The Hit Parade
|The Hit Parade|
left-right Cath Carroll and Julian Henry.
|Labels||JSH Records, UK
Minty Fresh, US
Vinyl Japan, Japan
Sarah Records, UK
The Hit Parade is an independent pop group, based in London, England that formed in 1984 when three school friends Raymond Watts, Matthew Moffatt and Julian Henry first recorded together songs in Watt's family garage. The group has remained active for over thirty years and has released seven albums and eleven 7" vinyl 45 rpm records in the .
The Hit Parade recorded their first singles in Watt's Building Site Studio in the 1980s working alongside experimental groups Psychic TV and Einstürzende Neubauten. The Hit Parade's early records "My Favourite Girl" and "The Sun Shines In Gerrards Cross" were played on BBC Radio 1 by DJs John Peel, David "Kid" Jensen and Janice Long.
The Hit Parade has never been commercially successful in part because the three members have pursued other careers. Watts moved to Berlin in 1989 to work with KMFDM, Henry developed a business in marketing and journalism, while Moffatt founded his own film lighting company. But they have continued to release records to the current day. They proclaim the Latin motto "Semper Eadem" ("always the same") on their records.
The Hit Parade record for JSH UK record label producing 7" vinyl singles in limited editions; each self-financed with artwork designed by the band. The first Hit Parade single 'Forever' was released in 1984 with a mock-vorticist manifesto, making claims "No song shall last for more than 3 minutes" and "facial hair including moustaches will not be tolerated". It was ignored by the music press but played on BBC Radio 1 by John Peel. A sequence of more 3 minute pop songs followed each with a garage sound influenced by 60s artists The Monkess, The Byrds, Phil Spector and others.
In 1985, The Hit Parade signed to Stiff Records but the label went out of business before anything (other than a track on a compilation album) was released. The first pressing of the band's 1985 single 'See You In Havana' JSH5 with Stiff Records logo is now collectible. The record was the first Hit Parade single to attract reviews and airplay.
The first Hit Parade LP "With Love From The Hit Parade" was released in 1988 to unfavourable reviews: 'mire of cheesy mundane tunes' 'oblivious to musical developments of the last 24 years' (Q Magazine) 'twee like you wouldn't believe' (MM), apart from NME which declared the Hit Parade to be the 'perfect pop machine'. The band's diy pop purist approach was lauded by fanzines (Caff, Are You Scared To Get Happy, Especially Yellow); later that year Henry was approached by Cherry Red and arranged  nine songs on the first Would-be-goods album.
In the 1990s, The Hit Parade were approached by the Sarah Records label and recorded "In Gunnersbury Park" b/w "Harvey" which remains their most popular UK release. Henry, and Harvey Williams from Another Sunny Day, performed at the Sarah Records farewell concert on board the Thekla Boat, permanently moored in Bristol, in 1995.
By 1994, The Hit Parade had developed a cult following in Japan and the Far East, as a part of the Shibuya-kei movement along with groups The Pastels, Orange Juice and Flipper's Guitar. The Hit Parade signed to Vinyl Japan and later Polystar Records. They had a Top 20 hit with "Hello Hannah Hello". They toured Japan several times, and performed live at stores in Shibuya, at the opening of the Virgin Megastore in Shinjuku, Tokyo, on MTV Japan and other TV shows. They signed to Minty Fresh Records, Chicago, in the United States and released their first US single, "Hello Hannah Hello".
After a ten-year hiatus The Hit Parade released their fifth album in 2006 The Return Of The Hit Parade, and 9th single "My Stupid Band", the story of a failed pop group doomed to a life of obscurity. It was published with a Manifesto that called for Food Lovers Fairs to be banned and for JG Ballard to be knighted.
Four years later the 10th Hit Parade 7" single was released with a sleeve photograph of Le Corbusier's 'Unite D'Habitation' featuring Cath Carroll named "I Like Bubblegum" b/w "Zennor Mermaid" to raise funds for the Porthmeor Studio in St Ives Cornwall restoration fund. 'I Like Bubblegum' was voted one of the best singles of 2010 by Drowned In Sound.
In May 2011 the 11th Hit Parade single 'There's Something About Mary' was released to raise funds for the Fisherman's Mission in Newlyn. The single was described as 'a bona fide pop smash' by Drowned In Sound. The B-side contains a tribute to 90s Sarah Records signing Brighter, named 'The Boy Who Loves Brighter'.
In 2014 the Hit Parade released "Cornish Pop Songs", a CD album of songs set in West Penwith, to glowing reviews. The Cornishman called the release 'the best album made about Cornwall this century" and "a glorious collection of melodic, memorable guitar-based tunes". In 2016 the album was released on vinyl.
A Hit Parade song is typically derivative, maudlin, cheaply and quickly recorded, and usually set in England or Japan ie "Road To Beaconsfield" (Beaconsfield, Bull Lane Tennis Club Gerrards Cross), "So This Is London" (London, Regent's Street), "Born In St Ives" (St Ives, Cornwall), "The Queen Of Mousehole" (Mousehole, Cornwall), "Westbourne Terrace W2", "Autobiography" (Goodwin Sands, Kent), "Gunnersbury Park", West London, "So Said Kayo" (Nagoya TV Tower, Mr Donut, Tokyo Hands Dept Store). The Hit Parade song, "Grace Darling", tells her heroic story, and appeared on their fourth album, The Sound of The Hit Parade.
Many Hit Parade songs refer to dead writers and poets including "The Road To Beaconsfield" (George Orwell, Enid Blyton), "As I Lay Dying" (William Faulkner), "House Of Sarah" Evelyn Waugh Brideshead Revisited), "Huebos Mexicana" (Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Ernest Hemingway, Malcolm Lowry, Ken Kesey), "See You In Havana" (Hemingway), "To The Lighthouse" (Woolf), "Paddington To Penzance" (Larkin) and others. The artwork refer to literary locations including Eric Blair (George Orwell), Wordsworth (Grasmere, Cumbria), Derek Jarman (Dungeness), Colerige (Alfoxden Park), Ian Fleming & Noël Coward (St Margarets Bay). Several of the Hit Parade's songs reference other indie pop landmarks including "Harvey", "House Of Sarah", "Are You Scared To Be Happy?", "Boy Who Loves Brighter" and others. Julian Henry discusses this in The Guardian in June 2011.
The Hit Parade concerts are shambolic; In 1990 they undertook a month-long residency at The Mean Fiddler in North London before embarking on a UK Tour. In 1992 they toured Japan playing concerts in Shinjuku, Tokyo; they returned for four other Japan tours playing concerts in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, appearing with Billy Childish and his group the Milkshakes, and Edwyn Collins. Their line up during these tours included Mike Watts (keyboards), Harvey Williams (guitar) and Cath Carroll (vocals). The last time The Hit Parade played live as a three piece with Henry, Moffatt and Watts, was in 2006 in London. Henry and Williams played several concerts in London and Oxford in 2009, including at the London Indiepop Festival where they played a set of combined Another Sunny Day and Hit Parade songs.
In May 2014 The Hit Parade performed as Sarah 058 at the Arnolfini Bristol 'Between Hello & Goodbye The Secret Life of Sarah Records' exhibition.
The Hit Parade's bass guitarist, Raymond Watts, is known for his industrial group PIG, releasing seventeen albums. As well as touring extensively in North America, Japan and Europe, Watts has recorded many albums with KMFDM as Raymondo Scaballero, including writing credits on the platinum selling video game and movie Mortal Kombat. Since 2009, Watts has co-produced the music for Alexander McQueen's Paris shows. The Hit Parade's drummer, Matthew Moffatt, runs a London-based film lighting company, working with directors Mike Leigh, Kathryn Bigelow and Paul Greengrass. Moffatt is credited on several Hollywood and British produced films including the Oscar-winning Hurt Locker, and the Oscar nominated Vera Drake and United 93. The Hit Parade's guitarist, Julian Henry, founded the public relations agency Henry's House, is a trustee of The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA, London), is advisor to Simon Fuller, and has written for periodicals including NME, Music Week and The Guardian on music and marketing. Other members included Cath Carroll, Harvey Williams and Mike Watts.
|1984||"Forever / Stop"||JSH 1|
|1984||"My Favourite Girl / It Rained On Monday Afternoon"||JSH 2|
|1985||"The Sun Shines in Gerrards Cross / You Hurt Me Too "||JSH 3|
|1985||"You Didn't Love Me Then / Huevos Mexicanos"||JSH 4|
|1986||"See You in Havana / Wipe Away The Tears"||JSH 5|
|1987||"I Get So Sentimental / Sue"||JSH 6|
|1991||"In Gunnersbury Park / Harvey"||SARAH 58|
|1994||"Autobiography / The Dispossessed, Now The Holiday's Over"||SARAH 90|
|2003||"In Your Arms / She Goes Down"||JSH 7|
|2005||"Born in St Ives / Beauty Queen"||JSH 8|
|2006||"My Stupid Band / Twenty Per Cent "||JSH 9|
|2010||"I Like Bubblegum / The Zennor Mermaid"||JSH 10|
|2011||"There's Something About Mary / The Boy Who Loves Brighter"||JSH 11|
|1988||With Love From The Hit Parade||JSH Records: JPEW 1|
|1991||More Pop Songs||Vinyl Japan|
|1992||Light Music||Polystar Records Japan|
|1994||The Sound Of The Hit Parade||Polystar Records Japan|
|2006||The Return Of The Hit Parade||JSH Records: JPEW 2|
|2012||Pick Of The Pops Volume 1||JSH Records: JPEW 3|
|2014||Cornish Pop Songs||JSH Records: JPEW 4|
- Writing and arranging credits cited on the album The Camera Loves Me