Monday, March 29, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #59

Marilyn in M√ľnchen, January 1984Image via Wikipedia

The Music Industry doesn't like to take gambles, unless it's betting on a sure thing - or a reasonably good knock-off of a sure thing. For a period of time back in 1982-1983, there was no surer thing than Boy George's band Culture Club. George's pseudo-reggae/soul-crooner hybrid sound and scandalous (but not threateningly so) gender-bending had made him a world-wide star, and Culture Club's string of six straight Top-10 singles and two Top-20 albums on the US charts made that particular formula seem like a winner.

And so the Music Industry, hoping to cash in on that successful formula, went searching for the next Boy George. On these shores, they never quite succeeded; in the UK, however, they thought they had found him in one of George's fellow London scenesters, Peter Robinson.

Robinson went by the name of Marilyn, and was well-known (along with Boy George) in the British club scene as one of the "Blitz Kids," a group of regulars at Steve Strange's The Blitz nightclub, a venue that was a focal point of the early-'80s New Romantic movement: Strange was a founding member of the group Visage; members of Spandau Ballet first came together there as well.

UK-based Phonogram Records signed Marilyn in the hopes that he would realize the same sort of success as Boy George. Marilyn landed a cameo in The Eurythmic's video for "Who's That Girl?" and, perhaps more famously, became the answer to the trivia question "Who is that blonde in the yellow shirt in the 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' video?" People were starting to notice; Marliyn's name was popping up in various music magazines, especially in the UK. Now it was time to deliver the goods: an actual record.

Things began promisingly enough with Marilyn's debut single, "Calling Your Name." A catchy bit of bubblegum-soul that went Top Ten in the UK and Australia and hit #1 in Japan, "Calling Your Name" hinted that Phonogram's gamble had paid off.

It hadn't. Culture Club had run out of steam and the Boy George backlash had already begun by mid-1985 when Marilyn's debut album Despite Straight Lines landed on store shelves. Even worse, the album was terrible. Marilyn's thin voice was not even up to the bland formulaic Culture Club-lite music written for him. He received virtually no airplay at all in the US, and the album - and Marilyn - sank without a trace.

25 years on, Marilyn is little more than a New Wave footnote, still leaving people scratching their heads when they try to name all the artists involved on that old Band Aid Christmas record. The shame of it is, "Calling Your Name" is really a very good song that got lost in the muddle of a misdirected and poorly-timed attempt at a Music Industry cash-in. So, this week's NW4NW entry rescues "Calling Your Name" from oblivion for your listening enjoyment:

Marilyn - Calling Your Name
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