dirty martini

old music for new people

80s boys: softly does it October 13, 2007

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the 80s were a time of smooth sophistication – or at least, that was the aspiration. it wasn’t supposed to look as effortless as the impossibly slick culture we have today where even boho takes hours to perfect. in the 80s, looking as if you had spent time and money on your style was a badge of honour.

everything was designed to flatter this image and music was no exception – the music was polished and the vocals didin’t interrupt the flow. male pop/soul vocalists were often soft and understated, with an overtone of smugness. which is why i’ve chosen a picture of steff, james spader’s character in pretty in pink. the baddie you hate to love.

all of these bands feature cooing vocals, so much of a rarity these days that anything remotely understated evokes the 80s. it wasn’t particularly manly but the new romantics pretty much put paid to any notions that the 80s would be a macho decade.

download here 

breathe – how can i fall

not breathe’s biggest hit, but since they only had one other…close.

howard jones – like to get to know you well

classic synth pop soul which few did better than howard. good use of a mullet too. howard’s sound was slicker than his look. he looked like a tramp with a vidal sassoon haircut and bleach job.

stephen tin tin duffy – icing on the cake

original member of duran duran and has had more success in production than with his own music.

climie fisher – love changes everything

sweet late 80s boy pop that can still be found on heart fm to this day. they had one other notable song, ‘rise to the occasion’.

curiosity killed the cat – down to earth

smash hits favourite ben volauvent parrot and co were minor challengers to bros and wet wet wet in the late 80s. i used to fancy migi.

wet wet wet – sweet little mystery

cheeky scot marti pellow looked so much better with the caught-in-a-dodgem spiky haircut than his later curtain style look when they caught their financial break with ‘love is all around’.

scritti politti – absolute

i love the sound of green’s voice, its like candyfloss. all of scritti  politti’s music sounds the same across albums spanning the entire decade. i like that in a group.

johnny hates jazz – i don’t want to be a hero

oddly sincere sounding group taking into account the jazz were rich pretty boys. proving rich boys don’t need to go indie to compensate for their roots. all of jhj’s music has that late 80s wine bar sound on lock.

omd – if you leave

i don’t care for much of omd’s music but of all the 80s teen movies, this was the most fitting soundtrack to the obligatory high school dance scene. i think we all wanted andie to get with duckie, but its not so bad for him as he’s ended up in two and a half men with charlie sheen…

brother beyond – how many times

god nathan moore really wasn’t any better a singer than he is an agent. and don’t get me wrong, i loved bb way more than bros. no wonder lisa scott-lee’s career haas gone down the pan…oh wait, no, that’s because she’s shit.

blow monkeys – it doesn’t have to be this way

i’m sure i heard carol mcgiffin say that she slept with monkeys frontman dr robert. maybe if you were a bit older – and i mean of an age when you should be fancying people, not 11 like i was – then he was the 80s version of russell brand. who i don’t get either.

hipsway – the honeythief

don’t know much about this group but they typified the smooth sound of the time.

 

the truth about boy bands: the 80s August 26, 2007

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looking at the picture above, i wonder exactly why we ever thought george michael was straight? i was too young to know the difference, but i did always prefer andrew ridgeley…

80s fans were fiercely loyal to their band. a brosette would never admit liking a song by wet wet wet, or vice versa. this was tantamount to betrayal. i was too young to participate but i liked watching older girls argue about the relative merits of wham and duran duran. the first boy band i liked was a-ha, and morten harket kind of looked like patrick swayze.

14 is the proper age for a boy band fan, i think. i was 13 when nkotb arrived and so jordan knight was my main boyband crush. he was infinitely more interesting than his brother jon who professed a liking for tea and cakes and was going out with tiffany, of the batwing jumpers and shopping mall performances.

the early 80s boy bands were operating alongside the new romantics and so looked, frankly, like big girls. flicked and highlighted hair, pastels, sometimes even makeup. later, the look became more masculine, with ripped jeans, doc martens and leather jackets.

you can also check out their predecessors in my 70s boyband post, or those that followed in the 90s and 00s.

download here

nkotb – valentine girl

four of the new kids enjoyed adoration from screaming teen girls the world over. the other one was danny wood. horse face inexplicably made it into this band despite having neither looks or talent. it was easy to believe danny when he said he didn’t have a girlfriend. at least dane bowers had a voice.

new edition – mr telephone man

the predecessors to nkotb and the first glimpse of bad boy bobby brown, who at the age of 16,in 1985, found himself a father during the height of their success. i don’t remember this being common knowledge when he went solo shortly after. this for me is the best boy band track of the 80s.

johnny hates jazz – shattered dreams

don’t remember much about this group, but the singer had a nice voice and they fitted well with the whole late 80s yuppy soul vibe. filed under 80s cocktail lounge listening.

duran duran – rio

simon le bon and co may actually be the perpetrators of the miami vice style, pastel suit with bright t shirt, rolled up sleeves and loafers combo. between them, the group had so much hair it was ridiculous. john taylor, my favourite, was involved with it girl amanda de cadenet. kind of like tamara beckwith but even more annoying.

wet wet wet – sweet little mystery

scottish blue eyed soul band who did well in the 80s, but really made their cash in the 90s with ‘love is all around’, which was no1 for so long that they had it withdrawn. were they mad? take the cash and run! have since admitted they barely needed to work again thanks to four weddings and a funeral.

musical youth – sixteen

british pop reggae group who would be seen in amusing locations such as the houses of parliament, terrorising stuffy old people. wore baseball caps well. had a certain cachet once it became known that ‘pass the dutchie’ was about smoking weed. ok, so admittedly i still didn’t get it at the time, but i was about six!

bros – chocolate box

south london twins matt and luke and their school friend craig started the ripped jeans and leather craze that defined the end of the 80s. also wore grolsch bottle tops on their shoes, which I had to persuade my dad to get for me despite the fact that he hated grolsch.

wham – credit card baby

probably the most iconic 80s boyband and certainly the campest. hair that defied gravity, hawaiian shirts, shorts, it was all there. battled with frankie goes to hollywood for biggest selling tshirt. in 1984 you could just print ‘choose life’ or ‘frankie says relax’ on a white tshirt and sell millions…

brother beyond – he ain’t no competition

played second fiddle to bros for the most part, but nathan moore had more screaming girls after him as he was fit in a nick kamen kind of way and matt and luke were blond which isn’t every woman’s cup of tea. then nathan shattered the illusion somewhat by becoming the latest in a long line of gullible popstars to get involved with 80s wannabe amanda de cadenet.

spandau ballet – true

the girliest of all the 80s boy bands, and its hilarious to think that martin kemp ended up as bad boy steve owen in eastenders. this song was an end-of-the-school-disco staple along with ‘crazy for you’ and ‘careless whisper’.

a-ha – you are the one

morten, mags and pal caused mass hysteria and filled the boyband shaped void left when wham split and duran duran started getting married and having kids. being from norway their music has a slightly melancholy feel to it, even their uptempo tunes like this one.

curiosity killed the cat – misfit

notable at the time for the lead singer having an odd name – ben voppliere-pierriot – and a slightly girly penchant for berets. smash hits, reliably, gave him a more memorable name of ben volauvent-pierrot-parrot-thingy not everyone will remember that they did the original version of ‘ring ring ring’ by de la soul, called ‘name and number’. i can’t remember how it goes now.

 

yuppie soul…for wannabes and estate agents alike July 13, 2007

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yuppies were everywhere in the late 80s. inspired by wall street and dressed by armani. or more likely, next, in fact i think the blame for the continuing success of next and its unflattering, boxy clothes can be laid squarely at the feet of the yuppie movement.

think del boy falling over in an underground wine bar trying to impress snooty trophy wives while hapless trigger looks on in his blue suit. being the average man on the street, never mind the underdog, was not a celebrated thing in the late 80s. my parents knew someone who aspired to be a yuppie. if he held a barbecue, it was a ‘dinner party’ by virtue of the fact that he would provide a musical backdrop of ‘now thats what i call classical music’. the fact that he worked at asda didn’t hold him back – he assumed the look, the lifestyle and the self delusion.

it’s sad to watch the ex-yuppies now, especially those that were young at the time. they cling desperately to their trench coats and briefcases, and we don’t invite them out for after work drinks. unless we want them to pay.

dodgy, drab fashion and buck teeth aside, the most hilarious part of the yuppie image was the mobile phone. or the brick, as its now commonly known. not dissimilar to lugging around your own portable phone box, and requiring an antenna that would spear anyone within fifty feet.

it’s no surprise that some of the soul artists that broke through at this time were white, and very middle of the road. they were reflective of the audience. the music was criticised as manufactured and lacking in grit, but its a hell of a lot better than most of the crap we’re forced to endure today. ‘pop’ does mean ‘popular’ after all…

smooth wine bar grooves for the upwardly mobile – download here

al jarreau – we’re in this love together

alexander o’neal – hearsay

sade – hang on to your love

mica paris and will downing – where is the love

luther vandross – give me the reason

whitney houston – you give good love 

lisa stansfield – live together

simply red – a new flame

wet wet wet – angel eyes

tracy chapman –  fast car

terence trent d’arby – if you let me stay

michael bolton – soul provider