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Making New Order: Technique – Classic Pop Magazine

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Conceived amid a summer of hedonism during Ibiza’s infancy as a party capital, New Order: Technique was a groundbreaking record that continues to inspire more than 30 years on… By Mark Lindores

New Order: Technique
New Order: Technique cover

Entering the studio to begin work on their fifth album in early 1988, New Order had already endured more in their decade as a band than others would in their lifetime. 

Having become one of the most influential and revered bands of their era in Joy Division, lead singer and songwriter Ian Curtis’ suicide in 1980 had brought their success to an abrupt halt, forcing its surviving members to literally regroup, reinventing themselves as New Order with the addition of keyboard player/guitarist Gillian Gilbert.

While the ghost of Curtis loomed large over early New Order material, a trip to New York in 1983 played a pivotal role in shaping them as a band and establishing an identity and sound apart from their former incarnation. 

With the Big Apple’s effervescent, multicultural nightclubs pioneering a new movement in dance music, clubs such as Danceteria, Funhouse and the Paradise Garage introduced New Order to a higher state of cultured clubbing, blending house, hip-hop, electro and new wave, all experienced through the euphoric haze of MDMA. 

Fast-forward five years, and New Order had found themselves at a similar juncture as they’d been after the end of Joy Division, having progressed from, in the (slightly slurred) words of Bernard Sumner in an interview on Rapido, “creating slabs of black, industrial, neo-gothic doom and gloom in Joy Division to being post-modernist, dance-beat miserablists in New Order.” 

New Order: Technique Fine Time video

They’d released four studio albums, enjoyed a string of era-defining, successful singles (including the biggest-selling 12″ single of all time with Blue Monday), opened their own nightclub, The Haçienda, and, unsure of where to head next musically, were stalling making a definite decision by releasing two compilation albums entitled Substance – one containing their Joy Division material and one featuring the extended mixes of their New Order singles and their B-sides to date. 

As the major commercial act and cash cow on Factory Records, label boss Tony Wilson and the group’s manager Rob Gretton were keen to get them in the studio to work on a new album. 

It was later revealed that money was desperately needed to keep The Haçienda club afloat and that was the prime factor for a new LP, though this was concealed from the band at the time.

Although the label had pulled off a major coup in booking Real World Studios at Box, near Bath, for them to work on the record, the band had other ideas, instead favouring the sunshine island of Ibiza, which was garnering a reputation as an up-and-coming mecca for its club scene and own brand of euphoric dance music.

Feeling that the Ibizan influence could prove as integral to their music as New York had been in the past, the band flew to the island in April 1988 to begin work on the album.

Immediately upon arrival, it was apparent where the 24-hour party people’s priorities lay, having turned down the chance to work in one of the country’s most advanced studio complexes in favour of Ibiza’s maggot-infested Mediterranean Studios.

“The studio was rubbish,” Bernard recalled last year while speaking at the International Music Summit in Ibiza. “It was geared towards heavy metal, with walls covered in green shag-pile carpet which flies were nesting in – it was awful.”

Its pros? “It had its own swimming pool, a 24-hour bar with drinks served by its own barman, Herman the German – who was actually Spanish – and it was located down a dusty lane at the end of which lived a man who sold things…”

With the local drug dealer practically on their doorstep, the scene was set for Barney, Hooky and co to sample the delights of Ibiza – an endless stream of parties, calamities, writing off cars (courtesy of Bez from Happy Mondays) hosting barbecues for coachloads of Club 18-30 holidaymakers and introducing visiting friends from Manchester to the new sounds they were hearing at clubs such as Amnesia, Pacha and Ku.

New Order: Technique Round And Round video

“We had expected to hear a lot of acid house music when we got to Ibiza because that had taken off in Manchester two to three months before we left, but we didn’t – we were hearing something called Balearic Beat,” Bernard said.

“We were actually disappointed at first because we were really into acid house, and what we heard, this Balearic Beat, was this crazy mash-up of styles and really commercial-sounding but there was also some really good stuff. By the end of our time there we were really influenced by it.”

As the band enjoyed what Tony Wilson later described as “the most expensive holiday New Order ever had”, writing and recording sessions were sporadic at best, producing only Fine Time and rough versions of Mr Disco and All The Way along with a lot of drum tracks due to drummer Stephen Morris (who had favoured working in Box over Ibiza) being the only member to do any real work whilst there.

Read more: Top 20 Posthumous Releases

“It got off to a really feeble start,” Bernard says. “Steve hates the sun so he was in the studio a lot of the time creating drum tracks while Peter Hook and I topped up our tans by the pool. He created all these tracks and asked us to go and listen to them and we’d be like, ‘Our cocktails have just arrived, we’ll listen later,’ and then we’d hear them, say the hi-hat wasn’t right or something and go back to sunbathing!” 

Gillian Gilbert recalls that instances such as those were the beginning of a major departure in the machinations of New Order.

“It was the beginning of us not being together in the studio when we were doing things,“ she said in 2008. “It was like, ‘Oh, you do your drums today, and I’ll do the vocals tonight.’ The songs were sort of there but there were huge chunks missing. You’d leave blocks and say, ‘Will you fill that in? I’m off now.’”

As visits from record company reps became more and more frequent to find out what exactly they had to show for their time on the island, the band eventually concluded that it hadn’t been a productive working environment and, after four months, headed back to the UK and the tranquil setting of Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios.

Though New Order continued partying – taking the train to London to go clubbing at Spectrum on weekends, they began working in earnest on completing the album. Holed up in the English countryside away from any distractions, they found the isolation heightened underlying tensions regarding creative differences within the group. 

New Order: Technique Run video

With Peter Hook favouring a more traditional rock sound, Sumner wanted to head in a more dance direction.

“We were in this position of being known for this dance-electronic sound and it would have been daft to have just stopped doing it,” he says. “That was the nature of the time. The way I saw it was we were still writing band music as well, so we reached a compromise.

“To be fair, doing electronic music like that has to be by its very nature one or two guys in front of a computer screen. I realise it was boring perhaps for Hooky to sit there while we were programming songs, but there was no other way round it.”

As well as the in-band tensions, Sumner was going through a divorce from his first wife and was writing all of the lyrics for the album. 

“Because I’m a really private person, the lyrics were difficult,” he said. “I’m not the type of person that wakes up in the morning and thinks I have a message for the world because I haven’t. I like to keep my thoughts to myself – I don’t even like doing interviews, so I had to really dig deep.”

After seven weeks at Real World, the band finished work on Technique and on the music they were concurrently creating for a BBC TV series, Making Out. When the studio engineer suggested a celebration to mark the completion of the record, meaning a cocktail party for the band and those that worked on the album, they mistook his plans and invited a coachload of friends from Manchester, including DJ Mike Pickering. 

Enjoying this article on New Order: Technique? Then check out our Album By Album feature on New Order

Read more: The Lowdown – New Order

With pills and thrills aplenty among not only New Order and their crowd, but also the local residents that had been invited, the end-of-album bash got out of control and caused considerable damage to the studio, ending the recording sessions in a similarly hedonistic fashion as they had begun.

By the end of 1988, the album’s lead single Fine Time was riding high in the charts, acid house had taken off in a big way and fuelled the rise of The Haçienda, which had by now completely reversed its ailing fortunes and was the epicentre of the ‘Madchester’ scene.

New Order: Technique – The release

Technique was released on 30 January 1989 to universal acclaim, with critics hailing it the band’s best work to date and applauding its fusion of rock and dance, something which would see it pitched as a landmark release and the impetus for records by Primal Scream, Happy Mondays and countless others. 

Technique also proved a hit commercially, giving New Order their first UK No.1 album and two further moderately successful hit singles in Round & Round and Run 2 (which reached No.21 and No.49 respectively). Despite its critical and commercial success, it was to be the final New Order album on Factory Records which went bankrupt in 1992. 

After its release, New Order went on an extended hiatus. Bernard Sumner joined forces with Johnny Marr (and occasionally the Pet Shop Boys and Karl Bartos) for Electronic, Peter Hook formed a new group called Revenge and Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert began recording tracks as The Other Two.

It would be four years before the band reconvened in rather difficult circumstances for comeback album Republic.

It was a world away from the hedonistic and (almost) carefree  vibe surrounding Technique. Now 30 years on, it’s a reminder of sunnier times within the band – its fusion of the Balearic beats of the late 80s and precision-tooled melodies is the perfect sonic snapshot of Britain basking in the second Summer Of Love. 

New Order: Technique Mr Disco

New Order: Technique – The Songs

Fine Time

Having migrated from Manchester for the hedonistic haven that was Ibiza, the island’s pulsating club scene provided influence aplenty (often to the detriment of the band’s progress workwise). Fine Time was the product of a particularly hectic night at Amnesia, following which New Order decided to make a dance record inspired by Donna Summer – complete with “erotic” vocal.

Unfortunately, the vocal was a complete misfire and instead sounded, according to Bernard, “like I was stuck on the toilet with constipation”, and scrapped. Like many of the Technique tracks, the song was still a rough demo called The Balearic One when they departed Ibiza to be finished back in the UK.

During the later sessions at Real World, a menial task gave the song its eventual title. “It’s called Fine Time because my car had been towed away and I had to remind myself to go and pay the fine,” says drummer Stephen Morris. “I just wrote Fine Time on this piece of paper to remind myself to go and get it and thought, that’s a good title.”

Released as the first single from the album, Fine Time reached No.11 in the UK. With crunching drums, squelchy synths and samples of dialogue, it encapsulated the onslaught of acid house.

All The Way

A complete contrast to the chaotic opener, All The Way begins with crashing drums and jangly guitars playing an impossibly catchy melody over which Sumner repeats the line “It takes years to find the nerve, to be apart from what you’ve done; To find the truth inside yourself and not depend on anyone”. A return to the traditional New Order sound, it is one of the moments on Technique on which they feel like a band as opposed to a group of musicians each contributing their own parts.

Love Less

Given the circumstances surrounding the personal lives of the band during the period (various drug problems and Sumner’s divorce from his first wife), it’s little wonder that New Order fought with their label to record in the Balearics as opposed to the planned West Country to work on the album. 

A cough and crash of drums kickstart another hypnotic melody evocative of Brotherhood, which features intensely personal lyrics documenting a relationship in which love has turned to hate – a possible reason for him delivering such a heartfelt vocal. “I worked hard to give you all the things that you need, and almost anything that you see/ I spent a lifetime working on you/ and you won’t even talk to me,” he sings.

Round & Round

A return to the dancefloor, sequenced drums and stabs of keyboard are the foundation of one of New Order’s most dance-based tracks. Although on the surface the song seems to be about a romantic relationship, its subject matter is the disdain they were feeling for Factory owner Tony Wilson at the time.

Having branded him “a parasite” in interviews, their frustration at Wilson’s dealings with the group seeped into the songwriting of Round & Round on lyrics such as; “You think I am crazy, but what can I do?/ You waste your time, like my money/ It ain’t so funny, but it’s true (Don’t waste my money, baby).” Things would later come to a head and Technique was their final album to be released on Factory.

Released as Technique’s second single, Round & Round’s B-side was Best & Marsh, a sublime synth-pop instrumental track which was used as the theme to the football TV series of the same name. The connection led to New Order being asked to write and record World In Motion as the England football team’s official song the following year.

Guilty Partner

A standout of the album, Guilty Partner appears to take its inspiration from Bernard’s relationship problems at the time and his disintegrating marriage. Detailing a relationship that’s broken, seemingly beyond repair, Sumner’s proclamation that the subject of the song will “always come back to me” sounds as if he is trying to convince himself as much as he is the listener. Sonically the song builds, with a retro drum rhythm prominent throughout, only succumbing towards the end of the track to stunning synths.

Run

Released as the third and final single from the album, and New Order’s final release of the 80s, Run was given the remix treatment by Scott Litt for its single release and renamed Run 2. The track resulted in a lawsuit from the publishers of John Denver’s catalogue over claims that the guitar solo in Run was an interpolation of Denver’s Leaving On A Jet Plane. The band and Denver’s publishers eventually settled out of court and John Denver has received a songwriting credit on all subsequent releases of the track.

Mr Disco

Evoking New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle from 1986, Mr Disco, unusually for a song so ingrained in the time and scene in which it was released, has aged remarkably well. The era’s squelching synths, Peter Hook’s always fantastic bass and programmed percussion creates a chaotic backdrop over which Bernard Sumner delivers a plaintive vocal lamenting a holiday romance.

Vanishing Point

An opening salvo of stripped-back drums had been a success for them on their iconic Blue Monday and the group once again utilised the tactic on Vanishing Point, as the song is given breathing space to fully shine as synths, samples and bass each gradually come into play, allowing the track to build until Sumner makes an appearance a full minute-and-a-half in.

Dream Attack

While most of the tracks fall into either the new dance stylings of the group or the more traditional song template, the closing Dream Attack is a solid hybrid of both, traditional in style but the production elevates the song, lending it the slick touches that see it sit beside the more experimental, fresh-sounding work on the record. A softer sounding song than others on the album, it ends with a lengthy guitar solo and indicates the direction the band would explore further on their next LP, 1993’s Republic.

Check out New Order’s official website

 

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Top 20 No.1s That Owed A Debt To The 80s

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The 80s didn’t stop in 1989, oh no. In the world of music, the last three decades have leaned heavily on that classic decade. Jon O’Brien looks at the best No.1s that owed a debt to the 1980s…

Top 10 80s no.1s

As LadBaby’s sausage roll-themed retooling of Starship’s We Built This City proved last Christmas, the act of reviving a Top 40 hit from the 1980s can still lead to chart-topping success. In fact, over the past 30 years, more than 30 UK No.1s have borrowed heavily from the decade, whether via a subtle or, more likely, a blatant sample, a straightforward or radical cover version, or simply a re-release of the original.

Ignoring the tracks whose inspirations reached pole position first time around (eg Puff Daddy’s interpolation of The Police’s Every Breath You Take on I’ll Be Missing You, or Gabrielle Aplin’s rendition of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power Of Love), here’s our countdown of the 90s, 00s and 10s No.1s which owe it all to the 80s.

20 The Black Eyed Peas: The Time (Dirty Bit) (interpolation of Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes’ (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life, No.6, 1987)

It’s easy to forget that will.i.am and co. were once regarded as an alt-hip-hop outfit in the vein of A Tribe Called Quest. The Time (Dirty Bit) sticks rigidly to The Black Eyed Peas’ super-commercial formula – bleepy synths, clubby beats and enough AutoTune to make Daft Punk sound organic, all topped off with a lazy sample of the Dirty Dancing number. Unlike Jennifer Grey’s Baby, this definitely deserved to be put in the corner.

19 Dizzee Rascal and James Corden: Shout (interpolation of Tears for Fears’ Shout, No.4, 1984)

Dizzee Rascal was hailed as the voice of his generation with Mercury Prize-winning 2003 debut album Boy In Da Corner. And yet within seven years the grime pioneer was fronting a Simon Cowell-backed Tears For Fears cover with one half of Horne & Corden. Shout, of course, was England’s unofficial 2010 World Cup song. But neither Dizzee’s dodgy rhymes nor Corden’s bellowing could inspire the Three Lions to anything more than a humiliating early exit.

18 KWS – Please Don’t Go (originally recorded by KC & the Sunshine Band, No.3, 1979)

KWS’s house-pop reworking of KC & The Sunshine Band’s lovelorn ballad just about qualifies here – the original reached its peak position in only the second chart week of 1980. The group were hastily assembled to cover Please Don’t Go following a UK rights issue with German act Double You’s similar idea. And then there’s the rumour that it was recorded with an ulterior motive – to persuade Des Walker to stay at the trio’s beloved Nottingham Forest.

17 A1: Take On Me (originally recorded by A-ha, No.2, 1985)

Contrary to what the casual music-buying public would probably believe, A-ha’s sole UK No.1 appeared courtesy of The Sun Always Shines On TV, not one of the 1980s’ quintessential hits. Originally reaching No.2, Take On Me did eventually go one better at the turn of the millennium thanks to an altogether more traditional boyband renowned more for their curtains than their cheekbones. A1’s cover version was accompanied by a Matrix-meets-Tron video, which at the time was deemed cutting-edge.

Read more: The a-ha albums

16 Geri Halliwell: It’s Raining Men (originally recorded by The Weather Girls, No.2, 1983)

It seems fair to say that Geri Halliwell doesn’t possess the powerhouse tones of Martha Wash and Izora-Rhodes Armstead. But what she lacks in vocal ability, she makes up for in sheer enthusiasm on this spirited take on The Weather Girls’ classic. Recorded for the Bridget Jones’s Diary soundtrack in 2001, Halliwell gives it her all on her fourth successive and final UK No.1, with its Flashdance-inspired promo only adding to the sense of pure unadulterated camp.

15 DJ Sammy and Yanou featuring Do: Heaven (originally recorded by Bryan Adams, No.38, 1985)

DJ Sammy would later give Don Henley’s Boys Of Summer a similar trance-lite reworking but it was another AOR veteran that inspired his only UK chart-topper. A No.1 hit in the States, Bryan Adams’ Heaven was all but ignored across the pond. However, the diminutive Spaniard’s cover was practically unavoidable in the autumn of 2002, with a stripped-back Candlelight Mix also catering for those who preferred Magic FM to the Ministry Of Sound.

14 LL Cool J: Ain’t Nobody (interpolation of Rufus & Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody, No.8, 1984)

There have been no less than six hit covers of Rufus & Chaka Khan’s funk classic, ranging from Liberty X’s clever mash-up with The Human League’s Being Boiled to Felix Jaehn’s insipid tropical house makeover. This unexpected chart-topper from one of hip-hop’s elder statesmen sits somewhere in-between. The coquettish call and response is a neat addition, but even LL himself sounds slightly bored with its pedestrian pop-rap production.

Read more: Top 20 Side Projects

13 Eminem: Like Toy Soldiers (sample of Martika’s Toy Soldiers, No.5, 1989)

From Labi Siffre (My Name Is) to Dido (Stan), Marshall Mathers’ sampling habits have always been a little more diverse, and indeed a little more unfashionable, than your average motormouthed rapper. Once again sitting at odds with his enfant terrible reputation, the third single from 2005’s Encore gave the anthemic power balladry of Martika’s US No.1 Toy Soldiers an unlikely new lease of life. The pitch-shifted sample sure isn’t subtle, but then Eminem is always at his most palatable when he plays it straight. 

12 The Bluebells: Young at Heart (originally reached No.8, 1984)

Almost unrecognisable from the Motown-tinged original that appeared on Bananarama’s 1983 debut album, The Bluebells’ Young At Heart has more in common with Dexys Midnight Runners than the brilliantly nonchalant girl group. The fiddle-driven folk reworking gave the Scottish outfit their first UK Top 10 hit in 1984. But it went on to occupy pole position for the whole of April nine years later when it soundtracked that memorable ‘Just Divorced’ ad for the Volkswagen Golf.

11 Room 5: Make Luv (sample of Oliver Cheatham’s Get Down Saturday Night, No.38, 1983)

A geeky guy throwing some shapes in a deodorant commercial was the unlikely catalyst for Oliver Cheatham’s rise to noughties chart-topper. Italian DJ Room 5’s chic reworking of the Detroiter’s sole UK hit, Get Down Saturday Night, got a captive audience pretty much every other ad break in 2003 thanks to its use in a Lynx promo. And Cheatham certainly appreciated the career boost. Not only did he re-record his vocals, he collaborated with Room 5 on his follow-up, too.

10 LMC vs. U2: Take Me To The Clouds Above (mash-up of Whitney Houston’s How Will I Know, No.5, 1986 and U2’s With or Without You, No.4, 1987)

You get two bona fide 80s gems for the price of one with this floor-filling mash-up from 2004. Well, parts of them anyway. Firstly, there’s the utterly joyous opening two lines from Whitney Houston’s How Will I Know, and secondly, there’s the shimmering guitar hook from arguably U2’s career-best single With Or Without You. The whole thing hangs together surprisingly well.

9 Jennifer Lopez feat. Pitbull: On The Floor (sample of Kaoma’s Lambada, No.4, 1989)

Jenny from the Block had briefly tiptoed onto the dancefloor with second single Waiting For Tonight. But she stomped all over it with both Louboutins in 2011 when she revived the brief Brazilian phenomenon known as the Lambada. The first and best of three party-starting collaborations with rent-a-rapper Pitbull, On The Floor borrowed the melody from Kaoma’s one-hit wonder, which itself cribbed from an early 80s Bolivian ballad.

8 Eric Prydz: Call On Me (sample of Steve Winwood’s Valerie, No.19, 1987)

Transforming Steve Winwood’s Valerie into an unlikely club anthem, Eric Prydz paved the way for a whole wave of faceless one-hit wonders in 2004. Indeed, pretty soon everyone from Hall & Oates to Boy Meets Girl were getting a similar treatment by opportunist hitmakers who quickly realised that slapping a four-to-the-floor beat on an 80s soft rock hit was a surefire bet. Call On Me enjoyed a briefly-interrupted five-week run atop the UK charts but is perhaps still best known for that gyrating FHM-friendly video.

7 The Tamperer feat. Maya: Feel It (sample of The Jacksons’ Can You Feel It, No.6, 1981)

The Tamperer were one of the few acts to climb to No.1 in the late 1990s, taking six weeks to reach the summit. You have to wonder what took the British public so long. From The Wizard Of Oz-inspired poser (“What’s she gonna look like with a chimney on her?”) to the triumphant sampling of The Jacksons to Maya’s vampish vocals, everything about Feel It screams instant earworm. The Material Girl-sampling, brilliantly-titled If You Buy This Record (Your Life Will Be Better) nearly repeated the trick, too.

6 Michael Andrews and Gary Jules: Mad World (originally recorded by Tears for Fears, No.3, 1982)

Like the original, this stripped-back cover of Mad World took the slow-moving route to success. Tears for Fears’ breakthrough was initially recorded as a B-side to Pale Shelter before getting a release in its own right. And although Gary Jules and Michael Andrews’ solemn take on the song appeared on the Donnie Darko soundtrack in 2002, they had to wait until December 2003 to pip The Darkness in one of the most hotly-contested Xmas chart battles for years.

Read more: Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair

5 Roger Sanchez: Another Chance (sample of Toto’s I Won’t Hold You Back, No.37, 1983)

It’s unlikely that many 00s clubbers would have recognised the vocal hook sampled on Roger Sanchez’s wistful house anthem. Another Chance borrowed from yacht rock stalwarts Toto but it was their forgotten No.37 minor hit I Won’t Hold You Back that imbued the track with an overwhelming sense of melancholy. Its striking promo, which saw a young woman looking for love carrying a giant red heart across New York, also perfectly accompanied Steve Lukather’s yearning tones.

4 The Clash: Should I Stay Or Should I Go (originally reached No.17, 1982)

There’s a certain irony to one of rock music’s most fervent anti-capitalist bands owing their only UK No.1 to a TV commercial for the world’s biggest jeans company. The third of seven chart-toppers to emerge from a Levi’s campaign, the 1991 re-release of Should I Stay Or Should I Go may have sat at odds with The Clash’s punk principles but nine years on, its stop-start riff, tempo-shifting beats and, of course, Mick Jones’ snarling vocals, still sounded as gloriously anarchic as ever.

3 Rui Da Silva: Touch Me (sample of Spandau Ballet’s Chant No.1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On), No.3, 1981)

A year after Aurora gave Duran Duran’s Ordinary World a subtle dance-pop makeover, Rui da Silva did something similar for their New Romantic rivals. But instead of going for the more predictable Gold or True, the Portuguese DJ opted for Spandau Ballet’s underrated first Top Three hit. Driven by Gary Kemp’s spiralling guitar riff and the longing smoky tones of Cass Fox, Touch Me is more post-party comedown than party starter.

Read more: Making Spandau Ballet’s Journeys To Glory

2 Beats International: Dub Be Good To Me (cover of The SOS Band’s Just Be Good to Me, No.13, 1984)

Amazingly, Jam & Lewis have never scored a UK chart-topper as producers, with a trio of No.2s for their muse Janet Jackson the closest they’ve come. They did, however, inadvertently achieve the feat as songwriters when Norman Cook got his hands on The SOS Band’s signature tune. Beats International threw in everything from Ennio Morricone to The Clash, transforming the sassy funk of the original into an intriguing pop collage befitting of the phrase “jam hot”.

1 George Michael: Fastlove (sample of Patrice Rushen’s Forget Me Nots, No.8, 1982)

A decent Top 10 hit in 1982, Patrice Rushen’s post-disco favourite ended up inspiring two separate No.1s more than a decade later. Will Smith would borrow its melodic refrain for his globe-conquering theme to mismatched buddy sci-fi Men In Black in 1997. But The Fresh Prince was beaten to the punch a year earlier by a man whose vocal talents could also be described as out of this world.

A much more uplifting affair than sombre predecessor Jesus To A Child, and indeed much of parent album Older, Fastlove sees George Michael extol the virtues of the one-night stand against a backdrop of slinky beats, subtle sax hooks and the kind of G-funk synths that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Dr Dre record. Unlike Smith’s hip-pop effort, in which he essentially just raps over the existing track, Michael doesn’t allow the sample to dominate proceedings either, only dropping in Forget Me Nots’ cooing chorus during the infectious middle-eight. Michael never bettered this track commercially following its 1996 release – it was his last UK No.1 and remarkably his last ever entry on the US Hot 100 – and you could argue that he never bettered it creatively, too.

Read more: Making George Michael’s Older

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Top 20 No.1s That Owed A Debt To The 80s

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The 80s didn’t stop in 1989, oh no. In the world of music, the last three decades have leaned heavily on that classic decade. Jon O’Brien looks at the best No.1s that owed a debt to the 1980s…

Top 10 80s no.1s

As LadBaby’s sausage roll-themed retooling of Starship’s We Built This City proved last Christmas, the act of reviving a Top 40 hit from the 1980s can still lead to chart-topping success. In fact, over the past 30 years, more than 30 UK No.1s have borrowed heavily from the decade, whether via a subtle or, more likely, a blatant sample, a straightforward or radical cover version, or simply a re-release of the original.

Ignoring the tracks whose inspirations reached pole position first time around (eg Puff Daddy’s interpolation of The Police’s Every Breath You Take on I’ll Be Missing You, or Gabrielle Aplin’s rendition of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power Of Love), here’s our countdown of the 90s, 00s and 10s No.1s which owe it all to the 80s.

20 The Black Eyed Peas: The Time (Dirty Bit) (interpolation of Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes’ (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life, No.6, 1987)

It’s easy to forget that will.i.am and co. were once regarded as an alt-hip-hop outfit in the vein of A Tribe Called Quest. The Time (Dirty Bit) sticks rigidly to The Black Eyed Peas’ super-commercial formula – bleepy synths, clubby beats and enough AutoTune to make Daft Punk sound organic, all topped off with a lazy sample of the Dirty Dancing number. Unlike Jennifer Grey’s Baby, this definitely deserved to be put in the corner.

19 Dizzee Rascal and James Corden: Shout (interpolation of Tears for Fears’ Shout, No.4, 1984)

Dizzee Rascal was hailed as the voice of his generation with Mercury Prize-winning 2003 debut album Boy In Da Corner. And yet within seven years the grime pioneer was fronting a Simon Cowell-backed Tears For Fears cover with one half of Horne & Corden. Shout, of course, was England’s unofficial 2010 World Cup song. But neither Dizzee’s dodgy rhymes nor Corden’s bellowing could inspire the Three Lions to anything more than a humiliating early exit.

18 KWS – Please Don’t Go (originally recorded by KC & the Sunshine Band, No.3, 1979)

KWS’s house-pop reworking of KC & The Sunshine Band’s lovelorn ballad just about qualifies here – the original reached its peak position in only the second chart week of 1980. The group were hastily assembled to cover Please Don’t Go following a UK rights issue with German act Double You’s similar idea. And then there’s the rumour that it was recorded with an ulterior motive – to persuade Des Walker to stay at the trio’s beloved Nottingham Forest.

17 A1: Take On Me (originally recorded by A-ha, No.2, 1985)

Contrary to what the casual music-buying public would probably believe, A-ha’s sole UK No.1 appeared courtesy of The Sun Always Shines On TV, not one of the 1980s’ quintessential hits. Originally reaching No.2, Take On Me did eventually go one better at the turn of the millennium thanks to an altogether more traditional boyband renowned more for their curtains than their cheekbones. A1’s cover version was accompanied by a Matrix-meets-Tron video, which at the time was deemed cutting-edge.

Read more: The a-ha albums

16 Geri Halliwell: It’s Raining Men (originally recorded by The Weather Girls, No.2, 1983)

It seems fair to say that Geri Halliwell doesn’t possess the powerhouse tones of Martha Wash and Izora-Rhodes Armstead. But what she lacks in vocal ability, she makes up for in sheer enthusiasm on this spirited take on The Weather Girls’ classic. Recorded for the Bridget Jones’s Diary soundtrack in 2001, Halliwell gives it her all on her fourth successive and final UK No.1, with its Flashdance-inspired promo only adding to the sense of pure unadulterated camp.

15 DJ Sammy and Yanou featuring Do: Heaven (originally recorded by Bryan Adams, No.38, 1985)

DJ Sammy would later give Don Henley’s Boys Of Summer a similar trance-lite reworking but it was another AOR veteran that inspired his only UK chart-topper. A No.1 hit in the States, Bryan Adams’ Heaven was all but ignored across the pond. However, the diminutive Spaniard’s cover was practically unavoidable in the autumn of 2002, with a stripped-back Candlelight Mix also catering for those who preferred Magic FM to the Ministry Of Sound.

14 LL Cool J: Ain’t Nobody (interpolation of Rufus & Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody, No.8, 1984)

There have been no less than six hit covers of Rufus & Chaka Khan’s funk classic, ranging from Liberty X’s clever mash-up with The Human League’s Being Boiled to Felix Jaehn’s insipid tropical house makeover. This unexpected chart-topper from one of hip-hop’s elder statesmen sits somewhere in-between. The coquettish call and response is a neat addition, but even LL himself sounds slightly bored with its pedestrian pop-rap production.

Read more: Top 20 Side Projects

13 Eminem: Like Toy Soldiers (sample of Martika’s Toy Soldiers, No.5, 1989)

From Labi Siffre (My Name Is) to Dido (Stan), Marshall Mathers’ sampling habits have always been a little more diverse, and indeed a little more unfashionable, than your average motormouthed rapper. Once again sitting at odds with his enfant terrible reputation, the third single from 2005’s Encore gave the anthemic power balladry of Martika’s US No.1 Toy Soldiers an unlikely new lease of life. The pitch-shifted sample sure isn’t subtle, but then Eminem is always at his most palatable when he plays it straight. 

12 The Bluebells: Young at Heart (originally reached No.8, 1984)

Almost unrecognisable from the Motown-tinged original that appeared on Bananarama’s 1983 debut album, The Bluebells’ Young At Heart has more in common with Dexys Midnight Runners than the brilliantly nonchalant girl group. The fiddle-driven folk reworking gave the Scottish outfit their first UK Top 10 hit in 1984. But it went on to occupy pole position for the whole of April nine years later when it soundtracked that memorable ‘Just Divorced’ ad for the Volkswagen Golf.

11 Room 5: Make Luv (sample of Oliver Cheatham’s Get Down Saturday Night, No.38, 1983)

A geeky guy throwing some shapes in a deodorant commercial was the unlikely catalyst for Oliver Cheatham’s rise to noughties chart-topper. Italian DJ Room 5’s chic reworking of the Detroiter’s sole UK hit, Get Down Saturday Night, got a captive audience pretty much every other ad break in 2003 thanks to its use in a Lynx promo. And Cheatham certainly appreciated the career boost. Not only did he re-record his vocals, he collaborated with Room 5 on his follow-up, too.

10 LMC vs. U2: Take Me To The Clouds Above (mash-up of Whitney Houston’s How Will I Know, No.5, 1986 and U2’s With or Without You, No.4, 1987)

You get two bona fide 80s gems for the price of one with this floor-filling mash-up from 2004. Well, parts of them anyway. Firstly, there’s the utterly joyous opening two lines from Whitney Houston’s How Will I Know, and secondly, there’s the shimmering guitar hook from arguably U2’s career-best single With Or Without You. The whole thing hangs together surprisingly well.

9 Jennifer Lopez feat. Pitbull: On The Floor (sample of Kaoma’s Lambada, No.4, 1989)

Jenny from the Block had briefly tiptoed onto the dancefloor with second single Waiting For Tonight. But she stomped all over it with both Louboutins in 2011 when she revived the brief Brazilian phenomenon known as the Lambada. The first and best of three party-starting collaborations with rent-a-rapper Pitbull, On The Floor borrowed the melody from Kaoma’s one-hit wonder, which itself cribbed from an early 80s Bolivian ballad.

8 Eric Prydz: Call On Me (sample of Steve Winwood’s Valerie, No.19, 1987)

Transforming Steve Winwood’s Valerie into an unlikely club anthem, Eric Prydz paved the way for a whole wave of faceless one-hit wonders in 2004. Indeed, pretty soon everyone from Hall & Oates to Boy Meets Girl were getting a similar treatment by opportunist hitmakers who quickly realised that slapping a four-to-the-floor beat on an 80s soft rock hit was a surefire bet. Call On Me enjoyed a briefly-interrupted five-week run atop the UK charts but is perhaps still best known for that gyrating FHM-friendly video.

7 The Tamperer feat. Maya: Feel It (sample of The Jacksons’ Can You Feel It, No.6, 1981)

The Tamperer were one of the few acts to climb to No.1 in the late 1990s, taking six weeks to reach the summit. You have to wonder what took the British public so long. From The Wizard Of Oz-inspired poser (“What’s she gonna look like with a chimney on her?”) to the triumphant sampling of The Jacksons to Maya’s vampish vocals, everything about Feel It screams instant earworm. The Material Girl-sampling, brilliantly-titled If You Buy This Record (Your Life Will Be Better) nearly repeated the trick, too.

6 Michael Andrews and Gary Jules: Mad World (originally recorded by Tears for Fears, No.3, 1982)

Like the original, this stripped-back cover of Mad World took the slow-moving route to success. Tears for Fears’ breakthrough was initially recorded as a B-side to Pale Shelter before getting a release in its own right. And although Gary Jules and Michael Andrews’ solemn take on the song appeared on the Donnie Darko soundtrack in 2002, they had to wait until December 2003 to pip The Darkness in one of the most hotly-contested Xmas chart battles for years.

Read more: Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair

5 Roger Sanchez: Another Chance (sample of Toto’s I Won’t Hold You Back, No.37, 1983)

It’s unlikely that many 00s clubbers would have recognised the vocal hook sampled on Roger Sanchez’s wistful house anthem. Another Chance borrowed from yacht rock stalwarts Toto but it was their forgotten No.37 minor hit I Won’t Hold You Back that imbued the track with an overwhelming sense of melancholy. Its striking promo, which saw a young woman looking for love carrying a giant red heart across New York, also perfectly accompanied Steve Lukather’s yearning tones.

4 The Clash: Should I Stay Or Should I Go (originally reached No.17, 1982)

There’s a certain irony to one of rock music’s most fervent anti-capitalist bands owing their only UK No.1 to a TV commercial for the world’s biggest jeans company. The third of seven chart-toppers to emerge from a Levi’s campaign, the 1991 re-release of Should I Stay Or Should I Go may have sat at odds with The Clash’s punk principles but nine years on, its stop-start riff, tempo-shifting beats and, of course, Mick Jones’ snarling vocals, still sounded as gloriously anarchic as ever.

3 Rui Da Silva: Touch Me (sample of Spandau Ballet’s Chant No.1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On), No.3, 1981)

A year after Aurora gave Duran Duran’s Ordinary World a subtle dance-pop makeover, Rui da Silva did something similar for their New Romantic rivals. But instead of going for the more predictable Gold or True, the Portuguese DJ opted for Spandau Ballet’s underrated first Top Three hit. Driven by Gary Kemp’s spiralling guitar riff and the longing smoky tones of Cass Fox, Touch Me is more post-party comedown than party starter.

Read more: Making Spandau Ballet’s Journeys To Glory

2 Beats International: Dub Be Good To Me (cover of The SOS Band’s Just Be Good to Me, No.13, 1984)

Amazingly, Jam & Lewis have never scored a UK chart-topper as producers, with a trio of No.2s for their muse Janet Jackson the closest they’ve come. They did, however, inadvertently achieve the feat as songwriters when Norman Cook got his hands on The SOS Band’s signature tune. Beats International threw in everything from Ennio Morricone to The Clash, transforming the sassy funk of the original into an intriguing pop collage befitting of the phrase “jam hot”.

1 George Michael: Fastlove (sample of Patrice Rushen’s Forget Me Nots, No.8, 1982)

A decent Top 10 hit in 1982, Patrice Rushen’s post-disco favourite ended up inspiring two separate No.1s more than a decade later. Will Smith would borrow its melodic refrain for his globe-conquering theme to mismatched buddy sci-fi Men In Black in 1997. But The Fresh Prince was beaten to the punch a year earlier by a man whose vocal talents could also be described as out of this world.

A much more uplifting affair than sombre predecessor Jesus To A Child, and indeed much of parent album Older, Fastlove sees George Michael extol the virtues of the one-night stand against a backdrop of slinky beats, subtle sax hooks and the kind of G-funk synths that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Dr Dre record. Unlike Smith’s hip-pop effort, in which he essentially just raps over the existing track, Michael doesn’t allow the sample to dominate proceedings either, only dropping in Forget Me Nots’ cooing chorus during the infectious middle-eight. Michael never bettered this track commercially following its 1996 release – it was his last UK No.1 and remarkably his last ever entry on the US Hot 100 – and you could argue that he never bettered it creatively, too.

Read more: Making George Michael’s Older

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Gorillaz free show announced for NHS workers

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Gorillaz free show

Gorillaz have confirmed their return to the live stage with a free show for NHS workers and their families on Tuesday 10th August at London’s The O2 arena.

This special Gorillaz free show, to thank and recognise all NHS staff who continue to work tirelessly to keep us all safe, marks the reopening of the venue as well as the band’s first live performance with an audience in over two years and takes place the day before their scheduled sold-out gig on Wednesday 11th August 2021.

All ticket holders will need to present a NHS COVID Pass on entry to gain access to the venue. Further information below.

Gorillaz drummer Russel Hobbs said: “Reap what you sow, y’know what I’m saying? We don’t just want to say thank you, we want to do thank you too, because we care about the people who care for us.”

Steve Sayer, VP & General Manager at The O2 said: “This is such a big moment for us. Our first live show in over 500 days, with one of the UK’s best bands playing to an audience made up of NHS staff and their families. We have missed the fans and live performances so much, we couldn’t be more proud to reopen with this event and to welcome such a great audience.”

For tickets and information on the Gorillaz live show, see here.

 For full ticket and information on the 11th August public show here.

Gorillaz free show

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