Feb 09

BUCKS FIZZ – “The Land Of Make Believe”

FT + Popular76 comments • 8,372 views

#492, 16th January 1982

If “The Land Of Make Believe” is – as lyricist Pete Sinfield later claimed – a song about Thatcherism, then he has to be congratulated on one of pop’s more thorough veiling jobs. Thing is, the song doesn’t need added significance to be a striking and successful lyric: “Something / Nasty in your garden’s / Waiting / Patiently till it can have your heart” – strong stuff, especially sung in Bucks Fizz’s blandly chipper tones.

Of course not many people listen closely to the lyrics, and why should they? “Land Of Make Believe” works just fine as a romp, something for panto season. If all you remember is the dayglo chorus and the cumbersome beat, then you’ll still have had a good time. It’s more than just the words, though, that hint at something a little darker. A few years later Bucks Fizz re-recorded “Land” with cleaner, sparklier, cheaper production, and it just didn’t work: there’s an oddly foggy thickness to the sound on this song which makes it slightly hard for your ears to focus but works in the record’s favour. And then there are the drums – sudden jagged clipped beats which cut alarmingly through the sonic murk, not disrupting the song exactly – but when you’re listening for them, they start to dominate it.

“The Land Of Make Believe” is Bucks Fizz’s best song, but it’s far from perfect – the verses outshine the chorus, the inserted character names are awkward, the kid at the end is a spooky-ooky touch too far, and Bucks Fizz themselves do a professional job but can’t be said to add much. For all its occasional clumsiness, though, the record is a success, conjuring resonance and even a little mystery out of not a great deal.



  1. 1
    Mark G on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Aiming for ‘hole in my shoe’ psychedelia?

  2. 2
    Conrad on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Thank you Tom. I acquired this on CD and couldn’t believe how thin and tinny it sounded. Not how I remembered it at all. I then downloaded a far murkier but much more powerful version, and just assumed the two had been subject to violently different mastering techniques. The re-recording explanation makes much more sense.

    The original is indeed a peculiar sound for a pop single, very bass heavy with the vocals surprisingly submerged in the mix – what were they aiming for, strung-out ‘daylight bores the sunshine out of me’ Jagger circa Exile?

    And yet it works – the verse melody is beguiling. The drum punctuations are the first appearance (along with the contemporaneous “Mirror Mirror”) of a real feature of some of the key New Pop hits in early 82 – Dollar/ABC/Bardo/Horn’s Spandau remix.

    It sounds fresh and daring and kind of peculiar. A million miles from the lightweight fluff of “Making Your Mind Up”, although that chasm was bridged, to some extent, by the low-key yet wonderful “One of Those Nights” from September.

    Quite a slow climb up the chart this one – a good 6 or 7 weeks before it reached the summit.

  3. 3
    Tom on 11 Feb 2009 #

    I have to credit Marcello for the “re-record” information – I had the thin version myself and he set me right after I played it at Poptimism (or included it on a Poptimism CD, I forget which). The intros are quite different too.

  4. 4
    Brack on 11 Feb 2009 #

    This is the first number one I can recall being excited about seeing on Top of the Pops. While I could remember a lot of the 1981 number ones from the general background noise of my childhood (and possibly Chegger’s Plays Pop), this is the one that got me watching TOTP as a kid.

  5. 5
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 11 Feb 2009 #

    is this “the” pete sinfield? (the one from king crimson) (i should know this but don’t — if it is then his claim is at least slightly bolstered by the fact that his KC lyrics are all KINDS of intellectually fancy, if you like that kind of thing)

    bucks fizz here and the league previously mark the two wings of the New Pop™’s project i think — this former arguing that established light-entertainment professionals, if used well, would enjoy being open to all kinds of alrgely untapped potential; the latter that here was the blueprint for the future, in terms of technology and scope, as givben a kind of dry run by clever young people whose professional chops were still a bit raw (eg oakey is well out of tune on “the lebanon”)

    in the event i think* it marks a bit of a high-water mark — the mutual suspicion never really dissipated, and indie ideology began increasingly to make a (passive aggressive) virtue of necessity re professional technique (viz better a technically weak singer attempting deep stuff than a technically brilliant singer singing lame piffle)**

    *i haven’t second-guessed bunny so i might change my mind about this
    **others will claim that these two wings were fused in the shape of eg scritti politti, but *i* think this is wishful thinking…

  6. 6
    Tom on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Yes it is the Pete Sinfield! And importantly I’m not really trying to suggest he was LYING – he wrote the thing after all – but that what was on his mind in writing it really doesn’t come over in the record, frankly EVEN IF you are “in on the secret” (at least with the ‘hidden meaning’ of “There She Goes” et al it’s pretty blatant).

    Good points on new pop as pincer movement – some of this will just be the current generation of pro songwriters raising their game a bit as new people hustle their way into the charts and intrude on their territory, I’d guess.

  7. 7
    Tom on 11 Feb 2009 #

    & it’s interesting that writing-wise a lot of the darkest material of 81-82 came from people who’d been around the block a few times by this point: ABBA’s “Day Before You Came”, this, Marty Wilde!!! on Kim’s “Cambodia”… as you say New Pop certainly wasn’t just the clever kids showing off that pop’s range had been expanded, it was a lot of other people jumping in to take advantage.

  8. 8
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 11 Feb 2009 #

    one of the MANY problems i have with the received alt.rock-crit concept of “subversion” is that changes effected by the (so-called) “subverters” tend only to get hipster-audience approval if they can also signal to the Activist Minority that they’ve been signed off by the Secret Committee of Aesthetic Revolutionaries — when actually the much more potent and important transformative effects may be ones where the changes have been adopted unconsciously, or unintendingly, or calculated in the sense of bank balances rather than Art-Movement Masterplans

  9. 9
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 11 Feb 2009 #

    similarly, the problem with the (often rather smug) “selling out” meme is that it fails to take account of the many gifted people who happened to arrive in the “wrong” era for the best use of their own gifts, who have ended up trapped in the wrong arm of the entertainment industry, very likely bored and frustrated with the limitations put on them, without the right kinds of sharp elbows or negotation skills (or just antenna) to recast that space in a better shape for themselves… punk allowed for a GENERAL liquification of industry protocols (at all levels) that was just such a chance for old kinds of old-skoolers otherwise doomed to resentment and suffocation, before the strata all re-congealed

  10. 10
    Matthew H on 11 Feb 2009 #

    This is a meaty record, quite surprising for da Fizz. A Grimm kind of nursery rhyme with fat beats and handy hooks.

    Chiefly it reminds me of Radio 1’s countdown of the Bestselling Singles of 1982. I used to record the Top 40 (er, didn’t we all), but this particular time it was ear unheard, i.e. I had to have the sitting room stereo turned down because my parents had guests. I had no idea Sir Tommy Vance wouldn’t be doing the regular chart that day, so was surprised to hear this when I turned the volume up for a second. I still have the tape (tough stuff, that Memorex), so can still enjoy Vance’s dramatic handling of the wildly exciting build-up to the top tune. BUT WE WON’T SPOIL IT*.

    *unlike Tom, who appears to let the 2001 cat out of the bag to Chris Evans! Only messing. Nice little snippet, that.

  11. 11
    wichita lineman on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Lord Whatnot, you’re on fire. Very well put re the pincer movement. I’ve been wondering, whenever people have flagged up New Pop since the Numan/Buggles posts, just where they consider the boundaries to be. Fizz, Nolans, Dexys? Did Tight Fit release anything you’d define as New Pop apart from Fantasy Island? Maybe there’s a definitive essay on Freaky Trigger already?

    It was a brief period, but this meeting point for cabaret acts and the underground was boundary-trashing; it gave me the same “We win!” feeling as the Balearic scene of 88-90, when Chris Rea was followed by The Grid, was followed by Movement 98, was followed by Edie Brickell, was followed by Primal Scream, and everyone kept dancing*. “It’s all pop music” may be a commonplace line of thought now, but these were possibly the only two windows between 1967 and some time early this decade when you wouldn’t have been looked down on for saying so.

    I’ll be intrigued to discover who the first post-New Pop pop star turns out to be…

    *until Mr Mister’s Broken Wings or The Soup Dragons’ I’m Free came on, both of which cut through drugs and made you realise you hadn’t completely lost perspective.

  12. 12
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 11 Feb 2009 #

    first post-New Pop pop star = bono >:(

  13. 13
    Billy Smart on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Re #7: And don’t forget that Kim Wilde’s band were The Enid disguised in new wave young person’s clobber!

    “Of course not many people listen closely to the lyrics, and why should they?” I have to disgree with this, at least from the nine-year old in the school playgrounds vantage point. A large part of the success of Smash Hits was having the words of songs such as ‘Land of Make Believe’ in print to enable us (well, girls, actually, not boys) to be able to memorise them. Though it is true that we didn’t then go on to do much in the way of textual analysis.

    I think that we did see it as being a modern nursery rhyme, a song about falling asleep and the witching hour. The only two points of comparison that come immediately to mind are “Lullaby For Frances’ by Ian Dury and Madonna’s ‘Dear Jessie’. But then thinking back further, you could see this as being a child of ‘Hush Hush Hush Here Comes The Bogeyman’ by Henry hall & His Orchestra, the rather genial dark flipside to ‘The Teddy Bear’s Picnic’. There’s a similar light and shade/ day and night relationship between ‘Making Your Mind Up’ and this.

    Incidentally, ‘Now Those Days Are Gone’ surley has as good a claim as this to being Bucks Fizz’s best song, surely?

  14. 14
    vinylscot on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Definitely their best single. It’s amazing the positive reactions you can get from people by forcing them to listen to this track (the only way to get most non-pop fans to listen to BF), and to a lesser extent their later “When We Were Young”)

    Billy, was “Now Those Days Are Gone”, great that it was, not just a ripoff of the New Seekers “Anthem”?

    All three are expertly crafted and extremely well-performed singles, which are undoubtedly infinitely better than Bucks Fizz’s reputation would suggest.

    Incidentally the “cutesy” voice at the end – did Trevor Horn hear this and tack the end-bit onto Dollar’s brilliant “Give Me Back My Heart” which arrived about three months after this? It is the one moment of Dollar’s career which gets me weak at the knees!! (Although wtf was “Hand Held In Black and White” really meant to be about?)

  15. 15
    Tom on 11 Feb 2009 #

    I don’t think there’s any kind of definitive essay up here – and I’m not sure exactly where the boundaries are, because living through the period I had no idea that a New Pop era was starting or ending: I think the last hurrah of NP is surely Morley at ZTT, but maybe that was a brief resurrection?

    Re Tight Fit: certain other animals may sleep, but the bunny remains wakeful – we will discuss their claims in due course :)

  16. 16
    Conrad on 11 Feb 2009 #

    12, the new pop anti-Christ maybe

  17. 17
    Billy Smart on 11 Feb 2009 #

    TOTP Watch: Bucks Fizz performed ‘The Land of Make Believe’ on Top Of The Pops on four occasions. Christmas Day 1982 we’ll get to in the fullness of time, but here are the first three;

    10 December 1981. Also in the studio that week were; Showaddywaddy, Dollar, Ken Dodd and The Police plus Zoo’s interpretation of ‘Yellow Pearl’. Jimmy Saville was the host.

    24 December 1981. Also in the studio that week were; Wizzard, Elvis Costello, Altered Images and The Human League, plus Zoo’s interpretations of ‘Get Down On It’ and ‘Yellow Pearl’. David ‘Kid’ Jensen was the host.

    14 January 1982. Also in the studio that week were; Dollar, Elkie Brooks, Shakin’ Stevens, Altered Images and The Stranglers, plus a double helping of choreography – not only Zoo’s interpretation of ‘ Don’t Walk Away’, but ‘Get Down On It’ soundtracking the award winning moves of ‘The UK Disco Dancing Champions’. All this *and* Dave Lee Travis as host!

  18. 18
    vinylscot on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Ken Dodd and the Police – now there’s a duet I’d like to have seen!

  19. 19
    Erithian on 11 Feb 2009 #

    The definitive essay linking “TLOMB” to “In the Night Garden” has yet to be written too, Tom…

    A fine record indeed, one that didn’t mean too much to me personally at the time (I’ll have to listen to it again with two-year-old in tow, perhaps) but you can’t miss the quality and the care that was taken over this. Much more than you’d expect from a throwaway pop act, and it proved the Fizz were nothing of the kind.

    Matthew #10 – dramatic handling of the build-up to the number one – them were the days!

    Re Ken Dodd and the Police, can I be the first to make the tax-avoidance link?

  20. 20
    wichita lineman on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Re 14: The New Seekers’ Anthem was an a cappella version of Australian group The Procession’s 1968 single One Day In Every Week. Though structurally similar to the New seekers’ take, I have to say Now Those Days Are Gone trumps both of them, much more melancholy, and the arrival of the strings is, for me, the single greatest second in BF’s career.

    Re 15: ZTT. You’re right, and it seemed too late, a desperate, eleventh hour bid… but I’ll leave it there to avoid bunny (again).

    Bono? New Pope, you mean?

  21. 21
    lonepilgrim on 11 Feb 2009 #

    i think a residual rockism made me dismiss this out of hand at the time…but with the benefit of hindsight I’ve realised it’s really rather…bland. 5 for me
    Pete Sinfield popped up on the BBCs Prog Britannica programme recently, pointing out the ‘prog’ qualities of the lyrics which, if anything, made me feel less well disposed towards the song.
    The manner in which Da Fizz (™ Matthew H) sing the lyrics without any sense of understanding makes me feel better disposed towards them as performers – they didn’t take it seriously so why should we?

  22. 22
    mike on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Hated it then, love it now. I was far from snooty about Bucks Fizz at the time – anything but! – but all I heard in this one was schlock, not subversion.

    Pete Sinfield co-wrote King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” of course, and I think there’s another former KC-er on this track as well: saxophonist Mel Collins. (Although Wikipedia suggests that MC only played on BF’s debut album, so perhaps his work was already done.) Sinfield also co-wrote a massive-selling 1990s Number One, but I’d better cogitate a second time about mentioning it.

    As for the alleged anti-Thatcherism of the lyric, did ANYONE spot the subtext before Sinfield flagged it up, years later? If you’re going to insert a Trojan Horse, it helps to make it a visible one…

  23. 23
    Tom on 11 Feb 2009 #

    #22 haha NO WAY! That’s one of the 90s records I’m really looking forward to doing actually.

  24. 24
    wichita lineman on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Re 15: I didn’t think of New Pop as an era either, I just thought the rockists had been beaten and the war was won. I mean, I’d just turned 17.

    And I can remember the exact moment that proved me horribly wrong: when the likes of Ultravox and the Thompson Twins all let down those nasty, itsy-bitsy pony tails they’d grown in ’83 to reveal LONG HAIR that had been grown in SECRET. Dancing With Tears In My Eyes, TOTP, spring ’84, official death of New Pop. Says me.

  25. 25
    Conrad on 11 Feb 2009 #

    I think new pop left the building (having been hanging around in the departure lounge for several months prior) sometime during one of Pino Palladino’s ubiquitous-none-more soulful bass bbbbbooooowwwwnnnnnngggggssss in the terminally dull summer of ’83 (while Duran Duran made friends with Lady Di and Nick Heyward ditched his band in favour of a bunch of session musicians with ponytails). SB won’t let me say anything further about that or the gated snare sound that dominated the record that preceded it….

    actually, #24, perhaps the arrival of the pony tail was the beginning of the end…

  26. 26
    Tom on 11 Feb 2009 #

    There are a couple of versions up on the Spotify playlist now: http://open.spotify.com/user/freakytrigger/playlist/1g1jmJMWwXfia21cDWfVVq

    It’s got all out of order which I’ll sort out at some point. Anyway you will find the rubbish Allstars version BUT also a mental version by a young Celine Dion in French. Hurrah!

  27. 27
    Billy Smart on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Light Entertainment watch part 2: Here are the other Bucks Fizz performances that I didn’t list last time;

    THE BIG TOP VARIETY SHOW: With Bernie Winters, Bucks Fizz, David Essex, The Dingbats (1981)

    CHEGGERS PLAYS POP: With BA Robertson, Bucks Fizz, Coast To Coast (1981)

    CHEGGERS PLAYS POP: With Bucks Fizz, Altered Images (1982)

    THE CHILDRENS ROYAL VARIETY PERFORMANCE: With Stanley Baxter, Jimmy Cricket, Roger the Dog, Bucks Fizz, The Grumbleweeds, Rod Hull & Emu, The Krankies, Fulton MacKay, The Malibu World Disco Dancing Champions, Marylin, Musical Youth, Donny Osmond, Gary Wilmot (1983)

    CRACKERJACK: With Stu Francis, Bob Carolgees, Bucks Fizz, Smokie (1982)

    LIVE FROM THE PALLADIUM: With Jimmy Tarbuck, Patti LaBelle, Bucks Fizz, Maggie Moone, Louie Anderson (1986)

    MARTI CAINE: With Marti Caine, Bucks Fizz, Juan Martin, Gene Pitney (1982)

    MISS UNITED KINGDOM 1987: With Peter Marshall, Alexandra Bastedo, Bucks Fizz, Mark Wynter (1987)

    THE MULTI-COLOURED MUSIC SHOW 1982: With Noel Edmunds, Barry Took, Richard Stilgoe, Bucks Fizz, The Jam, J Geils Band, The Police, ABC, Shakin’ Stevens, bad Manners, 10CC, OMD (1982)

    SUMMERTIME SPECIAL: With Bucks Fizz, Randy Crawford, Lena Zavaroni, Faith Brown, Lenny Windsor, Victor Ponche, Sylvia (1981)

    SUNDAY SUNDAY: With Jenny Agutter, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rodney Bewes, Bucks Fizz (1983)

    THE TUBE: With Jools Holland, Lesley Ash, Bucks Fizz, ZZ Top, REM (1983)

  28. 28
    AndyPandy on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Wichita that’s so right about the death of New Pop coinciding with the horrible reappearance of long rock hairstyles in 1984 – if I remember correctly they were often mullets a hairstyle which I’m glad to say never caught on with anyone below 30 in the UK (obviously not the case in the rest of Europe or America) give or take the odd British sportsman.

    I also thought the anti-rock battle had been won in 1982 and then again post-1988 only both times to be proved tragically wrong.Although I think it took the full weight of big business to keep it alive/revive it in the latter instance…

  29. 29
    LondonLee on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Just be thankful we were mostly spared Hair Metal in the UK. Living in the States you realize with horror what a huge genre it was over here and only got killed when Nirvana came along (that’s according to the official VH-1 version of rock history anyway)

    There’s an ad on TV here for a CD collection of Hair Metal ballads with a brilliant dramatic voiceover that says “They taught you how to ROCK and they taught you how to LOVE”

  30. 30
    wichita lineman on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Re 29: Is that a current US ad?! There’s a good Mickey Rourke line in The Wrestler about how that son of a bitch Kurt Cobain ruined *real* rock, ie Guns ‘n’ Roses and, beyond that, hair metal. I was once completely turned off by a girl I really fancied who took me back to her place and played me a Blizard Of Ozz hair ballad. It was that bad.

    The idea that Nirvana turned American rock around says so much about US/UK pop relativity. And here I am worrying about Tom Bailey’s mullet.

    This may also explain why I take Nik Cohn over Greil Marcus every time.

    Now trying to think what the US equivalent of dissecting Bucks Fizz would be…

  31. 31
    Tom on 11 Feb 2009 #

    I think it’s rather a shame – from a comments box point of view if nothing else – that so little hard rock (of hair, grunge or whatever variety) shows up on Popular. Hardly any of it got close! I heard “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” so often when it was a hit that I was sure it had gone top 5 at least but no, a feeble #13.

    We will at least be discussing some real monsters of power ballads.

  32. 32
    LondonLee on 12 Feb 2009 #

    The Nirvana>>>Hair Metal assassination is pretty much accepted as fact here often which makes me think rock history here is an alternate universe. Everyone my age is so rockist. They all grew up on bloody Kiss.

  33. 33
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 12 Feb 2009 #

    guns n roses ARe real rock* and nirvana DID ruin them!

    *slash grew up in stoke QED

    ps blizzard of ozz are however not very good

  34. 34
    CarsmileSteve on 12 Feb 2009 #


    sorry, force of habit…

    the wrestler story goes that Axl said they could use a GNR song in the film for FREE (rather than the usual six figure sum) but only if they slagged off nirvana…

    sorry, number 1s, yes.

    it’s been really hard for me to write about ANY of the last dozen or so just because they are SO central to my definition of pop, and i don’t think i really have the words to accurately convey how much some of them mean to me (sorry bucks fizz, this doesn’t rly apply to you). also i keep missing threads and don’t necessarily want to just say “me too” at the bottom of most of them…

  35. 35
    CarsmileSteve on 12 Feb 2009 #

    also, not sure that this is the time or place (like that ever stops us!) but in what ways *didn’t* grunge kill hair metal? nevermind came out actually a week after use yr illusion I & II and a month later it was all over for them wasn’t it?

  36. 36
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 12 Feb 2009 #

    as wiki teaches:

    “Mötley Crüe reunited with Vince Neil, and recorded the 1997 album Generation Swine, embarking on a successful U.S. tour. Poison reunited with C.C. Deville, and embarked on a successful 1999 tour of amphitheaters. A 2000 package tour featuring Poison, Slaughter and Cinderella sold extremely well.

    “In the 2000s, coinciding with the new blood of glam metal bands, more groups from the original movement continue to perform, and others that broke up have reformed. Bands such as L.A. Guns, Ratt, and W.A.S.P. have appeared in package tours together, and Mötley Crüe and Poison are continuing to record material and tour, reaching the upper parts of the Billboard 200 with compilation albums. The Monster Ballads compilation series has sold well, with the first volume peaking at #18 on the Billboard 200.

    “Rocklahoma is an annual festival that takes place in Oklahoma. In 2007, the four day long festival ran from July 12 through 15th and featured such bands as Poison, Ratt (reformed with Stephen Pearcy), Faster Pussycat, L.A. Guns, Bang Tango, Vince Neil Band, Twisted Sister, Jackyl, Quiet Riot, Britny Fox (reformed), Enuff Z’nuff and Y&T. Warrant and Cinderella co-headlined the festival in 2008 on July 10 through the 13th.”

    Nothing lasts forever. Nothing goes away. pioson rox ur all ghey… This and this only is all the of the law.

  37. 37
    wichita lineman on 12 Feb 2009 #

    I never thought of GNR being strictly Hair Metal. Am I being pedantic? They certainly seemed to be taken a little more seriously, even though I couldn’t see it. I like the Wrestler story, but GNR had clearly burnt out and would have disappeared without Nirvana’s help.

    Nirvana didn’t really hurt REAL rockers Metallica or Megadeth, just the poodle-permed likes of Poison and Cinderella. Most of them just seemed to be re-cycling UK Glam hits to unsuspecting Yanks. Even Ian Hunter’s Once Bitten Twice Shy got poodled up by someone. This does leave me with the unpleasant feeling that if I’d been 12 and living in somewhere like Des Moines in the mid 80s I’d probably have liked Quiet Riot etc.

    Tom, you’re right, I wish we had the option of discussing Heart’s Never, or Alone, at length. I think the closest a Hair Metal-esque single got to the top was Alice Cooper’s Poison in summer ’89.

    Re 36: Rocklahoma? There’s a documentary waiting to be made.

  38. 38
    Erithian on 12 Feb 2009 #

    Lord Whatnot #36 – sure that Wiki thing hasn’t been doctored by the Conservative Party?

  39. 39
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 12 Feb 2009 #

    i trust in the distributed intelligence of the midwest bubbleglam massive

    — someone on ilm (gareth, in fact — hi gareth!) made a tremendous argument that GnR were america’s answer to the smiths; they formed out of the bones of two la strip-metal bands but yes, are much more important and better than (say) enuff z’enuff or ver crüe or even ratt (or even nirvana)

  40. 40
    Pete Baran on 12 Feb 2009 #

    Yes, I wouldn’t really put G’n’R in the hair metal gang, but I guess they were an accessible bridge between that and the harder stuff, namely Metallica etc. The constancy of Metallica through all of this suggests that Nirvana were a similar kind of bridging band, again between the hardness of METAL METAL, and the idiosyncracies of the Alternative scene. Since the alternative scene defined itself against hair metal, hair metal was doomed.

    If G’n’R had not imploded themselves they would still be around today I don’t doubt. Not in the way they are around today.

    In my brief stint as the (indie) singer in a metal band, I liked G’n’R the least of bands I was forced to listen to. They lacked the inherent humour of much hair metal, and in places seemed genuinely nasty. I guess that was the point really, that’s why they were successful, they were perceived (as Nirvana were after them) to be dangerous (aka sweary).

  41. 41
    Pete Baran on 12 Feb 2009 #

    Oh and in case people think this is off topic, check out Jaye and Cheryl’s hair on the sleeve cover and tell me Sebastian Bach of Skid Row was not taking notes.

    Nirvana plus Bill & Ted / Wayne’s World did it in for hair metal really.

  42. 42
    johnny on 12 Feb 2009 #

    #30 – i’m thinking the analogous american act would have to be the Jim Steinman axis (bonnie tyler, meat loaf etc). not sure i understand the bucks fizz phenomenon as an american, but their trajectory to fame went through light entertainment/showbiz/Eurovision correct? sounds a bit like Steinman’s theater background. bonnie tyler, in particular, had a string of brilliant hits in the late ’70s and early ’80s that, though given the same treatment afforded to heavy rock songs of the time, is today looked down on as bombastic pop fluff. not sure if i’m in SB territory here, but her biggest hit of the early ’80s is also one of the best tunes of that decade.

  43. 43
    johnny on 12 Feb 2009 #

    #40 – i was thinking the other day that there really aren’t many differences between the top alternative acts and the metal acts that immediately preceeded them. in most cases, the alt.bands were a slight modification to fit the times. alice in chains and nirvana clearly continued where GnR left off post-‘Appetite’. the same can be said of Soundgarden filling the void during the five years it took Metallica to follow-up the ‘Black Album’. It’s no coincidence that classic rock radio in the US these days is a completely natural mix of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, GnR, Metallica, AIC, Jane’s, and Soundgarden.

  44. 44
    vinylscot on 12 Feb 2009 #

    There’s certainly at least one hair metal band that we will be discussing in a few years time, although they were not American.

  45. 45
    Pete Baran on 12 Feb 2009 #

    #43. Yes, I agree that the lineage of grunge as a feeder to METAL metal seems almost more natural than the link between hair metal and metal. I think also part of the equation is Metallica distancing themselves from hair metal, not just with their sound but with their presentation around the Black Album. James Hetfield did not look (or act) like a metal star (prima donna that his is) and I think this set up the idea of a newfound seriousness of metal which mopey old grunge filled in. Soundgarden and Alice In Chains were basically metal bands cum opportunists.

  46. 46
    Conrad on 12 Feb 2009 #

    Fantastic. Of all the places to discuss American Hair Metal – why, the Bucks Fizz thread of course!

    Nirvana copped their best riff of Boston. I loved “Nevermind” for a while but despite all their Axl-baiting (I can well believe the Wrestler story) they never kicked ass (not a phrase I thought I’d use on Popular) like GnR.

    For a very funny insight into the LA hair-metal scene of the 80s look out for “The Decline of Western Civilisation Part 2: The Metal Years”. It’s very entertaining – but it also highlights just how much GnR did to make rawk cool again (well, them and Jane’s Addiction, but Axl had the tunes).

    “Appetite for Destruction” is a terrific album. I don’t think grunge killed GnR, Axl’s hairloss-induced reclusivity and his rampant insecurity did for that. If the original line-up resurfaced now, I’m sure they would pack stadia worldwide (not sure one could say the same for pearl jam)

  47. 47
    Conrad on 12 Feb 2009 #

    Kurt, if he were alive today, would I am sure be a Popular reader. His insistence on Bjorn Again appearing with Nirvana at Reading Festival suggests he might have had a few things to say about Abba…

  48. 48
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 12 Feb 2009 #

    i’m in the middle of writing about chinese democracy* — koganbot’s argument is the gnr were the PUNK to metalgum’s glam, makin nirvana et al the POST-punk

    *as well as everything else ever**
    **not in the same piece

  49. 49
    Pete Baran on 12 Feb 2009 #

    A pearl jam reformation would pack the stadium NEXT DOOR of people trying to get away.

    The “Nirvana killed metal” thing is quite possibly a classic of mistaking an effect for a cause.

    I never cared for Appetite For Destruction (one of the few CD’s I have ever given away), possibly because I realised how good it was and if I listened to it too much I might turn into a metal fan. This is why the other metallers in my band gave it to me. I could taste the dangers there and retreated to my Blue Aeroplanes albums. I like when bits come on now, but am still a bit scared of it. Its this retroactive poptimism that I still have trouble with – though G’n’R falling apart has made it easier to like them.

  50. 50
    Kat but logged out innit on 12 Feb 2009 #

    My 13-year-old chums S and K were very much into srs metal (Metallica, Soundgarden, GnR, Pearl Jam) whilst I preferred the ‘soft option’ of Nirvana and Offspring. Dear me.

  51. 51
    Conrad on 12 Feb 2009 #

    #48, Lord Whatnot, what do you make of Chinese Democracy?

  52. 52
    AndyPandy on 12 Feb 2009 #

    …isnt this grunge killed Guns n Roses similar to the oft-quoted idea that punk killed off the stadium bands when many of the bands in question were actually even more successful during and after punk. Of those who did fade away many had just reached the end of their natural lives anyway and would have died out with or without punk.

  53. 53
    LondonLee on 12 Feb 2009 #

    That’s what I never got about the Grunge murdered Metal thing, to my ears Grunge was Metal. Just with shorter hair.

    I think most stadium bands were just busy in the studio taking too long to make expensive follow-ups to their previous mega-selling albums during the height of punk. Then they all seemed to be released at the same time, post-punk. I remember the NME review of ‘Tusk’ had a photo of Christine McVie carrying some clothes with the caption “Fleetwood Mac take The Eagles and Led Zeppelin to the cleaners”

  54. 54
    Lena on 13 Feb 2009 #

    First, let me note that I have just turned fourteen, so everything from this year – even songs discussed here I didn’t know at the time – is of course GENIUS…

    That said, I didn’t know this at the time at all…and am not sure what my fourteen-year-old self would have made of it. But there is no doubt that it is a sinister song; there is something uneasy-making about not just the lyrics but also the music – as if something, and I don’t know what, is about to go very, very wrong…even if this was in a language I didn’t know much of, but just enough to get *some* idea, like Italian, I would feel this way. It’s like oil being poured on water, but the water is churning, maybe thisclose to becoming a whirlpool…

    If “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” was a proto-punk song (I’ve just read England’s Dreaming so I think I can claim that), then this is the waking nightmare after those people have indeed claimed what is now today; the spooky girl at the end (before Poltergeist, though there are girls like her before in horror film/literature I’m sure) is eerie, naive – what does she know of nuclear war or war in general?

  55. 55
    mike on 13 Feb 2009 #

    It is a very, very strange record – not least because the four members of Bucks Fizz don’t appear to have any understanding of/interest in its darker undercurrents, treating it instead as a shlocky singalong for all the family. We’ll eventually be dealing with another UK vocal group in the late 1990s with a similar disinterest in their lyrics…

  56. 56
    Tom on 13 Feb 2009 #

    #55 – I don’t think it’s disinterest exactly: they’re reading it as pantomime, which is valid. Bucks Fizz weren’t ever going to rival Sinatra as interpretative singers but they knew what a lyric was about, cf “Now Those Days Are Gone”

    #54 Lena if you have spotify access check out Celine Dion’s French version and see if the sinisterness transmits!

  57. 57
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 13 Feb 2009 #

    conrad i have not made up my mind yet! which is its own comment, i suppose, given how immediately i responded to appetite… more soon (“soon”)

  58. 58
    Mark M on 13 Feb 2009 #

    On the subject of the lyrics, I wondered whether they really do have lots of corn in Carolina. A quick check proves that, yes, they do – so I guess Mr Prog had done his homework.

  59. 59
    Mark M on 13 Feb 2009 #

    On the grunge/metal debate, I remember my instant reaction to first hearing Mudhoney being “Hang on, this is just undigested rock.” The same applies to Nirvana – Kurt may have spent his evenings listening to the Shop Assistants and Leadbelly and Abba, but the music he made still sounds like sludgy rock.

    Hair Metal was massive in Mexico, although so was everything else on the rock/metal continuum. At my school the cool kids (mostly foreign) had no time for it; you either looked back to The Who and Black Sabbath or forward with Talking Heads. I suspect G’n’R would have got a more generous hearing…

  60. 60
    mike on 13 Feb 2009 #

    Crikey, this is weirder than the “No Charge” comments box turning into a meditation on punk.

    I have no thoughts whatsoever on Hair Metal, as I consider it an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. There are almost no genres left which I won’t touch – but that’s one of them.

  61. 61
    Tom on 13 Feb 2009 #

    My impression of hair metal – the looks and image rather than the sound, really – is that it probably made a huge amount of sense as a local LA Sunset Strip-based scene and then took on surreal overtones as it spread through American and then the world. By all accounts the bands involved lived pretty much the same lifestyles as local heroes that they went on to live as proper rock stars, it’s just they could now afford it rather than having to blag it to some degree.

  62. 62
    Tom on 13 Feb 2009 #

    #60 Looking again at that Bucks Fizz sleeve it doesn’t seem *quite* so weird…

  63. 63
    AndyPandy on 13 Feb 2009 #

    To be honest don’t really like either of them but unlike grunge at least hair metal didn’t take itself seriously. Or let the American rock establishment think they’d found a way to breathe life into the tired old rock beast…

  64. 64
    DV on 13 Feb 2009 #

    I would like to add my vote of support to the idea of Bucks Fizz as style gurus.

  65. 65
    wichita lineman on 14 Feb 2009 #

    Re 58: Always thought the China/Carolina lines showed their close links to Guys & Dolls (see There’s A Whole Lot Of Loving, specifically) rather than acute criticism of 3m+ unemployed under the Tories.

    More 70s model buffed up than future vision, which in retrospect is an aspect of New Pop that I really enjoy without the Tainted Love/ Don’t You Want Me overexposure getting in the way.

  66. 66
    peter goodlaws on 14 Feb 2009 #

    I’m puzzled as to how some of you are drooling all over this one, interpreting all sorts of things from it, as if it were the work of Nostradamus or Joyce instead of Brotherhood of Man Lite. For me (then and now) TLOMB is a puerile pop song, helplessly drowning in melted Red Leicester and nothing much else.

    Erithian # 19 – I can’t allow you to liable Doddy. The Ticklish One was, of course, acquitted. Lester Piggott. Now THERE’S a fucking tax dodger, boy!

  67. 67
    Malice Cooper on 14 Feb 2009 #

    This is a superb pop record and ensured they would stay around for a bit longer and establish themselves as regular chart stars.

    Behind Bucks Fizz were a very strong songwriting and production team and although they still hadn’t thrown away the eurovision image at this point, sadly when they did with much harder hitting songs, their popularity dropped until it went Bang and I’m not talking about the coach crash.

  68. 68
    peter goodlaws on 14 Feb 2009 #

    There was a coach crash?

  69. 69
    The Lurker on 14 Feb 2009 #

    Yes, Mike Nolan was seriously injured, but recovered.

    This was a childhood favourite, but I can’t say I’d heard it for several decades until watching it on YouTube just now. I think Tom does a good job of making it sound more interesting than it is – the lyrics are a bit sinister, but they’re sung in such a cheery way any impact is lost.

    Looking at the video, I was struck by three things:

    1) The clip on YouTube appears to show it as number 19 on VH1’s 100 worst videos, which seems a bit harsh;
    2) Cheryl Baker’s dress looks like a prototype for Liz Hurley’s famous dress;
    3) Did the video inspire the cover of Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ocean Rain?

  70. 70
    Mark M on 14 Feb 2009 #

    Re 69, point 3: Intriguing thought – nobody mentioned it when I did a piece about Ocean Rain cover for Q, but it is a source of inspiration they would want to keep quiet, I guess.

  71. 71
    lonepilgrim on 14 Feb 2009 #

    re 69, point 3 & 70: that was my immediate thought when I saw the video – is there a pop gumshoe we can put on the case?

  72. 72
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 15 Feb 2009 #

    these days this board is practically a popgumshoeshop

  73. 73
    cniloc on 16 Feb 2009 #

    Please don’t laugh if I’m mistaken, but I’ve always thought Pete Sinfield partly based this on Led Zep’s D’yer M’ker!

    ie. the (reggae-ish) rhythm and the hammering drumbeats

    Any comments?

  74. 74
    Tom on 16 Feb 2009 #

    I can see where you’re coming from on that actually! Mind you, D’yer Maker is kind of where I draw a line with my recent Zep reconciliation…

  75. 75
    punctum on 30 Mar 2010 #

    At first hearing it sounds like a cheerful little seasonal MoR pop ditty for kids. But there is something very, very wrong going on in the belly of its architecture; the accompanying video is full of tinsel and laughter, but is shot like a reoccurring dream, a curious mutation emerging from the indistinct roses glimpsed on the cover of the Teardrop Explodes’ Wilder album of one month earlier. Perception is further confused by the opening desolate howl of wind, as though the record is segueing out of “Ghost Town,” and Mike Nolan’s opening narrative of “Stars in your eyes, little one/Where do you go to dream?” is anything but reassuring. This appears to be a children’s song such as Roahl Dahl might have penned.

    In fact the lyric to “Land Of Make Believe” may prove to be one of the most prominent of all pop Trojan horses; it was penned by ex-King Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield, who made no secret of his extreme aversion to Thatcherism and Reaganism and who wrote the lyric as a determined metaphor/denunication of the New Right – Reagan has to be the inspiration for “You’re an outlaw once again/Time to change – Superman/Will be with us while he can…in the land of make believe” (O, Superman!), and its deceptive trinkets are depicted as smiling, patient child catchers, abductors and murderers (“Shadows, tapping at your window,” “Something nasty in your garden’s waiting, patiently”).

    Meanwhile writer/producer Andy Hill revealed himself as at least a temporary rival to Trevor Horn; the song changes from its brooding intro into a superficially jolly pop-reggae sprint, but Hill keeps burdening it with extra drums and keyboards, and soon the rhythm tracks systematically become more disjointed and aggressive, the atmosphere slightly harder and less welcoming, until nuclear apocalypse is heralded in: “Into the blue/You and I/To the circus in the sky,” and the title line “in the land of make believe” is loaded with a degree of spite and venom which seems to have eluded the comprehension even of some of those who sang the song (one of Bucks Fizz, Jay Aston, openly spoke of her support for and admiration of Thatcher). As a pop record it is as radical as “Hand Held In Black And White”; as a political polemic it comes from the other end of “Ghost Town” but arrives at far starker conclusions – and there are few starker conclusions to any pop record than the child’s voice who recites, as the music and the world fade to burn, a would-be nursery rhyme about her invisible friend who comes to tea: “He came today/But had to go/To visit you?/You never know.” Spoken as though she has already been murdered.

  76. 76
    thefatgit on 30 Mar 2010 #

    The re-evaluation of what was considered at the time “throw-away manufactured pop” is intriguing. There is art beneath the sheen like trying to look at a poorly hung picture with the curtains open. Thanks to Punctum above for the insight. For a long time I thought TLOMB was a perfectly good lyric fucked up by some Eurovision winners who forgot to leave the stage. I never really rated Bucks Fizz after “Making Your Mind Up”, maybe it was an ABBA blindspot, after all you couldn’t help but to compare them and the fact that the Fizz didn’t write, but more importantly, they were up against Dollar who, despite the blinding shimmeryness of the whole Dollar concept, were making damn fine music. And that synth-pop and new romanticism showed up the Fizz to be somewhat “70s”. Not necessarily for their fashion or the music but that underlying “glam-pop” sensibility that to me at the time, felt a little anachronistic.

    Now listening to it, it’s closer to the layered and sophisticated approach (but not quite) that Trevor Horn was employing… more New Pop than I thought.

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