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6 July 2016 Blog The Queen Street Observer

Remember David Hepworth? Ah, I had a feeling you mightn’t so let me refresh your memory. Throughout the 1980s he had a diverse career, from being the editor of Smash Hits magazine in the era of Culture Club, Wham, et al to presenting The Old Grey Whistle Test on BBCtv. Talk about polar opposites. Then there’s several highbrow magazines which he launched, including Mojo and Empire, so all in all an impressive CV I’m sure you’ll agree. He’s written a couple of books too, the most recent of which is the trigger for this month’s blog – “1971 – Never a Dull Moment : Rock’s Golden Year”. I haven’t read it yet but the basic premise is that 1971 contained more influential albums than any year before or since and was probably the most creative in the history of music.

This kind of claim is always contentious of course and you could argue the case for many other years to take the title. 1971 did have a lot going for it though, leaving aside albums such as Led Zeppelin IV, Carole King’s Tapestry or The Doors’ LA Woman, to name just three, the singles charts were awash with great songs. Rod’s Maggie May, T Rex’ Hot Love, Blue Mink’s Banner Man and Tap Turns on the Water by CCS, all of them and so many more made for a vintage crop. Most of us play the Desert Island Discs game in idle moments, you know the scenario – you’re stranded, what songs would you take? I suppose it’s a variation on that, which year rings a particular bell with you? Why? Whenever I do this 1982 usually ends up near the top of the list.

A bit of background here. I was working for a local radio station in the glorious pirate era and my colleagues and I were having the time of our lives. We were young and carefree and in 1982 there was a shared sense that this was our time, the world belonged to us. I expect the summer of that year was no different to any other but I only ever seem to remember sunny days and warm nights. All of this feel good-ness was backed with the most tremendous soundtrack of early 80s pop. Some of the songs I’m about to reel off will have some saying “What? You can’t say you liked that!” Oh yes I can. I firmly believe that you should be as open minded as possible where music is concerned, and feel genuinely sorry for those who listen to one form of music to the exclusion of all others. Think of all they’re missing out on. Anyway, back on point Bucks Fizz were at No. 1 as the year began with The Land of Make Believe. You mightn’t think it but this song doesn’t half stir up some memories for me, most of which would make little sense if I tried to explain them. Say what you like about the Fizzies but this was a well crafted pop song from the most unlikely of sources. Co-writer Pete Sinfield was a one time member of English underground rockers King Crimson and for all the song’s sugary sweetness it was, according to him, a fairly thinly veiled attack on Margaret Thatcher. Well bless us and save us! as my granny would have said. Who’d have thought?

It’s a lot cooler to admit to liking Toto’s Rosanna. Boy, that song was everywhere that summer, there was no escaping it and be honest, why would you want to? It had everything from the rolling drum intro to the great guitar solo and then then the piano bit at the end, criminally edited out of the single release version. At the other end of the spectrum was Charlene’s I’ve Never Been to Me, which was a bit of a dirge in all honesty but sticks in my mind for some of my friends renaming it as I’ve Never Been to Meath. BBC4 TV is a must any Friday night as they re-run old Top of the Pops episodes from ’81 and ’82 and one group who turn up time and again are ABC. One of my erstwhile radio homies had an obsession with their song All of my Heart (Still does, in fact) but I much preferred The Look of Love, big chorus building to a big climax. Perfect. I’ve already mentioned the weather and to avoid messing with my memory of ’82’s summer I resolutely refuse to Google average Irish temperatures and rainfall for that year, much better to preserve it as it is in my mind’s eye. After all if you pair up wandering down Woodstown beach with Bertie Higgins’ Key Largo you’d rather not interfere with the re-casting of Woodstown as some outcrop of the Florida Keys now, would you?

A word here about YouTube and what a remarkable source of, well just about everything it is. In 1982 I caught about four minutes on the telly of Jackson Browne and his band playing his big hit of that year, Somebody’s Baby. I never saw it again until about two or three years ago when I not only discovered it on YouTube but also learned that it was part of an hour long film of him and the band rehearsing for that year’s European tour and it’s all there. It’s been uploaded from VHS so it’s all a bit grainy but Heaven sent as far as I’m concerned.

As we moved into the autumn and winter two songs stood out for me and continue to endure. Dionne Warwick had been missing from the scene for many a long year when it was announced that the BeeGees had written and produced an album for her. The title track and also a single, Heartbreaker was and remains a beauty. Hard to believe that Dionne had doubts about it but was persuaded by the brothers Gibb that it was a sure fire hit. Good call, they’d know better than most. Finally PHD’s I Won’t Let You Down…. as Christmas approached we needed something memorable for the radio station’s promo for the upcoming annual Lions Club outside broadcast. Some bright spark suggested the opening bars of this in a loop with a voice over added and it worked like a charm.

So that’s 1982. I could go on forever but you get the general idea. It could too just as easily be ’84 or ’88 or…….
One last thing.There are few of us as carefree as we were back then (careworn more like) but I like to think that there’s every reason to believe that right now is STILL our time.

Be happy, be cheerful. It’s summer!
Until next month………….

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