dirty martini

old music for new people

the summer of 1985 June 8, 2007

if there’s one summer from my childhood that i remember fondly, it’s the summer of 1985. not just because it was an actual summer, with sun and heat (not humidity – there’s a difference). before global warming screwed up the weather and i had to get on the year round sauna they call the london underground, summer was anticipated as an enjoyable season.

if the weather was like it is today – that’s torrential rain and dismal temperatures, for non-brits – the summer holidays were spent inside or shopping. but for most days, we had a beach hut, and every day I would get up early to watch tv-am with roland rat, and most importantly, the weather forecast, to see if we’d spend the day at home or go down to the beach.

i’d put on my jelly shoes, grab my jelly bag and we’d set off. not in a car, that would have been too easy. we had to walk for about 30 minutes to the right bus stop, then get a hot, sweaty bus to the seafront. back then children didn’t rule the world, so I’d probably have to stand or some miserable old bag would literally glare you out of your seat.

on arrival, we checked who else was there. the hut was only really big enough to house a kettle, a portable radio, some folding chairs, a windbreaker and a hula hoop. why we sacrificed valuable space for a kettle, in the height of summer, i’ll never know. why do parents panic at the thought of not being able to drink tea every five minutes? mine were always making excuses not to do something because they ‘hadn’t had a cup of tea yet.’ and still do.

so if no other kids were there, I would cut lonely figure, playing with my little ponies, hula hooping, and trying to catch butterflies in a fishing net. my mum would lie there in the blazing hot sun, with her cup of tea, listening to radio victory and tuning me out. me and my friends wandered pretty much wherever we wanted, across the road to the beach, to the lake, the playground, the fair. you could do things like that, back then.

i suppose these days most kids would get bored going to same place about four or five times a week. in the 80s there really wasn’t much point staying at home unless you wanted to watch why don’t you… all summer.

so this is the soundtrack to those hot sunny days at the beach. yes, there are dance routines to all of these songs which i am often tempted to break into when i hear them. it was probably the same dance routine for nine year old girls all over the UK.

now that’s what i call the summer of 1985…download here

amazulu – excitable

the 7″ single was a cool transparent blue vinyl, which looked a frisbee. amazulu were a pop/reggae band who had a string of hits in the mid 80s, their biggest was a cover of ‘too good to be forgotten’ originally by the chi-lites (although I was completely unaware of this at the time).


cameo – single life

cameo, before they became infamous for ‘word up’ and that red codpiece, made quality 70s and 80s funk. cameo always did have some humour, it just wasn’t as outlandish earlier on. i can’t believe this hasn’t been sampled yet?


cool notes – in your car

the cool notes had already been lovers’ rock legends and post-disco soul stars by the time the mid 80s arrived but this incarnation as jheri curled poseurs proved their most successful yet. i remember hearing this song on the top 40 and deciding it would be the next single i bought. five star – love take over

god i loved five star…i saw past the dodgy matching catsuits, crispy fried hair and scary eyeliner. and that was just the boys. in this video they danced poolside before piling into a jeep, no storyline. didn’t need one.


madonna – into the groove

this was the moment, for me, when madonna became the biggest star of the 80s. this song gave me a clue as to what the older kids were doing. drinking and dancing in smoky underground clubs. the dance she did in this video, with her hands clasped above her head, was immediately imitated by millions of precocious pre-teen girls. mai tai – history

mai tai were a german soul trio who sang all together and so had a fairly unique sound. bananarama did the same, for a different reason. they sounded like a cat scratching a tin individually. this track, like many uk tracks, doesn’t feature in many round ups of 80s soul classics as it’s not by a us artist. travesty.

prince – raspberry beret

possibly my most favourite prince song ever, but definitely the one i’ve loved for the longest. i like how the lyrics aren’t trying to be clever, they just tell the story. there’s no hidden meaning and unlike a lot of other 80s songs, I don’t understand it differently now that I’m older.

princess – say i’m your no.1 to this day I don’t know how a cheese factory like stock aitken and waterman managed to produce this classic. it’s a shame they didn’t focus on making more music like this, alongside the hugely successful pop conveyor belt.

sister sledge – frankie
this song was just made for little girls. how old was frankie though? we hoped he was 15, and sister sledge were 12, as per the lyrics, but there was a strange old man in the video….and the sisters were pushing 30.

steve arrington – feel so real

steve arrington was the lead singer of slave but i didn’t know of them at the time. this song just sums up that summer as far as, it was just everywhere. it wasn’t necessarily my favourite song but i always think of the beach when i hear it.

tears for fears – everybody wants to rule the world

you couldn’t move for this song in 1985. safari suits and mullets, hmmm…

whitney houston – how will i know

pastel knitwear and pixie boots whitney, while stylistically challenged, was a lot more fun and made better music than crack addict whitney in her velour tracksuit. i remember arguing about the lyrics to this song with an unbearable kid called sally who thought she knew everything. I was right.

 

in the air tonight June 6, 2007

khi_night.jpg 

if you’re in the mood, or trying to attract someone’s attention, you might text the name of your loved one to one of the numerous music channels and get a request played. but they need to be aware that you’re doing so or they’ll be watching one of a hundred other channels – which misses the point, and the element of surprise. this was one of the good things about local radio.local radio djs were smooth. they played soothing sounds that you wouldn’t normally hear on daytime radio. they didn’t try to be cool – if it was popular, they played it.people do still listen to the radio, and its a lot less tricky in these days of dab stations, which have removed the need to stand in front of the radio holding the aerial up at funny angles to get a decent reception.

twenty years ago, if you sent out a similar request on a late night radio show, you could be reasonably certain that either the intended recipient or at least one of their friends, would hear it. the song we chose for our dedication was most likely sophisticated beyond our years. even though we did have younger artists in the 80s, like five star, new edition, debbie gibson and countless others, most soul music was adult. we were listening to artists singing about relationships, emotions and situations we couldn’t possibly understand.

so, as a result, instead of the obsession with youth that appears to start as early as age ten nowadays,we actually wanted to be older. thirty, to be precise. thirtysomethings were glamorous and the had the kind of lifestyle I looked up to. they went to clubs, restaurants, had exotic holidays, exciting friends and dramatic relationships. john hughes movies aside, most popular 80s tv shows and movies, bar those specifically produced for kids, focused on older characters, not those that still lived with their parents.so ironically, I wanted to be the age I am now, twenty years ago, and now that I am, I’m made to feel like I should want to be younger. but i don’t – the thought of being someone who didn’t grow up in the 80s and experience real life terrifies me much more than getting older.

late night dedicationsdownload here 

alexander o’neal – if you were here tonight
his first solo single, and classic.

anita baker – caught up in the rapture
apparently inspired mary j blige to become a singer.
controllers – stay
typical 80s slow jam.

eugene wilde – gotta get you home
later sampled/covered by foxy brown and blackstreet.

force md’s – tender love
later covered by cockney soul boy kenny thomas.

freddie jackson – rock me tonight
what happened to freddie?

gap band – yearning for your love
one of those songs you’ve heard before…but didn’t realise.

george benson – in your eyes
from smooth jazz to weepy ballad.

gregory abbott – shake you down
very popular last dance at many an 80s club.

isley brothers – choosey lover
this was later covered by aaliyah.

janet jackson – let’s wait a while
slightly different version from control the remixes – more tinkly.

kool and the gang – cherish
anyone from the uk remember anton singing this on popstars the rivals?

luther vandross – so amazing
vintage luther. tribute version by beyonce and stevie wonder.

melisa morgan – do me baby
prince cover, actually think i prefer this version.

midnight star – slow jam
one of the first 80s slow jams – covered later by usher and monica.

 

school disco June 5, 2007

 

who can forget school discos…now, I’m not talking high school prom style antics with spiked punch and big meringue dresses battling for supremacy on the dancefloor. quite frankly, in the uk, school discos are best left alone past the age of 12. although I do remember a gcse leaving party that saw our entire year get lashed with the enthusiastic support of the teachers, who looked fairly trolleyed themselves.

at this particular event I drank almost an entire bottle of malibu and you can imagine the rest. however, this example is out of context. in fact, real school discos, the ones people remember fondly, took place much earlier, at junior school in the mid-late 80s (for us anyway). and i did get my coconut fix then too but it was a long lost fizzy pop called coco pina.

authentic junior school discos had several essential elements – boys, girls, the assembly hall, the tuck shop. it would be decided days, possibly weeks in advance, who you would dance with. you would be jealous of the people who lived near school, as they would be allowed to walk home without their parents arriving to embarrass them.

one of the most authentic things about 13 going on 30 was the fashion. the six chicks looked exactly how me and my friends did. of course, in the US there’s no school uniform so they probably dressed like that every day.

for for uk kids, seeing people out of their school uniform was hilarious.


the boys adopted a miami vice look complete with hawaiian shirts for the brave, or rolled up sleeves on pastel coloured suits with contrasting t-shirt. mullets of course, were present, as were spiky hairdos and wham style big hair. i always remember a ginger classmate who had no luck with girls, turning up in a leather jacket, clearly in a bid to impress. ‘oh yeah i always dress like this out of school…’

the girls, well, anyone who thinks fashion obsessed 10 year olds are a new phenomenon clearly didnt attend school in the 80s. witness a spectacular array of outfits we screamed and nagged our way to. i think for my first junior school disco we all dressed as madonna – lace, fingerless gloves, leggings, backcombed hair. basically as close to the above picture as possible. then came the chino invasion and we posed in our little pastel coloured chino skirts and logo tops.

download your step by step guide to the 80s junior school disco

a-ha – take on me

hmm, not quite sure how to dance to this one. probably why the dj played it as everyone was arriving…and wishing they’d worn something else. i didn’t see any peach chino skirts in tammy, where did she get that from?

rick astley – never gonna give you up

things are warming up a bit now but you’d have to really want to dance to this song whilst everyone else is in their collective gangs, checking that everyone they fancy has turned up and eating refreshers in case someone kisses them later.

madonna – la isla bonita

the £40-a-night dj, obviously used to better audience participation in the social clubs he usually plays in, banks on anything madonna to get the girls onto the dancefloor. it works.

billy joel – uptown girl

the song that used to require everyone standing in a line with their arms linked, walking from side to side kicking their legs out like drunk uncles at a wedding. don’t be fooled by the proximity, this was as friendly as it would get.



mel and kim – respectable

stragglers – this dance is easy, you’ve no excuse. just strut up and down like a supermodel and leave the fancy bit to the pros. the first couple of the night get together (and do nothing) in the curtains, and another girl starts crying.

nu shooz – i can’t wait

now the dj targets the boys, most of whom have been lingering waiting ‘for something good to come on’. 80s discos rarely played proper breakdance music so this would suffice. a couple of hawaiian shirts would start walking towards each other and a circle would form. he’s going to ruin those white trousers….


bros – i owe you nothing

before someone injures themselves, the dj puts on some girl friendly boy pop and the dancefloor fills up again. the shadow of someone throwing up outside after too many cola cubes can be clearly seen through the assembly hall curtains.

pepsi and shirlie – heartache

you were likely to have a dance made up already for this. you are outraged to find that groups of girls across the entire school have copied your moves. you have spent the last eight lunchtimes practising for nothing.

wham – i’m your man

several of the boys, high on too much cherryade, will do a bizarre chest-pounding, lionistic tour of the dancefloor and the decent looking ones will get groups of adoring girls dancing along with them, whilst the others will just get booted off the dancefloor.

tiffany – i think we’re alone now

ok girls, this is your last chance to look cool. if you fail, you will end up crying into the curtains whilst someone else dances with your man.

whitney houston – saving all my love for you

this is it, the erection section. except, you don’t quite know what that means yet. if you’re dancing with someone, try not to look too smug. if you’re not, grab a friend and waltz ironically, pretending not to care that someone else got your man. there’s always next term…