Tuesday, April 24, 2012

1985: How sorry you were

The Eighties: natural home of the power ballad. You can bellow all you like over a film's end credits today, it won't be a patch on what we were hearing back then. Love them or hate them, however, there's no ignoring them. Though I openly despised everything from Berlin's Take My Breath Away (never off the radio), to Patti Labelle & Michael McDonald's On My Own ('we were already talking divorce - and we weren't even married!') to Up Where We Belong (odd hands on Top Of The Pops), I had a surprise soft spot for this number. To Smiths-loving, Sixties-obsessed, chart pop fan me, Phil Collins was the total anti-Christ, especially after the year he'd just had, dominating the charts with his nasty bubbling pop monstrosities, and I'd never even heard of Marilyn Martin. Needless to say, it was a big ballad with a big production tacked onto a big film, in this case, the very silly but Mrs P fave White Nights, starring Gregory Hines and ballet boy Mikhail Baryshnikov - and to my utter horror, I loved it. Still do. I love the beginning, it's so unusual, and then it builds to this tragic sing-off in which no one wins. I'm filling up here. I have to say, as time goes by, I now have lots of time for all this shit. I never thought I'd see the day when I was belting out Roxette's It Must Have Been Love in the car, but frankly it moves me almost to tears it's so beautiful. Same for Take My Breath Away. I'm no longer a music snob of course, which helps, so Bon Jovi's Blaze Of Glory is on my karaoke most-wanted list and - gulp! - it was even refreshing to hear Whitney's I Will Always Love You after her death. But let's not go mad. Sorry Celine, you're barred. We all have room in our life for a power ballad, don't we, especially if it's from a cheesy film from the Eighties. Singing along at the top of your voice, knowing the words despite never owning the damn record is not only a briliant wave of nostalgia, it's also quite uplifting. If you stick your head out of the window right now, you'll just me hitting the top notes on Heart's Alone. So what's your favourite?


  1. Overnight they've changed Blogger, and now this has all come out in one big paragraph.

    Any clues as to how to not let this happen?

  2. There's a certain keyboard sound on a lot of the 80s ballads that always really grated on me, but going just a few years further back I can identify a few nuggets that are broadly of the genre (and would have been given the full treatment if they'd happened a little later.). Magic Man by Heart, She's Gone by Hall and Oates (can you believe that came out in 1974??), the one by Congregation that has the choir on it. None of them subtle.

    If you aimed a loaded shotgun at me and forced me to choose an 80s blockbuster, I'd probably go for Against All Odds, if for no other reason than Spitting Image spoofed it very well....

  3. I can't think of a single power ballad I ever liked. It was too much windswpet backcombs and puff 'n' bluster. The metal ones: Poison, Whitesnake were awful then - unlistenable now

  4. Jon, do you write in 'compose' mode or 'edit html' mode? That can often sort your paragraphing. Blogger's new look isn't especially attractive or user-friendly, is it?

    Separate Lives is a cracking song. Marilyn Martin was, as you infer, a total unknown and sort of incidental even after the song was a hit - the sleevenotes for the song on Now 6 don't even mention her, which is a bit cruel.

    "I now have lots of time for all this shit" is one of the best lines of prose you will ever write!

  5. Having mused on this question for a while, I've settled on Boston's 'More Than A Feeling', specifically because it features BOTH double-tracked guitar AND a minor to major shift. One at a time I'd be quite happy with, but the pair! Well.

    I, too, find myself increasingly fond of seeing and hearing this shit. Whether it's a lament for lost youth, or the fear of the ever-passing year, or just plain old alcoholic soaked sentiment I do not know. It's a reality though.

    Welcome to the Titchmarsh Years, hmm...

  6. The Titchmarsh Years started for me about 17 years ago.