The J. Geils Band, Freeze Frame, EMI America SOO-17062, 1981
The early 80s were a time of weird transformation for the music business. The Disco era died a quick and painful death, the cassette (and the Sony Walkman) began to make the radio irrelevant, and a little thing called MTV changed which records sold and which didn’t. Artist had to adapt or see their records head right to the bargain bins. It was no longer enough to just create a great record, bands now also had to add a different step and create visual images that went along with the audio ones.
The J. Geils Band really began as a folk duo, but by the late 60s they were playing electric blues. Not really blessed with an ability to write hit songs, they turned to the Motown and Stax back catalogues and re-record obscure songs from them. It worked pretty well, and for 10 years they managed a string of top 60 hits (!) that kept them on the charts pretty regularly. They were the go-to opening act for major artists that came through the Boston area. In 1980, they had their biggest hit yet with Love Stinks which started off as a inside joke, but when played with a Squeeze type new wave sound it made some real inroads for a new direction for the band.
This was their next album, and they went all in for the new wave sound. Normally, a song about falling in love with a girl who poses nude in magazines wouldn’t catch on with radio, but Centerfold was also released with what was at the time, a really good video. MTV played it around the clock, and everyone I knew was talking about it, especially the revolutionary drummer pounding milk shot (at 2:50 in the video).
Naturally, not everyone in the band, including the namesake, was totally thrilled at the new direction. New Wave could easily have been the next Disco, and some of the band preferred the timeless R&B music they were famous for. After the relative failure of a live album after Freeze Frame, the band split up. But they did leave one hell of an 80s record for us to enjoy.
Cost: $3, $478 Remaining