dirty martini

old music for new people

camp as a row of tents June 14, 2008

we didn’t go on many holidays when i was a child, as my dad was a miserable git. we did go to the same resort in majorca several times and also to butlins, both bognor and minehead.

although the idea of staying in a holiday camp now seems faintly ridiculous and very restrictive, at the age of ten, it means you can roam unhindered. i’m sure it woldn’t be safe enough now but back in the 80s we had a different type of freedom and it meant a lot to escape your mum’s constant sunscreen application and flicking bits of fluff off you at every opportunity.

so, you went on holiday with your parents, found some friends near your age on the first day and off you went.

around the times we visited, the camps were being updated, which i can see now, lost the point. they were cheesy, retro and stuck in the 60s, which is why people wanted to go. still, i loved the sunsplash pools with flume rides and wave machines, which have no doubt been replaced by something else now. but, the old swimming pools with the windows were far more interesting.

these holidays were the only times i can remember me and my mum dancing out together in public. we danced a lot at home, but whenever I hear these tunes from the summer of 86 I think of her dancing happily.

download here

billy ocean – when the going gets tough

did anyone else get the 80s health education video that had this playing throughout? I can’t for the life of me remember what it was about…

club nouveau – lean on me

well i had no idea that the al green original existed when this came out…

five star – find the time

i remember being bought this on the way home from our butlins holiday, to cheer me up. yes, i was gutted to leave!

gwen guthrie – ain’t nothin’ goin’ on but the rent

tell it like it is, girl. broke men suck. gwen (rip) was at least ten years ahead of beyonce and co on this.

janet jackson – when i think of you

this was my favourite ‘control’ track back in the day. loved the remixes a decade later as well.

jermaine stewart – we don’t have to take our clothes off

we sang this at brownies, much to the disapproval of brown owl, who clearly couldn’t fathom why ten year olds were singing about being naked and drinking cherry wine.

madonna – true blue

i actually recognised actress debi mazar from this video, when she was on ugly betty. i hated madonna’s short, bleached hair though.

mel and kim – showing out

its sad that several of the artists on this list have passed away, like mel. i can imagine mel and kim as a duo would have gone on to become popular entertainers, possibly like a female ant and dec.

midnight star – midas touch

jheri soul troupe. yes, troupe. there were nine members.

steve winwood – higher love

i always think of that bette midler film, big business, as well, when i hear this.

taffy – i love my radio

more dj adulation. not a new phenomenon.

wham – edge of heaven

the last wham song ever recorded. millions of tears were cried over george and expert tambourine player andy.

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club tropicana drinks are free August 5, 2007

totp-80s.jpg

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

 

just let your soul glo April 29, 2007

sometime in about 1984 surfaced a phenomenon that would last well into the late 80s – jheri curl soul.borne out of the post-disco movement, curl soul was a more electronic style that made use of damn near every new sound available. jheri curl soul identified itself in a number of ways –

  1. the hair, obviously. before eddie murphy and co satirised said hairdo in ‘coming to america‘, the jheri curl was big business. cue glistening curls and plenty of grease-stained sofas
  2. the bands often resembled an extended family photo – it was not uncommon for groups to have more than five members
  3. a glitzy name – bonus points for inclusion of the word ‘star’ or ‘band’ and for translating your name into fauxfrancais: atlantic starr, five star, midnight star, the sos band, the bb&q band, royalle delite, club nouveaux, intrique
  4. if you can’t convince your family to join in, or are a norman-no-mates, a duo is your best bet – rene and angela, aurra, ashford and simpson
  5. reflective and/or brightly coloured silk suiting must be standard issue, and don’t forget those shoulder pads. essential for the moody yet inviting, hands on hips pose favoured by many of said bands
  6. allude to yet more glamour and excitement in your lyrics. recommended themes are – gold and silver, notoriety, electricity, being the finest, a freak, turning someone on, having secret affairs, taking your clothes off
  7. sprinkle liberally with tinkly sounds, synths, squelchy basslines and hyperactive drum patterns

for all that, the music should have been shit. but it was amazing. yes it was manufactured, so what. it sounds positively organic next to the late 90s robo-pop of the backstreet boys and britney spears. nothing quite sums up the 80s and a sunny day as effectively as this glossy, aspirational music. nothing made me more desperate to grow up and go to a real club so i could pretend to be one of these perfect specimens.

but since i was ooh, a good 8 years from being able to slip into a club with fake id, i danced in front of the tv in my pixie boots and silver dress, hair piled high and as much makeup as i could get away with. i strutted and pointed and pouted, to my parent’s amusement.

ten jheri curl soul classicsdownload here

midnight star – midas touch
midnight star comprised nine members. the exact role of each is unclear, but they all sported the prerequisite curls and loud suit, so contributed in some small way to the band’s success. this ode to all things gold was their biggest uk hit, in 1986.


klymaxx – the men all pause
pioneering ‘curl soul. klymaxx were a six-piece girl band in the traditional sense – they all played an instrument. this track was from their 1984 album ‘ meeting in the ladies room’.


lillo thomas – sexy girl
textbook 1987 example of the genre. associate of kashif and paul laurence, lillo was an olympic calibre athlete before an accident in 1984 forced him to pursue an alternative career.


the sos band – no one’s gonna love you
exquisitely produced track that almost sums up the genre. lovely bells, swooshes and that bassline. if it sounds familiar, it was sampled by r&b singer maxwell for a remix of his first hit ‘ascension’ in 1996.

rene and angelai’ll be good
slightly scary example of the curl’n’suit combo who had several sizable hits in the mid-80s. this 1985 hit was later used to good effect by jay-z and foxy brown.

jermaine stewart – we don’t have to take our clothes off
song that we delighted in singing at brownies, because we thought it was rude. from the poppier end of jheri curl soul and in fact, jermaine had unnaturally straight hair. perhaps in protest? can’t have been any easier to maintain…


atlantic starr – silver shadow
active throughout the 80s, atlantic starr are best known for ballads ‘always’ and ‘secret lovers’. this track was only released in the uk, where it prospered on the back of the club scene ignited by loose ends et al.


kashif – i just gotta have you
a big part of the 80s soul scene, producer kashif‘s own releases aren’t as well known as his work for others, including disco queen evelyn champagne king, george benson and dionne warwick, amongst others.


mac band – roses are red
a good example of the simple but effective lyrics used in many jheri soul cuts. this track still gets played out today.


the jets – curiosity
this polynesian eight-piece family act first rose to fame in 1987 with the poppy ‘crush on you’ led by then 15 year old vocalist elizabeth. since their late 80s success, younger siblings have replaced those retiring, from a pool of seventeen candidates.