Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 23.

This is another group who did some pioneering things in the 80s. Talking Heads were formed in New York in the mid-70s, although their frontman David Byrne was actually born in Scotland. A few of their albums made the lower end of the UK chart in the 70s, but they first really got noticed when in February 1981 “Once In A Lifetime” was released, which reached no. 14.

This is remembered for the video, which was the kind of thing that MTV was invented for, and this has also been much parodied. One example I found online recently featured a computer games character (I must admit I’ve lost track of that kind of thing), and someone had taken the time to remake this shot-for-shot. It was all rather odd, but this did leave a lot of people impressed.

And there was also the spin-off group Tom Tom Club. In June 1981, “Wordy Rappinghood” was released, which reached no. 7. This meant that there was the rather bizarre situation of the spin-off from Talking Heads having a Top Ten hit single in the UK before the main one. Their October 1981 follow-up “Genius Of Love” is rather great too, and it’s a surprise that this reached only no. 65, although this has been sampled by several other acts.

Tom Tom Club’s only other hit single was August 1982’s “Under The Boardwalk”. Around this time, Talking Heads released more singles, but they missed the Top 50. But in October 1985, “Road To Nowhere” was released. This reached no. 6, to become their first (or maybe second) Top Ten hit in the UK. I am also fond of the video, I do think that it’s up there with “Sledgehammer” for its creativeness and originality.

Curiously, some of their better known songs, including “Psycho Killer” and “Burning Down The House” were never hit singles at all. But in February 1986, “And She Was” reached no. 17. However, their hits would start to drop off again after this, and they didn’t make the Top 40 again. 1986’s “Wild Wild Life” was another good one, but this wasn’t very successful.

1987’s “Radio Head” is best-known now for inspiring the name of a successful group, and 1988’s “Blind” was just about their final time on the chart. There was only one more minor hit in 1992, and they carried on following the departure of their frontman as The Heads, which lasted about five minutes. But in 2002, Byrne returned as the guest vocalist on X-Press 2’s “Lazy”, which reached no. 2, giving him his biggest hit over 20 years on from “Once In A Lifetime”, and he has also made several solo albums.

Great Moments In Pop – The 70s Part 4.

This is an American group who were rather influential and successful in the soul and disco genres, and their singles have been much covered and sampled. It is something to realise what a remarkable range of acts have had hits with covers of their most famous songs, which is proof of how they have endured. Rose Royce formed in Los Angeles in the early-70s, but their most successful line-up had been established by the mid-70s, when Gwen Dickey became their lead singer.

In December 1976, their debut hit “Car Wash” was released, which was also on the soundtrack to the film of the same name. This made the Top Ten in the UK, and was also their only chart-topper in America, winning them a Grammy Award too. I’m sure that when Mike Mason, who really loves his music, was on Bid TV, he said that “Car Wash” was his favourite song, and he’d start to sing this rather frequently, whilst having a boogie.

But Rose Royce’s biggest hits in the UK were in 1978, when “Wishing On A Star” and “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” both did well. And in November 1979 “Is It Love You’re After” made the Top 20. In 1980, Gwen left, and they would have no further Top Ten hit singles in the UK. But in September 1984, “Magic Touch” was released. Although this didn’t make the Top 40, this has to be my favourite single of theirs (not to be confused with “Magic Touch” by Loose Ends, a hit in 1985, which is also a great song).

“Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” was covered by Madonna (and not released as a single in the UK, but is on the “Like A Virgin” album), and, in 1985, Jimmy Nail (his first Top Ten hit single). In 1988, “Is It Love You’re After” was sampled on S-Express’s chart-topping “Theme From S-Express”, which helped to bring in the House era. And in June 1988, “Car Wash” and “Is It Love You’re After” were re-released together, and this made the Top 20.

The covers kept coming. In 1989, Fresh 4 Featuring Lizz-E made the Top Ten with their version of “Wishing On A Star”. And then in January 1990, “Car Wash” was a hit again, this time credited only to Gwen Dickey. Also in 1990, “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” was a hit for Double Trouble. “Wishing On A Star” was a hit three more times in the 90s, for Cover Girls in 1992, 88.3 Featuring Lisa May in 1995, and Jay-Z Featuring Gwen Dickey in 1998.

Now I do remember hearing this version on the radio, although I don’t know if Gwen re-recorded her vocals for this, or if they were sampled from the original, although Jay-Z himself barely seemed to feature, and at least one host wondered where he was on this. And then in October 1998, “Car Wash” made the Top 20 for a third time (and in a third different decade), this time credited to Rose Royce Featuring Gwen Dickey!

Into the 2000s, “Wishing On A Star” was a hit for Paul Weller in 2004, as was “Car Wash” by Christina Aguilera Featuring Missy Elliott. I’m sure that Mike was really pleased. Finally, in 2011, “Wishing On A Star” was a hit for a seventh different act, and was the first Rose Royce cover to top the chart in the UK (unless you count “Theme From S-Express”). Well done The X Factor Finalists Featuring JLS And One Direction. I do feel that none of the covers are superior to the originals though.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 22.

This is a fairly rare occurrence, but it is something that has happened in the past, as this group who had some hits in the 80s, have exactly the same name as another group who had some hit singles in the 80s. The Jets from America shouldn’t be confused with The Jets from Britain, best known for their hits including “Yes Tonight Josephine” and “Love Makes The World Go Round”.

This The Jets were from Minnesota and were related, they were an octet consisting of brothers and sisters from the rather large Wolfgramm family – there were actually 17 brothers and sisters in total! They had been successful in America since 1985, and they started out rather young, some of them were barely into their teens at this point, I wonder if they could be seen as the American equivalent of Five Star.

But they didn’t make the breakthrough in this country until a couple of years later, when in January 1987 “Crush On You” was released, and this made no. 5, although this would be their first and only Top 40 hit single in the UK. It was at this point that they also made their debut on Top Of The Pops, having already performed on several TV shows in America. A cover by Aaron Carter was a Top Ten hit in November 1997.

It seems that they were being rather heavily promoted in the UK at this point. The magazine Lookin went mildly giddy for them for a short while, The Jets appeared on the cover at least three times in 1987, and they even gave away a flexidisc of one of their songs as a free gift! In April 1987, the album “Crush On You” was released, but this didn’t make the Top 50.

And also in April 1987, their next single “Curiosity” was released, but this made no. 41. One thing that is interesting about how they were promoted was that unlike most groups, where their albums are advertised on TV, it seems that there were adverts for their individual singles. I found a clip of an ITV break on YouTube where an advert promoting “Curiosity” appears, which definitely stood out.

Their fame was beginning to fade though. In June 1987 “You Got It All” was released, but this made a lowly no. 79. And then in May 1988, “Rocket 2 U” was released. This was another nice piece of easy-going pop, but this reached only no. 46. This turned out to be their final hit single in the UK. This was something of a contrast to their fortunes in America where they had five Top Ten hit singles. Dumper time!

Since then, members of The Jets have performed in various other groups. But wait, because they (sort of) did have another UK hit when in November 2000 “Intro” by French production duo Alan Braxe and Fred Falke was released, and this reached no. 35. This sampled the rather weird dreamy part in the middle of “Crush On You”. It really is a brilliant song, or as I believe the children say nowadays, “a certified banger”.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 17.

Recently I have been trying to find out more about Australian pop music, and Australian pop culture in general. Who are their biggest pop stars? What are the most popular TV shows (beyond Neighbours of course). When I was having a look online, I came across a music video which appeared to feature a schoolgirl doing a song about how much she’d like to be a famous singer. But something didn’t seem totally right about this.

Who was this girl? Was this for real? I had to find out, and it turned out that this was actually, er, a 33-year-old woman, and this is the full story. In 1988 a sketch show launched on Australian TV called The Comedy Company, which featured various regular characters. One of them was Kylie Mole, a rather bratty girl, who was played by comedian Mary-Anne Fahey (surely not a distant relative of Siobhan???).

She was always telling stories about the other children at school, along with her brother Adam (not me, honest!). She did remind me somewhat of Marmalade Atkins and yeah but no but yeah but no but shut up you don’t even know what you’re talking about don’t go giving me evils! I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me there. This character became popular enough to release a book, appear in an advert for the Commodore Amiga 500, and in October 1988, she even released a single.

There are some things that amused me about “So Excellent” (yes, that was her catchphrase). Firstly, it does sound accurately like a Stock/Aitken/Waterman knock-off (Kylie Minogue’s hit singles around this time were produced by S/A/W, but it wouldn’t be long before they ran out of steam and their actual songs sounded like knock-offs of their style). I also liked the way that she said “play the drams” in an exaggerated Aussie accent.

And I felt that the video managed to capture the “all girls sing with a hairbrush looking into the mirror and aspire to be pop stars” cliché in an amusing way. There is a part where she has pink hair, and really does look like Jem (I don’t know if that’s intentional or not though), while later she has white hair and resembles Lady Gaga a little. Outrageous! This seemed to be parodying Australian Idol about 15 years before it existed. Anybody who didn’t like this song was clearly a bogan.

“So Excellent” reached no. 8 in Australia, and I was just so amused that this was a Top Ten hit single for real, girls really did go out and buy this, people down under are clearly fond of their comedy/novelty songs too. Seriously, Amanda is gonna spew blood when she finds out! The B-side “I Go I Go” is rather enjoyable too. This was never released in the UK though, which strikes me as something of a missed opportunity really.

This was definitely one of the unlikeliest hits of the 80s, a real lost classic if ever there was one (probably). For all I know Kylie Mole could be as well-known an Australian comedy character as Dame Edna Everage, or that bloke in Kath And Kim, but for a short moment she blurred the line between fantasy and reality. Kylie Minogue did see the funny side of all of this though, eventually. I suppose the real message is you should never give up on your dreams. I wonder where she is now.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 17.

A while ago I was listening to Forgotten 80s on digital radio station Absolute 80s, where lesser-played songs are featured. There was a song played that didn’t make the Top 40, and I hadn’t heard this before. I had a look in the 80s hits book, and discovered that it was by a female duo. Now I do find the stories of female duos rather interesting (as you might have realised), so this is another one.

Swimming With Sharks were a duo from (West) Germany, consisting of sisters Annette Humpe, born in 1950 (and a Gillian Anderson lookalike apparently), and Inga Humpe, born in 1956. They had been in various groups going back to the late-70s, including Neonbabies, Ideal, and DOF. They then formed a group together, called Humpe & Humpe.

In 1985, they released their first album, along with a few singles (including “Yama-Ha”). They also did a TV special, featuring a lot of rather bizarre performances of their songs, and one of them had blue hair, terrific! They were soon big in their home country. By the late-80s, they decided that they wanted to try and have some success in English-speaking countries.

Other German acts have had big hits in the UK, including Kraftwerk, so why not try it. First of all, they decided to change their name from the mildly embarrassing Humpe & Humpe to Swimming With Sharks. In April 1988, “Careless Love” was released, and this reached no. 63 in the UK, their first and only hit. Although it wasn’t that big a success, critics seemed to be rather fond of this.

“Careless Love” was described as “makes Pepsi & Shirlie sound like Anthrax, so sweet it’ll make your teeth drop out” (I think that’s a compliment), “a dreamy, atmospheric, and thoroughly beautiful song”, and “two of the most original and characteristic voices in contemporary pop”. It has been said that this sounds a little like “Running Up That Hill”, and their music has been compared to “if Kate Bush was produced by Pet Shop Boys” (now that really is a compliment).

I’m not aware of them making any UK TV appearances to promote this though, although I think that this did get on to the BBC Radio 1 playlist. Their second album “Swimming With Sharks” was released abound this time too. In July 1988 their next single “No Longer Friends” (I don’t know if I should read too much into the song’s title) was released, but this wasn’t a hit, and they split shortly afterwards.

After this, they both released solo albums in 1990. Inga’s was “Planet Oz” and was interesting, as the singles released included a cover of “Somethin’ Stupid”, and “Do I Have To”, a cover of a Pet Shop Boys B-side. And in July 1990, “Riding Into Blue (Cowboy Song)” was released, which reached no. 93 in the UK. This was written and produced by Trevor Horn, and the rather fancy video was even shown on The ITV Chart Show!

After this, from the early-90s, right up to the present, Annette and Inga have gone on to work with several other groups as producers and writers as well as singers, and have released many more albums. One such project in 1995 was called Bamby. A lot of people remain disappointed that they never made a big breakthrough as Swimming With Sharks though.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 20.

This is yet another singer who ended up having a shorter chart career than was expected, coming and going in barely three months, and again it all happened in 1988, I’m not really sure what was happening in pop music around that time, so many follow-up singles flopped. Taja Sevelle (whose real name is the slightly less exotic Nancy) is an American singer who was discovered by Prince, just behind the cooker.

Er, I mean, being championed by Prince around this time meant that you were definitely in fashion and someone who it was worth following, and she was on his Paisley Park label. In February 1988, her debut single “Love Is Contagious” was released, and this seemed to connect with record buyers, as this reached no. 7. Many considered this to be rather catchy, it was definitely one of those “will I ever get this out of my head” moments.

She was rather eager to promote this to the point that she didn’t even mind appearing on ITV’s The Roxy (and Top Of The Pops as well of course!). But what she didn’t realise was that not only would this be her only Top Ten hit in the UK, but this would also be her only Top 40 (and indeed Top 50) hit single. In March 1988, the debut album “Taja Sevelle” was released, but this didn’t make the Top 40.

And then, in May 1988, the follow-up “Wouldn’t You Love To Love Me” was released. But it turned out that the record buyers who were initially interested in her music decided that they didn’t love her at all really, as this reached only no. 59 (although this did spend four weeks on the chart, it just couldn’t get going), and this turned out to be her second and final hit single in the UK, which was rather disappointing.

After this, it seems that Taja went down the route that most singers do after their hits come to an end, working as a songwriter in various collaborations, and also working with various groups. And I’m fairly sure that this will be my penultimate piece in the “Down The Dumper” series, I hope that you’ve found them interesting, I’ve enjoyed sharing these pop music stories from throughout the decades.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 19.

This is a group who released some popular songs in the 80s, and it is a surprise to realise that (with the exception of one of them) they didn’t have that many big hit singles. Prefab Sprout (which must be a contender for one of the strangest group names of the decade) formed in the late-70s. Their frontman was Paddy McAloon, who became much-acclaimed for his songs, some with lyrics that were witty, and some that were poignant.

In November 1985, they had their first Top 40 hit single with “When Love Breaks Down”. This was an example of their struggle to have their songs make the chart, as this one had to be released three times before becoming a success. Also around this time, Paddy appeared on the cover of NME. And “Cars And Girls”, which is another of their best-known songs, didn’t make the Top 40 at all when it was released in February 1988. vlcsnap-00467

But in April 1988, “The King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll” was released, and this reached no. 7, to become their first and only Top Ten hit single in the UK, but it was well-deserved. This is a rather odd song about a veteran rock star reflecting on how he is now known for only one song and his best days are behind him. And they soon became aware of the irony of this being their biggest hit single. vlcsnap-00466

And there is also the rather amusing video, that interprets the lyrics rather literally, as this features a hot dog and a jumping frog, but I don’t know where “Albert Cookie” is in all of this though (yes I know that isn’t the actual lyric!). And after their third album “From Langley Park To Memphis” became their first to make the Top Ten, there was now some optimism that their fortunes were turning and they could be able to keep up this run of high-profile hits with the next single, and guess what happened. vlcsnap-00477

These hopes were dashed rather quickly when in July 1988 “Hey Manhattan” was released, and made only no. 72, which was disappointing to the level that many fans were surprised. Going into the 90s though, Prefab Sprout did have some more Top Ten hit albums, and Paddy had some more mainstream success when he provided the theme to Where The Heart Is, the cosy Sunday night ITV drama that made Heartbeat look like Cracker by comparison.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 18.

This is someone who has been considered to be a pioneer in her genre for rather a long time now, but she has had surprisingly few hit singles in the UK. Joan Jett is an American rock singer, and her real surname is Larkin, although as far as I know, she isn’t related to anyone in the cast of The Darling Buds Of May, partly because they’re not real. And she was born in September 1958, the day before Danielle Dax, would you believe it??!!

Joan started out in the mid-70s in the group The Runaways, but by the 80s, she was the frontwoman of The Blackhearts. In April 1982 “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” was released, and this reached no. 4 (and re-entered the chart in 1994). It is a surprise to realise that this is her first and only Top 40 hit single in the UK. This also spent seven weeks at Number One in America, and it is one of those songs that is so successful, that rather awkwardly it has always overshadowed the rest of her career. vlcsnap-00464

In May 1982, the album “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” made the Top 30, making this her highest-charting album in the UK. And it was also in this month that Joan appeared on the cover of Record Mirror. In July 1982, a cover of “Crimson And Clover” was released, but this reached only no. 60. And there was more evidence of how great it must’ve been to be a singer in the 80s because her TV appearances included being interviewed on satellite channels that were watched by next to nobody by Pat Sharp! vlcsnap-00033

It would be six years before Joan returned to the UK chart. In August 1988, her next hit single was “I Hate Myself For Loving You”, which reached no. 46. Her music is in a genre that I’m not usually a fan of, but when I was watching some old The Chart Show clips from the 80s online (as I often do), the video for this one turned up, it definitely caught my interest and made me want to find out more about her career. vlcsnap-00477

So I was rather amused when “I Hate Myself For Loving You” was referenced in an episode of Family Guy, but then, it was something that happened in the 80s, so it was going to be sooner or later really. Joan would go on to have one more minor hit in the UK in 1990, but although she has also had success as an actress and released many more albums over the years, she never reached her 80s levels of pop fame again.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 17.

This is an American singer who only had two hit singles in the UK in the 80s, one made the Top Ten, but the other missed the Top 40, meaning that her popularity in this country turned out to be more short-lived than was expected. Pebbles (whose real first name is Perri) got her nickname from her resemblance as a child to the cartoon character Pebbles Flintstone.

And it was clear that the musical talent ran in the family. Her cousin is Cherrelle, whose biggest hit in this country was “Saturday Love”, her 1985 debut with Alexander O’Neal. Although I discovered recently that she did the original version of “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On”, which went on to be covered by Robert Palmer and was a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic. vlcsnap-00463

In March 1988, “Girlfriend” was released, which reached no. 8, to become her first and only Top Ten hit single in the UK, although this was the first of three Top Ten hits in America (this was also covered by The Beautiful South on their 1989 debut album). Pebbles performed this in the studio on the short-lived American version of Top Of The Pops, and she also performed this in the studio on the British version, and she must be among a rather small group of people who have achieved this. vlcsnap-00465

But then, just two months later in May 1988, the follow-up “Mercedes Boy” was released, and this reached only no. 42. Also in this month, the debut album “Pebbles” reached only no. 56, and her other two albums didn’t chart all in the UK. Her fame was over rather quickly, and apart from one more minor hit single in 1990, Pebbles wasn’t heard of much again in the UK. vlcsnap-00466

But it turns out that what she has done after this has been rather eventful. Pebbles remained in the music business, and went on to work behind the scenes, including being the manager of girl group TLC, who have had lots of chart success, and she has also been married five times, although I don’t know if every time she got divorced she said “you’ve lied your last lie, I’m out the door!“.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 11.

Let’s go back to the 80s again for some more pop music memories. Just like Kim Wilde, and many others, London-born Sam Brown is someone who can be considered to be a second generation pop star. Her dad Joe was famous for having lots of hits in the 60s, and his daughter was soon on the music scene too, working as a backing singer for various groups since the late-70s.

Sam clearly had what it took to have some hits on her own, so in the late-80s she launched a pop career, and she had a song ready that would almost certainly be a big hit. In May 1988 “Stop!” was released, but this reached only no. 52, which was a surprise to a lot of people. When the follow-up in August 1988 “This Feeling” barely made the Top 100, there might’ve been a fear that Sam wouldn’t make the breakthrough. sb2

It seems that people were insistent that “Stop!” would eventually become the big hit that it deserved to be, however many times it needed to be rereleased. So in February 1989, Sam tried again. And this time “Stop!” reached no. 4. There was a lot of relief that this wouldn’t now be one of the great lost singles of its era, although this would be Sam’s first and only Top Ten hit single. vlcsnap-00433

Sam gained some publicity off the back of this, including appearing on the cover of Record Mirror, and she also took part on Channel 4’s interview show with a difference Star Test. I am interested in this show, but unfortunately her edition doesn’t seem to be online anywhere, it would be good to see her on this. “Stop!” went on to win a new generation of fans when a cover version by Jamelia in November 2004 also went on to make the Top Ten. sb1

And in March 1989, the debut album, also called “Stop!”, reached no. 4, but this would be her first and only Top Ten hit album. Could Sam continue her run of success? In May 1989, her cover of “Can I Get A Witness” was released, which reached no. 15, and was also her final hit in the 80s. Sam would go on to have only one more Top 40 hit in the 90s with “Kissing Gate” (which also has a rather amusing video). In April 1990 her second album “April Moon” just made the Top 40. vlcsnap-00432

After an absence of five years, Sam returned to the chart in August 1995 with “Just Good Friends”, a duet with ex-Marillion frontman Fish, which was her final hit. It really was disappointing that Sam didn’t have more hits, she was definitely a great singer who was also charismatic. Although she did go on to perform on stage for many years after her hits, and her sixth and final album was released in 2007, she now works behind the scenes in the music business.