Hailing from Hollywood, California, Concrete Blonde was a band that saw three different occasions where the alternative rock band was active. The first run was from 1982 until 1995, which saw the founders, Johnette Napolitano and James Mankey originally teamed up as Dreamers. Joining the duo was drummer, Michael Murphy, then Harry Rushakoff. After signing with I.R.S. Records, the band’s official name became Concrete Blonde. In 1986, Concrete Blonde released its debut, self-titled album, which was then followed by four additional studio albums before the group took some time off the first time.
Reunions and Releases
In 1997 Concrete Blonde briefly reunited to have its sixth studio album released, but in collaboration with the Los Angeles-based, Chicago punk band, Los Illegals. The majority of the music was performed in Spanish, both in its recordings and concert tours. Once the tour was over, it wouldn’t be until 2001 Concrete Blonde would unite again as a band. Between 2001 to 2004, two additional studio albums were released before the group split again. The band reunited for the final time in 2010, recording and touring again until splitting again in 2012. So far, there have been no further reunions since then.
In addition to the eight studio albums to Concrete Blonde’s credit, there are also four compilation albums and a live album. In total, there are nineteen album-associated singles the group has released, as well as eight non-album-associated tracks.
Top 10 Concrete Blonde Songs
#10 – Happy Birthday
Released in 1989, “Happy Birthday” was the second of three singles released from Concrete Blonde’s second studio album, Free. It also served as the second song the group would realize a chart position on the music billboards, namely with Canada’s Singles chart at number eighty-two and Australia’s ARIA chart at number eighty-one. For Johnette Napolitano, she turned the unhappy occasion of spending a lonely thirtieth birthday occasion into something more cheerful, something of which music critics noted to be original and catchy.
#9 – Tomorrow Wendy
In 1991, on the Canada Top Singles chart, “Tomorrow Wendy” charted at number sixty-six when Johnette Napolitano recorded the song to Concrete Blonde’s third studio album, Bloodletting. Originally, the song was recorded and released as a duet with Andy Prieboy for his debut album, …Upon My Wicked Son, in 1990. The song was inspired by Prieboy, who wrote out about death in an industrial age, both as a person and as a city. For Prieboy, he felt a woman’s voice was needed to make Tomorrow Wendy have more soul, so in comes Johnette Napolitano. Napolitano was inspired enough by the emotional impact of the song to record and release it, upon Prieboy’s approval, as a single credited to Concrete Blonde as well.
#8 – Everybody Knows
On the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart, the slow and somber “Everybody Knows” is charted at number twenty. It was the lead track from the soundtrack belonging to the 1990 motion picture, Pump Up the Volume. The original release of this single came out in 1988 by Leonard Cohen and it was the official theme song to the movie starring Christian Slater. Concrete Blonde’s coverage of the song was played in the movie, during the lead character’s final broadcast, which was noted for having a bit more edge to the song than the original.
#7 – True
“True” was the first single released by Concrete Blonde that earned a spot on the music charts in 1986. Considered a tender ballad meeting with a hint of toughness from Johnette Napolitano’s lyrical performance, music critics gave favorable reviews for the musical portrayal of True. On the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, the single climbed as high as forty-two, as well as earning a number ninety-one spot on Australia’s ARIA chart.
#6 – God Is a Bullet
Originally, the single, “God Is a Bullet.” was written in 1987 after witnessing gunfire and other related incidents first-hand in the Los Angeles area. It was Concrete Blonde’s anti-gun law stance, written in the form of a lamentation song. It was hard-hitting and designed to send a message, using sinister-style riffs from the Batman theme music. On the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart, God is a Bullet charted as high as number fifteen. On the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, it charted at number forty-nine. In 1989, the song was released as the first of three singles from Concrete Blonde’s second studio album, Free, and served to be the first of the group’s tracks to earn a top twenty chart ranking on any of the US Billboard charts.
#5 – Heal It Up
Released in 1993 from Concrete Blonde’s fifth studio album, Mexican Moon, “Heal It Up” was the second single that was released, which charted as high as number sixteen on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart. On the Canada Top Singles chart, Heal It Up reached number sixty-seven and it was a number eighty-six hit on Australia’s ARIA chart. From the beginning, the build-up of the song of damaged souls in need of healing lead into a melodic music wave, thanks to the guitar riffs and Johnette Napolitano’s vocals. The song was well-respected by music critics and fans alike, agreeing it was one of the best tracks on the album.
#4 – Caroline
In 1990, Concrete Blonde released the single, “Caroline,” which became a number twenty-three hit on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart and a number twenty-two hit on Canada’s Top Singles chart. It also charted at number thirty-nine in Australia and at number fifty-seven in the Netherlands. Music critics compared “Caroline,” to Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” thanks to the vocal performance provided by Johnette Napolitano. Evocatively eerie and lush, this third single from the group’s third studio album, Bloodletting, served as a beautiful addition to the supernatural theme the entire album let off.
#3 – Someday?
“Someday?” was the second single released from Concrete Blonde’s fourth studio album, Walking in London. It served as a follow-up song to the album’s lead track as an edgier side to the group’s pool of musical talent. Despite this edge, Johnette Napolitano brought forth a lullaby sound that added a hint of ghostly sweetness to Someday? as an easy pick favorite for reminiscent-style songs go. On the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart, Someday? charted as high as number eight and was a number thirteen hit in Canada. It also appeared at number sixty-two on the Australia music chart and at number eighty-two in the Netherlands.
#2 – Ghost of a Texas Ladies’ Man
On the US Billboard Adult Alternative Airplay chart, “Ghost of a Texas Ladies’ Man” peaked as high as number two in 1992. It was the lead single from Concrete Blonde’s fourth studio album, Walking in London. In Canada, Ghost of a Texas Ladies’ Man charted at number twenty-eight and in Australia at number thirty-one, thanks to the country-style intro it started out with. Laced with black humor, this somewhat campy single featured Johnette Napolitano’s vocal ability to carry out a lyrical ghost tale in an entertaining enough manner to make it more than just some charted hit. It was also critically acclaimed for being charming, witty, and refreshingly unpredictable.
#1 – Joey
Concrete Blonde’s signature song, “Joey,” served as the biggest hit the group ever realized throughout the band’s entire career. On the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart, the raspiness behind Johnette Napolitano’s vocals was at its all-time best as she declared she’s not angry at the subject of the song anymore. Joey was also immensely popular in Australia, as it ranked as high as number two on its official music chart. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it was a number nineteen hit, which was the one and only time Concrete Blonde saw a song of theirs appear on its chart. On the Canadian Singles Chart, Joey reached as high as number four.
In the Netherlands, Joey became a top twenty hit as it charted as high as number fourteen on its Dutch Top 40 chart and at number seventeen on its Single Top 100 chart. In Belgium, Joey made it to number thirty-five on its Ultratop 50 chart. From the 1990 album, Bloodletting, Joey was released as the second single out of the four that were released from it. This song is credited for the Concrete Blonde’s third studio album for achieving enough record sales to become certified gold by the Australia Recording Industry Association (ARIA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Top 10 Concrete Blonde Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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