Hits like “Jeopardy” defined the all-too-brief MTV era. And it’s almost impossible not to sing along with “The Breakup Song.” But the recording artist?
“A lot of people forgot I existed,” Greg Kihn says with a laugh.
With Kihn spending 16 years as a popular San Jose radio personality, their ability to tour was limited. So the group known for creating a music video revolution – and for their eponymous album title puns – drifted from the spotlight.
Now a new album has Rekihndled the singer’s career. And, yes, that is the name of their 2018 release, the band’s first in 21 years. The 11-song package carries a garage band spontaneity and catchy, early-’80s drive that brings Kihn back to his roots. On cuts like “The Life I Got” and “Big Pink Flamingos,” it also sounds like the group was having a lot of fun in the studio. The recording sessions suited Kihn, who admits he likes to wing it.
“The first song we did was ‘Big Pink Flamingos,’” he recalls. They had no sheet music, no demo, no lyrics – not even a plan. Like an orchestra warming up, the five-member group (which includes Kihn’s son Ry on guitar) just started to play. “The next thing you know,” he adds, “I’m coming up with lyrics.”
Even though the lineup has changed since the band’s ’80s heyday, that faith in improvisation remains the same. Kihn’s biggest hit, “Jeopardy” – which went to No. 2 on the Billboard charts in 1983 – began when bassist Steve Wright dropped by Kihn’s home with a portable Casio keyboard and began tapping out a line.
“I just started singing,” Kihn says. “We wrote that song in 15 minutes.”
Recording the video, on the other hand, took 48 hours. With a zombie-related storyline, it was one of the first concept videos and started a wave of big-budget productions that changed the way people watched music.
Kihn has never tired of the band’s signature single. “I’m forever grateful that the idea popped into my head,” he says. “How many times do you hit the bullseye? Two?” But the band is also known for their album titles. After a rather prosaic opening – 1976’s Greg Kihn – came Next of Kihn, Rockihnroll, Kihntinued, Kihnspiracy, right up to the current release.
“That was kind of like a monster I created and I couldn’t destroy it,” he quips.
There’s more to know about Kihn – his novel-writing binge, for instance. But it’s enough that after a lengthy hiatus from the national scene, the only real change in his demeanor is that he enjoys touring more than in the past. “I’m reacquainting myself with my audience,” he says.
GREG KIHN BAND, MONTEREY ROCK & ROD FESTIVAL 4pm Saturday, June 22. Custom House Plaza, Monterey. Free. 809-6252, montereyrockrod.com