The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 23.

This is another group who briefly hit the big time, with a song that was rather memorable. PHD were a British group who formed in the early-80s, and took their name from the first letter of the surnames of the three members, Simon Phillips, Tony Hymas, and Jim Diamond. They first gained some attention in 1981 when “Little Suzi’s On The Up” was released.

This actually wasn’t a hit, but the video was the fifth to be shown in the first-ever hour of MTV, although they never went on to have a hit single in America. But they had some success with “I Won’t Let You Down” (which features a rousing organ, and we all need that now and again don’t we), which was a hit in some other countries before the UK, including Australia, where this was released in August 1981 and reached no. 5.

This also did well across Europe, and there were some TV performances that featured some rather bizarre interpretations of this song. There was one where the singer Jim Diamond looked into a mirror, but then, thanks to some visual effects, it looked like he turned around but still had his back to us, if that makes sense. Some blonde woman with an expressionless face (maybe the woman in question who he wasn’t going to let down?) watched on.

And there was another appearance where he was sat between two women who looked the same, again, I don’t know if this was a visual effect or what this was about at all really. Well I suppose it’s one way to get yourself known, appearing on all of these TV music shows across Europe and going along with this, you wouldn’t have ever really got anything like this on Top Of The Pops at the time. The video was rather memorable itself too.

In April 1982 “I Won’t Let You Down” was released in the UK, and stayed at no. 3 for three weeks. Also around this time, the album “PHD” made the Top 40. But their other singles “There’s No Answer To It”, “Fifth Of May”, and “I Didn’t Know” all failed to make the chart, and in 1983 PHD came to an end. They only had one hit, but somehow the biggest triumphs were yet to come.

In November 1984, Jim Diamond went out on his own, and had a UK chart-topping single with “I Should Have Known Better”. This wasn’t a fluke as such, but this almost certainly wouldn’t have reached Number One if the Band Aid phenomenon hadn’t been delayed by a week. But he seemed fairly content with the fact that when that was eventually released his moment at the top would be over.

After two minor hit singles in 1985, he returned to the Top Ten one final time in February 1986 with “Hi Ho Silver”, which reached no. 5. This was the theme to the TV drama Boon, which is definitely everybody’s favourite drama starring Michael Elphick and Neil Morrissey. None of his further singles were hits though, but by the mid-2000s he had revived PHD, and he continued to perform until his death in 2015.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 50.

Part 50? Yes, 50. I really didn’t think that there would eventually be so many parts in this series, but this just proves that 80s pop music is terrific isn’t it (sometimes). Let’s go to a land down under once again to look at another group who briefly made the chart. Vertical Hold (nothing to do with old televisions) were a group from Adelaide who formed in the early-80s, and their frontman was the late Mick Michalopolous.

Another notable member was Hilary, who was rather versatile, and she could play both the cello and the keyboards (although not at the same time), which helped to create a distinctive sound. They did rather well on the chart in their home city, although this never really ended up translating to much success nationwide, which is a disappointment because they made some good singles.

They really could play all of their instruments (instead of someone else’s). In October 1981 their first single “My Imagination” was released, and this reached no. 50 (although this would turn out to be the only time that they would make the Top 50 in Australia). It was soon beginning to look like they were going to be a group who would be appearing rather regularly on Countdown.

Next in September 1982 was “Tears Of Emotion”, and I would definitely say that this was my favourite single of theirs. The video is also good, although the lyrics seems to claim “the tears are from my eyes“. Maybe I misheard, but it would be rather strange if they weren’t. This reached no. 58, but deserved better really. Maybe they would with their next single.

Next in October 1983 was “Shot Down (In Love)”, but this reached only no. 85, and this would turn out to be their final hit single in Australia. They released two further singles in 1984, “This Must Be Love” and “United States Of America”, but neither of these made the Top 100. And also in this year, their only album “Vertical Hold” reached no. 88.

Not long after this, Vertical Hold split. As far as I know, none of their singles were released in the UK, maybe this could be considered a missed opportunity. Then, some of the members reconvened as The Gladiators, but Hilary had long since gone, and taken her cello and keyboards with her, and this variation ended up lasting not very long. By the mid-80s, it was all over.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 22.

This is a group who are from England, although they had the majority of their success in America and Australia. The Quick are a duo who formed in the late-70s, featuring Colin and George. It was in the early-80s when they had their first success though. One of their earliest singles was “Hip Shake Jerk”, which was released in this country in October 1980, but wasn’t a hit.

But this did make the chart in Australia in March 1981, and reached no. 12. I was particularly amused by the video, partly because it seems that George can play three keyboards at the same time, and he also had one of those things that had a dial and a wave, and when you turned the dial, it made the wave make an “ooh-wee-ooh”-type noise, which really was an impressive piece of technology at the time, all much to the delight of some random woman.

Someone also said about this “singer Colin was married to Beverly Craven, but she dumped him after seeing this video on YouTube”. I would very much doubt that any of that is true, but I thought that it was rather amusing. Their first success in America was when “Zulu” topped the Dance Chart for two weeks in October 1981, and there would be more to come.

Their biggest success on the UK chart though was in May 1982 when “Rhythm Of The Jungle” was released, which reached no. 41, and was their only hit single in this country. This was also their second and final Top 20 hit in Australia. This was rather good, although it was a disappointment that “Hip Shake Jerk” didn’t also make the chart here. Although they released many more singles, none of them succeeded.

In 1983 they were behind the group Girls Can’t Help It, who weren’t very successful, and the B-side to one of their singles was a cover version probably not that coincidentally of “Rhythm Of The Jungle”. The Quick also released four albums from 1981-1986, but none of these charted either. By the late-80s, they didn’t split, instead they ripped it up and started again.

Colin and George changed their group’s name to Giant Steps, and in 1988 they released “Another Lover”, which reached no. 13 on the Hot 100 in America. Well you wouldn’t confuse this one for “Hip Shake Jerk” that’s for sure. They also performed this on shows including Club MTV and Soul Train. It has also been rumoured that a lot of their music has been the template for the duo Go West. The Quick/Giant Steps finally split in the early-90s, after a rather entertaining decade on the scene.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 39.

Back to the 80s again… When I was having a look at some old editions of Record Mirror online, I hoped that there would be some more groups to discover that I previously wasn’t familiar with. I did come across an article that jumped out at me, because some people who looked interesting were featured, and I was pleased to find out that, even though they never made the Top 100, they did make a good single or two.

Hey! Elastica (not to be confused with a very similarly-named group who did have some success on the chart in the mid-90s) were a Edinburgh-based group where it seemed that having big red hair was a part of the style. In October 1982 their first single “Eat Your Heart Out” was released. Smash Hits seemed to be rather impressed by this, and presumed that an appearance on Top Of The Pops wouldn’t be too far away (although we now though that this wasn’t to be).

It seems that they did perform this on TV. I found out that they appeared on a BBC1 show called BA In Music, hosted by pop star BA Robertson, so I would presume that it’s from that? The picture quality isn’t very good though, maybe they were pretty underground. This was something that I enjoyed though, and I was keen to discover more from them.

In March 1983 “Suck A Little Honey” was released, which got a less positive review from Smash Hits, and this was followed in October 1983 by “Party Games”, which was more appreciated, as the critic said “there’s always something interesting going on”. These weren’t hits either though, and they don’t seem to have a video either. In January 1984, their final single “This Town” was released.

There was a video made for this one, and you see can it on their Vevo and everything. Not long after, their only album “In On The Off Beat” was released, but wasn’t a hit (and I presume that their singles that were released in a few European countries weren’t hits there either), and it seems that they went their separate ways not long after. But the story doesn’t end there.

When trying to find out some more about 90s pop music, I was watching a video from a group that I wasn’t familiar with. I noticed that one of the comments said “is that the woman who used to be in Hey! Elastica?”. I was intrigued, and I had to find out more. The Apples were a Scottish group, who featured former members of Win, best-known for their song “You’ve Got The Power”, which was used on a famous advert for McEwan’s Lager, and seemed to be shown in every other advert break on TV for about five years.

The line-up also featured someone called Samantha, who indeed had previously been a member of Hey! Elastica. And look at her hair! The Apples released a few singles, and in March 1991 “Eye Wonder” reached no. 75. It took almost a decade, but she had finally featured on a hit single. And again, they released only one album which wasn’t a success, before coming to an end.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 37.

A while ago, I was watching a repeat of Family Guy (bet then I usually am, because dozens of episodes seem to be repeated every day). This was the episode “German Guy”, and there is a part where a puppet performs a song that I wasn’t familiar with. But as this sounded rather like 80s synthpop which is my kind of thing, I had to discover more, and there is a rather curious story.

The original version of “Der Kommissar” was released by Falco in 1981, the Austrian-born musician (I think someone should’ve told Family Guy that Falco was Austrian, not German). But the lyrics were not in English, so although this did well in some European countries, it was felt that this wouldn’t have too much of a chance of succeeding in the English-speaking markets like this country and the US, where this didn’t make the Top 100.

To seemingly try to make “Der Kommissar” more suitable for the English-speaking markets, in 1983 the American singer Laura Branigan (best remembered for her hits “Gloria” and “Self Control”) made a song called “Deep In The Dark”, which had newly-written English lyrics that were performed to the tune of “Der Kommissar”, but ultimately this wasn’t released as a single.

Also around this time, the British group After The Fire (who had a couple of minor UK hit singles in 1979) released their version of “Der Kommissar”, which had the lyrics translated into English, and was accompanied by a rather bizarre video. In April 1983 this reached no. 47, and was their final hit in the UK, but this did reach the Top Ten in America, so at least one version finally succeeded there.

But Falco did finally find fame in 1986 when he had a Transatlantic chart-topper with “Rock Me Amadeus” (one week at Number One in the UK, and three weeks in the US). And of course, this didn’t contain English lyrics either, making the idea that he wouldn’t ever be able to break the UK and US by releasing non-English language songs somewhat incorrect. By the end of the year he had somewhat gone “down the dumper” though.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 16.

Although I am not hugely interested in the history of the American singles chart, I have sometimes wondered if there were any groups in the 80s that could be considered to be the American equivalent of The Belle Stars or Bananarama. And that reminds me, Bananarama formed in 1979, but didn’t release their first single until 1981. We can only imagine what a single released by them in ’79 or ’80 would’ve sounded like.

When I was having a look online recently though, I did manage to come across a group that could fit the description I was aiming for, which was pleasing. Pulsallama were a female punk group from New York that formed in the early-80s. By the time their first single was released, they were a septet (just like The Belle Stars were), although they had previously been a dectet, and at one point they were said to have had as many as 13 members (I don’t even think there’s a word for that).

They were rather anarchic, and their gigs in various nightclubs were somewhat shambolic. They played a lot of percussion instruments, along with anything they could get their hands on that made a loud noise. They also wore bright clothes and had outrageous hairstyles. The song by them that caught my attention was “The Devil Lives In My Husband’s Body” from 1982. I just thought that it was all really rather bizarre. It Is a sort-of comedy song where a story was told. Someone is making growling noises in the house, but there isn’t a dog…

Well I presume that this was being played for laughs. So I decided to find out more about them. It turns out that “The Devil Lives In My Husband’s Body” was released as a single in the UK in July 1982. They were also interviewed on American TV and John Peel played this on his BBC Radio 1 show. And in Smash Hits, “Ungawa Part II (Way Out Guiana)” was reviewed (although I thought that this was the B-side?). This seemed to be well received, and described as “their music is rough and ready and rubs like sandpaper” and “great fun”. Cowabunga!

This wasn’t a hit though. Their second and final single in the UK “Oui Oui (A Canadian In Paris)” was released in March 1983, and this was also reviewed in Smash Hits, where it was compared to The Belle Stars, along with Record Mirror, where it was, er, compared to The Belle Stars. This wasn’t a hit either, and then, after about three years together, Pulsallama split. I’m particularly amused that they ever existed at all though.

A very belated album consisting of some songs that were recorded in 1983 was released in 2020. It seems that they still have a cult following with the small amount of people who were lucky enough to see them perform live. Were they ever an influence on early Bananarama? I wouldn’t know for sure. That would be great though. I presume that they have never got back together because they all wouldn’t be able to fit on stage at the same time.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 9.

I’ve been having a think about how many other all-female groups had some success in the 80s, because there weren’t that many of them. But here’s one that didn’t do too badly (in America at least). The Go-Go’s were a group that formed in 1978, and their frontwoman was Belinda Carlisle (and little did anyone realise what success was to come for her in the late-80s).

Now Belinda might not be the first person that you would think was a punk/new wave singer, but that’s what she was in the early-80s, and at this point she had short white hair. Also, Belinda was born in the summer of 1958, and I have noticed that a rather large amount of innovative female singers were born around that time, also including Toyah, Madonna, Kate Bush, Siobhan Fahey, Danielle Dax… I can only presume there was something in the water. gg2

By the early-80s The Go-Go’s were making some TV appearances in America, and some of them are a great example of when the majority of a studio audience just sit there looking really bored, apart from one or two people who get really overexcited. Belinda also appeared on the cover of Record Mirror as early as July 1980, as The Go-Go’s were tipped for big things. gg1

Their only hit single in the UK in the 80s was in May 1982 with “Our Lips Are Sealed”, which reached only no. 47 (although this did spend six weeks on the chart), and no. 20 in America. In April 1983, this was covered by Fun Boy Three to become a Top Ten hit. Their only album to be a hit in the UK was “Vacation” in August 1982, which barely made the Top 75. vlcsnap-00008

And that was it, people felt there was a real missed chance here, with their other successful songs including “We Got The Beat” and “Head Over Heels” never being hits in the UK, while in America they had a chart-topping album and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone. The Go-Go’s split in the mid-80s, and Belinda (now with more familiar long red hair), launched a solo career. vlcsnap-00005

This really was a success, with “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” becoming a chart-topper in January 1988 for two weeks in the UK (and for one week in America in December 1987), as this had much more mainstream appeal. Put it this way, this one wasn’t released on Stiff Records. Belinda would have solo Top Ten hits well into the 90s. Her former bandmate Jane Wiedlin also launched a solo career, her best-known single being 1988’s “Rush Hour”. vlcsnap-00010

They did finally get back together in the mid-90s, and they had a long-overdue Top 40 hit in the UK in February 1995 with “The Whole World Lost Its Head”, from their best-of, that they performed on Talking Telephone Numbers and everything. Ever since then, The Go-Go’s have occasionally got back together, with their most recent album being released in 2001.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 12.

Here’s a look at another unusual pop music story from the 80s. Dorothy Sherratt was born in Glasgow, although by the time she had entered the music business in the 70s, she had changed her name to Natasha England. Her first single was as a member of Flirts in 1979, and she then released the first of her 11 solo singles “Breakin’ Down The Walls Of Heartache” in May 1980 (although this was actually credited to Natasha And The Delites).

In June 1982 she caused something of a stir when her fourth solo single that was a cover of “Iko Iko” was released. In what seems to be something of a curious coincidence, in the same month The Belle Stars also released a cover of “Iko Iko”, meaning that both of these were on the singles chart at the same time, and there was some interest in who would come out on top in this chart challenge. It seemed that you couldn’t like both and had to take sides. vlcsnap-00213

As it turned out, Natasha did the best, reaching no. 10 (although this was her first and only Top 40 hit), 25 places higher than The Belle Stars, but they would later go on to have a Top Ten hit, so things eventually balanced themselves out. Natasha performed “Iko Iko” twice on Top Of The Pops, there was a rather odd video, and looking back at promotional pictures from around this time I couldn’t help but notice her rather advanced state of undress in them. vlcsnap-00215

So once again, it was expected that the next single would do well too. In September 1982 “The Boom Boom Room” was released, and this was performed on various shows including Hold Tight rather high up on the big game board, which looked rather scary, she definitely had more of a head for heights than me. This only made no. 44 though, and in October 1982 her first album “Captured” was released which reached no. 53. vlcsnap-00217

Natasha went on to release more singles including “Pata Pata”, and made a few more TV appearances. Her final single was released in 1985, but her moment of fame had passed by this point, and she left the music business not long after. Many years later Natasha did return to the scene though, released an album as recently as 2018, and there is also a website taking a detailed look back at her varied career.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 10.

Here’s another group that had a short moment of fame in the early-80s, a time that wasn’t exactly short of memorable pop acts, how did they fit them all in. The Maisonettes were a group fronted by Lol Mason, who had previously been a member of City Boy, who had a Top Ten hit in July 1978 with “5. 7. 0. 5.”. So although he wasn’t a one-hit wonder as such, this group was, and once again it’s just a good song whose story I want to share.

“Heartache Avenue” was released in December 1982, and reached no. 7, becoming the first and only Top Ten hit for The Maisonettes. This meant that they did go on to appear on Top Of The Pops, and I wondered if they also performed this on various TV shows across Europe, accompanied by some rather odd visual effects that would’ve bene pioneering for the time, and I wasn’t disappointed. vlcsnap-00146

There also seems to be some confusion over who exactly the backing singers are on this one. This seems to be another case where the women who appeared on TV to perform this weren’t actually the ones on the single, and for a short while one of them was Carla Mendonça, who would go on to find further fame as an actress in various TV shows including My Parents Are Aliens, but whether she sang on any of the songs is somewhat unlikely. You should know how much I enjoy unusual female backing singers from the 80s by now though! vlcsnap-00150

After this entertaining success, critics were tipping The Maisonettes to be here to stay, but none of their other singles made the Top 75 (the next best was “Where I Stand” which reached no. 80 in March 1983), there was also the album “Maisonettes For Sale” that was largely ignored, and by 1984 it was all over. It must’ve been rather frustrating for them seeing song after song flop after their initial success. vlcsnap-00149

But two decades on, they would become familiar to a whole new generation of music fans when in July 2005 Roll Deep (who would go on to have a couple of chart-toppers in 2010) sampled “Heartache Avenue” on their hit “The Avenue” which reached no. 11. This was around the time when there seemed to be attempts to choose the unlikeliest song to be sampled on a hit by a rap group. It’s one of those combinations that is rather absurd and shouldn’t work, but somehow it all held together. Also around this time there was a best-of released, and no, it doesn’t only feature one track.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 5.

This is yet another example of someone who only had one hit single in the UK, but doing some exploring reveals that they released many more singles beyond that, and had a rather interesting and varied career. Let’s get this out of the way first. Although all of her singles and albums were released under the name Nancy Nova, her real name is Carol Holness. And yes, she is the daughter of none other than Blockbusters host and occasional saxophonist Bob Holness.

Nancy’s music career began in the mid-70s as a singer/songwriter, and her first single “No Way” was released in 1978, which is a rather nice piece of disco/funk. I found a performance of this song on a TV show which was rather bizarre, featuring Nancy on a swing, it’s tough to explain further than that really. There was also the single “Akiri Non-Stop”, which was the title of Nancy’s debut album released in 1978. For some reason there’s a version of “Akiri Non-Stop” with reworked lyrics as “I’m Giving It Up”. vlcsnap-00011

Nancy also contributed the theme to a series of Italian entertainment show Non-Stop. This raised Nancy’s profile in some European countries. Going into the 80s, more singles were released, including “Heaven” and “The Force”, which are good, but there must’ve been frustration by this point that these weren’t hits either. In May 1982, “Made In Japan” was released, which had some rather bizarre lyrics, and there was also a video. This wasn’t a hit, but a breakthrough couldn’t be too far off now. vlcsnap-00005

The next single was “No No No” (not to be confused with the debut hit for Destiny’s Child of course), and this did attract some media attention, also having a video, and in September 1982 this reached no. 63. Success! It was noted that this was on the chart at the same time as a song by Toto Coelo which featured her sister Ros. I’m sure they were very pleased. Nancy didn’t build on this though, and after one more single which was “Lifeline” in 1983, she dropped off the music scene for a while. And this leads to the next thing. vlcsnap-00013

I like to listen to Forgotten 80s on radio station Absolute 80s (and so should you). One week there was a special edition where hits that didn’t make the Top 40 could be requested, and “No No No” was played, which was a pleasant surprise. I said how good it was to hear it on the radio on Twitter, and I got a like from the woman herself (well I presume it was her), and that made me smile as it was rather unexpected. nn1

In more recent years, it seems that Nancy has gone on to do various other things including some acting, along with some artwork, and she also went back into music, there have been some more singles, along with some new albums, and she even has a website and everything which contains a rather detailed look at what she has achieved over her long career.