Love And Rockets' Psychedelic Train Ride Laid The Foundation For Alt-Rock

Mar 18, 2020
Originally published on March 18, 2020 7:53 am

Morning Edition's series One-Hit Wonders / Second-Best Songs focuses on musicians or bands whose careers in the United States are defined by a single monster hit, and explains why their catalogs have much more to offer.

In this installment, Jim Novak, the music buyer for Minneapolis record store Electric Fetus, defends Love and Rockets, whose 1989 hit "So Alive" went to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The trio was comprised of three former members of the goth rock group Bauhaus — Daniel Ash, David J and Kevin Haskins — and Novak argues that the music they made as Love and Rockets helped lay the foundation for '90s alternative rock groups like Oasis. Read Novak in his own words below, and hear the radio version at the audio link.


Love and Rockets was a rock band that formed out of the ashes of Bauhaus, one of the early founders of the goth rock movement. Three members of that band decided to do their own thing. "So Alive" was kind of a departure from the earlier sound of the band. "So Alive" is kind of glam with background singers and it's kind of slick. It's this really crafted thing, whereas the earlier direction of the band was a lot more experimental. What I like about the band is the grittier, darker sound.

"So Alive" was off of their fourth album. It was great that they were discovered, but if I was introducing someone to this band, it would be a song from their second record called "Yin and Yang (The Flowerpot Man)."

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It's a six-minute train ride that's all fuzzed out and psychedelic. You don't know if this is a safe train or not. It's an intense song that really just takes you on this journey. You don't know exactly how it's going to end.

They really were a foundation for what alternative rock became. This is years before Nirvana, years before "Wonderwall," and these guys influenced a lot of the bands that became alternative in the '90s.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In 1989, this song was a huge hit for the band Love and Rockets.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SO ALIVE")

LOVE AND ROCKETS: (Singing) Feel I'm in on a cross again lately, but there's nothing to do with you. I'm alive - oh, oh, so alive.

MARTIN: "So Alive" went to No. 3 on the pop charts back then, but the band was never able to replicate that success. If they could make a song like that, isn't it possible they had other music worth hearing? Well, it used to be that when you had a question like that, you'd go to your local record store - not too many of those left. But in Minneapolis, there's one that has been an institution for more than 50 years. Electric Fetus - weird name, cool store. We asked the store's buyer, Jim Novak, about Love and Rockets, his pick for our series One-Hit Wonders/Second-Best Songs.

JIM NOVAK: Love and Rockets was a rock band that forms kind of out of the ashes of Bauhaus, and Bauhaus house was one of the early founders of the kind of goth rock movement. Three members of that band decided to do their own thing. "So Alive" was kind of a departure from the earlier sound of the band. "So Alive" is kind of glammed with background singers, and it's kind of slick. It's this really crafted thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SO ALIVE")

LOVE AND ROCKETS: (Singing) Doo-doo (ph).

NOVAK: Whereas some of the - lot of the earlier directions the band went was a lot more experimental. And, you know, what I like about the band is kind of the grittier, darker sound. "So Alive" was off of their fourth album. You know, it was great that they were discovered, but, you know, if I was introducing someone to this band, it would be a song from their second record, called "Yin And Yang (The Flowerpot Man)."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YIN AND YANG (THE FLOWERPOT MAN)")

LOVE AND ROCKETS: (Singing) Under the wheel of a running train, like a dog in the pouring rain.

NOVAK: This song - it's, like, a six-minute train ride that is all fuzzed out and psychedelic, and you don't know if this is a safe train or not. It's an intense song that really just takes you on this journey. You don't know exactly how it's going to end.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YIN AND YANG (THE FLOWERPOT MAN)")

LOVE AND ROCKETS: (Singing) Beauty, beauty, beauty, beautiful. Beauty, beauty, beauty, beautiful.

NOVAK: They really were a foundation for kind of what alternative rock became in the '90s. I mean, this is years before Nirvana, years before "Wonderwall," and these guys influenced a lot of the bands that became alternative in the '90s.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOVE AND ROCKETS SONG, "YIN AND YANG (THE FLOWERPOT MAN)"

MARTIN: That's Jim Novak with the record store Electric Fetus in Minneapolis. "Yin And Yang (The Flowerpot Man)" by Love and Rockets is his choice for our series One-Hit Wonders/Second-Best Songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOVE AND ROCKETS SONG, "YIN AND YANG (THE FLOWERPOT MAN)" Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.