Vapors (The) – Turning Japanese

1980's music. The Vapors - soon vapourised!

Ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner… and so it starts with a guitar solo imitating a traditional Japanese lute type instrument.  This was very early eighties stuff, entering the UK singles chart in the w/e 9 February 1980 and bought for me (and my brother) on 16 April (Goodness I was fastidious, even at that age – writing the date on).  Anyway, you know the saying, ‘if I do nothing else in my life I’ll be happy’?  Well that sentiment must surely apply to this song.  It heralded the arrival of an exciting new group and for a short moment, they were about to go global and… and… pfft!  They fizzled out, like a dying balloon.

It took about a month after it first charted to properly arrive on the scene, spending 5 weeks in the top ten, with its highest position number 3.  I think that we must have persuaded Mum to buy this for us over the Easter Holiday, judging by the date that I noted.  It then drifted away into the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles and the band did too.  If you listen to the lyrics it’s not difficult to get a vibe about some sort of self-relief.  But that’s as an adult listening, for us kids it was a great sound pure and simple.  Until it became scratched, the b-side, a live rendition of Here Comes The Judge was something of a treat too.

Here’s a look-see at a performance of the song for you to enjoy:

Martha & The Muffins – Echo Beach

I really, really loved this track. I was only ten at the time, but it has stood the test of time.

Echo Beach was an Easter hit, just making it to the top ten a few weeks after it entered the UK singles chart in March 1980. Despite its Spring release in the UK, it’s an easy summer vibe, tinged with the agitation of a office worker wishing the hours away, stuck her awful nine to five job.

As the line goes, “From nine till five I have to spend my time at work / My job is very boring I’m an office clerk”. I had managed to mishear this lyric and have vague memories of being corrected on it by a cousin who had travelled from afar, bearing chocolaty gifts.

I’m not sure what I was singing instead of the correct line – obviously something completely at odds with the reality.

Martha and her Muffins didn’t trouble the UK singles chart again with that name, but they did get to number 46 in 1984 with the track Black Stations White Stations under the name M&M.

Jam (The) – Going Underground

A double A side with Dreams of Children this was the first of three The Jam singles that came straight into the UK singles chart at number one.

Unfortunately, I didn’t buy this at the time that it was released originally – perhaps the plain black sleeve is a bit of a give away – but I was a big fan of The Jam. Oh yes, I may only have been ten but I loved The Jam.

They spanned the decades (well, the 70s and 80s) in a way that well, quite a few bands did. Always keen to pigeon hole, The Jam were called Punks (well they did once open for the Sex Pistols) and New Wave – well perhaps they weren’t really punks after all. And of course, they were part of a Mod revival too. Just goes to show, there’s only two types of music, music you like and music you don’t.

Anyway, back to this track. Released in March 1980, it smashed into the number one spot in the UK singles chart on 22 March. It remained there for three weeks before sliding away. When it was re released in 1983 after the band had disbanded, it again made the charts, but a more modest number 21.

It’s a very politicised track. Weller bemoans the priorities of the new Tory government of Margaret Thatcher. Complaining that:

What you see is what you get
You’ve made your bed, you better lie in it
You choose your leaders and place your trust
As their lies wash you down and their promises rust
You’ll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns
And the public wants what the public gets
But I don’t get what this society wants

he is indeed an angry young man. Of course all politicians say what they need to say to get elected, they don’t get elected otherwise. I’m not suggesting for a moment that Weller is naive enough to believe that the Tories would have made promises that he would have bought into, never mind expected them to keep. He’s more frustrated at the way that people seemed to have swallowed the message pushed in the 1979 general election campaign.

Gabriel, Peter – Games Without Frontiers

As I was only 10 in 1980, there would have been no way that I could have bought the original single, so as you can see, I cheated with this one!

The original track was released in 1980 and was taken from Gabriel’s eponymous solo album. The song recounts a series of games between a group of children. It is clear that they are not all playing altogether nicely – a series of arguments and alliances is reported. Perhaps the most obvious sign that this is an anti-war song is the line about the child Adolf…

Then there is the reference to the extremely popular pan European TV show of the late 70s / early 80s – Jeux Sans Frontières, which, of course, the title of the track is a literal translation. Gabriel even references the domestic UK vesion, It’s A Knockout.

In a precursor to their 1986 collaboration, Kate Bush sings backing vocals – listen out for the repeated refrain of “Jeux Sans Frontières” especially.

It is perhaps forgotten but Games’ is Gabriel’s joint top performing track in terms of UK chart singles position. Along with 1986’s Sledgehammer, it made number 4 in the chart.