One of my photos

1986 – West End Girls

February 22nd, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Music · No Comments · Music

Lets be honest, the mid-80’s were pretty dire for music, and I’ll be glad to get onto more interesting times.

There were a few high points to the year though, including:

  • Janet Jackson and the Control album, which spawned 5 singles. The partnership of JJ with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis really was something special.
  • Megadeth and Peace Sells.
  • Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel
  • Kraftwerk’s hugely under-rated Electic Cafe (which is now referred to as Techno Pop)
  • The Beastie Boys and Licensed to Ill
  • Invisible Touch by Genesis.
  • In Visible Silence by Art of Noise
  • Paul Simon’s Graceland
  • Erasure finally getting a hit at the fourth attempt with Sometimes

Being newly-married aspirational 80’s wannabe yuppies, we obviously also had the Queen album A Kind Of Magic, the Steve Winwood album Back in the High Life, So by Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon’s Graceland. What else do you put on in the background when friends come round for dinner in the mid-80’s.

Without caring whether they had any street credibility there were some singles that I still remain very fond of, notably The Captain of her Heart by Double, Word Up by Cameo, and Conga by Miami Sound Machine.

This was the year I started travelling abroad with work on a more regular basis, after a one-off trip to the Netherlands in 1985. I was especially excited to go to the USA. A couple of weeks in Connecticut, which meant the chance to go into New York at the weekend. Hearing the Beastie Boys and Janet Jackson albums will always remind me of then. It was a brilliant trip, spoilt only by me missing the flight home and having to knock around JFK airport for 8 hours until the next one. OK the coach to the airport did crash on the way, but I had overslept a bit anyway and might have missed the flight anyway.

The thing that really rescued 1986 for music was the Pet Shop Boys. They released their first album which was crammed full of great songs. West End Girls had been released in 1984 and did nothing. It was re-recorded and re-released towards the end of 1985 but I am counting it as my 1986 song because that is when it made number one, and 1986 is when the album Please was released. It kick-started a twenty year string of top twenty hit singles for the band. More personally, the video was shot in various London locations, including Waterloo Station where the WH Smith kiosk was very prominent. Waterloo station is unrecognisable now but that video and even the song itself take me back to spending my time between trains browsing the computer magazines and books in that kiosk.

I am a little amused that this song is considered a hip hop song, which would make it the first hip hop song to reach number one in the UK. I don’t consider it hip hop, but I do consider it one of the best singles to come out of the 80’s and from one of the best bands to come out of the 80’s who have now surely reached national treasure status.


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