Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 26.

This is another group who managed to put together a successful string of enjoyable hits in the mid-80s, although they ended up fading away from the chart fairly soon after. Of course, people know that Thompson Twins contains no twins at all, taking their names from the Tin Tin characters. When they started out in the late-70s, there were actually six or seven members, so they couldn’t be twins for that reason too.

By the early-80s though, they had slimmed down to a trio, consisting of Tom, Joe, and New Zealand-born Alannah. They had their first hit in November 1982 with “Lies”, but this missed the Top 40 by a long way. It was in January 1983 when they began their streak of success, when “Love On Your Side” became the first of their five Top Ten hit singles in the UK in just over a year.

It’s a tough choice, but this would have to be among my favourite hits of theirs. And then in April 1983 was “We Are Detective”, their second Top Ten hit. Also in this month they made the cover of Smash Hits. In July 1983 “Waiting” maybe surprisingly missed the Top 30. But they then went on their most successful chart run. In November 1983 “Hold Me Now” reached no. 4. Then in February 1984 “Doctor Doctor” went one better and reached no. 3.

And in March 1984 “You Take Me Up” went on to reach no. 2, to become their biggest hit single in the UK. A month later they made the Smash Hits cover again. And this just makes it even more of a surprise that they never made the Top Ten again, as the quality of their following singles was definitely up to standard. In July 1984 “Sister Of Mercy” just missed the Top Ten, and in December 1984 “Lay Your Hands On Me”, did as well.

In August 1985 “Don’t Mess With Doctor Dream” would be their final Top 20 hit single, and in October 1985 “King For A Day” would turn out to be the final time that they made the Top 40. In December 1985 “Revolution” would be their first single to miss the Top 40 since “Lies” a few years earlier. It was also around this time that Joe left, and Thompson Twins were essentially reduced to a duo.

Their return in November 1987 with “Get That Love”, followed in October 1988 by “In The Name Of Love ’88” both missed the Top 40. Suddenly making the Top 75 at all was a struggle. Going into the early-90s, a best-of album was released, but their moment had passed and this didn’t attract a huge amount of attention, missing the Top 20. They had two more minor hits in 1991 and 1992, but it was by this point that Alannah left too, and Tom had to take some rather drastic measures to keep the group going by cloning himself…

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.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 18.

It’s time to go back into the rather unusual world of comedy records. By 1988, Harry Enfield was a comedian who had only been on the TV comedy scene for a few years, contributing to shows including Spitting Image and Saturday Live. His most successful character at this point was Loadsamoney, a young man who was rather fond of constantly telling people that he was in possession of a rather substantial amount of money.

But probably realising that saying “I am in possession of a rather substantial amount of money” wasn’t really a good catchphrase, he just shouted “loadsamoney!” all the time. So in May 1988 it was decided to launch this character on to the singles chart too when “Loadsamoney (Doin’ Up The House)” (I presume that’s a pun on the upcoming house music scene at the time there) was released.

And probably not too surprisingly, several songs that contained the word “money” were sampled. This ended up doing fairly well, and reached no. 4. Around this time, Loadsamoney also appeared on the cover of NME. Looking back now, there were also some contributions from a few people that went just about unacknowledged at the time, but they would go on to be rather successful too.

These were Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson, who worked with Harry for many years, before going on to further success themselves with The Fast Show. Charlie already knew a little about pop music, because in the early-80s he was a member of the group The Higsons (and at this point he was known as “Switch” Higson), and although they didn’t have any hits, they made one or two appearances in Smash Hits.

And also featuring was the writer and producer who would become known as William Orbit. They also performed this on Top Of The Pops (I bet that Charlie would’ve preferred to appear with The Higsons though, that would be much more credible). But after this, Harry decided that Loadsamoney was at the peak of his popularity, and the joke really couldn’t be taken any further.

So he decided to do what most comedians wouldn’t do in this situation, and he killed him off. He then went off to develop a new bunch of characters that would appear on his sketch show on BBC2 in 1990. Harry did sort-of make a return to the chart eventually though, when in 2000, a song from the soundtrack of the Kevin The Teenager film made the Top 20.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 27.

This is another group that features a female duo, and they were also the frontwomen. Voice Of The Beehive formed in the mid-80s, and featured American sisters Tracey and Melissa. Also featuring were “Bedders” and “Woody” from Madness, from the time when that group was just about inactive, and the reunions were not currently planned.

In October 1987 they were tipped for success when they appeared on the cover of Record Mirror. In November 1987 they had their first hit single in the UK with “I Say Nothing”, which reached no. 45. Next in March 1988 was “I Walk The Earth”, which reached no. 42. It was also around this time when they appeared on Channel 4 music show APB, and bumped into that mysterious Danielle woman, and well if they are fans of her, then that’s terrific.

Next in May 1988 was “Don’t Call Me Baby”, which reached no. 15, and was their biggest hit single in the UK. This is not to be confused with the Transvision Vamp song with the same title of course, and if I dare admit it, I was never really a fan of that group. In July 1988, their debut album “Let It Bee” made the Top 20. After this success, it was decided to give their first two hit singles another go.

In July 1988, “I Say Nothing” was released again, and this time reached no. 22, an impressive 23-place improvement on first time round. Then in October 1988 “I Walk The Earth” was rereleased, and this time reached no. 46, actually four places lower than the first time. They returned in July 1991 with “Monsters And Angels”, which reached no. 17, to become their second and final Top 20 hit single in the UK, and this was also their biggest hit in America.

In August 1991 their second album “Honey Lingers” made the Top 20 too. In September 1991 “I Think I Love You” reached no. 25. This was a cover of a song that was made famous for its use in US sitcom The Partridge Family, I do remember seeing some episodes of this when they were shown in the post-The Chart Show slot on Saturday afternoons, and they were about 20 years old even then.

They also performed this on the first edition of the “Year Zero” Top Of The Pops, where acts were now encouraged to sing live, and unlike some, they definitely didn’t embarrass themselves. And in January 1992 “Perfect Place” reached no. 37. They performed this on CBBC’s Hangar 17, the place to be! The final time that they made the singles chart was in April 1993 when they contributed to the “Gimme Shelter EP”.

This was where various acts covered the Rolling Stones song, and the sales would raise funds for charity. This was released on different formats, and their version, which was a duet with Jimmy Somerville, featured on the cassette. However, in 1996 their third and final album “Sex And Misery” was met with virtual indifference, and Voice Of The Beehive split not long after. In 1997, there was a best-of album released, but nobody was interested by this point. But at their peak, they were a very enjoyable group.

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” clichĂ© 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.