I remember when I first saw the Greenpeace LP. I had just finished year one in secondary school and was eagerly looking forward to the extended summer break – which started at the beginning of June, rather than at the end of the month as was the case in primary school. Its sleeve was prominent in the rack opposite the door of Ross Records. The UK branch of Greenpeace organised the release while the front cover containing a photograph of a ship. A bittersweet image seeing as the organisation’s Rainbow Warrior was sunk by the French on 10 July causing the death of Dutch photographer Fernando Pereira.
Some words: “By purchasing this album, you will be helping to ensure that Greenpeace can continue its campaigns to protect the natural world.” The project was initially low key but snowballed as more and more artists donated songs, the majority of which were previously released. Exceptions included Hazel O’Connor & Chris Thompson – Push And Shove, recorded specially. George Harrison – Save The World, originally released in 1981 but remixed with a new vocal and lyrics. The Pretenders – Show Me, a live version. The album was digitally mastered at Eel Pie Soho and Abbey Road Studios. A VHS tie-in was released just before Christmas 1985 and was called Non-Toxic Video Hits. The CD inlay has cut-out membership application forms for West Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
The CD begins with Peter Gabriel’s oblique Shock The Monkey, a version that runs for 5:44 which is almost 20 seconds longer than the PG4 album take. The 7″ was 3:58. This song is about love and jealousy and how the latter can release our basic primal instincts. Not about an actual monkey, but a metaphoric one. The tone immediately becomes darker with the second tune, Queen’s sombre Is This The World We Created…?, closing track on The Works and also used as the B-side to It’s A Hard Life. It was written in Munich after Freddie Mercury and Brian May watched the news of poverty in Africa. It’s also the forgotten song of Queen’s Live Aid performance: everyone remembers their six number main set which catapulted them to fame, fame, fatal fame but it’s easy to forget that Mercury and May came out later into the evening to perform this beautiful song as a duo.
By May 1984, Kajagoogoo and Limahl and gone their separate ways. Turn Your Back On Me is taken from their second LP, Islands, and its catchy chorus found many fans in the US. Next is Thomas Dolby’s eerie and austere Wind Power, all mind-blowing electronics creating groove, mood and atmosphere. Switch off as Tears For Fears most darko classic Mad World drops, perfectly placed. In 1985, Songs From The Big Chair was everywhere so hearing this was like stepping back to another time. Continuing this effective sequencing is Kate Bush’s Breathing, a story of a worried foetus, frightened by nuclear fallout. The lyrics also refer to the unborn baby absorbing nicotine from the mother’s smoking. Bush later described the song as her “little symphony”, adding that the information within the song mostly came from a documentary she had seen about the effects of nuclear war, while the tone of the song was inspired by Pink Floyd’s The Wall. On Greenpeace, we are treated to the single mix which is otherwise unavailable on CD despite the recent reissue campaign.
In 1985, the nuclear threat was still fresh. The Day After and Threads had recent showings on both RTE and BBC while Chernenko (star of the Two Tribes video) had only recently passed away. Therefore the inclusion of Heaven 17’s Let’s All Make A Bomb is very apt and heightens the tension. Its parent album, Penthouse And Pavement, remains one of my favourites of the decade. “Our future’s looking black.” The mood slightly lifts with the angelic voice of Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders’ song about softness, Show Me (Live). Next is the new track which was used to promote the album, a heartfelt number Push And Shove, from Hazel O’Connor and Chris Thompson. In its wake, Howard Jones’ relentless and synth-heavy Equality, lifted from the underrated second side of Human’s Lib – the introduction sounds like it could be used as a dramatic montage in a Cold War film.
Wings Of A Dove was yet another standalone single from Madness. 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. Nik Kershaw’s thoughtful Human Racing works well in the context of this album, “a paper world with paper faces.” Elsewhere George Harrison urges us to Save The World while Roger Taylor (Queen not Duran Duran) serves up the harrowing Killing Time, lifted from his 1984 album Strange Frontier. Freddie on backing vocals, cocaine in sound form. It’s followed by what Neil Tennant described as “a routine slab of gloom in which God is given a severe ticking-off” – Depeche Mode’s Blasphemous Rumours. I got The Singles 81-85 for Christmas that year and marveled at the sardonic reviews. A bleak ending: Eurythmics’ amazing No Fear, No Hate, No Pain (No Broken Hearts). Shoot it up.
Kate Bush – Breathing
Depeche Mode – Blasphemous Rumours
Lest we forget
Roger Taylor – Killing Time
The mind sometimes plays tricks on you – I falsely remembered that the Depeche Mode track on this LP was “The Landscape Is Changing” from the “Construction Time Again” album, probably because that actually makes a lot more sense! In fact, even the much-neglected “And Then” from that LP, which was at one point mooted as a possible single, might have fitted Greenpeace’s remit better than “Blasphemous Rumours”.
Seem to remember this album was hyped as being quite a big deal at the time but didn’t actually sell as many copies as everyone had hoped.
Hi Dave – good call / false memory. Certainly both of those DM tracks would have fitted in better although I do feel that ….Rumours cynicism is a nice penultimate tune. In terms of sales, I am pretty sure Greenpeace didn’t make the top 100. CD copies were always tricky to find while the vinyl was a pretty quiet pressing.
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