Star Traks (K-Tel, 1980)

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It’s good to be back. Right back. 1980 to be precise. The year I started to became aware of pop music. K-Tel’s Star Traks was released in April, and its cosmic gold disc sleeve soon adorned the number one slot in Hilary Murphy’s Carousel record shop on John Street. I wasn’t in a financial position to buy the LP at the time but a taped copy (green BASF) quickly did the rounds on our road. 20 songs in 63 minutes means that truncation and editing is inevitable but back then, this was not a concern to my 8 year old ears.

Star Traks is a spring ’80 showcase. It starts with Blondie’s soaring Union City Blue, the second single from Eat To The Beat. A killer guitar sound, the beautiful vocals riding high on the new wave crest. Let the sound carry you on this astounding start to the decade. Saddling up on this blue buzz were The Tourists with the wistful Good To Be Back Home Again before Peter Gabriel’s sardonic commentary on war and international diplomacy, Games Without Frontiers. Sparks fly on the brooding When I’m With You, a spacious groove with a sinister video. The quality remains high as New Musik treat us to one of synth pop’s most underheralded gems on the sparkling Living By Numbers.

Closer: Rupert Holmes’ Escape (The Piña Colada Song), the last US #1 of the 1970s. An enduring number about dating and relationships that’s still played today. Next up is Billy Ocean’s uptempo funky disco tune Are You Ready that fits nicely into the beach groove of Liquid Gold’s Dance Yourself Dizzy. Big in Blackpool, Skegness and Courtown Harbour. The Gibson Brothers ensure that the bop doesn’t stop on the ultra-energetic Que Sera Mi Vida. Side 1 winds down properly with Green Onions, Booker T and The MGs classic 1962 single which made its way back into the top 10 in early 1980 – undoubtedly assisted by a memorable Top Of The Pops routine from the sublime Legs and Co.

Hung up: Abba’s Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! kicks off the second half. The single version of this song, which was released in its full length of 4:48 everywhere else in the world, was released in the United States and Canada in an edited format, being just 3:36 in length. This was done by removing the first half of the opening instrumental, the first four of the eight bars of the instrumental bridge between the second and final chorus, and fading the song out early. It is believed the edit was done by Atlantic, ABBA’s North American record label, and not Polar, hence the reason why it was available only in the USA and Canada. This version features on Star Traks and still remains unreleased on CD.

Matchbox’s Buzz Buzz A Diddle It was one of five top 20 hits for the rockabilly combo. Hot on the pulse are Regents with the nu-wave anthem 7 Teen while John Foxx’s searing synth monster Underpass makes me long for the misty CBS yard in the cold evenings of January and February 1980. Meanwhile The Vapors broke down the walls of heartache with the intense Turning Japanese. Try and release that now. Standing in line are Sad Café (the other Paul Young’s old mob) and the oblique Strange Little Girl. Take me to the future where there is an Echo Beach. Faraway in time; Martha and The Muffins’s surf gem.

Pata Pata was originally written by Miriam Makeba in 1957. Legendary UK Afro-funk band Osibisa covered it in 1980. Criss-cross rhythms that explode with happiness. Keep on dancing with Holdin’ On from Tony Rallo, a production alias for Alec R. Costandinos. Top tune at West End club Crackers.. Lastly, it’s time for Jazz Carnival, the stonking disco funk gold bar from Azymuth. TOTP January 1980: one nation under a groove.

Favourite tracks
Blondie – Union City Blue

New Musik – Living By Numbers

Sparks – When I’m With You

Lest we forget
The Tourists – So Good To Be Back Home Again

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20 Responses to Star Traks (K-Tel, 1980)

  1. Feel the Quality says:

    Glad to see you back. I didn’t know k-tel did compilations that weren’t session singers like the old Top of the Pops albums, so it’s a genuine surprise to see a compilation from the really early 80s that is original artists.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Thanks, they did quite a few original artists ones. Their main rivals were Ronco so I’ll be featuring a selection of 1980 – 1983 compilations over the next few months. Posting likely to be just once a week to avoid burnout.

  2. Attila SUMER says:

    Wow, best email to come into work to! So pleased to have your posts back, hope all is good and looking forward to lots more compilation nuggets. Usually if you’ve reviewed one of my faves, I go back and dig it out for my car so thank you for the great memories.

  3. cosmo says:

    Welcome back! And what a great way to return – covering the “pork scratches” compilations. What a great selection of songs! Am looking forward to seeing you cover more pre-Now compilation albums.

  4. Pingback: Street Level (Ronco, 1980) | A Pop Fan's Dream

  5. andynoax says:

    I’ll echo the other comments on here and say ‘welcome back!’

    I have many K-Tel and Ronco compilations from the early 80s – some bought or given to me as presents at the time – and some acquired later, so I am looking forward to this!

    I don’t own this one, but I have to say that it’s a pretty decent line-up of tracks.

  6. Pingback: Chart Explosion (K-Tel, 1980) | A Pop Fan's Dream

  7. cosmo says:

    Oh, and by the way, a big-up for Azymuth here (FWIW I am NOT Mentioning this because of the Olympics!) :

  8. Pingback: Cool Heat (K-Tel, 1983) | A Pop Fan's Dream

  9. Pingback: Now That’s What I Call Music 1980: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999) | A Pop Fan's Dream

  10. Martin Davis says:

    I’ve had this album years but only heard it for the first time about 15 months ago when I transferred my cassette copy of it onto CD.

    Was really impressed by the Sparks track which I’d never heard before. I seem to recall “No1 Song In Heaven” turning up on an earlier KTEL compilation but can’t recall anything else of theirs being compiled anywhere.

    I’m more familiar with Natasha England’s version of Pata Pata which I originally heard courtesy of Street Scene. Wonder why two artists covered it in such a short space of time.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Hi Martin, I think Osibisa kick-started this mini revival off. Mystic Energy was a biggish LP around then and it wasn’t unusual to have other artists trying their luck – like Trevor Walters version of Lionel Richie’s Stuck On You following the original into the charts in 1984.

      • Martin Davis says:

        Sorry for the delay in replying. Only just saw your response which as usual was really interesting so thanks for that.

        Come to think of it wasn’t Iko Iko also covered by both Belle Stars and Natasha England?

  11. John says:

    Hello there,i been looking for this on CD,cannot get,but i have on it when it came out in Essex UK ,i think from Woolworth or a record shop that’s well gone, called TapeStop.
    I think i will make a CD of this.

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