There’s nothing like a well-curated & themed box set. The late 1990s and early 2000s were the golden age with Rhino leading the charge. There were five varieties of Nuggets alone while soul, punk, rock ‘n’ roll, surf music and the alternative underground of the 1980s all got their days in the sun. The CD format was perfect for such a project; each disc’s 80 minute running time allowing for a well-sequenced flow and the inclusion of decently annotated book was the icing on the cake. Then there were the various multi disc series, building into a spectacular overview of different genres, one volume at a time. New wave, disco, funk, ’70s one offs & early ’80s AOR being the pick of the bunch. More recently, there have been two excellent Lost ’80s sets compiled by Gary Crowley & released via Edsel which have been excellent in rounding up some of the decade’s understated tracks.
With that in mind, I have compiled my own virtual Hidden ’80s box set which runs to four imaginary compact discs. Each one has a loose theme and together they shine the spotlight on some of the recesses of my own collection and listening experience. There are songs from under the radar, bargain bin chart failures, B-sides and the occasional obscurity from a big name. I’ve also decided to go the whole hog and include sleeves and notes for every song. The stereo featured in the photograph is the exact same as the fancy new Philips 3-in-1 that my parents purchased in 1981. Many of the records featured here got aired on that machine (either in vinyl or taped tape form), especially the ones released before 1987. By that stage, I had earned enough from part-time & summer jobs to buy a Sony 4-in-1 (complete with new-fangled CD player) that proudly resided in my room. Hope you enjoy.
Disc 1: Mechanical Street Players
01 Secret Affair – My World
02 The Blades – Downmarket (1983 Single Version)
03 The Monroes – What Do All The People Know (7″ Mix)
04 Wire Train – Chamber Of Hellos
05 Felt – Sunlight Bathed The Golden Glow (Single Mix)
06 The Bluebells – All I Am (Is Loving You)
07 The Wild Swans – Bible Dreams
08 Venetians – Bitter Tears (Edit)
09 Cry Before Dawn – Last Of The Sun (Single Version)
10 Pierce Turner – Wicklow Hills (Single Edit)
11 Three O’Clock – On Paper
12 Book Of Love – Modigliani (Lost In Your Eyes) (7″ Remix)
13 The Bongos – Numbers With Wings
14 Combo Audio – Romanticide (1983 Version)
15 Ēbn-Ōzn – AEIOU Sometimes Y (7″ Mix)
16 Industry – State Of The Nation
17 This Island Earth – See That Glow
18 Depeche Mode – Photographic (Some Bizzare Mix)
19 Buggles – I Am A Camera (12″ Mix)
20 Eurythmics – Your Time Will Come
Disc 2: The Ghosts Of My Life
01 Auto Da Fé – November November
02 Virginia Astley – Melt The Snow
03 Operating Theatre – Spring Is Coming With A Strawberry In The Mouth (12″ Mix)
04 Rainy Day – Holocaust
05 White & Torch – Parade
06 Scott Walker – Track Three
07 Microdisney – Dolly
08 The Bernhardts – I Hear You Calling
09 Willy Finlayson – On The Air Tonight
10 The Dolphin Brothers – Face To Face
11 The Triffids – Falling Over You
12 Red Guitars – National Avenue (Sunday Afternoon)
13 The Big Dish – Prospect Street
14 View From The Hill – No Conversation (7″ Mix)
15 The Indian Givers – Hatcheck Girl (7″ Mix)
16 The Blue Nile – The Downtown Lights (7″ Edit)
17 Simple Minds – A Brass Band In Africa
18 China Crisis – Dockland
19 Tears For Fears – Pharaohs
Disc 3: Believe In The Beat
01 Paul McCartney – Check My Machine
02 Neil Young – Sample And Hold (Dance Remix)
03 Pas De Deux – Cardiocleptomanie
04 Fashion – Mutant Dance Move
05 Wham! – Blue (Armed With Love)
06 Kaja – Turn Your Back On Me (US Remix)
07 Happy Mondays – Delightful
08 Those Nervous Animals – Just What The Sucker Wanted
09 Barry Warner – Real Man
10 Pointer Sisters – All Systems Go
11 Schoolly-D – P.S.K. What Does It Mean?
12 West India Company – My Shooting Star
13 Working Week – Eldorado (7″ Ortega Mix)
14 The Impossible Dreamers – Spin (Edit)
15 Electra – Destiny (Rave Mix)
16 Night Moves – Transdance
Disc 4: The Heart Of The 12″
01 Alternative Radio – Valley Of Evergreen (Extended Version)
02 Silent Running – Young Hearts (Extended Mix)
03 Cactus World News – Years Later (Extended Mix)
04 The Light – Contrasting Strangers (Temptation Mix)
05 Endgames – First-Last-For Everything (Club Version)
06 Plus One – Nevermore (Completely Different Dancecut)
07 Tin Tin – Hold It (Extended Version)
08 Leisure Process – Cashflow (Million Dollar Mix)
09 The Earons – Land Of Hunger (Extended Version)
10 British Colony – Have You Ever Seen Me Dancin’? (Extended Version)
11 Clio – Faces (12″ Mix)
12 Seona Dancing – More To Lose (Extended Mix)
DISC 1: MECHANICAL STREET PLAYERS
01 Secret Affair – My World (I-Spy 7″, 1980)
It all started with a badge. Inexpensive and easy to obtain, these were very common in the early ’80s as my musical tastes formed. I remember finding a metal Secret Affair badge on the ground near the CBS primary school one day in the autumn of 1980. It was white and had the keyhole symbol on it. I had no idea who they were but it looked cool. I got round to hearing My World a few years later when someone taped me a copy of K-Tel’s Hot Wax. A parka jacket from The Shambles came shortly afterwards. It’s the oldest track on this set, emerging in the cold winter of early 1980. A most uplifting tune, definitely one of the finest from the mod revival & hearing it now takes me back to those carefree days of early youth.
02 The Blades – Downmarket (1983 Single Version) (Reekus Records 7″, 1983)
Our mod squad. The original three piece of Paul Cleary, Laurence Cleary and Pat Larkin had a loyal following in the late ’70s and played the local Dublin circuit of the Magnet and Baggot Inn. In the summer of 1979, they played every Tuesday night with U2, alternating the headline slot. I have vague memories of their 1981 performance on The Late Late Show. The Blades unveiled a new line-up in 1982 with Laurence and Pat replaced by Brian Foley & Jake Reilly. They also sounded more soulful than the more powerpop leanings of their earlier material. Downmarket has an intangible quality – call it transcendental jangly brass – and remains one of the finest examples of the genre. This 7″ mix from October 1983 is has more energy and is far superior than the subsequent album version.
03 The Monroes – What Do All The People Know (7″ Mix) (Alfa 7″, 1982)
The Monroes formed in San Diego, California and after recording a bunch of original material, were signed by Japanese label Alfa who initially were very enthusiastic. “We’d call up and they’d have our music playing on hold.” A five track mini LP emerged in 1982, followed by its title track – What Do All The People Know – getting its own single release later that year. It’s a classic new wave one hit wonder with a gorgeous melody. The band later signed to CBS who sat on their contract for two years which effectively saw the end for the group. The song’s inclusion on two seminal compilation series – Living In Oblivion and Just Can’t Get Enough – brought it to a wider audience in the mid-1990s.
04 Wire Train – Chamber Of Hellos (CBS 7″, 1984)
Another California band, San Francisco’s Wire Train kicked off their new wave journey in 1983. Chamber Of Hellos was released by CBS on this side of the world and I found it in the 50p bin of a record shop in Wexford in late 1984. I can’t remember the name of the shop but think it was on the Quay and painted yellow. The single has a psychedelic feel, like the spirit of The Byrds was transported to the ’80s, and an extremely catchy chorus. I included it on a number of mixtapes back then and only recently came across my copy of the single, lost for over 30 years which inspired its inclusion here. They went on to support Big Country on their US spring tour of 1984. I also recommend the In A Chamber album.
05 Felt – Sunlight Bathed The Golden Glow (Single Mix) (Cherry Red 7″, 1984)
1984 was a fantastic year for singles and Sunlight Bathed The Golden Glow is up with the very best of them. The lush 7″ mix with its intricate bass has strings arranged by John Rivers and backing vocals from Strawberry Switchblade’s Rose McDowall. The opening riff surely inspired The Cure’s Just Like Heaven. A different tempo to the version of The Strange Idols Pattern And Other Stories but all the better for it. “Seem like a dream.” Felt remain of my favourite bands ever and I still maintain that Lawrence is an absolute genius. I bought Let The Snakes Crinkle Their Heads To Death, Forever Breathes The Lonely Word & Poem Of The River LPs on the same day at Dublin’s Virgin Megastore. Sometime during the summer of 1987. Felt had their own vinyl section there. Halcyon days, on & on.
06 The Bluebells – All I Am (Is Loving You) (London Records 7″, 1985)
The Bluebells’ Sisters album is inextricably linked with starting secondary school. The photos on the front cover with its stained glass feel, give it a homespun vibe which gradually became more and more likeable the more I played it. New versions of previous 45s Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool and Cath were included which means you’ll need their Singles Collection which strangely excludes their underrated non-album single All I Am (Is Loving You). Tanking at #58 in February 1985, its chart failure was inexplicable. While soundwise more muscular than the previous material, All I Am is imbued with a fragile vulnerability – “You don’t love me anymore” – and a top melody, delivered with aplomb.
07 The Wild Swans – Bible Dreams (Sire 7″, 1988)
The Wild Swans formed in 1980 when Paul Simpson left The Teardrop Explodes. In 1982, The Revolutionary Spirit 7″ on the Zoo label received critical acclaim but the band split shortly afterwards with personnel forming Care and The Lotus Eaters. A mid-1980s reformation led to a contract with Sire and the release of the now-disparaged Bringing Home The Ashes album. “Major label thinking is like a virus, you forget why you started the band and fall into the ‘hit’ record mind-set” recalled Simpson. I first heard the lead single Bible Dreams on the Sire Just Say Yo sampler CD and was hooked by its lush pop sound, immaculate production and his deep baritone. Once heard, never forgotten.
08 Venetians – Bitter Tears (Edit) (Parole Records 7″, 1988)
Sometimes you find records in the strangest places. Bitter Tears was only released in Venetians’ native Australia but I remember seeing at least three or four copies of the 7″ in a box at Mac’s stall in the George’s Street Arcade towards the end of the decade. Dave Fanning had played the track on his Radio 2 show some days beforehand so obviously there was a glut of them somewhere. It’s taken from their third LP, which was mixed by Michael Frondelli who had worked with Billy Idol and Pat Benatar. An earnest & well-played tuneful slice of alternative rock, Bitter Tears deserves its moment in the sun.
09 Cry Before Dawn – Last Of The Sun (Single Version) (Epic 7″, 1989)
The epitome of local heroes, I saw Cry Before Dawn play live a number of times in the late 1980s. They too supported Big Country, on the Peace In Our Time tour of 1989. There was a palpable buzz in all four Wexford newspapers when their debut LP Crimes Of Conscience was released, a well-crafted Paul Staveley O’Duffy production. The follow up, Witness For The World was produced by Greg Ladanyi and while the songs were there, it all felt a little flat. As a result, Bob Kraushaar was brought in to beef up both Last Of The Sun and No Living Without You for their single releases. The former is here, a wonderfully evocative & driving number that coincided with the Debs season. Rocking out in The Five Counties.
10 Pierce Turner – Wicklow Hills (Single Edit) (Beggars Banquet 7″, 1986)
Which leads nicely into the next song, Pierce Turner’s stirring Wicklow Hills, a melodic synth masterpiece. Pierce hails from Wexford Town (his parents owned a record shop) and after a partnership with Larry Kirwan in the ’70s, went solo a few years later. It’s Only A Long Way Across was his first album, produced by Philip Glass. This association came out from Pierce & Larry’s change of direction in the early ’80s with their release as The Major Thinkers gaining some post-punk kudos. That debut solo record, released on Beggars Banquet, was nominated for Best Debut Issued by an Independent Record Company at the New York Music Awards. It also contains his ace cover of The The’s Uncertain Smile.
11 Three O’Clock – On Paper (Paisley Park LP, 1988)
I picked up Three O’Clock’s final album – Vermillion – in Dublin’s Smile. I remember it was a Christmas shopping trip and the LP was discounted. Smile was the shop where there was a poncho once owned by Nick Drake hanging on the back wall – you might remember reading about it in Mojo. Part of Los Angeles’ Paisley Underground, this swansong LP from Three O’Clock was a rather uncomfortable compromise between pop & psychedelia. But On Paper stands out as wonderful, a defiant new wave jangle bursting with joy.
12 Book Of Love – Modigliani (Lost In Your Eyes) (7″ Remix) (Sire 12″, 1987)
“You’re gonna freeze to death out there.” The 1980s is littered with mediocre movies that had great soundtracks. My Don’t You Forget About These project gathers up a significant number of the highlights. One film that was excellent as well as having top tunes was Planes, Trains And Automobiles. An instrumental version of Modigliani is played during one poignant scene when Del Griffith realises that he could’ve very well screwed Neal out of his last chance to get home in time. The 7″ remix is subtly different from the LP mix and is also tucked away on the B-side of its decadent 12″ single. Book Of Love opened up for Depeche Mode on their US tours for both Some Great Reward & Black Celebration.
13 The Bongos – Numbers With Wings (RCA LP, 1983)
Hailing from New Jersey and originally part of the No Wave movement, The Bongos were initially signed to a British label, Fetish Records and performed in London with the likes of Clock DVA and Throbbing Gristle. By 1983 they had signed to RCA and the hipsters were losing interest, some referring to them as sell-outs. Numbers With Wings is taken from the mini LP of the same name, a buoyant and tribal tune with its music video a big favourite on early MTV. So what’s the song all about then? Well on You Tube, Mark Pelton says “Think of the number as the number most closely related to you, for example your age. Then think of what might give your age wings, like ascension or metamorphosis.”
14 Combo Audio – Romanticide (1983 Version) (EMI America LP, 1983)
All the way from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, Combo Audio released one of the era’s most underrated new wave classics in late 1982. It was originally put on the Secret Records label before the band re-recorded it for a mini LP released by EMI America the following year; the latter version is included here. Romanticide is the definition of a hidden gem, a catchy three minute burst of irrepressible energy that sounds more like its performed by a UK band than a US one. They went on to shared stages with Talking Heads, U2, Billy Idol, Duran Duran, JoBoxers, Berlin, Missing Persons, Stray Cats and INXS. Vocalist John Kellogg went on to do a lot of work in the surround sound field. “It wasn’t like movies…”
15 Ēbn-Ōzn – AEIOU Sometimes Y (7″ Mix) (Arista 7″, 1983)
Ēbn-Ōzn were a New York synth pop duo composed of Ned “Ebn” Liben (synthesiser) and Robert “Ozn” Rosen (organ, vocals). The manic AEIOU Sometimes Y remains their calling card – “It’s like Gordon Gekko and Patrick Bateman collaborated on the lyrics together.” It was the first commercial single ever recorded entirely on a computer (a Fairlight CMI) in the United States and the subsequent album, Feeling Cavalier, the first such album. The pair opened for Howard Jones on his first US tour. While AEIOU was a big favourite on the early days of MTV, I do have a recollection seeing it once on RTE’s MT USA and picked up a second hand copy of the 7″ some years later. Top line: “Call me – if you want to.”
16 Industry – State Of The Nation (Capitol LP, 1983)
Originally called Industrial Complex, Industry had been going strong since 1978 with some people referring to them as “The American Spandau Ballet”. State Of The Nation is one of those evocative new wave tracks that immediately makes me think of the nuclear war threat. The music video shows the band performing the song on an aircraft carrier / naval ship while being surrounded by uniformed members of the US Navy and a military / naval band, all who dance to the song. In the UK and Ireland, a 5 track mini LP was released in 1983 by Capitol Records; it’s this version that I have chosen to include rather than the shorter single edit. By 1984 it was all over for Industry as their time came to an end.
17 This Island Earth – See That Glow (Magnet 7″, 1984)
After the demise of early synth pop outfit Systems, Kevin Brown and John ‘Strange’ Hawkins formed This Island Earth and managed to secure a recording session with Magnet Records. Zeus B. Held was lined up as producer; acclaimed for his work on Fashion Fabrique-era. See That Glow was their debut single, an unbelievably catchy number that was reminiscent of Blancmange. Released shortly before Christmas 1984, it eventually peaked at #47 in January 1985 and found its way into my collection via the bargain bin from Sinnott’s, Waterford. A second single, the spectacular Take Me To The Fire followed later that year before they burned out and faded away into oblivion.
18 Depeche Mode – Photographic (Some Bizzare Mix) (Some Bizzare LP, 1981)
As I write this, I note that Stevo Pearce has still not turned 60. He started DJing in 1978 and after building up a reputation with a few different nights, was asked to compile and electronic music chart for Record Mirror. This lead to a flood of demo submissions and in early 1981, he decided to form a label – Some Bizzare – and release a sampler album which consisted of 12 tracks from unsigned acts. One of these were Depeche Mode (who had been supporting Fad Gadget) and the super Photographic, recorded in late 1980, was their first appearance on vinyl. Which makes its confidence all the more stunning, an intense form of synth punk that they never managed to replicate again. “I mesmerise the light.” Word.
19 Buggles – I Am A Camera (12″ Mix) (Carrere 12″, 1981)
“There by the waterside, here where the lens is wide. You and me, by the sea…” The second Buggles album, Adventures In Modern Recording, was essentially a Trevor Horn solo project. Stylistically it’s very varied and also worth noting is the fact that Horn was producing Dollar at the same time so there was a kind of two-way influence going on. I Am A Camera was a re-working of a 1980 Yes track called Into The Lens and the finished product sounds pretty out there, a dramatic synth pop classic with mournful vocoder and lush – yet so melancholy – piano and strings. My favourite version is the shorter 12″ mix, perfect for Christmas shopping in 1981. You can file this one under progressive electronic.
20 Eurythmics – Your Time Will Come (RCA LP, 1981)
The first Eurythmics album, In The Garden, was co-produced by Conny Plank in Cologne and features contributions from DAF’s Robert Robert Görl, Can’s Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit as well as Blondie’s Clem Burke. It doesn’t sound like anything else in their back catalogue and anytime I played Your Time Will Come while DJing, I had somebody asking me “Is this Stereolab?” The Smash Hits review of the time was really succinct & accurate: “The ex-Tourists pack their bags and leave the safe pastures of pure English pop for the electronic delights of Cologne and superstar producer Conny Plank. On the way, they mug up on their Foxx, Bowie, and Joy Division without forgetting their own roots, and the result is an intelligent, accessible first album.” (Thanks Tim De Lisle) – La Resistance!
DISC 2: THE GHOSTS OF MY LIFE
01 Auto Da Fé – November November (ADF 7″, 1982)
A haunting classic from the summer of 1982 although I always associate it with dark evenings and cold nights. Later single All Is Yellow (Hot Hot Hot) got a fair bit of push during ’84 & ’85, but I keep coming back to this one, beautifully sung by Gay Woods who was one of the original members of Steeleye Span. It’s both misty and mystical, almost orchestral in parts. The producer was none other than Phil Lynott. November November is also compiled on their mini LP 5 Singles And A Smoked Cod, released by Stoic in 1984.
02 Virginia Astley – Melt The Snow (Rough Trade 12″, 1985)
Edwin Astley was a composer of many television themes and scores such as ITC classics like The Saint, Danger Man and The Baron. His daughter Virginia released two excellent albums during this time – From Gardens Where We Feel Secure on Rough Trade (1983) and Hope In A Darkened Heart on WEA (1986). A 12″ single called Melt The Snow bridges the gap between the two, emerging during the freezing February of 1985. I have chosen the title track, an exquisite composition with a wintery & ethereal feel. It’s very much in tune with nature and the seasons and comes across as particularly evocative of a long lost era.
03 Operating Theatre – Spring Is Coming With A Strawberry In The Mouth (12″ Mix) (Mother Records 12″, 1986)
Mother Records was launched on 1 August 1984 by U2 and was distributed by Island Records. The first single was In Tua Nua’s beguiling Coming Thru’. In May 1986, they released a 7″ and 12″ by Operating Theatre, by then a collaborative vehicle for Roger Doyle & Olwen Fouere – a musical theatre company first and a band second. Spring Is Coming With A Strawberry In The Mouth was promoted from the 7″ B-side to headlining the 12″ A-side in a longer version that ran for an additional 50 seconds. Elena Lopez’s vocals combined with the Fairlight CMI give it a real gothic feel. Produced by Bono; great job.
04 Rainy Day – Holocaust (Rough Trade LP, 1984)
Paisley Underground all stars Rainy Day (featuring members of Dream Syndicate, Three O’Clock, Rain Parade and The Bangles) got together in 1984 and released an exemplary self-titled LP that paid tribute to a number of their psych and folk heroes. My favourite is a superb rendition of Big Star’s Holocaust sung by Kendra Smith that manages to out-do This Mortal Coil’s take, also released in ’84. If ever an album deserved a reissue, it’s this one. Both the original vinyl and the later 1989 CD pressing remain highly sought after.
05 White & Torch – Parade (Chrysalis 7″, 1982)
Rob White and Steve Torch came from the Liverpool punk scene and released a total of four singles between 1982 and 1984, two for Chrysalis and then two more for RCA. Parade was the debut, a critically acclaimed slice of languid baroque beauty that just didn’t hit the mark and only reached #54 on the UK charts. Comparisons with Scott Walker and The Walker Brothers were inevitable but this one stands up on its own merits, a devastating & heart-wrenching emotional powerhouse of a tune. Sadly they never put out an album but did record a Peel session & made several television appearances, mostly notably The Tube.
06 Scott Walker – Track Three (Virgin LP, 1984)
And as if by magic… Climate Of Hunter was reputed to be Virgin’s worst-selling album. It was the first of his records that I bought, having being treated to a nice taped copy of Fire Escape In The Sky: The Godlike Genius Of Scott Walker. The £1.99 sticker eased the initial bafflement I felt on spinning it for the first time. Track Three was also released as a 7″; Billy Ocean on harmony vocals and Mark Isham on trumpet. Over time, I have grown to appreciate its darkness and beauty and despite the upfront vocals – a contrast to his more orchestrated ’60s material which puts the voice back a bit – it really works well.
07 Microdisney – Dolly (Rough Trade 7″, 1984)
It was difficult to pick a Microdisney track for inclusion here. I still maintain that the two Virgin albums showcase a band at the height of their power – but the early work has its own unique charm. While waiting for debut album Everybody Is Fantastic to be pressed, the band worked in Rough Trade re-sleeving Smiths’ records when they couldn’t get the right to use Terrence Stamp’s picture on the cover of What Difference Does it Make? Instead there was the infamous Morrissey & a pint of milk re-creation. The melancholy Dolly – a form of early sophisti-pop was backed by the equally amazing & melodic This Liberal Love. All together now: “Send me love and peace, two more things I can’t afford.”
08 The Bernhardts – I Hear You Calling (Parlophone 7″, 1984)
S-T-E-V-E-N. Steve Hopkins played piano on Morrissey’s 1989 single Ouija Board, Ouija Board. At the beginning of the decade, he – alongside Martin Hannett – co-produced albums by John Cooper Clarke and Pauline Murray. In 1984 he released one of the truly great lost singles as part of The Bernhardts – along with Neil Fitzpatrick & Simon Milner. I Hear You Calling is hopelessly romantic, slinky and perfect for a jazz club. It also reminds me of a more celestial Prefab Sprout but pulls off an equally sophisticated & moody sound.
09 Willy Finlayson – On The Air Tonight (PRT 7″, 1984)
On the Scottish music scene since the late 1960s, Willy Finlayson started the ’80s by recording with Manfred Mann’s Earthband on their Chance album. In 1984 he recorded a solo single On The Air Tonight which I first heard on Gerry Ryan’s late night show on RTE Radio 2. I am pretty sure it was early the following year – its chart peak was a lowly #85. Across the water, Bruno Brookes was also a big fan and featured it on his own programme. Sadly the public were indifferent and this haunting, brooding synth pop classic remains a cult favourite. It was later featured in the film Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge. Pure nostalgia for a time long gone, for past girlfriends and teenage angst.
10 The Dolphin Brothers – Face To Face (Virgin 7″, 1988)
The Dolphin Brothers were Richard Barbieri and Steve Jansen from Japan AKA “those effeminate futurists from the ’80s” (Alan Partridge) In 1987 their one and only album appeared – the mysterious Catch The Fall – described as a “poppier version of David Sylvian’s Brilliant Trees.” Put the two together you have an idea what the follow-up to Tin Drum might have been. An exclusive Japanese-only 7″ Face To Face was released in 1988 which I just had to include on this set. A pristine digital recording that offsets a pleasingly minimal sound with some drifting textures from Barbieri that give it a rich, dreamy feel.
11 The Triffids – Falling Over You (Island LP, 1989)
The Black Swan, The Triffids’ fifth and final album was recorded in England and produced by Stephen Street. Somewhat of a stylistic curveball (and originally intended to be put out as a double), it emerged in April 1989 at a time when I was preoccupied with studying for Leaving Cert. Dave Fanning played a couple of tracks from it each night for a week – all taped onto an ongoing C90. Falling Over You was my favourite then and now, a largely electronic number with some of McComb’s polite rapping that just oozes with atmosphere.
12 Red Guitars – National Avenue (Sunday Afternoon) (Virgin 7″, 1986)
After a number of critically acclaimed singles & one album on the Self Drive label, Red Guitars released the Tales Of The Expected LP on Virgin in 1986. By that time, original vocalist Jerry Kidd had departed with Robert Holmes now singing. The album’s highlight was National Avenue (Sunday Afternoon), a stunning almost five minute opus of wistful melancholy and razor sharp lyrical observations – “I remember when you used to want to buy the used car of your dreams.” The spirit of indie pop jangling is very strong on this one; a very worthwhile purchase from a reduced box in Dublin’s Virgin Megastore.
13 The Big Dish – Prospect Street (Virgin LP, 1986)
One of the benefits of keeping a diary during the 1980s is the fact that you can pinpoint exactly when and where you bought a particular record. The Big Dish’s Swimmer LP was grabbed at the same time & place as the Red Guitars record with its sleeve endlessly pored over on the Quantus bus that brought me home to the sticks. They hailed from Airdrie and supported the likes of Lloyd Cole, Big Country and Del Amitri over the years. Prospect Street had previously been released as single in 1985 and was re-recorded for the album. It’s the latter version that I prefer and have included for this project – a more muscular and driving recording that maintains the crisp, literate and melodic tone of the original.
14 View From The Hill – No Conversation (7″ Mix) (EMI 7″, 1986)
In Time was the name of the View From The Hill’s debut. It marked the beginning of the band’s relationship with EMI who had signed them in 1986 after their well-received EP on the Survival label. No Conversation is a sweetly produced slice of soulful sophisti-pop with top vocals and an immaculate arrangement. The chorus is beautifully sung and it really is the perfect track to put at the end of a romantic film, playing over the end credits. It made NME Single Of The Week and was released twice (1986 & 1988) with a #58 position a poor reward for the band and label’s efforts. I urge you all to listen now & cherish it.
15 The Indian Givers – Hatcheck Girl (7″ Mix) (Virgin 7″, 1989)
The Indian Givers fall under that dreamy late ’80s smooth pop genre; the sort of sound that reminds me of ITV drama Capital City. Wine bars, filofaxes and sharp suits. They were signed by Virgin and released a decent album Love Is A Lie that spawned two singles, Hatcheck Girl and Fake ID. They supported The Big Dish, Frazier Chorus and Danny Wilson and despite positive feedback and good radio play, couldn’t turn these into any sort of a hit. Virgin were restructuring at the time and dropped the band shortly afterwards.
16 The Blue Nile – The Downtown Lights (7″ Edit) (Linn 7″, 1989)
The Blue Nile’s first LP, A Walk Across The Rooftops, was released at the end of April 1984 – when I was close to finishing my primary school education. The follow-up, the even more sublime Hats didn’t emerge in October 1989 – when I started third level. Both records had a mere seven songs and sounded fantastic on both vinyl and CD. The three singles from Hats were released in three different years – the first of those, The Downtown Lights, was purchased on 7″ from KG Discs, Waterford at the end of September ’89. It’s a stately procession of city life, loneliness and isolation abound in a rather sparse setting.
17 Simple Minds – A Brass Band In Africa (Virgin 7″, 1984)
A Brass Band In Africa appeared as B-side on two successive Simple Minds singles, Up On The Catwalk (March 1984) and Don’t You (Forget About Me) (April 1985). It sounds like an extract or cut down from a longer piece known as A Brass Band In Africa Chimes which appeared on the 12″ versions of both releases. Also part of the same *vibe* is the Sparkle In The Rain closer, Shake Off The Ghosts which contains similar musical elements and it seems that A Brass Band… is a reconstruction of the Ghosts demo. No matter what, it’s an extraordinary & lush instrumental with wondrous guitar licks & an exotic atmosphere.
18 China Crisis – Dockland (Virgin 7″, 1983)
Another B-side for you! Dockland was included on both the 7″ and 12″ of China Crisis’ Working With Fire And Steel. It’s a wonderfully low key instrumental with a real cold war feel that reminds me of those mid-80s early mornings when the dew was still on the grass and nobody else was up. I believe it was created using a combination of the Roland TR808, Space Echo, Korg Polysix and PPG Wave. The band produced many wonderful flipsides, with a number of them included on the second CD of their 1990 Collection compilation.
19 Tears For Fears – Pharaohs (Mercury 7″, 1985)
The third B-side in this evocative triple play dates from 1985 and featured on Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World single. The track’s instrumentation is actually based on its A-side. This is perfect for driving home from the beach. It samples a recording of BBC Radio 4 announcer Brian Perkins reading the Shipping Forecast for the North Sea. Chris Hughes correctly points out that “No matter how horrifying the conditions may really be, the voice reading the shipping forecast is deliberately calm and relaxed.” The final result is a beautiful exercise in serenity that’s perfect as lullaby for grown-ups.
DISC 3: BELIEVE IN THE BEAT
01 Paul McCartney – Check My Machine (Parlophone 7″, 1980)
Waterfalls was a decent ballad but I wonder what people thought when they flipped over the single. This is a track to play to people who think Wings / McCartney are crap. Avant garde weirdness with double tracked vocals, crazy sound loops and samples dialogue from the 1957 Merrie Melodies cartoon featuring Tweety and Sylvester entitled Tweet Zoo. After this we get a loping & repetitive reggae groove, with Macca manipulating the pitch of his own voice until he almost sounds like a chipmunk or munchkin. Throw in some robotic beeping noises, a bango and some icy synths & you’ve got one of the strangest tracks ever.
02 Neil Young – Sample And Hold (Dance Remix) (Geffen 12″, 1982)
Another unusual one is Neil Young’s Trans album from 1982. The release was a complete departure for him and for fans who had grown up with the likes of After The Goldrush & On The Beach LPs, the new wave+synth sounds must have really confused them. Sample And Hold was released as a single and the 12″ featured an excellent Dance Remix. Neil’s vocals are distorted by the vocoder with the purpose being to communicate with his young son Ben who was born with cerebral palsy. It’s great when an established artist takes a risk & it pays off – this edgy Kraftwerk-like gem remains one of my favourite albums of the era.
03 Pas De Deux – Cardiocleptomanie (Parsley 7″, 1983)
Pas De Deux represented Belgium in the 1983 Eurovision song contest and finished 18th out of 20 entries. Their song, Rendez-vous was deemed unsafe for the conservative juries. Cardiocleptomanie is the B-side of their second single, Mani Meme. It’s a fantastic slice of repetitive minimal wave that gets better every passing year; my only complaint is that it’s almost too short – I’d love if an extended cut existed. Again, there’s a Kraftwerk influence – with female vox. Verdini on the top drum sound: “We used a programmed Linn drum, a Simmons pad, live congas, hand percussion & cow bell, played by Frank Michiels.”
04 Fashion – Mutant Dance Move (Arista 12″, 1981)
I first heard Fashion on K-Tel’s seminal Modern Dance; Move On sandwiched between Einstein A Go Go and Visions Of China. Their Fabrique album remains one of the finest of the decade and still sounds amazingly vital today, thanks to Zeus B Held’s production. I managed to get a copy of the cassette marked “Special edition. Double Play. Includes complete album plus whole side of extended remixes.” – a common enough ploy in those days – see the Thompson Twins for further examples. Mutant Move which opened the second side had previously been released on the Move On 12″ but named Mutant Dance Move. It’s an intense dub mix that’s really relentless in delivery – chugging bass & synths.
05 Wham! – Blue (Armed With Love) (Inner Vision 7″, 1983)
On the face of it Club Tropicana came across as fun, energetic, positive, escapism, catchy, infectious, LIFE! But there were hidden depths as it satirised package holidays. My copy came via a Rice Krispies tokens offer with Herbie Hancock’s Rockit on the flip. About a year later, I was informed about the actual single’s B-side, the amazing Blue (Armed With Love), a hidden gem destined for Balearic immortality. It’s a semi-instrumental dub track, which was recorded once they finished Fantastic. George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley regarding the track as unfinished at that point & during the following tour, they developed a more complete version of the track with sung verses which became known as Blue (Live In China). However I keep going back to the original 1983 version – it’s just fabulous.
06 Kaja – Turn Your Back On Me (US Remix) (EMI America 7″, 1984)
Kajagoogoo’s Islands LP was released in May 1984 with bass player Nick Beggs taking over the lead vocals from the sacked Limahl. The law of diminishing chart returns set in with its three singles – Big Apple (#8), The Lion’s Mouth (#25) & Turn Your Back On Me (#47). In the US, the album was released as Extra Play and credited to Kaja. Turn Your Back On Me was remixed by Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero and also given a single release. This new version is much improved – a synth pop monster – and really set the American dancefloors alight, getting as far as #2 on the Billboard dance chart, based on club play.
07 Happy Mondays – Delightful (Factory 12″, 1985)
Despite the passage of time, those early Happy Mondays records are still kept in the shade. Their career began in 1985 with the Forty Five 12″ EP from which this track Delightful is taken. The original intention was for Vini Reilly to produce. However the word on the street was that he quit after a couple of hours, stating that he couldn’t work with the band. So Mike Pickering took over. Delightful is as the title suggests, classic drums, yobbish funk played really fast complete with tons of raw edge. This was before the Es kicked in and in some ways, it’s the band in their purest form. Also check out the ace version of Oasis here. Next came Freaky Dancin’ and the iconic Squirrel & G-Man album. The best of times.
08 Those Nervous Animals – Just What The Sucker Wanted (Dead Fly 7″, 1983)
“Running through the city too slow to know you; your heart is beating behind the controls…” Hailing from Sligo, Those Nervous Animals formed in 1981. Right from the start they had a soulful and funky sound coupled with an indie pop sensibility. Their debut single – Just Want The Sucker Wanted – was produced by Bill Whelan of Riverdance fame. It’s a superbly accomplished slice of prototype sophisti-pop with a harder groove. The follow up – The Business Enterprise (My Friend John) – put them on the map over here in 1984. A year later, the released a mini album Hyperspace that suffered from poor production despite “some deft Arthur Baker touches.” This year they’ve got back together with a new LP, The Mission Sessions, that mixes new recordings with old favourites.
09 Barry Warner – Real Man (Revolving 7″, 1985)
Barry Warner is from Limerick, bought his first synth in 1980 and was active in a number of Irish electronica acts such as Tripper Humane, The Date Rippers, David Depraved and Ultimate Treason. A number of limited cassette-only releases followed, most notable being 1981’s Fantastic Four – Rhythmic Warfare which contained the most excellent Discoland subsequently compiled on the brilliant Strange Passion: Explorations In Irish Post Punk DIY And Electronic Music 1980-1983. Barry’s first solo single was the catchy electopop sound of Real Man which I first heard played by Larry Gogan on his Irish Top 30 show towards the end of 1985. It crept in at #30 for one week. In 2020 he released a digital-only compilation called Singles which is a great retrospective and well worth investigating.
10 Pointer Sisters – All Systems Go (Arista LP, 1985)
I remember watching Perfect on VHS back in 1987. A romantic comedy about a journalist doing an exposé on Los Angeles fitness clubs – not exactly my usual type of film although John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis are always worth watching. The soundtrack was a different story though – a hugely enjoyable selection that mixes R&B, soul and pop in an effortlessly cool sequence. By 1985, the Pointer Sisters had just had two very successful albums in Break Out & Contact, the former spawning six hit singles. One of their finest-ever tracks is only included on Perfect – the glorious funky grooves of All Systems Go. For some reason it was excluded from the Contact reissue so it’s well worth tracking down.
11 Schoolly-D – P.S.K. What Does It Mean? (Rhythm King LP, 1986)
Born Jesse Bonds Weaver Jr. in 1962 and better known as Schoolly-D, the Philadelphia rapper first appeared on my horizon back in 1986 when the NME had a piece about him. Big Audio Dynamite played Dublin’s SFX that year and Schoolly-D was the support act. His album was passed around school at the time – its cover featured drawings of a B-Boy set against a yellow background with hilarious speech bubbles. P.S.K. What Does It Mean? was the real highlight, P.S.K. being an abbreviation for Park Side Killas, a street gang with which Schoolly-D was affiliated. A relentless six and a half minute jam and a forerunner of gangsta rap, this was hugely influential to the likes of Public Enemy, Ice-T and N.W.A. The song would later be the basis of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ song Kiss Them For Me.
12 West India Company – My Shooting Star (Editions EG LP, 1989)
Having already incorporated Indian music with Blancmange’s quirky new wave grooves, keyboardist Stephen Luscombe delved into it further with the West India Company with the stupendous one-off single Ave Maria, released in 1984. Five years later, the project was fully realised with a full length LP, Music From New Demons. File under synthpop-Indian fusion with Vince Clarke, Pandit Dinesh and Asha Bhosle in tow. My Shooting Star melds a club rhythm and Eastern instrumentation with a hypnotic effect. Truly essential stuff.
13 Working Week – Eldorado (7″ Ortega Mix) (10 Records 7″, 1989)
British jazz-dance outfit Working Week were formed in 1983 by guitarist Simon Booth and saxophonist Larry Stabbins. They previously teamed together in Weekend. One from those old Amnesia tapes, their revolutionary Fire In The Mountain LP begat the very cinematic Eldorado. The 7″ Ortega Mix is a distilled short of wicked samples, pummelling beats and wild sax while giving us regular flashes of its Balearic house monster qualities. This one is best enjoyed while sitting on decking or lazing on an open rooftop under the evening sun.
14 The Impossible Dreamers – Spin (Edit) (100 Things To Do 12″, 1982)
I first became aware of The Impossible Dreamers in 1985 when consuming all things Smiths; Johnny Marr had produced their gorgeous sophisti-pop single August Avenue. Some years later I learned about their earlier work, most notably 1982’s Spin (the B-side to Life On Earth) which had been caned in New York nightclubs, riding the no wave dragon. It’s a furious instrumental with extraordinary percussion. The version included here is the edit that completely fades out at 4:14 & does not include the subsequent 30 second reprise.
15 Electra – Destiny (Rave Mix) (FFRR 12″, 1989)
FFRR’s Balearic Beats Vol. 1 is one of my favourite compilations of all time. It starts with Electra’s Jibaro, an unacknowledged cover of Latin funk number originally recorded by Elkin & Nelson, a Columbian act based in 1970s Spain. Now here’s the follow up single; the slinky Destiny mixing downtempo beats with jazzy breaks and full-on chants. To complete the trilogy, greet the breaking dawn with its AA-side Autumn Love. Eternal respect to its creators Paul Oakenfold, Steve Osborne, Nick Divaris, Johnny Rocca and Micky.
16 Night Moves – Transdance (GC Recordings 12″, 1986)
Night Moves consisted of John Davis and Michael Guihen; the latter being inspired by seeing Tubeway Army perform on Top of the Pops in 1979. Transdance has had three separate releases – 1981, 1983 and 1986. It’s like a mixture of icy synth wave meeting Italo on the fringes of the dancefloor. The lyrics are moody and delivered with the right level of sparseness while there’s a gorgeous hypnotic female backing vocal courtesy of one Eve Goddard. All throughout, the bassline is dark and threatening. Jarren’s review is spot on: “This is the real sound of the New Romantic movement. Of course Fade To Grey is the ambassador, but Transdance is the image in my head when I think of the Blitz club.”
DISC 4: THE HEART OF THE 12″
01 Alternative Radio – Valley Of Evergreen (Extended Version) (Parlophone 12″, 1984)
Alan and Rob Fennah formed Alternative Radio in 1981. The following year they won the Liverpool Battle Of The Bands contest, underwent a line-up change and secured a contract with Parlophone in 1983. Their debut single Valley Of Everygreen was released in January ’84 and remains their finest hour. It’s the perfect indie pop song with an electronic touch and a truly floaty & magical atmosphere. The Extended Version is excellent and contains a nice acoustic flourish. If Channel 4’s adaptation of Willy Russell’s One Summer was made a year later, this would have been the perfect song to play over the closing credits.
02 Silent Running – Young Hearts (Extended Mix) (Parlophone 12″, 1984)
Originally called The Setz and emerging from Belfast’s fiery late 1970s punk scene, they changed musical direction in 1982 and became Silent Running. Young Hearts remains my favourite of theirs with numerous comparisons to Simple Minds endlessly parroted by music critics. In my opinion, vocalist Peter Gamble had a unique style of his own which is really showcased on this evocative track. While the 7″ A-side was produced by Julian Mendelsohn, there were two remixes on the 12″ single – the Extended Mix courtesy of Pete Hammond (my favourite) and the Sudden Africa Mix remodeled by J.J. Jeczalik.
03 Cactus World News – Years Later (Extended Mix) (MCA 12″, 1986)
Formed in Dublin during April 1984, Cactus World News were frequently subject to such unfair (IMHO) criticism like this from IrishRock.org “Bombastic U2 soundalikes…who favoured a big overblown sound which instead of sounding passionate came across as sounding so much like hot air.” The Bridge was their first 45, produced by Bono and released on Mother Records. However they really came into their own when they struck a deal with MCA and unleashed the superb Years Later during the cold and rainy January ’86. Caned by RTE 2’s MT USA, this was a true anthem. The Extended Mix really enhances the track, transforming it into a pulsating epic. Urban Beaches is still a treasure.
04 The Light – Contrasting Strangers (Temptation Mix) (Inevitable 12″, 1986)
Another song from under the sheets – Gerry Ryan’s late night show on RTE Radio 2 that aired between 10.00pm and midnight. You’d hear 12″ mixes in full and plenty tracks that were bubbling under the top 40 and others that were just new releases he happened to like. Sometime in 1985, The Light’s beguiling Contrasting Strangers was one of these. Brian Atherton’s creation became an instant earworm and after a long search of the south east’s record shops, I finally found a copy of the 7″. The following year, this top track was reissued and also given the 12″ treatment. This Temptation Mix beefs up the original’s low key qualities without ruining the mysterious atmosphere. I can’t leave without mentioning the excellent backing vocals from Linda Wright who also worked with China Crisis.
05 Endgames – First-Last-For Everything (Club Version) (Virgin 12″, 1982)
Endgames were formed in Glasgow during 1980. David Rudden, formerly of The Berlin Blondes, was their founder. Their second single is an old favourite of mine, Firet-Last-For Everything which was produced by Steve Levine. The Club Version was highly sought after in the ’80s, commanding a $150 price tag in Canada after it became an underground radio favourite. It’s firmly built for the dancefloor with neat synth wave flourishes. The addition of a harpsicord and male tenor angel singers give it an unusual, almost celestial feel.
06 Plus One – Nevermore (Completely Different Dancecut) (EMI 12″, 1985)
Time for some Swedish new wave: Plus One were signed to EMI and appeared on Wow That’s What I Call Music 2 (their local version of the Now series) in 1985. The cover uses the same layout as the UK’s Now 3 – still my favourite compilation ever. That is how I discovered the track as I was always eager to supplement my Now collection with foreign variants. However it’s the 12″ mix – known as the Completely Different Dancecut – that’s the real deal. Starting off low key, it explodes into danceability with no let up until the end.
07 Tin Tin – Hold It (Extended Version) (WEA 12″, 1983)
According to Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley, Stephen Duffy is “The John Charles of modern pop.” His appearance on Paul’s Hidden ’80s was a foregone conclusion with a number of options to choose from – Unkiss That Kiss, Julie Christie, The World At Large Alone or perhaps something from Dr Calculus or even a sublime Lilac Time single. In the end, I went back to beginning: Hold It is an early single, his second as Tin Tin with its 12″ mix also touched by the hand of Francois Kevorkian. It begins with a sample of a drill inspector before a huge bass and camp vocals kick in. A synth pop corker that’s forever young.
08 Leisure Process – Cashflow (Million Dollar Mix) (Epic 12″, 1983)
Leisure Process consisted of a duo, Gary Barnacle (in-demand session sax player) & Ross Middleton (ex-Positive Noise) who formed in 1982 and released four singles in total. The partnership’s motto was “What we all need is a place safe and splendid.” The pick of their recorded output is the third single, Cashflow, which came out on Epic in 1983. The Million Dollar Mix is essential listening and was produced by Martin Rushent. There are shades of Billy MacKenzie and it comes with killer horns. Rusty Egan gets a thank you on the sleeve. Backing vocals by The G-Spots; the two Karens – Howarth & Concannon. Gary B played with The Clash, The Damned, The Boomtown Rats, Public Image Limited, Visage, Soft Cell, Spandau Ballet, The Creatures & David Bowie – that is a very impressive CV.
09 The Earons – Land Of Hunger (Extended Version) (Island 12″, 1984)
Time for some astro-funk from Florida. The Earons came out of Tampa Bay and had numbers for names. They opened for Run DMC on the latter’s US tour of 1985. Land Of Hunger can still be found cheaply and is a serious groover. I remember seeing the video sometime in autumn 1984, a dystopian Metropolis meets Mad Max vibe. In retrospect, I imagine that Space (of Magic Fly fame) & The Earons were an influence on Daft Punk. Land Of Hunger is reggae-tinged and comes with a peace, love and dance vibe. It’s also got an infectious rhythm that drove people wild in US nightclubs during summer ’84.
10 British Colony – Have You Ever Seen Me Dancin’? (Extended Version) (Carrere 12″, 1983)
Syl La Selva on vocals, Jeremy Knight on guitar, Peter Murray playing bass while the drummer was Eric Fouquet. Together they were known as British Colony and Have You Ever Seen Me Dancin’? is a long-forgotten slice of disco funk released on the Carrere label. It’s still strikes a chord with some French ’80s fans – the music video was aired frequently over there as the group were based in Paris for a couple of years, a very short-lived career. Here I include the Extended Version which flies the Brit funk flag all the way through.
11 Clio – Faces (12″ Mix) (Crash 12″, 1985)
Clio was Maria Chiara Perugini, a brief Italo disco project from 1984-1985. Only three songs were recorded – Eyes, Faces and Feel The Fear. Faces is the most well known, written by Roberto Ferrante and one of the finest examples of the genre. I first heard it on my school tour to Italy which took place in August 1986. Endless nights in the open air disco at Genazzano. A classic drum beat, punchy synths and gorgeous melodies. Clio’s vocals are sweet and slowly reel you in. Along with Tracy Spencer’s Run To You, it was one of a handful of records that I brought home. Muted, mysterious and sultry, it has endured.
12 Seona Dancing – More To Lose (Extended Mix) (London Records 12″, 1983)
New wavers Seona Dancing formed in 1982 and after submitting a 16 track demo tape to London Records, landed themselves a contract. I remember being at a friend’s house in June 1983 (he had just got a BBC Micro) & seeing them on HTV’s Razzmatazz performing More To Lose. It’s a plaintive, deeply melancholy synth pop tune that only resonated with me much later on. Despite bombing at #117 in UK, success came in the Philipines, when DWRT-FM started playing the song, deliberately misnaming it as Fade by Medium, to prevent rival stations finding the song & playing it. A year later, DWXB-102 revealed the true identity of the song & it topped their singles chart. I have no idea what became of keyboard player Bill Macrae after Seona Dancing broke up in 1984, but the singer Ricky Gervais is now a comedian. “An amateur will stitch up a professional.” (David Brent)
I’ve been playing this set on CDR and via my own iTunes for the last month. Unfortunately given that this is a personal project with no compromises made regarding track inclusion, it is sadly inevitable that Spotify playlists cannot be properly reproduced to replicate the listening experience. As it stands, only about 40% of the songs are available in the their selected mixes. However here is Selections From Paul’s Hidden ’80s which is the equivalent of a one disc promo CD & should give you a taste of what’s on offer.