The idea is that is should be something few remember but which had a few hits and is largely forgotten today. An album that meant a lot to you then and perhaps even now.
So. It’s 1986 and I was a senior in high school. Suddenly, top 40 US radio started playing songs from “Falco 3”, the cleverly named third (!) album from Falco. Falco was an austrian born pop/rock singer whose songs were a largely incomprehensible mix of english and german. But somehow it sucked me in. The eight minute long “Rock Me Amadeus,” which was a number one song in the US. The seven and a half minute epic that was “Vienna Calling” (peaked at #18 in the US). “Macho Macho.” “Jeanny,” which managed to make you feel like something horrible had happened even though you didn’t understand the lyrics. “Falco 3” rose as high as #3 in US album sales, so I wasn’t the only one who bought it, but it’s hard to explain its success. Maybe it was because he seemed so cool in the videos on MTV. Maybe it was because he dedicated the album to Johnnie Walker whiskey.
I spent years following Falco’s career, largely through imports. He did pretty well in Europe but never did anything in the US again. Then, in February, 1998, he died at age 41.
How much did Falco 3 mean to me at the time? For my senior prom I wore a black tux with white tennis shoes. Just like the tux Falco wore in the “Rock Me Amadeus” video and the white shoes in the “Vienna Calling” video.
Here’s some video links at for those who don’t know what the hell I’m talking about:
“Rock Me Amadeus” (short version)
“Vienna Calling” (short version)
*Interesting Falco trivia. In 1982 an english band called After the Fire had a number 5 US hit with the song “Der Kommisar.” It was a cover of a song from one of Falco’s previous albums.
I’m familiar with Falco mostly because a metal band from Vienna I like has done several Falco covers, their best being “Der Mann Mit Dem Koks”.
“The Void”, by Bjørn Lynne. I was getting into .mod music at the time, having discovered some around the computers and ftp sites around campus and hey, it was just like that (he was part of the .mod scene, after all) but much more professionally produced. Though it wasn’t my first exposure to electronic music, it certainly made me much more interested in it.
My entire music collection is pretty much full of what most people would consider obscure albums! The playlist on WMP right now is Halo by Redshift, Tyrant by Tettix, Pole by Tuner, and Maritime by Minotaur Shock.
I’d say my two favourite “obscure” albums would be “Curse of the Pheromones” by Bristol-based band Startled Insects. From 1986, Curse is very jazzy electronic, and fucking weird (with great track names like “Shrimps in Love”).
My other “obscure” favourite would be “Crash Head” by Mark Shreeve. Hard rock electronica with screaming guitars - listened to this hundreds if not thousands of time. Pretty dated these days, but I don’t care.
I have Bjørn’s “The Void” as well, although I prefer “Revive”. There was a period when I listened to nothing but the .mod scene.
I have LOTS of obscure stuff, most of it in the punk and metal veins. Most obscure would be probably stuff from the Og label out of Montreal, run by the dudes from Deja Voodoo. Og was famous for releasing these vinyl compilations back in the 80s heyday of Canadian punk rock; some of the bands became pretty well known (Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet, Cowboy Junkies), but most of them were only known to my fellow Canucks, like The Dik Van Dykes out of Hamilton (jokey punk stuff sort of in the flavour of The Dead Milkmen - they had a great song called “Garage Sale” about selling all of your girlfriends stuff after she dumps you) or My Dog Popper (Montreal’s version of the Butthole Surfers or Flipper; they had the best album title in history with “668 Neighbour Of The Beast”), or the Gruesomes (garage rock revivalists, those guys were PHENOMENAL live).
I also have a bunch of stuff I taped from my father-in-law, a big vinyl collector. He’s an old-school mod and he has a ridiculous album collection; through him I heard about some pretty awesome 60s Canadian garage rock like The Haunted or The Ugly Ducklings.
I have a bunch of weird stuff on vinyl as well… but only a few cd’s. Shows when I became boring and mainstream.
Nasty Rocks Inc. is a band that as far as I know only made the one album. I simply bought it because at the time they were signed on Zang Tuum Tumb and everything else that label touched was golden (Frankie Goes to Hollywood, The Art of Noise - my favourite band -, Anne Pigalle, Propaganda etc.). I’m not at home right now and Google is of no help, so I can’t even remember if the album has a name. But I know it’s great.
Electro and break beats coupled with electric guitar and singing years before The Chemical Brothers, Prodigy and the genre of Big Beat was born.
I have a great little compilation called Forbidden City Dog Food, which a girlfriend gave to me because of my love of The Cramps. It’s mainly the same vein of Psychobilly music coupled with radio promos for horror/exploitation movies of the 70s - even if you don’t care for the music (I do) then the giant octopus and women in prison promos are worth it. Apparently it’s a bunch of compilations The Cramps used to play at shows, but I only have the one and have never seen The Cramps live.
I guess the most obscure band I listen to is Abney Park, and they have more than one excellent album. They started out with
a page on the first version of MP3.com, back when it didn’t suck. They’re selling their stuff through their webpage, since no label picked them up.
Nobody’s ever heard of Abney Park, while I’ve actually talked to Haus Arafna fans. I expect the latter band to be mega-obscure, but that isn’t the case around here.
Does “Madhouse 8” count? Prince-fronted jazz band, all instrumental. Pretty incredible modern jazz.
I can think of lots of recent stuff I love that might be considered obscure but, if I wanted to pick an album that I’ve never heard anybody online talking about, I’d recommend James McMurtry’s Where’d You Hide The Body.
Singer song writer James McMurtry is the son of author Larry McMurtry and the songs on this album all tell great stories. I’ve tried his other albums but nothing else he’s written quite compares to this. If you enjoy Josh Ritter or John Prine, this is an album you will absolutley love.
Sometimes AllMusic’s rating system baffles me. They give this album 3 stars (out of 5) but the review is entirely glowing.
I offer you an album by Two Gallants, The Throes. It’s not a style of music I listen to much of (they’re kind of folksy), but I think these two guys are absolutely brilliant. Brilliant! I don’t think I can help but sound corny/cheesy about it…the lyrics and instrumentation both simply “work” for me, and I am moved. Moved, I tell you. Off this album, Nothing to You, and Fail Hard to Regain are my two favorites.
I have no idea what’s obscure and what isn’t, but I love ‘Herd of Instinct’ by ‘O’ Rang (two ex-members of Talk Talk).
“Full Speed Ahead,” by Pain. All of their albums are really fun, but this one’s my personal favorite.
A compilation album called Calambre that a friend of mind had. Even now, 10 years after I last listened to it, I can still recite the playlist & occasionally I still go hunting on the net & reconstruct the album from mp3s.
Flash by Green Velvet
Bite Me, by the Cheddar Bunnies, circa 1986. It never gets old.
Ooh! Also, the 1992 self-titled debut of Spiders with Baby Heads.
For maximum weirdness you should check out a song called Deep In The Dark by Laura Branigan.
Thomas Dolby’s 1981 (82?) debut album, The Golden Age of Wireless, is one of my all-time favorites.
Not sure if it really qualifies as obscure, given that it spawned the megahit “She Blinded Me With Science.” But many of its best songs are relatively unknown – Airwaves, Cloudburst at Shingle Street, Weightless.
With a sound that drifts between hypermodern New Wave and spacey cocktail lounge music; with lyrics that are by turns melancholic, contemplative, evocative, and confusing; with vocals ranging from silky-smooth deliveries to comical growls and hums, Golden Age is an amazing showcase for the young Dolby’s prodigious talents.
What happened to Branigan? She was big for a while there and then just disappeared. She was even on CHiPs, I believe.
Well, she’s dead, for starters.
Basement 5 - 1965-1980/In Dub
A hard, dub-influenced post punk album that manages to combine angry, scraping, intoning vocals (think Jaz Coleman minus the singing), cavernous dub and some fantastic post-punk guitar. An interesting band for the time - four artists of West Indian descent making music in a predominantly “white” form - and, while not for everyone, a top notch artifact from the late-70’s / early-80’s post-punk era (complete with beautiful, shivery Martin Hannett production). No Ball Games and Immigrant:Dub are just stunning tracks, and I’m pretty fond of Omega Man too.
Currently out of print, but well worth looking for.
Didn’t even have to think about this one: It’s Fun to Steal by Mono Puff.