Bronski Beat

Mixtape: Independence Day 0

“I’m Scottish. I can complain about things.” So said Peter Capaldi’s Doctor Who on seeing the face and hearing the voice of his latest regeneration. For many centuries, my people, the Scots, have complained loudly and bitterly. Mostly about the English, about being stuck on top of a country that oppresses and ignores them. And after centuries of complaining, we finally get a chance to do something about it. The race is shockingly tight, so much so that my nation has been belatedly turned into the homely girl suddenly regarded as pretty, with the leaders of all three parties desperate for her attention and approval. Although I’m many thousands of miles away, my ill-educated and indefensible vote would be Yes. We wanted this for so long. Now let’s see what happens when we get it. The following songs aren’t particularly rousing, rebellious or patriotic. But if the vote is a yes, this is what Scottish radio eighties flashback shows will sound like.

“Celebrate,” Simple Minds

Before they were deliberately anthemic, before everything they did was tailored to fit the demands of a stadium audience, this was Simple Minds starting to find themselves.

“From Pillar To Post,” Aztec Camera

The great thing about Roddy Frame’s songwriting circa 1982: the more he tried to write an out-and-out commercial pop song, the more he imbued his lyrics and delivery with out-and-out contempt.

“Blue Boy,” Orange Juice

Simple Minds were a big deal even in their formative years but Orange Juice and Postcard Records put Glasgow on the map in terms of the musically-inclined-but-directionless suddenly finding steely resolve and starting their own jangly bands, in terms of the music press belatedly bestowing regional hotness on Glasgow and in terms of record companies indiscriminately signing up Scots of varying degrees of talent.

Tell Me Easter’s On Friday,” Associates

My co-author’s been on a well-received music-now-is-empty-and-crude rant. I semi-agree but my main complaint about contemporary pop is that the chances of us ever hearing another voice like Billy Mackenzie’s in a context where it’s on the radio and on TV and high on the charts is not even unlikely. It just couldn’t happen. People rapping about their butts doesn’t make me particularly annoyed; living in a talent vacuum does.

“Bring Me Closer,” Altered Images

Gary Kemp talks in Mad World: The Book about his courtly semi-romance with Clare Grogan. For a brief period, the entire country shared his infatuation. The double-whammy of her “Gregory’s Girl” role, coy pop star persona and tremulous vocals made crushing on Clare Grogan a national pastime. Journalists, producers and DJs old enough to know better, actors and fellow pop stars all made clowns of themselves over her. Ironically, the two men flanking her in this clip went on to greater post-Images success than she did, the guy on the left produced, among others, “Mmmmbop” for Hanson, the other guy founded Texas. The band, not the state.

“Candy Skin,” Fire Engines

LOVE this. Love it. Short, sneering Velvet Underground-adjacent single with sawing violin from the great short-lived Edinburgh band who shed their indie skin and remade themselves into a Heaven 17-style ironic corporation.

“You’ve Got The Power,” WIN

And that is that self-same ironic corporation. “You’ve Got The Power”, although never a huge hit, was inescapable due to it’s widespread use in a beer commercial.

“Never Understand,” Jesus & Mary Chain

They played fifteen-minute sets that climaxed in the band half-heartedly smashing up their equipment. Their songs were drenched in feedback to the extent that they sounded like a ride on an out-of-control ghost train. The sets got longer, they dropped the distortion and stopped destroying the equipment. They were still great.

“Touch,” Secession

Try not to think less of me as I admit I barely know this song. I was aware of Secession as a Scottish synthpop outfit of little import. Many years later, I came to understand that this particular song had way bigger impact in American cities with new wave stations and dance club than it ever did in it’s ungrateful homeland. On behalf of all the other Scots who gave you the cold shoulder back when it counted, I’m sorry, Secession.

“Waiting For Another Chance,” Endgames

No apologies here but Endgames were a band that received a fair amount of mockery on their home turf but were hailed as giants across Europe.

“Tell Me Why,” Bronski Beat

Glasgow was and is a notoriously tough town but Glasgow audiences also had a love of gay disco to the degree that when records like (“You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real”) by Sylvester and “Funky Town” by Lipps Inc became hits they were propelled into the charts by the huge sales emanating from Glasgow. Bronski Beat were the product of the citywide love of that sound but they were also the product of the city wide love of beating people up because they looked or acted different.

“Abandon Ship,” April Showers

Yeah, I know. Totally indulgent. Whatever. It’s my song. I’m Scottish. I wrote it in the eighties.

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Friday Faceoff! June ’84: the Epitome of the Eighties? 0

June 23, 1984. Two days before the U.S. release of Purple Rain. Five months before Band Aid. Weird Al was a bona fide star. We were approaching the middle of the decade, and, looking back, it was as “80s” as the 80s would get. Here’s how things looked on the charts in the UK and the (Born in the) USA 30 years ago next week. (Thanks again to Jeremy Helligar for standing in for the vacation-ing JB!)

ROUND ONE: THE U.S.!

5. “Self Control” Laura Branigan

JH: Lori, do you remember the time we went to see her in concert at CBGB a year or two before she died? I don’t know which was more surprising to me: that an ’80s pop queen was performing at the iconic shrine of punk rock, or that there wasn’t a larger crowd to see her. It was Laura Branigan, for God’s sake! I remember seeing this video for the first time and thinking how scandalous she looked sitting on the floor with her legs wide open after the masked man left. Of course, this was about six months before Madonna and the lion-headed man in “Like a Virgin.” The only thing I really knew about scandal was the one that featured Patty Smyth.

LM: Ha! Good one! The weird thing about Smyth in “The Warrior” and Branigan in “Self Control” — and Bonnie Tyler in “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” come to think about it — is just how damn earnest and melodramatic these women were! Madonna was the picture of confidence in “Like a Virgin”; but, while Branigan was a far better singer, she made for an awkward video star.  Maybe she was just aware of how dopey this video was? The eerie shot of the porcelain doll in the opening scene; the orgy of dancers that probably inspired Eyes Wide Shut; and, weirdest of all, that Phantom of the Opera dude who pulls her by the hair and takes her titular self-control, apparently giving her an orgasm in the process! Sexy song; super-silly video.

 

4. “Dancing in the Dark” Bruce Springsteen

JH: It’s hard to believe that this is Bruce’s biggest hit single (and even harder to believe that he’s never gotten higher than No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100). It’s so far from his signature song. Do people even think of this when they think of him? It’s probably best known today for the video, which introduced Courteney Cox to the masses. So I guess we can say that Friends wouldn’t have been the same without Bruce. And I guess we can also say that we have Bruce to thank for one of the biggest TV sitcoms of the ’90s. Where would Jennifer Aniston be without him?

LM: It’s well-documented (well, in Mad World, at least) that I hated the “Rosalita” video. Whenever it came on MTV I felt like I’d just lost a whole roll of quarters on a wheel of chance down the Shore. It felt hours long; Springsteen looked sweaty and (to me at least) gross. Worst of all, it was an in-concert clip. How boring! So I didn’t have high hopes for “Dancing in the Dark.” I thought: Yeah, yeah — so this Bruce guy is a riot in concert. I get it already! Even though I lived in Jersey, I wasn’t among the scores of seventh-grade girls wearing the Born in the USA tee shirts. I was into English boys, thank you very much. But, as the years wore on, I came to appreciate the Boss and “Dancing in the Dark.” The latter positively reeks of ’84, along with Purple Rain, Ghostbusters, “You Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” and “The Reflex.” These. Were. The. Good. Times.

 

3. “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” Deniece Williams

JH: Look, I loved Footloose as much as any other teenager in 1984. But anyone who also knows Deniece for her previous crossover pop hits, 1976’s “Free” (a No. 1 U.K. single!) and 1982’s “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle,” and for the theme song of the ’80s sitcom Family Ties well knows that judging Deniece solely on her relatively lame – um, tame – vocal display on her only pop chart-topper would be like calling Meryl Streep “the star of Mamma Mia!.”

LM: I LOVED THIS SONG TO DEATH! I also loved “The Heart of Rock ‘N’ Roll” by Huey Lewis. I was 13.

 

2. “Time After Time” Cyndi Lauper

JH: I never really got the appeal Cyndi’s first No. 1 single. I never really got the appeal of Cyndi full-stop until her next single, “She Bop.” And as Cyndi Lauper ballads go, “True Colors” wins out over this one, time after time.

LM: You weren’t a teen girl at the time. This song was everything. “Lying in my bed I hear the clock ticking, think of you/Caught up in circles, there’s nothing new.” Wait — this song IS everything. STILL! “If you’re lost you can look and you will find me, time after time.” “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was, in the words of my friend Brian Greenspan, a dirty-water hotdog, while “Time After Time” is a juicy filet mignon. (Vegan versions, of course.) I love the sweet vocal flourishes, particularly on “You’re wondering if I’m oh-kay” and that last, whispered “time after time.” Cyndi’s schtick did wear thin after a while, but in the summer of ’84 her “unusual”-ness was still fresh and endearing.

 

1. “The Reflex” Duran Duran

JH: I’ve never told you this, Lori, but had we fmet 15 years earlier, we probably would have been even faster friends than we became that day in 1998 when we bonded over Medazzaland during lunch at Mangia in New York City. For quite a few singles there – “Hungry Like the Wolf” to “Skin Trade” – Duran Duran were my favorite group. I loved them less because they were so cute than because they could be so dirty. For a young teen who’d grown up in a religious home, plopping down 99 cents for a single as lyrically suggestive as “Wolf” was like the ultimate in daring. But that couldn’t hold a candle dripping hot wax on soft, supple skin to embracing an ode to an erection. Do you believe in shame? I didn’t!

LM: I had no idea Duran used to be your favorite band. I love you even more now! I’m only two years younger than you, Jezza, but at the time I hadn’t a clue that what “the reflex” actually was, and it was some time before I’d come to realize that it was a euphemism for having sex. Of course I thought Duran Duran were cute, but it was their music that drugged me, not their looks. However, I didn’t come around to “The Reflex” until Nile Rodgers remixed it for the single. I was never a big fan of the version on Seven and the Ragged Tiger. Nile’s version, though, had me at those first ta la la la’s! It was such an upbeat summer song, with loads of fun bits, like that Why-yi-yi, Whoh! bridge. And then there was the video. Captured live onstage as if to announce “We’re not just a video band!”, Duran made us scream with Simon’s twirl on the “round-about” and the huge wave of water that comes right off the screen to splash the audience. “Rosalita” seemed so last century, forget about last decade. Thirty years on, “The Reflex” represents my favorite band at their absolute peak, if not exactly their finest hour. (That would be “Rio” or “Ordinary World.”)

Round Two: The U.K.!

5. “Relax” Frankie Goes to Hollywood

JH: Apparently, penises were all the rage on both sides of the pond 30 years ago. I was never much of a Frankie fan, though. To me, they reflected all of the worst overproduced tendencies and musical excess of late new wave. (Thank you, Trevor Horn, who never met a kitchen sink he wouldn’t pile into one of his grandiose, bombastic productions. Exhibit A was Yes’s “Owner of a Lonely Heart” the previous year.) Though I tried hard to “Relax,” I opted to “Choose Life” instead.

LM: Jezza, you need to revisit Welcome to the Pleasuredome STAT! I can completely see where you are coming from re: overproduction; “Relax” and “Two Tribes” are bombastic and like a punch in the face from Jack Bauer! But the songs have aged incredibly well. Just listen to the throbbing basslines! And there’s a reason “The Power of Love” keeps getting covered (check out this stripped-down version that youngin Gabrielle Aplin took to number one in the UK in 2012). Interesting that you refer to Frankie as “late new wave” — in Mad World, Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey says the “golden age of synth pop started with the Human League and ended with Frankie Goes to Hollywood… I remember Frankie releasing a different mix of their record every week, and it was just to keep their chart position.”

 

4. “I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” Nik Kershaw

JH: It’s hard to believe that this was Nik’s greatest hit — bigger than “Wouldn’t It Be Good,” “The Riddle” and “Human Racing” (the latter was his best song). It’s also puzzling that Nik wasn’t bigger, and for longer. But new wave was mostly a group sport. It didn’t produce too many successful solo acts. Although Nik happened in the U.K. for a couple of years, I wonder if he would have had more success crossing over to the U.S. (and by extension, gaining more longevity) had Howard Jones not beaten him to it.

LM: If you played this song to a group of millennials, I bet they could be able to tell straight away the decade it was made in — it’s that 80s-sounding!. As chipper as it sounds, though, it’s another new wave song about what it was like to live with the constant anxiety that on any given day we could all be obliterated by The Bomb.

 

3. “Smalltown Boy” Bronski Beat

JH: Jimmy Sommerville is a great singer (though I wish there was a bit more grit in his delivery), and I love that a song about growing up gay could be such a massive hit 30 years ago. But I’ve always admired “Smalltown Boy” more than I’ve enjoyed it. Criticizing it makes me feel guilty, though, like I’m kicking a kitten (or Jimmy Sommerville in the video), so I’ll just leave it at that.

LM: This week I watched The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s made-for-HBO film of his play about the early days of AIDS and beginning of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. It had me reflecting on what’s changed (there are gay characters on sitcoms; gay marriage is a thing) and what hasn’t — for instance, we don’t get a lot of gay lust and love scenes. I remember being shocked at the way Sommerville ogled the swimmer’s lithe bod back in the day; today, I find it rather sweet (until, of course, the swimmer puts his biker clothes on and gets his buddies to give Jimmy a beat-down in an alley). I wonder how today’s teens would see it. It’s a shame millennials don’t have their own gay icons to look up to; instead of a Jimmy Sommerville or a Boy George or a Holly Johnson or a Pete Burns they have a straight rapper, Macklemore, sticking up for them. (Although at least they have some representation in “Same Love” backup singer Mary Lambert, who’s a lesbian.) Oh, but Jeremy: I think the song is as beautiful-sounding as it is didactic and important. Musically, it’s the exact opposite of “Relax”: it subtly takes hold of you, without you even noticing.

 

2. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” Wham!

JH: I knew better than to expect lyrical depth from a duo with an exclamation point at the end of their name, so I let the extreme vapidity of Wham!’s first transatlantic No. 1 slide. I still do. Via his future hits, George Michael retroactively earned the right to be silly in song. I once read somewhere that Aretha Franklin so loved this one that she called up George Michael to pitch a collaboration. So the best thing about “Go Go” is that it paved the way for “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” Aretha’s only No. 1 single in the U.K. (astonishingly) and the best thing she did during the second half of the ’80s.

LM: Earlier in this chart, you referenced the “Frankie Say Relax! Don’t Do It!” shirt. Here we have the “Choose Life” one. Other visual clues from “Go Go”: day-glo clothes, George Michael with two hoop earrings; the bleach-white outfits (and teeth!) that played up their tans (must’ve been from Club Tropicana — tans from a bottle weren’t a thing yet); the boys in those teeny shorts. It was just three-plus minutes of good, clean fun and laughs. “Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go)” and “Karma Chameleon” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” are the mid-80s at their poppiest. It’s the stuff that packs the Culture Club nightclub in Times Square every weekend with kids who were born in the 90s.

 

1. “Two Tribes” Frankie Goes to Hollywood

JH: It just goes to show you, today’s new sensation with two simultaneous Top 5 hits could be slip-sliding away a couple of years later. Let this serve as a cautionary tale to Iggy Azalea.

LM: But Frankie didn’t slip-slide away! Just ask my husband, who cranks their greatest hits on a regular basis.

THE VERDICT: Split decision!

JH: In a week with no overlap and just as much timelessness (how quintessentially ’80s both hit lists are!), I’d give the prize to the U.S. for bookending its Top 5 with two of 1984’s best singles.

LM: Since “Let’s Hear It For the Boy” is the only truly weak track, I’d have to say it’s the UK over the USA — but not by much!

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Friday Face Off: Pet Shop Boys, Bronski Beat, Simple Minds, A-Ha and…Eddie Murphy 2

1986. Does new wave as we know it even exist anymore? This is probably the final year before almost everything that was once fresh and exciting started to become part of the wallpaper. But it was a year that started promisingly…at least for one of the countries in our never-ending chart war. Here are the UK and US top-fives for the week ending January 18, 1986:  Brit-Hit61

UK Top 5

5. “You Little Thief,” Feargal Sharkey

JB: The Undertones were the best group ever to come out of Ireland. Some people may argue U2, but if you asked U2, I bet they’d agree with me. So it was something of a disappointment to learn Feargal Sharkey, the lead singer with the plaintive quaver, HATED The Undertones. Hated being in the band. Hated the other members. Hated touring with them. Hated singing their songs. Even now he refuses to talk about his time with this band whose reputation has only grown over the years. As it turned out, what Feargal Sharkey really wanted to be was a proper pop star. Like a Paul Young. He wanted to wear expensive suits, not The Undertones’ hand-me-down jumpers. He wanted to make glossy-sounding records at the best studios with the finest session musicians money could buy. He had a few hits in this incarnation; this one, written by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ Benmont Tench about Maria McKee and what a whore he found her to be, is probably his best (his biggest, “A Good Heart,” was written by Maria McKee about her trepidation over dating Benmont Tench!) — but he’ll always be known as The Guy from The Undertones.

LM: I know “A Good Heart” but was not familiar with this one. It’s good. He’s not the best-looking of pop stars, though, is he?

4. Dire Straits, “Walk Of Life”

JB: Last week in this here column, I showered praise on Sade, who was able to take ten years off with her mystique unaltered. Dire Straits, I think, have been absent without actually officially splitting for almost twice as long. I choose to see that as a comment on their crushing anonymity. “Romeo & Juliet,” I’ll admit to liking. This? The frizzy hair/headband combo at the start of the video renders me blind and deaf immediately thereafter.

LM: I hated this song! And its NBA-themed video! And yes, the frizzy hair/headband combo!

3. “Hit That Perfect Beat,” Bronski Beat

JB: British bands had a hard time keeping it together. Haircut 100 couldn’t hold on to Nick Heyward after their first album. Kajagoogoo dumped Limahl after their debut. And Bronski Beat self-destructed after album number one. In all cases, the splits were contentious. Bronski Beat, from Glasgow, had that not uncommon problem where the band is named after one person — Mr. Bronski — but another person — Jimmy Somerville — becomes the focus of attention. Somerville decamped for the Communards and then solo stardom. Mr. Bronski and the other dude went nowhere. Except for this nostril full of amyl nitrate that made it seem as if they were the ones with the magic hitmaking formula. (And they might have been. Communards and solo Somerville had their biggest successes with cover versions). But if they had, they mislaid it after this — and the replacement singer is no Jimmy Somerville. He’s barely Jimmy Ray (90s reference!).

LM: I did a cheerleading routine to this! Bronski never really made it in America, except in the Weehawken High School gym. As an Anglophile, I loved them, though — but much more with Somerville.

2. “The Sun Always Shines on TV,” A-ha

JB: I know enough people — well, Lori and our friend Matt Isom — who swear by the totality of A-ha’s career, but I switched off after this song,which I love, and never found my way back. They probably have decades of classics but it’s too late for me to find out. I never learned to drive either. Some things you just have to accept aren’t going to happen.

LM: This is easily one of my favorite songs of all time. “Take on Me” was a fun little tune with a sweet, memorable video, but its main function was to serve as the gateway to A-ha’s moodier, more atmospheric material. (Although, to hear A-ha’s Mags tell it in Mad World:The Book, “Take on Me” is a melancholy tune; it was never meant to be the basis for a dance track by Pittbull feat. Christina Aguilera. Bet they made a nice bit of dough off of that, though.) Most Americans think of A-ha as a one-hit wonder, but they’ve racked up hits around the world and were an influence to Coldplay and even U2. Remember the “Beautiful Day” chorus: “Touch me…” Can’t believe A-ha didn’t sue!

1. “West End Girls,” Pet Shop Boys

JB: So here’s the thing. I freely admit in this blog, and in the pages of Mad World: The Book, that I get a lot wrong. But I was friends with the manager of this record’s producer. She told me how good it was. She told me how good the Pet Shop Boys were AND I IGNORED HER. Politely, of course. (Although knowing me at the time, probably not very.) In my defense — and it’s not much of a defense — we were up to our eyes in synth duos at that time (I might even have preferred Blue Mercedes!). Plus, the track record of journalists making pop records was not stellar. Also, it had been out once and flopped. So had “Opportunities.” It wasn’t until “West End Girls” was fully ensconced at number one that I got — and even then, only incrementally. First the bass line. Then little snatches of lyric — ”from Lake Geneva to the Finland Station” — got caught in my head. Finally it all made sense. But this was a post-Christmas fluke, I remember saying. They’ll never have another hit. They did. It was “Love Comes Quickly” and from that song up until, I’d say, 2006’s Fundamental, they were my favorite group. I still like them, just not with that blind acceptance I once had. To continue a long-running theme of this blog and this book, I’ve never been so happy to be so completely wrong.

LM: The first time I heard “West End Girls,” it was during a radio-station duke-out with Thompson Twins’ “King For a Day.” Now, I loved the Twins, but this little record by some guys from a pet shop was INCREDIBLE! Think about that intro for a moment — have you ever heard anything like it?! Then I heard that Neil Tennant had been an editor at Smash Hits and I was like, “I have to meet this dude!” So I went down to Rockefeller Center where they were taping Live at Five (I’m still sad about the unceremonious dumping of Sue Simmons, by the way), and I presented Neil with a box of Animal Crackers. I wanted him to remember me. Anyway, JB, when you included “Rent” in our recent new wave Valentine’s Day mixtape, I was inspired to spend the whole of Feb. 14 listening to PSB’s discography (and not just what’s on Discography). And I’ve decided that “Being Boring” is my life’s theme song: “We were never being boring/we were never being bored.”

US TOP 5

5. ”I Miss You,” Klymaxx

LM: Terrible name. They should’ve toured with Nu Shooz. Okay, let’s check out the video (because you know I never watched this thing all the way through back in the day). I didn’t know Klymaxx was an all-girl group. What’s with the baby-pink Saran-wrap David Byrne suit? Remember when it was all about buttoning shirts all the way up to the tippy-top? Aw, look: He gives her a puppy. Okay, that’s enough. Next!

JB: Allow me to eighties-R&B nerd-out for a moment. Klymaxx had some hot records–”The Men All Paused”, “Man Size Love”, “I’d Still Say Yes.” Singer Bernadette Cooper’s solo album, The Drama According To… had its moments and the girl group she produced, Madame X, deserved a lot more success than they had. Shame they’ll be best remembered for this one-eye-on-the-clock crossover hit.

4. “Alive and Kicking,” Simple Minds

LM: Simple Minds was one of the last editions to Mad World:The Book before we hit the deadline wall. And I love the interview you did with fellow Glaswegian Jim Kerr, JB. But when I hear this song all I can think of is my friend Kathleen and how she thought Jim was singing, “I love fried chicken…”

JB: Last week I recounted the classic anecdote about how I hated Simple Minds in principle but their presence on a John Hughes soundtrack caused me to shed my prejudices. This week, the stunning sequel to that story. Basically, I was prejudiced again.The end.  Not to give away too many of the gems contained in our much mentioned Jim Kerr interview, but he is well aware that his band’s evolution into An Arena Band Of Great Importance, which began around the time of this song, was divisive. In retrospect, as pompous as Simple Minds were about to become, 1986 was an all-time terrible time for Scottish music — the dark days of Deacon Blue, Hue & Cry, Fairground Attraction, The Proclaimers, Wet Wet Wet and worse — so my disdain was misplaced.

3. “Party All The Time,” Eddie Murphy

LM: This came out around the same time as Don Johnson’s “Heartbeat” and Bruce Willis’ “Respect Yourself.” All three were sad attempts by actors trying to be pop stars, but Eddie Murphy’s was definitely the most cringe-worthy. He was one of the most hilarious guys in the world, and here he was acting all earnest and seriously pop-star-ish while lip-synching in the studio… I honestly don’t think I can even watch this video again. What the hell was Rick James thinking?! Bring back Buckwheat sings the hits!

JB: I think we know what Rick James was thinking.

2. “Say You Say Me,” Lionel Richie

LM: Last week we had Madonna’s “Crazy for You” from Vision Quest. This week, it’s Lionel’s ballad from White Nights. Totally forgettable 80s movies, and a totally forgettable Lionel track.

JB: Old music business execs must look back to the eighties and weep. They had that shit sewn up. Every big movie had an accompanying soundtrack crammed with songs mostly left off albums due to variable quality. These soundtracks produced hits with videos that acted as extended movie trailers. Everybody profited from this mutual back-scratching. I’m writing about eighties soundtracks because there’s not a ton to say about the song that doesn’t sound like it kept Lionel up nights making sure it was just perfect. But if this was a chart week when the OTHER White Nights hit, aka “Separate Lives” by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin, was on the ascendancy, I’d be bleeding all over the screen. I get choked up just thinking about it…

1. “That’s What Friends Are For,” Dionne Warwick & Friends

LM: I was totally about to slam this song when I remembered that it was an AIDS patients anthem.

JB: Just to point out the differences between our two great nations, AIDS gets a mention in the Bronski Beat record (“…hiding from the danger that was sent from hell”), but it’s in the context of a frantic night in the bowels of what sounds like a nightmarish gay dungeon. America got this all-star rendition of a Burt Bacharach ballad in which Elton John worked very hard to keep up with Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight. Allow me to eighties-soundtrack nerd-out for a moment and point out that Burt Bacharach recycled the music for this song from the score he wrote for Night Shift, the much-loved Michael Keaton pimp comedy of a few years earlier.

VERDICT: The jury’s out on this one. No, it isn’t! The jury’s back, and it finds for the UK chart!

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