Wall of Voodoo got started in 1977, led by singer and songwriter Stan Ridgway, with guitarist Marc Moreland, bassist/keyboardist Bruce Moreland, keyboardist Chas Gray, and pots and pans player Joe Nanni. The band originally formed as a film soundtrack company, but having minimimal success, went on as a straight band. They released their self titled EP in 1980, containing a cover of Johnny Cash's classic Ring Of Fire. Their sound, a bizarre combination of country and western guitar, Kraftwerk style synthesizers, and Ridgway's twangy voice was completely unique - as were the lyrics. Ridgeway focused on character studies, and cinematic style narratives all with a heavily dark overtone, which came into sharp focus on thier first full-length LP, Dark Continent.
The band had limited success until 1982's album Call of the West, and its hit single Mexican Radio. The song, while Wall of Voodoo by the numbers, was also a slightly more upbeat number and with its strange music video, launched Wall Of Voodoo to a new level of popularity. This, however, was short-lived, as after a particularly disastrous performance at the 1983 US Festival, Stan Ridgway and Joe Nanni left the band (Bruce Moreland had left before the release of Call Of The West). The remaining members regrouped with new singer Andy Prieboy, and in 1985 released Seven Days In Sammystown.
The new lineup of Wall of Voodoo lost a great deal of its unique sound, but the new album managed to be a decent listen. Prieboy's vocals are nowhere near the quality of Ridgway, and the loss of Nanni's pots and pans for regular drums was another harsh blow. Nevertheless, Seven Days was a minor success lead by the songs Far Side of Crazy, and (Don't Spill My) Courage. In 1987, Wall of Voodoo released Happy Planet to poor reviews. As a last gasp, the band released 1988's Ugly Americans Live In Australia* (the asterisk noting that some songs were recorded in Arizona). The band formally broke up after, this though in 1991, their original EP was rereleased on CD as The Index Masters with the addition of a live concert from 1979. Wall of Voodoo left behind a widely varying collection of good and bad music. However their place in musical history is cemented, even if only as a one-hit wonder with Mexican Radio.
Wall of Voodoo Discography (Major Releases):
Wall of Voodoo (EP) - 1980
Dark Continent - 1981
Call of the West - 1982
Seven Days In Sammystown - 1985
Happy Planet - 1987
Ugly Americans Live In Australia* - 1988
The Index Masters - 1991