100 80’s Hits

Just the other week I happened to be browsing in Woolworths, as you do – or very soon, as we used to do.  Tsk!. I was struggling to escape the clutches of the kids – you know how it is, “Daddy Daddy, can we look at the lego? Daddy Daddy, can I buy that? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase…”

However, escape I did, and I headed over to the CD aisle. And there, in its pristine, shiny glory, was 100 Hits: 80’s, brackets, 100 Classic Tracks of the Decade, close brackets. Now I’m a sucker for 1980’s music, and I’ve got a few 80’s greatest hits CD’s but this one caught my eye. It has a great mix of some sublime stuff, some kitsch nonsense and some real heavyweight chart hits. All in all, a great mix.

The set is arranged into 5 discs with each holding 20 tracks. I won’t bore you with the track listings, but I will insist that you read what I have to say about one track from each disc. Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I shall begin.

CD 1: Track 13: Don’t Talk To Me About Love by Altered Images (#7, 1983)

Altered Images were a five piece Scottish New Wave band formed by Clare (CP) Grogan, Caesar, Michael Anderson, Tony McDaid and Johnny McElhone. Their first UK chart hit was 1981’s I Could Be Happy, closely followed by Happy Birthday.  Released in 1983, Don’t Talk To Me About Love was their fourth hit, following 1982’s See Those Eyes.

Altered Images contribution to 1980’s music should not be under estimated, despite their only having 4 big-ish hits.  Grogan’s seeminlgy weedy warble actually had great power.  I know, because it captivated me as a young pre-teen!

Of course, Grogan is perhaps best well known for her role in Gregory’s Girl, Bill Forsyth’s awe inspiring adolscent comedy from 1981.  She is almost an anti-star in the film, only really being revealed as Gregory’s girl right at the very end.  You see, we were supposed to think that Dorothy (Dee Hepburn) was Gregory’s girl.  But perhaps that’s taking a too-literal view on things.  Gregory gets an awful lot of good advice from his younger sister.  Perhaps she’s Gregory’s girl?

Of the others in the band, perhaps Johhny McElhone is the next best well known, for his role as founder member and co-writer (with Sharleen Spiteri) of Texas.

CD 2: Track 17. The Lotus Eaters, The First Picture of You (#15, 1983)

Written by Liverpudlian duo, Peter Coyle and Jeremy Kelly (how many Scousers do you imagine are called Jeremy?), The First Picture of You was The Lotus Eaters’ debut and biggest hit, peaking at number 15 in 1983. Of course, other groups from Liverpool wrote tens of chart hits and hundreds of songs over the course of their careers. So on the face of it having just the one single make it to the hardly dizzying heights of number 15 would appear not to represent that great an achievement. However, this track is a joyous paean to love. It sums up the sound of 1980’s music for me, just the chorus, a simple three lines says so much:

‘the first picture of you / the first picture of summer / seeing the flowers scream their joy…’

CD 3: Track 17. Fine Young Cannibals, She Drives Me Crazy (#5, 1989)

FYC had a great pedigree in 1980’s music. Two of their number being David Steele and Andy Cox, former member of The Beat – Mirror in the Bathroom and Hands Off… She’s Mine, plus covers of Tears Of A Clown and Can’t Get Used To Losing You.  They were joined by Roland Gift on vocals.  They had a run of fine singles, starting in 1985 with Johhny Come Home in 1985 and culminating in 1989 with I’m Not The Man I Used To Be.  OK so they had others, later on but a) they weren’t so good and b) they weren’t in the 80’s.

She Drives Me Crazy follows in the tradition of British pop songs about unknown girls, probably seen across the street, or sat behind at school, started by The Beatles’ I Saw Her Standing There. I get a sense of aching, of longing just to say something to the girl, but maybe not having the bottle to go and say it.

CD 4: Track 15. Deacon Blue, Real Gone Kid (#8, 1988)

This track was written by Ricky Ross, Deacon Blue frontman, about Maria McKee (A Good Heart, Show Me Heaven).  Deacon Blue toured with McKee’s group Lone Justice as their opening band and he wrote the song after seeing her perform.

In the vein of one of those BBC Comedy Connections programmes, I like the stories that surround this song.  On the face of it, it would be difficult to link Deacon Blue with That Petrol Emotion, but Maria McKee allows just that… for That Petrol Emotion were formed by brothers John and Damian O’Neill, ex of The Undertones.  Of course the lead singer with The Undertones was one Feargal Sharkey who had his biggest solo hit with Maria McKee’s A Good Heart.  See?  You can also bring in Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, if you consider that Sharkey’s other big UK hit was You Little Thief, written by the Heartbreakers’ Benmont Tench in response to A Good Heart

Anyway, enough of this nonsense, Real Gone Kid is a great track on any level – sometimes you know, I should just listen to the music

CD 5: Track 1. Aztec Camera, Oblivious (#47 and 18, 1983)

Aztec Camera is a Scottish New Wave or Indie band from the early 1980’s.  Essentially, Roddy Frame is Aztec Camera – the rest of the line up seemed to change with the wind.  Founder members include Campbell Owens and Dave Mulholland.  By the time of Oblivious, relased twice in 1983, reaching number 47 and then number 18, Aztec Camera had already released 3 singles which charted highly in the UK Indie chart.  On its first release, Oblivious reached number 1 in the indie chart.

It’s a great track, quite dark in places, ‘I see you crying and I want to kill your friends…’, but don’t let that put you off.  In the chorus, Frame uses the similarity between the words oblivious and obvious to good effect.  Sometimes you have to check that the title is Oblivious and not “obvious”.  As with all of my choices, indeed, all of the tracks across the 5 CD’s, this song encapsulates the whole feeling of 1980’s music.

As I said at the top, some of it’s sublime and some of it’s kitsch.  There are some big chart hits, but most of all you can sing along to all of them.

1980s Christmas Hit Singles (UK)

Wow!  There are some corkers here aren’t there?  Leaving aside the three obviously naff ones, step forward St. Winifred’s, Renne & Renato and Cliff Richard, the rest are solid gold, top tunes.  From the greatest 80’s number 1 single, Don’t You Want Me, to the Pet Shop Boys cover of the Elvis classic, You Were Always On My Mind, they all resonate.  The dross that is served up nowadays by Simon Cowell and his ilk just wouldn’t stand a chance.  Even the best Christmas number 1 of recent times, 2003’s Mad World by Michael Andrews featuring Gary Jules, is a cover of an eighties hit by Tears For Fears.  I rest my case.

1980 – There’s No One Quite Like Grandma – St. Winifred’s School Choir

1981 – Don’t You Want Me – Human League

1982 – Save Your Love – Renee and Renato

1983 – Only You – Flying Pickets

1984 – Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid

1985 – Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens

1986 – Reet Petite – Jackie Wilson

1987 – Always on My Mind – Pet Shop Boys

1988 – Mistletoe and Wine – Cliff Richard

1989 – Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid II

Saturday 19 April 1986

A spot of French revision for today, I had my first exam – a verbal French one on Tuesday!

Gulp! Both Liverpool and Everton won today, so things were still just as tight at the top of the League.  I went to see Shrewsbury Town versus Wimbledon.  This game resulted in a 1-1 draw, and although I make no comment on it, Wimbledon must have been playing their particularly ugly brand of hoof-it football. Shrewbury’s Gary Stevens, no not the same one as played for Spurs (or the Everton one for that matter), but another Gary Stevens, was sent off too.  As I noted, ‘dirty t**t.’ As I was in town anyway,and feeling a little flush, I spent some of my hard earner on no less than three 7″ singles. I bought Big Country, Look Away, Austrian demi-God Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus and one out of the bargain bucket – Kurtis Blow’s If I Ruled The World.

Saturday 17 May 1986

The usual post football season blues settled on me today.  However, hope was at  hand this year, as it was a World Cup year and Mexico 86 was to prove memorable in the extreme… more later (from 31 May to 29 Jun to be precise).

Today was a grey day, with rain.  A real pity after yesterdays brilliant sunshine.  I did some Chemistry revision and listened to a tape by The Alarm.  As I remember, they were a bit of a poor man’s U2, but I loved ’em.  Went off ’em a bit when I learned that Mike Peters is a manc mind!

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I also made a confession that I still fancied *****.  Just between you and me Dear Diary!   (It never did come to anything – probably ‘cos I never asked her out at any stage, or in any shape or form…)

Monday 19 May 1986

My /our new record player came today.  I say my /our new record player because as was the way of these things, it was probably a joint purchase with my brother.  I was quite big into records, you know probably I bought a couple of 7″ singles every month.  My brother on the other hand wasn’t so much, but he was quite happy to play mine, so I thought that at least he should put towards the record player.  I can’t remember whether or not he did tho…

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Otherwise, it was a nice day and I didn’t go to school.  I did however, do some Physics and Chemistry revision, play some football and generally live the life of the young dandy.  I did do some forward planning – noting that I would revise Geography tomorrow, and somehow still managed to find some time to be… bored!

Friday 23 May 1986

‘Today was nearly nice – at least it didn’t rain.’  As I had promised my self yesterday, I went to town.  I bought myself the Mr Mister album on vinyl*, Welcome To The Real World.  It contained such rare delights as Kyrie and Broken Dreams.

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I also made further reference to my dream girl – you know the one that I couldn’t bring myself to ask out or anything like…

* Note to youngsters, in the olden days, you had a choice between vinyl (plastic thing, usually in black, with a groove in it, known as a ‘record’) or tape (small plastic thing, with a moving piece of tape wound on two spools that you put in your tape player.)  I never had that much luck with vinyl I have to say.  It scratched far too easily for me, so I preferred to buy tapes.  But we’d just invested in a record players so I thought, ‘what the heck?’

Cheggers Plays Pop

This complete load of old nonsense was an absolute blast from start to finish.

The show started in 1978 and ran until 1986, with some 70 episodes and 4 Christmas specials (1980 – 1983).  This was madcap Cheggers at his very best.  After the preliminaries (i.e. the theme tune), the show would start with our hero dashing out to centre screen and going ‘Yerrrsss!’

Then the fun would really start, two teams of school kids, a red one and yellow one, would answer all sorts of pop trivia, jump round on inflatable things, get covered in foam and stuff, generally have a whale of a time, then there’d be a musical interlude from one current pop colussus or another, more jumping around and then time to go home.  Or in Keith’s case, out on the lash… allegedly, possibly…

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Depeche Mode

What’s not to be said about The Mode?  For me, they are one of those groups that I had an awareness of in the ’80s, but I’ve only properly discovered them since. Formed in 1980 in Basildon, Essex the original line up was Dave Gahan (vocals); Martin Gore (guitar, keyboards); Andrew Fletcher (keyboards) and Vince Clarke (keyboards).

Clarke left in 1981 citing disagreement with the band’s direction.  He did offer the remaining members the song Only You, but they turned it down – Clarke recorded the song with Alison Moyet as Yazoo and took it to number 2 in 1982, and The Flying Pickets had the Christmas number 1 hit with it in 1983. Clarke was replaced with Alan Wilder in 1982 – he joined from an advert placed anonymously in Melody Maker.

Before he left, Clarke penned the first three singles, Dreaming of Me (UK singles chart position, 57), New Life (11) and Just Can’t Get Enough (8).  Now if you only ever wrote two songs in your life then New Life and Just Can’t Get Enough would be fine testaments, never mind all the other stuff that Clarke has written.  However, for the rest of the band, life had to go on, so it was left to Martin Gore to take up the songwriting cudgel.

There is no doubt that Martin Gore has a fine pedigree with which to justify the band’s decision.  The Mode had a further 21 UK chart hits in the ’80s.  Gore’s first single was See You which was a number 6 effort in 1982.  The biggest hit was 1984’s People Are People which made number 4.  My favourite Depeche Mode song was actually a ’90s hit – Enjoy The Silence (6), but since it was released on 16 January 1990, it was most likely written and recorded in the 1980s.

And… if all that’s not enough, just think, I’ve heard Steve Wright say he don’t like ’em.  If that’s the case, then they’re alright by me!

Friday 6 June 1986 (England 0-0 Morocco)

Another exam today – Physics.  A fair paper being my honest assessment.  It wasn’t hard knowledge in it – I knew most of the stuff and I rated my marks on each part as A – 30/40; B – 30/50; C – 30/50.  Question mark!

In the evening, England managed a patchy 0-0 draw with Morocco.  This was the game in which Captain Courageous (sic), Bryan Robson went off with a damaged shoulder, to be replaced by Steve Hodge and we then saw his replacement as skipper, Ray Wilkins, sent off just before half time for throwing the ball at the referee.  And he was always thought of as an intelligent footballer!  It was funny… almost as funny as the time that he was heard quite clearly screaming at a ball boy, ‘oi, give us that facking ball back…’  (It may have been the same game, and I may also be completely off radar about the incident…)

1980's songs - Peter Gabriel - SledgehammerI bought two singles today (or me mum was delegated).  First up, the wondrous Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel on 7″.  I always had the parent album by Peter Gabriel, So, on my list of purchases to make, but alas I never did get round to it.  From the opening trumpet blast, Sledgehammer is as cool a piece of rock-funk as you could wish to hear.  Sledgehammer made #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 4 in the UK singles chart.  I don’t know about you, but I’ll never tire of hearing this song.  And as for the video, it was perhaps the first one to really catch my imagination – ignore the tired old cliches about Dire Staits’ Money For Nothing video with its clunky CGI, this is the one.  Parts of the video are shot by Nick Park of Wallace and Gromit fame.  Apparently, he was honing his skills as a plasticine animator at the time.  (He’ll never make it I tell ya!)

1980's songs - Falco - Vienna Calling 12inchAnd on 12″, the equally cool Vienna Calling was the Austrian, Falco’s second and final UK hit following his colossal Rock Me Amadeus (number 1 all over the world – in English speaking countries as well as German ones).  This one made number 10 in the UK singles chart and a very respectable #18 on the Billboard Hot 100.  I must have been impressed, buying it on 12″, an honour that I didn’t bestow lightly,what with my limited budget for buying singles and all that!

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The Police

Gordon Sumner (aka Sting)
Stewart Copeland
Andy Summers

Three names, one group. The Police. They weren’t around for long as a group. In terms of singles, they were active late 70’s and early 80’s with such gigantic monster hits such as Can’t Stand Losing You, So Lonely, Roxanne, Message In A Bottle, Walking On The Moon, Don’t Stand So Close To Me, etc, etc, ETC! THEY WERE IMMENSE. Sting is not everyone’s cup of tea, I personally think the guy’s a complete nob, but to have so much money that your accountant can steal the odd million and you not even notice?! R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Enough said, these were my childhood or a very large and important part of it!

I never even bought a single until they re-released Don’t Stand So Close To Me in 1986 with that awful reworking of their towering number 1 from 1980 (why?!).  I was at sixth form and I got it ripped out of me something chronic for buying it, and on 12″.  I sort of meekly defended it at the time, but people who knew better than me had got it spot on.  And yes I know now that it was all part of a Greatest Hits campaign, but still, why mess with such a great song.  You can’t improve on perfection…