The late Robert Hazard had a stellar pop music career, even if he never became a household name. Perhaps his best known accomplishment was writing Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” But Hazard had a melancholy side, best evidenced by his 1982 song “Escalator Of Life.” The song — for all intents a dark wave tune despite modest chart success — was a critique of 80s consumerism.
The New Jersey metal duo Stygian Depths recently reimagined the song, which primarily aired on the Eastern seaboard in the early 80s (Hazard was from Decibel hometown Philly). We’re streaming their interesting take on a classic song below. The band also talked about why they decided to cover an unheralded 80s classic. The original song and video, featuring vintage footage of downtown Philly in the 80s, also follows. Learn more about Stygian Depths and buy the song on Bandcamp.
When did you first heard “Escalator Of Life”? What was it about the song that moved you?
Scott Hooyman: I first remember hearing it when I was trying to survive middle school. Music was my refuge. I was open to a lot of different genres at that time: metal, classic rock, prog, new wave. The song had a hook and a dark vibe to it that I liked. It reminded me a little of Bowie, and I’ve always been a huge David Bowie fan.
John Kirby: Right away I noticed something darker about that tune than what was usually on the radio. It’s been a while but I remember really being into the intro and the chorus.
Even though the song came out in the 80s it’s actually a pretty dark take on what was going on back then and is going on again now, which is mindless consumerism. Any thoughts on the theme?
Scott: We changed some things that are anachronisms, like references to Mazda and Gloria Vanderbilt. But the theme still resonated with us, and I do think it’s worse now. The voiceover break/bridge in our version is a commentary on how consumerism can create indifference towards the suffering of others.
John: I agree with Scott that, if anything, the song is even more relevant. The pyramid schemes, the financial scandals – people are screwing over more victims than ever, and killing themselves when they’re caught. It’s like the 80’s were innocent comparatively. The second verse of Escalator is dead on with “I don’t let the guilty feelings shake me” and “Don’t listen to those little voices”.
How did you decide to reinvent and cover the song and make it your own?
John: We wanted to do a cover, something we loved growing up and Escalator was perfect for us. The haunting intro and a theme that’s even more relevant now. We were bouncing ideas and Scott said “Escalator of Life” just as I was thinking about it.
Scott: We thought the chugging bass/guitar would sound good heavy. So we started laying it down and liked what we were hearing.
What’s the reception been to the song?
Scott: Reception has been great, although I was surprised that not too many people are familiar with Robert Hazard’s version. I thought the original was bigger than it actually was because I lived on the Jersey Shore, so close to Philly. It never really got heavy play outside of that market. We hope people like this version but also might get curious to check out Robert Hazard in general.
Robert Hazard is better known as the writer of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” Any plans to cover that?
Scott: I just heard a kickass bluegrass version of that song, so who knows?