03 November 2003

Will we ever see a full-on '50's revival act in the singles charts again? I think not.

It occurred to me that, having grown up in the '70s and '80's, I was actually exposed to an awful lot of '50s-style music and imagery during that period. In the same way that we're now looking back 20 years for inspiration, so it was in the '70s that teddyboy-glam groups like Shawaddywaddy and Mud were updating the '50s, and very successfully too. As those kinds of groups faded out, the doo-wop sound of Darts took the late-70's by storm, with cuts like "Duke Of Earl" and "Daddy Cool" outselling most 'cutting edge' punk and new wave groups of the time. And of course one of the biggest films of that era was Grease, an unashamedly nostalgic musical hit-machine.

Everyone remembers the early '80s as the 'electric', New Romantic era, yet the '50s were still making a big noise in the charts, this time with the sanitized rockabilly of Shakin' Stevens, the slightly edgier Stray Cats, Bucks Fizz winning the Eurovision Song Contest with a pure streak of '50s pop and who could forget Coast To Coast's hi-octane hit "(Do) The Hucklebuck" (bizarrely, around the same time, Suicide's Alan Vega was enjoying chart success in France with his own uniquely skewed rockabilly mutations).

By the mid-80's, the 50's revival groups were just about finished , but that didn't stop Jackie Wilson topping the charts in Xmas '86 with a 30- year- old- tune (perhaps partially helped by that mad animated video). Even the hip-hop/DJ revolution of the late '80's was briefly infected by '50s madness, with a string of massive hits by Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers, which was probably the '50s last gasp at hijacking the record-buying public's tastes.

Now, apart from the occasional outbreak of Grease-mania, the '50s is a spent force in terms of big selling chart acts. Can you imagine the kids today going for Shakey's "Green Door"? And all the people old enough to remember the '50s don't buy singles now anyway. Good fucking riddance? Well yes, in principle. But it's strange that I seem to have developed a certain nostalgic affection for music that was itself a nostalgic view of a period that I never knew first time around. Weird....