Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 19.

This is a British group that I wanted to feature, not just because they made some memorable songs, but they also achieved something that I’m fairly sure is unique, and is a great piece of trivia. In April 1987, before The Beloved had any hit singles, their frontman Jon Marsh appeared as a contestant on Countdown, when he was still an aspiring singer/songwriter.

He did rather well, becoming an octochamp, winning his eight games before retiring undefeated (he actually played nine games, because one was a draw and required a replay, before the tiebreaker rule had been introduced). “Your record had better be a hit after all this”, said host Richard Whiteley. Marsh qualified for the knockout stages at the end of the series as the number 1 seed.

But he was knocked out in the semi-final, meaning that he missed out on that big bunch of dictionaries. He returned in June 1987 to take part in the Champion Of Champions series, but this time he was eliminated at the quarter-final stage. But I suppose that it’s one way of increasing your profile. In October 1989, The Beloved finally had their first hit single when “The Sun Rising” reached no. 26.

Now this was a nice piece of chill-out dance music, you really do feel that you could close your eyes and drift away whilst listening to this, and it was always great to hear this on the radio. In January 1990, their next single “Hello” was released. This was a rather remarkable song that namechecked everyone from Kym Mazelle to Bobby Ball, and this reached no. 19. They also appeared on the cover of Melody Maker around this time.

In March 1990, “Your Love Takes Me Higher” made the Top 40 at the second attempt, after failing to chart on its first release a year earlier. It then went quiet for a little while, but they returned in January 1993 with “Sweet Harmony” (not to be confused with the hit of the same name around at the same time by Liquid, which was totally super-duper, as the children would say nowadays I’m sure).

The video also caused something of a stir, because it seemed that Marsh was continuing to have some trouble keeping his clothes on in them. This was also performed on shows including ITV’s The Beat. “Sweet Harmony” reached no. 8, to become their biggest hit, and I would presume that Marsh is the only person to have been a Countdown octochamp and also have a Top Ten hit single, what an achievement.

Two more Top 40 hits followed in 1993 with “You’ve Got Me Thinking” and “Outerspace Girl”. After another break, in March 1996 “Satellite” made the Top 20. And curiously, in August 1997, their final Top 40 hit single was the same as their first, when eight years on, “The Sun Rising” returned to the chart, this time in remixed form, reaching no. 31, and it was still great to hear.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 21.

This is a singer who definitely added some sparkle to the chart in the mid-80s. Birmingham born-Jaki Graham is someone who I know that my sister was fond of at the time, and that’s no surprise really because she made a lot of great singles, and most of them did well, meaning that for a year or two at least she was a fairly big name on the UK pop music scene.

After being tipped to do well, Jaki first had success in March 1985 with “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”, a duet with David Grant, which became her first Top Ten hit single. And then in June 1985, “Round And Round” went on to become her second, and I would have to say that this is my favourite single of hers. In September 1985, the first of her ten albums “Heaven Knows” was released, but this didn’t make the Top 40. vlcsnap-00483

Jaki finished off her successful 1985 with “Mated”, which was another duet with David Grant, because, well, it worked the first time, so why not again, and this was a Top 20 hit too. Going into 1986, Jaki had three more great hit singles with “Set Me Free” (her final Top Ten single), “Breaking Away”, and “Step Right Up”, along with her second album “Breaking Away” making the Top 30. vlcsnap-00485

All of these songs were up to standard, and two years on from her debut, Jaki had now established herself as a great soul voice. But then… that was it. Jaki had no more Top 40 hit singles. After a break in 1987, she did have a minor hit in July 1988, and another in June 1989, when “From Now On” made only no. 73. Jaki was then absent from the chart for about five years. vlcsnap-00486

When she did return (I presume that this could be classed as a “comeback”, although I don’t know how long you have to go between hits for them to go from being a follow-up to a “comeback”) in July 1994 with a cover of “Ain’t Nobody” (a song that has been a hit for several acts over the years). Jaki then had two more minor hits in 1995, but a decade on from her peak, she really did conclude her chart career for good at this point, and she is still on the nostalgia circuit. vlcsnap-00484

And this is my final entry in the “Down The Dumper” series. Although more pop music pieces are planned, they will be about something else. It is a surprise to realise just how quickly some acts fell out of favour rather unfairly, it is a familiar story that has repeated several times over the decades. I hope that I have brought back some memories and shared some interesting stories.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 14.

Let’s return to the “Down The Dumper” series, and this is a group who had one of the more spectacular descents from the top of the chart in the 80s. The Bangles were an all-female American group that formed in the early-80s as The Supersonic Bangs. By the time they changed their name, they were beginning to be successful, and watching some of their earliest TV appearances now, they wouldn’t be aware of the highs and lows yet to come.

They insisted that there was no frontwoman as such, as most of the members would perform vocals on various songs (Susannah was notable though, partly because she seemed to have a weird quirk of not looking into the camera like the rest of the group in photoshoots and music videos). Their chart performances in the UK would turn out to be fairly inconsistent, but they did better in this country than The Go-Go’s, who they were sometimes compared to. b159

In February 1986 they made a breakthrough when “Manic Monday” became their first Top Ten hit in the UK, and it was also around this point that they appeared on the cover of Smash Hits. Fame at last! The next two singles missed the Top 30, but in September 1986 “Walk Like An Egyptian” was another Top Ten hit, and this was Number One in America for four weeks. They also won a Brit Award in 1987. vlcsnap-00471

They then had more hits, including “Walking Down Your Street”, and “Hazy Shade Of Winter”. But it was in February 1989 when “Eternal Flame” was released that they had their first and only chart-topper in the UK for four weeks (this was their second Number One in America). There wasn’t as much joy about this could be expected though, as there was some unrest at the change in musical genre, this being a ballad, and for trying to make Susannah, considered by many to be the most glamorous member of the group, the lead vocalist, and also the “face” of The Bangles (I get the feeling that we have come across this scenario before in these pop music pieces). vlcsnap-00470

They were unable to build on this, and once again, their biggest success actually hastened their end, this was their final Top Ten hit in the UK (let’s not think about the cover of “Eternal Flame” that was also a UK chart-topper for now though). Next was “Be With You”, which missed the Top 20, as they continued to insist that they had more than one member, and by October 1989 when “I’ll Set You Free” reached only no. 74, The Bangles had gone their separate ways, under a cloud of bitterness to some extent. vlcsnap-00196

A best-of album was released in 1990 which did rather well though. In the early-90s, Susannah launched a solo career, but only had a few minor hits in the UK, and she also became an actress and appeared in a few films (including one that was directed by her husband). Some of The Bangles did eventually get back together in the early-2000s though, and worked on some new material.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 15.

You might remember a while ago when I did a blog piece about Bananarama, which I think will always be my favourite of all of them. And this was followed by when I found a picture of Brix Smith in a pub rather close to where I live in London. I walked past this pub again recently, and I did really get a buzz when I wondered how many other fancy people might have been in there.

So I thought that it might be worth finding out more about Brix’s career, as along with the Bananas she knew a thing or two about having hits in the 80s as well. Brix was born in America in 1962, and came to England in 1983, at which point she joined The Fall with her first husband. Now this is a group that I’m sure mean a lot to many people, but I thought that I would concentrate on her side project, where she was the frontwoman. vlcsnap-00005

The Adult Net formed in 1984, and featured various musicians, who had been in other groups, including The Smiths and The The. Their first singles were released in 1985, including a cover of Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense And Peppermints”. In September 1986, “Waking Up In The Sun” became their first single to make the Top 100. Brix was also known at this time for her black-and-white “skunk” hairstyle. b1

Also around this time, Brix appeared alongside members of The Fall and New Order in the rather bizarre video of Tom Watt’s cover of “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. By this point, EastEnders had been on BBC1 for just over a year and had become hugely popular with viewers, and some of the cast members, including Watt who played Lofty, took the opportunity to launch pop careers. vlcsnap-00019

I don’t know what his motivation was to cover this famous song, or how all these musicians seemed to be his mates, and unsurprisingly this wasn’t a hit, but it was still much more interesting than “Every Loser Wins”. The Adult Net returned in March 1989, with “Take Me”, which narrowly missed the Top 75. Their only chart success came in June 1989 with a cover of 60s song “Where Were You”, which reached no. 66. vlcsnap-00012

In July 1989 their only album “The Honey Tangle” was released but wasn’t a hit, although this seemed to go down well with critics, who described their sound as coming somewhere between Blondie and The Bangles, and some now consider Brix to essentially be the 80s equivalent of Courtney Love. Then in August 1989 a rerecording of “Waking Up In The Sun” just made the Top 100 like the original. vlcsnap-00013

By this point, Brix had also achieved the four-timer of appearing on the cover of all of the weekly indie music magazines around at the time (Melody Maker, NME, Record Mirror, and Sounds), along with Time Out, and she was also interviewed about her music on a few late-night TV shows. The Adult Net split in 1990, by which time Brix had also left The Fall. brix1

Brix then went off to get involved in the fashion industry with her second husband, and they had a shop in Shoreditch for a while. In more recent years Brix released her memoir, she briefly appeared in the Absolutely Fabulous film, and also formed a new group, who might be coming to a pub near you soon. And best of all, Brix has appeared twice on Pointless, once on a fashion special, and once on a music special, but she didn’t make the final on either occasion.

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.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 12.

I have decided to include this one partly because it is a rather curious and rare case of being a “double one-hit wonder”, in that it was the only hit single for two different acts over a decade apart. The first version of “Right Before My Eyes” was released in December 1989, just sneaking into the increasing dance music craze of the late-80s, and this reached only no. 69, it’s a shame that it didn’t do better.

This was by Patti Day, who seems to be someone who is rather elusive (the song has a Wikipedia entry, but Patti doesn’t). The only piece of biographical information that I could find out about her is that she is an American singer. And that’s it, really, there really isn’t much more than that. I couldn’t even find a video or any TV appearances. It seems that she did release a lot of singles in the late-80s, and this was taken from her first album “Love Crazy”. The first time I came across this one though was the cover version released in April 2000 that reached no. 12 and had something of a UK Garage makeover.

This was by N ‘N’ G Featuring Kallaghan And MC Neat (who did have a few more big hit singles around this time with his mate DJ Luck, but I don’t know where he was on this day), and there were some additional lyrics. I did really like this one, being into UK Garage at the time, although I didn’t realise at first that this was a cover (or that this was originally released in 1998 but wasn’t a hit until it was remixed). And yes, they did do Top Of The Pops.

I must admit that I do sometimes get the original version mixed up with Kayira’s “Let Me Love You For Tonight” (that also featured in this series recently). That’s because they’re both great dance singles from 1989 by American singers who should’ve been much more successful. The cover was released in a year when I was really interested in the singles chart (that was also at its fastest moving), and although there are a lot of contenders, it’s definitely among my favourite hits of 2000.

I’m still very fond of this one, as I’m sure lots of other people are, and there has been at least one more cover of “Right Before My Eyes” since that I really liked, by Little Nikki in 2014, but that one wasn’t a hit. It does prove though that whatever genre it’s in or whatever year it was released, you can’t really go wrong with this one. Maybe when they play this in the clubs, the crowd say “re-rewind” or something.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 11.

This is a group that always tried to keep up with the musical trends of the 80s, and their chart positions frequently went up and down as they went in and out of fashion and tried various genres. ABC were a group that formed in Sheffield, and their frontman was Martin Fry. Their first hit single was in 1981, but it was in May 1982 when their most popular song was released.

“The Look Of Love” (the look of love! Sorry, had an ABC moment) reached no. 4, to become their biggest hit, and was proof that Fry was a charismatic and witty performer. Later in 1982 their first album “The Lexicon Of Love” was released, and there was a clear indication of their popularity as this spent four weeks at Number One. They would go on to have some more hits, and in 1983 second album “Beauty Stab” was released, although this one didn’t make the Top Ten. vlcsnap-00192

By 1984, ABC had something of an unusual relaunch. Fry recruited some new members, including some woman (who used to be a writer for The Face), and, er, some bald guy (although it was unclear what their roles exactly were). Fry also had an image change, with much longer hair. Their single “How To Be A Millionaire” had an innovative animated video, and they got on to cover of NME for the first time in a while. abc1

But overall their third album “How To Be A Zillionaire!” underperformed compared to their earlier successes. It seems that this turned out to be another case of style over substance. There was something of a recovery in 1987 though with another new line-up and fourth album “Alphabet City” which featured the much-acclaimed single “When Smokey Sings” (and was also a Top Ten hit in America). vlcsnap-00188

And in 1989, there was fifth album “Up”, which was an attempt to jump on the house scene, as they continued to struggle to stay relevant. “One Better World” wasn’t too bad (and around this time Fry was interviewed on Channel 4’s Star Test, although I don’t know if he said “I don’t know the answer to that question!“), but in September 1989 “The Real Thing” was released and reached only no. 68. Maybe this wasn’t such a wise move (I haven’t been able to find a video for this either). ABC split not too long after this, and it was rather disappointing seeing a once popular group end the 80s on such a low. vlcsnap-00189

By 1997 ABC was relaunched once again, although by this point it was essentially a solo project for Fry (also around this time his brother Jamie was in indie group Earl Brutus). Although the hit-making days have long gone, Fry has since got his sparkly suit out again and is still making albums (including the successful sequel “The Lexicon Of Love II”) and touring, and I’m sure that at some point he must have performed “The Look Of Love” at a venue not too far away from you.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 11.

This one is not only a one-hit wonder from the 80s, but someone who I could barely find any information about at all. Indeed, the song has a Wikipedia entry, but the singer doesn’t. So why have I decided to feature this one. Well I suppose it’s because I really do like the song, it’s one of my favourites from the late-80s, when there were plenty of exciting things happening on the dance scene, and this one deserves more recognition.

Kariya was an American singer, her real name might’ve been Deborah, but that’s all I know about her really, I couldn’t even find a picture online. “Let Me Love You For Tonight” was released in July 1989, and reached no. 44. One critic described this as “frighteningly contagious”. Although there have been plenty of remixes, I couldn’t find a video or any TV performances of this. I’ll have to embed a YouTube video to make up for it.¬†

I remember first coming across this one when it was played on the radio, I did enjoy it, and I must admit that I think I like music like this more from 1989 than ’87 and ’88 as these genres quickly developed. Then there was the day I found some old tapes. I think one of them was the compilation “Deep Heat 4 – Play With Fire”, and I was pleased to discover that this one was on it, so I decided to give it a play.

When I did, it had what can only be described as that “mouldy old tape” sound. Of course it’s far inferior to how it would actually sound on a CD, but somehow it’s more evocative, because that’s once how the technology was. And CDs can’t be randomly chewed by the player either. This was also featured in the film The Rise Of The Footsoldier, but Kayira had no further success with any other singles or albums, and has barely been heard of since.

It was also interesting to discover that “Let Me Love Your For Tonight” was covered by Belouis Some in 1995, who is best-known for his hit single “Imagination” about a decade earlier. It seems that he didn’t enjoy the experience though, it wasn’t a hit, and this turned out to be his final single as he quit the music business in frustration about five minutes later. I consider this one to be a dance classic though.

More TV Memories – The 1989 ITV Generic Look.

A while ago I looked back at the attempt to relaunch ITV in 1989 with the “Get Ready For ITV” campaign, and a generic ident that would be taken by every region… except it wasn’t and the idea was abandoned rather quickly (my region Thames/LWT did take this though). Now when idents are designed, I presume that there are some things that have to be done. There has to be a distinctive symbol, an animation that lasts about five seconds, and this has to stand up to being shown probably hundreds of times over.

But although I have seen this ident a huge amount of times, I have noticed that some rather unusual things seem to happen, and I still find it rather intriguing, so I thought that I would investigate what it’s about in… What is going on in the 1989 ITV generic ident? Are there any messages? Any secret codes? Well maybe. Now you might think I am overanalysing this, but this piece is not meant to be taken too seriously! vlcsnap-00001

There are five things that appear in the ident. Just like Channel 4’s original ident was made of five different-coloured interlocking things to showcase various genres, maybe this was an attempt at the equivalent of that. As the “I” appears, a dove flies along. I’m not really sure what this is supposed to represent though, that’s a good start, isn’t it. Maybe nature or documentaries? vlcsnap-00002

Then we see two people, one woman in a purple hat, and a man in a green suit with his back to us having an embrace, this must represent drama, and it all looks rather exciting. vlcsnap-00003

Then there’s the clock tower (the bell inside is called Big Ben), which is at 10 o’clock, representing news as the “T” appears. Of course, ITV’s main news was at 10pm in those days, it’s whenever they feel like it now really. vlcsnap-00004

Then there is a discus thrower, representing sport. This reminds me that there was some athletics coverage on ITV around this time, usually on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons, but those days are gone. And why is his shirt number 26? vlcsnap-00005

And finally, as the “V” appears, there are two dancers, one in a yellow dress, and one in a blue dress, in front of some flashing red lights, who turn around, representing entertainment, although whether ITV ever did show anything like this I’m not sure. vlcsnap-00006

I do wonder how this was put together. Did people audition for this? Were they in a room somewhere and then someone said to them “and throw the discus… now!” whilst wondering how they would edit it all together? Well it’s one way to get on the TV I suppose.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 1.

Here’s the first in this series, where I look back at a group that for a brief moment were a big deal in British pop music. Swing Out Sister formed in the mid-80s, and they were a trio consisting of Corinne Drewery, Andy Connell, and Martin Jackson. Lead vocalist Corinne was very stylish and had worked in fashion design and modelling, and reference must be made to her terrific bob hairstyle. sos148

They were often described by critics as being pioneers in the genre of “Sophisti-Pop”, even though nobody seems to be able to properly define what this actually consists of. They released their first single in 1985 which didn’t make the chart, and it wasn’t until about a year later in October 1986 that they had their breakout hit, er, “Breakout”, which was incredibly catchy and reached No. 4. It was also their only Top Ten hit in America.vlcsnap-00031

There was now a lot of interest in them, and this led to various TV appearances including Top Of The Pops, The Wide Awake Club, The Roxy, and many others. They also appeared on lots of music magazine covers including NME, Smash Hits (who thought they were really rather groovy), Record Mirror, and Number One, and they even recovered from the rather awkward moment when they were buried in a polar bear avalanche. vlcsnap-00053

sos16

In January 1987 they released¬†“Surrender”, their second (and final) Top Ten hit.¬†In May 1987, their first album “It’s Better To Travel” was released, which topped the chart for two weeks, and many a champagne bottle was opened in celebration. After some more smaller hits, it was presumed that now they were an established name, there would be much anticipation for what their second album had to offer. Martin rather curiously left the group during the making of this without explanation, and they then became a duo.vlcsnap-00059

The second album “Kaleidoscope World” was released in May 1989. It wasn’t a chart-topper, but it did make the Top Ten, and the first single “You On My Mind” made the Top 40, so they must’ve hoped that their next single would continue this good run. Although it was in a similar style to their bigger hits, “Where In The World”, which was released in July 1989, reached only No. 47. Oh no! sos24

But unlike most of the acts that will be featured here, they did continue to have some more hits into the 90s, even if they were fairly minor, the last being a cover of “La La (Means I Love You)” in August 1994, which was also featured on the soundtrack to Four Weddings And A Funeral. Corinne had even changed her hairstyle by this point, how shocking. vlcsnap-00023

Unfortunately for them tastes had moved on and it simply wasn’t 1986 any more. Although they haven’t had any hits in the UK for over 25 years now, they have remained rather popular in Japan. Swing Out Sister are still going as a duo, have released many more acclaimed albums and continued to tour, even though their chart-making days are now long behind them.