Want to see Public Enemy walking around 1980s London in a video introduced by Tim Westwood wearing an MA1 flying jacket? Of course you do. Those were the days.
I saw Public Enemy live in 1992 supporting U2 at Tampa football stadium of all places (Big Audio Dynamite were also on the bill). It was my first week living in Florida and my first experience of how American rock audiences didn’t give a shit about — and were even hostile to — black music, especially in the South. I was all excited about seeing PUBLIC ENEMY but no one else around me seemed to care. Personally I thought it was brilliant when Flavor Flav chased Chuck D around the stage dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit.
What a mind-blowing record this still is. Westwood’s phony American “street” accent sounds really dumb though.
If you’re wondering why presenter David Hepworth found The Pale Fountains’ taste in music so surprising, in those post-punk years it was considered quite a radical act for a young band to be into John Barry and Simon & Garfunkel — they called it the “quiet pop” movement.
Clips of The Fountains (I’ve never called them The Paleys) are quite rare so I’m well chuffed to have found this.
Producer Arthur Baker made quite the splash in 1982. First he unleashed the revolutionary “Planet Rock” on the world and changed dance music forever — I still remember the first time I heard it — and had his first big popular hit with this classic cover of an Eddy Grant song which took over dance floors all over the land that year.
After that double whammy Baker became one of the hottest knob-twiddlers around, in demand as a remixer, and producing other megahits like Freeez’s “I.O.U”. Even those gloomy buggers New Order flew over to New York to touch the hem of his garment and work with him on “Confusion” — which, to be frank, was a bit of a let-down and nowhere near as good as this track.
I’ve always thought of this as a perfect 12″ single, even though it lasts an epic 9.5 minutes it never feels too long (unlike some extended mixes). In fact, I think I’d be happy if this went on forever.
I lost interest in Eurythmics the further they strayed from their original synth sound into more conventional pop/rock. But they sold a shed-load of records so what does it matter what I think? They were pretty damn good for a while though. This is from a 1983 gig at London club Heaven.
I say this a lot about my old singles but this time I’m pretty sure I am the only one who bought this.
Skat were better known by their previous name The Chefs (and for their lead singer Helen McCookerybook), a short-lived but influential indie band very popular with John Peel. I don’t know why they changed their name to Skat, but they only ever released this one single under that name in 1982 and then split up soon afterwards which probably wasn’t the desired effect.
It’s a fairly straight cover of the Velvet Underground song but it has a nice jangly “indie” sound, a style that The Chefs helped to invent.
Orange Juice’s early Postcard records are rightly held in reverence but their later work gets a little overlooked as a result. Personally my favourite album of theirs is Texas Fever and I remember there being a bit of Dylan-going-electric purist snobbery about them signing to a big label and sounding more polished — like they could keep doing that kind of amateurish jangly indie forever. “Polished” is a relative term of course, their records always sounded a bit off-kilter no matter how many new chords and grooves they learned.
One time I saw them live Edwyn Collins jokingly introduced “Rip It Up” as “our one-hit wonder” and their final single “Lean Period” from 1984 wasn’t a hit either like 99% of their others, but it’s a bouncy and catchy number that should have done better even if it maybe isn’t one of their greatest. I still like it a lot though, a typically snarky Collins love song (and maybe even a sly commentary on his own critical reputation) here given a nice dubby remix by Dennis Bovell in this 12″ version which isn’t easily available anywhere far as I can tell.
The SOS Band were one of the acts (along with Alexander O’Neal) that Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis honed their production chops on before hitting the really big time with Janet Jackson. This was their first hit and you can already hear that signature drum machine sound (a Roland TR-808) which pretty much defined 80s dance music.
An absolute classic record, and extra marks for the guy playing a Keytar. Don’t see enough of those these days.
Not many bands have had a better year than the one Frankie Goes To Hollywood enjoyed in 1984. That year they became the first group since Gerry & the Pacemakers to have their first three singles all get to Number One, and at one point they occupied the top two charts spots — the first time that had been done since another little band from Liverpool called The Beatles. For a brief shining moment they were as big as the Fab Four and as thrillingly scandalous as the Sex Pistols. Even their t-shirts were a phenomenon.
But their story would be more perfect if they’d split up or all died in a car crash at the end of that year, because they had to go and spoil the ride by putting out an album that didn’t live up to the hype (how could it?), and they suddenly seemed like just another ordinary fallible pop group and not the fabulously provocative performance art piece they seemed in 1984. I guess the writing was on the wall when their fourth single was a dreadful flop that only got to number two in the chart. Still, it was great while it lasted.