As a jibbering melodo-nut, I naturally steer most social discourse to where I’m most comfortable: disjointed riffs on music. And that’s exactly what I did New Year’s Eve as time prodded us gently into 2009 and we began reminiscing about auld acquaintance, specifically those who enriched our aural youth before fading mistward.
There are many names for such artists; our cynical culture prefers the appellation “one-hit wonder.” My old boss, Gary Stewart, blanched at the term. There’s really no such thing, he said. Exceptions exist, of course: Right Said Fred‘s albums are dogshit, singles included, and Johnny Hates Jazz blew monkeys — unlike the Blow Monkeys themselves, who were actually quite fantastic. Whatever: most bands, however fleeting, typically leave behind more than one worthwhile cut.
Anyway, as ’08 matured into ’09, we got to gabbing about these groups. All the monikers were exhumed and re-polished: The Breakfast Club, Living in a Box, T’Pau, the aforementioned loathers of jazz (fashionista troglodytes), Honeymoon Suite, Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers, JJ Fad, Boy Meets Girl, Boys Don’t Cry, Nu Shooz (still got the vinyl! See below for proof.) …
ME: ‘member “Holiday”?
HER: What, Madonna?
ME: Nonono. (summons sleep-deprived countertenor) “Distant lands are — ”
HER: (eyes widening with glee) Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
ME: (gut-notin’) “A-holla-holla-ho and a-holla-holla-hey — ”
HER: I LOVE that song!
ME: Me too! ‘member who does it?
HER: (thinking) Hmmmm.
HER: Eurogliders, I think? I’m not sure.
ME: Yeah. I think you’re right.
We were wrong. I got home and instantly seized Google, pecking in the only lyrics I was sure of, plus the song title (“distant lands” “I don’t know” “holiday”), since “Holiday” itself would yield far too many results. Up came clutter, but nothing I needed. So I recklessly entered the stanzas exactly as I recalled them and found this helpful entry at “Lost in the ’80s.”
The group was called The Other Ones. I located the video on YouTube, screened it a dozen times (still sublime, so very sublime), then dug for more information. Luckily, thanks to Wikipedia, it was a short trip.
The band was half a family affair: Alf Klimek and his younger siblings, Johnny and Jayney. These native Australians were living in Berlin in 1983 when they launched the group with Andreas Schwarz-Ruszcznski, Stephan Gottwald, and a drummer credited only as “Hoffman.”
They released their titular debut in 1986 (a second disc, Learning to Walk, followed two years later), and upon this revolving disc was the marvelous “Holiday,” which bewitched Billboard to #29 and poured romantic fantasies into a daydreaming 14-year-old lounging in his bedroom, vigilantly monitoring a boombox as he surreptitiously trapped the song on Memorex. What followed were months of inspiration as said man-child toiled on a short story/screenplay about a teenaged boy winning a game-show vacation package and dragging the most popular girl in school to Niagara Falls. Think The Sure Thing crossed with the absurd notion that two minors could travel, unchaperoned, to a traditional honeymoon spot.
Both song and video remain a timeless delight, the former an intricate balance of goofy (gleam-pated Alf’s lead vocals; the All Music Guide‘s Jason Kaufman likened him to “Fred Schneider‘s cousin abroad,” an excellent comparison) and gorgeous (Jayney’s luminous, transporting choruses). Jayney’s breezy delivery at once evokes visions of paradise and exotic winds; she sells the fantasy while Alf knocks about reality. Escape, for the moment, seems impossible: “Well, I hate my job and I got no car/and my aching feet won’t take me that far.” Meanwhile, Jayney rationalizes sweetly, “Distant lands are not so far away/I don’t know why we don’t go.” The stylish video is littered with airborne postcards depicting band members in various having-a-great-time-wish-you-were-here scenarios as a flat-dweller prepares for another workday in a smog-choked metropolis.
The Other Ones apparently dissolved sometime in the late ’80s. At least Jayney was gone by ’89, trading scales with Genesis‘ Tony Banks in the keyboardist’s solo forays. The Klimek brothers went into scoring, Alf with various productions, Johnny with contributions to film (Run Lola Run, One Hour Photo) and television (David Milch‘s Deadwood and John from Cincinnati). Today Jayney and former Other, Schwarz-Ruszcznski, comprise the group You Pretty Thing. She still looks great!
UPDATE: Well, after watching the video another 27 times, I gotta know: who controls the masters? The label? The Klimeks? In any case, it’s reissue time!