- 12 May 01
The glum view is easily stated: finally, after eight years, the Bay City Rollers revival. The dominant pop purveyors – Duran, Wham, Spandau, Culture Club, Young, Kershaw, and Jones – regressed to the most conservative models of teen exploitation.
The glum view is easily stated: finally, after eight years, the Bay City Rollers revival. The dominant pop purveyors – Duran, Wham, Spandau, Culture Club, Young, Kershaw, and Jones – regressed to the most conservative models of teen exploitation. All were ‘realists’, all sold ‘fantasy’ but carefully from the colour supplements.
The process seemed inevitable once the new British Invasion went visual through MTV in the USA, and the touring and promotional cycles required for world domination suffocated the music. The product, the kernel was subordinated to the hard, hard s(h)ell. And the pop press became ever more surplus to needs: the most spectacular ‘stories’ came from the gossip-mongers of Fleet Street.
But why be completely negative? A glance through my own personal singles file tells me that past 12 months weren’t that bleak. But it did help to have a taste for American black music. For those disinclined to the modern dance floor, who thought ‘White Lines’ a triumph of electronic fabrication over emotional content, 1984 was bound to be dispiriting.
Yet hip-hop did suffer from overload as the year entered autumn. Every white Anglo academic started scratchin’ – and sorely so – while the original yankee practitioners often forgot that tunes still had their uses. Among the less severe technocrats, Prince was the strangest, silkiest and most soft-core of mojo-men while Womack and Womack restyled soul. But my personal stash went on a record that didn’t cross over from the dance and import charts: Cameo’s ‘She’s Strange’, the sexiest and subtlest rap of all.
But truly it was a choice year for the ladies. Any honour-roll would have to include Chaka Chan, Shannon, Tina Turner, the Weather Girls, the Pointer Sisters, Sister Sledge and Mary Davis of the S.O.S. Band.
Check the pattern. In the gender scramble, women, both black and white, had the most forceful and resourceful voices. CBS had its trio of queens: Alison Moyet, Sade and Cyndi Lauper whose ‘Time After Time’ was a true heart-melter. Through summer nights at the Summit, I learnt submission to Pat Benstar’s 'Love Is A Battlefield’ and latter the Eurythmics arrived with their digression on the cut-up. Also Nena, a most knowing one-hit wonder. With that select 60 minutes of women, 1984 could seem more special in retrospect.
Even if escapist. The true realists, the artistic as distinct from the commercial ones, laid low. Weller still strove to resolve his newly-found sophistication while two of the original Two-Toners, Madness and the Special AKA produced a tribute apiece to two very different heroes, the latter with ‘Nelson Mandela’ offering conclusive proof that politics in pop could still be powerful.
The guitarman fitfully fought back. Two very different bands, Van Halen and U2 found their best songs while the Bunnymen were still the charts’ licensed fools. But the priority given production values ensured the continuing exile of the really primitive barbed-wire rhythm guitar.
Outrage came from another source, another angle on the gender scramble as George not peeved when he learnt he was no longer the sharpest gay blade. HI-NRG was the club sound that boosted both Evelyn Thomas and the trash dementis of Divine but it also propelled both the Bronski and Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
Indeed Frankie Goes To Hollywood gave it loads. Their year, their records and a warning to the established music business that their target audience was not as settled as they believed. But somehow I don’t think they’ll voluntarily act on that advice in ‘85. Despite their sales, the Frankie lesson will take time to percolate.
Too many have a vested interest in the new Rollers.