Hotline Volumes 1 and 2 (K-Tel, 1983)

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Review
My two abiding memories from February 1983 are the death of Karen Carpenter – on a rainy Friday – and the disappearance of the racehorse Shergar. We had The Carpenters’ two singles compilations in our house back then and I knew the songs back to front. For me, the Superstar with its introduction and the speeded-up Goodbye To Love were canon versions and it was quite a shock hearing the original 7″ mixes some years later. Elsewhere poor old Shergar was never found while his kidnappers remain at large to this day.

After Ronco’s gold standard Raiders Of The Pop Charts, a response was needed from K-Tel who had first dibs on compiling the hits of early ’83. Hotline was their answer, containing 30 tracks generously spread over two LPs. So the message that less is more was finally getting through. Another bonus was the lack of previously compiled songs, a relief for us who purchased or taped every chart round-up. The home-taping era was in full swing. It’s a fine effort, mixing the familiar with a host of memorable obscurities and also-rans.

Hotline Volume 1 starts with a bang. Men At Work’s Down Under, a ubiquitous radio hit with some of the most incomprehensible lyrics I had heard e.g. “Jah mighten sandwich”. Despite its simplistic jolliness, Down Under is not really representative of their sound and people who dismiss them as hackneyed Aussies should check out the likes of Who Can It Be Now?, Overkill, It’s A Mistake etc. After six unsuccessful 45s (61 – 38 – 57 – 47 – 49 – 43), Level 42 finally broke into the top 30 with The Chinese Way, a busy funk groove. Next: the glorious, highly energetic disco sound of Sharon Redd’s In The Name Of Love.

Long album title time: Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms Some People Think It’s Fun to Entertain, the debut from Liverpool’s China Crisis. An enigmatic record; slow to unfold. The gorgeous Christian reached #12, its lovely fretless bass played by Andy Pask (Einstein A Go-Go) who also wrote The Bill theme. Steve Hillage’s intense Kamikaze Eyes follows before Billy Griffin’s miraculous jam Hold Me Tighter In The Rain. Soul meets synth pop with shades of Phil Spector on The Maisonettes’ Heartache Avenue, their one and only hit. Another grower: Rockers’ Revenge cover Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come. Nailed.

All good things come to end. November 1982 saw Epic release ABBA – The Singles: The First Ten Years. There were two new tracks: The Day Before You Came which preceded the compilation by a few weeks while Under Attack hit the shops at the start of December. On the 11th, the band performed it on the BBC’s Late Late Breakfast Show; their last collective performance. Despite its strong production, #26 was as far as it got. The video shows the quartet walking away, backs to the camera. Into the light. Thank you for the music.

Godfather of Disco, Vincent Montana’s Montana Sextet recorded Heavy Vibes in late ’82. It was a reworking of part of MFSB’s Love Is The Message and inexplicably only reached #59 despite extensive pirate radio airplay. Another obscurity: Natasha’s supremely catchy I Can’t Hold On, sinks without trace. And straight in at #68, the Fun Boy Three’s difficult sixth 45, The More I See, all raw N.I. politics. The mood is lightened by Shakin’ Stevens I’ll Be Satisfied before Joe Jackson’s night driving classic Steppin’ Out. A 1-2 punch as the pop brilliance of Love On Your Side comes next, the true arrival of the Thompson Twins.

Hotline contains two tracks that would find their way onto Now That’s What I Call Music: Down Under and the opening song on Volume 2 (also to lead off Now…), You Can’t Hurry Love. This was the first time that Phil Collins had released a cover version as a single. He later stated: “The idea was to see if Hugh Padgham and I could duplicate that 60s sound. It’s very difficult today because most recording facilities are so much more sophisticated than they were back then. It’s therefore hard to make the drums sound as rough as they did on the original. That’s what we were going after, a remake, not an interpretation.”

Radio daze: Indeep’s Last Night a DJ Saved My Life features vocals from Reggie Magloire and Rose Marie Ramsey. The story: a woman is home alone and bored. She wants to speak to her man, but get in touch so considers leaving him. Drastic I know. The DJ plays a cool song and thereby saves her life as we find out that she leaves her house and is a hair’s breadth away from being hit by a car. It’s followed by Culture Club’s deeply sincere non album 45 Time (Clock Of The Heart) and Marvin Gaye’s post-disco classic, Sexual Healing. Naturally the 7″ mix: in the 16 beats from 1:49 to 1:59, Marvin sings “Get up, get up, get up, get up”. No whispers like in the album version which is way more common nowadays.

Reach Up, Toney Lee’s flashpoint with its killer bassline, only got as far as #64 in the UK, despite positive press in Record Mirror and a top 10 placing in the Billboard dance chart. It’s not long enough here and seems to be an early fade. Quick draw: Tyrone Brunson’s stunning electro instrumental The Smurf, dropping off at #52. A solid gold body popper. The run of interesting failures continues with Loose Talk’s punky Judge Dredd. Apparently this just got a promotional 7″ release on the Jet label and never charted. And somewhere between Roxy Music and Japan: I give you Icehouse and the atmospheric Hey Little Girl with the austere theme continuing on The Stranglers’ melancholy European Female.

Bubbling under was a feature on Top Of The Pops where bands close to the top 40 summit would appear. Lagartija Nick saw Bauhaus make for a menacing three minutes. More: the mysterious synth pop of Jani Z. I’m Alone, here and nowhere else. And then it’s Hymn, Ultravox at their creepiest. The devil’s march, the seduction for fame, power and glory. In its wake are Belgians, Allez Allez with the nifty jazzy pop sound of Flesh And Blood which definitely didn’t deserve to sink without trace. And also bombing the first time around was Paul Young’s Love Of The Common People which drifts along into Hotline’s closer, UB40’s I’ve Got Mine which bridges the gap from UB44 to Labour Of Love. Take the pressure.

Favourite tracks
ABBA – Under Attack

China Crisis – Christian

Tyrone Brunson – The Smurf

Ultravox – Hymn

Lest we forget
Montana Sextet – Heavy Vibes

Posted in Pop UK | 4 Comments

Raiders Of The Pop Charts (Ronco, 1982)

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Review
“Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

And so 1982 draws to close. To coincide with the shops re-opening after Christmas, there came another compilation album, Raiders Of The Pop Charts. This one was on Ronco and split in two parts. The usual message about getting the other free; however they do not appear to have been sold separately at all. The sign: Volume 2 (or Part 2 if you prefer) refers to sides three and four – a continuation of the scene set in the first half. The title and design seemed more contemporary and up to date – the Raiders Of The Lost Ark frenzy of August 1981 was not yet dimmed. For there was a 12-inch doll of Indiana Jones, and the following year they released nine action figures of the film’s characters, three playsets, as well as toys of the Nazi truck and Jones’ horse. Not to mention a board game.

Raiders Of The Pop Charts contains 30 blockbusting songs spread over two pieces of vinyl. Like K-Tel’s Chart Hits ’82, it was meant to represent the full year so those of us who had shelled out for previous compilations found ourselves with 10 overlapping tracks.

Street Scene: Modern Romance – Best Years Of Our Lives, Pretenders – Back On The Chain Gang, Shakin’ Stevens – Give Me Your Heart Tonight.
Chart Busters ’82: Haircut 100 – Love Plus One, Toni Basil – Mickey.
Chart Attack: Fat Larry’s Band – Zoom, Kids From Fame – Starmaker.
Overload: Tight Fit – Fantasy Island, Yazoo – Only You. Both of these were also included on K-Tel’s Turbo Trax.
Breakout: Toto Coelo – I Eat Cannibals (Part 1).

In retrospect Ronco really meant business with this one. Ashley Abram was onboard so the sequencing was more thoughtful than usual. And in the yellow box on both sleeves:

THE TRACKS CONTAINED IN THIS ALBUM ARE THE COMPLETE UNEDITED SINGLE VERSIONS AS ORIGINALLY RECORDED.

This move was a masterstroke. The sniffy disdain that still prevailed towards Various Artists records was not helped by having 10 or 11 songs crammed onto each side with random butchery, truncation and bizarre fades. Ronco’s fresh strategy showed a new found maturity and helped to increase the profile and desirability of such compilations.

Side 1 begins on a high. Madness growing up on The Rise & Fall, perfectly capturing the essence of British life in 1982. Just like The Kinks Village Green Preservation Society did in 1968 and as Blur’s Parklife would do in 1994, The original concept was to deal with childhood nostalgia; this was shelved and only the wistful Our House bears the mark of their original vision. Therein, the exuberant jazz blasts of Modern Romance’s Best Years Of Our Lives makes more sense in the wake of lines like “She’s the one they’re going to miss, in lots of ways” and “Our house – that was where we used to sleep”. Flashback to The Big Snow of 1982 (read more about our cold snap on Action Trax) and the bright spring sound of Haircut 100. We get the bright and marimba-driven Love Plus One.

The grey fog descends quickly. Harry’s Game; Belfast never looked so grim and Clannad’s mournful lament captures it so well. Ex-Sandbagger Ray Lonnen playing a blinder. Variety follows on Raw Silk’s agreeable disco tune Do It To The Music and The Chaps’ nightmarish Scots Clan laced-with-acid melter Rawhide. Going global: Incantation, a multinational group of musicians who originally met while writing for the Ballet Rambert. Their second album Cacharpaya: Music Of The Andes, with the help of a television series, made the top ten with its title track performed on Top Of The Pops. They later contributed to The Mission soundtrack. The first quarter then wraps up with the soaring soul sound of Zoom.

The Gargoyle Club, Soho, 1936.
Culture Club had arrived. Non-mistake number 3, Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? First seen on RTE1’s Anything Goes on a Saturday morning in September 1982. “Is it man or a woman?” asked concerned parents. Lilting white reggae, a torch song for the ages that’s this record’s only chart-topper. The song rose rapidly in the UK charts after the group’s first appearance on Top of the Pops, which resulted in George’s androgynous style of dress and sexual ambiguity shocking the tabloids. Meanwhile, Back on the Chain Gang was recorded after James Honeyman-Scott, the Pretenders guitarist, died in June of a drug overdose at the age of 25. Chrissie Hynde dedicated the gorgeous single to his memory.

A teenage lullaby comes next in the form of Nightporter, Japan’s zig-zag digging up of their recent past. Oboe. Double bass. And 1982 was the year when they scored six hits:
European Son #31.
Ghosts #5.
Cantonese Boy #24.
I Second That Emotion #9.
Life In Tokyo #28.
Nightporter #29.
It was lifted from the Gentlemen Take Polaroids album of 1980, edited and remixed. The extended 12″ mix remains unreleased on CD to this day.

One year had elapsed since Penthouse And Pavement, their third single and title track of their stunning debut album. Heaven 17 were still searching for their first top 40 hit after an underwhelming 45 – 46 – 57 scorecard. Let Me Go was surely the record to change the public’s indifference. A desolate synthesiser coupled with freeform vocal delivery and a gorgeous harmony reminiscent of 10cc. Alas, it was not to be and stalled at #41. Back to the weirdness: Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin’s oddly tuneful Johnny Rocco. This ain’t no party – instead it’s a Western fantasy for the synth pop era and sadly forgotten now.

Funny how the memory cheats. For many years, I associated August Darnell as a baddie in Annie, film version of the musical. I had visions of the music video for Annie, I’m Not You Daddy showing a clip from the film. Not the case. Some might say extra cheese but it’s a funky blast. I got home from the cinema that night to hear the newsreader break it to me gently: Dick Emery had passed away. And so it goes on with Lene Lovich’s compelling noir cover of It’s You, Only You (Mein Schmerz), cleverly sequenced after Yazoo’s Only You. Shades of Morricone. The circle remains unbroken on The Beat’s gorgeous I Confess, a tale of a relationship gone south and one that retains its danceability.

Now here’s a funny little song. Surely inspired by And The Native Hipsters’ And There Goes Concorde Again? Precious Little appears to have been one Trisha O’Keeffe, singing a mundane tale over a piano and drum machine. A cut-price single from the cheap bins at Woolworth’s. Taking it to a higher level are Whodini and Magic’s Wand, a classic old skool hip hop jam straight outta Brooklyn. Lyrics like “Big Mac attack” and just as vital as The Message. The third quarter ends on a grandiose flourish of strings, trumpets and a heady orchestral vocal – namely the Pale Fountains and Thank You. Later to become Shack (of HMS Fable fame) and deliver baggy’s lost diamond, I Know You Well. Perfect motion.

’82: Simple Minds’ third single, Someone Somewhere (In Summertime) still sends shivers all over. Brilliant days. Turn On to Robert Palmer’s wonky, melody-altered but supercool Some Guys Have All The Luck. What a falsetto! We’re getting close to the last stop as UB40 embark with the searing post-nightclub heavy comedown So Here I Am. To come, a commercial reign. We keep it dark with Gregory Isaacs’ slow slider Night Nurse. Then, another twist: Bladerunner or a jazz funk take of Love Theme from Vangelis’ score played by Morrissey Mullen. Heavy on the sax. The end comes in the school choir chant of the Fame kids. Starmaker, an X Factor self-fulling prophecy. Ahead of their time.

Postscript: Raiders Of The Pop Charts found its way into my collection in late January 1983. 34 years on, it still stands out, continues to thrill me and is easily one of the greatest compilations of the decade. This is due to a most imaginative track selection and seriously memorable sequencing from Ashley Abram. A double CD reissue in a fatbox is wishful but I’d love to see it happen. If only Carlsberg (or Cherry Red etc) did licensing miracles. . .

Favourite tracks
Madness – Our House

Kid Creole and The Coconuts – Annie, I’m Not Your Daddy

Whodini – Magic’s Wind

Clannad – Theme From Harry’s Game

Lest we forget
Lene Lovich – It’s You, Only you (Mein Schmerz)

Posted in Pop UK | 9 Comments

Street Scene (K-Tel, 1982)

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Review
K-Tel’s final compilation release of 1982 saw them increase the number of tracks to 22. Now bursting at the seams, Street Scene found its way into the shops a few days before Christmas and stood out from the pack with its cool computer-generated sleeve art. Skyscrapers and speakers. Wham!, Dionne Warwick, Barry Manilow, A Flock Of Seagulls, Blue Zoo, Imagination, Renée and Renato, Japan were the eight chosen artists to have their names on the front cover. The reverse has the song titles on the triangular road and comes with the customary disclaimer about running times being amended. Always shorter.

Four tracks were also included on their rival Ronco’s Chart Wars, Renée and Renato – Save Your Love, Wham! – Young Guns (Go For It), A Flock Of Seagulls – Wishing (I Had A Photograph Of You) being three with Japan – Life In Tokyo albeit not in Special Remix form but a 2.58 edit. Please note this is a mix similar to the one that appears on A Souvenir from Japan and the Japanese Assemblage / UK double play cassette. The sleeve says it is remixed from the album Assemblage and the label states that it is a 1979 recording.

Heartbreaker became Dionne Warwick’s most successful hit of the 1980s. The song was written by Bee Gees’ brothers Gibb, with Barry’s backing vocal heard on the chorus. File under lush AOR soul. Another Barry next; Mr Manilow with the urbane and sexually-charged I Wanna Do It With You. Also on the disco radar were Gary’s Gang and Knock Me Out while Imagination’s Changes is blinding funk, all gorgeous synth bass. Next comes the horrendously sliced and diced Back On The Chain Gang (more than half gone) which makes way for John Cougar’s fist pumping Jack And Diane.

Twilight zone: Chris De Burgh’s menacing Don’t Pay The Ferryman is followed by The Searchers I Don’t Want To Be The One. This was last single to feature Mike Pender. The band had been re-signed by Pye under the latter’s new name of PRT and some tracks were recorded for a proposed album. However the single failed to sell so PRT shelved the album and ditched the group. A shame, because it’s a fine tune. And hyping their way into the top 10 are The Pinkees with the endearing Squeeze knock-off Danger Games. Elsewhere get yer blues with Shakin’ Stevens and the teary maudlin strum Give Me Your Heart Tonight.

It seems like both Ronco and K-Tel used the same edit of Wishing (If Had A Photograph Of You). However the policy of cutting tracks was soon to come to an end – see next week’s review. Moving on to the new wave sound of Blue Zoo. Cry Boy Cry is frantic stuff that reminds of Teardrop Explodes. Their debut 45 Love Moves In Strange Ways received Single Of The Week in the NME during 1981 and is featured on my upcoming mix A Gift From The Past: Shattered Dreams Revisited 1981 – 1995. Breaking the gloom of the Pornography era: The Cure’s bright ‘n’ poppy Let’s Go To Bed, marred by a clumsy cut.

The token exclusive number comes courtesy of The Convertables’ Here You Come Again. They don’t appear to have released anything else. Ever. A short and sharp synth shock. Horns: like honey on Bad Manners’ Samson and Delilah. Sax: killer break during Natasha’s version of Pata Pata. Quick step over Life In Tokyo to the Thompson Twins’ moody Lies. Medleys are not dead (yet) – The London Symphony Orchestra bash their way through Classic Rock Classics. Get Back / Baker Street / Ruby Tuesday / Don’t you want me (Baby) / Paint it Black / Layla / Reach I’ll be there / Standing in the Shadows of Love. Fade away with Modern Romance’s finest 45: The Best Years Of Our Lives. Sing it.

Favourite tracks
A Flock Of Seagulls – Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)

Imagination – Changes

Blue Zoo – Cry Boy Cry

Lest we forget
The Pinkees – Danger Games

Posted in Pop UK | 5 Comments