West German compilation series High Life commenced in 1977 with a 20 track LP of current hits. These albums were initially released on an annual basis by the Polystar label with the frequency increasing by the early 1980s. The first one to receive a CD release was High Life International which came out during the hot summer of 1984. It’s a highly sought-after disc nowadays with copies changing hands for anything between €70 and €100. There are two reasons why; scarcity as most people bought the LP and cassette versions and quality because it’s a brilliant snapshot of 1984 Euro pop.
There were a total of 16 CDs in the High Life series and over time I hope to review the lot.
We start with a vocoder. Real Life’s Catch Me I’m Falling is about living out your dreams. Daft Punk must have been heavily influenced by it as 2001’s Discovery bears the hallmarks. You could also make a case for Fancy and the jerky Italo rhythms of Slice Me Ice [his first hit]. Elder statesmen Elton John and Robin Gibb also appear early on. The former’s Sad Songs (Say So Much) was blasted out of the beach radios in south Wexford during July and August 1984. Gibb’s charming Boys Do Fall In Love scraped #70 on the UK charts but made hay on the continent. It’s followed by Gianna Nannini’s Futoromanza – a heartfelt slow-ish ballad.
The soul and funk heat is present and correct with three key players. Cameo’s She’s Strange is a sophisticated and polished jam while Ollie and Jerry’s body-popping Breakin’. . . There’s No Stopping Us is a key moment from Breakdance: The Movie soundtrack. Staying with lino and mirrors and it’s Break Machine. Break Dance Party is the killer follow-up to Street Dance. An era of day glo t-shirts shining brightly, massive ghettoblasters and colourful headbands.
1984 was the Dallas / Dynasty / Falcon Crest era. Al Corley played Steven Carrington in Dynasty before embarking on a singing career. Square Rooms is a polished new wave tune with some Italo oh-oh-oh-ohs that made #1 in France. Which leads to. . . Raff’s cruising version of Self Control [the original; the Laura Branigan cover was more famous]. Closer to home was Chris De Burgh and his overlooked High On Emotion from the Man On The Line LP. There’s yet another Italo classic next with the jazzy-flavoured Dream from P. Lion. And speaking of cats – Eartha Kitt does a wonderful purr at the start of the flamboyant I Love Men.
I was surprised to see prog rockers Barclay James Harvest on this album but the soulful Victim Of Circumstance really fits in here. It’s followed by Chris Rea’s gentle and lilting Touché D’Amour. The German audience were certainly more appreciative of Chris’s talents in those days. Finally it wouldn’t be 1984 unless there was a song about the end of days. Ex-Trio singer Stephan Remmler teamed up with an unknown school girl Nina [Angela Smecca] for the creepy Fireworks. Huge black clouds and explosions. And in a circular nod to the opening track, a vocoder.
Fancy – Slice Me Nice
Real Life – Catch Me I’m Falling
Lest we forget
Stephan and Nina – Fireworks