Hidden Gems On My MP3 Player: The Payola$


I know, it's been a while, and I'll do some more music based posts from now on. In the meantime I have to confess that I love this track! I think I first heard it when I saw Valley Girl for the first time and from that moment on I couldn't get enough of it, along with other tracks in the film such as Melt With You, Johnny Are You Queer? and the brilliant Million Miles Away by the Plimsouls. All of which I'll be covering in due time.

With an opening that goes as such;
Can I touch you to see if you're real?
Cause in nothing there's something I feel,
Will my heart take the strain?
Or will it break down again?
The Payola$ exploded out of the traps into everyone's heart as they watched Nicholas Cage lusting after Deborah Foreman. Truth be known Cage wasn't the only one lusting after the perky Debbie.

It got better.
Have I been sleeping for all these years?
Is it magic that makes you appear?
When you walked in the room,
I felt my heart race
But you acted rude when I looked at your face
Pure poetry. Well, it's considered poetry when you're fifteen years old and yearning for an unreachable girl on the movie screen.

The Payola$ hailed from Canada and really were one-hit wonders* for the most part. I'd not heard anything from them beforehand, or since, and once I began to locate music I bought a few singles and the odd album. Not a good idea - this was their best track and if you want to hear it properly then play it in the dead of night. It's a brilliant track for mood and atmosphere. Still, for a band that fall into the 'almost were' category they weren't all bad, and guitarist Bob Rock certainly kept his ears, and options open and became the heavy metal producer of choice. Rock is responsible for producing albums by Metallica, Bon Jovi, Areosmith, The Cult, Cher, Motley Crue, David Lee Roth, some of which were pretty darn good and some of which would earn him the death penalty in some countries, so he's certainly not starving for a Payola$ reunion. Which actually happened - back in 2003. What? You didn't see it? Shame!

What stunned me about this video is something I never really noticed until the other night when I downloaded and watched it. That's not the late actor David Graf there, moonlighting, but you could be forgiven for thinking as much. It's lead singer Paul Hyde! Now I'm waiting to see the interview where Graf is quoted as saying, "Yeah, you know, I signed for the Police Academy films, read the script and couldn't get a handle on the character. Then I saw The payola$ and suddenly there he was before me - Eugene Tackleberry!" Please, someone tell me that interview exists.

Think I'm kidding? Look at the above photo of the Payola$ on stage from 1981 and look at this photo of Graf in the first Police Academy flick (that's him in the middle for the one person out there who's never suffered through any of those films). Separated at birth? You decide. Even the video has Hyde in full Tackleberry mode, wide eyes, curly hair and just being a general maniac. Now if you visit the Payola$ site then don't expect much. It's virtually devoid of any activity whatsoever, even the promised download doesn't exist. Which is a shame as I'd love to hear what they sound like now.

* Ok, allow me to finally define what a 'One Hit Wonder' actually is. By my own ruling, and this should be across the board, a 'One Hit Wonder' is exactly that - an artist or band who had one entry into the top ten on a chart. It's great if it goes to number one but the follow-up release has to die the death. It doesn't matter how long the band exists for, hell, even Led Zeppelin are 'One Hit Wonders' because they only ever had one #1 single.

This criteria rules a band like Dexy's Midnight Runners out of contention. Why? While their most famous song Come On Eileen did indeed hit the upper ends of the charts, other releases, Jackie Wilson Said, Geno (which went number #1 in the UK) and There, There, My Dear, also went top ten. On the other side of the fence Men Without Hats are indeed 'One Hit Wonders', as Safety Dance is their only real claim to fame. So next time some idiot DJ somewhere spins a tune and says it's a 'One Hit Wonder', tell them to check their facts and get it right.


Anonymous said…
I suspect one hit wonder-ness is a geographical thing - bands/artists may only have one hit in one market, and plenty in another. To use your own example, I'm with you regarding Dexy's, but to my partner, who hails from Germany, they are indeed one hitsters, since "Come On Eileen" was the only hit they had in Germany.

Looking forward to more of your selections!
Anonymous said…
I agree, it's definitely a geographical thing. However, I can't argue with the Men Without Hats example. "Safety Dance" was an awesome song. I remember seeing the video in sixth grade German class.
The station VH1 here in the US had a Top 100 countdown of the greatest 1 hit wonders of all time. #1 was "Macarena", that spanish dance song. I don't even know who sang it, but it definitely deserved its ranking.
Cool post Danny!
George "The Stooges"
Richard Gagnon said…
I think the using the top ten as a boundary to define a one hit wonder is a bit too limiting. The top forty's generally what's used, and the top twenty might still work.

Besides, it doesn't even work within your system: the Payolas' "Eyes of a Stranger" never made the top ten in the US or the UK. It never charted in the US. It didn't even bubble under. It's just a song you heard in a movie. No-Hit-Wonders, then?

By the way, Led Zeppelin's one hit isn't "Stairway to Heaven", it's "Black Dog" (Billboard #4). They never had a #1 single.

And well, why is England valid to rule out an act as a one-hit wonder, while Canada isn't? Men Without Hats, to use your example, had several more hits in Canada. ;)

Maybe you need to tweak your notion of OHW a little more and check it for leaks and bugs. ;)
Danny said…
Actually Richard I didn't use England as an example - I generally use Australia. Communication Breakdown did make number #1 in England and charted fairly well here. Stairway To Heaven? That wasn't even released as a single (although it was released as part of an EP here in Aust) so that doesn't come near counting.

My understanding is that the Payola$ did chart in the USA, if not then you're right - they're no hit wonders. But, as has been pointed out, it is geographical.
Anonymous said…
Wait, Men Without Hats had more than 1 hit in Canada? That's so awesome. Was that dancing midget in all of there other videos as well?
richard Gagnon said…
Danny wrote:

"My understanding is that the Payola$ did chart in the USA, if not then you're right - they're no hit wonders. But, as has been pointed out, it is geographical".

According to the foremost chart authority (Joel Whitburn), they didn't. Not on Billboard, anyway. And I doubt that something that missed the top 100 (and some) in Billboard would be likely to make the Cashbox top 10.

Of course, I agree that it's geographical. But it goes deeper, I think. A true OHW, I think, should have truly nothing else to offer in his catalogue to qualify. But that, naturally, is highly subjective. Which is probably why I avoid the term, since it's so often dismissive and wielded by the ridiculously uninformed (all too often cookie-cutter airhead deejays and veejays, in a position to disseminate the virus of their condescending ignorance).

Everyone's got their definition and its parameters, and the charts have become so arbitrary and the numbers so hard to gather and interpret, whereas in the past they were merely suspect...that using the term accurately is becoming ever more difficult. The sorry reductionist state of oldies radio doesn't help. An artist who may have had, say, a dozen top 10 and 20 top 40 hits now has three, as far as they're concerned, and that's all you're gonna hear.

Then there's the album cuts who got so much airplay that they might legitimately be called hits...

Aside to anonymous: Sadly, the dancing midget didn't appear in other MWH videos, if memory serves. But Bonhomme, mascot of the Quebec Carnaval, did play drums on their Pop Goes the World album. MWH's hits anthology is called, bien sûr, "Greatest Hats"...
Anonymous said…
There are no formal definitions of what a one hit wonder truly is. Is it top 10, top 40, top100? Is it (for US terms) Billboard, Mainstream Rock, Hot 100, what? There are so many terms. It doesn't really matter, it's still just fun to read about these lesser known bands.
Here in the US, the Payola$ are probably slightly better known than in Australia, because they hail from Canada. According to Wikipedia, the Payola$ had three singles that charted in the top 40 of US Mainstream rock category, with one actually reaching #6, "Dirty Water" 1987.
I don't know if my link will work, but I'll try:

Anyway, I still enjoyed reading about this band, because to be honest, until Danny wrote about them, I never heard of them.
George "The Stooges"
Anonymous said…
While not the Payola$, Rock and Hyde had a very established canadian hit called Dirty Water that still gets a fair bit of radio play on the rock stations..glad to see you bought some albums of theirs though!

Mike Cross
Anonymous said…
Your lips I sense a danger....

you've got the eyes of a stranger

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