Stowaway Heroes – Stephen Hague

If you know anything about pop music from the last three or four decades, you have probably come across Stephen Hague‘s name. Producer of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the DarkPet Shop BoysCommunardsErasureSiouxsie and the Banshees, and many more, his impact on music really is immense.

Here’s one of his biggest hits from the 1980s, and a fantastic video to boot – this is New Order‘s True Faith:

In the 1990s, Hague was to be found producing Electronic‘s DisappointedBlur‘s lovely To the End, and Dubstar‘s brilliant debut Disgraceful. Here’s Stars:

In the 2000s and 2010s, Hague has worked with Afro Celt Sound Systema-haRobbie WilliamsClient, and this astonishing comeback from Claudia Brücken:

Yes, we owe a lot to Stephen Hague, and he’s a very worthy stowaway hero.

Bizarre search engine terms – 2018 edition

I don’t often look at the statistics for this blog, but occasionally it tells me one or two interesting facts. One of the more revealing is the search engine terms that bring people here. These are a selection of the ones that brought you here in the last year or so!

b.e.f. ‎– music for stowaways torrent

No. Just no. I say this every time, but if you want illegal music, this is not the right place to look. Stream, buy second hand, or best, buy the original in some form. Most of B.E.F.‘s debut album is available on the 1981-2011 box set.

“stephen hague” produce

A search which has brought people here on an astonishing nine different occasions. Stephen Hague turns up a lot on this blog, of course, and not always by name. Over a four-decade career, he’s been responsible for producing many of our favourite acts around here, including Orchestral Manoeuvres in the DarkPet Shop BoysNew OrderErasureMarc AlmondElectronicBlurDubstarSarah CracknellAfro Celt Sound Systema-haPeter GabrielClientClaudia Brücken and more. A future stowaway hero for sure.

location of the first brit award in 1981 [and 1981 brits awards]

A lot of people seem to come here now looking for information about the BRIT Awards. As you’ll see from this article, the first BRIT Awards was not in 1981 – there wasn’t even a ceremony that year. The first was in 1977, at Wembley Conference Centre. The first regular ceremony was in 1982, at Grosvenor House.

best kraftwerk album to start with

Everyone will have their own opinion on this, but I gave mine when Kraftwerk appeared on the Beginner’s guide feature three years ago. I’d stand by that judgement – start with Trans Europa Express or The Mix. It’s worth paying extra for the German releases.

vangelis aimless noodling

This might be one of my favourite web searches ever. Honestly, yes, a good chunk of Vangelis‘s music is aimless noodling, and rather amusingly it turns out that I actually used those exact words when I reviewed the Metropolis soundtrack in 2014, although at the time I wasn’t referring to the man himself.

If you want more, here’s the 2017 edition.

Chart for stowaways – 21 October 2017

Here are the week’s top albums:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Release
  2. Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife
  3. Pet Shop Boys – Fundamental
  4. Saint Etienne – Home Counties
  5. Kraftwerk – 3-D Der Katalog
  6. Pet Shop Boys – Yes
  7. Pet Shop Boys – Elysium
  8. a-ha – MTV Unplugged – Summer Solstice
  9. Erasure – World Be Gone
  10. Goldfrapp – Silver Eye

Preview – a-ha

I’m not exactly sure to what degree the world was crying out for an a-ha unplugged album, but they got one, and by the sounds of things it might actually be pretty good. Summer Solstice was released a couple of weeks ago, and here’s The Living Daylights.

Record Store Day 2016

Backlash aside, I always feel as though we should try and stir up a bit of excitement for this weekend’s Record Store Day, as we did in previous years. Here are some of the releases that caught my eye…

  • a-haHits South America – five previously unreleased live tracks (12″ EP, 3,000 copies in the US, also in the UK and Germany)
  • AirCasanova 70 – four remixes including two by Brendan Lynch (12″ “maxi transparent splatter vinyl”, Canada, UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • David BowieThe Man Who Sold the World (12″ picture disc, 5,000 copies in the US, also Canada, Germany and Netherlands), TVC15 (7″ picture disc, 5,000 copies in the US, also Canada, Germany and Netherlands), and I Dig Everything – The Pye Singles (12″ EP, 7,500 copies in the US, also Canada)
  • CassiusAction EP and 8 Beats (both 12″x2, Germany only – the latter also in Canada)
  • ChvrchesEvery Open Eye Remix EP (12″ EP, 5,000 copies in the US and Canada)
  • John Cooper Clarke – Ou est le Maison de Fromage (180g coloured vinyl, UK only)
  • Étienne de CrécySuper Discount 1, Super Discount 2, and Super Discount 3 (all UK only, format not stated)
  • Dead Can DanceAnastasis (2xLP, 1,500 copies in the US, also Canada, Germany and Netherlands)
  • 808 StatePacific – three remixes (12″ EP, 2,000 copies in the US, also in the UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • EuropeThe Final Countdown 30th Anniversary – three tracks including new remix (12″ electric blue vinyl, UK only)
  • Frankie Goes to HollywoodRage Hard (The Making of a 12″) (12″ EP, 2,500 copies in the US, also in the UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • The Future Sound of LondonAccelerator plus Andrew Weatherall remix of Papua New Guinea and Stolen Documents (black heavy weight LP in printed inner bag with hand-numbered 7″ vinyl, UK and Germany only)
  • Heaven 17(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (repressed 12″, Canada, UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • Jean-Michel JarreE.S.Exit (7″, Canada, UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • Kings of ConvenienceQuiet is the New Loud, Versus, and Riot on an Empty Street (LPs, UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • MadonnaLike a Virgin & Other Hits (12″ pink vinyl, reissue of 1984 Japanese EP with Obi Strip, 4,500 copies in the US, also in Canada, the UK and Netherlands)
  • Mike OldfieldNuclear (7″ picture disc, Canada, UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • The OrbThe Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (4xLP, UK and Netherlands)
  • The ResidentsThis is a Special DJ Record of The Residents’ Alleged Music. Please Do Not Steal It! Keep it at Your Station – We Need the Radio Airplay (LP, 1,500 copies in the US, also in Canada, the UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • Soft CellSex Dwarf – including remixes by The Grid (12″, Canada, UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • Alan Partridge – Knowing Me, Knowing You (picture disc, UK only)
  • Doctor Who – Genesis of the Daleks (LP blue vinyl, 2,500 copies in the US, also in the UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • Dr. Who and the Daleks / Dr. Who – Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (LP box set, UK only)

Good luck trying to find any of those. More information for the US here, the UK here, Germany here, and various other countries here.

Retro chart for stowaways – 4 March 2006

The top ten albums from a decade ago:

  1. Goldfrapp – Supernature
  2. Röyksopp – Röyksopp’s Night Out
  3. Madonna – Confessions on a Dance Floor
  4. Sparks – Hello Young Lovers
  5. Depeche Mode – Playing the Angel
  6. Sugababes – Taller in More Ways
  7. Röyksopp – The Understanding
  8. a-ha – Analogue
  9. Pet Shop Boys – Battleship Potemkin (OST)
  10. Faithless – Forever Faithless – The Greatest Hits

Looking back at 2015

As always, we started the year with some bold predictions about what 2015 might hold. Let’s see how accurate they actually were!

January

We jumped into the New Year by marking post number 909, just because…

February

We finally finished our comprehensive history of the BRIT Awards! You can read the Complete Guide here.

March

March saw us revisit the archives of this blog and everything that came before it, with reviews of Depeche ModeEnigmaErasure, and others.

April

In April, we celebrated the 1000th post on this blog. Awesome. Quantity rulez.

May

May saw exciting new releases from Jean-Michel JarreHot Chip and Leftfield – which is a lot to fit into one month.

June

June saw us rolling back to the early 1980s, and reviewing a-ha and OMD.

July

As the official UK charts officially moved to Fridays, we celebrated our third anniversary and gave up on Sunday posting (probably for the sabbath, or something).

August

August for stowaways saw reviews of oldies from Goldfrapp and Dubstar!

September

September finally saw the last installment (for now) of our Beginner’s guide series. Collect the full set here!

October

October this year saw us counting down to the Q Awards and the Mercury Prize!

November

November saw the introduction of a brand new feature on this blog, Vinyl Moments – which hopefully will be back soon!

December

Sees us celebrating the Christmas and New Year period yet again. As the Germans say, have a good slide into 2016!

Preview – a-ha

I think I genuinely thought I would never write these words, after they split up a decade or so ago, but everybody’s favourite pencil-drawn Norwegian popstars a-ha are back! At the time of writing, they had forgotten to promote this via their official site, so we’ll have to make do with this. This is Under the Make-Up:

a-ha – Hunting High and Low

An act from the 1980s about whom I know very little is the Norwegian group a-ha. I do feel a little ashamed of that actually, because listening to their best of compilation proves they actually have quite a bit to say for themselves. This week sees the thirtieth anniversary of their debut album Hunting High and Low, so let’s take a listen!

The album, like their whole career, really has to open with the brilliant Take on Me. It is, of course, one of those songs which really captured an era, with its unusual and inventive video, and its catchy mid-80s sounds.

Train of Thought is less remarkable, although they’re definitely giving it plenty of welly. This was the fourth of five singles in some territories, and there’s really nothing wrong with it to speak of – it just seems a little bit faster than it needs to be and it’s not quite as catchy as it should be. With barely a moment’s rest, we’re onto the title track and final single Hunting High and Low.

This is, thankfully, a much slower song, and really goes a long way towards proving a-ha were more than just another daft pop act. Back home in Norway, they scored a ridiculous amount of number 1 singles, and all but one of their albums hit the top spot. Their UK and US success was a little more subdued, but was entirely deserved nonetheless.

The quality doesn’t let up with The Blue Sky either – although the introduction does let the rest of the song down somewhat. When it gets going, though, it turns out to be a great song. Living a Boy’s Adventure Tale, on the other hand, starts off extremely promisingly, but ultimately just sounds unfinished. It’s really not bad, but given the calibre of the songs we’ve heard so far, it truly pales into insignificance.

Side B opens with the entirely brilliant third single The Sun Always Shines on TV. As with Take on Me, it’s memorable and catchy, and became their only UK number 1. It’s not really clear what he’s singing about (or, more specifically, why he’s singing about it) but this isn’t the sort of song where that matters particularly. This is pop music at its best.

Unfortunately, very little of the second half of the album lives up to the promise of the previous tracks. And You Tell Me is a short, forgettable piece with a nice bass line and very little else. Love is Reason is a timely reminder why the 1980s are commonly remembered for their vacuous cheesy pop. There’s really very little else you can say about this one – it’s total drivel. Even I Dream Myself Alive is little better – it does feel as though they put rather more effort into Side A than Side B.

The final track Here I Stand and Face the Rain picks things up again somewhat, although it was really never going to be a single. There isn’t a huge amount to it, but it does wrap up the album nicely, and serves as a worthwhile reminder of just how good some of the earlier tracks were.

So Hunting High and Low is a promising, if somewhat schizophrenic debut. If you own one of their singles compilations but haven’t got as far as buying this yet, you could probably wait a while longer, but if it was still 1985 I would probably be recommending buying it. And in spite of its shortcomings, it’s really not a bad first album.

You can still find the double disc special edition of Hunting Hugh and Low at major retailers, including special bonus stuff.