From the Hip – Josie Cotton (1984)

From the Hip album cover
From the Hip album cover

I usually split new wave music into two camps; one influenced by 50s bubblegum pop and the other by ’60s guitar rock. Along those lines, the influences had a strong geographical component to them with Americans siding with the 50s pop and the English with 60’s soul and guitar rock.

Of the early post-punk American acts, bands like the LA based Josie Cotton were making fun danceable new wave music with a distinctive segregation era sheen to it. I always found it strange that progressives would idolize an era of paranoia and exclusion.
I know of course Josie and The Cottons weren’t at all idealizing the bad aspects of the era, besides its easy to see the appeal of simple songs set to infectious melodies. How else could “Mickey” from Toni Basil have become a hit? That’s one reason the era’s influence lasted well into the ’80s. Besides by 1984 rock had only a few decades under its belt from which to draw from – why not start with its golden era.

Like The B-52’s, Josie Cotton used the imagery of the 50s, down to her appearance. The kitsch elements of the era being the main attraction. Unlike the B-52’s her music (along with her backing band The Cottons) was more straightforward in its approach to nostalgia.
After coming out strong with their debut album Convertible Music, the band eventually scored two minor hits. “He Could Be the One” and “Johnny are You Queer”, both featured on the soundtrack to the classic teen film Valley Girls, had established the band as early leaders in the neo ’50s new wave movement. The band even made an appearance on Solid Gold with “He Could Be the One”.

The second album From the Hip got some assistance from Lindsey Buckingham on the near-hit “Jimmy Loves Maryann”. The popular video seemed to combined prom imagery with that of a circus. The smart sassy writing from the previous album carried over to From the Hip, but somehow never gain the traction that came with heavy MTV exposure. The overall sound with its ’50s roots had novel appeal that perhaps had worn thin with listeners.

Cotton continues to record and has evolved her sound to surf era pop of the ’60s. Needless to say, Cotton’s stylized beauty and wit helped her to cultivate considerable camp appeal with appearances in film and TV shows like Jackass Number Two and Glee.


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