The Smash Hits Years – Part 1.

An introduction… A while ago I looked back at the history of pop music magazine Smash Hits, which ran for 28 years, and went from being hugely popular to disintegrating into irrelevance, just like so many of the groups that were featured. Recently I got hold of some editions of Smash Hits from the 80s. I know that all of them from this decade are available to view online, but for me there’s still no substitute for holding the real thing in your hands.

And some of them are from before I came along, but as I’m always keen to learn more about 80s pop music there can be no better way for me to discover groups from this era really. This will be a page-by-page review to some extent, mostly picking out the highlights of notable interviews, reviews, adverts, etc. And I am going to start with Issue 37, which is dated 1 May 1980, about 18 months after the launch. The Number One single on this day was “Geno” by Dexys Midnight Runners.

As we’ll see, the distinctive voice that went on to define Smash Hits articles hadn’t really been developed by this point, and the really big groups from the decade hadn’t really arrived. There are no boy bands here! And would you believe it, on the cover is Siouxsie Sioux. Now having got into rather quirky and pioneering woman from this era recently, it’s good to see her. Scattered throughout the pages are songwords (never described as “lyrics”), beginning with “Wheels Of Steel” by Saxon, and “My Oh My” by Sad Cafe.

Then there’s songwords for “Something’s Missing” by The Chords, “Staring At The Rude Boys” by The Ruts, and “Mirror In The Bathroom” by The Beat. And then we get the Siouxsie And The Banshees interview. They had a huge amount of hits in this decade, but only one of them made the Top Ten. And there is an advert for “a new rock monthly”, which is The Face, another magazine that would define its era for a while.

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The next songwords is “Coming Up” by Paul McCartney. Then there’s the Bitz pages, featuring lots of news. We discover among other things that Gary Numan is about to release “a videocassette”, The Photos are going on tour, another plug for The Face, AC/DC have found a new singer, a look at the making of Sex Pistols film The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle, The Cockney Rejects look forward to West Ham playing in the FA Cup Final, Toyah’s Top Ten, laughing at a mistranslation of the lyrics to “Video Killed The Radio Star”, and a new group called “Orchestral Manoeuvres”.

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Then there’s an interview with The Bodysnatchers. About a year or two later most of them went into The Belle Stars, who had further success. As a septet that played ska music, they were sometimes called “The Female Madness”. Next songwords is “Dear Miss Lonely Heart” by Phillip Lynott. Then there’s a page about indie music. It does seem a little odd to see “ghettoised” pages about various genres, this wouldn’t last long.

“Don’t Make Waves” by The Nolans is the next songwords. Then there’s a competition to win a mini TV by solving a crossword. Next is a disco music page. Among the hippest sounds of the moment are “The Groove” by Rodney Franklin, and “I Shoulda Loved Ya” by Narada Michael Walden, how funky. Then there’s a double-page picture of The Specials in colour (this was long before full colour). Then there’s an interview with Pete Townshend of The Who because for some reason “I’m The Face” which was recorded in 1964 when they were still called The High Numbers is being released, but this missed the Top 40.

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Next songwords is “All For Leyna” by Billy Joel. Then there’s a wordsearch which is a competition to win The Beat prizes. The next songwords is a Request Spot: and it’s “Life On Mars” by David Bowie from 1973. Now on to the singles reviews. This fortnight the reviewer is “A Small Creature (In Shorts)” (?) There’s a big pile to go through, will any of them be hits? Just like in PC Gamer magazine, I shall take one word from the review, that most sums up the song (sort of)…

Lori And The Chameleons: “The Lonely Spy”: “Swirling”
The Revillos: “Scuba Scuba”: “Tackiness”
The Human League: “Holiday ’80”: “Synthesizers”
The Monochrome Set: “The Strange Boutique”: “Clever”
Protex: “A Place In Your Heart”: “Plain”
Lew Lewis: “1-30 2-30 3-35”: “Rattling”
Lightning Raiders: “Psychedelic Musik”: “Riffs”
Bob And Earl: “Harlem Shuffle”: “Fandango”
Vic Godard And Subway Sect: “Split Up The Money”: “Untidy”
Jah Wobble: “Betrayal”: “Haphazard”
Clive Langer And The Boxes: “Splash (A Tear Comes Rolling Down)”: “Uncluttered”
Dave Edmunds Rockpile: “I Hear You Knocking”: “Crisp”
Cockney Rejects: “The Greatest Cockney Rip-Off”: “Blustering”
Martha And The Muffins: “Saigon”: “Expounding”
Gang Of Four: “Outside The Trains Don’t Run On Time”: “Tuneless”
Ian Gomm: “Slow Dancing”: “Tolerable”
The Beat: “Mirror In The Bathroom”: “Pumping”
Guns For Hire: “I’m Gonna Rough My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Up Tonight”: “Crude”
Echo And The Bunnymen: “Rescue”: “Attractive”

And as for albums, Phyllis Hyman, New Musik, and The Cure come out on top with 8/10 reviews. More songwords with “Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio” by The Ramones and “Love and Loneliness” by The Motors”. Now it’s the Letters page, lots of debate here, although I was most amused by Helen M from Ashover’s comment: “ABCDEFGHIJKLM NOPQRSTUVWXYZ. Well, you said it was a letters page”. Then there’s a gigs page, go on, go and see Martha And The Muffins. The final songwords is “A Forest” by The Cure.

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In the next issue… Phil Lynott! Toyah! The Undertones! Finally, there is a poster of The Chords on the back cover. They are a group that I don’t know that much about, but it seems that one of them went on to be in The Style Council. More of these Smash Hits reviews to come soon, join me when I go back in time again pop fans…

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 10.

This is a group that were very influential over the years, indeed just about every other group and singer since have revealed their admiration for them. Siouxsie And The Banshees had a huge amount of hits (and that’s not including side projects such as The Creatures), and because their story is rather well-known, for now I’ll just concentrate on what has got to be my favourite single of theirs.

By 1988, it had been a decade single the first hit single for Siouxsie, and a huge amount had changed in pop music since then. Punk music wasn’t the big genre by this point, but this was always a group that tried to experiment and move with the times, meaning that this one was rather different. Also, Siouxsie had something of an image change, getting rid of the famous Dennis The Menace hairstyle for a bob, which was rather fancy. vlcsnap-00348

“Peek-A-Boo” was released in July 1988, and was taken from their ninth album “Peepshow”. Among the highlights were the backwards accordion (and you don’t get that much in pop music), along with lots of other strange noises. There was also a performance on Top Of The Pops, along with also appearing on various early satellite channels across Europe because they had to fill the hours with something. vlcsnap-00351

Watching various clips from this time online, I imagine that Siouxsie had to learn to be patient in TV interviews after being asked “what is the song about?” for the 100th time. Critics were very keen on the new direction though, awarding this Single Of The Week, and describing this as “thirties hip-hop” in their constant quest to make up new musical genres on the spot. vlcsnap-00349

And without wishing to sound like Only Connect, what does this one have in common with Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” from 1986, New Order’s “True Faith” from 1987, and Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy” from 1989? Well they all won The Chart Show‘s The Best Video Of The Year Award, what an honour. I was pleased that it did win though. vlcsnap-00350

“Peek-A-Boo” reached no. 16, to become their final Top 20 hit single in the UK, and this was also the first of their two hits in America, reaching no. 53, and only being bettered by 1991’s “Kiss Them For Me”. Siouxsie And The Banshees would go on to have more hits into the 90s though. Maybe I’ll take a more detailed look at their interesting career soon.