29 October 2014

Reupload - The Dots - Helen In Your Headphones/ Come And Get It






















Label: EMI
Year of Release: 1982

Well, alrighty! Were it not for the wonders of the Internet, it's highly probable that I'd never have bothered placing this record on my "to buy" list. For years, "Helen In Your Headphones" existed in my brain without a title or a band name to go with it - all I could remember was a video which had both confused and vaguely scared me as a small child. One day whilst surfing on YouTube in a distracted fashion, the video popped up in one of the sidebars, banging my memory chimes very roughly. And Cliff almighty, it still disorientates me to this day. How such a brilliant and slightly unreal clip can be consigned to the dustbin of television history is a mystery, although I wouldn't bet against this going viral at some point in the next few years (and with any luck, I'll start the ball rolling with this entry - I'm still bitter that I didn't discover that Trololo sensation first, which is the most Left and to the Back-centric viral hit I've ever come across).

"Helen In Your Headphones" is an acquired taste, but it's definitely a special piece of work, wobbling on the usually awkward boundaries of parody and pop where so many an act with good intentions has fallen before. It begins with a barrage of eighties radio-speak, continues into a bouyant take on eighties synth-pop, then promptly splats headlong into a chorus so preposterously New Wave that it sounds ahead of its time, sporting the kind of punk era-referencing chorus the likes of Bis and indeed Dex Dexter were penning in the late nineties. Lyrically, it deals with the topic of an obsessed female fan of a radio DJ - "Hi Hi It's Helen... I just wanna tell you that your voice makes me go oh-oh-oh-oh" she sings insistently, out-creeping the rather oily DJ in question.

Whilst there's no doubting the record's capacity to irritate some people, I personally think it's brilliant, having a rare combination of a superb pop hook, tightness and conciseness, and a sense of humour which is delightful as well as being astute. It might be controversial to compare this to the Bonzo's "Craig Torso Show", but it does parody a certain vain, slippery element of the eighties "biz" to surprisingly strong effect, in much the same way that the Bonzos picked up on the flippant, self absorbed nature of some pirate radio jocks.

Two things stood in the way of chart success for The Dots, however - one would be the record having its own DJ intro, which may have proved difficult for DJs to work around themselves (especially if they were preposterous enough and Wayne Carr-esque enough to sound very similar). Perhaps mindful of this possible pitfall, EMI's plugging division apparently starting giving Radio One DJs expensive headphones as gifts to promote the single. Somebody got wind of the fact, thought it constituted payola, and the song was subsequently banned from the BBC's airwaves as a result. Given this fact, it actually did fairly well to climb as high as number 96 in the charts, its final resting place.

The Dots were from Leicester, and this appears to have been their only single, meaning EMI's rather rash marketing decision may have deprived us of other follow-ups. The rather scratched B-side "Come And Get It" is presented here for your pleasure as well, but doesn't really give any decent clues about where the band would have gone next. Still, with this one-off effort they really spoiled us.



6 comments:

VanceMan said...

I love these one-off acts. The bulk of bands usually only have one great single in them anyway, so acts like this make it simple to appreciate.

Arthur Nibble said...

I can't understand why a version with a synth break replacing the DJ intro at the start wasn't made available. Also, unless my eyes are packing up, funny how the more prominent girl band member on the record sleeve gets nary a mention in the video, while the frizzy haired gal takes centre stage for the catchy-as-Hell chorus. Apparently, the video got played on "Swap Shop" before its ban, which reminded me for some daft reason of a band called The Cut-Outs, at least one of whom worked for "Swap Shop" or the BBC, who got a prestige slot on the show and got signed by EMI as a result.

Arthur Nibble said...

Seems that, not only did this get released in Germany, the band appeared on German telly - intriguingly, minus the 'optional extra' second female...

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=the+dots+helen+in+your+headphones+

23 Daves said...

I tried to mention that fact in a comment, Arthur, but blogger "ate" it. You're right, the whole thing is odd. Maybe she left shortly after the track was recorded.

Bagpuss said...

My memory of this song is uncannily similar to 23 Daves. I saw and heard it just once on an epsiode of Tiswas in April 1982. It then lurked in my subconscious for about 30 years until I discovered it on this website when it was first posted. I love this song and it should have been a big hit. When you think "My Camera Never Lies " was number one at that time, it doesnt seem right that "Helen" only made number 98 in the charts. But then the BBC does move in mysterious ways. Also in 1982, Split Enz's single "Six Months In A Leaky Boat" fell foul of BBC policy. Apparently airplay was discouraged because of the Falklands War. Singing about leaky boats while our brave boys were battling in the south Atlantic was considered to be bad for morale.

23 Daves said...

Reminds me of the BBC preventing Massive Attack from using their group name while Gulf War One was in progress.

Anyway, bagpuss, by pure coincidence I've just finished writing an entry with a very tenuous connection to this one. It will be live online tomorrow morning…