It’s been a busy few weeks both here in the now and back in 1984. I realize that I haven’t been keeping up with my weekly chart rundown so I’ll just go through some of the highlights as we pick up mid-March 30 years ago.
The beginning of March 1984 was an important time for me. I was in a play. At school. It was The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol and I played the part of the Judge. A solid character role. Certainly not the star but responsible for bringing home a couple of big laughs, nonetheless. We even had some girls from the girls’ school in the play with us. I loved everything about being in a play. Everything except the makeup and the glued on facial hair. I didn’t like that part at all. We performed in the school drama studio on Thursday evening, March 1, 1984 and then subsequently on Friday night and twice on Saturday because of the matinee. I was conflicted. I stayed with a family near school so that I wouldn’t have to drive on Friday night or Saturday, but nothing felt right about the experience even if I wasn’t yet strictly observant in my own life.
I loved everything about being in that play, but I also decided never to try out for a school production again as they always had performances on the weekend. I did do one more play when I reached the sixth form, but it was a student-directed version of The Bald Prima Donna by Eugène Ionescu that we put on at lunchtime. Theatre of the absurd. I’m not sure I understood it and I was in it. And that’s it. I haven’t been in a play since.
According to my diary, I also spent a fair amount of time watching old movies. I seem to have particularly enjoyed The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox with Goldie Hawn and George Segal as well as The Last American Hero with Jeff Bridges. I pretty much love anything with Jeff Bridges in it, ever since I saw Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. The last scene in that movie just about broke my heart.
Given that I’ve skipped a few weeks, let’s just take a look at some of the best new hits of late Feb/early March 1984.
“The Politics of Dancing” by Re-Flex has a quintessentially 1984 feel about it. It wasn’t a huge hit but it did have some kind of impact on both sides of the Atlantic. Also the video seems to star noted fertility specialist and Baron of Hammersmith, Lord Robert Winston. With a mullet.
Van Halen’s “Jump” was a big hit right around then. Is it sacrilegious to say that I’ve never really warmed to it. It just seemed like so much bombast and camp posturing around 10 years after British bands had been doing it properly. In my mind Van Halen were the first of the hair metal bands that showed up in the UK and they were just a bit silly.
The charts were a funny old place in 1984. The British public was not above buying comedy or novelty records and then we’d have to see them on TV between the proper pop stuff. In one week in March 1984 the following three songs all entered the top 40 at the same time.
“To Be or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap)” by Mel Brooks
I think this would hard to pull off today and, actually, looking back, it’s a wonder anybody tried it back then. The video has Brooks dressed as Hitler rapping about the Third Reich. Sample lyrics include:
So I said to Martin Boorman, I said, “Hey Marty,
why don’t we throw a little nazi party?”
We had an election, well, kinda sorta
And before you knew it: Hello, new order.
There are also some thong-clad video vixens singing “Heil, heil, sieggity, heil.” I am not making any of this up.
“Ullo John! Got a New Motor?” by Alexei Sayle
This will be completely incomprehensible to anyone who did not live in England in the 80s. Alexei Sayle is a one off. Sample lyrics include:
I keep tropical fish.
I keep tropical fish.
In me underpants.
In me underpants.
It wasn’t that Alexei Sayle made us laugh. It was more that he made us stare, mouths open at whatever he was doing. He was bonkers. Sometimes he was hilarious bonkers and sometimes he was proper scary bonkers. Watch the video and decide which one you think he is here.
“Fraggle Rock Theme” by Fraggles
30 years on from the launch of Fraggle Rock I have reached the stage in my life where pretty much anything relating to Jim Henson makes me cry. If you come up behind me and whisper “Jim Henson” in my ear, I’m likely to break down. I can’t explain it. Kermit makes me cry. Rowlf makes me cry. Mr Snuffleupagus makes me cry. Fraggles make me cry. They dance their cares away while I blub. See for yourself.
Other songs appearing on the charts for the first time in early March 1984 included “Dance Hall Days” by Wang Chung. Let me just say that again. Wang Chung. Inexplicably, Wang Chung were a much bigger deal in the States than they ever became in their native Britain. “Dance Hall Days” was their only hit in the UK which meant we hardly heard their later smash “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” with the amazing lyric:
Everybody have fun tonight.
Everybody Wang Chung tonight.
I remember hearing “Your Love Is King” on Capital Radio when they started playing it for the first time. It was unlike everything else on the radio at the time. It was grown up. It was gentle. It was… sexy. In 1984, it sounded like it came from another era. listening to it today it sounds just as out of time and just as fresh.
Stuck at the top of the charts after Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s five-week reign was Nena and “99 Red Balloons”. It’s still the best pop song ever translated from German, Elvis’s “Wooden Heart” notwithstanding. Next week it’s all change with a new number 1 and an epic video to go with.
- Currently reading: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki – Page 54. I finished Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell in two days. It was kinda marvelous.
- Total no. of evenings spent watching all eight hours of True Detective – three. I saved it up and binged it. I remember being excited about this show when I first heard about it. I have mad love for Woody Harrelson and I’m fully on board with the McConnaissance. True Detective may be the least disappointed I’ve ever been in a TV show that I was looking forward to. It was wholly satisfying to me. I’ve read some of the criticisms of the show and I dismiss them all. This was eight hours of great TV.
- No. of times I could watch Matthew McConaughey say “L’chaim, fatass” and still believe it’s the funniest thing I’ll hear all year – 675