Wow. I have just seen the light. I was a boy 5 minutes ago, now I’m a man. ‘Make It Easy’ by Dan Reed Network is the single most entertaining rock video I have ever seen*, it is soooo 1989!! Thrill to scenes of:
- Unexpurgated keyboard playing on the beach!
- Dan, fearlessly, singing amongst some bulrushes!
- A chick putting on a front-fastening bra!
- Unexplained rainfall on some of the band!
- Crazy, reckless, face washing!
- Uncensored shots of the single worst pair of trousers in the whole of rock!
Best of all though? ‘Make It Easy’ is a really good, poppy funky rock track still – it has aged much better than I thought it would. Which is just as well as it is the opener from Dan Reed Network Slam, another refugee from Mrs 1537’s LP collection on my shelves. Mrs 1537 saw Mr Reed** twice and to this day will tell you, admiringly, that he was gorgeous and ‘moved like a cat’^. Hmm.
There’s a good story attached to the Dan Reed Network, a South Dakota farm boy of Filipino heritage leading a defiantly multi-racial band seemingly destined to be THE NEXT BIG THING when Slam was released in 1989. After all Slam was produced by, His Immortal Coolness, Nile Rodgers, Dan Reed Network were managed by Q Prime management and they had/were about to go on high-profile opening slots for Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones. They had some great tunes, a great look and a real frontman. Then came The Hair Incident. The morning before the video to ‘Rainbow Child’ was shot Dan Reed, feeling the weight of all manner of expectation and pressure shaved his head. No big deal for a rocker in 2016, this totally, like totally totally, cooked their collective goose in 1989. To a ridiculous extent.
Then came a lacklustre LP, break-up, all manner of lost years as a club co-owner in Portland and finally full-blown crack addiction. Oh and there was the time Dan interviewed the Dalai Lama for Spin Magazine in there somewhere too. Finally salvation came in the form of songwriting, teaching Buddhist monks the words to ‘We Will Rock You’, caring for his elderly stepfather, all manner of spirituality and parenthood. To the point where a revitalized Dan Reed Network are out gigging again and I’m toying with the idea of taking Mrs 1537 to see them next year.
But baldness and crack addiction, the former being the most injurious to his career, were light years away when Slam was cut. The band were very much fans of Van Halen and Prince equally and it shows, the LP is a very pleasant, if a bit lightweight, collection of tunes, occasionally stumbling into excellence and lurching into inanity but mostly making for a pleasant Sunday morning’s listening. One real standout is ‘Tiger in a Dress’, because all of us insecure, spotty rockers loved a good song about a predatory chick mostly because it would save us the whole nerve-wracking affair of approaching them ourselves if they, you know, just like jumped on you and stuff:
She’s a tiger, tiger in a dress
Takin’ on the bad boys baby, and livin’ on the wild side
She’s a tiger and there’s nowhere to hide
Cruisin’ through the streets, She’s got a hunger
Underneath the sheets, She makes you wish that you were stronger, (a little bit, longer..)
Obviously I can empathise with those chaps who are less gifted in the bedroom arts than myself and who would identify with the last line. Must be hard being you. Regardless, it is a really good pop rocker which makes me smile and that’s enough for me.
Again, I’m a real sucker for soppy sentimental ‘Rainbow Child’, I know I’m being manipulated here but it manages to hit all the right notes to tweak my Emotion Processing Unit (EPU). It’s a slight confection of a song which shimmers prettily in front of you without any real substance. It reminds me of the basis of a song that Prince might have knocked up circa Sign O’ The Times, except he would have taken it off somewhere extraordinary musically, Dan Reed Network can’t do that which is fine and the song just gets to be itself. On a similar tip there’s another great pop track on side 2 called ‘Lover’ full of groove and nice melodies. The rockers on Slam aren’t as good as the, umm, groovies but a couple aren’t half bad anyway, notably the title track, ‘Make it Easy’ and ‘Doin The Love Thing’, which features some tasty guitar.
Where it all falls down is the fact that this really is an LP forged in the musical vernacular of its’ time, the whole sound of it just oozes late 80’s and MTV; well, MTV before the flannel-shirted hordes stormed the Bastille. It grates on me occasionally and I was there and have a half decent tolerance for all those synthy tropes. I can’t imagine future generations, say in the year 2354 when civilisation is just rebuilding itself after the Trumpian Apocalypse stumbling across my copy of Slam and making it the cornerstone of their new culture, it’s too much of its time. Plus the ballad ‘Stronger Than Steel’ is the most appalling load of cack I can think of right now, the sort of thing you could hear gently emanating from Jon Bon Jovi’s nipsy if you mic-ed it up whilst he slept.
So despite, or maybe because of, the fact that these destiny’s children never quite ascended the throne that it was assumed was rightfully theirs I have a lot of affection for most of this album. It reminds me of a time and a place that I look back on nostalgically, mostly and is occasionally very easy on the ears indeed.
Now watch a video of a bald man hiding it behind a headdress:
695 Down (Reed Network).
*well, non Dio one anyway. Bear witness:
**or is it double-barrelled? Mr Reed-Network?
^there is a subtle, yet entirely unvoiced, ‘just like you, dearest’ on the end of that sentence. I’m sure of it.