Blue Plate Special: Love and Rockets
One of the most influential bands of my life, Love and Rockets formed in 1985 after guitarist Daniel Ash, bassist David J, and drummer Kevin Haskins tried to reassemble the goth rock band Bauhaus, which broke up in 1983. Bauhaus lead singer Peter Murphy was not interested at the time, and so the three formed Love and Rockets. Ash and Haskins had already been working together from 1982-4 on the Tones on Tail project (I’ll talk about them in a future Blue Plate Special), and in many ways, Love and Rockets was a continuation of that effort to move away from the darker sound of Bauhaus and experiment with more modern and psychedelic guitar rock. The band released 7 studio albums from 1985 to 1998, touring extensively throughout, and reunited from 2007-9 to tour some more, between which they all released solo albums, reunited with Murphy a few times to tour as Bauhaus (including current touring in 2022), and working with other artists (Jazz Butcher, Messy, Poptone, Porno for Pyros, Jane’s Addiction, DJ Keoki).
While the label of “alternative rock” is overly broad, Love and Rockets land smack dab in the middle of the genre with a distinctive sound, thanks mostly to Ash’s particular guitar sound, with Ash and J trading spots as lead singer throughout their history. They are one of the bands that I most regret never getting to see live. Had tickets to a canceled show in Los Angeles (with the Cure and Pixies, no less), but otherwise, their tours and my availability just never matched. I’ve seen Bauhaus play 3 times, though. Hoping there is a reunion someday…
Some of my favorites from the L&R catalog:
So Alive, from the album Love and Rockets (1989)
Reaching Number 1 on the US Alternative chart (for 5 weeks) and Canadian singles, ‘So Alive’ was, by far, their biggest mainstream hit, also reaching 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100. In fact, it was Number 1 for the entire year on the Alternative chart for 1989, supported by the dreamy (and leggy) video.
It Could be Sunshine, from the album Express (1986)
I had a cassette copy of their 1st studio album, but it was their 2nd album, Express, which won me over. I had already been a fan of Bauhaus and Tones on Tail, but I went all-in on L&R with this album. The song ‘It Could Be Sunshine’ is the introductory track with Ash on saxophone, and is a great example of the experimentation that was introduced during the Bauhaus years, almost like two separate songs melded together. It starts with vocals by David J and then after a guitar and tempo transition, moves to Ash on vocals. An amazing start to a fantastic album.
Holy Fool, from the album Lift (1998)
For their final studio album, L&R moved away from the harder rock sound of their 6th album, Sweet F.A., to create a more electronic and dance album, with the pop-oriented ‘Holy Fool’ that is reminiscent of 1989’s ‘So Alive.’ Daniel Ash at his best.
Haunted When The Minutes Drag, from the album Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven (1985)
Their first studio album has elements of both Bauhaus and Tones on Tail, but is overall brighter and more psychedelic. The song ‘Haunted When the Minutes Drag’ was included on a couple movie soundtracks, and is a great representation of this first album.
Mirror People, from the album Earth, Sun, Moon (1987)
I picked up their 3rd album the day it was released. MTV had been running their video for ‘No New Tale To Tell’ in constant rotation, but the single that really stood out to me was the fast and furious ‘Mirror People’ with its video of the boys in an aluminum-wrapped and reflective room. If you like this song, check out some of their even faster live versions.
Judgement Day, from the album Sweet F.A. (1996)
My favorite from their 6th studio album, and one that, in my mind, perfectly captures David J’s vocal and lyrical style. Love the over-powering fizz bass effect between the soft and simple verse and bridge.
Trip and Glide, from the album Hot Trip to Heaven (1994)
While not a single, this deep track from their fifth studio album is one of my all-time favorite songs from the band, with Daniel’s vocals and screaming guitars providing a dark and moody track backed by Natacha Atlas on backing vocals. Turn this one up loud.