Action Trax Volumes 1 and 2 (K-Tel, 1982)

Action Trax V1.jpg

Action Trax V1 r.jpg

Action Trax V2.jpg

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Review
“Get it cleaned up!”

The Big Snow arrived on 8 January 1982. Heavy snowfalls were rare in Ireland and in my 10 years, I had only seen light action. This was different. A savage gale came in from the east and with it, a blizzard for 36 hours. Sub-zero temperatures so drifts developed. In our front garden, on the back road, and in a number of nearby fields. Some of them were 10 feet high. It was a total blast. We had just gone back to school on the 7th and now would be off for what seemed like an interminably long time. Two more blizzards arrived over the next 10 days, each arriving just as the nation was recovering from the previous one.

Action Trax was released by K-Tel at the beginning of March 1982. Buy one, get the other free. The majority of its tracks span the late 1981 / early 1982 period. They now exist as memories first heard on 2FM during the enforced stay at home during the snow, RTE1’s Saturday morning show Anything Goes and a selection of Thursday night Top Of The Pops episodes. The opening song is a subtle political statement, Bucks Fizz and their dreamy yet scathing Land Of Make Believe. The close of the song features a nursery rhyme narrated by Abby Kimber. Most radio stations faded out before this part. In fairness, K-Tel don’t.

The old in-out. Drowning In Berlin by The Mobiles, an astonishing piece of sinister synth melancholia. Eerie, enchanting, haunting- all these things and more. Next comes the sleek romantic sound of Godley and Creme’s polished Wedding Bells. Kim Wilde’s Cambodia motors along, the story of a wife of a US pilot, who ends up being killed in the Cambodian war. PTSD. To brass and bounce, the infectiously danceable Favourite Shirts from Haircut 100. Some horns? Gosh! Bad Manners beaming on Walking In The Sunshine. Meanwhile Elvis was still blue, the terrific Sweet Dreams proving that he could really do country.

Feels like we’ve been here before. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark wrote not one, but two songs about Joan Of Arc. Maid Of Orleans was the sequel, another time tunnel back to 1431. A more soothing experience, a synthesised history lesson. Then Hall and Oates; the head soul brothers with the cautionary music business tale I Can’t Go For That. Heavily sampled by De La Soul on Say No Go in 1989. Elsewhere the Human League’s Don’t You Want Me kicks off side 2, a track that Phil Oakey relegated to 10 of 10 on Dare because he was so unhappy with the watered-down version aka a “poor quality filler track.”

Shakin’ Stevens cuts a moody figure on the maudlin It’s Raining while Stiff Little Fingers drop the slow-burning diamond, Listen. Julian Cope’s mob, Teardrop Explodes offer up the poppy Passionate Friend before XTC’s massive Senses Working Overtime, all intense drumming and a circular, almost maypole-like rhythm. Easily slipping in unnoticed are The Mood and the pure new wave sound of Don’t Stop. The wonderful comedown: Gary Numan and Dramatis – Love Needs No Disguise. Hardly remembered nowadays. Finally a more upbeat note, Ultravox’s expressive The Voice closes an extremely strong first volume.

“We’re still stuck!”

Volume 2 is a vastly different beast. For a start, there’s a lot more variety. Foreigner lead. Waiting For A Girl Like You, a power ballad with Thomas Dolby on keyboards. Dollar’s sickly sweet Mirror Mirror remains the biggest floor clearer of my entire DJing career. You can’t beat some lovers rock; Trevor Walters does his bit on Love Me Tonight. Next: from Streetwave, the crazy disco beat from Alton Edwards; his I Just Wanna (Spend Some Time With You) followed by the smooth groove of Shakatak’s Easier Said Than Done. And in a surprising diversion, we run down a NWOBHM blind alley chasing ex-Marseille’s Paul Dale. Not alright on any night.

Normal service is resumed. Japan. European Son was first released in Japan as the B-side of I Second That Emotion and on a Canadian Special Edition EP. In 1981 it was released on the flip of Life In Tokyo and also included on the Assemblage compilation. The version remixed by Steve Nye was then released as a single and reached #31. East of the sun: Yellow Pearl was originally included on Solo In Soho, chosen as the new theme for Top Of The Pops and then remixed for release on St Stephen’s Day 1981. Two steps forward, one step back. Showaddywaddy’s appalling Footsteps feeds into ABBA’s mournful One Of Us, taken from their divorce LP, The Visitors. Continue to stare at the ceiling.

Status Quo ply their 12 bar blues on the rather downbeat Rock And Roll. Tight Fit sold a million with their cover of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Give it some stick Mick! Chas and Dave’s world weary Ain’t No Pleasing You is a real tonic. Total craftsmen. It’s worth noting that Ronco’s Hits Hits Hits stole first march on the Dollar, Human League, Pretenders and B.A. Robertson tracks. That leaves Matchbox’s laidback Angels On Sunday followed by the Toyah-lite Natasha with Strangest Feeling to round off a rather uneven second half.

“Storm troopers!”

Wicklow was the worst county hit by the snow. Thousands of sheep and a large number of deer lost their lives. And in a sign of the times, opportunist thieves ransacked abandoned cars on the dual carriageway in Kildare and Dublin. “Bang your tin drum.”

Favourite tracks
The Mobiles – Drowning In Berlin

Kim Wilde – Cambodia

Philip Lynott – Yellow Pearl

Alton Edwards – I Just Wanna (Spend Some Time With You)

Lest we forget
The Mood – Don’t Stop

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15 Responses to Action Trax Volumes 1 and 2 (K-Tel, 1982)

  1. andynoax says:

    I only have the second volume of this one, and from the track listing of the first I’d say that it’s the weaker of the 2. Side 1 in particular is pretty dreadful with the horror of Shakatak in amongst some pretty average tracks. Not one of the best,

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      I like the Shakatak track – agree it’s surrounded by a few duds. When stretching to a second volume, things can spread a bit thin. Chart Heat / Chart Beat (coming in a few weeks) proves this point.

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  5. Steve says:

    Really pleased to see this. Action Trac was a huge part of my childhood. And there are many Trac on it I still listen to today. XTC, Treardrop Explodes, Ultravox, Julian Cope, Foreigner the list goes on. I still have the double cassette somewhere…

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  8. Martin Davis says:

    I first acquired this one on vinyl during Summer 2010 but didn’t get round to listening to it until just after Xmas. Admittedly I really liked “Footsteps” and by the start of 2011 had it on my IPod (downloaded from Itunes). Always associate it with returning to college in January 2011 after the Xmas holidays as I listened to it on the bus ride there that morning.

    By May 2011 I’d acquired this compilation on cassette and remember playing it as I tried to revise for my upcoming AS Level exams. That was how I heard “Drowning In Berlin” for the first time.

    “The Big Snow” seems far more extreme than the couple of days we had off in January 2010 when the UK got covered.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      January 2010 was bad enough here but the real cold snap was the following December that also went into January. Major chaos. I was putting on an 80s Night one-off that had to be postponed.

      • Martin Davis says:

        Sorry for the delay in replying.

        Bet you were really gutted at having to postpone that event after the effort you’d put in. Out of interest did it eventually go ahead?

        • nlgbbbblth says:

          This was originally scheduled for 4 December 2010 but was postponed due to severe snowfalls. It eventually took place on 22 January 2011 with all proceeds donated to New Ross Community Hospital. I was behind the decks for the whole night. Here’s my setlist – note there were two slow sets:

          Paul Hardcastle – 19
          Killing Joke – Eighties
          David Bowie – Ashes To Ashes
          Martha and The Muffins – Echo Beach
          Lloyd Cole and The Commotions – Perfect Skin
          Blondie – Rapture
          Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes
          Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t It Be Good
          Toto – Africa
          Man 2 Man Meets Man Parrish – Male Stripper
          Wang Chung – Dance Hall Days
          Falco – Rock Me Amadeus
          J Geils Band – Centrefold
          Karel Fialka – Hey Matthew
          Sigue Sigue Sputnik – Love Missile F1-11
          Musical Youth – Pass The Dutchie
          Murray Head – One Night In Bangkok
          Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy
          Nu Shooz – I Can’t Wait
          Madonna – Into The Groove
          Bruce Springsteen – Dancing In The Dark
          Prince – U Got The Look
          Stars On 45 – Stars On 45 Medley
          Dollar – Mirror, Mirror
          Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Enola Gay
          Visage – Fade To Grey
          Heaven 17 – Temptation
          A Flock Of Seagulls – Wishing (I Had A Photograph Of You)
          Madness – Baggy Trousers
          Specials – Too Much Too Young
          New Order – Blue Monday
          Bomb The Bass – Beat Dis
          M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume
          Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley – Jack Your Body
          Pet Shop Boys – Heart
          Duran Duran – The Reflex
          Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams
          Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes (Carnage)

          Hazel O’Connor – Will You
          INXS – Never Tear Us Apart
          Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight (1987)

          Billy Idol – Rebel Yell
          The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary
          The Smiths – This Charming Man
          The Cure – Why Can’t I Be You?
          Big Country – In A Big Country
          Adam and The Ants – Stand And Deliver
          ABC – Poison Arrow
          Soft Cell – Tainted Love
          London Boys – Requiem
          Neneh Cherry – Buffalo Stance
          Black Box – Ride On Time
          AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long
          Guns ‘n’ Roses – Paradise City
          Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
          Weather Girls – It’s Raining Men

          Bangles – Eternal Flame
          Berlin – Take My Breath Away

          Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Come On Eileen
          The Jam – Town Called Malice
          Depeche Mode – Just Can’t Get Enough
          Talking Heads – Road To Nowhere
          R.E.M. – It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
          The Smiths – Panic
          Madness – House Of Fun
          A-Ha – Take On Me
          Men Without Hats – Safety Dance
          Pixies – Debaser
          Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
          The Cure – Let’s Go To Bed
          Journey – Don’t Stop Believing
          Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer
          Europe – The Final Countdown
          Ram Jam – Black Betty
          The Pogues and The Dubliners – The Irish Rover
          Human League – Don’t You Want Me

          National Anthem

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