Sunday, November 4, 2007

Hilly Michaels -- "Calling All Girls" (1980)

Hilly Michaels made one of the most overtly over-the-top bubblegum pop/new wave records of the era, a cult classic, if you could appreciate it for what it was -- musical junk food that wasn't going to break any new molds, but it was going to grab your brain and remember its verses and choruses over and over again.

Michaels was a popular New York session drummer who recruited a producer who was known for going beyond the nine yards -- Roy Thomas Baker, best known for his work with Queen and The Cars. The resulting album had everything but stuntmen -- top session players such as GE Smith, Elton John guitarist Davey Johnstone, and Dan Hartman ("Instant Replay").

The title song of the album, "Calling All Girls," was just one of those tunes that when you first heard it on the radio, you couldn't help saying: "
What the hell was that?" It starts off innocently enough with simple piano chords played in eighths, and Michaels singing in almost a teenage robotic voice: "I've got lots of money, I've got lots of time/Bought myself a penthouse, filled it up with bubbly wine..."

Then BAM, the whole damn thing kicks in with howling Beach Boys-ish background vocals, heavily compressed drums (a Baker trademark), and Michaels continuing: "Bought a helicopter, yeah, I got a lot/You should see my Caddy, parked out on my favorite yacht!"

Every freakin' trick in the book is compacted into this three-minute song: the "Calling All Girls" chorus sounds like a police bulletin, the half a key jump for the final verse and chorus, police siren wailing at the end.

And that's just the first song on the album. Now imagine ten of these! One of them can be found on the Caddyshack soundtrack, "Something On Your Mind" (which some people liken to a lost Sparks song -- you can find it here). Read the other song titles and you know we're talking surface level pop angst: "Shake It and Dance," "U.S. Male," "Teenage Days," "Turn Me On Your Radio," and "Devotion."

As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing wrong with fluff, as long as it's quality fluff.

"Calling All Girls" was an MTV smash video and it's easy to understand why -- the rotoscope animation is as nutty as the insanely catchy song. Below is that video (with no bottom end, so you're forewarned) and the bonus video for "Shake It And Dance."

1 comment:

Unknown said...


I have not seen this Video since I was in Jr. High.