Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reconsidering Toni Basil

(Forgive me if I'm a bit off tonight - I just switched to the new interface and I'm trying to get adjusted to it. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you have heard some of this already. Sorry.)

Toni Basil is known primarily for that big 1980s hit song "Mickey". I see no need to link to that video today, since almost all of you will know it and either love it or loathe it. That was most of what I knew, too. Oh, I was aware of her career to a point. I knew she was an accomplished dancer and choreographer and that she had even done some acting. Let's just say I hadn't spared a lot of brainpower thinking about Toni Basil. At least, not until last night.

Don't ask me how, but I wound up watching more Toni Basil music videos than I ever dreamed existed. Most of the videos themselves are actually pretty cool. "Mickey" is memorable in its minimalism, but other than the standard white studio background, it doesn't have a lot in common with the rest. Well, there is apparently one where the cheerleader get-up returns, but I'm not sure exactly which one that is yet. Point being, for my being unaware they existed, these videos are quite well-done for their time. There is plenty of great dancing, and inventive gimmicks are on display.

The SONGS, on the other hand, are largely nothing to get excited about. Most of the originals are just OK - I didn't find that many to be especially memorable, but they weren't particularly bad. The glaring exception is "Shopping From A To Z" which...must have seemed like a good idea at the time. If it had just been relegated to an album track, it could be forgiven. Yet somehow, it was decided that "Shopping From A To Z" would be the single that followed "Mickey" in the United States. I guess they thought it was the annoying aspects of the hit record that sold it, and "Shopping" manages to top "Mickey" in that respect. Seriously, this song is omitted from the "Best of Toni Basil" collection (yes, such a thing exists). What does THAT tell you right there?

Toni Basil's pair of albums also have plenty of cover tunes. The most famous is "Mickey" itself, which is based on the song "Kitty" originally performed by the band Racey (with a male lead vocal). There are, however, others - including "Rock On" of all things. What caught my attention was the fact that Basil covered not one, not two, but THREE Devo songs! What's more, Devo accompanies her on those tracks!

See, at one time, Basil was dating Gerald Casale from Devo. I don't know if the timeline is they were dating and then they collaborated, or they collaborated and then they were dating. Regardless, Toni Basil's Word of Mouth LP includes "Space Girls" ("Space Girl Blues"), "Be Stiff" and "You Gotta Problem" ("Pity You"). Except for the second, none of these are high profile Devo songs. It's easy to miss them. But they are there, and they are great.

"Space Girls"

"Be Stiff"

"You Gotta Problem"

I never thought I'd be saying this, but it looks like I'll be buying some Toni Basil songs soon. What's more, now I'm realizing how amazingly hot she is, too. The woman is in her 60s and still going strong! She even earned an award as a "Living Legend of Hip Hop", but to learn how that happened (and so much more about her multi-faceted career), you should just do what I did and visit Toni Basil - The Authorized Site.

1 comment:

  1. I think my friend Charles had her first album, and I remember seeing the second single's video. it lacked whatever "Mickey" had that made it a hit. too quirky, I'd guess. even back then it was pretty easy to see the song would be a one hit wonder.