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1986

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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  1. El
    July 26th, 2007 at 18:32 | #1

    I agree with you about But Not Tonight! It is one of my very favourite DM tracks! It’s a shame that the band don’t think the same way though :P

  2. Greg
    July 26th, 2007 at 19:45 | #2

    This series is fantastic. Amazing that music was so universal then. Maybe it was just that I turned ten in 1979, and I still was open to anything, but I doubt I share this much music in common with people these days. Looking forward to the rest!

  3. Steve
    July 26th, 2007 at 21:19 | #3

    For some strange reason, I put that O.M.D. song on a tape I made for a girl I wanted to date. Not sure exactly what I wanted to say by that…(and probably why she ignored me [sniffle]).And, “Breakout” is one of my guilty pleasures. Funny enough, I never did like anything else by them.

  4. spacejunk
    August 24th, 2007 at 23:15 | #4

    Re Stan Ridgway … “I haven’t heard anything else by him (I don’t think I ever played the b-side of the single). Should I?”If you liked his narrative structure: yes, you should track down Wall of Voodoo’s “Call of the West” album from 1983

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