I dressed a lot like Edwyn Collins back then. I had the vintage shirts, the bootlace tie, the Chelsea boots, the haircut. But somehow I never looked as cool as him.
A little Tracie bonus for you, singing a song written for her by Elvis Costello. One mark of a great songwriter is the quality of the songs they give to other people and this is top class.
Any British men of a certain age watching this will be letting out a wisftul sigh.
When Paul Weller broke up The Jam in 1982 they were the biggest band in Britain which gave him a lot of clout to do what he wanted. Besides forming The Style Council, he had a go at being a pop mogul by starting his own record label called Respond and put an ad in Smash Hits looking for a girl singer to join this Motown-wannabe of his. One of the young hopefuls who answered that ad was 17-year-old Essex girl Tracie Young — or Tracie! as she was initially known on her record sleeves – who made her singing debut on The Jam’s final single Beat Surrender.
Like Joanna and Susan in The Human League, Tracie was an “ordinary” teenage girl (who could sing) with the appeal of the pretty local lass who had a Saturday job in Boot’s and danced around her handbag at the High Street disco in the evenings. While you probably wouldn’t attempt to chat up Kim Wilde at a disco — too cooly Bardot glam — Tracie was a girl you might fancy your chances with. On Top of The Pops she looked like the siren of the Sixth Form in her denim jacket, pencil skirt, and white high heels and was voted “Most Fanciable Female” in the 1983 Smash Hits readers’ poll.
She was no shrinking violet pop puppet though, and had a row with Weller over his production of her records, especially The House That Jack Built which he sped up and put a lot of tinny synths and drum machines on. He wanted her to sound like a modern pop star, not “a little soul girl” in his words.
While I agree with Weller, the production was a bit naff but that didn’t stop her first two singles from being hits. Unfortunately the other acts on Respond like The Questions and A Craze didn’t do so well and by the time Tracie’s debut album Far From the Hurting Kind came out in 1984 she wasn’t having hits either and it only got to #64 in the charts which is a real shame as it’s a rather good album.
Download: Soul’s On Fire – Tracie (mp3)
With the lack of hits Weller lost interest in Respond and the label went belly up in 1986 leaving Tracie at Polydor where she recorded a second album No Smoke Without Fire which was never released. Pop career over, she had a family and then a second life as a radio presenter.
But last month — huzzah! — that second album finally saw the light of day a mere 30 years after it was recorded. I’ve not heard the whole thing yet (hasn’t been released in the States) but I do have extended mixes of some of the singles that are on it. How these weren’t hits is beyond me, Invitation especially shows what a great singer Tracie was becoming. One of the bonus tracks is the b-side curio 19 which takes Paul Hardcastle’s hit and turns it into an anti-vivisection protest song.
Download: Invitation (RSVP Mix) – Tracie Young (mp3)
Download: I Can’t Leave You Alone (Pick n’ Mix) – Tracie Young (mp3)
Download: 19 (Wickham Mix) – Tracie Young (mp3)
Nice to know that Tracie is doing well these days and didn’t become some pop casualty — she was a bit too sensible for that. Some of us are still carrying a little torch for her.
This is one of my favourite Elvis singles and one of his most underrated I think. “Man Out of Time” gets all the props as the great single from Imperial Bedroom but I actually prefer this one.
The paisley-pretty production might make it sound soft but underneath the harpsichords Elvis takes the classic pop subject of teenage love and makes something incisive and compelling out of it. It’s like a Shangri-Las’ song written from the perspective of a cynical outsider.
The video is a rather nice period piece too.
Download: You Little Fool – Elvis Costello & The Attractions (mp3)
Photo by George Plemper
“I was a bit uptight. I don’t think I was angry—I probably was. I was always trying to stop smoking. I was always two days on, two days off. I was forever withdrawing from cigarettes. I was probably angry about that. I probably wrote a lot of these songs when I was two days off the fags.”– Kevin Rowland, Mad World
One of the many, many brilliant things about this clip is the presence of Mick Talbot on keyboards. I had no idea he’d played with Dexy’s.
Grace Jones’ classic 1981 album Nightclubbing has been given a well-deserved reissue with the usual deluxe treatment of unreleased tracks, remastering, remixes and all that lovely stuff.
There are two extended mixes of “Pull Up To The Bumper” on the reissue but not this one for some reason. I can’t remember where I got this from and there seems to be some confusion over its origin and availability. But wherever it came from it’s still brilliant, really bringing out the rubbery funkiness of the great Sly and Robbie rhythm section.
I danced to this on many nights back when it was a new record — Lord, what an amazing time for new music that was — and even though I knew it wasn’t really about parallel parking I’d never listened to the words close enough to realize just how filthy it really is.
Download: Pull Up To The Bumper (Larry Levan Garage Remix) – Grace Jones (mp3)
I’m currently reading the book Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s and in the chapter on this song I discovered the sad fact that Waitresses’ lead singer Patty Donahue died of cancer in 1996. I had no idea.
Like most people I only own their two famous singles (still have them on vinyl) which are both brilliant and Patty had the perfect deadpan sass for them, sounding like she was chewing gum and going “Oh yeah?” to you the whole time.
The book is a goldmine of great anecdotes and interesting facts which I highly recommend. It’s also sent me on several YouTube journeys so expect a lot of 80s videos in the coming weeks.
Photographers call the time of day when the sun is either just coming up or going down “the Golden Hour” because the light is so gorgeous and this whole thing positively glows with the sunlit glamour of rich rock stars in their upscale summer vacation spots and designer linen clothes. Even the purple sky seems designed to go with her peach outfit to create a perfectly 1980s colour palette.
I bought this when it came out in 1977 when I probably should have been buying Clash singles and hating this sort of thing. There was a time when I was embarrassed about that but I think it’s great and maybe even the last really good James Bond theme song.
This was shot in Martha’s Vineyard where they also filmed Jaws so feel free to insert your own joke about Carly Simon’s teeth.