diamond geezer

 Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Silver discs (June 1981)
A monthly look back at the top singles of 25 years ago


Sorry, there I was thinking 1981 was the top year for music, and then along comes the top five from hell. 1) Smokey Robinson - Being With You. 2) Michael Jackson - One Day In Your Life. 3) Kate Robbins - More Than In Love. 4) Red Sovine - Teddy Bear. 5) Champaign - How 'Bout Us. I take it all back.

The three best records from the rest of the Top 10 (16th June 1981)
Hazel O'Connor - Will You?: From Breaking Glass (the post-punk movie musical) came this surpremely laid-back ballad. But sorry Hazel, the true star here was session musician Wesley Magoogan whose extended saxophone solo at the end of the song raised goosebumps along the tingling spines of all who heard it. Wes and Hazel's lawyers had a bit of a tiff over copyright payments, but you'll be glad to hear it's all sorted now. And if you're 24 years old, you might just have been conceived during this nigh perfect slice of rampant sax.
"You drink your coffee and I sip my tea... but it's getting kind of late now, oh I wonder if you'll stay now, ...or will you just politely say goodnight?"
Odyssey - Goin' Back To My Roots: They're not the greatest lyrics in the world, but then it's hard to rhyme anything genealogically relevant to "roots". Here Odyssey reflected upon increasing black American interest in African ancestry, not that this mattered much to Brits shuffling round their handbags in some Saturday night suburban disco. Lillian and Louise had true soul, but even 25 years later I still have no idea what they were singing about in this record's introductory warble.
"Zippin' up my boots, goin' back to my roots, yeah. Take the place of my birth back down to earth"
Ultravox - All Stood Still: Look I know this isn't a true classic, it's just good, but there wasn't much left to choose from after that rubbish Top 5. I could tell you that this was Ultravox's first single also to be released on 12 inch, except that you wouldn't care so let's move on...
"The turbine cracked up, the buildings froze up, the system choked up, what can we do? Please remember to mention me in tapes you leave behind"

My favourite three records from June 1981 (at the time)
Our Daughter's Wedding - Lawnchairs: File under "Bands named after section dividers in greeting card display stands". File under "Obscure New York New Wave". And file under "Fantastic". It baffles me why this quirky synth tune never made the charts (unless you count reaching number 49, which I don't), but I'd take a bet that anybody who still remembers Lawnchairs loves it. It may have been simple (plink plink plink - plink plink plink - plink plink), the lyrics may have been half insane ("she's a boy that we like and he's gonna go far) and the UK release should clearly have been called Deckchairs instead, but then the magic would have gone. Everybody deserves a secret track which they adore but nobody else ever quite caught on to, and this is mine.
"Lawnchairs are everywhere, they're everywhere in my mind, describe them to me, to me"
Depeche Mode - New Life: One failed single down, the Basildon boys came back with this childlike electronic operetta. And this time it worked. A memorable Top Of The Pops appearance propelled the unlikely lads into the Top 40, four suited teens who looked more like bank clerks than popstars. Back then an impossibly cute Dave Gahan danced with an embarrassed wiggle, light years away from the addled crackhead he would later evolve into. But then Depeche Mode have evolved more than most over the last 25 years, so New Life was a perfect point to begin. [New Life on youtube]
"I stand still stepping on the shady streets and I watched that man to a stranger. You think you only know me when you turn on the light, now the room is lit, red danger"
The Evasions - Wikka Wrap: Most comedy records are only funny once (if that). This Alan Whicker piss-take - a string of rap clich├ęs expertly stitched over the classic Chic Good Times bass bed - still makes me smile. It sounded like any other US rap record around at the time, except that the narrator was a plummy Brit and the lyrics were more leisure-suit than ghetto. UK hip hop doesn't get more old school than this. Ever mindful of this record's place in history, Coolio immortalised one memorable line ("1, 2, 3, 4, get your woman on the floor") in his 1996 hit 1234 (Sumpin' New). Personally I'm most excited by having just uncovered the 12 inch version available for free download, here. Utterly far out, man.
"As you can see it's all too easy to get wrapped up in the kaleidoscope of sounds, the handclaps and the bass throb erotically, and the piano tinkles invitingly like so much crushed ice into a dry martini."

15 other hits from 25 years ago: Being With You (Smokey Robinson), One Day In Your Life (Michael Jackson), More Than In Love (Kate Robbins), Teddy Bear (Red Sovine), How 'Bout Us (Champaign), Funeral Pyre (The Jam), All Those Years Ago (George Harrison), Spellbound (Siouxsie & The Banshees), Take It To The Top (Kool & The Gang), Piece Of The Action (Bucks Fizz), If Leaving Me Easy (Phil Collins), Too Drunk To F**k (Dead Kennedys), Would I Lie To You? (Whitesnake), Dancing On The Floor (Third World), Norman Bates (Landscape) ...which hit's your favourite? ...which one would you pick?


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