And finally …
At some point in July 1984, the Smiths went into the studio and totally reinvented themselves. They’d already reintroduced the guitar into British pop music and unleashed the torrent of jangly bands that followed in their wake. Now they wanted to do something completely different.
This mind-blowing track was the result. It’s totally unlike anything they’d recorded up to that point. It was initially released as a B-side, but the Radio 1 DJs Annie Nightingale, John Peel and Janice Long picked up on it a few weeks later.
I was eighteen years old, living away from home, and desperately related to Morrissey’s lyrics in this song. It would seem that I wasn’t the only one, as it became the most-requested record on late night Radio 1. It topped John Peel’s Festive 50 that year, and I think it’s by far and away the greatest record of their career. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that everything you’ve heard in this project was just leading up to this point. What a terrific note to finish on.
Morrissey – vocals; Johnny Marr – guitar; Andy Rourke – bass; Mike Joyce – drums
I first heard this mysterious and haunting song in the cover version by Blancmange. I was going to include that, but a quick check of Martin C. Strong’s Great Rock Discography assured me that the original didn’t come out until 1982. That meant that Abba’s stunning version qualified for this project. Job done!
Abba are probably associated in most people’s minds with uptempo disco stompers from their height in the late 1970s. This song dates from the tail-end of their time as a band, when their marriages were breaking up and their days together were numbered. It’s a stunning meditation on the banality of everyday life, and how it only takes one random stranger to turn everything upside down. Personally, I think it’s the pinnacle of their career. Heartbreaking stuff.
Agnetha Fältskog – lead vocals; Anni-Frid Lyngstad – backing vocals; Benny Andersson – all instruments
This is a truly silly bit of nonsense, put together by the Situationist arch-pranksters Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty of the KLF. I’m a big Doctor Who fan, so it would have been churlish not to include this.
This is quite possibly the last great dance record. Mark Moore was a DJ and producer who put together a loose collective of musicians to release records. This single, co-written with Pascal Gabriel, reached Number 1 in the UK. It’s made up from loops and samples overlaid with real instruments and vocals, and it still sounds good today.
This record made it into the final selection by default. I’d wanted to include something by Prince, but apparently he won’t allow any of his music on YouTube. Well, his loss is your gain.
Bronski Beat were an openly gay synth trio who made their sexuality into a political platform. At the time, gay performers fell into one of four categories: really in your face, like Holly Johnson (Day 14) and Pete Burns (Day 92); closeted to some extent, like Morrissey (Day 48); playing it cool, like the Pet Shop Boys (Day 53); or operating deep underground, like Coil (Day 57). On the other hand, Bronski Beat chose to shout from the rooftops, but oddly enough they didn’t attract anything like the controversy the others did. Maybe all the closet queens in the media felt they were on their side. Who knows?
‘Smalltown Boy’ tells pretty much the same story as ‘Fade to Grey’ by Visage (Day 33). It’s about escaping from your claustrophobic upbringing and running off to a place where you can be yourself. Isn’t that what all creative individuals have to do, when you boil it all down?
Jimmy Somerville – vocals; Steve Bronski – synths, percussion; Larry Steinbachek – synths, percussion
If the same band are on the list twice, but under two different names, is that cheating?
The Very Things were one of several projects fronted by the Shend during the 1980s (see Day 13). I first came across this piece of absurd SF-tinged craziness on The Tube, and bought the LP as soon as I came across it. As well as being the video for the LP’s title track, this features sections of their instrumental piece ‘Information’ (including samples from The Prisoner), and also steals a bit from one of the Quatermass films. It’s brilliant and bonkers. Definitely one of the standout videos of the entire project.
The Shend – bass, vocals; Dr Robin Raymond – guitar; Gordon Disneytime – drums
I don’t know anything about Andrew Roachford, except that he recorded one of the most distinctive and unusual UK pop songs of the 1980s. Here it is.
Current 93 were the brainchild of David Tibet, an occult-inspired non-musician who found his way into the Psychic TV circle. Over the years many of the musicians featured in this blog have contributed to Current 93’s enormous output, so it was inevitable that Day 93 would be reserved for this track.
The mini-LP Dogs Blood Rising, on which this track was released, includes some of the most hair-raising sounds ever committed to vinyl. Maybe that’s why Mr Tibet always kept his hair so short. It’s impossible to list the people involved in this recording, so I won’t even try. It’s doubtful whether many of them would remember being there anyway. This is acid rock for the post-Punk generation. Don’t have nightmares.
Here’s some trivia for you, pop pickers. This was the first Number 1 record produced by the (in)famous trio of Stock, Aitken and Waterman.
Pete Burns had been around the music scene for a while, one of several outrageous personalities who roamed the streets of Liverpool in the Punk era. His band had notched up a couple of hits before this really took off and virtually kickstarted the whole Hi-NRG scene in the UK.
This song holds fond memories for me, too. It was the first time I ever danced (apart from at university), and it was with a gorgeous dark-haired and dark-eyed girl I fancied at the time. It was during the DJ set between bands at a gig in a long-closed pub in Penderyn. Everyone else was so shocked that they just stood around and watched. That was as far as it ever went between us, and I haven’t seen her for nearly thirty years. That’s a story for a different blog entirely.
Pete Burns – vocals; Steve Coy – drums; Tim Lever – keyboards, sax; Mike Percy – bass
This one holds fond memories for me. I was staying with my cousin Mary and her husband Les in Acton, West London, during the summer break from university in 1985. Desperately Seeking Susan was on general release, and ads for the film were all over the place. Les and I decided to check the movie out, mainly because the female stars looked pretty tasty on the poster. The film isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but this song always reminds me of that fun time.