Hit Machine was K-Tel’s first chart compilation of 1981 and is not to be confused with their more famous US album from 1976. The back cover featured advertisements for their metal showdown Axe Attack and The Best Of Bowie, a budget success that featured under many of the year’s Christmas trees. The majority of the tracks on Hit Machine date from the tail-end of 1980, fondly remembered musical flashes during those formative times.
The opening track, Upside Down, is touched by the hand of Chic. Diana Ross delivers the vocals over a tight bass and drum arrangement. Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers did the rest. It works perfectly. Next comes the underrated Do You Feel My Love, a gritty reggae shaker by Eddy Grant. And then for more soul: Aretha Franklin’s emotion cover of What A Fool Believes, a hit for The Doobie Brothers in 1978. Steering the ship back to UK waters, Madness’ sobering Embarrassment and Gary Numan’s haunting synth masterpiece This Wreckage. Credit to the ARP Odyssey. No points for the edit – 3:14 is our lot here.
The Q-Tips: all English blue-eyed soul and new wave. Paul Young sung his heart out on A Man Can’t Lose (What He Don’t Have). Non-album single time: UB40’s subversive Dream A Lie with its searing blackface video. The grooves lurch to the endearing ska sounds of Bad Manners and Lorraine. Hammond organ, brass section, harmonica and a blow-up doll. How many bands can boast that in their line-up? Meanwhile Robert Palmer’s enigmatic acid wave Looking For Clues still reveals more secrets 35 years on. And for the festive road, Jona Lewie’s stirring anti-war classic Stop The Cavalry. What a first side!
Side 2 starts off all romantic – Air Supply’s deathless All Out Of Love and Hot Chocolate’s hidden late night memory Love Me To Sleep. Next, the normally rockabilly Matchbox who ditch their shakin’ sound for something more wholesome – a cover of Over The Rainbow which pairs off with You Belong To Me. Elsewhere Racey keep the Brylcream shiny on Runaround Sue while The G.B. Band make a fine fist of the sparkly When Will Be Loved (previously recorded by The Everly Brothers and Linda Ronstadt).
The final quarter sees a rise in temperature with the sultry Never Knew Love Like This Before from the diminutive Stephanie Mills. Disco time as Liquid Gold brew up a storm on The Night, The Wine And The Roses. The sound of Butlins, 1980. Out of the blue comes Boom Boom, a dope reggae number from Black Slate. It’s followed by the Darts’ cover of a doo-wop tune Sh-Boom, subtitled Life Could Be A Dream. Last orders come courtesy of Chas & Dave and their charming little ditty, Rabbit. Ideal for a first dance at your wedding.
Madness – Embarrassment
Bad Manners – Lorraine
Chas & Dave – Rabbit
Lest we forget
UB40 – Dream A Lie