[12] Hipsway, ‘The Honeythief’


Ah, the soul boys of the 80s. Even the NME, in 1985, was ranking What’s Going On as the best album of all time, before they decided old albums didn’t mean shit unless they directly influenced The Stone Roses. This edict has topped the commandments for 20 years and counting. Anyway, the soul boys of the 80s. Hipsway, sporting towering piles of Brylcreem, were formed by ex-Altered Image and future Texan Johnny McElhone but were all about gorgeous, pouting singer Skin. Well, Skin and – on ‘The Honeythief’ – a Chic riff that could carry a song alone. The 12” extended mix which, unusually for an 80s version, doesn’t rely (exclusively) on an elongated drum fill to pad it out, shows the riff in all its clipped glory and can be frugged to below.

Junior liked “the tune and the singing”, which has to be a ringing, riffing endorsement. But it wasn’t all gravy – the word “honeythief” sparked gales of laughter. Not so cool now, Skin.

Sleek, big cat:

[2] Marvin Gaye, ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’

General consensus paints this as the perfect pop record, but it’s dark, isn’t it? It’s not sunshine and ‘Modern Love’, the way Alphabeat – say – like to wield their pop brushstrokes, and it doesn’t dip into the conventional verse-chorus toolbox to create a Beatley nugget. The chorus is a natural conclusion to Marvin’s prickly, paranoid, wrenched and broken verses, like an outpouring of resentment and sorrow from a man who’d spent so many bars trying to contain it. The arrangement is thrilling, gut-churning, creepy and persuasive and Marvin’s high notes whack the message home. It’s a towering distillation of soul music’s ability to draw you in, leaving you sympathetic yet implicated.

Junior cuts to the heart of the matter: “Where’s honey?” Marvin has all too clear an idea where she is. “Who’s singing?” “It’s Marvin Gaye, the man on Daddy’s t-shirt.” Clearly I have to go and get the garment, a double print of Marv’s face in black and red. Junior points to the red face, “Is that honey?” An intriguing thought, that the great man may be sobbing over his alter ego’s betrayal – but you can’t make that stick. The song’s too raw to be playing games. That’s for Honey, Honey.

[5] Texas, ‘Say What You Want’

When Texas first turned up with their worthy Americana it was the guitarist who was eulogised. He was tagged as a new axe hero for the kids, with Johnny Marr now out of the picture. Each record was duller than the last and soon the band fell right off the radar, presumably never to return.

Then, what do you know, they rolled up with this, with the pretty lady front and centre. A very 90s thing to do. The emphasis was off the big chords and onto the pattering groove and Sharleen’s breathy breaths.

Texas set about making the world’s coffee table their very own, but they’re a fondness of mine, with their safe songs and clean sheen. Altered Images veteran Johnny McElhone was now giving them a classic pop sound, an unashamed Fleetwood Mac-ish love of melody and glossy production. This song pilfers from Marvin Gaye and Al Green too, but Ms Spiteri has the chutzpah to carry it off.

Junior jealously guarded her own coffee table and rocked, but gently.

[7] Marvin Gaye, ‘Sexual Healing’

Junior got up, got up, got up, got up from her cot, but otherwise spent the song pointing at the wooden crocodile, the light fitting, the wet wipes, her clothes and her piggy bank. While saying “Da!”.

Probably best that she wasn’t listening too carefully. She’d have wet herself laughing. “Baby, I think I’m capsizing, the waves are rising and rising”, “I’m hot just like an oven”, “I can’t wait for you to operate”. I mean, REALLY. As an Operations Manager, people are always saying the last of those lines to me. It’s harassment.

But the song works, because Marvin has the voice and the brass balls (no actual mention of them in the song, surprisingly), and the music is as crisp, lean and chromium as any electronic future-revealing groundbreaker released the same year. Perhaps Marvin could’ve pioneered house music if he’d only agreed with his Dad about the colour of the party hats.