The Sound of Higher Love

You won’t be surprised to learn that I wasn’t a big fan of  Jon Anderson or Vangelis and thought the music they made together was even worse than their main gigs. But I am glad they wrote this song otherwise we wouldn’t have this great record. Their original version wasn’t a hit (because it’s rubbish) but it was a big success for Donna Summer in 1982 — in Europe anyway, it flopped in the US. 

Produced by Quincy Jones who gives it an electronic beat with more groove than Vangelis, it’s a soaring number with a big choir of backing voices that includes Lionel Richie, Dionne Warwick, Michael Jackson, Christopher Cross, Kenny Loggins, and Stevie Wonder — only Quincy Jones could pull all those together.

Anderson’s lyrics are as silly as ever — what the fuck does “Shot to the soul, the flame of Oroladian” mean? — but Donna sings them with soulful gusto and the record sounds so glorious it doesn’t matter how ridiculous they are. 

Download: State of Independence (Extended Version) – Donna Summer (mp3)

PS: Until I researched this post I had no idea Chrissie Hynde sung on a version of this song by the band Moodswings in 1992.


Teacher’s Hot

We’ve all had teachers we fancied — I know girls who swooned over male teachers too — and, such was the impression they made on our young psyches, we can still remember their names. Mine were our German teacher Miss McWhirter who would write so vigorously on the blackboard that her bum would wiggle in the tight, high-waisted trousers she often wore. I hated German but that made the class almost bearable. Another was English teacher Miss Cowan who we got to see in a bikini on a school camping holiday — naturally I still remember that it was black. That trip we also found out that she was going out with our maths teacher Mr. “Ziggy” Zbigniew which made him go way up in our estimation.

But I hope having to deal with us pubescent dogs in heat didn’t ever get too difficult for them. My boyish lust never went further than a longing look from afar, but I remember once seeing a kid follow behind Miss McWhirter when she was walking up stairs and bending down to look up her skirt. Even back then I was shocked and there were some right nasty bastards at my school so who knows what other shit she had to put up with. In my experience it was difficult enough just being a boy at an all-boy’s school, but being an attractive young female teacher could have been even worse. Dropped into a boiling swamp of hormonal young males starved for a glimpse of the opposite sex that wasn’t an old matron type. It was like the boys in Lord of The Flies discovering a pretty young girl on their island.

Download: To Sir With Love – Lulu (mp3)

My Chiffon is Wet

I don’t know if it was because things were so grim that people needed cheering up more, but there were a lot of novelty hits in the 1970s. 99.9% of them were terrible, but this one was marvelous and “My chiffon is wet, darling!” is still one of my favourite lines in pop.

“Disco Tex” was a fellow called Sir Monti Rock III and the group was the brainchild of The Four Seasons’ producer/writer Bob Crewe. This was a hit in 1974 before Disco went overground and became a cultural juggernaut so it was ahead of that curve, and its camp flamboyance was ahead of Sylvester and The Village People in being a hit that came out of gay club culture — both Rock and Crewe were gay and the record was made to sound like a live performance in a gay disco. Which just shows that even the silliest novelty record can have some sociological significance.

Download: Get Dancin’ – Disco Tex & The Sex-O-Lettes (mp3)

Just Like Honey

The career of Punk ingenue Honey Bane reads like the script of a torrid teen exploitation movie. Growing up as a “problem child” with an unstable home life, she formed her first band Fatal Microbes in 1978 when she was only 14. They broke up after making just the one single (the minor Post-Punk classic “Violence Grows”) and after that Honey was put in a juvenile treatment centre for alcohol and behavioral problems. She ran away from there and spent a year as a fugitive from Social Services during which she fell in with anarcho-punk collective Crass and recorded an EP with them. Now the ripe old age of 16, Honey released her terrific first solo single “Guilty” on her own label, and then came under the managerial wing of Sham 69’s Jimmy Pursey who got her signed to EMI and attempted to turn her into a pop star.

Sporting a Toyah Wilcox-ish look and a more bouncy, New-Wave sound, her first Pursey-produced single “Turn Me On, Turn Me Off” was a hit in 1981 — I bought it and had a crush on her — but none of the follow-ups did well. Annoyed by EMI’s attempts to push her in an even more pop direction, she quit her contract with them and went into acting. But despite a part in the 1982 film Scrubbers (sort of a female version of Scum) and a Trebor Mints commercial (!), that career fizzled and a few years later she was posing nude in girlie mags to make a living.

If this story was a movie, the final scene would be a desperate suicide by drug overdose, her music dreams crushed and reduced to the sleazy business of taking her clothes off for money. But Holly is still around, back to making music, and last year she released a compilation of singles and b-sides going back to her Fatal Microbes days called It’s A Baneful Life which is mostly excellent stuff, especially when you consider she wrote and recorded a lot of it at an age when the rest of us were only worrying about homework and school discos.

Download: Guilty – Honey Bane (mp3)
Download: Turn Me On, Turn Me Off – Honey Bane (mp3)

Something for the Weekend

When I first heard this on the radio I didn’t know who Electronic were and it took a minute for the penny to drop that it actually was Bernard Sumner and Neil Tennant singing and not some copycats.

This must be one of the few instances where a “supergroup” makes a record as good as the ones they did with their original bands.

PS: I fucking hated it when Top of The Pops got the audience to whoop it up to add more of a “live” atmosphere to the show. It sounded so bloody fake, the complete opposite of what they intended.

Fashions by Sylvia

Sad to hear about the death of Sylvia Anderson. The obits focused on her being the voice of Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds but the greatest thing she did for me was design the costumes in the Anderson’s live-action series UFO.

Though the styles were often silly and a hysterically groovy 1960s idea of fashion in the far-flung future of the 1980s, she has my undying gratitude for putting the girls on Moonbase in those silver catsuits and miniskirts, especially Gabrielle Drake. My childhood wouldn’t have been the same without that.

I like to think the girls of Moonbase would have been listening to this 1985 hit when they were relaxing between UFO attacks. It’s a tad cheesy but I love it.

Download: Clouds Across The Moon (Extended Version) – The Rah Band (mp3)