Its late February 1984 and I am less than 4 months away from being 16 years old. Valentine’s Day has been and gone and I, of course, didn’t get a card – to be fair I didn’t send any either still not actually knowing any girls to send one to at this point.
The charts, it seems, are also in on the joke that is my empty, girlfriend-less world as they are beginning to fill with love songs (presumably aimed at the Valentine’s market). As such, this week’s TOTP (presented by Mike “Hilarious” Read and Janice Long), starts off with with a band who seem to be cornering the market in sloppy, soppy love songs of late – Hot Chocolate with “I Gave You My Heart (Didn’t I)”. For the past 18 months they have been releasing ballad after ballad – often with a title that includes strategically placed brackets like this one – and the record buying public seem to fall for them every time. Either that or the band had a very good record plugger. The latest off this conveyor belt of crap is just as nondescript as all the others. In this performance, even lead singer Errol Brown looks like he knows they are really taking the piss now as he half-heartedly goes through the motions. This would prove to be their final Top 40 entry that wasn’t a re-release of a previous hit although Errol did make No 25 with the equally grim “Personal Touch” as a solo artist in 1987. By the way, I do have to look all this shit up – I’m not that sad.
Now, never mind S.W.A.L.K, this is next tune is all about STALK. Here comes Rockwell with “Somebody’s Watching Me”. Who? Well he was Motown’s hot new star and looked primed for a successful career. After all he was the son of Motown founder Berry Gordy and this single included Michael Jackson to the fore on the vocals in the chorus. What could go wrong? Maybe it was the material – we bought into this creepy tale of paranoia and obsession but he followed it up with something called “Obscene Phone Caller” and we weren’t going to fall for his creepy shtick twice. Or maybe the fans were just buying it for the Jacko element and without his gold dust touch there was nothing else there. I remember thinking it was a bit of a novelty song and it didn’t really hold my attention. Apparently he took the stage name Rockwell because he thought he Rocked Well. Oh dear. Laters Rockwell.
Right then, back to pulling on the heart strings now and evidence that this act was not a one hit wonder – Marilyn with “Cry And Be Free”. Yes, he had more hits than just “Calling Your Name” (but not many more). This gospel drenched ballad is not bad actually and Marilyn displays once again that he had a talent as a singer and wasn’t just a gender-bending clothes horse (despite Janice Long’s best attempts to play up to his image in her introduction). The fact that this single only made No 31 must have been a huge shock both to him and his record label. He was meant to be bigger than Boy George remember. Unfortunately, his chart career never recovered. A third single only made No 40 and he pretty much disappeared from sight after that. A move to the US where he ditched his image by cutting his hair and giving up wearing make up was his career death knell.
Yet more slushy stuff now with Kool and the Gang and “Joanna”. This was quite a departure for the band who were mostly known for their brand of funk disco hits such as “Celebration” and “Get Down On It”. Indeed, previous hit “Straight Ahead” had been very much of that persuasion. “Joanna” though was full on mush with a sentimental video designed to make sure it got you right in the ticker. I should have hated this but I didn’t mind it. There was something very comforting about it. However, when they repeated the trick a year later with the nauseating “Cherish”, it was a step too far for me.
OK – confession time. This has been coming for a while but here it is. I bloody loved Nik Kershaw. No you shut up! I had been aware of him in late ’83 when he released “I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” and it had failed to chart. Undeterred, he came back with this breakthrough biggie – “Wouldn’t It Be Good”. I didn’t know it had even been released when it appeared in the bottom end of the Top 40 during the chart run down on a Tuesday lunchtime in early February and I had to do a double take that Simon Bates hadn’t said Nick Heyward. The song, like its chart progress, was a slow burn. I wasn’t sure about it immediately but once those hooks got stuck into my head they were there forever. The sound is obviously very synth heavy, his vocals aren’t the best and the bass line is a bit plodding. And yet… it has that distinctive melody line that builds to a singalong chorus, pauses for some dramatic science fiction themed sound effects and then finishes with an uplifting brass climax. It’s a winner all ways up to my mind.
I was also intrigued by his image and decided, seeing as I couldn’t quite replicate the Charlie Burchill of Simple Minds look, I would have a go at Nik’s. This, on reflection, was a ludicrous move on my behalf. Try as I might, I couldn’t quite get my hair to resemble the Kershaw barnet. I also didn’t own a snood (that curious item of clothing that Nik popularised). However, I did have some sleeveless gloves. One night I undid all the stitching on them thereby doubling the length of the arm section. My plan was to roll up the sleeves of my school blazer (yes we had to wear blazers at my school!) and wear the newly elongated fingerless gloves which in my head made me a dead ringer for Kershaw. I went to school like this for about a week I think. To my utter disappointment , I was not chased down the street by screaming schoolgirls once.
Of course, you cannot mention Nik Kershaw without mentioning Howard Jones in the same breath. Somehow these two pop stars got completely interwoven with each other that seemingly they could not be unravelled. Why? Well lets examine the evidence:
- They were successful at the same time
- They were both male solo artists
- They had a similar (though by no means identical) sound
- They are both on this episode of TOTP
But you know what it really was all about…they both had LPs out that featured the word Human. Yes, that’s all it was about as far as I can see. Kershaw’s debut long player was called “Human Racing” while Howard Jones’s was called “Human’s Lib”. Pretty tenuous really.
This performance is curious in that it combines a studio performance with footage of the promo video. Not sure why. Maybe the record company were keen for it to be seen after having spent so much on the special effects. Anyway, 1984 would be Nik’s annus mirabilis and within two years the game would be all but up (as it would be for Howard Jones – oh another similarity!) but for now he is the new kid on the block and a rising star and I was having it.
Ooh, here’s a forgotten track. It’s Carmel with “More, More, More”. I didn’t think we’d get to see her (sorry them – Carmel were a band) again. I included their previous single “Bad Day” in an earlier post that rounded up some hits that we missed due to that episode of TOTP not being repeated but they’re back . This one is much more upbeat than “Bad Day” but like its predecessor, it is a complete anachronism compared to the rest of the charts at this time. It seemed all very un-modern to me back in 1984 but I can appreciate it much more (more more) now.
Right , so here’s the other half of the Jones / Kershaw duo (“JoKer”?) – it’s Howard with “Hide And Seek”. To my mind , this is the crown in the Jones Jewels (and by that I don’t mean it’s cock). It’s a huge song, both in sound and meaning. It starts off all soft and spectral and then leads into a majestic sustaining chorus that gives the piece an unearthly feel. And what is it all about? Well, according to Wikipedia:
“The theme of the song, is the story of the origin of the universe according to Buddhist, Advaita Vedanta (Hinduism) and other Eastern ontological philosophies. The original being manifests the universe and then ‘loses’ him/herself (Jones uses both, to defeat the duality of gender) in the creation, as part of a game of hide and seek, with the goal of life being to discover that one is nothing other than the original primordial being.”
Blimey! Totally deep maaaan (as Neil from The Young Ones might have said). The video supports this idea with images of sidewinder snakes, crashing waves, sand dunes and epic aerial vistas of beautiful landscapes. You know, the wonder of nature and all that. Oh hang on , here’s Neil again on that very subject…
Anyway, despite its sweeping grandeur the single’s chart placing was rather conservative reaching no higher than No 12. This seems a travesty now but at the time I wasn’t sure about it. I had got used to his two previous songs that had been so damned catchy and this wasn’t like those at all. My mate, super fan Rob, no doubt loved it though.
OK, we’re into the Top 10 rundown which this week is the Top Ten video rundown. There’s nothing here we haven’t seen before save for the video for the Style Council’s “My Ever Changing Moods”. Mike Read , of course, can’t resist trying to be funny and does an American accent to introduce Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” clip and says it is his Paul Gambaccini impression. I nearly split my sides. He then goes onto say something decidedly odd about Nena at No 2 (“Well, our producer Michael Hurll wisely kept me away from TOTP while Nena was on live”) . Err…that was probably acceptable in 1984 …..let’s move on quickly….
What will they do about Frankie’s “Relax” still at No 1? Nothing of course, not even a photo of them, just a name check from Janice Long. Pathetic. Hope you’re pleased with yourself Read.
We end this week with a studio performance from a great one hit wonder – Re-Flex with “The Politics Of Dancing”. This is so ridiculous its brilliant. I love the line in the lyrics “The politicians are now DJs”. Ian Duncan Smith anyone? Despite being their only chart entry (No 28 at that), somehow they released a 6 CD box set retrospective in 2010. SIX!
Links and things
OK – here’s the thing – the TOTP episodes are only available on iPlayer for a limited amount of time so the link to the programme below only works for about another month so you’ll have to work fast if you want another chance to witness the wonder of Mike Read’s comedy as I can’t find the full programme on YouTube.
|Order of appearance||Artist||Song||Did I buy it?|
|Hot Chocolate||I Gave You My Heart (Didn’t I)
|Rockwell||Somebody’s Watching Me||Nah|
|Marilyn||Cry And Be Free||Nope|
|Kool and the Gang||Joanna||No – the jeering at school would have been too much.|
|Nik Kershaw||Wouldn’t It Be Good||No but I bought the LP (again, YOU shut up!)|
|Carmel||More More More||No|
|Howard Jones||Hide And Seek||No – why didn’t I buy this? Bloody kids eh? Know nothing.|
|Re-Flex||The Politics of Dancing||No. Bugger|
Some bed time reading?