For one week, I was in charge of the Facebook group “7 from 80s”. Started by sociology professor Ellis Cashmore, the idea is to post one favourite 80s song a week, and shortly discussing why that particular song was chosen. This was my week. Thank you pal Raiford Guins for inviting me to the group.
Starting with The Times unfortunately means I won’t have space for Television Personalities or Teenage Filmstars this week. A shame, but I cannot resist this mini city symphony. A sharp and concentrated song (not all of Ed Ball’s are): infectious melody and great lyrics about the joys of the weekend finally coming along. This live version may not add that much to the recorded version on “This is London”, but good to see Ed Ball establishing links between Germans and Anfield thirty years before the arrival of Jürgen Klopp.
Au Pairs were serious: Sexual/feminist politics. Police harassment. IRA. Etc. And tough. They sounded tough, and looked tough. Not the least guitarist/singer Lesley Woods. I saw them live early on at the Electric Ballroom in London supporting the Gang of Four, with Woods sporting a black eye and looking very menacing. No surprise that Patti Smith was a big influence on her.
“Headache (for Michelle)” is on their first album. But this is the 12” version. And it should really be listened to it as a 12”. On a very good sound system. It is about heroin addiction. And surveillance: “theForcesofcontroltheForcesofcontroltheForcesofcontroltheForcesofcontroltheForcesofcontroltheForcesofcontroltheForcesofcontrol …”
Another great mini city symphony. It has Sly & Robbie as rhythm section, and the portrayal of early 80s New York is spot on (both music and lyrics by film director Melvin van Peebles). But what always floors me is the majestic chorus: “It’s just the apple stretching and yawning, just morning. New York putting its feet on the floor”.
Alan Vega died a couple of months ago, aged 78. His late 70s recordings with Suicide will always be the ones brought up in discussing his legacy. But his minimalist synth-rockabilly solo albums from the 80s are also worth remembering. This deadpan live performance of Jukebox Babe is even more minimalist than the version on the first solo album (from France, where he had a cult following).
Richard and Linda Thompson’s album “Shoot Out the Lights” was number nine on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 best albums of the 1980s. It is certainly the least known album on the top ten (or the top twenty, for that matter). It is a bleak story of a relationship breaking down, with Linda singing the songs written by husband/guitarist Richard. And things got worse. After the album was recorded, Linda gave birth to a third child, they got divorced – and went on a harrowing tour together to the States to promote the album. “I’m walking on a wire, and I’m falling”.
The late Philip Chevron was singer/guitarist with early Irish punk band Radiators from Space, and later member of the Pogues. He was a fine song writer, with a focus on Irish matters (“Faithful Departed” for the Radiators, “Thousands are Sailing” for the Pogues) but also an interpreter of others songs. This Elvis Costello produced 45 is a cover of Brendan Behan’s “The Captains and the Kings”, from the 1958 play “The Hostage”.
So let’s go out with a bang. Like many other Jam fans, I was puzzled by Paul Weller’s decision to break up the band in order to form The Style Council. But this is just great.