Smother me in your “Hot Sauce”: Thomas Dolby gets super weird and funky on “Flash Tracks”

By on May 3, 2018

Best known for his quirky early ’80s synth-pop hit “She Blinded Me with Science,” this episode of Night Flight’s “Flash Tracks” — which originally aired on November 12, 1988, and you’ll now find streaming on Night Flight Plus — also featured three more of Thomas Dolby‘s music videos, including “Hot Sauce” and “Airhead” from Aliens Ate My Buick, released a little over thirty years ago in April 1988.

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In 1988, Dolby hadn’t released a new studio album since 1984’s The Flat Earth — represented here by the video for one of its singles, “Hyperactive” — and it had proved to be such a sonic departure from his debut, The Golden Age of Wireless, that its overall moody jazzy Joni Mitchell-esque vibe ended up alienating some of his pop fanbase (he never charted as high as “She Blinded Me With Science,” which peaked at #5 on the U.S. charts).

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Over the new few years, Dolby contributed a handful of new songs for three different soundtracks — 1985’s Fever Pitch, 1986’s Howard the Duck, and 1987’s Gothic — none of which were particularly successful movies.

He ventured even further out for the dance-enhanced Aliens, but it’s likely that the only thing memorable about the album today — unless you’re considering its super weird left coast-centric lyrics about Bel-Air bimbos, pink leather upholstery and vanity license plates — was its colorful 50s-era sci-fi parody cover artwork by Steve Vance and Leslie Burke.

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The cover composite shows Dolby posing with the woman who would become his wife that same year, actress Kathleen Beller — best known as “Kirby Colby” on the the ’80s ABC primetime soap series “Dynasty” — with whom he would begin a new life in America, moving from England into a movie star mansion high up in the Hollywood Hills.

Never one to stay confined to any particular musical genre, Dolby had by 1988 decided dipped his beak into the world of American funk and R&B, even forming a new L.A. based band, the Lost Toy People, which he’d recruited by placing a personal ad in a local L.A. newspaper.

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Dolby’s band not only played on Aliens, but on his 1988-’89 tour, offering up “innovative, multimedia stage shows” that were “sellout extravaganzas,” according to one review we’ve read.

The dance-floor ditty “Airhead,” which was actually Alien‘s first single, was co-written by Dolby and his longtime friend, native New Zealander Grant Morris, who was a well-known radio and club deejay and writer, based in New Orleans.

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Here’s Dolby and the band — introduced by his wife Kathleen Beller and host Ross Schaeffer — performing “Airhead” on the Fox late-night TV show, “Late Show.”

“Airhead” went further towards alienating lots of pop listeners who might have been otherwise interested in the track because it lyrically presented the idea, in its last stanza, that it was men who made women ditzy “airheads”:

‘Cause she’s an airhead,
Stungun and mace
Kharmann Ghia plates say “Lost in Space”
She’s an airhead, thousands in trust,
Cusp Aquarius, get serious
She’s an airhead, and now the time’s come
For the end of my song,
Don’t get me wrong,
If she’s an airhead, it has to be said
It was men made her that way
It was us made her that way

The video was directed by Drew Takahashi of Colossal Pictures fame, who has also directed or co-directed videos for Bobby McFerrin, They Might Be Giants, Grateful Dead, Peter Gabriel and Prince (“Raspberry Beret”), among many others.

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Read more about Thomas Dolby’s “Flash Tracks” videos below.

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For the second of the two videos we’re focusing on from Night Flight’s “Flash Tracks” we have “Hot Sauce,” written by P-Funk maestro George Clinton.

The song probably only ended up further alienating his loyal early ’80s synth-pop fanbase further with its sexually-suggestive lyrics:

What if fire didn’t burn,
How would the lesson get learned?
You sit there like a dope until you choke on all the smoke
Cover me in your sauce, baby,
Bury me in all that sauce
Smother me in your hot sauce, woman,
Till smoke comes from your thighs

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Dolby had dueted with Clinton on his 1985 album Some Of My Best Jokes Are Friends, appearing on two tracks, “Thrashin’ ” and the title track, where, according to Rolling Stone, he “plays a rapping space-limousine driver trying to guide Clinton and company to a safer corner of the galaxy.”

The funky “Hot Sauce” was ripe with ideas, including a Spaghetti Western guitar prelude, a reference to Cameo’s song “Candy,” mixed in with a little bit of salsa (the musical genre, not the spicy condiment) and even a James Brown-style piano break.

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Aliens Ate My Buick‘s “May The Cube Be With You,” one of the deeper album tracks, featured George Clinton and Lene Lovich on backing vocals, the Brecker Brothers on horns and a groove-a-licious rhythm courtesy of P-Funk’s Rodney “Skeet” Curtis and Dennis Chambers on bass/drums.

Dolby has said in interviews that he thinks Aliens‘ poor commercial showing — the album peaked at just #30 on the UK albums charts, and even lower, #70, on the Billboard album charts in the U.S. — was due to this wacky diversion in musical direction.

“Airhead” peaked at just #53, and “Hot Sauce” at #80, on the Billboard Hot 100, while a third single, the faux-reggafied “My Brain Is Like a Sieve,” rose to just #89.

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Watch Thomas Dolby’s “Hot Sauce” and “Airhead” videos — and read more about “She Blinded Me with Science” “here — in this 1988 episode of “Flash Tracks” (also featuring videos by White Lion and Level 42) on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.