In Xanadu


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.

Download: The World Is My Oyster (12″ mix) – Frankie Goes To Hollywood (mp3)

This was the b-side of the “Power of Love” 12″ single and is a much longer version of the track on their debut album. Besides those first three singles this is my favourite record of theirs.

The Lord Won’t Mind


Bit busy this week so it’s random 12″ single time.

As much as I like Talking Heads’ original I think this version meets it outside after school and gives it’s nerdy white-boy-funk ass a good beating.

And David Byrne must have given it the thumbs-up because he’s playing guitar on it.

Download: Slippery People (Club Mix) – The Staple Singers (mp3)

Tee Two


Now on sale in a variety of styles and colours for the initial low price of $14. My riff on the famous campaign that we all ignored.

Something for the Weekend



Haven’t had anything from the lovely Clare and the boys in a while. This is from their final album Bite where they tried to sound more grown-up and sophisticated with wonderful results. Despite being easily their best album it sold less than the previous two and the band broke up. Such a shame, but I suppose it’s better to go out on a high note.

The Singles Box


This 1980 single is the only Psychedelic Furs record I ever bought. They were a good band, but in a crowded field of a million Bowie/Roxy-influenced post-punk acts I didn’t think there wasn’t anything that special to make me spend my Saturday job wages on them. But I obviously did like this enough.

“Mr. Jones” is from their second album Talk Talk Talk but this single version was given a bolder, brighter production which I prefer to the rawer album original. It’s less punky and shorter, but the beat has more punch to it. It didn’t make a dent in the charts so it’s one of the many “Am I the only one who bought this?” records I have.

Download: Mr. Jones (Single Version) – The Psychedelic Furs (mp3)

The Sandie & Mary Chain


I’ve been listening to Sandie Shaw’s 1988 album Hello Angel for the first time in years and it’s way better than you’d expect for the comeback attempt of a faded 60s pop singer. Sandie’s own songs are great and her collaborations with The Smiths got the headlines, but I think the stand-out track is her cover of The Jesus & Mary Chain’s “About You” (with a slightly changed title).

I didn’t pay much attention to The Mary Chain back then so I’d never heard the original before, it’s good but I prefer Sandie’s grander and more emotional version.

Download: Cool About You – Sandie Shaw

Sleeve Talk


There is some dispute about who originally coined the word “Yuppie” and when, but it first came into widespread use around 1983 and as we all know became one of the defining words of the 1980s: synonymous with “designer” lifestyles, conspicuous consumption, and Phil Collins albums.

But when Heaven 17 released their debut album in 1981 I doubt anyone knew how the decade was going to turn out. That was the year of the riots in Brixton and Toxteth, IRA hunger strikes, unemployment reaching 2.5 million, and Maggie Thatcher being the most unpopular Prime Minister in polling history. Though the wedding of Charles and Diana and the introduction of the Sinclair ZX81 home computer were signs of things to come, it’s fair to say that year the country was still struggling to escape the 70s.

After leaving The Human League, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh first appropriated the language of big business by giving themselves the corporate-sounding name British Electric Foundation (known by the faceless acronym “B.E.F”), and the sleeve of Penthouse and Pavement presents their recruitment of singer Glenn Gregory to form Heaven 17 as some kind of business merger. The copy proudly declares this to be “The New Partnership That’s Opening Doors All Over The World” in cliched, vacuous marketing-speak, while the power-suited band strike generic stock-photo “business” poses — shaking hands, on the phone — like it’s the cover of a brochure for some dreadful multinational corporation.

The “Heaven 17: Sheffield, Edinburgh, London” logo is apparently a Dunhill pastiche, and the same year those other Left-wing pop intellectuals Scritti Politti were doing similarly subversive, post-modern riffs on luxury brands with their own record sleeves. Heaven 17 took it even further by dressing as businessmen in photo shoots.


While this was all meant as a Lefty piss-take of capitalism and the pro-business rhetoric of Thatcher and Reagan, it turned out Heaven 17 were being unintentionally prophetic in their choice of visuals. Soon the power-suited, hair-slicked-back style of corporate tycoons made the leap from Wall Street and The City to become a mainstream, aspirational look driven by the new breed of go-getting Yuppies. Pop groups started wearing wearing Armani and pinstripes unironically, and the nation’s wine bars were full of young men looking like cut-price Gordon Gekkos in double-breasted suits from Next.

The 1980s ended when the stock market tanked on Black Monday, and coincidentally around the same time Acid House came along and the youth threw away their suits and chinos, and traded them in for dungarees and Smiley t-shirts. Personally I found that all a bit nursery school but it was better than looking like an accountant. Heaven 17 meant it as a conceptual gag but way too many people took it literally.

Download: Play To Win – Heaven 17 (mp3)
Download: We’re Going To Live for a Very Long Time – Heaven 17 (mp3)

Something for the Weekend



God, this song. Still one of the greatest indiepop odes to swoony young love ever made. An essential inclusion on any mixtape you made for someone you had a crush on.

What’s it all about?

The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com

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