The Hit Squad Chart-tracking (Ronco, 1983)


Hit Squad Chart-tracking r.jpg

The compilations just keep coming. In mid-September, Ronco released two new albums under their Hit Squad imprint, Chart-tracking and Nightclubbing, both complete with “Pay no more than £4.99 for this album” stickers. I’ll feature the latter next week. Six of the former’s tracks had already featured – in mostly edited form – on K-Tel’s summer snapshot Headline Hits: KC and The Sunshine Band – Give It Up, Modern Romance – Walking In The Rain, Yazoo – Nobody’s Diary, Paul Young – Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home), Depeche Mode – Everything Counts, Jimmy The Hoover – Tantalise (Wo Wo Ee Yeh Yeh). Thankfully all single versions are fully intact here.

Elsewhere Chart-tracking also sees the first appearance of two other songs that would end up on Now That’s What I Call Music: New Edition – Candy Girl, Malcolm McLaren – Double Dutch. The “new Jackson 5” were discovered by Brooke Payne who hooked up with songwriter Maurice Payne at a talent show. Ralph Tresvant was positioned as the lead singer while having members Ricky Bell and Bobby Brown sharing alternate leads. Candy Girl is indeed a sweet tune, a time capsule of innocent, joyous pop. New Edition were the progenitors of the 1980s / 1990s boy band movement and led the way for groups like New Kids on the Block, The Boys, Boyz II Men, Hi-Five, Backstreet Boys, and NSYNC.

British punk svengali Malcolm McLaren surprised the world with his first solo LP, Duck Rock in 1983. It’s often classed as being the first album to bring hip hop to the British mainstream – via the supremely dope Buffalo Gals. Other tracks like Soweto, Jive My Baby and Zulus On A Time Bomb relied almost entirely on South African mbaqanga sounds. To do so, McLaren visited there in 1982 and recorded with local artists at RPM studios, Johannesburg while Trevor Horn produced the finished product. The addictive Double Dutch is about the skipping game with McLaren’s narration mentioning a number of New York troupes, most notably The Ebonettes whose name forms part of the chorus.

Dropping the needle at the start of side 1 leads into yet another standalone single from Madness – Wings Of A Dove. It features steel drums by Creighton Steel Sounds and a gospel choir – The Inspirational Choir of the Pentecostal First Born Church of the Living God. In the video they all bail out of an airplane in a white transit van. Keep moving: give it up for the soul boy / dole boy movement as espoused by Wham! Bad Boys was their third single and biggest hit to date, reaching #2 in the UK; an entertaining tune about teenage rebellion. Next: Heaven 17’s dreamy moodiness of Come Live With Me, their last top 10 hit of the decade. And for a real treat – the complex Busy Doing Nothing by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin. Total innovation with a Radiophonic Workshop ethic.

Of Cruel Summer, Bananarama singer Sara Dallin said the song “played on the darker side (of summer songs): it looked at the oppressive heat, the misery of wanting to be with someone as the summer ticked by. We’ve all been there!”. The 1989 remix is even better. On the same vibe, the Belle Stars and the underrated lament Indian Summer. An odd one: Culture Club’s ultra catchy I’ll Tumble 4 Ya, an 1982 Kissing To Be Clever track that got a single release in the US and Canada. We end with a classic collaboration: David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto on Forbidden Colours, the vocal version of the theme from the Nagisa Oshima film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. Listening again 34 years on, it still sounds gloriously bittersweet and melancholic. Simply wonderful and totally unique.

Favourite tracks
David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto – Forbidden Colours

Heaven 17 – Come Live With Me

Lest we forget
Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin – Busy Doing Nothing

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7 Responses to The Hit Squad Chart-tracking (Ronco, 1983)

  1. Pingback: The Hit Squad Nightclubbing (Ronco, 1983) | A Pop Fan's Dream

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  5. Pingback: Now That’s What I Call Music 1983: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999) | A Pop Fan's Dream

  6. Rumpy-Pumpy says:

    Yet another compilation I acquired decades later out of curiosity (all the acknowledged classics were in my collection already). Top curio is that absolute wtf from Stewart & Gaskin. You’d think they’d cover the Brian Wilson song of that name, but no – they go for the Bob Hope one instead, and cover it in lo-fi synthetic orchestration!
    Tantalise is in my all-time Top 50 one-hit-wonders – partly because it was my first exposure to highlife (probably), and partly for the name of the band, not to mention the name of their publishing company!

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Busy… is still off the charts. Gets a spin every few months here. Tantalise is top – badly needs more exposure. Have played it out and goes down a storm.

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