Musical Memories – Breaking Glass.

Breaking Glass (1980)

A while ago I did some pieces about quirky women who were pioneers in pop music in the early-80s. Among these was Hazel O’Connor, and the woman herself replied and endorsed the piece (well I presume it was her, and I was really pleased). Hazel had appeared in some films as early as the mid-70s, but this was the one that really helped her career take off and made her a big name.

And unlike some other films that I’ve reviewed recently, this one definitely isn’t a comedy! Breaking Glass starred Hazel as Kate, a young singer who hopes to be a success, and one day Danny (Phil Daniels) who wants to be a music manager, decides that Kate has got potential, and wants to work with her. Kate starts off with gigs in minor venues like pubs, but Danny is determined, and soon puts a mildly shambolic band together that Kate will front. vlcsnap-00040

It is clear that Kate is rather driven, and writes her own songs. Eventually, the group start to play bigger venues, get a record deal, make music videos, and they are beginning to be a success. But Kate soon realises the hard way that the business isn’t what it promised to be, it’s tough to watch her enthusiasm slowly be crushed, and she performs her biggest concert in front of a huge crowd of admiring fans in something of a daze, and decides to leave everything behind. vlcsnap-00044

Breaking Glass also gives an example of what life in Britain was like in the early-80s. All of the songs featured were written for the film, most of them by Hazel. These include “Eighth Day” and “Will You”, with its unforgettable saxophone, and these were Top Ten hits, meaning that Hazel was soon appearing in Smash Hits for real. The soundtrack was released, and I have the CD version. vlcsnap-00042

The DVD extras are a trailer, and an interview with Hazel sharing her memories. There is also a book telling the interesting story of the film, with lots of pictures from the archive, the original press pack, and four postcards featuring posters promoting the film in various countries. Also notable is that the executive producer was Dodi Fayed, who unexpectedly got caught up in the biggest UK news story of the 90s. vlcsnap-00043

Breaking Glass has been shown on TV, and Hazel continued her acting career by appearing in Jangles in 1982, a very unusual show where once again she played an aspiring pop singer (although this could be said to be a more PG-rated version of the story), although by this point she had already had her final Top 40 hit single. Hazel went on to also appear in Fighting Back (which earned her a Radio Times cover), and has released several more albums since.

The YouTube Files – The Hazel O’Connor Story.

A while ago I did a series on here where I told the stories of some of my favourite quirky 80s pop stars. There was some good feedback, including one comment asking if I would look back at the career of Hazel O’Connor. I must admit that I wasn’t really familiar with her work, so I decided I would have a look online to find out more about her, and I was won over. Hazel was born in Coventry in 1955 and she has had success as both an actress and singer. This will be a look back at Hazel’s hit singles and some of her TV appearances throughout the 80s on YouTube, including how she (sort of) had a Number One single. After entering the music business in the mid-70s, Hazel had her breakthrough in 1980… hazel2

In March 1980 the album “Sons And Lovers” was released which wasn’t a hit. In August 1980 “Eighth Day” was released which reached no. 5, and was Hazel’s first Top Ten hit single. It featured in the film Breaking Glass where she starred as a singer called Kate which made her name and earned her a Bafta nomination. Also among the cast were Phil Daniels, Mark Wingett (who would later go on to further success in The Bill), and Mark “Zaphod Beeblebrox” Wing-Davey). It seems that Hazel also unintentionally invented Tron during the film. vlcsnap-00019

Hazel also appeared on BBC1’s Film ’80, and performed “Eighth Day” in the first of her four appearances on BBC1’s Top Of The Pops, and she also made the first of her three Record Mirror cover appearances. Well done Hazel that looks like! Also in August 1980 the Breaking Glass soundtrack album was released which reached no. 5. It has also been released on DVD and it really is a fascinating watch. vlcsnap-00023

In October 1980 “Give Me An Inch” was released which reached no. 41, another single from the Breaking Glass soundtrack. Also around this time Hazel appeared on BBC2’s The Old Grey Whistle Test. In March 1981 “D-Days” was released which reached no. 10. This led to a rather energetic performance on Top Of The Pops. In April 1981 Hazel appeared on the cover of Record Mirror again and Smash Hits for the first and only time. vlcsnap-00015


Hazel appears on the cover of Smash Hits in April 1981

In May 1981 “Will You” was released which reached no. 8, and it was Hazel’s third and final UK Top Ten hit single. It would also turn out to be her final Top 40 single too, leading to her final Top Of The Pops appearance, along with BBC2’s Six Fifty-Five Special. Although it wasn’t Hazel’s biggest hit, it seems to be the one that has endured the most, and it is the most likely to be played on the radio nowadays, mostly because of its famous saxophone solo. June 1981 saw her third and final Record Mirror cover. vlcsnap-00020

In August 1981 “(Cover Plus) We’re All Grown Up” was released which reached no. 41. I’ve found a couple of performances of this song online that I thought were rather enjoyable. And as ever, it’s tough to choose a favourite single, but this one is definitely among them. Also in this month Hazel also appeared on BBC1’s Get Set For Summer and made the first of three appearances as a panellist on BBC1’s Pop Quiz. In September 1981 the album “Cover Plus” was released which reached no. 32, and it was Hazel’s final UK hit album. vlcsnap-00007

In October 1981 “Hanging Around” was released which reached no. 45. This was a cover of a song by The Stranglers. In January 1982 “Calls The Tune” was released which reached no. 60, and this turned out to be Hazel’s final UK hit single. Also around this time Hazel appeared on the CITV shows No. 73 and Razzmatazz. Although Hazel would have no more hits, she would continue to have some success in the 80s with her acting career and contributions to charity records. vlcsnap-00010

In 1982 Hazel starred in ITV’s Jangles (which I reviewed on here recently) where she played a schoolgirl called Joanne (even though she was about 26 at the time) who dreamed of being a pop star. Sue “Audrey off Coronation Street” Nicholls played her mum. I thought it was great and the character of Herald is my new favourite thing. During the series she performed some of her own songs including “(Cover Plus) We’re All Grown Up”, along with covers of “School’s Out” and “Anything Goes”. vlcsnap-00028

In 1983 Hazel appeared in the video for “Who’s That Girl” by the Eurythmics and was on Pop Quiz again. In February 1984 “Don’t Touch Me” was released which reached a disappointing no. 81. George Michael appears in the video for this one. The album “Smile” also failed to chart. Also around this time Hazel was interviewed on Channel 4’s The Tube. In June 1984 Hazel made her third and final Pop Quiz appearance. In September 1984 Hazel contributed to the Channel 4 series Ladybirds and was interviewed in TV Timesvlcsnap-00026

In August 1986 Hazel starred in a BBC1 drama series called Fighting Back where she played a struggling mother called Viv which earned her a Radio Times cover. And yes, she also performed the theme music which was released as a single. Also in 1986, Hazel appeared in BBC2’s Alas Smith And Jones, Channel 4’s Prospects, and the film Car Trouble which starred Julie Walters. vlcsnap-00002


Hazel appears in Radio Times in August 1986

In April 1987 Hazel was one of the many contributors to “Let It Be”, a cover of the Beatles song for the charity Ferry Aid, which reached no. 1. Also in this month Breaking Glass was shown on Channel 4 and Hazel was interviewed in TV Times again. In November 1987 Hazel contributed to “Wishing Well”, another charity single this time as a part of the group GOSH which reached no. 22. In more recent years, Hazel has released many more albums and continues to tour the country and perform all her famous hits. hazel0002

UPDATE! Shortly after completing this piece, the woman herself retweeted the link to it, and she also replied to me, saying that she thought it was “lovely”. I was so thrilled, I never expected a response from any of the pop stars that I have written about on here so a big thank you to Hazel for doing that.

The YouTube Files – Jangles.

Jangles (ITV, 1982)

I am always on the lookout for unusual TV shows on YouTube that I may or may not remember watching first time round that I can review on this blog, and this is a great example of coming across a show that I previously knew almost nothing about and finding it interesting enough to share on here, so firstly here’s the story of how I discovered this one.

I like to look at a website called Transdiffusion which chronicles the history of British TV and radio over the past 60 years or so. Every Wednesday they have an article featuring a look back at an old TV schedule from an issue of Radio Times or TV Times. Recently they reviewed an ITV schedule from March 1984, which included a show called Jangles. I wasn’t familiar with this show, but I was intrigued by its description as it said that it featured Hazel O’Connor.

About a year ago when I started to review the careers of some quirky female pop stars from the 80s and 90s that I like on here, I got a reply from someone who said that they had enjoyed reading the pieces and asked if I was going to feature anyone else in the future, suggesting that I could take a look back at the hit singles of Hazel O’Connor. I must admit though, although she had three UK Top Ten hit singles in the early-80s, I’m not really familiar with too many of her songs.

I decided to ask my mum if she knew any of Hazel’s singles and she said that she liked “the one with the saxophone” (presumably referring to “Will You” which reached no. 8 in 1981), so I said as you seem to know more about her career than I do maybe you should write the article about her on here instead, ha! It did keep Hazel’s name in my mind though, so after I saw that she had appeared in this TV show called Jangles, I hoped that I could discover more.

So I did the usual “that’ll never be on YouTube, will it?” routine, and I was pleased to discover that all seven episodes are on there in full so I had an opportunity to see it. Jangles (an HTV West production for ITV no less) was originally shown in 1982 (there was a repeat run on Children’s ITV in 1984) and is a mixture of music and drama, coming across as a mildly surreal cross between Top Of The Pops and EastEnders, and Hazel did some singing as well as some acting (she also starred in a film called Breaking Glass in 1980, and appeared on the cover of Radio Times in 1986). vlcsnap-00561

Hazel played the main character in the show, a singer called Joanne who performed at a downtrodden nightclub called Jangles, and she was hoping to leave school and dreamed of getting a record deal. Her boyfriend Steve (played by Jesse Birdsall fully a decade before he starred in flop BBC1 soap Eldorado) was having some trouble holding on to a job. As well as the story, most of the scenes featured the young nightclub crowd having a boogie to some the hits of the time including “To Cut A Long Story Short” by Spandau Ballet. vlcsnap-00566

Making this show all a little more unusual was a character called Herald who would occasionally turn up to explain what was happening in the story, and he seemed to have a robotic voice and was accompanied by some fancy visual effects that looked rather good for the time. Every episode would also conclude with Joanne performing a synthpop-style song on stage. vlcsnap-00565

Episodes of Jangles would also feature groups from various musical genres who performed live on the nightclub’s stage, and well would you believe it, the sixth episode only has Fun Boy Three performing their hit single “It Ain’t What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It” alongside none other than Bananarama in what must have been one of their earliest TV appearances! vlcsnap-00564

There isn’t much information about Jangles online. It doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry, and there has been no DVD release (presumably because of the large amount of musical content, or more likely because no-one’s really that bothered), but I found it to be a very interesting show from the early-80s. All these years later Hazel is still around and performing, and I’ll definitely investigate more of her music.