Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 41.

When I was taking a look at some singles charts from the 80s, I was hoping to discover some more interesting stories worth sharing. This is a group who I was attracted to, and it turns out that there is a rather odd coincidence. The first thing that caught my attention was their video, which featured some Pop Art and comic book-style imagery mixed in with some live action, and I’ve always liked things like that.

The group are rather interesting too. Perils Of Plastic were a British duo who formed in 1984, consisting of Steve and Steve. Now Steve (not that Steve, the other Steve) was best-known for being a keyboardist, who had worked with various people, including Elvis Costello. While Steve (not that Steve, the other Steve) was the singer, who had also been a member of various groups, including Deaf School. Now wait a moment, there’s a name that I’ve seen before.

When I did my piece on the career of Bette Bright, who had a minor hit in 1980, and went on to marry Madness frontman Suggs, I said she had been one of the singers with Deaf School back in the mid-70s. Their other singer was rather suave, he had a moustache, and was known as Enrico Cadillac. Well it turns out that Enrico and Steve are one and the same, and I was really surprised, I hadn’t realised that you could get from Perils Of Plastic to Bette Bright in only one step. By this point Steve had ditched the moustache though.

Their debut single “Ring A Ding Ding” was released in March 1986. The critics seemed to be rather fond of this. One said “a classy soul-pop pastiche whose throwaway chorus is fiendishly catchy”, while another said “its offbeat charm and involved backing and soulful vocals could give it a respectable chart position”, and others were positive too.

As far the video that I enjoyed, I wondered if I could find any information about who the animators were, or who the director was at least, although we were informed that “Amanda’s dress was designed by Eloise Blot of Dorking”. It turns out that the director was John Gordon-Sinclair, better known as an actor. The single’s cover is also interesting, with a Roy Lichtenstein-style image which says “POP!” (also the initials of the group), changed from the original “POW!”. There was another cover released later simply featuring a picture of the two Steves, so I don’t know if there was any trouble there.

“Ring A Ding Ding” originally reached an unofficial no. 119. But there was a second wave of interest in May 1986, after this was featured on the Hits 4 compilation album (but curiously only on the VHS version, not the actual disc), and the video was also shown on an early edition of Channel 4’s The Chart Show, leading to a new peak of an unofficial no. 108. It must’ve been rather disappointing not to make the Top 100, although I do know that “Ring A Ding Ding” went on to become the 784th biggest-selling single of 1986 in the UK (I haven’t made that up).

I’m fairly sure that this didn’t make the chart in any other countries though. After this, two more singles were released, 1986’s “Womanhood”, and 1987’s “The Love I Love”, but neither of these made the chart either, and I don’t think that there were videos made for them. It seems that there was an album planned at one point, but this wasn’t released, and not long after, Perils Of Plastic were no longer a happening thing.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 2000s Part 12.

Here’s a look back at another act who had a brief moment of fame on the chart in the late-90/early-2000s, at the time when I was really interested in pop music, and tried to take in as much as I could when there was a very quick turnover of hits during my teenage years. Raissa (which as well as being the name of the singer, seems to be the name of the actual group too) was born in London.

It seems that they had already been on the scene for a while by the time I first came across them. Their first single was released as early as 1994, their debut album “Meantime” was in 1996, and they had a single that almost made the Top 150 in 1997. But it was in September 1999 when they really caught many people’s attention for the first time with “Walk Right Through”.

Now I really did like this, and I wasn’t the only one, as one critic described this as “flavoursome synth horns and an infectious retro-soul spin”. Raissa did appear on a few shows to promote this, including CBBC’s Fully Booked (which was just about still going), and she even turned up on ITV2’s Bedrock. Now you might remember me saying about this show that I enjoyed in the early days of digital TV, so it was good seeing her take part.

And she even got on to BBC Radio 1 when Mark And Lard seemed to be fond of this, and played this rather frequently. Well they didn’t start making banging or shrieking noises, and they didn’t even play fart sounds all the way through as they did with most of the playlist, which really is a surprise. But once again, a song they that they championed had the “reverse Midas touch” when “Walk Right Through” very frustratingly narrowly missed the Top 75.

Another album was released around this time, but didn’t chart. In February 2000 the next single “How Long Do I Get” was released. There was a video made for this, and it was make or break time now, there was plenty of expectation that this had to be the one to turn them into stars. But this didn’t really happen, although this did reach no. 47, to become their first and only hit single.

Although I must admit that I will always prefer “Walk Right Through”, it was good seeing that her and her group did make the chart, even if it was for only one week. “How Long Do I Get”? It turned out not to be that long really. After this, in more recent years, Raissa has gone on to work on other projects, including The Mummers, who haven’t had a hit, but got her back on the radio.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 45.

A while ago, I was going through some radio stations, on the lookout for something that I might like, that could also end up making the chart. I remember coming across something that I’m fairly sure was an instrumental. But by the time this did make the chart, there were some additional vocals. This was “Yeah Yeah” by Bodyrox, which was released in November 2006 and reached no. 2, and I was rather pleased about that.

The vocalist was Luciana, who I must admit I didn’t know much about. I was rather surprised when I discovered that this was really her second attempt at launching a successful pop career, and this was her first hit single for 12 years. So I thought that I would take a look back at how it all started out for her. London-born Luciana provided the theme to short-lived ITV drama Anna Lee, and she also appeared in the final episode.

Not long after, in April 1994 her debut single “Get It Up For Love” was released, which reached no. 55. She definitely took advantage of the things that were available to her in the mid-90s to be able to promote this. She appeared on BBC2’s The O Zone, where she was interviewed by Zoe Ball, and there was an advert for her single in Smash Hits. She also appeared on satellite channel Nickelodeon to meet Rick Adams (who went on to host various shows including Reactive and Crazy Cottage), which must’ve been a delight.

This was followed in August 1994 by “If You Want”, which reached no. 47. And finally, in November 1994 the double-A side “What Goes Around” and “One More River” reached no. 67. There was also the album “One More River”, which didn’t make the chart. These weren’t too bad, although I must admit that I enjoyed her hit singles in the 2000s decade more. But she didn’t vanish from the pop scene entirely before then.

In the mid-90s she joined the girl group Crush (which, like PJ And Duncan, featured some characters from CBBC’s Byker Grove, although I don’t think that she ever appeared in this), before going on to also be in Shooter and Portobella. It was “Yeah Yeah” that really helped her to find fame though, and I’m sure that having her first Top Ten hit single over a decade on from her debut was worth the wait.

Next in July 2007 was “Bigger Than Big”, a collaboration with Super Mai, which reached no. 19. And after the success of “Yeah Yeah”, it seemed like a good idea to work again with Bodyrox, and in January 2008 “What Planet You On” was released, but this reached only no. 54, which was something of a disappointment, as this was definitely up to standard.

And in March 2008, she teamed up with rapper Taio Cruz for “Come On Girl”, which reached no. 5, to become her second and final Top Ten hit single. Since then, Luciana has continued to work with several other production groups and rappers to provide her distinctive vocals, although none of these have made the chart. It’s proof that it is possible to be more successful in your second wave of fame.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 21.

Well would you believe it, you wait for me to do a piece looking back at a young female American singer known by a six-letter mononym ending in “A” who had one minor hit in the UK with a single that begins with the word “Baby” in early-1986, who some claimed “could’ve been bigger than Madonna”, and then two (almost) come along at once.

Alisha (not the one who had an attic of course!) began her pop music career in the mid-80s, while she was still a teenager, and her first single “All Night Passion” was released in America in 1984. But her first real success was with “Baby Talk”. This was released in the UK in January 1986, and went on to spend two consecutive weeks at no. 67 (also her only two weeks on the chart in this country).

This was described by one critic at the time as “simple lyrics appealing to mass audiences”, which I think is supposed to be something of a compliment. “Baby Talk” also went on to top the Dance Chart in America, but maybe surprisingly, this only reached no. 68 on the Hot 100, one place lower than in the UK. There was a video made for this though.

And I also found a performance of this on the TV show TopPop, where everybody in the studio was suddenly in the mood to dance, although that’s probably because this was a piece of Freestyle Electro, whatever that is. It does sound good though. Also around this time, her debut album “Alisha” was released, and although this was rather well-received, this didn’t make the chart.

Although her brief moment of fame in the UK was over, Alisha continued to release more singles and albums in America. Her second album “Nightwalkin'” was released in 1987, and her third “Bounce Back” was released in 1990. It was at this point when she had her biggest chart success, when the single, also called “Bounce Back”, reached no. 59. But she never really hit the big time, and not long after, she left the music industry.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 40.

When I was taking a look at some Australian singles charts from the 80s recently, this was a group who stood out, as it turned out that they had made some songs that I liked the sound of. But their moment of fame was rather brief, to the point that I wondered if it was worth sharing their story because barely anybody will remember them. But then I thought that I might as well to give them a reappraisal all this time on.

Vitabeats are a husband-and-wife group who consisted of Andrew and Lissa. They follow in the tradition of other couples who had some hits in the 80s, including Nu Shooz, Timbuk 3, and of course Techno Twins! Their first single “Tough Guy” was released as early as 1983, and then this was followed in 1984 by “Cake Mix”. But 1985 was the year when they made the chart for the first time.

Firstly in March 1985 “Boom Box” was released, which reached no. 31, to become their first and only Top 40 hit single in Australia. This also meant that they got to appear on Countdown, the biggest music show around. Their highlight for me though was in August 1985, when their next single “Audrey” was released, although this only reached no. 81.

I definitely did like this one, there have been some decent singles made after 1984, honest. And according to the lyrics “all the girls look like Audrey Hepburn“. Well I’m not sure how you worked that out, but that’s rather interesting to know. Also around this time, the further single “Different Ideas” and their album “Spot The Spanner” were released, but neither of these made the chart.

I’m also fairly sure that none of their singles were ever released in any other countries beyond Australia, so there was no attempt to break them in the UK. Just about their only other release in the 80s was the compilation album “The Beats Beyond The Boom”. And they have a fan account on YouTube that almost has ten subscribers, what a legacy!

Well maybe Vitabeats didn’t really cause a sensation with the record-buying public at the time, and I don’t know much about what they have been up to since (beyond the usual “working on a few other projects”), or if they are still together, but as a fan of 80s music, I always hope that I can discover groups and then acknowledge them on this blog, whoever they are.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 20.

This is another singer who briefly found fame on the chart in the mid-80s. Regina is a singer from New York, and she had already been in the music business for many years by the time of her hit. She had previously been in a band called Regina Roberts And Red Hot, who had released a single or two as early as 1980, although they weren’t successful.

By the mid-80s, they had split, and she had been working as a songwriter. When one of her songs had been turned down by others, she decided that she might as well record this herself, which turned out to be a rather good move for her. “Baby Love” (not to be confused with The Supremes song of course) featured backing vocals from Siedah Garrett.

There was also a video made for this, and Regina performed this on a few TV shows too. “Baby Love” topped the Dance Chart, and made the Top Ten of the Hot 100 in America, although this would be her only hit. In February 1986, “Baby Love” was released in the UK (on the Funkin’ Marvellous label) but reached only no. 50, and she had no more hits in this country either.

But she did go on to release some more singles, including “Head On” and Sentimental Love”, but along with her only solo album “Curiosity”, these didn’t make the chart, and she had just about vanished from the music scene by the late-80s. And once again we have another example of one of those “she could’ve been bigger than Madonna”-type singers who simply couldn’t live up to the expectation.

But when I came across “Baby Love” for the first time recently, when trying to find some more interesting stories about 80s pop music, I couldn’t help but feel that somehow I had actually heard this before somewhere. And that’s because in October 1991 Dannii Minogue, who was still in the early days of her pop career, released a cover version that I do remember from first time round.

This version did make the Top 20 in the UK, and it was good to know that this did finally have some success on the chart, even if it took about five years, and this performed even better than in Dannii’s home country of Australia (where this reached no. 26 in February 1992). I don’t know much about what Regina has been up to in more recent years, but her moment of fame was definitely an enjoyable one.

Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 21.

Here’s someone else who briefly found fame on the pop scene in the early-90s. Zoe is a singer who was born in London, and I have read that she used to be a backing singer for Bananarama (maybe she was their secret fourth member all along). In November 1990, her debut single “Sunshine On A Rainy Day” was released, which reached no. 53.

It seems that somebody thought that this one still had the potential to do well though, and in August 1991, a remixed version was released, accompanied by a new video. This “Sunshine On A Rainy Day” reached no. 4, to become her first and only Top Ten hit single in the UK, and also made the Top 20 of the biggest-sellers of the year. And in the years since, this has become acknowledged as something of a summertime anthem.

In 1992, a third video was made in an attempt to try and break “Sunshine On A Rainy Day” in America, but this wasn’t a success. This one has managed to overshadow the rest of her career somewhat, but she did go on to have one more Top 40 hit, when in November 1991 “Lightning” was released (oh no, another black-and-white video!), which curiously spent three consecutive weeks at no. 37, and got her back on Top Of The Pops.

And at the end of 1991, her debut album “Scarlet, Red And Blue” briefly made the lower end of the chart. In February 1992, “Holy Days” reached only no. 72, and this was her final hit single in the UK. She did continue for a while though, and released singles until as late as 1996, and her second and final album “Hammer” was also released in this year, but didn’t make the chart.

In May 2000, “Sunshine On A Rainy Day” was covered by Australian singer Christine Anu, and this made the Top 30 in Australia (although I don’t think that there was a release in this country, and this is the only cover version that I am aware of that had some success). But there is one more part to this story. A while ago, I was going through a pile of some old audio cassettes.

I found one by Zoe (presumably a single or album) that seemed to be signed by the woman herself. Now I don’t know where this came from, I certainly have never met her, and I don’t know anybody who has (who could possibly have thrown it away?). I presume that she must’ve made an appearance at a record store one day or something like that. But on the basis that I would class her as “famous” (well she did have one Top Ten hit single), and I am aware of her songs, it was still one of those weird moments where I felt overawed. I wonder how much this could be worth now, a fortune?!

The One-Hit Wonders – The 90s Part 14.

When I have been taking a look back at 90s pop music, I am surprised at how many girl groups there were, and how many of them ended up not doing very well. For every successful group, the history of pop music features plenty of failures by comparison. Not every group can be All Saints, can they. When I was wondering if any of the less-successful groups are worth featuring in this series, I came across this one.

Now I must admit that I don’t remember them from the time, but they do seem to have an interesting story, which contains a good “before they were famous” as well. Paperdolls were a British female group (not to be confused with British female group The Paper Dolls, who had a hit with “Something Here In My Heart (Keeps A Tellin’ Me No)” in 1968, and in September 1998 “Gonna Make You Blush” was released.

This was a time when I was probably still reeling from the end of The Chart Show the previous month. Who knows, if they had released their single a few weeks earlier, about ten seconds of their video could’ve appeared on that show, which was considered to be an honour by many I’m sure. They were a trio who consisted of Hollie Johnson (probably not the one who was in the chart-topping Frankie Goes To Hollywood), Debbie Cresswell, and Lucy Pargeter.

Now that last name might be familiar to people, and even though I have never been a regular viewer, even I know that she went on to join the cast of ITV soap Emmerdale as Chastity Dingle (one of the seemingly hundreds of members of the Dingle family) in 2002, although before this, she briefly appeared in one of the many ill-fated revivals of ITV soap Crossroads.

Their only TV appearance that I’m aware of was on CBBC show Fully Booked, where apparently they did make a lot of people blush with their performance. “Gonna Make You Blush” reached only no. 65, and that was it. There were no further singles released, and I don’t know if an album was planned or not, but this didn’t happen, and this was another flop project. But it was interesting to discover this attempt at fame from 25 (!) years ago now.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 39.

Back to the 80s again… When I was having a look at some old editions of Record Mirror online, I hoped that there would be some more groups to discover that I previously wasn’t familiar with. I did come across an article that jumped out at me, because some people who looked interesting were featured, and I was pleased to find out that, even though they never made the Top 100, they did make a good single or two.

Hey! Elastica (not to be confused with a very similarly-named group who did have some success on the chart in the mid-90s) were a Edinburgh-based group where it seemed that having big red hair was a part of the style. In October 1982 their first single “Eat Your Heart Out” was released. Smash Hits seemed to be rather impressed by this, and presumed that an appearance on Top Of The Pops wouldn’t be too far away (although we now though that this wasn’t to be).

It seems that they did perform this on TV. I found out that they appeared on a BBC1 show called BA In Music, hosted by pop star BA Robertson, so I would presume that it’s from that? The picture quality isn’t very good though, maybe they were pretty underground. This was something that I enjoyed though, and I was keen to discover more from them.

In March 1983 “Suck A Little Honey” was released, which got a less positive review from Smash Hits, and this was followed in October 1983 by “Party Games”, which was more appreciated, as the critic said “there’s always something interesting going on”. These weren’t hits either though, and they don’t seem to have a video either. In January 1984, their final single “This Town” was released.

There was a video made for this one, and you see can it on their Vevo and everything. Not long after, their only album “In On The Off Beat” was released, but wasn’t a hit (and I presume that their singles that were released in a few European countries weren’t hits there either), and it seems that they went their separate ways not long after. But the story doesn’t end there.

When trying to find out some more about 90s pop music, I was watching a video from a group that I wasn’t familiar with. I noticed that one of the comments said “is that the woman who used to be in Hey! Elastica?”. I was intrigued, and I had to find out more. The Apples were a Scottish group, who featured former members of Win, best-known for their song “You’ve Got The Power”, which was used on a famous advert for McEwan’s Lager, and seemed to be shown in every other advert break on TV for about five years.

The line-up also featured someone called Samantha, who indeed had previously been a member of Hey! Elastica. And look at her hair! The Apples released a few singles, and in March 1991 “Eye Wonder” reached no. 75. It took almost a decade, but she had finally featured on a hit single. And again, they released only one album which wasn’t a success, before coming to an end.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 44.

A long time ago now, I remember fiddling about with a big radio/tape recorder thing. I was going through the dial and trying to discover where all of the stations on FM were. I remember coming across the test transmissions for Classic FM, Britain’s first national commercial radio station, which consisted of some birdsong, and as I have very little interest in classical music, this was about the only time that I ever listened regularly.

It was also around this time where I did that thing that so many other people supposedly liked to do, which was trying to tape some songs off the Top 40 as they were announced on BBC Radio 1 on Sunday afternoons. I remember one song particularly striking me, meaning that this really has been rattling around in my head for the last three decades or so now.

Sophie B Hawkins is an American singer, who had a rather distinctive look of long straggly blonde hair, and in July 1992 her debut hit “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” was released. The first video to this was rather steamy, and there was a second made, which was in black-and-white (which reminds me out of nowhere really, does anybody else remember when Trevor And Simon used to host the video reviews on CBBC’s Live & Kicking, and they often complained when a video was in black-and-white?).

This reached no. 14, and this was also her first Top Ten hit single in the USA and Australia. Her album “Tongues And Tails” made the chart not long after. Next in September 1992 was “California Here I Come”, and this was followed in February 1993 by “I Want You”, but neither of these made the Top 40 in the UK. She returned in August 1994 with “Right Beside You”.

This had a rather eye-catching blue-tinted video, which was shown on The ITV Chart Show, and there was a lot of radio airplay. This slowly started to climb up the chart, and eventually reached no. 13, to become her biggest hit in the UK, and this also earned her a few appearances on Top Of The Pops. But rather surprisingly, this one didn’t make the Top 50 in America. It’s definitely among my favourites by her though. Her second album “Whaler” made the chart around this time too.

After this, in November 1994 “Don’t Don’t Tell Me No” reached no. 36, and in March 1995 “As I Lay Me Down” reached no. 24. This was her final hit single in the UK, and her second and final Top Ten hit in both the USA and Australia. She is still around, and her most recent album was released in 2012. She may not be my favourite-ever singer called Sophie (I think you all know who that is!), but it was always good seeing her on the chart in the mid-90s.

It’s “Ballantine”, by the way.