Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Duran Duran 'New Moon On Monday'

Chart Peak: 9


It feels like a long time ago that I was writing about Duran Duran as the second track on Now 1. Here they are now as the second-to-last on this disc.

'New Moon On Monday' is their next-but-one single, the intervening 'Union Of The Snake' having fallen between the cracks, and a relatively small hit by their standards of the time. Some people say that this is roughly the point in their career where they started to lose their way; it's hard for me to judge because I've never really liked them anyway, but this doesn't strike me as being very exceptional Duran. It's less interesting than Howard Jones, which was why I felt sorry for him that he doesn't get to have hits any more and these guys do. I have a vague idea that Super Furry Animals might have heard this song before writing 'Northern Lites'.

Also appearing on: Now 1, 3, 5, 8, 13, 24, 25, 31
Available on: Seven and the Ragged Tiger

Monday, 29 June 2009

Slade 'Run Runaway'

Chart Peak: 7


If there's a them to this side of the record, it's alternate tracks by veteran artists. Slade obviously hadn't been around quite as long as the Stones, but this still finds them ten years after their last Number One single, although they'd just had a near miss with the Christmas Number Two 'My Oh My'.

Whilst that song had crept into the US Top 40, 'Run Runaway' has the honour of being their highest-charting single of all time over there. It doubtless helped that Quiet Riot had raised their profile over there with a couple of cover versions, and apparently it was quite the MTV favourite in its day. Slade having spent much of the late Seventies trying to crack the American market, this isn't really the same sort of thing as their biggest UK hits, featuring a modern-at-the-time production (the clip I've linked to misses the thudding intro) and more of a studio-bound sound. And of course they didn't spell it "Run Runnerweigh" or anything... Despite all this, it's aged unexpectedly well, still capturing some of the charm that made them famous, and backed by Jim Lea's crazy violin playing, a common thread with their first Top 10 hit, 'Coz I Luv You'. In fact, this sounds more Celtic to me than the Big Country record.

Also appearing on: Now 20
Available on: The Very Best Of Slade

Friday, 26 June 2009

Big Country 'Wonderland'

Chart Peak: 8


I took my time about starting to write this one, because I know Big Country are an important band to some people, even though I don't remember them all that much. And of course I'm also aware of the tragic end to Stuart Adamson's life. I was trepidatious because I didn't expect to like it much and didn't want to be mean.

'Wonderland' was a non-album single between their first two LPs, and not one of the couple of Big Country songs I can recall from the time: although it's not the sort of thing to capture a child's attention so I probably wouldn't have noticed much if I did. To an adult me, though, it's actually not that bad: compared to my vague recollection of how the band sounded, the rhythm section seem to have retained more of the post-punk twitchiness than I'd have thought. I can imagine that if I'd grown up with this music and the context it was recorded in, I might rather have liked it. I still don't think the guitars sound like bagpipes, mind.

Also appearing on: Now 4, 7, 8
Available on: Through a Big Country: The Greatest Hits

Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Rolling Stones 'Undercover Of The Night'

Chart Peak: 11


The original video to this track isn't on YouTube (at least in the UK) but it doesn't really matter because I've seen it anyway; once the family acquired a video recorder one of its main duties was to assemble a collection of pop videos (since you couldn't just turn on the telly and expect to see one back then). I don't know where my Dad must have taped this one from though, as it was apparently banned by the BBC for its violent content, and probably wouldn't have been shown anywhere at a time when five-year-olds were allowed to be awake. The main thing I remember about the video is that Keith Richards plays the leader of a gang of kidnappers who wear masks of skulls (although with hindsight, some might argue whether that qualifies as a disguise for Keith). Apparently he shoots Mick Jagger at the end, which he may have enjoyed, knowing the tension between the two of them at the time.

Anyway, the track itself seems to pick up on this rather tense atmosphere, and also carries one of Jagger's few directly political lyrics, about dictatorships in South America and his grotesque imagery ("The opposition's tongue is cut in two") is matched by the production, full of odd bass runs, jump cuts and of course that reverse-echo effect that is the track's most distinctive feature. Although that's clearly of its time, it succeeds in lending the record a distinctive atmosphere, and reinforcing the dark impact of the subject matter. It also seems like the last time the Stones were really trying to do something they hadn't done before and thus stands as something of a landmark. And that chart peak is one they haven't beaten in the 25 years since, either, although I wonder whether it could even have crept into the Top 10 without Jagger's odd pronunciation of the title phrase. This was one track I found myself being more impressed by than I'd expected.

Also appearing on:
Now 29
Available on: Undercover

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Culture Club 'It's A Miracle'

Chart Peak: 4


And speaking of Culture Club...

Actually, this is the third consecutive Culture Club single to show up on a Now album, after their two contributions to the first volume. Like the previous two it's from their biggest album Colour By Numbers. Unlike a lot of Now 2, 'It's A Miracle' is a track I can definitely remember hearing a lot at the time. I don't remember hearing it all that much afterwards.

As is often the case, I'm not really all that sure what this song is about: for obvious reasons, their lyrics tend towards the coded. The opening lyric "Guns that cross the street/ You never know who you might meet" sets a slightly fearful tone that isn't really followed up (and is in any case totally disguised by Steve Levine's polished-stone production) and the rest seems, at least on the face of it, to trot out slightly hackneyed images of Hollywood; "Dance with the counterfeit/ The plastic smiles and micro heat", "Monroe was there/ But do you really care?" although of course it'd be risky to assume that Boy George thought being counterfeit was entirely a bad thing. The music is perky but has a slightly flailing quality about the chorus, as if there may have been some struggle to come up with it.

Meanwhile, the video's depiction of the band's career as a board game has an ironic air of swansong about it, and although they kept going for quite a while the peak of their success had already passed by now. They're not really my bag, but I can appreciate this is one of their more solid singles.

Also appearing on: Now 1, 4, 41, 43
Available on: The Best of Culture Club

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

David Bowie 'Modern Love'

Chart Peak: 2


Squint closely enough at the image there and you might be able to tell that Side 4 isn't in terribly good condition. Luckily, it's also the side I already owned the most of, so I could review this one through my copy of Best Of Bowie: a particular advantage in this case, because that video really does it no favours.

'Let's Dance' was one of the 1983 chart-toppers most conspicuously absent from Now 1, it being on EMI and all. One can only surmise that Bowie was reluctant to licence the track, but on seeing the sales of that he was only too happy to supply a track to the follow up. 'Modern Love' is a slightly edited version of the opening track from the Let's Dance album and his second consecutive single to peak at 2 (after 'China Girl'). Indeed, it was denied the top position by 'Karma Chameleon' back in October 1983, making it the least topical track on this album.

It goes without saying that we're a some way from the material on which Bowie's reputation is built. Although there's supposed to be a serious theme here ("God and Man", obviously), nothing is really very explicit and Bowie is obviously playing up to the pop audience here... but if you're expecting me to dismiss it on those grounds, I have to admit that it's a record I've always enjoyed. Bowie beats many of the 80s pop stars at their own game, with a performance funkier and more soulful than much of the rest of this set despite the lack of emotion in the material. Nile Rodgers supplies a dated but punchy production and there's a good swing to the whole recording. It's not a classic, but at least it's not 'China Girl'.

Also appearing on: Now 5 (with Pat Metheney Group), 7
Available on: Best of Bowie

Monday, 22 June 2009

China Crisis 'Wishful Thinking'

Chart Peak: 9


China Crisis are another of those acts that I remember being successful, but I've no memory of any of the music until much later. Even now, I can't really make out what 'Wishful Thinking' is supposed to be - is it supposed to be MOR, or prog (as the album title Working with Fire & Steel: Possible Pop Songs - Volume 2 would seem to suggest), or just mainstream pop? Is it supposed to be New Wave, as their Wikipedia entry suggests? And perhaps more importantly, do I care?

There seems to be quite nice tune buried somewhere in this record (although I can't entirely escape the suspicion that it's 'Your Song') but under all the production I can't really get a handle on it. The chorus seems oddly undersold down in the midst of all this: I can imagine someone like the Pale Fountains making a far better job of that. It's pleasant but it feels like it could be more. And the undramatic fade-out seems a bit of a weak way to finish Side 3.

Also appearing on: Now 5
Available on: China Crisis Collection: The Very Best of China Crisis

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Thomas Dolby 'Hyperactive'

Chart Peak: 17


In fact, the version on Now 2 is the shorter edit in this video (uploaded from a Betamax tape!) but the quality there isn't as good.

Until fairly recently my knowledge of Thomas Dolby consisted mainly of his (now rather dated) production work for Prefab Sprout and some vague memory of seeing the video for 'Airhead'. Somewhere down the line I heard 'She Blinded Me With Science' but of course that wasn't a Top 40 hit in this country: if it had been a success at the time I might have realised why people kept comparing me to Magnus Pike. In fact, 'Hyperactive!' [the exclamation mark appears only on the label of Now 2, but it seems to be part of the official song title] was his only Top 20 success.

Unlike 'The Politics of Dancing', there's no question of this record being intended or taken entirely seriously. Indeed, it seems to dance playfully on the border of being a novelty record, with its (presumably knowingly) stereotypical psychiatrist characters and jokey lyrics like "They kicked me out of school cause the teacher knew I had the funk", to say nothing of Dolby's playing up to his mad-professor image. And yet, there is room to take a darker view too; there are hints of menace in references to "the breather on the phone" and the warning that "You'd best stay at the back/When I'm having-an-attack!"

Despite his reputation as a synth pioneer, the most striking instrumental elements on this record are actually from more conventional equipment: the bass guitar and trombone, and to a lesser extent the flute solo. Possibly for this reason there's a nervous energy about the performance that I find easier to appreciate than in purely electronic tracks. As I said, this flirts with novelty and is therefore right on the fringes of the irritating. I can't guarantee I'd like it all the time, but at the moment I'm rather enjoying it.

Available on: The Singular Thomas Dolby

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Re-Flex 'The Politics Of Dancing'

Chart Peak: 28


Apologies for the break in transmission. I've not been well and I can't really claim that the prospect of having to write about this helped me much on the road to recovery.

It's hard to imagine a more 1980s-sounding title than 'The Politics Of Dancing', and for me it's hard to work out how much of this record is supposed to be a joke. Perhaps they did intend to create some sort of nightmarish Orwellian vision (since this single was released in January 1984) but the po-faced way they sing "The politics of ooh feeling good," make that hard to believe. Either way, my reaction is less terror than derision. Maybe if they'd released this about five years later, the title and even the lyric about how "the politicians have become DJs" might have seemed topical. But I don't think this qualifies them as soothsayers somehow.

Despite only being a minor hit in their homeland, this single managed a similar level of success in the USA. They never returned to the Top 75 in either country though.

Available on:
Original Hits - Eighties

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Fiction Factory '(Feels Like) Heaven'

Chart Peak: 6


It's a good job I didn't rush through this post. I was about to say something about the Wild Swans but it turned out I was getting Fiction Factory mixed up with the Lotus Eaters. Fortunately, I looked it up just in time.

Anyway, '(Feels Like) Heaven' is another of the songs I know was a big hit 25 years ago, but don't actually recall hearing until much more recently. It's an icy synth-pop track where the hook is supposed to be the contrast between the jingly melody and title and the dark tone of the lyric ("Twisting the bones until they snap"). To these ears, though, it doesn't quite work now. The whole mood of the track is too stark to create the tension, and when the protagonist is accused of being "cold to touch" it's tempting to agree.

Although this was a global hit and and advertiser's favourite, they never managed another Top 40 single in the UK. One of them later became an IT technician at Dundee University.

Available on: Throw the Warped Wheel Out

Monday, 15 June 2009

The Smiths 'What Difference Does It Make?'

Chart Peak: 12


'These charming men' from Manchester charted on 24 January 1984 at No. 26, rising to No. 12 on 14 February. No. 1 on the 'Independent' charts for five weeks.

I think for at least one of those weeks, they had all the top 3 indie singles.

Heard in isolation, 'What Difference Does It Make?' is unmistakeably a product of its time. The most striking feature is Mike Joyce's big thumping kick-drum, but that background drone that starts the track also reminds me of the heavy use of "pad" sounds in big productions of that time. And yet, when you hear this track following Howard Jones it immediately sounds a bit of a misfit and that was presumably the intention of this and some of the other early singles: something that was mainstream enough to get heard but unusual enough to attract people who wanted something different. All this is a little to the detriment of the 21st century listener; perhaps that's why the current The Sound of the Smiths compilation favours the Peel Session recording.

Of course, in many respects the song exists as a showcase for Morrissey, who certainly makes his presence felt on this one: he's never seemed afraid of the limelight, and he throws himself into every corner, right down to the (possibly slightly annoying) falsetto bits at the end. Johnny Marr apparently disliked having his guitar parts referred to as "jangly" because there was more to them but there is an admirable chiming quality to them. And, er, I'm sure Andy Rourke is playing the bass somewhere in the mix. Mrs Brown has suggested that the lyric is about a man telling his girlfriend that he's bisexual, which makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, the mystery is probably meant to be a selling point.

I've got the impression in recent years that Smiths fans aren't all that keen on this track, which I guess just proves that I'm not much of a fan. Perhaps appropriately, this was to be their only Now appearance.

Available on:The Smiths

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Howard Jones 'What Is Love?'

Chart Peak: 2


It's not Howard Jones's fault. It's not his fault that the synthesiser-based arrangements that sounded so fresh at the time were dated by the march of history and make me think of a low-budget karaoke night. It's not his fault that popular imagination has tied him so closely to the 1980s that all his attempts to be taken seriously after that decade have been doomed to failure. It's not his fault that I sometimes get him mixed up with Nik Kershaw (the compilers here have done me a favour by putting them on different sides of the record).

With all that in mind, I feel a bit unfair saying this, but 'What Is Love?' fails to charm me. Jones and his mysterious co-writer William Bryant try to tackle the eternal question and don't shed a lot of light, although the tone seems unusually weary for the usually optimistic Jones. Musically, though, there's none of the eccentricity of 'New Song' and stretching the word "loooo-ve" over so much of the chorus sounds oddly slapdash. Still, this convinced enough people at the time to be the closest he ever came to a Number One.

Also appearing on: Now 1, 3, 5
Available on: Platinum Collection

Friday, 12 June 2009

Eurythmics 'Here Comes The Rain Again'

Chart Peak: 8


Another scratch on the disc here, although the repeated six-note loop of the intro I get there sounds like the sort of thing you might hear on Radio 1 late at night. Anyway, I have to admit to growing up hearing Eurythmics as an act of seemingly increasing blandness, and it's been interesting to revisit some of their music as an adult and hear how much there was to it, particularly at this stage.

'Here Comes The Rain Again' is from their third album Touch which followed some of the template of their breakthrough set Sweet Dreams but with slightly more expansive ideas, and presumably a bigger budget. That's made very clear on this track, with the epic string arrangement (using plenty of pizzicato to represent the rain, of course!) balanced against the minimal electronic instrumentation spread over the stereo spectrum. All this supports one of Annie Lennox's better vocal performances: powerful singing but from the days before she started really overdoing it. It sets up an interesting, if hard to define, mood on the track too; as much as the lyric appears to be about unrequited or lost love, the expression of desire is "want to dive into your ocean", and of course oceans and rain are the same substance, which couldn't exist without each other. Perhaps there's a lesson in there somewhere.

What spoils this record a bit for me is when the drum machine comes in, depriving the track of some of the sparseness that it seems to need. I suppose they didn't want to make a record with no rhythm on it at all, but perhaps something more subtle might have been better. Well, as I finished writing this the sun has come out, so there goes the rain again. Perhaps now's the time to move on to the next track.

Also appearing on: Now 4, 6
Available on:The Ultimate Collection

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Frankie Goes To Hollywood 'Relax'

Chart Peak: 1 (5 weeks)

YouTube [clean version]

It's not that surprising that the band seem to have trouble miming to the track in this video: the reshot one that would have been suitable for television, had the song not been banned entirely by the time it was finished. For one thing, they look pretty hungover, but for another they didn't really make it - by most accounts only the vocals are actually performed by the group on the finished recording, and it's really more Trevor Horn's record than anybody's.

It doesn't really sound like any humans made it at all, though. Back in 1984 I had no idea what this song was about... well, I'm not sure I fully understand it now, but at the time I don't even think I realised it was supposed to be rude. What I mainly remember is that this sounded a bit like something from space. Maybe it was that slap bass sound that reminds me of a springboard (and no, now I've written that down I don't know why there'd be a springboard in space, or how it would work in zero gravity). I wouldn't say I was ever a fan of Horn's production style, but I can admire the achievement here, almost as remarkable as making a Yes record sound mildly interesting.

Nowadays the story of 'Relax' and the cleverness with which outrage was used to publicise it has been told and retold so many times that it's hard to hear the song without it feeling like the punchline to an old joke. It's impressive and irritating in more or less equal measure (as I'm sure was the idea all along) but I wouldn't go out of my way to hear it now.

Also appearing on: Now 3, 26 [this track again], 46
Available on: Bang!...The Greatest Hits of Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Snowy White 'Bird Of Paradise'

Chart Peak: 6


Another name and title that didn't mean a lot to me, but at least this had already proved itself to be a Top 10 single before the sleeve went to press. Snowy White, I learn, is one of the many ex-guitarists from Thin Lizzy, having been recruited there from Pink Floyd of all places. His only major solo hit is in a similar style to the work of his fellow ex-Lizzy; slow paced adult-oriented rock with lots of "tasteful" blues-influenced electric guitar work. It's not quite of the same level as Moore's best, though: White is a competent but unexciting singer and the melody is underwhelming leaving the ultimate effect rather bland. If indeed I did hear it in 1984 I don't think I'd have given it a second thought.

As anyone who's seen Attenborough In Paradise will know, birds of paradise can be fascinatingly exciting creatures. They deserve better than this.

Available on: Pure Gold: The Solo Years

Monday, 8 June 2009

Hot Chocolate 'I Gave You My Heart (Didn't I)'

Chart Peak: 13


Whilst they're rarely taken very seriously (and didn't necessarily want to be) Hot Chocolate arguably have quite a place in history as one of the UK's most successful singles acts, and one who made a success of a racially mixed lineup at a time when that was still commercially difficult.

1984 was the fifteenth consecutive year in which Hot Chocolate had managed at least a Top 75 single in the UK, but it was the end of the run: 'I Gave You My Heart' proved to be their last hit, aside from revivals of 'You Sexy Thing' and 'It Started With A Kiss'. In fact, the whole side 2 of Now II seems to be a bit of a jinx, since Hot Chocolate and Cyndi Lauper are the only acts on there to manage further Top 40 success. In truth, though, you can sort of tell their number was up - the song (notably not written by any of the band, but by ex-Racey singer Richard Gower) is paper-thin, and Mickie Most doesn't seem to have known how to produce in the style of the times, falling back too much on that sampled handclap sound that was everywhere then and a barrage of drumming at the start that has nothing to do with anything. It also contains one of the lamest false endings in pop history, where it seems to stop and start again without any real conviction, and the whole thing provokes no more positive adjectives than "smooth".

After one more single, Errol Brown finally called time and left for a not-massively successful solo career, although apparently you can still see a version of the band, fronted by the man who impersonated Brown on Stars In Their Eyes. They made some very good singles and some very bad ones, but this doesn't really seem to have enough in it to be either. It's a pity that this had to be the song of theirs that I got to write about.

Also appearing on:
Now 9, 38
Available on: Their Greatest Hits

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Joe Fagin 'That's Living Alright'

Chart Peak: 3


And here's one of the more dramatic transitions in the series, as the slinky American club groove of Julia & Co is followed by the defiantly British theme tune to the comedy drama Auf Wiedersehen, Pet which of course I wasn't allowed to watch at that age. I remember hearing the song though, because it became such a big hit single (nominally as a double A-side with the opening theme 'Breaking Away' but this was the side that got all the attention).

If the programme itself, about unemployed builders from the depressed North East seeking employment in what was then West Germany, seems an artefact of its time, the record is possibly even more so. Although it's supposed to be a sort of keep-smiling-through singalong, a quarter-century later it sounds very stiffly produced in a way that jars with the mood. Worse (in this context at least) it betrays its origins by not really having a pop song's worth of material, so Fagin virtually has to sing it all twice to make a single and even at less than three minutes it seems to be outstaying its welcome.

Available on: Music From Auf Wiedersehen Pet

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Julia & Company 'Breaking Down (Sugar Samba)'

Chart Peak: 15


Of all the tracks on the album, this was the most obscure to me. A song title I didn't recognise, by an act I'd never heard of, and the picture of Julia McGirt on the back of the album didn't look very familiar. The track doesn't seem to have been very widely released on CD either. And obviously this was their only hit (although they did sneak one more Top 75 entry), which makes it a bit surprising that they rushed this onto the album when it had only reached 38 by the apparent cut-off at the end of February.

When I actually played it, though, I was surprised to realise that I had heard it before after all. Probably not for about 25 years though. That's slightly too early in my life for me to have any associations with it, really, I just knew it wasn't new to me. The version on Now 2 isn't the full seven-minute track I found on the YouTubes, but an edit I timed at 3:05. Even at this length, there isn't a lot of lyrical variation, but the record has some energy to it, and is suitable for embarrassing dancing in front of the record player. I think it's catchier than 'Break My Stride' in fact, and whilst it's never going to be my all-time favourite, I'm glad to have reacquainted myself with this.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Matthew Wilder 'Break My Stride'

Chart Peak: 4


A commenter on this rival blog post claims that this may be the catchiest song ever. And yet funnily enough, I have no recollection of hearing it at all until about five years ago. So either I didn't hear it that often or it's not so catchy after all.

'Break My Stride' is another dose of femme-fatale pop, although the mood is bouncy enough that you might not notice at first that it's a girl who's telling Wilder that there ain't nothing gonna break-a her stride. The sound is fairly run-of-the-mill synthpop but with dubious reggae-ish inflections: check out the extended version with extra fake steel drums, and the rather odd Jamaican/Northumberland accent on lyrics like "The road behind was rocky/But now you're feeling cocky". He really does sound a bit like Ruth Archer in places.

Ultimately, this tips over the line marked "irritating" for me. It's worth seeing the video clip I've linked to above to count the early 80s cliches (he's wearing a tabard!) but I'm hardly surprised that he never made it to the Top 75 again, although he did have some success as a producer.

Available on: British Hit Singles: Ultimate One Hit Wonders

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Tracey Ullman 'My Guy's Mad At Me'

Chart Peak: 23


Her fourth single, released on 20 February. The previous three were all Top 10 smash hits.

Ah well, some of them you don't guess right. I suppose that's the risk of trying to be up to the minute.

It probably doesn't need to be pointed out that 'My Guy's Mad At Me' [or just 'My Guy' on the label] is a cover version of 'My Girl' by her labelmates Madness. The original had been a Top 3 hit less than four years earlier, and maybe that's one reason this version underperformed. The big problem, though, is that this interpretation just doesn't have the same effect as 'They Don't Know' did. 'My Girl' as sung by Suggs (or Mike Barson) is a song of surprising, and surprised vulnerability. It's a cocky young man realising that he has feelings after all; the line where "now she says I'm weak" is obviously meant to be be a real body-blow to him.

Ullman tries to turn the song into some sort of 'Leader Of The Pack'-style camp. But it doesn't quite pay off because they haven't gone all the way over the top with it. I do wonder how this track would have sounded to somebody who'd never heard (of?) the original version, but that's something I can't test.

Also appearing on: Now 1
Available on: The Best of Tracey Ullman

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Cyndi Lauper 'Girls Just Want To Have Fun'

Chart Peak: 2


I remember this song going around the playground at the time, but back then I think I felt slightly confused by it because I wasn't a girl (I'm still not in fact) and for that reason this didn't seem to have very much to do with me. And whilst it's a song that I've heard not infrequently since, I don't think I've ever really given it much thought.

What catches the attention now is the effervescent energy of the track. It's not actually as fast as I thought it was, but it makes the most of a relatively subtle arrangement, with the Farfisa organ in the right channel playing a relentless pattern that creates a sort of nervous force and balances the repeated guitar figure on the left. In the middle, Lauper herself has a lot of room to play and play is what she does: a lot of the words are garbled and stretched but it all gives the impression that she's having a lot of fun herself and this is what makes it work. It's fluff to be sure, but wholly committed fluff - unlike a lot of self-consciously upbeat pop music it doesn't sound as if somebody's gone out of their way to sound upbeat or talk down to the audience. You can almost believe that they ran into the studio and made it up on the spot. They don't half milk that chorus though, which is what begins to put me off. If there's one broad criticism I can make of pop in this decade, it's that even unpretentious pop tracks seem to be a lot longer than they really need to be for no apparent reason.

Also appearing on: Now 3, 29
Available on: She's So Unusual

Monday, 1 June 2009

Nena '99 Red Balloons'

Chart Peak: 1 (3 weeks)


Flipping over the record, and Side 2's chart-topping single is right at the top. And a global success too, although of in some places it was the original German-language recording of '99 Luftballons' that was the hit, and that's the version I later downloaded.

However, it's the English version that we heard at the time and that's the one featured here. The English lyric isn't a full line-by-line translation and the tone is slightly different, but the storyline of accidental total annihilation is still there. Whilst I don't think those of us who were children in the 1980s were raised into the same level of fear about such things as the generation before us, but the Cold War always seemed to be somewhere in the air out there... not that I'm sure I actually realised that was what the song was about at the time. Hearing it now, the reference points seem to date the song as much as the keyboard sound, but I'm better able to appreciate the satirical element and actually, I think it's aged oddly well.

Available on:99 Luftballons