "AEIOU Sometimes Y":