Medley Mania of 1981-82: ‘Stars on 45,’ The Beatles & More

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The 7″ picture sleeve of “The Beatles’ Movie Medley”

In 1981, a novelty act from the Netherlands called Stars on 45, released a single called, well, “Stars on 45.” The medley consists of vocalists singing snippets from a pair of huge 1969 hits, “Venus” and “Sugar, Sugar.” It then continues with snippets of no less than eight Beatles songs – featuring Lennon and McCartney soundalikes – beginning with “No Reply” and ending with “You’re Going to Lose That Girl.” It’s all done to a disco beat, complete with hand claps.

Top 40 radio has a long history of playing novelty records that catch the proverbial lightning in a bottle and become hits. Many have received such a strong reaction from listeners via request lines and sales that they reached #1 on the singles chart.

“Stars on 45” was a worldwide smash, topping the singles charts in a dozen countries all over the world, including the U.S., on June 20, 1981. (It reached “just” #2 in the U.K.) While often referred to as the “Stars on 45 Medley,” its official title in the U.S. on Radio Records, for copyright purposes, actually includes the names of all the song titles, thus making it the longest song title for any charting single in Billboard‘s history.

Watch the song’s, er, performance on the weekly Dutch series, TopPop, in 1981

A Stars on 45 album, featuring an extended version of the hit medley with dozens of Beatles songs on Side A, and medleys of other pop hits on Side B, topped the U.K. sales chart.

Not to be outdone, over the next year or so, the copyright holders of some of the world’s biggest recording artists, including many classic rock legends, decided to cash in on the craze, by producing official medley singles.

In July, though the Beach Boys were no longer on their label, their longtime home, Capitol Records, issued “The Beach Boys Medley,” a 4:05-long single of eight of their biggest hits, including “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” and “I Get Around,” seamlessly edited by the label’s in-house producer, John Palladino. The single ended, naturally, with “Fun, Fun, Fun,” because that’s what it was. It actually reached #12 on Billboard, the group’s highest charting single in five years.

Incidentally, during his career with Capitol, Palladino worked with such artists as Steve Miller and the Band. He was given the nickname, “Mr. Snips”: one of his roles was to edit album cuts for singles. One such example: he edited the second half of the word “bulls**t” from the single version of Pink Floyd’s “Money.”

Fantasy Records released “Medley U.S.A.” from Creedence Clearwater Revival, a 4:15 single of seven of their favorites, edited by label vet, Phil Kaffel. The 7″ began with “Travelin’ Band” and “The Midnight Special,” winding through the bayou until it reached the “Green River.” The single didn’t chart.

That September, A&M Records U.K. released “Squabs on Forty Fab” (a pun on “Stars on 45”) as the B-side to “Labelled With Love,” the third single from Squeeze’s East Side Story album. The 4:45 medley included segments from eight of the English band’s previous U.K. singles, all backed back a disco beat. Two of the songs, “Cool For Cats” and “Up the Junction,” were #2 singles in the U.K. in 1979. Perhaps it was the combination of the song’s great A-side or the novelty of the medley, but the 7″ earned the group a #4 hit.

Months later, in March 1982, Capitol released a Beatles compilation album called Reel Music, which contained 14 songs that had been featured in such films as A Hard Days Night, Help, and Yellow Submarine. To promote the release in the U.S., the label issued “The Beatles’ Movie Medley,” a 3:56 7″ single featuring snippets of half of the songs on the LP. Sadly, the song doesn’t appear on YouTube. (Unfortunately, the only available clip only contains footage.)

In the U.K., Parlophone was reluctant to release the single, but when U.S. imports began to sell in quantities, they reluctantly did so two months’ later. The song reached #12 on the Hot 100 and #10 in the U.K. (Its original B-side was a 6:20 collection of interviews, called “Fab Four on Film,” of the four Beatles talking about their various films.)

Related: Radio hits of 1982

Reel Music had modest results, reached just #19 in the U.S. and #56 in the U.K.

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Greg Brodsky
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  1. John Rose
    #1 John Rose 27 April, 2020, 09:37

    You’re not missing much by not hearing the Beatles Movie Medley. No surprises except that the editing was surprisingly bad.

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