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Life In Vinyl 1987 Vol. 1

February 13th, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments

The first half of my 1987 was tinged by retro, much as the UK charts were. As the year begun, Jackie Wilson was at #1 with Reet Petite; and the follow-up re-releases — The Sweetest Feeling and Higher And Higher — also charted well. In February, Ben E. King topped the charts with Stand By Me, thanks to the Levis 501s commercial. Percy Sledge hit #2 with When A Man Loves A Woman around the same time, also on the back of a Levi’s ad. In April Doris Day’s 1964 hit Move Over Darling returned to the charts, also thanks to a commercial. And so on.

I loved it, especially the soul revival, which found fine expression in Wendy May’s Friday night club Locomotion at the Kentish Town & Country Club in north London, a jog away from my flat. The rules of playlisting were strict: nothing but soul music from the 1960s and ’70s (popular soul, not the specialists’ rare tracks scene of Northern Soul).

If that rule was broken, then I recall only one instance. Local-based Terence Trent D’Arby, a US singer who had just arrived from Germany a few months earlier, had his debut single out. If You Let Me Stay, a superb track with a bit of a ’60s soul vibe, would be played at the Locomotion, doubtless helping it into the charts. I certainly bought the single well before it was a hit.

There were other soul singles which I thought deserved to be hits. Paul Johnson’s When Love Comes Calling, on which the singer hits a hell of a long falsetto note, unaccountably stalled at #52. Produced by Junior Giscombe, it should have been a hit. But, as we have seen in the past few years, the British public is an idiot.

Likewise, the lush Don’t Come To Stay by Hot House barely dented the charts. It spent a week at #74 in February 1987. A reissue troubled the charts in September 1988 to the tune of #70 (the good follow-up to the ’87 release, The Way We Talk, didn’t even chart!). The singer of Hot House was Heather Small, still with an attractive soul voice. She later switched her vocals into foghorn mode for the successful but mostly regrettable M-People.

In April ’87 I saw Johnny Clegg & Savuka at the Kentish Town & Country Club. I had seen Clegg with his previous band Juluka several times in South Africa. There wasn’t much of a difference, and when they played Scatterlings Of Africa, to me it was just one of several Juluka songs they played. But on the Savuka LP Third World Child, it had been re-recorded, and to good effect. The single of it did little to bother the charts: it spent one week at #75 (the Juluka version had peaked at #44 in 1983).

Clegg was, of course, an icon of the struggle against apartheid, though his audience of South African expats at the gig probably didn’t all share his views. Labi Siffre’s Something Inside So Strong riffed along the same lines. A song about apartheid, its single cover showed a segregation sign in South Africa. Songs like these and the cultural boycott helped mobilise international opposition against apartheid. We didn’t know it then, but within less than three years, apartheid would fold. Don’t let anybody say that cultural boycotts of evil regimes don’t work. They do, and that’s why evil regimes don’t like them.

In my memory, I tended to think of Duran Duran’s Skin Trade — a song that was clearly more than a little influenced by Prince — as a comeback single. But it wasn’t. Notorious had been a hit just a few months earlier. But Skin Trade, which stalled at #22, did signal an end to Duran’s run of ten Top 10 hits on the trot.

If you asked me for my favourite track of 1987, I might be tempted to name Sherrick’s Just Call, a soul groover with a great bassline. That would be the emotional answer, rather than one propelled by discernment of artistic merit. Just Call smells like 1987. It’s a fine track, even if Sherrick looked a lot like a 1980s soul singer cliché. Alas, he died in 1999 at the age of only 41.

So, let’s revisit the first eight months of 1987, with a second part coming later this year.

1. Blow Monkeys – It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way
2. A-ha – Manhattan Skyline
3. Simply Red – The Right Thing
4. Carly Simon – Coming Around Again
5. Duran Duran – Skin Trade
6. Hot House – Don’t Come To Stay
7. Paul Johnson – When Love Comes Calling
8. Terence Trent D’Arby – If You Let Me Stay
9. Sly & Robbie – Boops
10. Johnny Clegg & Savuka – Scatterlings Of Africa
11. Labi Siffre – Something Inside So Strong
12. Jody Watley – Looking For A New Love
13. ABC – When Smokey Sings
14. The Christians – Hooverville (And They Promised Us The World)
15. The Cure – Catch
16. Echo and the Bunnymen – Lips Like Sugar
17. Heart – Alone
18. Sherrick – Just Call
19. Jonathan Butler – Lies

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  1. halfhearteddude
    February 13th, 2020 at 10:03 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

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