Jones, Howard – Life in One Day

Life in One Day was the third* single from Jones’ 1985 album Dream into Action.

Peaking at number 14 in the UK singles chart,  it’s an uptempo number, warning against the dangers of wanting to have everything right here, right now.

It obviously resonated with the 15 year old me – I was for ever wishing for this and wishing for that. I was also, my dad would readily testify, always taking life too seriously – a morose scowl plastered on my face.

Howard Jones was a relatively short-lived phenomenon in terms of singles success, peaking in 1983 through 1985. His biggest hits were his first two singles – New Song and What is Love, which peaked at number 3 and number 2 respectively. The latter only kept off the top of the charts by Paul McCartney’s Pipes of Peace in early 1984.

*Like to Get to Know You Well made number 4, also in 1984 and was later included on the CD release of Dream into Action, presumably as a selling point for what was probably viewed as an experimental release on the nascent technology.

Talking Heads – And She Was

Talking Heads – And She Was

Released in 1985, this majestic track entered the UK singles chart in early February 1986. I made my move and bought it on 7 March.

I am making a real effort as I write this to rein in my enthusiasm for And She Was. In my estimation, there is no better 80s track than this. It is both of its time and yet utterly timeless.

On the face of it, it tells quite a simple story about a girl tripping on acid. David Byrne recounts that

[he] used to know a blissed-out hippie-chick in Baltimore. She once told [him] that she used to do acid… and lay down on the field by the Yoo-hoo chocolate soda factory. Flying out of her body, etc etc.

Drummer Chris Frantz expands,

It’s a story about a woman who has the power to levitate above the ground and to check out all her neighbors from a kind of bird’s eye view. And the guy who’s writing the song is in love with her…

It made number 17 in the UK singles chart. Not nearly far enough up the chart, but perhaps the appeal of a song quite obviously about drugs was lost on the wider British public? For me, its melody and structure, allied with the lyrics, lifted it above anything else, both literally and metaphorically.

Sharkey, Feargal – A Good Heart

Bought by me on 2 November 1985, this was an absolute belter of a track.

In my extreme youth, I’d been a fan of The Undertones. With hits like Teenage Kicks, Here Comes the Summer and especially, My Perfect Cousin, they were perhaps the more accessible of the late 70s punks. Even my Mum enjoyed My Perfect Cousin!

But anyway, this isn’t about them. This is about him, their former lead singer. Feargal Sharkey had left the band due to, ahem, musical differences in 1983. A Good Heart was his third solo single, following on from Listen to Your Father and Loving You. They had charted respectably enough, but this was a towering monster of a hit.

Released in October 1985, it veritably hopped, skipped and jumped to the number one spot, which it reached on 16 November and held for a couple of weeks before Wham! took over the top spot with I’m Your Man. The number one singles of 1985 really bear checking out as they represent such a strong line up and show just how good the eighties were in terms of popular music. A Good Heart sits comfortably with its contemporaries.

Musically, A Good Heart soars with exuberance but underneath all that it’s actually full of regret about a failed relationship. Scathing even. Written by Maria McKee, the song documents the break up of her relationship with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ keyboardist Benmont Tench.

Mischievously, Sharkey’s next UK single and only other big 80s UK hit, You Little Thief, was written by Tench in response to A Good Heart. If anything, its lyrics are even bleaker and more scathing.

Oh and finally… word is that Boy George sings backing vocals on A Good Heart.

Iron Maiden – Run To The Hills (live)

Another admission coming here – Iron Maiden were not one of my first choice groups – and the story behind this single may bear this out.

You see, this was one of my few victories over my brother.  It was his purchase you see and along with The Specials’ Ghost Town, it was another (the only other) single that I pilfered from his collection.  LOL.

He had a friend did my brother, and he (the friend) was über über cool.  That’s not to say that my brother wasn’t cool, it’s just that this lad was in a world of his own.  But anyway, I digress, this lad was heavily (geddit?) into this sort of sound and for a while, so too was my brother.  Accordingly, he bought it and I nicked it!

But what of the track itself?  Well, this was a live version of Run To The Hills which had reached number 7 in the UK singles chart back in 1982.  Following the release in October 1985 of a live version of Maiden’s first single Running Free, this was released in time for the Christmas market.

It did reasonably well, reaching number 26.  Although it doesn’t mention it on the sleeve, this was obviously meant for the collectors amongst the band’s fans and this probably explains its relatively short chart lifespan of just six weeks.

There is no date of purchase written on the sleeve, like my totally disorganised brother would have been bothered by such meaningless trivia!

Katrina & The Waves – Walking On Sunshine

Hmm. This was one of those singles that looking back now, I’d say was a good idea at the time.

That’s not to say that it is in anyway shape or form a poor or embarrassing choice, it’s just, well a little bit cheesy.  I mean look at the jumpers that they’re wearing on the record sleeve.  John Craven would have though twice about wearing those!

As for the song, well it’s just so healthy and uplifting, what’s not to like?  Well, truth be told, unless you’re an old curmudgeon – something which despite myself I’m not, actually – there’s not an awful lot!

Released in May 1985, it eventually made it to the heady heights of number 8 in June.  I was remiss in not writing my name and when I bought it on this occasion so I can’t tell you when I parted with my hard earned.

Eurythmics – There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)

There are songs, and there are SONGS.

I’d put this one firmly in the latter category. From the opening ‘Na-da-dee-da-da-da-da’ this little gem just shimmers with beauty. It grabs you and pulls you in and won’t let go.

Everybody knows that it’s got Stevie Wonder playing harmonica, but that’s almost irrelevant.  For sure, it’s Stevie Wonder, but surely Fred Bloggs, session harmonica player from Tooting Beck could have played and we’d still have been treated to the same effect.  Or maybe it’s only so good because it is Stevie Wonder playing on it.  Either way, this track is just so good and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to say that it’s a record in my collection that I bought during its original chart run.

Of course it was the Eurythmics’ first (and only) UK singles chart number one, spending just a single solitary week there at the end of July 1985.  I had bought it on 9 July, just as it had entered the chart at number 37.  Progression was meteoric, and it had reached the top ten a week later.  In total it spent seven weeks in the top ten during that long hot summer of 1985.

Eurythmics – Would I Lie To You?

<– My copy of Would I Lie To You? pictured yesterday.

This carries poignant memories.  I bought it on the day that I had been to watch Shrewsbury Town 0-2 Middlesbro.

Now that was bad enough, but the news which came through during the afternoon of the fire at Valley Parade, Bradford put the travails of Shrewsbury Town into perspective.

If memory serves, I bought this in Boots on the weekend that it reached its highest UK singles chart position of 17.  The Eurythmics were mostly innovative but this track was one of those that could perhaps best be described as filler material – and the chart position it reached bears this out.

The same could not be said of their next single release

Echo & The Bunnymen – Bring On The Dancing Horses

To the mind of the fifteen year old me, Echo & The Bunnymen were as cool as it got.

This track was the band’s tenth UK single release and believe it or not, was not a massive chart hit, making only number 21 on in the UK singles chart in the first week on November 1985.  I had been out and bought it on 2 November, so I was certainly doing my bit for the cause.

That this is the only Bunnymen single in my collection is perhaps indicative of my late awareness of them. It was the only new track recorded for their 1985 greatest hits album, Song the Learn & Sing and was also included on the soundtrack for the John Hughes film, Pretty In Pink.

Some of their bigger hits date from the period of the early 80s, before I had my paper round and the ability to go out and buy singles.  For instance, 1982-83 saw the release of The Back of Love (19), The Cutter (8) and Never Stop (15).  Then we were treated to The Killing Moon, the band’s second top ten hit of the 80s which rose to number nine in February 1984.

There was a certain swagger associated with the Bunnymen, most of which came from singer Ian McCulloch.  His gothic appearance, including his spiked up black hair hit the mark with a number of my contemporaries.  As for me, my tastes were too eclectic / mainstream to be limited to just one band, cool as they were.  There is no doubt also, that I would have been far too timid / self-conscious to have attempted to replicate the look.

China Crisis – Black Man Ray

The early- to mid-eighties was by far the best period of the decade for music.  This was a track that received heavy airplay – it certainly had me hooked.

I’m not sure what it’s about and perhaps that doesn’t matter.  Some say it’s about Ray Charles, whilst others are of the opinion that it’s about Man Ray, the American artist famous for collaborations with Salvador Dali, amongst others.

To be honest though, I just loved the tune.  As a fifteen year old, the lyrics didn’t really mean that much to me – I’m not 100% sure that I ‘got’ them properly to be brutal.  This was not so uncommon, mind – I certainly struggled with Bob Dylan when I was first introduced to his music at University.  Der!  I treated the voice as an instrument, the actual meaning of the lyrics was always secondary to how they sounded in conjunction with the instrumental accompaniment.

Any road up, this was the first of China Crisis’s singles that I noticed.  1983’s Christian reached the dizzy heights of number 12 in the UK singles chart, but it certainly passed me by.  Early in 1984, Wishful Thinking scratched the top ten, and the band was apparently set for a big career.  However the follow up, Hanna Hanna, didn’t have anything like the same impact and the band remained dormant, certainly in terms of single releases for twelve months.

Black Man Ray entered the UK chart on 30 March 1985 and less than a fortnight later I had secured my copy of it.  It reached the lofty position of number 14 halfway through its nine week run on the chart.  Subsequently, King In A Catholic Style (Wake Up) also performed respectably, making number 19, but by now it seemed like the band’s time had passed, in terms of singles at least.  Three further releases, You Did Cut Me, Arizona Sky and Best Kept Secret failed to trouble the top 30 and that was pretty much that.

Cole, Lloyd and The Commotions – Brand New Friend

This has got to be the coolest single in my record collection.  Bar none.

I just adored the whole vibe surrounding Lloyd Cole – not to mention his Commotions.  I always thought that he was Scottish.  Of course that’s not the case, but the Commotions are!  The band met at Glasgow University during Cole’s time there studying English.  In fact Lloyd Cole is perhaps the holder of one of the World’s most unwanted records, having failed Law at UCL and then failing to graduate from Glasgow.  Or not – it could all be b****cks.

Anyway, apparently, “Jane was in a turtle-neck [and Lloyd] was much happier then.”  Without sounding too pretentious this has obviously come from an interaction at some time in one of the writers’ lives, but what an evocative opening line.

This was released into the wilds of the UK singles chart in the late summer of 1985 and I bought it on 4 October as it hit its highest position of number19.  I tell ya, sometimes the record buying public of the UK needed a good kick up the eighties.  To add insult to injury, it only spent 8 weeks on the chart too. Tsk tsk.