Favorite Songs By Favorite Artists (Series Two) #47: Andy Prieboy (And Related Bands)

Note: For an index of all articles in this second “Favorite Songs” series, click here. For a summary of all artists covered in the original series, click here.

Who He Is: A Northwestern Indiana-bred singer-songwriter who’s best known as the  second front-man, replacing Stanard Ridgway, for the California-based band Wall of Voodoo. If you’re a casual music fan of a certain age, when I mention the name of that band, your brain is likely to start singing “I want to go to Tijuana, eat some barbecued iguana,” as the song that spawned that lyric (“Mexican Radio“) is Voodoo’s best-known peak MTV-era hit. It’s okay, sure, but WoV were so much better than that one over-played pop-culture hit, during their early days with Ridgway and (most especially) during the period when the Prieboy-fronted version of the band issued two studio and one live album. Simply dynamite, offering a superb blend of pop chops, Southwestern-infused mythologizing, fascinating instrumental beds, and choice California ennui, their latter-day tunes all brought to brilliant life through Andy Prieboy’s thoughtful lyrics and memorable baritone vocals. After Wall of Voodoo had run its course (its fate sadly tied to the drug and alcohol issues of some key members, including their stellar late guitarist Marc Moreland), Andy Prieboy went on to a solo career that has included a couple of records released via traditional label channels, loads of songs and EP’s released via streaming and other independent platforms, a live stage rock opera called White Trash Wins Lotto,  and a wonderfully entertaining novel called The Psycho Ex Game, co-written with his life partner, writer-producer-actress-comedienne Merrill Markoe. While Prieboy’s presentation of his own songs is always exceptional, his post-WoV career hass probably been most-known through covers of his “Tomorrow Wendy” by Concrete Blonde, and his “Loving The Highwayman” by Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris.

When I First Heard Him: In 1985, when the first Wall of Voodoo album featuring Prieboy, Seven Days in Sammystown, was released. I was a Wall of Voodoo fan from their earliest days, and while I was happy for the group when “Mexican Radio” became a hit, I also had that sense that a great ensemble was going to be pigeon-holed and marginalized by the popularity of that somewhat atypical cut. To Stan Ridgway’s credit, I think he recognized those factors as well, and bailed on the band soon after their popular peak to strike out with a solo career; I nabbed and appreciated his first couple of post-WoV records, but he lost me after that, alas. I will admit that I acquired that first post-Ridgway Voodoo album in 1985 with a bit of trepidation, as it’s a rare rock group that can successfully replace their primary singer-songwriter, but in this particular case, I was most amply and deeply rewarded, finding Andy Prieboy’s singing and songwriting to be far superior to anything that his group had done before him. I know it’s a minority position (and Prieboy actually addressed that sentiment in The Psycho Ex Game), but I absolutely, positively consider Prieboy’s albums with Wall of Voodoo to be the group’s defining and most-memorable studio work. I’ve been a passionate believer in and advocate for Andy Prieboy’s outstanding output ever since, always thrilled when he gets around to putting out new music. If you’re a long-time reader here, and you have a good memory, then this is probably not a surprising position, as I’ve written about Andy and his music many times here over the years.

Why I Love Him: First and foremost, for his songwriting skills. If I were asked to name my five favorite songwriters ever, right here, right now, then Andy Prieboy’s name would easily and clearly be one of the first names to pop into my mind, and he would most emphatically make the final list, even after I researched and considered the full library of potential claimants for that significant personal honorarium. Prieboy is a great storyteller and lyricist, and he’s got stupendous melodic and arranging chops, making his songs track and scan as densely rich little works of fine art, fleshed out in ways that most singer-songwriters would find too daunting to begin to consider, much less to carry through to full studio fruition. He’s also got a truly great voice, which happens to fall in sweet alignment with my own vocal range, so I deeply enjoy singing along with his songs, especially the ones arranged in a sort of post-Gilbert and Sullivan opera buffa style, which allows me to pick out which of many vocal parts I want to ape, per my mood at the moment. I think Prieboy’s understanding of, appreciation for, and talent within the theatrical end of rock music-making contributes substantially to his work shining so brightly and uniquely in an otherwise often drab field of same-old-same-old post-punk rockery. I could truly imagine his songs being played and sung a century from now and beyond as choice representatives of our creative era, even if the general audiences of the early 21st Century didn’t recognize, in his time, the genius of what Prieboy was graciously offering them. In a truly just and fair world, the popular music charts would routinely feature Andy Prieboy and his songs as long-running hits with bullets and with good beats that you can dance to. In the world that actually exists today, though, and alas, he’s a niche artist, but I’m happy to count myself as a critter than can squeeze into that creative crevice, feeling deeply rewarded and sated for the efforts I put into keeping abreast of his always-interesting canon and catalog.

#10. “The New York Debut of an L.A. Artist (Jazz Crowd),” from . . . Upon My Wicked Son (1990)

#9. “How Would I Know Love Now,” from Sins Of Our Fathers (1995)

#8. “Get Me Out of This Town (feat. Tony Kinman),” from Every Night Of My Life EP (2019)

#7. “Back In The Laundromat,” from Happy Planet (1987), credited to Wall of Voodoo 

#6. “Send In The Drugs,” from Montezuma Was A Man of Faith EP (1991)

#5. “Elvis Bought Dora A Cadillac,” from Happy Planet (1987), credited to Wall of Voodoo

#4. “All Hail The Corporation,” from “All Hail The Corporation” single (2011)

#3. “Bands,” from The Questionable Profits of Pure Novelty (2010)

#2. “The Grass Is Greener,” from Happy Planet (1987), credited to Wall of Voodoo

#1. “Hearty Drinking Men,” from The Questionable Profits of Pure Novelty (2010)

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