Chart Busters ’82 Volumes 1 and 2 (Ronco, 1982)

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The sound of spring is captured on Ronco’s Chart Busters ’82. Once again, we’re treated to a double. The spread is 31 tracks so there are very few truncated songs – a most welcome development. In 1981, Dollar approached Buggles’ Trevor Horn requesting that produce them. The results were pretty impressive. Hand Held In Black And White, Mirror Mirror and the opening track here, Give Me Back My Heart which reached #4 in the UK charts. It’s an amazing production, a lush and dreamy masterpiece with a fantastic outro (here as the 4:52 LP mix). Martin Fry took note. Next: Haircut 100’s jaunty Love Plus One, a true spring gem before Aneka’s dubious Japanese Boy follow-up, Ooh Shooby Doo Doo Lang.

Tears are not enough: Leo Sayer’s heartfelt Have You Ever Been In Love, often associated with bittersweet memories for many. Masters of their art, ABBA and Head Over Heels. The video sees a Ziggy Stardust look, mechanical pop with a heartbeat. On and on, electronics for fun – A Flock Of Seagulls’ I Ran, a High Hill memory slap. Another school favourite comes in the form of Altered Images and I Could Be Happy. Upbeat / downbeat or pinky blue. Awesome times. There’s a quick step sideways on Toni Basil’s frantic Mickey, a mini pop epic. Then Fun Boy Three roping in the fledgling ladies of Bananarama for It Ain’t What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It. Sheer brilliance in under three minutes.

XTC’s Ball And Chain. A world within a world, one that’s permanently autumn and always rural. The vibe continues on Dave Edmunds’ cover of Brian Hyland’s Warmed Over Kisses. I’m still cold. A curio: on Jive, the mysterious Panama will the mash-up Will You Love Me Tomorrow and Stand By Me. Equally obscure is Paul Lorenzo’s dramatic version of the Hill Street Blues theme which was having its debut series aired on RTE. The oddities roll on with Pluto’s quirky reggae blaster Your Honour. And Volume 1 concludes with you Spurs giving it loads on their F.A. Cup final record – ably assisted by Chas & Dave – as they sought to make it two in a row. They succeeded in the most boring final replays ever.

Chart Busters ’82 Volume 2 contains one of the strongest sequences I’ve ever heard. It lasts an entire side and a quarter of the next one. 10 songs before running out of steam. Here we go: Adam and The Ants reissued Deutscher Girls (an early fan favourite from 1978 which was originally included in Derek Jarman’s Jubilee) to cash in on the fame created by Kings Of The Wild Frontier and Prince Charming albums. A mere starter for the thoroughly decadent Amour Amour from The Mobiles. Just a band from The Drive pub in Eastbourne; Amour Amour continues the European vibe laid down on Drowning In Berlin. File under skeleton goth meets the moody boys uptown. 10 to the power of 1,000.

William, It Was Really Nothing. The Associates gave us the unique vocal talents of Billy McKenzie. Party Fears Two is one of my favourite ever Top Of The Pops performances. The jacket, the voice, the keyboards played by Martha Ladly who wrote a book called Morality and Architecture which Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark used as a title for their 1981 album Architecture and Morality. Next comes the raucous tribal rhythms of Bow Wow Wow’s Go Wild In The Country. Singer Annabelle Lwin is still in her 40s as I write this. She and three members poached from Adam and The Ants made See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang, Yeah. City All Over! Go Ape Crazy, one of the 1980s’ best.

More than this: Stiff Little Fingers’ searing Listen, a heads-down slowburner is followed by the sound of Bauhaus and the menacing Kick In The Eye. File under gunk or gothic funk. This leads into the pounding drum and sax groove vs free jazz squawk of Papa’s Got A Brand New Pig Bag. Sounding off the third side is the futuristic groove of Gary Numan’s Music For Chameleons. Back of the net. Some impeccable Brit funk next; Imagination’s chilly ‘n’ melodic Just An Illusion. If you haven’t heard their remix album Night Dubbing, please check it out. Illusion meshes perfectly into Depeche Mode’s enigmatic See You.

Our hopes of 11 bangers in a row are dashed by The Lion Sleeps Tonight and Star Sound’s dodgy Stars On Stevie: Uptight (Everything’s Alright) / My Cherie Amour / Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday / Master Blaster / You Are The Sunshine Of My Life / Isn’t She Lovely / ‘Stars On’ Jingle / Sir Duke / I Wish / I Was Made To Love Her / For Once In My Life / Superstition / Fingertips. Elsewhere D-Train get us back in the quality groove with the relentless You’re The One For Me. Meanwhile Oxygen’s mournful take on Just The Two Of Us zips by in 1:58. Last pair: Huey Lewis and The News’ cheery Do You Believe In Love and Modern Romance’s Blitz club meets white funk Queen Of The Rapping Scene.

Favourite tracks
Associates – Party Fears Two

Bow Wow Wow – Go Wild In The Country

Dollar – Give Me Back My Heart

Imagination – Just An Illusion

Lest we forget
The Mobiles – Amour Amour

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Action Trax Volumes 1 and 2 (K-Tel, 1982)

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“Get it cleaned up!”

The Big Snow arrived on 8 January 1982. Heavy snowfalls were rare in Ireland and in my 10 years, I had only seen light action. This was different. A savage gale came in from the east and with it, a blizzard for 36 hours. Sub-zero temperatures so drifts developed. In our front garden, on the back road, and in a number of nearby fields. Some of them were 10 feet high. It was a total blast. We had just gone back to school on the 7th and now would be off for what seemed like an interminably long time. Two more blizzards arrived over the next 10 days, each arriving just as the nation was recovering from the previous one.

Action Trax was released by K-Tel at the beginning of March 1982. Buy one, get the other free. The majority of its tracks span the late 1981 / early 1982 period. They now exist as memories first heard on 2FM during the enforced stay at home during the snow, RTE1’s Saturday morning show Anything Goes and a selection of Thursday night Top Of The Pops episodes. The opening song is a subtle political statement, Bucks Fizz and their dreamy yet scathing Land Of Make Believe. The close of the song features a nursery rhyme narrated by Abby Kimber. Most radio stations faded out before this part. In fairness, K-Tel don’t.

The old in-out. Drowning In Berlin by The Mobiles, an astonishing piece of sinister synth melancholia. Eerie, enchanting, haunting- all these things and more. Next comes the sleek romantic sound of Godley and Creme’s polished Wedding Bells. Kim Wilde’s Cambodia motors along, the story of a wife of a US pilot, who ends up being killed in the Cambodian war. PTSD. To brass and bounce, the infectiously danceable Favourite Shirts from Haircut 100. Some horns? Gosh! Bad Manners beaming on Walking In The Sunshine. Meanwhile Elvis was still blue, the terrific Sweet Dreams proving that he could really do country.

Feels like we’ve been here before. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark wrote not one, but two songs about Joan Of Arc. Maid Of Orleans was the sequel, another time tunnel back to 1431. A more soothing experience, a synthesised history lesson. Then Hall and Oates; the head soul brothers with the cautionary music business tale I Can’t Go For That. Heavily sampled by De La Soul on Say No Go in 1989. Elsewhere the Human League’s Don’t You Want Me kicks off side 2, a track that Phil Oakey relegated to 10 of 10 on Dare because he was so unhappy with the watered-down version aka a “poor quality filler track.”

Shakin’ Stevens cuts a moody figure on the maudlin It’s Raining while Stiff Little Fingers drop the slow-burning diamond, Listen. Julian Cope’s mob, Teardrop Explodes offer up the poppy Passionate Friend before XTC’s massive Senses Working Overtime, all intense drumming and a circular, almost maypole-like rhythm. Easily slipping in unnoticed are The Mood and the pure new wave sound of Don’t Stop. The wonderful comedown: Gary Numan and Dramatis – Love Needs No Disguise. Hardly remembered nowadays. Finally a more upbeat note, Ultravox’s expressive The Voice closes an extremely strong first volume.

“We’re still stuck!”

Volume 2 is a vastly different beast. For a start, there’s a lot more variety. Foreigner lead. Waiting For A Girl Like You, a power ballad with Thomas Dolby on keyboards. Dollar’s sickly sweet Mirror Mirror remains the biggest floor clearer of my entire DJing career. You can’t beat some lovers rock; Trevor Walters does his bit on Love Me Tonight. Next: from Streetwave, the crazy disco beat from Alton Edwards; his I Just Wanna (Spend Some Time With You) followed by the smooth groove of Shakatak’s Easier Said Than Done. And in a surprising diversion, we run down a NWOBHM blind alley chasing ex-Marseille’s Paul Dale. Not alright on any night.

Normal service is resumed. Japan. European Son was first released in Japan as the B-side of I Second That Emotion and on a Canadian Special Edition EP. In 1981 it was released as the B-side of Life in Tokyo and also included on the Assemblage compilation. The version remixed by Steve Nye was then released as a single and reached #31. East of the sun: Yellow Pearl was originally included on Solo In Soho, chosen as the new theme for Top Of The Pops and then remixed for release on St Stephen’s Day 1981. Two steps forward, one step back. Showaddywaddy’s appalling Footsteps feeds into ABBA’s mournful One Of Us, taken from their divorce LP, The Visitors. Continue to stare at the ceiling.

Status Quo ply their 12 bar blues on the rather downbeat Rock And Roll. Tight Fit sold a million with their cover of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Give it some stick Mick! Chas and Dave’s world weary Ain’t No Pleasing You is a real tonic. Total craftsmen. It’s worth noting that Ronco’s Hits Hits Hits stole first march on the Dollar, Human League, Pretenders and B.A. Robertson tracks. That leaves Matchbox’s laidback Angels On Sunday followed by the Toyah-lite Natasha with Strangest Feeling to round off a rather uneven second half.

“Storm troopers!

Wicklow was the worst county hit by the snow. Thousands of sheep and a large number of deer lost their lives. And in a sign of the times, opportunist thieves ransacked abandoned cars on the dual carriageway in Kildare and Dublin. “Bang your tin drum.”

Favourite tracks
The Mobiles – Drowning In Berlin

Kim Wilde – Cambodia

Philip Lynott – Yellow Pearl

Alton Edwards – I Just Wanna (Spend Some Time With You)

Lest we forget
The Mood – Don’t Stop

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Modern Dance (K-Tel, 1981)


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Modern Dance was released by K-Tel during December 1981. Unlike any other compilation then or since, it totally nails the new romantic sound of that year, the scene that rose from the ashes of post-punk. It may have been a quick cash-in but its sheer influence stretched far and wide over the last 35 years. I was late to the party, not getting hold of a taped copy until going back to school for September 1982. BASF 60+6. Green inlay. Needless to say, I have loved it from day 1 – a real back to basics / comfort food of an album.

The Virgin label provided the bulk of the musical muscle. There are 13 artists included and five of them get twice tracks apiece. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s Joan Of Arc is the opening number, all towering, a monumental beauty to a 15th century heroine. Japan’s Quiet Life picks up the tempo, their key lift-off moment when they left glam rock behind. When ripping the vinyl during the summer, I had forgotten how hotly-mixed this one is. There’s hardly any space between the tracks – the K-Tels and Roncos are usually tight but Modern Dance is exceptional. Time for some Love Action; The Human League’s second pre-Dare single, its seminal parent album in many homes that Christmas.

An important outing: Heaven 17’s Penthouse And Pavement, their title track of their debut LP. Originally part of The Human League, two roads diverged in a yellow wood. A more disjointed sequence of sounds but plenty of funk and rhythm. Transition to another place, Depeche Mode’s pure distilled synth pop New Life. Operating, generating. And then, the gradual evolution of Simple Minds. Sons And Fascination’s second 45, the driving, almost continental shimmer of Sweat In Bullet. You can feel its swagger, the momentum growing.

Notable by their absence are Ultravox Mk.2. All Stood Still, The Voice, The Thin Wall. Each one excluded. Possibly Chrysalis-related (there’s no Spandau Ballet either). Instead there’s a replacement in the form of ex-lead man John Foxx whose decadent Europe After The Rain fits in nicely. This perfect sequencing continues with The Cure’s evocatively gloomy Charlotte Sometimes. Based on Penelope Farmer’s novel and a classic bridge between Faith and Pornography. Last on side 1, the downbeat mood is carried over onto Gary Numan’s jerky She’s Got Claws featuring the immaculate bass of Japan’s Mick Karn.

“We walk backwards
Saying nothing.”

England v France: Visage’s absolute classic masterpiece Fade To Grey features the same lyrics in two languages. The English lyrics are sung whereas the French lyrics are spoken by a female voice, Brigitte Arens, a student from Luxembourg who was Rusty Egan’s girlfriend at the time. The video was directed by Godley and Creme. In it, Steve Strange’s friend Julia Fodor mimes the Gallic speech. Him: moody with heavy make-up, it’s a stunning performance. When legends like this die, parts of your childhood die with them.

From the tea rooms of Mars. . . Landscape’s pulsating Einstein A Go Go. Old soldiers by 1981, given their formation was 1974. The next one starts like an angular new wave tune. Fashion’s Move On. The Bowie influence is undoubted. When the synths kick in, a proper dance groove erupts. More Japan, the joyous Visions Of China with its stupendously great drum break. Taken from Tin Drum, 1981’s most ambitious album, released a month before Modern Dance. Their fifth and final LP and described as “mannered cubist pop” by Paul Grimstad. Four 45s: The Art Of Parties – Visions Of China – Ghosts – Cantonese Boy.

Obscure alternative – A World Without You by The News. A bouncy and sweet pop tune with a kicking bassline and keyboard hook. Unique; the most other-worldly song here. The remainder is all second outings. Simple Minds’ creative epic Love Song is followed by Heaven 17’s deliberately unfocused call-and-response Play To Win. Predating Threads by four years, OMD’s doomed Enola Gay, a second class prefab memory. To the end: 1981 is defined by the Human League. Open Your Heart is the grand finale, its opening heavy synth leading to a glorious three minutes of melody. Dreams are made of this etc.

“And if you can stand the test,
You know your worst is better than their best.”

Favourite tracks
Visage – Fade To Grey

The Cure – Charlotte Sometimes

Lest we forget
The News – A World Without Love


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