The first assignment I undertook as a sound engineering undergraduate student was to cut up and edit a set piece of music, on a standard two-track editor (Wavelab maybe?), into a new piece. Actually, there were three choices - firstly Apocalyptica's cello rendition of Metallica's Sad But True which, although worthy, doesn't really lend itself to the process. The second, and the one I chose, was Frank Zappa's ace Baby Snakes.
The third was what I now understand to be the biggest hit ever to come bursting out of Switzerland. So I've not chosen to focus on the patented 'death grunt' of Tom G Warrior's Celtic Frost; neither have I chosen one of the biggest Francophone hip hop acts, from Lausanne, Sens Unik. I've not even copped out and picked the Purple's Smoke On The Water, written as it was about a Zappa gig by Lake Geneva, and I've certainly not chosen to focus on the lovable Krokus.
The song I've picked pretty much summarises, for me at least, what I imagine 1985 to have been like. I was three, so I have little frame of reference except maybe The Secret Of My Success, or Ferris Bueller's Day Off, both of which featured the song. It's synth drums kick of a beautifully squelchy electro-bass until the sub-Barry White vocal enters with a lyric so cerebrally shallow as to put it's vacuous mid-eighties rivals to shame. It was a prototype of what was to come, an amalgamation of the decade's synth excesses with it's pop sensibilities, an archetype of everything about the era.
And yet it's an enduring piece, one not easily forgotten. For instance, its soundtrack use is by no means limited to those two films - among other Hollywood flicks (Soul Plane, anyone?), it's graced American Football coverage (football? try using your feet!) and Gran Turismo 4. It endures through a million and one different 80's compilations.
The band themselves are as sharp-suited as they are sharply-follicled. Elusive live, they've in the past compared the concept as like asking Matisse to repaint some of his masterworks, this time in front of a live audience. This, to me, shows a mild dose of the prima donna - hey, if Rolf Harris can do it - but I guess is mildly understandable, mostly because the question of who'd pay to see the band is yet to be comprehensively argued.
You need further clues? Well, join the Duff Man and I (tick-a-tick-aaaah): Duffman is thrusting in the direction of the problem! Oh yeah!
Yello - Oh Yeah
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Tags: Switzerland; World Cup; Yello; Sens Unik; Duff Man;
CIA Factbook: Switzerland