Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Listen! Do you want to know a secret?

I was beside myself with joy the other day to finally track down The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's Top Five hit of 1981 Hooked On Classics.

Nothing more than a few light classics/advert favourites backed by a handclap drumbeat. Needless to say it works. It was a front-runner in the medley craze of 1981, striking big as the fad really took a hold.

The first - and best - of these was of course Stars On 45, the Dutch studio group who came up with the genius idea of putting snippets of Beatles songs to a beat, bookended by some fine Europop that had us all reaching the same conclusion: Yes, the Stars on 45 did indeed keep on turnin' in our mind.

I realised recently that a lot of the Beatles songs in this track I'd never actually heard until I heard Stars On 45. In fact I was rather disappointed to discover We Can Work It Out and Do You Want To Know A Secret didn't come with handclaps. They might have been even better if they had. You can't beat handclaps, they make everything go with such a swing. I don't know why they've fallen out of favour.

Anyhoo, doing a bit of Stars On 45 digging looking for the follow ups (Stars On Stevie and the Abba one with no name) I came across this 1982 Dutch No.1 Stars On 45 Proudly Presents The Star Sisters, in which faceless backing singers do a medley of things like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and In The Mood, beating Jive Bunny by seven years. I had to download it. It's not all that.

And look, not really faceless at all!

So why did that craze fizzle out? Too many of them? Medley fatigue must have set in. Looking through the charts for 1981 there were thousands of them, from Beach Boy Gold to Pump Up The Bitter to Bras On 45 to Holliedaze to Back To The Sixties parts 1 and 2 and more. Enough already! We probably thought that instead of bits of songs, let's just have whole ones instead.

They carried on for ages in Europe, so perhaps where pop is king it wasn't such an issue. But despite Jive Bunny's many hits the medley has all but died out. Orange Juice do a good one, Blokes On 45, in which they sing bits of their hits over a disco beat, thereby proving that all medley records were essentially identical, but no worse for that.

Anyway, here's Lobo (not that one) to remind you of those salad daze.


Chris Hughes said...

I love a medley. Or a megamix. Hooked On Classics is great. When I hear those actual pieces of classical music now, I still expect them to segue into the next track on Hooked.

Stars On 45 were always a bit weird with their song choices. Like the inclusion of Bang-A-Boomerang in the Abba one. Who's ever heard that?

The Beatles one is indeed bizarre. You've got stuff like I Should Have Known Better in there, which nobody's really familiar with. And why is Sugar Sugar on there?

It blew my mind recently to discover that there was a Top Of The Pops album version of Stars On 45. So you had a bunch of anonymous session musicians, attempting to sound like a different bunch of anonymous session musicians.

Of course, Chas 'n' Dave did Stars Over 45, which is all wartime stuff like Run Rabbit Run and We're Going To Hang Out The Washing On The Siegfried Line.

JM said...

I can here thoroughly blow my own trumpet and recommend a piece I wrote about the 1981 medley craze last summer:

Anonymous said...

I can't help thinking of Beach Boy Gold every time I see a bus with Gidea Park written on the front. Which, since I live in the Essex direction, is quite frequently.

Matthew Rudd said...

Status Quo and the Anniversary Waltz. And they wondered why Radio 1 didn't love them any more.

Stars On 45 asked the question: "Remember Twist & Shout?" prior to, er, not including it on the medley.

Bright Ambassador said...

Mums and dads used to love those records at wedding discos.

Can we have a post about The Dooleys' Love Patrol tomorrow?

Mondo said...

I had The Sweet, Heaven 17 and the T Rex 'Megarex' mixes too.

Five-Centres said...

I've got the Sweet one too, Mondo, and interestingly it didn't come out until 1985. But it's a corker.

Ishouldbeworking said...

I think handclap tracks could be used to extract confessions from prisoners, if played at a certain volume and duration. That's certainly the effect they have on me. After a minute and a half I'm screaming on the floor in a ball, offering to betray my nearest and dearest.

It's just a personal thing. But it spoiled a fair few wedding receptions around 1986.

Mondo said...

I'm sure you know already but just in case there was a second Sanny X/Sweet 12" ~ 'Sweet 2th The Wig Wam Willy Mix'

And also a Gary Glitter one called All That Glitters I think

Matthew Rudd said...

There was the Club Fantastic Megamix by Wham! too, and the Technotronic Megamix, which relied quite a lot on MC Eric at the beginning.