Broken Greek- Pete Paphides (2020) – A Real Life Review



Music Journalist Pete Paphides has taken me off into a time machine with this memoir of his childhood.  It felt like I was back in the 70’s and early 80’s as he recreates the Acocks Green area of Birmingham so vividly and with excellent recall.  Running alongside his memories (and no doubt enhancing them greatly as there is nothing like music to recreate past times) is what is amounts to a soundtrack of his young life.

Paphides was the second son of Greek-Cypriot parents who had come over to Birmingham and soon found themselves running chip shops.  His father never lost the intense yearning to go back to Cyprus and only listened to music from his homeland which the young Takis found intense and mournful.  (His father shifted a little when Abba and Boney M came along).  His son attempted to make sense of his position in a culture different to his parents but struggled and became an elective mute speaking only to parents, his brothers and the occasional teacher when no other children were around.  His brother introduced him to the telephone Dial-A-Disc service which became a bit of an early obsession with him not quite able to process the magic of hearing The Rubettes’ “Sugar Baby Love” through the phone line.  Lack of self-esteem led him to think his parents didn’t want him and that they would return to Cyprus without him leading him to select Eurovision winners The Brotherhood Of Man as his substitute family.

Eventually Takis starts speaking, calls himself Peter in order to feel more of a part of school life and thus begins his struggle to be accepted by a father too busy with the demands of his business and also by those at school. He used music constantly as his crutch becoming obsessed with Top Of The Pops, chart positions (I can identify with this) and Abba and eventually seeing the gang of outsiders who were Dexy’s Midnight Runners as possible salvation.

I really enjoyed this.  It is enhanced by Paphides’ almost total recall of the era which gets so detailed (I don’t know if this is just memory, heaps of research or a bit of embroidering but it feels totally authentic). A lot of it will resonate to anyone growing up at the time but the author’s cultural and racial background gives it a fascinating slant.  Like all the best memoirs it feels both tragic and funny and oh so honest.  Many works of this era feel like wannabe memoirs, adopting what are now with hindsight seen as highlights of the culture.  You can’t get better than the young Pete’s obsession with pop comedy group The Barron Knights (until he gets to see them live) a section which is so realistic and so touchingly written and says volumes about the times in which we were living.  I have talked to people more about this book whilst reading it than I would usually do which is a good sign of the impression it has made upon me.  Definitely recommended.


Broken Greek was published in hardback by Quercus in March 2020.

100 Essential CDs – Number 82– The Essential Collection – Dionne Warwick



The Essential Collection – Dionne Warwick (Global 1996)

UK Chart Position – 58


Released to shift some units for the Christmas market in 1996 and no doubt accompanied by a TV advertising campaign I favour this 48 track two CD collection over other greatest hits compilations for this artist.  We get one album of Dionne Mark 1 – the Bacharach and David chanteuse with twenty-six of their compositions and a second CD of Mark 2 spearheaded by her biggest UK chart hit given to her by the Bee Gees which came after a period of 12 years without UK success.   CD 1 represents the 60’s and the second CD is slightly more all over the place with tracks from throughout her lengthy career.


Sometimes you just need a little class and there’s few artists more classy than Dionne Warwick.  An inspiration to so many other artists.  Dionne was born in 1940 and grew up in a New Jersey gospel music background.  She set up a group with sister Dee Dee and their aunt Cissy Houston (mother of Whitney) and as well as recording gospel material began to sing background vocals on pop recordings.  At a session for a Drifters track composer Burt Bacharach was impressed by Dionne’s vocals and asked if she would record demo tracks for songs he had written with partner Hal David.  The rest as they say, is history.

dionne3 working with Burt Bacharach (at piano) and Hal David

Dionne could be considered one of the unluckiest singers in pop music history.  Hers is a voice that has launched other careers as the Bacharach and David tracks first given to her became bigger hits for other artists.  A look at the track titles certainly bring this home.  Primarily, and probably most acrimoniously there is Cilla Black, whose career really took off in the UK when she recorded her version of Warwick’s first US Top 10 hit (#8 1964) “Anyone Who Had A Heart” and scored one of the big singles of the 1960’s but lets add to this list Sandie Shaw “There’s Always Something There To Remind Me; (first recorded by Dionne and a debut UK#1 for the ex-Ford, Dagenham worker); Dusty Springfield (An early B-side “Wishin’ And Hopin’ became a US#6 for Dusty in 1964.  In the UK the Merseybeats took their version to #13 in the same year); Walker Brothers (“Make It Easy On Yourself” was a 1962 demo by Dionne and became their first UK #1 three years later); Aretha Franklin (in the UK anyway Aretha’s version of Dionne’s US hit “I Say A Little Prayer” became her signature tune and a much bigger hit reaching #4); The Carpenters ( a 1965 B-side for Dionne which became a career launching US#1, UK#6 in 1970) the list goes on. Another demo recording “This Girl’s In Love With You” underwent a gender change and became a US#1, UK#3 for Herb Alpert,  although Dionne did strike back and got a US#7.


Even in later years The Stylistics eclipsed Dionne’s 1964 original of “You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart) reaching U2#23, UK#24, “A House Is Not A Home” was transformed into an all-time soul classic by Luther Vandross and in the UK Dionne’s debut American hit “Don’t Make Me Over” (#21 in 1963) did not make the chart until it was re-imagined as a cool club track by Sybil in 1989 (UK#19).



There are a number of reasons for all this.  Dionne was originally employed as a demo singer and some of these songs were intended to be picked up by other artists and Dionne’s versions only begun to see the light of day as B-sides and album tracks as her career took off, also, these were great songs picked up by great artists (most of those names above feature somewhere in my Essential Collection CD rundown) and sometimes us Brits couldn’t wait for the originals to be released so went for the cover version.



Dionne also got her own back and recorded songs that some of these artists had scored big with.  Bacharach and David wrote “Alfie” for Cilla Black who scored a UK #9 whereas Dionne took it to number 13 in the US, she had a US#26 with a song better associated in the UK with Dusty Springfield “I Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” (although original of this was by Chuck Jackson).  “Message To Martha (Kentucky Bluebird)” had been recorded by Lou Johnson (another Bacharach and David demo-er) and Jerry Butler and had been a UK hit for Adam Faith.  Re-dedicated to Michael it went to #8 for Dionne in the US.  “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” had been a UK#1 for US country singer Bobbie Gentry but in the US it was Dionne who got the number 6 hit version.


All of these original versions/successful cover versions of these Bacharach & David songs can be found on the first CD of “The Essential Collection”.  That also leaves room for a couple of songs that Dionne had no problem with making her own. It’s hard to believe that pop standard, a touching tale of unrequited love “Walk On By”, an absolute classic pop tune only made it to number 9 in the UK charts of 1964 (#6 in the US).  At that point of her career it was her biggest hit on both sides of the Atlantic and the song is perfectly suited to her voice.  It has been recorded by countless other artists but the original has never been eclipsed.  Notable versions have come from Isaac Hayes (US#30-1969), who drew it out into a sweet-soul opus, Gloria Gaynor who disco-fied it, The Stranglers, who turned it into a punk hit (UK#21- 1978), the Average White Band who gave it a jazz-funk vibe (UK#46- 1979) and the aforementioned Sybil who put out a Stock-Aitken-Waterman version in 1990 which topped Dionne’s chart position by getting to number 6.



“Do You Know The Way To San Jose” is the epitome of sophisticated lounge music and often features on compilations which feature the word “lounge” and “easy”.  It’s an all too familiar tale of failing to make it big and aiming to return to the hometown that had already been escaped from to avoid a life of “parking cars and pumping gas”.  This classy track became a Top 10 US hit in 1968 and became her biggest hit of the 1960’s in the UK by going one place better than “Walk On By”, explaining why this is the track chosen to open this CD.  Other highspots on the Bacharach-David CD include the slightly frantic “Promises, Promises” from the 1968 Broadway show of the same name (US#19) and “Are You There With Another Girl”, a US Top 40 hit from 1966. 


 Not everything Bacharach and David turned out was a gem however.  I find the chauvinism of the song “Wives and Lovers” embarrassing, even given it Dionne’s female voice, rather than Jack Jones’ US hit version and the 1967 track “The Windows Of The World” may have given Dionne a #32 but does nothing for me.


It seemed like Dionne disappeared for most of the 1970’s but really that did not happen.  She certainly took a back seat when disco was dominating the charts but in 1974 scored her first US # 1 pop hit with the (Detroit) Spinners and the soulful “Then Came You” which got to an understated #29 in the UK, but that track is not included on these CDs nor is much of her 1970’s post Bacharach and David material.  Dionne moved to Warner Brothers and Burt Bacharach and Hal David fell out after their work for the movie flop “Lost Horizon” (the track “The World is A Circle notwithstanding). Warner had signed Dionne very much as part of the team.  The first she knew about the split was when she read about it in a newspaper, causing considerable tension between herself and the songwriters.  Five albums on Warners saw different production and songwriting teams including Thom Bell and Holland-Dozier-Holland but the hits were not forthcoming either in the UK or in her homeland.  To try and change her luck Dionne on the advice of an astrologer added an extra “e” to her surname in something to do with numerology but that didn’t work and was later abandoned with Dionne returning to the original spelling. 



What did work was a move to Arista records in 1979 and all of the tracks on CD are from this association which lasted for fifteen years and eleven studio albums.  In the UK the return to the upper reaches of the chart came via the Bee Gees who still had the golden touch in 1982.  “Heartbreaker” had an old-fashioned feel in a UK Top 5 which included Culture Club, Tears For Fears, reggae star Eddy Grant and Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” but us Brits took to it more than we had ever taken to a Dionne Warwick track and it ended up in the Top 20 Best selling singles of the year, the third biggest by a female artist below Irene Cara and Toni Basil.  In the US this track went to number 10, a position also attained in the UK with her follow-up “All The Love In The World”, which actually I like better than the bigger hit.  Her 1982 studio album became her only UK Top 3 success.


 In the US the dry spell had ended three years earlier with a pair of consecutive pop hits.  “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” is an anthemic pop-soul ballad and certainly ranks amongst her very best tracks.  The producer for the album “Dionne”  was Arista label-mate Barry Manilow and at long last the fears that she could not survive without Bacharach and David were laid to rest as worldwide this became a million selling album, certified platinum.  Showing just how she straddles markets she picked up two Grammys in 1980 – “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” (US#5) won Best Female Pop Vocal and she took Best Female R&B Vocal for its follow-up, the US #15 “Déjà vu” which is not on this CD.  This double victory brought Dionne’s Grammy tally up to 4.  Dionne combined two of her career saviours in 1985 when she recorded a duet with Barry Manilow of the Bee Gees song “Run To Me” which is included on this CD.


 Dionne and Barry Manilow

Perhaps more than any other multi-million selling artist Dionne’s biggest successes have been when she combined her vocal talents with other artists.  Collaborations with Johnny Mathis, Luther Vandross and Jeffrey Osborne gave her US Top 40 pop hits (with only the latter’s “Love Power” -US# 12- 1987 included here.  Dionne’s only US chart-topper to date had been with The Spinners and the Bee Gees were not too far in the mix in her pair of big UK 1980’s hits.  In 1985 we had the ultimate collaboration of four major talents on what I would consider the best charity single of all time.  Dionne engineered a track to raise funds for AIDS with a song written by old pal Burt Bacharach with his then wife Carole Bayer Sager which had been originally recorded by Rod Stewart.  For this new version Dionne recruited a trio of hit-makers with careers even more impressive than her own – Stevie Wonder (9 US#1’s to this point), Gladys Knight (who shared Dionne’s then tally of 1 US#1,) and Elton John (6 US#1’s).  They could all add one more chart-topper to their lists as “That’s What Friends Are For” lived up to expectations and spent four weeks as the US #1 and won them all another Grammy with Best Group Vocal Pop Performance.  Released towards the end of 1985 it was the biggest selling single in the US in 1986.  In the UK it certainly under-achieved reaching only 16.  It was a worldwide hit topping charts in Australia and Canada.  What really works for me is the easing in of each vocalist to do their bit together with great adlibs and an ear-worm of a chorus and Stevie’s harmonica stopping it all from getting too sweet.

Apart from the aforementioned “Love Power” this saw the end of Dionne’s pop hit singles but her reputation as a song stylist can be heard in a trio of sixties tracks, a solo version of a song better known as a duet , Marvin and Tammi’s “You’re All I Need To Get By”, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feelin’” and the Broadway standard “Who Can I Turn To” which Dionne recorded in 1965.  She does a very good version of Luther Vandross’ “So Amazing”.  I’m not so keen on the couple of tracks from her 1990 album “Dionne Warwick Sings Cole Porter” as there’s an emptiness in both “Night And Day” and especially “Begin The Beguine” which certainly are not essential versions of either song (and Dionne can certainly do these tracks- another compilation album of hers I play often a 1998 compilation “Sings The Standards” sees her tackling Porter’s “I Love Paris” alongside Gershwin, Bernstein and Rogers & Hammerstein songs with huge aplomb).



This leaves just the album closer ,another career highlight and a great way to end this retrospective.  I don’t know what it is about the gentle, yet almost chilling “Theme From The Valley Of The Dolls” which I enjoy so much.  This was a US #2, UK#20 and was taken from the film version of the Jacqueline Susann novel I reviewed recently.  You might expect something glaring and brash to come out of this but this sensitive ballad written by Andre and Dory Previn was chosen to represent the film.  Gladys Knight also does a lovely version of this but I think Dionne’s original has the edge.


These 48 tracks give an excellent picture of the long career of the hard-to-define often under-rated Dionne Warwick.  The Bacharach and David tracks provide examples of the some of the best pop songs ever written, even if Dionne did not have the most successful version and the second CD proved there was more to her than the B&D muse as her quality versions of other songs and collaborations with some of music’s biggest players of the 70’s and 80’s ensured her a continued place in surely even the hardest of  hearts.

Even the wonders of 60’s television choreography cannot kill off Dionne’s seminal hit.  Watch and enjoy (don’t know who the Japanese lady is at the very end!)

And 21 years later


The Essential Collection is currently available from Amazon in the UK for £5.64 and used from £0.01. In the US it can be bought from $14.99 and used from $2.89


100 Essential Albums – Number 97- Pop! – The First 20 Hits – Erasure (1992)


Pop! – The First 20 Hits – Erasure (Mute 1992)

UK Chart Position – 1


A new entry  at number 10 in the current UK Top 40 albums is “Always- The Very Best Of Erasure” This has been released a staggering 3o years after their first hit single “Who Needs Love Like That” peaked at number 55.  “Always” is a  three CD collection- some 43 tracks – but buyer beware- 23 of these are remixes of tracks from the first CD.  There have been other greatest hits collections through the years (including Total Pop – which contained their First 40 hits and was released to celebrate this achievement in 2009).  I, however, would always opt for this collection (it does form the first CD of “Total Pop”) which became their fourth chart-topping album in a row when released in 1992.

Ex-Depeche Mode member Vince Clarke, who had enjoyed subsequent chart success by pairing up with Alison Moyet for Yazoo and The Assembly with Feargal Sharkey found himself without a recording partner and placed an advert in UK Music paper “Melody Maker”.  From those who replied singer Andy Bell was chosen to front the new project and Erasure came into being.  After over 25 million worldwide sales this duo are still going strong and intend to be back touring in 2016.  These guys are national treasures yet I can’t help feel they have been eclipsed by another synth-pop duo, Pet Shop Boys, and that we do not give Andy and Vince the credit that their vast tally of hit singles and albums deserve. So to celebrate Erasure and thirty years in the business I am suggesting this Essential CD to add to the collection.


It wasn’t exactly overnight success for the duo and in fact, in today’s very different climate it would be unlikely that a record company would have supported their initial less than spectacular sales – especially as Vince had enjoyed five top 20 hits with Alison (three Top 3) and a number 4 hit as The Assembly.  I would imagine that Mute Records would have become slightly anxious as the first three singles underachieved, despite being highly commercial propositions.  These were tracks the public missed out on at the time rather than poor quality as two of them “Who Needs Love Like That” and “Oh L’Amour” made the charts in remixed versions (#10 in 1992 and #13 in 2003).  In fact, both the original and Hamburg mix of this first track make it onto the CD as the first and last tracks.  “Oh L’Amour” also became a comeback hit for another duo, Dollar, whose version made #7 in 1987.

The track which changed everything for the group was “Sometimes”, released a year after the first single it reached number 2.  From then on there was an unbroken run of 24 Top 20 hits until 1997 and another 6 since then.  All in all there has been 35 UK Top 40 hits.  Three of these have been US Top 20 hits.  This success has all been achieved on an independent record label, Mute.

I had always enjoyed Erasure’s singles but the track that was the turning point for me was from 1988, their 8th hit and the track that marks the half-way point on the CD – “A Little Respect” .  This reached #4 in the UK and became the second of their three hits in the US reaching #14.  (Their first American hit was “Chains of Love” a#12 hit earlier that year . Their third was 1994’s “Always” #20, released after this CD ).  This is a track crammed full of hooks and has great singalongability.  Flamboyant Andy (who like Freddie Mercury could have only been a stage performer but unlike Freddie never played down his sexuality) sings this plea for compassion to a lover, but with lyrics such as; “What religion or reason/Could drive a man to forsake his lover” it’s probable that there is a wider context here.  This was released in the Dark Days of the AIDS virus, where there was a lot of blame being placed on the gay community by the popular press.  I like to think that this is Andy fighting back.  Those early days came with a considerable struggle, there were few out gay men in the music business- some saw Erasure as a novelty act.  Andy may very well have been playing to that when he wore a tutu live on stage, but in an interview with The Guardian in this was his take on that;

“I’d had enough of being bullied so I thought I’d put myself out there, as outrageous as I could be, so there was nothing more that people could say.”

It is no surprise that “A Little Respect” became something of a turning point for the band.  For me it was the beginning of a golden period which takes us up to the end of this CD and beyond.  The song is so good that is has returned to the UK charts by two very different artists: American rock band Wheatus (#3 in 2001) and a tongue in cheek yet affectionate (respectful!) version by Abba tribute band Bjorn Again (#25 in 1992)  (more of the Abba connection later…..)

My favourite track is “Love To Hate You” a high energy dancer with great lyrics.  Who could not be enamoured by such couplets as “Ooh I like to read a murder mystery/I like to know the killer isn’t me” followed by the truly poetic;

Love and hate, what a beautiful combination

Sending Shivers

Make Me quiver

Feel it sliver up and down my spine.


Sublime!  These two are highly under-rated songwriters.  In an interview for Private Ear Vince has described how this process works;

“Andy and I get together with a guitar and a tape recorder, I’ll strum some chords, he’ll sing a melody and we work in little sections, four or eight bars long. Then we’ll try stringing the sections together. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. I find it very hard to relate songwriting to synthesisers, actually – we write songs in a very traditional way. The electronic side of things is just to create the atmosphere. It’s mostly just messing about..!



Their greatest success came with a stroke of genius, the decision to cover four songs by Abba on an EP.  This was in 1992 and really spearheaded the Abba revival which led to the musical “Mamma Mia!” in 1999.  After a few years in the musical bargain bin it became cool to like Abba once again and this was led by a perhaps not-so-cool extravaganza, a reworking of four of the Swede’s hits, which upped the gay club appeal (if Abba ever needed that upping) with the lead track “Take A Chance On Me” helped by a genius video where Andy and the normally more deadpan keyboard wizard Vince dragged up as Agnetha and Frida to recreate the original promotional film. This is one of the most joyful pop videos of all time and showed you didn’t need to spend a complete fortune to achieve classic status.  A rap by female rapper MC Kinky gave it a modern edge, but actually listening to that now it dates it.  The “Abba-esque” EP became their only number 1 hit in the UK and also reached the summit in among other places, Austria, Ireland and Abba’s birthplace Sweden.  It also resulted in the “answer” hit by Bjorn Again – delightfully titled with that great sense of British understatement “Erasure-ish”.

That was twenty three years ago and since then there have been considerable ups and downs for the group.  Andy has had to publicly announce his HIV+ status before the gutter press did so, reveal a cocaine addiction, lost his long term partner and had two hip replacements. (Vince, unsurprisingly has led a much quieter life- although his wife is co-founder of the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn!).  Both Andy and Vince have carried out other projects but the Erasure days are far from over and the success of their latest greatest hits compilations show the public are still eager for more.

At time of writing this CD can be purchased new from used for £4.95 and used from £1.23.  American listeners can buy new from $6.78 and used from $0.01.  In the UK it is available to stream from Spotify as part of the “Total Pop” release.