Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Behind The Glitz And Glamour

The term ‘one hit wonder’ has been bandied about far too liberally throughout the history of popular music. In many cases, at least in a technical sense, the artist concerned has made more than one incursion into pop chart territory, even if they’re largely identified with only one major hit. Of course, there are those instances where the term ‘one hit wonder’ has been attributed accurately to an artist, and for me, those artists seem to take on a little extra allure. It’s also not uncommon for an artist to be regarded as a ‘one hit wonder’ in countries other than their home patch - that’s happened to a number of Australian artists over the years, though the same could be said of artists from around the globe. The subject of today’s post belongs to that category of artists who scored just one hit in most territories, that song being a major hit at home, but broke the mould of ‘one hit wonderdom’ by scoring a minor follow up hit on their home charts.

The vehicle Hollywood Beyond arrived seemingly unexpectedly on the British charts during July of ‘86. At the wheel was singer-songwriter English Mark Rogers, but though essentially the heart and soul of the operation, he wasn’t the sole occupant of the band’s tour bus en route from their Birmingham base to the British charts. Rogers handled the vocal and keyboard duties, backed by guitarist Matt Becker, drummer Bruce Smith, and other session players as required. The song that Rogers (and co.) arrived with, in the guise of Hollywood Beyond, was the politically charged, groove-laden ‘What’s The Colour Of Money?’. Coursing throughout the song’s funk edge music, laced with Middle Eastern (even reggae) tones, was a powerful lyrical indictment of Western capitalist values, and the exploitation of cheap human labour for financial gain.

Rogers co-wrote the song with Jamie B. Rose, and by the end of the English summer, ‘What’s The Colour Of Money?’ had struck gold on the British charts (#7), shortly after peaking at #23 here in Australia (#21 Germany, #14 Switzerland). The track had impeccable production credentials, having been produced by Stephen Hague (Malcolm McLaren, O.M.D., New Order), and mixed by Chris Lord-Alge (James Brown, Chaka Khan, Bruce Springsteen). On the back of the single’s success, WEA supported the recording of a full length Hollywood Beyond album. A stellar cast of guess producers helmed work on the album’s ten tracks, including Mike Thorne (Soft Cell, Blur), Phil Thornalley (The Cure, Prefab Sprout), and Chic’s Bernard Edwards (Diana Ross, ABC, Duran Duran). A cast of guest players provided support for Mark Rogers in the recording of the ‘If’ album, which offered listeners an interesting blend of stylistic influences, from soul to techno-rock, to jazz-fusion.

Hollywood Beyond’s second single, ‘No More Tears’, was released to coincide with the release of its source album, ‘If’. Whilst ‘No More Tears’ achieved some notice at #47 on the British charts, the ‘If’ should possibly have been retitled ‘If Only’, as it languished beyond chart borders. A third single, the dance-pop styled ‘Save Me’, missed the charts altogether.

Despite scoring a top ten single at first attempt, on the back of the poor reception offered both album, and follow up singles, it appears that WEA dropped Rogers (Hollywood Beyond) from their playing roster. In 1989, the dance single ‘Let’s Get Together (Create)’ was released via the independent Warriors Dance label, credited to Mark Rogers AKA Hollywood Beyond. Then, as quickly as Rogers burst onto the music scene, he seemingly boarded the bus back to Birmingham. But his Hollywood Beyond project did leave behind a quality cut of 80s pop music, with a tad more substance than most.


Anonymous said...

Great article, brings back a few memories. I worked with Mark for a couple of years post "Hollywood Beyond" - that's my programming on "Let's Get Together" (check out the B-side... I can't remember the name, but to me it was the stronger track). We did a whole bunch of white labels following that record (some DJs tell me those white labels still get a crowd moving twenty years later!) as well as producing a handful of other artists.

Good times.

Mark is quite a talent, and had a prodigous feel for dance music. Like other genuine artists, workable ideas just poured out of him, and he had the musical ability and taste to hammer them into commercial shape. Maybe he took on too much, what with trying to be both artist and label boss, but following his Warner Bros experiences, you couldn't blame him for going the DIY route. Last I heard - it's a long time back - he moved to NYC, got married, and was working with Hank Shocklee (or was it Keith?). Would love to know where he is now and what he's doing. Similarly, Cliff, if you're out there... get in touch! Paul Hurt.

A. FlockOfSeagulls said...

Thanks very much for your comment Paul. There was so little information out there (in print or on the internet) about Hollywood Beyond. Your personal insights are much appreciated :)