Hits On Fire (Ronco, 1983)

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Review
“What once was pleasure now’s pain for us all
In my heart only shadows fall
I once stood proud now I feel so small
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry
The long hot summer just passed me by”

The Style Council recorded their third single, Long Hot Summer, between 12 and 17 June 1983 in the Grande Armée Studios in Paris. It was released on 8 August with its promotional video filmed on the River Cam in Cambridge. By coincidence the British and Irish summer of 1983, most notably July, turned out to be one of the hottest on record – something that would not have been known at the time the song was written and recorded.

The beginning of July saw Ronco release a new compilation – Hits On Fire – with the tagline of “20 scorching tracks”. Two of these had already appeared on K-Tel’s Chart Stars, released the previous month: Bananarama – Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye, Heaven 17 – Temptation. Hits On Fire also sees the first appearance of yet another song that would end up on Now That’s What I Call Music – Mike Oldfield’s ace Moonlight Shadow, a tune that is forever associated with strawberry picking at the O’Higgins farm in The Rower. There was a radio at the top of the drills which blasted out what’s now known as 2FM. It was truly sunshine pop for the ages. Maggie Reilly sang lead vocal on Moonlight Shadow and it reached #1 in several European countries. The music video was directed by Keith McMillan and shot on location at Hatfield House and Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire.

Hits On Fire begins with what Robert Christgau described as “a wrenching triumph” – Tom Robinson’s enigmatic and magical War Baby, a perfect late night number. Next comes the Eurythmics March smash, their signature song Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), a synth pop standard. There’s two Aussie treats in store: Flash and The Pan’s moody ‘n’ melodic Waiting For A Train is the first, a terrific tune. And a little bit further on, Men At Work’s downbeat Overkill, an ode to urban isolation and the stress of modern life. In the midst, Blancmange’s second wave, the brilliantly relentless Blind Vision. A first taste from the upcoming Mange Tout. Closer: Bucks Fizz’s uplifting Run For Your Life. Bring Me Closer #2: Into paradise with Altered Images as Clare Grogan’s vocal kicks in.

Listen, the second LP from A Flock Of Seagulls emerged in May 1983, some six months after the stirring Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You). Transfer Affection was its third 45, a pleasant slice of mid-paced synth pop that’s faded early. It leads into the closing track on side 1, Toto’s I Won’t Hold You Back. The ballad that barely scraped the top 40. It seemed to be much more popular over here and got regular airplay, reaching #11 in the Irish charts. Sticking on a romantic theme, Booker Newberry III kicks off the second half with his smooth disco jam, Love Town. Some Brit funk next – Freeez’s IOU – which was written, produced and mixed by Arthur Baker. It went all the way to #2. Breakers’ revenge.

Hot Chocolate continued to rack ’em up. What Kinda Boy You’re Lookin’ For (Girl) hit the top 10, a gentle groover. The next one makes me smile all over – Roman Holliday’s brassy toe-tapper Don’t Try To Stop It. Killer sax flourishes and bundles of energy. Back to funk: Imagination’s understated Looking At Midnight and I-Level’s X-rated Teacher. Its B-side All My Love is way better though. Elsewhere Kissing The Pink’s Love Lasts Forever is an interesting curio, the flop successor to The Last Film. We signing off with a real rhythmic gem, the super boogie of The Funkmasters and It’s Over. Total top minter. Disco heaven.

“1983. . . my 11th birthday. I received a Sony Walkman with Men At Work’s Cargo inside. I thought I had received the greatest present ever!” (LG Okie)

Favourite tracks
Men At Work – Overkill

Mike Oldfield – Midnight Shadow

The Funk Masters – It’s Over

Lest we forget
Roman Holliday – Don’t Try To Stop It

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7 Responses to Hits On Fire (Ronco, 1983)

  1. andynoax says:

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record (pun intended) this is another that I have no recollection of seeing ever before. The title and cover are both like a much less exciting version of ‘Hot Wax’.

    Although I’ve never really got the love for ‘War Baby’ and ‘Sweet Dreams’ is my least favourite Eurythmics single, the rest of Side 1 is pretty good. Flash & The Pan, Blancmange and Bucks Fizz one after the other is my idea of heaven. Not so keen on the Altered Images song, but if the Toto song is the one I think it is (with the ‘If I had another chance to love’ lyric that was later sampled by Roger Sanchez) then I agree with you that it’s a criminally under-rated tune.

    Side 2 is less interesting for me – Freeez, Mike Oldfield and Roman Holliday being by far the best tracks.

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