There was this pretty girl called Jill who used to hang around on the fringes of my crowd in the very early 80s, I think she was a friend of one of the other girls. I’d occasionally see her in the pub or at parties and developed a big crush on her which I nursed for a long time before working up the courage to do something about it.
That moment came one night at a house party when someone put on “Zoom” by Fat Larry’s Band and I asked her for a slow dance. During this roughly four minutes of bliss I asked her if she’d like to go out with me and she said sorry, but she already had a boyfriend. The reason I had never seen him before was because he was in the Army. So not only was she seeing someone else but he was trained to kill people too. Why did no one tell me this before I made a complete twat of myself?
The strange thing is I’ve had far bigger heartbreaks in my life and I can barely recall what Jill looked like, so I’m not sure why I still remember her. But I think of her and that slow dance every time I hear this record.
Proving that politics can be sexy, here is mod chanteuse Sandie Shaw looking very foxy while wearing a top that declares her support for Harold Wilson during the general election of 1970.
Wilson was the first British politician to tap into the power of pop stars to court the youth vote. He got himself photographed with The Beatles in 1964 before he became Prime Minister, and when in office awarded them MBEs for services to British exports. At that time giving state honors to mere pop stars was unheard of and controversial (now they all have bloody Knighthoods) but while Wilson was hitching a ride on the popularity of the Fab Four they ended up taking a swipe at him on “Taxman”.
Nowadays no one thinks anything of pop stars hanging out with politicians, but The Beatles kept Wilson at a distance because he was part of the square establishment and they wisely didn’t want to be used by the dirty, cynical world of politics. The socialist newspaper Black Dwarf made it clear what the radical underground thought at the time.
Politicians like the endorsement of pop stars because it makes them look far cooler than they are, but I doubt if it has ever changed a single vote one way or the other. Even the power of Sandie’s hot pants didn’t help Harold Wilson who lost the 1970 election to Ted Heath.
This is her superb 1969 version of a song from Led Zeppelin’s first album. Apparently Sandie was the first person to cover a Zep tune.
Shame the video isn’t great quality but this track doesn’t get as much play as The Passions one hit does. This was their second single from 1979 and, like all the best Post-Punk bands, you can tell they’d been listening to a lot of Dub Reggae.
One of the other guest vocalists on Soul II Soul’s 1990 second album was House diva Kym Mazelle on the sublime “Missing You”. The year before Mazelle had lent her big vocal chords to this brilliant single with (Dr.) Robert Howard of The Blow Monkeys. I’m not sure why it wasn’t credited to the band because after it was a hit it was added to their third album.
Apparently this was originally recorded with soul/jazz singer Sam Brown but her record company rejected it. I can’t imagine that it was better than this stonking House banger though.
Soul II Soul’s debut album Club Classics Vol. One was inescapable in London during the summer of 1989. Everyone I knew had a copy and it was playing in seemingly every shop I went in and blasting from every car. But even though their 1990 follow-up A New Decade also sold well (it got to #1) it didn’t seem to have the same ubiquity as the first one for some reason. It’s a slicker and more professional record but just as good I think.
Singer Caron Wheeler had left for a solo career after the first album so Jazzie B filled her shoes with a cast of guest vocalists. The group was always more of a collective anyway so the change wasn’t all that drastic. Featuring the vocal chords of Victoria Wilson-James (who later joined The Shamen), “A Dream’s A Dream” was the second single from the album and is one of my favourite Soul II Soul tracks. It’s shimmering groove has the same spacey quality that producer Nellee Hooper used with Massive Attack a couple of years later.
It’s only February but I already know that Loner, the second album by Caroline Rose, will be near the top of my favourite albums of the year, maybe even at the very tippy-top.
Ditching the acoustic Americana of her debut, she’s taken a headlong dive into bright, New Wavey pop — all fairground keyboards and buzzing guitars — with a bag full of brilliant songs that are smart and witty.
It’s currently streaming at NPR before it comes out this Friday. Go listen now.