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.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 9.

Here’s a look back at another pop star from the 80s who didn’t have as many hits as they should’ve. Toni Basil is as well-known for being a choreographer as a singer, and she also worked behind the scenes on several films, as well as appearing in some as an actress. Toni released her first single as early as 1966, but it wasn’t until about 15 years later that she had some chart success.

“Mickey” was first released in 1981, but it wasn’t a hit. But then it was re-released in 1982, and Toni and her song suddenly became a big success, reaching no. 2 in the UK, along with being a chart-topper in America and Australia, soon Toni was doing her thing on Top Of The Pops and in March 1982 she also appeared on the cover of Record Mirror. 50305322427_6037fd8056_k

“Mickey” did well, not just because it was so catchy, but also because of the famous video where Toni dressed as a cheerleader, with no-one realising she was about 39 at the time, and “Mickey” would be a Top Ten hit all over again about two decades later when it was covered by Lolly. Also in 1982, Toni’s first album “Word Of Mouth” was released and reached no. 15 in the UK. vlcsnap-00071

And there was also The Toni Basil Special. Most of the songs from “Word Of Mouth” had a video made, and all of these featured performances from Toni among many others. It looked to be rather big-budget stuff. The credits also mostly consisted of “performed by Toni Basil, choreographed by Toni Basil, produced by Toni Basil, directed by Toni Basil, a Toni Basil Production for Toni Basil Enterprises”-style credits, so this was clearly someone with a strong hold on their look and sound who was determined to succeed. vlcsnap-00063

So you would think that there would be much anticipation for what Toni would do next. In May 1982 the next single “Nobody” was released, but despite another memorable video and dance routine, this reached only no. 52, although it did spend four weeks on the chart. This turned out to be Toni’s second and final hit single in the UK, which must’ve been a disappointment. It seems that “nobody” by comparison was really interested in any follow-ups (I’m awfully sorry). vlcsnap-00070

Toni did release some more singles into the mid-80s including “Over My Head” and “Shoppin’ From A To Z” which had a rather amusing video, but “Mickey” will always be considered to be the peak of her career though. The special was eventually shown rather late at night on BBC1 in 1984, although the performance of “Mickey” was different, and instead of featuring cheerleaders, Toni was accompanied by her band, with what seemed to be Vyvyan from The Young Ones on guitar. Her moment of fame had long since passed even by this point though. vlcsnap-00068

Toni does remain a respected figure though for her pioneering work of choreography in music videos, and all these years on she can still do those dance moves that she is famous for, which the average septuagenarian probably can’t.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 6.

When taking a look back at 80s pop music, I have been surprised at just how few all-female groups had been successful during this decade. There were Bananarama and The Belle Stars of course, but they really weren’t many more beyond that. This is an example of a quintet who were briefly a success though. Could they be considered to be that era’s equivalent of Girls Aloud? Well possibly.

Toto Coelo (or Total Coelo as they were known in America to avoid confusion with Toto of “Africa” fame) were Anita, Lacey, Lindsey, Ros, and Sheen (and yes I know that one of them is the daughter of Bob Holness, that’s a rather famous piece of pop trivia). In August 1982, they released their first single “I Eat Cannibals”, which showcased their rather distinctive look (they wore dresses that seemed to be made out of bin-liners) and sound, which reached No. 8 in the UK. It also reached No. 66 in America. tc2

Soon they were on Top Of The Pops causing something of a stir, and appearing in lots of magazines. But then they made what turned out to be a rather big mistake with their marketing… they released another single. About three months on from “I Eat Cannibals”, in November 1982 they decided to treat their fans to a double A-side, consisting of “Dracula’s Tango (Sucker For Your Love)” and “Mucho Macho”, so lucky people would get two great pop songs for the price of one. Well that was the idea.tc4

Again, they promoted these on several TV shows including Saturday SuperStore and Three Of A Kind, where they performed the songs, along with the rather well-drilled dance routine. But this, probably much to their surprise, only reached No. 54. This also turned out to be their second and final hit single, every follow-up they did would be unfairly compared to “I Eat Cannibals”, and before we had even got to the end of their breakthrough year 1982, they were all over. vlcsnap-00060

They did carry on for a little longer though. In May 1983, they went on to release “Milk From The Coconut”, which got nowhere, and their only album “Man O’War” also sank without trace. They were beginning to run into some trouble, as around this time Anita and Sheen left the group. By 1985, they were just about still going as a trio (The Belle Stars were also reduced to a trio by the time they released their much-ignored final single), and released two more singles to no interest. tc5

I don’t really know that much about what happened to any of Toto Coelo after this. It seems that one of them was in an episode of EastEnders a few years ago, but that’s about it really. They deserved much better. But wherever they may all be now, I hope that they still have good memories of their very short time as a big buzz in pop music during the early-80s.