1984 had been the year that Hi-NRG came out from gay dance floors and found mainstream chart success. In the first 6 months of 1985, Dead Or Alive would give Stock Aitken & Waterman their first number one hit when ‘You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)‘ topped the charts on 9th March, spending two weeks in the number one spot, continuing Hi-NRG’s attack on the national charts. Chart topping Hi-NRG artists from 1984 also had some success in early 1985, with Bronski Beat and Marc Almond’s duet scoring a number 3 hit in May 1985 with their cover medley of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ and ‘Love To Love You Baby’. Likewise in May 1985, Divine saw a return to the UK top 30, when his cover of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons’ ‘Walk Like A Man’ made number 23. Sheryl Lee Ralph’s wonderful slightly Sharon Redd inspired ‘In The Evening‘ had also got a little national chart traction, managing to reach number 64 in the UK national charts in the first week of January 1985. Hazell Dean’s two follow up singles ‘Back In My Arms‘ and ‘No Fool For Love‘ both stalled at number 41 in the UK national charts, and failed to match the top 10 successes of her previous two hits.
Phyllis Nelson’s number one hit ‘Move Closer’ in Spring 1985, although a ballad and not a Hi-NRG disco song, had established historical links with the gay scene, as she had had several Boystown disco hits, such as one of the ultimate Boystown classics ‘Don’t Stop The Train‘, amongst other cuts. As a curious aside, and also a great example of the machinations within the music industry, Viola Wills’ unreleased 1981 original vocal of ‘Don’t Stop The Train’ found its way on to a vinyl release on from Belgium’s Nunk dance record label in early ’85, although it was credited to a singer with the pseudonym Kristeen and a photo of a white model was used on the record cover – something that would be considered hugely problematic today, and rightly so. It has always been noted that some of Viola Wills’ original vocals were used in parts of the Phyllis Nelson version that was commercially released in 1981. The release of ‘Don’t Stop The Train‘ under the alias of Kristeen found its way into the lower chart placings of the Record Mirror Hi-NRG charts in Spring 1985, and I recall it being on heavy rotation in the clubs I went to in Aberdeen in summer of ’85.
The daughter of Hi-NRG super diva Miquel Brown, Sinitta, made her first solo appearance on her then boyfriend Simon Cowell’s Fanfare record label with her Hi-NRG anthem ‘Cruising‘. She followed this in June 1985 with the release of the impossibly camp ‘So Macho’, which would go on to be a huge national chart hit in 1986 – a record I’m afraid I can’t abide, as it is just too silly for words!
Looking back at the Record Mirror Hi-NRG charts in early 1985, it was becoming evident that gay DJs and the gay club sound were becoming heavily influenced by European dance music. Euro disco and Italo Disco had always had some popularity in British gay clubs, and a great deal of Italian, German, Dutch and Belgian tracks found their way onto DJs playlists in the early part of 1985. These European releases were more highly polished in their production values, much more so than the rather cheaply and hurriedly produced British Hi-NRG of Record Shack and other labels. The sounds popularised on the gay clubs dance floors also looked to the very high production values from the USA and Canada, which brought a harder edge pop-rock and synth driven pounding four by four beat, and veered well away form the disco and boogie sounds of earlier years. Betty Wright’s ‘Sinderella‘, Bonnie Pointer’s ‘The Beast In Me‘, Natalie Cole’s ‘Dangerous‘, Santana’s ‘Say It Again‘ and Carol Lynn Townes’ ‘Believe In The Beat‘ are all examples of these highly polished American production values hitting the gay dance floors. DJs also preferred these American pressings, which were louder, clearer and better manufactured than UK pressings, and therefore had more impact on the dance floor.
The European productions finding their way on to British gay dance floors in early 1985 were led in the main by German acts. Modern Talking’s ‘You’re My Heart, You’re My Soul‘ and ‘You Can Win If You Want‘, Fancy’s ‘Chinese Eyes‘ backed with an American remix of ‘Come Inside‘, Lian Ross’ ‘Fantasy‘ and Mike Mareen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark‘, all released in the first half of 1985, would remain dance floor favourites for months and months. Modern Talking would go on to be a hugely successful in Europe (including behind the Iron Curtain), Japan and South America, selling millions of records. Fancy, Lian Ross and Mike Mareen would likewise find commercial success in numerous international markets, although the UK was not one of those markets, as their records were seldom released in the UK, and even if they were, their records would usually be put out on very small independent labels with very little marketing budget or promotion. Lian Ross and Fancy still perform their 80s hits on stage today, from Mexico to Moscow, and all points in between!
The gay clubs began to catch up with the Italo Disco phenomenon that had been such a huge part of the Continental European clubbing scene since the early 80s. Italo Disco had found some small favour on British gay club dance floors in previous years, but in early 1985, gay DJs were looking as much to Italy as to Germany, the USA and Canada to find the right cuts to burn up their dance floors. It’s interesting to note that many of the European releases entered the Radio Stad Den Haag charts several weeks before they made any appearance in the Record Mirror Hi-NRG charts, leading to the conclusion that British DJs would bring back records they heard in the nightclubs of Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Sitges – cities that were all much more cosmopolitan and ‘gay happening’ than London in 1985.
Italian songwriter and vocalist Iavna Spanga released records in several guises in 1985. All her projects showed how she, together with her husband Giorgio, and their production team were on top form in making pop-dance records, and were probably an early influence on Pete Waterman’s evolving production values. Under the pseudonym of Yvonne Kay, Ivana Spagna’s ‘Rise Up (For My Love)‘ is as wonderfully produced and mixed as any of the best dance Hi-NRG coming out of the USA or Canada. The studio projects fronted on stage by pretty models Fun Fun with ‘Give Me Your Love‘ and ‘Living In Japan‘, and Hot Cold with ‘Love Is Like A Game‘ showed Ivana and Giorgio’s mastery of how to produce on-trend pop-dance tracks that could light up nightclubs the world over. In previous years, the Fun Fun tracks ‘Happy Station‘ and ‘Colour My Love‘ had found some popularity in British gay clubs, so perhaps it’s not surprising the Spagnas’ tracks would find a British gay audience, where there had always had a tendency to play impeccably produced pop orientated dance tracks on heavy rotation. European dance tracks would continue throughout the 80s to be huge on British gay club dance floors, and during the summer of 1985, James Hamilton’s ‘Discos’ column in Record Mirror continually suggested that British gay DJs were looking for an alternative name for Hi-NRG, as the BPMs had come down to a more European 110 – 120 BPMs, and the term Hi-NRG no longer truly reflected what was being played in the clubs. Not withstanding, 130 BPM+ tracks continued to find favour in the gay clubs.
Two European sleepers that started to be played in the gay clubs in Spring/Early Summer 1985 were Lian Ross’ ‘Fantasy’ and Den Harrow’s ‘Future Brain‘. Both of these tracks did very well in Spring 1985 in the Radio Stad Den Haag charts. Slowly but surely, both tracks simmered away on the dance floors until they became really big in late summer/autumn ’85, and would continue to be played in the clubs well into the following summer, thanks to the release of several up dated remixes. Another remix that kept a track well and truly alive throughout Spring and Summer of 1985 was Peter Slaghuis’ bootleg remix of Maria Vidal’s ‘Body Rock‘. His radical treatment of the song in this remix was an absolute wonder to behold on the dancefloor!
The first six months of 1985 would see some of the most enduring Hi-NRG hits released, and which continue to find themselves in Hi-NRG mixes on YouTube and other on-line mix sharing platforms today. Alongside many of the tracks mentioned above, ‘Unexpected Lovers‘ by Lime, ‘Eat You Up‘ by Angie Gold and ‘I Believe In Dreams‘ by Jackie Rawe are considered to be amongst the top classics of 80s Hi-NRG. However, these records made little impact on British straight nightclub DJs, nor did they find their way on to radio playlists, and so they mostly remained underground in the gay clubs in Britain. There was however quite a lot of interest in Hi-NRG and Italo/Euro Disco outside the gay clubs in Scotland and Northern England, but for the most part, straight British nightclubbing revolved around Soul/Funk and the then current black music dance trends from the USA, or British chart music.
Many of my all time favourite Hi-NRG and Italo/Euro Disco songs were released in Spring and Summer 1985. For me this was a time of a really exciting journey into a world artists and singers from Europe, the USA and Canada; a world of exotic labels, remixes and alternative versions of the songs I loved. Many of these singers and acts I had never heard of before, but they caught my attention with their songs, and I wanted much more of the same! It made me wonder what the music must have been like in the super clubs of the bigger cities, if the music was as good as the underground tracks I was hearing in provincial Aberdeen.
I actually didn’t hear or dance to many of the songs that found their way into the Record Mirror Hi-NRG charts until later in the Summer of 1985. Maybe it was my good fortune that my parents moved to one of the Scottish Islands in early 1985, and I went with them – this was probably just as well, as I needed those months of Spring 1985 to revise for my exams to get into university in quiet seclusion. If I had stayed in Aberdeen amongst the music, I may have been too distracted to take my studies seriously! However, many of the songs from Spring 1985 were waiting for me when I returned to Aberdeen in the Summer, as they were still on heavy rotation in the clubs. I have wonderful memories of the DJs playing all these American, Canadian and European imports – they seemed to have turned their backs on much of the Record Shack records output of early 1985, despite the Record Mirror Hi-NRG chart showing these Record Shack releases apparently still being popular up and down the country.
Having now posted 105 entries from the Record Mirror Hi-NRG and Radio Stad Den Haag Charts for January to June 1985 on my YouTube channel, again I thought it would be fun to see which songs were the most popular amongst the subscribers in 2021.
Here is my top 30 Chart for January to June 1985, based on the amount of likes and then view each track has had:
It’s a delight to see many of my all time favourites from this time make in into this chart (no I don’t put likes on my own videos on my YouTube channel!) – many of these songs are still in heavy rotation today on my record deck and in my ITunes library!
I have made a YouTube playlist of these 30 tracks here:
I have also put all of these 30 records, in ascending chart place order, into an unmixed playlist/mixtape show on my Mixcloud Channel here, for uninterrupted listening without adverts here!:
The one big surprise about this chart was the number 10 placing of Modern Talking’s ‘You Can in If You Want’. Their earlier bigger hit in the British clubs, ‘You’re My Heart, You’re My Soul’ didn’t fare so well in either the original version, nor the UK only remix version on my channel. I was also surprised how well ‘You Can Win If You Want’ did on the channel, as Modern Talking take a lot of critical flack from hard core Italo Disco fans – but then they were huge in many parts of the world, and ‘You Can Win’ was a huge hit in South America, which is where coincidentally many of my YouTube subscribers are based.
Before leaving this post, here are some great Hi-NRG & Eurobeat tracks from the first half of 1985 that missed entering both The Record Mirror and Radio Stad Den Hagg charts, but have remained popular with Hi-NRG fans to this day:
And a curiosity from early 1985 alerted to me by a Youtube subscriber is this Canadian release, which is an almost carbon copy, of James & Susan Wells ‘R.S.V.P.‘ I’d love to know the story behind it!
In the next post I’ll return to the charts for the second half of 1985, which promise to yield many more wonderful Hi-NRG and Italo disco classics.