Saturday, April 28, 2012

Greg Kihn, Twitter and the Nature of the Music Industry

Greg Kihn is following me on Twitter.

Yes, that Greg Kihn.   And at this moment, certain melodies are crackling through your head.  Mine, too.  "Our love's in jeopardy.  Baby."  And how about this one:  "They don't write 'em like that anymore."

It must be because I post a lot on Twitter about music.  And, of course, here on Vinyl Voyage we have a day dedicated to the 80s and the Greg Kihn Band appears several times.  But still, seeing that name there in the notification got me a little nostalgic.  Remember the "Jeopardy" video?  I distinctly remember seeing it for the first time.  I turned fifteen in 1983 and it freaked me out a little.  The wedding.  The bride turns into a skeleton.  The guests turn into zombies.  And then a creature from hell breaks through the floor and Greg Kihn kills it with some guitar-shaped piece of wood.

Now that's a video.

I checked out a little about Greg Kihn.  That's the thing I have enjoyed most since starting Vinyl Voyage Radio over a year ago:  getting reacquainted with music and artists.  When Greg Kihn hit it big in 1983 with "Jeopardy," he had already been making music for several years.  In fact, Kihnspiracy, his 1983 album which spawned that hit, was his 9th album.  And he has released at least seven albums since then, the most recent being a box set anthology entitled Kihnplete

Today, Greg Kihn is a popular DJ on a classic rock station in San Jose.  He still plays music; his Kihncerts have been popular for the last 11 years.  This year he'll be playing with Steve Miller and Pat Benatar.  Too bad this lineup isn't coming to the Chicago area.  I'd be there in a heartbeat.

In addition to the DJ gig and his music, Greg Kihn has also written several novels.  Most in the horror genre with a little music mixed in.  Probably something to do with that "Jeopardy" video, I imagine.

But all of this highlights the fickle nature of the record industry.   Upon revisiting Kihnspiracy and other releases, it is clear that "Jeopardy" and "The Breakup Song"---two of his biggest hits---are not his best.  They are good songs, to be sure (As a matter of fact, I just heard "The Breakup Song" the other day on the radio and found myself singing along on the drive to work. It also appears in the movie Let Me In).  But there are others--others that never got into rotation on FM radio.  Not being a musician myself, I can only imagine that this is probably the most frustrating thing about being a musician, especially in today's climate where digital downloads of hit singles are what the industry pushes, not whole albums or songs that some guy in a suit thinks can't make it into the pop-dominated airwaves. And that's a shame. Talent does not automatically bring success. 

For example, the Greg Kihn Band released Rockihnroll in 1981.  That is the album with "The Breakup Song."  But there are other songs on that album that never got the airplay they deserved, most notably "I Can't Stop Hurting Myself."


"Jeopardy" made it to the #2 spot in 1983. "The Breakup Song" reached up to #15 in 1981.  But "I Can't Stop Hurting Myself" never made an impact on the charts.  Yet, that song is the better of the three, in my opinion.  It seems to me that some of the best songs written never chart.  I recently explored that in a video podcast of Frampton's "Lines on My Face," perhaps one of his best songs ever.  Yet, it too, never charted.  Journey's quintessential 1981 release Escape produced several hit songs, but the best, such as "Still They Ride" and "Escape" never made it. Instead, we were subjected ad nauseam to "Open Arms."  A good song, to be sure, but that distinction is relative when compared to the other tunes on the album.  And you can't summarize Todd Rundgren's entire career with his only top-ten hit song, "Hello It's Me."

The same can be said for Greg Kihn, and "I Can't Stop Hurting Myself" is a testament to that.

The Greg Kihn Band is all over YouTube.  Check them out.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised; especially if your only exposure to the band was through "Jeopardy" or "The Breakup Song."

More information about Greg Kihn can be found at his website.

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