Being a Band Aid baby, or: one hell of a bucket list

If you’re lucky, there’s something special about the song that was number one when you were born.  Maybe it symbolises something about your life, or your interests, or the person that you ended up growing up to be.  Maybe it’s just a really awesome song.

If you’re unlucky, you end up like Geth and get Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless) (UK number one from 25th May 1980 to 14th June 1980, fact fans!) as your birthday number one.  It’s not bad as TV theme tunes go, but it’s not special to Geth – he didn’t grow up to be a soldier, or an expert on the Korean War, or even much of a M*A*S*H fan, really.

I was lucky, and my birthday number one is special to me.  I love it as a Christmas baby, as an ’80s throwback, as a chart geek, and as a lover of music in general.  It’s an extremely well-known Christmas song – one of those tracks you hear constantly from the middle of November until early January.  It held the record for the best-selling single in UK chart history for more than twelve years, only ever being overtaken by Elton John’s Candle In The Wind ’97 after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in September 1997.

My birthday number one is Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, one of the most famous recordings in music history.

Do They Know It's Christmas?

I was born on 3rd January 1985, the twenty-sixth day of the thirty-five day period (9th December 1984 to 12th January 1985) that Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? spent at number one in the UK.  From the 1984-1985 UK birthrates available online, I estimate that I share my birthday number one with approximately 71,000 other Band Aid babies, including Georgia Moffett, Lewis Hamilton, and Newton Faulkner.  (I would love to be able to work out the exact number, but the internet is not forthcoming at the moment!)

Due to the ubiquity of the song, I grew up with it, and it became my favourite Christmas song long before I realised that it was my birthday number one.  I pored over the upside-down answers to Smash Hits quizzes that challenged readers to name all the artists involved in the song, and memorised names that were unfamiliar to me in the context of the early ’90s pop music landscape.  I dutifully learnt to sing the song with my primary school class in preparation for our Christmas performance at the local old folks’ community centre.  I waited excitedly for it to come on as soon as my brother and I were allowed to play the family’s Christmas compilation CD (That’s Christmas) on the 1st of December every year.  It’s one of those songs that you hear hundreds of times every year, and so it never really goes out of your mind.  That’s not something you can say about Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless).

The finer points of Bob Geldof’s project to put together a charity supergroup and the song’s recording on 25th November 1984 are well known, detailed in a hundred different BBC4 documentaries and summarised fairly well on Wikipedia (though I highly recommend the Smash Hits coverage of the recording day included in the collection book The Best Of Smash Hits: The ’80s for a bit of period flavour – it has a great group photo of all the artists involved except for Boy George, who infamously didn’t show up till six o’clock in the evening due to oversleeping in New York and having to get on a Concorde back to London).

I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my life, including a lot of concerts by artists who were big in the ’80s due to it being my favourite music era and favourite era in general.  But the other day, it occurred to me that I had never gone to see a single one of the thirty-seven artists who performed on my birthday number one.  I had never even seen any of the additional seven artists who couldn’t make it to the recording and so sent recorded Christmas messages to be used on the B-side of the single.

This is the part of the post where I get to the point.

I will never get to see every single one of the artists involved in my birthday number one.  Sadly, two of the musicians who contributed to the song (George Michael and Rick Parfitt) and two who recorded B-side messages (Stuart Adamson and David Bowie) have since passed away.  But I have decided that I will make a concerted effort to see as many of the rest of them as possible.  After all, I have more opportunity than some.  My brother’s birthday number one is Ben E King’s Stand By Me (a re-entry at UK number one between 15th February 1987 and 7th March 1987), which means that since King’s death in 2015 he has no longer had the possibility of seeing his birthday number one artist.  People who were born between 14th December 1980 and 20th December 1980, when (Just Like) Starting Over was number one following John Lennon’s assassination, have never had the chance to see their birthday number one artist.

Enter the Band Aid bucket list!

For most of my bucket lists, I reckon that if I’m lucky enough, I’ve got another fifty or sixty years left to get them completed.  Time is not so much on my side for this particular list, given that all the artists on it are now in their fifties and sixties and won’t be performing or alive forever.  As such, rather similarly to the huge hoard of ’80s vintage clothing I’m collecting while it’s still cheap and plentiful, I aim to get the bulk of this project achieved while I’m still in my thirties, and so I’m targeting >50% list completion by my fortieth birthday on 3rd January 2025.  That gives me six years, one month and fourteen days as of this post to see as many of the following artists as possible.  I’d better get a wiggle on.

The artists who sang on the track:

The extra artists who recorded messages for the B-side:

Current progress: song artists 5/37 (13.5%); message artists 2/7 (28.6%); total artists 7/44 (15.9%).

I have arranged to find out about future performances by all of these artists using the extremely lazy 21st century method of following them all on Twitter!

I’ll keep updating this post as I see more artists.  I’m looking forward to this project!

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #14

Two weeks into this review series, and Now! 14 takes us to 20th March 1989.

March 1989
This is how the world looked in March 1989. Nice garden stonework features, lots of plants, and head-to-toe red outfits.

Both me and the wee bro were clearly better dressed than this lot, but let’s listen to their songs anyway.

Now! That's What I Call Music #14
Track 1: Marc Almond and Gene Pitney – Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart

The Gene Pitney solo original from the ’60s is one of my all-time favourite songs.  This version with Marc Almond doesn’t quite match the original for me, but it’s still really good.

Track 2: Phil Collins – Two Hearts

Phil Collins back on form after that awful one from yesterday.  Great bouncy singalong chair-dancer.

Track 3: Erasure – Stop!

Love the spiky synth on this one.  More great pop from Erasure.

Track 4: Bananarama and LaNaNeeNeeNooNoo – Help!

An early example of a Comic Relief single, with Bananarama teaming up with their parody versions (actually French and Saunders) for a not-quite-pointless cover of the Beatles classic.  There’s not much added to the song other than the daft comedy spoken word sections, but the backing instrumentals are quite interesting.

Track 5: Hue & Cry – Looking For Linda

More upbeat than Ordinary Angel yesterday, but the chorus annoys me.  Sorry!

Track 6: Yazz – Fine Time

Yazz has ditched the Plastic Population, and judging by this song, I can’t decide whether it was the best move.  The tune is nice and soulful, but perhaps a little slow for me.  No annoying chorus, though, so that’s a huge improvement.

Track 7: Kim Wilde – Four Letter Word

Obligatory Kim Wilde gig mention.  Yes, she played this one too!

Bit of a slower, quieter one from Kim Wilde, but still a great pop track – really nice build to the atmosphere.

Track 8: Sam Brown – Stop

This is the second track on this compilation with this title.  Between this and the Transvision Vamp/Duran Duran mixed message from yesterday, I’m beginning to think bands in the late ’80s were running out of originality when it came to titles.

Absolutely love this track – beautiful tune, wonderful epic atmosphere.

Fun fact: Jamelia did the most pointless of pointless covers of this in 2003 for the Love Actually soundtrack – it sounds EXACTLY the same.

Track 9: Roy Orbison – You Got It

Was Roy Orbison really still going in 1989?  *googles*  Apparently so.

Really like this tune, especially that bridge.  Nice head-nodder.

Track 10: Fine Young Cannibals – She Drives Me Crazy

Hands down my favourite Fine Young Cannibals song.  Absolutely classic track with a beautiful simplicity to the vocals and lyrics, and some stunning guitar instrumentals.  Adore this one.

Track 11: INXS – Need You Tonight

That hook!  Another one that used to be used to announce the ad breaks on VH1 Classic.  An all-time favourite, with wonderful vocals and a great atmosphere.

Track 12: Status Quo – Burning Bridges (On And Off And On Again)

Annoying riff to start that reminds me of a sing-song nursery rhyme.  This is echoed in the chorus.  The verses are okay though.  Then there’s that random instrumental of the tune that I only know from Manchester United’s Come On You Reds song in the ’90s.  Just a bit of a mess, really.

Track 13: Then Jerico – Big Area

Nice tinkly intro, which smashes into a bit of epic guitar-led atmosphere.  Boring vocals, but the instrumentals are great.

Track 14: Morrissey – The Last Of The Famous International Playboys

Fairly upbeat for Morrissey.  Bit of a dull tune though.

Track 15: Poison – Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Boring slow guitar track.  My least favourite kind of music!  Not a fan at all.

Track 16: Simple Minds – Belfast Child

Beautiful track from Simple Minds, based on traditional melody As She Moved Through The Fair.  A favourite since childhood.

Track 17: Neneh Cherry – Buffalo Stance

I’ve got a soft spot for this classic, which I find to be a great singalong head-nodder.

Track 18: Inner City – Good Life

A little repetitive, but better than Big Fun yesterday.

Track 19: S-Express – Hey Music Lover

Super irritating spoken sample at the start!  I like the synth lines though.

Track 20: Living In A Box – Blow The House Down

Nice upbeat pop track, good head-nodder.  Really like that chorus.

Track 21: The Style Council – Promised Land

I’m a little surprised the Style Council were still going in ’89 – I was sure Paul Weller had gone solo by then.  Oh well, gotta keep improving that music knowledge.

Nice track though – good bouncy song, great synth going on in there.

Track 22: Adeva – Respect

Vocals a bit erratic for my liking, but a good dance track.

Track 23: Tone Lōc – Wild Thing

I quite like that clappy intro.  Rap bit is kind of dull though.

Track 24: Natalie Cole – I Live For Your Love

The dullest type of dull ballad, only marginally saved by the tinkly instrumentals.  Not keen.

Track 25: Robin Beck – First Time

Really like the tune on this one – great rock ballad.

Track 26: Paula Abdul – Straight Up

Great chair-dancing track.  Love the chorus too, good singalong potential.

Track 27: Samantha Fox – I Only Wanna Be With You

Upbeat cover of the Dusty Springfield classic.  Different enough not to be pointless (there’s no mistaking that ’80s synth), but there’s something cheesy and annoying about it.

Track 28: Brother Beyond – Be My Twin

Vocals are too saccharine, but I quite like the tune.  Nice sax solo too.

Track 29: Climie Fisher – Love Like A River

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

We’re getting towards the end of the compilation!  Do I dare hope?  Could today finally be the day when every track from the original compilation is present and correct on Spotify…oh.  Oh well.  So close.

Typically cheesy vocals for Climie Fisher, although there’s a nice almost-edge to the instrumentals underneath.

Track 30: Duran Duran – All She Wants Is

Yup, I still love Duran Duran, and this one is predictably wonderful (that bassline! that synth! those vocals! that chanting!) as ever.  Just a cut above.

Track 31: Level 42 – Tracie

All right, all right, I’m clicking on that ticket link now!  I’m buying those tickets!  I’ve received the email confirmation!  I’m going to see Level 42 in October!

It was for the best that I did that tonight, too, ’cause there were only two floor seats left that were next to each other!

This one’s a great jaunty track with some nice synth hooks.  Hope they play it when I go see them!

Track 32: Michael Ball – Love Changes Everything

I’ve got a soft spot for Michael Ball, mainly ’cause he’s so ubiquitous on British TV these days.  This track from the musical Aspects Of Love is as saccharine as you would expect, but it makes a nice change from the slow pop ballads that have been ending the last few Now! compilations.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #10

Day 10’s Now! compilation was released on 23rd November 1987.

November 1987
There’s something of a theme developing with these ‘this is what the world looked like…’ pictures. I’m sure the world didn’t just look like our house (and since this particular picture was taken, its background hasn’t changed in the slightest – carpet, intercom and original Victorian doorway are still all exactly the same!), but I guess you don’t get out much with small children, so in our family photo album the world looks very much like our house during that era. Here’s what it looked like in November 1987.

Now! #10 is special to me, because it’s the one we had (and still have) on vinyl – the one Dad always put on the record player for me when I wanted to listen to music, the one I learnt to sing and dance to, the one I grew up with, the one that absolutely shaped my music taste.  While there were a lot of Now! compilations I was familiar with in the ’90s, this one is my one.  I must have listened to it a thousand times.

Let’s have a listen to some tracks I know very, very well.

Now! That's What I Call Music #10

Track 1: Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé – Barcelona

The opening bars of this track still send chills down my spine – I’m instantly transported back to my parents’ living room as it looked in the last century, the sound of the record on the player that you just can’t replicate digitally, the bass on the speakers of Dad’s homemade sound system, the anticipation of an evening spent listening to music I loved.

The BBC used this song for its coverage of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, so the song also takes me back to summer days in front of the TV at our holiday caravan (we usually had a black and white TV at the caravan but for the Olympics we brought a colour one with us specially), watching Sally Gunnell and Linford Christie winning gold.

How this one shaped my music taste: You know how every third song review I’ve done on this feature seems to contain the phrase ‘epic atmosphere’?  This is the ultimate in epic atmospheres – booming, dramatic, lots of switching between major and minor key, piano, operatic vocals, slow verses building to a huge chorus, the works.  That is what I love in music – something that makes me feel that strange mixture of happy and sad.

Track 2: Pet Shop Boys – Rent

Pet Shop Boys can do no wrong in my opinion, but this is a stunner.  Beautiful lyrical theme, wonderful emotion-inducing synth line, and another of those epic atmospheres I was talking about above.  An all-time favourite.

Fun fact: Carter USM did a not-at-all-pointless ’90s cover of this, which is very different but also absolutely beautiful.  Nothing will ever beat the original for me, but that Carter cover is great.

How this one shaped my music taste: Two words: electronic music.  I’ve always been drawn to electro, and it’s largely because of early exposure to beautiful synthpop like this.

Track 3: The Communards – Never Can Say Goodbye

Another great pop track from the Communards.  More amusement provided by 2017 Strictly contestant Richard Coles in the video, in which he leads the crowd on the disco dancefloor with some dodgy moves that were nonetheless way better than anything he did on Strictly.  Still wish he’d stayed in the competition longer!

How this one shaped my music taste: It’s fast, upbeat ’80s pop.  Say no more!

Track 4: M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume

This one always scared me a bit as a kid.  I’m not sure why.  I remember that feeling of fear, wanting to go and hide while the song was playing, but I never did.  I just always stayed kind of rooted to the spot until it was over.

As an adult who no longer experiences irrational fear (um, mostly), I find it a great chantalong track, and due to its ‘SAN FRANCISCO/pump up the volume‘ hook, I played it nonstop for a week leading up to a trip to San Francisco in 2011.  True story.  I am super lame.

How this one shaped my music taste: I always give things a chance, even when it doesn’t immediately sound like my cup of tea.  Anything might grow on you eventually.  Even if it’s a song that gives you strange, irrational fear.

Track 5: Hue & Cry – Labour Of Love

Most definitely an example of that unexplainable mid-’80s Scottish band sound, but in a great way.  I absolutely love this track – the rapid tempo, the stop-start hooks, the catchy vocals.  Awesome song.

How this one shaped my music taste: I love interesting hooks.  And piano.

Track 6: Jellybean and Steven Dante – The Real Thing

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

On the surface this one is a bit dull, but it’s got a nice singalong chorus, and I always find myself nodding along.

How this one shaped my music taste: It’s not always the expected tracks that have you chair-dancing.

Track 7: Johnny Hates Jazz – I Don’t Want To Be A Hero

Great upbeat pop song with a catchy, singalong chorus.  There’s something nice and emotional about the bridge, too.

How this one shaped my music taste: You can find a lovely epic bridge in the most unexpected songs.

Track 8: The Style Council – Wanted

Nice feelgood track from the Style Council – as ever, the backing vocals are great.  Love those tinkly instrumental hooks.

How this one shaped my music taste: I really appreciate good backing vocals.

Track 9: T’Pau – China In Your Hand

Beautiful, beautiful song – another one with an epic atmosphere.  The vocals are stunning, the way the song builds is perfect, and that sax solo is brilliantly over-the-top.

How this one shaped my music taste: There’s nothing I like more than an epic ’80s sax solo!

Track 10: Heart – Alone

This one is really special to me.  It’s a gorgeous rock ballad that has really spoken to me throughout various periods of my life, and always makes me quite emotional.  Beautiful lyrics, beautiful guitar solos – epic, epic song.

How this one shaped my music taste: I adore huge overdramatic rock ballads.  Really!

Track 11: Kiss – Crazy Crazy Nights

Great singalong party song from Kiss.  I love those rocked-out verses and the chorus is mega, especially once you hit the key change.

Due to being hard of hearing, and thus having a lot of issues with background noise, I’ve always found it difficult to make out what singers are singing about – I am the queen of misheard lyrics – but this nice, simple chorus is easy to sing along to.  Great job!

How this one shaped my music taste: I have a soft spot for key changes.  I even quite liked it when Westlife used to do their terrible cheesy ones with the accompanying standing-up-from-stools-on-stage.

Track 12: Billy Idol – Mony Mony

Another great singalong rock chorus that even hard-of-hearing types can make out!  In later life, I grew to love other Billy Idol songs even more than this one, but that nice simple ‘mony mony‘ lyric has a special place in my heart.

How this one shaped my music taste: ’80s pop rock, ’nuff said.  It also strongly shaped my fashion taste, due to the accompanying picture of Billy Idol in the record sleeve with all his spiky hair and black leather and general rock attitude.  By the time he showed up in The Wedding Singer a decade later, my love of the ’80s rock look was set in stone.

Track 13: Whitesnake – Here I Go Again ’87

More classic ’80s rock!  Brilliant singalong track that is only enhanced by the over-the-top video and all its ridiculous double Jaguar bonnet cartwheeling.  Not bad for a band from Middlesbrough.

I have to say I prefer this version to the version they originally did in 1982, probably because this is the one I heard so often in childhood, due to this compilation.

How this one shaped my music taste: Hair metal.  I love it and I won’t apologise.

Track 14: The Alarm – Rain In The Summertime

Great feelgood track with lovely jingly instrumentals.  I’ve seen this performed live, when the band played at Beautiful Days 2010.  I dragged Geth to see them, purely because of their presence on this compilation, and he was not impressed!  What I found out that day: playing a song entitled Rain In The Summertime, when outdoors in the British summer, is just asking for it, and the inevitable downpour that struck that evening meant that we had to shelter in the Big Top indoor stage.  We did end up getting engaged that night, so you can’t complain.

How this one shaped my music taste: I have a whimsical appreciation for songs about rain.

Track 15: Marillion – Sugar Mice

Bit of a slow one, but it builds in a great epic fashion, culminating in an awesome epic guitar solo.

How this one shaped my music taste: I really love songs that build well.

Track 16: Wet Wet Wet – Sweet Little Mystery

Great upbeat pop – always been a fan of this one.  I really like Wet Wet Wet’s ’80s stuff, before they got all grown-up and introspective in the ’90s.

How this one shaped my music taste: I appreciate nice, simple pop songs.

Track 17: Curiosity Killed The Cat – Misfit

Really like this one – my favourite Curiosity Killed The Cat track.  As a kid, not being familiar with the idiom, I used to get upset by the band’s name (I love cats).

How this one shaped my music taste: I never judge a band by their name.

Track 18: Los Lobos – La Bamba

A cover of the Ritchie Valens classic.  The cover is very close to the original, but deliberately so as it was recorded for the film La Bamba, which was about Valens, so I’m not going to call it a pointless cover – instead I’ll just enjoy the tune, which is a great party track and was played at every birthday party I went to in the late ’80s.

How this one shaped my music taste: Sometimes the oldies are the goodies.  (And now that it’s the ’80s hits that are the oldies, this has never been more true.)

Track 19: Fat Boys and Beach Boys – Wipeout

Great surf-themed song.  The Fat Boys’ cackle at the start of the song is another thing that scared me as a kid (they also looked pretty scary in their album sleeve picture, which I seem to remember involving snakes), but once the song gets going it’s great, especially when the Beach Boys’ harmonies kick in.

How this one shaped my music taste: I never judge a band by the way they look.  This has served me well in the goth scene!

Track 20: Bananarama – Love In The First Degree

Another pop classic from Bananarama – I absolutely adored this one as a kid and still love it now.

This is another one where the album sleeve picture made a big impression on my young brain.  The band members were all fully clothed themselves, but they each had a topless dude as an accessory.  This is something you’d be less likely to see in pop music today, where female artists are usually hugely objectified and barely clothed.  In some ways, we’ve gone backwards since the ’80s. </soapbox>

How this one shaped my music taste: Bananarama’s music, for me is the epitome of the fun and intelligence that pop music and lyrics used to have.  If pop music doesn’t have that – which, nowadays, it usually doesn’t – it’s not pop music in my book.  It’s that simple.

Track 21: Cliff Richard – My Pretty One

The vocals are far too saccharine for me, ’cause it’s Cliff Richard, but the instrumentals are actually really nice!

How this one shaped my music taste: I know not to listen to Cliff.  Is that cheating?

Track 22: Karel Fialka – Hey Matthew

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

I’ve always loved this one – a really, really interesting song with vocals that, despite having a nice melody when you listen closely, sound almost spoken in some ways, actual spoken word from a child that manages to be interesting rather than annoying, and great screechy electro hooks.

How this one shaped my music taste: I have a soft spot for spoken word.

Track 23: Jan Hammer – Crockett’s Theme

So much better than his main theme for Miami Vice!  I’ve always adored this tune.

How this one shaped my music taste: I love a good instrumental soundtrack.

Track 24: Nina Simone – My Baby Just Cares For Me

Love the plinky piano on this classic track.  Can’t remember why it was in the charts again, but I’m not complaining!

How this one shaped my music taste: I really like interesting piano stuff.

Track 25: Erasure – The Circus

One of my favourite Erasure tracks – but then, I love everything they did in the ’80s.  This is a gorgeous song.

How this one shaped my music taste: More great synthpop that cemented my electro addiction.

Track 26: The Housemartins – Build

Lovely track from the Housemartins – beautiful introspective lyrics and nice slow tune.

How this one shaped my music taste: Sometimes, there’s something beautiful about a slower song.

Track 27: Level 42 – It’s Over

A slower one from Level 42, with really interesting instrumental lines.

And no, I’ve still not booked tickets to that October gig I keep going on about.  I will get round to it soon, I promise!

How this one shaped my music taste: Speaking of slower songs, they can be really musically interesting as well!

Track 28: ABC – When Smokey Sings

Adore ABC, adore this track.  I love that epic intro, Martin Fry’s vocals, the instrumentals – everything.

How this one shaped my music taste: I love songs that bang in right from the start.  Start as you mean to go on!

Track 29: Squeeze – Hourglass

Great jaunty song.  That chorus is just awesome, typical bit of fun from Squeeze!

How this one shaped my music taste: I really appreciate songs that have something whimsical about them.

Track 30: The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York

An all-time classic.  One of my favourite Christmas songs, and one I learnt to adore early in life, thanks to this compilation.  Just beautiful.

How this one shaped my music taste: Though you might not be able to guess at the moment, due to me being super curmudgeonly about them when it’s springtime, I adore Christmas songs.  I get my playlist on the go in early November and I watch the music channels religiously in the lead-up to the festive season.  Very few of them are as good as this one, but the genre is special to me.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #5

Day 5’s Now! compilation was released on 5th August 1985.

August 1985
In August 1985, furnishings were still brown, newspapers were printed in a font that looks very dated now, and I looked like pretty much every other baby does. I would have preferred to avoid baby photos for this feature, but that month I was literally the only thing my parents took pictures of.

Um, let’s listen to some tracks that I may have heard but probably couldn’t have cared less about at seven months old.

Now! That's What I Call Music #5
Track 1: Duran Duran – A View To A Kill

I love Duran Duran!  Did I say that already?

I also love the James Bond films, so this 007 theme tune should be a match made in heaven.  Unfortunately, for me it’s not quite up to the usual standard for either Duran Duran or James Bond soundtracks.  Still a good tune though.

Track 2: Scritti Politti – The Word Girl

Lyrics are a bit saccharine for me, but it’s got a nice beat.

Track 3: Harold Faltermeyer – Axel F

Really great, interesting track, slightly ruined by the memories of the horrific Crazy Frog cover that everyone had as their ringtone circa 2005.

I’ve never seen Beverly Hills Cop, incidentally, though I’m sure with a soundtrack like this it can’t be bad.  One to add to the watch list.

Track 4: Fine Young Cannibals – Johnny Come Home

Great head-nodder, though the lyrics annoy me a little.  Except for ‘what is wrong with my life/that I must get drunk every night‘.  That bit’s awesome.

Track 5: Dead Or Alive – In Too Deep

Pretty boring and generic song considering it’s Dead Or Alive!  The synth solo in the middle is all right though.

Track 6: Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy – Icing On The Cake

Stephen Duffy was a founding member of Duran Duran, fact fans, though I’m not really feeling the love-by-association here.  Nice upbeat pop, but nothing special.

Track 7: Kool & The Gang – Cherish

Nice intro, but then it turns into a ballad that’s far too cheesy for my tastes.  Not a fan of this one.

Track 8: Paul Young – Every Time You Go Away

Paul Young did some great stuff, but I find this one pretty dreary.

Track 9: Marillion – Kayleigh

A longtime favourite since childhood <tries to avoid making ‘misplaced childhood’ reference, fails miserably>.  Absolutely beautiful track.  That guitar solo, the stunning lyrics – I adore everything about it.

Track 10: Bryan Ferry – Slave To Love

I quite like this one, though the backing vocals on the chorus irritate me a bit.

Track 11: David Bowie and the Pat Metheny Group – This Is Not America

Nice atmospheric song, and Bowie’s vocals are great here.

Track 12: Simple Minds – Don’t You (Forget About Me)

Simple Minds don’t have that weird Scottish-’80s-band-sound-I-can’t-put-my-finger-on (come to think of it, neither do Marillion).  Maybe it was the Scottish bands who were able to lose it who were the ones that really made it big.  Or maybe it’s all in my head and there is no ‘Scottish ’80s band sound’.  It’s driving me nuts though.

Bands who I DO think have that sound: Deacon Blue, Big Country, Aztec Camera, Hipsway, Del Amitri, Hue & Cry.

Anyway, Don’t You (Forget About Me).  Because it was such a big hit due to The Breakfast Club, it’s your standard ‘the band don’t actually like this one’, but I do.  Great pop tune.

Track 13: The Power Station – Get It On (Bang A Gong)

Awesome things about this song:

    1. It’s a T-Rex cover, and T-Rex are my favourite early ’70s glam rock band and one of my favourite bands of all time.  I adore the original version, and this one is pretty great too – it’s quite different, no ‘pointless ’80s cover’ here.
    2. More love-by-association due to the fact that half the band were also in Duran Duran.
    3. Robert Palmer’s vocals.

Track 14: China Crisis – Black Man Ray

Typically nice tune from China Crisis, though I find the synth line a bit twee.

Track 15: Phil Collins – One More Night

The Now! compilers do love a Phil Collins ballad.  Thankfully, I quite like this one.

Track 16: Sister Sledge – Frankie

One of those ‘dance to it at a wedding’ tracks – pleasant bouncy song, but I don’t like it enough for it to make my playlist.

Track 17: Mai Tai – History

Good pop tune, nice singalong chorus, but a bit forgettable.

Track 18: Simply Red – Money’s Too Tight (To Mention)

The ’80s are probably my favourite era for Simply Red (and for most things, let’s face it).  I love the instrumentals on this one.

Track 19: Steve Arrington – Feel So Real

A bit repetitive for me, not really my thing.

Track 20: Jaki Graham – Round And Around

Nice synths, but the vocals are a bit cheesy for my liking.

Track 21: The Conway Brothers – Turn It Up

More repetitive beats, though the track does improve as it goes.  I can’t say I’m loving disc two so far.

Track 22: Loose Ends – Magic Touch

Dull tune, bizarre irritating xylophone-sounding hook, vocals not at all to my taste.  Actively dislike this one.  It’s the kind of song that would have exacerbated my travel sickness on long car journeys as a kid.  There’s a generic sax solo about two-thirds in that provides a bit of welcome relief from the vocals, but it can’t save the song.

Track 23: The Commentators – N-N-Nineteen Not Out

Not on Spotify, so I had to do the YouTube Pause (TM).

While I do love Paul Hardcastle’s Nineteen, this parody always amuses me, despite the fact that being a Scot I don’t even understand cricket.

Track 24: U2: The Unforgettable Fire

It’s the kind of song I’d normally find pretty dreary, but there’s something about the atmosphere of it that I quite like, especially when it builds towards the end.

Track 25: The Style Council – Walls Come Tumbling Down

Another Style Council song that I actually quite like!  They’re on a roll.  It’s Dee C Lee’s backing vocals that really make this one for me.

Track 26: Katrina & The Waves – Walking On Sunshine

I’ve always found this one pretty irritating, I’m afraid.  If you play it at a wedding I will be at the bar ordering another cider.

Track 27: Gary Moore and Phil Lynott – Out In The Fields

Gotta love that guitar riff.  I can’t tell you how refreshing a good singalong rock song is after what has been a fairly mediocre second disc for this compilation.

Track 28: The Damned – The Shadow Of Love

Nice bit of goth rock to follow, too!  Things are looking up.

Track 29: Howard Jones – Life In One Day

The song’s fine, but it’s the video that’s the awesome thing here.  When I was searching for it the other day, it took me ages to realise that it actually was the proper video, due to the bit at the start with the announcer (and given that the auto-complete when searching on YouTube throws up ‘howard jones life in one day official video‘, I’m clearly not the only one).  I doubt they were actually being prescient enough to troll people searching for the video on a then-unimaginable technology more than thirty years later, but if they were, it worked.

Track 30: Jimmy Nail – Love Don’t Live Here Anymore

Bit of an over-the-top ballad, but there’s something about the atmosphere of it that I quite like.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #4

Day 4, and today’s Now! compilation was released on 26th November 1984 (just one day after the recording of the original Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band Aid, fact fans).

November 1984
In November 1984, there were still far more houseplants around than there are today, and soft furnishings featured a lot more brown (probably a hangover from the ’70s).

I wonder what the Now! compilers have in store for me today?

Now! That's What I Call Music #4
Track 1: Paul McCartney – No More Lonely Nights [Special Dance Mix]

I couldn’t find the dance mix, so I’m reviewing the original.  Nice tune, but a bit slow for my liking.

Track 2: Giorgio Moroder and Philip Oakey – Together In Electric Dreams

Another one of Geth’s DJing favourites.  Great synthpop, love this one.  That chorus!

Track 3: Bronski Beat – Why?

Great dance track, really like this one, especially the trumpet instrumentals.

Track 4: Limahl – Neverending Story

Hey, it’s Limahl’s one good solo song that I was talking about the other day!  (Well, I say solo – it’s actually a duet with Beth Anderson, but she never gets credited.)  Love the ethereal vocals, great tune.

Track 5: Nick Heyward – Warning Sign

I like the guitar instrumentals.  Most of the song is a bit pedestrian, but it does step up towards the end.  Also, is that a rap at about two-thirds of the way in?  You almost never hear that in pop of this era.  Interesting.

Track 6: John Waite – Missing You

A favourite.  Nice intensity on the chorus, great guitar line.

Track 7: Michael Jackson – Farewell My Summer Love

Bit saccharine for my liking.  I prefer Michael Jackson’s stuff when it has a bit of edge.

Track 8: Lionel Richie – Hello

I think most people know this one for the so-bad-it’s-hilarious video, which features Geth’s least favourite trope, that of the icky student-professor relationship.  The song is extremely cheesy, but is also in the realm of so-bad-it’s-good for me, and I actually quite like it in a serious way when I’m in the right mood.

True fact: one time in Southampton, a couple of random guys serenaded me on the street with this song.  I could not stop laughing, which I’m not sure was the desired effect.

Track 9: Culture Club – The War Song

Argh, it’s another example from the ‘annoying’ end of Culture Club’s back catalogue!  I do like some of their stuff…I just can’t think of any examples at the moment.

I forgot to mention during the Karma Chameleon review the other day that that song gets bonus points for inspiring the Lothian Buses ‘Karma Chameleon’ no. 26 bus, which was one of my favourite stories of 2017.  It goes to Edinburgh Zoo, is painted in red, gold and green, and says ‘we come and go’ on the back!  I am in love.  I never go to zoos ’cause I always think the animals look sad, but I gotta get myself on that bus sometime when I’m in Edinburgh.

Um, back to The War Song.  ‘War is stupid, and people are stupid‘, and in all honesty I find these lyrics irritatingly stupid too.  Sorry.

Track 10: Elton John – Passengers

I quite like this bouncy song when I’m in the right mood, especially the chanting on the chorus.

Track 11: Julian Lennon – Too Late For Goodbyes

Nice upbeat track, though it’s more of a ‘background’ one for me.

Track 12: The Style Council – Shout To The Top!

I’m not usually that keen on the Style Council, but this one’s actually all right – I like the strings on the intro and the slightly urgent atmosphere.

Track 13: Thompson Twins – Doctor! Doctor!

I just remembered I really like this one (great synth line!), so maybe I was a bit hasty in writing off the Thompson Twins during yesterday’s review.  Another one that was used well in The Doctor Who Years, which was kind of an obvious choice if you think about it.

Track 14: Heaven 17 – Sunset Now

Typically nice pop from Heaven 17, though I prefer their more synth-y stuff.

Track 15: Kane Gang – Respect Yourself

I’m a big fan of this one, largely because the video was filmed in central Newcastle, and as I only moved to Newcastle in 2015 (and had never been here in my life until Geth and I came to househunt a month before we were due to move), I find it fascinating to see what the Quayside looked like in the mid-’80s before it was de-industrialised and gentrified.  Quite like the song too.

Track 16: Tina Turner – Private Dancer

I can’t put my finger on why, but I’ve never really liked this one, even though it does have a couple of nice sax solos.

Track 17: Queen – It’s A Hard Life

Not my favourite Queen song, but I can’t say they ever did a bad song – it’s still a good chair-swayer.

Track 18: Status Quo – The Wanderer

I quite like the jauntiness of this one.  It might even make my list of ‘songs I’d dance to at a wedding reception’ – if I’d had a lot of cider.

Track 19: Big Country – East Of Eden

Probably one of the best Big Country songs in my opinion.  Great tune and atmosphere.

Track 20: U2 – Pride (In The Name Of Love)

Most of the song is a bit dull, but I do quite like the chorus.

Track 21: Feargal Sharkey – Listen To Your Father

Not only is this song not on Spotify, but there’s no tribute version either, so I couldn’t be lazy this time – I had to pause the playlist and hit up YouTube.  So inconvenient.

As for the song, I quite like this one – nice uptempo track and instrumentals, even if the lyrics are a little irritating.

Track 22: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Tesla Girls

Awesome uptempo synthpop.  OMD delivering the goods as usual.

Track 23: Kim Wilde – The Second Time

Great piece of pop!  It’s everything I love about the ’80s – great bassline and instrumentals, epic atmosphere, strong lyrics.  It’s begging to be played on vinyl on my dad’s old sound system, rather than digitally through my tinny laptop earphones.

Incidentally, I’m going to see Kim Wilde at the Sage Gateshead tomorrow!  I’M SO EXCITED.  Watch out for my review of the gig on Tuesday.

Track 24: Nik Kershaw – Human Racing

A bit slow and dull for me, and there’s something I’m not keen on in the tune.  Nice lyrics though.

Track 25: Ray Parker Jr – Ghostbusters

How can you not love this one?  The ultimate party song.

I also have many happy memories of playing it on Lego Rock Band.  Now that I live in a detached house, I have got to break out those Rock Band drums again.  It’s just a case of finding the time!

Track 26: UB40 – If It Happens Again

Another good chair-swayer, but again this one’s a bit more ‘background’ for me.

Track 27: Pointer Sisters – Jump (For My Love)

It’s an okay party song, but I’ve always been a bit ‘meh’ about this one.

Track 28: Level 42 – Hot Water

Good danceable song, great instrumentals.

Track 29: Eurythmics – Sex Crime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)

I really like Eurythmics, and this one’s a great dance song with chantable lyrics.  It vastly improves what has been a relatively poor second disc so far.

Track 30: Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me

I LOVE this song.  Great sing-along track, great for Hallowe’en playlists, great for parties.  Awesome video too.

Track 31: Malcolm McLaren – Madam Butterfly

Quite a nice chillout track until the spoken word kicks in.  Is there an instrumental version of this?

Track 32: Eugene Wilde – Gotta Get You Home Tonight

Fairly typical ’80s soul.  Nice tune, if a bit slow.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #3

It’s day 3 of the Now! reviews!

Now! #3 was released on 23rd July 1984, so hopefully its summer release means that there won’t be any Christmas music on this one.

July 1984
This is how the world looked in July 1984! I am sort of in this picture, because it’s a picture of my pregnant mum and her awesome ’80s coat.

Review time!

Now! That's What I Call Music #3

Track 1: Duran Duran – The Reflex

What was it I said yesterday?  Yeah.  Insert daily ‘I love Duran Duran’ statement here.  This one, as ever, is brilliant from start to finish – the backing vocals, the slightly mad lyrics, the chant-along bits on the chorus.  Love it.

Track 2: Nik Kershaw – I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me

I find this one a bit repetitive.  Not Nik Kershaw’s most exciting song.

Track 3: Sister Sledge – Thinking Of You

Not hugely keen on the disco stuff that was still kicking about in the ’80s anyway, and this one’s not even danceable in my opinion.

Track 4: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Locomotion

Love me some OMD.  This one’s a bit bouncier and dafter than their usual stuff, but that’s no bad thing.

Track 5: Ultravox – Dancing With Tears In My Eyes

Good song – that short guitar intro is great, as is the tune in general – but the nuclear-war-themed video is really depressing!

Track 6: Howard Jones – Pearl In The Shell

Nice upbeat intro, nice synth line, nice vocals, and I do love a sax solo!  Fairly standard Howard Jones.

Track 7: Blancmange – Don’t Tell Me

Great synthpop track – and I would expect no less from Blancmange.

Track 8: Phil Collins – Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)

Boring ballad.  Westlife and Mariah Carey did an even worse version of this in 1999, a pointless ’90s cover* if ever there was one.

Track 9: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes

Great party song!  Another nuclear-war-themed video that I find tough to watch despite its cleverness, because the Reagan and Gorbachev impersonators are really ‘uncanny valley’.  I guess we know what was on everyone’s minds in 1984.  This is the reason I decided to illustrate these posts with family photos rather than current events of the time.

Track 10: Grandmaster Flash and Grandmaster Melle Mel – White Lines (Don’t Do It)

A good head-nodder, with a great vocal, but not really my kind of thing.  I do quite like the fact that ostensibly anti-drug songs were a big thing in the ’80s (especially in comparison to the endless, boring and crass drug references in modern-day chart music), though I’m not sure how tongue-in-cheek this song’s message was.

Track 11: The Specials – Nelson Mandela

Another one that was used to good effect in Britain’s Got The Pop Factor.  This one always makes me think of the time in 1989 when my parents took me to the ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ march on Glasgow Green (I still have the badge).

Track 12: Womack & Womack – Love Wars

I wasn’t familiar with this one, but I like the atmosphere of the verse, before the chorus gets a bit haphazard.

Track 13: The Style Council – You’re The Best Thing

I find this one pretty dull, and the chorus annoys me for some reason.

Track 14: Bob Marley & The Wailers – One Love/People Get Ready

Classic sway-in-your-chair track.  Love this one!

Track 15: Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy

Wonderful synthpop – that stunning intro!  A favourite, and also a regular feature of Geth’s DJ setlists.

Track 16: Queen – I Want To Break Free

I’m not going to call this one a ‘guilty pleasure’, ’cause I don’t feel guilty about loving it at all.  Everything about it is awesome, from the epic intro to the Coronation Street homage in the video.

Track 17: Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time

Now this is a good ballad – nothing dreary about this one.  Beautiful tune, lovely instrumentals.

Track 18: Alison Moyet – Love Resurrection

This one reminds me of long car journeys as a kid with my dad’s Alison Moyet CD on the car stereo (I found out last Christmas that my brother vehemently hated that CD, but I really quite liked it).  I love Yazoo – as I mentioned yesterday, Only You is my all-time favourite song.  I’m not quite as keen on Moyet’s solo material, but it’s still good stuff.

Also, nowadays whenever I hear the lyric ‘show me one direction, I will not question again‘, I always think of One Direction.  Thanks, 21st century, for ruining things yet again.

Track 19: The Bluebells – Young At Heart

Another song (following Relax yesterday) that was re-released in 1993 and hence ended up on my Greatest Hits Of 1993 compilation!  Maybe it was 1993 that was the first true era of ’80s nostalgia.  I don’t blame people for wanting to get going with that as early as possible.

Track 20: Bananarama – Robert De Niro’s Waiting

I quite like this one, but then I’ve never come across a Bananarama track I didn’t like.  I remember knowing the title of this song for ages before I actually heard it, ’cause it’s mentioned in the blurb for Love In The First Degree on Now! #10 (we’ll get to that a week from today).

Track 21: Propaganda – Dr Mabuse

I wasn’t familiar with this one, but I like its dark, epic atmosphere and lyrics.

Track 22: Tina Turner – What’s Love Got To Do With It

Not my favourite Tina Turner song, but I do like the epic vocals on the chorus and the snatches of synth during the bridge.

Track 23: The Flying Pickets – When You’re Young And In Love

It’s no Only You, but still a nice a cappella cover.

Track 24: Wham! – Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

A classic!  A perfect party tune, and then there’s the colourful video, which was one of those videos that really defined the ’80s, with the neon clothing and the Katharine Hamnett t-shirts (appropriately, I’m wearing her more recent Choose Love design today!)

Track 25: Thompson Twins – You Take Me Up

The harmonica instrumental annoys me, and I usually like harmonica.  I’m not a huge Thompson Twins fan anyway, but I’m really not keen on this one.

Track 26: The Weather Girls – It’s Raining Men

We’re at a wedding reception, and I’m on the dancefloor again!  You can’t go wrong with this fabulous party track.

There have been various pointless ’90s and ’00s covers of this one.  I’ll forgive them, as it’s always a banger no matter who covers it, but the original is far and away the best.

Track 27: Gary Glitter – Dance Me Up

Um, I’m quite surprised that I’m actually able to stream Gary Glitter on Spotify given what we know about him now, but I’m guessing he doesn’t actually get any of the streaming royalties.  Um, right?  I should probably look into that.

The song itself isn’t much to write home about, certainly not compared to his early ’70s glam rock stuff.

Track 28: The Art Company – Susanna

The Art Company, in contrast, haven’t put their stuff on Spotify, so I’ve done the uber-lazy ‘tribute version on the playlist’ for this review.

It’s a good song, actually.  Maybe I’d better give the actual Art Company version another listen sometime!

Track 29: Madness – One Better Day

Bit of a slow one for Madness!  Nice tune though.

Track 30: David Sylvian – Red Guitar

I was only previously familiar with David Sylvian’s stuff with Japan, not any of his solo tracks.  This one’s a bit dull, but the instrumentals are nice.

 

*In my terminology (and, I imagine, that of quite a few other people), a ‘pointless cover’ is one that doesn’t change enough things from the original track to make it worth recording a new version, and is hence just a shameless cash-in.  The ’90s were absolutely terrible for this, but it’s happened frequently in other decades as well.