Friday, June 18, 2010
Pleasure and the Beast - "Dr. Sex"
Centuries from now, when whatever the dominant form of media there is at that time is airing the show "What Were They Thinking?", poking fun at the styles and customs of humans in the past, they will undoubtedly have an episode concentating on the Los Angeles synthpop scene in the early 1980s.
Even today, one can look back at wonder at that time and think incredulously, "This shit was POPULAR back then?" Yes, I know that synthpop didn't originate in L.A. - you can trace its history back to artists like Kraftwerk, Eno and Mike Oldfield, on into Tangerine Dream, early Depeche Mode and whoever the hell did that "Popcorn" song. But in L.A., it seems, they really grabbed the ball and ran with it.
I'm sorry to say that the L.A. band that led the way was my good old beloved Devo. Synthesizers had been creeping slowly but steadily into their music beginning with their first album (Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!) and moreso in their second album, Duty Now For The Future. Their third album, Freedom of Choice, was very heavy on the synths . . . and it was also their biggest success to date, carrying them into the mainstream on the strength of essentially one song, "Whip It". I'm not disparaging the sound of Freedom Of Choice - I think, overall, it's their best and strongest release. I just believe that Devo learned the wrong lesson from the success of this album.
For their fourth album, New Traditionalists, they seemed to be concentrating less on the "de-evolution" message in their music, and more on the sound of the music, specifically the sythesizer-driven sound that had brought them mainstream fame. And that's where the problems began. New Traditionalists is ALL synth . . . and in it, you can hear the sound of the wheels beginning to fall off of the Devo bandwagon. However, it took ten years and four more albums for the end to finally come, and during that time a lot of other bands heard that synthpop siren song and also decided to work that rocky, thin musical soil. When one of the local followers, Missing Persons, also hit it big with that sound in 1982 with their album Spring Session M, the floodgates really opened.
But for every later band that succeeded (like Berlin, for instance), there were hundreds of others that slogged it out on the fringes, trying to make a name for themselves in an oversaturated band market, working the L.A. clubs and hoping for that big break. Pleasure and the Beast was one of those 'hundreds'. The band was formed by a woman named Lowri Ann ("L.A." - now THAT was lucky!) Richards in the early 1980s, and gigged constantly in Southern California. Their hard work paid off (somewhat) - in their entire lifetime, Pleasure and the Beast released two singles, which I guess makes them more fortunate that most. The singles went nowhere here in the States, but the first release, "Dr. Sex", was a minor European club hit in 1984.
Given my disdain for the genre and the general obscurity of the band, by rights I never should have heard of Pleasure and the Beast. However, late one night in the mid-1980s, MTV (of all places) actually showed a video for "Dr. Sex" - and I happened to be watching. THIS video, to be precise:
It was probably the only time they EVER showed it - in terms of production quality, it wasn't exactly "Thriller" . . . Anyway, back then, my interest in the music was piqued juuuuuust enough for me to go out and find the song I just heard. Now, this is no masterpiece - at best, it's a relic of a justly forgotten time. But still, it's pretty hard to find. So, for good or ill, here you are:
Please use the email link below to contact me, and I will reply with the download link(s) ASAP: