Friday, 10 June 2016

Do Us All A Favour

Everything is better when it comes with a ‘four to the floor’ beat.

Or so it seemed for a short while in the early 80s, when the British charts were deluged with discs featuring a medley of hits stapled roughly to a disco rhythm. The trend started back in 1976, when the Ritchie Family scored their biggest hit with The Best Disco in Town, which incorporated various pop hits of the day.

In1977 Disconet, a DJ subscription service that put out discs exclusively for club and radio use, issued The Original Beatles Medley, official recordings by the lads, snipped and stapled together over a disco beat. Although the Disconet 12” has long been believed to be a bootleg, Disconet was a legitimate operation and that all of the medleys they produced (including those for Elvis and Michael Jackson) were officially sanctioned. However for one reason or another – presumably because Apple hated the rough and ready medley that Disconet’s Ray Lenahan produced but that capitol seemed to endorse – the Original Beatles Medley soon vanished and it quickly became a collector’s item. Pirate copies appeared and, in an effort to fill the void, Atlantic records issued the dreadful Disco Beatlemania, which featured a covers band imitating the Beatles over that relentless disco beat rather than snippets of the original recordings, and EMI France issued the similar Unlimited Citations by Café Crème.

Then, in January 1981, as the world was recovering from the shock of John Lennon’s murder, came Stars on 45. Another Beatles medley, this time recorded by a studio band put together by former Golden Earring member Jaap Eggermont, Stars on 45 was a huge international hit – Number 1 in Holland and the USA, Number 2 in the UK. Suddenly the floodgates were open, and anyone who was anyone had a disco medley of their songs issued, either by their own record company (remember Squeeze and Squabs on Forty Fab?) or by cover acts climbing on a very lucrative bandwagon, such as Platinum Pop by This Year’s Blonde (Blondie). There was even the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra whose Hooked On Classics (Parts 1&2) was a massive UK hit, and spawned it’s own imitator in the guise of the Portsmouth Sinfonia and Classical Muddly – itself a Top 40 UK hit!

It was endless: Lobo’s Caribbean Disco Show, Tight Fit’s Back to the 60s, Gidea Park’s Beach Boys Gold and (Four) Seasons of Gold and so on. Unsurprisingly EMI, the company that owned so many of the original recordings that were being plundered, decided to get in on the act with official medleys from the Hollies (Holliedaze), the Beach Boys and, naturally, The Beatles (The Beatles Movie Medley).

There are many, many records I could have chosen from this era to illustrate just how awful it was, but this obscurity is a prime example of how any tu’penny ha’penny band could, and would, sell it’s soul for a stab at chart stardom.

Antmania is, obviously, a medley of hits by Adam and the Ants (then at the height of their popularity). However this is not an officially sanctioned CBS release (although, by a quirk of fate, it was distributed by a company owned by CBS), rather it’s a cover issued on the tiny Eagle Records label in 1982 by the otherwise unknown Future Heroes... a band that clearly knew nothing whatsoever about the post-punk, new wave stylings of Mr Ant and his crew.  

To get an idea of what Future Heroes were actually like, flip the single over for Hold On, a poor disco/funk number written and produced by Dave Myers. Information on Future Heroes is impossible to find: I do not know, for example, if the Dave Myers that wrote and produced this dross is the same Dave Myers of Hairy Bikers fame (although I’m trying to reach him to find out). He produced a number of non-hits around 1981/82 then seemed to disappear. This was, unsurprisingly, the only single issued by Future Heroes.

Still, here it is, a sad footnote in a sad period for pop music.


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