You’ve written on sport and finance for The Times, The Mail On Sunday and The Independent but this is your first book. Why 80s pop?
About three years ago I was having a chat with a friend of the wife’s talking about 80s pop. I’d had a few to drink and I started reciting ridiculous facts and figures. He called me the Louis Theroux of pop and said I should do something with that knowledge.
So I decided on a book. I came up with a list of songs, tried to write about them but got nowhere. It was quite boring. Then one day I was on the website of a guy from Brother Beyond, noticed there was an e-mail address, so I pinged an e-mail asking if he’d like to help with the book. It snowballed from there.
Is that why Brother Beyond’s The Harder I Try is your No. 1?
Exactly. I feel like I owe the man. There is no order of preference, really. It’s totally random. A friend of mine said it was “brilliant toilet reading” because you’d dip into it on any page.
It’s called “Forgotten Hits” but many of them are pretty well known, such as Shakin’ Stevens’ Green Door, Howard Jones’s What Is Love?, Abba’s Super Trouper…
That was the difficult bit. They are famous but not too famous. They’re forgotten in the sense that you rarely hear them on the radio, or on a compilation CD or at a wedding or an 80s night. There are two dozen songs that always get played, such as Karma Chameleon and Tainted Love. What you never hear are thousands of other brilliant records from the 80s.
I remember most of them but not Sonia’s You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You or Robin Beck’s First Time.
You will. If I sang a bit of the chorus you’d know them. Most people will know all 101 of them with a bit of a nudge.
You interviewed a number of the stars rather than just giving your opinion. Why?
I asked them how they came up with the song, where and when they recorded it, all that sort of thing and that gave it a different angle. Made it a bit more interesting.
How did you end up sharing cigarettes with one of Johnny Hates Jazz in a car park at Birmingham’s NEC?
That was not very rock’n’roll, was it? Well, I’d e-mailed Calvin Hayes and he invited me to come and see them play in Nottingham on the Here & Now Tour at the Arena.
They got me some backstage passes, which was nice and slightly bizarre. I got to interview the guy from Curiosity Killed The Cat and a few others for the book. They invited me to go and see them again at the NEC in Birmingham.
It’s nice to see Nottingham’s Swing Out Sister and Su Pollard included.
I wrote to Su Pollard and she left me a brilliant ansaphone message which goes on for about half an hour and is hilarious. Another time she phoned, she got my wife, who is Australian and doesn’t know who Su Pollard is. And she bent her ear for about 45 minutes.
There aren’t so many songs from the early 80s. Why?
I’m 36, so it was the latter half of the decade when I was buying records.
Do you think the 80s was the best decade for music?
Yes. The 70s was a bit kitsch and the 90s was hit and miss. There was a bit of Britpop, then the boy bands came along. I remember going to my first 80s night in around 1992 but I’m not aware of there even being a 90s night.
Nick will launch the book with an 80s night at The Golden Fleece in Mansfield Road tomorrow from 7pm. “It’s an ideal opportunity to wear ridiculous clothes, get trollied and sing along loudly to Kajagoogoo and Nik Kershaw,” he says.