Number Ones: #67


  • THE ART OF NOISE featuring DUANE EDDY Peter Gunn Theme (China)
  • Week Ending 12th April
  • 1 Week At #1


There’s an excellent book by Simon Reynolds, “Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction To Its Own Past”, which analyses why instead of going forward, pop music (and its attendant media) never really escapes the grip of what has gone before.

It’s nothing new (excuse the pun), of course; the late 70s saw the rockabilly revival and 1978’s Summer Of Grease, as well as Darts, Showaddywaddy and even the likes of Queen indulging in some playful pastiche of their own with Crazy Little Thing Called Love. That particular obsession eventually petered out with The Stray Cats’ final UK hits and Roman Holliday’s brief run on the charts in 1983.

Most of 1984 and 1985, the first two years where my interest in pop music was intense enough to spawn these personal charts, felt like the chase was on for the new, to better create something fresh and not rely on familiar tropes and cliches. The nod to traditional songcraft remained, but nobody could say Thompson Twins, Howard Jones, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Duran Duran or Madonna were falling back on retro culture in their sound or outlook. (Wham! perhaps were, with their Motown-evoking hits from Make It Big, and the whole Matt Bianco/Carmel/Everything But The Girl/Working Week new-jazz scene, but there are always exceptions!).

1986 was the beginning of a new spate of retro; on the one hand the Levi 501 adverts were launching, soundtracked by classic soul/R&B nuggets from the 1960s (Wonderful World, I Heard It Through The Grapevine), the remix craze now focused on disco from exactly a decade earlier (Tavares, The Real Thing), and then you had the rise of Channel 4 with its brand new chat-show The Last Resort, which wore its retro stylings very proudly (a sort of Ronnie Scotts / Absolute Beginners / Sixities Kitsch hybrid fronted by a very youthful and nervous Jonathan Ross).

Add in some repeats of the original, iconic spy series such as The Avengers, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and – over on BBC2 – Mission:Impossible, and there was plenty on offer if the past was your thing, whether you were 45 or 15.

March 1986 also saw the long-awaited arrival of Julien Temple’s film adaptation of Absolute Beginners. This tapped into the same retro aesthetic, obviously, being set in the Notting Hill of 1958 with its vibrant jazz scene, racial tensions and the spectre of Tin Pan Alley. Colin MacInnes’ novel became essential reading over the Easter holidays that year, aided by the soundtrack (Sade, Bowie, Working Week and….erm, Eighth Wonder) but not helped quite so much by the disappointing film (one day I will watch it again, I have the Blu-Ray after all!).

Anyway, this is the climate in which The Art Of Noise, no longer safe in the bosom of ZTT and no longer including Trevor Horn or Paul Morley, took a break from inventing the future of music by teaming up with the King of Twang himself, Duane Eddy.

Marrying the sturm-und-drang of Close (To The Edit)‘s vehicle noises and sampled stabs of synth to Eddy’s deep gee-tar twanging proved an unlikely piece of genius. As the post for Eddy & The Soulband’s exhumation of The Theme From Shaft – a #1 for me almost exactly 12 months earlier – mentioned, I was definitely partial to this blend of the old and the new.

It sounded fresh at the time, and the 12″ extended mix is still huge fun.

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