Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 27.

One of the most successful groups on the UK chart in the late-70s/early-80s were Blondie. They had many chart-topping singles, and most of them define their era. I decided that because their story is still so well-known it wasn’t really worth doing a piece looking back at their highlights. But the solo career of frontwoman Debbie Harry maybe hasn’t been reflected on so much by comparison.

Debbie’s first solo single was released in August 1981, when Blondie were actually still together, and “Backfired” reached no. 32. This is another great song that featured the involvement of Nile Rodgers, although just about all of them have been great really. There was also a cover of this on one of those “Top Of The Pops” albums, a true sign that you’d made it in those days.

It would be five years until Debbie’s next solo hit, and by this point Blondie really had come to an end (for a while anyway). In November 1986 “French Kissin’ In The USA” was released, and reached no. 8, to become her first and only Top Ten hit single on her own in the UK. The majority of the follow-up singles didn’t manage anywhere near the success of this one though.

Next in February 1987 was “Free To Fall”, followed in May 1987 by “In Love With Love”, and both of these failed to make the Top 50. In October 1989 “I Want That Man” reached no. 13. About a decade on from this, there was suddenly a new wave of interest and airplay, because of the lyric “here comes the 21st century“, as people anticipated “the millennium” and all that.

I am not sure if there were any plans to re-release the original version or a remix, but this definitely seemed to be around a lot at that so exciting time. Then in December 1989, “Brite Side” reached no. 59. Going into the 90s, In March 1990 “Sweet And Low” reached no. 57. Next in January 1991 was “Well Did You Evah!”, which was a duet with Iggy Pop and reached no. 42.

In July 1993 “I Can See Clearly” reached no. 23 to become Debbie’s final Top 40 solo hit single in the UK. And finally in September 1993 “Strike Me Pink” reached no. 46. Debbie’s career had rather disappointingly reached “the dumper” levels. But by the late-90s, there were plenty of rumours that maybe it was finally time to put the old group back together, were Blondie really going to reform, after 15 years apart?

Well it turned out that this would be a gamble that paid off spectacularly, when in 1999, “Maria”, which was their first new single since the early-80s, became their sixth chart-topper in the UK, and their first since 1980. Debbie also joined a very elite group of women who have featured on a UK chart-topping single after their 50th birthday. They are still going, and have long since been celebrated as one of the most successful American groups.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 30.

You should know by now that I am rather fond of 80s pop music, and I am always on the look for some lost gems from that decade. I recently looked at some old singles charts, which helped me to determine if there are any more interesting songs out there, and this is definitely one of them. This is a song that I remember hearing a while back, and I never realised that this was from the 80s until recently.

Laid Back are a Danish duo consisting of Tim and John, who formed in the late-70s. Their first single was released in 1980, and their first album in 1981. But the song that caught my attention was “White Horse”. This features some rather minimal lyrics, including “don’t ride the white horse“, which is supposed to be slang for cocaine use, although they have always denied that this song is about that (many years later, Goldfrapp released a single called “Ride A White Horse”).

By the end, the lyrics change to “ride the white pony“. It seems that a lot of people couldn’t believe that this rather funky song was made by two men from Denmark, not really a country known for pioneering songs in this genre. The rather strange video must’ve helped to give this a boost too. This was also the song that led to their breakthrough in America, when in 1984 “White Horse” topped the Dance Chart, and also reached no. 26 on the Hot 100.

It was said that Prince was very fond of this, and influenced some of his songs around this time. This meant that they were briefly rather big stateside. As for the UK, in March 1984, “White Horse” reached an unofficial no. 90. After a quiet period, they returned in September 1989, when this was given another go, this time in remix form, although this was rather disappointing by comparison.

This version featured so many late-80s dance music clichés that you could almost cross them off as they came along. And it seemed that not too many people did want to dig this, as “White Horse ’89” reached an unofficial no. 81. Their biggest hit single in the UK actually came in the 90s, when in March 1990 “Bakerman” reached no. 44, and this also had a rather unusual video.

I’m fairly sure that around the late-2000s I heard “White Horse” on the radio, and I presumed that this was a new song, but I can’t find any evidence for there being remixes or samples of this on the chart at that time. I’m very pleased to have finally tracked this down. Laid Back have gone on to release many more singles and albums, and they recently celebrated their 40th anniversary together.

Update: I have recently found out that Laid Back did actually (sort of) make the Top 40 in the UK, when “White Horse” was sampled on American singer Monifah’s “Touch It”, which was released in January 1999, and reached no. 29.

Another update: I have now out that in April 2006, a group called Wonderland Avenue released a cover of “White Horse”, which reached only an unofficial no. 126. This is rather faithful to the original, it could be possible that it was this version that I heard on the radio back at that time.

Great Moments In Pop – The 70s Part 7.

This is someone who found fame in the late-70s, although this would turn out to be rather short-lived. Robin Scott is an English musician, who released his first single under the name M in 1978. But in April 1979, “Pop Muzik” was released, which reached no. 2. This was in the synthpop genre, and looking back, a lot of people seemed surprised that this was made in the 70s.

This is because this is rather similar to the sound that would be commonplace on the chart and define this genre in the early-80s. It really is a song that can claim to be ahead of its time, and the rather nonsensical lyrics added to the quirkiness as well. And then, in November 1979, this was a chart-topper in America for one week, and for a moment it really did seem like everyone was talking about “Pop Muzik”.

He would have no further hits in the US though, and his success in the UK also dropped off fairly quickly. In December 1979 “Moonlight And Muzak” reached no. 33, and was his final Top 40 single for a rather long time. In March 1980 there was “That’s The Way The Money Goes”, which reached no. 45, and finally, in November 1980, “Official Secrets” reached only no. 64.

Barely 18 months on from “Pop Muzik”, and his chart career was just about over. He also released four albums between 1979-1982, although none of these were a success. Several other famous musicians contributed on these though, including Thomas Dolby who brought along his synthesizer (presumably The Human League were unavailable at the time).

But M returned to the scene in June 1989 when a remix of “Pop Muzik” was released. This reached no. 15, they’re playing our song again… for the first time since about 1979. However, this is one of the most blatant examples of a “squeeze one final hit out of your faltering career by doing a remix of your biggest hit from about a decade earlier” on the chart.

Especially when this sounded almost identical to the original anyway. But Robin made the most of his first Top 40 hit single since “Moonlight And Muzak” in 1979, by making a memorable appearance on Top Of The Pops, where he wore a suit covered in CDs. But this was his final hit. Since then, he has continued to work with various other groups and musicians.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 24.

I have actually had a request to review this group, but as I do happen to know a little about them, I decided that they are worth featuring. The Blow Monkeys are a British group who formed in the early-80s, and their frontman is Robert Howard, who is also known as Doctor Robert. They released their first single in 1982, and their first album in 1984.

In 1984 Robert took part in an article in Number One magazine featuring acts who were tipped for big things, alongside some woman called Danielle. But it was in March 1986 when they caught a lot of people’s attention for the first time, when “Digging Your Scene” reached no. 12. It was also around this time that they were placed into the “sophistipop” genre, like many others, as they looked as stylish as they sounded, and it was also noted that some of their lyrics had a political edge.

Following this success, Robert appeared on the cover of Record Mirror, where they claimed that he plays with whips, winds up coppers, and stubs cigarettes out on his friends. Their peak came in January 1987 when “It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way” reached no. 5, to become their first Top Ten hit single. The follow-ups ended up not doing so well though, and in August 1988 “This Is Your Life” reached only no. 70.

It was then decided to try something a little different. Their next single was in something more of a house music style than The Blow Monkeys songs usually were, so it was decided to credit this to Robert alone. And he teamed up with the American dance diva (and there were a lot of these on the chart around this time) Kym Mazelle. In January 1989, “Wait” was released, and pleasingly the move paid off as this reached no. 7.

Because of this success, it was decided that maybe it would be a good idea to make more of this type of music in the group as a whole, so in April 1989 a house remix of “This Is Your Life” was released, which did make the Top 40 this time. Next in July 1989 was “Choice”, featuring a guest vocal from Sylvia Tella, but this would turn out to be the final time that they made the Top 40.

Not long after though, their best of album “Choices” made the Top Ten. In October 1989 “Slaves No More”, again featuring Sylvia Tella, reached only no. 73. After one more minor hit in 1990, The Blow Monkeys split, and Robert went off to concentrate on his solo career, and he has released seven albums. Like most groups though, they did eventually get back together, and although they haven’t reached the chart again, they have made more acclaimed albums, their 11th being released in 2021.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 23.

After the end of The Housemartins in the late-80s, it turned out that Norman “FatBoy Pizzaman” Cook wouldn’t be the only member who would go on to have further chart-topping success. The frontman of The Beautiful South was Paul Heaton, who was also their main songwriter, and various female vocalists would be used over the years too.

Their style of songs is typically “British”, it is difficult to describe, but although they do seem cheery on the surface, when you listen to the lyrics a little closer, they are rather wry and cutting, a combination that not many other groups have been able to do. They started off as they intended to carry on when in June 1989 their debut single “Song For Whoever” was released.

This was about interchangeable love songs, and this reached no. 2. They followed this with “You Keep It All In”, which was another Top Ten hit. They finished off 1989 with “I’ll Sail This Ship Alone”, and by this point, The ITV Chart Show felt that they deserved the honour of Best New Act. But they had their biggest success in October 1990 when “A Little Time” was released, and this went on to be a chart-topper.

This was a two-way between vocalists Dave Hemingway and Briana Corrigan, I hope that Paul wasn’t too jealous that he wasn’t involved. This also won them a Brit award for the memorable video. They went on to have further hits in the early-90s including “Old Red Eyes Is Back”, “Good As Gold (Stupid As Mud)”, and a cover of “Everybody’s Talkin'”.

And in November 1994, their best-of album “Carry On Up The Charts” was released, and this was famously rather successful. This honestly couldn’t have flown off the shelves any quicker if there had been a sticker on the cover that said “Free £50 Note Inside”. Going into the mid-90s they had further Top Ten hits with “Rotterdam” and “Don’t Marry Her”. Their last big hit was in October 1998 when “Perfect 10” reached no. 2.

Paul was always considered to be a rather personable and down-to-earth interviewee. I do remember in the days of Teletext’s music pages Planet Sound, there was a letters page. Most of the comments would consist of people trying to prove that they were “real music fans” with their edgy hard-hitting opinions like “I don’t like Westlife” and “James Blunt isn’t real music”. But Paul is the only actual pop star that I can recall who took the time to write that page to offer his views.

The Beautiful South continued to have hits going into the 2000s, although they weren’t as big, and some started to feel that their formula was beginning to become a little tired after more than a decade. They eventually split, and Paul has gone on to release several more albums, and go on tour, where he as a remarkably large amount of popular hits to choose from to perform.

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.