Patti Smyth, and definitely not Patti Smith, was the pixieish lead singer of the band Scandal whose bouncy, kiss-off performance on the video ‘Goodbye To You’ won the hearts of early ‘80’s twenty-somethings, and later of tennis’s original Superbrat, John McEnroe, who she married in 1997. Following the song’s unexpected breakthrough, peaking at #65 on the Billboard 100 after heavy rotation on the fledgling MTV Network, Scandal re-emerged with a second charting tune, ‘Love’s Got a Line on You,’ before waging one last chart attack with what turned out to be their biggest hit/video, ‘The Warrior,’ reaching #7 (#1 in Canada), and this time featuring Smyth in various stages of colorful, battle-ready face paint. And that was it, with the band breaking up in 1985 after its short, tumultuous run in which 4 of 6 original members had departed.
Another slightly better-known band also experienced a break-up of sorts in 1985, when David Lee Roth ditched Van Halen to embark on his campy solo career. And, get this: Smyth was invited by her friend Eddie Van Halen to join the band and replace Diamond Dave as lead singer. She declined (obviously), but jeez, can you believe that?! (her future husband would surely have screamed, “You cannot be serious!”). A history-altering choice which gave rise to Van Halen’s second life as Van Hagar shortly thereafter. “It was just not the right time for me,” Smyth said, who happened to be eight months pregnant at the time. “I was a New Yorker, I didn’t want to live in L.A. … and those guys were drunk and fighting all the time anyway.”
So, as we have all done our own grappling to finally reach the precipice of – is it possible? – the end of the indescribable year 2020, I can think of no more appropriate song to play us off than this one, a happy requiem, perhaps, to accompany the much-anticipated turning of the calendar away from this unprecedented annum. We get Smyth at her potent, raspy-throated peak, coquettish while still disdainful, and dancing feverishly like, well, like seemingly everyone did for some reason in the ‘80’s (see: Springsteen, ‘Dancing In The Dark,’ or Ringwald, “The Breakfast Club,” for but two samples). We also have a ripping mid-tune synth solo which, though “key-synced” (air-keyboarded?) by Scandal organist Benjy King, was actually played on the recording by – it’s true – Late Show with David Letterman’s own bandleader and sidekick, Paul Shaffer.1 And, most importantly, we’re presented with the proper dismissive serenade to discharge, at last, this true bastard of a year: Hasta la vista, baby. And yippee-ki-yay-motherf*cker.
1Shaffer’s solo was inspired by Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway,’ borrowing from both the riff and the incomparable sound of the instrument that saw its first-ever use in that 1961 hit, the Musitron.