The Beano reached a milestone on 15 November 1980 – issue #2000. A striking pose. Four characters in a human pyramid with Walter on top passing an issue of the comic to Gnasher who is perched on a stack of them from the floorboards up. To the right is our hero, Dennis The Menace, pulling the bottom one out (Jenga-style) and quipping:
“I’ll show you a picture of the cover of the very first Beano on the back page, readers.”
The cover price said 8p but we paid a little more. I used to purchase my copy in Nolan’s or Nugent’s. On this occasion, I went for the former. They sold records too and as I paid for The Beano I noticed Space Invasion in the racks. The sleeve immediately grabbed my attention. This was amazing. I would see it here and there over the next two years or so, always picked up and scanned but not purchased until 1984. The concept was simple: 20 tracks of varying styles linked together by a common theme. It remains the ultimate crossover compilation which introduced me to a number of different musical fields.
Space Invasion begins with a song about UFOs; Hot Chocolate’s No Doubt About It, an intergalactic slow-burner. Then it’s time for some computerised exotica – The Yellow Magic Orchestra’s mind-expanding Theme From The Space Invaders / Firecracker. I’m heading down to The Penguin which doubles up as a chipper and an arcade. First time on my own, summer of 1980. The sound of this track mixed in with the noises from the video games is still in my mind. The arcade and the machines are long gone but the chips are still the best in the south east of Ireland. Equally compelling are Deep Purple and the godlike drumming festival that is Fireball. Best not think about it while driving.
Treats abound on Galaxy, War’s spaced-out funk masterpiece while OMD’s oblique Messages gets snipped by the Ronco shears. Still shimmers. Meanwhile The Shadows plied their country / disco / twang crossover banger Riders In The Sky on Top Of The Pops during February ’80. Next comes a brace of lush grooves: Dollar’s weightless 1979 number Who Were You With In The Moonlight and The Manhattans sweet Shining Star. This atmospheric vibe continues with Chris De Burgh’s nicely trimmed A Spaceman Came Travelling and The Carpenters deadly cover Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft. Kudos to Klaatu. The experiment was to be known as World Contact Day.
Side 2: we stay in the ’70s. It starts with the Manfred Mann Earth Band’s hugely enjoyable 1977 take of Springsteen’s Blinded By The Light which then blends into Elton John’s dramatic Rocket Man, not really such a long long time as it fades away at 3:25. Still in 1972, Genesis’ Watcher Of The Skies. There was a radio version of similar length to this unique Ronco edit. I still wonder why it wasn’t used. Whooosh! Hawkwind’s sublime Silver Machine which memorably covered by James Last on Non Stop Dancing 1973. On: Eve Of The War from Jeff Wayne which contains more inexplicable editing.
We move onto a glorious disco glitterball on Sheila B. Devotion’s Spacer, a collaboration with Chic. Risqué era. Hooks, harmonies and melodies. And then back to the musical version of The War Of The Worlds for Justin Hayward’s plaintive dirge Forever Autumn. Elsewhere Dollar make a second appearance on the zippy romanticism of Shooting Star. This is followed by a Brit funk classic – the timeless grooves of Atmosfear’s Dancing In Outer Space. We wind down with the sound of Space’s thrilling Magic Fly, truncated into 2:20 of disco meets new wave meets Daft Punk. Analogue synthesisers at their best.
Yellow Magic Orchestra – Theme From The Space Invaders / Firecracker
The Carpenters – Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft
Sheila B. Devotion – Spacer
Lest we forget
Atmosfear – Dancing In Outer Space