Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 26.

This is a British group who I wasn’t sure about featuring in this series because their story is rather well-known, and they have been popular for decades, but as they have made so many terrific singles, I do want to pick out my highlights. The Human League formed in the late-70s, and their frontman is Phil Oakey. I suppose that their philosophy is we’ve got a synthesizer and we’re gonna use it. In June 1978, their first single “Being Boiled” was released, but this didn’t make the chart.

By 1980, they did have some minor hits, and two members had left to form Heaven 17. But Phil wasn’t that concerned, because he discovered two women to replace them, and they never looked back really. 1981 would turn out to be a hugely successful year for them. In May 1981 they made the Top 40 for the first time with “The Sound Of The Crowd”, which is always a pleasure to hear on the radio. Next in August was their first Top Ten hit with “Love Action”, which was followed in October by “Open Your Heart”.

But it was in December 1981 when “Don’t You Want Me” was released that they finally became one of the best groups of the early-80s. This was the biggest-selling single of 1981 in the UK, and this was also a Transatlantic chart-topper. In January 1982, their debut “Being Boiled” was released again, and this time became a Top Ten hit nearly four years on, as interest in their earlier material increased after new fans wanted to discover more. They also won a Brit in 1982.

There would be further hit singles in 1982 with “Mirror Man”, in 1983 with “Fascination”, and in 1984 with “The Lebanon”, “Life On Your Own”, and “Louise”. The later songs hadn’t done as well though. In 1986, they decided to take a gamble and work with producers Jam And Lewis, who were much in demand at this point, and they would help to bring their sound into the mid-80s. Some sessions were reported to be tense, and Phil came close to walking out (I must avoid doing a “but this is Phil walking” pun here).

But even he had to concede that this was all worthwhile when in August 1986 “Human” became their first Top Ten hit single in the UK for three years, and also their second Number One in America. This left them in the rather unusual situation of being a British group who had more chart-toppers in the USA than they did in the UK. They didn’t make the Top 40 in the 80s again though, but at least they were still together.

And just when it looked like they were a group who had finally been confined to the past, 1995 turned out to be their most successful year for about a decade. In January 1995 “Tell Me When” made the Top Ten to become their biggest hit since the days of “Human”. Further hits “One Man In My Heart” and “Filling Up With Heaven” did well too. For some reason, they finished off this year with a remix of “Don’t You Want Me”, but this made the Top 20 for a second time.

Since then, The Human League have become more of a nostalgia group. When they occasionally release new singles or albums, the response is now usually “stop working on new songs and just give us the classics”. They have made nine albums, but unfortunately they are in the position of having had more best-ofs released than studio albums. And in March 2014, “Don’t You Want Me” made the Top 20 for a third time! They’re still on tour, and people will always be fond of them and their songs, together in electric dreams.

Great Moments In Pop – The 2010s Part 3.

It’s time to look back at a pop music success from more recent years. Jess Glynne is an English singer who first found fame when she was the guest vocalist on Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” single in 2014. This did rather well, winning a Grammy, spending over a year on the chart, and being one of the more acclaimed chart-toppers from this era.

She then went on to have further hits on her own, and there is one highlight that I want to pick out because it brings back a rather specific memory for me. When The Chart Show ended on ITV in 1998, it was an end of an era, but it was actually nowhere near the end of the story. It seems that the website continued, and there might have been versions produced for other countries that continued too.

But by the time of digital TV expanding in the early-2000s, there was the launch of the channel Chart Show TV. This showed music videos of course, but there was excitement when some editions of The Chart Show from the 90s were repeated, and there was even an attempt at reviving the original format. But I had never seen this channel for myself.

But as channels have constantly come and gone from Freeview over the years, for a short while Chart Show TV (or whatever it was called by this point) turned up, and I was so pleased. A music channel that actually shows music videos! And it’s a distant relative of The Chart Show! I decided I must watch this channel, especially on a Saturday evening, when they showed a selection of big dance hits.

This was a great way to catch up with what was on the chart and discover some new songs, maybe other music channels could try doing this one day. In July 2014, “Right Here” was released, and this did turn up rather frequently in this slot, but I always enjoyed seeing this, and this definitely became and remains one of the sounds of that summer for me, and this reached no. 6.

Flame-haired Jess went on to have several more chart-topping singles, including “Hold My Hand” and “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”, and statistically at least she is one of the most successful British female singers that there has ever been. Her 2015 debut album “I Cry When I Laugh” did very well too. But there’s no doubt for me at what her highlight is.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 27.

It is usually around this time that the football World Cup begins, only this year it’ll be held in November and December. It has reminded me though that there has been a long history of football-related singles entering the chart, as a wide variety of unlikely people not usually known for their singing talents wish to declare their support for England (or whatever country) to record.

Almost none of them beyond 1990’s “World In Motion” and 1996’s “Three Lions” are worth remembering in much detail really. But to pick another as an example, once some various hosts from radio station TalkSport decided to release a song, and Mike “Porky” Parry said “you are here for the launch of the next Number One single!”, and I thought “oh really?”, but it almost happened when their racket somehow managed to reach no. 2.

But this one has a rather interesting story. The actor Keith Allen (who was actually born in Swansea, which isn’t really in England), had contributed to “World In Motion”, and also 1996’s “England’s Irie”. By the time of the 1998 World Cup, he decided to form the group Fat Les, also featuring artist Damien Hirst, Alex James from Blur, and I think Joe Strummer from The Clash was involved too.

In June 1998, “Vindaloo” was released, and this was a rather rowdy song that celebrated English culture, along with a chant-along chorus that it was almost impossible not to join in with. Indeed, a university professor’s performance of this during his YouTube video explaining the etymology of the word “vindaloo” was very popular for a few minutes a long time ago.

And also among the vocalists was Keith’s daughter Lily, who would soon know a thing or two about chart-topping singles herself. The video is also notable, as it is a parody of “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve. The original was made at Hoxton High Street, which is not too far from where I live, and this version was made there too, with the Richard Ashcroft role being played by comedian Paul Kaye.

Soon he is joined by a huge amount of people, who also include David Walliams and Matt Lucas (during their “Mash And Peas” years). “Vindaloo” reached no. 2, staying there for three weeks, and there was also a memorably shambolic performance of this on Top Of The Pops. Well at least it’s not “Sweet Caroline”! This was something of a success, and later in 1998, Fat Les appeared on the cover of NME.

In December 1998, they decided to aim at the Christmas market, when “Naughty Christmas (Goblin In The Office)” was released, although this reached only no. 21, and lacked rather a lot of the spark and humour of the previous single. They returned in June 2000 (this time credited as “Fat Les 2000”), with a straight cover of “Jerusalem”, which is considered to be the unofficial national anthem of England.

This reached no. 10 (and Michael Barrymore was roped in as one of the vocalists too). Then in June 2002 they released “Who Invented Fish And Chips”, clearly another attempt at a lingering anthem, but this got nowhere near the chart surprisingly. Since then, “Vindaloo” has returned to chart in 2010, 2014, 2018, and last year, and probably will this year too when the World Cup finally comes around again.