Tag Archives: Wham

Rocks In The Attic #547: Various Artists – ‘Now That’s What I Call Music – The Christmas Album’ (2016)

rita547I saw this in a record store a few weeks ago, and couldn’t resist it. I’ve had my eyes out for the original 1985 compilation, hoping that I’d come across it in a charity shop, but it hasn’t happened yet. Forty notes does seem a bit steep for this new version – a bunch of songs I’ve heard a million times – but this is usually the soundtrack to present opening in our house on Christmas Day every year, and it’ll be nice to do it from my turntable, rather than through the iPod.

It’s slightly disingenuous to refer to any of these songs as a hidden gem – they’re all so ubiquitous – but the format of my blog forces my hand. I’ve therefore chosen Brenda Lee’s Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree, if only for the mental image it provides of Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin from Home Alone, putting on a fake house party with cardboard cut-outs and mannequins.

The song choices on this record are slightly odd – it’s a mixtures of ‘70s and ‘80s British songs (Slade, Wizzard, Wham!, Shakin’ Stevens, Band Aid, John & Yoko, Kirsty MacColl & the Pogues), together with a handful of older American hits (Dean Martin, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, and the aforementioned Brenda Lee). The only jarring inclusion is Chris Rea’s Driving Home For Christmas – a song I’ve always liked but never loved, wondering if it’s the same journey he recounts in The Road To Hell. Bloody December traffic…

Merry Christmas everybody!

Hit: Do They Know It’s Christmas – Band Aid

Hidden Gem: Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee

Rocks In The Attic #247: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ (1984)

RITA#247Frankie Goes To Hollywood was a favourite band of my brother’s when I was growing up, and at the time I was a little too young to appreciate them. I think this copy of the album – the original double vinyl edition – is actually my brother’s original copy, and from seeing it around a lot during my childhood, it slowly became part of my collection.

I’m not 100% sure if I like the band, or if they truly are just style and no substance, but they seem a much better prospect than the likes of ‘80s dirgefests like Wham or Madonna. I’m also unsure as to whether the band can really play or whether Trevor Horn’s production just makes them sound very good. It’s rumoured he replaced their tracks with those of session musicians anyway, so who knows.

It might sound strange but I have great difficulty in believing that the band is from Liverpool. I don’t know if it’s the fact that they’re so ‘art rock’ (which, when we’re talking about music from the UK, I would always associate with London bands), or whether it’s simply because Holly Johnson’s raspy vocals hold no trace whatsoever of a scouse accent, but I’d never pick that city as their hometown if I didn’t know better.

Say whatever you want about this band, but you have to respect their ability to provoke. Being banned from the BBC is a great thing for a band to be, and looking back it always makes the BBC look pathetic and outdated. The whole package of the album is a treat, with a Picasso-esque cubist painting of the band on the front, and enough liner notes to fill a small book. Their posturing makes them come across as an earlier, poppier version of Manic Street Preachers, and quoting the likes of Kierkegaard and Baudelaire adds to this.

I’m not too sure about the very ‘80s merchandise listings that adorn one of the inner sleeves. An advert declaring £8.99 for a pair of ‘Jean Genet’ boxer shorts really looks out of place on a pop record, but I guess the band are making a point about the similarity between music and consumerism (while making a few bucks on the side…).

Hit: Two Tribes

Hidden Gem: Born To Run