One of the things I love spotting in ’80s music videos is classic red phone boxes. You could probably have guessed that, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time. The combination of ’80s music and the red phone box aesthetic makes a video several hundred percent better.
As I’ve discussed before, the UK started phasing out red phone boxes in 1985. The fact that so many are still standing thirty-four years later shows you how ubiquitous they were, and this was even more true in the ’80s, when they were still the standard UK phone box.
Tracey Ullman’s video for My Guy – her 1984 cover of Madness’ 1980 hit My Girl – is everything a 20th century telephone nerd could want in a music video. In addition to the aforementioned red phone box, there are classic phones a-go-go – none of them a GPO 746, sadly, but still very period-evocative. Let’s take a look!
At the start of the video, Tracey is dropped off at the bus stop in the rain by her boyfriend after an argument. This doesn’t involve telephones, but it does involve a super ’80s pimped-out car. Love that cadmium yellow colour!
Unlike many music videos to which I will be subjecting you all in the future, this video doesn’t actually contain a full-length shot of a classic red phone box. We get this close-up instead, where a cheery-looking individual is sabotaging Tracey’s phone call to her boyfriend with the help of some pliers. Those holes in between the red bars of the phone box are meant to have glass in them, incidentally (I believe this is known as a window). Music videos have never made any sense, and this one is no exception.
Neil first arrives at the end of the dance routine to partner Tracey in some kind of dance style that you don’t see on Strictly.
He then appears in a slightly more expected role, showing up to canvass at Tracey’s mother’s house. Side note: do party leaders actually go canvassing themselves during election campaigns? I know they at least sort of have to pretend that they’re still regular MPs in addition to spending a lot of time shouting at each other in the House of Commons.
Unfortunately, Neil’s bitten off more than he can chew with Tracey’s mother (also played by Tracey), who starts showing him all her photo albums. I love all the classic Labour slogan posters on the walls.
Neil shows up for a final time in the fast-food place where Tracey works, reading a paper. All the mosaic tiling and fancy plants look a little upmarket for a fast-food place. Maybe such places were just better in 1984.
Back to the phones! Tracey spends most of her work day waiting for the restaurant’s telephone to ring. I can’t place this model even after rummaging through a lot of databases on classic telephone sites, but it looks similar to a GPO 772 or 782.
The video ends without any resolution to the question of whether Tracey’s boyfriend is going to stop sulking and ring her back. They should have made a sequel.
Day 2, and today’s collection was released on 26th March 1984. I briefly just now considered adding a daily ‘fun fact’ to this feature about what was going on in the news at the time, but frankly that would probably be so depressing that I doubt I’d still be functioning by July, so let’s make it a contemporary picture from the ol’ family album instead.
Right, on with the music!
Track 1: Queen – Radio Ga Ga
I love Queen and their shamelessly anthemic rock, and this chanty, clappy track is no exception. Sing along!
Track 2: Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t It Be Good
I prefer The Riddle, but this one’s still a great track, especially for the video with the dodgy ’80s special effect applied to Kershaw’s suit.
Track 3: Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now
It’s nice ’80s pop, but I don’t find this one particularly exciting.
Track 4: Matt Bianco – Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed
I wasn’t familiar with this one. Fairly typical for Matt Bianco, that ’50s rock ‘n’ roll style done on ’80s synths. Not playlist-worthy, but a good bouncy track.
Track 5: Carmel – More, More, More
Two mid-century throwback tracks in a row (this one has more of a ’60s lounge feel) are making me crave some straightforward ’80s synthpop. Come on, Now! compilers…
Track 6: Madness – Michael Caine
…and it’s Madness. That’ll do in a pinch! A little more sedate than most Madness tracks, but I love the tune.
Track 7: The Flying Pickets – Only You
The original version by Yazoo is my favourite song of all time (I walked down the aisle to it). I love this a cappella version too, though it has become a bit too associated with Christmas for this time of year due to its status as the UK Christmas number one for 1983.
Track 8: Nena – 99 Red Balloons
I always hear the original German-language version of this song, 99 Luftballons, in goth clubs, proving that goths will dance to anything if it’s in German. I do like this one, though.
Track 9: Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
Slightly cheesy admission: I used to listen to this song every day after work in 2001 when I started my first job aged sixteen, purely due to the lyric ‘when the working day is done‘. I’m nothing if not literal. It was around then that I was first getting into ’80s nostalgia and had cultivated an appropriate ’80s playlist using Audiogalaxy (remember that?). This was a highlight, though I consider it a bit overplayed nowadays.
Scary time statistic: 2001 was the exact midpoint between 1984 and 2018. Ouch.
Track 10: Tracey Ullman – My Guy’s Mad At Me
I love this one mainly for the video featuring contemporary Labour leader Neil Kinnock. From my 2018 whimsical millennial viewpoint, I really like the fact that he used to do stuff like that, though I can understand why it resulted in the mid-’80s British populace not taking him seriously enough.
Oh yeah, and there’s a song here too! It was originally a Madness song from 1979, and though I love Madness, I think I might actually prefer this version for the unexpectedly gentle intro.
Track 11: Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride
This one is often featured on BBC coverage of running events, so I’m quite fond of it for that reason. It’s probably a good thing that my clumsiness with constantly knocking headphones out means that I can’t listen to music while running, because my running playlist genuinely would be stuff like this, rather than properly hi-tempo ‘run faster’ music. Who wants to work out to boring modern trance when you can have Gassenhauer and the Chariots Of Fire theme tune?
Track 12: Julia & Company – Breaking Down
A bit disco for me, but a pleasant background track.
Track 13: Joe Fagin – That’s Livin’ Alright
It’s very dad-rock, not really my kind of thing.
Track 14: Hot Chocolate – I Gave You My Heart (Didn’t I)
There was a point a few weeks ago when Geth was complaining about Vintage TV always playing Hot Chocolate’s dafter tracks (the channel’s current favourite seems to be Girl Crazy) rather than their serious songs. I was like, ‘Geth, NO ONE listens to Hot Chocolate for their serious songs!’ I do stand by my point that they’re better at party tracks than ballads, but in recent weeks I have developed a liking for It Started With A Kiss, and this one’s all right too, what with its pleasantly lazy sax solo.
Track 15: Snowy White – Bird Of Paradise
A bit slow for me, but it’s a nice tune. I do like the epic guitar solo in the middle as well.
Track 16: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax
This one was actually a childhood favourite due to its re-release in 1993 (and subsequent inclusion on another compilation, The Greatest Hits Of 1993, which was the first album I ever bought for myself, on cassette). As an adult it’s one of those wedding DJ songs where I can’t resist dancing.
Track 17: Eurythmics – Here Comes The Rain Again
I love Eurythmics, especially their more melancholy numbers like this one. Synth line + Annie Lennox’s voice = instant win.
Track 18: Howard Jones – What Is Love?
Great song, more lovely synth, pretty video shot in Paris. 1984 in a nutshell.
Track 19: The Smiths – What Difference Does It Make?
The Smiths are one of my ‘soundtrack of 2003-2004’ bands, when I was busily acquainting myself with the entire back catalogues of every major goth and indie band from the ’80s. I always liked this one as it’s quite jaunty.
Track 20: Fiction Factory – (Feels Like) Heaven
Nice pleasant jingly track, fairly standard ’80s pop.
Track 21: Re-Flex – The Politics Of Dancing
Good head-nodder, but nothing special for me.
Track 22: Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive!
Great, unusual song for the time. Love that bassline, the high vocal on the chorus, the trumpets, the general bizarre atmosphere of the track.
Track 23: China Crisis – Wishful Thinking
Nice comforting synth, nice dreamlike vocal, generally nice background music. Not one I could dance to, but a lovely tune.
Track 24: David Bowie – Modern Love
I love Bowie, but this is on the duller side for me. Let’s Dance is the real stormer on that album in my view. I do like the ‘get me to the church on time‘ lyric, though.
Track 25: Culture Club – It’s A Miracle
I’ve always found Culture Club a bit hit and miss, and this one’s a miss in my book. There’s something kind of annoying about it, probably due to the overly-upbeat instrumentals and Boy George’s cheesy lyrics and…yeah, this one is too much even for me. Sorry.
Track 26: The Rolling Stones – Undercover Of The Night
It’s driving me nuts that the title isn’t written as Under Cover Of The Night. I realise it’s deliberate, in order to add to the sexual meaning of the song, but it’s still painful to read.
As for the song itself, it’s classic Rolling Stones with added ’80s guitar and funk bass. What’s not to like?
Track 27: Big Country – Wonderland
I have to be in the right mood for Big Country; a lot of the time (today included unfortunately) the guitar instrumentals drive me mad.
They’re emblematic of a sound that was very particular to Scottish pop-rock in the ’80s – it’s difficult to explain, but when I come across a Scottish pop-rock band from that era that I’m not familiar with, I can always tell they’re Scottish without looking it up (and it’s not an accent thing, they all sing with transatlantic accents). Some day I’ll work out what the exact musical reason is, but for now I’m just going to call it a superpower.
Track 28: Slade – Run Runaway
One of my favourite songs from one of my favourite bands (huge glam rock fan here)! Brilliant shout-along anthem.
Unfortunately, Slade have never got round to putting their music on Spotify (sort it out, record label that I can’t be bothered to look up right now!). This meant I had three options for reviewing this song: 1) wade into the dumping ground that is our study and open all the boxes in there trying to find my Slade CDs; 2) find the song on YouTube; or 3) just add a tribute version into the Spotify playlist instead. I went with the extremely lazy 3), just so I wouldn’t have to pause my playlist. Sometimes, I am just as terrible as everyone else in this wretched decade of convenience.
Track 29: Duran Duran – New Moon On Monday
Without looking ahead to the track listings on the next few Now! editions, I imagine the first few entries of this blog feature are all going to feature the words ‘I love Duran Duran’ somewhere. This one is no exception. I love Duran Duran, especially their first three albums with the classic lineup, and I love this song. Epic chorus, great instrumentals, daft video (especially the ridiculous 17-minute version). Brilliant ’80s fun.
Track 30: Paul McCartney – Pipes Of Peace
My eye is twitching at having to listen to an unabashedly Christmas song out of season (this one was featured on our family’s favourite Christmas compilation, That’s Christmas, which I grew up with in the ’90s, so it’s very associated with the festive season for me). Lovely song…when it’s December.
You might be aware that the Now! That’s What I Call Music compilation album series will be releasing its 100th edition on 20th July this year. I’ve got a huge soft spot for the series, largely because my parents bought the vinyl release of Now! That’s What I Call Music #10 in 1987 and it basically shaped my music taste, but also because it was such a big thing when I was growing up in the ’90s – at school and at parties, someone always had a Now! album kicking about. I’m surprised in some ways that the series is still going strong in the age of streaming, but it is, which is nice and nostalgic for me.
To celebrate the upcoming 100th edition, I’m going to review every single Now! compilation – one per day between today and 20th July – starting, obviously, with #1, which came out on 28th November 1983.
(When I say ‘review’, I of course mean ‘burble about anything that comes to mind about these particular tracks’. Just clarifying that in case you thought this was going to be in any way musically technical!)
Let’s get started, shall we?
Track 1: Phil Collins – You Can’t Hurry Love
’80s-era solo Phil Collins, especially poppy, bouncy nonsense like this, is very much what I consider a ‘guilty pleasure’. A few ciders and I will always be up dancing to this one at weddings.
Track 2: Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know?
I love Duran Duran, and this one’s a cracker, especially the constant backing vocals. The lyrics are great too:
And fiery demons all dance when you walk through that door Don’t say you’re easy on me, you’re about as easy as a nuclear war
People just don’t write songs like this nowadays (waves stick in air).
Track 3: UB40 – Red Red Wine
Another ‘I’d dance to this one at a wedding’ track. There may be a theme emerging. Cheesy, but in a pleasant, head-nodding way.
Track 4: Limahl – Only For Love
I wasn’t familiar with this one, which is unusual for me with ’80s pop songs. I do like the epic nature of the bridge, and the song gets better as it goes on, but I probably wouldn’t add it to my Spotify playlist.
Track 5: Heaven 17 – Temptation
A favourite! I defy anyone not to chant along with the ‘temp-tation‘ bits. Incidentally, if you ask Geth to DJ your wedding, you’ll inevitably hear this one.
Track 6: KC & The Sunshine Band – Give It Up
Bit cheesy even for me, this one, but I do like the instrumental bits.
Track 7: Malcolm McLaren – Double Dutch
Another one I didn’t know. I’m not keen on the sampling mishmash at the start, but I quite like the idea of an ode to skipping ropes. It’s the kind of whimsy that’s mostly missing from music today.
Track 8: Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart
One for singing along to at the top of your voice when you’re absolutely certain nobody else can hear you (this is a pleasure that was denied to me for quite a few years until I moved into a detached house last month).
Track 9: Culture Club – Karma Chameleon
Not my favourite Culture Club song, but I have fond memories of my friend Laura and I writing notes to each other in our homework diaries in high school, arguing about the correct lyrics to this song (she thought it was ‘if you were the colour of my dreams‘, rather than ‘if your colours were like my dreams‘). These things were extremely important.
Track 10: Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance
I make no apologies for adoring this one. I also point you to this wonderful meme, which Geth likes to use for complaining purposes whenever we hear it in a goth club.
Track 11: Kajagoogoo – Too Shy
Daft song, but it’s still better than all of Limahl’s solo stuff except for Neverending Story.
Track 12: Mike Oldfield – Moonlight Shadow
I love this one – it’s epic and beautiful. It was also used to really good effect in the ’80s edition of The Doctor Who Years, which is sadly no longer available to watch.
Track 13: Men At Work – Down Under
Wonderfully silly party song that always reminds me of an Australian guy called Ben that I used to work with circa 2002. In the pub post-shift, this was his song.
Track 14: Rock Steady Crew – (Hey You) The Rock Steady Crew
I can’t listen to this one without being reminded of its use in Peter Kay’s brilliant Britain’s Got The Pop Factor parody in 2008 (and I can’t believe that show is nearly a decade old already). The song itself is pretty nonsensical, but I quite like the synth line.
Track 15: Rod Stewart – Baby Jane
Actually my favourite Rod Stewart song, just edging out Maggie May. I love the instrumentals (especially that sax solo!), the lyrics, the epic nature, everything.
Track 16: Paul Young – Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)
To be honest, though I usually like Paul Young, I find this one a bit dull, so I think it was a poor choice for ending disc one of the album.
Track 17: New Edition – Candy Girl
Never been a fan of New Edition or this song, largely because I have an aversion to squeaky kid voices, especially squeaky kid voices singing love songs. Let’s move on.
Track 18: Kajagoogoo – Big Apple
Please take a moment to envisage my raised eyebrow here, as I was always taught when learning to DJ that repeating an artist in a setlist (or compilation album, in this case) is lazy, unimaginative and generally Not Done. Give another artist a chance to be heard!
As for the song itself…it’s nice bouncy ’80s pop with cute little bursts of saxophone, but nothing hugely special.
Track 19: Tina Turner – Let’s Stay Together
Boring slow intro and verses, but good ‘chair-dancer’ once the chorus gets going.
Track 20: The Human League – (Keep Feeling) Fascination
Typical upbeat Human League stuff for this era. Not my all-time favourite of theirs, but perfectly catchy and pleasant.
Track 21: Howard Jones – New Song
I didn’t really get into Howard Jones until about a year ago, when Vintage TV started playing his stuff a lot. This one’s a nice bouncy, catchy number with a great synth instrumental bit. Big fan of this.
Track 22: UB40 – Please Don’t Make Me Cry
More repetition of artists (sigh). If they were determined to do that, they should have saved Red Red Wine for side two, as it’s a much better song than this one. Slow, downbeat, nice sax solo but generally a bit dull.
Track 23: Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack – Tonight, I Celebrate My Love
The kind of appallingly saccharine ballad that I would have hated if I’d been an adult listening to it in 1983, but from my lofty perch of hindsight in 2018 I can just put it into a box marked ‘charmingly of its time’.
Track 24: Tracey Ullman – They Don’t Know
I do like ’80s-era Tracey Ullman and her comedy-tinged music videos. There’s something a bit mid-century retro about this one, which I quite like. It was originally a Kirsty MacColl track, which explains the quality.
For some reason I always think of Genesis as more musically respectable than solo Phil Collins. I’m not sure why. This one’s another head-nodder, but not playlist-worthy for me.
Track 27: The Cure – The Love Cats
Being a shameless goth, the Cure are my favourite band. This is a great upbeat party song, but if you want something more epic, beautiful and melancholy, I thoroughly recommend all the other tracks on the Japanese Whispers EP. I remember spending all of 2004, which was a tough year for me, just listening to it over and over. Gorgeous stuff.
Track 28: Simple Minds – Waterfront
Lovely guitar intro on this one. Fairly paint-by-numbers Simple Minds, without much in the way of hooks.
Track 29: Madness – The Sun And The Rain
Madness can’t do much wrong as far as I’m concerned. Great bouncy track.
Track 30: Culture Club – Victims
Eyebrow goes up again at another repeated artist! I’ll forgive the Now! compilers this time, though, because I do love this one and its epic and sweeping chorus.