The average age of a composer who topped the charts in 1985, was 38. Hardcastle. Paul Hardcastle.
British writer and producer, Paul Hardcastle, worked on film scores, TV themes as well as producing hit records of his own. He was one of the 1980’s most familiar sounds but not one of its most familiar faces. Born in London in 1957, Hardcastle worked as a session singer before branching out alone with his solo ‘project’, First Light. He released his debut album, “Daybreak”, in 1984, while it and the singles, “You’re The One For Me” and “Guilty” were minor successes. 1985 was a very busy year for him, recording “Zero One” under the name of Universal Funk and “Rain Forest”, which was released under his own name. The album and the title track won praise in electronic circles, while the three singles from the album all peaked outside the top 40.
A third album came from Hardcastle in 1985, this time self-titled and it was lead with a truly iconic slice of mid-80’s synth/elector pop, “19”. Hardcastle used the line “the average age of a combat soldier killed in Vietnam was nineteen”, spoken by veteran American broadcaster, Peter Thomas (1924-2016), in a documentary about the Vietnam war. The hook was on the ‘nineteen’, which Hardcastle exploited as “n-n-n-n-nineteen” against a backdrop of scenes from the war used on television at the time. “19” was an instant smash and went to number one in twenty countries worldwide including the UK, where it spent five weeks at the top, becoming the fourth biggest seller of the year. In the US, the track peaked at No.15 on the sales chart and toped the Dance chart. “19” helped the album break the chart and gain a Silver certification. Two further singles were lifted, “Just For The Money” (UK No.19) and “Don’t Waste My Time” (UK No.8), in 1986.
Despite only two years of releasing records, Hardcastle, rather shrewdly, released a best of in 1986, entitled “The Definitive Paul Hardcastle”. Two new recordings were featured. “Foolin’ Yourself”, which missed the UK top 40, and “The Wizard”, which peaked at No.15 and was adopted as the new theme music to the BBC’s long running music programme, Top Of The Pops, from 1986-1991. Paul’s last pop album under his own name was “No Winners” in 1988, after which, he resurrected the First Light project and released a second album under that name, “Sound Syndicate”, in 1989. Paul abandoned popular music for Jazz in the 1990’s, releasing a total of nine albums from “Paul Hardcastle I” in 1994 to his most recent, “Paul Hardcastle IX”, in 2020. A number of singles have been taken from each album, which has resulted in no less than NINE number one’s on the US Jazz chart so far and a further seven top ten hits there!
The inevitable greatest hits albums have come at regular intervals, while “19” continues to pop up on 80’s compilations and is still lauded for its ground-breaking production today by synth aficionados and modern producers, who are both inspired by the creativeness of the song and have parodied it in the decades since. Manchester United football team used the song to celebrate their 19th British premier division title in 2011 and it brought “19” back to the UK singles chart for the first time in twenty six years, peaking at No.40!
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