Wall of Voodoo was an American rock group from Los Angeles best known for the 1983 hit "Mexican Radio". The band had a sound that was a fusion of synthesizer-based New Wave music with the spaghetti western soundtrack style of Ennio Morricone.
Wall of Voodoo had its roots in Acme Soundtracks, an unsuccessful film score business started by Stan Ridgway, later the vocalist and synth player for Wall of Voodoo. Acme Soundtracks office was across the street from the Hollywood punk club The Masque and Ridgway was soon drawn into the emerging punk/new wave scene. Marc Moreland, guitarist for The Skulls began jamming with Ridgway at the Acme Soundtracks office and the soundtrack company morphed into a New Wave band. In 1977, with the addition of Skulls members Bruce Moreland (Marc Moreland's brother) as bassist and Chas T. Gray as keyboardist, along with Joe Nanini, who had been the drummer for Black Randy and the Metrosquad, the first lineup of Wall of Voodoo was born.
The band was named Wall of Voodoo before their first gig in reference to a comment made by Joe Berardi, a friend of Ridgway's and member of The Fibonaccis. Berardi was listening to some of the Acme Soundtracks music Ridgway and Moreland had created in their studio. When Ridgway jokingly compared the multiple-drum-machine- and Farfisa-organ-laden recordings to Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, Berardi commented it sounded more like a "wall of voodoo", and the name stuck.
"Ring of Fire"
Sample of Wall of Voodoo "Ring of Fire" from Wall of Voodoo EP (1980).
Sample of Wall of Voodoo "Mexican Radio" from Call of the West (1982).
"Far Side of Crazy"
Sample of Wall of Voodoo "Far Side of Crazy" from Seven Days in Sammystown (1985).
Wall of Voodoo released a self-titled EP in 1980 which featured a unique, synthesizer-driven cover of the Johnny Cash song, "Ring of Fire". The band's first full-length album, Dark Continent, followed in 1981. Bruce Moreland left the band for the first time soon after this, and Chas Gray performed on both bass and keyboard during this time. The band recorded their biggest-selling album, Call of the West in 1982. That same year, Wall of Voodoo opened for The Residents on the legendary cult band's inaugural tour, at Perkin's Palace in Pasadena in early summer 1982. the Mole Show. The track "Mexican Radio" was their only Top 100 hit in the USA and the video for the song got a great deal of exposure on the newly formed MTV. Bill Noland was added as a keyboardist soon after the release of this album.
Stan Ridgway claims that the situation around the band was increasingly chaotic at the time, with a great deal of drug use and out-of-control behavior on the part of the band members, as well as shady behavior by the band's management and record label. Wall of Voodoo appeared at the second US Festival on May 28, 1983 (the largest concert the band had performed), immediately after which Ridgway, Nanini, and Noland all left the band. Stan Ridgway soon went on to a successful solo career, appearing as guest vocalist on a track on the Rumble Fish score and releasing his first solo album in 1986. Joe Nanini soon resurfaced in the country rock band Lonesome Strangers.
The remainder of the band, Marc Moreland, Chas T. Gray, and a returning Bruce Moreland carried on under the name Wall of Voodoo. Soon after, Andy Prieboy, formerly of the San Francisco New Wave band Eye Protection, joined as singer and Ned Leukhardt was added as drummer. The band continued to record and perform under this lineup until 1988, though their sound was very different from the style of music they played in the earlier Stan Ridgway-fronted lineup. In 1985 they released Seven Days In Sammystown. The first single, 'Far Side Of Crazy' did well in Australia, reaching number 23 on the ARIA charts. The song is still heard today on the Austereo Triple M network. In 1988, they split up and Andy Prieboy and Marc Moreland went on to solo careers. During this period, the entire membership of Wall of Voodoo (with the exception of Andy Prieboy) were also members of Nervous Gender, a lineup that was nicknamed "Wall of Gender".
Stan Ridgway, Andy Prieboy, and Marc Moreland were all active and performing as solo artists during the 1990s and 2000s. Joe Nanini released an EP under the name Sienna Nanini-Bohica in 1996. Two former members died within a few years of each other in the early 2000s; Joe Nanini died of a brain hemorrhage on December 4, 2000 and Marc Moreland died of kidney and liver failure on March 13, 2002.
On July 18th, 2006 a Stan Ridgway-fronted Wall of Voodoo performed at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Orange County as an opening band for Cyndi Lauper. However, other than Ridgway, none of the surviving Wall of Voodoo members were included in this lineup.
Wall of Voodoo (EP) (1980)
Dark Continent (1981) (#177 US)
Call of the West (1982) (#45 US)
Seven Days in Sammystown (1985) (#50 AU)
Happy Planet (1987) (#83 AU)
The Ugly Americans in Australia (1989)
Granma's House (1984)
The Index Masters (includes the 1980 EP + live tracks) (1991)
It is also rumoured that another album Dance of Death was released.
1982: "Ring of Fire (remix)"
1982: "On Interstate 15"
1983: "Mexican Radio" (#58 US) (#64 UK) (#33 AU)
1983: "Call of the West" UK
1983: "There's Nothing on This Side" UK
1984: "Big City"
1985: "Far Side of Crazy" (#23 AU)
1987: "Do It Again" (#40 AU)
1987: "Elvis Bought Dora a Cadillac"