Stars on 45
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Stars on 45 was a Dutch novelty pop act that was briefly very popular in the United Kingdom, throughout Europe, the United States and Australia in 1981. The group later shortened its name to Stars On in the U.S., while in the U.K. and Ireland it was known as Starsound. The band, which consisted solely of studio session musicians under the direction of Jaap Eggermont, formerly of Golden Earring, popularized medley recordings made by recreating hit songs as faithfully as possible and joining them together with a common tempo and underlying drum track.
Jaap Eggermont originally created the "Stars on 45" concept after the managing director of the Dutch publishing company Red Bullet Productions, Willem van Kooten, in the summer of 1979 by sheer coincidence happened to hear a disco medley being played in a record store. The medley coupled original recordings of songs by the Beatles, the Buggles, the Archies and Madness with a number of recent American and British disco hits like Lipps Inc.'s "Funkytown", Heatwave's "Boogie Nights" and The S.O.S. Band's "Take Your Time (Do It Right)", as the rhythms of the various songs tended to complement and "dovetail" into each other. When van Kooten heard that the medley also used a segment of "Venus", a 1970 US #1 hit by Dutch band Shocking Blue - a song for which he himself held the worldwide copyright - and knowing that neither he nor Red Bullet Productions had given the permission for the use of the recording, he realised that the medley in fact was a bootleg release. The record turned out to be a 12-inch single called "Let's Do It In The 80's Great Hits", credited to a non-existing band called Passion and issued on a non-existing record label called Alto. The medley had its origin in Montreal, Canada, and it was later revealed that it was the work of one Michel Ali together with two professional DJ's; Michel Gendreau and Paul Richer. Gendreau and Richer both specialised in the art of "splicing", stringing together snippets of music from different genres, in varying keys and BPM's and from different sound sources, at this time still predominantly from vinyl records. The first version of the medley was eight minutes long, included parts from some twenty tracks of which only three were by the Beatles; "No Reply", "I'll Be Back", and "Drive My Car". A later extended, 16-minute, 30-track mix of the same medley labeled "Bits and Pieces III" added another five Beatles titles: "Do You Want to Know a Secret", "We Can Work It Out", "I Should Have Known Better", "Nowhere Man" and "You're Going to Lose That Girl". With the bootleg recording obviously already circulating in dance clubs on both sides of the Atlantic, van Kooten decided to "bootleg the bootleg" and create a licensed version of the medley by using soundalike artists to replicate the original hits and therefore contacted his friend and colleague Jaap Eggermont.
The Beatles soundalikes were established Dutch singers. John Lennon's parts were sung by Bas Muys of the 1970s Dutch pop group Smyle. Paul McCartney's and George Harrison's parts were sung by Sandy Coast frontman Hans Vermeulen and Okkie Huysdens who had worked with Vermeulen in the band Rainbow Train. Apart from the recreated songs, an original chorus and hook written by Eggermont and musical arranger Martin Duiser called "Stars on 45" was added at intervals to help string differing sections together. The '45' in the title refers to the playback speed of a vinyl record single — 45 rpm, such singles were often simply called "45s". The female vocalist in the chorus was session singer Jody Pijper and later recordings also featured uncredited vocals by Dutch 1970s star Albert West and Arnie Treffers of rock revival band Long Tall Ernie and the Shakers. The Stars on 45 recordings were made before the birth of digital recording technology, which meant that each and every song was recorded separately and the different parts were subsequently manually pieced together with a pre-recorded drumloop, using analog master tapes, in order to create the segued medleys. The specific drumloop heard on most Stars on 45 recordings is often referred to as the "clap track", due to its prominent and steady handclaps.
The first such release was a 9:45 12" single, issued in the aftermath of the so-called anti-disco backlash, and was released on the (at the time) minor label CNR Records in the Netherlands in December 1979. The single was simply entitled "Stars on 45" by Stars on 45, with no credits on the label or the cover as to who actually sang on the recording. When Dutch radio stations began playing the four-minute, eight-track Beatles segment of the medley, placed in the middle of the original 12" mix, an edited 7" single with the Beatles part preceded by "Venus" and The Archies' "Sugar Sugar" was released and hit the #1 spot of the Dutch singles charts in February 1981. A few months later it also reached #2 in the UK, where it was released by the British subsidiary of CBS Records and credited to 'Starsound'. Shortly thereafter Eggermont created the first Stars on 45 album, Long Play Album, issued with an equally anonymous album cover and featuring a 16-minute side-long medley of Beatles titles.
In June 1981 the "Stars on 45 Medley" single also went to #1 in the US where it was released by Radio Records, a sublabel of Atlantic Records. The track list for the 7" edit of the "Stars on 45 Medley" in the US was the names of all the songs that make up the medley as it appears on the actual record label (see image at left):
This single with its 41-word title continues to hold the record for a #1 single with the longest name on the Billboard charts, due to the legalities requiring each song title be listed. The Stars on 45 Long Play Album (US title: Stars on Long Play, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand: Stars on 45 - The Album) also became a massive seller worldwide, topping both the UK and Australian album charts, it was a Top 10 hit in most parts of Europe and also reached #9 on Billboard's album chart in the US.
The popularity of the album even resulted in it being given an official release in the Soviet Union, where it was issued by state-owned record label Melodiya under the title Discothèque Stars. The "Stars on 45 Medley" single was later awarded a platinum disc for one million copies sold in the US alone.
A second Beatles medley went to #67 on the US charts. Another album followed later that same year, Longplay Album - Volume II (US title: Stars on Long Play II, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand: Stars on 45 - The Album - Volume 2) featuring medleys using the songs of ABBA, a #2 hit in the UK and Motown, US #55. The recordings of the Stars on 45 medleys were also made before the advent of modern synthesizers with the possibility of sampling sounds. Consequently, for the recreation of tracks like the themes from "Star Wars" and "The War of the Worlds", included in the "Star Wars and Other Hits" medley on Longplay - Album II and released as the third European single under the title "Volume III", a full symphony orchestra was used, including strings, brass, woodwind, harpsichord, orchestral percussion like timpani etc. - even if those particular parts were only ten or fifteen seconds long on the actual record released.
In late 1981 Eggermont and Martin Duiser were awarded the Conamus Export Prize in the Netherlands in recognition of their contributions to Dutch culture and economy.
A third album, The Superstars (US title: Stars on Long Play III, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand: Stars Medley), featured medleys of The Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder. The single "Stars on 45 III: A Tribute to Stevie Wonder" peaked at #28 in the US in 1982, where the act was now simply listed as Stars On. It also reached #14 in the UK where it was called "Stars Medley" - confusingly exactly the same title as the third album in the British Isles and Australasia. In Continental Europe and most other parts of the world the Stevie Wonder medley was entitled "Stars on Stevie". In late 1982 Eggermont and Duiser again won the Conamus Export Prize, this time together with Tony Sherman who sang lead vocals on "Stars on Stevie".
In 1982, there was a staged musical show at the Huntington Hartford Theater in Hollywood, California and a video of that show was released in 1983 by MCA Home Video.
A spinoff group called The Star Sisters had a hit in Europe in 1983 with an Andrews Sisters medley. The albums were released under the moniker of Stars on 45 Presents the Star Sisters. 1985 saw the release of an album titled Stars on 45 - Soul Revue and a single called "The Sam & Dave Medley" credited to 'Stars on 45 featuring Sam & Dave', and including the Stars on 45 logo on the album cover, but not produced by Jaap Eggermont. It featured David Prater and his new singing partner Sam Daniels. Original Sam & Dave member Sam Moore demanded that the album and single be recalled; they were later re-labelled and re-issued credited to 'The New Sam & Dave Revue'.
Later European-only releases included Stars on Frankie released in 1987 and some ten years later Stars on 45: The Club Hits, the latter however not produced by Eggermont. While none of the three original Stars on 45 albums have been reissued to CD in their entirety or in their original form, several CD compilations on European budget labels such as EMI's subsidiary Music Club, Arcade, Edel Records, Falcon Neuen Media, Bunny Music and ZYX Music have been released under the non-copyrighted 'Stars on 45' moniker all through the 1990s and 2000s (decade). These include The Best of Stars on 45, The Very Best of Stars of 45, The Magic of Stars on 45, Stars on 45 Presents the Mighty Megamix Album, The Greatest Stars on 45, The Non-Stop Party Album, Greatest Stars on 45 Vol. 1 and Greatest Stars on 45 Vol. 2. It should however be noted that some of these compilations also feature titles such as "The Carpenters Medley", "Beach Boys Gold", "The Spencer Davis Group Medley", "Love Songs Are Forever" etc. - again recordings that were neither produced by Jaap Eggermont nor originally released as by Stars on 45 in the 1980s (see below).
In 2011, Dutch dance label Spinnin' Records issued a set of new remixes by Global Deejays and Olav Basoski. In both mixes, only the original intro and chorus of the Stars on 45 singles were sampled. They did not contain any hits or sample of existing hits.
There was a touring company also called Stars on 45 that promoted their albums, although not using the same studio session musicians as on the record. The group remains active as a touring outfit, playing at corporate events and weddings, using a revolving group of professional musicians. The current bandleader is Eddie Garr.
Similar acts and parodies
Before Stars on 45
In 1976, the Ritchie Family had scored their biggest U.S. hit with a similar medley named "The Best Disco in Town." This had incorporated various pop hits of the day, such as Silver Convention's "Fly, Robin, Fly" and Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby," recreated in an order, and segued by the title theme.
Two years before the release of the "Stars On 45", a similar medley was produced by the French Laurent Rossi. The band Café Crème played its Unlimited Citations (1977) by taking the original Beatles recordings, editing them into a sequence, overdubbing identical drum and bass parts, singing hit songs as faithfully as possible and stringing them together, with a common tempo and relentless underlying drum track. The single with its 45-words title was a hit throughout Europe (including Netherlands) and North Africa. The band acted playback on TV but played the medley live in a different place every night during more than 500 nights (almost two years) in multiple countries.
Almost a year before the release of the "Stars On 45", a similar medley was produced by three South Florida men by taking the original Beatles recordings, editing them into a sequence, and then overdubbing identical drum and bass parts. While never receiving any airplay (obviously for rights/use and clearance issues), the master was purchased by a New York disco label.
After Stars on 45
The commercial success of the first "Stars On 45" single started a medley craze from 1979 to 1983 adopting the same approach of anonymous studio productions stringing together classic hits. The approach was used with the commercially successful Hooked on Classics series of albums.
In 1981, The Beach Boys had their own minor hit with "The Beach Boys Medley," peaking at #12 on the U.S. Hot 100 chart. Capitol Records' incentive to produce and release this medley came from the attention a South Florida man was receiving with his own self-produced and self-performed medley. Chuck Kirkpatrick, a former Capitol artist himself (under the name "Chuck Crane").
In the spring of 1982, the Beatles hit the charts with their own medley. They peaked at #10 in the UK sales charts and #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "The Beatles Movie Medley," highlighting their hits from the various motion pictures they appeared in throughout their popularity. "The Beatles Movie Medley" remains the only Beatles single not released on CD.
Other examples include Hits On 45 with "Disco Beatles", Disco On 33 with "28 Hits of the Superstars", Disco Dancing On 33 with "Disco Dancing On 33", Magazine 60 with "Magazine 60", Intro Disco with "Intro Disco", Startrax with its Bee Gees medley "Startrax Club Disco", Tight Fit with "Back to the 60's Vol. 1" and "Back to the 60's Vol. 2", Enigma with "Ain't No Stopping - Disco Mix '81" and "I Love Music - Disco Special", Gidea Park with "Beach Boy Gold" and its Four Seasons medley "Seasons of Gold" (UK peak #23, US peak #82), Lobo with his Harry Belafonte medley "The Caribbean Disco Show", Band of Gold with "Love Songs Are Back Again" and "Love Songs Are Forever", Paul Giggs and his "Guitar Collection", Rock Heroes with their Rod Stewart medley "Rock Heroes Vol. 1", Motor City Allstars with "A Tribute To Motown", Trini Tunes and their "Trini Lopez Hit Medley" and Super Rock Stars Live with "Super Rock Stars Live".
Some performers used the "On 45" branding for their own medleys and parodies during this period. The rock band Squeeze recorded a medley of their previous hits, calling it "Squabs on Forty Fab", and releasing it as the B-side to their 1981 single "Labelled With Love." For their 1981 release, "Christmas Jamboree Bag", Chas & Dave recorded a medley entitled "Stars Over 45", featuring a selection of traditional London songs. British punk band Tenpole Tudor also parodied the concept with "Tenpole 45", the B-side of their 1981 single "Wunderbar", and in the early 1980s, Ivor Biggun released "Bras on 45" (a.k.a. "Bra Size 45"), a comedy medley. Also in 1981, American comedians Stevens & Grdnic released "Commercials on 45", which was a compilation of that duo's parodies of commercials set to music. Later that year, Boney M. released a medley under the title "6 Years of Boney M. Hits - Boney M. on 45" featuring some twenty of their best-known recordings.
Scottish post-punk band Orange Juice recorded a Stars on 45-like medley of their earliest singles called "Blokes on 45" for John Peel's BBC radio show, which was eventually released on the compilation The Glasgow School'' in 2005.
A medley of British pop group Girls Aloud's singles, including the outro and intro from the original Stars On 45 release and entitled "Girls On 45", was released in 2009 as the b-side of their single "The Loving Kind".
- Stars On 45: Long Play Album (Netherlands #7, March 1981); UK title: Starsound: Stars on 45 - The Album (UK chart #1, May 1981); US title: Stars On: Stars On Long Play (US chart #9)
- Stars On 45: Longplay Album - Volume II (Netherlands #4, August 1981); UK title: Starsound: Stars on 45 - The Album - Volume 2 (UK #18, September 1981); US title: Stars On: Stars On Long Play II
- Stars On 45: The Superstars (Netherlands, March 1982); UK title: Starsound: Stars Medley (UK #94, April 1982); US title: Stars On: Stars On Long Play III
- Stars on 45: Soul Revue (Late 1985)
- Stars On 45: Stars on Frankie (Netherlands #59, October 1987)
- Stars On 45: The Very Best of Stars On 45 (Netherlands #36, August 1991)
- Stars On 45: The Club Hits (Germany, November 1997)
- February 1981, Stars on 45: "Stars on 45" (#1) (The Beatles and other 1960s tracks)
- July 1981, Stars on 45: "More Stars" (#4) (ABBA)
- September 1981, Stars on 45: "Volume III" (#10) (Intros)
- February 1982, Stars on 45: "Stars on Stevie" (#6) (Stevie Wonder)
- April 1982, Stars on 45: "The Greatest Rock 'n Roll Band in the World" (#15) (The Rolling Stones)
- October 1987, Stars on 45: "Stars on Frankie" (#16) (Frank Sinatra)
- 1989, Stars on 45: "Stars on '89 Remix" (The Beatles)
- 1991, Stars on 45: "Stars on Stevie Megamix" (Stevie Wonder)
- 1997, Stars on 45: "The Club Hits"
- April 1981, Starsound: "Stars on 45" (#2)
- July 1981, Starsound: "Stars on 45 Volume 2" (#2)
- September 1981, Starsound: "Stars on 45 Vol.3" (#17)
- February 1982, Starsound: "Stars Medley" (#14)
- June 1982, Starsound: "Stars Medley" (-)
- May 1981, "Stars on 45 Medley: Intro Venus/Sugar Sugar/No Reply/I'll Be Back/Drive My Car/Do You Want to Know a Secret/We Can Work It Out/I Should Have Known Better/Nowhere Man/You're Going to Lose That Girl/Stars on 45" (#1)
- July 1981, Stars on 45: "Stars on 45 Medley 2" (#67)
- September 1981, Stars On: "More Stars" (#55)
- March 1982, Stars On: "Stars on 45 III: A Tribute to Stevie Wonder" (#28)
- June 1982, Stars On: "Stars on 45 III: Rollin' Stars" (-)
- July 1983, Stars On: "The Star Sisters Medley" (#107)
- Red Bullet Productions, Willem van Kooten biography
- Ben Liebrand, biography on Stars on 45
- Rate Your Music biography and discography
- Shades of Seventies, the Stars on 45 "clap track"
- Ovations.de, special items: Stars on 45 platinum disc
- IMDB entry, Stars on 45 1983
- Congressional Testimony 5/21/1998 "Protection Against Artistic Knock-Off's: Sam Moore"
- San Diego Union Tribune 9/25/85 "Singer Finds Sour Note in New Duo's Name" PP B1
- Café Crème single, UK release, 1978
- Unlimited Citations playlist Part 1 (slow) Part 2 (Disco) and Part 3 (Rock, Twist), Youtube
- De Nederlandse Top 40
- Stars on 45 at AllMusic
- Discogs.com biography and discography
- Rateyourmusic.com biography and discography
- Dutch biography and discography
- Billboard.com biography and chart history
- Chartstats, UK chart history
- Dutch chart history
- Liner notes, The Very Best of Stars on 45
- Stars on 45 official website