PC Music are something of a “Marmite” record label, you either love or hate the high-fructose pop they put out. I’m firmly in the former camp and think their latest release “Hey QT” — a collaboration between producer AG Cook and Sophie (actually a bloke) — is one of the best pop records I’ve heard all year. It’s certainly the most insanely catchy.
Bold choice of Gary Numan to release a moody, violin-driven ballad with no actual chorus as a single from The Pleasure Principle but this still got to No.6 in the UK charts. Clearly the man could do no wrong in 1979, at least as far as the record-buying public were concerned.
Though it’s probably hip to like Numan now a lot of people thought he was a bit of a joke at the time (myself included), but this is one of his records (along with “Down In The Park”) that I loved even then. Terrific video too, looking very analog retro-futuristic now.
I may have mentioned before that I once had a letter printed in Smash Hits. I don’t have the issue anymore and for some reason I only recently thought about searching through the archives at the terrific Like Punk Never Happened blog to find this major event of my youth. Here it is, from the March 6th, 1980 issue:
I was 17 when I wrote that, and while there’s no denying my teenage passion, my prose style could use some finesse (no change there). I remember being shocked — and then thrilled of course — that they’d actually published something I wrote. It was the first letter on the page too which made me doubly chuffed.
The Pretenders had only just become stars with the chart-topping success of Brass In Pocket but I’d been a fan since their first single so was smugly protective of them in the way only a I-liked-them-before-you-did fan of a newly-popular band can be. I was totally smitten with Chrissie Hynde too, so when this C. Wills fellow expressed his (still) idiotic opinion in this letter I was moved to defend her from the “blinkered” opinions of the unthinking masses in typically self-righteous teenager fashion.
I’m not entirely sure why I included The Police in my angry denunciation of “narrow minded hero worship” but they had also recently made the leap from minor act to big pop stars and I guess I must have been a bigger fan of theirs than I remember.
I am rather proud of the fact that I stood up for “real” women in rock music, though my feminist credentials are somewhat tarnished by the fact that I had one of those awful “sexy” posters of Debbie Harry on my own bedroom wall at the time, so I don’t know what I was being so high and mighty about. That last sentence is pretty good though, and I still think anyone who doesn’t love Chrissie Hynde’s voice needs putting away.
What’s most interesting to me is that this is the authentic voice of my 17-year-old self. My mother was an inveterate chucker-away of things and I never kept anything either, so I have nothing that I wrote (or drew) in my youth — no school essays, no diaries, no notebooks, none of the comics I created — so this might be the only thing written by the younger me that still exists. Reading it now is like some Back To The Future moment where I’m confronted by a teenage version of myself. It was so long ago I don’t know that kid anymore, but I do recognize the smug, superior tone common to teenagers with opinions they think are the absolute truth. It could be worse I suppose, while I was certainly too harsh on Debbie Harry (she was no bimbo) I should be thankful that I’m not expressing any of the really stupid opinions which I know I had back then. Thank you teenage me, for not embarrassing your future self.
Not using my real name was obviously a ploy to make me seem far cooler than I was.
Download: Tattooed Love Boys – The Pretenders (mp3)
Somehow Gemma Ray has put out six albums without me ever hearing of her before, but I’m so glad I have now because I think she’s terrific and always love it when I have a load of new music to get into.
The closest equivalent to Gemma I can think of is Richard Hawley and Nick Cave: atmospheric, moody songs with a twangy-guitar retro vibe. Her new album Milk For Your Motors is well worth spending your pocket money on.
One of those songs that always reminds me of soul boys in Farah trousers and slow dances in disco pubs. Spent many a Saturday night dancing with a girl to this one — or trying to. This is a really fabulous performance of it.
The group’s organ player mentioned in the clip is a young man from Cleethorpes who went on to write Rock With You, Off The Wall, and Thriller amongst others.
My sister’s room was next to mine, but non-sister girl’s bedrooms were still mysterious places to me. According to the pop music of the 1970s boys sometimes didn’t leave them alive.
Download: Angie Baby – Helen Reddy (mp3)
I shared a bedroom with my older sister until I was 11 years old and I used to dream that if I had my own room the walls would be painted Chelsea blue with a big white number 9 (Peter Osgood‘s number) on one of them. Sadly, when the glorious day came that I got my own room after we moved to a bigger council flat it didn’t live up to that fantasy and turned out to be a tiny box room with ugly orange wallpaper. But I didn’t care, it was mine!
Having the freedom of your own bedroom is a big deal when you’re a kid because your life is dictated to in so many other ways — what to eat, what time to get up, how long to stay out — and while you might not get to pick the furniture, how it’s arranged and what’s on the walls are about the only way you can stamp your personality on your environment at that age (like making the David Bowie bin on the book cover above). Personal space is even more at a premium when you live in a small council flat and have a sibling.
I wasn’t a solitary kid but I was perfectly happy to be on my own and the room was my very own Fortress of Solitude where I could daydream and let my imagination bloom. I had really bad hayfever in my early teens and spent a lot of hot summer days alone in my room with the curtains closed to ease my sneezy and red-eyed misery caused by the pollen-rich air outside. I think I basically “missed” a couple of summers that way, and though it makes me sound like I was some adolescent Marcel Proust I didn’t write an epic novel but I did draw a lot, read piles of comics, and listen to the radio, often while drowsy from anti-histamines. To this day getting woozy from medicine still gives me a Proustian rush back to my shady bedroom.
Once I got later into my teens the room became an even more important refuge, somewhere to go with all those confused thoughts and raging hormones (if you know what I mean). I’d moon in frustration over some girl I didn’t have the nerve to ask out, stew about how unfair life and the world was, and draw rather gloomy pictures. It was also where I spent nearly every week-night listening to John Peel, which is probably what I’m doing in this photo.
See what I mean about the wallpaper?
Even though it was small a lot of big things happened in that room. It was where my life-defining love of pop music and graphic art developed; where I first heard about the deaths of Ian Curtis, Elvis Presley, and John Lennon; where I first heard songs like “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and all the other classics that would define my youth. It was also where I got a girl’s bra off for the first time.
I left home in my mid-20s after I graduated from art college and moved into a flat with some mates. My mum finally got rid of the horrible wallpaper, painted the walls blue (10-year-old me would have been very happy) and turned it into a storage room full of junk and boxes. Whenever I went home I’d peek in there and it looked so different I struggled to imagine all the days and nights I’d spent in there and what that room had meant to my youth. All I had was the ghosts of memories of that tiny little space where I became me.
Download: In Your Room – Bangles (mp3)
Here’s another duet between and old lounge lizard and a young lady better known for her looks than her singing.
In case you’re wondering this is from the 1974 TV series Twiggs. Yes, Twiggy had her own variety show.