Headline Hits (K-Tel, 1983)

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There’s something very evocative about the sleeve of K-Tel’s Headline Hits. It was created by Acrobat Design Limited, also responsible for rival Ronco’s Street Level, Space Invasion, Super Hits, Disco Daze / Disco Nites along with K-Tel’s own Action Trax. The crudely pasted newspaper style caught my eye as soon as I thumbed through the racks at Ross Records in September 1983. I can still visualise the shop’s interior, a regular haunt after school with the LPs flicked through umpteen times during each visit. Familiarity breeding a weird kind of serenity, seven pound notes burning a hole in my pocket. And then hiding it in my wooden desk before swapping it in class. Fearful of Brother Cahill’s drumstick.

Freeez’s IOU had already been grabbed by rival compilation Hits On Fire which came out two months earlier. Meanwhile Headline Hits also sees the first appearance of two chart toppers that would end up on Now That’s What I Call Music: KC and The Sunshine Band – Give It Up, Paul Young – Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home). The former ruled radio during the searing hit of August, blaring from the radio at Riverchapel’s amusement arcade just before the big slide. Meanwhile Paul Young’s passionate version of the Motown classic was amazing, sheer perfection in its delivery. The 12″ version is magnificent.

Stuck in the middle of this pair of number ones are The Lotus Eaters. The First Picture Of You is an all-time great, a stunning debut single. Watching the video now is like zipping through a typical summer day in 1983. All the smells and sounds come to the fore: 99 ice cream cones, mint choc ices, running down to the Red Bridge and trying to avoid falling in the river, freshly cut grass, salads with ham for tea. Bicycles with no helmets, the sound of the A and B buttons in the local pub’s telephone. A certain beauty and sadness co-exist in the song; as summer ends and flowers die, so do May – September romances. Timeless.

We come to dance: Ray Davies wrote Come Dancing as a tribute to his older sister, Irene (Rene), who died of a heart attack while dancing at a local Palais hall. This sad loss took place on his 13th birthday, just hours after Rene had given Ray his first electric guitar. The single was initially released in November 1982 but failed to chart. Five months later it reached #6 in the US so a summer reissue saw it crack the UK market, all helped by a memorable video directed by Julien Temple. Jam on as Lafleur cover Heatwave’s Boogie Nights and Julie Roberts drops some smoking weekender soul on Fool For You.

Modern Romance eschew their normal salsa vibe for an unexpected ballad on the sweetly sung Walking In The Rain. A favourite of babysitters everywhere. John Du Prez on trumpets, natch. Yazoo’s poignant Nobody’s Diary follows, open sound and tight bass with loads of space. The first and only single from You And Me Both. One hit wonders Jimmy The Hoover were managed by Malcolm McLaren and their worldbeat smash Tantalise (Wo Wo Ee Yeh Yeh) epitomises the sunny vibes of the summer. A real bopper and a Derek Jarman video to boot. Side 1 ends with the languid Watching from the Thompson Twins. Please note that the single mix sidesteps Grace Jones’ backing vocals.

Depeche Mode’s Everything Counts sees both Dave Gahan and Martin Gore sharing singing duties. An attack on corporate greed from the decidedly non-businesslike Construction Time Again. You won’t hear this at your local Chamber of Commerce. Then the rockabilly rant ‘n’ rave of the Stray Cats – (She’s) Sexy And 17 while a little later on, we get Stop! Please Stop!, the undead rock ‘n’ roll of Rocky Sharpe and The Replays booms out. Inside there’s a mighty soul sandwich: The Chi-Lites’ ace Changing For You and Kenny Lynch’s upfront groover Half The Day’s Gone And We Haven’t Earned A Penny.

The Walk, a standalone single for The Cure, saw the band break into the UK top 20 for the first time. It was later compiled on Japanese Whispers. Meanwhile Flash and The Pan’s brilliant And The Band Played On (Down Among the Dead Men) – originally a #54 smash in 1978 – got a reissue during 1983. That’s how you do a song about the Titanic. Another curio comes on: Bruce Foxton’s frantic Freak. Lastly we slip away to the smooth disco sound of Phil Fearon and Galaxy with the mysterious promise of Wait Until Tonight. Forever melted in the mists of time, Headline Hits: “Today’s biggest sound around.”

Favourite tracks
The Lotus Eaters – The First Picture Of You

Paul Young – Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)

Jimmy The Hoover – Tantalise (Wo Wo Ee Yeh Yeh)

Lest we forget
Flash and The Pan – And The Band Played On (Down Among The Dead Men)

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18 Responses to Headline Hits (K-Tel, 1983)

  1. cosmo says:

    “Come Dancing” was an odd ‘un, but a suitable comeback/bow-out for the Ray Davies & the lads.

    Julie Roberts – Fool for You

    Chi-Lites – Changing for You

    Kenny Lynch – Half The Day’s Gone & We Haven’t Earned a Penny (1983)

    Phil Fearon – Wait Until Tonight

    A propos Flash & The Pan, their magnum opus was Waiting for a Train. But that’s been covered on Hits on Fire.

  2. andynoax says:

    Wow, chalk up yet another that I’ve never seen anywhere before – your blog is certainly educating me on these 83 compos!

    Also, I had no idea that The Chi-Lites and Kenny Lynch were still releasing singles at this point, nor that the brilliant ‘And The Band Played On’ got a reissue.

    I don’t know all the songs on this one, but of the big hits, most of them are ones that I really like. You’re spot on about the Lotus Eaters track, it’s a beautiful piece of music.

  3. nlgbbbblth says:

    Thanks Andy, glad you’re enjoying them. And The Band… bombed – made #54 as far as I recall.

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  11. Martin Davis says:

    As well as being on this compilation, Come Dancing by The Kinks was on Chart Hits 83.

    Am pretty sure that on Hit News it is edited whereas on Chart Hits 83 it uses the full length version. Can you shed any light on why KTEL might have used an edited vetsion on Hit News but the full version on Chart Hits 83?

    I first heard that Jimmy The Hoover track on a Ronco compilation but have forgotten the name. Would you happen to remember which one it might have been?

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Hi Martin. You’re right – on Headline Hits, Come Dancing runs for 2:46 whereas on Chart Hits ’83, it’s 3:54. As Headline Hits was in the old style of “cram ’em in” i.e. 10 songs per side, many of them were trimmed. The Chart Hits releases were more upmarket and heavily aimed at the Christmas market. Hence, the vast majority of the tracks on them are the full single mixes. They also had sleeve notes / track comments (well ’82 and ’83 did) which also shows a more serious approach.

      Jimmy The Hoover appears on two Ronco compilations – the first one is The Hit Squad Chart-tracking which came out around September 1983. The second is the memorable Chart Trek which was effectively Ronco’s swansong. I purchased it in the post-Christmas ’83 sales.

      • Martin Davis says:

        Many thanks for taking the time to respond. Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying

        Your explanation about the different versions of “Come Dancing” on Headline Hits and Chart Hits 83 makes sense. I’ve only ever had the cassette versions of Chart Hits 82 and 83 and these do not have the sleeve notes/track info that are present on the LP covers.

        I didn’t realise Chart Trek was the last ever Ronco compilation.

        I realised I made reference to Hit News instead of Headline Hits. Hit News was the name of another K Tel compilation which was possibly released in Germany only (I have what I think is a bootleg copy of it on cassette). Are you aware of what album I’m talking about and have you ever heard it?

        • nlgbbbblth says:

          Hi Martin,
          Chart Trek was the last contemporary “current hits” compilation that Ronco released. I do recall a 50s/60s double LP and a Dreams & Themes album in 1984 but that’s about it.

          Hit News – I recall a Swiss or Austrian series on K-Tel but can’t find any Come Dancing on them.

          • Martin Davis says:

            Hi again

            Interesting to hear Ronco brought out two more compilations after Chart Trek. I haven’t heard of either of those ones.

            I have another Ronco compilation called “Good Vibrations” which has 50s/60s tunes but think that came out in the 70s.

            “Come Dancing” isn’t on the Hit News album I have.That was a mistake on my part.

  12. Fluteboy says:

    I remember all of the tracks being edited – apart from the four CBS titles. Only they were in their complete form. IOU has two very obvious edits in it that annoyed the 11 year old me! They butcher that important song, yet leave the Modern Romance flop untouched? Dear me!

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Hi there, thanks for comment. Yes, K-Tel are pretty ruthless on this one – late enough in the compilation game too seeing as it’s 9 months after Ronco brought in their “full single versions” on Raiders Of The Pop Charts.

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