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The Originals: 1980s Vol. 2

August 25th, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments

In this instalment of The Originals, we return to the 1980s with a second volume. As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, plus a handful of bonus tracks, coming to a playlist of 32 lesser-known originals of 1980s hits.

 

Holding Back The Years
Simply Red’s Holding Back The Years sounds like a cover version of an obscure 1960s soul number, and the versions by Randy Crawford and Angie Stone show just how good a soul song it is. But it is, in fact, a Mick Hucknall composition.

Before Hucknall became Simply Red (would you recognise any of the other interchangeable members in the street?), he was the lead singer of the Frantic Elevators, a punk group whose formation was inspired by the Sex Pistols’ 1976 Manchester gig. They stayed together for seven years of very limited success, releasing four non-charting singles and recording a Peel session at the BBC.

The last of their four singles, released in 1982, was Holding Back The Years, a song Hucknall had mostly written as a 17-year-old about his mother’s desertion when he was three (he added the chorus later). Their version is understated and almost morose, in a Joy Division sort of way. Although released independently, as the cut-and-paste artwork on the slightly disturbing sleeve suggests, they had high hopes for the single. Ineffective distribution dashed those hopes.

In 1983, Hucknall left the Frantic Elevators and went on to found Simply Red (who before arriving at that name were called World Service, Red and the Dancing Dead, and Just Red). The first single, Money’s Too Tight To Mention — a cover version of The Valentine Brothers song (featured on Any Major Originals Vol. 1) — was an instant hit. The follow-up single but one was a remake of Holding Back The Years, now rendered as a soul number. On its first release in late 1985 it flopped. Re-released in 1986, it became a worldwide smash, even topping the Billboard charts.

Talk Talk
Another act covering (part of) itself was Talk Talk who recorded their 1993 hit Talk Talk from an original titled Talk Talk Talk Talk. The song was written by the late Mark Hollis, and originally recorded by his previous band, Reaction. It appeared on the Beggars Banquet punk compilation Streets, which was released in late 1977.

I’ve Never Been To Me
The song that has invited much ridicule, especially regarding what exactly a woman isn’t supposed to see, has been widely covered. Among those who’d never been to themselves were Nancy Wilson, Walter Jackson, The Temptations, and Howard Keel. But the first to lament her lifetime of non-hedonism was Randy Crawford, who released it in October 1976 on her debut album, Everything Must Change. Soon after it was recorded by Charlene, a Motown singer.

I’ve Never Been To Me was co-written by Motown songwriter Ron Miller, whose hits included Stevie Wonder’s For Once In My Life, A Place in the Sun, Yester-Me Yester-You Yesterday, and Heaven Help Us All, and Diana Ross’ Touch Me in the Morning.

Charlene was a singer for Motown who also wrote songs and produced. Part of her job was to record demos of songs. In 1976 she teamed up with Miller to release her debut album. Released in December that year, it included three singles which just about reached the 90s in the US Top 100 each. The third of these was I’ve Never Been To Me.

While the song was a minor hit by singer Marti Caine in Canada in 1978, and was recorded by Nancy Wilson and Walter Jackson, both in 1977, for Charlene commercial failure meant the end of the dream of hedonistic stardom. She quit her job and emigrated to England. Then in 1982, a DJ in Florida played I’ve Never Been To Me on the radio, and listeners loved it. Motown re-released the single, and it became a worldwide hit. For Charlene, it would be the only big hit. She scored a minor hit with a duet with Stevie Wonder in 1982.

 

Pass The Dutchie
A drug anthem sung by children, Pass The Dutchie was a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic, which was unusual for a reggae number.

Pass The Dutchie was a cover of Pass the Kouchie by the Mighty Diamonds (a trio of adults singing about sharing a marijuana pipe), also from 1982. And both can be said to have borrowed their hook from 1969’s instrumental Full Up by the Sound Dimension.

Tom Hark
A staple these days on English football grounds, the impossibly catchy Tom Hark had its origins in South Africa. There was no Tom Hark: the song’s title was either a pun or more likely a sloppy mis-heard rendering of the word tomahawk, the axes gangs in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township used to carry.

Composer “Big Voice” Jack Lerole and his mates used to record in the pennywhistle-based kwela genre, though it was not yet known by that name — the contemporary term was marabi or pennywhistle jive. The word kwela is Zulu for “Get up”, and as kwela-kwela it was also a township term for a police van (after the cops” command “Kwela! Kwela!”, meaning “get in”), the unwelcome approach of which often was signalled by a lookout blowing his tin flute.

Lerole, commonly known as Jake, learnt to play the pennywhistle as a little boy, observing the flautists from Scottish regiments that often played near Alexandra and which influenced a generation of pennywhistlers who adapted the complex techniques of flute-playing to the simple pennywhistle, thereby enhancing its versatility.

Lerole and his bandmembers recorded under several names, mostly as Alexandra Black Mambazo (mambazo is Zulu for axe — or tomahawk), but were signed by EMI in 1956 as Elias and His Zig Zag Jive Flutes; the Elias of the moniker being Lerole”s brother.

Having recorded Tomahawk, or Tom Hark, EMI sold the rights to the song to British TV to serve as the theme for a series called The Killing Stone. On the back of that, the song became a British hit, reaching #2 in 1958 (a concurrent version by bandleader Ted Heath reached #24). Lerole and his band received £6 for recording the song and not a red cent in royalties, even when the song became an international hit again in 1980 with an affectionate cover by the British ska band The Piranhas, whose frontman Bob Grover put lyrics to the song (“The whole things daft, I don’t know why, you have to laugh or else you cry”). On the single cover The Piranhas paid tribute to the original by emblazoning it with the word “kwela”.

After the Alexandra Black Mambazo split in 1963, Lerole enjoyed a fair career, though more as a gravelly baritone singer and saxophonist than as a pennywhistler, having followed the lead of pennywhistle king Spokes Mashiyane into the new mbaqanga style of music. He made a comeback in the 1980s as a member of the multiracial group Mango Groove (which recorded Tom Hark with their own lyrics), on whose first hit, Dance Sum More (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nlom0-Z0RBE), Lerole provided his distinctive growling vocals. Before Mango Groove became famous in South Africa, he left the group.

In 1998 he and the reformed Alex Black Mambazo were invited by South African-born Dave Matthews to perform with his group in the US. The band performed to international acclaim and total indifference in their home country. Leralo died in 2003 at the age of 63.

In The Army Now
Also from South Africa, though from a very different cultural context, were the Bolland brothers, Rob and Ferdi. The year 1986 was lucrative for the brothers. First their song Rock Me Amadeus, performed by the Austrian cult singer Falco, topped the UK charts (having been a huge hit in Europe the previous year), and then Status Quo hit the UK Top 10 with their cover of the brothers’ 1981 song In The Army Now.

Born in Port Elizabeth, the Bolland brothers had emigrated to the Netherlands, and started their recording career in 1972 as a folk-rock duo. When that genre became passé they hooked into the electronic sounds of the late 1970s. In The Army Now was a big hit in South Africa, where conscription applied to only white men, many of whom were sent to fight in the war with Angola, apartheid’s Vietnam. The single did only moderately well elsewhere, and the Bolland brothers became record producers, counting among their clients Falco, Amii Stewart, Samantha Fox, Suzi Quatro and Dana International.

Meanwhile, Status Quo’s Francis Rossi had heard In The Army Now on the radio while driving in Germany, and proposed it to his band, which by now had lost bassist Alan Lancaster and drummer John Coughlan. The song took the Quo to #2 in the UK.

 

That’s What Friends Are For
Two songs here appeared on the soundtrack of the 1982 comedy Nightshift. That’s What Friends Are For was written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer-Sager, and first appeared on the movie’s soundtrack as a filler in a version by Rod Stewart.

Three years later it was revived by Dionne Warwick, with her friends Gladys Knight, Elton John and Stevie Wonder, as a fundraiser for AIDS research. It was a huge hit and won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group, as well as Song of the Year. The notion of supporting AIDS research in the 1980s was laudable, but musically I prefer Rod’s version.

Harden My Heart
One song from the Nightshift soundtrack that did trouble the charts was Harden My Heart by Quarterflash. By then it already had been a huge hit for the band. Written by its guitarist Marv Ross, the song was first recorded in a sparser arrangement by Seafood Mama, which was a predecessor band for Quarterflash.

Both bands featured Ross on guitar, and his wife, Rindy Ross on vocals and — hello, the 1980s — saxophone. Rindy can be seen holding a saxophone on the single cover of the original Harden My Heart.

Self Control
In Italy one might argue that the original is better known than the internationally more famous cover. The original by Italian singer Raf (or Raffaele Riefoli, as his mom knew him), who also co-wrote it, topped his country’s charts as well as that of Switzerland in the summer of 1984. US singer Laura Branigan’s version was a hit in Europe at the same time, competing with Raf’s version. Her take, for which arranger Harold Faltermeyer traded Raf’s keyboard hook with a guitar riff, became a huge US hit.

Branigan had enjoyed previous success with Italian pop music: her big 1982 hit Gloria was originally recorded in 1979 by Umberto Tozzi, whose 1977 hit Ti Amo she also recorded.  All three songs were co-written by Giancarlo Bigazzi, which explains how Branigan got to record it in time to compete with the original.

 

I Wanna Be Loved
For a prolific songwriter, Elvis Costello has covered other people’s songs widely. His best-known cover perhaps is George Jones’ A Good Year For The Roses, itself a country classic. Others were I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down was first done by Sam & Dave (featured on Any Major Originals – 1980s Vol. 1), and (What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love and Understanding, covered from the Brinsley Schwarz original.

I Wanna Be Loved, a Costello single in 1984 which appeared on the otherwise underwhelming Goodbye Cruel World album (and features Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside on backing vocals), was plucked from obscurity. That’s what Costello said, and he was not exaggerating.

There is very little information about the song’s original artists, Teacher’s Edition, or about Farnell Jenkins, who wrote the song. I Wanna Be Loved was released in on the Memphis-based Hi Records (which counted Al Green, Ann Peebles and O.V. Wright among its roster) in 1973 as a Willie Mitchell-produced b-side to a song titled It Helps To Make You Strong. For the Teacher’s Edition, that second single was the end of the road.

Jenkins had been around for a while already. Previously his band had been called The Conservatives, but that name was changed after Richard Nixon’s election. Jenkins brought out a gospel album in 1977, and continued to be a Chicago-based writer of Gospel songs.

The Only Way Is Up
Another soul singer who tried to make his way at Hi Records at the same time as Jenkins was Otis Clay. Recording since 1967, Clay had a run of well-received but modestly successful records on Hi. The best-performing of these was Tryin’ To Live My Life Without You, which hit #24 on the R&B charts in 1973. In 1981, Bob Seger scored a big hit with a cover of the song, which is added here as a bonus track.

By then, Clay had changed record labels a couple of times. In 1980 he released his records on his own label, Echo Records. Among these was the single The Only Way Is Up, co-written by soul singer-songwriter George Jackson, whose previous credits included the Osmonds hit One Bad Apple and Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll. The Only Way Is Up wasn’t a hit, but was popular enough to prompt Clay to name his 1982 album after it.

Eight years after Otis Clay recorded the song, it was picked up by English house outfit Coldcut which turned it into a pumping dance number for Yazz and the Plastic Population. It became a mega hit in the UK and in Europe, though it didn’t do much business in the US.

As for Otis Clay, he continued to record and earned himself a reputation as one of the finest blues singers, culminating in a Grammy nomination in 2007 for his album Walk a Mile in My Shoes. Clay died in 2016 at 73.

Wind Beneath My Wings
Between the first recording by whistling apartheid fan Roger Whitaker in 1982 and Bette Midler’s huge hit with it in 1988 on the back of the film Beaches, Wind Beneath My Wings had been recorded by many artists, including Sheena Easton, Gladys Knight and The Pips (as Hero), Lou Rawls, B.J. Thomas, Willie Nelson, Patty LaBelle, and Ray Price. Rawls and Knight, as well as country singer Gary Morris, saw some chart action with their versions.

For Midler, the song was a critically-acclaimed worldwide hit, and US #1. It won the Grammy for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

 

1. Otis Clay – The Only Way Is Up (1980)
The Usurper: Yazz and the Plastic Population (1988)

2. Rod Stewart – That’s What Friends Are For (1982)
The Usurper: Dionne Warwick & Friends (1985)

3. Seafood Mama – Harden My Heart (1980)
The Usurper: Quarterflash (1981)

4. Raf – Self Control (1984)
The Usurper: Laura Branigan (1984)

5. Charlie Dore – You Should Hear (How She Talks About You) (1981)
The Usurper: Melissa Manchester (1982)

6. The Textones – Vacation (1980)
The Usurpers: The Go-Go’s (1982)

7. The Mighty Diamonds – Pass The Kouchie (1982)
The Usurper: Musical Youth (1982, as Pass The Dutchie)

8. Elias & His Zigzag Jive Flutes – Tom Hark (1956)
The Usurper: Ted Heath (1956), The Piranhas (1980)

9. Kirsty MacColl – They Don’t Know (1979)
The Usurper: Tracy Ullman (1983)

10. Bolland & Bolland – You’re In The Army Now (1981)
The Usurper: Status Quo (1986)

11. Reaction – Talk Talk Talk Talk (1977)
The Usurper: Talk Talk (1982, as Talk Talk)

12. Frantic Elevators – Holding Back The Years (1982)
The Usurper: Simply Red (1985)

13. Cherrelle – I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On (1984)
The Usurper: Robert Palmer (1986)

14. Randy Crawford – I’ve Never Been To Me (1976)
The Usurper: Charlene (1976)

15. Teacher’s Edition – I Wanna Be Loved (1973)
The Usurper: Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1984)

16. The Applejacks – I Go To Sleep (1965)
The Usurper: Pretenders (1981)

17. Four Preps – Love Of The Common People (1966)
The Usurpers: Nicky Thomas (1970), Paul Young (1983)

18. The Crickets – More Than I Can Say (1960)
The Usurpers: Bobby Vee (1961), Leo Sayer (1980)

19. Barry Mann – Don’t Know Much (1980)
The Usurper: Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville (1989)

20. Albert Hammond – To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before (1975)
The Usurper: Julio Iglesias & Willie Nelson (1984)

21. Roger Whittaker – Wind Beneath My Wings (1982)
The Usurper: Bette Midler (1988)

22. George Benson – Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You (1985)
The Usurper: Glen Medeiros (1987)

23. Bonnie Tyler – The Best (1988)
The Usurper: Tina Turner (1989)

Bonus:
Otis Clay – Trying To Live My Life Without You (1973)
The Usurper: Bob Seger (1981)

Jon & Vangelis – State of Independence (1981)
The Usurper: Donna Summer (1982)

Neil Diamond – Red Red Wine (1968)
The Usurper: UB 40 (1983)

Priscilla Bowman & Spaniels – A Rockin’ Good Way (1958)
The Usurper: Shakin’ Stevens & Bonnie Tyler (1983)

Jack Lee – Come Back And Stay (1981)
The Usurper: Paul Young (1983)

Hall & Oates – Everytime You Go Away (1980)
The Usurper: Paul Young (1985)

Dionne Warwick – Never Gonna Let You Go (1982)
The Usurper: Sérgio Mendes (1983)

Floy Joy – Weak In The Presence Of Beauty (1986)
The Usurper: Alison Moyet (1987)

O’Chi Brown – Whenever You Need Somebody (1985)
The Usurper: Rick Astley (1987)

GET IT! or HERE!

More Originals:
The Originals: The Classics
The Originals: Soul
The Originals: Motown
The Originals: Country
The Originals: The Rock & Roll Years
The Originals: 1960s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1960s Vol. 2
The Originals: 1970s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1970s Vol. 2
The Originals: 1980s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1990s & 2000s
The Originals: Beatles edition
The Originals: Elvis Presley Edition Vol. 1
The Originals:  Elvis Presley Edition Vol. 2
The Originals: Carpenters Edition
The Originals: Burt Bacharach Edition
The Originals: Rat Pack Edition
The Originals: Schlager Edition
The Originals: Christmas Edition

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  1. halfhearteddude
    August 25th, 2020 at 23:00 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Little Bill
    August 29th, 2020 at 18:16 | #2

    Thanks my friend

  3. August 29th, 2020 at 20:05 | #3

    “A drug anthem sung by children” made me snort beer out of both eyes.

    Thanks

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otf4UhnLaNo

  4. Rhodb
    September 12th, 2020 at 23:27 | #4

    Thanks for the Originals 80’s

    love this series

    regards

    Rhodb

  5. Rat-a-tat-tat
    September 16th, 2020 at 17:03 | #5

    Simply outstanding.
    Long ago I had a girlfriend who would break into character and sing “Never Been to Me,” mostly in mocking of her mom who came of age in the 1970’s.
    I dig a blog that schools me on a subject for which I had thought I held expertise. The “Wanna Be Loved” I had no idea.
    The drug anthem for kids was a keeper of a commentary.

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