memories of the ’80s – Cry by Godley and Creme

Seasoned musicians for decades, and a stint in the band 10cc, the duo Godley and Creme had their one hit wonder of the 1980s with the song Cry.

Having worked and performed together for years, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme celebrated 25 years of their professional partnership with the album History Mix Volume 1, released in 1985.

Working with JJ Jeczalik from The Art of Noise, the duo remixed their past songs, playing with different beats and sounds to reinvent their backlist. But there were also two singles on the album, including the song Cry.

The single hit it big with radio airplay, but got even bigger because of its music video. The twosome had plenty of experience with the medium, producing videos for many Brit artists including Duran Duran, Ultravox, Wang Chung and The Police since 1979.

The video used a technique called analogue cross fading – shot in black and white, the faces of the singers morphed into faces of other individuals – old and young, different ethnicities and both genders – all to sing the song.

Check out the video here.

It became Godley & Creme’s only top 40 hit on the Billboard charts as well as earning them one hit wonder status on the pop music charts around the world for this distinctive ballad.

memories of the ’80s – It’s My Life by Talk Talk

File:It's my life (talk talk).jpgAs the Brit new wave sound emerged in the early ’80s, several bands rolled out potential hits, including the band Talk Talk with their hit single It’s My Life.

Written by band members Mark Hollis and Tim Friese-Greene, this song was the title track of the band’s second album. Released as a single in January 1984, the song hit the mid-charts in the UK.

But in many other European countries and in North America, the song was more popular, hitting top 10 in the USA and Canada, and getting constant airplay in Italy, Belgium, Austria, Germany and Australia.

Despite the band’s early successes, their dislike of the pop music trends encouraged them into experimentation – even with their initial music video for It’s My Life, which featured a grumpy Hollis lip synching the lyrics badly.

Their label EMI complained about the first video, and the band redid the music video but still mocked the lip synching and music video stereotypes in the second, more widely seen version showcasing wildlife.

The band also used James Marsh as their cover artist, encouraging his unique design and art skills to create distinct albums that weren’t just about marketing.

So although new wave dance types swayed to this song in their fave club, the band’s goal was to not be top 40 radio, even though this song was.

memories of the ’80s – Everlasting Love

The power of this song – Everlasting Love – has meant repeated versions in the past decades, with each time making it a one hit wonder and a Billboard chart hit every time.

Written by Buzz Cason and Mac Gayden, the song was written for Motown signer Robert Knight, who originally recorded the song in Nashville in 1967.

Hitting number 13 on the Billboard charts, this song was recorded and released again in 1968 by Love Affair and again in 1974 by Carl Carlton, whose version was the most successful, hitting top five on Billboard charts.

In 1981, CBS recording artists Rex Smith and Rebecca Sweet decided to record the song for a third time, hoping to get a Billboard hit. Smith had a previous Billboard chart hit in the late 1970s and was a Teen Beat hearthrob, while Sweet was just at the beginning of her singing career, and included the song on her debut album And He Kissed Me.

The duo’s version of Everlasting Love was a bit less Motown and soul and more pop, and came with a music video, perfect for MTV and MuchMusic to spin endlessly. Smith included the single on his album Everlasting Love.

The duo’s version hit #32 in August 1981, and climbed the charts in Europe to hit top 10, influencing the young teen generation with their 1980s pop styled version.

But they weren’t the only ones to record this song in the 1980s – German pop star Sandra, also recorded her version in 1987, hitting the top 10 charts in several European countries including Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, France and Italy.

This song is one that lives on in each decade, but in each time period became a one hit wonder.

memories of the ’70s – I’d like to teach the world to sing…

In the early 1970s, a commercial jingle became a hot commodity on radio: the song I’d like to teach the world to sing (in perfect harmony).

In 1970, the team from McCann Erickson, the advertising agency who created commercials for Coca-Cola, came up with the phrase of “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”.

It was reworked into a song, and released to radio despite it being a commercial, in 1971. Many stations refused to air the song, yet the ad agency convinced Coca-Cola to create a television commercial.

The tv commercial featuring the song showed a group of people of different ethnicities singing the song was filmed near Rome, Italy. Called “Hilltop” by the creators, the commercial also showed the different singers holding Coke bottles labelled in different languages found around the world.

The commercial was a major hit, so much so that The Hillside Singers and The New Seekers both recorded the song, using amended lyrics with three verses and released as radio singles.

The Hillside Singers version was released first, and hit #13 on the Billboard Hot 100, while The New Seekers released their version, hitting #1 in the US and #2 in the UK.

Coca Cola waived all royalties to the song, and over $80,000 was donated to UNICEF.

A consequent version of the song was done for the holiday season with the singers each holding a white candle, so when the last image appears on screen, the group is in the shape of a Christmas tree.

But for me and so many others who heard these versions – it was a seemless move from radio jingle to pop culture pop fave.

memories of the ’80s – They Don’t Know by Tracey Ullman

For those listeners of music in the 1980s, Brit sounds dominated the airwaves and one hit came from an actor/comedian – Tracey Ullman’s They Don’t Know.

Ullman had been a successful performer in London’s West End productions, including Grease, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Starlight Express.

Thanks to a theatre competition, Ullman’s star began to rise, and she was offered a record deal with Stiff Records, with her debut album in 1983, You Broke My Heart in 17 Places.

The single that became a hit was Breakaway, with Ullman’s comedic turns in the video making it a UK hit. But the follow up single became an international hit: They Don’t Know.

Originally performed by Kirsty MacColl, the song had been a hit in 1979, rising up to number two on the UK music charts. Ullman recorded the song, with MacColl singing backup and the in 1983, the song hit number two again, as well as number eight on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 11 on the US Adult Contemporary charts.

With a silly video to accompany the single, the song was played endlessly and eventually became the theme song of Ullman’s comedic show Tracey Takes On.

Ullman continued her career with the success of The Tracey Ullman Show, the second series produced by the fledgling FOX TV Network, but it was her unique combination of voice and comedic style that made her cover song a radio gem.

memories of the ’70s – Don’t Give Up on Us

For those tv viewers of the 1970s, the radio airwaves were soon playing one of their favourites – David Soul’s Don’t Give Up on Us.

The co-star of Starsky & Hutch, which had debuted on screen in 1975, used his notoriety to go back into the studio, and record a single written by Tony Macaulay, a well-known British songwriter and composer.

Released as a single in the UK in early 1977, the single shot to the top of the charts, spending four weeks at number one in January and February.

When released in North America, the single shot to the top of the charts, and grabbed the number one spot for one week in April on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as hitting number one on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart.

Thanks to his weekly appearance on television, the single was a popular one on radios across North America, but David Soul became a  one hit wonder, never achieving musical success again.

As a flash in the pop culture history timeline, this song made a quick splash, but showed the power of tv and music to combine and benefit one another.

memories of the ’80s – Valley Girl by Frank Zappa

This influential and eclectic artist collaborated with his teenager daughter to achieve a one hit wonder with the song Valley Girl.

Frank Zappa, a self-taught composer and singer/songwriter, was well-known for his solo creations, collaborations and his work with his band Mothers of Invention.

Zappa was one who challenged authority and convention in his beliefs and his music and ironically, his only Billboard hit was the song Valley Girl.

Released on Zappa’s 1982 album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch, the song was peppered with the slang made popular by the teen girls and boys of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley in the early 1980s.

Hitting number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, the song popularized the Valspeak and also showcased Zappa’s daughter, the 14 year old Moon Unit. Phrases like omigawd, gag me with a spoonso bitchen and I’m sure, no way!

Ironically the next year, the film Valley Girl directed by Martha Coolidge, became a big hit, but this song wasn’t included on the popular soundtrack.

Zappa continued to create unique music, working with rock, jazz and classical musicians – yet his one hit wonder was the antithesis of what he represented.

I did love this silly song – and could never rationalize how Zappa created it -I’m guessing the the irony went way over my young teen head.

memories of the ’70s – Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed

Although this vocalist was well-known among many music fans, one song propelled him into the pop culture one hit wonder category – Walk on the Wild Side.

Best known for being the 1960s band The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed left the band in 1971 to go solo. His first solo album, the self-titled Lou Reed, was recorded for RCA Records in London with members of the Brit band Yes.

It included a few songs that had been recorded by The Velvet Underground, but never released. The album drew very little notice, although it did gain a positive review in Rolling Stone.

With his next album, Reed worked with David Bowie and Mick Ronson, hoping to gain a bigger British audience. The album Transformer was released in December 1972, with the first single “Walk on the Wild Side“.

The song was a radio hit, despite its lyrics which alluded to oral sex, male prostitution, transsexuals and drug use. Influenced by the 1956 novel A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren, Reed’s song was based on five people who were part of Andy Warhol’s Factory scene.

Scenesters Holly Woodlawn, Joe Dallesandro, Jackie Curtis, Candy Darling and Joe Campbell (Sugar Plum Fairy) were all namechecked in the song with their lifestyles the backbone of the song, which was edited for US radio airplay.

Despite the raunchy innuendoes of NYC’s underground, the song became Lou Reed’s badge – the one song that pop culture attributed to him. Although his career as a singer/songwriter has continued, this song became its own entity.

In consequent years, Reed was alleged to be annoyed of the song and rarely performed it. But for those fans of this odd one hit wonder, it lives on as a commentary of 1970s New York City or a catchy song that had a good beat.

memories of the ’70s – I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

In the early 1970s, radio program lists were all playing this country crossover hit “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.

Written by Joe South and performed by singer Lynn Anderson, the song was originally on an album by Joe South. Singers Freddy Weller and Dobie Gray issued covers of the song, as well as girl group The Three Degrees.

Anderson wanted to record the song, but her husband/manager Glenn Sutton felt it was a man’s song and wasn’t appropriate for her. Getting the songwriter’s permission, the lyrics were altered and the song recorded in a lighter, uptempo pop style.

Columbia Records producer Clive Davis liked the new version and wanted it released as a 45 single.

First going on the country charts and then the pop charts, the single made Lynn Anderson the singer of the moment, hitting number one in the United States on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles and Hot 100 charts as well as in several other European countries.

Anderson won the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 1971, while songwriter Joe South was nominated for two Grammys for Best Country Song and Song of the Year.

This became Anderson’s signature song, and many other artists covered the song in her wake including Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells, Dottie West, Carol Burnett, Jim Nabors, Glen Campbell, Percy Faith, Andy Williams and Dinah Shore.

Although Anderson continued as a country artist, her popularity was never as hot as when she recorded I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. 

memories of the ’70s – Disco Duck

In the height of the disco years, a Memphis-based DJ decided to mix it up with a tribute to a former ’60s song with the creation of Disco Duck.

Written by DJ Rick Dees, Disco Duck was inspired by 1960s novelty song The Duck, which took him a day to write, but three months to convince any musicians to record the song.

The story of the song is someone who decides to dance like a duck but is embarrassed, until he realizes everyone on the dance floor is emulating his slick moves.

Dees paired “duck” vocals with orchestral and disco sounds, and did a part one and part two for the single release. Although the song’s quirky oddity caught the ears of radio stations across the US, Dees station in Memphis refused to play the single and forbid Dees from playing it on his own show.

Dees had put together Rick Dees and his Cast of Idiots, and began performing around Memphis, and as the song grew in popularity, Dees landed the group a spot on American Bandstand. In October 1976, the song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Dees was fired from his radio station after speaking about the success of his single on his radio show and hired by the competition in Memphis. Meanwhile, the song was used in the1977  film Saturday Night Fever, during a scene where senior citizens are being taught how to disco.

I remember hearing this silly song, and not paying much attention to it – years later when I saw a segment on disco, it was cited as one of the horrible consequences of disco – although its intent was always being a novelty and not a true representative of a classic disco song.

Dees is still a successful DJ, now based in Los Angeles, and for music history, created a silly song that embodied the mid 1970s.