Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Hooters - Nervous Night

How far would you go to hear a record?

And by “how far,” I don’t mean in terms of physical distance. I mean “how far” in the sense of would you turn around after setting out on your morning commute, or simply to get up off your couch and change the platter, just like we did in the old days when everything was better.

By modern parlance, “how far” for me means dicking with my laptop and three in the morning, checking registry files to see why your fucking machine no longer thinks you have a CD/DVD player anymore. And you have The Hooters Nervous Night in the device and you’d like to hear it.

I won’t pretend that Nervous Night is worth turning around for, or is a record that one should get all bent out of shape about if it’s trapped inside the confines of a disc drive that, according to your Toshiba Satellite, no longer exists.

Hailing from Philadelphia, The Hooters are an unfortunately named band with a novelty instrument as their primary recognition, both of which seemed to doom the band to near one-hit-wonder status and complete irrelevance some decades later.

They are a pop band, and the record in question did quite well upon its release, which is 1985, if you’re wondering why I’m writing about a band/record that you’ve never heard of before. I don’t blame you, as pop records generally peak during their moment of influence before succumbing to nothing more than a nostalgic thought.

Nervous Night is actually The Hooters second release, it’s first was an indie and it too did quite well for “indie” standards. That record, Amore, sold about 100,000 copies and it got Columbia Records’ attention enough for them to suggest the two primary creative units in the band-Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman-to help their recent signing of Cyndi Lauper for her debut record, She’s So Unusual.

It also prompted the record company to take a closer look at The Hooters too, a band that had actually broken up by the time Columbia signed the band to a multi-record deal, one that began with Nervous Night.

The album contained three re-worked songs that originally appeared on Amore, and it included a much larger promotional budget that allowed for exposure on MTV. The label wisely started their push with the decidedly un-radio friendly “All You Zombies,” a song that logged over five-minutes in length and featured some biblical subject matters.

I’m betting that if “All You Zombies” had been shelved as Nervous Night’s lead-off track and replaced with the decidedly more poppy “And We Danced” or “Day By Day,” two tracks that ended up as the follow-up singles and the record’s most visible tracks, I wouldn’t had purchased the album.

But because “All You Zombies” is mysterious and a departure from what one normally hears on MTV, it intrigued me to the point where I forked over the $15 (1985 prices to boot) and walked away with a copy.

Strangely enough, my original copy didn’t contain the title track. I remember well after the purchase, seeing a live performance video of The Hooters where they played “Nervous Night” and wondered why it wasn’t included on the namesake. Several years later, I got a promotional copy of Nervous Night for the radio station I worked at and noticed the total number of tracks on that disc was 10, not the normal 9 that I was accustomed to.

Sure enough, that copy of Nervous Night included the title track, but no one at Columbia Records could confirm for me how many copies of the original were pressed without that cut (I was into that kind of shit back then).

The love of the title track won against any suggestion of how rare my version could have been; I swapped my copy with the one acquired for the station.

Strange as it may seem, the addition of “Nervous Night” feels slightly out of place at cut 5, the last track of side one. It’s almost as if the song never really found its place on its own record, and whether intentionally left off the original pressing or not, feels tacked on with its current position.

It works as the penultimate track, which is served on the release by a pedestrian cover of Love’s “She Comes In Colors,” a version that actually introduced me to Arthur Love’s noteworthy band from Los Angeles some twenty years prior.

And even though the two bands are night and day apart in term of sound, both seem to share defiance in their particular streets of origin. Southern California was not known for the complex pop sounds of Forever Changes just as Philadelphia is not regarded as a beacon of reggae rhythms and folkie arrangements. Yet both bands navigate within the pop realm with a skewed sense of arrangement and an outlook that is beyond the sounds normally associated with their hometown.

All of this is just a fancy way of saying that Nervous Night contains 10 (or 9) tracks of taught pop bliss, fluctuating between standard guitar oriented jangle, Jamaican rhythms, and the most notorious use of a melodica since Augustus Pablo (who the band rightfully acknowledges in their liner notes).

The Hooters never set out to change the world, or to become Philadelphia oddball group of commercial notoriety. What they did on Nervous Night was to release a record of deserved success, a unique blend of good-natured experimentation next to some good old-fashioned songcraft.

The fact that kids today have forgotten them or that the record isn’t revered as a major component in today’s pop formula is irrelevant when you’re enjoying The Hooters early commercial breakthrough. It’s a record that still sounds good today, primarily because it sounded like nothing else back then.

Nervous Night is worthy enough for a new or an additional listen. Or in my case, it was worth the late-night troubleshooting fiasco that came from attempting to transfer one “state of the art” delivery method to a new one.


Kiko Jones said...

Mr. Mister are Slayer next to these guys.

Anonymous said...

The Hooters are not forgotten in Germany, I saw them live last year and they're still great. Their "comeback" album Time Stand Still from 2007 is also worth checking out, a lot more relaxed than in the 80s.
"All You Zombies", "Johnny B", "500 Miles" etc. are still played on the radio over here.