Friday, January 11, 2008

The Producers -- "What's He Got?" (1981)

The epitome of a one-hit wonder, New Wave skinny tie band, The Producers were one of many similar bands cranked out like this at the height of the New Wave movement. Many of the band names started with the word "the." Some of them had one great song and that was it, their one significant contribution to musical history. A lot of them just disappeared right away and their albums became landfill. It was the New Wave gold rush, much like the grunge craze in Seattle in the early 90's when the record labels were signing similar New Wave bands left and right.

As is often the case with the one hit wonder, New Wave skinny tie bands, that one hit was usually a killer and this was definitely the case with The Producers' "What He Got." Their label, Epic/Portrait, was clearly trying to model them in some way after Cheap Trick, putting keyboardist Wayne Famous (!) in the Bun E. Carlos role as the "strange comic looking one who stood out among the handsome band members." They even shared Cheap Trick's long time producer, Tom Werman (one of the great unsung rock producers, in my opinion).

But that's just about with their similarities ended. While Cheap Trick was guitar-driven, heavy Beatles-influenced power pop with lots of overdriven chords, The Producers just had New Wave written all over them. "What's He Got" is three minutes of sharp jangly pop, a rather sneering tale of a jealous guy wondering why the girl he has the hots for is instead going out with that man "with the big black car, long cigar, he's twice your age."

Looking for a place
In his will
Why should you be just a
Mid-life thrill
You'll be thinking of me
Every night
When he turns away and
Turns out the light

Remember rock music when you could dance to it? That was one of New Wave's greatest contributions to culture, something we haven't seen in years. With "What's He Got," you can sing along to the entire song and then the counter harmonies ("na na na na na") like a true upbeat pop song and dance like a New Wave nut, hopping up and down, huddling together.

Below was the group's official "What's He Got" video, which starts off with this nonsensical Monty Python animation rip-off and then goes right into the beauty. Watch how they make that keyboardist appear as the comic relief (and suspiciously he's the only bald one!), surrounded by synthesizers and carrying one monster unit around his shoulders during the break.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gotta slightly disagree here. During the MTV era, it was entirely possible for a band to have a single airplay hit, but multiple video hits (hit being defined as having the video in rotation on MTV). By that criteria, The Producers had a couple hits, notably She Sheila and Certain Kind Of Girl. I'll also point out that the cover of You Make The Heat is pretty awesome in that it's the ice-covered front of a building. Buildings look like that when they burn in winter from being hosed down by the fire department.