Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 44.

A while ago, I did a piece that reviewed the music show Club MTV. I’m fairly sure that this was shown only in America, but when I saw some online, I thought that this was rather good, because I was reminded a little of Top Of The Pops, and I enjoyed plenty of the music featured too. The host was Julie Brown, who had started out on British TV, and hosted shows including Crackerjack and segments on TV-am.

And in the late-80s, there was also an American-born host on MTV called Julie Brown, who had big red hair even by the standards of that time. One day she appeared on Club MTV as she had released a single, which meant that Julie Brown had to introduce and then interview Julie Brown, which was rather amusing. And I remember that there was even an episode of Family Guy that referenced this, where Peter simply said “what a mess”.

But having enjoyed her song, I thought that I would find out more about (the American) Julie Brown, and it turns out she has had a long career in music and comedy. She started out in the early-80s, including an appearance in the cult horror film Bloody Birthday. Her first album “Goddess In Progress” was released in 1984, and featured the singles “I Like ‘Em Big And Stupid”, and “The Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun”, which definitely gives you an idea of her style of humour.

In 1987, she returned with her second album “Trapped In The Body Of A White Girl”, and she performed the single (with the same title) on Club MTV, which everyone seemed to enjoy. Also around this time was the single “Girl Fight Tonight”. One critic’s opinion of the album was “tongue-in-cheek loony toons are witty and lascivious”. Now I don’t know what Americans mean half the time, but I think that’s a positive comment.

However, I’m fairly sure that none of her singles and albums never made the chart in the US, and I don’t think that any of them were released in the UK. By the late-80s, she had her own show on MTV called Just Say Julie, which featured a lot of comedy. The other Julie Brown appeared again, and she seemed to have an ongoing feud with Sheena Easton of all people.

There were also some parodies of famous pop songs, including several by Madonna. Ooh, how scandalous. She is probably best-known for appearing in the film Earth Girls Are Easy, which has been shown a lot of various channels over the years. More recently, it seems that she has continued to appear in various TV shows and films, although I don’t know if any more albums are planned.

The Belle Stars Story – Extra Bonus Edition.

Well this is all rather unexpected. When I put pieces together about pop groups that I have enjoyed, I do make sure to track down everything about them. So not only do I feature their single and album releases, but also any TV appearances or magazine covers, because I feel that they are a part of the story too. A while ago I looked back at The Belle Stars, who had some success in the early-80s.

They started out as The Bodysnatchers, before changing their name and a few members, they briefly hit the big time with “Sign Of The Times”, but then the hits decreased in size, and their final single “World Domination” was released when they had been reduced to a trio (and I discovered recently this reached an unofficial no. 186 in May 1986).

One of their biggest hits actually came a few years after their split when one of their songs was used on the Rain Man soundtrack. They then briefly went on to the nostalgia circuit about 15 years later, although this seemed to consist of three random women. But recently, I discovered that there is another part to this story which completely passed me by when I put the original piece together, so it’s time to correct that.

In 1987, the former Belle Stars frontwoman Jennie launched a new group called Dance Like A Mother (I’m not sure what content the word “mother” is being used in here…), which was a duo, the other member being the guitarist Melissa Ritter, who I’m fairly sure was never a Belle Star herself, although there were so many of them over the years.

Their first single was “You Ain’t So Tough”, which was co-written and executive produced by Narada Michael Walden (who had a couple of big hits himself in the 80s), and one critic described this as “a tight dancefloor fare in a dense and supportive production”. What is notable about the video is that this is a parody of Robert Palmer’s famous “Addicted To Love”.

Now I make this the sixth different video that I am aware of to parody this, the others being Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman”, Bowling For Soup’s “1985”, Mr Blobby’s “Mr Blobby”, Tone Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina”, and the man himself’s “Change His Ways” (better known as “the one where he yodelled”). There can’t be any more examples, can there?

“You Ain’t So Though” reached no. 94 in Australia in June 1987, but this didn’t make the Top 100 in the UK. This was also released across Europe, and there was a performance on Dutch music show TopPop. The second single was “Private Number”, but I can’t find any videos or chart positions for this, and not long after this, without an album being released, Dance Like A Mother split. I think that is everything now…

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 19.

This is someone who was a very successful pop star in various countries in the mid-80s, but she never became big in the UK to the surprise to a lot of people, although she did actually sort-of have a Number One eventually. Sandra is a German-born singer whose pop career began in the late-70s as a member of the group Arabesque. By 1985, she had left to launch a solo career.

And for a short while, she became one of the biggest German pop acts on the scene across the continent. Yes, even bigger than My Favourite Toys would you believe. But she really did struggle to have a hit single in the UK though, and although a few of her songs were “bubblers” (to use a chart term), none of them really became “breakers” (to use another).

In November 1985, Sandra made the UK chart for the first time with “(I’ll Never Be) Maria Magdelena”, which is arguably her most famous song, and was a chart-topper in some countries, but this only reached no. 91 in the UK, which is too low to officially be a hit single. Next in February 1986 was “In The Heat Of The Night”, which has to be my favourite of hers.

But despite this being advertised in various music magazines, and the video even being shown on The Chart Show, this failed to make the Top 100 at all. By May 1986, “(I’ll Never Be) Maria Magdelena” resurfaced and made the chart again, this time making no. 87, which was an improvement on last time, but this was still not high enough to be a hit.

In November 1987, her cover of “Everlasting Love” was released, which reached no. 88, returning in June 1988 to reach no. 79, and again in December 1988 to reach no. 45, meaning that she had a hit single in the UK at last, although this meant that she never made the Top 40 on her own. This has been a hit for various other acts over the years too, somehow the cast of BBC1’s Casualty had a Top Ten hit with their take on this in 1998, which was far inferior to Sandra’s effort.

There was one more single in March 1989 when “Heaven Can Wait” reached only no. 97. However, by this point Sandra had married the Romanian-born producer Michael Cretu, who was about to launch his project called Enigma (not to be confused with Enigma, an identically-titled British group who had a couple of hit singles in 1981 with medleys of disco songs).

In December 1990 “Sadness Part 1” (which was changed from the actual title “Sadeness Part 1”, it’s a long story) was released, which featured some backing vocals from Sandra, and at the start of 1991 this did become a chart-topper in the UK. So just when she had just about given up on her dream of breaking the UK market, she had a huge hit, and barely anybody noticed her contribution.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 35.

A while ago I looked back at the career of Pookiesnackenburger, who were a comedy musical sextet. They released the single “Just One Cornetto” in the early-80s, but this wasn’t a success, and they appeared on a few TV shows, including No. 73. By the mid-80s they had their own show on Channel 4, where they showed off their unusual combination of comedy and music.

But not long after this though, they went their separate ways, although two of them, Luke and Steve, remained together, and a launched a new group. They were now called The Yes/No People, and in November 1987 they had another attempt at achieving a hit single when “Mr Johnson” was released. There was a video made for this, plus some TV appearances, and there must’ve been hope that this would put them into the chart at last.

This was in a slightly different style, following on from their comedy songs. One critic said that “Mr Johnson” was “a funky, dense, no-escape-possible pop tune, ready for the dance floor”. But this wasn’t a huge success however, and reached only an unofficial no. 99. Having just scraped into the Top 100, also in the late-80s, they performed the theme to the short-lived Channel 4 music show Wired. This had an impressive for the time computer-generated opening sequence, which even surpassed anything that even The Chart Show could offer.

It was at about this point that The Yes/No People came to an end as well. But they had become known for making music without using conventional instruments, such as banging dustbin lids together, tapping milk bottles, and so on, all whilst performing dance routines. By the early-90s, Luke and Steve realised that there was a chance that this could be a successful idea, and they launched another new group, this one was called Stomp.

This was then turned into a stage show which has played theatres around the world, with various people taking part, although they have remained at the core, so fame did eventually come their way. They even performed the theme to CBBC’s Blue Peter, which was used for about five years, but was something of a racket compared to their earlier work.

And rather curiously, there was a recent episode of the animated sitcom American Dad, where the family buy the rights to a stage musical, which turns out to be Stomp, and we even see them perform this, with all of the dustbins and the like. So I suppose if you ever want to see a revival of this show, you should contact the fictional character Stan Smith.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 22.

This is a British group who became famous in the late-80s, and sum up that era of pop music to me more than most. Part of the reason that Curiosity Killed The Cat succeeded with people was because of their singer, the man who they call Benedict Volpeliere-Pierrot. He was was known for often wearing a beret-style hat, and for his rather bendy-legged dancing.

Before this, Ben was a model and had appeared in a few adverts in those weekly magazines for girls (Jackie, My Guy, Patches, Blue Jeans, there really were too many of them, weren’t there), and he also appeared on the cover of Mike’s Big Super Pop Game or whatever it was called. In September 1986, their first single “Misfit” was released. Now few people seem to believe this, but it really is true.

The video for “Misfit” was directed by Andy Warhol, who was a fan. He died not long after this (but it wasn’t “from shame” as some people have tried to claim), surprisingly though, this only reached no. 76. In December 1986, “Down To Earth” reached no. 3, to become their first hit single. This was followed in April 1987 by “Ordinary Day” reaching no. 11.

And not long after, their album “Keep Your Distance” was a chart-topper for two weeks. In June 1987, it was decided to give “Misfit” another go, as this just had to be a hit, and this time reached a much more satisfying no. 7. There’s no doubt that Curiosity Killed The Cat were one of the hottest bands around at this time. Proof of this was that they were great for Smash Hits.

They appeared on the cover, their interviews were entertaining, and Ben’s name was always spelt wrong (the ultimate honour in pop music was having your name deliberately misspelt in Smash Hits, that was proof that you’d made it). Around this time, Ben also appeared in an advert for Philips, where it seemed that if you played “Misfit” on their fancy new machine, he really would jump out of the screen at you.

In September 1987 “Free” only reached no. 56, although the album had been milked for singles by now. There was change to come. In September 1989, they returned, and “Name And Number” reached no. 14. This was also an influence on De La Soul’s 1991 hit “Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)”, and Little Mix’s 2013 hit “How Ya Doin'”. But in November 1989, their second album “Getahead” didn’t do as well as expected.

After another break, they returned in April 1992, under the shortened name of Curiosity, and the line-up had just about reached the “Ben and some blokes” point by now. Their cover of Johnny Bristol’s 1974 hit “Hang On In There Baby” reached no. 3, surprisingly taking them back into the Top Ten for the first time in almost five years. The follow-up singles failed to make the Top 40 though, and by the end of 1993, it really was all over.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 16.

This is another singer who I don’t really remember from the time, but recently I have discovered her songs and enjoyed them, although once again this is someone whose chart career lasted barely two years. Princess is an English soul singer, and her real first name is Desiree (not to be confused with the 90s singer Des’Ree of course). She had worked as a backing singer for various groups, and then in the mid-80s she launched a pop career of her own. Was there a chance of this Princess becoming a Superstar?

Princess collaborated with the production team Stock/Aitken/Waterman. Now I must admit that I don’t really have much fondness for SAW’s late-80s work, by which point they were known as “The Hit Factory”. They were behind a large amount of songs around that time, with lots of them making the higher end of the chart, and although most of them sounded the same, it was clearly a winning formula. vlcsnap-00455

But they did work on some good pop singles in the mid-80s though, including Princess’s debut “Say I’m Your Number One”, which was released in August 1985, and became her first and only Top Ten hit (there is also the famous and really great statistic that acts called King, Queen, Prince, and Princess all had a UK Top Ten hit single in 1985). I don’t know if she had to record another version for the radio with the title altered to “Say I’m Your Smash Hits” in the interests of balance though. vlcsnap-00460

Two more singles were released, which were “After The Love Has Gone” and “I’ll Keep On Loving You” (which has to be my favourite single by Princess, very smooth, very soulful). Then in May 1986 the debut album “Princess” was released, and was the only one by her to chart, making the Top 20. But then in July 1986 “Tell Me Tomorrow” became her fourth and final Top 40 hit. vlcsnap-00463

And by June 1987, “Red Hot” turned out to be her final hit, reaching a rather disappointing no. 58, although her debut album had been milked for singles by that point. After her second album flopped, Princess went on to do some more work behind the scenes, but by the late-80s, she had just about left the music business all together, although she did eventually return and release another album in the 2010s decade. Oh, and did I say that she had purple hair? Because that’s rather good too.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 13.

This is a rather rare case of a song being a “double one-hit wonder”, being the only hit single for two different acts in the 80s, what are the odds? The first success of this song was before my time, as they say on game shows too often, but here’s how I discovered this one. A long time ago I was watching an episode of The Simpsons from 1992 when Homer becomes rather fond of a singer and says “I can’t get your song out of my mind, I haven’t felt this way since “Funky Town””.

Now this wasn’t a song that I was familiar with, but because I was amused by the reference, I thought that I should have a listen out for if it ever comes on the radio. I eventually did hear this, I think the first time was on Virgin’s Johnny Boy And The Wheels Of Steel, which as I have said before introduced me to lots of great songs from the early-80s, and at this moment I now realised what Homer was on about, it’s one of the rare things that he has got right. vlcsnap-00273

“Funky Town” was released by American group Lipps Inc. in May 1980, this had already spent four weeks at Number One in America, it was clear to see why as it was a great piece of disco, and in the UK this reached no. 2. I also found some TV performances of this online that were very entertaining. And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, this was also featured on the soundtrack to Shrek 2. vlcsnap-00275

Lipps Inc. went on to have no further hits in the UK, but the one they did have has endured longer than most in the disco genre. And then, seven years later, “Funky Town” returned to the singles chart in July 1987 with a cover version by Australian group Pseudo Echo. And well, once again it was an indication of how quickly genres changed in the 80s, this one giving off a big “guy with a mullet playing a keytar” vibe. vlcsnap-00276

When compared to the original, many feel this does come off as second-best, but it’s still very enjoyable and proof that you can’t go wrong with this one. This version spent seven weeks at Number One in Australia in 1986/1987, made the Top Ten in America, and reached no. 8 in the UK, making “Funky Town” a Top Ten hit for a second time. And curiously, just like Lipps Inc., Pseudo Echo never got near the chart in this country again.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 9.

Over the years, there have been several pop acts that have featured a married couple. In the 80s, these included Nu Shooz, Techno Twins (who I gushed over in a piece a while ago), and also this one. Timbuk 3 were an American group who formed in the mid-80s, and their earliest line-up consisted of Pat and Barbara MacDonald, and a tape machine. I presume that Pat was married to Barbara and not the tape machine.

Their first album was “Welcome To Timbuk 3”, and the only hit single that they had from this or any other album in this country was released in January 1987. “The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades” reached no. 21 in the UK, and did slightly better in America, reaching no. 19. When the album was released in February 1987, this reached no. 51 in the UK, and went one place better at no. 50 in America. vlcsnap-00142

There are some reasons why despite the fact this wasn’t a big hit it still manages to stand out to me. Firstly, there is the rather unusual video, which features some computer-generated images that have had a real mouth put over them to create a rather creepy visual effect. And the video along with the album cover also features a donkey. This is clearly where everything is not what it first seems. vlcsnap-00141

And although you would think from the title that this might be an optimistic song, it is believed to probably be about nuclear war. During the 80s, it is rather odd to think that whatever a song sounded like, when a group were asked what it was about, they often said it was nuclear war. There seemed to be a time when every other song on the chart was a comment on the situation, there was a real fear about the future. vlcsnap-00143

This was a group that had created an entertainingly quirky song, but Timbuk 3 would go on to have no more hits in the UK after this, and they would go on to release six albums all together, the last of these being in 1995, which was also when the MacDonalds divorced. I wonder who got the tape recorder. It turned out that maybe the future wasn’t so bright for them. Whether they like it or not, this will always be the song that they will be best remembered for, a great one-hit wonder of the 80s.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 7.

When looking back at pop music from this era, I do find it fascinating to discover more about the acts who only had a small amount of success compared to most. When looking through old books and magazines, you discover that everyone has a story to tell, however well they did, because I mean they must’ve come from somewhere, a record label had enough faith in them to back them and release their singles (for a short while at least), and here’s another interesting story.

Toyah is someone who I have thought about doing a piece where I look back at all of the hit singles one-by-one, along with various TV appearances. But because Toyah was a big success with lots of hits in the early-80s, it would take a long time to put together, so because Toyah qualifies for this series, I’ll just take a brief look at her pop music career in this piece for now.vlcsnap-00033

Toyah Willcox is an actress as well as a singer, and first came to fame in the late-70s appearing in various films including Jubliee and Quadrophenia, and also appeared on the cover of Record Mirror as early as 1979. By the early-80s she had success as a pop star, with three Top Ten hits in 1981, including “Thunder In The Mountains” which reached No. 4. And remember, Toyah was the name of the whole group, not just the frontwoman. She also had a rather striking look (well didn’t they all then), with her bright red or pink hair, and she would always be good value in interviews.t93


But of course, the years pass, and the tastes change. In April 1987, Toyah was now going it alone and released “Echo Beach”, which was notable for a few reasons. Firstly, of course it was a cover of the Martha And The Muffins song, which had been a hit earlier in the decade, and this was a typically unique take. The video is also interesting, because as well as appearing as a scary green face on a computer screen, it seems that Toyah is trying out a new image, and shreds some pictures of her earlier self. What could this mean? vlcsnap-00041

Well whatever the reasons behind it, “Echo Beach” reached only No. 54, and not only was it Toyah’s final hit of the 80s, but her also final hit single altogether. Unfortunately for her, this was the era when genres like Hip-Hop and House were starting to make an impact on the chart, and the trendy young people who were buying singles in 1987 were more interested in that than anything Toyah had to offer now. No more Smash Hits covers for you!vlcsnap-00039


At least she managed to have hits for about six or seven years before finally vanishing from the chart, which is much longer than most of the acts that will be featured in this series. Toyah is still around of course, and has made many more albums along with lots of tours, she definitely isn’t forgotten by her loyal fans. She has also continued to be an actress and was in CBBC’s sitcom Barmy Aunt Boomerang (that I reviewed a while ago), along with doing some TV presenting as well.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 3.

I thought that it was about time to review another music video from the 80s that I think is really great. Lots of people consider 1986’s “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel to be one of the greatest music videos of its era, and indeed I agree with that, and it went on to win plenty of awards, however its story is rather well known. What people might not realise is that the followup single has an equally great and creative video, so here’s a look at some of the highlights.

“Big Time” was released in the UK in March 1987 and it reached no. 13, it was directed by Stephen R Johnson, and it’s another four and-a-half minutes of rather strange happenings. It’s another example of the rather clever things that you can do with stop-motion animation and a piece of clay, and a clever technique called strata-cut animation is also frequently used. It’s not easy to describe most of what happens but I’ll have a go. 


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We start off with Peter inside his small home, which then explodes which is rather unfortunate. There is then a rather strange sequence where Peter is stretching his mouth to let those big words come right out, it looks rather painful. Then there is one of my favourite moments where Peter’s head is on a spring while informing us that he’s off one his way to the big city where he’ll be a big noise. He really is thinking big. vlcsnap-00005

Then as we get to the chorus we see a example of some of the strata-cut animation, this is where some images are put into a piece of clay, which is then sliced and animated frame-by-frame to make it look like the picture is animating, I found it mildly scary really. This is followed by another odd moment where Peter is surrounded by some people whose heads keep changing. vlcsnap-00007

Peter then stands on a podium and his head starts to change frame-by-frame as well, and then in another highlight he turns to clay again and he gets rather overexcited about his bed because contains a snow-white pillow for his big fat head. What more could you want. Peter then gets cloned and is accompanied by yet more strange animation as we reach the climax of the song. vlcsnap-00010

Peter is now very pleased that he has finally reached the big time, and his hand even grows a mouth in celebration. Having been one of the pioneers in that area, Peter Gabriel went on to appear in many more groundbreaking music videos in the 90s including “Steam” which was another good one. There are lots of other great music videos of course and I might review a few more soon. vlcsnap-00014