Musical archaeology pt39: “I’m in Love with a German Film Star” by The Passions (1981)

Do you remember the early 80s when winters were proper cold? I’m talking Siberian heatwave here. One Sunday morning in the winter of 81 I was wandering round the concrete hive that was Petticoat Lane market, trying to find anything interesting to buy other than leather jackets, yeah, that part of the market (“the big red building in Petticoat Lane”, as the ad jingle went). Low in the mix of shopper’s hubbub I heard this mesmerising song playing somewhere in the distance. The music sent different shivers down my spine and pulled me in like a siren. Pushing through the crowds led me to the crumby end of the stalls where a frozen bloke with a small selection of 45s stood over a tiny turntable, playing the Passions’ single.

“Can I have one of those,” I asked.

“Yes, but it’s the only copy I’ve got,” he said, about to lift the needle.

“No, don’t,” I said, “let it play to the end.”

The two of us stood in our long coats listening, like a post-punk version of that drawing of 50s teenagers kneeling round a dansette, the image that used to be on generic single sleeves. By the time the record finished we’d drawn quite a crowd. The stall holder nearly changed his mind but honoured the sale. I’m glad he did.

The winters aren’t as cold these days and the chart music doesn’t seem to have much depth to it. I think it has something to do with the fact that pop songs are developed on computer and not by playing them live any more.

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