My two abiding memories from February 1983 are the death of Karen Carpenter – on a rainy Friday – and the disappearance of the racehorse Shergar. We had The Carpenters’ two singles compilations in our house back then and I knew the songs back to front. For me, the Superstar with its introduction and the speeded-up Goodbye To Love were canon versions and it was quite a shock hearing the original 7″ mixes some years later. Elsewhere poor old Shergar was never found while his kidnappers remain at large to this day.
After Ronco’s gold standard Raiders Of The Pop Charts, a response was needed from K-Tel who had first dibs on compiling the hits of early ’83. Hotline was their answer, containing 30 tracks generously spread over two LPs. So the message that less is more was finally getting through. Another bonus was the lack of previously compiled songs, a relief for us who purchased or taped every chart round-up. The home-taping era was in full swing. It’s a fine effort, mixing the familiar with a host of memorable obscurities and also-rans.
Hotline Volume 1 starts with a bang. Men At Work’s Down Under, a ubiquitous radio hit with some of the most incomprehensible lyrics I had heard e.g. “Jah mighten sandwich”. Despite its simplistic jolliness, Down Under is not really representative of their sound and people who dismiss them as hackneyed Aussies should check out the likes of Who Can It Be Now?, Overkill, It’s A Mistake etc. After six unsuccessful 45s (61 – 38 – 57 – 47 – 49 – 43), Level 42 finally broke into the top 30 with The Chinese Way, a busy funk groove. Next: the glorious, highly energetic disco sound of Sharon Redd’s In The Name Of Love.
Long album title time: Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms Some People Think It’s Fun to Entertain, the debut from Liverpool’s China Crisis. An enigmatic record; slow to unfold. The gorgeous Christian reached #12, its lovely fretless bass played by Andy Pask (Einstein A Go-Go) who also wrote The Bill theme. Steve Hillage’s intense Kamikaze Eyes follows before Billy Griffin’s miraculous jam Hold Me Tighter In The Rain. Soul meets synth pop with shades of Phil Spector on The Maisonettes’ Heartache Avenue, their one and only hit. Another grower: Rockers’ Revenge cover Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come. Nailed.
All good things come to end. November 1982 saw Epic release ABBA – The Singles: The First Ten Years. There were two new tracks: The Day Before You Came which preceded the compilation by a few weeks while Under Attack hit the shops at the start of December. On the 11th, the band performed it on the BBC’s Late Late Breakfast Show; their last collective performance. Despite its strong production, #26 was as far as it got. The video shows the quartet walking away, backs to the camera. Into the light. Thank you for the music.
Godfather of Disco, Vincent Montana’s Montana Sextet recorded Heavy Vibes in late ’82. It was a reworking of part of MFSB’s Love Is The Message and inexplicably only reached #59 despite extensive pirate radio airplay. Another obscurity: Natasha’s supremely catchy I Can’t Hold On, sinks without trace. And straight in at #68, the Fun Boy Three’s difficult sixth 45, The More I See, all raw N.I. politics. The mood is lightened by Shakin’ Stevens I’ll Be Satisfied before Joe Jackson’s night driving classic Steppin’ Out. A 1-2 punch as the pop brilliance of Love On Your Side comes next, the true arrival of the Thompson Twins.
Hotline contains two tracks that would find their way onto Now That’s What I Call Music: Down Under and the opening song on Volume 2 (also to lead off Now…), You Can’t Hurry Love. This was the first time that Phil Collins had released a cover version as a single. He later stated: “The idea was to see if Hugh Padgham and I could duplicate that 60s sound. It’s very difficult today because most recording facilities are so much more sophisticated than they were back then. It’s therefore hard to make the drums sound as rough as they did on the original. That’s what we were going after, a remake, not an interpretation.”
Radio daze: Indeep’s Last Night a DJ Saved My Life features vocals from Reggie Magloire and Rose Marie Ramsey. The story: a woman is home alone and bored. She wants to speak to her man, but get in touch so considers leaving him. Drastic I know. The DJ plays a cool song and thereby saves her life as we find out that she leaves her house and is a hair’s breadth away from being hit by a car. It’s followed by Culture Club’s deeply sincere non album 45 Time (Clock Of The Heart) and Marvin Gaye’s post-disco classic, Sexual Healing. Naturally the 7″ mix: in the 16 beats from 1:49 to 1:59, Marvin sings “Get up, get up, get up, get up”. No whispers like in the album version which is way more common nowadays.
Reach Up, Toney Lee’s flashpoint with its killer bassline, only got as far as #64 in the UK, despite positive press in Record Mirror and a top 10 placing in the Billboard dance chart. It’s not long enough here and seems to be an early fade. Quick draw: Tyrone Brunson’s stunning electro instrumental The Smurf, dropping off at #52. A solid gold body popper. The run of interesting failures continues with Loose Talk’s punky Judge Dredd. Apparently this just got a promotional 7″ release on the Jet label and never charted. And somewhere between Roxy Music and Japan: I give you Icehouse and the atmospheric Hey Little Girl with the austere theme continuing on The Stranglers’ melancholy European Female.
Bubbling under was a feature on Top Of The Pops where bands close to the top 40 summit would appear. Lagartija Nick saw Bauhaus make for a menacing three minutes. More: the mysterious synth pop of Jani Z. I’m Alone, here and nowhere else. And then it’s Hymn, Ultravox at their creepiest. The devil’s march, the seduction for fame, power and glory. In its wake are Belgians, Allez Allez with the nifty jazzy pop sound of Flesh And Blood which definitely didn’t deserve to sink without trace. And also bombing the first time around was Paul Young’s Love Of The Common People which drifts along into Hotline’s closer, UB40’s I’ve Got Mine which bridges the gap from UB44 to Labour Of Love. Take the pressure.
ABBA – Under Attack
China Crisis – Christian
Tyrone Brunson – The Smurf
Ultravox – Hymn
Lest we forget
Montana Sextet – Heavy Vibes