June 20

This Day in History

Music

Jun 20, 1981:

Beatles and Disco equals a #1 pop hit for Stars on 45

It was the summer of 1981, and after an 11-year hiatus, the sound of the Fab Four once again ruled the radio airwaves. Only instead of John, Paul, George and Ringo, this time the world had to settle for Bas, Hans, Jaap and Okkie—the Dutch studio musicians behind the phenomenon called Stars on 45. Not so much a band as an audacious business plan, Stars on 45 climbed all the way to the top of the U.S. pop charts on June 20, 1981, with a single whose impossibly long title takes almost as long to read as the song itself takes to play: "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."

For those not familiar with the ponderously titled "Medley: Intro 'Venus'...," it was a recording inspired by one Dutchman setting out--just six months after John Lennon's tragic death—to re-record a half-dozen Beatles snippets to a relentless disco hand clap. Jaap Eggermont was inspired by a bootleg 12" record then popular in Dutch dance clubs, which featured a medley of clips from original recordings by the Buggles, the Archies and Madness as well as the Beatles. For his own project, Eggermont chose to re-record a handful of Beatles classics using uncanny sound-alikes gathered from various popular Dutch groups: Bas Muys for John Lennon, Okkie Huysdens for Paul McCartney and Hans Vermeulen for George Harrison. Because he himself held the copyright on "Venus"—a #1 hit from 1970—Eggermont used pieces of Shocking Blue's original recording of that song and threw in bits of a re-recorded "Sugar Sugar" just to kick things up a notch. Stitched together and set to the aforementioned disco beat, these are the parts whose sum was "Medley: Intro 'Venus'...."

The Stars on 45 formula was a rousing commercial success. Not only did it produce a #1 hit on this day in 1981, but it led to several follow-ups that charted in the Billboard Hot 100: "Stars on 45 Medley #2" (featuring more Beatles tunes); "More Stars" (this time exhuming several Motown hits); and "Stars on 45 III: A Tribute to Stevie Wonder." It also spawned a dubious mini-trend of crammed-together medleys produced by others, including two Top 40 hits in "The Beach Boys Medley" (1981) and "The Beatles Movie Medley" (1982).

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