dirty martini

old music for new people

on the radio April 6, 2009

mayo

before chris moyles, there was the big breakfast. before that, there was simon mayo. a national breakfast experience.

in 1991, i actually liked getting up early to listen to the radio. we always listened to simon mayo, rod mckenzie and sybil ruscoe.

the thing that was interesting about the breakfast show was that they didn’t just play the current top 40. they tried to break new music, albeit fairly commercial music, but new jack swing and r&b wasn’t huge in mainstream uk at the time and they did a decent job of representing what was happening over the pond. remember, we didn’t have access to things like the billboard or casey kasem back then.

needless to say none of these tracks became huge hits over here but i might not even know them if it weren’t for simon mayo. of course he also had a penchant for right said fred, but we’ll let that one go…

download simon mayo’s forgotten classics

hi-five – i like the way

sadly, singer tony thompson died a few years back. he was only 15 when he released this. it pretty much epitomises the era. i love this sound.

jazzy jeff and fresh prince – ring my bell

how do you follow ‘summertime’? well, that used a little known kool and the gang hook but this used a more obvious anita ward one, and suffered for it.

jody watley – i’m the one you need

very typical of the house/r&b hybrid sound of the time. it’s quite difficult to listen to now, but this one stands the test of time.

karyn white – romantic

karyn white has moderate success here, but nowhere near as much as in the states. i remember this being promoted to death, too. well, for those days – by that i mean i saw the promo for this song at least twice on national tv!

keedy – save some love

part of the miami freestyle scene, which didn’t really penetrate over here…this was her only big hit on the billboard charts.

mantronix – don’t go messing with my heart

despite the massive success of ‘got to have your love’ and ‘take your time’, this didn’t really go anywhere.  featured artist jade trini.

natural selection – do anything

playing this after practically every newsbreak didn’t help it break the top 40. now that i listen back, it’s very prince…

nona gaye – love sign

…who coincidentally featured on this nona gaye track. but his purple magic didn;t quite rub off.

paula abdul – promise of a new day

now, paula struggles to articulate entire sentences in one go on american idol, but back in 1991 she was still trying to keep her music career going with that incredibly thin voice and limited range. good job she could dance, eh?

rythm syndicate – p.a.s.s.i.o.n

another prince soundalike band. i thought the slightly noveltychorus would have made this a hit over here, but nope. bob the builder and mr blobby, yes. i despair of this country.

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loving the alien August 4, 2008

in the same way that i had trouble waiting for the sex and the city movie, i’m impatiently awaiting the second series of ashes to ashes. january 2009, i’m assuming…..aaaaargh!

now, opinion is divided on whether there should be a 90s version. i’m going to weigh in on that particular debate – HELL YES. gene hunt grappling with loved up cheesy quavers on the early 90s rave scene? genius. if it has to be named after a david bowie song…loving the alien? i have never heard it by the way, i just had a look at a list of his singles.

the railway arms is a great place to discuss all things mars and ashes related. if i’m feeling brave i might post the following theory about a2a series 2…

alex didn’t return to 1981 to save her parents, she returned to find her brother/sister who was the child of caroline price and evan. or even gene, there was definitely some tension there…her brother/sister , will be grown up, but stuck in the past, like she is.

the reason it is so important, aside from the fact that she has a sibling she was unaware of as she grew up – the sibling was responsible for the death of molly’s father, in 1995. if alex can change his/her fate then she can save him.

there.

and here’s a soundtrack for that third series, set in 1990…

download here

adventures of stevie v – dirty cash

bassomatic- fascinating rhythm

deee-lite – power of love

electronic – getting away with it

en vogue – you don’t have to worry

family stand – ghetto heaven

happy mondays – step on

ll cool j – around the way girl

m&m and rachael wallace – i feel this way

maxi priest – close to you

neneh cherry-  heart

propaganda – heaven give me words

 

fire up the quattro April 12, 2008

 

i didn’t watch ‘life on mars’. it was set in 1973 and well, i wasn’t born then and i’d heard, after the first few episodes, that the nostalgia played a big part in the experience. (I’ve since watched it and LOVE it, and john simm is amazing).

so when i heard about ‘ashes to ashes’ the 80s sequel, i decided that i would watch this time. now it’s set in 1981, and my memories of that year are mostly confined to button moon and hazy royal wedding memories, but it’s interesting to see how people actually lived like that in my lifetime.

the scenes in the new romantic hangout, the blitz club were an eyeopener. i thought the 90s club scene was so different that bar studio 54, clubland had previously been about carpeted walls, disco lights and mirrors. no edge, nothing extraordinary,no innovation. i was SO wrong. the music makes more sense now – i used to wonder how people ever danced to new wave but i get it now. 1981 looks bleak, but it was also real, and probably felt like being on a rollercoaster. I think the blitz eventually became the gardening club, in covent garden.

i would have liked to hear these tracks from 1981 in the show. plus the roxy music track which was the outro to episode one – it took me until last week to figure out what it was.

so what for the next series? can’t believe we have to wait till 2009…

download here

abc – poison arrow

chaka khan – i know you, i live you

grace jones – pull up to the bumper

haircut 100 – love plus one

hall and oates – rich girl

human league – don’t you want me

kraftwerk – the model

level 42 – love games

police – every little thing she does is magic

odyssey – inside out

roxy music – same old scene

scritti politti – sweetest girl

 

 

love it when you call February 19, 2008

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if you are under 25 then you have no idea how far phones have come since, say, 1983. or if you watch any old skool tv then maybe you do?

i can barely imagine myself using the antiquated phone we had in my early childhood. but i did – it was one of those heavy plastic things BT used to give out in standard issue red, cream or dark olive green. it had the letters of the alphabet printed on the piece of cardboard behind the clear plastic dial, next to the numbers. this hinted at the availability of a US style phone system where you could easily memorise commercial numbers, but as far as I remember this didn’t happen in the UK, where we like to make everything as difficult as possible. put it this way, you couldn’t dial 0800-TESCO.

we even managed to memorise numbers, it is possible. at a push, i can still remember the numbers for all of my friends and family up to about the age of 12 but probably couldn’t more than three of the numbers in my blackberry today under pain of death. perhaps the most famous number of all was the number for swap shop – 01 811 8055. ironically then, it was easier to contact the bbc in 1982 armed with that knowledge, than it is to find their number on a website designed to discourage calls.

phones then, were integral to relationships. an iconic image of the 80s is that of a girl on the phone with a suprised expression on her face…i couldn’t find one though! she was probably surprised she was allowed to use it…phone bill battles were so commonplace that neighbouring friends often succumbed to old tin cans on a string trick. i have no idea if that even worked….

download here

blackstreet – booti call

bootsy collins – what’s a telephone bill

cheyne – call me mr telephone

good girls – just call me

junior brown – long time me call

in the mix – dial me baby

loose ends – dial 999

new edition – mr telephone man

portrait – i can call you

prince – how come you don’t call me anymore

ryan leslie – promise not to call

sheena easton – telephone

sherrick – just call

teairra mari – phone booth

tony jay – telephone line

 

soul power couples: the classics October 23, 2007

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duets don’t always work. i think simon cowell is about to find this out to his detriment – ‘same difference’ the icky brother and sister act on this year’s x factor are not going to resonate with a nation that just finds these things a bit, well…creepy.  what was that simon? you think they’ll capture the ‘high school musical’ market? make that ‘flowers in the attic’.

not as creepy as ‘two to go’ though, from x factor 2004. i haven’t got over that yet. psychopathic nursing home worker tries to carve career from exploitation of blind gareth gates-alike brother. ewwww.

if you bring together two equally talented, non-related singers however, the results can be spectacular. witness.

download here

bill medley and jennifer warnes – the time of my life

dirty dancing, like grease before it, will outlive us all. the soundtrack, and this song in particular, made the film the success it was. and made enough cash to get jennifer grey that ill-advised nose job…hope that ‘friends’ cameo paid well.

carla thomas and otis redding – tramp

much sampled classic – many female singers in the 60s paled in comparison to the commerical power of the supremes and undeniable talent of aretha. and otis is just otis and he died too young.

cherrelle and alexander o’neal – never knew love like this

whitney’s partner-in-crack cherrelle was once a respectable soul singer albeit only really famous for her collaborations with alex. who is slightly ‘eccentric’ himself as i recall from his bizarre participation in ‘just the two of us’ in which he duetted with a dumpy newsreader for the entertainment of the british public. someone really needs to stop the bbc making musical reality shows.

diana ross and lionel richie – endless love

i never got the whole diana ross thing. she is not a great singer. that dreamgirls storyline must have hit her where it hurts. i always wanted to see this film based on the song though.

janet jackson and luther vandross – best things in life are free

i may have forgotten the plot of the film ‘mo money’ to which this was the lead soundtrack, but i can remember this being played on a loop in the summer of 1992 at a very out of control house party.

judy clay and william bell – private number

another 60s duo who found themselves overshadowed. these two were on stax, not motown. which was way cooler.

mary j blige and kci hailey – i don’t want to do anything

mary’s problems didn’t start with her relationship with kci, but they did seem to begin to resolve themselves once she extricated herself. as ever, trying times can equal good music. people who say they wish mary would get messed up again so she can produce better music are wrong though.

roberta flack and donny hathaway – the closer i get to you

a whole album to choose from but the simplicity of this song is what makes it so special. that and donny hathaway, who could sing the bus timetable and stop me being pissed off that there’s only a bus ‘every 15-19 minutes’.

sheena easton and prince – u got the look

prince clearly saw a niche for scottish reality tv stars. especially those shorter than him – he doesn’t collaborate with just anyone. oh wait, he sort of does. carmen electra anyone?

the sos band and alexander o’neal – the finest

not sure how this came about? an early bootleg? i don’t remember him being on the original. he probably doesn’t either…cough…is he still wandering up and down kilburn high road looking confused?

syreeta and billy preston – with you i’m born again

this song is one of my earliest memories. it has that classic late 70s combination of plaintive harmonies,  and smooth vocals.

tammi terrell and marvin gaye – you’re all i need to get by

marvin and tammi were a much better match talentwise than marvin and insipid diana ross.

 

this must be computer love August 14, 2007

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back in the 80s, computers were just about reaching the massmarket. games like donkey kong and pacman saw heroic characters rescuing damsels in distress (rarely the other way round until lara croft) by overcoming such everyday objects as ghosts, flying barrels and fireballs.

this theme carried through to the music industry, where computers had provided a snazzy (80s word) way to keep up with the new mtv-ready requirement for singles to be accompanied by a video, by incorporating graphics and other such wizardry to demonstrate cutting edge mentality of artist in question.

another way to display your futuristic sensibilities was to actually sing about computers. and act quite robotic and devoid of emotion. the computers were pulling the strings you see…and yet, according to this playlist, they apparently became a conduit for romantic relationships. i think in fact, that didn’t really start to happen until the mid 90s, but 80s people were optimistic. we didn’t personally have email and the ability to connect to other computers via the internet, but we knew it was happening and could see the possibilities.

so, most 80s groups have a homage to the computer, or electricity (like that was a new phenomenon!), in their back catalogue, much like the phone. of course its now all painfully out of date, and so a nice reminder of a simpler time when computers were cool, and people, not cyberspace, were still in charge.

twelve once futuristic, now totally retro groovesdownload here

trans-x – living on video

about as good as it gets for this post. built on a similar premise to the long-held view that we would be scooting around in our own little space bubbles, jetson style, by the year 2000. 

one way – mr groove

vocoder work par excellence. in 1984 it was perfectly normal to be sung to by a robot, not a person.

kraftwerk – computer love

kraftwerk, as pioneers of electronic music, could have made up well over half of this playlist with their output. but this one was the most obviously titled.

gary numan – are friends electric?

more recently bootlegged and sampled for the sugababe’s ‘freak like me’. again, most of gary numan’s output was future focused, so it was a toss up between this and ‘cars’.

midnight star – electricity

another vocoder led funk jam, about electricity, and energy, another favourite 80s theme.

buggles – video killed the radio star

difficult to see how this could have sounded groundbreaking even in 1979. bet it was popular with the over 40s.

human league – together in electric dreams

archetypal mid 80s teen movie fare. human league of course, were a natural choice to record the title soundtrack, with their synth pop credentials. 

oingo boingo – weird science

title song from the soundtrack to the definitive 80s computer geek movie. doesn’t sound particularly futuristic now but surely create-a-girlfriend is still the ultimate geek fantasy?

visage – fade to grey

the then-pioneering electronic music and faux francais created an eerie soundscape, second only in the weirdness stakes to its own video.

harold faltermeyer – axel f

beverly hills cop theme which became the single most emulated tune on millions of casio and yamaha keyboards. to ease parent and teacher frustration perhaps manufacturers should have made this the demo tune instead of wake me up before you gogo.

five star – system addict

this song may or may not have been about being addicted to sticking your fingers in a plug socket. the state of five star’s hair in the accompanying video certainly supports this theory. don’t try it at home kids.

prince – computer blue

prince, as usual, managed to make music that was both futuristic and would hold up in years to come. prince has a love interest, computer says no.

 

club tropicana drinks are free August 5, 2007

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a scene from almost any 80s edition of totp in the summer. the palm trees and pineapples used to get dusted off in the bbc props department and plonked onstage for mulleted dancers in hawaiian shirts to dance around. in preparation for their holiday in benidorm.

summer anthems used to sound sunny, they weren’t about rain. of course rihanna isn’t old enough to remember the 80s. and many people won’t remember when we had actual seasons instead of increasingly bizarre and extreme weather.  when we were flying back from majorca in 1983 it snowed, in may, on the back of two weeks of sun. now, that wouldn’t be quite so surreal.

so here is my 80s summer countdown, one for each year. i’m winging it a bit on the early to mid 80s as i don’t remember much, and songs have different meanings to different people anyway.  i didn’t want to venture into agadoo territory…but while we’re on the subject, i miss those holidays where you could rely on a playlist of black lace, the tweets, bucks fizz and shaddap your face. novelty records should have stayed in the 80s though some british people still love them. last week at work, the finance team (admittedly only two people) were playing the chicken song by spitting image full blast.

i remember a particular year at butlins – thats an 80s holiday destination, kids – dancing to true blue by madonna, when the going gets tough by billy ocean and we don’t have to take our clothes off by jermaine stewart. to this day, me and my mum smirk when we hear these songs.

these are the sounds played in the garden that little girls made dances up to. on ghettoblasters powered by up to 8 huge batteries. that soon ran out so they sounded too slooooow.

80s summer anthems, by year – download here

1980 – lakeside – fantastic voyage

1981 – cool notes – i should’ve loved ya

1982 – teena marie – square biz

1983 – kc and the sunshine band – give it up

1984 – debarge – rhythm of the night

1985 – mai tai – body and soul

1986 – janet jackson – when i think of you

1987 – jets – crush on you 

1988 – taylor dayne – tell it to my heart

1989 – bobby brown – every little step