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Italo sensation Den Harrow returns (sort of) for New Wave 80's Memorial Weekend in Huntington Beach

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 7, 2012 12:00pm | Post a Comment
   


Den Harrow
, the Italo disco star famous for such timeless '80s classics as "Bad boy," "Charleston," "Future brain," "Mad desire" is coming to perform for his first time ever in California... sort of. Actually, Den Harrow was an invented character but the sources of the voice and music behind him, Tom Hooker and Miki Chieregato, respectively, are set to perform on Sunday, 27 May 2012 at Avec Nightclub in Huntington Beach’s New Wave 80’s Memorial WeekendDJ BPM from Keep on Music will be DJing. Tickets are $20 and the bottle special is $200 for Martell VSOP.  It'll be hosted by Truc Quynh.




More than an actual person, Den Harrow was a musical project of the aforementioned composer Miki Chieregato, fronted by Milanese model Stefano Zandri with vocals initially provided by several singers before Tom Hooker was brought in -- Chieregato's PR partner, Roberto Turatti, was another integral aspect. Together they enjoyed considerable popularity in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Sweden during the golden years of Italo-disco -- the 1980s. In the UK and US, the practice of hiring a model to lipsynch at shows and in videos was almost unheard of until the exposure of the likes of  C + C Music Factory, Technotronic (from Belgium), Boney M (from West Germany) and most notoriously, Milli Vanilli (also from West Germany). In European pop produced during the golden age of music videos, however, it was a fairly common practice. To be Den Harrow's face, Chieregato and Turatti hired Stefano Zandri and invented a perhaps needlessly but humorously complicated back-story. 

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According to their fictional history, Zandri’s name was Manuel Stefano Carry and he was born in Boston to an architect father. His family moved to Italy when Carry was a toddler and then, at just seven-years-old, Carry learned to play guitar and piano. His parents divorced and Manuel, his brother and sister stayed with their mother. They only spoke Italian in the home so, despite his birthplace, English presented him with some difficulty in school. Although he’d always dreamt of pursuing a career in show business, in high school, “Carry” additionally started practicing bodybuilding, break dancing and judo (as seen in the video for “Mad Desire”). Then he met Turrati, who was DJ-ing at the club, American Disaster. Turatti and his friend, Miki Chieregato gave Manuel a new stage name, "Den Harrow," meant to suggest denaro, the Italian word for money. Den Harrow then took extensive vocal lessons and recorded his first two songs, “To Meet Me” and “A Taste of Love” on Hole Records.










The voice behind the first two singles was provided by Chuck Rolando, a singer and songwriter at Durium. The singles were moderately successful in some European markets but due to Rolando’s contractual obligations, his partnership with the project ended, necessitating their recruiting a new voice.



For “Mad Desire,” released on Gong Records, Silvio “Silver” Pozzoli provided the vocals and the single was a massive success, selling over a million copies. Pozzoli’s voice was adequate but heavily-accented so the producers sought out American expat singer, Tom Hooker.
 
Tom Hooker


Thomas Beecher Hooker was a Greenwich, Connecticut native who’d moved to Europe when he was less than a year old. After living in Switzerland, in 1980 he moved to Italy where’d he’d released music with various labels first at Harmony with 1980’s “Flip over” followed by a three year stint at Full Time. After recording “Give it to me” for Sensation Records, he moved to Merak Music and released the Italo ode to football, “Real men” in 1984.




In 1985, Chieregato and Turatti bought out Hooker’s contract. Their first collaboration was 1985’s “Cry (urban remix)” b/w “Don’t forget (to buy this record)” which was simply attributed to T.H. and released on Baby Records subsidiary, For Sale (and later re-recorded and released by Den Harrow).





Chieregato, Turatti and Hooker all then moved to Baby Records, most significant for being home to Italo superstar, Gazebo hit-maker Albert One. Hooker sang vocals on Den Harrow’s next single, “Future brain,” also in 1985.




For consistency’s sake, Hooker re-recorded “Mad desire” for Den Harrow’s debut album, Overpower (1985-Baby Records).




It was a big hit in Switzerland and Sweden and spawned two more hit singles, “Bad boy” and “Charleston.”






The album, single and Den Harrow won several awards, at Festivalbar, Vota La Cove and Bravo’s Silver Ottos


In 1986, Hooker’s proper (as in attributed to Tom Hooker, not Den Harrow) debut full-length, the Claudio Donato-produced Only One, was released on Heaven Records, which also included the title track single.



That same year, using yet another alias, Lou Sern, Hooker released the cuckoo clock-sampling “Swiss boy” on Esquire which was, funnily enough, released as a “split single” with Den Harrow’s “Charleston.” Back at Baby he released “Looking for love” and “Help me” as well as the schmaltz ballad “Highway to freedom” with Maruizio Vandelli and Dario Farina under the handle, “Fahrenheit 104.”




Back recording for Den Harrow, the next single, “Catch the fox,” showed up on the full-length follow-up, Day by day (1987-Baby Records).


Den Harrow Day By Day


It was proved to be another solid collection of melodic synthpop. It produced another single, “Don’t break my heart,” which became their biggest success to date.




The album too was an even bigger success than its predecessor, reaching number one in Germany and the Top Five in Italy, Spain, Greece and Benelux. It also went gold in France, platinum in Canada, and earned a Golden Otto. Behind the scenes of the success there was some discord. Hooker had wanted to record the single under his own name but Freddy Naggiar, the head of Baby Records was reluctant to tamper with the Den Harrow cash cow. Although Hooker continued writing lyrics for Den Harrow, he stopped providing the vocals. Meanwhile, as himself, he released the single “Atlantis.”




Harrow’s next single, “Born to love” again won at Festivalbar in 1987 and appeared, in a dance version, on his album Lies (1988-Baby Records).




For the vocals, Turatti and Chieregeto employed the services of an English singer with a much higher register, Anthony James. Zandri, although he never sang, wasn’t even particularly adept at lipsynching and with another undeniable vocal shift, the true nature of Zandri’s role became one of the worst kept secrets in music – for those who cared. The album and singles “My time” and “You have a way” were less successful but nonetheless appeared in European commercials for Adidas and Coca-Cola.


 

The same year, 1988, Chieregato and Hooker recorded Hooker’s proper sophomore release, Bad reputation (1988-Baby Records), which included the singles “Feeling okay” and “No more Heaven.” Not surprisingly, the voice sounded more like the voice of Den Harrow than Den Harrow himself had on his album.








After the release of “Holiday night” and “Take me back” in 1989, Zandri decided to strike out on his own, ending his relationship with Turatti, Chieregato and Baby Records. After several years of considerably less commercial success, Zandri moved to California to take part in Aaron Spelling’s mostly-forgotten Baywatch-inspired soap opera, Sunset Beach.  


After Hooker’s 1990 single, “Living in the sunshine” he and Chieregato also ended their collaboration. 1992 was Baby’s last year (they reappeared, reorganized as Baby Records International in 1994) and Hooker’s Fighting for our love (1992-Baby Records), was recorded without Chieregato. The same year, as “TH & The Funk Guitar,” Hooker released “Sex-o-phone & funk guitar” on Pop In Baby. Hooker went on to work with other musicians, releasing music as Elastic Band, Cool Jack and Defect. After a final solo single, “Runaway,” released in 1994 by ZYX there was a long period of silence. That year Hooker moved to the US to start a family and changed his name to Thomas Barbèy (taking his mother's maiden name) so that his wife's name wouldn't be "Mrs. Hooker."







Then, in 2011, Hooker and Chieregato joined forces as Tomik Productions and released their first collaborations in about twenty years, “Change your mind,” which was released on Flashback Records and "No elevation."






And as I said in the introduction, they're finally coming to California. I'll be there but if you can't, you can watch it live streaming here!
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In defense of lipsynch

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 17, 2009 07:03pm | Post a Comment
Whilst pricing vinyl recently, Amoeba's Chris Matthews unearthed a copy of one of Milli Vanilli's albums that looked normal enough from the outside but when opened up proved to be a sort of scrapbook/time capsule created by a one time fan. Apparently, when confronted with the shocking admission from the two-heavily accented Euros that the smooth, American accented vocals on record were not theirs, said fan responded by cutting out articles about what was scandalous to their pre-teen audience but a non-issue to any adult smarter than a parakeet.




1989 - A Time of Lies
Rewind back to 1989. It was a time of shadows and deception. A Massachussets-born, Ivy League blue blood masquerading as a Texan succeeded a bad Hollywood actor as president. America's youth shaved the Batman emblem in the back of their heads in anticipation of Michael Keaton playing Bruce Wayne, who secretly fights crime by night as Batman. The music world was rocked when, at a Connecticut performance, the recording of "Girl You Know It's True" began to skip. See, CDs had been billed as indestructible, so why was it skipping? And even the most naive fan had to accept what had been obvious and scarcely worth pointing out, that this particular dance-pop duo may've been chosen for their looks in an unholy scheme to... make... money!

  

In 1990, a nation was stunned to learn that that the ruggedly handsome, sideburned Luke Perry of Beverly Hills 90210 was twice the age of the character her played on TV. Still reeling, only a month later the owner of Milli Vanilli, Frank Farian, admitted that, in addition to not writing their own material, the guys in the videos didn't even sing.


The Duped Grammys Cry for Blood!
The ensuing backlash was meant to protest the deception perpetrated by Farian. In fact, it merely supported Farian's logic. People only wanted to enjoy Milli Vanilli's music if the singers were pretty and not for the music, which is why he put models in his videos instead of the actual vocalists, Brad Howell, John Davis, Ray Horton and Gina Mohammed. Reinforcing this notion, fans didn't rush out to buy the album by The Real Milli Vanilli. Had it actually been about music, no one would've cared who was in the videos. When the Grammys took back their award, they were in essence admitting that they were awarding the image and not the music. After all, everyone lipsynchs in videos, just usually to their own vocals... which in pop are usually singing lyrics that someone else wrote... and no one cares.

Demands for Authenticity in Film vs. Music
Of course, in reality the entertainment industry is built on fantasy and image-making. Why does Marilyn Monroe have fans? Her real name was Norma Mortenson, her appearance was the work of plastic surgeons, peroxide and make-up artists-- and the photo capturing her surprise when her skirt was blown upward? Staged! Of course, flat-buttocked actresses like Denise Richards and Angelina Jolie routinely use butt doubles and audiences are happy. Nearly everyone accepts stunt doubles, body doubles, stand-ins, airbrush and CGI too. Yet people seem more capable of accepting unreality in film rather than with music. Cartoons aren't actually speaking but are in fact voiced by real-life people. Music's always been held, unfairly, to a different standard even when actors just play musicians. The Monkees and The Partridge Family were ridiculed for not playing their instruments whilst no one cared that William Shatner wasn't actually flying a spaceship. It seems silly to demand authenticity in music but it happens and that's why rap is so artistically stunted today.

John 8:7
To paraphrase Jesus Christ, "Who of you has never worn contacts, painted your nails, worn extensions, worn black to look thinner, gotten plastic surgery, put on make-up or used fake tan? Let him cast the first stone!" I, for one, don't really care who appears in the video, but I don't mind looking at pretty people. So, in further celebration of lipsynching!

               

God I hate C + C Music Factory. That song still gives me the willies. I will never watch a Dreamworks cartoon because I'm deathly afraid that the animals will at some point bust out with, "everybody dance now!" The fact that the woman on the left sang the song but the woman on the right appeared in the video does nothing to change my assessment of its qualities. And, maybe because the idiots at The Grammys hadn't awarded THEM best no act, there was no media-driven scandal, just a shrug of indifference when the truth was revealed.



Similarly, no one much cared that the androgynous Ya Kid K was replaced by model Felly Kilingi by Technotronic in "Pump Up the Jam." What was more bizarre was that both women were Zairian, as if the listener would somehow subconciously pick up on something being off if they weren't from the same country. In fact, when the truth came out, no one cared.


So Nolan Thomas was really a Turkish guy named Marko Kalfa. And he appeared in this video even though he didn't sing the song. I wonder if his little brother is wearing a wig or if Kalfa's a natural blonde. Anyone who would change anything about this video is a Philistine.

              

In Den Harrow's case, the fact that the guy on the left sang and the guy on the right was in the video seems laughable. I guess the guy on the right's a bit prettier, but when I found out that neither was really named Den Harrow it was about as world-rocking as finding out George Michael was gay. The video and song are awesome, and that's what's important.




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