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Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam: The 'Wonder' Of It All

March 04, 1986|CONNIE JOHNSON

Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam's "I Wonder if I Take You Home," a tale about a woman's fear of being considered "a one-night stand," became one of last year's biggest hit singles--and not just because of its captivating dance beat. Singer Lisa Lisa ("That's my complete and real name--I don't know why nobody believes me") thinks that the song's message struck a nerve with its listeners.

"It's an easy song to relate to, particularly for females," Lisa observed during a phone interview. "Sexually, we've been put on the spot all our lives. And what with teen-age pregnancy on the rise, there are more young girls out here wondering, 'Should I do it?' They're starting to think twice before they jump in."

"Wonder" was first released in England in 1984 on a compilation album called "Breakdancing." It first arrived in the United States as an import single, and finally as a domestic Columbia release last year.

Though it took a long and roundabout way in becoming a hit, the New York group (which will appear at Fender's in Long Beach tonight and at the Palace on Saturday) has few complaints.

"I'm just happy that we're getting so much good feedback," Lisa said. "People respond to the innocence of that song."

The group is touring with Full Force, the Brooklyn sextet responsible for the writing, production, instrumentals and backing vocals on Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam's debut album. "That record is the sound of Full Force," admitted Lisa about the album, which has also yielded another hard-rocking single, "Can You Feel the Beat."

"Everybody in Cult Jam contributes ideas," Lisa added, "but Full Force gave us our first break."

The trio was born two years ago when the members of Full Force held an audition to come up with a female singer to deliver "I Wonder," and Lisa fit the group's visual and vocal requirements. Lou George, a member of Full Force, said, "We auditioned a lot of beautiful girls, But Lisa Lisa was pretty and she had that innocent sound. We'd planned to just record her alone. But there are a lot of solo female singers out there, and honestly, she isn't ready for that yet."

Mike Hughes and Alex Moseley (who goes by the stage name Spanador) were picked to back her up on stage. It was Hughes who came up with the name Cult Jam--in disc jockey lingo, the term means a record that is a non-commercial, underground classic. "But more than that," said Lisa, "it means a record that will never die."

Working with Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam has resulted in greater visibility for Full Force--the same group that wrote and produced another one of last year's biggest crossover hits (and the inspiration for more than 25 answer songs), U.T.F.O.'s "Roxanne, Roxanne." Its own singles, "Girl, If I Take You Home," "Alice, I Want You Just for Me" and "Unselfish Lover" chiefly made the playlists of black radio.

Admitted George, "We never had it in our minds to produce anyone else, but our hits for other groups opened the door for us. We're still the mystery men to Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam's white fans. We write and produce everything she sings, but she got pushed onto the pop charts right away. She's great, but there is a reason why we're the headliners."

When the U.S. tour concludes later this month, Cult Jam is slated to hit the recording studio again. On its debut album, the trio contributed ideas on just one track, "This Is Cult Jam." This time, according to Lisa, "at least two cuts will be fully ours."

If that sounds a bit inequitable, don't expect her to voice any complaints.

"I want to stick with this arrangement. I've been alone all my life and I don't want that anymore. This is definitely a family situation--and I like it."

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