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Step back to 1979 – Part 2

In the second part of three in which I revisit songs from 1979 that have the power to transport me back to the day, we”ll go back to the summer of that year. We had just moved into a new house which my mother, a woman of excellent taste and artistic flair, turned into a place that exuded both sophistication and warmth. And my younger brother and I attended the last of three summer camps run by the local church parish. As always, I take no responsibility for the quality of the songs featured.

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Lene Lovich  – Lucky Number.mp3
This was quite unlike anything I had heard before. Lene Lovich was a bit like an anglophone Nina Hagen, without all that which makes Hagen so unattractive (and, looking it up, I”ve just learned that Hagen covered Lucky Number). I remember hearing a radio interview with John Lennon around that time in which the semi-retired pop master mentioned a few acts he found interesting. Among them was “Lene Loverich”. I thought Lennon was a bit of a senile git for not knowing her proper name. But he was very old by then, almost 39. My stepfather, four years younger, didn”t even know any of the acts I liked (except for Bob Seger, whose music I introduced stepfather to). Lovich eventually gave rise to Toyah and Hazel O”Connor. You decide whether that was a good thing or not.

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Art Garfunkel ““ Bright Eyes (Video)
This was the theme from the animated film that made everyone cry but me, Watership Down. The reason I didn”t cry is that I have never seen it, deterred from doing so by tales of people crying. The song sounds appropriately sad but tinged with a surge of hopefulness, which I understand ties in with the scene in the film it scores. At the time I thought it was the most beautiful song I had ever heard. Actually, I still think it is beautiful, though I have heard a great many contenders for the title since. Bright Eyes and I Don”t Like Mondays (which I won”t feature as the Boomtown Rats will be included in the third part) were my anthems for the summer of 1979. [Link removed by Mediafire]

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Amii Stewart ““ Knock On Wood.mp3
What did I know of the old soul masters then? This is one of the great cover versions, an explosion of disco joy, co-produced by Simon May, who wrote the theme of the BBC soapie Eastenders. And then there was the cover. I had seen exotic before, but Amii Stewart was something quite beyond that; she was flamboyantly beautiful while wearing silly headgear which only the spawn of royal bottom feeders would not reject as too daft. Knock On Wood was a massive hit almost everywhere, but strangely not in West Germany, where it stalled at #13. Amii Stewart is the step-sister of HiNRG queen Miquel Brown (whose Close To Perfection is an old favourite of mine) and thereby aunt of 1980s disco starlet Sinitta, she of much cuteness and modest artistry.

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Kiss – I Was Made For Loving You.mp3
By 1979 everybody seemed to buy into that disco thing. In retrospect it shouldn”t be surprising that a rock group whose members liked to wear chest-hair revealing leather outfits and wore far too much make-up should have dabbled in a genre that owed much to its evolution to the gay scene. But those were the days when fans of Freddie Mercury would be glad to resort to violence in defence of their hero”s honour should one have questioned the Queen singer”s uncompromising heterosexuality. Anyway, so in 1979 Kiss went disco in a bid to revive their flagging career. And it provided them their first UK chart entry (albeit peaking at only #50) and for me a birthday present for my little brother.

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Gibson Brothers ““ Cuba.mp3
Cuba provides a specific if slightly hazy memory involving a fair we visited after a boring afternoon at an old man”s garden allotment. I remember being bored at the fair, and how the Gibson Brother”s epic disco number lifted my flagging spirits. It is, of course, a most banal memory, as the reader will have noted already with a zeal that is almost rude. The point though is that sometimes music sticks with us not because of a significant event or constant exposure over a period of time, but because it just does. And Cuba still has the capacity to lift my spirits, though not as much as their next hit single, the brilliant Que Sera Mi Vida.

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Kevin Keegan – Head Over Heels In Love.mp3
American readers won”t know what to do with this, but German and British readers will luv it, just luv it. Kevin Keegan was a famous English football player (the football played with feet, not the one with the shoulderpads) who in 1977 transferred from Liverpool to the German club SV Hamburg. In 1979, he helped Hamburg win the German championship and was the country”s biggest football star. So Mighty Mouse, as he was known, crowned his sporting accomplishment by recording a single with Smokie, and it sounds just like the horrors that group used to perpetrate at the time. To Keegan”s credit, he could hold a tune better than he could hold a lead, as fans of Newcastle United would later discover. Here is a video of King Kev violating a poor woman as he sings his song in the Saturday night sports show Das Aktuelle Sportstudio, having been flown in from Bielefeld after Hamburg”s game there on 2 June 1979.

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Donna Summer – Hot Stuff.mp3
If Kiss could go disco, then Donna Summer could go rock. And I”d say that Donna rocked harder on Hot Stuff than Kiss ever did. The song reminds me in particular of the summer camp that my brother and I went on. The previous one we went had been a great experience. It had a wonderful group and I had my slow-dance with my first love, having shoulder-charged my beastly rival out of the way on the dancefloor (see the entry for Sailing in Step Back to 1977  Part 1). This time, the crowd was less lovely and some were absolute assholes. I had taken some records along for the “dance evening”; when I discovered that some had been stolen from my suitcase, the camp leaders took no interest in the violation of the seventh Commandment, perhaps being too busy worshipping craven images. We never went on another camp again.

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Umberto Tozzi ““ Gloria.mp3
When Laura Branigan had a huge hit with her English version of Gloria in 1984, I was quite annoyed. It”s Umberto Tozzi”s song. It has been covered many times in many languages, but in Tozzi”s synth-driven original it smells of sunshine and Pizza Margharita. Gloria was huge in the German summer of 1979; I didn”t buy the record, but welcomed hearing it in the background to provide the soundtrack for that rather dull summer. Where Branigan”s lyrics observe someone alled Gloria, Tozzi sings a love song to the eponymous woman. “Monkey to malaria,” as Tozzi so memorably sings.

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Cliff Richard – We Don’t Talk Anymore.mp3
The song German radio played to death. Apart from the fact that I have always resented the stardom of that feckless Cliff Richard, this was an insidious tune. Where some songs are earworms, this was an eartumor. But if I listen to the song with as much detachment and objectivity as I can muster, I must admit that it is a very good pop song. I must concede that the “Taaaalk anymore, anymooooore” bit at 3:14 is fantastic. It seems at least 5 million people worldwide agreed: that”s how many copies the single sold. In West Germany it topped the charts for five weeks, but it felt like it did for half a year.

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The Knack ““ My Sharona.mp3
Incredibly, the Knack were hyped as “The New Beatles” (part 85) when this came out. They had a couple of decent songs, but their quick return to obscurity cannot be described as an injustice. Still, “My Sharona” totally rocks, from the staccato guitar riff and vocal delivery to the “woooooo”s. And the cover of the single rocked even more, at least for a 13-year-old lad, depicting a gorgeous brunette in a vest with protruding nipples (gasp!). And, I didn”t know at the time, it was the Sharona of the title herself. Sharona Alperin was at the time Knack frontman Doug Fieger”s 17-year-old girlfriend. To German ears, the band’s name was a cause for mirth. Knack means pop (as in a popping sound), with the best variant being the adjective beknackt, which loosely translated means “off his rocker”, or Knackwurst, the sausage named after the popping sound it makes when you bite into it.

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ELO – Don’t Bring Me Down.mp3
I know that opinion is deeply divided about this song. ELO purists tend to disown it, normal pop fans love it. Don”t Bring Me Down has that great guitar, the drum loop, and that strange word that Lynne sings which sounds like “Bruce” (it is, if you listen carefully or read the LP linernotes, grooooss, which means nothing). Trivia fans will be interested to note that this was the first ELO single not to feature strings, apparently. Don”t Bring Me Down also reminds me of marshmallow mice I liked eating at the time, 20 Pfennig from the kiosk down the road.

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  1. Melanie
    July 21st, 2011 at 14:16 | #1

    What a great selection !
    Unfortunately the Lene Lovich link seems to be uncomplete …

  2. Paul
    July 21st, 2011 at 16:00 | #2

    Thank you. Brings back memories indeed. I love these post

  3. July 23rd, 2011 at 07:06 | #3

    “[S]ometimes music sticks with us not because of a significant event or constant exposure over a period of time, but because it just does.” I’ve wasted many more words than that trying, basically, to say the same thing. And I very much enjoy these “Soundtrack Of My Life” entries; they often introduce me to tunes we didn’t hear on our side of the world, and they also often make me relisten and reconsider tunes we did hear but to which I paid scant attention. Thanks!

  4. July 23rd, 2011 at 10:45 | #4

    Thanks for reminding me of the magnificent “Lucky Number”, Amd Whah. Although I must admit that I like Lene Lovich’s 1981 single “New Toy” just as much. “New Toy” has a splendid instrumental interlude (at about 1:58 in the video here) that makes me think “Wow” every time I hear it.

  5. halfhearteddude
    July 24th, 2011 at 18:44 | #5

    It’s fixed now.

  6. August 1st, 2011 at 23:29 | #6

    ‘Bright Eyes’ trivia – heard a radio interview with Mike Batt – the writer – a while back. Apparently when he came up with the demo, he was asked who he envisaged singing it. “Somebody like Art Garfunkel,” he replied – meaning somebody with a voice a bit like Artie’s. But the producers thought he meant the far more ambitious “Let’s ask Art Garfunkel,” and made the call.

    Might be true, might not. But I thought it was a nice story.

  7. halfhearteddude
    August 2nd, 2011 at 15:26 | #7

    That’s a great story. Even if it’s not true, it should be.

  8. mr.ed
    August 6th, 2011 at 16:06 | #8

    I agree about Donna Summer rocking harder than Kiss ever did,and she was a pioneer(along with Giorgio Moroder) in her genre of electro-disco,unlike Kiss,who didn’t do anything that hadn’t been done (better)before.

  9. Alex
    August 11th, 2011 at 15:28 | #9

    Being from Italy, i do know Italian is not the language of pop hits. But “monkey to malaria” is actually “manchi tu nell’aria”. The air is missing you, or, maybe, I miss you in the air.
    Oh! Some day you’ll explain to me what “Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow” means.

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