SotD81 - Playing Catch Up part 4

neon colours - woman with spiky hair and neon framed spectacles

Inspired by our series of articles looking back at music released 30 years ago, Jimmy Hunter takes a step further back in time to give us some more Songs of the Day from 40 years back, SotD81...

I’m being quite generous. No need to thank me [Don’t worry about that!! – Ed] because, dear reader, I hope you find the additional links to this week’s selection interesting.

When I think of the first record of this selection, I always think of summer 1981 for some bizarre reason – knowing full well the record wasn’t released until the autumn. Only a few years ago did I go back and listen to the first two albums by Altered Images and I found them to be rather good. Not silly pop nonsense but well constructed and somewhat dark. However, fresh from the success of appearing in Gregory’s Girl a year before, Claire Grogan and her band scored the first of several hits with Happy Birthday. I wouldn’t quite agree with the post-punk label that was attributed to the group in the early days but certainly New Wave-ish would be accurate and I find their credibility to have lasted these 40 years.

Official music video 

TOTP first appearance [far too peppy - Ed]: 

Speaking of poppy [I said peppy - Ed] nonsense, I didn’t expect someone with a post-punk label to create such pop records but this is exactly what Toyah did. Although I do like it, it’s not the “indie” output on the heels of It’s A Mystery. The album tracks, however, are exactly that. However, having seen Toyah live a couple of years ago where she performed this track flawlessly, her longevity and passion are extraordinary.

I have never done this but I would urge you to have a look at the Wikipedia page for our next choice – Laurie Anderson. I’ve read it and given what I’ve read about her elsewhere, this is a fairly accurate and detailed account of her and her work. Not many outside of the (New York/US) art world would have heard of her before she released O Superman, me included, and like many others, I was captivated. And I still am. It’s unique, creative and the music video more than does justice to the record. Watch/listen all the way through – I’m delighted to have had an opportunity to reconnect with this amazing record.

Classix Nouveaux was a fairly short-lived outfit consisting of a couple of members of the recently disbanded X-Ray Spex. [Please do look up the superb X-Ray Spex album Germ Free Adolescence as I think it’s the absolute pinnacle of punk at its best, not least because of the single The Day The World Turned Day-Glo]. However, I digress [Frequently!!! – Ed]. Never again is one of those records I remember hearing on the clock radio as I was half asleep and trying to figure out how to stay in bed and not go to school (I did manage that, by the way!!). The screaming falsetto on a bass of “never again, never again” combined with a racing tempo, a bizarre lyric and peculiar vocal hooked me. [Find the HD Audio version here - Ed]

Earth Wind and Fire were, by 1981, beginning to slip away from the popularity they had maintained in the ‘70s and yet this is a great example of post-disco disco. It’s tuneful and has a great bass line with added vocoder and the signature falsetto backing vocal. [Enjoy the HD audio full length version too - Ed]

Juice Newton scored the biggest commercial hit with this 1967 tune penned by Chip Taylor. It’s had a plethora of singers doing various versions but Juice’s version clearly hit the right note (pun intended) at the right time. Having listened to many of the other versions, I surprise myself by still liking this (I bought it at the time) and I think this version will remain the definitive one. Oh, Chrissie Hynde did a cover in the ‘90s and despite what her character on Friends said, she did not write this track.

Camp and outrageous for TOTP in 1981, Imagination scored a number of successful hits and out of them all, Flashback is my favourite.

Where do I start with this? A collaboration nobody expected and nobody realised they needed until it happened. Famously (and superbly) sampled by Vanilla Ice almost a decade later, Queen & David Bowie gave us a record that just kept giving. There is a superb video about how the record was created and the first (iconic?) bass guitar notes that’s well worth a watch. The 1985 Live Aid concert version then the 1999 remix version are excellent examples of the reach this record has had.

Live Aid 1985 

1999 Rah-mix

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