Madonna – Live To Tell

So we moved into 1986 and Madonna went for an image change. Gone was all the jewellery and instead of layers and layers of makeup, Madonna wore a much more subtle palette. Live To Tell was actually the last of Madonna’s singles that I went out and bought. It is perhaps one of her best singles and one that has stood the test of time, without becoming dated. Great song though it is, Like A Virgin will always sound like 1984 to me, whereas this has a much more timeless appeal.

Vital Stats:

Entered UK Chart: 26-4-1986
Bought by Me: 25-4-1986
Highest Chart Position: 2
Weeks on Chart: 12

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Blow, Kurtis – If I Ruled The World

I loved this song. Why it didn’t get any higher than number 24 in the UK singles chart is a mystery to me. Ever the one for a bargain, I picked this up on 19th April 1986 from the bargain bin (at Woolies) for 75p because it had left the chart.

It was released in the w/e 18th January and had made reasonable progress in its first four weeks, but couldn’t kick on to make to the higher spot that it deserved. It was backed by a dub version and was taken from Blow’s 5th album, 1985’s America. It was also featured in the movie Krush Groove.

Gabriel, Peter – Sledgehammer

1980’s music. Gabriel, Peter. Top song.

The former lead singer and founder of Genesis, Peter Gabriel had been solo since 1976/77. I’d been alerted to him in my childish way, by his 1977 single, Solsbury Hill and also 1980’s Games Without Frontiers.

By 1986 he’d had a further 5 singles – amongst them Biko, but none entered the higher reaches of the UK Singles Chart (I was unaware of Biko until I watched 1987’s Cry Freedom).

However, by 1986, MTV was becoming a powerful force, as were music videos generally, so the visual impact of Sledgehammer assisted its undoubted musical virtues to lift it to number 4 in the chart.

Backed by Don’t Break This Rhythm it was released in the w/e 26th April 1986 and soon entered the top ten. It was a perennial of the top ten throughout May and June, and I bought it on 6th June.

It is claimed that ‘the lyrics are a mosaic of sexual innuendos’. You think, but this is Peter Gabriel, he would never… and then you reason that like anyone else, he is a sexual being. Therefore, his references to references to bees, pollination, fruitcages, steam trains, big dippers, bumper cars and the like, cannot really be anything else.

Housemartins (The) – Happy Hour

Awesome 1980's music. The Housemartins.

The Housemartins, four lads (some of whom were) from Hull, were a big thing around 1986 when this was released.

Happy Hour was the third of their nine singles before they went their separate ways.  Taken from their debut album, London 0 Hull 4, it was released in the w/e 7th June 1986 backed by The Mighty ‘Ship and I treated myself to it as kind of Independence Day present.  It quickly reached its peak position of number 3 and then stuck around the top ten for a month before finally exiting the chart after a 13-week run.

I immediately loved the vibe of Happy Hour.  The Housemartins and later The Beautiful South had a knack for producing great melodies which underpinned some very challenging lyrics.  This one is a full-frontal on sexism, describing  the antics of lads on a night out with the boss,  ‘… and they tell me that women grow on trees / and if you catch them right they will land upon their knees…’

In a piece of totally gratuitous name dropping, did you know that I was once within a couple of feet of Paul Heaton, at Anfield in Euro 96 during the Italy vs Czech Republic game? He was reaching across us to get Marcello Lippi’s autograph.

It Bites – Calling All The Heroes

Released in the w/e 12th July 1986, Calling All The Heroes was taken from It Bites’ debut album, The Big Lad In The Windmill.

The band were formed in Egremont, Cumbria. If it sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the home of the World Gurning Championships 😉

It’s also a complete pain in the arse to get to. You go up the M6 to Kendal, turn left for Barrow and then turn left again for Egremont. They were an instant hit, with this song storming into the top 10 in the middle of its 12-week chart stay in the summer of 1986.

I bought it on the 30th July – and it’s one of a small number of singles that I took a punt on. They weren’t established stars, but they did have a bit of a The Alarm vibe and in 1986 I was mad keen on The Alarm, so why not?

Looking back now, it’s just possible that the song is a wee bit cheesy. It’s almost a twin to Iron Maiden’s Run To The Hills. Certainly in terms of lyrical sentiment, if not genre. For the eagle-eyed amongst you, the picture of the soldier on the TV that the child is pointing his pistol at is the famous image of East German border guard Conrad Schumann as he defected to the West in 1961.

At the end of the day, there are two types of music. Music you like and music you don’t like. But when all’s said and done, I loved this single.

Level 42 – Lessons In Love

1980's music. Level 42, just too damn clever?

Question: are Level 42 too damn clever for their own good? From their name, a nod to Douglas Adams (and a helping hand from their first producer – 42 was just too short for a name), to the super cool, mesmeric quality of their sound, many people would scream YES! I’d say no way. They do form quite a back drop to a lot of my memories of the 80’s. There was the argument in the sixth form refectory between a Level 42 nut and a huge U2 fan (I was into both and didn’t know where to look) which nearly ended in blows and then a mate who bought both the 7″ and 12″ of Running In The Family (the single) and promptly left them on the bus home from town. Ah, happy days.

However, this is about Lessons In Love, the 7″ single. I bought it on the 3rd of May 1986 after it had been in the UK Singles Chart for just a week having been released w/e 26th April. It quickly rose to number 3 – the band’s highest singles chart position. It was backed by a live version of their 1984 hit Hot Water. The track was taken from the album Running In The Family which was released in 1987.

Level 42 is often described as being a jazz-funk group, this is pigeon holing at its worst and laziest. They are a pop group who write their own songs which just make you want to get up and dance. Have a look here (it’s Level 42 and CBSO with a brief chat with George Martin first):

Lewis, Huey (& The News) – The Power Of Love

1980's music. Huey Lewis and his chums with The Power of Love.

The ‘theme’ song from my favourite movie of the 80’s was first released in the UK in August 1985 as HUEY 1 with a b-side Bad Is Bad.  By the time that Back To The Future had been released in the UK, the track had been re issued as HUEY 3, now a double a-side with Do You Believe In Love? It is this version that I bought on 22nd February 1986 after I’d seen the film on 11th January.

The Power Of Love certainly had legs, sticking around in the UK Singles Chart for a total of 22 weeks, split equally between each release. On its first release it made number 11, bumping around in the teen-numbers for a good month.  It made its highest position of number 9 in its second stay in early ’86.  It’s a full on Rock n Roll riff, possibly a little ‘safe’ – it certainly scored with the punters – and I was a big fan.  I bought three of the group’s singles in total, but this will forever be associated with the film.

Check out this video. Stick with it, it’s a bit of a remake but kind of cool:

Cameo – Word Up

My brother, who has been on Ken Bruce’s (well Mark Goodyear’s) Pop Quiz cited me as one of his musical influences. Well in that case then, I must nod to him in this regard.

Word Up was one of my purchases (16th October 1986) which was probably more of his taste than my own. It entered the UK singles chart in the w/e 30th August 1986 and quickly rose to number 3. This was by far the group’s biggest UK single – nothing else that they released in the UK made it further than number 11.

HOWEVER, it’s not bad is it? Who can forget the big red cod piece as featured on Top Of The Pops? Who can forget the thumping bass that was integral to the tune if not the tune in its own right?

No, Word Up was a top tune, a real eighties classic and it sits nicely with the other eclectic selections in my record boxes. If you don’t believe me, or you’d like a reminder, why not search it out on YouTube?

Jones, Oran ‘Juice’ – Curiosity / The Rain

Well well well.  What was I thinking of?

This was far more my brother’s taste than mine so I really must confess that I don’t know what took me when I bought it.

Listening to The Rain, the more senior of the pair in this two record set, it seems like Oran ‘Juice’ is at times whinging about his girl going with another man; then standing over her hustling her out of his apartment having cancelled all of her credit cards and such like.  Indeed in the video the last shot shows her trying to cross the freeway with her worldy possessions in a single holdall.  It’s the worst kind of naked misogyny and deserves to be stuck in the 80’s.

For the record (Yes! A pun), the single The Rain with reference Def Jam A 7303 was a hit in the UK singles chart between November 1986 and February 1987.  Its highest chart position was number 4 and it spent a total of 5 weeks in the top ten over the Christmas period.

There is no listing on any of my sources for the double pack that I bought (Def Jam OJJD 2) – and this is another of those singles that I didn’t get round to scribing my name and the day that I bought it on the sleeve.

Geldof, Bob – This Is The World Calling

Unmitigated garbage?  Mmm, probably.

Why did I buy it?  Mmm, I dunno.

There, that just about sums this one up.  I think that I’ve already used this sentence opener already, but here goes… If ever anybody was an 80s icon then “Saint” Bob is surely one.

Already a household name following the late 70s success of his band The Boomtown Rats – go on admit it, you must remember I Don’t Like Mondays – Geldof is of course best remembered for his role as the ‘most gobby’ originator of the Band Aid / Live Aid record / concert thing which was his response to the shocking scenes of famine from Ethiopia in 1984.

This record though is a dog, pure and simple, and I probably bought it because I was a fan of his and the whole consciousness that he raised in the 14/15/16 year old me.  I bought it on 12 December 1986 when it had already completed its less than earth shattering run in the UK singles chart where it peaked at number 25 on 8 (and 15) November 1986.  He deserved better but, fortunately, this song got exactly what it deserved.