Nick Heyward looks like Edwyn Collins for the Smash Hits set in this video and the group often sounded like it too. Still bloody marvelous though, and the girls in the audience look like they’re loving every minute.
Download: (I Love You) When You Sleep – Tracie Young (mp3)
Photo: Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Suddenly Last Summer, 1959
Not had any Prefabs here for far too long. Pardon the pun but this song makes me swoon.
It didn’t take Spandau Ballet long to ditch the hard electronic stomp of their early singles for a sound that better reflected their roots as Soul Boys. Their musical evolution also reflected the trajectory of the 1980s, a bit heavy and intense at first then becoming more glitzy and aspirational. They started out with the style and sound of underground London clubs but later provided the soundtrack for wine bars, double-breasted suits, and Club 18-30 holidays in Magaluf.
I liked their early stuff but Tony Hadley’s big voice made them sound a bit Teutonic at times and he was better in lighter musical surroundings. One of my favourites of their later singles was “I’ll Fly For You” from 1984 which wasn’t a huge hit like some others of theirs — you know, the one we all slow danced to at cheesy discos — but it’s cut from the same expensive cloth with a smooth, gliding surface and crisp, ringing guitar. And of course it has a creamy saxophone on it, the instrument that Spandau (and “Careless Whisper”) helped make synonymous with 80s pop.
Download: I’ll Fly For You (12″ mix) – Spandau Ballet (mp3)
I used to work with a bloke who was such a big Theatre of Hate fan he got their name tattooed on his arm. Unfortunately for him they broke up about a year later which should be a lesson to all you kids out there: Think twice before you get that tat.
I didn’t mind Theatre of Hate, but Kirk Brandon‘s wobbly, operatic voice was an acquired taste, and I think I was more inspired by his Punkabilly style than his records. But I did like the first single he released with his new band Spear of Destiny in 1983 which is more poppy than anything he’d done before. The chorus is massive, soaring stuff and the track has a Celtic feel like they were trying to do a Big Country. His voice is still a bit Marmite though.
Download: Flying Scotsman – Spear of Destiny (mp3)
Looking around my iTunes library for a suitable track to go with the previous post I found this which I recorded off my 12″ vinyl copy a long time ago but never posted for some reason.
Remixed in 1982 from an earlier b-side, this a sleek Euro-disco groover that glides along on Mick Karn’s rubbery bass playing and some honking sax. I was never a huge Japan fan but this does make me want to suck in my cheekbones and go pose outside a Berlin nightclub. Hopefully I’d be allowed back in England after.
Download: European Son (Extended Remix) – Japan (mp3)
The world is such a depressing place at the moment. Terrorism, mass shootings, beloved music icons dying, and politics on both sides of the Atlantic becoming a fucked-up mix of circus clown show and Nuremberg rally.
Being English I’m normally a gloomy, glass-half-empty pessimist but I find that having kids is the antidote to that. Sorry if this is a naff greetings card sentiment, but having them in your life (when they’re not complaining anyway) makes the world seem not entirely shitty. Booze helps too.
And music of course. Think I may have posted it before years ago but, what the hell, it’s one of the best extended mixes I have.
Download: I Could Be Happy (12″ mix) – Altered Images (mp3)
It took a while for us Brits to make soul and dance music as good as the Americans. Our efforts were decent but, from Dusty Springfield’s Motown-esque pop to early Britfunk like Hi-Tension and Linx, often suffered from thin production and lacked the warmth and oomph of our Yankee cousins.
As a consequence British soul music didn’t cut the mustard across the Atlantic and the acts which did make it were white and made their records over there. It wasn’t until 1982 that Londoner Junior Giscombe’s debut single “Mama Used To Say” became the first record by a black British soul artist to be a major success on the American R&B charts. In addition to that barrier-breaking he was also the first black Brit to appear on “Soul Train” which is a real badge of honor.
We hadn’t completely cracked the code though. To become an R&B smash in the States the single still needed the help of a punchier American remix which beefed up the original. But we must have learned something because after that America opened its hearts and charts to other Brit soul acts Loose Ends, Sade, and Soul II Soul.
My copy of the single is a 12″ white label promo, bought in a record store I used to frequent which had a lot of review and promo copies of records probably offloaded by music journalists for booze and drug money. It has a sticker on it that says “Special New Mix” which is different to the others I’ve heard so I’ve no idea if it was ever a commercial release.
Download: Mama Used To Say (Special New Mix) – Junior (mp3)