Friday, September 5, 2008

A Warrior For Scandal

Scandal were a hard edged new wave pop-rock outfit that came together in New York City during 1982. Their music proved the perfect vehicle for husky voiced lead singer Patty Smyth (not to be confused with Patti Smith - see future post), and in turn Smyth proved the perfect voice and face to take Scandal to the international stage.

Born and bred in New York’s Greenwich Village, Smyth experienced a bohemian like upbringing and was lured to music as a teenager, soon fronting her first band called Patty and the Planets. Patty and the Planets allowed Smyth to find her voice and her confidence as a performer, though during this period she supported herself financially by working as a waitress. She came to the attention of guitarist/songwriter Zack Smith through a chance meeting, and before long the two were comparing variations in the spelling of their respective surnames. Following on from that Smith invited Smyth to join his fledgling band called Scandal. Scandal’s line-up was completed by guitarist Keith Mack, bassist Ivan Elias, keyboardist Benjy King and drummer Frankie La Rocka. Worth noting - there was an Australian band called Scandal who scored a handful of minor hit singles in the mid to late 70s, including ‘How Long’.

The band quickly built up a strong live fan base, and before long were opening for big name acts like the Kinks and Hall & Oates. Within the year Scandal had secured a recording deal with Columbia Records. They released their debut eponymous EP in late 1982. ‘Scandal’ went on to become the biggest selling EP in Columbia Records history to that time, reaching #39 on the U.S. Pop Albums chart. It was helped along by the pop-rock singles ‘Goodbye To You’ (US#65) in late ‘82 and ‘Love’s Got A Line On You’ (US#59) in April ‘83. Following Frankie La Rocka’s departure, Thommy Price stepped in to take up drumming duties.

Patty Smyth and Zack Smith penned material in preparation for Scandal’s debut full length album (Smyth contributing on the lyrics side), but Zack Smith then announced he was leaving the group. Keith Mack took over all of the guitar duties for the recording of the platinum album ‘The Warrior’ (US#17/OZ#70). The platinum album’s title track was the lead out single, and proved the ground-breaking song for Scandal. ‘The Warrior’ debuted on the U.S. charts during June 1984 and fought its way all the way to #7, advancing one position higher on the Australian charts in late ‘84. Both song and album were credited to Scandal featuring Patty Smyth, an acknowledgment that Smyth was truly the music and image focal point of the group. The follow up singles were minor hits, both ‘Hands Tied’ and ‘Beat Of A Heart’ reaching #41 on the Hot 100.

Soon after though Scandal called the campaign to a halt and split ranks. Original drummer Frankie La Rocka went on to head up A&R at Epic Records. Patty Smyth married punk poet and Television bassist Richard Hell. She had a daughter (Ruby) in 1985 before turning back to music, this time as a solo artist. It’s worth noting that Smyth’s good friend Eddie Van Halen extended an invitation for her to join Van Halen as the replacement for David Lee Roth, but the then eight month pregnant Smyth declined, and Sammy Hagar took up the post (see future Roth vs. Hagar post).

In 1987 Smyth released her debut solo album ‘Never Enough’ (US#66). The album was very much toned down from the harder edged rock of Scandal, and Smyth herself left the tough girl image behind in favour of a softer pop vixen look. The title track was released as the first single in early 1987 but only managed to reach #61 on the U.S. Hot 100. The follow up single ‘Downtown Train’ barely left the station, stalling at #95 a few months later.

Smyth then took time out again to focus on her role as a mother. She switched record labels from Columbia to MCA for her second album. After a five year hiatus Patty Smyth returned with a more mature and rounded sound for her self titled 1992 album. ‘Patty Smyth’ reached #47 on the U.S. album charts and was certified gold, in part due to the lead out single. ‘Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough’ was a skilfully crafted ballad that Patty Smyth sang as a duet with Don Henley. Smyth had previously worked with Henley as a backing singer for his solo albums ‘Building The Perfect Beast’ and ‘The End Of Innocence’. It wasn’t the first time the Eagles’ vocalist/drummer had scored a hit duet, having shared vocals with Stevie Nicks on the 1981 US#6 ‘Leather And Lace’. This time around Henley shared in a US#2 hit with Smyth, ‘Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough’ racking up the sales in Australia (#4) and Britain (#22). The ensuing singles ‘No Mistakes’ (US#33) and ‘I Should Be Laughing’ (US#86) fell well short of expectations though.

Smyth then focused on song writing, penning the Grammy/Academy Award nominated song ‘Look What Love Has Done’ (from the film ‘Junior’). She married tennis player John ‘you cannot be serious’ McEnroe in 1997. In 1998 Columbia issue a 2CD retrospective of Scandal/Patty Smyth, with Smyth recording two new songs for the set.

In 2004 all of the 1984 line-up of Scandal, with the exception of Elias who had died of cancer in 1995, were brought together on VH1’s ‘Bands Reunited’ show. Inspired by the experience Scandal performed several more shows along the U.S. East Coast, culminating in a New York show concert in February 2005. Soon after several of the original members returned to their regular lives, but Patty Smyth, Keith Mack and Benjy King continued to perform as Patty Smyth and Scandal, with several new members recruited to the band. At time of writing a five track EP of new material is due for release soon.

Whenever I hear Scandal’s ‘The Warrior’ these days I can’t help but think of a clip from a ‘Family Guy’ episode where Stewie is dancing to the song in an i-Pod commercial. The reference is of course deliberate, with the song featuring the line ‘victory is mine’, the signature catchphrase of one Stewie Griffin. I’m telling you that show is freakin’ sweet!

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