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.

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come back 80s whitney! April 27, 2007

once upon a time, there was a young girl with a big voice. she had the connections, the looks and the talent to have the world at her feet.
by the time whitney houston had completed her third album in 1990, many began to criticise her slickly produced, commercial sound and she was infamously booed at the 1989 soul train awards.
whitney is, and always has been managed by clive davis of arista. this was her choice – since singing on a track ‘life’s a party’ for disco outfit the michael zager band at the age of 14 in 1977, she had been offered countless deals. she turned them down, they’re weren’t big enough. it wasn’t until she caught the eye of clive davis in 1983 that she finally accepted.
whilst her voice naturally gravitated towards soul and r&b, she always intended to reach the mass, not niche market. but, prior to the completion of her first eponymous album, she duetted with r&b singers teddy pendergrass and kashif.
in 1985, the album was finally ready and initially, one of the album’s more soulful cuts, ‘someone for me’ was released in the UK. something wasn’t clicking. arista then released ‘you give good love’ and whilst it flopped in the UK, in the US it was the record that broke whitney.
it was swiftly followed up by ‘saving all my love for you’ her first international hit, and number one on both sides of the atlantic. uptempo number ‘how will i know’ and george benson cover ‘the greatest love of all’ cemented her mainstream popularity, to some extent alienating the soul and r&b contingent. her hugely successful second album ‘whitney‘, didn’t pacify those who thought she had sold out.
hooking up with renowned bad boy bobby brown and the associated kudos for snaring a hot younger man – she had to be doing something right – helped whitney shed her wholesome image. still, right up to their duet ‘something in common’ in which for the video, bobby and a heavily pregnant whitney cavorted poolside, it also appeared that bobby was a reformed man.
after the resounding success of whitney‘s film and soundtrack ‘the bodyguard’, and bobby‘s second album, the pair took a break. although they surfaced frequently over the next 5 or 6 years, for remixes (bobby) and more films (whitney), something was awry. rumours began to circulate that both were addicted to various drugs and bobby faced a series of charges that culminated in a spaced out whitney clinging to her husband as he was released from jail in 1998. recently it was alleged that she was living in a rented hovel with 80s singer cherrelle, having blown her fortune on drugs.
but with their divorce now final, and feisty daughter bobbi kristina more settled, whitney has a new album due and her life seems back on track. no doubt she is older and wiser but I can’t help but wish for the sparkling, curly hair and legwarmers whitney of the 80s, which she’ll now never be again. even if you thought the music was too polished, it was better than yelling-obscenities-in-a-dirty-velour-tracksuit whitney, wasn’t it?
ten reasons whitney should lay off the drugsdownload here
someone for me
80s synth pop/soul, you need to actually listen to it properly or it tends to wash over you.
thinking about you
intended to be the third single, but only released to radio. whitney roped in kashif, whom she had already duetted with for this nice, uptempo grower.
you give good love
a top 5 hit in the US and one of her best songs. the video, showing her singing in an underground club, is said to be one of whitney‘s favourites, due to its simplicity.
how will i know
the song that all little girls who grew up in 80s will remember. this bouncy tune is pastel-wearing fun whitney at her best.
all at once
this ballad is a fan favourite from the debut album.
shock me
duet with jermaine jackson, from 1985’s ‘perfect’ soundtrack. a jumpy uptempo number in the tradition of footloose, flashdance and fame.
moment of truth
1987 b-side of ‘i wanna dance with somebody’. a sweet midtempo number that could have slotted into the ‘whitney album’ perfectly.
love is a contact sport
probably intended to be ‘how will i know’ part 2. most people probably don’t remember this from the ‘whitney album’ due to the proliferation of ballads.
feel so good
1990 b-side of i’m your baby tonight’. nothing groundbreaking but nice to have.
dancin‘ on the smooth edge
whitney does 90s slow jam on this 1990 b-side to ‘all the man i need’.