Pet Shop Boys

The 1980s saw the birth of the Pet shop Boys who went on to be a huge electronic pop group who enjoyed great success. The duo consisted of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. The duo have sold over 50 million records and remain one of the most influential groups of there time.

The duo started out at college in London and had a mutual interest in electronic music and started to collate some tunes in the hope of getting a big break.

That big break duly arrived when Neil working as a journalist was sent to America to interview the rock band The Police. He decided at the same time to arrange a meet up with producer of HI-NRG records Bobby O. He was impressed with the material provided and decided to produce the songs such as West end Girls and opportunities.

The band decided to sever links with Bobby but giving him royalties of future sales and the duo teamed up with Tom Watkins and signed to Parlophone records. They released opportunities and despite it’s lowly chart peak, they were encouraged. They repackaged West end Girls and the single slowly crept to number one in the UK and the fame was instant. Neil was able to leave his position of deputy editor of teen mag Smash Hits and the band were able to concentrate full time on music.

A follow up single Love comes quickly and debut album Please were released and the band were quickly becoming one of the most requested acts on tv and radio. Opportunities was re-released again and Suburbia were released as singles to great success again. The end of 1986 saw them release a disco remix album aptly named Disco and the band preformed live on the MTV music awards in LA.

!987 saw the duo earn BRIT awards and Ivor Novello awards for West end Girls and on the back of this they released It’s a sin which topped the charts in the UK. They followed with the catchy song What have I done to deserve this which started a long relationship with 60s legend Dusty Springfield. The band had the song before the first album and were reluctant to use another female lead and eventually they got there woman!

Later that year the duo did a cover of the Elvis Presley classic Always on my mind and the song was a Christmas number one and kept the Pogues off the number one spot. Prior to that the single Rent was a top 10 hit in the UK.

The boys took time out to produce and write Eight Wonder huge 80s hit I’m not scared which help propel Patsy Kensit pop career. The duo also recorded this on there album Introspective.

The 1980s drawing to a close the duo then went on a first world tour sampling the delights of Hong Kong, Japan and the UK. This was the start of the bands global success and the 1990s and beyond saw the band grow there success.

During the 1980s the duo released 3 studio albums all peaking into the top 3. They released 13 singles with the Neil and Chris achieving four number ones (West end Girls, It’s a sin, Always on my Mind and Heart) and a further 6 top 10 hits.

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Three feet high and rising

25 years a hip hop masterpiece was released and was seen as the blueprint for future hip hop albums throughout the 1990s and beyond.

De la soul were a 3 piece from New York Pos, Dave and Moseo went onto great success but the success also was helped by the production skills of Prince Paul. The album enjoyed international success and Hip Hop became the mainstream rather than the underground scene it had enjoyed.

The album featured the singles ‘eye know’ , ‘magic number’ and ‘me myself and i’ Those singles made top 20 in the UK singles charts to extend there success. Although the album was constructed as a hip hop album the album had a laid back sound with an almost hippy sound but with the use of modern electro sounds. 

The album cover reflected that with the bright colours and flowers and text that looked heavily influenced by the late 1960s movement.

Also the album featured many samples including the fellow American artists Hall and Oates on say no go. The album reached number 13 in the UK and was released on the Warner brothers label and produced by Prince Paul. The tracks on the album are:-

1. Intro
2. The Magic Number
3. “Change in Speak”
4. “Cool Breeze on the Rocs”
5. “Can U Keep a Secret”
6. “Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin’s Revenge)”
7. “Ghetto Thang”
8. “Transmitting Live from Mars”
9. Eye Know
10. “Take It Off”
11. “A Little Bit of Soap”
12. “Tread Water”
13. Potholes in My Lawn
14. Say No Go
15. “Do as De La Does”
16. Plug Tunin’ (Last Chance to Comprehend)
17. “De La Orgee”
18. Buddy
19. “Description”
20. Me Myself and I
21. “This Is a Recording 4 Living in a Fulltime Era (L.I.F.E.)”
22. “I Can Do Anything (Delacratic)”
23. “D.A.I.S.Y. Age”
24. “Plug Tunin'” (Original 12″ version)
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Sparkle in the Rain 30 years on..

30 Years ago this week saw Simple Minds top the UK album charts and various other countries around the world with the classic anthems on Sparkle in the Rain.

This was the bands sixth studio album and one that catapulted them into one of the must see bands at the time. Around this time they were regularly playing to large crowds of 50,000 and many likened them to another rock band with similar music and beliefs namely U2. Many seen the two bands as in competition but they were great friends on and away from the music and both appealed to the general public.

Initially, the band promoted the song Waterfront at the Phoenix Festival in Dublin where U2 where the main headline and the song received terrific response from the crowd with it’s thumping bass line and drumming. With that success the band went to work on this album and sought the help of Steve Lillywhite who had also produced for U2 and Big Country.

The album was worked on in Wales and then relocated to London to finish the album and was seen as a move away from the New Wave synthetic sound of previous albums to a more rock sound with emphasis on bass and guitar to appeal to a more rock based fan.

The album was released in February 1984 and shot straight to number one in the UK album charts and 3 singles were released with Waterfront peaking at number 13 with Speed your love to me at 20 and Up on the catwalk at 27.

The tracks on the album:-

1. “Up on the Catwalk”
2. “Book of Brilliant Things”
3. “Speed Your Love to Me”
4. “Waterfront”
5. “East at Easter”
6. “Street Hassle”
7. “White Hot Day”
8. “‘C’ Moon Cry Like a Baby”
9. “The Kick Inside of Me”
10. “Shake Off the Ghosts”

The album was released on Virgin records in the UK and A&M records in the USA. To date the album has nearly sold two million copies and a great testament to a fantastic album.

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Reggae in the 80s

Reggae has been on the scene since the introduction of it to the UK shores in the 1960s with the help Trojan Records. The 1980s saw a explosion of reggae to hit the charts. Following the death of Bob Marley prematurely in 1981 Reggae enjoyed success with a number of artistes climbing the charts and making Reggae more mainstream.

Two of the biggest exponents were Bob Marley and Birmingham’s UB40 (read about these two on the following links Bob Marley and UB40

One of the early successes in the 1980s was Sugar Minott who scored a top 5 hit ‘good thing going’ which was a cover of a Michael Jackson song, sadly he didn’t gain any further success but he did introduce Musical Youth to the UK market. Musical Youth were a bunch of young lads from Birmingham like UB40 who enjoyed some great success.

In 1982 they sped to number one in the UK charts with Pass the Dutchie and top 10 in America selling over 4 million copies and the accompanying video was one of the first black artistes to be played on MTV. This was followed up by Youth of today No.13 and Never gonna give you up peaking at number 6. Sadly, after all that the band split due to number of reasons with finance and personal issues clouding the band.

Another who enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame was Smiley Culture who introduced the public to Fast chat. He enjoyed two big songs Police officer which was a top 20 hit and another classic Cockney Translation which reached number 70 but has since enjoyed success as an innovative song that has inspired future generations into rap. Unfortunately his biggest hit about the Police bought his death when he died during a Police raid on his house in 2011.

Another British success was Tippa Irie who enjoyed a couple of commercial successes with Hello Darling (top 30) and Heartbeat (top 60) he also worked with soul crooner Alexander O’Neal and more recently with the black eyed peas.

A couple of old school Jamaicans dented the charts with Gregory Isaacs championing the flag for Reggae despite his drug issues and a spell in prison he still managed to carve out some excellent material with rough neck and rumours, he was quite prolific in the 1980s releasing countless albums solo and linking up with some of the biggest names in Reggae.

Another old school regular were Sly and Robbie who were big influencers in Jamaica in the 1970s and 1980s. There introduction in the 80s of Rub a dub style was the staple for Island records sounds and they went on to produce for Grace Jones and Joe Cocker. They fused Reggae with Funk and electric sounds and released the Rhythm Killers which spawned a top 20 hit ‘Boop’s here we go’ which was later sampled on a Robbie Williams track.

Two of the biggest reggae acts in the 1980s were Aswad and Maxi Priest. Aswad a band from London started in the 1970s and still continue to this day. During the 1980s They released 11 albums with distant thunder reaching the top 10. They were quiet on the singles front releasing only 7 but enjoyed a huge number one in 1988 with ‘Don’t turn around’ which was originally done for Tina Turner as a B-side but Aswad put there own touch to it and produced a huge international hit. The follow up ‘give a little love’ peaked at number 11.

Maxi Priest another Londoner who branched into the sound of Reggae fused with Rock. He released 3 albums in the 1980s with varying success with his self titled album reaching number 11 in the UK album charts. He also released 7 singles during the 1980s with ‘Wild world’ a top 10 smash in the UK, in 1990 ‘Close to you’ was also a top 10 in the UK but a number one in the USA charts. He also worked with Reggae legends UB40 on a world tour in 2008/09.

Reggae has been around since the influx of Jamaicans to the UK shores in the 1950s and 1960s and the next generation continued the trait to great success.


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Feargal Sharkey

Initially found fame in the late 1970s with pop punk band The Undertones as there lead singer and founding member.

The band enjoyed early success in the Northern Ireland clubs and the band had huge hits in the UK with notable songs like Teenage Kicks, Here comes the summer and It’s going to happen. The band were heavily promoted on BBC Radio 1 by independent champion John Peel who played the song twice in a row and was quoted as saying it was his favourite song off all time and some of the lyrics were used on his headstone following his death in 2004.

The band enjoyed 4 top 20 singles before they split in 1983 with the remaining members forming That Petrol Emotion. Feargal decided to embark on a different career path. He met up with Vince Clarke ex-Depeche Mode and Yazoo and they formed The Assembly and had a huge UK hit with ‘Never Never’ which peaked at number 4 in the charts. That was it for the group as Vince went on to form Erasure and Feargal went down the solo path to great acclaim.

He teamed up with Madness member Chas Smyth and released the single ‘listen to your father’ on Madness record label Zarjazz records in 1984 and the single peaked at number 23 in the UK charts, but his biggest hit was just around the corner. He topped the UK singles charts in 1985 with a song written by Maria McKee called ‘A good heart’ and this was followed up a top 5 hit called ‘you little thief’.

His debut album peaked at number 12 in the UK charts, sadly after that his material did not reach the peaks of his previous efforts and only enjoyed a further top 20 hit in the UK with ‘I’ve got news for you’ in 1991.

After that he moved into the business side of the music and became an A&R man for Polydor Records and moved onto further roles such as Chairman of government task force on live music looking at the licensing act 2003 and in 2008 appointed CEO of British Music Rights and his energy went into promoting music and linking music to the broadcast channels.

A true legend of the music industry.

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New Order Technique 25 years on

25 years ago on this day New Order released the acclaimed album Technique. It was the bands fifth release and this album saw the introduction of Belearic beats and acid house fused with there electronic rock contributions.

The album was mostly recorded at the party capital of the world Ibiza and was produced by the band on Factory records.

This was the bands first number one UK album success and with it the critics loved the new sound that the band offered.

The band released 3 singles of the album with ‘fine time’ just missing out on a top 10 spot. The subsequent offerings ‘Round and Round’ peaked at 21 and a number 1 dance hit in America and ‘run 2′ reaching 49 in the UK charts.

Q magazine placed the album in the top 40 best albums of the 1980s with a very credible 21st.

The tracks on the album are:-

Fine time
All the Way
Love less
Round and Round
Guilty Partner
Run
Mr Disco
Vanishing Point
Dream attack

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Kings of the Wild Frontier

On this week in 1981 saw Adam and the Ants make there assault on the charts with a number one placing with Kings of the wild frontier. The album had it’s initial problems when his backing band were tempted away by Malcolm Maclaren troupe Bow Wow Wow.

Adam undeterred formed up with Marco Pirroni and the album had a unique sounding double Burundi drumming and plenty of guitar riffs.

The album enjoyed 3 hit singles the self title Kings of the wild frontier reaching number 2, dog eat dog at number 4 and Antmusic peaking at number 2.

The album initially went to number one in January 1981 for 2 weeks then returned to the top on the back of the Antmusic success and stayed at the top for 10 weeks. Needless to say it was the best selling album for 1981 in the UK and earned a BRIT award in 1982 for there efforts.

The album was released on CBS records and was produced by Chris Hughes(he was the drummer for the ants and went onto produce for Tears for fears and Peter Gabriel amongst others).

The tracks on the album are:-
Dog Eat Dog
Antmusic
Feed Me to the Lions
Los Rancheros
Ants Invasion
Killer in the Home
Kings of the Wild Frontier
The Magnificent Five
Don’t Be Square (Be There
Jolly Roger
Making History
The Human Beings

Posted in 80s Music Revisited, New Romantics

FGTH Relax 30 Years on..

Thirty years ago today Frankie Goes to Hollywood climbed to the top of the UK singles charts with the controversial single Relax.

It did not fair well on it’s initial release but a twist of fate help propel the song back up the charts and make history. The band from Liverpool were signed to Trevor Horn and Paul Morley record label ZTT and the combination of the production skills and marketing saw this band appear from nowhere to absolute everywhere.

The song was released in November 1983 and peaked initially at 35 in the charts, then an appearance on Top of the Pops saw the song rise to number 6. Then BBC radio 1 DJ Mike Read decided to ban the song as he did not like the distasteful lyrics and single cover and other DJ’s followed suit. This as you can imagine was a rag to a red bull in terms of the general public and soon the song got to number one. BBC decided to ban it from appearing on top of the pops. The song went on to continue at number one for a further 5 weeks and sold in excess of 2 million copies and the 7th best selling single in the UK of all time!

The song drifted down the charts again but peaked again at number 2 in July 1984 as Frankie Mania grew as two tribes held the number one spot and the marketing of the t-shirts with ‘Frankie Says..Relax’ was a must item.

The song stayed in the top 75 for 48 weeks and was a hugely popular song and the BBC eventually lifted the ban in time for Christmas as this was the most popular song of 1984.

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Sheffield scene

During the history of popular music certain areas become a hotbed of musical talent and influencers that start a revolution. In the 1960s we saw the birth of Merseybeat, the 1970s we saw midlands hugely influence the whole Ska revival, the late 1980s and early 1990s we saw the birth of the Madchester scene where Guitars mixed with rave scene seen the whole country gripped by this new sound.

Somewhere in between in the early 1980s Sheffield became an integral part of the music scene and was widely regarded as the main influencer of synth pop and the whole electronic sound.

Prior to the synth movement there were some notable contributions from other Sheffield sons who had made an impact on the music scene. The golden voice of Paul Carrack had enjoyed success with Ace, roxy Music and more famously Mike and the Mechanics who enjoyed a huge number one UK smash in 1989 with ‘the living years’. Another famous son was the gravel voice of Joe Cocker who like Carrack had enjoyed a cross atlantic smash hit ‘up where we belong’ which was the soundtrack theme for the smash hot film ‘An officer and a gentleman’.

Another band to emerge from the Sheffield scene was Def Leppard who enjoyed success primarily in America as the synth movement took over and rock seemed to take a back page. They did eventually crack the UK market with the release of the album Hysteria and the lead singles Animal, Love bites.

It was the synth movement that took the UK by storm and most of the sounds were coming out of Sheffield. The chief architects were Human League, Heaven 17, ABC backed up by the more industrial sound of Cabaret Voltaire and Clock DVA. Eventually, this spread through out the whole country and soon there were plenty of synth bands.

To take it a step back the whole electronic sound had been developed for a quite a number of years with Brian Eno of Roxy Music and Kraftwerk taking the sound to the general public but the whole sound could be heard on the soundtrack of Clockwork Orange where the whole industrial sound inspired many to dispense with the traditional instruments and build machines that could process sounds. this whole new sound influenced the up and coming synth and new romantic acts and Sheffield were the first of many to embrace the evolution sound. The sound was very dystopian and futuristic and this was the blueprint for many to follow.

The mass production of digital equipment was to follow in the 1980s not least the Yamaha DX7 and this in turn saw an invasion of British acts rise and enjoy success both sides of the Atlantic. Most Synth music was born out of the new wave period and one of the first to pioneer the sound in the UK was Cabaret Voltaire who were named after a club in Zurich. The band formed in 1973 but were more famous for its electronic sound that came to prominence between 1978-81. They spent a great deal touring and often supported Joy Division. They signed to indie Label Rough Trade and released a number of singles and albums such as three Mantras and the albums The voice of America and Red Mecca. However, 1983 saw a commercial interest upturn in there material with The crackdown released on Virgin peaked at number 31 in the UK charts which represented a huge success. The singles Sensoria and James Brown enjoyed huge success and charted in the Indie chart and were huge playings in the underground clubs around the UK. The band released 9 studio albums during the 1980s with 2 with four of them entering the main UK album charts. They also released a credible 22 singles in the UK with 7 reaching top 100 status. Certainly one of the biggest influencers of electro music.

Another from the industrial sound age was Clock DVA who had loose links with Cabaret Voltaire and the future Human League. Adi Newton was the main face of the band and were very much an experimental sound band. They released four albums during the 1980s with White souls in black suits and Thirst gaining critical acclaim with the latter knocking Adam and the Ants of the top of the indie album chart. They released 9 singles but not one managed to break through to the main UK singles charts. However, limited the success was the contribution cannot be underestimated and they still tour to this date around the various festivals around Europe.

Once the avant-garde sound had worn down the next batch came along combining the electronic sound with conventional songwriting that appealed to the general public. This introduced the new COLD WAVE sound that favoured the likes of Soft Cell and Sheffield’s very own Human League.

The Human League started live as an all male band but evolved into the successful combination of Phil Oakey and the Girls Joanne Catherall and Susan Sulley. The band was started by Martin Ware and Ian Marsh and after some limited success they seeked a lead singer, there first choice Glenn Gregory but was unavailable so they opted for an old Friend Phil Oakey. The band had limited success with appearances on TOTP and the album Travelogue gained a top 20 entry but the band were having personal problems and the record label Virgin opted not to release any more material.

Marsh and Ware wanted to continue the electronic sound whilst Oakey wanted the more pop synth commercialism. As a result Marsh and Ware left to form Heaven 17 and Oakey was left on his own with all debts and the little matter of a tour. Oakey recruited the girls and more musicians and the band were able to honour there commitments. The next few years saw the band hit the steady heights of number one on both single and album charts. The Dare album which spawned Don’t you want me both number ones and was a Christmas number one in 1981. The band released four albums during the 1980s with Dare, Hysteria and Crash all going top 10 with Dare a number one. They released 16 singles with 7 top 10 hits including 5 in a row between 1981-82 with Keep feeling fascination and mirror man. The band left a big legacy and were pioneers of electro pop and the band still continue today with a recent tour celebrating 35 years in existence, proof enough that the band talent still interests fans.

With the exit of Marsh and Ware, they went onto form Heaven 17 with Glenn Gregory on the microphones. Initially the band struggled with it’s overtly political lyrics such as Fascist groove thang which was banned by Radio 1 DJ Mike Read. The album Penthouse and Pavements gained a top 20 entry. It wasn’t until late 1983 with the release of Temptation with Carol Kenyon on backing proved a masterstroke and the song reached number two. Subsequent releases come live with me and crushed by the wheels of industry were notable entrants in the UK charts. The album Luxury Gap which featured all those songs went platinum and peaked at number four. They released 5 albums in the 1980s with three top 20 entries and in terms of singles they released 19 with three top 20 hits. The band are still working and made a high profile appearance on ITV 25th anniversary of NOW album as they appeared on the very first album. They also played with La Roux who cited the band as her major influence.

The last but certainly not least was ABC, The band emerged in the late 1970s from a band called Vice
Versa formed initially by Mark white and Stephen singleton and Martin Fry joined later and the new project of ABC began.

Success almost came immediately following the release of Tear are not enough which dented the top 20 in the UK singles charts in 1981 and a debut album produced by Trevor Horn named Lexicon of Love received critical acclaim from all the peers in the industry. It also featured the singles Poison Arrow, the look of love and all of my heart which all made significant contributions in the charts with there high polished production.

The band found it difficult to follow that masterpiece and the next offering Beauty Stab fared less in the charts, they did have a top 20 single with That was then but this is now. The album itself failed on a top 10 entry and the subsequent how to be a zillionaire was showing the band dwindling sales. After a break due to Martin Fry illness they came back as a two piece band and in 1987 released Alphabet City which finally got a top 10 entry, they released the lead single When Smokey sings and again this proved a popular song and reached number 7 in the singles charts.

By the end of the decade the next album was based firmly on the fledgling house music scene but by then the sales were a lot less than there previous material. The band still continues to this day but only Martin Fry is the original member but there success in Sheffield led to Martin being giving an honours degree by University of Sheffield.

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Def Leppard

In the late 1970s following the punk movement a band emerged from Sheffield that went on to be the leading charges of the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) that enjoyed huge success in America and the UK.

Def Leppard formed in the 70s but went onto enjoy huge commercial success in the 1980s and beyond and are one of the biggest selling bands of all time with over 100 million albums sold worldwide and are only a few select of bands to sell two studio albums grossing 10 million sales in America alone. They are that big.

The original band formed at a school in Sheffield with Rick Savage, Joe Elliott and Steve Clarke. They released a self titled EP which was extensively played by BBC radio DJ John Peel and the airplay ensured a constant command for there early material. They were seen as the new front runners of the heavy metal scene which had declined during the prog rock and punk rock era. They soon released there first album ‘On Through the night’ and although did well in the UK reaching top 15, many were put off as they were possibly being Americanised in there sound.

The band continued the good work and they caught the eye of ACDC producer Mutt Lange who agreed to work on there second album High ‘n’ Dry which helped defined there sound. Around that time MTV exploded and one of the early videos ‘Bringin on the heartache’ got extensive airplay and promoted the band and soon that exposure led to supporting Ozzy Osbourne.

The next album Pyromania shot the band into the mainstream where the release of Photograph saw the MTV generation enjoy the band and the album sold over 6 million copies instantly, the video became the most requested on MTV and even beating Michael Jackson effort ‘Beat it’. This success fuelled the whole pop metal scene and the Leppards were the main catalyst for this.

Following that success the band moved to Ireland to work on the next album but were beset with problems, Firstly Mutt Lange originally worked on the new album then pulled out due to exhaustion and Drummer Rick Allen lost his arm following a car accident outside his native city A57 where his car left the road and hit a wall. The band supported Allen during this period and had a custom made drum kit made to continue in his role as Def Leppard drummer.

After 3 years of struggles, rewriting material they eventually released Hysteria and the album was again a huge success. It reached number one in the UK and number 2 in the USA and the first single Animal was there first top 10 in the UK peaking at number 6. This saw a number of songs released as singles from the album including Pour some sugar on me, Rocket, Love Bites and Armageddon it. All top 40 hits in the USA and the native UK.

The success led to winning American Music awards for best band and best album and were nominated for BRIT awards but missed out on the big prize.

The 1980s saw the band start from a small room in Sheffield to becoming one of the global names of the 1980s.

The 1980s saw the band release 4 studio albums and 20 singles, they enjoyed 5 top 20 single successes and all the albums going top 30 in the UK. A band that still continues today and there music as well as the band looks haven’t aged that badly for rockers.


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