I’ve been working on both of my ’80s chart playlists this week: my ‘proper’ one, which is ongoing as part of my decade-long video-watching project (explained last week), and my ‘holding playlist’ for favourite tracks I’m yet to get to. Strangely, given that it’s only the alphabet that separates them, the two lists seem to have slightly different tones; the first seems to contain more serious tracks, while the second is more frothy. Maybe it’s just the particular tunes that seem to be coming up regularly at the moment!
An exception to the trend is one of my favourite tracks by a band from the latter half of the alphabet, Soft Cell. ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ is beautiful and epic and not at all frothy, and I was privileged to see it performed live when Geth and I saw Marc Almond at Electric Dreams 2018 (though I was less impressed by the audience members wearing inflatable pink flamingoes, as I feel the song deserves a little more reverence).
The video is early ’80s perfection and I’m always disappointed when nightclubs don’t look like this. Not that I go to nightclubs that often these days, even in non-pandemic times!
I have a mega-playlist on Spotify for ’80s chart hits that I like. Because I want it to be comprehensive, I’ve been working (on and off) since about 2012 on a project where I watch the video of every single track that was ever a UK chart hit in the ’80s… in band alphabetical order. It’s a long project (it took me about two years just to compile the complete list) and I’ve only made it to the letter ‘J’ so far in terms of watching the videos and adding the best ones to my Spotify playlist.
As such, I sometimes get a bit of a craving for hits by bands who are further along in the alphabet, and have a separate ‘holding’ playlist for this purpose! Pet Shop Boys are one of these bands and also one of my favourite acts of the era. I bought tickets for myself and Geth to go and see them in concert in 2020; the gig was postponed first to 2021 and now to 2022, so I need to be patient for that one!
In recent months (since about November) their 1988 number one ‘Heart’ has been a frequent late-night craving for me. I LOVE that intro. Makes me want to dance! (I don’t, as Geth has usually gone to bed by that point and my loud trampling would probably wake him up. Chair-dancing is fair game though.)
The video is a daft story about a wedding and vampires. ’80s videos were the best.
A slight bit of blog business today. Now that I’m caught up with all my pre-pandemic gig reviews, I’m planning to make Wednesday ‘music day’ on the blog. I’ve not focused on music posts for a while, as I’ve not been focusing on music so much in my everyday life, for a couple of reasons. First of all, gigs are obviously on the back burner for now. Secondly, I’ve not been listening to music in a focused way during the last year – I’ve been finding I concentrate on work better when it’s quiet, and when I’m out for a walk with headphones I prefer to listen to podcasts. When I do put music on (largely at the request of Geth when he wants some background music), it’s always an old standby like ’80s pop or synthwave or videogame soundtracks – it’s been a long time since I’ve deliberately listened to an album or sought out new music.
It’s been about eighteen months since I wrote my last New Hits Friday post, because I’ve not been keeping up with the chart for the last year (most chart music is not to my taste so I was starting to find it a bit of a chore, though I will go back and catch up because I still find the chart really interesting academically). I’m a few Now! albums behind, and other than the usual Christmas shows, I can’t remember the last time I turned on the music channels. It’s just not been a focus for the last year and a bit; there have been other things going on.
However, I would like to get back into the habit of focused music listening, which is why I’m going to be setting aside Wednesday blog posts for related content. This could take many forms – reviews, features, general ramblings – as I want to keep the scope quite broad. I expect that at first, I’ll mostly be focusing on music topics I already know about, but there’s always the potential to learn something new. Sometimes on ukulele!
One last flying post before things semi-return to normal tomorrow. It’s been another busy day at work and I’ve not had time for much else!
I know I promised a Music Video Monday post this week – I have not quite managed that today, nor have I had time to take an outfit picture, but here’s the video for Dolly Parton’s 9 To 5, which features lots of footage of the kind of outfits I would wear if I actually had to go out to an office for work!
Today’s earworm playlist:
The Darkness – Growing On Me Billy Idol – Eyes Without A Face Devo – Whip It Cher – If I Could Turn Back Time Tyler Lyle – Lost And Found [The Midnight Remix] Ludwig van Beethoven – The Pastoral Symphony Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know? California Dreams – California Dreams Rod Stewart – Baby Jane Blancmange – Living On The Ceiling Duran Duran – The Reflex Natalie Cole – Miss You Like Crazy The Midnight and Nikki Flores – Jason
A couple more recently released videos for current chart hits.
Miley Cyrus – Mother’s Daughter
NSFW video full of intersectional feminist imagery. I can’t get over the fact that Miley seems to be wearing Britney Spears’ catsuit from the Oops…I Did It Again video though!
Mark Ronson and Camila Cabello – Find U Again
This is a cracking video with an actual storyline. It’s black and white, and we start off outside a motel, which gives me some nice Psycho vibes. However, instead of a slasher horror, the story is an endearingly daft tale about bounty hunters who are being hired to take out Camila Cabello. They’re all told about their job through the use of retro telephones, which of course I absolutely love.
Mark Ronson is one of the bounty hunters, and is the first to find the club where Camila is performing. He irritatingly parks his car across two parking spaces, and then there’s a completely unnecessarily prominent advert for Marc Jacobs eyewear when he removes his glasses. However, he’s too intrigued by Camila to kill her, and so when the rest of the bounty hunters show up, he rescues her instead and they drive off into the sunset.
So nice when a video has an actual coherent narrative!
I’ve never been very keen on what is commonly considered ‘running music’. Compilations such as Now! That’s What I Call Running and Spotify running playlists usually have some good classic tracks on them, but they also tend to contain the kind of music you hear in the gym – endless high-energy electro dance music, with the idea being that it makes you run faster. I am a slow runner – for the record, the song that most frequently gets stuck in my head during long runs is Duran Duran’s Come Undone, which gives you an idea of the kind of pace I go at. As such, my running playlist is a little more sedate, focuses on iconic running themes rather than speed – and, like most of my playlists, has a high quotient of ’80s hits. Let’s go!
10. Bryan Adams – Run To You
If it was a hit in the ’80s and it’s got ‘run’ in the title, you can bet that it will end up on my running playlist at some point.
The video for this one features a lot of footprints in the snow, meaning that the invisible runner who left them is a lot more hardcore than me! I don’t go out running in ice and snow (it’s dangerous and slippy), preferring to stick to my nice indoor treadmill during winter weather.
9. Bill Conti – Gonna Fly Now
The Rocky theme is one of those iconic pieces that always shows up whenever someone on TV does a parody training montage. Get running up those steps!
Here’s a clip from the film with the music – lots of running around disused railway tracks and so on. In most things I believe the ’80s to be absolutely supreme, but I am glad that we’ve since invented proper technical materials so that we don’t have to wear full cotton tracksuits to go running in the winter anymore!
8. Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride
This chirpy, upbeat theme was played at the end of the BBC’s London Marathon coverage a couple of years ago, thus reminding me to add it to my running playlist. Whoever’s in charge of the coverage always picks a really good song for the ending.
There’s no official video for the song, but this Top of the Pops clip is absolutely classic ’80s TOTP – shiny sets, balloons being bounced everywhere, audience members making every effort with their fabulous outfits!
7. Heaven 17 – Let Me Go
I discussed this lovely eerie, classic-phone-laden video in a dedicated post earlier this year – it’s actually the video that merited the song’s inclusion on the running playlist, because of Glenn Gregory’s slo-mo running away from nothing in particular past the National Westminster Bank!
6. Jon & Vangelis – I’ll Find My Way Home
Another track that was used for the BBC’s London Marathon coverage, and another track where the TOTP clip will have to substitute for the video. This one is a slightly more serious performance, with proper musical instruments and a set that strangely reminds me of an Italian restaurant.
5. A Flock Of Seagulls – I Ran
Like Let Me Go above, this track was never actually a Top 40 hit in the UK, though it’s stayed in the popular consciousness over the intervening thirty-odd years. That title ensures its inclusion on the playlist!
The video, which on paper is just the band performing in a room, is a classic due to its highly ’80s effects, which involve a lot of mirrors and tinfoil. I love the fact that tinfoil was once considered respectable set dressing! (See also: almost every episode of ’80s Doctor Who.)
4. Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’
I hear this at every race – of particular note is the band that plays at approximately mile eight of the Great North Run. I have heard them play Don’t Stop Believin’ every single year I’ve run the race! I assume they just stand there playing it over and over for the four hours it takes every runner to go past.
There was never an official video made for this one, so the video that music channels always show is this live performance from Houston. It really captures the atmosphere of big arena shows at the time.
3. Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill
Hills I regularly do where this song comes into my head include the hill you have to do twice during Pendle parkrun, the ‘Slog on the Tyne’ at the Great North 10k, and Arthur’s Seat during the EMF 10k. However, they all pale in comparison to the hill I was running up during my first summer of training in 2015, when I was on holiday in France. You’d need those godlike powers that Kate sings about to manage that one with any speed!
The video is more about artistic dancing than running, but it’s very pretty.
2. Mark Knopfler – Local Hero
This is a really emotional one because it’s a Newcastle anthem that is always played on the start line of the Great North Run (to celebrate the 60,000 people who run it as well as Knopfler himself, who grew up in Newcastle and is thus a ‘local hero’ round these parts).
There’s no official video, but here’s a live video from a Sydney concert during the classic Dire Straits period in 1986…
…and a bonus video that was filmed by an audience member a few weeks ago when Mark Knopfler played the Newcastle Arena, so you can hear the Geordie audience’s reaction. I didn’t go to this show because I’ve already spent out on gigs this year (and also I’m not a fan of his ’90s solo stuff due to my parents constantly playing it on long car journeys when I was a kid).
1. Vangelis – Chariots Of Fire
The ultimate iconic slo-mo running music! Originally composed for the Chariots Of Fire film in 1982, it’s since been used in a thousand homages and parodies, and is often played at races (it was played when I ran into Gateshead Stadium as the very last runner in the 2016 Great North 10k, which remains possibly my favourite ever running moment).
The video is mostly clips from the film, but there’s also a lot of shots of Vangelis playing piano and fiddling with his synthesisers while chain-smoking (continuing that super healthy athletic theme!).
Bonus ’90s track: Duran Duran – Come Undone
I mentioned this one at the start of the post, and I highly recommend it for fellow slow runners! A lovely sedate tune for ambling along to during a long run.
The pretty aquarium-set video is always worth a watch too!
I went back to dance class for the first time in about a year and a half tonight, and I’m (not) looking forward to an awkward few weeks where I struggle to keep up ’cause I’m still learning the routines. I thought I’d motivate myself by looking at some videos where everyone knows what they’re doing!
10. Kelly Marie – Feels Like I’m In Love
I can never help but smile at this silly, kitschy video in which Kelly Marie and her two sailor friends go dancing around Central London for a bit of shore leave sightseeing.
9. Lionel Richie – Dancing On The Ceiling
Lionel and his fabulously-dressed ’80s friends decide the floor is not good enough and go stamping all over the walls and ceiling, causing a disturbance on the next floor up! The ceiling dancing effect is a bit hokey nowadays (you can tell the exact angle to which the set has just been spun when the dancers awkwardly clamber from wall to ceiling), but it’s still a highly entertaining watch.
8. Wham! – Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
A lot of colourful dancing here, mainly from stalwart Wham! backing singers Pepsi and Shirlie plus a couple of extra friends, but it’s the day-glo UV lights sequence (long before it became trendy in videos of the early ’10s!) complete with dancing feet that I love about this video.
7. David Bowie and Mick Jagger – Dancing In The Street
I still see a lot online, strangely, about how this video is OMG SCANDALOUS for some reason and not becoming of such musical luminaries (mainly from American commentators, it has to be said; Brits tend to be more ‘meh, it’s just a couple of mates pissing about having a laugh, what’s the issue here?’). Either way, you can’t have an ’80s dance video list without it, and I want to give a shout out to Mick Jagger’s Reebok Freestyles here. Freestyle wearers represent.
6. Duran Duran – Wild Boys
No dancing from the band members here (Duran Duran do not dance, apart from that bit at the end of the New Moon On Monday video that they’d like you to forget about). The dancing is instead provided by the eponymous Wild Boys, a tribe of body-painted hostiles who have kidnapped the band (or something – like most music videos, the plot’s not very clear), and was choreographed by one-time Strictly judge Arlene Phillips.
5. Adam & The Ants – Prince Charming
There’s a lot to like in this classic video – Adam as the male Cinderella, Diana Dors as the fairy godmother, that fancy sports car that substitutes for the pumpkin carriage – but it’s the daft dance routine that will be remembered till the end of time. Ridicule is nothing to be scared of!
4. Elton John – I’m Still Standing
Elton John’s I’m Still Standing video is the gift that keeps on giving. The entire video is basically one long dance routine, ably led by Strictly judge Bruno Tonioli and his extensive collection of skimpy beachwear. The dancers lift each other in the air! They spin effortlessly on stairwells! They fall over on the beach! I could watch it a thousand more times and I’d probably still be picking up extra details.
3. Bananarama – Love In The First Degree
Bananarama are the ’80s queens of not-entirely-serious dance routines (their brilliantly half-arsed shuffle in the café in Really Saying Something is another of my favourites), and this cartoony prison-set video, complete with striped prisoner garb, balls and chains, and obvious stunt double backflips, is a shining example. Bonus points for the song being on the legendary Now! That’s What I Call Music #10 compilation.
2. Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes
Another wonderfully odd early ’80s dance routine where the dancers spend a lot of time artistically slapping each other and then rhythmically slamming their palms against the floor in some kind of apparent protest. Great video.
1. Michael Jackson – Thriller
Come on. What else could it have been?
When I became a horror film buff in the late ’90s/early ’00s I was utterly fascinated with this video and the way it homaged so many horror tropes. Vincent Price’s narration in the middle of the song over the zombies crawling out of their graves is a highlight, but there’s a reason why the dance routine is still taught in Zumba classes all over the world every time Hallowe’en rolls around. It’s an absolute classic, and I love the story of how director John Landis insisted on the dancers having two weeks of rehearsals (not the norm at the time) so that they would be absolutely in sync with each other and therefore creepier. No video will ever better this one.
It’s been a few weeks since we caught up with recently released videos for current chart hits.
Lewis Capaldi – Hold Me While You Wait
I’m not sure if we’re going to get a more official video at some point, but this Vevo one, with Lewis singing in a library, does the trick for now. It’s a live performance, apparently, but it sounds exactly the same as the record. Keep watching and eventually they zoom out far enough for a glimpse of the piano player.
James Arthur – Falling Like The Stars
The video for this one is a fairly solemn affair about a military wife who works in a diner. There’s a happy ending though!
Skepta and Nafe Smallz – Greaze Mode
This video is really nicely filmically done, like a ’60s/’70s gangster or bank heist movie. I love retro stuff so this one has my approval.
Lewis Capaldi – Bruises
Another live performance video from Lewis Capaldi that sounds exactly like the record, although this one was actually released two years ago. The cellar setting is a bit ominous, but there’s some nice piano porn towards the end.
As I mentioned yesterday, I went to see Martin Kemp’s DJ set at Wylam Brewery last night (show reviewed here). I then listened to his bank holiday show about the New Romantic scene on Radio 2 this afternoon. On both occasions, he finished with Gold, which was (a) absolutely expected and (b) a consequent earworm for the rest of the day.
The song was one of my early loves when I first got into ’80s nostalgia in the ’90s, but the video makes it even better, despite the fact that its attempt at a narrative is typically daft.
It’s about trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle made out of gold. I think? Anyway, at the start of the video, a woman’s hand is shown stealing one of the pieces, making the jigsaw frustratingly unfinishable for everyone else.
The video then follows Tony Hadley, who has heroically taken it upon himself to track down the stolen puzzle piece, roaming around somewhere in north Africa in search of his objective. There are a lot of sharp suits and sunglasses in this video.
He occasionally catches glimpses of a gold-painted woman, presumably the gold lover who stole the puzzle piece. The gold lady was played by Sadie Frost, who was later married to Spandau bandleader Gary Kemp.
There is a really annoying jump cut around the 1:20 mark – it’s meant to be a seamless blending of shots of a guitar, giving the effect of the background changing behind the instrument, but it really doesn’t work – largely because the two guitars are lit so differently! Maybe this one should be classed as ‘the best they could do in 1983’.
The video ends in a way that is possibly meant to be an homage to Goldfinger (it’s not very clear), with Tony finding the gold-painted lady apparently dead from the paint (a murder method that has been debunked, incidentally). He morbidly places her gold pendant on her body and takes back the puzzle piece she stole.
The video finishes with Tony completing the jigsaw puzzle. A happy ending!