Chart Stars (K-Tel, 1983)

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Review
Chart Stars was released by K-Tel in early June 1983. Its sketched photographic sleeve gave it a Number One or Just Seventeen look which set the compilation aside from its immediate BOGOF predecessors. The back cover comes with the customary disclaimer (in tiny writing) about running times being changed. All with the aim of ensuring the highest possible reproduction of course. By the time I got it, school was out for the summer.

Three tracks had already been covered by previous compilations namely:
Chart Hits ’82: Toto – Rosanna.
Chart Encounters Of The Hit Kind: Culture Club – Church Of The Poison Mind. Nick Heyward – Whistle Down The Wind.
Chart Tracks contains one tune that would make it onto Now That’s What I Call Music – Heaven 17’s Temptation which starts us off here. An intense three minutes of simmering synth pop, smothered with sexual tension and Carol Kenyon’s sublime backing vocals. It’s one of the few unedited songs here, the compilers deciding that snipping 30 or 40 seconds off everything was a democratic solution. A real pity given the intriguing selection here.

In second place are Fun Boy Three and their big breakthrough, Our Lips Are Sealed, written by Terry Hall and Jane Wiedlin but first released by her mob The Go-Gos. The cello adds a melancholy touch and the beat is exquisite. Equally downbeat is Blancmange’s Waves (which loses 67 seconds), its water video described as the antithesis of Duran Duran’s Rio. And another memory: “I remember a time, when I would blast this song out in my XR3i coming back from London, on the M1, no speed cameras, cheap petrol, no traffic, and I had a full head of hair and six pack. Chilled of course.”

There’s a generous allocation of our American friends over the remainder of side 1. Laura Branigan’s frantic Gloria is followed by Twisted Sister’s sturdy I Am (I’m Me). I remember one of their later albums getting -3 out of 10 in the NME. They always had the sniffiest musos writing for them. Also suitable for driving down the open road with the windows open – Toto’s Rosanna, Bonnie Tyler’s gleaming rawk opus Faster Than The Speed Of Night plus Hall and Oates’ take on Mike Oldfield’s Family Man. Their version of the song has some altered lyrics, including a line in which the man finally gets the nerve to take up the woman’s offer. Sadly she has decided to sling her hook so he screams out the chorus.

The first side ends with The Beat’s Can’t Get Used To Losing You. Another memory, this one from Gavin Paisley, fellow Irishman and also somebody who attended the greatest gig of all time. He says:
“I was too young in 1980 to connect with The Beat and ska / skinhead culture was for the older kids, but I remember hearing this for the first time at my debs (debutante ball, like an Irish version of Prom Night) in 1990. Looking back it seems a strange choice for the DJ, to play during a slow dance set, ten years later. but I was instantly captivated by it, I had to find out what it was. It sounds so radical for a pop song too, all the heavy echoes and distant vocals. I’m glad he played it cos it got me into the band. Can’t remember much else about that night lol.”

Side 2 gets into the groove with Phil Fearon’s Galaxy and the catchy Dancing Tight, all upfront synths with a liberal dose of funk. Phil is married to Dorothy “Dee” Galdes, the vocalist on the Baby D song Let Me Be Your Fantasy. Next comes the joyful Feed The Need In Me, courtesy of Forrest. And then a gorgeous smooth groove produced by Mtume’s Reggie Lucas – Sunfire’s Young, Free And Single. Talent time: a poor effort by the Kids From Fame (the lame Friday Night) is followed by the UK’s Eurovision entry I’m Never Giving Up sung by Sweet Dreams. A passable entry that earned 79 points including 12 from Sweden. Singer Bobby McVay went on to join Bucks Fizz in 2015. And so it goes.

Bananarama bounced back into the top 5 with their hypnotic Steam cover Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye. Meanwhile #43 was as good as it got for Dollar’s David Van Day and Young Americans Talking. Also narrowly failing to make an impact was the debut single by The Waterboys, the soulful sax-driven A Girl Called Johnny, a tribute to female condoms. And with bass played like a heavenly melody come China Crisis; Tragedy And Mystery is the first fruit borne from Working With Fire And Steel. Last: take some Geisha ladies in an empty office complex and call the song Change. Not forgetting Roland Orzabal’s freaky dancing. More from The Hurting; Tears For Fears at their most enigmatic and creative.

“Black as hell and white as a ghost
‘Don’t talk about life or death’
She said I’ve had enough of both
A girl called Johnny who was not scared.”

Favourite tracks
Heaven 17 – Temptation

Tears For Fears – Change

China Crisis – Tragedy And Mystery

Lest we forget
The Waterboys – A Girl Called Johnny

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5 Responses to Chart Stars (K-Tel, 1983)

  1. andynoax says:

    I can honestly say that I have never seen this one in any shop ever!

    Some good stuff on it, though I would disagree that ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ was the breakthrough for the Fun Boy 3 as even if you exclude the 2 singles they did with Bananarama, ‘Tunnel Of Love’ had made the Top 10.

    I love ‘Waves’ by Blancmange – it completely passed me by at the time and I discovered it later when I bought their ‘Second Helpings’ collection on cassette. It’s now one of my favourite 80s tracks.

    I also like Sweet Dreams, though many people would find it just too cheesy I expect. I had no idea it had ever been on a compo, and presumably that didn’t need an edit given that it’s 3 minutes long anyway!

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Fair point re Tunnel Of Love. Sometimes memories can distort. Waves is excellent and fully intact on Ronco’s Chart Trek from the end of 1983.

      Sweet Dreams track is 2:27 here – so is cut by c.30 seconds !

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