Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 43.

When thinking about how many more interesting stories there might be in 80s pop music, so far I have only taken a look at the British and Australian singles charts from this decade. I do plan to take a look at the American chart too, but that is rather overwhelming, with so many charts for different genres, and then there is the Hot 100, which is the toughest market to break in the world.

There are just a huge amount of songs to choose from. So I decided for now to only take a look at the American Dance Chart number ones, because this is a genre that I like, and if they topped that chart, then they must’ve got all of the young people grooving on down on the dancefloor of whatever it is. I have picked out “Call Me Mr Telephone (Answering Service)”, which topped the chart for one week in June 1985.

This is by an American singer called Cheyne (her full name being Cheyne Anderson). She was only about 15 years old at this point, but she had already been on the music scene for a short while. In 1984 there was her debut single “Rude Boy”, and this was followed in 1985 by “Private Joy”, but this was the one that got her the most high-profile coverage.

Apparently she is also “a former hat check girl”. Now I don’t know why hats need to be checked, but if anyone could do it well, then I’m sure that it was her. And “Call Me Mr Telephone” was also a cover version. The original version was released in 1984 by the Italian dance group Answering Service, which is why the title for Cheyne’s version is slightly different, so people could tell the difference.

There was also a video made for this, featuring lots of people, and lots of telephones naturally. And of course, because this was the mid-80s, Cheyne was going to be “the new Madonna”, just like every other young female singer on the scene was going to be at this time, and guess what, after this song, she was barely ever heard of again. This didn’t make the Top 100 in the UK (or even the Top 150), making the lower end of the singles chart for a few weeks in May 1985.

By the way, many years later, there actually was a singer called Cheyne who topped the singles chart in the UK. She was the frontwoman of the Australian group Madison Avenue, best known for “Don’t Call Me Baby”, a success in 2000. I noticed some people on YouTube speculating about what exactly happened to Cheyne (the American one), and someone said that she got married to a member of The Pogues. I wouldn’t know if that’s true or not, but this was yet another singer who came and went fairly quickly and made a few good songs.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 40.

When I was taking a look at some Australian singles charts from the 80s recently, this was a group who stood out, as it turned out that they had made some songs that I liked the sound of. But their moment of fame was rather brief, to the point that I wondered if it was worth sharing their story because barely anybody will remember them. But then I thought that I might as well to give them a reappraisal all this time on.

Vitabeats are a husband-and-wife group who consisted of Andrew and Lissa. They follow in the tradition of other couples who had some hits in the 80s, including Nu Shooz, Timbuk 3, and of course Techno Twins! Their first single “Tough Guy” was released as early as 1983, and then this was followed in 1984 by “Cake Mix”. But 1985 was the year when they made the chart for the first time.

Firstly in March 1985 “Boom Box” was released, which reached no. 31, to become their first and only Top 40 hit single in Australia. This also meant that they got to appear on Countdown, the biggest music show around. Their highlight for me though was in August 1985, when their next single “Audrey” was released, although this only reached no. 81.

I definitely did like this one, there have been some decent singles made after 1984, honest. And according to the lyrics “all the girls look like Audrey Hepburn“. Well I’m not sure how you worked that out, but that’s rather interesting to know. Also around this time, the further single “Different Ideas” and their album “Spot The Spanner” were released, but neither of these made the chart.

I’m also fairly sure that none of their singles were ever released in any other countries beyond Australia, so there was no attempt to break them in the UK. Just about their only other release in the 80s was the compilation album “The Beats Beyond The Boom”. And they have a fan account on YouTube that almost has ten subscribers, what a legacy!

Well maybe Vitabeats didn’t really cause a sensation with the record-buying public at the time, and I don’t know much about what they have been up to since (beyond the usual “working on a few other projects”), or if they are still together, but as a fan of 80s music, I always hope that I can discover groups and then acknowledge them on this blog, whoever they are.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 32.

When Bow Wow Wow came on to the pop music scene in 1980, they caused something of a stir. Firstly, their singer Annabella, who was born in Burma (or Myanmar, or whatever it’s called this week) was 14 years old, and their debut single was the first to be released on cassette. Yet somehow these stunts didn’t cause the British music industry to crumble as was expected.

Annabella went on to appear on the cover of Smash Hits in 1981, and in 1982 they managed to have two Top Ten singles with “Go Wild In The Country” and “I Want Candy”. By 1983 though, as tastes constantly change, Bow Wow Wow had fallen out of favour somewhat, Annabella departed, and the remaining members carried on as the renamed Chiefs Of Relief, which lasted for about five minutes.

In 1985, Annabella returned to launch a solo career, and probably had a little more control over things (and a much less weird hairstyle). Somehow, I find this end of her career more interesting, as she appeared on shows in various countries to promote her singles, but this didn’t turn out to be hugely successful. In October 1985, her first solo single “Don’t Dance With Strangers” was released.

She was interviewed about this on Sky Trax by Peter Powell (who was seemingly moonlighting from BBC Radio 1), and the video was shown too. This was back in the early days of satellite TV, when the Sky Channel was accessible across Europe, although the viewers at the time were probably only about four people in the Netherlands, and three and Belgium, but I hoped that they enjoyed seeing this (and she didn’t walk off in a strop either). “Don’t Dance With Strangers” didn’t make the Top 100 in the UK though, so maybe it was time to try a different idea to get things going.

In May 1986, “Fever” was released. This was a cover of the famous song by Peggy Lee, which has been covered by many other singers, including Madonna who had a Top Ten hit in 1994. Along with the video, she also appeared on a TV show in Germany to perform this, and was accompanied on stage by two drummers (as if she was Adam Ant or something).

“Fever” also missed the Top 100 though, which was a disappointment. There was also an album that was planned to be released, but wasn’t very successful either, and I wouldn’t be that surprised if this was called “I Don’t Need You Now Malcolm!”. After these flops, Annabella seemed to drop off the pop music scene completely, although she did eventually resurface.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 12.

This is someone who definitely did provide some truly great pop music moments in the 80s, but her career has been so well-documented, along with having a loyal fanbase, that it’s rather difficult to think of anything to say that you might not already know. Kate Bush is of course a singer-songwriter who came on to the scene in 1978, and had a chart-topper with her debut single.

She then went on to have many more hits in the 80s, so I thought that I would pick out five of my favourites, and expand a little on why I’m fond of them. First of all, there has to be “Babooshka” from 1980, which has a very memorable video. And I also remember that someone performed this as Kate on Stars In Their Eyes, which was a rather bold move, although this was one of those cases where the original was the best. vlcsnap-00423

Next is “Army Dreamers” from 1980. Now this isn’t one of the more famous ones, but I do remember a long time ago now there was a radio station in London on MW called Liberty. When I used to go through the dial rather late at night, I did listen to this station occasionally, because there was this weird feeling that there were probably only about five other listeners at that time, and because there was no live host, the song at the end of the hour usually cut off halfway through as it was time for the news. vlcsnap-00424

But I remember that they seemed to play “Army Dreamers” rather a lot. I’m not sure why, but it was a song that stopped me from going on to the next station for a few minutes at least, it was always good to hear. Then there’s “Running Up That Hill” from 1985. This was a Top Ten hit, and to this day this almost sounds like it has come down from another planet, and is proof that Kate’s approach to music is unique. A remix also made the Top Ten in 2012. vlcsnap-00426

Then there’s “Cloudbusting” from 1985. This was sampled on Utah Saints’ 90s hit (and 2000s hit as a remix) “Something Good”, proof that Kate still sounds great, even when gone all rave. And finally, there’s “Hounds Of Love” from 1986. This one was introduced to a new audience when a cover by indie band Futureheads was a hit in 2005 (an indie band having a Top Ten hit, can you believe it). NME also chose this as their Single Of The Year. vlcsnap-00427

Also in 1986, the best-of “The Whole Story” was released, and was a chart-topper. I have this one myself, and it has been much played. Kate also won Best British Female at the 1987 Brit Awards, and went on to consistently have hit singles until 1994, when she left the music scene for about a decade, although she is still held in much high regard by many.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 13.

This is a group whose career I have already covered, but because they also qualify for this series, I thought that I might as well take the opportunity to go on about them again. To briefly recap, Strawberry Switchblade were a duo from Glasgow (although their earliest line-up was a quartet), consisting of Rose McDowall and Jill Bryson that formed in the early-80s.

They attracted some interest on the radio as early as 1982, and they released their first single “Trees And Flowers” in 1983, but it was in November 1984 when they released “Since Yesterday” that they hit the big time, this was their first and only Top Ten hit single. And then they were on the cover of magazines including Smash Hits, Melody Maker, and Sounds. I only really discovered them not that long ago, but I was pleased that they did have some success. vlcsnap-00289

This makes it even more of a surprise that none of their follow-up singles made the Top 50. Barely a year on from their breakthrough success, what turned out to be their final single “Jolene” was released in September 1985. Now did the world really need an electropop cover of the song made famous by Dolly Parton? Well it’s always interesting when a song is interpreted in a totally different genre. vlcsnap-00288

It was definitely an attempt at doing something a little different. They also changed their image around this time slightly, having dropped the famous polkadots but still looking rather distinctive, put it this way, there was a lot of rubber involved. There was a video, they performed this on various shows including Bliss, Cheggers Plays Pop, and they were also interviewed on TV-am. ss1

However, “Jolene” reached only no. 53 (but did spend four weeks on the chart). They had also managed to build up something of a fanbase in Japan, but it was around this point that Jill seemed to have become disillusioned with fame, and in 1986 she left Strawberry Switchblade and the music scene all together, and as far as I know she has never built her bridges with Rose which is a shame. They only made one album, we’ll just have to guess what any further songs would’ve sounded like. Rose has gone on to work in various musical projects since the late-80s including Current 93.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 6.

This is a group that actually did a “reverse dumper”, having some minor hits, and finishing off with their final hit single making the Top Ten. The RAH Band was essentially a solo project for Richard Anthony Hewson (his initials being RAH) who released a lot of singles. The first success was in July 1977 when the instrumental “The Crunch” made the Top Ten. The second and final big hit would come almost eight years later, but it would be worth the wait, as it was one of the more unusual songs of its era.

You don’t get many songs that are described as being in the “Space Disco” genre, but if they are all as creative as this one, then I’d definitely like to hear them. The video was very enjoyable too. In March 1985, “Clouds Across The Moon” was released, and this reached no. 6. In April 1985 their seventh album “Mystery” was released and reached no. 60, the only one to be a hit. vlcsnap-00164

“Clouds Across The Moon” featured the vocalist (who was Richard’s wife Liz) who is trying to contact someone on Mars rather a long time into the future, but she doesn’t have much success. It’s all down to these violent storm conditions in the asteroid belt you see. It would seem that by this point a lot of people had big white curly hair, along with sparkly blue clothes. She will never know if his cold is better now. vlcsnap-00168

Also memorable about this one are the two performances on Top Of The Pops, which along with Liz and her phone thing featured an additional exploding robot, which is always a good way to enhance a song I feel (and would you believe it if it isn’t our old friend Albie who we previously came across in the piece for CBBC’s Tricks And Tracks, I didn’t realise he’d been around that long). vlcsnap-00167

These must’ve been performances that made people say afterwards “did you see that on Top Of The Pops last night?”. This was when you really had to go some to stand out, but they managed it. Some people think that this was a drab era for the show, but not when things like this were happening. That’s one of the reasons where the show (and maybe pop music as a whole) went wrong really, too few exciting moments that were talking points. vlcsnap-00166

I also like the extended version of “Clouds Across The Moon”, it’s a song that tells a story, I can’t help but get lost in the instrumental moment every time, and I’m still not sure if I’ve worked out what it’s all about. After this, The RAH Band did release some more singles and albums going into the late-80s, along with various production work, but this will always be their peak for me. It’s rather a good thing to able to say that you achieved. rah1

This is the intergalactic operator… this is the intergalactic operator…

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 1.

Although I want to continue my Down The Dumper series, I thought I’d also start to look back at some musical acts who had a very brief moment of fame, having just the one hit single. I’ll pick out some of my favourites from various decades, because whether they were a chart-topper or missed the Top 40, they’ve all come from somewhere and have a story to tell, and it’s disappointing that they didn’t have further success. I’ll start off with this one from the 80s.

Now I do enjoy a good mystery. I don’t remember this one from first time round, but I became a fan when I heard it on the radio, and I wanted to find out more about the group, but there is almost nothing at all about Royalle Delite (not to be confused with Deee-Lite) online, and I started to wonder if they actually ever existed at all. Firstly, the actual song. I’ve always enjoyed soul music from the mid-80s, and this really does contain everything that I like, including a noise that has been compared to “chattering teeth”, plus lots of buzzy keyboards and plenty of bass, “I’ll Be A Freak For You” was five excellent minutes. I’m not sure if I’ve described it that well, so to really experience it, have a listen for yourself.

It seems that the song had been around for about a year when it was released in the UK in September 1985, and it eventually reached no. 45 and spent seven weeks in the Top 100. They did manage to gain a little publicity at the time, including being reviewed by Record Mirror, feeling that it was something of a disco floorfiller. It was also reviewed in Number One by Ursula Kenny, who said… rd5

It seems that it was also played rather a lot on pirate radio, and they were often grouped with the likes of The SOS Band and Lisa Lisa who were also big on the soul scene at the time. But who exactly were they? They’re surprisingly elusive. They have no Wikipedia entry, there seems to have been no music video made, and there are no TV performances on YouTube either, even their biography in the Official Charts books is rather brief and vague. The only proof of their existence is the picture of them on the sleeve which at least reveals that they were an all-female quartet, long before Destiny’s Child came along. rd1

But the story doesn’t end there. At the start of 1986, their second single “Spend A Little Time With Me” was released, but this wasn’t a hit. The sleeve features two members instead of four. Did two quit, or are these two totally different women from the original line-up? The back promotes the opportunity to join the Royalle Delite fan club, although I doubt that a huge amount of people took up the offer unfortunately. rd2

However, in January 1986 they were interviewed in Record Mirror, where it is revealed that they were called “Porsha and Parris”, and they were American, from Brooklyn to be precise. It seems that they might have then made one more song called “I’ll Come When You Call”, but that’s it. I’m not aware of an album, but they can’t have literally recorded only three songs, that’s all there is out there though. rd4

The legacy of “I’ll Be A Freak For You” is that it was covered by Lindy Layton (of “Dub Be Good To Me” fame) in 1992, but it wasn’t a hit, and there were a few remixes released around 1996. Whoever they were, I’m very grateful to them, as this is one of my favourite singles from the mid-80s. Anybody who does have any more information on them is welcome to let me know.