Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 24.

I have actually had a request to review this group, but as I do happen to know a little about them, I decided that they are worth featuring. The Blow Monkeys are a British group who formed in the early-80s, and their frontman is Robert Howard, who is also known as Doctor Robert. They released their first single in 1982, and their first album in 1984.

In 1984 Robert took part in an article in Number One magazine featuring acts who were tipped for big things, alongside some woman called Danielle. But it was in March 1986 when they caught a lot of people’s attention for the first time, when “Digging Your Scene” reached no. 12. It was also around this time that they were placed into the “sophistipop” genre, like many others, as they looked as stylish as they sounded, and it was also noted that some of their lyrics had a political edge.

Following this success, Robert appeared on the cover of Record Mirror, where they claimed that he plays with whips, winds up coppers, and stubs cigarettes out on his friends. Their peak came in January 1987 when “It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way” reached no. 5, to become their first Top Ten hit single. The follow-ups ended up not doing so well though, and in August 1988 “This Is Your Life” reached only no. 70.

It was then decided to try something a little different. Their next single was in something more of a house music style than The Blow Monkeys songs usually were, so it was decided to credit this to Robert alone. And he teamed up with the American dance diva (and there were a lot of these on the chart around this time) Kym Mazelle. In January 1989, “Wait” was released, and pleasingly the move paid off as this reached no. 7.

Because of this success, it was decided that maybe it would be a good idea to make more of this type of music in the group as a whole, so in April 1989 a house remix of “This Is Your Life” was released, which did make the Top 40 this time. Next in July 1989 was “Choice”, featuring a guest vocal from Sylvia Tella, but this would turn out to be the final time that they made the Top 40.

Not long after though, their best of album “Choices” made the Top Ten. In October 1989 “Slaves No More”, again featuring Sylvia Tella, reached only no. 73. After one more minor hit in 1990, The Blow Monkeys split, and Robert went off to concentrate on his solo career, and he has released seven albums. Like most groups though, they did eventually get back together, and although they haven’t reached the chart again, they have made more acclaimed albums, their 11th being released in 2021.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 26.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 25.

This is someone who managed to go in and out of favour on a few occasions over the years, but she ended up having an impressive amount of hits that span 13 years. Cyndi Lauper is a rather quirky American singer who came on to the scene in January 1984 with “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”, which reached no. 2, and is her biggest hit single in the UK.

And some reason I remember Harry Hill doing an amusing parody of this on his comedy show which seemed to insist that he played one of the instruments on this. Next in March 1984 was “Time After Time”, which reached no. 3, and was a chart-topper in America for two weeks. In March 2002, Distant Soundz released a cover in the Garage genre that I really like too.

It was also around this time that there was supposed to be a rivalry between Cyndi and newcomer Madonna, and you had to come down on one side or the other, although I think that this was mostly exaggerated. In 1984 she won a Grammy, and in 1985 she was among the many contributors to “We Are The World” by USA For Africa, the American equivalent of Band Aid which was a Transatlantic chart-topper.

The next big hit was in September 1986 when “True Colours” reached no. 12 (and this also was a chart-topper in America for two weeks). This was later covered by Phil Collins, but you really know that you’ve made a song that has endured when the video is shown in the wrong ratio in the afternoon on That’s 80s TV or whatever it’s called. Yes.

The next success was in May 1989 when “I Drove All Night”, which was a cover of a Roy Orbison song, reached no. 7. There would be further hits after this, but only 1992’s “The World Is Stone” made the Top 20. By September 1994, Cyndi had decided to do the by now rather overused idea of taking your biggest hit single from a decade earlier and doing a remix to guarantee one final big hit.

But never being someone to do things conventionally, Cyndi had a creative twist on this, and re-recorded her hit with additional lyrics as “(Hey Now) Girls Just Want To Have Fun)”, which also promoted her greatest hits album that was released around the same time. She had yellow hair too! And this did indeed return Cyndi to the Top Ten for the first time in five years, and what also turned out to be the final time. In February 1997, her 17th and final hit single in the UK was “You Don’t Know”, which made the Top 30.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 42.

I thought that I would have one final look back at the dance music scene in the early-90s. As I have said before, I first came across lots of songs from this era when I listened to Kisstory on radio station Kiss in the early-2000s. I remember really enjoying “Sweet Harmony” by Liquid, and I was also fond of a song by this group, who were another lot of pioneering button-twiddlers.

Shades Of Rhythm were an English production group who formed in the late-80s, and they were definitely a big part of the rave scene that would be all over the chart by the early-90s. Their first couple of hit singles in 1991 missed the Top 40. But in July 1991, “The Sound Of Eden” was released, which reached no. 35, and this is the one that I really liked (although I can’t find a video online).

It was also around this time when their self-titled album made the lower end of the chart. Next in November 1991 was “Extacy” (pronounced “Ecstasy”, hmm…), which was their most successful hit single, and the only one that made the Top 20. This definitely raised their profile, and even earned them an appearance on Top Of The Pops. They then returned to the chart in 1993 with another minor hit.

But then, in September 1993, “The Sound Of Eden” was re-released, maybe because this had now been established as an anthem in the clubs, and it was hoped that this could do better than first time round. This didn’t actually, but still reached no. 37, meaning that this was a Top 40 hit for a second time in two years. They then had some more minor hits, the last being in 1997.

But one reason why it is clear that “Sound Of Eden” is so influential is because this has been a hit single a further three times in cover versions, although none of these made the Top 40 (and rather curiously, all three covers had different titles too). First in May 1997 was “Sound of Eden” by Casino, which reached no. 52, and was the biggest of their two hit singles.

Then in May 2002 (coincidentally around the same time that I discovered the original), “Sounds Of Eden (Every Time I See The Girl)” by Deep Cover reached no. 63, and was their only hit. And in April 2007, “Every Time I See Her (Sound Of Eden)” by Another Chance reached no. 62 (although they later had a much bigger hit under the name Bodyrox). All of these covers were rather good, but the original will always be the best for me.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 41.

This is a group who made one of my favourite chart-topping singles of the 90s, and this does have an interesting story. Baby D were a dance group who formed in the late-80s. Their lead singer was Dee, who would later marry Phil Fearon, who had hits in the 80s in the groups Galaxy, and, er, Galaxy Featuring Phil Fearon, and also on his own.

They released their first single in 1990, but their most famous song had been on the scene since 1992, and it would take two years to become a success. An example of how long this had already been a dance anthem before actually being a hit was when I found an edition of late-night ITV music show BPM from early-1993 on an old tape.

This was “Let Me Be Your Fantasy”, and it was clear that a lot of people really liked this, but the first release failed to make the chart. They then had a couple of minor hits in 1993 and 1994. Maybe it was time to give the first one another big push, which would be worth it, as not long after, a poll conducted by radio station Kiss insisted that this song was a favourite of their listeners.

So in November 1994, “Let Me Be Your Fantasy” was released again, and finally became the big success that it always seemed destined to be, despite now being two years old, when this became a chart-topper for two weeks, and I was among those who was pleased by this. But there is another reason why I think of this one more fondly than most.

It was around this time that my granddad died, and it was the first time that I can remember going through a bereavement, so this helped me through at a tough time, and I am always going to be grateful for that. Baby D were now an established name, and they would have further big hits. In June 1995’s “(Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime) I Need Your Loving”, a cover of the hit by The Korgis, reached no. 3.

And in January 1996, “So Pure”, also reached no. 3, although this would be their third and final Top Ten hit single. In February 1996 the album “Deliverance” made the Top Ten too. And in April 1996, “Take Me To Heaven” reached no. 15. But you can’t keep a good song down though. In September 2000, a remix of “Let Me Be Your Fantasy” was released, this time with a Garage feel to fit in more with the sound of the time, sounding as good as ever, and this reached no. 16.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 40.

This is another rather unusual moment in 90s pop music, mostly because the members of this group aren’t really humans. Zig And Zag are a pair of alien puppets who beamed down from the planet Zog one day. They made their debut on Irish TV in the late-80s. They soon gained fame with viewers, and became popular enough to have Number One singles on the Irish chart in 1990 and 1991.

They then moved to the UK, and they repeated their success when they featured in lots of memorably amusing moments on Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast along with Chris Evans. Again, their popularity reached the point where they thought that it might be a good idea to release some singles in this country. They decided to enter the race for the Christmas Number One in 1994.

Well they already achieved this in Ireland, so why couldn’t they do it again, although they were probably aware that after the sensational success of Mr Blobby the previous year, that couldn’t be topped, and the achievement could never possibly be as relevant again. But there were a lot of songs in the race, and the bookmakers put them at the same odds to succeed as “The Hokey Cokey” by Captain Sensible.

So in December 1994 “Them Girls Them Girls” was released. Many noted that this sounded rather similar to “I Like To Move It” by Reel 2 Real, which had been a huge hit earlier in that year, although this’ll be because this was actually made by the same producer on the quiet. But this never really challenged for the top, and reached no. 5, so at least this became their first and only Top Ten hit single in the UK.

Zig And Zag returned in July 1995 with “Hands Up! Hands Up!”, which reached no. 21 (chart-toppers Rednex were rumoured to be involved in this), and probably realising that they had pushed the joke as far as they could, this was also their final hit single. They did remain hugely popular for the rest of the 90s though, going on to appear on various other channels including MTV, where they were always guaranteed to do something unpredictable.

Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 20.

It’s well-known that trends and genres come and go very quickly in pop music, and I remember many years ago now, when I was much younger, that there was a time when there was a lot of what could be classed as “rave” music on the chart. This was rather different to a few years earlier, it took me a while to get used to this, and I don’t know how I could be so grumpy about something at such a young age.

But as the years have gone by and I have got older, despite the faceless producers and the thumping noises, I have come to appreciate this genre a little more, which contains what I think is one of the most extraordinary pop music stories of the 90s. Shut Up And Dance are a production duo from Hackney who formed in the late-80s, and they released their early singles and albums on their own record label.

They had already delighted us with some of their singles which reached the lower end of the chart in the early-90s, including “£20 To Get In” and “Autobiography Of A Crackhead”. But they caused a big stir in May 1992 when they released “Raving I’m Raving”. This was mostly based around American singer Marc Cohn’s 1991 hit “Walking In Memphis”, using the same tune, and some amended lyrics to describe rave culture.

There was also a contribution from Peter Bouncer (whoever he might be), and I’m sure that I can hear a dash of Raw Silk’s 1982 hit “Do It To The Music” in there too. But there were quickly problems, as the sample hadn’t been cleared, and Cohn had something of a sense of humour failure over the new lyrics. This meant that “Raving I’m Raving” had to be abruptly withdrawn, no further copies could be pressed, and any money made from the copies that were sold had to be donated to charity.

All of this did mean that “Raving I’m Raving” reached no. 2, and joined such other rave classics that made no. 2 in 1992 including “Sesame’s Treet” by Smart E’s, and, er, “On A Ragga Tip” by SL2. This also became the first single to peak at no. 2 and spend only two weeks on the chart. A version that sounded almost nothing like the original had to be performed on Top Of The Pops, and I’m still not sure if the original can be played on the radio all these years on.

They went on to have one more minor hit in 1992 with “The Art Of Moving Butts”. After this year of rather mixed fortunes, Shut Up And Dance returned in April 1995 with “Save It Til The Mourning After”, which sampled Duran Duran’s 1982 hit “Save A Prayer”, and sent them into the Top 40 for the final time. Finally in July 1995, “I Love U” reached no. 68. This sampled Perez Prado’s “Guaglione”, which had recently had a revival of interest after being used in a famous advert for Guinness.

Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 19.

This is a British group who briefly livened up the chart in the mid-90s. Formed in the early-90s as FRISK, they soon changed their name to Sneaker Pimps, and hired the rather glamorous Kelli as their singer. In August 1996, their debut album “Becoming X” made the chart, and this was an indication of what further success was going to come from them.

In October 1996, they had their debut hit single with “6 Underground”, which reached no. 15. Now this is one that I do remember being rather fond of at the time. Next in March 1997 was “Spin Spin Sugar”, which reached no. 21. This was often described as being in the “Trip-Hop” genre, although nobody has ever seemingly been able to define what this exactly is, or even if it ever existed at all.

Their next move in June 1997 was something of a surprise, when “6 Underground” was re-released, and this time reached no. 9, to become their first and only Top Ten hit single in the UK. The reason for this was because this had been featured on the soundtrack to the film The Saint, and seeing this suddenly reappear and do even better than first time round was very satisfying.

Next in August 1997 was “Post-Modern Sleaze” which reached no. 22. And then in February 1998, “Spin Spin Sugar” was also re-released, this time in remix form. I wonder what non-existent genre this would be classed as being in now. But this reached only no. 46. And it was around this time that Kelli departed to launch a solo career, although I don’t think that she went on to have any further hits.

She was replaced as singer by Chris, and the new-look Sneaker Pimps returned in August 1999 with “Low Five”, which reached no. 39, although this would turn out to be their final Top 40 hit single. It was also said that when they weren’t hard at work in the studio, they liked to play tennis against the guy who used to be in The Mighty Boosh, which is nice.

They made the chart for what turned out to be one final time in October 1999 with “Ten To Twenty”, but this only reached no. 56. Their second album “Splinter” did not do well either, and their days of making the Top Ten turned out to be long behind them by this point. Some of them got back together recently though, and their fourth album was released last year.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 24.

Let’s go back to the 80s to discover another unusual moment. Jona Lewie (whose real name is John Lewis, but this was already taken by a department store) is an English musician and songwriter, who has been on the scene since the 60s. He had his first wave of fame in July 1972 when he was a member of Terry Dactyl And The Dinosaurs, who had a big hit single with “Seaside Shuffle”.

And I believe I’m right in saying that the sleeve for this single was designed by none other than J Edward Oliver, my favourite comic strip artist, how terrific. They didn’t make the Top 40 again though, and Jona went out on his own not long after. He had released various singles and albums since the mid-70s, but it was in May 1980 that he had more chart success.

This was when “You Will Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties” (which must be one of the longest hit song titles of the 80s) was released on Stiff Records, and reached no. 16. This was a rather unusual synthpop song, and Jona didn’t as much rap, but he didn’t really sing either. He also performed this on various shows including Cheggers Plays Pop and Runaround.

What a delight it must’ve been to be on the scene at the time and be able to have those choices. Next in November 1980 was “Stop The Cavalry”, which reached no. 3 (and stayed there for five consecutive weeks). This isn’t really a Christmas song, but as there is a reference to Christmas in the lyrics, this was released late in the year, and has a Christmas-style feel, this has been accepted into that genre.

This would turn out to be his second and final hit single. He did release more singles for a few years though, but none of them, including “I Think I’ll Get My Hair Cut”, made the chart. His two biggest solo singles have lingered for many years after though. Since December 2007, “Stop The Cavalry” has often returned to the lower end of the chart at Christmas.

This is when a huge wave of classic songs reappear, and I always like to hear this one on the radio all these years on. And “You Will Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties” was used on an advert for Ikea (which featured the man himself), meaning in November 2010 this returned to the chart for one week. Jona is still out there performing, and he does look like Fred Harris, doesn’t he.

Great Moments In Pop – The 2000s Part 38.

I know that I said that I didn’t plan to feature too many American singers in this series, but this is another one who had a lot of hits in this country for over a decade who I enjoyed. Alicia Keys is a singer/songwriter and pianist, whose debut hit “Fallin'” was released in November 2001, which reached no. 3 (and was also her first chart-topper in America).

When your hear this all these years on, it’s still clear to realise why she became an instant star really, and you can imagine the cheering and applause that her performances of this would receive. Not long after, she was given just about as many Grammys as she could hold at once, and this was an indication that she would go on to much more success.

Among her other highlights are March 2002’s “A Woman’s Worth” and July 2002’s “How Come You Don’t Call Me”. In October 2002, there was “Gangsta Lovin'”, which was a duet with Eve, and I do think that this just as good as the one with Gwen Stefani that was a big hit about a year earlier. And in December 2002, “Girlfriend” became her fifth hit single of the year, and this has got to be my favourite of hers.

In December 2003 was “You Don’t Know My Name”, and then it all went rather quiet for a while. Alicia returned in November 2007 with “No One”, which rather surprisingly was her first Top Ten hit single in the UK for over five years, and also was her second US chart-topper. In November 2008 she was invited to perform the theme to the James Bond film Quantum Of Solace. This was “Another Way To Die”, which was a duet with Jack White, but this unlikely combination did result in another big hit.

Then in September 2009 was “Empire State Of Mind”, a duet with Jay-Z which reached no. 2, to become her biggest hit in the UK, and her third and final US chart-topper. December 2009 turned out to be a busy time, as both “Doesn’t Mean Anything” and “Empire State Of Mind Part II” entered the chart. This one was a reworking of the hit from only a few months earlier, now featuring Alicia on her own, with additional lyrics, and more plinky-plonky piano.

In February 2010 was “Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart”, and finally in December 2012 was “Girl On Fire”, which turned out to be her final Top Ten hit single in the UK, over 11 years on from her first. After this, Alicia has only made a couple of minor appearances on the chart in the last decade, she has released eight albums, and she has now won about 250 Grammys.