Stars on 45 was a Dutch act which had a surprising series of hits during the early 1980s. It was a gimmick: a number of singer soundalikes were used to produce a medley of songs (originally, the Stars on 45 tracks relied heavily on two Beatles imitators, resulting in the medleys being Beatles-centric).
As far as novelties go, it was about as successful as can be imagined. Multiple releases charted in the U.S., UK and world markets, with some even reaching #1. The tracks were played at clubs (especially those which were still focused on disco), roller rinks, and supermarkets. “Weird Al” Yankovic released a parody version, Polkas on 45, which was so well received by his fans that a polka medley was featured on most subsequent albums.
One band, Squeeze, was not amused by the recycling of successful bands by the “Stars on 45” producer. They decided to poke fun at the concept by releasing their own version as a B-side. The single “Labelled With Love” thus featured “Squabs on Forty Fab”, which was a track where Squeeze sampled extensively… from Squeeze songs.
The sarcastic statement about the state of the music industry was a failure… because of its success. Rather than generate simple laughs and agreement about the imaginative bankruptcy of the “Stars on 45” medleys, it generated airplay, especially in the UK. Squabs on Forty Fab hit the radio airwaves about as often as the A side, resulting in the single peaking at #4 on the UK charts.
Other UK bands occasionally did their own versions of single-sized medleys of their tunes, inspired by the inadvertent success of Squeeze. Madness’ Seven Year Scratch was particularly notable in that regard. None of the later attempts reached anything like the heights of success of Squabs on Forty Fab.
Medleys seem to have been returned to their classic forms: a bunch of related tracks forming a huge song (such as the Sun King Medley by the Beatles and segments of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway by Genesis) or ways for bands to fit a bunch of hits into a playlist during live performances.
I think the members of Squeeze are probably pleased.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite medley?