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Classic Album: Sade’s Diamond Life



Sade’s Diamond Life was one of the most assured debuts of 1984… Mark Lindores

Sade Diamond Life cover
While 1984 will be forever synonymous with Frankie’s militant futurism, George Michael’s chart dominance and Band Aid’s No.1 charity single Do They Know It’s Christmas?, one of the year’s breakout success stories was a band with their roots firmly in the past.

Taking their inspiration from the greats of soul, they fused it with jazz and pop to create a soothing sound entirely their own. Fronted by the striking singer that gave the group its name, Sade’s Diamond Life was one of 1984’s undoubted triumphs.

Nigerian-born Helen Folasade Adu had arrived in England at the age of four following the breakup of her parents’ marriage.

Born to a British mother and Nigerian father, Sade’s mother worked long hours as a District Nurse upon their arrival in England to support Sade and her brother, relying on her parents’ help to ensure their new life in the English countryside was as idyllic as possible considering their limited finances. 

Although the self-confessed “tomboy” enjoyed the games and pursuits offered by a rural upbringing, the future singer always harboured a strong passion for art, and she moved to London to study at Saint Martin’s School of Art, where she specialised in fashion design – particularly menswear, feeling it would be the area in which she would be most likely to earn a living. 

Despite being a student at one of the most prestigious colleges in the country, Sade’s time there was anything but privileged. She was living in a disused fire station being used as a squat with a few likeminded creatives, including her then-boyfriend and future journalist, Robert Elms. 

With home life proving anything but a comfortable set-up, Sade spent her evenings out on London’s bustling club scene, frequenting nightspots such as Blitz and The Wag Club.

A creative wonderland frequented by future superstars, the cultured clubbers included Boy George, Steve Strange, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Spandau Ballet and countless others who would go on to be major forces in the worlds of music, fashion and art. 

A scene where the outlandish was applauded and the garish glamour of New Romanticism was at its zenith, Sade’s understated exotic beauty made her stand out in a sea of club freaks.

Read our Album By Album feature on Sade

“I’m not over the top; I’m not wacky. I’m fairly understated,” Sade explained to Rolling Stone magazine in 1985. “It’s now so acceptable to be wacky and have hair that goes in 101 directions and has several colours, and trendy, wacky clothes have become so acceptable that they’re… conventional.

“I’ve always hated people that have the gall to think that they’re being incredibly different when they’re doing something in a very acceptable way, something safe that they’ve seen someone else doing. I don’t like looking outrageous. I don’t want to look like everybody else.”

With London’s club scene of the early-80s being a platform for social networking as much as it was about having fun, those nights out were integral to Sade’s career. As well as attracting clients who wanted to buy her designs (including Spandau Ballet who bought clothes from her and took her to the US as one of their stylists during their first US tour in 1981), Sade was spotted and signed as a model and, significantly, landed her first singing gig…

When a backing singer left Pride, a funk/Latin band, Sade was invited to audition to replace her – based on her appearance.

“They didn’t know I could sing,” she told MTV. “They just assumed that I could because I was black.” After initially turning her down, they later changed their minds and Sade joined the band. With no aspirations to become a singer, she looked at it as “a hobby”.

Despite having limited success, Pride was an experience that proved vital for Sade, igniting her passion for songwriting. As hours were spent in rehearsal rooms and in a “battered transit van” travelling to gigs, the vocalist developed a strong rapport with guitarist/saxophonist Stuart Matthewman and the pair began writing songs together influenced by their love of classic soul.

They developed a style of their own and emerged as an eventual side project from Pride, also including Paul Denman and Paul Cooke, performing support slots to the main group’s gigs.

With their stripped-back, soulful sound and meaningful lyrics that told stories, Sade’s (they had decided to name their group after her) sets were proving a bigger draw than Pride’s and the buzz surrounding them eclipsed anything the group had managed to achieve, leading to a mutual agreement that Sade should embark on a career as its own entity.

“People in the audience just had their mouths open with Sade, “Stuart later told “Because they hadn’t seen or heard anyone like her really. It’s like this beautiful black girl with these three skinny white boys doing this kind of alternative stripped down soul kind of funky jazz stuff. No one was doing that kind of thing at the time.

“It was all about Duran Duran and all that type of stuff or it was like Michael Jackson, which is a really highly polished Quincy Jones big production.”

While Sade’s individuality had proved a major asset in getting them noticed, it was seen as a drawback when trying to secure a deal, with record companies reluctant to sign the band as they were the complete antithesis to everything that was currently successful. 

The group had met and been working with producer Robin Millar, who had believed in them and put them in a studio for the first time. The demo tape he recorded with them and shopped around the labels included both Smooth Operator and Your Love Is King.

“[The record companies] all said the tracks were too long and too jazzy,” Robin told The Guardian. “They said: ‘Don’t you know what’s happening? Everything is electronic drums now: Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode.’ This was a bit of a blow, because when we’d played them to people who came by the studio we’d got a fantastic reaction.”

In a bid to drum up interest, Sade’s media savvy social circle came up with a plan. The rise of style bibles Blitz, i-D and The Face had already helped launch the careers of Boy George, Annie Lennox and Bananarama and Sade would be next, featuring on the cover of The Face with the declaration; “The Face of 1984”.

To coincide with her cover feature, a gig was hastily arranged at Heaven nightclub, with invitations going out to every newspaper and magazine editor, ensuring it was the hottest ticket in town.

Sensing they had missed out on a major coup, the labels that had passed on Sade were now clamouring to sign her, and now were forced to do so on her own terms.

Despite offers of renowned musicians and production opportunities with Quincy Jones, Sade eventually agreed a deal with Epic stipulating that her band came with her, as did Robin Millar in the role of producer. 

She also turned down much more lucrative deals in favour of a £60,000 advance with a 15 per cent cut of her sales, granting her complete creative freedom and the choice to release music as frequently (or infrequently) as she liked. 

With a deal secured, Sade continued writing and recording their debut album. Within six weeks they had 14 finished songs, cutting the final tracklisting down to those Sade liked best.

Envisioning Sade’s Diamond Life as a soul record inspired by Al Green, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin and Donny Hathaway, most of the uptempo tracks were ditched as they didn’t fit the laidback, soothing oeuvre they had cultivated.

Your Love Is King was released in its original demo form as Sade’s debut single in February 1984 and reached No.6, affirming her belief in the material. Even the relative disappointment of When Am I Going To Make A Living peaking at No.36 three months later failed to knock the band’s confidence as they shared Epic’s belief that they were “an albums act”. 

Thanks to its originality, sophistication and timeless sound, Sade’s Diamond Life was released to critical acclaim on 16 July 1984 and was an immediate hit, reaching the Top 10 worldwide and peaking at No.2 in Britain.

Smooth Operator was released two months later and became another Top 10 hit despite the album’s success and its appearance on the B-Side of the 12” single of Your Love Is King

The combination of Sade’s striking beauty and impeccable style credentials paired with the band’s seductive, jazz-inflected soul music proved to be a winning formula.

With three Top 40 hits, Diamond Life would go on to sell over six million copies worldwide and be named Best British Album at the 1985 BPI Awards. Sade was a phenomenon. 

Finding it increasingly difficult to deal with all the fame and after being subject to a minor backlash, prompted by misguided judgment that the music was designed for the elitist “Yuppie” set, Sade retreated from the public gaze.

“Because of my family history, that was something that really irked me,” Sade told The Sunday Times. “And it so annoyed me, because we were secretly giving money we didn’t even have yet to Arthur Scargill and the striking miners.”

While Sade’s financial support of the striking miners had been characteristically low-key, their support of Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia appeal could not have been more public.

Having spent the early part of 1985 replicating Diamond Life’s success stateside, the band arrived back in Britain to perform at Live Aid in July, capping a year of colossal international success –something which, thanks to the unique sound, vision and originality of the band, would be the first of many. 

The Songs of Sade’s Diamond Life

Smooth Operator

The sleek and sensual ballad tells the tale of a heartless playboy and is one of Sade’s biggest hits. Written by the singer with former Pride bandmate Ray St John, Smooth Operator defined the band’s sound, jazz-inflected soulful pop with a trademark sax. The third UK single, it became her second UK Top 20 hit and also gave them their US breakthrough, reaching No.5.

Your Love Is King

Written and recorded by Sade in their first ever studio session, Your Love Is King was released in its original form after producer Robin Millar deemed it “perfect”. Although initially rejected by “every record company”, the sophisticated, sensual ballad scored the band a record deal and went on to become an instant hit. 

With mesmerising vocals and Stuart Matthewman’s sax solo, it was the natural choice for their debut single and perfect introduction to the group. With a peak chart position of No.6 in the UK, it remains their biggest hit. 

Hang On To Your Love

One of Diamond Life’s more upbeat, uplifting tracks, Hang On To Your Love was released as the debut single in America on the advice of their US A&R man Cliff Crist.

Producer Robin Millar recalled: “We met with Crist, I think he was the only black A&R working out of CBS Records in New York, so we all gravitated to him. He said a very sensible thing: ‘In my opinion, if you don’t get the black audience first in America, you won’t get them. If you get them first, and if you crossover, they’ll stay with you’. I believe it was crucial, because it linked Sade with a black audience, and it gave her credibility.”

Frankie’s First Affair

A tale of what-goes-around-comes-around, Frankie’s First Affair tells the story of a playboy that uses his looks, charisma and power to his advantage with blatant disregard for the women that fall for him, leaving “a trail of destruction”.

In a twist of fate, Frankie falls in love for the first time, only to find that his feelings aren’t reciprocated. The track details his anguish with its repeated refrain of “It’s your turn to cry” and warnings he would “fall into the trap you made”. 

When Am I Going To Make A Living

Written in the very early days of the band, the song came to Sade when she had been feeling disheartened and in a rare moment of self-doubt. On a rainy night in London, the singer had been to the dry cleaners to pick up her clothes.

On the bus home, she wrote the title of the song on the back of her ticket from the cleaners, inspiring the track, her frustration evident in the lyrics. “We’re hungry for a life we can’t afford/There’s no end to what you can do, if you give yourself a chance/We’re hungry but we won’t give in/Start believing in yourself.”

It was the second single released from the record in May 1984, though it failed to match the success of Your Love Is King, peaking at No.36. 

When Am I Going To Make A Living cover

Cherry Pie

One of the first numbers Sade had written, Cherry Pie was a staple of their live set in their earliest gigs. However, when it came to recording the song, it had taken on a much more complex arrangement, requiring endless hours in the studio.

“This was before we had mixing desks with automation,” says Stuart Matthewman. “Robin [Millar] was there with the four of us in the studio, all of us on the desk at the same time. Everyone had their job of putting a bit of echo, delay, or changing a level down on a tape. Then, you would edit between those different mixes to get the best mix. Very often, we would have six people at the mixing desk at the same time.”


Penned during one of the band’s first writing sessions, the bluesy, haunting Sally was the product of the band and producer Robin Millar sitting together in a room playing all of the music that inspired them. Beginning with Ray Charles and Gil Scott-Heron, the playlist continued with Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone and Marvin Gaye.

As well as giving the group a sonic identity, they were inspired lyrically, ensuring that their songs would tell stories. Sally is a prime example of that. While on the surface it appears to be about a woman, the ‘heroine’ is actually the Salvation Army.

I Will Be Your Friend

An ode to unwavering love and support, I Will Be Your Friend is lyrically a precursor to By Your Side. A languid, sensual song, I Will Be Your Friend was sampled by Drake in 2011 for his track Free Spirit. The rapper has been a longtime fan of Sade, citing her as a major inspiration from the beginning of his career, even going so far as to have two portraits of her tattooed on his body.

Why Can’t We Live Together

Radio Caroline was a revelation to Sade in her teens, exposing her to the artists she would admire and draw inspiration from. One of the first songs she fell in love with was Timmy Thomas’ 1972 hit Why Can’t We Live Together and decided to include her cover on the debut album as a tribute.

She later said that the first moment she realised she was famous was when a hotel doorman affronted her, accusing her of “destroying the song”. Shaken, she became wary of fame from that point, maintaining a low profile whenever in public.

Read our Superfan feature on Sade

For more about Sade, visit their official website



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Top 20 80s Cover Versions




Cover versions are sometimes bad, sometimes great. Here’s Classic Pop’s rundown of the very best cover versions of some of some of the 80s’ very best songs.

Cover versions

It’s a testament to the skyscraping songwriting achievements of the 1980s that its music is constantly being revisited by today’s artists. Since 31 December 1989, the highlights of that decade have been continually plundered by singers and bands eager to capture a little of that 80s magic. Some are by artists who lived through that special decade, while others are by those that weren’t even born back then. Here, then, is our pick of the best cover versions of 80s hits. Strap in tight…

Our countdown of the Top 20 80s cover versions

Sonic Youth – Into the Groove
Original: Madonna

Credited to Ciccone Youth, this improbable Madonna cover by Noo Yoik noiseniks Sonic Youth was cut from The Whitey Album, an LP built around their fascination with the Material Girl. We’ve chosen not their take on Burning Up but their version of Maddie’s 1985 smash, Into The Groove.

Staggeringly, it’s as loyal to the discordant, feedback-heavy Sonic Youth sound as it is the pop majesty of Madonna. Her opinion of this most unique of refits, however, remains sadly unknown.

M WardLet’s Dance
Original: David Bowie

Let’s Dance is one of David Bowie’s slickest tracks, a glorious, clear-eyed slice of party-funk that won him his biggest hit in years. M Ward’s 2007 cover version, recorded for Taika Waititi’s comedy flick Eagle Vs Shark, strips back all of that Nile Rodgers tinsel, reclaiming it as a tender folk-blues number.

It’s worth checking out the covers album Ward made in 2014 with Zooey Deschanel, Classics, under their She & Him alias, where they revisit 13 favourite songs with the help of a 20-piece orchestra.

Calexico – Love Will Tear Us Apart
Original: Joy Division

There have been oh-so-many cover versions of Joy Division’s signature number (including Squarepusher, José González, Fall Out Boy, Nouvelle Vague, Soul Asylum and, of course, Paul Young), but our pick comes from alt-country oddballs Calexico who recorded this Americana-inflected take in 2005.

Audaciously refashioning the central melody, it’s a rosier, sunnier version than the introspective, intense original and no worse for that. Quite what Ian Curtis would have made of it, though, is another thing.

Nada Surf – If You Leave
Original: OMD

Recorded originally for John Hughes’ cult romcom Pretty In Pink, If You Leave became Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s highest-charting single in the US, where it peaked at No.4 in May 1986. When noughties teen drama The OC fashioned an episode around Hughes’ film, they reached out to alternative rock band Nada Surf to cover OMD’s iconic, movie-closing track.

Jettisoning the towering synths of the original, they give the song a lovingly indie makeover.

The Flaming Lips With Stardeath And White Dwarfs – Borderline
Original: Madonna

Recorded in 2009 for a Warner Bros tribute album by sonic adventurers The Flaming Lips and experimental crackpots Stardeath And White Dwarfs, this unsettling version of Madonna’s 1984 classic turns the song inside out.

A scuzzy, disorientating take, it hoovers out all the pop and reinvents the song as some kind of avant-garde noise project – a sort of sweaty, night terrors take on La Ciccone’s rainbow-hued original.

Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal
Original: Michael Jackson

The awfully-named Alien Ant Farm have failed to make much of an impact after this, their – admittedly dope – debut single.

A guitared-up take on Jacko’s 1988 dance classic, it was certainly an MTV favourite in the early noughties (with its video depicting frontman Dryden Mitchell frolicking with a pet monkey and pastiching Jackson’s iconic crotch grab) and propelled the simple-headed frat-rockers to No.3 on the UK singles chart.

STRFKR – Girls Just Want To Have Fun
Original: Cyndi Lauper

It’s worth noting that Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 single was itself a cover of a song written and first recorded in 1979 by new wave muso Robert Hazard (he reportedly dashed off the track in just 15 minutes whilst in the tub). Lauper, however, took the number to soaring chart heights, creating an effervescent feminist anthem.

Three decades later, indie outfit Starfucker (politely abbreviated to STRFKR) put out this sympathetic cover, retaining the bouncy fun of Lauper’s version while dialling back the synths.

Read our Classic Album feature on Cyndi Lauper’s She So Unusual here.

Ian Brown – Billie Jean
Original: Michael Jackson

“You’re never going to improve on a Michael Jackson song if you cover it,” so proclaimed former Stone Rose Ian Brown, a brave man who took on not just one, but two Jacko classics at the turn of the millennium. A fully Brownified take on Jackson fave Billie Jean was released as a double A-side with his similarly idiosyncratic version of Thriller.

Eschewing Quincy Jones’ silky production for his own trademark do-it-yourself home-studio sound, Brown’s cover acquits itself nicely.

Johnny Cash – Personal Jesus
Original: Depeche Mode

The Man In Black’s American Recordings series threw up a plethora of bang-up covers, some blindingly obvious and some that were, for a sexagenarian country legend, rather more leftfield. It was producer Rick Rubin who suggested this sleazy, sinister cut off Depeche Mode’s Violator album for Cash’s 2002 long-player, American IV: The Man Comes Around.

Cash mined something very different for his bluesier interpretation, calling it “probably the most evangelical gospel song I ever recorded.”

Read our Classic Album feature on Depeche Mode’s Violator here.

Weezer – Africa
Original: Toto

In December 2017, a Twitter account was set up with the sole purpose of convincing American alt-rockers Weezer to wax a version of Toto’s MOR favourite Africa. Just to be contrary, the band first put out a cover of Toto’s Rosanna, before succumbing and releasing their irony-heavy version (they even brought in “Weird Al“ Yankovic to replace singer Rivers Cuomo in the video) of Africa in May 2018.

The song netted the band their biggest hit since 2006. Result.

Faith No More – I’m Easy
Original: The Commodores

We can’t imagine Faith No More are particularly happy now, 27 years down the line, that I’m Easy remains their biggest worldwide hit. Although they were most likely pissing themselves in the studio, it’s a surprisingly – no pun intended – faithful cover of the Lionel Richie-composed original.

Which is probably why their fans detested it so much, regularly flipping the band the finger when they played it live. Originally released in 1977, we’re sneaking this in on the basis of its reissue a decade later.

The Postal Service – Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)
Original: Phil Collins

Phil Collins’ chart-conquering power-ballad has been covered umpteen times, mostly by bands and singers who do little to put their stamp on it (we’re looking at you, Mariah Carey and Westlife).

That’s not an accusation you could ever lob at electro laptop misfits The Postal Service – they being Death Cab For Cutie vocalist Ben Gibbard and DJ Jimmy Tamborello – who delivered this appealingly angular reinterpretation for the 2004 big screen thriller Wicker Park.

Foo Fighters – Down in the Park
Original: Tubeway Army

The characteristically doom-laden Down In The Park was the first single to be released from Tubeway Army’s sophomore album, Replicas. Despite bombing commercially, it’s something of a goth favourite, with starry-eyed versions by Marilyn Manson and Christian Death, alongside this take by Dave Grohl and co.

Replacing the ominous synths of the original with a wall of guitar noise, it was recorded for a 1996 LP titled Songs In The Key Of X: Music From And Inspired By The X-Files.

Muse – Hungry Like The Wolf
Original: Duran Duran

Sometimes when a song is so faultless, it would be almost sacrilegious to perform radical surgery on it. It’s clear then that Devonian space-rockers Muse were hot and heavy for Duran Duran’s 1982 original, so where’s the harm in doing a straight, loving, well-performed cover?

The trio first aired the song during a live TV appearance in 2018, a performance so well received that, only a few months later, they released a studio recording exclusively on Spotify. Go listen. Now.

Paloma Faith – Never Tear Us Apart
Original: INXS

It takes a particularly fearless artist to take on the mighty, untouchable Michael Hutchence, but Paloma Faith’s gender-swapped version of the INXS classic Never Tear Us Apart, recorded for a John Lewis ad in 2012, stands almost as tall and proud as the 1988 original.

Seductive and sexy, with a cool Western guitar bridge and a powerfully soulful vocal from one of pop’s most cherished eccentrics – it’s a must-hear cover that can be found on her second studio album, Fall To Grace.

No Doubt – It’s My Life
Original: Talk Talk

Talk Talk’s version of It’s My Life didn’t even make the Top 30 in the States, so when Californian ska-rockers No Doubt chose the song to record in 2003, they didn’t have to deal with too many people giving them grief for vandalising a classic.

Though it misses the sulky melancholy of the original, No Doubt’s version is a pleasingly synth-soaked, club-friendly reinvention of one of Mark Hollis’ most sublime tracks. The song reached No.10 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining on the chart for 28 weeks.

Read our Album By Album feature on Talk Talk here.

The Futureheads – Hounds of Love
Original: Kate Bush

There are precious few Kate Bush covers (I mean, who would even dare?) and even fewer ones that managed to prick the Top 10, with the unlikely exception being northern post-punks The Futureheads who scored a No.8 hit with this guitar-coated version of Dame Kate’s 1986 classic (which, somewhat outrageously, only managed a No.18 placing in the UK).

Despite being named Best Single Of 2005 by the NME it was, tragically for The Futureheads, their last ever Top 10 placing.

Read our Lowdown feature on Kate Bush here.

Hot Chip Dancing in the Dark
Original: Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen’s brand of blue-collar earnestness couldn’t be more distanced from the dorky, bedroom-dwelling, über-arch output of electro noodlers Hot Chip, so there was never any chance that their version of The Boss’ 1984 classic would sound even remotely similar.

Replacing Springsteen’s testosterone-drenched vocals with that of lady-voiced man-child Alexis Taylor, it’s a geeky reclaiming of a song that no speccy, pasty-faced dork would have gone anywhere near before.

The Be Good Tanyas – When Doves Cry
Original: Prince

The most ear-catching covers are often when a band from a completely different corner of the musical spectrum take on a song from a genre far away from their own. So it was when Canadian folkies The Be Good Tanyas picked Prince’s When Doves Cry for a hidden track on their 2006 album Hello Love.

The band’s no-frills, Frazey Ford-fronted cover is slower and more delicate, but still boss, a testament to the stately brilliance of the Purple One’s 1984 original.

Read our Top 10 Prince songs feature here.

Michael Andrews & Gary Jules – Mad World
Original: Tears For Fears

Sometimes a cover can dwarf the original so much that it’s the first version that tends to get mistaken as the reboot. So it is with Mad World, the original of which, by Tears For Fears, peaked at No.3 in the UK in 1982. But Michael Andrews and Gary Jules’ achingly melancholic, bare-bones cover, recorded for the Jake Gyllenhaal-fronted sci-fi flick Donnie Darko, became an unlikely Christmas No.1 at the end of 2003.

When Adam Lambert sang Mad World on American Idol in 2009, it wasn’t Tears For Fears’ version that he performed.

Read more: Top 20 Posthumous Releases



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The Specials: Protest Songs 1924-2012 review




The Specials: Protest Songs 1924-2012
The Specials: Protest Songs 1924-2012 cover

Such was the excitement surrounding Terry Hall’s return to The Specials for 2019’s Encore that they swiftly reconvened in early 2020 to begin a new album. This – for obvious reasons – is not that album, and, by the time they gathered in September, with COVID’s second wave incoming, it was clear recording in the familiar fashion remained impossible.

So, suffering lockdown fatigue, but inspired by demonstrations about George Floyd’s death, they instead planned a fourth covers album. 

This time – just as the band needed something on which to focus – the songs themselves would have a focus, too. Protest Songs 1924-2012 gathers a dozen such compositions and demands fans see it more as a continuation of the band’s social politics than their musical style. 

This takes some readjustment: there’s little sign of, for instance, ska here – except, perhaps, the loose rhythms of Big Bill Broonzy’s 1938 tune Black, Brown And White – and few could have predicted Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows would appear, especially not so convincingly, nor Frank Zappa’s Trouble Every Day. The Specials, however, have always been by nature a broad church.

Of course, more obvious choices are present, especially Pop Staples’ civil rights anthem, Freedom Highway, with The Staples Singers’ gospel switched for a similarly instinctive rock‘n’roll arrangement, though often little more than voice and drums.

From the same era, Ain’t Gonna Let Segregation Turn Us Around (Don’t You Let Nobody Turn You Around) takes an African spiritual popularised on marches and speeds it up for shorter attention spans, its vocals and handclaps periodically punctuated by bursts of organ, guitar and drums, while Rod McKuen’s gritty pacifist song Soldiers Who Want To Be Heroes gets a welcome revival, too.

Two tunes by Malvina ‘Little Boxes’ Reynolds are also unearthed, the loaded I Don’t Mind Failing In This World and, enhanced by banjo, I Live In A City, while this country styling is maintained for Chip ‘Wild Thing’ Taylor’s Fuck All The Perfect People, written in 2012. 

More controversial, though, is Listening Wind, Talking Heads’ tale of a terrorist defending his land from foreign exploiters, delivered here with minimal percussion and mournful horns, while an acoustic rendition of Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up rounds things off quietly. We’ve never heard The Specials like this before, but they’ve used their time wisely. 

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Check out The Specials’ website

Read more: 2Tone Records feature



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Toyah – Posh Pop review




Toyah Posh Pop cover
Toyah Posh Pop cover

After years of copyright wrangling, the belated reissues of her early albums has finally allowed Toyah to be reassessed. So far, Sheep Farming In Barnet and The Blue Meaning have shown just how adventurous she was among punk peers. Next up will be 1981’s Anthem, the album which sent Toyah mainstream via its hits It’s A Mystery and I Want To Be Free. 

It’s Anthem which Toyah’s 13th full album most closely resembles. It appears having her early work back out has enabled Toyah to be as at peace with her music as such an untameable spirit will ever be. 

She’s made excellent questing albums since Anthem, but none have so completely reconciled her fearlessness with a simultaneous love of bloody great big pop songs. Posh Pop’s title alludes to Toyah’s husband Robert Fripp guesting on guitar, under the alias Bobby Willcox. Such knowingness aside, it’s not a bad description for such elegant material.

Resolutely not mucking about in getting to the heart of each song, Toyah and her regular producer/co-writer Simon Darlow’s music is lean, even when the sound is as belligerent as the Belinda Carlisle-meets-B-52’s Rhythm In My House or Levitate’s pulsating groove. Space Dance is gloriously daft, as catchy as R.E.M.’s Shiny Happy People. If the overall mood is celebratory, many songs have a savage bite lurking, Toyah’s punk roots showing in Kill The Rage and the sci-fi epic Take Me Home, with its message that we’re all refugees.

And then Toyah simply devastates the listener, as Barefoot On Mars is the most beautiful song she’s ever written, describing how she reconciled with her troubled mother. 

Having become one of lockdown’s breakout stars with her and Fripp’s gloriously daft Sunday Lunch videos, Toyah has embraced their ethos by making films for each song. Included on the CD+DVD format, they range from the unlikely Devo spirit of Toyah, Fripp and Darlow’s deadpan dancing in Space Dance to a moving, meditative monkey reflecting on mankind’s inequities in Monkeys. It makes Posh Pop a worthwhile video album.

The Sunday Lunch ethos infuses Toyah’s music, too: ridicule is nothing to be scared of, as Toyah’s Jubilee co-star Adam Ant once sang. Pop music is nothing to be scared of, either. As Anthem showed 40 years ago, pop doesn’t have to be disposable. Toyah has embraced that again, and brought her hard-fought wisdom into the lyrics. Magnificent. 


Visit Toyah’s website here

Read more: Toyah interview

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