August 1987

I’ve become a little obsessed with the repeats of Top Of The Pops running on BBC 4, especially the episodes recently stuck in the summer of 1987. Specifically I’ve become obsessed with the new depths to which the show sinks every week, presenters and audience desperately trying to pretend this is the greatest time to be alive despite almost every studio performance and video proving otherwise. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about New Order’s appearance in the studio playing True Faith as being the only bright spot in a dismal run of bands, artists and songs. But then in mid- August something else happened, two good songs, two weeks running, both shown by video. As I watched the two videos they also seemed to suggest something fundamental about the two artists and maybe also about differences between the smart end of British and American pop culture in summer 1987.
Pet Shop Boys hit their stride the year before with West End Girls and Suburbia and then marched into their imperial phase with It’s A Sin. In August What Have I Done To Deserve This? reached number two. The single features Dusty Springfield on vocals, then a long vanished presence in the music world, and is archetypal Pet Shop Boys. Neil has two vocal parts, a sung part starting with ‘You always wanted a lover/ I only wanted a job…’ before Dusty joins in on the second verse. Neil’s spoken word section before the chorus- ‘I bought you drinks, I bought you flowers, I read your books, we talked for hours…’- perfectly enunciated and high in the mix is peak Tennant, as important to the song as Dusty’s great contribution. Chris Lowe’s music is peerless electro-pop, from the synth drum opening beats to his Roland synth and keyboard parts. This song stood out amidst the dross of summer 1987 but it would have shone in almost any company.
The video is very British, filmed in a theatre with a chorus line and a pit orchestra, a nod to a pre-pop music world, curtains, drapes and feathers.
In the chart at the same time and on Top Of The Pops in the same two weeks was U Got The Look by Prince (a single from the Sign Of the Times album). U Got The Look is hyper 12 bar rock, strutting about with a massive Linn drum and, like the Pet Shop Boys, a shared vocal- Prince and Sheena Easton. It is super funky, highly stylised, a song about sex and sexiness- in the video, also shot in a theatre, everyone is shot drenched in colours (from neon lights, from overhead lights, in shadows). Almost everyone is barely half dressed in tight, minimal bodycon clothing. Sheila E manages to steal the show from Prince in her outfit, not an easy task. In response Prince throws in a guitar solo so over the top and so processed it’s almost a parody. It is wonderful stuff, seductive and funky and fun and so un- Britain in 1987, especially when compared to the knowing, raised eyebrow of the Pet Shop Boys and the world depicted in their video.
U Got The Look reached number two in the US but only number eleven in the UK. Both records glisten like diamonds among the supporting cast in the chart- Whitesnake, Sinitta, Kenny G, The Firm, Wet Wet Wet, Rick Astley, Samantha Fox, Def Leppard. Motley Crue, Marillion, Shakey, Bruce Willis, Spagna, Heart, Los Lobos…

Paisley

I don’t know if this is an idea that could run or not but…

This song off Prince’s 1985 album Around The World In A Day came up recently and knocked me sideways a little- genuine lightfooted brilliance, a mid-80s funked version of 60s pop-psychedelia about the joys of childhood.

Paisley Park

‘Admission is easy, just say you
Believe and come to this
Place in your heart
Paisley Park is in your heart’

In 1996 the first full length Two Lone Swordsmen album, The Fifth Mission (Return To the Flightpath Estate), contained this track as its closing statement, a loopy, stoned trip through the aforementioned flightpath estate at dawn. The synth chord sequence just after two minutes, and then recurring throughout the eight minutes plus, is rather wonderful.

Paisley Dark

Prince Paul And King Paul

I saw this recently, an excerpt from Bob Mehr’s excellent sounding new book on The Replacements, and it made me smile…

‘Prince was rumoured to have lurked in the shadows at some of the Replacements shows at First Avenue, but it was in the bathroom of a club in St. Paul where Westerberg finally ran into him.
“Oh, hey,” said Westerberg, seeing the dolled-up singer standing next to him at the urinal. “What’s up, man?”
Prince turned and responded in cryptic fashion: “Life.”

Paul Westerberg called time on The Replacements re-union recently having fell out of love with it again. He called the re-union ‘whoring himself’. I’ve said it before- The Replacements were such a great little band. Paul’s gone straight back to work, recording and releasing an album with Juliana Hatfield as The I Don’t Cares. This upbeat song has clanging Westerberg guitars, a bitter-sweet lyric and drawly vocals from the pair of them. Good stuff.

King Of America

I Was Just In The Middle Of A Dream

Sometimes the songs that seem to be the obvious songs to post are indeed the ones that are obvious songs to post. It is Monday. Prince wrote Manic Monday for Apollonia 6 but pulled it and offered it to The Bangles.They then Banglified it, turning it into a number two hit in both the UK and the US in 1986.

Manic Monday

This Top Of The Pops performance has Susanna Hoffs achieving peak Hoffsness.

Seven Hours And Fifteen Days

The death of Prince was shocking. Growing up in the 80s he was inescapable and while I was never a huge fan I liked some of his singles/songs- you couldn’t not like at least some of them. I saw him play in Manchester two years ago, a friend had a spare and it seemed like a good opportunity to see a legend. Over the two hours he blew the audience at Manchester’s indoor arena away, song after song after song. The thing that really struck me was the crowd. I’m used to going to gigs that are attended by roughly 60%-80% middle aged men, many either in leather jackets or cagoules depending on the band. Prince’s audience ranged from younger teenagers to people in their 60s, racially mixed, glammed up twenty-something couples, gangs of forty-something women, obsessive men on their own, gay and straight- the most socially diverse gig crowd I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve since grown to love some of his songs that previously were just part of my musical wallpaper. The energy he put into the show, dancing, playing guitar, singing was immense- partly why it is so shocking that he’s died less than two years later aged just 57.

I have always liked this one.

Alphabet Street

There is a Jesus And Mary Chain cover version of Alphabet Street which, trust me, you don’t want to hear right now. It doesn’t do anyone any favours.

If you were around in 1990 this Prince penned song was inescapable too.

Prince

‘m going to see Prince tonight. Yup. A friend got tickets and asked me if I wanted to go with him and you don’t pass up opportunities like that do you? I wanted to post the video to Alphabet Street or Let’s Go Crazy, both of which I really like but I’m assuming the Purple One has an issue with Youtube because there don’t appear to be any of his videos there, other than live clips and TV performances (which he doesn’t own the rights to I suppose). I found Let’s Go Crazy on a German video sharing site but the quality was poor and Alphabet Street doesn’t seem to exist anywhere on the net. Most strange.

This is The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly As Prince when he played Manchester in February with his new band 3rd Eye Girl (3RDEYEGIRL is how they prefer it but it doesn’t look right to me.)

Post 1999

These blog anniversaries keep coming- this is my 1999th post. And this is from Big Audio Dynamite II, a live release called Class Of ’92, with Mick and the boys covering Prince’s famous end of millennium song.

1999 (live)

Class Of ’92 is coincidentally also the name of a recent film concerning the class of 1992- Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary and Phil Neville, David Beckham- of whom it was famously said ‘you’ll win nothing with kids’. Bloody kids. They did win something though didn’t they? United could do with some of them kids right now.