Ok. So. Here we go. 1984. The year I have to try and wax lyrical about. And as you will have guessed from my intro to the last post, a year I’ve been struggling with.
Let me add some context.
1984. The year that Thatcher won her second General Election, I think it’s fair to say (though it sticks in my throat) trouncing Labour’s Michael Foot. Foot did not look like your common-or-garden politician, and was a true left-winger (and I don’t mean in the Ryan Giggs kind of way. And when. I make a reference to Ryan Giggs, I don’t mean in that kind of way, either. Well not on this occasion, anyway). Foot is as relevant today as he ever was, for he is the current yard-stick for those who want to keep the Labour Party in the centre ground – which they so shamefully currently occupy – rather than on the left, where they should be, by making comparisons between his annihalation in this General Election and that which, they say, awaits the Labour Party if Jeremy Corbyn wins (they’re wrong). And whilst I’m at it: Tony Blair, keep your fecking nose out. You led us into an illegal war and now milk the after-dinner speech circuit for all its worth. You are a Tory in everything but name. Your opinion means nothing.
Ahem. Off my chest now. Where were we? Oh yes..:
1984. The year the Miners Strike started. I’m going to assume you know at least something about this. If you don’t, well a) you’re annoyingly young, and b) may I suggest a bloody tidy jumping on point is to watch the excellent “Pride” (It has Paddy Considine, Bill Nighy and Dominic West in it, the latter with a fabulous 80s haircut. What more can you want from a film??) Just watching those two clips makes me want to watch it again. Hope it does you too.
1984. The year of Frankie Goes To Hollywood. I wish I could put my hand on my heart and say I bought any of their records at the time – particularly “Relax” and “Two Tribes“, but I didn’t. However, I did stand back, watch and admire the way they capitalised on the whole Mike Read situation (he was playing “Relax” one morning, and took it off, mid-record, branding it “obscene”). And if there’s one thing we now know, it’s that Mike Read is the very epitome of rational thought. (I give you two words: UKIP Calypso) (For Gawd’s sake, sense my tone…)
1984. The year of Band Aid, when a group of “current” (has Jody Watley ever been current???) pop stars (has Jody Watley ever been a pop star?????) were pulled together by ex-Boomtown Rat Bob Geldof and current-if-knackered (see, this is where I start to doubt my own sanity. In the video for “Love’s Great Adventure”, there was definitely a bit where Midge asks the film crew to stop while he has a breather. Right? Right????) Ultravox frontman Midge Ure to record “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in an effort to help starving millions in Ethiopia, after seeing Michael Buerk‘s report on the news, a record which everybody in the UK seemed to buy, and which you know, so I won’t bother posting a link to it here.
Which seems a convenient jumping off point for not the first record I bought in 1984, but the record which somehow got attached to the whole Band Aid campaign, seemingly solely because of the lines “You can’t go on, thinking nothing’s wrong”.
I’m sure they were delighted, or at least pretended to be, when “Drive” got re-released with “all proceeds” going to the Band Aid charity. And was a bigger hit than it was the first time around (I think…)
Me? I cannot hear this song without thinking of one thing, and sadly that one thing I can find no reference to anywhere on t’internet, other than one other person insisting it happened: Kevin Webster, drunk, singing an a capella version of it on Coronation Street. Seriously, you have no idea how much I wish I could post a link to it right here. Feel free to tell me you remember it too.
Ok, here’s a confessional Guilty Pleasure (No, there is no such thing as a Guilty Pleasure!!) record. Please bear in mind that in 1984 I was just 15 and didn’t know any better, and if I did, I thought it involved Status Quo, so you can choose which is worse:
Philip Bailey & Phil Collins – “Easy Lover”
In my defence, in 1984 we knew very little about Phil Collins. All we had to go on was that he used to be/still was in Genesis, popped up with alarming regularity on Swap Shop or Saturday Superstore or whatever incarnation of Saturday morning TV on the BBC was on (regularly enough to make you think he was the new BA Robertson) and had a fairly succesful solo career doing Diana Ross covers. We did not know that “Sussudio” – the song with the most 80s bassline in the world. Ever…! – would earn extra brownie points for being mentioned (ironically, I think/hope) in American Psycho. We had no idea he was such a douchebag he would fax his wife to thrash out details of their divorce. But props for the use of a very 80s mode of communication. Nor did we know that that gorilla would boff the heck out of some drums on that Cadbury’s advert. It was just Phil Collins. He seemed harmless enough.
I cannot hear this song without thinking of the (slightly amended) “He’s a greasy lover…” introduction Mark Lamarr used to get on Shooting Stars, and which again, I can find no evidence of. So to make up for that, here’s him – at the end of the clip, and sadly cut short – doing “Mr Boombastic” on said kind-of-game show.
The other thing I remember most about owning this single is that shortly after purchase, a blob of what appeared to be raspberry jam appeared on the front cover, which I have never been able to explain (I’m more of a blackcurrant man, myself), and which frankly made storing my 7″ singles a bit of a nightmare from hereon in. Unable to remove the saccahrine splodge, I had to proceed to select which single I liked least and place that next to this in my ever growing singles box.
This is what you come here for, right? Anecdotes about singles I’ve absent-mindedly spilled preservatives on….? No….?
OK, well how about I give you the top two candidates to be the bread around the Phil Collins jam sandwich? Yeh, see? Now you’re interested, right? (Although the idea of a “Phil Collins sandwich” is kind of ewwwwwwwwwwww-y….)
Well, it must have been in 1984 that I abandoned any pretence of just buying records that I liked, and, in a fairly obvious attempt to ingratiate myself to members of the opposite sex, I started buying records that they liked, and which I hoped they would like me for also buying. What a dasterdly master-plan. That is the only explanation I have for the inclusion of the next two records:
I Know, I know. There’s no excuse is there? It’s not as if this is a single from his famous, but still not actually very good, “Human Racing” album. I have always found this to be an utterly ludicrous record, with clunky 6th form, Tolkien-esque nerdo lyrics like this (trust me, I’m doing this so you don’t have to click that last link) :
“Near a tree by a river
There’s a hole in the ground
Where an old man of Aran
Goes around and around
And his mind is a beacon
In the veil of the night
For a strange kind of fashion
There’s a wrong and a right
But he’ll never, never fight over you”
What a load of old horseshit.
And speaking of old horseshit, there was this:
Yes. I bought this. Actually, I think I stole it from a reputable vendor of 7″ singles no longer with us. but either way, I possessed a copy, and the only justification I can think of, other than trying to impress girls (it didn’t work, by the way; they all just assumed I was gay, I was later told) was that I hoped that with enough plays on Top of the Pops, Simon Le Bon might actually fucking drown whilst tied to a windmill in that video.
Which leads me on to the other two significant episodes in my pop history which just so happened to occur in 1984.
Firstly, Britannia Music.
Anyone of a certain age will remember Britannia Music: firstly, because The Brits are named after them (like that’s a recommendation….) and secondly because in the 1980s you could not open a magazine without a “3 for £10” introductory offer falling out into your lap. And I fell for it.
Here was the deal: you could pick 3 albums and have them for £10; then you stayed as a member for as long as you liked, but had to purchase at least one album a month. And to help you keep your end of the contractual bargain, they would send you a little brochure each month, telling of their wares, and featuring an “Album of the Month”. If you didn’t want the “Album of the Month”, you had to tick a box on a form and send it back to them, pronto. Otherwise you got lumbered with whatever their Album of the Month was and had to pay for the privilege. I was often a little tardy, and consequently ended up with a lot of records I really didn’t want, more of which later. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.
Anyway, what this did do was allow me to indulge in my love of Greatest Hits albums, which led me to buy the next three:
Dusty Springfield – “I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten”
I can’t pretend this song is the reason why I bought this album – that distinction has to go to either “I Only Want To Be With You” or “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” But if I absolutely had to name my favourite 10 songs ever, “I Close My Eyes…” would be right in there, an absolute gem, all slow building breathiness followed by more glorious camp strings than a cub scout jamboree.
Speaking of camp…..
Little Richard – “Tutti Frutti”
(Suddenly realises why the girls may have thought I was gay at school………)
Buddy Holly – “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”
A song I was aware of through my father’s record collection, for he owned the Linda Rondstadt version. (That Don Kirschner chap is just the dictionary definition of charisma, isn’t he?)
Anyway, that’s the records I intentionally bought via Britannia, and here’s another, an actual record from your actual 1984:
See, “electronic” music had at least crossed my radar, not that I would describe this as falling in that genre. But, as I’m sure you know, chicken-rearing Alison (a remembered Smash Hits fact, that) had been one half of Yazoo with Vince Clarke, ex-of Depeche Mode, soon-to-be of Erasure, and in-between jointly responsible for this. So, y’know, it wasn’t all about the guitars with me, even back then. Just mostly.
Invisible was the third single from the album, and I could have just as easily posted “All Cried Out”, but Invisible deftly sums up my appeal to the opposite sex at this point in my life. And for much of it afterwards, if I’m being honest. Which I am, of course.
As I write this now, I’m suddenly struck with how I much I love songs about either failed or unrequited love. It’s an empathy thing, I think. It would also explain why, two years earlier, in an example of what can only be described as the most optimistic thinking ever, I had told my best friend that when the situation arose that I had to finish with a girlfriend, I would simply quote the lyrics to this song to her: Chas. Dave.
Anyway, the second significant episode was my brother going to stay with relatives in America, and coming back tooled up with loads of records popular in The States but which had no impact on this side of the pond. Records which I listened to with growing interest:
Cheap Trick – “If You Want My Love”
Rick Springfield – “Jessie’s Girl”
The Call – The Walls Came Down
The Fixx – One Thing Needs to Another
He also bought me this, a band I assumed were American, but turned out to be from Sheffield. A band who had a drummer with one arm. (Actually, he still had two arms when this album was recorded; it was when their next album, “Hysteria”, post arm-loss, came out in 1987 that they went truly stratospheric). But I was there first, UK rock fans. Although I’m not so sure this is something to be proud of..
But of all the records my brother brought back from the U S of A with him, there was one band that I totally fell for: The Go-Go’s. Featuring Belinda Carlisle and Jan Wiedlin, they became my pop star crushes to supercede Debbie Harry, five girls who so Google tells me, were the recipents of the 2,444th star on the LA Walk of Fame. Should have got there earlier, ladies. If only you didn’t take so long getting ready, eh lads?
And then there’s this, another contender for my Top Ten of Greatest Records Ever……!
The Go-Go’s – Our Lips Are Sealed
And if I’m going to post that link, then, since it was co-written by Terry Hall, ex-Special and (at the time) current one of the Fun Boy Three, I have to post this too:
Fun Boy Three – Our Lips Are Sealed
And finally on a Go-Go’s theme, allow me to nudge you in the direction of “Freedom of Choice”, an album of punk and new wave covers including Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth and this, by Redd Kross, a band whose own output I’m not a fan of, but by God they know how to knock out a cover version:
Considering I could think of nothing to say, I don’t half go on, don’t I…..?
Like anything I’ve posted today? Then go buy it here: the internet.