Sep 09


FT + Popular76 comments • 5,673 views

#550, 11th May 1985, video

Before writing this entry, I spent a while researching Paul Hardcastle’s later career as a highly successful figure in the land of Smooth Jazz. I cannot tell you how long this actually took, as time can have no meaning in a world where tracks are called things like “Visions Of Illusions” and “Constellation Of Dreams”. But what this voyage of illumination showed me is that “19” is a very odd fish indeed: even Hardcastle’s prior output, if YouTube is any guide, sounded like the on-hold music for a flotation centre. What happens when such a man decides to make a cut-up electro record?

As a lesson in recent history, “19” is a phenomenal success: if there’s one thing any 1985 schoolboy could tell you about the Vietnam War it’s how old the poor bastards shipped out there were. As a pop record it’s half-triumphant, half-awkward, and the triumph and awkwardness are indivisible. If that rent-a-soul chorus hadn’t been on there – with its “those who remember won’t forget” clanger – the record wouldn’t be as memorable. But the way that chorus gets chopped and diced – “d-d-d-d-d-destruction!” – undermines any seriousness “19” might have reached for, takes its indictment of Vietnam into goofy Max Headroom territory.

But then again, if it had been a wholly serious record, would it have been any better? It is possible to give this kind of quick-cut documentary pop weight without sacrificing its groove – check out Steinski’s fantastic “The Motorcade Sped On” for a dramatisation of signal becoming noise in the white heat of a massive event. “19”‘, though, is slick, glib, in love with its own techniques and surface and beat. But I think if it hadn’t it would have been even clumsier: judging by his other work, I wouldn’t trust Hardcastle with intentional resonance or nuance.

And as it is, “19” manages unintentional resonance really well: the post-Vietnam generation working out, in public, what they thought and felt about the war. Hardcastle was part of a great spasm of mid-80s ‘Nam references, a door opening in history and things never resolved rushing back into currency. And the barrage of different impulses you get in “19” – this was awful! But so visual! But horrific! But pop! – gives a better feel for that working-through than some of its more considered and famous products.



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  1. 51
    Snif on 25 Sep 2009 #

    Was Tom Clay’s “What The World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin and John” a hit in the UK? Certainly not a dancefloor filler, and virtually nothing *but* cut together recordings (or Clay’s remakes), but in the 1971 pop arena it stood in stark relief to everything around it.

  2. 52
    mike on 26 Sep 2009 #

    Sorry to have disrespected the Hardcastle, Andy! I guess this is partly due to the old London/South East versus Midlands/North divide – the South East always liked its soul/funk smoother than we did, and so the likes of “Rain Forest” never registered much. But it was on a trip to London while “19” was still on pre-release that I felt the huge buzz; one of the guys in the house I was staying at had a white label copy, and so it was very much the hit of the hour.

  3. 53
    TomLane on 26 Sep 2009 #

    A #15 in the States, Hardcastle is mostly known as a Smooth Jazz pioneer. Before this song he had “Rain Forest” from early 1985, which is now a staple of that genre. Funny how a record about the Vietnam War charted higher overseas than in the States, but controversial subjects never chart high in the States, even today. I like this pastiche, but always wished it hit harder as a protest song. But then if it had it wouldn’t have gotten very far on our charts. BTW- Hardcastle is still releasing Smooth Jazz records and charting on that format.

  4. 54
    LondonLee on 26 Sep 2009 #

    #50 One of the very few times in a club I’ve ever been moved to ask someone what a song playing was called was in the Lyceum one night in the early 80s (I think Steve Walsh was DJ-ing) seeing these two black kids bodypopping to this electronic record that just blew me away. When it was over I asked one of them what it was called, “Planet… something, I think” he said. Bought it the next day, actually went into the record shop and asked if they knew of a new dance record called “Planet something”.

  5. 55
    swanstep on 26 Sep 2009 #

    ‘Rainforest’ is pretty awesome in my view, and some of its sound was a big influence on people way outside of smooth jazz, e.g., Aphex Twin. Rainforest would have been a nifty 1980s ‘Telstar’ if it had fluked into the #1 spot rather than ’19′.

  6. 56
    Izzy on 26 Sep 2009 #

    Ha Lee, that’s excellent! You’re lucky to have a cool story about such a cool record – if I had such a story, the kids would probably have gone “Stutter … something, I think” instead.

    The pirate radio diversion is also shedding a bit of light on another, lesser, fad of the time – the anonymous hit single, brought out on white labels or under pseudonyms to overcome DJs’ prejudices and prove that Cliff Richard or whoever could still cut it. I could never work out who exactly was supposed to be being fooled – by the time these things ever reached my ears, their main point of interest was precisely: ‘woah, here’s the unofficial new George Michael single!’

    (finally, proving pirate radio must’ve been a bigger phenomenon than I realised, I have half a memory of Lenny Henry having a whole series where he was the hapless controller of a station, broadcast from an antennae hanging out the window of his tower block bedroom)

  7. 57
    MikeMCSG on 26 Sep 2009 #

    #50 Izzy I know where you’re coming from. This was in the Top 5 before I’d even heard it.I always used to think that there were more of Gallup’s machines in London and the South generally so that was why those dance records did well while it always seemed a struggle for Hi-NRG records which were massively popular in the North (Laura Branigan’s “Shattered Glass” is the prime example) to make the Top 40.

    I think this is a watershed number one (besides being the only one I actually bought in 85) which showed that the rules of the game were changing. An anonymous performer with a meagre track record gatecrashing the Top 5 without any play on Radio One ; that seems to be a first. Of course it soon became commonplace.

    I agree that “Just For Money” was a bad move (and an awful record) but it did seem that until Prodigy and Chemical Brothers came along dance acts were unable to engender the same loyalty as rock groups and were rarely able to survive putting out a poor single.

  8. 58
    Tom on 26 Sep 2009 #

    #47 – thanks for filling me in on the lost fashionability of Paul Hardcastle – not surprised that this passed me by at the time but it’s been largely written out of (google-able) history too: perhaps his slightly naff later hits and smooth jazz incarnation mean his pre-“19” fans don’t have much interest in setting any records straight.

    That said I heard “Rain Forest” for the first time yesterday and thought it was dire, so perhaps fashion was on the wrong side back then.

  9. 59
    mike on 26 Sep 2009 #

    OK – having listened to “Rain Forest” again, I can see its appeal much more clearly now than I did then. In fact, it’s worn rather well – rhythmically tougher than I remember, and not as smothered by tinkly Shakatackiness either.

    Donning my metaphorical black polo neck sweater, I then sauntered down a pleasant path of re-discovery. Wally Badarou’s “Chief Inspector” sounds as great now as it did then, reminding me that 4th & Broadway was my favourite dance label of 1985. Maze’s “Twilight”, DSM’s “Warrior Groove”, Harlequin 4’s “Set It Off” (also recorded by Strafe)… all, in retrospect, pointing the way towards house.

    And then there was the electro instrumental that peaked at Number 2, a month or so after “19”, which we’ll be dealing with many, many years from now…!

  10. 60
    Rosie Hunter on 26 Sep 2009 #

    Seemed to be groundbreaking at the time, remember thinking Paul Hardcastle was really cool, sampling
    old Vietnam news footage in a track. For me conjures up images of a Glitzy nightclub in Norwich back in the days when men/boys had to wear at least a shirt & tie to get through the door and lots of girls with perms
    and bright yellow stilettos with electric blue rara skirts.

    However my lasting legacy from this will be the TOTP’s theme tune, bring back ‘Whole Lotta Love’ please…

  11. 61
    Billy Smart on 27 Sep 2009 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Several UK TV appearances listed for this seemingly untelevisual performer;

    THE MONTREUX ROCK FESTIVAL: with Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Art Of Noise, Belouis Some, Bronski Beat, Eighth Wonder, E.L.O., Paul Hardcastle, Marilyn Martin, Ready For The World, Bonnie Tyler (1986)

    SATURDAY LIVE: with Pamela Stephenson, Cliffhanger, The Dangerous Brothers, Richard Digance, Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Paul Hardcastle, The Rt Hon Denis Healey MP, Tamsin Heatley, The Inspirational Choir (1986)

    WOGAN: with Nigel Davenport, Samantha Fox, Paul Hardcastle, Diana Quick, Ken Smith (1986)

    (I have a feeling that the Saturday Live one is just a credit for his dismal theme tune though – “S-S-S-Saturday! Live!” pasted together inna ’19′ stylee)

  12. 62
    AndyPandy on 1 Oct 2009 #

    Mike at 59: Thanks for reminding me of “Warrior Groove” by DSM which was an alias of Dancin’ Danny D who a couple of years later was DMob of “We Call It Acieed Fame”.

    For years I had a tape from the Bognor weekender of 1986 where on the weekender radio station on Kev Hill’s (Essex soul later rave DJ)show Paul Oakenfold (in one of his pre-house guises as a record promoter) was trying to chat to Danny D about “Warrior Groove” and it seems that Oakenfold’s annoyed him in some way because he seems to spend the whole interview trying to placate him.In view of Oakenfold later becoming the biggest DJ in the world I’d love to have kept hold of that…

    I lost contact with what Paul Hardcastle was doing years ago I seem to have a memory of him making some acid house record as the Sound Syndicate in 1988/89 and also having a hit with some generic soul track with a female singer “Don’t Waste My Time” sometime after “19”

  13. 63
    nic on 2 Oct 2009 #

    Ha! Perhaps Oakenfold asked Danny D where he got his inspiration from for Warrior Groove. Us brummies know it was Birmingham DJ Shaun Williams’ creation – a mix he did in his sets which is where Poku heard it. DSM stands for Danny, Shaun and Mambo (went on to manage Apache Indian) but when I googled it all I could find was info about Danny Poku. No mention of Williams or Mambo apart from credits on track. I guess the guy’s just a good self-publicist.
    I suppose this happens all the time in this industry and the recorded history is distorted, but this is one I actually know about.

  14. 64
    AndyPandy on 2 Oct 2009 #

    The thing is I always thought he just sounded a grumpy moody git on the tape although perhaps after what you’ve there was more to it and it was a bit of guilt making him sensitive about discussing it!

  15. 65
    DV on 28 Dec 2009 #

    I was always a bit unconvinced by the claim that absolutely none of the Vietnam veterans received a hero’s welcome.

  16. 66
    thefatgit on 29 Apr 2010 #

    I hear this is being resurrected for the troops in Afghanistan. Not sure how that’s going to be slanted politically or factually as the good people of Wootton Bassett will surely attest.

  17. 67
    Erithian on 29 Apr 2010 #

    Listen to the man himself at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8599087.stm.
    His son’s friend has been killed in Afghanistan – at the age of 19.

  18. 68
    punctum on 29 Apr 2010 #


    whilst white chancers like New Order and the Clash’s attempts to cash in on contemporary black styles whilst appealing to the rock press never had a chance of being anything but derided in the black music community

    Really? Is there any evidence of New Order ever having cashed in on “contemporary black styles” (since via their involvement with BE Music/ACR/Marcel King etc. and their subsequent influence on House and Techno they would appear to have done the precise opposite)? The thought that the Clash were ever cashing in – as opposed to attempting to gain greater exposure for the “contemporary black styles” they clearly loved – is equally bizarre. Perhaps you ought to ask Norman Jay, for example, what he feels about Strummer & Co.

    If, on the other hand, by the “black music community” you mean middle-aged white people like Chris Hill spinning Maze sides and moaning about how black pop had gone down the toilet since Kraftwerk became its main influence then I guess they wouldn’t have had much time for either.

  19. 69
    thefatgit on 29 Apr 2010 #

    Cross pollenation between “black” and “white” music (which in itself is somewhat anachronistic) usually presents a positive step forward, and is generally accepted as such. When a genre of music retreats within it’s own community and closes itself off, that’s when there are negative connotations attached to it. The very least of these being elitism.

  20. 70
    Erithian on 10 May 2011 #

    Look out for this track returning to the top 40 in the next week or two, assuming Manchester United pick up one more point – http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/may/09/manchester-united-song-19-title

  21. 71
    Mark G on 10 May 2011 #

    According to the original the sample was edited from, the average age was “nineteen and a half” !

  22. 72
    Pete Baran on 10 May 2011 #

    Which is still nineteen, so he just edited for brevity.

  23. 73
    hectorthebat on 25 Dec 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Spex (Germany) – The Best Singles of the Century (1999)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  24. 74

    7:30 pm, Sunday 9 June, 1985.

    I’ll take that.. man, this is an 8, maybe a 9.

    Unfortunately it has rung true for the wrong reasons for the last two decades. “You don’t have to be in the army to fight in the war”, indeed. But at last I’m arresting the decline which began when I got food poisoning at Centre Parcs on New Year’s Eve 1995!

  25. 75
    flahr on 8 Jul 2016 #

    Tangentially relevant, true, but have an interesting interview with Steinski in which he cites Dickie Goodman’s ‘break-ins’ as a formative influence: http://www.avclub.com/article/steve-steinski-stein-14261

  26. 76
    Andrew Farrell on 19 Jul 2016 #

    Aw, that really is a lovely interview!

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