The people who brought you Smash Hits…

TwitterWith scores of contributors at Smash Hits in the 1980s it’s difficult to know which of them to single out. So, below are contributors to the first and final issues of the magazine in the 1980s, together with mention of some of the longer serving writers between those editions.

Staff at 1 January 1980
Editor Ian Cranna
Features Editor David Hepworth
Design Steve Bush, Andy Ingamells
Editorial Assistants Diane Church1, Bev Hillier2
Cliff White3
Fred Dellar4
Jill Furmanovsky5
Julie Logan6
Red Starr7
Robin Katz8

1 First person appointed to the staff of Smash Hits in 1978 and stayed until 1980.
2 1979-1983: originally employed by to transcribe the lyrics for songs where there was no sheet music available; she became a permanent editorial assistant when the magazine went fortnightly. Later went on to edit Smash Hits’s “sister publication” Just Seventeen and was managing editor of Big! in the 1990s.
3 1979-1980: various roles in the music industry – from a sales assistant at HMV in the early 60s to a singer in beat group by the end of the decade; to a journalist for various titles including NME and Black Echoes in the 70s; before working for record companies as a reissue specialist in the 80s and 90s. More recently worked as a label boss for a distributor.
4 Veteran music journalist. Was an R&B and jazz fan from an early age; he wrote fanzines and contributed album sleeve notes part time before accepting a full time job writing for New Musical Express in 1972 where he later introduced his popular Fred Fact column. Thereafter working freelance he wrote for numerous music papers, and was a contributor at Smash Hits throughout the 1980s and well into the 1990s. He edited and wrote for a number of books and encyclopedias, and from 1996 has written regularly for Mojo.
5 1979-1981: award winning photographer famed for her pictures of pop stars; she collected some of her shots in the book The Moment: 25 Years Of Rock Photography (1995).
6 1979-1980: i.e. Mrs Nick Logan, later business manager and company secretary for his publishing company Wagadon.
7 1980-1982: mysterious name that also crops up occasionally in other music papers; in Smash Hits, his main contributions were reviews of indie singles/albums and a column called Independent Bitz. His encyclopaedic knowledge of bands signed to Postcard records indicates it might have been a pseudonym for Ian Cranna (who managed Edwyn Collins’ Orange Juice in addition to his journalism work).
8 1979-1981: American writer and broadcaster resident in the UK from the 70s until around 15 years; now lives in New Jersey. Wrote for just about every music paper in the UK while here: you can find her name in Record Mirror, Sounds, Disc, NME, Black Echoes

Staff at 31 December 1989
Editor Richard Lowe
Features Editor Derrin Schlesinger1
Reviews Editor Alex Kadis News Editors Mike Soutar, Tom Doyle Film/TV Editor Lola Borg
Design Caroline Grimshaw, Ian Pollard
Editorial Assistant Vincent Vincent
Production Joanne Higgs
Reader Services Jo Collins
Picture research Harriet Bell
Staff Writer Sylvia Patterson2
Carol Irving
Chris Heath3
Fred Dellar
Ian Cranna
John J Murphy
Julie Horton
Kipper Williams4
Miranda Sawyer5
Sian Pattenden6
Tina Radziszewicz7

1 joined 1986 on the picture desk. Left to become a television producer for which she has numerous credits.
2 joined 1986, barely older than the audience she was writing for; she was senior staff writer at the start of the 1990s. Went freelance and regularly appears in the pages of the quality national papers (The Guardian, The Sunday Times). Her memoir What’s It All About, Kylie? – A Writer’s Life Lost In Music is due on 16 June 2016.
3 post-Smash Hits joined 1985. Later he was a staff writer at American titles like Rolling Stone, Details and GQ. Noted for rock biographies including one on Robbie Williams, and in particular for his close association with Pet Shop Boys, for whom he has edited fan club publications, provided DVD commentaries and written numerous sleeve notes.
4 resident cartoonist from 1984 onwards. His illustrations have appeared in countless publications over the past 35 years.
5 joined 1988. Prolific contributor to magazines and newspapers for the past 25 years, also a documentary filmmaker and radio broadcaster. Best known as an arts critic; she was on the judging panel for the 2007 Turner Prize.
6 joined 1988, journalism was her profession only briefly and she is now an illustrator, animator and author. In an extraordinarily packed career, this former child actor was even a pop star of sorts herself for a short time.
7 joined 1988; went freelance and wrote for women’s magazines, becoming an advice columnist. Now a psychotherapist.

Other long-serving staff
Linda Duff (1980-1985): a key figure in Smash Hits’s early years, Duff’s column Get Smart! answering readers’ questions became an essential feature of the magazine and led to creation of a permanent role known as ‘reader services’. Her career began in Ireland working for a magazine’s sales and advertising department, graduating to writing. Moving to London, she became an editorial assistant for Smash Hits and stayed for over five years, leaving for national newspapers Daily Mirror (1985-1989) and Daily Star (1989-1998). At the Star she ran the pop and showbiz desks; her approach for the Splash! (later, Rave) column was to focus on emerging artists rather than the traditional chasing of established stars. This paid off when she gave early press to Take That in 1990, who went on to be the most successful pop act of the decade. She ended her time at the Star as Features Editor and then worked for a television production company for a time before returning to Ireland. She died in September 2013.

Dave Rimmer (1981-1986): long-serving features writer for EMAP titles Smash Hits and The Face, he went on to write for various titles in the UK, US and Germany. He was resident in Berlin at the end of 1980s and witnessed the fall of the Wall. Two of his most notable works are the books Like Punk Never Happened: Culture Club and The New Pop (1986) and New Romantics: The Look (2003) which concern the music industry at the time of his employment at Smash Hits.

Dave Bostock (1981-1986): designer; had a 35 year career with EMAP (later Bauer Media) in various roles such as publishing director for music and youth titles.

Vici Macdonald (1984-1988): art director, editor and writer. Macdonald encountered Smash Hits when she was an art student: after hearing then editor Ian Cranna on the radio, she sought out a copy of the magazine, found she was impressed with the content, and applied to join the staff after finishing her studies. She left to pursue freelance journalism and has reunited with her former boss Steve Bush for a couple of book titles in more recent years. Formerly (2012) features her photographs of disappearing London alongside poetry from Tamar Yoseloff.

David Keeps (1984-1988): editor of the US version of Smash Hits, Star Hits, which was launched in February 1984. Content between the two titles was shared.

William Shaw (1985-1989): born in the UK, grew up in Nigeria, lived in Hackney in the 80s and LA in the 90s and now resides in Brighton. Was an editorial assistant for Zigzag and Blitz in the early 80s; at the latter, he interviewed Neil Tennant in the early days of Pet Shop Boys, who introduced him to Smash Hits. His colleague there Tom Hibbert was best man at his wedding in 1994. At the behest of another colleague, David A Keeps, Shaw wrote for Details during his time in America. He has written for numerous publications including regular pieces for New York Times and The Observer and is the author of several non-fiction and fiction books, the latter being his Breen and Tozer crime series.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Dec. 27
No release scheduled for this date.


The people who brought you Smash Hits…

TwitterIn the absence of any new releases in the post-Christmas period, today and tomorrow If You Were There turns the spotlight on Smash Hits itself – or rather, the people that made it the magazine it was during the 1980s. We start today with the editors during the decade. This doesn’t include Smash Hits founder Nick Logan, but a few words about him first: he edited the magazine for its first year, initially under the pseudonym Chris Hall (the first syllables of his children’s names). When the magazine went fortnightly from the issue of 8 February 1979, he began using his real name but sometimes credited himself as ‘acting editor’, it being clear that he intended to hand the day-to-day running of the title to someone else. By the 1980s he had done so, but he remained closely involved in the magazine, its marketing and promotion for many years to come, often billed as ‘Managing Editor’ under the masthead. At the same time, he launched two other hugely influential magazine titles, The Face and Arena, eventually selling his publishing interests to EMAP, who owned Smash Hits.

Ian Cranna (until 29 April 1981 – first 34 issues of the decade)
Smash Hits cost 30p
Ed1Cranna contributed to Smash Hits in one form or another throughout the 1980s, becoming one of its longest-serving writers. His first credited contribution was in the 22 March 1979 issue; by 26 July he was Assistant Editor before taking over from Logan as Editor from the 18 October edition (incidentally the same issue in which the official address for the magazine changed to 52-55 Carnaby Street, where it would remain throughout the 1980s). He studied at St Andrews and Edinburgh universities before deciding on a career in journalism. Smash Hits was one of his earliest appointments, and after surrendering the editorship he worked on a range of other titles on a contract or freelance basis: proofreading and sub-editing, writing articles or reviews, and researching and fact-checking. All these skills were put to good use when he pulled together several editions of The Rock Yearbook in the mid-80s, and more recently when he ghost-wrote for Pete Burns’ autobiography Freak Unique in 2007.

David Hepworth (30 April 1981 – 30 March 1983 – 50 issues)
Smash Hits cost 35p
Ed2.jpgHepworth was there pretty much from the beginning, receiving his first credit as a Contributor when Smash Hits’s first fortnightly edition was published. He had previously written for New Musical Express (whose offices were across the road from those of Smash Hits) and Sounds and had a dual career in the 1980s as a journalist and broadcaster. He joined the presenting team of the BBC’s ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ and was a co-anchor on the channel’s coverage of Live Aid. In the meantime, he was responsible for the launch of two other titles for EMAP, Just Seventeen (1983) and Q (1986). The former was sometimes described as a ‘sister’ paper to Smash Hits, so similar was its style. The key difference was that it was marketed exclusively to girls which it did through fashion coverage and agony-aunt columns/problem pages; beyond that, the same faces interviewed by Smash Hits made up the feature content. It remained in publication for 21 years. Q was an altogether different proposition, a perfect-bound monthly title ignoring the charts and focusing on album product. Read in conjunction with Smash Hits it gave a very good overview of what was happening in British popular music. Other high-quality monthly music (and general entertainment) periodicals he has launched include Mojo (1993-present) and The Word (2003-2012); at the other end of the market, but hugely popular, is the celebrity gossip mag Heat (founded 1999). He has formed his own publishing company Development Hell, won both the Editor and Writer of the Year awards from the Professional Publishers’ Association, and writes regularly for various magazines and newspapers. His book 1971 – Never A Dull Moment: The Year That Rock Exploded will be published on 7 April next year.

Mark Ellen (31 March 1983 – 18 June 1985 – 58 issues)
Smash Hits cost 40p
Ed3A close associate of Hepworth, Ellen’s career has followed a similar trajectory. He had early posts at New Musical Express, Record Mirror and Time Out before arriving at Smash Hits in 1980. Like Hepworth, he had a career outside journalism too, being a radio disc jockey (standing in for John Peel on Radio 1) and television host (‘Whistle Test’ etc). He was the launch editor of Q and co-founder of The Word. He was also Editor in Chief at EMAP. His memoir Rock Stars Stole My Life! is out now in paperback.

Steve Bush (joined 1978, editor 19 June 1985 – 4 November 1986 – 36 issues)
Smash Hits cost 43p
Ed4Bush was the original designer at Smash Hits (credited in early issues as Ross George) and remained with the magazine until October 1986. “And so another era in the shifting tableau of publishing that is Smash Hits has come to a halt,” the Bitz column reported in the issue after his exit. “Blub! It’s almost too tragic but the diminutive genius clad in black, Steve Bush, i.e. the editor, has left the ranks of our esteemed magazine… oh, well, no use crying over it now. He’s gorn, GORN!! So as the petite führer shuffles through the glittering portals into Carnaby Street for the last time, Bitz hankily presents…Ode To Steve Bush. Dear dear dear Steve Bush/did you resign/or were you given the push? (haw haw)”. In fact he remained with EMAP to begin with (“he’s gone to think up new ‘projects’ for our publishers,” Bitz admitted), and became an entrepreneurial publisher, designing and editing a number of titles. A lasting legacy of Bush’s at Smash Hits was the logo he introduced with the issue of 28 August 1985, which would remain for nearly fifteen years. During his own time with the magazine he changed the logo every other year.

Barry McIlheny (editor 5 November 1986 – 22 January 1989 – 58 issues)
Smash Hits cost 45p
Ed5.jpgBorn in Belfast in 1960, McIlheny worked on local newspapers before a stint in London at Melody Maker led to his appointment at Smash Hits as editor. He left in 1989 to become launch editor of Empire magazine, another EMAP title, eventually becoming the publisher’s Managing Director in 1994. He was the first editor of Heat when it was launched five years later. He is currently the CEO of the Professional Publishers Association.

Richard Lowe (joined 1987, editor from 17 May 1989 – final 17 issues of the decade)
Ed6.JPGSmash Hits cost 52p

Between McIlheny’s departure and Lowe’s appointment, designer Jacqui Doyle (1985 – 1989) was appointed ‘acting editor’. First credited as a Contributor at Smash Hits in 1987, Lowe saw the magazine into the 1990s.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Dec. 26
No release scheduled for this date.

The Next Big Thing? Part 3

TwitterThe Next Big Thing? Part III
In the third part of this look at the artists Smash Hits predicted would make it big in the 80s, we look at those who never had a charting single in the UK.

Allez Allez
Year predicted to break: 1983
Belgian “neo-funk” (as they described themselves) band who were “briefly trendy” (as Smash Hits described them) but split when they were dropped by Virgin in 1984.

Virginia Astley
Year predicted to break: 1984
Experimental singer, songwriter and keyboardist who had credits on a wide variety of artists’ work during the 1980s whilst quietly pursuing a solo career. In the 1990s she was popular in Japan, but remained a cult artist in the UK. As far as is known, she is still recording, but it’s coming up for ten years since her most recent album appeared.

Blue In Heaven
Year predicted to break: 1985
Irish rock group, around for most of the 80s and early protégées of U2: they were associated with U2’s Mother record company, but their first recordings appeared on Island (the same label as U2 themselves). In the 1990s they were known as The Blue Angels.

Book Of Love
Year predicted to break: 1987
Early 80s American synth-pop group formed by Susan Ottaviano and Ted Ottaviano (no relation) (really, no relation) who came to British attention when they were the opening act for two Depeche Mode tours in the middle of the decade. They failed to chart altogether in the UK but did just make it on to Billboard Hot 100 in America in 1988 with Pretty Boys And Pretty Girls, which acknowledged the AIDS health crisis. They split in 1994 over concerns about the group’s future direction and concerns about their kind of music’s obsolescence in the era of grunge.

Dislocation Dance
Year predicted to break: 1983
Post-punk outfit with origins that can be traced to the late 70s who had some success with releases on the independent Rough Trade label at the time of the Smash Hits recommendation. They split in 1986. Trumpet player Andy Diagram (also a member of The Diagram Brothers concurrently with the early years of Dislocation Dance) later turned up in indie favourites The Pale Fountains and James, with which he had chart success.

Robert King
Year predicted to break: 1983
Former member of Scots band The Scars, King released one solo single and then moved to Spain which “apparently means that he’ll be adding a few flamenco touches to his usually light and slightly tearful electronically-based pop,” according to the 1983 yearbook. We never found out; King returned to education and eventually disappeared from the music scene altogether. A reissue of The Scars’ only album, Author! Author! on CD about ten years ago led to a critical reappraisal of their work, and ultimately to a one-off reunion concert in 2010.

David Lasley
Year predicted to break: 1985
A brave choice for ‘The Next Big Thing?’, as Lasley’s soulful falsetto voice and rather plain appearance weren’t for everyone. He was much in demand as a session singer – people like disco/dance producers Chic made good use of his vocals on their records and those of Sister Sledge, for example. He was also a talented writer but his lack of star quality meant he was unlikely to have hits with his own songs; instead, they were hits in the hands of others. He still releases the occasional collection of his own recordings though.

Light A Big Fire
Year predicted to break: 1987
Contemporaries of Blue In Heaven, both bands formed and split at around the same time and were popular with Bono Vox of U2. Light A Big Fire was originally built around two lead vocalists, but when they signed with Siren (at the time of the Smash Hits recommendation) they were down to just one, Tom McLaughlin. He put their addictive melodies and distinct Irishness down to the influence of traditional music: “In Ireland, folk music has never been away, so there’s always been good tunes there.” They made three albums, but shortly after the third of them was completed McLaughlin quit when he was challenged over his continued commitment to the band’s extensive touring itinerary. A new front man was hired but Siren wouldn’t cover the cost of re-recording the vocals for the album. When other original members of the band left in early ’89, Light A Big Fire came to an end although the remaining personnel did attempt to continue with a change of name for a short time afterwards.

Year predicted to break: 1988
A “loose collection of London types who at the last count numbered seven, including Helen Terry, who used to be a backing singer for Boy George, and ex-Adam And The Ants guitarist Marco Pirroni – though their leader is Kevin Mooney (oddly enough, one of Adam Ant’s swash-buckling Ant-men, although he staunchly denies it),” according to the 1988 yearbook. Max (“We chose the name Max because it has three letters; it sounded nice and it’s written on the volume knob of a stereo, so why not?” said Mooney) released one single but the album it was taken from, One Thousand And 1 Nights, recorded for ZTT, never made it to the shops. The album eventually appeared on a different label and in a different form as Silence Running in 1992, by which time Max had undergone line-up changes and a brief renaming to Lomax. They split in 1994; ‘lost’ recordings surfaced a couple of years ago when co-founding member Leslie Winer self-released them.

Year predicted to break: 1989
Nephew of reggae toastmaster Smiley Culture, Merlin was 17 when he rapped on Bomb The Bass’s Megablast single. He also worked with other acts on the Rhythm King label such as The Beatmasters but it was Sire that released Merlin’s own albums in the early 1990s.

Jeb Million
Year predicted to break: 1987
Canadian singer and songwriter resident in the UK from the mid-70s and for much of the 80s; real name Ged Milne. Briefly in Fury with Topper Headon before Headon left to join The Clash; Million went on to front metal band Blazer Blazer and moved to WEA for his solo career in the mid-80s, with initial releases produced by Stock Aitken Waterman. Subsequent singles were credited to a new band, Radio Earth. He died in 2013.

Year predicted to break: 1984
Physique never put a record out, let alone placed one in the charts. Two years after they featured in the The Smash Hits Yearbook they were still trying to break through, but the only vaguely notable fact about the group was that it included Andrew Ridgeley’s brother Paul.

Year predicated to break: 1983
“A seven-piece all-girl rhythm orchestra,” Smash Hits explained. “Some of Pulsallama play basses and bang things, while the others sing, chant and make the kind of whoopee that gets made when New Yorkers discover African-influenced pop music.” An official press released described them as “probably the most outrageous group in the known world.”

The Sapphires
Year predicted to break: 1983
Singing south London sisters Ruby, Vicki and Sylvia, originally named Sylvia and The Sapphires after the latter member. They released a few singles on Stiff records but received more attention for their work as backing singers for more established names. Without a hit they returned to session work after a couple of years.

Seona Dancing
Year predicted to break: 1984
Duo who got their record deal on the strength of a demo tape. “We were incredible lucky to get our deal that way, but the days are gone when you had to play pubs and clubs before anybody noticed you,” they said, having noticed that trend already. They split in the year Smash Hits had predicted greatness for them; singer Ricky Gervais (who admitted back then to being a Simon and Garfunkel fan and a former choirboy) achieved international fame in the 21st century when his comedy show ‘The Office’ finally provided his break via comedy, acting and writing.

Phil Thornalley
Year predicted to break: 1984
Thornalley spent most of the 1980s in the studio, his name turning up on records for Duran Duran, Kim Wilde and (for which he was nominated for a Grammy award) Thompson Twins as engineer and producer, but he also had a contract as a solo artist before replacing Clark Datchler in Johnny Hates Jazz. He co-wrote the song Torn in the early 90s that was an international hit later in the decade for former ‘Neighbours’ Natalie Imbruglia. In 2009 he co-wrote and produced a pair of British #1 singles for Pixie Lott for her debut album.

Torch Song
Year predicted to break: 1985
Ambient dance trio who had some success in clubs but no commercial hits. For the rest of the 1980s, multi-instrumentalist, writer and producer William Orbit was in demand as a remixer and released a couple of instrumental albums under his own name. He finally achieved a Top 10 hit in the early 90s with Fascinating Rhythm with new group Bass-O-Matic. He reunited with Torch Song’s ethereal vocalist Laurie Mayer for a couple of tracks on his 1993 classic Strange Cargo III, which also featured Beth Orton, with whom he had teamed up for a single the year before as Spill. Extraordinarily prolific in 1995, he released three albums: another in the Strange Cargo series, a new Torch Song LP (with original member Grant Gilbert replaced by Rico Conning), and a collection of his electronica versions of the work of classical composers. In 1998, he co-wrote and produced on Madonna’s acclaimed Ray Of Light album; he has worked with her on several occasions since, most recently on 2012’s MDNA. Further hits with other artists and for himself have followed.

Year predicted to break: 1983
Jazz-influenced pop trio who completed their sound with the aid of numerous guest musicians and paved the way for sophisti-pop later in the decade. But instead of making it big in 1983, they split up. Member Simon Booth retained elements of the group’s sound for a new project cunningly titled Working Week which survived into the 90s and briefly featured a pre-Swing Out Sister Corinne Drewery.

James Wilde
Year predicted to break: 1989
Probably the most obscure of all Smash Hits’s predictions, 22 year old Wilde had been taken on by Pet Shop Boys and Bros manager Tom Watkins in December 1987 and was recording his first LP at the time of the 1989 yearbook, but what happened next is a mystery. A single was expected but unless he put it out under another name, it was never released.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Dec. 20
No release scheduled for this date.

The Next Big Thing? Part 2

TwitterThe Next Big Thing? Part II
In the second part of this review of Smash Hits’ annual tips for the top, we look at the acts who achieved some level of success but could not properly be called pop “stars”. These 15 acts all had at least one hit single each (i.e. they reached the Top 75), but not so big a hit that it would make them eligible to appear on ‘Top Of The Pops’ (i.e. they fell short of the Top 40).

The B. B. & Q. Band
Year predicted to break: 1983
Biggest hit: On The Beat (reached #41 on 25/7/81)
The initials stood for Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens, indicating that this lot were from New York. The hit noted above turned out to be their only taste of chart action in the UK, although (with line-up changes) they continued for a further five years. The band’s activities were ended when their founder and producer Jacques Fred Petrus (also behind groups such as Change) ran into financial difficulties with the IRS in 1986 and fled to the country of his birth, Guadeloupe, where he was murdered in June 1987 apparently after a dispute with a patron at a nightclub he owned there.

The Blue Nile
Year predicted to break: 1985
Biggest hit: Saturday Night (reached #50 on 19/1/91)
Scottish synth group comprising Robert Bell, Paul Buchanon and Paul Moore with a reputation for reclusiveness and perfectionism. “After a very wonderful (and pretty successful) album in A Walk Across The Rooftops and a couple of near-miss singles in Tinseltown In The Rain and Stay, the trio are back in the studio recording their second LP,” declared Smash Hits’s 1986 yearbook, adding the codicil “mind you, their first one took months to record so don’t hold your breath.” Wise words. That second LP was Hats (from which their biggest hit was taken) and it didn’t appear until 1989. But it is universally agreed that it was worth the wait. Hats was an instant classic and has become one of Linn records’ longest-sellers, remaining in catalogue on CD ever since its release; it was their breakthrough record reaching #12 (four years after Smash Hits’ estimate, but hey, they said the break would come with the second LP). Only two further albums have appeared in the past 25 years, and it is unknown if The Blue Nile still exists. After High in 2004, Moore didn’t join the others for a planned tour and has had little if any contact with them since. Buchanon released a solo album in 2012.

Bourgie Bourgie
Year predicted to break: 1984
Biggest hit: Breaking Point (reached #48 on 10/3/84)
A band with a history so confusing, it’s not really clear who Smash Hits were recommending. An album featuring most of the members of Bourgie Bourgie had been recorded in 1982 for trendy Glasgow independent record company Postcard with a female singer, credited to Jazzateers. Postcard then folded and the album appeared the following year on Rough Trade with vocals by Grahame Skinner, who subsequently left to join Hipsway. By then, Paul Quinn, who had a close association with their former label Postcard, had joined, took over as frontman, and they renamed themselves Bourgie Bourgie. After a couple of singles in 1984 they split up. Then (without Quinn) reformed Jazzateers with another singer. But lasted for only one single. In the early 90s, Quinn formed The Independent Group on the re-launched Postcard records, which featured members of acts from the early-80s era of the label. He withdrew from the industry later in the decade.

Year predicted to break: 1988
Biggest hit: Gypsy Road (reached #54 on 6/8/88)
American hard rock band formed in 1983; still together despite changes in personnel and periods of inactivity. They had minor hits in the UK from 1987 through to 1991.

Deon Estus
Year predicted to break: 1987
Biggest hit: Heaven Help Me (reached #41 on 6/5/89)
American singer, songwriter and session musician. He played bass for many acts from the mid-70s, including most notably for the UK Wham!. He had minor hits of his own here from 1985 through to 1989, with Heaven Help Me coming from Spell, which remains his only solo album.

Year predicted to break: 1988
Biggest hit: I’ll Never Get Over You (reached #75 on 28/8/93)
American female freestyle vocal group with unstable line-up originally formed in 1984. They had minor hits here from 1987 through to 1993 and quit recording a couple of years later, but the name was revived for touring purposes about ten years ago.

Paul Haig
Year predicted to break: 1983
Biggest hit: Heaven Sent (reached #74 on 28/5/83)
Former singer and songwriter with Josef K, early label mates (at Postcard) with Orange Juice and Aztec Camera.

Hanoi Rocks
Year predicted to break: 1984
Biggest hit: Up Around The Bend (reached #61 on 7/7/84)
Finnish rock band formed in 1979 who had minor hits in the UK from 1983 to 1984 during which time they resided in London, but enjoyed more enduring popularity in Scandinavia and Japan. The death of their drummer in late ’84 began a chain of events that led to the band imploding the following year, but two original members revived the name Hanoi Rocks during the first decade of the 21st century.

King Trigger
Year predicted to break: 1983
Biggest hit: The River (reached #57 on 21/8/82)
The members of King Trigger had all been in failed punk rock bands before teaming up. The hit noted above turned out to be their only taste of chart action, and as indicated it had happened before the Smash Hits prediction of greatness for them.

Naked Eyes
Year predicted to break: 1984
Biggest hit: There’s Always Something There To Remind Me (reached #59 on 30/7/83)
One of a number of 80s “synth duos”, Naked Eyes featured Rob Fisher who later teamed up with Simon Climie to form Climie Fisher. Fisher and his colleague Pete Byrne were in a band called Neon prior to forming Naked Eyes, which featured Curt Smith of aforementioned synth duo Tears For Fears (see yesterday). Split in 1985.

Tommy Page
Year predicted to break: 1989
Biggest hit: I’ll Be Your Everything (reached #53 on 26/5/90)
Heavily influenced by Madonna, Page set out at the age of 18 to track down all the people he considered to be key to her success: her old stylist; her first producer; the boss of the record company that signed her; her early manager and the director of her first promotional clip, etc. Rejecting those who he thought superfluous (as she had previously done), he retained the talent he wanted for his first album, released on 12 July 1988 shortly after his eighteenth birthday. His next album Paintings In My Mind’s lead single I’ll Be Your Everything was written with members of New Kids On The Block and remains his only significant hit. Nevertheless, he has released a further five albums and although the last was fifteen years ago and self-released, he remains active. A single, a new interpretation of a song from Paintings In My Mind, was issued via iTunes earlier this year.

Psychic TV
Year predicted to break: 1984
Biggest hit: Magical Mystery D Tour EP (reached #65 on 20/9/86)
Formed by two former members of cult band Throbbing Gristle, Smash Hits wondered if they were “The Pink Floyd of the ‘80s? Inaccessible avant-garde innovators? A load of old codswallop?” while marvelling that “they’ve so far managed to manipulate two major record companies into lots of money, and convinced half the music critics of the country that what they do is music.” If not music then it was ‘video arts’ they were responsible for; they continue to defy categorization. Hugely prolific in the 1980s, their most ambitious project was releasing a series a series of 23 monthly live albums (started in the year of their biggest hit, above) which they abandoned without explanation after volume 17. Odd.

Second Image
Year predicted to break: 1983
Biggest hit: Sing and Shout (reached #53 on 18/8/84)
Seven-piece R&B/funk band who had minor hits from 1982 through to 1985 but were dropped by both Polydor and MCA. “Still around,” according to the 1986 yearbook, its unknown when they finally called it a day.

That Petrol Emotion
Year predicted to break: 1987
Biggest hit: Big Decision (reached #43 on 2/5/87)
Formed by former members of The Undertones after Feargal Sharkey embarked on a solo career, they had minor hits from 1987 to 1991 and released five studio albums before they split in 1994.

Vicious Pink
Year predicted to break: 1985
Biggest hit: C-C-Can’t You See (reached #67 on 22/9/84)
Duo formed in 1981 as Vicious Pink Phenomena, given a break by Soft Cell as backing vocalists. Soft Cell’s David Ball produced their first independently-released single; the minor hit above was their first for a major label and helped them establish themselves in clubs; “We still think they’ll make it,” The Smash Hits Yearbook reported in late ’85 – but they never crossed over to the mainstream.

The Weather Prophets
Year predicted to break: 1987
Biggest hit: She Comes From The Rain (reached #62 on 4/4/87)
Short-lived indie rock group whose bass player Alan McGee signed them to his record company Creation. McGee turned his attention to management rather than performing and after a line-up reshuffle, the new look The Weather Prophets signed to a major label for an album which sold disappointingly. The loss of their record deal and further personnel changes resulted in a lack of focus and although McGee took them back at Creation in 1988, they split soon after.

The Woodentops
Year predicted to break: 1987
Biggest hit: Love Affair with Everyday Living (reached #72 on 11/10/86)
Indie rock group with minor hits from 1986 to 1988 fronted by Rolo McGinty, still active today.

Tomorrow: those who didn’t make it.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Dec. 19
No release scheduled for this date.

The Next Big Thing? Part 1

TwitterThe Smash Hits Yearbook was published annually from 1982 onwards. A recurring feature was one in which the magazine tried to predict the chart stars of the future. The article went by a few different names: in the 1983 yearbook it was called ‘With a little luck…’; in 1984 and 1987 it was ’Fifteen for Eighty-Four’ and ‘Seven for ’87’ respectively; and in the others, ‘The Next Big Thing?’. The query in that last title was apt, as over a third of the acts predicted for success never made it. No predictions were made for 1986, but across the other years 57 acts were named who were expected to make it big in the 80s. They can be divided into three broad categories: those who made it, those who didn’t, and those who enjoyed a tantalizing taste of fame before disappearing into obscurity. Over the next three days, If You Were There looks at each of these categories in turn, starting today with those who ‘made it’: that it is to say, each had at least one Top 40 single in the UK.

The Next Big Thing? Part I

The Alarm
Year predicted to break: 1984
Biggest hit: 68 Guns (reached #17 on 15/10/83)
The 1984 yearbook was published on 3 November 1983, and by that time The Alarm had already had their biggest hit single. Nevertheless, 1984 was their most commercially successful year, given they had three hit singles that year (more than any other year of their career) and made the album chart of the first time. Mike Peters announced in 1991 (the last time The Alarm had a charting album) that he was leaving the band but various reconfigurations of The Alarm have operated ever since. Their last hit single (credited to Alarm MMVI) was in 2006.

Animal Nightlife
Year predicted to break: 1983
Biggest hit: Mr Solitaire (reached #25 on 6/10/84)
Formed in 1980 with lots of members and “a wide stylistic range which incorporates jazz and seventies soul” according to the ’83 yearbook, who did indeed break in 1983 and had hits through to 1987. They were originally signed to Inner Vision (with another Smash Hits tip, Wham!; Dee C Lee contributed vocals to both bands) but moved to Island in time for their biggest hit and their debut album, released in 1985. A second LP appeared in 1988 (by which time they were on 10 Records) and then they split.

Aztec Camera
Year predicted to break: 1984
Biggest hit: Somewhere In My Heart (reached #3 on 11/6/88)
Roddy Frame was actually on the cover of Smash Hits itself (the issue of 27 October – 9 November 1983) on the day the 1984 yearbook was published, which was the one predicting his band Aztec Camera would be chart stars. (Being the magazine’s cover star in those days did not necessarily mean the act in question had ‘made it’ of course. But it was unusual for an artist nominated in the ‘The Next Big Thing?’ feature to have already made the cover.) They had already had minor hits in the official chart and several major hits on the independent labels chart, but it wasn’t until 1988, when their recently-released album Love took off, that they had their best-known hits. Frame used the Aztec Camera for all his albums until the mid-90s; since then, he has worked under his own name. His most recent album Seven Dials was released last year.

Billy Bragg
Year predicted to break: 1984
Biggest hit: She’s Leaving Home (duet with Cara Tivey for charity, reached #1 on 21/5/88)
“If Baron Frankenstein built a creature with Joe Strummer’s vocal chords, Paul Weller’s conscience, the heart of a poet and the spirit of a wandering minstrel, he’d more than likely come up with Billy Bragg,” said the 1984 yearbook – and I can’t think of a better way of introducing him, other than he seemed to be Britain’s 80s answer to Bob Dylan. Bragg himself argued that his inspiration was Spandau Ballet: “I saw them on ‘Top Of The Pops’ and I thought, ‘Oh, God, does it have to be this way?’”. He has released over two dozen albums over the past thirty years including live works, compilations and recent collaborations with American alternative rockers Wilco.

Year predicted to break: 1988
Biggest hit: I Owe You Nothing (reached #1 on 25/6/88, having originally made #80 the year before)
See the article of 25 September for more information

Year predicted to break: 1983
Biggest hit: Bad Day (reached #15 on 3/9/83)
Bluesy-jazz/sophisti-pop trio fronted by Carmel McCourt who had hits from 1983 through to 1986.

The Cover Girls
Year predicted to break: 1989
Biggest hit: Wishing On A Star (reached #38 on 1/8/92)
Manufactured female vocal group; their management had decided on the songs and the image they wanted to project, and held auditions to find three girls to front the act. “We’d never met before, but our personalities mix so well that when we got to know each other it was almost like we were three lost sisters who have so much to catch up on,” they said. They had a few years to do so before they finally had their lone British Top 40 hit in 1992 – and promptly split up.

Danny Wilson
Year predicted to break: 1988
Biggest hit: Mary’s Prayer (reached #3 on 30/4/88, having originally made #42 the year before)
See the article of 5 June for more information

The Darling Buds
Year predicted to break: 1989
Biggest hit: Hit The Ground (reached #27 on 21/1/89)
Jangly guitar pop quartet from South Wales with hits from 1988 through to 1992. They split the following year, disillusioned with the recording industry.

Everything But The Girl
Year predicted to break: 1984
Biggest hit: I Don’t Want To Talk About It (reached #3 on 23/7/88)
Long running and successful duo comprising Ben Watt and Tracy Thorn, who had numerous hits from 1983 to 2001 and a string of well-received albums.

Holly Johnson
Year predicted to break: 1989
Biggest hit: Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey (charity single with Gerry Marsden, Paul McCartney and The Christians, reached #1 on 20/3/89)
Holly Johnson was another act who was already well-known to readers of Smash Hits as a cover star before his ‘The Next Big Thing?’ nomination, having fronted Frankie Goes To Hollywood and had three #1s with them. As he had released his debut solo single in 1980, he also had the distinction of the longest wait between his first release and a Smash Hits tip for the top. This phase of his career kicked of ten years of chart activity from 1989 through to 1999.

Little Angels
Year predicted to break: 1989
Biggest hit: Womankind (reached #12 on 16/1/93)
“I think people are a bit frightened of heavy metal and we don’t want that. Any sort of person can like us, they don’t have to be a heavy metaller,” said lead singer Toby Jepson. They tried not to scare people by toning down the clichéd rock n’ roll image, but they still had Bon Jovi hair. Smash Hits correctly predicted that they would break in 1989, but they had to wait until ‘93 for their biggest hit. Split in 1994.

Year predicted to break: 1984
Biggest hit: Into The Groove (reached #1 on 3/8/85)
The Madonna Story: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 See 4 December for Part 4

Orange Juice
Year predicted to break: 1983
Biggest hit: Rip It Up (reached #8 on 2/4/83)
The 1983 yearbook, in which Orange Juice were tipped for the top, was published on 7 October 1982; just one month later lead singer Edwyn Collins was on the cover of the magazine itself. He went on to have a bigger hit than any by his former group ten years after they split up when his solo single A Girl Like You reached #4 in 1995. It was one of a number of hits for Collins spanning 1984 to 1997.

Year predicted to break: 1988
Biggest hit: Every Rose Has Its Thorn (reached #13 on 11/3/89)
Hugely successful American rock band, estimated to have sold 45 million records worldwide in their now 35-year career. Their sales in the UK have been modest and their tenure as hit makers here has been limited to the period 1987 to 1993. As shown above, their biggest hit didn’t even make the Top 10, but it was a #1 in the US.

The Primitives
Year predicted to break: 1988
Biggest hit: Crash (reached #5 on 19/3/88)
Indie pop band formed in 1984 in Coventry who released three albums before splitting in 1994. They reformed in 2009 and have now added a further two LPs to their catalogue. Their hit singles remain limited to the period 1987 – 1991.

Year predicted to break: 1984
Biggest hit: The Most Beautiful Girl In The World (reached #1 on 23/4/94)
Another artist (songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, singer, arranger and producer) predicted to break when he’d already had a hit in the UK; he had also been signed to Warner Bros for five years before Smash Hits tipped him and released five albums, including the double album 1999. He went on to become one of the key artists of the 1980s, coming up with hit after hit – all the more extraordinary, as he never repeated himself: the ideas just seemed to flow endlessly. He made several soundtrack albums, some of which were for movies he starred in himself, and kept his sound fresh by changing the backing groups who supported him in the studio and on tour. The Revolution backed him on his most famous works in the 80s (issued on his own Paisley Park record label), replaced by the New Power Generation in the early 90s. The hits kept coming, and he finally had a UK chart topper in 1994. His commercial success has waned in the past twenty years but he remains prolific. Probably a genius.

Year predicted to break: 1989
Biggest hit: Cuddly Toy (reached #4 on 4/2/89)
British band fronted by Andrew Roachford who enjoyed hits throughout the 1990s on a seven-album deal with Columbia records.

Tears For Fears
Year predicted to break: 1983
Biggest hit: Everybody Wants To Rule The World (reached #2 on 20/4/85)
The Tears For Fears Story: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

The Waterboys
Year predicted to break: 1984
Biggest hit: The Whole Of The Moon (reached #3 on 13/4/91, having made #26 in 1985)
Essentially, Mike Scott under an assumed name, but over seventy musicians have represented The Waterboys on stage over the years. Edinburgh-born Scott had released music under his own name and as The Waterboys (and as Another Pretty Face, although he was dismissive of the early recordings he made under that name when Smash Hits first interviewed him). The Waterboys/Mike Scott had hit singles from 1985 through to 1998, and since then has charted with a further five studio studios the most recent of which was Modern Blues earlier this year.

Year predicted to break: 1983
Biggest hit: Last Christmas (reached #2 on 15/12/84, their biggest seller and therefore biggest hit; they improved on the chart position four times, with Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go the first of their #1s on 2/6/84)
Wham! in The George Michael Story: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 coming on 28 December

Tomorrow: the nearly-made-its.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Dec. 18
No release scheduled for this date.

Happy New Year!

As no relevant release was scheduled for 1st January in any year of the 1980s, If You Were There’s first article looks at those acts who didn’t grace the cover of Smash Hits during the decade; there are some surprising people missing.

Perhaps most notable are ‘the King of Pop’, Michael Jackson, and prolific and influential hit maker Elton John. Jackson scored three #1 singles, released what is still the best-selling album of all time, won numerous awards (including a brace of nine-times platinum discs from the BPI) and issued the most successful long-form music video cassette of its time: after Thriller, a promotional video clip was essential if a single was going to chart. The 80s did not yield quite so many sales for Elton as the 70s had or the 90s were about to, but between them his remarkable haul of 34 singles (not including re-issues of past material by his former label DJM, with whom he had a lengthy legal battle) racked up nearly 200 weeks on the chart. Both artists would finally make it in October 1990 in separate issues (Michael Jackson 3 Oct 1990, Elton John 19 Oct 1990), but why were they missing in the years this blog is concerned with?

In general, Smash Hits favoured home-grown talent that had emerged during its own lifetime when it came to the front page (presumably because they were easier to persuade in for a photo shoot). International acts didn’t feature regularly until the final two years of the period – indeed, between August 1981 and December 1985, the only non-Brit was Madonna, once – hence the absence of MJ. In addition, he had firmly established himself in the previous decade, as had EJ.

These editorial conventions explain the omissions of other popular acts. Brits Cliff Richard, Status Quo and Queen (all regular visitors to the top ten) emerged in the 50s, 60s and 70s respectively, while Americans Prince (24 hits), Whitney Houston (three #1s) and Kool and the Gang (nearly 200 weeks on the singles chart) also failed to trouble the art department, despite having their greatest successes in the 80s.

But what of the best-selling UK nationals who debuted in the 1980s and still didn’t secure a cover? Admittedly, Phil Collins was a recognisable face already as a member of Genesis, and as a new soloist was perhaps more of an ‘albums artist’ (his solo LPs spent years on the charts). But the absence of Bucks Fizz (three #1 singles, one of which won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981) is curious: although their biggest hits were squeezed into just a couple of years or so, they were around far longer than some of the people who were cover stars.

The award for most undeserved exclusion, though, goes to Shakin’ Stevens. He was photogenic enough (he made the front of Jackie and Blue Jeans, titles aimed at teenage girls, and also teen magazines Look-in and No1), but his rock n’ roll revivalist records were of a genre not popularized by Smash Hits (nor, for that matter, by the ‘rockist’ papers). Shaky spent the whole of the seventies trying to score a hit (mostly with his band, The Sunsets) and finally did so with his first solo single of the eighties, Hot Dog (released 11 January 1980). A further 29 hits followed (a tally bettered only by Cliff’s 31), including four #1s (equalled by The Jam, Pet Shop Boys, Wham and, through some high-profile collaborations, by David Bowie; they were exceeded only by Madonna’s six) which generated him a total of 254 weeks on the singles chart – more than any other artist in the decade. As a result, he was the most commercially successful British artist in the 1980s not appearing in the Smash Hits hall of fame.