Raiders Of The Pop Charts (K-Tel, 1983)

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Review
Before I wrap up this series of reviews on 1980s compilations of the pre-CD era, I’m going global. First stop is Down Under. Inspired by rival Ronco’s Raiders Of The Pop Charts, K-Tel released their own edition almost 12 months later. The album made its debut at #14 on the Countdown ARIA album charts of 25 December 1983. The cassette version was a stocking filler for many Australian teenagers – as evidenced by the number that appear on internet searches. Fact: K-Tel initially traded as Majestic in that part of the world.

The Australian Raiders Of The Pop Charts is a real monster; 34 tracks spread across two LPs in a gatefold sleeve. 10 of these have already been covered on the following reviews:
Breakout: Toto Coelo – I Eat Cannibals, Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger, Yazoo – Don’t Go, Cheap Trick – If You Want My Love, Boys Town Gang – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.
Chart Attack: Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five – The Message.
Chart Hits ’82: Steve Miller Band – Abracadabra, Toto – Rosanna, Trio – Da Da Da
Hotline: Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing.

Local band feel: Avion were heavily influenced by US AOR and built up a reasonable cult following in their native land. I Need You is a breezy hard rocker that fits in well between Survivor and Toto. Also in that arena were Canadian group Loverboy whose Working For The Weekend became a call to arms for car-owning youths. Even now: “Why do I have this sudden urge to buy a Loverboy cassette and blare it cruising down the road in a Fiero?”
And lifted from Jump Up!, Elton John’s melancholy Blue Eyes. Its video was filmed on Sydney’s famous Bondi to Bronte walk and dedicated to Elizabeth Taylor. Elsewhere there’s Sharon O’Neill’s tortured Maybe, a key moment in the New Zealand singer’s career. And filed under offbeat new wave plus sax, Men At Work’s urgent Who Can It Be Now?

Sydney ska is represented by The Allniters’ Hold On, an affectionate punchy number. Things get moody, noir style with Bertie Higgins’ smoky Key Largo, a maudlin Bogart and Bacall inspired ballad. Meanwhile Shakin’ Stevens cuts loose on the cajun flavoured Oh Julie, a UK #1 in early ’82. Following the dissolution of Adam and the Ants in early 1982, Adam Ant pursued a solo career. His solo debut Goody Two Shoes was written by himself and Marco Pirroni and produced by them and Chris Hughes. The song details Ant’s deep frustration with press intrusion, which was reinforced by his clean cut image. Signing off part 1 are Dr Hook with the smooth ‘n’ smarmy Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk.

“When we’d first get calls at 2 or 3 in the morning, my husband would answer the phone. He can’t hear too well. They’d ask for Jenny, and he’d say ‘Jimmy doesn’t live here any more.’ (…) Tommy Tutone was the one who had the record. I’d like to get hold of his neck and choke him.”
(Mrs. Lorene Burns, an Alabama householder formerly at +1-205-867-5309; she changed her number in 1982)

Tommy Tutone’s power pop for the ages, 8675309 / Jenny. Such a wonderful song. Lead singer Tommy Heath became a computer analyst and software engineer and moved to Portland, Oregon. Next, Roxy Music’s last stand, the smoothest farewell of Avalon’s title track. Ideal CD player demonstration material. And it was all over for The Jam in 1983 too, Town Called Malice – an ode to Weller’s teenage years in Woking – being the first in a line of last lap 45s. Next: Earth, Wind and Fire’s ultra catchy Let’s Groove, a post-disco, pop and funk song which includes instrumentation of synthesisers and keyboards along with live electric guitars. But there’s only a bunch of rotten tomatoes for Christopher Atkins with his sickly Pirate Movie number How Can I Live With You.

Rock on: The Angels’ spiky Stand Up, a hard rock delight. Step back to Off The Wall while Michael Jackson’s seminal Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough. There’s beauty and the beat on The Go-Gos driving Our Lips Are Sealed while The Quick drop the blinding new wave brass fills of Rhythm Of The Jungle complete with funky edge. Recorded in L.A., Mark Holden’s eponymous fourth album contained the slamming Cars meets Hall and Oates number, Who Do You Love? Rare. And there’s more – Frida’s paranoid tale of infidelity, the dramatic I Know There’s Something Going On plus the mutant disco of Sylvester’s Do You Wanna Funk and Tina Cross’ Losing My Touch. Meanwhile Dan Fogelberg drops the affecting Missing You to promote his Greatest Hits. To sum up: the Australian Raiders Of The Pop Chart is a great chocolate box of Aussie and international gems.

“Jenny, I got your number
I need to make you mine
Jenny, don’t change your number
8675309 (8675309)”

Favourite tracks
Men At Work – Who Can It Be Now?

Sharon O’Neill – Maybe

Mark Holden – Who Do You Love?

Tommy Tutone – 8675309 / Jenny

Lest we forget
The Quick – The Rhythm Of The Jungle

Posted in Pop non-UK | 2 Comments

Hits Hits Hits (Telstar, 1984)

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Review
Telstar’s Hits Hits Hits was so low key that it actually passed me by at the time. I only became aware of its existence about two years ago and tracking down a NM copy wasn’t too difficult. In the bottom right of the front cover, there’s a postage stamp sized logo with “As seen on TV”. Photographed are the Thompson Twins, George Michael and Depeche Mode while making the “including” billing are George Michael, Miami Sound Machine, Pointer Sisters, The Kane Gang, Alison Moyet, Michael Jackson “and many more”. On the back, the mugshots are of Phil Fearon, Cyndi Lauper, Blancmange and Hazell Dean. And almost inevitably, there’s the usual disclaimer about running times being changed.

Cast your mind back to my review of K-Tel’s goodbye note Hungry For Hits. After the videos, there’s a section headed up “What K-Tel didn’t do next: Hungry For Hits 2” where I outline a fantasy follow-up that compiles the chart tunes of late summer / early autumn 1984. Well Hits Hits Hits goes some way to address that gap with exactly half (nine) of its 18 tracks appearing on that wishlist while eight of the others were or would be compiled on the following:
Now That’s What I Call Music 3: Alison Moyet – Love Resurrection, Grandmaster and Melle Mel – White Lines (Don’t Do It), Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time (first appeared on Hungry For Hits).
The Hits Album: George Michael – Careless Whisper, Miami Sound Machine – Dr Beat, Thompson Twins – Sister Of Mercy.
Now That’s What I Call Music 4: Pointer Sisters – Jump (For My Love), Michael Jackson – Farewell My Summer Love.

So I’ll start with the song I had forgotten about: A Flock Of Seagulls – The More You Live, The More You Love. Reached #26 at the end of July; world-weary and ponderous. MT USA picked it up for its second series in the autumn. More Big Apple connections – Billy Idol’s emotional ballad Eyes Without A Face was recorded in Studio A at Electric Lady Studios in New York. Dig Perri Lister’s breathless vocal murmuring “Les yeux sans visage” in the background. Think of that Georges Franju film, real horror show. Meanwhile Tracey Ullman was another 60s throwback; Sunglasses starts off like Be My Baby while its video features Ade Edmondson and plenty of bank holiday beach action. Duncannon memories.

Hi-NRG: Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman got together in January ’84 and their first productions came in summer. Hazell Dean’s Whatever I Do (Wherever I Do) is a real survivor anthem with a killer rhythm track. And then there’s Divine’s teasing You Think You’re A Man; mimed with almost religious zeal on Top Of The Pops and bringing forth a litany of complaints to the BBC during the days afterwards. Which leads nicely into Depeche Mode’s BDSM-themed Master And Servant; an enjoyable romp despite its dark lyrics. Elsewhere there’s gorgeous sophisti-pop soul courtesy of The Kane Gang’s Closest Thing To Heaven while Jeffrey Osborne’s On The Wings Of Love is a tender slowie.

That just leaves Blancmange and their superb cover of ABBA’s The Day Before You Came. It reached #22, 10 places higher than the original and features a slight lyrical alteration. Instead of referencing novelist Marilyn French as the ABBA original does, Blancmange singer Neil Arthur sings “I must have read a while, the latest one by Barbara Cartland or something in that style”. Utterly brilliant. Their (relatively) recent reformation and new material – Blanc Burn – Semi-Detached – Nil By Mouth – Commuter 23 is a joy to behold.
“To me they always had a sort of 19th Century romantic sensibility. It’s very European. Like Kraftwerk they were totally European, having nothing to do with America whatsoever. Not that I’ve got anything against the country but it was very European if you see what I mean.” (Stephen Luscombe on ABBA)

Favourite tracks
Blancmange – The Day Before You Came

Tracey Ullman – Sunglasses

Lest we forget
Divine – You Think You’re A Man

Posted in Pop UK | 4 Comments

Chart Trek Volumes 1 and 2 (Ronco, 1983)

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Review
The Flying Pickets on Top Of The Pops, The Citadel Of Chaos, the Christmas RTE Guide starting on 17 December instead of the 24th, the television premiere of Heaven’s Gate, being haunted by the photo of Robert Earl Hughes in The Guinness Book Of Records. . .
After the last of the turkey had been consumed, we headed to Waterford for the sales. In the racks of Sinnott’s was Ronco’s Chart Trek, its space-themed sleeve instantly reminding me of those those Christmas toy advertisements that Quinnsworth used to make.

“To boldly pick the stars of ’84.”
Chart Trek contains “28 enterprising tracks”, 11 of which had already been included on previous 1983 compilations. But the duplication was welcome in a number of instances (Waves, The First Picture Of You) as the unedited single mixes were now included on Ronco’s swansong. And in the case of Paul Young, we now had a spanking new version that was destined to be a smash hit. Here’s where they originally featured:
Hotline: China Crisis – Christian, Paul Young – Love Of The Common People.
Chart Runners: Kissing The Pink – The Last Film.
Chart Stars: Blancmange – Waves, Bananarama – Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.
Headline Hits: Depeche Mode – Everything Counts, The Lotus Eaters – The First Picture Of You, Jimmy The Hoover – Tantalise (Wo Wo Ee Yeh Yeh).
The Hit Squad Chart-tracking: David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto – Forbidden Colours.
Chart Hits ’83: Eurythmics – Love Is A Stranger.
Super Chart ’83: JoBoxers – Boxerbeat.

Calling Your Name: In 1983, following a high-profile appearance in the promo video for Eurythmics’ Who’s That Girl?, Boy George’s mate Peter Robinson signed his own contract as Marilyn with Phonogram Records. His catchy debut single reached #4. Next are The Assembly, a synthpop project founded by Vince Clarke and Eric Radcliffe. The beguiling Never Never has the voice of The Undertones’ Feargal Sharkey and also turned up on the VHS release of Now That’s What I Call Music. Elsewhere Tears For Fears complex Pale Shelter is represented in 1983 remix form, the hit version. Equally intense is the brooding goth drama of Heaven Is Waiting by The Danse Society and the magnificent Waves before the first side closes with the weird sophisti-pop of Carmel’s Bad Day. Impressive instant.

No Parlez is a charity stop staple, a most unfair outcome for one of 1983’s enduring classics. A remixed Love Of The Common People hit #2 for Paul Young; I’ve still got a whole lot of love for it. Into the gap come the Thompson Twins and Hold Me Now, recorded at Compass Point. A hypnotic, swaying groove and lead track from one of the decade’s most perfect albums. Next, the expert sound of Nick Heyward with the superb and well-crafted On A Sunday. Further: Wham! and Club Tropicana – fun, energetic, positive, escapism, catchy, infectious, LIFE! But with hidden depths as it satirised package holidays and amazing Balearic B-side Blue (Armed With Love). And more: the oblique Flaming Sword by Care. Ian Broudie and Paul Simpson. Through the cracks.

Volume 2 isn’t as strong but sparkling is Kirsty MacColl’s Terry and its evocative capture of lost teenage love. Tears. On Mute, Fad Gadget’s non-album 45, the creepy I Discover Love. Go soul deep with Central Line’s fantastic Nature Boy and Donna Summer’s acceptance anthem of joy, Unconditional Love. Scratch! The joys of TV-am during the summer of ’83. The brash Roland Rat dropped the sturdy hip hop groove of Rat Rapping. Struggling under the weight of IOU were Freeez whose Pop Goes My Love takes ages to sink in. Elsewhere there’s Ashaye’s Michael Jackson Medley – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough / Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ / Shake Your Body / Blame It On The Boogie. The curios conclude with Dillinger’s Tribal War, synthesised reggae with an icky thump.
In summary, a real mix of the sublime, forgotten, wonderful and ridiculous. A great finale.

Favourite tracks
Wham! – Club Tropicana

Blancmange – Waves

Tears For Fears – Pale Shelter

Care – Flaming Sword

Lest we forget
Roland Rat Superstar – Rat Rapping

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Posted in Pop UK | 5 Comments