Year of Release: 1980
The early eighties spewed up some strange one hit wonders, but few were more unexpected than model and actress Sue Wilkinson's "You've Got Be A Hustler If You Want To Get On" (originally titled "You've Got To Be A Scrubber If You Want To Get On" before someone at the record label got cold feet). The softly sung - barely sung, actually - yet acidic, bitter lyrics combined with a minimal pop backing created a peculiar novelty record, one which could also have conceivably been recorded as a "naughty" music hall 78 in the twenties and still sounds as if it could be a YouTube viral today. Like most successful novelty pop, it feels as if it belongs to no particular era stylistically and exists in its own wobbly world.
I've never been too sure quite what "Hustler" was supposed to be proving, though. Was it a despairing record written about women failing to get ahead unless they sold themselves sexually, or a record which shruggingly accepted the fact and only just stopped short of celebrating it? And is the fact that she says these are the "only women making it" not slightly clumsy? (True, there weren't that many women in positions of power in 1980, but the ones who were didn't necessarily achieve their aims by bed-hopping. Thatcher was the Prime Minister in Britain at this point, after all… and no, don't even go there). The characters in "Hustler" are recognisable, but the acerbic, sweeping nature of it does leave me feeling slightly awkward. That's possibly the idea, though.
So when you've managed that strange, minimal novelty top thirty hit - with Don Powell out of Slade on "boing" noises, fact fans - where to next? Well, clearly you try the same trick again. "Posers" is lyrically less snappy than "Hustler", instead taking digs at vain people, both men and women ("Got an up-lifted backside/ Then siliconed her flat-side/ you can bite her apple/ but you'll never, never reach the core"). Otherwise, it's business as usual in a slightly weirder, melodically more meandering way. This is almost New Wave, in fact, but without the lyrical obliqueness.
Is it any good? Not especially. There are no sharp, memorable one-liners here, and the targets would have been tired even for 1980. It has all the hallmarks of a desperate attempt to re-ignite a spent firework, a common phenomenon in one hit wonderland, and I'd be surprised if Sue Wilkinson herself didn't realise that she wasn't going to achieve a long career delivering bitter ditties about the superficial nature of humankind to under-arranged backings. She managed two more singles on Cheapskate before drifting out of view.
Regrettably, it would seem that she died of cancer in 2005, so we may never find out what her expectations or motivations were. Just for providing everyone with a truly baffling, out-there moment on "Top of the Pops", however, I can only respectfully bow my head.