Can’t Complain: Stan Ridgway


With a sing-song voice and an adenoidal vocal delivery that makes him sound like he’s a 1930’s gangster, talking out the side of his mouth; and with lyrics lifted from the pages of pulp crime novels and film noir; the music of Stan Ridgway is perfect for those listeners who take pleasure from reading a good short story, preferably if it was one written by crime novelists Jim Thompson or James M. Cain.

He’s better known to the MTV Generation as the lead singer for 80’s new wave group Wall of Voodoo on their MTV hit video "Mexican Radio."

Ridgway along with guitarist Marc Moreland, Bruce Moreland (bass), Chas T. Gray (keyboards) and Joe Nanini (drums) formed Wall of Voodoo during the punk explosion of 1977. Originally conceived

as a composers’ collective that hoped to write and perform music for low-budget films

the band found itself part of L.A.’s post-punk new wave scene. Musical inspirations came from the country and honk tonk music of Lefty Frizzell and the Spaghetti Western film scores of Ennio Morricone; while lyrical inspiration often came from the pages of crime novelist Jim Thompson.

Their 1980 synth rock cover of Cash’s "Ring of Fire" from their self-titled debut brought the group notoriety, but it was 1982’s Call of the West,

a concept album about the lives of the disenfranchised in their native California

with it’s

lyrically dense, almost novelistic songs like "Factory," "Lost Weekend," and the title-track… (that) revealed Ridgway to be among the most gifted lyricists of the day. 

The success generated from their sole hit, Mexican Radio, proved too much for the band to handle; and at the height of their career the band split up following a disastrous appearance at the 1983 U.S. Festival.

Except for 1983’s "Don’t Box Me In," a collaboration with Stewart Copeland of the Police from the film Rumble Fish; three years elapsed before Ridgway released The Big Heat, his first solo album. Two songs from that album, "Pick It Up and Put It in Your Pocket" and "Drive She Said" are distinctly novelistic and have been described as Donald Barthelme stories set to music. The seven-minute "Camouflage," which closes out the album was a surprise Top Five hit in the U.K.

Three years passed before the even lyrically bleaker Mosquitos appeared. Peg And Pete And Me” is Ridgway’s musical remake of 1946’s film noir classic The Postman Always Rings Twice; while “Can’t Complain” is a classic tale of a man being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If it’s even possible, Partyball, released in 1991, is even bleaker than it’s two predecessors. 

"Jack Talked Like a Man on Fire" is his creepiest character study yet

while “The Roadblock” is again a case of wrong place wrong time and (Venus Is Hell), Overlords”  might have it’s origins in a Ron L. Hubbard short story about the outcome of World War IX.

Changing his tack , 1996’s Black Diamond is

a surprising detour into cocktail-style jazz reminiscent of Henry Mancini’s ’50s and ’60s film scores.

Ridgway returned to a group format collaborating with his wife Pietra Wexstun, and ex-Rain Parade drummer Ivan Knight in the the noise rock experimental band Drywall. Solo or as a member of a group

the punks, hoods and perverts who people Ridgway’s universe are still out in force,

while his views about the City of Angels make 

Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski look like optimists. 




Don’t Box Me In (7") (A&M Records) 1983
Salesman / The Big Heat (7") (I.R.S. Records)1985
The Big Heat (LP) (I.R.S. Records) 1985
The Big Heat (12") (Illegal Records (France) 1985
The Big Heat (12") (I.R.S. Records (Netherlands) 1985
Camouflage (7", 12") (I.R.S. Records) 1986
The Big Heat (CD, LP) (I.R.S. Records) 1986
The Big Heat (Cass, LP) (Epic) 1986
The Big Heat (7", 12”) (I.R.S. Records) 1986
The Big Heat (Remix) (7", 12") (I.R.S. Records) 1986
The Big Heat (Cass, CD, MP3) (I.R.S. Records) 1993
Drive She Said (7”, 12") (I.R.S. Records) 1986
Walkin’ Home Alone (7") (I.R.S. Records (UK) 1986
Walkin’ Home Alone (7", 12") (I.R.S. Records) 1986
End Of The Line (7") (Carrere) 1987
End Of The Line (Long Version) (12") (Carrere) 1987
Calling Out To Carol (7") (I.R.S. Records, EMI Electrola) 1989
Calling Out To Carol (CD) (I.R.S. Records (UK) 1989
Calling Out To Carol (7", 12") (I.R.S. Records) 1989 
Fly On The Wall: Music And Commentary From Stan Ridgway (CD) (Geffen Records) 1989
Goin’ Southbound (7") (EMI Electrola) 1989
Goin’ Southbound (CD, Maxi) (Geffen Records) 1989
Goin’ Southbound (CD, Mini) (EMI Electrola, EMI Records) 1989
Goin’ Southbound (7" 12") (EMI Italiana S.p.A.) 1989
Lonely Town (7") (Pathé Marconi EMI) 1989
Lonely Town (12") (EMI Music (Germany) 1989
Mosquitos (Cass, CD, LP) (I.R.S. Records) 1989
Mosquitos (CD, MP3) (Geffen Records) 1989
I Wanna Be A Boss (7") (I.R.S. Records) 1991
I Wanna Be A Boss (Cass, Single) (I.R.S. Records) 1991
I Wanna Be A Boss (7") (EMI Electrola) 1991
I Wanna Be A Boss (CD Single) (Geffen Records, I.R.S. Records) 1991
Partyball (Cass, CD) (Geffen Records) 1991
Partyball (CD, LP) (I.R.S. Records) 1991
The Best Of Stan Ridgway: Songs That Made This Country Great (Cass, CD) (I.R.S.Records) 1992
Big Dumb Town (CD) (TWA Records) 1996
Black Diamond (CD) (Birdcage Records) 1996
Knife And Fork (CD) (TWA Records) 1996
The Drywall Project / The Drywall Incident (2xCD) (TWA Records) 1996
Film Songs (CD) (TWA Records) 1997
The Way I Feel Today (CD) (Dis-Information Records) 1998
Anatomy (CD, MP3) (New West Records) 1999
Live! @ The Strand 1991 (2xCDr) (Dis-Information Records) 2001
Holiday In Dirt (CD, MP3) (New West Records) 2002
Live! In NYC @ The Mercury Lounge 6.17.96 (CDr) (Dis-Information Records) 2002
Live: The Mosquitos Tour (CDr) (Dis-Information Records) 2002
Stan Ridgway Live! @ The Coach House 3/16/90 (CDr) (Dis-Information Records) 2003
Showbusiness Is My Life (DVD-V) (Dis-Information Records) 2004
Snakebite – Blacktop Ballads & Fugitive Songs (CD, MP3) (redFLY Records) 2004
Call Of The Northwest – Live In Seattle 8.18.07 (2xCD) (A440 Records) 2007
Silly Songs For Kids – Volume One (CD, MP3) (A440 Records) 2009

Tracks Appear On:

"Cannon Song" Lost In The Stars – The Music Of Kurt Weill (CD) ( A&M Records) 1985
  "Cannon Song Lost In The Stars – The Music Of Kurt Weill (LP) ( AMIGA) 1990
"Drive, She Said", "The Big Heat" The I.R.S. 1985 Fall Fashions (Cass) ( I.R.S. Records) 1985
"Camouflage" Hits Album 5 (2xLP)  (WEA Musik GmbH) 1986
"Camouflage" Now That’s What I Call Music 7 (VHS) (Picture Music International) 1986
"Camouflage" Now That’s What I Call Music 7 (2xCass, 2xLP) (EMI Records, Virgin) 1986
"Camouflage"  Ronny’s Pop Show 8 – 24 Super Chart Hits (2xLP) (CBS) 1986
"Camouflage" The Greatest Hits Of 1986 (2xLP) (Telstar) 1986
"Calling Out To Carol" EMI Hot Shots Nr. 7 (2xCD) (EMI Electrola) 1989
"Goin’ Southbound" EMI Hot Shots Nr. 9 (CD) (EMI Electrola) 1989
"The Roadblock" Earphoria (CD) ( Geffen Records) 1991
"I Wanna Be A Boss" Expand-O CD Tune Up 13 (CD) (The Album Network) 1991
"Camouflage" The Best Of 1980-1990 Vol. V (2xCD) (EMI Electrola) 1992
"Camouflage" The Story Of The Eighties (2xCD) (BR Music)1992
"Camouflage"  Was Het Nu 70 Of 80? Vol. 2 (2xCD) (EVA Belgium) 1995
"Big Dumb Town" Audio-CD (CD) (Audio Magazine) 1996
"Excuse" / "The Booker Tease" Eyesore: A Stab At The Residents (CD) (Vaccination Records} 1996
"Camouflage"  Pop & Wave Vol. 6 – A Reflection On The 80’s (2xCD) (Sony Music Media) 1996
"Camouflage" Het Gevoel Van De Eighties – Deel 2 (2xCD) (Endemol Entertainment) 1998
"Calling Out To Carol" Was Het Nu 70 Of 80? Vol 7 (2xCD) (EVA Belgium} 1998
"Free Of It All" Simpatico (Music From The Motion Picture) (HDCD) (Milan Records) 1999
"Salesman"  20 Jahre U4 (2xCD) (Intonation Recordings( 2000
"Beyond Tomorrow"  Brain In A Box: The Science Fiction Collection (5xCD)   (Rhino Entertainment Company) 2000
"Camouflage De Pre Historie – De Jaren 80 Volume 3 (Box + 10xCD) (EVA Belgium) 2000
"Camouflage" De Pre Historie 1986 Volume 3 (CD) (EVA Belgium) 2000
"Beloved Movie Star"  Wayne Kramer Presents Beyond Cyberpunk (CD) (Valley Entertainment) 2001
"Beloved Movie Star"  Wayne Kramer Presents: Beyond Cyberpunk (CD) (Musicblitz 2001)
"Bing Can’t Walk"  Totally Wired (CD) (Uncut Magazine) 2002
"Peg And Pete And Me"  António Sérgio Apresenta Som Da Frente 1982-1993 (2xCD) ( EMI Music Portugal) 2005
"Camouflage" Süddeutsche Zeitung Diskothek 1986 (CD) ( Süddeutsche Zeitung) 2005
"Camouflage" 25 Lat Listy Przebojów Trójki – 1986 (CD) (The Music Marketeers (Polska) 2006
"Hanging Johnny" Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, & Chanteys (2xCD, MP3) (Anti-) 2006
"Camouflage" (Full Length) Story Songs (3xCD) (Virgin) 2008
"Camouflage" Radio 2 – De Topcollectie ’80 (5xCD) (EMI Music (Belgium) 2009



 Work The Dumb Oracle (CD) ( I.R.S. Records) 1995
The Drywall Video CD (CDr, VCD)   Dis-Information Media 2002
 Barbeque Babylon (CD, MP3) (redFLY Records) 2006


The Drywall Project / The Drywall Incident (2xCD, MP3) (TWA Records) 1996

Tracks Appear On:

"Old Bent Coin"  Definitivt Beat Nr 9 · 95 (CD) (Beat) 1995
"Bel Air Blues"  Showbusiness Is My Life (DVD-V) (Dis-Information Records) 2004

With Wall of Voodoo

Wall Of Voodoo (Cass, LP) (Index Records LTD.) 1980
Wall Of Voodoo (12") (Enigma Canada, Index Records LTD.) 1980
Wall Of Voodoo (12") (Restless Records) 1987
  Dark Continent (LP) (Illegal Records, I.R.S. Records) 1981
Dark Continent (CD) (I.R.S. Records) 1992
  Call Of The West (Cass, CD, LP, MP3) (A & M, I.R.S. Records) 1982
Call Of The West (LP) (Illegal Records (France) 1982
Call Of The West (LP) (Illegal Records) 1982
 Call Of The West (CD) (I.R.S. Records, Indy) 1983
Call Of The West (CD) ( I.R.S. Records) 1990
Mexican Radio (7”, 12" ) (Illegal Records) 1982
Two Songs By Wall Of Voodoo (12") (Illegal Records) 1982                                      
Stan Ridgway and Wall of Voodoo The Index Masters (CD) (Ryko) 2005


Mosquitos (1989)

Playing Time: 40:59

1. Heat Takes A Walk (2:42) 

2. Lonely Town (4:09)

3. Goin’ Southbound (4:42)

4. Dogs (4:05)

5. Can’t Complain (3:51) 

6. Peg And Pete And Me (4:42)

7. Newspapers (2:41)

8. Calling Out To Carol (4:10)

9. The Last Honest Man (4:03)

10.A Mission In Life (5:54)


Partyball (1991)

Playing Time: 47:58

1. (Watch Your Step)

Jack Talked (Like A Man On Fire) (4:21)

2. I Wanna Be A Boss (4:56) 

3. (Mouthfull Of Sand),  

The Roadblock (5:34)

4. Snaketrain (3:57)

5. Right Through You (3:48)

6. The Gumbo Man (3:34) 

7. Harry Truman (3:53)

8. (Venus Is Hell), Overlords (5:40)

9. (O.K.?), Uba’s House Of Fashions (4:38)

10. (Bad News At The Dynamite Ranch), Beyond Tomorrow (7:20)
































Black Diamond (1995)

Playing Time: 50:52

1. Big Dumb Town (4:20)

2. Gone The Distance (3:03)

3. Knife And Fork (4:52)

4. Down The Coast Highway (4:23)

5. Luther Played Guitar (4:20)

6. Stranded (4:51)

7. Wild Bill Donovan (2:54)

8. Man Of Stone (3:47)

9. Pink Parakeet (4:58)

10. Underneath The Big Green Tree (3:21)

11. As I Went Out One Morning (3:13)

12. Crystal Palace / Hear That Bird (6:50)

Work the Dumb Oracle (1995)

Playing Time: 49:07

1. Back Towards Diamond Bar (2:08)

2. Police Call (5:18)

3. New Blue Mercedes (3:33)

4. Bel Air Blues (4:50)

5. Hell In A Handbasket (2:10)

6. Highway Song (4:57)

7. Mr. Smith (5:28)

8. Time Wave Zero (5:24)

9. Old Bent Coin (2:31)

10. My Exclusive Sex Club (2:46)

11. Triangle Head (2:54)

12. Big American Problem (7:08)

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s