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1989

July 29th, 2007 1 comment

A most intense year. I fell heavily in unrequited love (we were closest of friends instead, FFS), and I had the worst day of my life. One morning in January I received my call-up papers for the apartheid army — there was no way I’d go, but what to do other than leaving the country (and leaving behind the woman I hoped would love me back)? Refusing military “service” was punishable by six years in jail. After a Savuka concert that night, which I had to watch on my own after getting separated from my friends, I crashed the car I was about to sell to my friend Claude, and was lucky to to get away with a mashed-up lip, cut chin and sprained finger, since I was wearing no seatbelt (playing on tape at the time was Bruce Springsteen).

The army situation became an opportunity: it turned out that one could receive an exemption if one studied. So I registered at a college to complete my matriculation. From there I went on to university to study Sociology and Political Studies (the refuge for people who have no idea what to study). By the time I had completed my studies, it was safe to ignore call-up papers. Musically it was generally a terrible year, except in dance music, which hit a high.

Jevetta Steele – Calling You.mp3
The fantastically atmospheric theme song of the fantastically atmospheric film Baghdad Café (not to be confused with the train-wreck sitcom based on the film). The Percy Adlon film, originally titled Out Of Rosenheim, was originally released in 1987. It hit the South African circuit in 1989. I watched it twice at the movies, and several times on video that year.

Michelle Shocked – Anchorage.mp3
I was in bed with the woman I loved when this song played on the radio one afternoon. Alas, we were both dressed and there were other people in the room, resting after a day at the beach. Gah! I can’t say I would know other Michelle Shocked songs. I taped the album, but didn’t rate it. Except this song; it’s great. Oh, and hello to my two loyal readers in Anchorage!

MarcAlex – Quick Quick.mp3
The South African hit of early 1989. Brothers MarcAlex not only filled the dancefloors with this innocuous discopop tune, but people everywhere were singing it. It’s a catchy number, very much of its time (it even has a sax solo in it). After a few more inferior hits, Marcalex’s gradual disappearance was barely noticed or bemoaned.

Gipsy Kings – Djobi Djoba.mp3
I could never get much enthused for the works of the Gipsy Kings, nor for the criticism of them. At the time I often DJed at parties, by dint of having the biggest and best record collection. As a party mover, this song worked. And where I live, it still does.

Roberta Flack – So It Goes.mp3
Flack’s reputation is slightly tarnished by her duets with the likes of Peabo Bryson (though their “Maybe” was great). Fact is, Roberta Flack is one of history’s great soul singers. Her 1988 Oasis album, which yielded this unassuming track, was quite lovely in the “Quiet Storm” sort of way. As I listen to it right now, I can smell 1989.

Natalie Cole – Miss You Like Crazy.mp3
Guess whom I associate this song with. Oh the tears this song soundtracked; just hearing it now knots up my stomach all over again. The album this is from, Good To Be Back, was actually pretty good. Especially the swinging vibe of the title track.

De La Soul – Me, Myself And I.mp3
Fabolous, 50 Cent, Ludacris, The Game and all these contemporary hip hop gubbins are pissing on the legacy of De La Soul. Fiddy and his ilk are really an outgrowth of the MC Hammer vs Vanilla Ice battle for the crown of rap kings via the deplorable gangsta rap scene of the ’90s (OK, I’m not an expert on hip hop, it just seems like it to me). So where can we find the influence of De La Soul today?

Soul II Soul – Back To Life.mp3
Black Box – Ride On Time.mp3
Ten City – That’s The Way Love Is.mp3
A trio of dance classics from a golden era. Soul II Soul were innovators from a British dance culture; Black Box was the best slice of Euro disco (though replacing the generously proportioned singer with a thin waif in the video was criminal); Ten City was a Chicago act produced in Germany, drawing from ’70s soul, House and Euro to create a quite unique sound.

Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians – Friends.mp3
I bought this album because I thought I was supposed to like it. Hearing Brickell even now tends to remind of all the frustrations I felt in 1989. This song is an exception — nice vocal performance, a good melody, and wonderfully stroppy lyrics that give the finger to bad friends, of whom I’ve had my fair share.

Martika – Toy Soldiers.mp3
When I played this a few minutes ago, my 12-year-old son came in, singing along. I asked how he knew that song. He told me Eminem sampled liberally from it on a song called — and here we learn that Eminem is a true innovator — “Like Toy Soldiers”. I didn’t want to like this song after Martika’s redundant cover Carol King’s “I Feel The Earth Move”. But, pssst, it is actually quite good, at least within the context of Top 40 hits of 1989.

Mango Groove – Special Star.mp3
Oh, South Africans were proud of the multi-racial Mango Groove, which combined joyful pop with local musical genres, revived the pennywhistle (giving dues, as in this song, to the master of the art, Spokes Mashiane), and gave wider exposure to the miners’ tradition of gumboot dancing. Mango Groove foreshadowed the New South Africa. Alas, by the time the New South Africa was born in 1994, Mango Groove was no more. Singer Claire Johnston’s beautiful voice is now usually heard singing the national anthem before rugby internationals in South Africa. But “Special Star”, with its multiple pace changes and that exuberant pennywhistle, is rightly a towering classic in local pop history. (Previously uploaded)

Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyes.mp3
I know, it’s not from 1989 at all (it appeared on 1986’s So). Why is it included in a 1989 nostalgia trip? Two words: Say Anything. Which came out in 1989 and created one of the most iconic moments in ’80s cinema.

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And so we reach the end of my nostalgia trip through the 1980s. I will no

t attempt to do the 1990s, which are a blur to me (Mariah Carey was big in the ’90s, yes?). The 1970s on the other hand… Oh yes, I’ll do the 1970s soon.

1988

July 28th, 2007 4 comments

A pivotal year. There were loads of parties, a memorable bus trip to Zimbabwe for the Amnesty International concert, during which I became close friends with people who’d have a profound impact on my life, and I quit the hotel industry in November, not knowing what I’d do next (events in January 1989 would decide that for me). Oh, and the security police raided my place for the first time. Musically it was a good year, too. Having moved from London in September ’87, my obsession with the UK Top 40 diminished. In South Africa, the singles market was tiny. Instead, there were record libraries, from which one could hire LPs, from rock classics to latest releases. I’d buy loads of albums having tested them first that way. Of course, the record industry forced these record libraries to close down by 1989, because home-taping kills music (as we have seen). The number of records I bought after that decreased as a result.

Chris Isaak – Blue Hotel.mp3
This came out in 1987, and really belongs in the 1987 post. It is here because it was on a tape I played on loop in my 1978 Audi 100 in early 1988. And that’s the point of this series: songs that evoke the times, like a smell etc. “Blue Hotel” does just that. There are only few Chris Isaak songs I really like; but those I do like intensely, including “Blue Hotel”, a song quite unlike anything I had heard before.

The Primitives – Crash.mp3
A quick burst of exuberance packed in glorious 2:30 minutes

Prefab Sprout – Cars And Girls.mp3
Allegedly a dig at Springsteen (if so, then misdirected), this came from the quite excellent From Langley Park To Memphis album, which also featured “The King Of Rock ‘N Roll” with the immortal chorus: “Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque”. This song is lyrically more coherent than that, but my favourite track from the album is “Hey Manhattan”, which I’ll save for a later post.

Morrissey – Every Day Is Like Sunday.mp3
I utterly love the Smiths, but don’t rate Morrissey’s solo career highly, mostly because his withering poetry has become a self-conscious shtick. Morrissey has turned into the Ben Elton of music. The tendency became apparent already towards the end of The Smiths, who broke up just at the right time. This track, released quite soon after the death of the Smiths, is Morrissey at his best. Preceding the total descent into self-parody, the lyrics and music evoke a particular atmosphere with eery accuracy.

Everything But The Girl – Love Is Where I Live.mp3
It’s not accurate to classify EBTG as a lounge-jazz pop act. In fact, it is impossible to classify them at all. Idlewild is their best album: it’s laid back but has a certain appealing intensity, and so much of what the clichémongers like to call “aching beauty”, particularly Tracy Thorns’ vocals.

Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Jennifer She Said.mp3
Lloyd Cole has been unjustly vilified by the taste gestapo, to the point of calumny. Rattlesnakes (1984) was an outstanding album, there was much to like about Easy Pieces (1985), and his final album with the Commotions, Mainstream, had many fine moments. Let’s rehabilitate Lloyd Cole fully, and admit that he was a bright spot in the patchy ’80s.

Wet Wet Wet – Temptation (live).mp3
Marketed to the teenage market when they first appeared on the scene in 1987, and subsequently a Moms’ favourite with that song, Wet Wet Wet are an easy target for snobbish relegation. Yet, the debut album was a minor masterpiece of pop. “Angel Eyes” and “Temptation” combined great melodies with well judged arrangements and superb vocals by Marti Pellow. This is a live recording which appeared on a best of collection released last year.

Mica Paris – My One Temptation.mp3
In the desert of ’80s soul music, 1988 was an oasis, and Mica Paris was pouring the cocktails. Her debut, “So Good”, was superb, with “Breathe Life Into Me”, “Words Into Action” (with Paul Johnson, featured in the 1987 set), “Like Dreamers Do”, the title track and this little gem.

The Men They Couldn’t Hang – The Colours.mp3
There are not many folk songs that invite such a mighty singalong as “The Colours”, which also offers a revolutionary history lesson framed by Big Country guitars. Everybody now: “Red is the colour of the new republic; blue is the colour of the sea; white is the colour of my innocence; not surrender to your mercy”. And down with the king!

Will Downing – A Love Supreme.mp3
A driving track based on John Coltrane’s work of the same title, this is a bona fide soul classic. Downing (a label mate of Mica Paris, with whom he also duetted) is a vastly underrated singer; his vocals on “A Love Supreme” are impassioned yet cool. And check out the House-style keyboards. A fantastic song. What a travesty that “R&B” these days is dominated by pipsqueaky fuckers like Ne-Yo and Omarion, yet Downing never became a legend (unlike John).

Tracy Chapman – Baby Can I Hold You.mp3
Chapman and Suzanne Vega were at the vanguard of a new line of female singer-songwriters. Chapman’s debut is a stunning, almost flawless album. Her set at the Amnesty International “Human Rights Now!” concert in Harare (oh, the fucking irony!) was great. Springsteen was good, Peter Gabriel theatrical, Sting earnestly poncey, Youssou N’Dour inspiring; but Tracy Chapman — a solitary tiny figure on stage, armed only with her guitar — touched the emotions more than any of them. A shame her subsequent output has been so decidedly patchy.

Tanita Tikaram – A Good Tradition.mp3
A folk-pop number with saxophone and Celtic strings sung by an exotic woman with a distinctive voice from Britain who was born in Germany. I’ll be totally honest: I bought Tikaram’s album unheard because I fancied her. It’s not a bad album, “Twist In My Sobriety” and “World Outside My Window” are pretty good. But I don’t think I’d need to hear it again. And “Good Tradition” song has aged a bit.

Bill Withers – Lovely Day (Sunshine Mix).mp3
Originally released in 1977, “Lovely Day” was said to have featured the longest ever recorded sung note. The song does what it says on the business plan: set you up for a good day. The remix, which was a hit in 1988, aims for setting up the party as well — and succeeds in doing so. (Previously upload

ed)

Kylie Minogue & Jason Donovan – Especially For You.mp3
I tend to use the term “guilty pleasure” at times, but don’t really buy into the notion that there is anything to be ashamed about in liking a song not considered cool. Admitting to liking supposedly unapproved music is the first step towards beating the taste gestapo. So here it is: I like “Especially For You”. I’ve always liked it, even when I pretended to disparage it. I acknowledge that it has no artistic merits whatsoever, but hearing it and crooning along to it makes me feel good. There, I’ve said it. Free at last etc. Liberate the Guilty Pleasures!

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1987

July 26th, 2007 3 comments

In January I returned from a long holiday in sunny South Africa to freezing London. Soon I felt that I had had enough of London. When my best friend, Paul, moved to the US, I decided to return to SA, to reunite with my brother. And so in early September I did, got myself a job co-running the Room Service department at a 5-star hotel, and instantly regretted leaving London. So it was a shitty year. Musically, it wasn’t particularly great either.

Blow Monkeys – It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way.mp3
I loved “Diggin’ Your Scene” the year before, but could not muster much enthusiasm for this song when it climbed the charts. Yet there it was on the radio whenever I put the thing on. It reminds me of cold, cold London, and having too little money to put on the gas heater. In the interim I have come to enjoy this song; it needs warm weather to be enjoyed.

A-ha – Manhattan Skyline.mp3
I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about A-ha, but this is a hell of a fine song. It reminds me a bit of the Beatles’ occasional strategy of banging together two quite distinct, uncompleted compositions into one song. This one starts of slowly before launching into a heavy rock (by A-ha’s standards) chorus, which the normally clear-voiced Morten Harket pulls off well.

Sly & Robbie – Boops.mp3
Robbie Williams sampled from “Boops” for his horrible “Rudebox” song. It pains me to think that a generation of people will grow up thinking that Williams created the only thing that is good about “Rudebox”. “Boops” has cool written all over it.

Terence Trent D’Arby – If You Let Me Stay.mp3
The superstar that never was, undone by his own preciousness. This, his debut single, was the only modern song to be played at the Locomotion, the Friday night old soul club at the old Kentish Town & Country Club, before it was even released. I suspect the Trout, who lived in Kentish Town, knew the DJ. It got the crowds on the floor, too.

Paul Johnson – When Love Comes Calling.mp3
A prodigy of UK soul-funkster Junior Giscombe (“Mama Used To Say”), Paul Johnson was a fine soul singer who could hit ridiculously high notes. He never enjoyed great success, which is a pity. This song has a happy vibe, and Johnson’s voice soars. Check out the long falsetto note when he sings “I’m masquerading” before launching straight into the chorus. An utter joy. (Previously uploaded)

Johnny Clegg & Savuka – Asimbonanga.mp3
In early ’87, Savuka played at the Kentish Town & Country Club. The place was packed, mostly with white expatriate South Africans, not all of them visibly of the anti-apartheid activist persuasion. So a Clegg gig in London was exactly like a Clegg gig in Jo’burg or Durban. This is an incredibly moving anti-apartheid song, with its litany of martyred activists (Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge, Neil Aggett) and its lament that we haven’t seen Nelson Mandela. Less than three years later we would (see here).

Pet Shop Boys & Dusty Springfield – What Have I Done To Deserve This.mp3
Perhaps the single of the year. You had to admire the Pet Shop Boys for reintroducing the great Dusty Springfield from the over-the-hill circuit.

Black – Wonderful Life.mp3
The song that scores my departure from London. Recently I saw that lovely monochrome video again (look out for that superb shot of the rollercoaster at 1:23); it evoked a time and two places. I still like this strangely wistful song a lot, and the album, also called Wonderful Life, is quite excellent.

Prince – Starfish And Coffee.mp3
Just an album track from Sign ‘O The Times. I find that inexplicable, seeing that the crap “U Got The Look” was a single. This is one of Prince’s finest songs, with suitably weird lyrics, a great tune and a kick-ass singalong chorus. As for the alarm clock kicking off the song: inspired. Is Cynthia’s breakfast menu code for something? (Previously uploaded)

Bananarama – Love In The First Degree.mp3
It’s kitsch. It’s Stock Aitken Waterman. It’s 1987.

LL Cool J – I Need Love.mp3
I dig the tune, but the lyrics are hilarious. James promises to be a good boy if only somebody would love him truly. Aaah. But why on earth would J loo for the girl he’ll love in his closet or under his rug? I had a video recording of LL Cool J performing this live on the short-lived US version of Top Of The Pops; all the girlies wanted to be soft as a pillow for the man who’d be as hard as steel. And I bet LL Cool J was communicating to his posse which of these girls he’d use and dispose of that night (that is presuming that all these rumours about Cool J aren’t true).

Smokey Robinson – Just To See Her.mp3
A nice little soul song which gets the old toes tapping and the shoulders rocking. A rather more convincing plea for love than LL Cool J’s, and a persuasive demonstration that the great Smokey had not lost his musical mojo even after a quarter of a century of writing and recording.

Bright Blue – Weeping.mp3
A South African classic (recently inexplicably battered and assaulted by the horrid Josh Groban) by a decent rock group that could never reproduce the magic of this song. Strangely, it received strong airplay on radio stations owned by the apartheid state, for its lyrics are directed at PW Botha and his murderous chums. And so it came about that state-owned radio got to play the strains of “Nkosi Sikeli’ iAfrica” (then the anthem of the banned ANC and now the first half of South Africa’s cobbled-together compromise national anthem). I suspect a couple of DJs took great pleasure in doing so. More on Bright Blue and “Weeping” here.

Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes – I’ve Had The Time Of My Life.mp3
This is a fantastic pop song. It has it all: you can dance to it (dirty or otherwise), you can sing along to it loudly, it has great moments like the bang as the saxophone solo begins, and the dramatically cascading notes building up to a crescendo before Medley summarises softly just how good a time he has had, leading to the celebratory climax. The song structure in fact captures the rhythm of sexual intercourse, with the subtle changes of pace and two distinct orgasms (you didn’t see that coming, did you?).

1986

July 24th, 2007 4 comments

Another good year, with fewer concerts and more clubbing. Most memorably I got into Stringfellows wearing my Manchester United t-shirt I slept in (sad, I know) under my jacket after my friend Paul dragged me out of bed to try the supposedly impossible. Telling the bouncer that you are there to meet a fictional diplomat helps; it adds to the amusement if said bouncer calls out to the head security dude if Mr Diplomat had already arrived. Seems like bouncer and I shared fictional friends. Added bonus to a year with a great summer: no unrequited crushes (alas, no requited crushes either).

Fine Young Cannibals – Suspicious Minds.mp3
In 1985 I was a bit of a FYC fan, having obtained a signed copy of the debut album and seen them live in concert (supported by a comic whose shtick was to get heckled for his non-punchlines, and then make slap down the hecklers with some hilarious one-liners. If anyone has his name, I’d be grateful to know it). “Suspicious Minds” featured on the album, but became a hit in this re-recorded version, with Bronski Beat/Communards singer Jimmy Summerville on backing vocals.

Hipsway – The Honethief.mp3
I discovered Scottish outfit by chance in 1985 when I bought the flopped single “Ask The Lord” from Woolworth’s bargain bin. A very good song, so when “The Honethief” came out, I excitedly bought the 12″ the same week. It became one of my songs of 1986, and still like it a lot (the ’80s synth notwithstanding). The vocals are quite outstanding, I find. It’s a shame Hipsway didn’t make it big, when the poseurs Curosity Killed The Cat did (for a while).

Cherelle & Alexander O’Neal – Saturday Love.mp3
The hints were in the air in 1984 and ’85 with acts like the SOS Band, but 1986 was the breakthrough for the Timbalands of the day, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. Alexander O’Neal, Atlantic Starr and Janet Jackson were among their clients who had a big impact on soul music at the time. This was a particularly charming upbeat duet, which I bought on strength of Cherelle’s previous album. I had yet to discover O’Neal, whose follow-up single “If You Were Here Tonight” was one of the best moments in ’80s soul.

O.M.D. – If You Leave.mp3
The O.C. generation will know this as a Nada Surf song. Fulfilling my contractual obligation as an old fart, I feel compelled to point out that while the Nada Surf version is good, the original is far superior. The chorus is another perennial earworm.

Depeche Mode – But Not Tonight.mp3
Depeche Mode didn’t rate this song. They recorded it in one day and chucked it on the b-side of “Stripped”. Except in the US, where this was the A-side (in a bid to cash in on its inclusion on the soundtrack of Modern Girls, which flopped). This is by a fair length my favourite Mode track, a straight-forward love song with a pretty melody enhanced by Dave Gahan’s slightly flat voice.

It’s Immaterial – Driving Away From Home.mp3
One of the great songs of 1986. In fact, posting this song a few weeks ago inspired the idea for this series. At the time I speculated that I bought the single at the same time as “Camouflage”, but that can’t be. I bought “Camouflage” the day I also acquired Hollywood Beyond’s crap “What’s The Colour Of Money”. I don’t remember if I bought any other records when I got “Driving Away From Home”. I cannot promise that my memory will solve this mystery, so prepare for a few sleepless nights wondering about Any Major Dude Without A Heart’s 1980s purchasing record. (previously uploaded)

Stan Ridgway – Camouflage.mp3
Is this song considered a classic? It should be. It has a great driving melody, and it has a narrative that holds the interest; who doesn’t love a good ghost story? Ridgway’s theatrical, half-sung drawl — “And here take his dog tag son” — is very entertaining. I haven’t heard anything else by him (I don’t think I ever played the b-side of the single). Should I?

Jermaine Stewart – We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off.mp3
The late-summer hit of 1986 by a Michael Jackson soundalike. Poor dude should have heeded his own advice: in 1997 he died of AIDS-related causes (wikipedia says liver cancer caused by AIDS. Really?).

Cameo – Word Up.mp3
That codpiece Larry Blackmon wore aroused no suspicion at the time, did it? Cameo were the funk band of the ’80s. They had a great line in soul as well (check out “I’ll Never Look For Love” and “A Goodbye”). I played “Word Up” to death at the time, as I did with the even better “Single Life” the year before. Even Korn’s piss-poor paint-by-numbers cover version a couple of years ago could not undermine my deep affection for the song.

The Housemartins – Think For A Minute.mp3
New Years Eve ’85/86 I saw Madness at the Hammersmith Odeon. The supporting act was an outfit I’d never heard of before, but whose performance I liked better than that of Madness. I bought their existing singles, “Flag Day” and “Sheep”. Then “Happy Hour”, with its clay animation video, became a hit. I was pleased, even though I didn’t really like the song much. The follow-up single was “Think For A Minute”, a pleasant mid-tempo number with a nice horn solo, featuring one of my favourite lines: “I can’t help saying told you so and have a nice final day”. By Christmas, the Housemartins were huge with their acappella cover of Isley Jasper Isley’s superior “Caravan Of Love”. The 12″ single of the Housemartins version featured a great clutch of faux-gospel songs, with Paul Heaton, a Christian, referring in evangelist preaching-style to “the great pilot in the sky”, which I found very funny indeed. Right click and open in new tab for the Funeral Pudding blog which has MP3s of the Housemartins live at Glastonbury in ’86 and other rare material.

Bruce Hornsby & the Range – The Way It Is.mp3
Not a song I liked at the time, but my brother played it in his car when I travelled to South Africa (at this point I’d like to say hello to the lovely Caroline Cave, in the unlikely event she is reading this), so this track evokes a time and place. Which was the point of this series in first place (still is). I started enjoying Hornsby’s music later. The Maybe We Ain’t That Young Anymore blog had a great 10-minute live version up not so long ago. I don’t know if it’s still up (lots of good stuff there anyway).

Erasure – Sometimes.mp3
The breakthrough single for Erasure, with Andy Bell doing his best Alison Moyet impression. I bought this single while it was slowly climbing up the charts. As an obsessive student of the UK charts I was worried about missing it’s progress while I flew off on a holiday to South Africa. It peaked at #2.

Swing Out Sister – Breakout.mp3
Just joyous! It may not please the taste gestapo, but I really like Swing Out Sister. And singer Corrinne Drewery looked very sexy with her flapper’s bob.

Freddie McGregor – Push Comes The Shove.mp3

McGregor had a nice line in light reggae, lovely stuff for the beach, and the perfect soundtrack to getting high from everybody else’s fumes at Sunsplash (in South Africa, you watch a Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates for the same effect). McGregor found hits in 1987 with reggaefied covers of old soul hits which were a bit better than UB40s karaoke records, but did the man no justice. I have no idea whether this track was an original, but it is very lovely indeed.

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1985

July 23rd, 2007 3 comments

A great year in which I got to see loads of concerts. In 1985 I was a huge U2 fan, and saw them in successive weeks at Milton Keynes, at Phoenix Park in Dublin, and at Torhout in Belgium, and in between saw Bruce Springsteen twice at Wembley Stadium. I rounded off the summer by being at Live Aid, which despite its largely crap music was a fantastic event. I had another unrequited crush on a McGirl (the lovely Lucy McGrath) and got to meet a lot of famous people while working in a restaurant in Chelsea. A great year indeed.

Big Sound Authority – This House (Is Where Our Love Stands).mp3
I saw the Big Sound Authority live at Camden Town in January 1985, a really good gig, and thought they’d make it big. This fine soul-pop song (released in late 1984 but a top 20 UK hit in ’85) apart, they never did. Puzzling and, indeed, it’s almost perverse. The brass was rather brilliant, the sound was rich and energetic, and singer Julie Hadwen had a mighty voice for a petite woman. She is still recording, it seems. Video of “This House” here.

The Colourfield – Thinking Of You.mp3
Another one hit top 20 wonder. The Colourfield was the new group of Terry Hall, formerly of the Specials and Fun Boy Three. This is a cute song, with its vaguely Bossa Nova guitar and Hall’s slightly flat singing complemented by Katrina Phillips vocals. Video here.

Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday.mp3
I saw Strawberry Switchblade, who looked like the cutest Goth girls, supporting Howard Jones (yeah, I know, I know) in 1984, and was quite smitten. When the enchanting “Since Yesterday” (video) rose up the charts, I was very excited: the first act I had seen play live before they hit the big time. Alas, this remained the only big time they hit, even though their cover of “Jolene” was excellent. Idiot record buying public. For more Strawberry Switchblade music, right click and open into a new window/tab out this treasure trove of rare tracks. (previously uploaded)

Killing Joke – Love Like Blood.mp3
Killing Joke were the original grunge band, except on “Love Like Blood” they sounded like a U2 and Soundgarden hybrid (we didn’t know that yet, of course, because Soundgarden didn’t exist). Truth be told, I have little time for much else by Killing Joke but the Night Time album which yielded this track.

Duran Duran – A View To A Kill.mp3
Well, Duran Duran had to be accommodated at some point in an ’80s review. The theme song to Roger Moore’s funniest Bond movie, “A View To A Kill” had a great video. Simon Le Bon and his wife Yasmin used to frequent the restaurant where I worked (I once gave his serviette to a Duran fan I knew; it was the only time I know of that I brought a girl to an orgasm without touching her). In 1986, the British tabloids played up Yasmin’s pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage. At one point, when the whole press hype had died down, the Le Bons patronised the restaurant. As usual, we waiters were discreet and pretended not to recognise the celebs. Except Juan, a huge, extravagantly camp winewaiter from Spain, who moseyed over to Simon and Yasmin, and gormlessly asked: “And how is the baby”? Ouch. To Simon’s credit, he responded simply: “I think you have the wrong couple”.

Godley & Creme – Cry.mp3
The 10cc veteran’s surprise hit reminds me of the Heysel Stadium disaster, its chart run broadly coinciding with that traumatic event. It’s a good song, but it scraped into the top 20 on strength of a great, groundbreaking video, with faces morphing into one another (an overdone device since, but very remarkable in 1985). I love the chipmunk “cry” at the end of the song.

Marillion – Kayleigh.mp3
I got into Marillion the previous year, with tracks like “Punch And Judy” and “She Chameleon” (which I nearly uploaded for the ’84 trip). Those tracks sound terrible now, horrendous prog rock. I don’t remember much about Misplaced Childhood, from which this song came. I don’t think I liked it very much. But “Kayleigh” I loved so much, I even bought the 12″ picture disc. I left it behind when I departed from London in 1987; my records were supposed to be sent on to me in South Africa, but never were. I hope the picture disc is worthless now. It probably isn’t.

Bruce Springsteen – Trapped (live).mp3
Long a Springsteen concert staple, Broooce played this Jimmy Cliff cover on his 1985 tour, a highlight in the 3-hour show as the band builds up to a crescendo and then dramatically drops in unison to let Roy Bittan’s keyboard hum on quietly. This recording appeared on the We Are The World compilation, but we shouldn’t hold that against it.

The Pogues – Sally Maclennane (live).mp3
I bought the single for the b-side, a particularly version rousing of “The Wild Rover”, the greatest drinking song of them all. That is no reflection on “Sally Maclennane”, which was on the album anyway (this file is a live recording). Few acts can make you feel so happy one minute, and then make you weep as the Pogues do (you try to laugh when you hear “Thousands Are Sailing” or “Streets of Sorrow/Brimingham Six”).

China Crisis – Black Man Ray.mp3
It was never really cool to like China Crisis, at a time when uncool was not yet the new cool. 1982’s “Christian” and 1984’s “Wishful Thinking” were fine songs, but “Black Man Ray” (from Flaunt The Imperfection, produced by Steely Dan’s Walter Becker) is the classic in the China Crisis canon.

Maze feat. Frankie Beverley – Too Many Games.mp3
One of my all-time favourite soul groups. In 1985 Maze announced a five-nighter at the Hammersmith Odeon. I hurried from Archway, where I lived, to Hammersmith to buy my ticket (as I often did) before having to go to Chelsea for work. When I arrived, people were queuing around the block. I couldn’t join the long line of Wide Boys, and even the ticket agencies were sold out. It still hurts to have missed the gigs; Maze were an incredible band in concert, as their two live albums prove (and DVDs thereof). “Too Many Games” is a great song, a real ’80s soul favourite of mine; but it scraped into the Top 40 on the back of its flipside, the funk instrumental “Twilight”, a club
fave at the time.

New Order – Sub Culture.mp3
Like the “1-2-3-4-5” of XTC’s “Senses Working Overtime”, so is the chorus of this piece of electro bombast burnt into my subconscious. I tend to spontaneously break out into singing the line, “What do I get out of this, I always try, I always miss”. I think it might be the anthem of my life.

Feargal Sharkey – A Good Heart.mp3
I forgive Feargal Sharkey a lot for having been an Undertone, even this unworthy #1 hit. Actually, it’s quite a sweet song, but not as nearly good as the soulful “Loving You” from earlier that year (reaching only #26). Around the time “A Good Heart” was a hit, one of my three flatmates, David, took me out clubbing. We went to Golders Green where his friend Camilla lived, so that we could drive to Charing Cross in her car. As we were ready to leave, the backdoors opened, and on both sides two black chicks got in, one pretty, the other quite ugly. They said “hello”. Their voices were deep. So the nickname Camp David was not a reference to the US president’s holiday home. The plan obviously was to take straight dude to a gay club, flanked by crossdressers. And so we ended up at Heaven. Initially I was nervous, but once inside I relaxed. It was a liberating experience to be clubbing without invoking the “How Soon Is Now” scenario of not having scored. I was very flattered when I was approached by guys wanting to buy me a drink. I declined but rather enjoyed the notion that here was a club where I could pull, if only I was gay….

The Waterboys – The Whole Of The Moon.mp3
More evidence that the British record-buying public have always been idiots. This work of utter genius (about an utter genius) reached only #26 in the charts. At the same time, Paul McCartney’s Frog Chorus was making a run on the top 10, and the same sort of imbeciles who propelled the unspeakable Jennifer Rush to the top of the charts in June were now buying Elton John’s revolting “Nikita” instead of “The Whole Of The Moon”. Grrrr…

U2 – Bad (live).mp3
My all-time favourite U2 song, which provided one of the few musical and dramatic highlights at Live Aid (remember a mulletted Bono dragging the girl from the crowd for a dance. I bet she was terrified that she’d have to screw the chief roadie later for the privilege. She certainly did look petrified). At the concerts in June, Bono would ad lib some lines from “Do They Know It’s Christmas” during the performance of “Bad”. Except he’d sing “do they know that springtime is coming”. There is no springtime anywhere in June, Bono. Even metaphorically, Band Aid was hardly going to create a symbolic springtime for the starving Ethiopians, just a bit of relief. This proves that Bono was a self-important idiot even in his pre-shades years. Nonetheless, “Bad” is a great song, and he doesn’t do that Band Aid shit on this fine performance from the Wide Awake In America EP, which was released in the US for no good reason whatsoever in 1985. (Below, my pic of Bono at Torhout. Even from far away, you can make out his horrid mullet).

1984

July 21st, 2007 No comments

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What an exciting and traumatic year 1984 was. I fell in unrequited infatuation (Tracey McIntyre, if you’re reading this, I’m so over you), increased my party quotient, observed family crises, moved to London with no contacts or a job there (a crazy idea at 18), and suffered the loss of my mother. Musically it was a fantastic year for pop music.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes
“Relax” and “Two Tribes”, the sound of 1984! In the anti-Cold War anthem “Two Tribes”, the juxtaposition of the funk-rock and the classical interlude worked brilliantly, musically and metaphorically. The video, showing Reagan and Chernenko in a wrestling match, was quite excellent, too. Frankie’s two frontmen, singer Holly Johnson and dancer Paul Rutherford, were openly gay (a bit of a 1984 theme), while the three instrumentalists looked like posterboys for the Liverpool Gay Bashing Society.

Alphaville – Big In Japan
“Forever Young” by this German band is now the better known track (thanks in part to the O.C.-featured cover by the Youth Group), but this is the better song. Its sound is certainly of its time, the synth-as-kitchen-sink production testifies to it. As for the lyrics, what is it about? Drugs and prostitution?

Brenda & the Big Dudes – Weekend Special
Brenda Fassie’s debut at 19 was also her opus, a wonderfully poppy dance track with a memorable chorus. Fassie became one of South Africa’s most popular singers and most controversial celebrities, famous for her drug-fuelled lifestyle, sexual exploits, outrageous image changes and divaesque outbursts. She died in 2004, apparently of complications from smoking cocaine.

Prince – Darling Nikki
“Darling Nikki” is an often overlooked track in the masterpiece that is Purple Rain. One person who didn’t overlook it was Tipper Gore (Al’s wife), who took such exception to the lyrics about a girl who liked to masturbate publicly and grind a lot. Those “Adult Advisory” labels any two-bit rapper needs to have on the cover (even the whimpish wankers like Akon), well, it was Tipper who invented them because Prince corrupted the kids of 1984. The globe evidently had not started warming yet. As for Prince, his Purple Rain getup was rather flamboyant, so much so that many people thought he was gay. Prince. Gay. The innocent ’80s, eh? Elton John married Renate. Not gay. George Michael was adored by teenage girls. Not gay. Freddy Mercury sang ROCK, for crying out loud. Definitely not gay. Boy George…okay, we did suspect he was gay. Prince bedded more gorgeous women than any of us have seen in our lifetime. GAY, the ’80s consensus had it. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

InDeep – Last Night The DJ Saved My Life
Dig the Chic-sampling bassline and guitar. A dance classic that borrowed liberally from disco at a time when disco was anathema. Well, it had a rap in it to keep the breakdancers happy. And you must love a song that provides aural evidence of trouble going down the drain.

Weather Girls – It’s Raining Men
Hi-NRG disco was huge in 1984, and I fully welcomed that. Evelyn Thomas’ “High Energy”, Hazell Dean’s rousing dance anthems, the Weather Girls…it was the musical equivalent of a sugar rush. I have been told that “It’s Raining Men” is a bit of a gay anthem, but surely not.

Nena – 99 Luftballons
A perfect pop song with a weak-ass metaphor for the Cold War generation. Nena, bless her, made hairy armpits sexy. But the song’s real place in history rests in the fact that the German version was a huge hit in the US. In Britain, the far inferior English version was a hit.

Sade – Your Love Is King
In 1984, Sade’s sound was something quite unique. Boring acts like Norah Jones owe a lot to Sade, who never was as dull as her winebar reputation would have it. Her debut album scores the soundtrack of my last few weeks in South Africa (playing often in the blue VW Beetle I drove after obtaining my drivers’ licence in August — in SA you may not drive until you’re 18) and my arrival in Germany for a nine-week holiday before decamping for London. I love the sad-sounding saxophone that kicks off the song, and Sade’s cool yet warm delivery that properly communicates total yearning.

The Smiths – How Soon Is Now (Peel session)
The song that described my life for much of the ’80s. Shyness that is criminally vulgar? Check. Going to a club and hope to meet somebody who likes me and standing on my own and leaving on my own and going home and wanting to die. Check (didn’t cry, though). This version is from the BBC Peel Sessions, recorded in August 1984. Johnny Marr does recreate the wailing guitar sound, paying paid to the rumour that it was created through studio trickery.

The Special A.K.A. – Free Nelson Mandela
To the surprise of nobody, this was banned in South Africa. In fact, in apartheid SA it was illegal to quote Mandela (or any proscribed person) or even to own a picture of him. So I learned about this tune only when I arrived in London in November 1984. It had vacated the charts by then, but I embraced it wholeheartedly. It turned out to be a great awareness-raising song for the anti-apartheid movement in Britain.

Immaculate Fools – Immaculate Fools
December 1984 in London: my favourite pub in Notting Hill had a video juke box (oooh!)). This was on constant rotation. In Britain these soft rockers (think China Crisis) were a one-hit wonder. Google tells me that the Fools became so big in Spain that they moved over there. (previously uploaded)

The Toy Dolls – Nellie The Elephant
And this was another song on video juke box rotation. Depending on the levels of collective inebriation, he patrons would sing along with gusto whenever it came on. Its musical merits may be debatable (well, actually, not really. It’s not Pet Sounds), but it is a great fun song. I still enjoy it, privately.

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1983

July 20th, 2007 4 comments

1983 was my least favourite year of the ’80s, personally and musically. I worked inhuman split shifts throughout the year, leaving no time for a social life in a country I had arrived in only a year before. So I was hanging around with fellow hotel people which means that by the age of 17 I was drinking and clubbing prodigiously.

Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart.mp3
I saw Bonnie Tyler live some years before, supporting Slade. Even then I was suspicious of her housewife rock. But, my goodness, this track is utter genius. Written by Jim Steinman, who was responsible for the pomp of Meat Loaf’s glorious Bat Out Of Hell (as was producer Todd Rundgren), “Total Eclipse” recreates the rock operatic drama, supported by a wonderfully gothic and hilariously camp video (with flying altar boys!). What I like best about this song, though, is the percussive sound of the lyrics.

The Smiths – This Charming Man (Peel session).mp3

1983 saw the emergence of arguably the most important and influential band of the 1980s, the Smiths. U2, who made their breakthrough the same year, might have shifted more records, but virtually every Indie act owes a debt to Morrissey, Marr and pals. “This Charming Man” featured Morrissey’s great yelp, which is still there in this recording from the BBC John Peel sessions in August 1983.

Big Country – In A Big Country.mp3
Scotland’s Big Country were widely considered a poor man’s U2. Ironic, then, that U2 (with Green Day) recently covered “The Saints Are Coming” by the Skids, from whom emerged Big Country. Stuart Adamson’s band had a big, rich sound dominated by guitars that sounded like bagpipes, lending their brand of rock a celtic flavour. This song did worse in Britain than it did internationally, reaching only #17 in the charts. It deserved to do better, if only for the fist pumping “Cha!” shouts and a kick-ass catchy chorus.

Aztec Camera – Oblivious.mp3
When I think of Aztec Camera, I think of Bright Eyes. Like Mr Oberst, so was Roddy Frame considered a bit of a prodigy. Frame’s huge talent never translated into stardom, just as Bright Eyes will never become mainstream (and let’s thank the good Lord for that). “Oblivious” was the hit single from the lovely, utterly exquisite High Land, Hard Rain album, making the British Top 20. It’s the poppiest track from the album, but “Walk Out To Winter” and “The Bugle Sounds Again” are just as great. But in 1983 I didn’t know that; I bought the LP only in 1985.

Malcolm McLaren – Double Dutch.mp3
McLaren is best known as the manipulative svengali who made the Sex Pistols the boy band of punk, paving the way for Tory bastards Busted. As a performing artist, he compensated for his vocal and musical limitations by helping create cocktails of genres which were, if not always great, then consistently engaging and often influential. He (and, more importantly producer Trevor Horn) fused hip hop and African music with pop, popified Madame Butterfly and later introduced the world to disco waltzing and to vogueing well before Madonna did (1989’s “Something’s Jumping In Your Shirt” was quite brilliant). “Buffalo Girls”, which came out in late 1982, brought hip hop into the mainstream before anyone else did. “Double Dutch” “” bizzarely a song about country music dancing “” rode on the sound of South African kwêla music, but used a New York group, the Ebonettes, to provide the distinctive backing vocals in the style of the Mahotella Queens (whom Horn used six years later for the Art Of Noise).

Rufus & Chaka Khan – Ain’t Nobody.mp3
By 1983, soul music was going to pieces. The Philly Sound was dead, Motown struggled, Stevie Wonder was preparing to record the truly evil “I Just Called To Say I Love You”. Luther Vandross was fine, but just too smooth. The even smoother Lionel Richie turned into soul’s biggest name. Despite the revolting “Hello”, you can’t dismiss Lionel (just hear “Love Will Find A Way” on Can’t Slow Down), but soul’s biggest name? OMG! Soul awaited its re-energisation at the hands of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and their likes. In the midst of all that despondency, the amazing Chaka Khan said goodbye to Rufus with one of the mightiest soul tracks not only of the ’80s, but of all time.

Blancmange – Living On The Ceiling.mp3
This song sums up the sound of 1983 for me. If musically that year had any redeeming graces, it was in New Wave: New Order, Heaven 17, Depeche Mode, Human League, Bauhaus, XTC… But also Kajagoogoo.

Depeche Mode – Two Minutes Warning.mp3
“Everything Counts” was the killer track on Construction Time Again, and “Love In Itself” was close behind. Yet it was this song, with its fantastic chorus, that really stood out for me on an album I totally loved at the time. Why was it never released as a single?

Human League – (Keep Feeling) Fascination.mp3
What an uplifting song, the kind one puts on in the morning to force a good mood. I really like Phil Oakley’s deep voice when he sings: “And then the conversation turned, until the sun went down.”

The Style Council – Speak Like A Child.mp3
And in the unlikely event that “Fascination” can’t lift a mood, then the infectiously cheerful “Speak Like A Child” should. Paul Weller had foreshadowed the Style Council song on some the Jam’s latter tracks, such as “The Bitterest Pill” and “A Town Called Malice”. Now he introduced brass and Talbot’s jazzy keyboards. I like the way Weller emphasises the word “a” in the titular line. I later saw the Style Council live twice, in 1984 and 1985, and very good they were, too. But they did dress like a pair of pretentious idiots.

Heaven 17 – Temptation.mp3
My favourite song of the year probably, and a great companion piece to New Order’s “Blue Monday”. Quite unusually for a New Wave it featured an orchestra, plus the soul beltation (a word I just invented) of Carol Kenyon, who provided backing vocals for Pink Floyd at Live 8. Singer Glenn Gregory looked a bit like a young Christopher Walken “” adorable creatures with unacceptable features?

Culture Club – Black Money.mp3
1980s revivalists tend to regard Culture Club as a bit of a novelty act, thanks to Boy George’s image and the substance-free “Karma Chameleon” (and let’s not even think of “The War Song”). That is a huge injustice. Culture Club produced some of the finest pop music of the decade (“Church Of The Poison Mind”, “Miss Me Blind”, “It’s A Miracle”), and Boy George was a very good singer. This blue-eyed soul track from Colour By Numbers shows Culture Club’s depth, a powerful and sad song about unrequited love, aided by the turbopowered lungs of Helen Terry.

Spandau Ballet – True.mp3
Another ’80s revivalist favourite, Spandau Ballet are another terribly underrated pop band. Yeah, they do look camp now; indeed, they looked camp even then. They were regarded as a teenybopper act in an era when teen favourites were creating some excellent music. Only a fool woul

d deny the masterful pop of Wham!. Likewise, Spandau Ballet merit a thorough rehabilitation. Songs like “Gold”, “Round And Round”, “Only When You Leave”, “Chant No. 1” and this great ballad deserve to be regarded as bona fide pop classics.

Oh yeah, and there was Michael Jackson’s Thriller. You might have heard of it.

1981

July 16th, 2007 2 comments

And so on to 1981. Again, these are tunes that evoke that year “” a year of some fun, several foreign trips, a temporarily close friend named Epstein, shit teachers at a shit school, an idiot of a younger brother (who turned out to be very cool), and the teenage depression most 15-year-olds experience. These are not necessarily favourites songs, then or now.

John Lennon – Watching The Wheels.mp3
The murder of John Lennon ushered in my obsessive Beatles period. I had been a fan since I was 11 (and I listened to the Blue album the night before Lennon was shot), but now I bought every Beatles LP I didn’t yet have, including the unlistenable Live At The Hollywood Bowl and the US releases (Japanese and Greek pressings. Are there collectors for Greek Beatles LPs?). “Watching The Wheels” was my favourite track from Double Fantasy, and remains my favourite Lennon track. I’m still fascinated by Lennon, though he was by no means the saint after whom airports should be named. And “Imagine” is one dreadful anthem to hypocrisy.

Billy Joel – Summer, Highland Falls (live).mp3
My Beatles period was followed by a few weeks of intense Billy Joel obsession. For a while, in my deep teenage depression, I listened to Turnstiles, The Stranger, 52nd Street and especially the magnificent Songs In The Attic ad nauseam. I think Billy Joel is often underrated by the Good Taste Police, but these four albums are quite excellent. After 1983 at the latest Joel became an objectionable hack. But he also was my companion through unhappy times. So thanks, Bill.

Ideal – Blaue Augen.mp3
Those of my generation growing up in West-Germany will recall the impact of Die Neue Deutsche Welle, the new wave of German new wave. Before German music consisted of the ubiquitous Schlager herberts (usually with English stage names like Roy Black or Chris Roberts), hoary Kraut rockers doing their thing in English (the bloody Scorpions), chanson merchants (Konstantin Wecker) and the very occasional cool-ish acts (Udo Lindenberg, Marius Müller-Westernhagen, and obviously Kraftwerk). Suddenly there appeared a new sound for a young generation. Looking back, some of them were awful (Markus, Hubert Kah), but at the time even the rubbish acts spearheaded a revolution, with Berlin band Ideal at the vanguard. “Blaue Augen”, one of the first Neue Deutsche Welle hits, has an important place in music history. Without it, there might not have been “99 Luftballons”. Whether or not that was a welcome consequence, you decide.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Joan Of Arc.mp3
OMD were on the forefront of the post-punk New Wave. First there was “Enola Gay”, then came this song, with its synthethizered martial beat, and it was all quite wondrous. It was great seeing OMD singer Andy McCluskey doing his crazy flaying arms dance to this when I saw them in concert in London four years later.

Soft Cell – Say Hello, Wave Goodbye.mp3
To be honest, this might actually belong in early 1982; I’m not quite certain. It’s a song that, with the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” and Duran Duran’s “Girls On Film”, reminds me of the first club I frequented: the notorious Kaisersaal, where no nice parents wanted their nice children to go. Of course, my friend Mike and I and other pals used to go there, starting in late 1981. We U18s had to be out by 10pm; but from 7-10pm the club was cooking already, playing new wave, heavy metal and old rock (“Starman”, “Black Betty” etc). We felt all grown up, which leads me to…

Hazel O’Connor – Will You.mp3
Hazel O’Connor produced a shedload of terrible music, and a couple of decent ones: “All Grown Up”, “Eighth Day” and “Will You” is one. The latter in particular is an excellent song; the saxophone solo is quite lovely. It really needs to be covered by somebody more talented than Ms O’Connor. The song featured in Breaking Glass, a mess of a film.

Ricchi ̩ Povere РSara Perche Ti Amo.mp3
Italian hits were always big in Germany. Umberto Tozzi, Adriano Celentano, I Santo California, Giana Nannini, this lot… you couldn’t escape them. This song tastes of 1981. I’d like to say it reminds me of pizza places, but I might be making up an association here. The song does smell of pizza and beer and sunshine though. And of fun fairs

Earth, Wind & Fire – Let’s Groove.mp3
EWF were classified as disco back then, and disco was not really considered cool. Stuff like this was a “guilty pleasure”. Where I grew up, you wouldn’t admit to liking this stuff to your friends unless you fancied a bloody nose for being a bit of a Popper. Likewise, you wouldn’t admit to liking Roxy Music if you knew anyone with a leather jacket. Alas, my school was full of assholes with leather jackets.

And my favourite item of clothes at the time (oh, hell, EVER!), the FC Nantes jersey:

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1980

July 16th, 2007 5 comments


Let’s go on a nostalgia trip. This is the first instalment of a journey through the ’80s. These songs represent moments in time; they are not necessarily the best songs of the year, nor my favourites (neither then nor now). These songs evoke for me the feeling of the time, they recreate a time the way a smell might, or taste or photo (like the one on the right, taken in January 1980 on a visit to Finsterwalde in East Germany).

Rainbow – Since You Been Gone.mp3
There were two versions out at the time (both covers themselves). This was one, the other was by the Cherrie sisters, one of whom was in the Runaways. I had both singles, and actually preferred the Cherries’ one. Had Richie Blackmore been a hot blonde woman, on the other hand…

Marianne Faithfull – The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan.mp3
One of two songs that appeared in 1979 about middle-age women committing suicide (the song was the Boomtown Rats excellent “Diamond Smile”). This one became a hit in Germany only in 1980. I didn’t quite understand the song — still don’t. Kill yourself because you’ll never drive a sports car in Paris with the warm wind blowing in your hair? If only that was the extent of my problems! You have children, of school-going age; pull yourself together, Luce!

New Musik – Living By Numbers.mp3
I seem to recall that I bought the 7″ single the same day I bought “My Sharona” by the Knack. It’s still a favourite song, and I still can’t get the different “They don’t want your name” voices right.

Dexys Midnight Runners – Geno.mp3
My favourite song of 1980, then and now. The two-tone cover of the single was cool, the song beyond cool, with the horns and Kevin Rowland’s strange voice. I don’t think I had ever heard anything quite like it before.

Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers.mp3
The whistling! And working out that this was a song about the grotesque TV show we knew in Germany as “Spiele ohne Grenzen”! Plus, “Games Without Frontiers” was my 100th single. The album it came from also featured “Biko”, which got my left-wing teenage mind interested in the anti-apartheid movement. Two years later I (unwillingly) moved to apartheid South Africa.

Ramones – Baby, I Love You.mp3
I had liked the Ramones since I was a barely pubescent “punk rocker”. Gubba Gubba Hey and Sheena and all that. When this came out, I didn’t realise it was a cover version; I really thought the Ramones had changed their sound. I love this version; it’s terribly camp without intending to be so.

Robert Palmer – Johnny And Mary
I bought this album the same day as Bowie’s Scary Monsters and Paul Simon’s One Trick Pony. Then Lennon was shot, and I listened to his music for months (in fact, I was listening to the Beatles’ Blue Album the night before I woke up to the news that Lennon had been killed). So this track reminds me of the trauma I thought I had suffered through Lennon’s death.

Jermaine Jackson – Let’s Get Serious.mp3
Stevie Wonder produced this, and it sounds like it, in a “Do I Do” kind of way. This song is one funky bastard, coming out at about the same time as Michael’s Off The Wall. At the time I actually preferred Jermaine’s vibe. Is that Stevie actually doing guest vocals?

Olivia Newton-John & Cliff Richard – Suddenly.mp3
I’ve always been a leading candidate for the presidency of the Cliff Richard Hate Club. So I resisted this song for all it was worth (as I did with 1979’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore”). Still, the song is 1980, and with time I have come to accept it for the lovely bit of cheese it is.

Styx – Boat On The River.mp3
Styx were crap, really. And this song is a bit crap, too. And yet, as it is playing, I’m singing along with an unseemly amount of gusto. As a 14-year-old I thought I was rather sophisticated for appreciating the Greek-tinged vibe of this song.

Joan Armatrading – Me Myself I.mp3
I bought that album the same day I bought the Styx LP. My grandmother had given me money to buy new trainers. I bought a cheap pair so I could afford to buy a couple of LPs. In 1985 I saw Armatrading live in concert at the Hammersmith Odeon; second row, right in the middle of the stage. In the pub before I must have had a dodgy pint , because I fell asleep mid-gig. Eventually, introducing “Drop The Pilot”, Armatrading called the seated crowd to party in front of her stage, presumably so she didn’t have to look any longer at that sleeping fucker in the second row…

Ambrosia – The Biggest Part Of Me.mp3
This is how Steely Dan might have sounded had they developed like the Doobie Brothers. I imagined that this would be the perfect song driving along some random US highway with the car top down, and the warm wind in the hair. Bet Lucy Jordan never thought of that!

An Aussie and a Seffrican walk on a stage…

July 14th, 2007 3 comments

..and create some magic. Last night I saw the great Farryl Purkiss in concert in Cape Town, supported by Australian pop-folk merchant Bob Evans (and South African indie-folk singer Simon van Gend, who was quite excellent in his Clem Snide/Joe Purdy channelling ways). The photos are from that gig.

I’ve bigged up Farryl Purkiss before. His self-titled sophomore album was one of my picks of 2006 (and the lovely “Better Days” one of my songs of the year). He performed accompanied only by his guitar and a minimalist drummer. Having toured extensively internationally, he is making an impression with his mellow acoustic sounds. He should become huge enough to remain cool, like his heroes Purdy, Mason Jennings, Sufjan Stevens and Calexico.
Farryl Purkiss – Better Days.mp3
Farryl Purkiss – Escalator.mp3

Before last night, all I knew of Bob Evans — whose real name is Kevin Mitchell and comes from Perth — was what he streams on his MySpace page. On strength of last night’s performance, I bought the CD/DVD set Suburban Songbook. I’ve played it on rotation since then. The album, which won the Aussie version of the Grammies this year, was produced in Nashville by Brad Jones, who lists production credits for Josh Rouse — one hears that influence in Evans — and Yo La Tengo on his resumé. Clearly influenced by a host of ’60s artists (he even rocks a harmonica like Dylan), Bob Evans is a bit of an acoustic guitar-playing version of Ben Kweller, with a dash of country (he mentions Johnny Cash among his influences). Which is very much a good thing. This is upbeat folk-pop for a Saturday morning, to sing along to happily as one brews a good cup of coffee to go with the croissant.
Bob Evans – Sadness & Whiskey.mp3
Bob Evans – Rocks In My Head.mp3

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