1982: Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)

Comment

1982: Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)


When all those sad tears are fallin’, baby, from your eyes...

I have a confession: It wasn't until researching this song for this post that I realised Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) is actually a cover originally released by Steam, a group that made The Village People look like the epitome of lad culture.

Bananarama, however, bestrode the eighties like four (yes, four, remember?) pop femmes fatales and by the decade's end had earned the title of most successful girl group ever.

When I bought The Greatest Hits around this time I pretty much knew Side A back to front (their imperial era, from Venus onward into the PWL years) but had never heard any song on Side B (the early punk-ish years). Na Na Hey Hey came towards the end of this side and stood out with its oddball title and repetitive hook.

Bananarama's 1982 debut album Deep Sea Skivingfrom which this song is taken, is a perfect entry into the Girl Group canon, from Motown's Marvelettes to present-day X Factor superstars Little Mix, and the girl group genre is a style to which I'll inevitably return before this list ends. 

Comment

1981: Don't You Want Me

Comment

1981: Don't You Want Me


You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar when I met you.

1981 was the year I began to absorb pop music. I have definite memories of Kim Wilde's Kids In America, Adam And The Ants' Prince Charming and, ahem, Shakin' Stevens's This Ol' House. These songs make that year's end chart at numbers 23, 3 and 4 respectively.

Don't You Want Me by The Human League also hit this chart, two places higher than Wilde at number 21, but made by far the biggest impression on me, especially when I recall the fantastically creepy video.

Although The Human League frontman, Phil Oakey, thought Don't You Want Me wasn't good enough to release, it went on to become the UK's 1981 Christmas Number One, hitting the top spot in the US shortly after, and remains the group's signature song.

At college I got into the band during their 1995 revival, and the Octopus album era, when they released (the equally iconic, in my opinion) Tell Me When and from this, went back to explore the Dare album where Don't You Want Me originated.  

As for those lyrics, they're so famous now I'd wager you knew the song just from seeing them. In fact, that particular line might just be the very essence of the entire song. 

Comment

1980: Echo Beach

1 Comment

1980: Echo Beach


It’s a habit of mine to watch the sun go down. On Echo Beach I watch the sun go down.

Funnily enough, I wasn't busy listening to disco and new wave hits throughout the late 70s and early 80s, preferring a double long player of Vera Lynn nursery rhymes. I revisited this period when originally collating my LifeSoundtrack playlist in my 30s, and found a few gems from the time. Echo Beach, by Canadians Martha And The Muffins, is one such nugget.

I don't know too much more about the band or the song, except that, for me, it typifies a time in music that was just outside my consciousness when I was young.

1 Comment

Getting Closer

Comment

Getting Closer

One of my favourite singer-songwriters of all time returns this year with a new album, tour and, it seems, a new source of inspiration.

Tanita Tikaram, who sold over five million records when she was just 18 back in 1988 releases her ninth long player Closer To The People in March, and takes to the stage in London in April for her only scheduled UK gig, at Kings Place in London.

This album arrives just three years after 2012's Can't Go Back and, thankfully, shirks the usual seven year wait between Tanita's albums. Since the 80s, Tanita's sound has evolved from folky-pop through trip-hop and electronica into more jazz-infused compositions and the new long player appears to have been inspired by another jazz musician, Anita O'Day: In an interview with Huff Post, Tikaram describes a woman who overcame "her personal demons to perform jazz for the best part of six decades" and how she lived with "dark addictions, but also a tireless zest for life."

I last saw Tanita Tikaram play live back in 2012, at Cadogan Hall, in one of the best gigs I've ever been to, and I'm looking forward to experiencing this new evolution in her career.

Comment

1979: Video Killed The Radio Star

Comment

1979: Video Killed The Radio Star


Video killed the radio star. Video killed the radio star. In my mind and in my car, we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far. Pictures came and broke my heart. Put the blame on VCR...

I discovered this UK Number One from 1979 in the '90s on a friend's compilation. It still sounds unlike anything I have ever heard, and is a fitting anthem for the digital age, famously being the first video on MTV in 1981. 

The version I have, from the album The Age Of Plastic, even has its own Julia's Theme outro. In fact, the track actually ends twice, when the outro itself blends into an electronic echo of the song's vocal hook (play it on Spotify).

Comment

1978: Night Fever

2 Comments

1978: Night Fever


Listen to the ground. There is movement all around, there is something goin’ down and I can feel it.

An absolute classic. I discovered Night Fever a lot later than 1978 (this is the first record on the list where my parents aren't fans) but its instantly-recognisable disco beats, slicing guitars, soaring strings and trademark Brothers Gibb falsetto vocals got me hooked. 

I first saw the film Saturday Night Fever 15 years ago, which led to me searching out more Bee Gees and I eventually settled on the group's The Record greatest hits collection, which is a pretty good round-up of their career, through the disco, before and beyond.

2 Comments

1977: Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft

Comment

1977: Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft

Or, to give it its full title, Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognised Anthem Of World Contact Day).


We are observing your earth. We are observing your earth. We are observing your earth. And we’d like to make. A contact. With you. Baby.

Although I was probably a little too young to recognise it, being only one at the time, one of my earliest recollections is of my father playing his ABBA and, particularly, Carpenters records, which lived nestled in among all the classical vinyl up the shelf in the front room. Alongside A Kind Of Hush were the latter's singles collections covering 1969-73 and 1974-78, with the last track being this extraordinary song.

Opening with the maniacal DJ being phoned-in from outer space by the monotone alien, I was captivated by the way the stresses of those opening whispered words were phrased. And then Karen came in, her sweet syrupy voice almost in a cappella, before repeating the "Calling occupants" phrase plainly over and over again.

The song builds and falls, electronic and acoustic, and ends in a whirlwind of orchestral and choral leaps and bounds. Utterly amazing.

World Contact Day appears to have been some bonkers scheme in the 1950s to send telepathic thoughts into outer space, organised by the 'International Flying Saucer Bureau', and the text of this message appears in the lyrics of the song. 

Comment

1976: Dancing Queen

Comment

1976: Dancing Queen


The night is young and the music’s high. With a bit of rock music everything is fine. You’re in the mood for a dance.

Everybody loves this song, right?

The most perfect pop song ever written was released the year I was born, when I was only three months old. From its instantly-recognisable piano glissando intro, through the chorus, verse, chorus and verse, and into the too-simple chorus-to-fade structure, Dancing Queen literally reaches out and caresses a smile onto your face with all those  "Ooh yeahs".

And then those totally epic air-piano chords come in.

ABBA never put a foot wrong in their earth-conquering but criminally brief 10 year career, and despite the whole range of human emotion contained within their compositions, this song, about having a jiggle in the disco, remains a pinnacle.

Comment

2016, A New Blog For A New Year

Comment

2016, A New Blog For A New Year

2016 is the year I turn 40. 

With this life milestone usually comes a fair bit of retrospection, and I've found myself listening back through my record collection, through the songs and tracks that have punctuated my 40 years. 

When I was 30 I curated a playlist with one song for every year of my life. They were by no means all 'iconic' songs, but they were important to me: Each track defines a year and recalls friends, places, memories and events in my life. 

I continued to add to this playlist over the last decade, and to celebrate my upcoming birthday I'll try to explain what each one means to me.

Click here for a year-by-year index.

Comment