Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Stars Come Out

There once was a Dutch gentleman named Jaap Eggermont who played drums in a band called the Golden Earrings, soon to change their name to Golden Earring and purvey a little "Radar Love." In July 1970, Eggermont left the band to become a producer, and near as I can tell, he produced a hit in Holland with "Spooky's Day Off" by the Swingin' Soul Machine, but the Wikipedia page is translated from the Dutch with something less than Borgesian precision. What it actually says is: "Jaap Eggermont has now shifted his interest and focuses on producing. Behind the buttons he immediately scored a direct hit with the strong Spooky's Day Off, The Swinging Soul Machine."

(What it says about his drumming is even better: "Eggermont rolls with the convenience of full drumsolo Iron Butterfly's 'In a Gadda Da Vida', including errors, but there is nobody to wait.")

In 1979 Eggermont came across a bootleg single that spliced together pieces of real hits, songs by the Beatles and the Spinners, "Funky Town" and "Video Killed the Radio Star." It was titled (apparently by the same person who did that Wikipedia translation) "Let's Do It in the '80s Great Hits." The guy who had assembled that record thought Eggermont could produce a more legitimate version, and the Dutch label Redbullet agreed. In fact, one of Redbullet's acts, Shocking Blue, had its song "Venus" on the bootleg, which wasn't so groovy, but they also figured it would be great to put that same song on the new, legit record.

Eggermont got together a bunch of Dutch Beatle soundalikes and eventually came up with a 16-inch single running 14 minutes long. (It was released in the Netherlands the day after John Lennon was murdered, which probably didn't hurt sales any.) An American label, Radio Records, chopped up the medley, keeping the "Venus" opener and, for some reason, the Archies' "Sugar Sugar" in front of all the Beatles' songs and released a proper four-minute single. Although most people called the record "Stars on 45," the official title was "Intro Venus/Sugar Sugar/No Reply/I'll Be Back/Drive My Car/Do You Want to Know a Secret/We Can Work It Out/I Should Have Known Better/You're Going to Lose That Girl/Stars on 45." It's not only the longest song title to hit Number One on the Billboard charts, which it did on June 20, 1981, it's the longest title ever to reach the Hot 100.

With the success of that record, soon came "Stars On 45/Good Day Sunshine/My Sweet Lord/Here Comes The Sun/While My Guitar Gently Weeps/Taxman/ A Hard Day's Night/Things We Said Today/If I Fell/You Can't Do That/Please Please Me/From Me to You/I Want to Hold Your Hand/Stars On 45," which was the last four minutes of the original 16-inch. It peaked at No. 67, which should have been the end of the Stars On craze, but Eggermont was not done.

There was an album called Stars on Long Play (Side One of which I think was simply the American release of the original Dutch 16-inch, and Side Two being a bunch of other old Dutch medleys), then a series of Stars On singles paying tribute to Abba, Motown, the Rolling Stones (titled "The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World") and Stevie Wonder. The Stars on Stevie record was the only one to crash the American Top 40, reaching Number 28 in the spring of '82.

After tributes to the Andrews Sisters and Sinatra ("Stars on Frankie"), the Stars On concept finally petered out in 1987. I don't think anyone misses it.


Gavin said...

Coincidentally, I was at a party on Saturday night where the DJ played the Stars on 45 ABBA record. It was fun for a few minutes, then it got really tiresome.

MJN said...

A 16" single? Can that even be played on an ordinary phonograph?

T. Nawrocki said...

I was wondering about that... The sources I was reading kept calling it a 16-inch single, but a regular LP is only 12 inches. Maybe it's some metric thing.

Mark Lerner said...

Thank you, sir, for shining the OPC spotlight of truth into this dusty corner of pop's basement.

I'd also point interested parties towards an answer record of sorts, "Squabs on Forty Fab" by Squeeze, who give themselves the Stars treatment.