Jan 09

BUCKS FIZZ – “Making Your Mind Up”

FT + Popular96 comments • 6,084 views

#478, 18th April 1981

In some ways Bucks Fizz’ Eurovision triumph is pop’s equivalent of England’s 1966 World Cup win. It encouraged a certain complacency in the victorious nation, who began to convince themselves that not only was the competition eminently winnable but that this famous victory had established a formula for more. For passion, grit and English physicality read bubblegum, camp and dollybirds having their skirts whipped off. There the parallels break down. The subsequent failure to win the World Cup has become something festering, a cultural fixation in its own right that Popular will collide with in due course. Not winning the Eurovision Song Contest has only recently started to niggle in English minds, and the response is often that it’s not worth winning.

Of course it helps that we have won it since Bucks Fizz – but only a bit. Bucks Fizz sunk their hooks deeper into British pop culture than any winner since Sandie Shaw: former band members have hung on to the twilights of their fame; “Making Your Mind Up” has given its name to the BBC’s Eurovision talent contest; as recently as Scooch we’ve tried disastrously to apply the Bucks Fizz model to our entries. Alright, alright, age is playing a part here: the Fizz victory – thrillingly close-fought – was the first ESC I watched, and the skirt-flinging seemed as daring a gesture as any pop moment I’d seen.

Even so it seems to me there’s something at least slightly new happening with Bucks Fizz – for all that the music owes more to bobbysoxers than New Pop. Their brazen good-natured cheapness points forward to SAW’s one-sound-fits-all pop as much as it harks back to 70s bubblegum, which tended to be thicker in detail and more clearly crafted. On “Making Your Mind Up” the most intriguing touch is the jabbing, hustling sax in the background, but it’s never allowed to distract from the single-minded jollity. There’s no shame in that: Bucks Fizz and their writers had a competition to win, and they went out and won it. But it means that when I hear “Making Your Mind Up” today I’m hearing its tactical nous more than any inherent joy.



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  1. 31
    Mark G on 6 Jan 2009 #

    Bucks biz:

    The follow-up single (often the true litmus test for Eurowinners) was a strange thing:

    “I know it may sound funny but I don’t want to be in love, just want a piece of the action. And no amount of money could ever be too much for a piece of the action”

    Shades of early Elvis Costello?

    I actually told the man himself my thoughts. “That’s very strange” he said.

  2. 32
    Billy Smart on 6 Jan 2009 #

    Re #29. I was very excited to hear ‘Day Trip To Bangor’, as I hadn’t heard it for 29 years, and I was interested to discover if it tallyed with my playground memory. Wow! – it sounds cheap, like they could only afford an hour of studio time and four musicians. That really is a recording that could have been better made.

  3. 33
    Pete on 6 Jan 2009 #

    The two girls I was in the Meryfield upper playground Bucks Fizz with were Clare and Allison. Clare was Cheryl and Allison was Jade, though between myself and Steven, we never designated the male parts. School cardigans belted loosely with the arms made a perfect substitute for the “over-skirt” for the songs gimmick, though we would often race to that part.

  4. 34
    Martin Skidmore on 6 Jan 2009 #

    I kind of like this, except for me the forced nature of the ‘up!’, the way it goes up in pitch a little too much and is hit a little too crisply, tips it over the edge into the over-forced jollity some of the above dislike.

  5. 35
    Mark G on 6 Jan 2009 #

    Yeah, I felt like the song was originally called “You’re making it mine”

  6. 36
    dickvandyke on 6 Jan 2009 #

    No mention of Brotherhood Of Man .. quite remarkable.

  7. 37
    peter goodlaws on 6 Jan 2009 #

    That’s because it was Bucks Fizz, Dick!

  8. 38
    LondonLee on 6 Jan 2009 #

    We’re trying to cleanse them from our memories.

  9. 39
    Erithian on 6 Jan 2009 #

    Tom #23 – I hear what you say about Polish plumbers et al (I spotted a Sun cartoon once depicting a globe with three signs stuck in it – at the top “North Pole”; at the bottom “South Pole” and in GB “All The Other Poles” – seriously nasty). But I think the grumbles about Eurovision basically stem from the change in the voting system a few years ago from juries (which could maintain some semblance of impartiality, Cyprus/Greece excepted!) to phone voting (where demographics take over and, for instance, the Turkish-descent community in Germany will always give the Turkish entry a heavy vote). The extension of that is of course the inevitable voting for fellow former-Soviet or former-Yugoslavia nations (wartime hostilities taken into account).

    Plus of course, as several people have pointed out, the fact that last year’s Russian entry was a bona fide star already very popular throughout eastern Europe. If we’re not winning it because we don’t take it seriously enough (Daz Sampson and Scooch made Jemini look like Coldplay) then replacing Wogan with Graham Norton is a right old step forward.

    Intriguing thoughts about the “tactical side” of songwriting and SAW from Tom and Steve. SAW were pretty upfront about it – use an instrumental version of the chorus as the intro to establish an earworm, and that sort of thing – and 00s reality-show songs are just as shameless. Westlife, Will Young and successive X Factor winners’ songs deploy the “obligatory key change” all the time and it rarely fails. But then what’s the dividing line between cynical mood-manufacturing and writing effective pop hooks? Even the Beatles used to talk in terms of “let’s write ourselves a swimming pool”…

  10. 40
    Tom on 6 Jan 2009 #

    #40 – the thing is – and this is really noticeable if you listen to winners back-to-back, the introduction of phone votes also means that recognisably modern (dance-oriented) and/or ethnic pop suddenly starts winning for the first time. The shift to phone votes improved the quality of winners enormously – in terms of hooks and showmanship there’s really no comparison between “Viva La Diva”, “Wild Dances”, “Hard Rock Hallelujah” etc. and the Irish horrors of the mid-90s that Wogan still seems to look back on with fondness.

  11. 41
    Mark G on 6 Jan 2009 #

    #40, you are number forty …

  12. 42
    Erithian on 6 Jan 2009 #

    #40 – I’d say it’s pretty debatable whether that’s cause and effect, Tom. I certainly wouldn’t say Dana International or Lordi were indications of greater quality – successful gimmickry more like. Ruslana and Dima, yes, but I’d dispute two of the three you cite. What does appear to have happened since phone voting is that some of the western “former powers” are sulking or going for ever more outlandish entries (France and Germany last year) in the belief that that’ll help them.

    I was surprised at the idea that “Diva” from 1998 was a beneficiary of phone voting – has it been that long already?! If so the winning nations in the phone-vote era have been, in order, Israel, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece, Finland, Serbia, Russia. Perhaps five of those, albeit five of the last seven, could have benefitted from a voting bloc.

  13. 43
    Erithian on 6 Jan 2009 #

    sorry, make that five of the last eight.

  14. 44
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 6 Jan 2009 #

    the public vote def began with dana international — it was a famous gay bloc-vote triumph! (not so much cellvote voting though)

    there’s definitely a cause-and-effect change on the CHANGE in quality (setting aside the question of what direction this change is), because it’s brought in a vast and quite intense investment in the results — this was picked up quickest in the east, and very well exploited (the issue i;ve always had with wogan’s complaints — apart from the fact that i hate him more than any other public figure i can think of and always have — is that the balkan effect is clear a “symptom” of actually caring about the result)

    (there’s an interesting parallel actually with the upsurge in “nationalist” composers at the end of the 19th century, when figures like sibelius were hugely involved in their respective non-imperial local struggles for independence, cultural recognition and respect…)

  15. 45
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 6 Jan 2009 #

    here’s last year’s discussion of eurovision btw

    haha also the rightful heir to all that is popular having his say in 2007

  16. 46
    wichita lineman on 6 Jan 2009 #

    Re 23/29: Short defence for Brown Eyed Girl (which only seemed to become a staple when the newly-released Best Of Van Morrison was on every pub jukebox circa 89/90): “Making love in the green grass behind the stadium” – sex, pop and football never mixed better.

    Re 20: Gigliola’s catalogue is full of gems. The ‘underwater’ bass sound on her 1964 Eurovision winner is something to behold.

    As for the ‘Fizz, I have to agree with the consensus that this was one of their weaker 45s, too Butlins by half.

    Now Those Days Are Gone, on the other hand, is on a par with Miss You Nights and If You’re Looking For A Way Out, one of the most powerful ballads of the period that could never be called a power ballad. I’m always pleasantly surprised at friends’ (one of whom should REALLY post on this thread – I’ll prod him!) record-playing sessions by yet another classy Bucks Fizz single I’ve never heard that struggled to no.63.

    Record Mirror in 81/82 would have filed Bucks Fizz (and the Nolans) under New Pop. I’d be happy to do the same in 2009. Anyone care to join me? They are Wizzard to ABC’s Roxy, no? With Tight Fit as Hello, maybe…

  17. 47
    AndyPandy on 6 Jan 2009 #

    Tom at 23 – (notwithstanding The Allisons and a British entrant from circa the late 1950s about a “little birdie” which my dad said had been well known when it was played on Radio 2 once)I’d agree that much like the England football team and the early World Cups Britain was probably a bit sniffy about Eurovision before 1963. Probably for similar reasons too ie “we invented it so are obviously best at it (in the case of football)/we’re obviously the best at it so why should we compete against Johnny Foreigner?” (in music after British pop had conquered the world)etc

    But what I was trying to say was that the from the advent of the Beatles/Stones etc and pop as we know it today, and the start of a significant body of opinion starting to take it seriously most of those people (who gradually became ‘serious rock’ opinion)would have looked on Eurovision as showbiz and not worth bothering themselves with. For example from day one of their careers the idea of the Beatles, Stones competing in Eurovision would always have obviously been ridiculous.

    Wichita at 46: I couldn’t agree more about Gigliola the ’64 winner when she was only 17 is extremely classy, imaginative and well constructed and her ‘Dio Come Ti Amo’
    is one of my favourite tracks of all time. And her vocal range is really something to behold.

    And yes especially with the relatively ‘state of the 80’s art’ production of ‘My Camera Never Lies’ Bucks Fizz were positioning themselves squarely in the region of the New Pop World already staked out by Dollar.

    Finally I was looking at one of the old Abba threads where it was debated when Abba became “acceptable” to “serious musical” thinking and some said it was as late as the early 90s. I’d say that was way way too late and that was the era of them as camp icons and mainstream press reassessment and completely distinct from serious music opinion.

    What I remember as a fan of synthpop/new pop in 81-83 is people like Phil Oakey amongst others often praising them in interviews, the 12inch only import of “Lay All Your Love On Me” featuring in James Hamilton’s column and his ‘serious’ club charts and Blancmange even releasing their own hit version of “The Day Before You Came” in (I think)1983.And by then I don’t remember that being looked on as a particularly surprising move.

  18. 48
    wichita lineman on 6 Jan 2009 #

    I agree, Andy. I have some vague memory of One Of Us being taken seriously (quite rightly), probably in Record Mirror again, whose New Pop theorising I found easier to take than the NME’s when I was 16. Shame, then, that two of their very best 45s – Head Over Heels and The Day Before You Come – were brushed aside by their inheritants in the New Pop World.

    Tight Fit are to New Pop what Kenny are to Glam. Apols to Hello.

    Chi Mai at no.2 was originally on the soundtrack of a 1971 film starring Lisa Gastoni called Maddalena, one of Morricone’s most beautiful. It’s also stupidly rare. Don’t know anyone who’s seen the film.

  19. 49
    Kat but logged out innit on 6 Jan 2009 #

    #30 and #32 – the Cassetteboy version of ‘Day Trip to Bangor’ is really rather marvellous (though to appreciate it fully you probably have to be at a Bangface night).

    I like this song! I also like Cheryl Baker, first known to me as host of Saturday morning kids cookery programme Eggs’N’Baker (which featured Blur’s first tv appearance IIRC). I knew she was in a pop group though – they appeared on the programme every so often, between recipes.

  20. 50
    thevisitor on 7 Jan 2009 #

    Re 46: My ribs are still smarting from that prod. Bucks Fizz hung around a lot longer than anyone expected them to, because once in a while, they would release an undeniably great pop tune. No-one has mentioned 1982’s If You Can’t Stand The Heat, which boasted a killer chorus and a TOTP performance which saw them dressed in something that my dad would use to clean the car. Not even half of Mike Nolan’s brain falling out on the icy roads of Tyneside could push the superb 1984 single I Hear Talk into the top 20, but it felt quite exciting when they finally returned, albeit without Jay, for New Beginning (Mamba Seyra) – which had bonkers drums no less exciting (but uncooler) than the ones on Sat In Your Lap by Kate Bush. As such, excusing the clunky, almost tautological hook, “New beginning has just begun” was a formality. On the 12-inch version, the drums go on for sodding ages. Really exciting!

    While I’m at it, anyone with the disappointing MYMU follow-up, Piece Of The Action, should flip it over to hear Took It To The Limit – a weird, wonky splicing-together of what sounded like three distinct bits of potentially great tunes. Something you could almost imagine hearing (albeit modernised) on a Girls Aloud album now.

    Re 48: Trivia time. Can anyone spot an unlikely connection between Tight Fit’s Fantasy Island and Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden?

  21. 51
    Conrad on 7 Jan 2009 #

    Morning Richie. Morning everyone.

    And first up in 2009 is a nice juicy half volley that can be dispatched easily enough. It’s fun (in very small doses), its formulaic, it’s more likable than it should be really.

    What a remarkable transition – from flimsy pop-by-rote to agile, confident and sinuous pop in the space of a few months.

    Others on the thread have already remarked on the many fine Fizz singles that followed this inauspicious beginning. August 1981’s “One of Those Nights” was the first evidence that we were dealing with one of the great New Pop acts of the era (tho I haven’t heard the b-side to Piece of the Action – sounds intriguing).

  22. 52
    Conrad on 7 Jan 2009 #

    50 – they’re both better than Led Zep III???

    Actually, Talk Talk group member Tim Friese-Greene produced Fantasy Island, no? (OK, I looked that up on Wiki…but it helps explain why “Fantasy Island” was so much better than anything else Tight Fit produced)

  23. 53
    pink champale on 7 Jan 2009 #

    #20 and everyone else – have to say that, rivalled only by ‘you’re gorgeous’, ‘brown eyed girl’ is my official least favourite record ever made – for fifteen years i have had a bit of a prejudice against hugh laurie simply because he picked it on desert islands discs.but i will concede that van morrison did manage to bring off careless tumbling joyfulness on ‘like young lovers do’.

    i quite like mymu. it’s undeniably woolworths (rip) but it’s got a real tinny energy that’s quite exciting and i like the fact that throughout it seems to be about to start speeding up absurdly and unstoppably like that bit in ‘are you being served?’

  24. 54
    Matthew H on 7 Jan 2009 #

    I like ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ because he says “Matthew” in it.


    ‘Making Your Mind Up”s success seemed very exciting to eight-year-old me; I had funny stirrings for Jay Aston and the tune was ultra-catchy – mind you, I think I could happily go another 28 years without hearing it.

  25. 55
    dickvandyke on 7 Jan 2009 #

    51. Sir Geoffrey Boycott here.

    Get down the pitch on the front foot. Spend some time at the crease as a pop star. Come through the county youth teams and serve your apprenticeship. A fly-by-night pop act can’t just be thrown together without solid technique and a good action.

    Ripping off the skirts is all well and good, but you’re batting on a sticky wicket if you think it will get you into the record books. A good tune needs to be caught behind like a thick edge. Bucks Fizz dug in and saw off the quickies. But for the Fucks Bizz Spoonerism, they had a robust average in the hit parade.

    We’ve all grown a bit around the middle with Cheryl and aren’t as quick between the wickets. Nonetheless, we can look back at that old helmet-less footage and be proud of a good innings.

    Anyway, on to Brotherhood Of Man …

  26. 56
    Erithian on 7 Jan 2009 #

    Songs featuring the name Matthew – I’ll start you off with “Karaoke Queen” by Catatonia.

    And as for Karel Fialka, don’t even go there.

  27. 57
    peter goodlaws on 7 Jan 2009 #

    # 56 – A five minute break and that’s all you take for a cup of cold coffee and a piece of cake…

  28. 58
    LondonLee on 7 Jan 2009 #

    “Matthew and Son” by Cat Stevens to state the bleedin’ obvious one.

  29. 59
    wichita lineman on 7 Jan 2009 #

    Matthew Brought Me Flowers by Mandy More (the British 70s proto-Kate Bush, not the scary plastic one)

  30. 60
    Snif on 7 Jan 2009 #

    There’s probably a tune or two in Jesus Christ Superstar that mention Matthew.

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