Telstar’s Hits Hits Hits was so low key that it actually passed me by at the time. I only became aware of its existence about two years ago and tracking down a NM copy wasn’t too difficult. In the bottom right of the front cover, there’s a postage stamp sized logo with “As seen on TV”. Photographed are the Thompson Twins, George Michael and Depeche Mode while making the “including” billing are George Michael, Miami Sound Machine, Pointer Sisters, The Kane Gang, Alison Moyet, Michael Jackson “and many more”. On the back, the mugshots are of Phil Fearon, Cyndi Lauper, Blancmange and Hazell Dean. And almost inevitably, there’s the usual disclaimer about running times being changed.
Cast your mind back to my review of K-Tel’s goodbye note Hungry For Hits. After the videos, there’s a section headed up “What K-Tel didn’t do next: Hungry For Hits 2” where I outline a fantasy follow-up that compiles the chart tunes of late summer / early autumn 1984. Well Hits Hits Hits goes some way to address that gap with exactly half (nine) of its 18 tracks appearing on that wishlist while eight of the others were or would be compiled on the following:
Now That’s What I Call Music 3: Alison Moyet – Love Resurrection, Grandmaster and Melle Mel – White Lines (Don’t Do It), Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time (first appeared on Hungry For Hits).
The Hits Album: George Michael – Careless Whisper, Miami Sound Machine – Dr Beat, Thompson Twins – Sister Of Mercy.
Now That’s What I Call Music 4: Pointer Sisters – Jump (For My Love), Michael Jackson – Farewell My Summer Love.
So I’ll start with the song I had forgotten about: A Flock Of Seagulls – The More You Live, The More You Love. Reached #26 at the end of July; world-weary and ponderous. MT USA picked it up for its second series in the autumn. More Big Apple connections – Billy Idol’s emotional ballad Eyes Without A Face was recorded in Studio A at Electric Lady Studios in New York. Dig Perri Lister’s breathless vocal murmuring “Les yeux sans visage” in the background. Think of that Georges Franju film, real horror show. Meanwhile Tracey Ullman was another 60s throwback; Sunglasses starts off like Be My Baby while its video features Ade Edmondson and plenty of bank holiday beach action. Duncannon memories.
Hi-NRG: Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman got together in January ’84 and their first productions came in summer. Hazell Dean’s Whatever I Do (Wherever I Do) is a real survivor anthem with a killer rhythm track. And then there’s Divine’s teasing You Think You’re A Man; mimed with almost religious zeal on Top Of The Pops and bringing forth a litany of complaints to the BBC during the days afterwards. Which leads nicely into Depeche Mode’s BDSM-themed Master And Servant; an enjoyable romp despite its dark lyrics. Elsewhere there’s gorgeous sophisti-pop soul courtesy of The Kane Gang’s Closest Thing To Heaven while Jeffrey Osborne’s On The Wings Of Love is a tender slowie.
That just leaves Blancmange and their superb cover of ABBA’s The Day Before You Came. It reached #22, 10 places higher than the original and features a slight lyrical alteration. Instead of referencing novelist Marilyn French as the ABBA original does, Blancmange singer Neil Arthur sings “I must have read a while, the latest one by Barbara Cartland or something in that style”. Utterly brilliant. Their (relatively) recent reformation and new material – Blanc Burn – Semi-Detached – Nil By Mouth – Commuter 23 is a joy to behold.
“To me they always had a sort of 19th Century romantic sensibility. It’s very European. Like Kraftwerk they were totally European, having nothing to do with America whatsoever. Not that I’ve got anything against the country but it was very European if you see what I mean.” (Stephen Luscombe on ABBA)
Blancmange – The Day Before You Came
Tracey Ullman – Sunglasses
Lest we forget
Divine – You Think You’re A Man