Talking Heads

If there ever was a missing link between the 60’s and the 80’s then Talking Heads could just be it. Born out of the late 70’s post punk movement they moved on from the naked simplicity of the original punk movement to come up with some fantastical imagining. Starting in 1980 with:

Once in a Lifetime

Letting the days go by… perhaps I didn’t get this when it was first released? I was only ten! This seminal 80’s single was written by David Byrne and Brian Eno and is taken from their 1980 album, Remain in Light. It is reported that Byrne and Eno came up with the Lyrics after hearing a preacher heard on the car radio whilst driving through New York.

Road To Nowhere

Road To Nowhere was a single from Talking Heads 1985 album Little Creatures. It reached number 6 in the UK singles chart.

And She Was

I have written about And She Was here. Suffice to say, I love this track – that it’s the only single of theirs that I bought says more about me and my choices on limited funds. Talking Heads are: David Byrne, Chris Franz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth.

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.

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?’

Adam Ant, Adam and the Ants

Stuart Leslie Goddard.  There’s a name to conjure with.  A A Diddler Ulster Togs or Radiated Lodger Lusts to name but two possible anagrams.  Adam Ant, however, is not an anagram, but it is the name by which posterity will remember our hero.

Now, that word, hero.  On the face of it, four letters (not much scope for anagrams), and probably an overused word.  However, in Adam Ant’s case, definitely applicable and supremely appropriate.  Sporting stars aside, Ian Botham and Kenny Dalglish, Adam Ant was my first pop music hero.

My brother was given a model casting set for Christmas one year.  I think it was Paddington Bear.  So far, so relevant.  However, at the same time, Adam was wearing a white line across the bridge of his nose, and if you scratched the base of a Paddington Bear you could use the resultant white powder to draw your own white line across the bridge of your nose.  Wow!  How cool was that?

Anyway, enough of this nonsense and back to the nitty-gritty.  Conveniently enough, Adam and the Ants scored their first UK chart hit in 1980 with Kings of the Wild Frontier, which made it to the heady heights of number 48 in the UK singles chart.  It kicks off with the immortal line, ‘A new royal family / A wild nobility / We are the family’ and just goes on from there.  If it had perhaps been a later single it would have risen higher in the charts.

Next up was Dog Eat Dog which truly saw Adam and the Ants’ arrival.  Making number 4 in the UK singles chart, this time Adam boasted that, ‘We’re gonna move real good’, and boy could he move.  The ‘B’ side was Physical (You’re So) – perhaps one of the better ‘B’ sides put out in the ’80s.  Antmusic was next, getting agonisingly close to number 1, in early 1981.  In fact, it was only John Lennon’s Imagine that prevented this.  On the face of, nonsense lyrics, but it had me spellbound, and still does…

‘Don’t tread on an ant / he’s done nothing to you

There might come a day / when he’s treading on you

… You cut off his head / legs come looking for you’

Next up were three not so hot singles (well they’re not my favourites, Lol!) – Young Parisiens (number 9), Zerox (a reissue – 45) and Cartrouble (33), before the proof of my earlier statement as the reissued Kings of the Wild Frontier made it to number 2.  Another John Lennon song, Jealous Guy, performed by Roxy Music stood in the way of an Ant’s single making number 1.

Now, as we moved into the glorious Summer of 1981, Adam and the Ants scored their first UK singles chart number 1 with the magnificent, Ivor Novello winning, Stand and Deliver.  What a song.  There is perhaps no more iconic 1980’s song than Stand and Deliver.  From the start, ‘I’m the dandy highwayman / who you’re too scared to mention…’ to the final ‘Da diddley qa qa da diddley qa qa’ refrain, it just epitomises the classic 3-minute pop song.  I detect some hint of a jibe at Malcolm McLaren – he and Adam weren’t exactly the best of mates after the formation of Bow Bow Bow – but that’s another story.

As we moved towards the end of the summer, Adam and the Ants proved that they could do no wrong, as they scored their second UK singles chart number 1 with Prince Charming.  In my opinion lacking that certain je ne sais quoi with which Stand and Deliver is blessed with (it seems like more of a chant), but still head and shoulders above much other pop output during that time.  And of course, Diana Dors in the video.

Released towards the end of 1981, Ant Rap made its highest UK chart position of number 3 in early 1982.  It is another slab of pop perfection.  Show me a person of a certain age who doesn’t know the chorus, ‘I’ve got Marco, Merrick, Terry Lee / Gary Tibbs and yours truly’, and I’ll find you a four-leafed clover.  It does, however, represent the high water mark for Adam and the Ants, as their last single Deutscher Girls, although charting at a respectable number 13 isn’t quite on a par with their three massive UK singles hits of 1981.

After going solo, Adam Ant had a similarly short-lived period of pop ascendancy.  His first single Goody Two Shoes, written with former Ant and long time collaborator, Marco Pirroni, was a massive UK number 1 hit, even making it to number 12 in the Billboard Hot 100.  This one is a cry of angst against the press (in the UK) and of course, represents the eternal paradox of the reclusive pop star.  He wants to be left alone to live his life, but he has a number 1 single on his hands – go figure.

His subsequent singles, which include Friend Or Foe (UK number 9), Desperate But Not Serious (33), Puss ‘n Boots (5) and Apollo 9 (13), although decent enough pop songs just don’t have the gravitas or the impact of those monster smashes of 1981.

For me, Adam Ant is one of, if not The Pop Icon of the 1980’s music scene.  In ’81, there was nothing to touch Adam and the Ants.  But for John Lennon’s death, they’d surely have had two more UK number 1 hits.  My biggest regret is that I wasn’t old enough to have gone to a gig.  You know, I’ve seen Oasis and Blur, the biggest pop/rock phenomena of the 90’s live, and they were very good gigs (Blur had The Shirehorses as their support and Oasis gave a helping hand to the returning Manic Street Preachers). But, and there is no doubt in my mind, Adam and the Ants would have surpassed both!

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…

Monday 6 October 1986

More cash splashing with another 12″.  This time a slightly more cool purchase as I went for the Police’s re-release of Don’t Stand So Close To Me.  To be brutally honest it’s a completely academic exercise, as it offers no improvement whatsoever on the original.  Hey ho.  As far as studies were concerned, Physics ran late and I very nearly missed the bus home. But I didn’t.  After tea, I settled down to watch a programme that would have benefited me tremendously had I been doing the A Levels that I should have been doing.  It was called the Story of English and it fascinated me, had I completely hooked.

Thursday 16 October 1986

The long awaited (feared?) Physics test occurred today.  Boy was it hard.  I reckoned with getting around 30% if I was extremely lucky.

To cheer myself up, I went ‘up town’ and bought Cameo’s current single, Word Up as it slipped slowly out of the top ten having enoyed its high point of number 3 in the UK singles chart.  I also bought the Bangles’ Walk Like An Egyptian which coincidentally was on its way to number 3 in the self same chart.  To have bought two singles, it must have been one bad mother of a Physics test…

It was a nice day (again?), but there was rain forecast for the weekend.