diamond geezer

 Sunday, December 17, 2006

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


The three best records from the Top 10 (15th December 1981)
Human League - Don't You Want Me: Let's define the 1980s in one song. Here it is. Even America succumbed. You nearly didn't hear it, because Phil Oakey wasn't keen. Don't You Want Me was only slipped in as a filler at the end of the League's recently released album Dare, from which three other singles had already been taken. The band only agreed to release it as a single so long as purchasing fans were rewarded with a free poster. As things turned out, the song sold itself. The pounding synth melody. Him singing down to her and her singing back up to him. A tale of Svengali-like fame and ambition. And the catchiest chorus you ever did hear (wooooooah-oh-oh-oh). This song broke all the rules for a Christmas number 1. It hit the top of the charts well before Christmas, it lodged there for a full five weeks, and it kept 'proper' sentimental mush by Cliff Richard off the festive summit. Plus, let's be honest, you love it. That much is true. [video] [TotP]
"You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar when I met you. I picked you out, I shook you up and turned you around, turned you into someone new."
Soft Cell - Bedsitter: Following up their storming cover of Tainted Love, now a sudden retreat into the seedy world of backstreet anonymity. The song sounded upbeat enough, but the lyrics and video told a very different story. A lonely life lived out in one room, going through the motions, bereft of hope. No internet in those days, nothing to do, just tuck yourself beneath a grubby eiderdown and wait for Friday. The pointlessness of living for the weekend, earning just enough to blow in one hedonistic 48 hour splurge. The words meant little to me at the time, safely tucked up in my teenage suburban bedroom, but how they would resonate later. A song to cherish and adore, especially for all those of us who've since left that world behind. [video] [TotP]
"Clothes and records on the floor, the memories of the night before out in club land having fun. And now I'm hiding from the sun, waiting for a visitor though no-one knows I'm here for sure"
Abba - One of Us: For six years the Swedish foursome had dominated the charts. Every song a monster hook and every release a monster hit. This inoffensive ballad to love lost was no exception. But it was to be the very last of their blockbuster smashes. After 18 consecutive top ten hits, the next dribble of new Abba singles would struggle even to reach the top 30. Not that we realised at the time. It was Christmas, and Abba were up there where they belonged. It was the end of an era. [video]
"One of us is lonely, one of us is only waiting for a call. Sorry for herself, feeling stupid feeling small, wishing she had never left at all"

The best Christmas record in the world ever
Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping: In 1981 the Ze record label in New York put together a Christmas compilation album featuring one track from each of their artists. Cristina contributed, as did Was (Not Was), but it was the shining musical bauble by the Waitresses which really glittered. "Last year, ski shop encounter, most interesting. Had his number but never the time. Most of '81 passed along those lines." Ohio-born singer Patty Donohue half-chanted half-spoke the lyrics - the fairytale story of a single woman on Christmas Eve reflecting on missed opportunities. (W)rap music was still in its infancy, so the band got away with the punny title. "Flashback to springtime, saw him again, would've been good to go for lunch. Couldn't agree when we were both free, we tried, we said we'd keep in touch." In the wrong hands this cheesy backstory would be mushy mawkishness, but instead the tune chugs along with infectious optimism and cheery indifference. Indeed every time I hear this song I never fail to join in, jigging along in time to the sleighbells and reflecting on the joys of year-long singledom. "Last fall I had a night to myself, same guy called, Hallowe'en party. Waited all night for him to show, this time his car wouldn't go." But a happy ending is in store. The all-night grocery store, no less, to which both parties trudge through the snow to buy coincidental cranberries. You never can predict where the bloke of your dreams will appear. "So on with the boots, back out in the snow to the only all-night grocery. When what to my wondering eyes should appear, in the line is that guy I've been chasing all year!" Christmas Wrapping wasn't released as a single until the following year, and sadly never quite crept inside the Top 40 even then. At least the Spice Girls managed to take the song to number 1, as an Anglicised cover version B-side to their last Xmas chart-topper Goodbye. "Then suddenly we laughed and laughed, caught on to what was happening. That Christmas magic's brought this tale to a very happy ending!" But the 'proper' Waitresses version is the festive non-hit single that's refused to die, and is still rightly featured every year on Xmas compilations and radio playlists. May it be part of your Christmas, and mine, forever.
"Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Couldn't miss this one this year!"
those upbeat lyrics (on Chris the composer's blog)
listen on YouTube (but don't watch the 'video')
full Waitresses band info


20 other Christmas hits from 25 years ago: Begin The Beguine (Julio Iglesias), Daddy's Home (Cliff Richard), It Must Be Love (Madness), Why Do Fools Fall In Love (Diana Ross), I Go To Sleep (Pretenders), Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey (Modern Romance), Good Morning Universe (Toyah), Cambodia (Kim Wilde), Flashback (Imagination), Rock'n'Roll (Status Quo), Wedding Bells (Godley and Creme), Turn Your Love Around (George Benson), Ant Rap (Adam and the Ants), Spirits In The Material World (Police), Young Turks (Rod Stewart), Stars Over 45 (Chas and Dave), Hokey Cokey (The Snowmen), Footsteps (Showaddywaddy), Yes Tonight Josephine (Jets), Wild Is The Wind (David Bowie) ...which hit's your favourite? ...which one would you pick?


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