Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 14.

In these pieces about pop music, I have featured mainstream acts who had big success, and then occasionally I have come across something interesting by somebody who had no hits, and there is almost nothing about online about them… and this is one of those moments, which all happened three years before I was born.

A while ago, I found some old copies of Record Mirror from the 80s online. This isn’t a weekly music paper that I remember from the time, so it was great to discover their take on what was happening in the scene, especially the singles review page. This is because of the songs that were made Record Of The Week by groups who would definitely be the next big thing and totally failed, while acts who would be huge were negatively reviewed.

It also made me realise how cynically marketed groups were even then, with some aiming to cash in on the current craze, along with tuneless groups who should never have got near a record deal. I was looking at a singles review page of a Record Mirror from October 1980, and reading about the bundle of soon to be released records that had been chucked on the table for the reviewer to go through that week.

There was also a picture with a caption that managed to catch my eye. This was of a rather glamorous woman called Gay Wild (presumably no relation to Kim, because her surname’s spelt differently… and it isn’t actually her real surname) who was captioned “a cross between Hazel O’Connor and Kate Bush”. Now this really intrigued me because they are two singers who did some innovative things and I have tried to get into them more in recent years.

It’s probably not a surprise to realise that there were some clones around at the time, although many consider Bush to be much imitated, but never bettered. Would her song live up to the comparison? Of course, the question was now, how do can I find out more about Gay Wild (a name that it isn’t that easy to search online for), and how do I get to hear “Action Action”?

The reviewer wasn’t fond of this (or much else really), and this got nowhere near the Top 75. I did manage to track something down on Discogs, which stated that this was her second single, following on from 1979’s “Blue Baby Blue”. It was also stated that “Action Action” was in the New Wave genre. And would you believe it, there was a link to her song, so it was possible to give this a listen at last.

I didn’t think it was that bad really, and of the two, I though her voice was more Bush-like. Maybe just like the picture of her on the cover of her single, her music fell between two stools, ha-ha! This one was also released in Netherlands and Portugal. After this was 1981’s “Mums And Dads”, and I don’t know anything about what happened to her after this. Maybe she could’ve been huge, but it was good to find out a little more about her.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 19.

When I was watching The Chart Show online again recently (for a nice change), I came across a video for a song that I liked, so I might as well do the story of this one. Split Enz were a group that formed in New Zealand in the mid-70s (and they must definitely be among the greatest pop culture exports that country has produced along with Shortland Street and The Tribe).

They are best known in this country for their 1980 hit “I Got You”, and for 1982’s “Six Months In A Leaky Boat” being banned by the BBC. By the mid-80s, they had evolved into Crowded House. Their only UK hit single in the 80s was 1987’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, which is arguably their best-known song, and this came very close to being a chart-topper in America too.

Their next hit in the UK wouldn’t be until June 1991, when “Chocolate Cake” was released. The rather bizarre video was a “Hot Shot” on The Chart Show, and the fact box informed us (so it must be true) that the idea for the song came from overhearing a woman in a New York restaurant saying “shall I get the bill or have another piece of chocolate cake”. It’s hard to believe that this reached only no. 69!

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The lyrics to this one were rather witty (there is also a “moo” sound for no particular reason), and Danny Baker (when he had a career) was rather fond of playing this on the radio. One day he interviewed a member of Crowded House (it might’ve been Tim Finn, or maybe his brother Neil) in the studio, and asked if he was namechecked in the song, but it turned out that it was “Tammy Baker” all along.

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Those that are namechecked though include Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Andy Warhol, and Elvis Presley (that could be a good Only Connect question… or maybe not). I remember Danny also asked him what that strange noise was at the start of later hit “It’s Only Natural”. But he didn’t ask him though if everywhere he goes he always takes the weather with him, because he really hates that!

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I am also reminded of one of the most popular videos uploaded by Michael Rosen, where he told the story of when he was a boy, and he had all of these slices of cake in front of him and he couldn’t stop himself, he definitely had another piece of chocolate cake! Crowded House had more hits in the 90s, including “Weather With You” (their only UK Top Ten hit single), “Fall At Your Feet”, and “Pineapple Head” (probably not about a failed Nottingham Forest footballer).

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They also won a Brit Award in 1994. When Crowded House split in 1996, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” was rereleased and was a Top 40 hit again, presumably to say “we might be back one day”. Their best-of “Recurring Dream” also topped the album chart for two weeks. A later best-of also featured the fascinating “My Telly’s Gone Bung”, where the drummer lamented about his broken television.

It was really enjoyable to look back at one of their more underrated songs that is now three decades old. Crowded House did indeed eventually return as was hoped with various line-ups, and they have gone on to release more acclaimed albums, right up to this year. And such is the odd cycle of pop music, one of them is now in Fleetwood Mac.

More TV Memories – MTV Bytesize.

MTV Bytesize (MTV, 1999-2002)

The early days of digital TV really were great weren’t they, and here is some more proof. Because I have just about run out of TV shows to review now, and I while I put a few pieces about other things together, I might as well do this one. In the late-90s, MTV showed music videos in various strands. These included MTV Select (that I reviewed recently), where viewers could phone in and request videos.

There was also HitList UK (where the songs at the top end of the singles chart were featured), and Mad 4 Hits, where videos where shown back-to-back with no host or anything else (and I am reminded of the rather bizarre moment when Oasis had a strop about the size of the captions that appeared at the start and end of videos on MTV), and there was always that “I wonder what would be played next” element.

And there was also this one, which was usually shown in the afternoon for around an hour. Bytesize featured a robot character (who I don’t recall having a name), and every video was proceeded by a clip usually ranging from ten seconds to two minutes. This was introduced by a five-second countdown with lots of beeping noises, and a robot voice saying something odd like “bytesize fun” or “oooh… yummy”.

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This clip was usually something from the MTV archive featuring the act whose video was about to be shown, and sometimes it was an outtake from an interview where they were asked a rather bizarre question, while the duration ticked down. We then saw the video. Oh no, not All Saints again! While all of this happened, the MTV symbol in the corner of the screen kept turning into the robot and back again, which could be rather distracting.

And sometimes a ten-second MTV “sting” (as I think they’re called) would be shown instead, and these were rather unusual too. When going into an advert break, sometimes the show was credited as Bytepop, and I’m not sure why, you’d think someone would know what this was called. It was around this point that I usually turned over to check what was on UK Play.

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A relaunch of Bytesize in 2000 saw the departure of the robot, to be replaced by some rather surreal clips where people ate rather unusual things introduced the videos instead, although this never seemed to be as good for me really. This carried on until about 2002 when MTV seemed to give up on all of their music shows in any timeslot or genre.

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 20.

This is yet another singer who ended up having a shorter chart career than was expected, coming and going in barely three months, and again it all happened in 1988, I’m not really sure what was happening in pop music around that time, so many follow-up singles flopped. Taja Sevelle (whose real name is the slightly less exotic Nancy) is an American singer who was discovered by Prince, just behind the cooker.

Er, I mean, being championed by Prince around this time meant that you were definitely in fashion and someone who it was worth following, and she was on his Paisley Park label. In February 1988, her debut single “Love Is Contagious” was released, and this seemed to connect with record buyers, as this reached no. 7. Many considered this to be rather catchy, it was definitely one of those “will I ever get this out of my head” moments.

She was rather eager to promote this to the point that she didn’t even mind appearing on ITV’s The Roxy (and Top Of The Pops as well of course!). But what she didn’t realise was that not only would this be her only Top Ten hit in the UK, but this would also be her only Top 40 (and indeed Top 50) hit single. In March 1988, the debut album “Taja Sevelle” was released, but this didn’t make the Top 40.

And then, in May 1988, the follow-up “Wouldn’t You Love To Love Me” was released. But it turned out that the record buyers who were initially interested in her music decided that they didn’t love her at all really, as this reached only no. 59 (although this did spend four weeks on the chart, it just couldn’t get going), and this turned out to be her second and final hit single in the UK, which was rather disappointing.

After this, it seems that Taja went down the route that most singers do after their hits come to an end, working as a songwriter in various collaborations, and also working with various groups. And I’m fairly sure that this will be my penultimate piece in the “Down The Dumper” series, I hope that you’ve found them interesting, I’ve enjoyed sharing these pop music stories from throughout the decades.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 19.

This is a group who released some popular songs in the 80s, and it is a surprise to realise that (with the exception of one of them) they didn’t have that many big hit singles. Prefab Sprout (which must be a contender for one of the strangest group names of the decade) formed in the late-70s. Their frontman was Paddy McAloon, who became much-acclaimed for his songs, some with lyrics that were witty, and some that were poignant.

In November 1985, they had their first Top 40 hit single with “When Love Breaks Down”. This was an example of their struggle to have their songs make the chart, as this one had to be released three times before becoming a success. Also around this time, Paddy appeared on the cover of NME. And “Cars And Girls”, which is another of their best-known songs, didn’t make the Top 40 at all when it was released in February 1988. vlcsnap-00467

But in April 1988, “The King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll” was released, and this reached no. 7, to become their first and only Top Ten hit single in the UK, but it was well-deserved. This is a rather odd song about a veteran rock star reflecting on how he is now known for only one song and his best days are behind him. And they soon became aware of the irony of this being their biggest hit single. vlcsnap-00466

And there is also the rather amusing video, that interprets the lyrics rather literally, as this features a hot dog and a jumping frog, but I don’t know where “Albert Cookie” is in all of this though (yes I know that isn’t the actual lyric!). And after their third album “From Langley Park To Memphis” became their first to make the Top Ten, there was now some optimism that their fortunes were turning and they could be able to keep up this run of high-profile hits with the next single, and guess what happened. vlcsnap-00477

These hopes were dashed rather quickly when in July 1988 “Hey Manhattan” was released, and made only no. 72, which was disappointing to the level that many fans were surprised. Going into the 90s though, Prefab Sprout did have some more Top Ten hit albums, and Paddy had some more mainstream success when he provided the theme to Where The Heart Is, the cosy Sunday night ITV drama that made Heartbeat look like Cracker by comparison.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 18.

This is someone who has been considered to be a pioneer in her genre for rather a long time now, but she has had surprisingly few hit singles in the UK. Joan Jett is an American rock singer, and her real surname is Larkin, although as far as I know, she isn’t related to anyone in the cast of The Darling Buds Of May, partly because they’re not real. And she was born in September 1958, the day before Danielle Dax, would you believe it??!!

Joan started out in the mid-70s in the group The Runaways, but by the 80s, she was the frontwoman of The Blackhearts. In April 1982 “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” was released, and this reached no. 4 (and re-entered the chart in 1994). It is a surprise to realise that this is her first and only Top 40 hit single in the UK. This also spent seven weeks at Number One in America, and it is one of those songs that is so successful, that rather awkwardly it has always overshadowed the rest of her career. vlcsnap-00464

In May 1982, the album “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” made the Top 30, making this her highest-charting album in the UK. And it was also in this month that Joan appeared on the cover of Record Mirror. In July 1982, a cover of “Crimson And Clover” was released, but this reached only no. 60. And there was more evidence of how great it must’ve been to be a singer in the 80s because her TV appearances included being interviewed on satellite channels that were watched by next to nobody by Pat Sharp! vlcsnap-00033

It would be six years before Joan returned to the UK chart. In August 1988, her next hit single was “I Hate Myself For Loving You”, which reached no. 46. Her music is in a genre that I’m not usually a fan of, but when I was watching some old The Chart Show clips from the 80s online (as I often do), the video for this one turned up, it definitely caught my interest and made me want to find out more about her career. vlcsnap-00477

So I was rather amused when “I Hate Myself For Loving You” was referenced in an episode of Family Guy, but then, it was something that happened in the 80s, so it was going to be sooner or later really. Joan would go on to have one more minor hit in the UK in 1990, but although she has also had success as an actress and released many more albums over the years, she never reached her 80s levels of pop fame again.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 90s Part 10.

This is a group who only had one hit single, but it is now considered to be a classic, and there is a rather interesting story behind it. Nobody really seemed to know who Stardust were at the time that their single was released, but it turned out that they were a French production group, when there were plenty of them on the chart, and one of them was also in Daft Punk, before he turned into a robot.

Such was the anticipation for “Music Sounds Better With You” (which sampled a Chaka Khan song), an imported version made the lower end of the chart for three weeks. When this was officially released in this country in August 1998, this reached no. 2, and many people were disappointed by how narrowly this missed out on being a worthy chart-topper (doesn’t that always seem to be how it goes). But I still remember some curious things about this one. vlcsnap-00474

On the penultimate edition of The Chart Show on ITV (which didn’t use the official chart), this did reach Number One. But there was one problem. The video wasn’t ready yet, so they decided to show this accompanied by various graphics that they had used going all the way back to 1986, which was rather surprising, and much to the delight of some viewers, this was a rather clever way to solve the situation and seemed a suitable ending. vlcsnap-00470

The video did finally start to appear on the TV, and coincidentally featured some The Chart Show-style graphics itself. Stardust would go on to have no further hits in the UK, and they’re not to be confused with British knock-off Spacedust. At the end of 1998, there was a brief and rather bizarre fad (even by the standards of pop music where things go in and out of fashion rather quickly) for putting dance music to old aerobics records. vlcsnap-00475

“Gym And Tonic” did get to Number One though, although sales slumped when people realised that this wasn’t the follow-up single by Stardust. This definitely didn’t go platinum. But unlike that one that is mostly forgotten now, “Music Sounds Better With You” is considered to be one of the greatest dance singles of its era by many, and even now it stills brings back those memories of a late-90s summer.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 17.

This is an American singer who only had two hit singles in the UK in the 80s, one made the Top Ten, but the other missed the Top 40, meaning that her popularity in this country turned out to be more short-lived than was expected. Pebbles (whose real first name is Perri) got her nickname from her resemblance as a child to the cartoon character Pebbles Flintstone.

And it was clear that the musical talent ran in the family. Her cousin is Cherrelle, whose biggest hit in this country was “Saturday Love”, her 1985 debut with Alexander O’Neal. Although I discovered recently that she did the original version of “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On”, which went on to be covered by Robert Palmer and was a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic. vlcsnap-00463

In March 1988, “Girlfriend” was released, which reached no. 8, to become her first and only Top Ten hit single in the UK, although this was the first of three Top Ten hits in America (this was also covered by The Beautiful South on their 1989 debut album). Pebbles performed this in the studio on the short-lived American version of Top Of The Pops, and she also performed this in the studio on the British version, and she must be among a rather small group of people who have achieved this. vlcsnap-00465

But then, just two months later in May 1988, the follow-up “Mercedes Boy” was released, and this reached only no. 42. Also in this month, the debut album “Pebbles” reached only no. 56, and her other two albums didn’t chart all in the UK. Her fame was over rather quickly, and apart from one more minor hit single in 1990, Pebbles wasn’t heard of much again in the UK. vlcsnap-00466

But it turns out that what she has done after this has been rather eventful. Pebbles remained in the music business, and went on to work behind the scenes, including being the manager of girl group TLC, who have had lots of chart success, and she has also been married five times, although I don’t know if every time she got divorced she said “you’ve lied your last lie, I’m out the door!“.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 16.

This is another singer who I don’t really remember from the time, but recently I have discovered her songs and enjoyed them, although once again this is someone whose chart career lasted barely two years. Princess is an English soul singer, and her real first name is Desiree (not to be confused with the 90s singer Des’Ree of course). She had worked as a backing singer for various groups, and then in the mid-80s she launched a pop career of her own. Was there a chance of this Princess becoming a Superstar?

Princess collaborated with the production team Stock/Aitken/Waterman. Now I must admit that I don’t really have much fondness for SAW’s late-80s work, by which point they were known as “The Hit Factory”. They were behind a large amount of songs around that time, with lots of them making the higher end of the chart, and although most of them sounded the same, it was clearly a winning formula. vlcsnap-00455

But they did work on some good pop singles in the mid-80s though, including Princess’s debut “Say I’m Your Number One”, which was released in August 1985, and became her first and only Top Ten hit (there is also the famous and really great statistic that acts called King, Queen, Prince, and Princess all had a UK Top Ten hit single in 1985). I don’t know if she had to record another version for the radio with the title altered to “Say I’m Your Smash Hits” in the interests of balance though. vlcsnap-00460

Two more singles were released, which were “After The Love Has Gone” and “I’ll Keep On Loving You” (which has to be my favourite single by Princess, very smooth, very soulful). Then in May 1986 the debut album “Princess” was released, and was the only one by her to chart, making the Top 20. But then in July 1986 “Tell Me Tomorrow” became her fourth and final Top 40 hit. vlcsnap-00463

And by June 1987, “Red Hot” turned out to be her final hit, reaching a rather disappointing no. 58, although her debut album had been milked for singles by that point. After her second album flopped, Princess went on to do some more work behind the scenes, but by the late-80s, she had just about left the music business all together, although she did eventually return and release another album in the 2010s decade. Oh, and did I say that she had purple hair? Because that’s rather good too.