Nov 08

KELLY MARIE – “Feels Like I’m In Love”

FT + Popular100 comments • 6,618 views

#466, 13th September 1980

One of the things that gives 1980’s number ones a queer, lopsided aspect is the way there’s not much of a middleground between hits which emerged more or less direct from youth subcultures and those shepherded into popularity by the likes of Noel Edmonds. In particular the pre-teen and tween market seems pretty dead at this point. This void would soon be filled with sound and light and ribbons and stripey noses but meanwhile pop was the stamping ground of young adults and not-so-young ones, a world in which hormone rushes had been replaced by messily consequential relationships.

The curious child – a seven-year-old like me – might have found this grown-up pop scary, mysterious and compelling. But (and this is what I did in fact do) they might also opt out entirely. My parents weren’t interested, and any influence I had over the TV ended with the closing Blue Peter theme. In Autumn 1980 I changed schools, and started getting more homework, so bedtime was rolled back: this is where I start remembering news stories (Mount St Helens, the Moscow Olympics), and could watch Top Of The Pops regularly. Not because I wanted to, just because it was there. If I’d grown up now, in a multi-channel world where I could have watched cartoons and sci-fi shows and dinosaur documentaries all afternoon, I might never have cared much about pop at all.

Kelly Marie falls just before this cut-off point, so what has this got to do with her? Just that there actually was still a version of pop made available to kids, a kind of light ent junior centered around Swap Shop and TISWAS on a Saturday morning. The watchword here wasn’t kid appeal but cheapness – low cost alternatives to chart staples with presumably low booking fees: Budgens singer-songwriters and Woolworths disco. This half-remembered take on pop culture isn’t much represented on Popular, unsurprisingly given that the major star was the omnipresent and quite useless B.A. Robertson. But Kelly Marie was totally part of it, of pop as I actually experienced it in 1980 – which perhaps explains why I’m fond of what is by any reasonable standard a shoddy bit of work.

“Feels Like” is a grotty, grubby, British version of disco, the syndrum hits from “Ring My Bell” relocated to the Maplins Hawaiian Ballroom, busybodying you onto the dancefloor. If the fantasy of disco – decadent, sexual, aspirational – has a Playboy style appeal, Kelly Marie was more readers’ wivesy. That’s not really because of her mildly saucy performances, it’s more to do with her vowelly vocal line – “fee-uhls like ah’m in lu-huv!” (DOO DOO). It gives the record an enthusiastically amateurish air, like it’s a karaoke version of itself. For listeners with a stake in club music, Kelly was no doubt a horror show, but in a year low on bubblegum I find it hard to judge too harshly.



  1. 1
    rosie on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Nice to have a bit of bubblegum back, after all. As you rightly say, something slightly amateurish which makes it fine for the kind of places most people were doing their dancing – not the sophisticated metropolitan clubs frequented by serious subculturalists and their acolytes in the music press, but the masses out there in Stevenage and Bedford and, come to think of it, Hull. Where by this time I was grateful to have a babysitter in and go out with a bunch of friends for a bit of respite. All those nice warm fuzzies were wearing off. My marriage was starting to unravel. For this relief much thanks.

    This is the sound of a thousand college discos, community centres and Tiffany’s in Ferensway, Hull. The sound of the masses letting their hair down. It’s not great music, it’s not poetry, and it has no depth whatsoever, but it’s full of energy to make you feel good on a Friday night.

    A last hurrah too, I think, for Ray Dorset.

  2. 2
    Matthew H on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Clearly a hefty vocal influence on Clare Grogan.

    Well, a bit.

    Tremendously catchy ersatz disco fun, anyway. What’s not to love?

  3. 3
    Billy Smart on 26 Nov 2008 #

    There’s an inclusivity to the end of the pier feel of this single that – self-evidently superior though it is – there isn’t to the same degree in Ring My Bell. Its almost like this single is the most enjoyable karaoke performance you’ve ever heard.

    Another great pleasure of this is the merry-go round feel of it going slightly too fast for comfort, adding to the giddy, amateur sexiness and charm of the thing.

    No-body has yet said here that Ray Dorset orinally wrote it for Elvis Presley. Imagine how good that could have been in a ‘Burning Love’/ ‘Way Down’ style. “Wooo-Hooo-Hooo! Ma head is in a spin…”

    I think that the reactions of seven year old and thirty six year old Billy are exactly the same when I hear this cheery performance.

  4. 4
    Billy Smart on 26 Nov 2008 #

    #2 watch: Two weeks of Randy Crawford’s ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’. A bit boring.

  5. 5
    Billy Smart on 26 Nov 2008 #

    TOTP Watch: Kelly Marie performed ‘Feels Like I’m In Love’ twice; the 21st of August 1980 and the 1st of January 1981.

    Also in the studio on August the 21st 1980 were; The Nick Straker Band, Sheena Easton, Shakin’ Stevens, Hazel O’Connor and Cliff Richard, plus Legs & Co’s infamous interpretation of ‘Bankrobber’. The hosts were Steve Wright and Cliff Richard.

  6. 6
    mike on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Obligatory “Strange But True” Fascinating Fact: Mungo Jerry’s Ray Dorset originally wrote this song for Elvis Presley. (Try singing it in your head in late-Elvis style. It sort-of works.)

    Yet another 1980 chart-topper for the provincial Wally Disco Silent Majority contingent (as Rosie points out), to file alongside “Xanadu”, “Use It Up And Wear It Out”, “Working My Way Back To You” and “Together We Are Beautiful”. As Dale would say (and this pretty much applies to all five of them): it was a little bit different, but we liked it.

    From “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” to “Ring My Bell” to here, this was also where the ringing POO-POO! of the syn-drum came to die. (Were there any further examples in the early 1980s? I cannot recall.)

    Anyhow, this proved enough to keep Kelly Marie (mistress of the lively “elbow squash” manoeuvre, as I recall from her TV appearances) gamely plugging away on the gay toilet circuit for decades to come, so three cheers for her cast-iron indefatigability.

    I also rather liked her super-camp 1981 chart swan-song “Love Trial” (“Order order in the court! POO-POO!”), which missed the Top 40 and urgently needs digging out of the attic for a re-evaluation.

  7. 7
    Billy Smart on 26 Nov 2008 #

    A word of praise of Kelly Marie’s little remembered follow up number 21 smash ‘Loving Just For Fun’ – a cheekily brazen attempt to precisely replicate the ‘Feels Like’ formula;


    (Choo choo!)


    (Choo choo!)”

  8. 8
    lonepilgrim on 26 Nov 2008 #

    This sounds gloriously unaffected and free of baggage after the last two entries. I always had it filed as Hi-NRG in my mind which made me wonder about Tom’s ‘queer, lopsided’ comment.
    I seem to remember KM bouncing around in the obligatory 80s jumpsuit on TOTP and that scottish burr that links back to Lulu and for all I know Moira Stuart. Past posters would have been able to put it in it’s caledonian cultural context…

  9. 9
    LondonLee on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I think even my local Tiffany’s had more class than to play this. The Randy Crawford however, I remember vividly. Glorious record.

  10. 10
    Mark G on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Try singing this with late seventies Elvis’ voice:

    “My head is in a spin my feet don’t touch the ground
    Because you’re new to me my ACH! Torture! I ‘ate songs like that! STOP IT!!!”

  11. 11
    AndyPandy on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Another “interesting” fact and linked to Rosie’s comment at No1 mentioning Stevenage. Stevenage is of course the original inspiration for “Saturday Night Fever”.The original article by writer Nick Cohn entitled “the Tribes of Saturday Night” which he later transplanted to New York and thence to “Saturday Night Fever” was originally written about his observations of the lifestyle of those going out to discos in 1973 or 1974 in Stevenage (discos having caught on in Britain a year or two before they went massive in te USA).

    PS Isn’t Kelly Marie another in the line of the big-voiced but distinctively and definitely British slightly amatuerish singers of never cool dance hits played in high street nightclubs. Along with Tina Charles, Sonia and thge singers from Oceanic and N-Trance?

  12. 12
    LondonLee on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I just went to YouTube to refresh my memory of this and wish I could have those 3 minutes of my life back, it was even worse than I remembered. Exhibit A in the case of why the Brits were so bad at making dance music, tinny and paper thin and annoyingly chirpy. I like a bit of bubblegum but this has all the flavour of a stick of Juicy Fruit that you’ve been chewing for seven hours.

  13. 13
    pjb on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Terribly clunky, but somehow hard to dislike. Though I say that without putting it to the test and listening to it.

    There’s definitely something to be said for the HiHRG parentage of this one, as well as its more mainstream disco roots. And in that it seems to prefigure the PWL/Stock Aitken Waterman era that’s still a few years in the future, at least as much as it hangs, desperately, onto ‘real’ disco’s past. There’s that slightly lumpen, hyper-obvious construction and execution fused with a lowest common denominator pop-dance that became such staple of UK charts, albeit with just enough of a reference to the real dance genres of the time.

    Realising that I’m verging on claimed it as an influential text, at least commercially, when it’s probably just one of those cheery, low quality pop fillers, I’ll shut up….

  14. 14
    rosie on 26 Nov 2008 #

    AndyPandy @ 11: The parallel that springs to my mind is Lyn Paul’s spiritedly blowsy deleivery of You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me. Although the comparison works against Ms Marie.

    Given Kelly Marie’s provenance, I think a Saturday night in Paisley would be the right environment for it, after another drubbing for St Mirren!

  15. 15
    Conrad on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Found its ubiquity irritating at the time. On reflection, it’s harmless enough.

    After all, it’s quite a catchy choon isn’t it? And if I’m honest I’d rather listen to this than “Ring My Bell”.

  16. 16
    rosie on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Oh and that Randy Crawford track is amazing!

  17. 17
    Stevie on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I am flabberghasted at Andypandy’s revelation at #11! Stevenage also indirectly inspired Quadrophenia – dedicated in the sleevenotes “to the kids of Stevenage New Town” who were apparently some of the most mental WHO fans. And Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush was filmed there too, so my home town is evidently the secret capital of Pop cinema.

  18. 18
    Stevie on 26 Nov 2008 #

    — Subsequent research suggests Cohn’s Saturday Night was actually based on Shepherds Bush mods :/ —

  19. 19
    Tim on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I too embarked upon some research because I had heard “Another Saturday Night” was based on Shepherds Bush mods.

    This article tends to suggest that the Stevenage thing arose as a piece of over-enthusiastic reporting by someone on the Stevenage Telegraph and Argus (or whatever): http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4159/is_20040606/ai_n12756097 But then it also suggests that the story was inspied by discos in Brooklyn… Hmm.

    HWGRTMB alone makes Stevenage top of the cinepop pile, though.

  20. 20
    LondonLee on 26 Nov 2008 #

    My Uncle Peter was one of those. A Shepherd’s Bush mod that is. I could be related to the real-life Tony Manero!

  21. 21
    Stevie on 26 Nov 2008 #

    re #19 – probably the Stevenage Comet, where Adrian Thrills learned his trade.

  22. 22
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 26 Nov 2008 #

    21 is quite a tough claim to follow

    i thought the secret story behind SNF was that cohn just made it all up!

  23. 23
    Taylor on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I was just writing something about Stevenage on another forum, funnily enough: by gum, it’s grim. The train pulls into the station, and you think “Christ, look at that hideous retail park.” Then it pulls out of the station, the valley opens up so you can see for a mile or two, and you suddenly realise that’s not a hideous retail park, it’s Stevenage.

    I get a similar feeling from “Feels Like I’m In Love”. Still, the video is compelling in its abject misery, jumpsuited Kelly living it up with two men in sailor suits who probably aren’t sailors. And this is how I remember 1980, in a way – as a small child, the adult world looked intriguing but not too appealing. Everything rather cheap and nasty. Not a hint of intrigue, and only a very forced joy.

  24. 24
    peter goodlaws on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Well done, Tom. He calls it a karaoke version of itself and that’s exactly what it is. This record is not full-fat cheese but its getting there. I had to ask the guy you know as Waldo about Ray Dorset and he told me about Mungo Jerry and also that Kelly Marie was scottish and a bit of a borderline bow wow and now I’ve seen her I know what he means. I remember the song but again not at number one. I can’t criticise it too harshly as it doesn’t do any harm and is quite merry and poppy. Not for me, I’m afraid but as Rosies already said this is the pop chart we’re discussing and ripping pop music to pieces is clearly missing the point of this project. I’ve learned that now.

  25. 25
    Marshmallow Hamilton on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Like Lena Martell, Kelly Marie had been well known on the Scottish circuit substantially before she scored royally with this Ray Dorset deposit, which he had tried to drop on Presley for reasons known only to him. Kelly had also enjoyed an element of success on the Continent and in Ireland in the seventies with the odd disco turn. Nevertheless it was still something of a surprise that she suddenly found herself a number one act with one of the biggest sellers of the year. A good pop song it is too and the dividends were well deserved for both writer and performer. A follow up “Hot Love” (no, not that one) saw Kelly dancing on TOTP with a couple of black guys in kilts. I don’t think there was anything remotely racist or funny about this but the mocking reaction to it from some so-called wits both in the press and at large certainly was, grossly insulting black people and Scots in a single disgusting swipe. I can remember fuming about this as I don’t take kindly to prejudice on such a disgusting scale. I remember also walking out of my common room when people started taking the piss out of this. I don’t hang around with or tolerate racists and everyone needs to understand this.

  26. 26
    Taylor on 26 Nov 2008 #

    the adult world looked intriguing but not too appealing … not a hint of intrigue

    Yeah, I wrote that. I should concentrate harder. What I meant was, not a hint of… oh never mind, you know what I meant.

  27. 27
    Taylor on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I can’t criticise it too harshly as it doesn’t do any harm and is quite merry and poppy. Not for me, I’m afraid but as Rosies already said this is the pop chart we’re discussing and ripping pop music to pieces is clearly missing the point of this project.

    True, but if you love pop music and this is not for you, that’s worth exploring, isn’t it?

    Something I was just wondering – was this aimed at gay clubs at the time, or did it become a gay disco track after the fact? The rather camp sailors in the video suggest the former, but I’d always heard this as a valiant attempt at family-friendly / kids’ party disco, which sounded camp in the sense of “failed seriousness” (not that it was supposed to be serious, but you know what I mean), rather than a track made with a gay audience in mind. My lack of knowledge of the 1980 gay scene lets me down here, but I’d always understood that audience at that time as being very discerning, into dance music in a rather obsessive, Mod-ish way, not necessarily ready to fall for Kelly Marie’s tinfoil extravaganza just because it was, you know, campy. Anyone know the story here?

  28. 28
    Izzy on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I didn’t know this track until I started going out with the missus and she took me to places and parties that specialised in stuff like this – by which I mean the Rocky Horror soundtrack, Erasure, ‘Loch Lomond’ at the end of [i]every[/i] night – which has coalesced into an entire genre in my mind. I’d never heard any of it. That genre, I suppose, being music-so-mainstream-as-to-be-totally-invisible.

    It was quite bewildering to find a place where the canon counted for naught. Which sounds rockist, but it’s genuine curiosity at a world where the Rolling Stones, Motown, Madonna or Blondie don’t exist, and instead Abba, the Carpenters and Neil Diamond are the big players in musical history. I think what’s so weird about it is the absence of everything I associate with the black musical tradition. On the surface such music looks similar to what I’ve always thought of as classic pop, but the lack of excitement, its very politeness, turns it into wallpaper.

    Anyway, that’s what this song is to me. I’d never even have thought of it as disco if I hadn’t read this review. It reminds me most of all of the house band in Strictly Come Dancing, who’ll start playing a reasonably funky tune which sounds fine at first, and then the audience come in clapping on the on-beat and the spell is broken. Like most of the rest of its genre, I can see how it’s campy, decent fun and pleasant enough, but it lacks virtually every quality that I look for in music.

  29. 29
    Lex on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I’ve never heard this song, or even heard of it (and am too content indulging in the Ne-Yo album to go look for it right now), but this seems to be an interesting line of discussion. I can see why shoddy, amateurish takes on proper music exist, in a functional sort of way, and hating on them can feel rather mean-spirited, but as per Izzy @ 28, these just lack every quality I look for in music. In some ways I hate them even more than songs which might sound more unpleasant to my ears, because they’re such awful versions of genres I love.

    Does this phenomenon exist in other countries? Tom called it a specifically British version of disco, and it’s certainly a theme which has been unfortunately prevalent in British pop ever since I’ve been following it (and which continues to this day: how else to explain the popularity of the Saturdays?).

  30. 30
    Snif on 26 Nov 2008 #

    “…this was also where the ringing POO-POO! of the syn-drum came to die. (Were there any further examples in the early 1980s? I cannot recall.)”

    There was always “Simon Templar” by Splodgenessabounds.

  31. 31
    Conrad on 27 Nov 2008 #

    It’s certainly a disco track alright. To me, it sounds like an attempt to be contemporary, albeit the influnce on the production was Liquid Gold rather than say Chic.

    I can see what Tom means by this being a quintessentially British take on disco, but it also sounds like the beginning of Eurocheese as well.

    It’s not as polished as the record that came close to following it to Number One – Ottawan’s D.I.S.C.O.

  32. 32
    rosie on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Lex @ 29 says I can see why shoddy, amateurish takes on proper music exist, in a functional sort of way, and hating on them can feel rather mean-spirited, but as per Izzy @ 28, these just lack every quality I look for in music.

    I’m confuzzled. I could have said almost exactly the same thing as part of my response to the Sex Pistols, but clearly that would have a whole different resonance. I don’t understand what “proper music” means in this context. Pop is rooted in amateurishness – where would we be without the improvised skiffle bands of the 1950s? (I might mention Lonnie Donegan, I might mention the Quarrymen)

    I don’t look for the same qualities in pop as I would look for in a Beethoven symphony, say, or a Puccini opera, or even jazz. I do revel in the amateurish and the quirky, and I dislike the manufactured and mass-produced (whether the music or the personas).

    Ten years hence we might have had a chance to debate this but by a whisker it was not to be – I’d have been interested to see how Tom handled signor Pavarotti but in his place I’d have declined to give a mark.

  33. 33
    Tom on 27 Nov 2008 #

    The 3 Tenors. [/philistine]

  34. 34
    rosie on 27 Nov 2008 #

    You disappoint me, young Ewing!

  35. 35
    Matt DC on 27 Nov 2008 #

    It had never occurred to me that this record was that cheap and shoddy! Possibly because it’s one that I know through years of exposure without ever really thinking about it.

  36. 36
    Erithian on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Ray Dorset and Kelly Marie missed a trick here – they could have teamed up with that bloke out of Slik who was now fronting Ultravox and called themselves Marie, Mungo and Midge.

    I’ll get me coat.

  37. 37
    SteveM on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Now I’m wondering what the best British disco record was. Is ‘Southern Freeez’ disco enough?

  38. 38
    Kat but logged out innit on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Kelly Marie is terrifying. And although I know the melody to this song fairly well, I keep finding myself humming the awesome ‘Funkytown’ by Lipps Inc instead.

  39. 39
    Erithian on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Sorry, but this is the very definition of disco shit. Shallow, tedious, cringe-inducing. Popular has allowed me to reassess quite a few records I disliked at the time and warm to them, but this isn’t one. Neither are “Funky Town” and “Southern Freeez”, godawful both of them. And as for “D.I.S.C.O.”, Conrad… polished? What’s the phrase I’m looking for? – you can’t polish a turd, and that’s one of the biggest ever to hit us.

    Randy Crawford though, now what a great number one that would have been.

    Tom, you’re right about growing up now in the multi-channel world. It’s very possible, as my twins are finding out, to be almost untouched by pop at the age of nine. BTW, has Lytton discovered “Space Pirates” on CBeebies? Kids choose from three songs, one of them covered by the house band of puppet rats. Real-life acts featured include KT Tunstall, REM, Jamelia (in the studio!), Bjork and the Polyphonic Spree.

    Syn-drums later in the 80s – would you include the example you can hear round about 8pm four nights a week that goes “doof-doof…”?

    Marshmallow (#25), lighten up mate! (or is that an unfortunate turn of phrase?) What’s racist about black guys in kilts?

  40. 40
    vinylscot on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Possibly AFAIK the last “Opportunity Knocks” #1, although this didn’t become a hit because of the programme.

    Keli (or Kelly) Brown, as she was then known, won the show four times in the mid-70s and on the back of that had a number of hits on the continent and in Ireland (most notably a #2 hit duet with Joe Dolan), before finally getting success at home with this rather saccharine disco classic.

    One or two posters have alluded to the fact that she was no oil painting. I think that’s a little unfair; she may not have won any beauty contests, but she was exactly as you’d expect Jacqui McKinnon from Paisley to be!

  41. 41
    Tom on 27 Nov 2008 #

    #39 Erithian – no, because our aerial is f*cked so we can’t even get CBeebies. I will look it up on the iPlayer! He is a very keen dancer though.

    As will no doubt become obvious as the project continues, I have a very high tolerance for tacky high street club music from whatever era. I’m not quite sure why I don’t react negatively to this stuff where I would come out in a rash at its rock or soul equivalent, though. It might be that I secretly despise dance music and so hold it to laxer standards, but I think I’ve wasted an awful lot of time listening to it if so.

  42. 42
    LondonLee on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Off the top of me head I can’t think of a great British “disco” record proper but that depends how you define it. Certainly ‘Southern Freeze’ or ‘Hi-Tension’ or ‘London Town’ (to pick a few early Brit-funk tunes) would be considered great dance tracks from any country.

    Re: #35: Cheap and shoddy is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear this. That’s obviously different to the amateurishness of the Pistols (or Lonnie Donegon or Joe Meek etc.) but I’m not clever enough to define it properly.

  43. 43
    The Lurker on 27 Nov 2008 #

    #32 and #41 – I’m certainly much more tolerant of amateurism in “rock” – be it the lack of instrumental proficiency in punk, the weakness of voices such as Neil Young’s or the lo-fi production of indie records later in the 80s and 90s – than in “pop” (or soul or disco). I’m not sure why. I think with pop (and perhaps with disco too) I’m more interested and engaged with the production and voice than the song itself, and if the first two elements aren’t up to much there’s little point in the song. Can’t quite see why soul falls this side of the divide though.

    I’ll have more to say about this when Popular reaches July ’96, if not before.

  44. 44
    vinylscot on 27 Nov 2008 #

    If Heatwave are considered British enough to count (are they?), I would say “Boogie Nights” has to be the greatest British disco track evah!!

  45. 45
    mike on 27 Nov 2008 #

    #42 – I’ll add Central Line’s “Walking Into Sunshine” and I-Level’s “Minefield”. Beggar & Co also come close with “Somebody (Help Me Out)”.

    #41 – I share Tom’s “high tolerance for tacky high street club music”, and it’s difficult to explain why. Something to do with the surging optimistic sugar-rush, I suppose. But even I draw the line at Ottawan’s almost surreally awful “D.I.S.C.O”.

    What IS it with Scotland and ridiculously energetic and texturally unsubtle uptempo dance music, anyway?

  46. 46
    rosie on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Have you ever been to Paisley on a Saturday night, Mike?

  47. 47
    Erithian on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Don’t know whether it fits your remit, but the one I’ve shaken my inelegant booty to the most over the years is “Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag”.

  48. 48
    Erithian on 27 Nov 2008 #

    ##45 and 46 – there’s definitely somebody missing from this conversation, eh Rosie?

  49. 49
    mike on 27 Nov 2008 #

    If it’s the same somebody that I’m thinking about, then I’d like to think that he is With Us In Spirit. (And hello to him if he’s lurking.)

    #46 – Nope, never been to Paisley on a Saturday night! My knowledge of Scottish nightlife is restricted to some Awfully Nice Places during the Edinburgh Festival, some studenty bars in Glasgow, and two or three Edinburgh gay clubs, one of which rejoiced in the name of Douche Matouche.

    So I’m just going to have to fall back on the standard observation that the further north you go, the harder and faster people like their dance music.

    Is it something to do with colder climes necessitating more vigorous exercise?

    (As for that Best Of British Disco list: I always adored Linx.)

  50. 50
    rosie on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Erithian @ 48: I was thinking exactly that this morning, when I saw Tom’s thoughts on signor Pavarotti.

    There may well be two people missing, although at least one of those I suspect of being not too far away.

  51. 51
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 27 Nov 2008 #

    anecdata-as-metric: the only popular artist not track downable via “material unaccountably available for free” is lena martell

    (unless my suppliers are just online at the wrong times)

  52. 52
    rosie on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Mike @ 49: Because “ridiculously energetic and texturally unsubtle” is a pretty damned good description of Paisley on a Saturday night.

    Mark @ 51: My suppliers didn’t let me down. I’m complete up to and a tad beyond my scheduled retirement date. With one exception. Up until now there’s nothing that really sends me flying to the off-switch when it comes up in the random mix (although Little Jimmy comes close), but there’s a dark day not far off when something I won’t countenance anywhere near my eardrums is coming up.

  53. 53
    Conrad on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Heatwave’s Rod Temperton was a real writing and arranging talent and one recognised of course by Quincy Jones, who enlisted his help for “Off The Wall” and “Thriller”.

    Heatwave produced some truly excellent singles in the late 70s/early 80s, as well as the aforementioned “Boogie Nights”. “The Groove Line” is a particular favourite of mine.

    On a sort of separate note, and something I’ve been meaning to write about for sometime…

    In the mid 90s I lived in Highgate and rehearsed in Camden. I used to do all my grocery shopping in the Camden Sainsburys.
    Anyway, there was a middle-aged black guy, I’d say around 40ish who was always in there. I think he was homeless. He seemed pretty crazed and he was always walking up and down by the cashiers’ tills shouting out “The Best of Luck”, “The Best of Luck” in quite a high spirited friendly way. He had a loud voice and his cry used to boom across the shop. There was something quite affecting about him and his repetitive chant. I never once heard him say anything else.

    It suddenly struck me as I was listening to Hi Tension a few months back that the chorus to their eponymous hit is basically “The Best of Luck” chanted in exactly the same way as this guy in Sainsbury’s. The band were from North London…

    At least 2 members of Hi Tension went on to 80s success – Phil Fearon and David Joseph. Perhaps one of the others went on to a starring role as lead singer in Camden Sainsburys….

  54. 54
    mike on 27 Nov 2008 #

    #52 – Oh Rosie, itsa notta SO bad…

  55. 55
    Tom on 27 Nov 2008 #

    There’s worse than that on the horizon!

    Apologies for the slow pace this week by the way – I have a shocking cold. I’ll turn to the next entry when I’ve finished shaking and coughing. Thanks to all the people – especially newcomers and names I don’t recognise – who’ve made the last few entries so fertile.

  56. 56
    rosie on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Mike, whassamadda you? I agree that’s not so bad – there’s been far worse than that already.

  57. 57
    Lex on 27 Nov 2008 #

    #32 – maybe pop was “rooted” in amateurishness, but I think its broad umbrella certainly covers many genres in which things like technical chops and craftsmanship are hugely important. Disco, like most dance subgenres, is definitely one of these – if the point of the music is to be at least somewhat functional (to make people want to dance), the sound and structure has to be absolutely right. You can’t just slap a vocal on here, a break in there and hope for the best, otherwise it just won’t work. With genres like rock I guess a degree of amateurishness can work, but that’s partly why I don’t tend to listen to them – it’s no coincidence that my own favoured genres are the more formalist ones (r&b, hip-hop, house, techno, UK garage).

  58. 58
    Marshmallow Hamilton on 27 Nov 2008 #

    “Marshmallow (#25), lighten up mate! (or is that an unfortunate turn of phrase?) What’s racist about black guys in kilts?”

    You’re exactly the sort of half-wit I’m talking about. If you had actually done me the courtesy to read and UNDERSTAND what I wrote, you would have seen that my objections were never black guys in kilts but racist reactions to them as demonstrated by your moronic little pun. I do not expect you to digest any of this. Your “wogs start from Calais” mentality is blatantly obvious and people like you are not only beyond the pale but beyond help.

  59. 59
    vinylscot on 27 Nov 2008 #

    It’s almost as if HE was back with us, isn’t it?

  60. 60
    pjb on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Back to the great British disco music question – since it has set me thinking that we’ve been far better at almost every other genre than pure disco – funk, soul, electro and on to the house explosion. But I did like Linx, like Mike @ 49, and I still think Imagination’s string of hits (from memory still a year away) hold up well, particularly now that the memory of the appalling visuals has faded.

    I am rather looking forward to glut of the high street dance pop to come, mind….

  61. 61
    LondonLee on 27 Nov 2008 #

    I’ve probably got my dates all mixed up but I always lumped Linx in with the second wave of Brit-dance acts along with Junior Giscombe and Imagination (and Mica Paris?) that was about the time you thought we were starting to really figure out how to make this sort of music. The huge success of Junior’s “Mama Used To Say” in the States was a big deal at the the time – if they like it we must be doing something right. Though I think there was a ‘US Remix’ of the tune that was a vast improvement on the original.

    Linx were tremendous though.

  62. 62
    mike on 27 Nov 2008 #

    It saddened me to see Linx’s David Grant reduced to grooming the David Sneddons of this world on Fame Academy… but more of Sneddon at a much later date, of course.

  63. 63
    Erithian on 27 Nov 2008 #

    We’re back on the subject of CBeebies – David Grant is currently to be seen alongside missus Carrie on “Carrie and David’s Popshop” on channel 71 on Freeview…

    Yes I liked “Intuition” I must admit…

  64. 64
    mike on 27 Nov 2008 #

    “Intuition” was my Official Favourite Single of 1981.(Previous holder: Magazine’s “A Song From Under The Floorboards”.)

  65. 65
    Billy Smart on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Didn’t someone release a good compilation of Britfunk of this era a few years ago? I love all of the lesser commercial lights of this movement – Central Line, Beggar & Co, Light Of The World, Hi-Tension et al – but I’ve only ever bought it willy nilly when it turns up in Record & Tape Exchange and charity shops, so am probably missing out on great things.

    I have heard that the very early Level 42 are rather splendid. Can this be true?

  66. 66
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 27 Nov 2008 #

    level 42 were never not splendid! grrrr

    the complilation is probably “slipstream: the best of british jazz funk”

  67. 67
    SteveM on 27 Nov 2008 #

    #57 “if the point of the music is to be at least somewhat functional (to make people want to dance), the sound and structure has to be absolutely right. You can’t just slap a vocal on here, a break in there and hope for the best, otherwise it just won’t work.”

    Perhaps predictably I would disagree with this and I would cite a lot of great late 80s/early 90s dance music (from several countries) as an example. I don’t know if I would describe the production as amateurish tho, just boisterous/excitable and keen to utilise and demonstrate a love of sound thru recontextualisation. This approach resulted in terrific tracks as well as terrible ones.

    Maybe what elevated the quality in this area tho really was a better musical knowledge/ability from certain producers tho, and my appreciation is often an indirect or subconscious response to this.

  68. 68
    rosie on 27 Nov 2008 #

    59: It’s a good parody but Marshmallow hasn’t got it quite right yet.

  69. 69
    Tom on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Soul Jazz did a British funk and jazz funk compilation a while back with those bods involved Billy –


    I have it, and it’s got some excellent material on it. I have to admit though I’ve never quite grasped the jazz funk nettle.

  70. 70
    SteveM on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Frankly the idea that dance music is more formalist or disciplined than rock n’ roll makes no sense to me, and I say that as someone who has always preferred the former generally. This argument may hinge largely on the effect and importance of ‘keeping time’ rhythm-wise though.

    ‘Feels Like I’m In Love’ has always felt v pedestrian and formulaic, almost to the point of tedium. Records like this succeed because they appeal to the lowest common denominator – identifying and following basic rules of trendy movements but removing subtlety or layers. Is that fair? Still it’s so irrepressibly bouncy and cheerful that to sneer at it seems overly mean, and it’s production levels aren’t quite THAT low. Would probably give it a 5.

    The ‘British version of disco’ thing still troubles me though, in that ‘is the best we could respond with’ sense. As if Kraftwerk were inspiring successful “copycats” here in a way that Chic were not. I can think of reasons for that but they’re probably not really worth going into right now. Maybe people in the UK got better at mimicking and responding to US dance music later on, in turn developing spin-offs to claim as their own, without this ‘tongue-in-cheek’ effect or air of naffness.

  71. 71
    LondonLee on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Level 42’s “Love Games” is terrific, a real Brit Soul Boy classic. And that Mark King had some rubbery fingers to play bass like that.

  72. 72
    Taylor on 27 Nov 2008 #

    I used to do all my grocery shopping in the Camden Sainsburys. Anyway, there was a middle-aged black guy, I’d say around 40ish who was always in there. I think he was homeless. He seemed pretty crazed and he was always walking up and down by the cashiers’ tills shouting out “The Best of Luck”, “The Best of Luck” in quite a high spirited friendly way. He had a loud voice and his cry used to boom across the shop. There was something quite affecting about him and his repetitive chant. I never once heard him say anything else.

    Thank you, I’d forgotten. What a man he was.

  73. 73
    Marshmallow Hamilton on 27 Nov 2008 #

    # 68 – Wait until the next one…

  74. 74
    rosie on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Stand well away from me, then. Marshmallow.

  75. 75
    Les Tennant on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Marshmallow actually sounds a bit like Marcello. Amazing.

  76. 76
    vinylscot on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Just to put the record straight. I’ve been in touch with Marcello this evening and he has confirmed that he is not Marshmallow Hamilton. I would say that although Marshmallow’s writing, his post #58 anyway, was obviously intended to mimic Marcello’s style (on one of his off-days), it wasn’t well enough written (which is why I used the word “almost”, and I note Rosie wasn’t taken in either.).

    Say what you like about Marcello, but he always writes well!!

  77. 77
    izzy on 27 Nov 2008 #

    I’ve been musing on my comments at no28, and specifically why I didn’t peg this as an attempt at disco before reading this thread. I think nos10 and 57 nail it between them – this isn’t a disco song at all, it’s pub rock!

    And as such, it doesn’t work – the melody is all wrong for dancing, but great for belting out in the back of a pub. You couldn’t imagine ‘Stayin Alive’, ‘Heart of Glass’ or ‘I Feel Love’ in such a context, but I could see this one no problem.

    It explains why it’s so quirky and charming, and yet enduringly popular here (and one presumes totally unknown abroad). It’s a strange and foreign mix – and probably as bewildering to outsiders as the Wehrmacht jazz bands that so amused GIs occupying Germany in 1945. And like those, the form is there but the point is missing.

    Which led onto a troubling thought – pub rock as the true sound of Britain. At its best this ensures the popularity of great anthems; but at its worst glam meaning Glitter over Bowie, and Oasis’ fatal lack of ambition.

  78. 78
    AndyPandy on 27 Nov 2008 #

    I’m a bit disappointed to find out the idea of Saturday Night Fever coming from Stevenage was just a myth – amazing what a bit of local journalism can do as I first heard it in some quite respectable article on the film…

    It’s definitely true about the early Level 42 singles the b-side of ‘Love Games’ ‘Instrumental Love’ was held up as probably their peak. “Are You Hearing (What I Hear?) was another good one. Of course early-Level 42 were thought “authentic” enough for a Larry Dunn and Verdine White of Earth, Wind and Fire to ask to produce their “Standing In the Light” album which included their first big pop hit The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)

    Probably the one British disco track that I’ve never heard even the most anti UK soul/disco fan dare to criticise was Atmosfear’s “Dancing In Outer Space” which even crossed over to the US market…Probably one of the best pre-house dance tracks made anywhere in the world full-stop.

  79. 79
    Tom on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Re 76 – I admit my eyebrows were raising a bit. Highly satirical I’m sure, though let’s end the spoof here eh? Thanks Vinylscot for the confirmation.

  80. 80
    Tom on 27 Nov 2008 #

    (Especially as it’s getting in the way of a rather good discussion of the British way of disco.)

  81. 81
    mike on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Re. Level 42, the underground soulboy pick has to be “Starchild” from 1981, co-written by Wally Badarou, which enjoyed a small revival towards the end of the late 80s rare groove scene.

  82. 82
    crag on 28 Nov 2008 #

    Re: Brit disco- I’m suprised nobody has mentioned the Average White Band yet- “Pick Up the Pieces” is a beast of a tune, while “Lets Go Round Again”, though not a fave of mine certainly sounds like the real thing, no pun intended.

    Speaking of Scottish pop types- hey, what have you got against BA Robertson, Tom?! Anyone who can write “We Have A Dream”, The Greatest Football Song Of All Time (Fact!)for the 1982 Scotland World Cup Squad,is ok w/ me…..

  83. 83
    LondonLee on 28 Nov 2008 #

    Yeah, but ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ is such a blatant JBs copy I can’t give it too much credit, good though it is. ‘Cut The Cake’ on the other hand…

    There was The Rah Band too, though they could be as High Street cheesy as Kelly Marie they had their moments, ‘The Crunch’ in particular.

  84. 84
    AndyPandy on 28 Nov 2008 #

    London Lee (No61) I’m pretty sure Linx’s first hit ‘You’re Lying'(another top tune) was at the tail end of the first wave (1980)and was later sampled on The Hypnotist’s “Pioneers of the Warped Groove” other side to hardcore classic ‘The House is Mine’.Or come to think of it was it on the A side?.And talking of The Rah Band their ‘Falcon’ was pretty good too.

    Re Mike at 81 yes bit of an omission on my part how could I forget Starchild.

    Someone mentioned is this where syndrums went to die…I suppose it was until they were resurrected as a sample of Rose Royce’s ‘Is It Love You’re After?’ on ‘The Theme to S-Express’ 7 years later.

    Re this idea about dance music getting harder the further north you get wouldn’t it be more true to say that the further you get from London the less “funky” the sounds get (with the possible exception of the Manchester area).And when talking about hard sounds doesn’t it really mean the central belt of Scotland and possibly Newcastle/Sunderland/Middlesbrough (and of course Holland and Belgium!)And not as I saw someone write in an article on the net a few months ago said when completely missing the point that they are all having it bigtime to gabba in the Shetlands etc!I’m sure from my walking holidays up there (northern Scotland not Shetlands) and in other rural parts of Britain another point could be made that those tiny rural discos you find in small towns are the last holdout of the mainstream pop/inanely chatting wedding style dj which were once so prevalent everywhere else.

  85. 85
    Billy Smart on 28 Nov 2008 #

    I always liked the idea that enthusiastic crowds would chant “AVERAGE! AVERAGE!” at AWB shows.

  86. 86
    mike on 28 Nov 2008 #

    #84 – We’re straying into embargoed territory re. the syndrum revival, but I don’t think that any made it from “Is It Love You’re After” into The Future Chart Topper Which Sampled It. However, there are syndrums all over the lead 12″ mix of another 1988 chart topper.

    And as regards early 1980s Popular entries, it turns out that we haven’t quite done with syndrums yet…

  87. 87
    Billy Smart on 28 Nov 2008 #

    I’ve always wondered – Was the Southern Freeeze in any sense a real dance, even one that Freeeze invented to market their name? Whenever the singer tells us that she saw the boy “once before, doing the Southern Freeeze”, the result of which she knew he was “the one, the only one for meee” my mind draws a blank as to what I’m supposed to be picturing.

    I’ve got a slightly better idea of what the disco stomp might have looked like. In my head, its quite an ungainly dance.

  88. 88
    AndyPandy on 28 Nov 2008 #

    2 cock-ups in 1 email! – not to remember the sample didnt get as far as the syndrums and to forget it got to No 1 – must do better!

  89. 89
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 28 Nov 2008 #

    haha ALL bands — disco, rock, avant-math-terror etc — should be required to cut a “Do the _______” track, complete with dance-moves symbols on the sleeve

    “Do the Crispy Ambulance!”

  90. 90
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 28 Nov 2008 #

    when my friends matt and david and i first saw “a certain ratio”, the local reviewer based his entire review of how trendy and bad ACR were on the “two haircut dancers” in the front of the audience, and how they danced, ie david and matt

    (i stayed back in the shadows)

  91. 91
    Caledonianne on 29 Nov 2008 #

    Oi! I think I can claim, without fear of contradiction, that I have spent more Saturday nights in Paisley than any other citizen of this bailiwick (seeing as how, though a Glaswegian by birth, I am a Buddy by accretion, schooling and – dare I say – by choice).

    I don’t hear anything particularly redolent of the town by the Cart (was tempted to say, “anything particularly Cartesian” about this record). In fact, having now spent as much of my life away from Paisley, as in it, I’d have to say that if this had originated in Banbury, I’d have seen it as a much better fit.

    Anyway – this dissing of Paisley must cease. Cease and desist! Has it not brought you Stealer’s Wheel? Gerry Rafferty? The aforementioned David Sneddon? And Paolo Nutini? It should be recognised as the apogee of aural approbation, and not remembered simply as the exponent of a whizz-bang textile design classic, and the locus of the most important case in the law of tort for (those poor benighted jurists in) the common law world.

    Nowhere in Edinburgh is Awfully Nice during the Festival…;-)

  92. 92
    Conrad on 29 Nov 2008 #

    Re 85, my favourite ever tribute band name is “Below Average White Band”. I guess the audience were unlikely to be disappointed

    (Second favourite, of course, Bi Jovi!)

  93. 93
    Conrad on 29 Nov 2008 #

    91, snail in ginger beer bottle?

  94. 94
    lonepilgrim on 29 Nov 2008 #

    since we seem to have wandered into stream of consciousness territory I always remember an interview with Linx where they asked the bass player, known as Sketch, what his name was short for. Quick as a flash he replied: ‘Preliminary drawing’

  95. 95
    Caledonianne on 29 Nov 2008 #

    #93, Conrad.

    The very same – Donoghue v Stevenson.

    And “Below Average White Band” is genius!

  96. 96
    lonepilgrim on 30 Nov 2008 #

    another thought on the shortcomings of uk disco – I seem to remember a familiar criticism in the 70s and early 80s that there were no good horn sections in the uk – possibly until beggar & co worked with Spandau Ballet on Chant No 1.

  97. 97
    Erithian on 1 Dec 2008 #

    SteveM #70 – “British version of disco” – reminds me a little of the line spoken by, is it Billy Fury’s character in “That’ll Be The Day”? – “Only Americans can write songs.” Assuming you count it as disco and not pop (a blurry line for sure), the aforementioned “You To Me Are Everything” doesn’t have to bend the knee to any US import as far as I’m concerned. Heard it again at a birthday do on Saturday night and loved it as much as ever.

    Did we ever come to a conclusion as to who Marshmallow actually was? (and it wasn’t me, before you ask)

  98. 98
    Tom on 1 Dec 2008 #

    I’m fairly sure I know but I’m letting sleeping dogs lie.

  99. 99
    Gareth Parker on 11 May 2021 #

    Like some of the other commenters have mentioned, I would have preferred Randy Crawford’s One Day I’ll Fly Away to reach the top spot. 3/10 for Kelly.

  100. 100
    23 Daves on 7 Sep 2021 #

    For various reasons this one has been played regularly by me over the last few weeks and I’ve found myself appreciating it hugely, so I thought I’d nip back to this entry to see what everyone thought and eesh… oh dear. I wasn’t expecting it to be greeted with such a mixture of indifference and hostility.

    I definitely agree that whether you enjoy this or not depends hugely on your tolerance for the Town High Street end of Disco (for want of a better phrase) during this era. I genuinely liked that kind of music as a child and have retained that fondness into adulthood, though it’s impossible to know how much of it is tied up with its actual value or memories of childhood wedding discos and family parties and people who are no longer with us. These records were my only exposure to loud music in public places as a kid, the first sights I had of flashing lights and slightly gruff cockney mobile DJs, so Liquid Gold, Kelly Marie, Ottawan and all their fellow travellers seemed unbelievably exotic at the time – music for when you’re allowed to stay up late and somebody offered you a cheeky sip of Cherry Brandy.

    I don’t think that’s all there is to it for me, though. I think the low budget, low production of some of this stuff feels thrilling because it’s not actually trying to be clever, it only wants to be adrenalised and joyous, and I enjoy it in the same way that I enjoy cheapo cash-in rave hits from the early nineties – all those records sound powered by enthusiasm and a pile-up of half-inched hooks.

    There are some slightly personal comments about Kelly Marie on this thread as well, which surprised me. She’s not a stereotypical “pop princess” and I’d say she’s almost out of time for pop in 1980 despite her somewhat trad Opportunity Knocks beginnings. Her TOTP performances feel like the Spice Girls by way of Sonia – very confident and forceful, enjoying the moment, and not really giving two shits what anyone else thinks. There would be other examples of that from other female pop stars up ahead in the eighties, but not until somewhat later on. Her TOTP performances make it feel as if she’s going to reach out of the TV screen and forcefully pull you on to the dancefloor, which is exactly what a track like this needs (and while I’d have been slightly nervous to have an encounter like that with her IRL, I’d have been thrilled as well).

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