Saturday Night Coming Up

Posting Silence by Delerium the other week had these old knees yearning for the days when I was young and thin enough to go clubbing, so I started digging out some of the old tunes I used to love hearing when I was out.

I realised – or, rather, I recalled, as I must have noticed this at the time – that often the crowd pleasing moment of any tune was the breakdown; that part of a club record where it suddenly goes quiet before it all either comes crashing back in again, or the bpm is reintroduced, increased in tempo along with the decibels until it all…er…comes crashing back in again.

I have never felt so old as I just did trying to explain that, when I could have just said “You know: the quiet bit about 2/3 of the way through”.

Anyway, I say ‘I must have noticed this at the time’ because I once bought one of those “100 Best Anthems…Ever…!” type compilation albums, only this one was called something like “The Greatest Trance Breakdowns….Ever..!”

Sadly, it was a document of hypnotist shows which had gone wrong, but it was awful.

Not because the tune selection was poor, nor was the mixing so bad as to make one of Friday Night Music Club mixes sound like John Digweed had done. Oh no.

It was so awful because all you got from each tune was the breakdown section; no sooner had one finished, then it got mixed into the build-up to the next. All context, all life, was sucked out of each and every one.

Thankfully, I was unable to locate the CD in question. I think I may have skimmed it into a lake so that it never accosted my ears again.

When I first started writing this now-resurrected series (and that’s what it is like it or not), the idea was that I would write about some of the fun times I had in my clubbing days. But for what I guess I should call “legal reasons” I can’t really continue with those, since pretty much every story involves the people involved having their nights, shall we say, “chemically enhanced” in one (often not legal) way or another.

Giving them pseudonyms to protect their identity only stretches so far; there’s one guy who I would love to write at least one post about, but he was only known by his nickname, which related to his stature. I could flick through a thesaurus and find an equivalent, but anyone who was out clubbing in the same era as we were would undoubtedly recognise him.

He’s a police officer now, so would probably prefer not to be identified in this manner.

So instead of a story (although they will doubtless crop up from time to time, where false names, or those who have given permission to use their real ones, are the only ones involved), I thought I’d simply feature some my favourite tunes which have majestic breakdowns in them.

Starting with this one.

Now in it’s normal guise, this is by no stretch of the imagination my favourite, or even one of my favourite, New Order tunes. But in the remixing hands of Lee Coombs, it becomes a majestic thing of beauty, especially the breakdown.

The first time I heard it was also the only time I ever heard this being played out, at Cardiff’s now defunct Emporium, the greatest club I ever went to (and we went there a lot), for reasons which I will go into another time (yes, I know I keep promising this whenever I mention the place).

But alas, non-plussed with the choice of New Order track the DJ had chosen, I was making my way away from the dancefloor when the breakdown kicked in; there’s a twinkly piano motif which made my spine tingle and I wished I was still out there amongst the hedonists, savouring the moment.

New Order – Crystal (Lee Coombs Remix)

Just beautiful.

More soon.

Obligatory Eurovision Post

Yes, it’s that time of year again when, to quote Hel’s wedding speech, I buy a bargain bucket of KFC, drink pints of White Russians, and sit in my pyjamas lounge wear watching the rest of Europe make jolly entertaining, if awful, records before they vote the UK into oblivion and beyond. Again.

(I will also be following along on Twitter, which, if you’ve never done before I can heartily recommend: imagine everyone in the world making jokes about the same thing at the same time. It’s great fun!)

Unfortunately, Russia doesn’t compete in this, or we might not find ourselves bottom in the popularity stakes at the end of the night yet again, once the impenetrable voting process has completed.

Similarly, Ukraine is tipped to win, not because of the quality of their entry, but as a show of solidarity against them pesky Ruskies.

And that’s fine by me; since former Eurovision coverage for the UK God Terry Wogan sadly passed away, it’s nice to have some constants, even if it is the UK coming last or as close to last as to make no real difference.

There’s also the nod that current host Graham Norton always gives to his predecessor: “For those who aren’t aware song number nine is famous because Sir Terry always warned me not to have anything to drink until that point. During song number nine this year…[as always] I will be encouraging everyone to raise a glass.”

So what to post this year, to mark the evening? Well, I could go for the obvious and post the fictional entry by Father Ted, as I did back here; or, not for the first time, post what is to my mind The Greatest Song to Enter But Not Win Eurovision (also here – same link, though I could have chosen one of many other times it’s featured here), but I thought perhaps this year I should feature a different old UK entry I really liked at the time.

I first became aware of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1976, when the UK entry Save Your Kisses for Me by Brotherhood of Man stormed to victory. I remember Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran’s entry the following year, Rock Bottom, and loved them both at the time, blissfully unaware of the kitsch points I was inadvertently accruing.

But it wasn’t until the early 1980s that I was properly hooked and let’s be honest, it was the skirt ripping antics of Bucks Fizz which caught my attention (along with a catchy as hell tune which not only went and won the ruddy thing, but had me, as I have mentioned before, filling up a C90 cassette tape with the same song, taped from the radio whenever it came on and I was close enough to press Play and Record at the same time).

Indeed, the early 1980s was a period rich with great (in context) UK entries; Bucks Fizz in 1981; The Greatest Song to Enter But Not Win Eurovision (Bardo) in 1982, Belle and the Devotions in 1984.

Weirdly, I have no recollection of 1983’s entry, Sweet Dreams performing I’m Never Giving Up. I think I must have shunned this as being just a bit two derivative of the entries from the previous two years: where the Fizz had two guys and two girls, and where Bardo had just a girl and a guy, Sweet Dreams had one guy and two girls. Where The Fizz had their frankly thrilling skirt-ripping dance routine, Sweet Dreams had some bar-stools and girls in aerobics-workout headbands. And the guy from Sweet Dreams appeared to be some weird morphing of the Fizz’s Bobby Gee and Mike Nolan (and no, I didn’t have to look them up to check their names).

I have looked Sweet Dreams up when researching this post though (yes, again, it does happen), and listening to it now I’m kinda surprised I didn’t like it at the time, although it is very clear whoever was selecting our entrants were merely looking to recreate the success of Bucks Fizz.

Have a look for yourself:

I mean, it’s a travesty that that finished higher than Bardo did the year before.

By the way, I was even more surprised to learn that in 1979 our entry was by none other than Black Lace, they of Agadoo fame. Needless to say, I have not investigated further. Even my dubious taste has limits.

And so to 1984, and our entry, Love Games by Belle and The Devotions. I’ll be honest, although I really liked it at the time, it probably wouldn’t be getting a mention here were it not for a TV show I stumbled across the other day.

Flicking through the channels, trying to find something to watch before I could put off bedtime no longer, I found one of those “…When (Some TV show format) Went Horribly Wrong” shows, and with one eye on tonight’s activities, those brackets were filled with the word ‘Eurovision’.

Now, other than some shonky links and piss-poor performances – I’m looking at you, Jemini, with your off-key delivery and your guy with a Conference League footballer’s haircut:

…I wasn’t particularly aware of any controversy surrounding the UK’s entry from 1984 until I watched this show, and they pointed out that Belle and her Devotions’ performance on the night was met with boos at its conclusion:

Online, the major theory for this was that the song was more than just evocative of the Motown sound, it was a downright rip off of The Supremes’ Baby Love. Judge for yourself:

The Supremes – Baby Love

and

Belle And The Devotions – Love Games

I mean, it’s similar stylistically, an obvious Motown homage, but the same as…? I don’t think so.

But there was a further reason: apparently it emerged during rehearsals that a backing trio, hidden off-camera, were doing the majority of the backing singing, while the microphones of Devotions Sofeld and James were not even switched on. Which may well explain why they spent most of the performance with their backs to the audience. Who did they think they were, The Jesus & Mary Chain??

If you watch that clip again, right at the start, on the left, you can see some people wo certainly appear to be singing, just off stage.

In the TV show I watched, Belle and her Devotions explained it all away thusly: Eurovision rules were that you could have up to six backing singers performing, and you could place them anywhere. As the act were known for being a threesome, they elected to have their three permitted backing singers off stage.

Do we buy that, dear reader?

Thought not.

This is where Brexit took root, the moment when we began to show a flagrant disregard for them rules what them unelected Eurocrats tried to impose on us, and I’m damned proud of Our Girls for sticking it to Johnny Foreigner.

Love Games should be sung at the Last Night of the Proms instead of Rule Brittania, and Nigel Farage should be forced to have the words Love and Games tattooed on each arse cheek in a nod to where his pseudo-patriotism stems from.

Boris would too, if he didn’t already have the words Oven and Ready tattooed there (actually, he has ven on the right cheek and Ready on the Left, both upside down, so he has to stand on his head in order that it reads properly). The job of tattooing the PM’s buttocks didn’t go out to tender, but was hurried through a VIP lane, where one Dido Harding was awarded the gig, despite having zero experience in the art of the needle, but she does have the experience of being married to a Tory MP, which will do just as well.

Got there eventually.

Hope those images don’t spoil your night.

More soon.