And here we leave the 1970s. The first year of the 1980s would turn out to be a fantastic year. If I’m still going to run this blog (as I am writing, I am short on time and, to be honest, motivation), I’ll look forward to sharing the records that take me back to that year.
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B.A. Robertson – Bang Bang.mp3
A pal of mine tells a great story about he lost his virginity to this song, in a shed, of all places. Imagine that, losing your cherry to a song called Bang Bang about hanky panky. I suspect it was not a carefully orchestrated scene of romantic seduction. Bang Bang contains half of the plot of season 2 of Rome in two verses: “Tony and Cleo struck out for the freedom down Egypt’s way, but Caesar had squeezed her in Rome on his quilt for a day, hey hey. Now Anthony got really angry about old Caesar’s hanky panky. She told ’em she would use ’em, and boy did she abuse ’em. Fall in love and blew ’em away.” Can this be used as a Grade 8 tutorial for Shakespeare’s play about shenanigans in the Roman Empire?
Boomtown Rats – Diamond Smiles.mp3
I had long been a bit of a Boomtown Rats fan, from the debut album, and welcomed the success of I Don’t Like Mondays, just so that I could point out to my less sophisticated pals that I had been a fan longer than they had been (and at 13, a year or so is a mighty long time). I Don’t Like Mondays is a great song, but spoiled forever at Live Aid by Geldof’s pregnant pause after the line “and the lesson today is how to die”. Bob, mate, it’s a song about a high school shooting, not about famine. A pregnant pause would’ve been appropriate at a Columbine benefit. In relation to famine, it was as appropriate as playing Too Drunk To Fuck would be at a wedding – there might be alcohol-induced libido inhibitors at wedding receptions, but it’s not the drift which the gentlemen from Dead Kennedy were hoping to impart. So instead silicon chips set to overload (in 1979, Geldof knew how to anticipate the halcyon ’80s), let’s hear it for one of a trio of outstanding tracks on the Rats’ The Fine Art Of Surfacing LP (the other being Someone’s Looking At You). Diamond Smiles is one of the great entries in the canon of suicide anthems. Keep it in mind for that essential self-annihilation mix-tape!
Tubeway Army – Are ‘Friends’ Electric?.mp3
This Kraftwerk-influenced song was quite unique when it came out, and may well be regarded as the prototype for the New Romantic sound which would take residence in the charts the following year with acts such as Visage and Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark. Much as I liked Are ‘Friends’ Electric?, I later found it difficult to regard it fondly when Gary Numan revealed himself as a Thatcherite Tory. That, of course, raises the question of whether an artist’s politics should influence our appreciation of his or her music. I still resent Neil Young for his Reagan/Bush-supporting ways, and I would have none of Ted Nugent’s music even if it was actually any good. At the same time, I don’t care that Elvis or Sammy Davis Jr were in love with Richard Nixon. But they are Americans, a nation that votes for tax cuts for the rich at the expense of social services for the poor (and the difference between the two parties on that count is, in real terms, minimal). In Britain the battlelines were more clearly drawn: you knew what your vote would get you. Numan cheerfully stated his support for the apartheid-loving, pro-rich and anti-poor Klassenfeind Margaret Thatcher. Are “Friends” Tories? I damn well hope not.
Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star.mp3
Who said Americans have no sense of irony? This was first music video ever to be shown on MTV, setting out the new channel’s ideology of domination by playing a song that anticipated and bemoaned the age of the music video. Trevor Horn, who also anticipated the appalling advertising yuppie look of the mid-’80s, regretted the name Buggles: “I know the name’s awful, but at the time it was the era of the great punk thing. I’d got fed up of producing people who were generally idiots but called themselves all sorts of clever names like The Unwanted, The Unwashed, The Unheard… when it came to choosing our name I thought I’d pick the most disgusting name possible.” My brother gave this to me as a present, redeeming himself for his transgression in early 1978 of desecrating my Sex Pistols LP with a biro in revenge of some transgression that might have involved damage to his poster of Winnetou, the Native American character of a German TV show based on a book by a chap who had never even been to America.
Status Quo – Living On An Island.mp3
When I was younger I spent much of my childhood at my grandmother’s place. As I’ve noted before, she lived her appreciation of the German Schlager vicariously through me, and later she helped finance my fast-growing record collection. I don’t know if Status Quo’s Living On An Island – their bid at mid-tempo AOR and a rather nice number – was the last record I bought while staying with her, but it’s the last one I remember bringing to her warm house that always smelled of freshly made coffee. I know it was in December; her last. Soon I visited her less and less. I was a teenager now, after all. And she didn’t like my new interest in politics, much less my leftist leanings. She was still my grandmother, but I had changed, and a gap had appeared in our once close relationship.
Living On An Island transports me to her flat, with the white-and-gold patterned wallpaper in the living room, the display cabinet with delicate porcelain figures (some of them nudes, which I found interesting), the veranda which looked out on the garden with trees and bushes which in summer would bear cherries, apples, pears, plums and currants (red, white and black, like the German flag my grandmother saluted in two world wars). I felt safe in that place, even at 13.
Thom Pace – Maybe.mp3
This is the theme song of a TV series, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams (known in Germany as Der Mann in den Bergen), which was produced in 1977/78 but came to German TV only in 1979, finding greater success there than it did in the country of its origin. Like the TV series, the title song is pretty soft. It can be enjoyed only in the pursuit of feeding nostalgia, though my grandmother was very fond of it (maybe this was the last record I bought while staying with her). The single topped the West German charts at the height of disco. To be honest, though, I wouldn’t mind watching an episode of Grizzly Adams again – just for the nostalgia, of course.