For an explanation of the 1980s Pin Project, go here.
There were plenty of female, pop-oriented performers who staked a claim on the 1980s music scene. Madonna is, of course, the biggie, the trailblazer, the trendsetter. Lots of pretty, blonde-ish, mostly forgettable singers danced along in Madge’s footsteps, ones like Stacey Q and Taylor Dayne. There was the sugar-sweet teen bop of Tiffany and Debbie Gibson, and infectious bubble gum from bands like The Go-Gos and The Bangles. Every one of these musicians were fun and dance-friendly, but (with the possible exception of The Bangles, and of course La Madge) suffered for the want of an individual musical fingerprint.
I hate to sound like I’m being mean to The Go-Gos–God knows I enjoy “Our Lips Are Sealed” as much as the next guy–but they hardly broke new ground. And I feel for Debbie Gibson, because she seems like a nice person and I think she really tries in her music. But. Ahem. I digress.
In the midst of the vast array of ’80s-era, shellacked-hair and fishnets-bedecked chick pop, Katrina and the Waves came on the scene. What? Who? Driving drums? Great guitar hooks? Punchy horns? Where in the hell did this fit in?
Fronted by American-born Army brat Katrina Leskanich, Katrina and the Waves were a UK-based power pop band whose self-titled US debut album was full of well-crafted songs and Katrina’s soaringly huge voice. Was the album dance-able? Sure. But their music also flat-out rocked. Imagine if you took Joan Jett‘s energy and party-ready attitude and and stuck it in a blender with Southside Johnny, the frontman for New Jersey’s greatest rock & roll bar band ever, and then threw in some serious high-fives for good measure.
That? Hell yeah! That’s what I’m talking about.
I ~~~loved~~~ Katrina and the Waves’s first album. The fact is, I still do. I think it’s strong and holds up against time and changing musical sensibilities. And there wasn’t really anyone else doing pure, good-time rock and roll with a strong female taking the lead. At least, not like Katrina & Co., and not like the rock-pop fusion they put out on their debut album. There was Lone Justice, I suppose, though they were more country-folk-rock. The Pretenders clung to their punk roots; believe me, I’m not saying that’s bad. I’m just saying Katrina’s sound was different. As for performers like Pat Benatar…full disclosure. Pat Benatar has always been a little too strident for my liking. I wish her well, as I appreciate what she’s done, but if I never hear another Pat Benatar song again my life will be just fine.
I saw Katrina and the Waves way back in the day, opening for Don Henley at the Garden State Arts Center. (Yes, I saw an inordinate amount of shows at the GSAC. Moving on.) For those of you who know my reactionary dislike of The Eagles and might be surprised that I would go and see their drummer’s solo concert, let me explain: I had not yet worked in bars enough to have heard everything off The Eagles’ Greatest Hits, over and over again, sung loudly and off-key, late at night, by a thousand different patrons, from New Jersey to Boston, to Texas, and back again. Simply put, I hadn’t been taken to my Eagles limit. And I still stand behind Henley’s solo work. But it’s true, these days, I am like The Dude from The Big Lebowski.
It’s unfortunate that Katrina’s follow-up album bombed and the band sort of disappeared off the US music scene after that. I still have a copy of the second album–I think I kept it out of first-album loyalty–but I haven’t listened to it in years. They are not the first band ever to fall victim to the sophomore slump.
Is it possible that the song “Walking on Sunshine” has been out for thirty years? And that I’ve had this pin for thirty years? And that I’m…and yet, I remain 29, I’m not sure how that works. Good lord, time has a way of moving past a person, doesn’t it?
Anyway. Here is Katrina and the Waves, and the glorious “Walking on Sunshine”. I defy you all not to get up and dance.
See you at the next pin!