Wednesday, October 30, 2013

TMFW 8 - A 'Night Court' Actress Sang With Meat Loaf and (Maybe) Inspired The Clash's Only #1 Hit


When contemplating a musical fact related to the '80s television show Night Court, one might expect it to revolve around the all-time great theme song. And there may well be a good story there, but if so that's for another day.  
Night Court was on for 9 seasons, but didn't find a steady cast until season 3.  During season 2, the role of "young blond public defender love interest for Harry" was played by (St. Louis native, Rosati-Kain HighEllen Foley, who you can see in the show's intro linked above.  For 7 seasons after that, the role was played by Markie Post, whose longevity - theme alert! - overshadowed Foley's old character on the show.  (Post, for example, was a key part of the mini Night Court reunion on 30 Rock)
Foley had a modest career as an actress, but she has a surprisingly rich - if less than famous - musical legacy.
First, Foley was the romantic interest in Meat Loaf's classic anthem Paradise By The Dashboard Light, singing the lead female part on the studio track. Unfortunately for Foley, in the video for the song, singer Karla DeVito lip synced Foley's part.  DeVito later toured with Meat Loaf and - theme alert! - became synonymous with the part.  (See DeVito performing it live in 1978 here for example.)
Second, Foley was an artist in her own right, and released three albums* between 1979 and 1983. During that time, she was dating Mick Jones, the lead singer of The Clash.  (For reference, The Clash's great London Calling came out in 1979, followed by Sandinista! in 1980 and Combat Rock in 1982.)  Jones produced Foley's second album, Spirit of St. Louis, and he and Joe Strummer wrote half of the songs on the record.  Because the Clash were at their apex around the time the record dropped - theme alert! - much of the attention given to the record (even now) was to their participation.  Foley, for her part, seemed fine with this: on the album, the producer credit is listed as "My Boyfriend."  
Finally, though Mick Jones later denied it, Foley is frequently rumored to be the inspiration for The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?," which was the only #1 hit the band ever had**.
For an incredibly detailed "Ellen Foley" fansite, you won't do better (or other?) than "Phases of Travel," hosted by good old Tripod.  It even features old Ellen Foley fanclub zines.
*     You can hear all three of Foley's albums on Rdio or Spotify, but be warned that in the clear light of 2013 their age is apparent.
**     SISOSIG never reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts; in fact it peaked at 45 in the US and 17 in the UK on its original release in 1982.  But when it rereleased in 1991 - backed with Mick Jones' new band Big Audio Dynamite II's big single "Rush" - it hit number 1 on the UK charts for 2 weeks
BONUS (MAYBE) FACT:  The longtime Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto performed the baseball play-by-play section of Paradise By The Dashboard Light.  The year the single was released (1977), the historic rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox was hot, as the two closely chased each other for the AL East pennant. The next year was even more fierce, as the Red Sox gave up a 14-game lead, lost a one-game playoff, and the hated Yankees won the World Series.  Wikipedia alleges that, in a nod to the rivalry, an alternate cut of Meat's song was recorded with the announcer for the Red Sox substituted for Rizzuto.  Someone on the internet swears it's true, but Googling couldn't turn up recorded proof.
BONUS FACT 2 (for Greg): 'Rizzuto' proves to be a difficult word for Billy Madison to write in cursive during his "3rd grade" year.
BONUS FACT 3: Big Audio Dynamite II's other "big single" in 1991 was "The Globe," from the album of the same name.  The song very prominently, and repeatedly, samples "Should I Stay or Should I Go?"
BONUS FACT 4: Ben Fong-Torres, writer of the Parade article pictured above, is the Rolling Stone editor who offered the 18 year-old Cameron Crowe his big break.  He is featured in Almost Famous.

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