Monday, August 30, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #81

Bursting out of LA (via Dallas) in 1981 in an explosion of reedy synthesizers, go-go boots, Aqua Net and all the best parts of every Shangri-La's record ever, cracking her pink bubblegum and winking at all the boys, Josie Cotton was - and still is - the ultimate New Wave chick. Her debut album is a nearly perfect artifact of its time; her comeback twenty years later proved she still had the "It-Grrl" factor that her New Wave Girl contemporaries like Dale Bozzio, Terri Nunn and Belinda Carlisle either lost along the way or cast aside in hopes of winning Music Industry approval. Working in tandem with her husband, Geza X, she continues making excellent music today. 

The former Kathleen Josey left Dallas for LA in 1980, and within a year had already made a very loud splash on the scene with her debut single.  Choosing to record a song that was originally meant for but turned down by The Go-Go's, Josie released "Johnny Are You Queer?" as a one-off single for Bomp! Records.  The shock value of the song's lyrics (which seem so incredibly tame today) and built-in controversy got the record a great deal of notice, and Elektra Records snapped up her contract in a flash and rushed her into the studio for a full LP.

1982's Convertible Music is, as noted earlier, nearly perfect, and is utterly necessary to any New Wave record collection.  "Johnny" is included, along with bubbly boppers like "So Close," "Systematic Way," and a nifty cover of The Exciter's "Tell Him." The centerpiece of the album, though, is the wonderful "He Could Be The One," which, although stalling at #74 on the Billboard Hot 100, climbed to #34 on the Billboard Rock chart and was Josie's biggest-selling single (it was also a rare instance of a US single being released mainly on colored vinyl - bubblegum pink, of course.)

Josie became known to a wider audience through her exposure in the 1983 movie Valley Girl, in which she performed both of her hits in addition to an otherwise unreleased cover of Gary U.S. Bonds' "School Is In."

A second album, From The Hip, hit the shelves in 1984 boasting another excellent single, this time a cover of The Looking Glass's "Jimmy Loves Maryann," after which Elektra chose not to renew her contract, and Josie seemed to fade away.

Almost a decade later, in 1993, a French import album called Frightened By Nightingales appeared, credited to "Josey Cotton."  Sounding quite unlike her previous material, this first attempt at a comeback didn't quite catch on, even with diehard fans.  Reverting to the more familiar spelling, Josie and Geza co-founded B-Girl Records and focused on production work, until a wonderful new Josie Cotton album appeared in 2005. Movie Disaster Music revealed a grown-up version of the Josie Cotton we all knew and loved.  Now this was more like it!  The comeback was sealed, though, with 2007's Invasion Of The B-Girls, a wonderful collection of covers of themes and songs from assorted cult movies from the 1960s, led by the utterly fantastic version she recorded of "Maneaters (Get Off The Road)," originally credited to The Faded Blue in Herschel Gordon Lewis' 1968 schlock-fest She Devils On WheelsInvasion is another must-have album, every bit as wonderful as Convertible Music had been 25 years before it.  A new album, Pussycat Babylon, is scheduled for release in October, and can be pre-ordered through now.

For a little compare and contrast fun, here are a trio of Josie Cotton clips - first, an audio-only clip if her shocking debut, 1981's "Johnny Are You Queer?"  Then, from the same era, a clip of Josie performing with surf legends The Ventures on the classic "Secret Agent Man."  Finally, representing present-day Josie, the promo clip for "Maneaters (Get Off The Road)."  

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