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WALL OF WOODOO
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Wall of Voodoo was an American new wave group from Los Angeles best known for the 1983 hit "Mexican Radio". The band had a sound that was a fusion of synthesizer-based new wave music with the spaghetti western soundtrack style of Ennio Morricone.
FormationWall of Voodoo had its roots in Acme Soundtracks, a film score business started by Stan Ridgway, later the vocalist and harmonica player for Wall of Voodoo. Acme Soundtracks' office was across the street from the Hollywood punk club The Masque and Ridgway was soon drawn into the emerging punk/new wave scene. Marc Moreland, guitarist for The Skulls, began jamming with Ridgway at the Acme Soundtracks office and the soundtrack company morphed into a new wave band. In 1977, with the addition of Skulls members Bruce Moreland (Marc Moreland's brother) as bassist and Chas T. Gray as keyboardist, along with Joe Nanini, who had been the drummer for Black Randy and the Metrosquad, the first lineup of Wall of Voodoo was born.
The band was named Wall of Voodoo before their first gig in reference to a comment made by Joe Berardi, a friend of Ridgway's and member of The Fibonaccis. Berardi was listening to some of the Acme Soundtracks music Ridgway and Moreland had created in their studio. When Ridgway jokingly compared the multiple-drum-machine- and Farfisa-organ-laden recordings to Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, Berardi commented it sounded more like a "wall of voodoo" and the name stuck.
1977–1983Wall of Voodoo released a self-titled EP in 1980 which featured a morbid, synthesizer-driven cover of "Ring of Fire." The second half of "Ring of Fire" features a dissonant guitar solo covering the theme to the 1966 film Our Man Flint. The band's first full-length album, Dark Continent, followed in 1981. Bruce Moreland left the band for the first time soon after this, and Chas Gray performed both bass and synthesizers during this time. The band recorded their biggest-selling album, Call of the West in 1982. The excerpted single, "Mexican Radio," about border blaster radio stations, became their only Top 100 hit in the USA, and the video for the song got a great deal of exposure on the newly formed MTV. Bill Noland was added as a keyboardist soon after the release of this album. That same year, Wall of Voodoo opened for The Residents on the cult band's inaugural tour, "the Mole Show," at Perkins Palace in Pasadena in early summer 1982, and for Devo's ill-fated televised 3-DEVO Concert in October.
Wall of Voodoo opened for Oingo Boingo on their Nothing to Fear tour at the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara in March 1983. Stan Ridgway claims that the situation around the band was increasingly chaotic during this era, with a great deal of drug use and out-of-control behavior on the part of the band members, as well as shady behavior by the band's management and record label. Wall of Voodoo appeared at the second US Festival on May 28, 1983 (the largest concert the band had performed), immediately after which Ridgway, Nanini, and Noland all left the band. Stan Ridgway soon went on to a successful solo career, appearing as guest vocalist on a track on the Rumble Fish score and releasing his first solo album in 1986. Joe Nanini soon resurfaced in the country rock band Lonesome Strangers.
1983–1988The remainder of the band, Marc Moreland, Chas T. Gray and a returning Bruce Moreland, carried on under the name Wall of Voodoo. Soon after, Andy Prieboy, formerly of the San Francisco new wave band Eye Protection, joined as singer and Ned Leukhardt was added as drummer. The band continued to record and perform under this lineup until 1988, though their sound was slightly different from the style of music they played in the earlier Stan Ridgway-fronted lineup. In 1985 they released Seven Days in Sammystown. The first single, "Far Side of Crazy", did well in Australia, reaching number 23 on the ARIA charts. The song is still heard today on the Austereo Triple M network. In 1987, the band released their fourth studio album, produced by Call of The West producer, Richard Mazda and their second with Andy Prieboy, Happy Planet, which spawned another hit in Australia: a cover of The Beach Boys' "Do It Again," which charted at #40 there. The video for the song featured The Beach Boys' own Brian Wilson. In 1988, Wall of Voodoo split up and Andy Prieboy and Marc Moreland went on to solo careers.
After 1988In 1989, a post-breakup live album entitled The Ugly Americans in Australia was issued, which documented their 1987 tour of Melbourne, Australia. (Additional performances from a date in Bullhead City, Arizona were also included.) Stan Ridgway, Andy Prieboy and Marc Moreland all embarked on solo careers throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Joe Nanini released an EP under the name Sienna Nanini-Bohica in 1996.
Two former members died within a few years of each other in the early 2000s; Joe Nanini died of a brain hemorrhage on December 4, 2000, and Marc Moreland died of kidney and liver failure on March 13, 2002.
On July 18, 2006 a Stan Ridgway-fronted Wall of Voodoo performed at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Orange County as an opening band for Cyndi Lauper. However, other than Ridgway, none of the surviving Wall of Voodoo members were included in this lineup though Joe Beradi and Voodoo producer Richard Mazda were in this lineup. Ridgway's album Snakebite: Blacktop Ballads and Fugitive Songs (2005), features the narrative song, "Talkin' Wall Of Voodoo Blues Pt. 1," a history of the band in song.
A remastered coupling of Dark Continent and Call of the West was released by Raven Records on November 10, 2009. On October 2, 2012, Raven issued a companion two-disc set containing all three albums from the Andy Prieboy era (Seven Days in Sammystown, Happy Planet and Ugly Americans in Australia), all remastered, including three bonus tracks.
Wall of Woodoo - Mexican Radio