497. ‘Seven Tears’, by The Goombay Dance Band

Like Marcel Proust biting into his madeleine, the intro of this next #1 brings the memories flooding back. Hints of Boney M, wafts of ABBA at their cheesiest, ‘Mull of Kintyre’, even a base note of ‘Auld Lang Syne’…

Seven Tears, by The Goombay Dance Band (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, 21st March – 11th April 1982

I have never heard ‘Seven Tears’ before, I am pretty much positive of that. But it sounds so familiar, so damn sentimental, that it comes through like a folk standard. Seven tears have run into the river, Seven tears have run into the sea… The singer stands at home, pining and crying for his love, his tears mingling with the river, then the sea… (To me, it sounds like a bit of a subtle dig: just the seven tears…?)

It’s a nice enough tune, I’ll admit. There’s something relaxing in its calypso-plod. Yes there are myriad key changes, and a spoken-word section, but somehow ‘Seven Tears’ stays just the right side of annoying, unlike Tight Fit before them. Cheesy, yes. Cloying, yep. Complete and utter Eurotrash. But something about it appeals to me.

I was convinced that this, like ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, must have been an old song, remixed and repackaged for the early-eighties. But nope. It was written by two Germans, in 1981. In fact, the similarities between The Goombay Dance Band and Boney M are pretty blatant: they were created in 1979 by Oliver Bendt – who takes lead vocals on this record – a German who had lived in St. Lucia in the Caribbean. ‘Goombay’ is a beach on the island.

They weren’t as successful as Boney M, though. This was their only sizeable hit in the UK (though their breakthrough, ‘Sun of Jamaica’ topped the German charts for nine weeks). And for a few weeks in the spring of 1982, it seems the UK charts were looking farther afield. Not just to Germany (though this does make them already the second German chart-toppers of the year) but to the jungles of Africa, and then to the beaches of the Caribbean.

The charts were also, you have to admit, sounding a lot tackier than even just a year earlier. I don’t want to sound like a guitar-snob, because I’m really not – and there have been some very high-quality electronic #1s recently – but it is much easier to use computers to make music. I’d wouldn’t bet against ‘Seven Tears’ having been thrown together in an afternoon… I’d also bet that it’s been completely forgotten by the general public (I meant it when I said I’d never ever heard it before). Today, though it’s back, at least for the time it takes you to read this post. A toast, please, for The Goombays, and their ‘Seven Tears’… May we not leave it another forty years before listening to this again. Thirty-nine will be plenty.

496. ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, by Tight Fit

Another, yes another, well-trodden intro awaits us here. Note that I say ‘well-trodden’, rather than ‘memorable’, or ‘iconic’… or even ‘enjoyable’.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight, by Tight Fit (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, 28th February – 21st March 1982

I have several pre-conceptions about this song: that it is an old folk tune, that this is far from its first visit to the pop charts, that the band singing it – Tight Fit – were Australian (for surely only an Australian could come up with a song this aggressively annoying…) I’ll hold off for a moment on finding out if any of these pre-conceptions are true.

For first we have to listen to the thing. And at a very basic level, this is a catchy melody. Good for kids parties and animated movies, that sort of thing. It could have been a fairly decent pop song. Unfortunately, however, pretty much every artistic decision taken here has gone wrong. The lead singer’s voice is, at best, an acquired taste. The faux-tribal drums are jarring. The solo is horrible. The animal noise effects are cheap and nasty. The video is… well, see for yourself at the foot of the post.

It’s a novelty – the video makes that very clear – and I refuse to get too serious about #1s that were never actually meant to be taken seriously. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to come anywhere close to enjoying this irritating little record (even if I can’t help joining in on the wimowehs…) The fine head of steam that 1982 had worked up in its first four chart-toppers is dashed before March.

So what of my pre-conceptions? Well, yes this is an old, folk tune. Originally recorded in 1939 as ‘Mbube’ (Zulu for ‘lion’) it was a big hit in South Africa in 1939. (Since it was written by Africans, who must know much more about these things than me, I won’t point out that lions live in the savannah, not the jungle.) And yes, it had charted several times before, mostly in 1961, when Karl Denver took his version ‘Wimoweh’ to #4, and The Tokens made #11 (while topping the charts in the US).

And what of Tight Fit being Australian…? So. I apologise profusely to the good people of Oz, as they are from London. They were around for not much more than a year, but scored three Top 10s in that time, including this million-selling (!) hit. They reformed in 2008, and continue to play ‘eighties nights’ at clubs around the country. And I don’t know… In one sense it’s good that a song with such a long and varied history as ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ topped the charts eventually; it’s just a shame that it had to do so in such a tacky version…

495. ‘Town Called Malice’ / ‘Precious’, by The Jam

Straight in at number one with the lead-single from their final album… The Jam do Motown.

Town Called Malice / Precious, by The Jam (their 3rd of four #1s)

3 weeks, 7th – 28th February 1982

We’ve been treated to some iconic intros in recent weeks: ‘Under Pressure’, ‘Don’t You Want Me’, ‘The Model’… ‘Town Called Malice’ is right up there too. It’s not really a riff, more an explosion of exuberance, a technicoloured smile with a jaunty bassline and a cheesy organ. I know it’s The Jam, because it’s a well-played classic, but it sounds a world away from their earlier #1s.

This being Paul Weller and The Jam, however, things aren’t as rosy as they sound. The title perhaps gives it away, and a quick google of the lyrics (sorry Paul, but they are quite hard to make out) reveals a deeply downtrodden song. Malice is a town where people dream of rosy days and the quiet life, where decisions have to be made: buy beer or clothes for the kids. Some of it is darn near poetic: Rows and rows of disused milk floats stand dying in the dairy yard, And a hundred lonely housewives clutch empty milk bottles to their hearts…

When he starts to sing about Sunday’s roast beef, I get a huge sense that this is an early-eighties take on Ray Davies’ suburban odes from a generation earlier. Weller wrote it based on his childhood in Woking, a commuter town outside London. Funnily enough, this middle-eight is the most modern-sounding bit of the song, as we go from The Supremes to The Specials’ ska tones. And at its core – which wasn’t always the case with The Kinks – I think ‘Town Called Malice’ is optimistic. It’s up to us to change, A town called Malice… Life may be shit, but you still have to live it as best you can.

Despite being as biting as ever, The Jam do sound happier than they did in 1980. Success puts distance between you and any hardships you’ve endured, and maybe that left them feeling free to experiment with different sounds. It’s certainly a sneak-preview of the soulful sounds that Weller would push to the forefront with The Style Council. And in my mind this song will forever be associated with the scene in ‘Billy Elliot’, where he dances across the rooftops of County Durham (though, much like the contrast between ‘Malice’s melody and lyrics, Billy was dancing in frustration, rather than joy…)

For the second post in a row, we have a double-‘A’ to write about. I’m not sure how much airplay ‘Precious’ got, but the history books have it at #1 and so we must give it a spin. If ‘Town Called Malice’ was a departure for The Jam, then ‘Precious’ is a giant leap. I’d describe it as ‘disco-funk’. There are chucka-chucka guitars, there are horns… I’m half-waiting for Weller to shout ‘Shaft!’ It’s another moment where you can see that The Jam were nearing the end of their shelf-life.

Not that it’s bad. Or that bands shouldn’t try new things. But when you’ve gone from punk to funk in barely five years, it’s clear that the confines of a three-piece, guitar, bass ‘n’ drums band are not enough to satisfy the members’ creativity. Like ‘Malice’, the lyrics are very hard to make out, but unlike ‘Malice’, I feel no compulsion to look them up. This record is a groove, a mood. There’s a short single edit and a longer album version, towards the end of which things go very acid, with a free-styling saxophone.

It all adds to the fact that this has been a brilliantly eclectic start to 1982, with all four number ones (six songs, if you count the two double-‘A’s) bringing something very different to the top of the charts. And for all this talk of the end nearing for The Jam, they have one more #1 to come: their very last release. They’ll be going out on top, then, one of the decade’s most distinct and successful bands. Until then…

494. ‘The Model’ / ‘Computer Love’, by Kraftwerk

Atmospheric, electronic, and über-cool… Ja. Kraftwerk ist da!

The Model / Computer Love, by Kraftwerk (their 1st and only #1)

1 week, 31st January – 7th February 1982

She’s a model, And she’s looking good… It has to be said, German-accented English is the perfect voice in which to deliver an electro-pop hit like this. She plays hard to get, She smiles from time to time… While this model sounds a bit high-maintenance: all champagne, nightclubs and envious glances…

A drum-machine keeps steady, deliberate time, while two or three different synths play variations of the main, instantly memorable, riff. There are not many fancy flourishes, no tricks or gimmicks, which can’t be said of some recent electronic #1s (‘It’s My Party’ springs to mind…)

There’s a minimalism to it, a precision. (It’s hard to avoid certain national stereotypes, but I’ll try…!) There’s nothing here that doesn’t need to be. It’s repetitive, certainly; but not boring. It’s a song that seduces you, just like the model in the lyrics. It’s almost lo-fi, which could have something to do with the fact that ‘The Model’ was nearly five years old when it topped the charts.

It was originally supposed to be the ‘B’-side, an older hit included to beef up the appeal of the new single, but radios started to play it and it became a double-‘A’. And it’s the perfect hit for a winter’s week: both in its frosty sound, and in how it sits alongside some very random early-year chartmates in Bucks Fizz and Shakin’ Stevens.

What of that new single, then? ‘Computer Love’ kicks off with another catchy riff – one catchy enough for Coldplay to borrow decades later – but as the record finds its groove you can feel a slightly lighter touch than the heavy, deliberate ‘Model’. There’s almost something disco in the staccato drums, and feathery high notes. It sounds more modern, more ‘eighties’ really, than song on the flip-side. (Though it had only made #36 before being twinned with ‘The Model’.)

It’s another twisted love story, but this time a computer is the object of the singer’s affections: another lonely night, another lonely night… He stares at the screen and longs for a data date. I wonder if the band had any idea, in 1981, of how prescient those lyrics would become in the twenty-first century…? Aren’t we all just staring at our screens, these days, needing a rendezvous?

I’m not enjoying this as much as ‘The Model’, though. It’s too light, too ephemeral. There’s not as much to get your teeth into here. But as a chart-topping, double-‘A’ side single, both tracks work very well. And I say that without being the biggest fan of electronic music. It feels like a moment at the top of the charts. True, it’s far from the first electronic #1, but Kraftwerk had been there from the very beginnings of the genre: forming in 1969, scoring their first hit in 1974. In many ways, they’ve been a part of all the synth-based number ones so far, from ‘I Feel Love’, to the Buggles, to ‘Don’t You Want Me’.

Kraftwerk were/are basically two men – Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider (who passed away in 2020) – and a revolving cast of supporting musicians. They are notoriously reclusive, and have released one album in the past thirty-five years. They don’t have many hits to their name in the UK, this one being the only time they ever breached the Top 10. But their legacy cannot be understated. Considering how prevalent electronic music is now – how few acts don’t incorporate at least a smattering of non-analogue sounds – they have to be seen as legends. The NME has argued that while ‘The Beatles and Kraftwerk’ doesn’t have the same ring as ‘The Beatles and The Stones’, it is probably more accurate in reflecting who pop music’s two most influential bands are.

493. ‘Oh Julie’, by Shakin’ Stevens

Shaky’s back, the biggest selling British artist of the decade (!), with his third chart-topper in less than a year.

Oh Julie, by Shakin’ Stevens (his 3rd of four #1s)

1 week, 24th – 31st January 1982

While his first two #1s lent heavily (and happily) on the sounds of the 1950s, his third lends very heavily on the sounds of a German Bierfest. As, for better or for worse, there is a lot of accordion involved here. (Though according to folks who know better than me – i.e. Wikipedia – it is more Cajun than German. Just FYI)

It’s another short and sweet slice of retro rockabilly but, compared to ‘This Ole House’ and ‘Green Door’, Stevens has lost his edge. (Whatever ‘edge’ Shakin’ Stevens ever had – these things are all relative!) It’s very middle of the road, very schlager – which fits with the Bierfest vibe, I suppose – and just a little bit safe. He’s coasting here. Again, I’m not claiming that ‘Green Door’ was punk, or anything, but it was a fun moment of rock ‘n’ roll revival at the top of the charts. This isn’t.

‘Oh Julie’ improves after the midway point, when the guitars start to drown out the accordions and it starts to show the charms of his earlier hits. But it’s not quite enough. And again, Shaky gives it his all. He sells it like the seasoned pro he is. I’m getting Elvis, of course, and Orbison, but most of all Jerry Lee Lewis in this one. The way he oooohs, and then yelps the line honey don’t leave me alone… Pure Killer.

I had assumed that this must have been a cover of an oldie, as his first two #1s were, but no. It’s a Shaky original, and it is impressive how authentic this record sounds. I can’t hate it: it’s catchy, it’s well-performed, it’s thankfully short. But nor can I love it. And I feel this is another type of January hit… ‘The Land of Make Believe’ was a Christmas leftover that belatedly made the top; this is an early in the year release that, perhaps, sneaked a week at #1 without too much competition. Of course, stick a girl’s name in a song and you’ll always sell a few more copies – Julie joins Annie, Clair, Maggie May, Rosemary, Juliet, and quite a few others, in having a song written just for her.

I have no proof for these cynical theories, though. My apologies to Shaky if this turns out to have been his biggest-selling hit (apart from, you know, that other one). Either way, ‘Oh Julie’ was a hit across Europe. Stevens went on scoring Top 10 hits throughout the early to mid-eighties, but it’ll be a little while before he’s back with his final chart-topper. A song that British readers, at least, may have heard once or twice before…

492. ‘The Land of Make Believe’, by Bucks Fizz

And before you know it, it’s 1982! We ended the old year with a killer riff – ‘Don’t You Want Me’ – and we start the new one with another…

The Land of Make Believe, by Bucks Fizz (their 2nd of three #1s)

2 weeks, 10th – 24th January 1982

From Bucks Fizz? Not the band you might turn to if you want a riff-driven hit, but here we are. Nor are Bucks Fizz the band you’d turn to for a song about nightmares, shadows at the window, and ghostly voices in children’s heads… A place we all know… The land of make believe…

This actually quite epic. It sounds like a deluxe kids’ TV show theme. As it plays you can imagine the opening credits: little ones outrunning monsters, saving one another from falling off cliffs, hammy close ups, that kind of thing… Run, For the sun, Little one, You’re an outlaw once again… Was it from a TV show, or a film?

It was not, it seems. But the video more than makes up for that. Cheryl Baker wakes up in her black and white bedroom, stretches her arms, and enters a technicolour ‘Land of Make Believe’ (there’s an entrance sign). There are witches, and wizards (of Oz), boats, pirates, Superman, cocktail bars, sparklers, and clearly six times the budget of most early-eighties music videos. The songwriter has claimed that it is actually a subtle attack on Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government… (Very subtle, as I don’t see it at all.) It’s pure cheese – the band’s dance routines and outfits are somehow even camper than they were in ‘Making Your Mind Up’ – though the two songs don’t sound as if they were by the same band.

This is a classic example of a January hit: a Christmas leftover that made the top in the new year. I’m not sure what makes it a festive song – there are no sleigh bells or mentions of Santa – but it just has that feel. One thing that I would have changed are the very harsh drums: I’d have either softened them – they sound like gunshots – or had them further back in the mix, and brought that epic riff right to the front. Oh yeah, and I’d have lost the creepy kid at the end: I’ve got a friend who comes to tea… Nope. Not for me.

What this does confirm is that, out of all the classic two boys-two girls, Eurovision winning bands, Bucks Fizz were better than Brotherhood of Man. As much as I did fall for ‘Figaro’s cheesy ‘charms’, ‘The Land of Make Believe’ is a solid tune, worthy of making #1 on its own merits. Their next and final #1 will have to go some to get Bucks Fizz above ABBA, though. I have a suspicion that they may have to settle for second place. (ABBA are the Dom Perignon to Bucks Fizz’s, well, Bucks Fizz.)

Back to the movie analogies: if this were a film, it would be a cult classic. It’s the sort of song that doesn’t get much airplay today, but when people look back at it (or discover it, if they were too young at the time) they’ll be pleasantly surprised. Amazed even. And the critics of the time begrudgingly agreed, while Bob Geldof, Phil Oakey (Human League) and Andy McCluskey (OMD) went on record praising the song. A fun start, then, to a new year of chart-toppers!

491. ‘Don’t You Want Me’, by The Human League

1981 has had its fair share of iconic chart-topping moments: Bucks Fizz’s skirt-ripping moves, The Specials’ call to arms, Soft Cell’s re-imagining of a soul classic, Mercury and Bowie going toe-to-toe… And it ends with perhaps its most iconic tune.

Don’t You Want Me, by The Human League (their 1st and only #1)

5 weeks, 6th December 1981 – 10th January 1982

For this is one of the most recognisable riffs ever, I’d say. Up there with ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘You Really Got Me’ for chart-topping riffs. It’s dramatic and ominous, yet catchy and danceable. It’s a synth riff here, but play it on a piano, a guitar, a bloody harp, and people would know it was the intro to ‘Don’t You Want Me’.

The opening lyrics are equally iconic: You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar… a male voice intones… When I met you… It’s sung by an overbearing – ok, creepy – bloke. A Svengali figure. He found this girl, made her a star, and now she’s outgrown him. Don’t forget it was me who put you where you are now, And I can put you back down too…

In the second verse, the starlet has her say. Yes, she was working in a cocktail bar… That much is true… She tells him politely that it’s time for her to make it on her own. The male ‘character’ is so well-formed, such a nasty sounding piece of work, that you wish his female counterpart had a little more bite. Who is she? Did she really just use him? Or maybe her niceness is the ultimate insult…?

Aside from the riff, the next best bits are the lines that accelerate up to the chorus: You better change it back or we will both be sorry! This is a high-quality pop song, well worthy of being the year’s biggest-seller and a Christmas number one. But – there’s always a ‘but’ – I’m not sure if there isn’t a hint of ‘fur coat and no knickers’ about it. ‘Don’t You Want Me’ has a great riff and great hook, but on repeated listen it goes from all-time classic to simply great pop. Two years ago, Gary Numan was doing things with a synth that genuinely stood out. Now, in late-1981, synths alone are not enough to wow.

Phil Oakey, The Human League’s founder, didn’t want this released as a single, and has said in subsequent interviews that he sees the music video as a big factor in its success. And you can see why: it’s moody, noirish… dare I say, once more for luck, iconic? It’s certainly slicker and more expensive than many of the homemade looking MVs from the last couple of years, and it looks forward to a New Romantic future in the make-up, earrings and fringes. ‘Rolling Stone’ has claimed ‘Don’t You Want Me’ as the starting point for the 2nd British Invasion in the US (it hit #1 on Billboard six months after topping the charts here).

The Human League had only the one UK chart-topper, but were scoring hits well into the nineties. They still tour to this day. After I’m done writing this post, I’m going to listen to the album that birthed this hit, ‘Dare!’ to see what all the fuss us about. Maybe I’m being harsh in saying that this record lacks much substance beyond its killer riff. It’s still a great tune, but when songs come along with as much baggage and reputation as this one then I can’t help expecting great great things…

490. ‘Begin the Beguine (Volver a Empezar)’, by Julio Iglesias

For their next trick, the charts will be throwing up a spot of Spanish crooner-disco. And the first question that springs to mind is: why…?

Begin the Beguine (Volver a Empezar), by Julio Iglesias (his 1st and only #1)

1 week, 29th November – 6th December 1981

Why, at the tail-end of 1981, at the fag-end of the disco age, did renowned Spanish smoothie Julio Iglesias manage a British number one single? It’s a record that pulls out all the classic disco stops: strings, horns, tacky guitar sound effects… All things I’m a sucker for and so, if you were expecting a scathing write up for this cheese-fest then I’m sorry. Look elsewhere…

When they begin, The beguine… It starts off in English, but that opening line is it. The rest in en Español, making this the most foreign-language #1 since ‘Je T’Aime…’ What is it about? ‘Volver’ means to return, while ‘Emepezar’ means… Well, my Duolingo Spanish lets me down. (It means, roughly: ‘Go back and start’, so I’m guessing that, when they begin the beguine, Julio begins to reminisce…) Also, what is a ‘beguine’? It sounds to my ears like a vegetable; but it is a dance, a sort of Caribbean foxtrot.

I’m enjoying this way more than I should. It’s utter cheese, slicker than a seal’s arse, and Julio croons the absolute life out of it. The fact that it’s in a foreign language, incomprehensible to the majority of the British public, probably makes it more appealing. Adds an air of mystery, or something. Just like if ‘Je T’Aime…’ had been sung in a Yorkshire accent, those lines about ‘coming and going between your kidneys’ would have sounded a lot less sexy…

As it is, you start to understand why Julio Iglesias can claim to have bedded more than three thousand women. He is Tom Jones, Engelbert and Barry Manilow all in one. That sexual statistic was the one thing I actually knew about him before listening to this song (that and the fact he has an equally smooth and sexy singing son.) But he is one of the most successful recording artists in history. The best-seller ever in Spain, as well as the biggest foreign seller in Brazil, Italy and France. China awarded him in 2013 for being the ‘most popular international artist’. On top of all that, he only went and started off his career as a goalkeeper for Real Madrid.

Back to the ‘why’, though? Why now? ‘Begin the Beguine’ was originally an English language song, written by Cole Porter in 1935 and recorded by all the big bands of the time. So it would have been well-known to the over-fifties. Plus, in the late-seventies Iglesias had started to record in languages other than Spanish. Maybe it was just a combination of rising profile and a tune people knew? Either way, I don’t begrudge this silly little disco interlude. It’s fun, and I’m enjoying ‘Begin the Beguine’ more than I’ve ever enjoyed his son Enrique’s overwrought #1 from twenty years later.

I admit: I assumed Julio was dead, as I assumed he’d have to have been around fifty-five when he recorded this. But no. He was only thirty-eight when this made #1. Younger than Cliff, and the same age The Police’s Andy Summers, which surprised me. Sadly, this hit didn’t kick off much of a singles-chart career in Britain, but Julio did return on a few occasion in the 1980s, duetting with legends like Willie Nelson and Stevie Wonder. It is both Hola and Adios, then, to a Latin legend.

489. ‘Under Pressure’, by Queen & David Bowie

It’s time to sound the ‘iconic intro’ klaxon. That bass line, those two piano notes, the handclaps and the finger-clicks… They’re impossible to mistake. Unless you mistake them for, you know, the song that sampled them…

(It is near-impossible to get a picture of Queen and Bowie together at the time this record came out…)

Under Pressure, by Queen (their 2nd of six #1s) & David Bowie (his 3rd of five #1s)

2 weeks, 15th – 29th November 1981

But we’re not there yet, thankfully. We’ve got the original to enjoy first. It’s one of those #1s that come along now and then, one that I could sing along to pretty much in its entirety – even Freddie Mercury’s ad-libs – and yet haven’t actually listened to in years.

One of the first things that stands out is that we have two of the most iconic singers in rock ‘n’ roll history, trying to out-frontman each other. Mercury in particular seems to be asserting himself as the alpha rock star: scatting, soaring into falsetto, taking the Why can’t we give love, give love, give love… line into the stratosphere.

For me, though, it’s Bowie who gets the best bits. From the opening Pressure!, to the driving It’s the terror of knowing… line, to the closing ‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word… I have never sang this at karaoke, but I can imagine it would be great fun. It’s a song full of little moments, and it would be nigh on impossible to camp it up more than Freddie and David do.

The ‘little moments’ idea is actually worth expanding on here. Although ‘Under Pressure’ sounds nothing like the song that marked Queen’s only previous appearance on this blog, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, it is far from being a verse-bridge-chorus kind of pop song. Like ‘Bo Rap’, it’s lots of little segments stitched together, apparently because the two singers recorded most of their parts in separate studios. According to Brian May: “you had four very precocious boys and David, who was precocious enough for all of us.” It could have been a hot mess, but it somehow works wonderfully.

Until today, I had never quite realised what this song was about. It’s quite clear though: it’s about pressure, pressure that puts people on streets. It’s about being a good person, about not sitting on the fence, about giving love one more chance… The video doesn’t feature either act, instead it shows crowds of people spliced with shots from old horror movies, buildings collapsing and, most tellingly, scenes from the Great Depression: ‘2 million unemployed’ one sign reads. I’ve never thought of this as a political song, but it is. The Specials have a rival…

Like ‘Ghost Town’, the message here doesn’t detract from the brilliance of the song (clearly, as I’d missed the message for the past twenty years). And in a just world this would be each act’s eighth or ninth chart-topper, given the hits that both had churned out since the early seventies. But it was just Bowie’s third, and Queen’s second. And amazingly, for a band so synonymous with this decade… ‘I Want to Break Free’, ‘Radio Gaga’, Live Aid… ‘Under Pressure’ is their only #1 of the 1980s. In fact, the bass riff from this song will be back at #1 before they are…

488. ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’, by The Police

Part IV of my ongoing campaign to enjoy The Police more

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, by The Police (their 4th of five #1s)

1 week, 8th – 15th November 1981

I do really want to like their records, but there’s always something holding me back. Something about the production, the jaunty reggae rhythms, Sting’s voice… It just doesn’t work for me. Here, the punky edge from their late-seventies records, ‘Message in a Bottle’ in particular, has gone. In its place are synths, and a very MOR piano line.

All of The Police’s chart-toppers so far have centred on not getting what you want (‘Message…’) or what you want not lasting (‘Walking on the Moon’ and, at a stretch, ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me’). ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’ falls into the former category. Sting wants to tell a girl all of the feelings he has for her, in his heart, but… alas.

What usually saves Police songs for me are the choruses. They sure could write a killer chorus. The verses might meander, and the fade-outs may be too long, but the choruses kick. Every little thing she does is magic, Everything she do just turn me on… Even though my life before was tragic, Now I know my love for her goes on… The lyrics may look clumsy when typed out, but it’s such an air-punching moment you don’t really notice.

The rest of the song, though? Meh. Something about the mix is quite stodgy, with the voices buried under the instruments. There’s the piano – unusual for a Police song – and African drums. A stripped-back, more guitar-based version would work better for me. But that’s just, like, my opinion. And it’s something I’ll have to get used to as the 1980s wear on: guitars taking much more of a back seat.

This record, the second single from the band’s fourth album, isn’t a giant departure from what went before, but it was different enough for guitarist Andy Summers to object, both to the piano and to the production. It’s definitely The Police’s poppiest #1. And the reason that Sting’s vocals sound so distant may be because the band played over a demo he had recorded months before. And I’m with Summers on this: something about it doesn’t quite click.

So. Four of The Police’s #1s down, one to go. Will the last one – still a year and a half away – finally be the Police song I can love? Well, actually, yes it will. Because their final chart-topper is a decade-defining classic. Until then, then…