- 02 Jul 21
Ahead of Paul Casey's 'Back To The Future'-inspired ‘Wide Open Road’ video premiere this Saturday, July 3rd, Hot Press are taking a look back at 1985.
This week is all about the year 1985 here at Hot Press. Ahead of tomorrow's video premiere for Paul Casey's new single 'Wide Open Road', we'll be revisiting one of our finest '80s archive moments every day this week. We took a look through every Hot Press cover from 1985 and revisited some of the biggest gigs of 1985; Bruce Springsteen at Slane, U2's first ever gig in Croke Park, and of course, Live Aid. Today, we're taking a look at our Critics Roundup for 1985. Check out Bill Graham's highs and lows of 1985 below
’85 was a remarkably stagnant year. Twelve months after the end of ’84, little seems to have changed or advanced musically and I only hope and pray we won’t be running on the same spot when ’86 ends.
It was a year of commercial consolidation or, if you prefer, one that gave depressing proof of how global pop is prolonging musical cycles. Back in the Sixties, only 9 months elapsed between albums and in that short period, both The Beatles and The Stones would each have released three singles and probably discovered at least two novel musical sub-genres between them. But now the cycle lasts 18 months; 6 months to write and record the damn think, 9 to video, tour and promote it and another 3 to recover from the whole experience, feud with your management and sue the record company.
thus in 1985, Duran Duran split into two conflicting camps, Frankie went to Borris and then Ibiza, forfeiting the momentum new releases might have given them while Spandau Ballet were tax exiles in Ireland, their energies dissipated by a fierce legal dispute with Chrysalis. That left Wham! and George Michael, the undisputed rulers of the pop playground and encouraged new pretenders like Go West to make their bid. ’86 may decide which pop idols will endure and which will go the way of all Irish.
One improvement from ’84 though. cameo’s ‘She Strange’ is again among my singles of the year but it’s a hit. Otherwise black music got blander with Whitney Houston filching the chorus of Crystal Gayle’s ‘Don’t It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue’ for ‘Saving All My Love For You’ and didn’t supply the same pleasures as, in ’84. But some blame not the performers but increasingly unsympathetic attitudes at B.B.C.’s Radio 1 where popular dance-floor records were struggling for airtime.
One sad example. Temptations veteran and Style Council ally, Jimmy Ruffan cut ‘That’s What My Loving Is For’, a marvellous and most definitely hit-worthy ballad on EMI, a perfect marriage of glistening Eighties production and Sixties soul vocal values. His record company thought so too and gave it full promotion support. You would have loved it if you heard it but you didn’t. Radio 1 refused to play it. Par for that particular pop course. I’m afraid. When a Norwegian group storms the charts and when I find myself desperately trying to find some worth in Go West’s December ‘Tube’ appearance and I feature a Foreigner single among my chart favourites, I know this hasn’t been one of the golden years.
We were certainly witnessing the aftermath of the 2nd British Invasion as Americans both co-opted and repelled the Limey Sound. But the most significant pop move came not from the US guitar band that swamped the ‘Whistle Test’ but their seniors in the LA pop establishment.
For this was the year of Beige when white American pop finally abandoned rockist rhythms and Nile Rogers was over-employed. American pop-rock got overhauled to the rhythm of the disco and the sound of synths and crackling guitar as the whole package was ideally displayed on a movie soundtrack or in the background of ‘Miami Vice’. And Tina Turner, always the black singer closest to rock, was the Queen of Beige, her black power cosseted by the most opulent sound.
Then there was ‘Live Aid’. At this point, the jury is out; it is premature to assess the long-term implications of the phenomenon. Certainly ‘Live Aid’ gave video a powerful assist in establishing a wide if shallowly-based constituency for a new hierarchy of acts, the intercontinental guided missiles of the music industry. And in the wake of ‘Band Aid’ a record like Paul Hardcastle’s ‘19’ emphasised political/charity records had replaced the traditional novelty one-shot.
So at worse, ‘Live Aid’ could be flash in the pan, salving the industry’s conscience while it played the soft charitable sell, shifting units in the guise of compassion. At best, it might lead to further projects like ‘Sun City’ and instill a greater awareness of Western responsibility for the suffering of the Third World. At least by next Christmas, we should know the answer.
‘Live Aid’ also featured those most influential acts like Elvis Costello, David Bowie and Christian Kerr who did little more in ’85 than appear on it and record duets, further emphasizing how much took a breather in ’85.
Among acts of the year, neither Bruce Springsteen nor Madonna could be ignored. Bruce became a sex symbol, the acceptable, honourable face of caring macho and had a rake of his singles in Europe. And Madonna was the female face of the year, the self-reliant, gum-chewing disco queen, the strongest influence on teen female fashion since Siouxsie. But she never had the ambivalence of Debbie Harry and I doubt if her records will last as long as the Shangri-las.
But musically, my singles group had to be the Eurythmics. Masterfully versatile, they started with the graciously poignant, almost folk rock ballad, ‘Julia’, graduated to the perfect pop of ‘There Must Be An Angel’ and then completed the three-card trick with Aretha Franklin’s assistance on ‘Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves’. No other group so effortlessly displayed so many faces while Dave Stewart was an ubiquitous producer, aiding the Ramones, introducing Feargal Sharkey to the pop pinnacle and finally being enlisted to renew Bob Dylan’s sound. I only hope he doesn’t spread his talents too thinly.
So can any new trends be expected? Despite Peter York’s prediction that ’86 will be the Year of Punk, don’t take his prophecy too seriously. There may be much media nostalgia, a rethink of values as young British musicians ponder a withdrawal from the MTV Anglo-American alliance and a gap in the market for groups that re-assert less polished guitar textures but safety-pin manufacturers shouldn’t be gearing for expansion just yet. Production polish may be criticised but it won’t be entire.
No in ’86, te lead may come from the top not the bottom, from the artists in positions of influence still prepared to take risks. In ’85, many took time off. Next year may indicate what they’ve gleaned from their sabbaticals.
Paul Casey's 'Back To The Future'-inspired ‘Wide Open Road’ video premieres on Hot Press this Saturday, July 3rd. Check out the behind the scenes video below.