11 December 2008

Karel Fialka - The Eyes Have It

Label: Blueprint
Year of Release: 1980

I've always found records which failed to entertain the Top 40 but gained a lot of airplay fascinating. It must cause pluggers everywhere to come crashing back down to earth as they realise that their job alone cannot guarantee a hit. It must also cause the artist a certain amount of grief - who do they blame, the distribution, the label, or their own song?

Perhaps Karel Fialka has given the above a lot of consideration over the years, because "The Eyes Have It" was a total smash in airplay terms, even managing to get (as you can see) a Top of the Pops slot despite only climbing as high as number 52. Although back in the day TOTP were known for doing things like this now and then, getting a new act on to the show on a Thursday night without a hit would still be considered a major victory for any plugger. Despite the exposure, the public clearly decided not to bite, and it went ignored to the extent that even when he did finally get a hit with the truly irritating "Hey Matthew" seven years later, most people didn't seem to remember his past.

"The Eyes Have It" isn't without its charms, although it's very much a period piece and would have sounded utterly out of place if released three years later. For 1980, however, it has all the correct elements - those mechanical, jerky, dispassionate vocals much loved by many major label New Wave one-hit wonders (See also: Flash and the Pan), an insistent, slogan driven hook, and some synth noises which now sound dated in a charming way. As much as eighties production values seem to be making a resurgance, it's precisely this kind of record which seemingly never gets revisited by the present cool kids on the block. As a result, it seems more distant to me and makes me feel more nostalgic than something like XTC's "Black Sea", which has been ripped off more times than I can be bothered to count in the last six years (not that this stops it from being a superb album, of course, just a very heavily plundered one).

It's as well to be realistic, however, and for all the rigid mechanical sloganeering stomp of this single, it was possibly all a bit too minimal to ever have had much chance of being more than a minor hit. Blueprint were also a subsidiary of Pye Records who were known for being dreadful at breaking any new artist at this point in time, and the two factors combining can't have helped Karel Fialka much at all. The upshot of that is that "Hey Matthew" gets used in pub quizzes as an example of a one hit wonder, when to be perfectly bloody honest I'd be happy to forget it ever happened. Such is life.


Paperback Tourist said...

Just out of interest who do you hear imitating 'Black Sea'?

Anonymous said...

Have you heard On Earth To Make The Numbers Up by Fosca? Has definite similarities to this song.

23 Daves said...

I did hear it, anonymous, a long time ago... I'm not too sure whether Dickon Edwards was influenced by it or not though. Somebody should email him and ask him.

Arthur Nibble said...

Just Googled the lyrics and realised I'd misheard them all those years ago. I thought the line "low down pit" was actually "load of piss" and marvelled that Karel had snuck in a decent swearword regularly on daytime Radio 1. Oh well.