After reading Nick Hornby’s book ‘31 songs’ I thought it would make for a fun series to blog stand out songs from various stages in my life. Starting here with 5 songs from my childhood (any time pre-teen).
Karma Chameleon, Culture Club
This was the first single I ever bought, or was bought for me (on my request for my tenth birthday). The first song of my own that I ever recorded to cassette that wasn’t taped off Top of the Pops through a twenty-year-old microphone plugged into the side of a Bush cassette recorder. There’s still a pleasant bounce to it; something in the bass line, and maybe the harmonica too. It was catchy then and I stand by it now. Still have no idea about all the lyrics, I’m sure most of what I carry in my head is wrong. I’m not the only one; check out the lengthy entry on misheard lyrics site amiright.com. (“Call a comedian”, “you’re my lover, not my rifle”, “I’m a man with air-conditioning”, “Where’s Golders Green?”)
No More Lonely Nights, Paul McCartney
Now I could’ve mentioned Mull of Kintyre, because that was my first ever memory of Top of the Pops. I could’ve mentioned Pipes of Peace, and I certainly could’ve included The Frog Chorus (aye-dee-aye). I’ve always been a Macca fan, even before I discovered my Mum’s Beatles’ singles, and subsequently learned he used to be one. This was the single I actually bought.
I have never seen the film (Give My Regards to Broad Street) I’ve been told too many times it’s awful and that’s probably true if the video is anything to go by. It begins with McCartney literally having to wait another day before he calls her, and singing wistfully to the night sky, before inexplicably switching to a Victorian period drama. Ringo makes a cameo appearance in a rowing boat that gets swept over a weir. Classic eighties nonsense.
I remember this, not so much for its tune, but for the fact that our record player jumped at every given opportunity. My distaste for vinyl (yes, ok, it has a nice smell) stems from this very moment. I can still hear the first line, “I can wait another d- I call you…”
The Power of Love, Huey Lewis and the News
This was the first song that actually took me over, with some kind of vinyl-induced possession. There’s an incredible groove to it (though amazingly it peaked at a lowly number 9 in the UK Singles Chart) I can use in my defence for recording it over and over again (fourteen times consecutively) onto one side of a D90 cassette. Eventually this one jumped too, but by then I had its majesty safely copied to two spools of magnetic tape. I can remember my Dad looking at me with incredulity after it had only played three times; the fourth run through seemed to be a tipping point. Hitching his eyebrows into his forehead, “Again?” he said, pained.
From the opening sequence of Back to the Future, still one of the coolest films of the decade, I was always confused by how Michael J Fox (or Marty) fell asleep with his arm up behind his back, like he was being arrested.
Also worth a look on amiright.com (“But mines just saved your life”, “Change a hawk into a little white girl”, “First time you feel it, my nipple’s sad.”)
Together in Electric Dreams, Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder
I have never seen the film, but have always loved this track. Where I could now turn off Karma Chameleon, this I would still stop everything to listen to. It’s a great track incorporating everything good about the eighties, from the whimsical opening riff, to the sparse use of the electric guitar, to the synth pattern.
While our record player wasn’t great, cassettes had their problems too. Synth chords held for long periods of time didn’t sound great if the tape was overwound. Each chord wavered, so it was very sightly, off key. Even when I hear it on the radio now, it doesn’t sound right, because it’s in tune.
Footloose, Kenny Loggins
One more film I’ve never seen, but now I know it’s about “A city teenager who moves to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned, and his rebellious spirit shakes up the populace,” you can be sure I’ll be getting to it soon. I bought the single. My sister bought Denise Williams’ squeaky, “Let’s hear it for the boy”, but it can’t compare to the catchy happiness of ‘Footloose’.
The video documents a distinct decade and is worth watching just to admire how people could dance in a way suggesting they had been connected to two crocodile clips and a car battery. It’s also a visual history of eighties footwear (and occasionally socks and leg warmers too), and one glorious moment of Kevin Bacon in a white t-shirt sliding down a bannister as the song stops dramatically mid-track. I was never that cool, and it’s far too late for me now.