Raiders Of The Pop Charts (Ronco, 1982)

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Review
“Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

And so 1982 draws to close. To coincide with the shops re-opening after Christmas, there came another compilation album, Raiders Of The Pop Charts. This one was on Ronco and split in two parts. The usual message about getting the other free; however they do not appear to have been sold separately at all. The sign: Volume 2 (or Part 2 if you prefer) refers to sides three and four – a continuation of the scene set in the first half. The title and design seemed more contemporary and up to date – the Raiders Of The Lost Ark frenzy of August 1981 was not yet dimmed. For there was a 12-inch doll of Indiana Jones, and the following year they released nine action figures of the film’s characters, three playsets, as well as toys of the Nazi truck and Jones’ horse. Not to mention a board game.

Raiders Of The Pop Charts contains 30 blockbusting songs spread over two pieces of vinyl. Like K-Tel’s Chart Hits ’82, it was meant to represent the full year so those of us who had shelled out for previous compilations found ourselves with 10 overlapping tracks.

Street Scene: Modern Romance – Best Years Of Our Lives, Pretenders – Back On The Chain Gang, Shakin’ Stevens – Give Me Your Heart Tonight.
Chart Busters ’82: Haircut 100 – Love Plus One, Toni Basil – Mickey.
Chart Attack: Fat Larry’s Band – Zoom, Kids From Fame – Starmaker.
Overload: Tight Fit – Fantasy Island, Yazoo – Only You. Both of these were also included on K-Tel’s Turbo Trax.
Breakout: Toto Coelo – I Eat Cannibals (Part 1).

In retrospect Ronco really meant business with this one. Ashley Abram was onboard so the sequencing was more thoughtful than usual. And in the yellow box on both sleeves:

THE TRACKS CONTAINED IN THIS ALBUM ARE THE COMPLETE UNEDITED SINGLE VERSIONS AS ORIGINALLY RECORDED.

This move was a masterstroke. The sniffy disdain that still prevailed towards Various Artists records was not helped by having 10 or 11 songs crammed onto each side with random butchery, truncation and bizarre fades. Ronco’s fresh strategy showed a new found maturity and helped to increase the profile and desirability of such compilations.

Side 1 begins on a high. Madness growing up on The Rise & Fall, perfectly capturing the essence of British life in 1982. Just like The Kinks Village Green Preservation Society did in 1968 and as Blur’s Parklife would do in 1994, The original concept was to deal with childhood nostalgia; this was shelved and only the wistful Our House bears the mark of their original vision. Therein, the exuberant jazz blasts of Modern Romance’s Best Years Of Our Lives makes more sense in the wake of lines like “She’s the one they’re going to miss, in lots of ways” and “Our house – that was where we used to sleep”. Flashback to The Big Snow of 1982 (read more about our cold snap on Action Trax) and the bright spring sound of Haircut 100. We get the bright and marimba-driven Love Plus One.

The grey fog descends quickly. Harry’s Game; Belfast never looked so grim and Clannad’s mournful lament captures it so well. Ex-Sandbagger Ray Lonnen playing a blinder. Variety follows on Raw Silk’s agreeable disco tune Do It To The Music and The Chaps’ nightmarish Scots Clan laced-with-acid melter Rawhide. Going global: Incantation, a multinational group of musicians who originally met while writing for the Ballet Rambert. Their second album Cacharpaya: Music Of The Andes, with the help of a television series, made the top ten with its title track performed on Top Of The Pops. They later contributed to The Mission soundtrack. The first quarter then wraps up with the soaring soul sound of Zoom.

The Gargoyle Club, Soho, 1936.
Culture Club had arrived. Non-mistake number 3, Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? First seen on RTE1’s Anything Goes on a Saturday morning in September 1982. “Is it man or a woman?” asked concerned parents. Lilting white reggae, a torch song for the ages that’s this record’s only chart-topper. The song rose rapidly in the UK charts after the group’s first appearance on Top of the Pops, which resulted in George’s androgynous style of dress and sexual ambiguity shocking the tabloids. Meanwhile, Back on the Chain Gang was recorded after James Honeyman-Scott, the Pretenders guitarist, died in June of a drug overdose at the age of 25. Chrissie Hynde dedicated the gorgeous single to his memory.

A teenage lullaby comes next in the form of Nightporter, Japan’s zig-zag digging up of their recent past. Oboe. Double bass. And 1982 was the year when they scored six hits:
European Son #31.
Ghosts #5.
Cantonese Boy #24.
I Second That Emotion #9.
Life In Tokyo #28.
Nightporter #29.
It was lifted from the Gentlemen Take Polaroids album of 1980, edited and remixed. The extended 12″ mix remains unreleased on CD to this day.

One year had elapsed since Penthouse And Pavement, their third single and title track of their stunning debut album. Heaven 17 were still searching for their first top 40 hit after an underwhelming 45 – 46 – 57 scorecard. Let Me Go was surely the record to change the public’s indifference. A desolate synthesiser coupled with freeform vocal delivery and a gorgeous harmony reminiscent of 10cc. Alas, it was not to be and stalled at #41. Back to the weirdness: Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin’s oddly tuneful Johnny Rocco. This ain’t no party – instead it’s a Western fantasy for the synth pop era and sadly forgotten now.

Funny how the memory cheats. For many years, I associated August Darnell as a baddie in Annie, film version of the musical. I had visions of the music video for Annie, I’m Not You Daddy showing a clip from the film. Not the case. Some might say extra cheese but it’s a funky blast. I got home from the cinema that night to hear the newsreader break it to me gently: Dick Emery had passed away. And so it goes on with Lene Lovich’s compelling noir cover of It’s You, Only You (Mein Schmerz), cleverly sequenced after Yazoo’s Only You. Shades of Morricone. The circle remains unbroken on The Beat’s gorgeous I Confess, a tale of a relationship gone south and one that retains its danceability.

Now here’s a funny little song. Surely inspired by And The Native Hipsters’ And There Goes Concorde Again? Precious Little appears to have been one Trisha O’Keeffe, singing a mundane tale over a piano and drum machine. A cut-price single from the cheap bins at Woolworth’s. Taking it to a higher level are Whodini and Magic’s Wand, a classic old skool hip hop jam straight outta Brooklyn. Lyrics like “Big Mac attack” and just as vital as The Message. The third quarter ends on a grandiose flourish of strings, trumpets and a heady orchestral vocal – namely the Pale Fountains and Thank You. Later to become Shack (of HMS Fable fame) and deliver baggy’s lost diamond, I Know You Well. Perfect motion.

’82: Simple Minds’ third single, Someone Somewhere (In Summertime) still sends shivers all over. Brilliant days. Turn On to Robert Palmer’s wonky, melody-altered but supercool Some Guys Have All The Luck. What a falsetto! We’re getting close to the last stop as UB40 embark with the searing post-nightclub heavy comedown So Here I Am. To come, a commercial reign. We keep it dark with Gregory Isaacs’ slow slider Night Nurse. Then, another twist: Bladerunner or a jazz funk take of Love Theme from Vangelis’ score played by Morrissey Mullen. Heavy on the sax. The end comes in the school choir chant of the Fame kids. Starmaker, an X Factor self-fulling prophecy. Ahead of their time.

Postscript: Raiders Of The Pop Charts found its way into my collection in late January 1983. 34 years on, it still stands out, continues to thrill me and is easily one of the greatest compilations of the decade. This is due to a most imaginative track selection and seriously memorable sequencing from Ashley Abram. A double CD reissue in a fatbox is wishful but I’d love to see it happen. If only Carlsberg (or Cherry Red etc) did licensing miracles. . .

Favourite tracks
Madness – Our House

Kid Creole and The Coconuts – Annie, I’m Not Your Daddy

Whodini – Magic’s Wind

Clannad – Theme From Harry’s Game

Lest we forget
Lene Lovich – It’s You, Only you (Mein Schmerz)

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14 Responses to Raiders Of The Pop Charts (Ronco, 1982)

  1. cosmo says:

    And the picks from the Norwegian jury go as follow:

    Haircut 100 – Love Plus One

    Raw Silk – Do it to the Music (Another track that denies the theory that disco died.)

    Incantations – Cacharpaya (I just love seeing that how in the past the charts could throw up some REAL oddities like this [today’s “oddities” really do seem to be unfortunately deliberately staged])

    Culture Club – Do You Really Want To Hurt Me

    Heaven 17 – Let Me Go (a band originally composed by the “other half” of the original incarnation of the Human League)

    Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin – Johnny Rocco (Probably released as a follow-up to It’s My Party. But how could this have not even entered the Top 100, never mind the Top 40? It’s great – as good as the original, and probbably [IMO] a better cover that It’s My Party.)

    Robert Palmer – Some Guys Have All the Luck (#16 in the UK charts, Rod Stewart covered it and took it to #15 two years later.)

    Morrissey Mullen – Bladerunner (Another oddity – how to convert a Vangelis signature tune into a jazz-funk piece? Well, these guys tried – and managed it.)

    Another great compilation to end a great year for music.

  2. cosmo says:

    (And since you mentioned Madness and Whodini then I didn’t have to.)

  3. nlgbbbblth says:

    Thanks for those highlights Cosmo. It was really hard to pick the five favourites. What a democratic chart / time for music.

  4. andynoax says:

    This was the first compilation album that I ever bought with my own money, though I can’t recall whether I got it in January with Christmas cash or in March with my Birthday money. The latter I think. Either way I have a real soft spot for this collection as a result.

    Of the weird stuff, I’ve always loved The Chaps but have been unable to find anything out about them – my suspicion has always been that this was a more famous person messing about. I used to love the Precious Little track too but now I can’t stand it. I also remember recognising the brilliance of ‘Thank You’ – goodness knows how that didn’t make the Top 40.

    Although it was a hit (just) I discovered the Simple Minds track through this album too as it hadn’t been on TOTP so I didn’t really know it.

    By the way, I do have a version of ‘Nightporter’ on CD that is (I think) the 7″ version. It’s on one of the ‘Kick Up The Eighties’ series on the Old Gold label.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Cheers Andy, the first one you buy with your own dough is always going to be special.
      That Chaps theory could be correct; has got to be someone big on the Stiff roster.

      You’re right re Japan – I own the entire Kick Up The Eighties series but somehow managed to forgot about the inclusion of the 7″ of Nightporter. The 12″ version is still M.I.A. as far as I know.

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