Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Yello Turns To Gold

Switzerland have produced two music acts that have achieved considerable international success. Though heavy metal exponents Krokus and innovative electronic duo Yello couldn’t be further apart in terms of musical style and influence.

Yello are the duo Dieter Meier and Boris Blank. The contrast in their backgrounds was as striking as the music they would produce. Vocalist Meier had at one time been a member of the Swiss national golf team and was a millionaire industrialist with a penchant for professional gambling. He had been a member of Euro outfit Fresh Color, before forming a creative partnership with composer and arranger Boris Blank.

They signed a recording contract in 1979 with indie label ‘Ralph Records’, releasing a handful of singles and their debut album ‘Solid Pleasure‘. Their early work was heavy on the electronic/synth sound with a strong dance beat featured on many tracks. There was more than a hint of the avant-garde influence of Brian Eno and Kraftwerk.

A strong second album effort followed with ‘Claro Que Si’, which coincided with Yello’s first foray into the video clip medium with a striking effort to promote the single ‘Pinball Cha Cha’. Dieter Meier’s strong ‘visual’ style began giving an added dimension to Yello’s music. With the burgeoning MTV generation Yello’s music suddenly became more accessible and they signed to the major label ‘Elektra’. One of my favourite Yello songs ‘Lost Again’, a hauntingly atmospheric effort, featured on their next album ‘You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess’ - well Meier was a millionaire already after all.

The 1985 album ‘Stella’ featured two more classic tracks in ‘Vicious Games’ and ‘Oh Yeah’ which soon came to prominence as a feature track in the films ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and ‘The Secret Of My Success‘. Partly because of its association with ‘Ferris’ which had taken on cult film status, ‘Oh Yeah’ was re-released in Australia in 1988, becoming the duo’s only major Oz hit, reaching #8. It’s since become one of the most sampled tracks from that era in film and television.

Ever looking for a creative edge Yello also did something that would be repeated by the Propellerheads over a decade later, coaxing Shirley Bassey out of retirement to sing on ‘The Rhythm Divine’ from 1987’s ‘One Second’.

1988 saw Yello score their biggest U.K. hit with ‘The Race’ (#7), lifted from the album ‘Flag’. ‘The Race’ is without doubt my favourite Yello track, and I particularly love the extended remix. It exemplifies their cutting edge experimental synth-pop sound best. Yello’s use of sampling was also pioneering in many respects and strongly inspired the work of later artists such as Art Of Noise.

Yello continued to record into the 90s and beyond, not surprisingly also turning their creative endeavours to film, both scoring and directing. Most recently Yello lent their brilliance to a marketing campaign for car manufacturer Audi. Maybe ‘The Race’ had something to do with that creative partnership getting the green light.

Witness the ingenious Yello at their radical best with the clip for ‘The Race’.

No comments: