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Boys Ride Into Town On 'Cowboy'

July 24, 1986|DENNIS HUNT | Times Staff Writer

Some people positively hate the hit single, "I Wanna Be a Cowboy."

And it is easy to ridicule the tune by Boys Don't Cry, an obscure English band that makes its local debut tonight at the Palace, then plays Magic Mountain on Friday and Fender's in Long Beach on Saturday.

Does the song have substance? Does it make sense? Is it melodic? Are the vocals high quality?

The answer to all of the above is, arguably, no.

But the single is a hit and, as its boosters will tell you, "I Wanna Be a Cowboy" does have some merits. The beat, for instance, is forceful and insistent--much like the pace of a loping horse. But the record's most endearing quality is its silliness.

"It was done as a joke," said the group's good-natured lead singer/keyboardist Nick Richards. "The whole thing was done in the studio in 12 hours. We just decided to do something as silly as possible, something that made us laugh. We never thought anyone else would find it funny."

Obviously, fans of the single do find humor in the loony lyrics, which are delivered in a deadpan monotone that contrasts sharply with the driving beat. The chorus--"I wanna be a cowboy / You can be my cowgirl"--really is kind of funny in the context of the song. So is the opening line: "Riding on the range, I've got my hat on / I've got my boots dusty." And then there's: "My name is Ted / One day I'll be dead."

The whole idea, Richards said, was to make everything sound as banal as possible.

A "highlight" is the sexy monologue delivered by the cowgirl, Heidi Lea, in a wispy, tantalizing voice. She's not one of the Boys.

"She's the drummer's (Jeff Seopardi) girlfriend," Richards said. "She was just hanging around the studio when we were doing this. She sounds just right. But I don't think you can build a career on what she does on the single."

The single was released in England last fall but got little attention. Then a Profile Records executive heard it in a New York club as a 12-inch import. He called Richards and arranged to release it here. Surprisingly, it didn't break in the dance clubs but did on Houston radio stations.

"It makes sense that a silly song about cowboys would break in Texas, doesn't it?" Richards said.

The single is on the band's first American album, "Boys Don't Cry," on Profile. There's nothing else like "I Wanna Be a Cowboy" on it. The rest is rock 'n' roll.

Richards, who owns a London studio and runs Legacy, a small English label, has been writing songs with keyboardist Brian Chatton for five years. But Boys Don't Cry was formed in 1984 when they hooked up with a three-piece jazz band--bassist Mark Smith, guitarist Nico Ramsden and drummer Seopardi.

"We're basically a serious rock band," Richards said. "We hope this single doesn't get in the way of people taking us seriously."

Richards is well aware that the single has many detractors. "I can live with that," he said.

In fact, he does live with one of the song's detractors. Matter-of-factly, he revealed: "My wife hates it."

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