Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 10.

This is a group that I have already done two pieces about, but as they qualify for this series, I thought that I would take a closer look at the story behind this single. The Belle Stars started out in 1979 as The Bodysnatchers, they had some minor success before changing their name and line-up in 1981, and after a few releases, they hit the big time in 1983 with “Sign Of The Times”.

Their following singles didn’t do as well, but it was thought that there would still be a lot of people eager to discover what their next move would be. In June 1984 “80s Romance” was released, which was to planned to be the first idea of what they would have to come on their second album. Barely a year on from their Top Ten hit though, it all went rather wrong for the stylish septet.

The video for this one is rather curious. The first two minutes or so consist of a look behind the scenes, showing how everything was put together. There’s also a reference to Canary Wharf which I thought was rather odd as that hadn’t yet been built in 1984. But then I remembered that’s what the actual area of London is (which was still barely developed at the time), the building is actually called 1 Canada Square, unless they could see five years into the future.

The video continues with the behind the scenes look, and there are lots of clapperboards and cameras in shot and the like, along with a dance routine that they couldn’t do properly, with one letter each of “romance” painted on their T-shirts, along with some terrific lyrics like “this is 80s romance/textbooks in our pockets/mud on our faces!” (well I think that’s right).

The combination of all this didn’t go down very well though. Smash Hits were rather harsh about this one by their standards, saying “a weak melody and some godawful lyrics”, while Record Mirror went even further, simply saying “horrible record”. Oh dear. “80s Romance” reached a very disappointing no. 71, work stopped on the new album, and The Belle Stars split very shortly after.

But that wasn’t the end just yet, as The Belle Stars returned in 1986, but now as a trio, with something of a different look and sound, and they had lost so many members that the saxophonist was reassigned as the drummer. Unfortunately despite their new single “World Domination” being rather good, nobody was bothered by this point, and what was left of The Belle Stars split for good.

After going their separate ways, most of them also left the music business altogether, and apart from a best-of, the only work under The Belle Stars name since was a brief tour of the nostalgia circuit in the early-2000s, that seemed to consist of three random women, and there is currently no active version of the group, not even performing “Sign Of The Times” down the pub or anything.

The Smash Hits Story – Part 2.

Something rather odd happened to Smash Hits in the early-90s. Not only was there a redesign that made it look like they’d recently got a shiny new computer at the office, but, they’d just about run out of pop stars to write about. Around 1992/1993 you’d be more likely to see “Hollywood Hunks” on the cover like Luke Perry, Keanu Reeves, and Christian Slater, or TV presenters including Toby Anstis, Chris Evans and Andi Peters. What?!?! sh8

And inside you’d be more likely to come across gossip about people in Home And Away than any interviews with star names. This was mostly down to the increasingly “faceless” amount of pop music around, with many enjoyable but here today-gone tomorrow anonymous dance acts filling up the singles chart with their rackets. Come back Rick Astley, all is forgiven. However, a letter from my sister was published in an issue around this time, so clearly all was not lost. sh9

And in 1992, Number One closed and merged with Fast Forward, meaning that after nine years they had seen off their closest rival. One enjoyable feature around this time was “Oh No! Not The Biscuit Tin!”, where various people had to answer bizarre questions picked at random from the tin. Things picked up a little in the mid-90s when they tried to embrace Britpop, and all the major players made the cover including Blur, Oasis, and, er, The Bluetones, but was this really the place for them? sh10

In 1997, there was a TV advertising campaign, with the phrase “100% Pure Pop”, which featured a young Billie Piper, who launched a pop music career of her own about a year later, and soon she was appearing on the cover herself. And by the late-90s, there was the Boy Band invasion. These rather bland and interchangeable characters received a line of questioning that strayed little beyond wondering who they were currently “snogging” (anything more probing than this was usually answered with “oh my god!”), which was usually accompanied by a big picture of them with their top off. sh11

S Club 7, Steps, Westlife and the like practically alternated on the cover, weren’t there any other pop groups out there? Coming into 2000, and I was in my mid-teens at this time, and I was really into pop music. There were some changes including a new masthead replacing the one that had been around since 1985, probably to get ready for the new millennium or something. sh12

Also around this time, the brand (I don’t like to describe a magazine as a “brand”, but this one really was) was expanded, with the introduction of a TV channel and radio station. But sales were beginning to fall, and while Smash Hits might have been a big deal in the 80s, there was a new generation coming along that wasn’t really that interested. sh13

And then we go into the era where Pop Idol and the like took off, and now the magazine was filled with rather a lot of pointless gossip and uninteresting manufactured pop stars, along with endless price increases and more free gifts. It’s a rather easy comparison to make, but the magazine was now falling out of favour, just like so many acts that had briefly featured in their pages over the years. sh14

It was still something of a surprise though when Smash Hits closed in 2006, and not long after Top Of The Pops ended as an ongoing weekly show, meaning that two of the longest-running institutions that championed pop music had both gone. Not long after this, a book was released featuring some of the highlights of the magazine, and you have to say now, when it was at its best, it really was splendiferous.

The Smash Hits Story – Part 1.

A while ago I was asked to take a look back at the history of the pop music magazine Smash Hits. I wasn’t that much of a regular reader myself, but my sister definitely was, so I was familiar with the magazine to some extent when I was younger, and I have also seen plenty online, so here’s a look back at some of the fortunes that Smash Hits went through during the 28 years that it was published. Any additional thoughts/corrections etc. are welcome.

Smash Hits launched in 1978, and was originally a monthly magazine, becoming a fortnightly shortly after in 1979. By this point, pop music as we would come to know it hadn’t really developed yet. There weren’t a huge amount of pages, and hardly any of these were in colour, but there was an attempt to stand out from the competition by offering posters, “songwords” of all the latest hits, and even a column dedicated to the latest in disco music. sh1

It took a few years, but Smash Hits would soon develop its famous style and go on to be a big success with readers going into the early-80s. I do get frustrated when people seem to sum up 80s pop music as “1980-1984 = endlessly brilliant, 1985-1989 = complete rubbish”, does looking back at old issues now make it possible to challenge this idea? The singles review page might be able to, with a lot of tut-tutting about the state of what was on offer, which was supposedly in a golden era. sh2

By now, pop stars would be asked some very odd questions in interviews, much unlike what you’d get in any other music magazine. Fortunately, most of them had the charisma and personality to deal with this, leading to many entertaining moments. Where pop stars more charismatic in those days? There was a very distinctive journalistic style, inventing a lot of words and catchphrases along the way. sh3

In 1983, No. 1 launched, a weekly magazine that was considered to be their closest rival on the market, not that they ever seemed to fear them. Another notable thing about the 80s is just how many acts appeared on the cover who went on to have big success, with possibly only Matt Fretton and Jimmy The Hoover making people familiar with that era when looking back say now “who where they?”. That’s why they stuck to the endless Duran Duran covers.sh4

Among the writers at this time was Neil Tennant. After a while, Neil decided to leave to have a go at being a pop star himself. This departure was greeted with a typical “well good luck with that, see you back in the office in six months”-type comment. A year or two later, Neil was having chart-topping singles with the Pet Shop Boys in America, and he definitely succeeded in his ambition. It looks like they will have to get a new writer in after all. sh5

When looking back at some issues from this era, I couldn’t help but notice that they also used some Private Eye-isms, such as “So. Farewell then…” and “shurely shome mishtake”. I wasn’t expecting any crossover between the two magazines but there clearly was (that’ll do). There was also a lot of spin-off merchandise by now, including yearbooks, sticker books, and even compilation albums, along with an American version called Star Hits. sh6

By the late-80s, Smash Hits was going from strength to strength. This was helped by the free gifts, and acts that featured frequently on the cover by now included A-Ha, Rick Astley, Curiosity Killed The Cat, and Bros (although they were never the same after Ken left). In 1988, The Smash Hits Poll Winners Party was launched, a big ceremony that would be shown live on BBC1.sh7

There would be a huge response from readers to this, and the biggest pop stars around were more than happy to turn up on stage and graciously collect their awards for categories including Best Haircut and the like in front of their adoring fans. How marvellous. But how would Smash Hits fare as we go into the 90s. Find out in part two?!?!?

The No-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 1.

Here’s an attempt to create a piece out of just about nothing, I might as well. Recently I reviewed Sky Trax, which was shown in the early days of satellite TV. Also among the music shows on Sky in the 80s was The Eurochart Top 50, featuring the biggest hits from across the continent. When I like to find out more about pop groups, I look for their single releases and TV appearances beyond the UK in countries like America and Australia, rather than across Europe.

I suppose that the main reason for this is rather obviously the language barrier. But I have noticed that there were several pop music shows across Europe in the 80s where there was a chance to perform the latest single, including TopPop in the Netherlands, and Musikladen in Germany. I must admit that I don’t really know that much about European pop music from this era, such as who were chart-toppers in various countries and so on.

So when I was watching a performance online from The Eurochart Top 50, I came across a song by someone that really caught my attention, and it’s still great to be discovering interesting people all these years on. This was from 1986. Now I try not to overanalyse these things, but I am rather fascinated with pop music and pop culture as a whole indeed from this year. I’m not really sure why, but this was the time of my earliest memories, when I was beginning to discover the world around me, maybe I presumed that everything was like this. vlcsnap-00055

The singer was Justine, who had a really striking look, even when compared to some of the rather extrovert pop stars that I have come across from this era. Her look featured waist-length plaited hair, along with lots of jewellery, brightly-coloured fingernails, and a rather small sparkly dress. The song was a rather nice piece of synthpop called “Hurt By You”, and there was a dance routine and everything. I really did want to discover more about her and took up the challenge. Was she Danielle’s long-lost sister? Well, maybe not. vlcsnap-00056

Where did she come from? Where did she get her look from? And the result is that there is just about no additional information at all about her online. “Hurt By You” was her only single, and the B-side was “Where Is The Hero”. These featured on the 7″ version, and the 12″ version featured the extended editions of these songs, that were both about seven minutes long. It seems that this was only released in the Netherlands, and I can’t find any evidence of this making the chart, or if she was actually Dutch. vlcsnap-00061

“Hurt By You” wasn’t released in the UK, meaning that we never had the opportunity to see her do her thing on Top Of The Pops, or have her single reviewed in Smash Hits, where I’m sure that it would’ve been described as “hip” and “fandabidozi” or whatever the trendy words were at the time. The sleeve of the single features Justine and her distinctive look, and it seems to be literally the only picture of her online. I can’t find a music video either. She released no more singles, but she can’t have ever recorded only two songs! vlcsnap-00058

For all I know, her appearance on The Eurochart Top 50 could’ve been the only time she was ever on TV. Well whoever she was, this is a rare case of me being left with more questions and answers, she is someone who really can be described as mysterious! How curious. I’m sure that if she’s still out there she’ll be pleased that I thought about her four minutes of fame almost 35 years on though. She could have grandchildren for all I know by now. Why wasn’t she huge across Europe and everywhere else in 1986.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 9.

Here’s a look back at another pop star from the 80s who didn’t have as many hits as they should’ve. Toni Basil is as well-known for being a choreographer as a singer, and she also worked behind the scenes on several films, as well as appearing in some as an actress. Toni released her first single as early as 1966, but it wasn’t until about 15 years later that she had some chart success.

“Mickey” was first released in 1981, but it wasn’t a hit. But then it was re-released in 1982, and Toni and her song suddenly became a big success, reaching no. 2 in the UK, along with being a chart-topper in America and Australia, soon Toni was doing her thing on Top Of The Pops and in March 1982 she also appeared on the cover of Record Mirror. 50305322427_6037fd8056_k

“Mickey” did well, not just because it was so catchy, but also because of the famous video where Toni dressed as a cheerleader, with no-one realising she was about 39 at the time, and “Mickey” would be a Top Ten hit all over again about two decades later when it was covered by Lolly. Also in 1982, Toni’s first album “Word Of Mouth” was released and reached no. 15 in the UK. vlcsnap-00071

And there was also The Toni Basil Special. Most of the songs from “Word Of Mouth” had a video made, and all of these featured performances from Toni among many others. It looked to be rather big-budget stuff. The credits also mostly consisted of “performed by Toni Basil, choreographed by Toni Basil, produced by Toni Basil, directed by Toni Basil, a Toni Basil Production for Toni Basil Enterprises”-style credits, so this was clearly someone with a strong hold on their look and sound who was determined to succeed. vlcsnap-00063

So you would think that there would be much anticipation for what Toni would do next. In May 1982 the next single “Nobody” was released, but despite another memorable video and dance routine, this reached only no. 52, although it did spend four weeks on the chart. This turned out to be Toni’s second and final hit single in the UK, which must’ve been a disappointment. It seems that “nobody” by comparison was really interested in any follow-ups (I’m awfully sorry). vlcsnap-00070

Toni did release some more singles into the mid-80s including “Over My Head” and “Shoppin’ From A To Z” which had a rather amusing video, but “Mickey” will always be considered to be the peak of her career though. The special was eventually shown rather late at night on BBC1 in 1984, although the performance of “Mickey” was different, and instead of featuring cheerleaders, Toni was accompanied by her band, with what seemed to be Vyvyan from The Young Ones on guitar. Her moment of fame had long since passed even by this point though. vlcsnap-00068

Toni does remain a respected figure though for her pioneering work of choreography in music videos, and all these years on she can still do those dance moves that she is famous for, which the average septuagenarian probably can’t.

The No-Hit Wonders – The 70s Part 1 (of 1).

A while ago I started doing the pop music series Down The Dumper and The One-Hit Wonders, where I looked back at the interesting stories of acts from the 80s whose success either tailed off very quickly with a flop follow-up single, or they had no further hit singles at all. And there will be some more entries in this series, going into the 90s and 2000s decades, but recently I came across a song from the 70s that wasn’t a hit that I really wanted to find out more about, and even though it falls out of the criteria that I’ve set, I thought I’d share it anyway.

A while ago, when I was fiddling through some radio stations, I came across a song that I hadn’t heard before, but I really liked it. Thankfully the host said the title of the song, who it was by, and what year it was released. I was eager to find out more, and I do like a challenge, the less information that is out there, the more I want to track it down.

The song was “Slave Of Love” by the Destroyers, which was released on Salsoul Records in 1977. It’s rather repetitive, but rather hypnotic, the only lyrics being “I don’t want to be set free/want to be your slave of love“. One of the male singers has a remarkably deep voice, which blends with the female one. The song is about 4½ minutes, I haven’t been able to find any extended versions or remixes about twice as long, even though it would’ve been the same thing about another 20 times over. This song must’ve come from somewhere. 

I discovered that “Slave Of Love” was the B-side to their debut single “‘Lectric Love”, which wasn’t too bad either. But who were the Destroyers exactly? According to the picture of the sleeve of the single (which is described as a “Disco-Buster”) there were three people in the group (well I presume that they’re the people in the group). I noticed that there was some biographical information on the back of the Dutch version of the single (I don’t think it was even released in the UK), but of course, it was all in Dutch.vlcsnap-00052

So I put all this through a translator, and this is what it reveals about the group. Firstly, “Three New Yorkers, a woman and two men, make up the group. The woman is Bijou, a pretty blonde creature who plays the Lazeriser and percussion and also sings. She is known to like Thai food and wearing no clothes”. Well that’s really terrific to know. d2

And also “Edward Gash also plays the Lazeriser and loves the music of Ravel, Debussy, Satie, Prokoviev and Varese. He is also the inventor of the electronic instrument the Lazeriser, which defines the sound of the Destroyers”. Maybe he wanted to put Debussy to a Disco beat. NO, COME BACK… But wait, the group were so pioneering they had to invent the instruments before they could make their singles with the sound they wanted. And what is a “Lazeriser” exactly? I’ve no idea. d1

And finally “Ramon Boulez, from Algiers, plays guitar, Fender bass and drums. A unique trio”. Also notable are the production team, consisting of Jeffrey Lesser, and Rupert Holmes, the English-born singer/songwriter who had a Number One single in America in late-1979/early-1980 with “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”. Unlike some acts in more recent years who’ve tried to make Disco songs that sounded like they could’ve been made in New York in 1977, this group really were making New York Disco records in 1977. Hard luck, Kylie! vlcsnap-00054

And of course, despite the hype, “‘Lectric Love” wasn’t a hit in America, the Destroyers released no more singles (I doubt that they only ever made two songs, but I can’t find any trace of any more), and none of them were ever heard of again. It’s always great to find songs like this though, so whoever they were and wherever their Laserizers are now, I’m grateful.

The Missing Persons Story – Part 2.

Let’s carry on the story then. In 1983, “Walking In LA”, the final single from “Spring Session M”, was released, which reached no. 70 in America. This is another one that doesn’t seem to have a video. I don’t know how much touring they did, but they performed a rather high-profile gig at the US Festival, where they were on stage for about an hour to perform all the songs that were now rather familiar. It was a lot of fun. Thankfully the crowd at this concert clearly enjoyed them and there was a much livelier response. vlcsnap-00028

In 1984, “Give” was released. This was the first single from the second album “Rhyme & Reason” which reached no. 43 in America, while “Give” reached no. 67, and this turned out to be their final hit single in America. This is one of my favourites, their sound was beginning to move away from guitars, it’s rather synthy, Terry has got hold of some of those hexagonal-shaped electronic drums that were popular at the time, and Dale looks the most Gaga-esque she ever did. vlcsnap-00012

I also noticed in a lot of magazine articles around this time that Dale was often being grouped in with Terri Nunn, another extrovert female American singer who was on the up at the time, who did go on to have a chart-topping single in the UK in 1986 with “Take My Breath Away” as the frontwoman of Berlin. vlcsnap-00032

In 1984, although their hits were now behind them, they were still releasing some good singles, and “Right Now” was the next one. For a group that had no Top 40 hits in America, they appeared on the early days of MTV rather frequently, and the exclusive showings of their videos were still anticipated by many viewers, even if their success was beginning to drop off a little. Dale also appeared on the Australian pop music show Countdown. vlcsnap-00018

In 1984, “Surrender Your Heart” was the final single to be released from “Rhyme & Reason”. The video didn’t feature any new footage of the group, just a montage of some visually impressive for the time rainbow-coloured pictures. There was also a disc released with this title featuring four of their music videos. vlcsnap-00040

Not much happened in 1985, but Missing Persons appeared on Razzmatazz again in August, although this seems to be a repeat of their 1982 appearance as part of a compilation special of American acts to have appeared on the show. Dale also featured in a TV Times article about female American pop stars, where once again she was grouped in with Terri Nunn, along with Madonna, and said “I like bizarre outfits made from plastics and materials not normally used in clothes design. My attire is not meant to be deliberately outrageous”. And also in 1985, the pop music cartoon Jem launched. Some people have speculated that Dale’s look might have inspired some of the characters. I don’t know if that’s right or not, but if it is, that’s truly outrageous! db19

They were back though in 1986 with their third album “Color In Your Life” which reached no. 88 in America. There had been some changes by this point however. The group had slimmed down to a quartet, Dale had got rid of the blue hair (more’s the pity), and she had become a long blonde-haired tight-trousered rock chick. And also on the production team was Chic’s Bernard Edwards. vlcsnap-00035

The first single from this album was “I Can’t Think About Dancin'”. This is my favourite single of theirs, and also my favourite video, featuring the group on a scrolling stage cloned several times over. It must have taken a long time to put together, I wonder how they did it. Unfortunately some people felt that this new direction didn’t really suit them. By this point, their touring had come to an end, Dale and Terry divorced, and Missing Persons split. It’s not a coincidence that all three of those things happened at once. Terry would go on to work with various other groups, and Warren Cuccurullo joined Duran Duran. In 1987, little happened beyond a fairly ignored best-of album being released. But the story doesn’t end there… vlcsnap-00037

In 1988, Dale returned with a solo project (credited simply to “Dale”), and joined Prince’s Paisley Park label in an attempt to regain some creditability and get back into favour, taking more of a dance-pop direction. Dale released the album “Riot In English”, and the single “Simon Simon”. Now I found this unintentionally amusing because it reminded me of that whole ludicrous “Simon, bid again, Simon!” trail that was briefly on Bid-Up.TV all the time. But it wasn’t a hit, honestly, don’t people know quality when they hear it. vlcsnap-00001

And that’s about it really, Dale later twice remarried and had two children, a version of Missing Persons continues to this day, and there have been some more albums released, although the line-up is now very much Dale and some blokes. Life is so strange…

The Missing Persons Story – Part 1.

Recently I have done some pieces about quirky singers and pop groups from the 80s. I was wondering if there was anyone else who could be featured here. I don’t get too excited about the modern wave of pop stars, the last ones I had an interest in came on to the scene about a decade ago now such as Paloma Faith and Lady Gaga. I did wonder if there was anyone who could fit the description of being “the Lady Gaga of the 80s”, and I was pleased when I discovered someone who definitely could.

The group is Missing Persons, and it’s always good to discover that a group that I had previously barely heard of and realise that they had an interesting story in the 80s. Their frontwoman is Dale Bozzio (I can’t recall ever coming across a woman called Dale before). Dale Consalvi was born in March 1955 in Massachusetts. Before getting into music she appeared in some rather naughty magazines, and went on to collaborate with Frank Zappa. db66

In 1980, Missing Persons were formed, they could be put into the New Wave genre. They were a quintet, and along with Dale, other members included drummer and Dale’s husband Terry Bozzio (they married in 1979), and guitarist Warren Cuccurullo. Although they didn’t have any hit singles or albums in this country, I wondered if they had made any UK TV appearances, so I went on YouTube, and I was pleasantly surprised. As always, this piece won’t be 100% accurate or comprehensive, but here are some of the highlights of their story. vlcsnap-00005

Dale was the definition of small but perfectly formed, with a very distinctive look, including her hair, which was sometimes red, or even – yes! – blue, and plenty of make-up. She also wore what were often described as “fishbowls” containing some foil. It seems that she was rather pleased with her looks and followed the old phrase “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”, and if she had half the chance she would probably have worn nothing at all above the waist on stage. Dale was also known for having a squeak in her singing voice. I very much doubt she’s been to any pubs near where I live, but I’ll let her off because she made some great songs. vlcsnap-00017

In 1980 the “Missing Persons EP” was released, which reached no. 46 on the US album chart, and they appeared in the 1981 film Lunch Wagon. But it was during 1982/1983 that they had their biggest success. In 1982 their first single “Mental Hopscotch” was released. It wasn’t a hit, but there was a video made. There was also a video made for “Noticeable One”, but that wasn’t a single. vlcsnap-00015

But next up in 1982 was “Words”, and this is arguably their most famous song. The video has had 6.6 million views on YouTube, making it their most popular. This reached no. 42 (their equal-highest placing in America), and it also reached no. 10 in Australia, which I’m sure is their first and only Top Ten placing on a singles chart anywhere in the world. This one contained the lyric “I think I’ll dye my hair blue“. Please do! Also in this year, their first album “Spring Session M” (an anagram of “Missing Persons”) was released, reaching no. 17 (their highest-charting album in America), and no. 40 in Australia, where they loved it. vlcsnap-00025

Then in 1982 the next single was “Destination Unknown”, another one of their more well-known ones. This also reached no. 42 in America, and no. 89 in Australia, their final hit there. This one had a video, and I know that I shouldn’t take too much notice of YouTube comments, but the amount of people who have said “Lady Gaga stole her look from Dale” is remarkable. They performed this one on various shows including TopPop in the Netherlands. vlcsnap-00011

And in October 1982, they made what I’m sure is their first UK TV appearance, when they performed “Destination Unknown” on CITV’s Razzmatazz! They weren’t exactly the first group that I would expect to appear on the show, but the youngsters loved them I’m sure. Dale also had a rather unusual hairstyle by her own standard at this point. I doubt it’s all her own work. I don’t think they played “Peggy Babcock” though. Missing Persons were now doing well, suddenly Dale was being invited to awards ceremonies, and plenty of people were taking notice of them. vlcsnap-00030

In 1983, “Windows” was released, which reached no. 63 in America. I couldn’t find a video for this one, but they did perform this on shows in various countries. And in March 1983, Missing Persons made another UK TV appearance when they performed a few songs on Channel 4’s The Tube. There was the slight problem that they provoked almost no response at all from the studio audience who seemingly had no idea who they were. vlcsnap-00033

Also in March 1983, Dale appeared on the cover of Sounds, which I’m fairly sure is their only UK weekly music magazine cover, where they were tipped to be the next big thing. Dale is someone who also gave good value in interviews. And although they didn’t feature in an article, an advert for “Words” (which was released in the UK in this month) appeared in Smash Hits. db10

Watch out for more in part two…

The YouTube Files – Sky Trax.

Sky Trax (Sky Channel, 1984-1989)

A while ago I looked back at some advert breaks that were shown on the Sky Channel in the 80s, which at this point was available on satellite in various countries across Europe. One of the shows that was promoted a lot looked rather interesting, so after having a look for some more clips on YouTube, I thought that it was worth a full review.

Back in the days of the Sky Channel, when they weren’t showing some imported sitcom, they filled most of the time in the morning and afternoon for hours on end, with Sky Trax, a music show coming from a cupboard in London featuring various hosts who introduced music videos, along with plenty of news and interviews with the biggest pop stars around at the time. “Are you going on tour soon?” is about as probing as the questions got. Well it was either this or more editions of The DJ Kat Show. vlcsnap-00035

There can’t have been a huge amount of viewers, but the average pop star wouldn’t miss any opportunity to promote their latest single on TV. Among the hosts was Pat Sharp, who had a terrific hairstyle even back then. Pat had worked in TV and radio long before Fun House, he hosted Top Of The Pops as early as 1982, and by this point he was a success on Capital FM.vlcsnap-00033

And there was also Gary Davies, doing some moonlighting from his Sloppy Bit on BBC Radio 1. He hosted various features, including Young, Free And Single, and The Great Video Race. There were also shows dedicated to various genres and charts including Monsters Of Rock, Nescafe UK Top 40, and Soul Spectacular. You never knew what was going to happen next, and things often went with a bang! vlcsnap-00012

Gary was also among the hosts of The Eurochart Top 50, which was somewhat similar to Top Of The Pops, and he was always pleased that there were plenty of great records going up the chart. Gary must be fond of this era of music, as he is now the host of Sounds Of The 80s on BBC Radio 2. A few other familiar names were among the hosts, including Tony Blackburn, David Jensen, and Peter Powell. vlcsnap-00027

There was even a spin-off compilation album released called “16 Solid Hits”, and I’m sure they were. Sky Trax all these years on is a great archive of pop music from the mid-80s, it wasn’t all rubbish, honest. In 1989 though, the show came to an end when the Sky Channel was relaunched as Sky One, and they would now show revivals of The Price Is Right and Sale Of The Century all day. vlcsnap-00010

Along with Sky Trax, there were some other satellite and cable music channels in the 80s that had a similar mix of videos, interviews and features. There was Music Box, which in 1986 was also shown overnight on Yorkshire as they became the first ITV region to experiment with being on air 24 hours a day, and also the Super Channel. Who needs MTV when you’ve got this.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 8.

It’s time for another look back at a pop group whose fame in the 80s turned out to be rather short-lived. Nu Shooz were an American group that formed as early as the late-70s, consisting of John Smith and Valerie Day, who were also married. They weren’t the only husband-and-wife duo who had some chart success in the 80s though. There were also many others including Timbuk 3, Womack And Womack, and is this another opportunity to go on about The Techno Twins again? Well, I suppose it is!

Nu Shooz had released singles and albums as long ago as 1982, but it wasn’t until May 1986 that they had their first (and biggest) chart success in the UK when “I Can’t Wait” was released, which reached No. 2 (it reached No. 3 in America). They also performed this on various shows including Razmatazz and Top Of The Pops, which were definitely the places that you would want to be seen on TV in those days. The rather nonsensical video must’ve given it a boost too. I don’t think they had any magazine covers though. vlcsnap-00048

“I Can’t Wait” was been covered and sampled on several occasions. Over 15 years later, in April 2002 a cover that had a UK Garage reworking was the second and final hit single for Ladies First, which reached No. 19. Now I’m usually sceptical when big hits are covered in rather different musical genres, but I was rather fond of this one, because as you’ll discover when this series reaches the 2000s, I was a really big fan of the UK Garage movement and I thought that it was all rather exciting. But this one isn’t the main focus of this piece of course.vlcsnap-00047

In June 1986, their third album (but only hit in the UK) “Poolside” was released, which reached No. 32. This means that it didn’t sell a huge amount, but I’m sure that the people who did buy it enjoyed listening to it, because they put their Nu Shooz on, and suddenly everything is right. I’m awfully sorry… Could they possibly follow “I Can’t Wait” with further chart success? ns1

In July 1986, just two months after “I Can’t Wait” entered the chart, “Point Of No Return” was released. It was another really nice piece of electropop, and it also had a great video that featured plenty of stop-motion animation. But it was scuppered somewhat by “I Can’t Wait” actually still being on the chart, meaning that this one was overshadowed somewhat, and it only reached No. 48. vlcsnap-00050

This turned out to be the second and final hit single for Nu Shooz in the UK, meaning that their whole chart career barely lasted three months out of the four decades that they have been working together, which was rather disappointing. It seems that Smith and Day are still out there though, and as well as still being married, they still perform under the Nu Shooz name.