EDITOR'S NOTE: I've had a few requests to shoot this blog up with a little estrogen before things get weird, but I didn't want to do an entry JUST cause someone is female, cause I feel that's some sort of political affirmative action I'm not ready to deal with, and it's unfair to the other artists. However, I am more than willing to write about someone just cause they're Canadian so here goes.
What comes to one's mind when the name Alannah Myles is uttered? Raven-haired? Beautiful? Sexy? Sensual? Smoky? Bewitching? Actually a witch? Canadian? All of the above?
Or maybe you have no idea who I'm talking about.
Born in Tornonto and reared on a ranch in Buckhorn, Ontario, Alannah Myles spent her early years riding horses and learning guitar, and at age 18 began performing covers and originals at music clubs in Southern Ontario, where she met future songwriting partner Christopher Ward.
According to Wikipedia, sometime in 1984, she appeared on the classic Canadian teen melodrama Kids of Degrassi in an episode entitled "Catherine Finds Her Balance." Myles was typecast as an aspiring singer.
After years of digging deep in the music clubs and A&R Great White North and coming up empty handed, Myles tried her hand at breaking into the US. Quite ingeniously, Myles came up with the idea of recording a video to go along with the demo of her song "Just One Kiss" that she was shopping around to various labels. Recognizing the quality of her songwriting and possibly being turned on/frightened by the fear that Myles might cast a spell on them with her sexy witch powers (these were men who had dealt with Stevie Nicks after all) , she was eventually signed to Atlantic Records.
Released in 1989, Myles self-titled debut landed big in Canada, led by the first single "Love Is" going to #5 on the Canadian charts. The album spawned another three singles, including the mega-hit "Black Velvet," propelling it to DIAMOND status in Canada, (like the US Platinum)--selling 1,000,000 copies, which means that a sizable chunk of the Canadian population was rocking out this album while ice fishing, curling, making a disproportionate amount of kids shows and movies for Nickelodeon, watching Kids in the Hall, chopping down trees, speaking French, being cold, or doing at least half a dozen other Canadian activities.
The album also sold a million copies in the US, though it had less reason to. The only song that was a bonafide hit in the US was "Black Velvet"--but lord a mercy, what a hit it was, hitting #1 on the Hot 100 and Mainstream Rock Tracks in March of 1990--unofficially making Myles the first one-hit wonder of the decade. Yet another glass ceiling broken, ladies.
Like another ultimate one-hit wonder before it ("American Pie") "Black Velvet" is a tribute to a dead rock star--in this case, a ballad tracing the tragic life of one Elvis Aaron Presley--the title referring to the the brand of product Presley used to dye his hair and give it that trademark black sheen. The track's production is all rootsy with a noirish vibe to it and a huge hook in the chorus. Myles' strong, husky vocals are quite gorgeous, even if they are hard to differentiate from other husky voices songstresses (Bonnie Tyler, Kim Carnes). The song is legitimately great and deserving of its success. It's well-written, memorable, nicely played and nicely sung.
The video was of course another reason for the song's huge success. All black tendrils, black studded leather jackets, black leather belts and big (black) eyebrows, Myles is all about some early '90s hotness. The look is country and rock n' roll all at once--basically she looks like a B-movie biker chick. Hot. But in all honesty, I'm not even sure this is really Alannah Myles. I'm thinking this might be Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio playing Alannah Myles as a biker chick for the video.
And of course, her band looks like they just got kicked out of the hair-metal group Extreme, save for the lead guitarist who clearly thinks he's in a Def Leppard cover band.
The song was so huge, it got covered the very same year by country artist Robin Lee. Unlike the great Marc Cohn, Myles song wasn't able to break into the country charts, the reason seeming to be that Myles version was a) not quite bland enough and b) lacking pedal steel guitar. Other than that though, there's no real reason for this remake, except maybe they thought country fans would be scared of Myles. I can see that. Looking at Robin Lee, it's obvious why she appealed to mainstream country fans at the time--she's sort of like the home version of Myles--cute, but about as sexy as a mannequin at A Pea in the Pod. But damn, check out the Glamor Shot!