Pickwick Records is probably better known to readers in the UK- a budget label in the manner of Ronco and K-Tel, they released a flood of product from the sixties onward and seemed to hit their stride in the late seventies/early eighties with sleazy compilations such as the not at all sexistly titled ‘Hot Ladies of Rock.’
At the risk of perpetuating the misogyny I would have to agree that this LP certainly does a fair job of reflecting the ‘hot’ female artists of the period- at least in terms of quality, cultural relevance, and/or chart action. You couldn’t ask for a better roster actually. The only criticism is that Pickwick could have had a wider selection of artists with less doubling-up, but I’m sure that was done for budget reasons. The only stinker in the bunch is the inclusion of ‘Paying the Price of Love’ by Crush, a group so obscure that I’ve never heard of them. And I specialize in the genre.
I have a thing for kitschy bottom-of-the-barrel vinyl compilations. You can keep your expensive high-profile cover art by The Police and Madonna; if you want to see the REAL design aesthetic of the eighties you’ve got to dig down to the level of ‘Hot Ladies of Rock.’ The uncredited model used for the cover was most probably a randomly chosen secretary working at Pickwick Records, dolled up on a moving bus while rushing to a hasty photo shoot with the promise of extra £5 in her pay, immortalized like some second-rate Toyah clone forevermore. Fantastic.
Hazel O’Connor- D Days
Pat Benatar- Heartbreaker
Toyah- I Want To Be Free
Crush- Paying The Price Of Love
Rachel Sweet- B-A-B-Y
Runaways- Queens Of Noise
Blondie- (I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear
The was a time back in the 80s when any world problem or disaster could be dealt with by simply throwing a bunch of A and B-list musical celebrities in a room and letting them work their magic. Today’s musicians are a bunch of narcissistic pussies in comparison.
Band Aid and Farm Aid are probably two of the best known of these ‘charity supergroup’ ventures, but they’re far from the only such arrangements. Most if not all are typified by a bevy of bloated egos hamming it up in a way that often comes across as little more than self-serving grandstanding. I’m sure a vast majority have their hearts in the right place, but the output of these creative endeavors is lackluster- and usually so laughably cheesy- that odds are they would have seen no sales at all had big names not been involved.
And so we come to Ferry Aid’s cover of the Beatles’ ‘Let it Be’, a waterlogged bloated mess as disastrous as the tragedy it was born to mend*. In March of 1987 the ferry MS Herald of Free Enterprise capsized, killing 193 passengers and crew in what became known as the ‘Zeebrugge Disaster.’ British newspaper The Sun (who may have been feeling guilty about the whole affair, as many of those on board had purchased cheap trips through that publication) worked with producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman to assemble artists for the cause, the result was this single which was recorded over a three day period mere weeks after the incident.
To its credit it did reach #1 in both the UK (for three weeks straight), Norwegian, and Swiss charts- and selling over half a million copies worldwide.
It should come as no surprise at all that the song itself is a dire affair. The unintentionally humorous video really drives home the pompous bloated self-importance of many involved. Notable New Wave artists appearing on the disc include Boy George, Bananarama, Kate Bush, and Steve Strange (of Visage.)
The sleeve is serviceable. It certainly won’t win any design awards (at least yet- who knows?), but gets the job done and is certainly not lacking in information. Although ugly, fairly common, and inexpensive (hell, they made 500,000 of them!) a nice little pickup if you’re a Kate Bush or Boy George completest… or would like a slice of history from the early days of the charity record phenomenon.
*It’s been like 27 years now so I think a little levity is acceptable?
Author: Liz Thompson (editor)
Publisher: Delilah/Putnam/Omnibus Press
Location purchased: 1/2 Price Book Warehouse, Syracuse NY
If you don’t know by now female vocalists are my thing. British groups/artists in particular. No one text has had a greater impact on my musical tastes and education than this book- flipping through it now I’m STILL amazed by the sheer amount of obscure data it contains…
‘New Women in Rock’ covers (not surprisingly) female artists that were hot in 1982. So tight is its focus though it could have been easily been called ‘Women in New Wave’ or even- and more accurately- ‘British Women in New Wave’ were it not for the inclusion of a few odd ducks such as Bette Midler and Joan Armatrading.
The biggies you’d expect to find are all here- Lene Lovich, Blondie, and Siouxsie to name a few. Where the book really shines though is the inclusion and equal treatment of all but unknown artists today such as Wendy Wu and the Photos, The Mo-Dettes, and Cherry Vanilla.The book assumes that you- a contemporary 1982 music lover- have at least a working knowledge of the artists covered; the write-ups are more of a ‘slice of life’ than an in-depth history.
Eleven different authors contribute, each with their own approach to their chosen subject. It is unclear if the article-format essays were written exclusively for this book (I assume they are), but the inclusion of writers such as Vivien Goldman hints at a deeper level of commitment to the subject since many are prominent reviewers of the day.
The book itself is gorgeous. Oversized and full-color, it contains many photographs of the artists I haven’t seen anywhere else. The layout is tight and stylish, dripping with top-notch 80’s class right down to the font choices- the slick presentation you’d expect from 80’s Omnibus Press offerings. There’s a rather comprehensive discography included as well; I’m sure hardcore completeness will snigger at the inevitable omissions, but it should keep the layman happy and busy attempting to track down its contents for quite a while.
Copies can still be found rather easily and cheaply today. Highly recommended.