In 1982, Dave Robertson of Stiff Records made a suggestion to a new label signing: record three cover versions to attract everybody’s attention, then release an original composition and it will be a massive hit.
The band dutifully obliged, releasing covers of The Dixie Cups “Iko Iko”, Shirley Ellis’ “The Clapping Song”, and Inez & Charlie Foxx’s “Mockingbird”.
And then, the killer song what they wrote themselves (to quote Ernie Wise), which in 1983 gave them their biggest hit, their only UK Top 10 (See? Dave knows best), and an absolute stone-cold classic to these ears. I speak, of course, of this:
The Belle Stars – Sign of the Times
Of course, The Belle Stars weren’t the first act to record a hit single by that name, nor would they be the last.
Take Bryan Ferry, for example. In 1978, on hiatus from Roxy Music, he released his fifth solo album, “The Bride Stripped Bare”; this was the second single of four lifted from it, and the only one to grace the UK Top 40, and even then only reaching No. 37:
Bryan Ferry – Sign of the Times
An honourable mention at this point to Prince, who would get a bit more written now had he not abbreviated the word of to o’, which saves me precisely no time to either write or type:
Prince – Sign O’ The Times
You’ve probably guessed where I’m going next. Yup, in one direction only. (See what I did there?)
I’m surprised to find that I really like this next song. For a start, I don’t think I’ve liked any songs released by his former band, but then again, I don’t think I’ve ever really listened to anything by them, so don’t be too flabbergasted if at some point one of theirs crops up in the This Is Pop thread elsewhere on these pages at some point.
I’m also surprised because at just over five and a half-minutes long it seems just a teensy bit too long given that, well, nothing really happens in it, it doesn’t go anywhere, it just flits between falsetto and what appears to be an impression of Kelly Jones of Stereophonics fame.
But sometimes you find yourself liking a record not because it fits the remit and sound of the type of thing you like, but despite it. And such is the case with this (which I’ve deliberately misspelled in the hope that I’ll avoid a take-down notice):
Hairy Stiles – Sign of the Thymes
There. I’ve said it. And I feel so much better for it.