That’s What Gets Results

Who wouldn’t want a Face magazine t-shirt as modelled by Siobhan Fahey from Bananarama? I’m half tempted to print out the cut out slip and send it off to the address and see what happens (I’d have to put a postal order in I think).

Bananarama have reformed recently. They kept appearing on the Top Of The Pops reruns (not the 1985 ones showing at the moment but last year’s 1983 repeats). Cruel Summer sounded very good all these years later, a slightly off kilter pop song about love in oppressive summer heat in the city. The home-made dancing is refreshing too, a time when female pop stars weren’t drilled to within an inch of their lives. And maybe some of us were suddenly reminded why Bananarama being on Top Of The Pops week in, week out when we were 13 years old was something of a visual treat…

They first hit the chart due to their backing vocals on the Fun Boy Three’s 1982 hit single, It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It), which came about because Terry Hall saw an article on them in The Face and liked their look. They switched around for Bananarama’s next single Really Saying Something with Terry, Lynval and Neville singing backing for Siobhan, Sara and Keren.

It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It)

The song was originally written in 1939 by jazz musicians Melvin ‘Sy’ Oliver and James ‘Trummy’ Young. It says something about the Fun Boy Three’s talents that they took an old jazz tune and turned it into a pop ska song, and then to number 4 in the charts (probably selling hundreds of thousands of copies).

There’s A Weapon That We Must Use

This is not exactly a re-post, more a re-write, as I’ve posted this song before in two variations and typed these words (or some very similar) before too. I posted Fuxa’s cover version of Our Lips Are Sealed recently, as song I get obsessed with every so often. The song, as everyone must know, was co-written by Terry Hall and Jane Wiedlin while their respective bands (him The Specials, her The Go Go’s) were on tour together and apparently describes their secret relationship. Both The Go Go’s and Fun Boy Three released their own versions, the latter being produced by Talking Heads mainman David Byrne. The two videos are worth a compare and contrast exercise-

The Go Go’s video is all summer in California, irresistible it is too…

Fun Boy Three’s version is all UK, 80s shades of grey and big hair, altogether darker…

And from the 12″ single…

Our Lips Are Sealed (Urdu Version)

Electric Sound Of Summer

I pointed you in the direction of Fuxa back in the Spring, who recorded this beautiful, blissed out version of the Fun Boy Three/Go Go’s Our Lips Are Sealed. Whispered vox, analogue keys, primitive percussion, effects.

Something reminded me of it the other day and I realised I hadn’t gone looking for the album, which came out in May. It’s called Electric Sound Of Summer, and that title describes it pretty well. It’s got wooziness all over it, the aural equivalent of the sun going down over a beer garden when you’ve had exactly the right amount to drink and everything feels good. On the other hand there’s a sadness about it too. The sun will soon disappear behind the trees, a chill in the air, Autumn’s just around the corner. Lovely stuff.

As well as the aforementioned cover there’s a ten minute version of Suicide’s Cheree, a cover of a Daniel Johnston song (below) and guest spots from Dean and Britta (from Luna and Dean and Britta), Seefeel’s Sarah Peacock, and members of Spiritualized, Spectrum and Spacemen 3.

Some Things Last A Long Time

Can You Hear Them Talking ‘Bout Us Telling Lies?

One of the best records I’ve heard recently, courtesy of one of Mr Weatherall’s many radio shows, is Fuxa’s cover version of Our Lips Are Sealed, utterly blissed out and very beautiful. It’s out soon on limited edition 7″ vinyl with a lp to follow in May. Watch it on Youtube here, but be prepared to have to re-play it several times. Gorgeous.

Our Lips Are Sealed is surely in any respectable list of tip-top pop songs of all time/the 1980s. As everyone knows it was co-written by Terry Hall and Jane Wiedlin (of Fun Boy Three and The Go Go’s respectively), and released by both bands in different versions. The Go Go’s was released first (I think, correct me if I’m wrong) and is down below. You could fill a tape with all the great versions and covers of this song.

Our Lips Are Sealed

Fun Boy Three ‘The Telephone Always Rings’

While driving around mid-Wales for the last few days this song popped up on the in-car entertainment system several times. Totally skewiff and off kilter pop music. I remember reading somewhere that Lynval Golding is the only man on earth who knows how to play it properly, and he isn’t telling anyone.
What Terry’s wearing in the above photo is anyone’s guess.

11 The Telephone Always Rings.mp3

Fun Boy Three ‘Tunnel of Love’

In the five years after punk a narrow trousered army of people and bands stormed the singles charts, in the days when that meant something, who wouldn’t have been pop stars in any other period. If punk musically was an ending, a full stop, it was a beginning for a mass of men and women with ideas, inspiration (do it yourself), and newly found access to the means of production (instruments, recording studios, independent record labels, pressing plants). Some brought a load of new or forgotten influences and musical styles (The Clash, Orange Juice, Scritti Politti, The Slits, The Specials, later on The Style Council, amongst others), some brought angry/fizzy pop songs (The Jam, Buzzcocks, Dexys Midnight Runners, Magazine, loads more) and found a mass audience, some went deeper and further (PiL, Joy Division) and some brought a unique view of the world and their place in it (Ian Curtis, John Lydon, Joe Strummer, Green Gartside, Edwyn Collins, Terry Hall). I’m sure there’s loads of names you could insert or change. These people changed lives, trouser cuts, hairstyles, political beliefs, outlooks. They didn’t really sound anything like each other- just relatively like minded, making outsider pop music.

Terry Hall had a reputation for being miserable. In recent years he’s been diagnosed as bipolar. In between he recorded some great vocals and lyrics, in The Specials, Fun Boy Three, The Colourfield and his solo career. While musically The Specials were Dammers’ band, making ska popular with teenagers, then branching off into lounge, easy listening and jazz, all the while with a frustrated rockabilly guitarist, it was often Terry’s words or delivery of other people’s words that gave them their contemporary twist- Too Much Too Young, Ghost Town, Gangsters, Friday Night Saturday Morning. When Terry, Lynval Golding and Neville Staple left to form Fun Boy Three they carried this on- weird, skewed pop music with interesting lyrics- try The Telephone Always Rings, or The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum. Or this, Tunnel Of Love, surely the most jaundiced, cynical view of love and marriage to hit the charts.

‘You gave up your friends for a new way of life
And both ended up as ex-husband and wife
There were 22 catches when you struck your matches
And threw away your life
In the tunnel of love’

With violins and fiddles and a catchy pop tune. Selling hundreds of thousands. Who could do this today?

In the picture above right Terry Hall is modelling a limited edition V neck jumper from a well known street style label. Available in black or maroon, 500 of each, with a deeper than usual V and slimmer cut, and a signature label. I’m snobbishly thinking ‘turning rebellion into money’, while also thinking ‘Mmmm.. nice, want one.’

08 Tunnel of Love.wma