TOP OF THE POPS – VOLUME 84 (HALLMARK SHM 3060) JANUARY 1981

“Sgt Rock”

The ‘Top Of The Pops’ budget label remakes enter the synth-pop age

I was pleased when I discovered this item in one of the bargain bins in a charity shop but was then hit by dejection when I realised the songs were from 1980/81. I swiftly glanced at the track list and bought it purely for the cover of XTC‘s “Sgt Rock” – My curiosity got the better of me.

There are two John Lennon hits recreated, “Imagine” and “Woman” which were both quickly released after his murder in December 1980.

“Vienna” is without doubt the worst cover I’ve heard so far on these cheapo LPs. It’s nothing short of shameful, everything about this version is disconcerting. The tin-pot Rolf Harris stylophone-like synth noises, the vocal delivery, the slow pace of the song. Nothing works.

Spandau Ballet‘s “The Freeze” is also a contender for a cringeworthy award. The singer sounds like he couldn’t be arsed doing this number, and I don’t blame him. I hope he still got the union rates for laying down his vocals and not a bag of Pot Noodles. He probably had a wife and kids to feed.

The whole of side one is very poor indeed apart from Dire Strait‘s “Romeo & Juliet” and “Return Of The Los Palmas 7” which are acceptable. But it appears that the label were no longer paying professional musicians to deliver their sets. They probably got a local school band and some pub singers.

Side two begins with a decent enough jaunt through Blondie‘s number “Rapture” which is fine if you dig that kind of disco rap conglomeration. It’s not my scene though. The quirky remake of Adam and the Ants single “Young Parisians” is good too. Could the album be picking up a bit after the torture of side one?

I’ve always had a strong aversion to anything Phil Collins related so “In The Air Tonight” was never going to register with me. Plenty of echo on this version. Next up is “Gangster Of The Groove”, which again isn’t something I would ever go for but I can’t criticise because it sounds perfectly acceptable as funk fueled rhythm pop.

John Lennon will be turning in his grave with these dumb cover versions of “Imagine” and “Woman” – the singer doesn’t even attempt to mimic him in any way and I thought that was the requirement for these ‘Top of The Pops’ remakes.

The Boomtown Rats number comes off sounding like a power pop band. Was that the intention because I can’t remember how the original version grooves along?

I wonder if Andy Partridge ever heard this recreation of “Sgt Rock” because although the vocals are not in the same league as his own I think the studio group have pleasantly captured the quirkiness of his number. Good guitar and the drums definitely sound better on this than on the original. No gated-drums here – a bonus!

tracks:

Side 1

  • Vienna originally a hit for Ultravox
  • A Little In Love originally a hit for Cliff Richard
  • Romeo And Juliet originally a hit for Dire Straits
  • I Surrender originally a hit for Rainbow
  • The Freeze originally a hit for Spandau Ballet
  • Imagine originally a hit for John Lennon
  • Return Of The Los Palmas 7 originally a hit for Madness
  • Don’t Stop The Music originally a hit for Yarbrough and Peoples

Side 2

  • Rapture originally a hit for Blondie
  • Young Parisians originally a hit for Adam and The Ants
  • In The Air Tonight originally a hit for Phil Collins
  • Gangsters Of The Groove originally a hit for Heatwave
  • Woman originally a hit for John Lennon
  • The Elephant’s Graveyard (Guilty) originally a hit for The Boomtown Rats
  • Turn Me On, Turn Me Off originally a hit for Honey Bane
  • Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me) originally a hit for XTC

charity shop purchase @ £2

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