“Scarlet for me and scarlet for you”.
An autumnal 1988: The Stars We Are. When Marc Almond recorded Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart for his fourth solo LP, nobody could have imagined that it would storm the charts of January 1989 and slay all. The secret ingredient was the man who sang the song back in 1967. Enter Mr Gene Pitney. It’s marvelously theatrical and a worthy pop classic. A groovy kind of gangster then – Phil Collins is back with another Buster tune, Two Hearts. He’s crackers. International stars Erasure had their sixth top 10 hit with Stop which just stalled at the final hurdle. We won’t be together again: Bananarama teamed up with French & Saunders and Kathy Burke for Red Nose Day single. Help was the choice, the comedians were credited as Lananeeneenoonoo. This version reached #3 in the UK charts and was featured on the 1989 Christmas episode of Only Fools and Horses.
The Kane gang: Hue and Cry’s Ordinary Angel was a mysterious failure. Looking For Linda bettered it by 27 places, climbing to #15 in February. It’s slick, accomplished and soulful. Remote rules. The laidback groove continues with Yazz’s chilled Fine Time, a resigned and despairing tale. And then it’s Kim Wilde. Wonderful Kim Wilde. Four Letter Word still stops me dead. A beautiful chanson for the winter chill. Superbe. L.O.V.E. Close: a career high point. Just go for it. The second time for Sam Brown and the awesome ballad Stop. A ’88 failure but a ’89 stormer. Do not pair with Erasure.
It was with great reluctance that I purchased Now 14 on vinyl in March 1989. The shop had no CDs left. The double LP was a stopgap until I rectified the situation a couple of months later. So side 2 is all about the rock. The Big O and You Got It. Plaintive and powerful from the Mystery Girl LP. Cannibal Holocaust: She Drives Me Crazy hits #5 and remains their greatest success. In those days the Crosbie Motor Hotel on Friday nights was the place to hear INXS. New Sensation, The Devil Inside, Mystify, Mediate, Never Tear Us Apart and Need You Tonight. “You’re one of my kind”. Mysteriously edited. Why?
Status Quo had some pretty ugly moments in the 1980s. Burning Bridges (On And Off And On Again) is the probable nadir. I did dance to it though; the Bulmers’ shuffle. And the memories come flooding back when I hear that circular riff. Then Jericho restore the harmony with the memorably epic Big Area with its earnest lyrics and choppy guitars. Morrissey steps into the arena with his third 45, the effective non-album paean to the Kray Twins, The Last Of The Famous International Playboys. It would end up on Bona Drag. From brutality to brutal: Poison and Simple Minds conclude the first half. Every Rose Has Its Thorn is a passable metal ballad that got me a snog once; Belfast Child is an overblown mess. A turgid ballad of the streets. She crawled through the fair with the subtlety of a mare in heat. I don’t think Billy ever made it home.
Beat on the street: the inevitable dance side. All hail Neneh Cherry. Buffalo Stance was gigantic; impossibly fresh and joyous. A timeless urban groove and immaculate debut. One of the greatest singles of all time. Good Life is next, a potent house tune and one that makes me burst with memories for another era. “No more bad times”.
There’s a quick step and sidekick with the next two tracks. S’Xpress. No E. Hey Music Lover is feelgood and funky. We’re not taken higher with Living In A Box. Blow The House Down is a misunderstood slice of superbass pop that continues to confound me.
Mr Cool’s dream came to an end in July 1989. The Style Council bowed out with a gig at The Royal Albert Hall. Six months earlier they released a compilation – The Singular Adventures Of The Style Council – and as the teaser single, a cover of Joe Smooth’s house smash Promised Land. I love it. Many didn’t and their proposed house album Modernism remained unreleased until 1998 when it was included in The Complete Adventures Of The Style Council box set. There’s an equally fantastic cover straight after it: Adeva’s Respect. The underground massive. Otis updated for the end of the decade and totally vital. Eat to the beat with Tone Loc; a fine cover of The Wild Ones’ Wild Thing. Slow the pitch right down with a classy ballad from Natalie Cole; I Live For Your Love.
The third and final #1 included here is The First Time. Electricity flows like the very first kiss. The Coca Cola advertisement and all that fizz. And time goes by so fast. Paula Abdul made her mark in the spring; Straight Up was the top tip; the great unknown possible smash on Now 14. It’s perfectly sick slamming dance pop that has she unfortunately found hard to better. Every little step in Samantha Fox’s quest for global domination; a hi-octane cover of Dusty Springfield’s I Only Want To Be With You was a crucial jive with a steamy promo video. It reached sweet #16.
Girls against boys: to Brother Beyond and the sublime Be My Twin. Never bettered and a worthy candidate for purest sophist-pop ever. Also sought-after is Climie Fisher’s underrated Love Like A River; a quality non-album single with marvellous harmonies. Duran Duran’s Tales From The Dark Side, All She Wants Is: erotic and edgy with an industrial slant. After a rather splendid fourth side, the album comes to a close with an anti-climax. Level 42’s Tracie barely raises a gallop while Michael Ball’s Love Changes Everything is a rather overblown number from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects Of Love.
“In this big area of mine,
sometimes you break me up inside”.
Adeva – Respect
Neneh Cherry – Buffalo Stance
Kim Wilde – Four Letter Word
Duran Duran – All She Wants Is
Lest we forget
Style Council – Promised Land
Missing tracks and other thoughts
The rules changed in January 1989 and now compilations had their own album chart. After a rather ordinary 13th volume, Now 14 mostly plays a winning hand. These could have turned A Jolly Boys Outing into a Royal Flush.
Texas – I Don’t Want A Lover. Spit on me Sharleen.
Edie Brickell and The New Bohemians – What I Am. For that drum break.
Beach Boys – Kokomo. Keepin’ the oldies alive.
New Order – Fine Time. The first fruits of the Technique era.
Bobby Brown – My Prerogative. Either side of Straight Up would have worked.
Holly Johnson – Love Train. Booming solo single that’s a real blast.