The below editorial features the opinions and views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of #escYOUnited as a whole, Eurovision or the EBU.
I’d argue the greatest joy of the National Selection season for Eurovision is discovering a promising entry that, though they did not make it to Eurovision itself, you follow on their way to a successful career either domestically or internationally.
Will Alen Chicco break out as an international drag superstar? Will Barbara Samkharadze break out of Georgia and become a diva on the European stage? Will Andrea Hola give us a hint of being the superstar we know she can be? Who knows? But the fun is in discovering them and following them as they try.
And in looking back from some time in the future, you begin to see some big names who tried – and failed – to enter Eurovision, but who went on to have phenomenal careers. The likes of Elton John and Andrew Lloyd Webber (as songwriters), Enigma, and, er, Sinitta… there’s big names in every genre to choose from.
But the subject of today’s article is unusual in that the artist went on to have a successful career as a singer-songwriter, but also whose national selection entry went on to have a life of its own after A Song for Europe 1982 was done and dusted. We are talking about Q-Feel, and their cult hit “Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop).”
Born on September 23, 1959 in Southampton, United Kingdom, Martin Page moved around a lot as a kid as his father was a military man. Page became enamored with music as a kid as it was a constant in his life while his home kept changing.
Page got his start in music as a bassist, traveling around Europe with soul bands in the late 1970s into the 1980s. Page decided to knuckle down and moved to London, meeting Scottish guitarist Brian Fairweather. With electronica, from Italian pioneer Giorgio Moroder and British group Ultravox starting to take off, Page became interested in creative usage of technology for music. Q-Feel added drummer Trevor Thornton and keyboardist Chris Richardson, and they wrote the songs for their heavily New Wave influenced debut album Q-Feel.
“We formed a band called Q-Feel, and we eventually got a deal with Jive Records,” Page told Songwriter Universe. “At that time, when it was the revolution of technology in the ‘80s, we were making a record in London which was techno…it was very oriented towards synthesizers, like (the band) Ultravox.”
Q-Feel released their first single “Doctor on the Radio.” Their second single, “Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-bop),” was entered into A Song for Europe 1982, and was one of eight entries selected for the United Kingdom’s national selection against some formidable opposition.
Three of serial entrant Paul Curtis’s songs were in this edition (performed by himself, Lovin’ Feeling, and The Weltons) and two of serial entrant David Mindel’s were also included (performed by Good Looks and The Touring Company). Rich Gipsy and Bardo rounded out the line-up. Q-Feel performed first on the night on March 24, 1982, and despite receiving top score from the Glasgow jury, ended up in 6th place. Bardo also only received one top score – from the London jury – but them getting two 2nd places and two 3rd places from the seven juries resulted in the duo taking the win.
Bardo were pre-contest favorites, but Nicole’s out of nowhere peace anthem and Bardo’s struggles with staging resulted in a 7th place find for the United Kingdom at Eurovision 1982 in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
In hindsight, it’s easy to blast the juries of 1982 for ignoring a modern, high tempo New Wave jam with an epic Talking Heads-esque bridge and a manic vocalist in Martin Page like Q-Feel’s. I would argue “Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop)” is one of the best national selection songs of all time, and often cite Q-Feel when I make the argument for a song being “too ahead of its time” for Eurovision. Had Q-Feel being entered into Eurovision 1982, it would have stood out even more than Denmark and Finland’s entries. And look what happened to those two. Nothing really changes in that corny and/or sentimental will win over a decent stab in a modern genre, whether it’s 1982 or 2022.
Later in 1982, the members of Q-Feel decided to move to Los Angeles, USA, to pursue their career in a market more receptive to their sound (based on feedback from their record label and songwriters based there who reached out to them).
According to Page, “Brian and I started to go to all the record companies and get to know all the A&R execs. They were very fascinated with the sound of Q-Feel, because England’s music was a little ahead of what was happening in L.A.”
In the meantime, New World Pictures executives were, like the rest of the United States, enamored of Cyndi Lauper’s hit single “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” released on September 6, 1983. It was in the Top ten for most of the beginning of 1984, peaking at Number 2. It was kept off Number 1 by Van Halen’s “Jump,” an anthem notable and then-controversial for Eddie Van Halen’s aggressive use of synthesizers and a reminder that his band’s music slaps even when he relegates his signature guitar to the background.
New World Pictures essentially wanted to turn the story of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” into a movie, and they commissioned a script from Amy Spies. Chuck Russell would produce, Alan Metter would direct, and the studio obtained the rights to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” from songwriter Robert Hazard. Hazard also recorded a demo version, and it is an interesting curio in that the girl is the object of the song rather than the protagonist. Cyndi Lauper covered Hazard’s track, but switched the perspective and added lyrics that turned a dude-wanting-to-settle-down track into a female empowerment anthem. This is not a slight on the original, as Hazard’s original is not bitter and also celebrates female empowerment in a way. His version essentially says, “yes traditional parents, I’d get married right now to the perfect woman, but the perfect woman out there just wants to have fun instead of marrying early.”
Though the demo of Hazard’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was not officially released, Hazard did have a minor hit in 1982 with “Escalator of Life,” which peaked at Number 58 on the Billboard Hot 100. Check it out, and some of his other work, because even though he didn’t quite hit the heights of Lauper’s cover, his own work is an exemplary attempt at the American version of New Wave.
However, New World Pictures did not have the rights to Lauper’s version, and the gender swap twist on the Hazard is important. Lauper herself refused New World to use her version, as well as the all important lyrical additions she had made to the Hazard version. Undeterred, New World plowed on anyway with some necessary rewrites and scouring their music industry contacts to source some new songs for their project.
The script focused on Army brat Janey Glenn, played by a very young Sarah Jessica Parker, moving to Chicago and attending a Catholic school. A budding gymnast, Janey has a secret love of a Chicago variety show called Dance TV, but her father – played with menace by the awesome character actor Ed Lauter – won’t allow her to. Janey makes friends with a very young Helen Hunt, but falls afoul of rich kid Natalie, played by Holly Gagnier.
Long story short, Janey wants to enter Dance TV’s contest for new background dancers and pairs up with the gruff, blue collar Jeff, whose father is hired by Natalie’s father and whose job is threatened if Jeff and Janey beat Natalie and her partner at the contest. Anyway, Janey and Jeff dance off all the way to the final, which will be against Natalie and her partner. And the dance final is performed to…
Q-Feel’s “Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-bop)!”
But wait, there’s more.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun tanked critically and commercially, opening at Number 10 with $1.6 million, some distance behind the number 1 film Police Academy 2. Though The Philadelphia Inquirer slated the film as “a mirthless comedy about young love and the generation gap, with a few feeble dance sequences thrown in to give viewers a chance to ogle young girls in leotards,” it did have its fans and over the years has gone on to become something of a cult hit. Especially after Sex and the City came out and people started diving into the SJP back catalog. Pittsburgh set river thriller Striking Distance, co-starring Bruce Willis, sadly, remains unappreciated.
Although Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’s legacy is more of a cult film appreciated from years in the future, Q-Feel did have an immediate benefit in 1985, three years after their A Song for Europe 1982 bout. Fans of the film constantly called Los Angeles radio station 102.7 KIIS FM requesting “Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-bop).” The song caught on in the Los Angeles market, and being a large enough market, the song peaked at Number 75 on the Billboard Hot 100 as a result.
Q-Feel’s “Go For It” from their debut album also ended up on the soundtrack for Problem Child 2, a 1991 cult movie about John Ritter being a sad sack divorcee dad and trying to adopt an unadoptable kid, mostly known for the supporting appearance by legendary comedian Gilbert Gottfried. Since I couldn’t find a Problem Child 2 scene on YouTube with Q-Feel in it, I will just show you a screen grab of that movie’s most famous visual gag.
In the three years between their attempt at Eurovision 1982 and the release of Girls Just Wanna Fun, Q-Feel members Martin Page and Brian Fearweather kept themselves busy. As well as session work, including Page playing keyboards on Ray Parker, Jr.’s “Ghostbusters,” Page and Fairweather collaborated in a songwriter capacity with several big name artists of the 1980s.
Elton John’s frequent collaborator Bernie Taupin fancied writing about a dystopian future where the spirit of rock ‘n roll had been lost to canned corporate music, where music venues were literal wastelands with live musicians turfed out of work. Taupin said in 2013 that “the original song was… a very dark song about how club life in L.A. was being killed off and live acts had no place to go.”
So to provide music for this song, to be called “We Built This City” and commissioned for American rock band Starship, Taupin sought out Page. Taupin wanted to branch out from working with Elton John, and after listening to Q-Feel wanted to try something new.
Page told GQ, “Bernie was moving away from working with Elton John. Everybody wanted him to work with a Tom Dolby kind of writer — someone using new technology. I wanted to impress Bernie: I did a demo of the song on a Fostex deck in my living room. It sounded like Peter Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey.” I sent it to Bernie, who said, “Bernie Taupin comes into the future.””
Despite Taupin’s insistence you wouldn’t recognize the released version with the demo, the new wave style demo lays down a clear skeleton for producers Peter Wolf and Dennis Lambert to add meat on.
“We Built This City” was a smash hit, going immediately to Number 1 on its debut. If you want to read more about the other Eurovision connection, we have covered Austria’s Eurovision 1979 entrant Christina Simon before, as well as done a primer on “We Built This City” itself.
Taupin and Page would also have a Number 1 hit collaboration with Heart’s “These Dreams.”
And though Page hit us with some quintessentially ’80s work, he was a musician who kept up with the times and did not rest on his laurels. In 1990, Page co-wrote “King of Wishful Thinking” for British group Go West. Page’s experience with soul and ’80s pop was the perfect platform for writing a song for a blue-eyed soul group like Go West looking to transition into the ’90s. “King of Wishful Thinking” landed at Number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
As Page told Songwriter Universe, “I got a reputation for being a songwriter that English bands, when they came to L.A., would want to write with. I knew about Go West and I was a fan—I thought Peter Cox had a brilliant voice. Somebody from their label EMI contacted us and said, “We want to break Go West in America, and we’re looking to set up collaborations for them in the States.” So I said, “Yeah, I’d be thrilled.” I knew that Go West were kind of like Hall & Oates—they were blue-eyed soul. Peter came first to write with me in L.A. I had already prepared something which sounded like what I envisioned they’d like to do. That turned into a song called “That’s What Love Can Do.” He took it back to Richard (Drummie), who said, “I think we’re in a good space with this guy.” Then they both came to me in L.A., and again, I always like to prepare upfront. I don’t think there’s anything worse than sitting in a room and looking at people, and saying, “I don’t have anything to give you, and you don’t have anything to give me, and we’re just writing crap here.” So I always prepare four or five ideas, and I did have (an idea for) “King of Wishful Thinking” bubbling—not the title, but I had the music and bits of the melody. Both Peter and Richard came to my studio, and within two days we knocked out this demo. They were working on the lyrics outside by the pool, and I was doing the music. I think Richard said, “I’ve had this lyric in a book for quite awhile, it’s called “King of Wishful Thinking.” I said, “great.”
Though Page had developed a reputation as a successful songwriter, Page’s story as a performer was not over as we entered the 1990s. Page changed tack, and wrote and performed an album of Adult Contemporary tracks called “In the House of Stone and Light,” released in 1994. His solo debut was a phenomenal success, with the title track hitting Number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Page’s Q-Feel bandmates Fairweather and Thornton performed on the album, which also featured performances from some of pop and rock music’s biggest names.
Phil Collins, The Band’s Robbie Robertson, Tears for Fears’s Neil Taylor, Ugandan Adult Contemporary and “world music” sensation Geoffrey Oryema, Wang Chung‘s Jack Hues, and five time Grammy winning producer, singer and keyboardist Brenda Russell were some of the big names who helped Page’s album become a huge hit.
And yes, that is the same Brenda Russell responsible for the magnificent “Piano in the Dark,” the Grammy Award winning pop track that hit Number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Page later worked on albums by Robbie Williams and Josh Groban, and produced Robertson’s 1991 Grammy nominated album “Storyville” (though he has also produced Robertson’s 1987 self-titled debut).
Page continued work as a songwriter and producer on others’ albums, but it was only in 2008 when he released his next solo album, “In the Temple of the Muse,” on his own independent label Ironing Board Records.
Page is still active, and also has a podcast called Radio OwlsNest, which is updated usually once a month.
And as this is the 40th Anniversary of Eurovision 1982, I hope that you out there are observing what is arguably the greatest song to have come out of that Contest’s national selection, whether you be 10,000 miles above Los Angeles or not.
Do #YOU think “Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-bop)” should have been the United Kingdom’s choice at Eurovision 1982 in Harrogate? Let us know in the comments below, on our social media, or in our forum or Discord.