Sunday, 27 December 2015

Double - Devils Ball (Single - 1987)


"Devils Ball" is a song by the Swiss Sophisti-pop duo Double, released as the lead single from their second studio album Dou3le. The single was released in 1987, and featured a guest appearance from Herb Alpert, who played trumpet on the track.

Background
Following the band's breakthrough success with their 1985 album Blue, and the hit single "The Captain of Her Heart", the band began work on a follow-up album, which was released as Dou3le in 1987. The leading single selected from the album was "Devils Ball", which gained acclaim, however only reached #71 in the UK, lasting within the Top 100 for four weeks. It also reached #30 in Belgium. The Dou3le album failed to emulate the success of its predecessor, while a second single "Gliding" was not a success either.

In a 2011 interview for i:Vibes, Maloo expressed his thoughts on the single, and the process of recording it: "Doub3le is not my favourite album. The album isn't homogeneous. Everybody was doing his own thing and we were about to split up over the recording process. Our single "Devils Ball" was a big accident. It wasn't a hit, because the guy that played the electric violin couldn't play the theme on the acoustic violin. I wanted an acoustic violin, but in the end we went with the electric violin and a free interpretation of the lead theme. I didn't want this and I knew it wasn't good for the song, so I asked Herb Alpert who owned A&M Records to play the main melody on the trumpet, but in the end the violin survived along with the trumpet. The label wasn't happy, because we had [already] had a hit, but radio stations didn't play it, because it was too experimental sounding. It was a minor hit in England though."

In 2011 Maloo recalled Alpert's appearance on the track: "I heard his music at a very young age and it wasn't until way later that I found out it was him. His music was a big part of my childhood. With the success of Double, we were able to meet him at the former Charlie Chaplin studios in Los Angeles. When we were mixing our second album we asked him to play the piano part on "Devils Ball" on the trumpet and he immediately agreed. 10 years later I saw him at his concert again in Hamburg. He insisted that "Devils Ball" should have been a big hit and that it's a shame it wasn't. He obviously hates to lose."

In a 2013 interview with the Kickin' it Old School blog, Maloo explained his reaction to the duo's inability to gain further hit singles, other than "The Captain of Her Heart": "It was more surprising rather than frustrating at the time. We had minor hits with "Woman Of The World" and "Devils Ball", but they couldn't compete with The Captain's popularity at all. We were proud of other songs we had created, but it's like when the sun is shining you don't see the beautiful stars, although they're there all the time."

In 2006, Maloo released the album Loopy Avenue, which featured a new recording of "Devils Ball". The album explored the impact Double had had on him following the unexpected death of Haug in 2004, which prompted Maloo to revisit the past twenty years. The result was four re-recordings of previous Double tracks from the 1980s as well as eight new and previously unheard tracks by Kurt Maloo and Double. Herb Alpert reprised his role on trumpet for the new recording of "Devils Ball".

Release
The single was released on 7" vinyl, 12" vinyl and CD single through Polydor Records, except in America, where it was issued by A&M Records. Outside of the US and Canada, it was released in the UK, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and also Australia.

The 7" vinyl version of the single featured an edited version of the song, cut by over half a minute in comparison with the album version. The B-Side was an edited "Piano Version" of the same track.

The 12" vinyl edition issued across Europe featured the full "Unedited Version" of "Devils Ball" - the same as the album version - while an "Unedited Version" of the "Piano Version" was included. A third track for the 12" vinyl was taken from the Doub3le album; "Megarhythmdance". In America, A&M Records released an altered version of the 12" vinyl, featuring four different versions of "Devils Ball". In order these were the full album version, the edited "Piano Version", the edited version (7" version) and the full "Piano Version". A Canadian 12" vinyl was released in promotional form only, and featured the full album version of the track on both sides.

The CD version of the single featured four tracks - the "Unedited Version" of "Devils Ball", the band's 1985 hit "The Captain of Her Heart, the "Unedited Piano Version" of "Devils Ball", and "Megarhythmdance".

Promotion
An award-winning music video was created to promote the single, which featured Maloo and Haug alongside Herb Alpert on trumpet, and performers from the Swiss mime group "Mummenschanz". The video won the Silver Palm Award in Cannes during 1988.

In the 2013 Kickin' it Old School interview, Maloo revealed the idea behind the music video for the song: "I wanted the "Devils Ball" video to be an homage to Jean Cocteau's Le Sang d'un Poete ("The Blood of a Poet"), a surreal movie from 1930. All the "effects" in the video had to be built since there was no post-production or animation at the time. The directors Rossacher/Dolezal did a great job. We asked the mime group Mummenschanz to participate in the video and they surprised us with the idea of creating masks of clay live in the very moment the video was shot."

During 1987, the band also appeared on the German TV show Peters Popshow, where they performed the song, along with "Gliding".

Track Listing
7" Single
  1. "Devils Ball (Edited Version)" - 3:48
  2. "Devils Ball (Edited Piano Version)" - 3:47
12" Single
  1. "Devils Ball (Unedited Version)" - 4:29
  2. "Devils Ball (Unedited Piano Version)" - 4:51
  3. "Megarhythmdance" - 5:13
12" Single (America only)
  1. "Devils Ball" - 4:29
  2. "Devils Ball (Edited Piano Version)" - 3:47
  3. "Devils Ball (Edited Version)" - 3:47
  4. "Devils Ball (Piano Version)" - 4:51
12" Single (Canadian promo)
  1. "Devils Ball (Album Version)" - 4:29
  2. "Devils Ball (Album Version)" - 4:29
CD single
  1. "Devils Ball (Unedited Version)" - 4:29
  2. "The Captain of Her Heart" - 4:35
  3. "Devils Ball (Unedited Piano Version)" - 4:49
  4. "Megarhythmdance" - 5:13
Chart Performance
  • Belgian Singles Chart (Vl) - #30
  • UK Singles Chart - #71

Personnel
  • Kurt Maloo - Vocals, Guitar, Arrangement, Producer (as Felix Haug & Double for Naningo Ltd.)
  • Felix Haug - Producer (as Felix Haug & Double for Naningo Ltd.), Arrangement, Keyboards, Synthesizer, Drums, Programming
  • Herb Alpert - Trumpet
  • Michał Urbaniak - Electric Violin
  • The Browns, Beverly Brown, Gloria Brown, Maxine Brown - Backing Vocals
  • Felix Haug - Producer, Arrangement, Keyboards, Synthesizer, Drums, Programming





Author's comments: Personally this song, alongside "The Captain of Her Heart", was what persuaded me to explore Double's music further. The song's naturally menacing edge is further intensified by the short but striking lyrics, vocally delivered by a composed-sounding Maloo. Once the two lyrical sections are finished (reasonably early into the song), "Devils Ball" moves into a generous instrumental section which continues right up until the end, and includes some gorgeous piano undertones, splendid trumpet from Herb Alpert, and a phenomenal electric violin from Michał Urbaniak, the latter of which steals the show. Even if the song's unusual structure didn't necessarily make it the most commercial choice as lead single from the Dou3le album, the song was nicely representative of the sophisticated, and elegant, second album from this vastly underrated duo. The song's music video is as equally striking. It is a crying shame both the album and single largely sunk without a trace.

The Wikipedia article for "Devils Ball" was originally created and published in April 2015.

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