If the job of a compilation album is to have the listener reminisce and feel entertained, all the while appealing to broad tastes, then the latest decade-defining compilations from the Warner Music stable go over and above the call of duty.
Sure, compilations are a dime a dozen. You might even find some in your local JB bargain bin for a dime… or at least a couple of bucks. But for a CD collection to truly stand out and be worth its original price tag, it’s got to tick the above boxes while also standing as a credible testament to the era it represents. And by that I mean it can’t just be a quickly slapped-together affair of obvious chart-toppers. Rather, is should include some of those glorious one-hit wonders that are so darned hard to find, even in this electronic age where everything is supposed to be at your fingertips online.
Just the other month, in fact, I was searching for a track by a relatively obscure British band called The Bureau. You might remember their only hit ‘Only For Sheep’. Yep, that’s the one: the nonsensical fife-and-brass tune with a chorus that’s inane but catchy as fuck. By golly it took a long time to track down. After long searches on iTunes and Spotify, I had to settle for the YouTube clip – and of course that was of the crappeist VHS-converted-to-dodgy-digital ‘quality’.
Alas, perusing the tracklist of fresh collection 80 Hits Of The 80s, there it was at number 16 on CD two, sandwiched splendidly between Goanna’s Aussie anthem ‘Solid Rock’ and The Stranglers’ bittersweet ode to heroin, ‘Golden Brown’.
See, in those three songs alone you get a credible rock anthem, a cheesy novelty pop tune and a song that sits right up there with Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Tear Us Apart’ and The Smiths’ ‘How Soon Is Now’ as one of the best songs of a decade taste supposedly forgot.
Other highlights in this four-disc stacked collection include Split Enz’s ‘I Got You’, Pretenders’ ‘Brass In Pocket’, New Order’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’, The Waterboys’ ‘The Whole Of The Moon’, Thomas Dolby’s ‘She Blinded Me With Science’ and Talking Heads’ ‘Wild Wild Life’. These gems scattered amid more obvious selections of songs by bands that should have known better than to call themselves Bananarama, Choirboys, Uncanny X-Men or Big Pig.
But I’m going to rewind to a couple of decades back…
60 Hits Of The 60s does a dandy good job of mixing up the blatant hits with the brilliant misses. While the former may be tainted with some really naff stuff, such as Tony Barber’s ‘Someday’ or Normie Rowe’s ‘Que Sera, Sera’, the cred stakes are upped when you spot songs by Buffalo Springfield, Aretha Franklin, The Monkees, The Shadows, The Animals, Ben E. King, Percy Sledge and Joni Mitchell. Then, to add a surreal touch, a bonus disc of 20 covers of ’60s hits is tagged onto the end where latter-day artists – many of them homegrown – emulate what were classics even as they were growing up (The Saints’ ‘The Music Goes Round My Head’ ironically setting the tone of the whole deftly regurgitated hoopla).
And then there’s 70 Hits Of The 70s – a collection where each and every song brings to mind a specific moment of my first 10 years in life, having been born slap-bang in the middle of 1970.
John Sebastian’s ‘Welcome Back’? Watching awesome re-runs of one of the coolest sitcoms in TV history.
Marshall Hain’s ‘Dancing In The City’? Sitting by the living room window, waiting for the rain to stop so I could go out and play, all the while hearing thunder rumbling at the start of the song itself.
Frankie Valli’s ‘December 1963’? Getting my fingers caught in dodgy sticky tape while wrapping presents with my big sister, albeit in December 1979.
Pilot’s ‘January’ and Carole Bayer Sager’s ‘You’re Moving Out Today’? Putting on rock eisteddfod-type productions and forcing our parents, uncles and aunts to not only watch but chip into the tip jar.
The ’70s, you see, like the ’60s before them and the ’80s thereafter, were times when we had to make our own fun and memories. There was no internet or plethora of video games to keep us preoccupied. Instead, dressing up and putting on lip-synced productions was how we entertained ourselves. At first in our living rooms in front of family and friends; then later on the dancefloor in front of strangers and DJs we crushed on.
If you’re looking for a bunch of music to take you back to those fine times, look no further than this most absolute mintos music series. Antonino Tati
60 Hits Of The 60s, 70 Hits Of The 70s and 80 Hits Of The 80s are available at JB Hi-Fi, Sanity and (if you’re lucky to have one close to you) independent record outlets. Also available are ’90s and ’00s compilations, distributed through Warner Music Australia.