Today in 1986

Die-cut 7" sleeveIn addition to the UK national singles chart, compiled for much of the 1980s by Gallup, Record Mirror published a number of ‘specialist’ charts that looked at the performance of singles released in particular musical genres. The need for these was due to sales of these records often being via mail order, concert venues or independent record stores that weren’t surveyed by Gallup – to the extent that it might appear some weeks that there was no market in Britain for, for instance, reggae music, due to the poor showing of those artists in the chart as broadcast on the BBC’s Top Of The Tops and Radio1. So, in honour of these lesser celebrated acts of the 1980s, below are the #1 singles in the RM specialist charts for the week ending 8 March 1986:

Disco singles: (Nothing Serious) Just Buggin’ by Whistle (position in Gallup chart in same week: #14)

The debut single from this long-forgotten hip hop/R&B trio, (Nothing Serious) Just Buggin’ would eventually make the Top 10 in the UK in the national chart but it was the group’s only success in this country. In their native US, they survived into the 1990s with some line-up changes, and their musical style became more focussed on R&B following the departure of founding member Kool Doobie – in the American R&B charts they regularly had (fairly minor) hits through to 1992.

Eurobeat singles: Love’s Gone Mad by Seventh Avenue (position in Gallup chart in same week: did not chart)

The term ‘Eurobeat’ was a British nomenclature inspired by producer Ian Levine, who will forever be associated with this sub-genre of Hi-NRG (high energy) upbeat pop music, which was linked to dance clubs in continental Europe; the name was derived from the Eastbound Expressway single You’re A Beat, which Levine co-produced. The differentiator between Hi-NRG and Eurobeat is the number of beats per minute in the track: around 124 to 138 bpm for the former and about 108 to 120 bpm for the latter.

RM’s detailed coverage of the club scene included James Hamilton’s reviews of the singles which would carefully detail the bpm of each new release. It was Hamilton, together with RM’s resident chart expert Alan Jones, who compiled the Eurobeat chart for the magazine, using not just physical sales data but the views of club DJs on the popularity of the records (i.e. which tracks were filling, and which were clearing, dance floors, etc). Accordingly, this Seventh Avenue single was already #1 on the Eurobeat chart before its commercial release: on the strength of the ‘white label’ (promotional copies) sent out to DJs in early January 1986, the song was already “big in clubs” as the saying went. Levine comments in his introductory text for the video to the song on YouTube that “I find it amazing that this classic High Energy anthem sold fifty thousand copies without ever showing in the charts” – it didn’t record a single week on the Gallup Top 100.

In accounting for this, in addition to the fact that sales of the single were often via the aforementioned independent outlets that Gallup didn’t survey, there were also some peculiarities in the rules for the Gallup charts that might have affected the record’s chart chances. The Top 75 singles were of course the 75 best-selling singles of the week in the shops Gallup surveyed. Positions 76 – 100 though, were not necessarily the next twenty-five highest selling: the published chart included a disclaimer in the small print saying “Records which would have appeared between positions 76-100 have been excluded if their sales have fallen in two consecutive weeks and if their sales fell by 20% compared with last week.” Accordingly some versions of the published chart didn’t assign a position number to these records, the chart ending at #75 and the rest of the so-called Top 100 being referred to as “the next twenty-five”, to draw attention that the seventy-sixth single listed was maybe not genuinely the seventy-sixth biggest selling.

Indie singles: Stripped by Depeche Mode (position in Gallup chart in same week: #22)

‘Indie’ refers to independent – i.e. the acts featured on the Indie chart were not signed to a major record label. The first Indie chart appeared in 1980 and compiled the best-sellers from artists signed to labels not distributed through the biggest channels at the start of the decade: CBS, EMI, PolyGram, Pye, RCA, Selecta and WEA. The need for an Indie chart was to represent the proliferation of punk and new wave acts active at the time who stood little chance of making the national charts when they were often on start-up labels sold through specialist shops. Labels such as Probe and Rough Trade were associated with shops of the same name, where the product could be easily obtained; it was more difficult to purchase some of these discs in high street chain stores.

The independent labels did start to organize themselves more effectively during the 1980s, in order that their artists could compete with those signed to the majors. Pinnacle was as effective as getting its product on to the shelves of the chain stores as any other distributor by the mid-1980s, and the formation of The Cartel – a pooling of the resources of several small companies, including Rough Trade – meant that acts such as The Smiths had access to the same national shipping support as the majors.

Reggae singles: One Dance Won’t Do by Audrey Hall (position in Gallup chart in same week: #20)

One Dance Won’t Do was an ‘answer song’: Audrey Hall wrote it in response to Beres Hammond’s What One Dance Can Do – and ended up scoring a bigger hit with it than his was.

Sources on the internet today suggest that Hall was born in Kingston, Jamaica, but in interviews at the time the single was in the charts she stated that she was born in London, England and moved to Jamaica as a child, returning to Britain to complete her education in her mid-teens. None of these interviews mentioned her early recording career: from 1968 to 1971 she was signed to Down Town records in the UK, a subsidiary of Trojan set up to market the work of the hugely prolific Dandy Livingstone. (The first eighty-odd singles on Down Town were written by or produced by or performed by Livingstone – usually all three.) As Dandy and Audrey, the two released a string of singles and a couple of albums, and it was a match made in heaven – Dandy’s smooth-as-velvet vocals blending perfectly with Audrey’s sweet-as-honey voice. Audrey also released solo singles (produced by Dandy) or recorded with Down Town label mates The Dreamers. But when Dandy returned to Jamaica in the early 1970s after around 15 years living and working in the UK, Down Town came to an end and so it seemed did Audrey’s recording career: she started to tour Europe with other reggae bands soon after, then moved to the US where she started a career as a session singer, often with her sister Pam; both sisters released solo singles of their own.

By the 1980s, Audrey was back in Jamaica and working for Donovan Germain’s Revolutionary Sounds label. One Dance Won’t Do was originally the flip side of veteran reggae artist Owen Gray’s Revolutionary Sounds single I’m Standing In His Way in Jamaica, but Audrey’s song was released in its own right in the UK where the label was known simply as Germain. Audrey remained with Germain for the rest of the 1980s, releasing a couple of albums including Eight Little Notes, which included a mixture of her own songs, songs written for her (including one by sister Pam) and covers of contemporary rock hits given her special reggae twist. A notable achievement was with her follow-up to One Dance Won’t Do, the delightful Smile: she was the first female reggae artist to have Top 20 hit singles in the UK with consecutive releases.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Mar. 8
No release scheduled for this date.

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