Friday, March 26, 2021

"Strange But True" by Times Two

Song#:  3444
Date:  03/12/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  21
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This duo of Shanti Jones and Johnny Dollar from Point Reyes Station, California, had been friends since they were eleven years old. While the pair had a love for Elvis and his music, neither had sites set on a music career. That began to change when punk music arrived in the 70s. The new genre captured their attention and like a lot of teenagers they were inspired to pick up instruments and start playing. An appearance at a talent show led to a gig and things began to pick up from there. They began writing songs and recording demos that they sent to various labels. Everyone said no except for Reprise Records and in '87 the duo signed with the label. Under the name of Times Two, Jones and Dollar recorded a debut album titled X2. This first single was released and it did pretty well nearly cracking the Pop Top 20. It also got near the Dance Top 10 peaking at #12. The song helped the album make the chart, but it could only manage to reach #137.

ReduxReview:  I'm not sure what the duo or the label were going for here, but it was all a bit odd. Not a lot of it made sense. The guys got interested in performing music thanks to punk bands like the Sex Pistols, yet this song has zero in common with that scene. Then there was the quirky video that showed the guys doing weird dance moves and Jones dressed up like the male version of Debbie Gibson (weirdly, they got the opening slot on her '88 tour). And while Jones would co-write/co-produce most of the album, he had help from established folks like Gardner Cole (on this single) and Tony Peluso. After reading about the guys, this peppy dance-pop track was not what I was expecting. It is also one of those odd songs that did well on the chart, but I don't remember it or them at all. I'm sure the two had some talent, but this almost smells like one of those stories where the label saw an opportunity to hawk a couple of cute guys with catchy pop music and took over most everything in order to groom them into hitmakers. The guys probably didn't have much choice but to go along. Regardless, the song itself was a perky little confection that was hooky and well crafted. Had I heard it back in the day, I might have even bought the single. It is pure late-80s dance-pop fluff - and I mean that in a good way.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Both artists would later connect back with their rock roots. Shanti Jones would basically become a one-man band under the name Sex & Reverb. His self-titled first LP came out in 2003 on the indie Paisley Pop label. Four more albums would follow under the Sex & Reverb name released by Jones himself. Johnny Dollar would head up his own odd brand of alt pop with his outfit El Radio Fantastique. Dropping his Johnny Dollar moniker and going by Giovanni Di Morente, he first developed the band in New Orleans in 2002. After a move back to California in 2006, Di Morente created the second incarnation of the band. They released a full album in 2012 followed by a couple of EPs. Let's just say that Sex & Reverb and El Radio Fantastique sound nothing like the bouncy dance-pop of Times Two, but at least they had the big major label, pop chart experience.


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