Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The closing of the year - Wendy and Lisa

Taken from the soundtrack of the movie 'Toys', 'The closing of the year' was credited to The Musical Cast of Toys featuring Wendy & Lisa. In actual fact, it sounds like Wendy & Lisa featuring Seal, who also sings a verse in this song. This track was produced by Trevor Horn, who was working with Wendy & Lisa on an album at the time. That project, however, has never been released.

'The closing of the year' is a festive, positive, uplifting track. It never charted and has sunk into oblivion. I couldn't think of a more fitting title to end 2008 with in this blog. See you next year!

My collection: 7" single no. 2458
Found: Record fair, Amsterdam, September 9, 1995
Cost: 2 guilders
Tracks: 'The closing of the year (edit)' / 'The closing of the year (instrumental)'

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Hablemos del amor

Raphael competed in the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest with the monumental ballad 'Hablemos del amor'. It is an impressive bit of singing, with an equally impressive orchestral backing. Hard to believe that this is 41 years ago, although it does sound slightly oldfashioned. When I first heard this song - it was little more than 10 years ago - I was very impressed. I was very glad when I found this ep, even though the vinyl was a bit battered.

Raphael, who was born on May 5, 1943, represented Spain at Eurovision in 1966 and 1967. He reached 7th and 6th position respectively. Even if he didn't win, it was the first time that Spain obtained a high place in the competition. It turned Raphael into an international star.

My collection: 7" single no. 2968
Found: Bea Records, February 21, 1998
Cost: 10 guilders
Tracks: 'Hablemos del amor', 'Si un amor se va' / 'No tiene importancia', 'Quedate con nosotros'
Download: Album 'Raphael 1966-1967', including all four tracks (part 1/part 2)

Tokyo - Lili and Sussie

I bought this single on the relative strength of 'Candy love', Lili & Sussie's only hit in the Netherlands. I didn't expect much from 'Tokyo'. It's a bit of throwaway pop, likeable but a bit fluffy. It didn't trouble the charts outside of Scandinavia, although I don't even know if it charted there either.

Part of my record collection is 'buying by association'. It's obvious that this time the lucky grab wasn't too lucky, although the single is nice enough.

My collection: 7" single no. 3333
Found: Record fair, Utrecht, March 24, 2001
Cost: 1 guilder
Tracks: 'Tokyo' / 'Do you remember'
Download: here

Perfect way - Scritti Politti

'Perfect way' was released in September 1985 and reached no. 45 in the UK singles chart. Not an impressive success, despite its catchy hooks. In America it did far better, reaching no. 11. The 12" single was remixed by François Kevorkian, who remains best known for his work with Kraftwerk.

I bought my copy of the 12" as a bargain in London. I was always interested in those eighties singles by Scritti Politti and the extended versions seemed like a good addition to my collection.

My collection: 12" single no. 264
Found: Record Exchange, London, 1995
Cost: 50p
Tracks: 'Perfect way (extended mix)' / 'Perfect way (version) (extended mix)'
Download: here

You'll always find me in the kitchen at parties - Jona Lewie

One of the big complaints of the early eighties was that any fool with a synthesizer could knock out a hit, because with a computer it was easy to make what you wanted. Jona Lewie's 'You'll always find me in the kitchen at parties' is one of those songs that could have gotten this criticism, because it sounds deceptively simple.

Contrary to popular belief, Kirsty MacColl didn't perform backing vocals on this track; she only appeared with Jona Lewie on TV a couple of times to mime to the vocals recorded by the wives of Bob Andrews (producer of the song) and Dave Robinson (owner of Stiff Records, to which Jona was signed).

My collection: 7" single no. 2103
Found: Record fair, Leiden, May 28, 1994
Cost: 1 guilder
Tracks: 'You'll always find me in the kitchen at parties' / 'Bureaucrats'
Download: here

Hacka-Tacka music - Baba & Roody

The reggae-track 'Hacka-Tacka music' is most notable for its panting and groaning by the French performers, Baba & Roody. It was a sensation in the Netherlands in the late Seventies because of their performance in the weekly chart show 'Toppop': the female singer's top slowly moved downwards, revealing a whole nipple in the end.

I bought the single for its comedy value in 1989, and then a year later once again, to give it to a friend during his birthday party, saying 'This is the one you've been searching for so long!'. (In fact, it's his birthday again today!) He was asked to play the single by all who were there, and while the song was playing his head turned bright red. I really had to laugh.

My collection: 7" single no. 959
Found: All that music, Leiden, August 10, 1989
Cost: 3 guilders
Tracks: 'Hacka-Tacka music' / 'La musique erotique'
Download: here

Forever - Kiss

After 'Unmasked', Kiss went through hard times. Peter Criss left the band, the remaining members worked with a replacement for a while and then decided to really put down their masks. They struggled with their fanbase and identity for years. In 1989, they released the album 'Hot in the shade'. This single, 'Forever', was written by Paul Stanley with Michael Bolton and features the kind of melodrama you would expect from the latter, but not from Kiss. It is a hard-edged rock ballad, which appealed to me a lot at the time. Despite the success of 'Forever', 'Hot in the Shade' became the first Kiss album to fail to reach platinum status since 'Creatures of the night' (1982). A live version appeared on 'Kiss Symphony: Alive IV' (2003).

My collection: 7" single no. 1261
Found: Disco Market, Den Haag, July 14, 1990
Cost: 3,5 guilders
Tracks: 'Forever' / 'The street giveth and the street taketh away'
Download: Album 'Hot in the shade', including both tracks (password: heavyrock4life.blogspot )

Typical! - Frazier Chorus

'Typical!' was Frazier Chorus's second single to make the UK Singles chart, and it peaked at no. 53. That's pretty much where all their singles ended up: Frazier Chorus never became known for their mass commercial appeal. But they appealed to me, for their melodic pop and rather clever lyrics.

It is important to note that 'Typical!' is one of a handful of 10" singles I own. They were never classified and numbered like my 7" and 12" singles were. 10" singles were never a very widespread format, which makes them all the more interesting. Especially when, like in this case, they contain extra bonus tracks.

My collection: 10" single (unnumbered)
Found: House of Rhythm, London
Cost: 3,2 pounds
Tracks: 'Typical!', 'String' / 'Storm (live mix)', 'Typical! (live mix)'
Download: here

Monday, 29 December 2008

Since yesterday - Strawberry Switchblade

This single is the one that earned Strawberry Switchblade the title of 'one hit wonders'. How unfair! The album they released in the same year, 1985, is full of poppy tracks that could easily have won over the general public. But then, you already knew that, didn't you? I wrote about them before.

I got my copy of this single long overdue, as a belated birthday present from my brother. He had this collection of singles he was going to sell, and I found a small stack of little gems in that collection.

My collection: 7" single no. 2809
Found: Den Haag, January 26, 1997
Cost: nothing (present)
Tracks: 'Since yesterday' / 'By the sea'

Maniac - Michael Sembello

Michael Sembello began his career as a professional musician by becoming a studio guitarist. He did session work for artists like Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer. In 1983, he released his debut album 'Bossa Nova Hotel'. It included the track 'Maniac', which was selected for the soundtrack of the movie 'Flashdance'. It gave him his first (and last) international hit.

A big hit like that is often the kiss of death for a pop artist. These days, Sembello's career has been focused on Eastern music and spirituality.

My collection: 7" single no. 491
Found: Disco Market, Den Haag, 1984
Cost: 1 guilder
Tracks: 'Maniac' / 'Maniac (instrumental)'
Download: here

Another man - One 2 Many

The band One 2 Many consisted of Dag Kolsrud (keyboard), Camilla Griehsel (vocals) and Jan Gisle Ytterdal (guitar). They formed in Norway in the mid-eighties and signed to A&M Records. Their debut album 'Mirror' spawned four singles, of which 'Another man' was the second. The single did less well than the debut single 'Downtown', which became a hit in various territories. 'Another man' didn't chart outside of Scandinavia.

The 12" single contains only an instrumental version of 'Another man', no further remixes. But the sleeve alone would persuade many men to buy it. Including me.

My collection: 12" single no. 410
Found: Record Exchange, London, 2002
Cost: 2 pounds
Tracks: 'Another man' / 'You're the reason', 'Another man (instrumental)'
Download: here

When love breaks down - Prefab Sprout

'When love breaks down' was released four times by CBS Records before it finally reached the UK Singles chart in November 1985. And even then it managed to peak at number 25. Why it was so difficult for this single to become a hit, I'll never understand. The record company did their best, anyway. There are several different sleeves around for this single, and the double single which I found recently should also have helped. It includes four tracks spread over two discs.

My collection: 7" single no. 3465
Found: Record fair, Utrecht, November 29, 2008
Cost: 1 euro
Tracks: 'When love breaks down' / 'Diana' // 'The yearning loins' / 'Donna Summer'
Download: here

Winter song - Angel

The American heavy metal band Angel always dressed in white. They were discovered by Kiss's Gene Simmons and were signed to their record label Casablanca. Angel never achieved mass commercial success but did get a cult following. Their single 'Winter song' was released in early 1978 and reached no. 20 in the Netherlands. One thing is obvious: this band ain't so tough. They recorded 'Winter song' with the California Boys Choir...

My collection: 7" single no. 2600
Found: Grammofoonplatenwinkel, Utrecht, December 30, 1995
Cost: 2 guilders
Tracks: 'Winter song' / 'Can you feel it'

Telegraph - OMD

'Telegraph' was the second single taken from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's 1983 album 'Dazzle Ships'. After the success of 'Maid of Orleans' a year earlier, the singles from 'Dazzle Ships' did considerably worse. 'Genetic engineering' only made no. 20 in the UK singles chart, while this single only reached no. 42.

When I see that Esprit Mailorder is currently selling this picture disc for almost 13 euros, I'm glad I found my copy last weekend for a quarter of that price.

My collection: 7" single no. 3509
Found: Record Mania, Amsterdam, December 27, 2008
Cost: 3 euro
Tracks: 'Telegraph' / '66 and fading'
Download: here

Why? - Bronski Beat

Bronski Beat released 'Why?' as the follow-up single to 'Smalltown boy'. The song was recorded at RPM Studios, New York City and pursued an energetic musical formula. The lyrics focused more centrally on anti-gay prejudice. It became the trio's second Top 10 success in the UK and the Netherlands, peaking at number 6 in the former and number 2 in the latter. These days it is still considered to be a popular gay anthem.

My collection: 7" single no. 2126
Found: Record Palace, Amsterdam, July 30, 1994
Cost: 2 guilders
Tracks: 'Why?' / 'Cadillac car'
Download: here

The wild places - Duncan Browne

Duncan Browne was born on March 25, 1947. Together with Peter Godwin he formed the band Metro in the mid-70s. In 1978, he released his solo album 'The Wild Places'. Having had a hit in the UK in 1972 with 'Journey', much was expected from the title track, but surprisingly, it was only a hit in the Netherlands. Duncan Browne died of cancer on May 28, 1993.

I found the picture disc in 1989 in London. Contrary to a previous copy I had, pressed in Holland, this picture disc features an edited version of 'The wild places'. I didn't know this when I bought this single - the fact that this was a picture disc was reason enough for me.

My collection: 7" single no. 87
Found: Record Exchange, London, October 17, 1989
Cost: 1 pound
Tracks: 'The wild places' / 'Camino Real parts 2 & 3'
Download: here

The sweetest taboo - Sade

Sade released their second album 'Promise' in 1985, after the very successful debut album 'Diamond life'. The 'difficult second album' syndrome didn't apply to the band: the second album did just as well as its predecessor.

Lead single was the catchy 'The Sweetest Taboo'. The 12" single featured an extended mix of the track, which kept the tension of the original version intact. I loved the single, so I bought the 12" single pretty soon afterward. It's strange that the extended versions of Sade have never been released on cd.

My collection: 12" single no. 22
Found: Free Record Shop, Den Haag, 1985
Cost: 14,95 guilders
Tracks: 'The sweetest taboo (extended version)' / 'You're not the man'
Download: here

Chain reaction - Diana Ross

Diana Ross employed a few big names for her 1985 album 'Eaten alive'. All of the songs were written by the Bee Gees, while the title track was written by Michael Jackson - and he provided backing vocals too. 'Chain reaction' was Ross's first number one hit in the UK since 'I'm still waiting' (1971). According to the Gibbs biography, the brothers had initial reservations about offering the song to Diana in case it was too Motown for her.

In 2001, the British pop group Steps recorded a cover version of 'Chain reaction', which made it to no. 2 in the UK.

My collection: 7" single no. 3502
Found: Record Mania, Amsterdam, December 27, 2008
Cost: 1 euro
Tracks: 'Chain reaction' / 'More and more'

Love pains - Liza Minelli

Liza Minelli recorded an album with the Pet Shop Boys entitled 'Results' in 1989. From this album, four singles were drawn. This was the third one: 'Love pains', a cover version of a song performed previously by Yvonne Elliman in 1982. Steve 'Silk' Hurley was commissioned to create several mixes for 'Love pains', all of which were released on this American 12" single.

As a fan of the Pet Shop Boys, it's easy to like Liza Minelli's 'Results' album. And once I bought that album, I had to have the singles and remixes as well. I found my copy during a holiday in London.

My collection: 12" single no. 283
Found: Record Exchange, London, 1994
Cost: 6 pounds
Tracks: 'Love pains (Hurley's Remix)', 'Love pains (Hurley's Radio Edit)', 'Love pains (Hurley's Instrumental)' / 'Love pains (Deep House Pains)', 'Love pains (Deep Dub)'
Download: here

Tragedy - John Hunter

From what little I have found on the web, I can gather that John Hunter used to be a member of the American band The Hounds, before he released his solo album 'Tragedy'. From that album comes this single, the title track.

I bought this single in 1984 soon after I heard it often on local radio. They were playing it before it became a hit - the only problem was that it didn't become a hit. And it didn't become a hit in the UK, either. These days, John Hunter has faded into anonymity, but when you hear this you have to wonder why.

My collection: 7" single no. 275
Found: Disco Market, Den Haag, 1984
Cost: 3,5 guilders
Tracks: 'Tragedy' / 'Aphrodisia here'
Download: here

Chenko - Red Box

Simon Toulson-Clarke formed his first band at age thirteen with school friend Paddy Talbot, playing covers of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple as well as some self-penned material. On leaving school he moved to Middlesborough and formed another band in the vein of the New York Dolls. In the late Seventies he went to study at The Polytechnic of Central London, where he formed a band with Julian Close. This band took on the name Red Box after a while and included further band members Paddy Talbot, Rob Legge and Martin Nickson. The group released their debut single 'Chenko' on the Cherry Red label in 1983.

I bought the single in 1996, after having collected all the later releases on WEA Records. This version is very different from the one that ended up on their 1986 debut album 'The circle and the square', which makes it all the more interesting.

My collection: 7" single no. 2783
Found: London, November 1, 1996
Cost: 2 pounds
Tracks: 'Chenko' / 'Valley'
Download: here

Ain't no sunshine - Michael Jackson

'Ain't no sunshine' is best known by most people in the version of Bill Withers. A young Michael Jackson recorded his version in the summer of 1972 and had a hit with it too. Despite his age (Michael was only 13 years oid when he recorded this), the song is performed in a believable way.

I actually didn't know Michael Jackson's version until I bought this single, which is pretty recently.

My collection: 7" single no. 3505
Found: Record Mania, Amsterdam, December 27, 2008
Cost: 1 euro
Tracks: 'Ain't no sunshine' / 'In our small way'
Download: here

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Dreaming - Blondie

'Dreaming' was the lead single from Blondie's fourth album 'Eat to the beat'. It reached number 2 in the UK singles chart, but did less well in other territories. In their homeland America, it stalled at no. 27.

Personally, I felt this was one of Blondie's best tracks when it came out. During a holiday in Paris, this single was the one I requested from my parents as a souvenir. And that is why to this day I own a French pressing of this single...

My collection: 7" single no. 30
Found: Paris, 1979
Cost: nothing (present)
Tracks: 'Dreaming' / 'Sound asleep'
Download: here

I have a dream - Abba

'I have a dream' was released in December 1979, but it wasn't a Christmas song. Still, the European sleeve of the single states that it is a 'Special Christmas Souvenir edition'. It may have originated from the 'Special Souvenir edition' pictured here. The folded sleeve, released in the UK, contains a special statement from the members of the band, saying that 'November 1979 will always be full of fond memories of our UK tour. Releasing this single gives us the opportunity to thank the thousands of you who made our visit so memorable. In 1979, The Year Of The Child, 'I have a dream' had a special meaning for us and enabled us to perform the song with choirs of British schoolchildren who joined us on stage each night.'

Together with a live recording of 'Take a chance on me' as performed in Wembley, London, this single was not so much a Christmas Souvenir as a UK Tour souvenir.

My collection: 7" single no. 3245
Found: London, 2000
Cost: 2 pounds
Tracks: 'I have a dream' / 'Take a chance on me (live)'
Download: here

I've been to a marvellous party - The Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy contributed a cover version of Noel Coward's 'I've been to a marvellous party' to the 1998 compilation album 'Twentieth Century Blues' to benefit the Red Hot AIDS Charitable Trust. Subsequently, the track was remixed by Trouser Enthusiasts, Sharp South Park, Floorgazm and Pink Noise for a promotional 12" single release, which was never made available commercially. As such, this 12" set was hard to come by.

Having become a fan of the remixes by Trouser Enthusiasts, it didn't take me long to order the set up from England. Within a week I was the proud owner of this set, which, aside from that Trouser Enthusiasts remix, consists mainly of loud bouncing noises...

My collection: 12" single no. 399
Found: Esprit Mail Order, UK, 1999
Cost: 15 pounds
Tracks: 'I've been to a marvellous party (Trouser Enthusiasts Formaldehyde Spritzer mix)' / 'I've been to a marvellous party (Sharp South Park Remix)' // 'I've been to a marvellous party (Floorgazm remix)' / 'I've been to a marvellous party (Pink Noise remix)'
Download: here

Bad times - Ellis Beggs and Howard

After Kajagoogoo split in 1986, bassist Nick Beggs started to work with several other musicians. He formed Ellis Beggs & Howard in March 1987, together with Simon Ellis and Austin Howard. They quickly found success in Europe, thanks to debut single 'Big bubbles, no troubles'. This single, 'Bad times', was the second single, which failed to make any impact in the charts. The album 'Homelands' underwent a similar fate.

My collection: 7" single no. 3513
Found: Concerto, Amsterdam, December 27, 2008
Cost: 0,75 euro
Tracks: 'Bad times' / 'One tongue'
Download: here

Carmen Brasilia - Bob Callaghan and co.

This single was released in 1972 at the same time as other versions of 'Carmen Brasilia' by Anarchic System and Revolution System. The Moog synthesizer was getting popular under the influence of Gershon Kingsley's 'Popcorn' tune. Like the other versions, 'Carmen Brasilia' is an instrumental track, performed on a Moog synthesizer, based on the most famous part of the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet. The B-side of this single is based on the old traditional 'Amazing grace'.

My collection: 7" single no. 3501
Found: Record Mania, Amsterdam, December 27, 2008
Cost: 3 euro
Tracks: 'Carmen Brasilia' / 'Il gabbiano infelice'

Highly Strung - Spandau Ballet

Just like on previous 12" single 'I'll fly for you', Spandau Ballet fans got their money's worth when they got the 12" single of 'Highly Strung': it contained two remixes of that track. The A-side was called 'Highly Re-Strung' and on the B-side there was an extended version of 'Highly Strung'. It was the third single taken from their million-selling album 'Parade', which would be their last album on the Chrysalis label. 'Highly strung' reached number 15 in the UK singles chart.

I bought this 12" single yesterday during a shopping spree in Amsterdam. It's good to know that old vinyl is still on the market when you know where to look.

My collection: 12" single no. 473
Found: Record Mania, Amsterdam, December 27, 2008
Cost: 1 euro
Tracks: 'Highly re-strung' / 'Highly strung (extended version)'

Cheers then - Bananarama

'Cheers Then' appeared on Bananarama's debut album 'Deep Sea Skiving' and was released as the third single in December 1983. After having had three consecutive top-ten hits, 'Cheers Then' peaked at a disappointing number 45 in the UK singles chart.

The music video was a recreation of the musical film The Sound of Music. The girls re-enact many of the scenes from the film, including the step-jumping scene for 'Do-Re-Mi' and running in the hills.

My collection: 7" single no. 2565
Found: Record fair, Amsterdam, November 19, 1995
Cost: 2 guilders
Tracks: 'Cheers then' / 'Girl about town'
Download: here

Hello friend - Chris Rea

Chris Rea has made some beautiful music during the course of this 30 year career. Recently there have been rumours of him retreating from the music scene, but he is still at it. In 1986, he released the album 'On the beach', from which this single, 'Hello friend' was taken. 'Driving home for Christmas', which would be released as a single on its own in 1988, makes its first appearance here on the B-side of the single. But there was more: the copy I bought in London in 1994 featured a second single with two lengthy live tracks, recorded in Montreux.

In August 2008, it was reported that Rea had donated 25,000 pounds to the Conservative Party. Fortunately, he's got more knowledge about making music than he has about politics.

My collection: 7" single no. 2185
Found: London, September 28, 1994
Cost: 2 pounds
Tracks: 'Hello friend' / 'Driving home for Christmas' // 'It's all gone (live)' / 'Steel river (live)'
Download: here

Friday, 26 December 2008

The Celts - Enya

Enya is best known for her hit 'Orinoco flow'. This song is not very different from the rest of her repertoire: layered vocals, subtle synths and vague lyrics in English, Latin or Gaelic. It's no surprise, then, that even the Gaelic version of 'Silent night' holds no surprises. Recorded by Enya in 1988, it has since been re-released almost every year.

In 1992, WEA records released 'The Celts' on the A-side, with 'Oiche Chiún' on the B-side. It reached no. 29 in the UK singles chart.

My collection: 7" single no. 2268
Found: Record fair, Amsterdam, April 8, 1995
Cost: 5 guilders
Tracks: 'The Celts' / 'Oiche Chiún'
Download: here

Rockin' around the Christmas tree - Mel and Kim

'Rockin' around the Christmas Tree' is a Christmas song, written by Johnny Marks and recorded by Brenda Lee in 1958. Although Decca released it in both 1958 and again in 1959, it did not sell well until Lee became a popular star in 1960; that Christmas season, it hit #16 on the Billboard pop chart and turned into a perennial holiday favorite.

Kim Wilde recorded this track together with Mel Smith in order to raise money for Comic Relief. Some extra comedy material was added to the track, written by Mel Smith and Griff Rhys-Jones. The duo named themselves 'Mel & Kim' after the then popular duo Mel & Kim.

My collection: 7" single no. 604
Found: Free Record Shop, Den Haag, 1987
Cost: 6 guilders
Tracks: 'Rockin' around the Christmas tree' / 'Deck the blooming halls'
Download: here

Happy Xmas (War is over) - John Lennon & Yoko Ono

'Happy Xmas (War Is Over)' was recorded by John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the The Plastic Ono Band at Record Plant Studios in New York City in late October of 1971. The track was produced by Phil Spector. The children singing in the background were from the Harlem Community Choir and are credited on the song's single.

The song was John Lennon's reaction to the war in Vietnam. Although the song is a protest song about the Vietnam War, it has become a Christmas standard and has appeared on several Christmas albums. The 2003 re-release was a limited edition 7" on green vinyl.

My collection: 7" single no. 3403
Found: HMV, London, December 2003
Cost: 2 pounds
Tracks: 'Happy Xmas (War is over)' / 'Imagine'

Stop the cavalry - Jona Lewie

Although now one of Britain's most familiar Christmas singles, 'Stop the Cavalry' was not originally intended as a Christmas song – indeed it was a no. 1 Gold Record in France in the summer! In England, however, it was released in late November after the record label spotted the line referring to the festival: 'I wish I was at home, for Christmas'. Not only this but the specific style of the brass instruments and bells in the chorus are very noticeable as a 'Christmas' style theme.

It gave Jona Lewie a big hit, reaching number three in the UK singles chart and subsequently reaching number nine in the Netherlands.

My collection: 7" single no. 2087
Found: Disco Market, Den Haag, March 30, 1994
Cost: 1 guilder
Tracks: 'Stop the cavalry' / 'Laughing tonight'
Download: here

Free as a bird - Beatles

'Free as a bird' was originally recorded as a demo by John Lennon. In 1994, the three remaining Beatles used the demo to create a new track to promote the Beatles Anthology that was released as a book, three double cd's and a dvd box set in 1995.

On the B-side was the track 'Christmas time (is here again)'. In 1967 fanclub members got a version of this song as a flexi disc, interrupted by sketches. Issued on this single for the first time was an uninterrupted version of the song.

My collection: 7" single no. 2571
Found: Record fair, Rotterdam, December 16, 1995
Cost: 10 guilders
Tracks: 'Free as a bird' / 'Christmas time (is here again)'
Download: here

Mary's boy child - Boney M

'Mary's boy child' was written by Jester Hairston in 1956. It was first recorded by Harry Belafonte for his album 'An Evening with Harry Belafonte'. It was recorded, also in 1956, by Mahalia Jackson.

The most famous cover of the song was made by Boney M in 1978. Coupled with 'Oh my lord', a segment written by Frank Farian, it rose to the top of the charts in the UK in December of that year. In Holland, it did almost equally well, reaching number three. I bought my copy of the single for a discount price in the summer of 1979.

My collection: 7" single no. 16
Found: London, 1979
Cost: 10p
Tracks: 'Mary's boy child' / 'Dancing in the streets'

Wonderful Christmas time - Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney: living legend or schmalz-king? The question comes back regularly. Between songs like 'Live and let die', 'No more lonely nights' and 'From a lover to a friend' there's always strange duds like 'We all stand together' and this, 'Wonderful Christmas time'. It is an original, but a bit repetitive, Christmas song. The B-side, an instrumental version of 'Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer' is even weirder.

It's a great little ditty, though, and so useful for the Christmas season.

My collection: 7" single no. 43
Found: Rapsody, Den Haag, 1980
Cost: 3 guilders
Tracks: 'Wonderful Christmas time' / 'Rudolph the red-nosed reggae'
Download: here

Silent night - Sinéad O'Connor

For a while in the nineties, Sinéad O'Connor was as daft as a doorknob. She was always in the news with strange stories and weird incidents. In 1991, she was recording with Peter Gabriel in his Real World Studios. And of course, news reports started coming that she'd fallen in love with him.

Whatever that was all about, it resulted in her performing back vocals on Gabriel's album 'Us', and this single: a rendition of the traditional Christmas song 'Silent night'. The B-side, 'Irish ways and Irish laws', was recorded live in Holland.

My collection: 7" single no. 2166
Found: Record Exchange, London, September 26, 1994
Cost: 1 pound
Tracks: 'Silent night' / 'Irish ways and Irish laws'
Download: here

Peace on earth/Little drummer boy - David Bowie & Bing Crosby

Bing Crosby was born on May 2, 1903. He will always be remembered for his rendition of 'White Christmas' (1954). In 1977, he recorded his last television Christmas special in England. Special guests during this occasion were model Twiggy and singer David Bowie. His duet with Bowie generated so much interest that it was released as a single. It become a regular holiday classic.

At the end of the century, the American magazine 'TV Guide' listed the Bowie/Crosby duet as one of the 25 most memorable musical moments of 20th century television. Even if the two seemed a bit awkward together...

My collection: 7" single no. 3044
Found: Record fair, Rotterdam, December 12, 1998
Cost: 5 guilders
Tracks: 'Peace on earth/Little drummer boy' / 'Fantastic voyage'

Merry Christmas mr. Lawrence - Ryuichi Sakamoto

Not a Christmas song, but the theme from the movie of the same name. Ryuichi Sakamoto composed the soundtrack and this theme was released as a single. It didn't make the charts. However, a vocal version released after this, became a big hit. It was Sakamoto and David Sylvian's 'Forbidden colours'.

Although not a Christmas song, it is still a very beautiful melody which I like to play during this festive season.

My collection: 7" single no. 3111
Found: Big Company records, London, May 13, 1999
Cost: 2 pounds
Tracks: 'Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence' / 'Sowing the seed'
Download: here

Thursday, 25 December 2008

One Christmas catalogue - Captain Sensible

Captain Sensible, formerly a member of the English band The Damned, made a Christmas single that sounded nothing like a traditional Christmas track in 1984. Produced by Tony Mansfield, formerly a member of the synthpop band New Musik, produced 'One Christmas catalogue', a track laden with synths and vocal samples. It wasn't a hit anywhere and the only reason I got to know it was because the local radio station was playing it a lot during Christmas 1984, 1985 and 1986.

The B-side includes a cover of 1984's biggest hit: 'Relax' by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. This, too, was produced by Tony Mansfield and sounds very different from the original...

My collection: 7" single no. 2720
Found: August 10, 1986
Cost: 3 guilders
Tracks: 'One Christmas catalogue' / 'Relax'
Download: here

Do they know it's Christmas? - Band Aid

The song that embodied the Christmas spirit in the Eighties was Band Aid's 'Do they know it's Christmas?'. The project initiated by Midge Ure and Bob Geldof started when the two met up and worked out this song Bob had written in a rather rudimentary way. They phoned up the musician friends they knew and before you knew it you had a media spectacle of unprecedented size.

I bought the single as soon as it came out, although, strangely, I didn't like the song that much. There were just so many of my eighties idols participated that I felt I couldn't pass up on this historic single. Two decades later, it's somehow reassuring (or troubling) that everything has stayed the same in Africa: it's still a continent of war, hunger and drought.

My collection: 7" single no. 249
Found: Wouters, Den Haag, 1984
Cost: 6 guilders
Tracks: 'Do they know it's Christmas?' / 'Feed the world'
Download: 12" single 'Do they know it's Christmas?', including both tracks (password: )

Christmas was a friend of mine - Fay Lovski

Somehow Dutch singer Fay Lovski managed to create a Christmas classic without even having a big hit with it. 'Christmas was a friend of mine' entered the Dutch top 40 on January 9, 1982, reached number 37 and left the chart after only two weeks. But still, when you're in Holland during this festive season, you will hear the song on the radio daily.

Admittedly, it is a beautiful song. Perhaps it was a bit too complicated for the general public to appreciate, though. I didn't mind buying the single for a discount price, a few years after it came out.

My collection: 7" single no. 361
Found: Disco Market, Den Haag, 1985
Cost: 2 guilders
Tracks: 'Christmas was a friend of mine' / 'All the same'
Download: here

Merry Christmas Santa Claus (You're a lovely guy) - Max Headroom

After the TV character Max Headroom had a hit with Art of Noise in the summer of 1986 ('Paranoimia'), I guess some people got a bit overboard. They thought, 'a Christmas hit with Max Headroom - now there's a possibility'. And so this song was created. It's an over the top ode to Santa Claus, complete with orchestras, a singing choir and of course the stuttering mutterings of that computer generated person, Max Headroom.

The song didn't reach the UK singles chart and wasn't released in other territories. No further attempts were made. I guess the record company was sensible after all...

My collection: 7" single no. 3493
Found: Record Exchange, London, 2004
Cost: 50p
Tracks: 'Merry Christmas Santa Claus (You're a lovely guy)' / 'Gimme shades'
Download: here

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Everything she wants / Last Christmas - Wham!

For many people, 'Last Christmas' by Wham is the ultimate Christmas song. I didn't like it much when it came out, and these days I prefer the cover version by All About Eve (an edit of which you can hear on this page).

Still, I do own the track on 7" vinyl, because of the early 1985 release of 'Everything she wants', a double A-side with 'Last Christmas'. 'Everything she wants' is an early example of George Michael's songwriting capabilities, which he would develop further as the years progressed.
My collection: 7" single no. 1043
Found: Record Exchange, London, October 17, 1989
Cost: 50p
Tracks: 'Everything she wants' / 'Last Christmas'
Download: cd-single 'Last Christmas', including both tracks (password:

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Riu Riu - Chorale

'Riu Riu' by the English group Chorale entered the Dutch Top 40 on December 16, 1978 and reached the no. 28 position. I think the song was performed on some TV shows at the time, but I can't be sure. I am sure, however, that I was completely unaware of this song's religious connotations. A few years later I went to church for the Christmas mass, and heard this song performed by the local choir. I was stunned.

'Riu Riu' is a Spanish composition of the type known as a 'villancico', dating from the sixteenth century. The lyric concerns the shepherds in the biblical Christmas story and observes, among other things, the 'one born today is actually his mother's father and the one who created her is said to be her son.' A good message, now that Christmas is almost upon us. Even for us unbelievers.

My collection: 7" single no. 898
Found: All that music, Leiden, June 23, 1989
Cost: 3 guilders
Tracks: 'Riu Riu' / 'Come the night time'
Download: here

Heart and soul - Exile

Exile's most famous song is 'Kiss you all over'. In the UK and the Netherlands, they had two minor hits after this, the last one being 'Heart and soul'. It reached no. 30 in the Dutch Top 40, and as a regular listener of this chart it was no wonder that I got to know this song.

Exile performed pop/rock songs up to this point. In America, they prolonged their career by turning into a country band, even moving to Nashville to achieve this. It's a shame that from that point onwards, they didn't make more great songs like this one.

My collection: 7" single no. 592
Found: All that music, Leiden, February 16, 1988
Cost: 3 guilders
Tracks: 'Heart and soul' / 'Your love is everything'
Download: here

One step from heaven - The Adventures

During my 1989 shopping spree in London, I bought several singles 'by association'. I'd heard from the artist and assumed that the single I didn't know would be as good as the ones I did know. 'One step from heaven' by the Adventures is one of the best examples. I liked 'Broken land' and 'Drowning in the sea of love', both singles from the album 'The sea of love', but I absolutely loved this single when I finally heard it after the holiday. It's got everything: a good melody, strong drums, powerful vocals. It's a mystery to me why it didn't become a hit anywhere.

My collection: 7" single no. 1039
Found: Record Exchange, London, October 17, 1989
Cost: 50p
Tracks: 'One step from heaven (remix)' / 'The trip to bountiful (When the rain comes down)'
Download: here

Follow you anywhere - Sad Café

The band Sad Café formed in Manchester in the late 1970's. Their best known song is 'Every day hurts', which was a big hit worldwide. By comparison, Sad Café's 1981 album 'Olé' fared less well. Fact is, I didn't even know this song, 'Follow you anywhere', when I bought the single. It was cheap and I was kindof convinced that this band would be able to produce more than one great song. I was rewarded: 'Follow you anywhere' is a powerballad in the best traditions.

My collection: 7" single no. 1668
Found: Disco Market, Den Haag, June 20, 1992
Cost: 1 guilder
Tracks: 'Follow you anywhere', '# Nine'
Download: here

Monday, 22 December 2008

Uncle - Big Mouth and Little Eve

When Mouth and MacNeal broke up in the mid-70's, Mouth (a.k.a. Willem Duyn) went to look for a different singing partner to continue a successful duo. Ingrid Kup had worked as a singer in the orchestra led by Freddy Golden and took on the guise of Little Eve. They had one hit entitled 'Uncle' in 1975, reaching number 3 in the Dutch Top 40. In 1977 the duo broke up and Willem Duyn went solo.

'Uncle' was one of my first singles. I have no idea why I bought this one, all I know is that it came from the same record store where I bought all my first singles for 1 guilder.

My collection: 7" single no. 4
Found: Disco Market, Den Haag, 1976
Cost: 1 guilder
Tracks: 'Uncle' / 'Hi, hey, ho and hello'
Download: here
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