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The Prince Hit That Wasn't A Prince Hit
Ready For The World's "Oh Sheila" in this week's Forgotten Videos
The comments on this song's official YouTube page probably say it all. Like this one, for example: "For those that say this song sounds nothing like Prince you are out of your minds :) This song is very Prince influenced. You don't have to be a soundalike to be influenced. It was the hot sound at the time and this isn't the only band that did it. That being said, I love it and Prince."
Yes, Ready For The World were no doubt riding the Prince wave in 1985, just like, oh, say, Roy Orbison rode the Elvis wave or Gerry And The Pacemakers rode the Beatles wave. There's nothing wrong with riding a wave when you do it well.
Ready For The World was a microcosm of '80s R&B, evidenced by the Prince-flavored semi-mechanized funk, dapper suits and Jheri curls wrapped in headbands. But here are some props for RFTW's individuality: In two years they scored three singles that hit the Top 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 without turning to Hollywood-based production Svengalis. The Michigan-bred band wrote and produced their own hits. "Oh Sheila" was the big breakthrough for the group — featuring lead singer Melvin Riley along with John Eaton, Gregory Potts, Gordon Strozier, Willie Triplett, and Gerald Valentine — rising all the way to No. 1 on the Hot 100. They followed the same year with "Digital Display" and in 1986 with the ballad "Love You Down."
The video for "Oh Sheila" is a fairly ordinary performance clip. (Yet another YouTube comment says so much about this video: "Oh…oh Jheri curl….")
Later, for "Digital Display," having scored a hit, RFTW was allowed to create a video with a storyline, though apparently not with an exponentially greater budget.
To add a bit more spice to the Prince comparisons, there were rumors (at least according to Wikipedia, which may have started them), that the Sheila in question was Sheila E., a former Prince flame, though Riley says the song's subject was a fictional character.
Also like Prince, who just staged a 21-night Los Angeles stand in April and May primarily at the Forum, Ready For The World is still, well, ready for the world. The band has its own label and is available for bookings at www.readyfortheworld.net. Or, you can watch their videos on your digital display.
Did you think "Oh Sheila" was a Prince song the first 438 times you heard it? Got any Forgotten Video recommendations? Leave us a comment.