Just the other week I happened to be browsing in Woolworths, as you do - or very soon, as we used to do. Tsk!. I was struggling to escape the clutches of the kids – you know how it is, “Daddy Daddy, can we look at the lego? Daddy Daddy, can I buy that? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase…”
However, escape I did, and I headed over to the CD aisle. And there, in its pristine, shiny glory, was 100 Hits: 80’s, brackets, 100 Classic Tracks of the Decade, close brackets. Now I’m a sucker for 1980’s music, and I’ve got a few 80’s greatest hits CD’s but this one caught my eye. It has a great mix of some sublime stuff, some kitsch nonsense and some real heavyweight chart hits. All in all, a great mix.
The set is arranged into 5 discs with each holding 20 tracks. I won’t bore you with the track listings, but I will insist that you read what I have to say about one track from each disc. Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I shall begin.
CD 1: Track 13: Don't Talk To Me About Love by Altered Images (#7, 1983)
Altered Images were a five piece Scottish New Wave band formed by Clare (CP) Grogan, Caesar, Michael Anderson, Tony McDaid and Johnny McElhone. Their first UK chart hit was 1981's I Could Be Happy, closely followed by Happy Birthday. Released in 1983, Don't Talk To Me About Love was their fourth hit, following 1982's See Those Eyes.
Altered Images contribution to 1980's music should not be under estimated, despite their only having 4 big-ish hits. Grogan's seeminlgy weedy warble actually had great power. I know, because it captivated me as a young pre-teen!
Of course, Grogan is perhaps best well known for her role in Gregory's Girl, Bill Forsyth's awe inspiring adolscent comedy from 1981. She is almost an anti-star in the film, only really being revealed as Gregory's girl right at the very end. You see, we were supposed to think that Dorothy (Dee Hepburn) was Gregory's girl. But perhaps that's taking a too-literal view on things. Gregory gets an awful lot of good advice from his younger sister. Perhaps she's Gregory's girl?
Of the others in the band, perhaps Johhny McElhone is the next best well known, for his role as founder member and co-writer (with Sharleen Spiteri) of Texas.
CD 2: Track 17. The Lotus Eaters, The First Picture of You (#15, 1983)
Written by Liverpudlian duo, Peter Coyle and Jeremy Kelly (how many Scousers do you imagine are called Jeremy?), The First Picture of You was The Lotus Eaters’ debut and biggest hit, peaking at number 15 in 1983. Of course, other groups from Liverpool wrote tens of chart hits and hundreds of songs over the course of their careers. So on the face of it having just the one single make it to the hardly dizzying heights of number 15 would appear not to represent that great an achievement. However, this track is a joyous paean to love. It sums up the sound of 1980’s music for me, just the chorus, a simple three lines says so much:
'the first picture of you / the first picture of summer / seeing the flowers scream their joy...'
CD 3: Track 17. Fine Young Cannibals, She Drives Me Crazy (#5, 1989)
FYC had a great pedigree in 1980’s music. Two of their number being David Steele and Andy Cox, former member of The Beat - Mirror in the Bathroom and Hands Off... She's Mine, plus covers of Tears Of A Clown and Can't Get Used To Losing You. They were joined by Roland Gift on vocals. They had a run of fine singles, starting in 1985 with Johhny Come Home in 1985 and culminating in 1989 with I'm Not The Man I Used To Be. OK so they had others, later on but a) they weren't so good and b) they weren't in the 80's.
She Drives Me Crazy follows in the tradition of British pop songs about unknown girls, probably seen across the street, or sat behind at school, started by The Beatles' I Saw Her Standing There. I get a sense of aching, of longing just to say something to the girl, but maybe not having the bottle to go and say it.
CD 4: Track 15. Deacon Blue, Real Gone Kid (#8, 1988)
This track was written by Ricky Ross, Deacon Blue frontman, about Maria McKee (A Good Heart, Show Me Heaven). Deacon Blue toured with McKee's group Lone Justice as their opening band and he wrote the song after seeing her perform.
In the vein of one of those BBC Comedy Connections programmes, I like the stories that surround this song. On the face of it, it would be difficult to link Deacon Blue with That Petrol Emotion, but Maria McKee allows just that... for That Petrol Emotion were formed by brothers John and Damian O'Neill, ex of The Undertones. Of course the lead singer with The Undertones was one Feargal Sharkey who had his biggest solo hit with Maria McKee's A Good Heart. See? You can also bring in Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, if you consider that Sharkey's other big UK hit was You Little Thief, written by the Heartbreakers' Benmont Tench in response to A Good Heart...
Anyway, enough of this nonsense, Real Gone Kid is a great track on any level - sometimes you know, I should just listen to the music
CD 5: Track 1. Aztec Camera, Oblivious (#47 and 18, 1983)
Aztec Camera is a Scottish New Wave or Indie band from the early 1980's. Essentially, Roddy Frame is Aztec Camera - the rest of the line up seemed to change with the wind. Founder members include Campbell Owens and Dave Mulholland. By the time of Oblivious, relased twice in 1983, reaching number 47 and then number 18, Aztec Camera had already released 3 singles which charted highly in the UK Indie chart. On its first release, Oblivious reached number 1 in the indie chart.
It's a great track, quite dark in places, 'I see you crying and I want to kill your friends...', but don't let that put you off. In the chorus, Frame uses the similarity between the words oblivious and obvious to good effect. Sometimes you have to check that the title is Oblivious and not "obvious". As with all of my choices, indeed, all of the tracks across the 5 CD's, this song encapsulates the whole feeling of 1980's music.
As I said at the top, some of it's sublime and some of it's kitsch. There are some big chart hits, but most of all you can sing along to all of them.
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