Rarely less than astonishing anyway, this is Talking Heads’ entrant for the pantheon – a dizzying, harebrained time-travel through our psyches from David Byrne, set to the finest groove ever laid down by our Tom Tom Club friends at No.20. Hell, it’s just the finest groove ever laid down. Period, I think they say. From the eternally exciting bass-pull at the beginning through to the howling, treated guitars spinning us around “Same as it ever was…”, this is music from the future we all wanted.
Junior may’ve found herself sitting on the backseat, wearing a tiger mask.
Not a chart-topper like Oakey and Sulley’s “No, I’M in the driving seat” cocktail bar drama, but easily the most dense, intricate and balls-out inspired of Dare’s mega-hits, ‘Love Action’ is arguably (I’m arguing) the shimmering pinnacle of ‘80s synth-pop. How come? It’s packed to the rafters with electronic effects, boasts half a dozen different keyboard riffs – each digression as thrilling as the last – and there’s that beam-me-up ‘meoww’ sound at the start. All this, and it glories in a towering Big Phil rap that casts Lou Reed forever as “the old man”. And Susanne yelps “HARD times”, without sounding awkward for once.
Echoing her confusion at The Man Machine’s cover, Junior sees Phil’s slapped-up face on the front of Dare and asks, “Why’s he a she?” Lord knows what she’d have made of Boy George in autumn 1982. She and my old man could’ve exchanged unhip daddio jokes. The next puzzle is “Why’s he looking through a rectangle?”, and perhaps we’ll never know. Still, these obstacles negotiated, she pops her feet into her dad’s Converse and winds her body to the sci-fi disco.
As a chart statistician (hobby), I always felt a bit sorry for ‘Don’t You Want Me’, which comfortably outsold the bestselling singles of both 1981 and 1982 but – because it did its business over the turn of the year – appeared in neither year-end sales chart.
Maybe that’s just me.
It’s an exciting record for other reasons too, of course: a whopping great hit that everyone knows the (possibly vaguely real-life?) words to; that forboding synth riff with the rubbish arpeggio at the end; a rare meeting of flat vocals from both protagonists; being the most obvious hit yet the fourth single to be released from the stupendous Dare. Oh, and my two piano party pieces are the refrains from this and Depeche Mode’s ‘Love In Itself.2’. I imagine they’re yours too.
Juniors 1 and 2 didn’t give two hoots about the music this morning, preferring to play with their baby dolls. Hmmm. Junior 2 wanted 1’s baby. Hmmm. So she did “want her baby”. Hmmm.
It’s not wildly different from Gloria Jones’s original, apart from the supreme hit-making aggression of the bam-bam, parp-parp, argh-argh, doof-doof, beep-beep, bang-bang, bink-bink, bonk-bonk, bump-bump, eeee-eeee, unng-unng, ughh-ughh. That, and Marc Almond favouring seedy sleaze over Jones’s impassioned roar. And Dave Ball’s distinctive spooky synths. Yes, it’s quite a different beast altogether.
I imagine 1981 was an exciting time for a properly sentient pop being. For me, everything was new yet everything was normal, but for the seasoned listener the sands were shifting – punk was gone, disco was (almost) gone, new wave was evolving, everyone had a synth and they were gonna use it. Who knew how it would all turn out? There were atrocities to come as the ‘80s took wing, but New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Phil Oakey, Arthur Baker and other visionaries showed technology could be handled with care and flair.
We find Green Gartside on the cusp, edging away from the dubness of early Scritti Politti singles to find a polished white soul sound wedged somewhere between lovers rock and dreamy new romanticism. Later his music would become so polished you could barely stop it slipping off the turntable, but there are still rough edges here: Robert Wyatt’s creepy, shimmering keys; mild echo and fizz; loose structure. Ever the philosopher, Green sings about the ‘sweetest girl’ through the prism of political theory – too detached to be romantic, too sweet to be dry.
Although there are still shouts for The Beatles from the back of the car, Junior concedes she likes the song, eventually asking me to turn it up. “Scritti Lippy” as she calls them – combining her twin passions of chapstick and not listening properly – can be a bit sticky for some, but she’s got a sweet tooth.
Junior’s searing assessment of Vince Clarke’s last Depeche Mode hurrah was “Baaa” – which at least makes the sentence rhyme. I pressed further, asking if she actually liked it, and was hit with the hammer blow: “No. I like The Beatles and Girls Aloud.” So we’re closing the blog.
Before I go, I’ll make some grand claims about this irrepressible little number being the Essex root of Detroit techno, and mention how Vince left the band after penning it because he didn’t like the direction they were headed in. Presumably he’d seen Martin Gore’s leather skirt. As he wavered at the door he wondered if they’d like to record his new tune ‘Only You’, but – for better or worse – we were spared Dave Gahan attempting to emote on us. It would’ve been funny at least.
Dear me: I almost forgot The Saturdays, when the poor girls have got at least another couple of months in the public conscious. It’s a breathtakingly faithful cover, somehow tinnier than the original and all for good causes. Will that do?
This place being a beacon of originality and all that, it’s difficult to tackle ‘Ghost Town’ without offering trite observations about unfortunate serendipitous events that have been reeled out a million times before. Ahem. No, we wouldn’t want to do anything like that. No. Now, wasn’t it strange how all those urban riots raged while this was at No.1? It’s as if Dammers, Hall and the gang were seers; arch-chroniclers of the rough-end of the street, so in touch with the pulse their fingers kept bobbing up and down.
OK, let’s just say that this queasy classic is powerful and insidious enough, even without the confluence of circumstance that makes it a vivid ‘Sign ‘O’ The Times’. A lucky break, if we’re being grim.
The best part of 30 years removed from all that, Junior just liked the record – although she drew the rather alarming conclusion that the crazed, ghoulish “la-la-la”s were being sung by Lykke Li. Still, with a whole new set of riots surely only a further drop in house prices away, there’s an opening for Lykke to reissue ‘I’m Good, I’m Gone’ and provide a timely anthem for our skidaddle out of the chaos.
A Certain Ratio’s tighter-than-Lady-GaGa’s-knickers rework of Banbarra’s ecstatic 1975 beach-party settlement of the world’s ills through getting together (man) is magnificently dour. It’s faithful to the original’s funk, but the horns, whistles and low-mixed clipped guitars are purest new wave blue-eyed dance. Maybe White Lies could do something similar with ‘Put Your Hands Up For Detroit’. If they were any good.
Old skool keepers of the Mancunian floorfiller flame for more than three decades, ACR went from Latino jazz cats to indie dance grandpops to relics of a revived post-punk scene. They’re as prolific as The Blue Nile these days; no need to keep coming up with the goods if your dustier output still sounds so fresh.
Junior set her face to po on the resolutely ordinary bus trip through Kentish suburbs, nodding to the whipcrack beats. She described Simon Topping’s vocals as “long”. Perhaps she means the vowels. Or the languid funky drabness.
There comes a time in every little girl’s life when she has to be introduced to Kraftwerk. Best to leave it late as possible, obviously – they’re a bit scary – but she needs to get familiar with those electro building blocks pretty near the get-go. Junior first heard the teutonic tinkerers nearly two years ago, as ‘Tour De France’ twinkled around the Technics. Only now, though, did I introduce her to the full visuals.
“Why are they wearing lipstick?” Junior cuts to the heart of The Man Machine. Er, because they’re trying to be robots? Will that wash? It appears it might. We get right into the sinister synths and the lads’ hopeless chat-up lines and marvel at the fact this song was already three years old by this point and still had another six months before it would hit No.1. They were so far ahead of their time they even lagged behind themselves.