Dear Barry Took (or whoever hosts Points of View these days. Is it even on anymore…?)
I’ve been greatly enjoying Smashing Hits! The 80s Pop Map of Britain & Ireland, the music documentary series currently showing on BBC4 where 80s pop icons Midge Ure of Ultravox and … erm … *checks notes* … Kim Appleby of Mel and Kim drive around the countries, interviewing leading lights from the 80s pop scene in various towns and attempting to demonstrate that the records they made could only have been conceived in the artists’ home towns at that specific time.
It’s an interesting way of reframing a potted history of the various musical scenes which popped up throughout the 80s, but of course I have a couple of gripes.
Firstly, that bloody awful title, with its superfluous exclamation at the start.
Secondly, it’s a bit too whirlwind. Episode One focused on London, Sheffield and Coventry, and featured interviews with Gary Kemp from Spandau Ballet, Marco Pirroni from Adam and the Ants, Pauline Black from The Selecter, and Martin Ware and Glenn Gregory from Heaven 17, whilst featuring clips of tracks by all of the above and more. The time given to each city seemed about right, but Episode Two tried to cram in too much in too little a time when it attempted to cover all of the music from Scotland, Ireland and Wales in one show.
The Scottish segment was particularly frustrating, as they crammed interviews with lovely Clare Grogan from Altered Images and Pat Kane from Hue and Cry in between a whistle-stop summary of Postcard Records, Aztec Camera, The Bluebells, The Proclaimers, Deacon Blue. The city in question was, of course, Glasgow, and much was made of the fact that as it’s a port, here was the source of much hard-to-come-by music being imported. Hence, the documentary reveals, many songs were written by working class people about working class issues, having absorbed mostly American musical influences.
I’m not saying that any of this is inaccurate, it was just that the segment of the show dedicated to Scotland/Glasgow was over far too quickly, and for my money overlooked one particular band who wore their influences on their leather sleeves.
Having gone to the effort of noting The Byrds’ jangly guitars lineage to Orange Juice, and the connection between US country and folk music on the likes of The Bluebells, Texas and The Proclaimers, or the significance of soul on Wet Wet Wet and Hue and Cry, then where the heck were The Jesus and Mary Chain?
William and Jim Reid snaffled a look which was a hybrid of Velvet Underground cool and 60s garage rock grubbiness, then pinched a load of Brian Wilson-esque melodies and set them against a backdrop of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound – two of the biggest American music icons ever, one of whom went mad, the other committed murder – and drenched them in squealing feedback to create a noise which was their calling card on one of the greatest debut albums not just of the 80s, but ever: Psychocandy.
To have talked about 80s music in Glasgow, and not even mention JAMC was a criminal oversight, and frankly it’s not what I pay my TV licence fee for.
Yours Truly, Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells.