The most memorable summer holidays often seem to be from when we were children. A delightful escape from the daily routine, in an unfamiliar location with the thrills of new friends and unusual experiences. For me, ice cream is tied into these memories which I previously set out in Did It Taste Just As Good Then? As I grew older, music started to form part of that experience too. On 15 August 1981 my family travelled 40 miles to Courtown Harbour for the first of three successive holidays at that charming seaside town. Many of the songs on Ronco’s Super Hits Volumes 1 and 2 were key to that week away, their sounds drifting from our car radio and the kitchen of the Edenmore Guest House.
Super Hits was “seen on TV” and is another of those twin releases that started to become prevalent in 1981 – Disco Daze / Disco Nites being another example from the same time. First up on #1 is a Scottish folk singer called Mary. She wears a kimino, puts chop sticks in her hair, draws on slitty eyes and changes her name to Aneka in order to sing a song in a cod Japanese accent about her lost lover. Fabulous stuff. It’s a swindle! Tenpole Tudor as fronted by Eddie Tenpole came to prominence in Julian Temple’s Sex Pistols flick. The raucous Wunderbar sounds alien today. Equally exotic is Toyah and her dazzling I Want To Be Free while Madness give us a realistic ode to British working life on Grey Day.
Sons And Fascination. Sister Feelings Call. Two separate albums. They were assembled from the same sessions and hit the shops at the same time during September 1981 and, in some instances, sold as a double LP set. The two releases are variously categorised as a double album, two single albums or a single album and an EP. Love Song appears here, Simple Minds’ first to reach a slightly wider audience (climbed to #47). Elsewhere Eddy Grant’s booming I Love You, Yes I Love is all about the seduction while Black Slate’s awesome Live A Life remains one the decade’s crucial reggae cuts. Stuck in the middle with you: REO Speedwagon’s eternal prom night standard Keep On Loving You.
So what about Adrian Baker then? He produced Liquid Gold, experienced A Song For Europe twice and his band Gidea Park released a non-stop medley (Beach Boy Gold) in 1978. It was reissued at the end of June 1981 and barely missed out on the top 10. In the USA, he is best known for being the falsetto voice for the touring Beach Boys band for various stages between 1981 and 2004. The ingredients consisted of: Graduation Day / Catch A Wave / Surfin’ USA / I Get Around / Little Old Lady From Pasadena / Fun Fun Fun / Sloop John B / Dance Dance Dance / When I Grow Up / Good Vibrations.
And there’s more for we have come to Stars On 45. A creation of Star Sound, a Dutch novelty act. The band, which consisted solely of studio session musicians under the direction of Jaap Eggermont, formerly of Golden Earring, popularised medley recordings made by recreating hit songs as faithfully as possible and joining them together with a common tempo and underlying drum track. Stars On 45 Medley was massive. Here you go: Stars On 45 / Intro “Venus” / Sugar Sugar / No Reply / I’ll Be Back / Drive My Car / A Hard Day’s Night / Do You Want To Know A Secret / We Can Work It Out / I Should Have Known Better / Nowhere Man / You’re Going To Lose That Girl / Stars On 45.
Back to reality and the end of 1980 with ABBA’s Super Trouper. The tempo drops on Champaign’s soulful How ‘Bout Us and Hazel O’Connor’s slow set staple Will You. Bad for good: Jim Steinman’s wizard a true star, Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through. Next is Macca’s cousin, Kate Robbins who, with Beyond, drops the pleasant More Than In Love while recent Eurovision winners Bucks Fizz appear with Piece Of the Action. Much more pop than Making Your Mind Up. Paul Young and the Q-Tips follow with the wonderful non-hit Stay The Way You Are. Volume 1 ends with a dramatic flourish, Kiki Dee’s Star.
#2: The Human League added another building block to their 1981 manifesto. After The Sound Of The Crowd’s March success, Love Action (I Believe In Love) finally saw them crack the top 10. A shimmering synth masterpiece, the second of three pre-Dare 45s. The promotional video was shot retrospectively – after the success of Don’t You Want Me.
Memory: “Back in December 1981 my music collection numbered zero items. I went to Sinnotts in Waterford to buy the 7″ of the Human League’s Don’t You Want Me. It was sold out with the next delivery not due for two days. I was desperate to spend my couple of pounds so started looking at their ‘reduced to clear’ bin. There were some 12″s in amongst them, so ended up buying The Sound Of The Crowd 12″ for 99p. No way back.”
(As recounted to Rob Grillo and featured in the new edition of Is That The 12″ Remix?)
Medley (again): Why? Because the trend was in full swing during 1981. Producer Ken Gold got inspired by Star Sound and decided on a 1960s smorgasbord. He put together a group of male and female session singers and released Back To The Sixties the group title, Tight Fit. All the way to #4 and instead of the session singers who sang on the record, a group of actor / singers including Lowri-Ann Richards and Robert Pereno, were hired to front the group when Tight Fit first appeared on Top Of The Pops. The full horror: Dancing In The Street / (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction / You Really Got Me / Doo Wah Diddy Diddy / Black Is Black / Bend Me, Shape Me / When You Walk In The Room / Mony, Mony.
On either side: we can’t help but be moved by Hazel O’Connor’s stunning (Cover Plus) We’re All Grown Up, which mysteriously stalled at #41 in the UK charts. Shakin’ Stevens takes us back to the sound of 1954 on This Ole House. Meanwhile the Basildon boys, Depeche Mode, get the balance right on their exquisite moog synthesiser second single New Life. Operating, generating. Endlessly inventive. The same cannot be said for Tenpole Tudor who make a second appearance. Swords Of A Thousand Men is clumsy and grates. But The Look improve my mood, the singalong good weather anthem Feeding Time.
We’re never too far from the rockabilly groove. Stray Cat Strut boasts a marvellous guitar solo. Winston Groovy’s sunny brings the third quarter to a jiving conclusion. Inevitable with a name like that. Self-identity, family, and soul fulfillment are the name of the game on Going Back To My Roots, Odyssey’s ace cover of Lamont Dozier’s 1977 tune. The heat is on with Imagination’s sublime Body Talk, a uniquely British take on urban soul that spawned a fantastic LP of the same name and a killer remix album Nightdubbing. Next, a percussive delight from Third World called Dancing On The Floor (Hooked On Love).
The Dude: Quincy Jones and his sublime Razzmatazz with a cool vocal from Patti Austin. There’s a fiery disco cookout from The Whispers – It’s A Love Thing. Keep your dancing shoes on for Linx and Throw Away The Key, reputedly the inspiration for Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World. Settle down to Sugar Minott’s laidback Good Thing Going. Super Hits Volume 2’s soulful second half unwinds with more killer disco in the shape of Heatwave’s delicious and euphoric Jitterbuggin’. A song in the key of life.
“Dance with the rhythm of the street in your life.”
Madness – Grey Day
Human League – Love Action (I Believe In Love)
Depeche Mode – New Life
Imagination – Body Talk
Lest we forget
Heatwave – Jitterbuggin’