Friday, October 10, 2008

Those Dear Departed - Chapter Three

In the formative years of promotional music videos there was an element of hit and miss, in terms of artistic merit and innovative style (still is come to think of it). The late 70s in particular saw an explosion of growth in the medium, with some landmark efforts from pioneers such as Michael Nesmith (see Sep post) and David Bowie, which would set the bar for the 80s MTV generation to rise to. Amongst the brilliance were some, well let’s say, not so exemplary examples of the art form, but all the same no less memorable to those who witnessed them at the time. For some reason the music video for the 1979 Roger Voudouris hit ‘Get Used To It’ became one of those memorable moments in the medium, almost as memorable as the catchy pop song that it accompanied.
The man behind the song (and the red jumper) Roger Voudouris, started writing and performing music whilst still in high school during the late 60s/early 70s. He formed his own band called Loud As Hell Rockers, who soon gained a solid reputation on the Californian music circuit. During the first half of the 70s the Loud As Hell Rockers opened for several high profile acts, including the Doobie Brothers, Stephen Stills and John Mayall. Voudouris also worked as a session guitarist during this period, before securing a record deal himself with Warner Bros. In 1978 he released his eponymous debut album (titled ‘Finger Painting’ in some markets) to little fanfare. Not perturbed, Voudouris returned in early 1979 with his sophomore effort ‘Radio Dream’ (OZ#46/US#171). This time around he had a lead out single that the radio stations couldn’t overlook. ‘Get Used To It’ was the archetypal radio friendly pop song of its time. The melodic-pop tune, which featured an irresistible chorus hook, debuted on the U.S. Hot 100 in February 1979, going on to peak at #21.

But it was in Australia that Roger Voudouris became a genuine pop idol, albeit briefly, during that time. Like so many artists in the years previous (and post), he benefited enormously from an appearance on the hugely popular Countdown show during August 1979. The single ‘Get Used To It’ had already debuted on the Australia charts during June and had made steady progress. The promotional video from the States had already been featured on Countdown on a couple of occasions, sending sales of red cashmere sweaters skyrocketing. In the promo video Voudouris was simply featured singing to camera, but it was the red sweater, with sleeves rolled up to the elbows, and hair blown back by industrial strength fans, that would become a signature visual image in pop music for 1979. I’m lucky enough to have a lot of the old Countdown shows on video (slowly transferring them to DVD) from the repeats that have been aired on the ABC’s Rage program over the last 15 years. Among the episodes I have is the aforementioned show hosted by Roger Voudouris. He opened the show performing (well miming) his hit ‘Get Used To It’, minus the red sweater but with fans still set to high. Coincidentally, The Knack’s single ‘My Sharona’ (see future post) happened to be the biggest ‘chartbuster’ of the week in Australia, and The Knack made a surprise guest appearance on the same show performing the song - making that particular episode of Countdown one of the landmark shows of 1979, or any other year (landmark for so many other reasons, too numerous to expand upon here). Anyway back to Roger Voudouris - in an interview with Molly, Roger revealed the reason behind the industrial strength fans on the original promo video was because his hair was too long and kept getting in his eyes - seems plausible. He also explained that his first love had been as a guitarist, and he’d played for a number of years as a studio session player before deciding to pursue a recording deal as a singer. One of the session projects Voudouris was involved in was recording a 1973 album with the brother of singer John Stewart - Voudouris mentioned this because John Stewart’s song ‘Gold’ was a hit at the time of his appearance on Countdown - but you‘ll have to wait for a future post to read more about John Stewart, if not his brother Michael. ‘Get Used To It’ ended up peaking at #4 in Australia around the time of that famous Countdown appearance, and The Knack….well you‘ll just have to stay tuned to hear more about them.

Sadly, ‘Get Used To It’ would be the first and last hit single for Roger Voudouris, consigning him to that very special club of ‘one hit wonders’. But he did record two more albums, ‘A Guy Like Me’ (1980) for Warner Bros., and a final album ‘On The Heels Of Love’ in 1981 for the Boardwalk label, the same label as Phil Seymour recorded for that same year. Following his decline in fortunes as a solo act, Roger Voudouris returned to writing music and session playing for other artists. One of these projects was writing the music for the film ‘The Lonely Lady’, a documentary on the life of Elvis Presley. I’ve not been able to uncover much information on the later career work of Voudouris leading up to his death in 2003 from complications arising from liver disease. Though his career would never reach anything like the heights it did with ‘Get Used To It’, Roger Voudouris established himself as one of the most memorable pop idols of the late 70s, and stands alone as the only pop star to become a sex symbol with the assistance of a red cashmere sweater.

Apologies for not posting a YouTube clip for ‘Get Used To It’ but I couldn’t find one. When I get the means I’ll attempt to rip a copy of the ‘Countdown’ clip for the song from my old video tape copy and post it on YouTube, or if anyone out there has a copy and could do likewise and let me know, I’d really appreciate it.
STOP PRESS: Many thanks to Lin (verysparkly) for posting a very high quality video of Roger Voudouris' performance of 'Get Used To It' from Countdown on YouTube. Hear and see all the commotion here:


verysparkly said...

Hello, Just to let you know I have posted the Countdown video 'Get used To It' by Roger Voudouris on youtube. . Enjoyed your blog. Thanks.



A. FlockOfSeagulls said...

Hi Lin,
thanks very much for posting the 'Get Used To It' video on YouTube, and for letting me know. I'll add a link to it from this post. Glad you enjoy the blog and many thanks for your comment. :)