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!


17 thoughts on “492. ‘The Land of Make Believe’, by Bucks Fizz

  1. I adore this record, its got that “kids will love it” appeal while being pretty sophisticated, as a lot of their singles from one of those nights (the previous top 20 hit) onwards were right to the end. Having the same team of writer producers helped no end and their output was varied in sound. Compare the semi acapella now those days are gone with the dark when we were young or the rocky talking in your sleep with the tribal rhythms of new beginning. Their final monster rock ballad flop was Heart of stone, a big song that Cher tried to make even bigger. She made it a hit tho, as by that time the pop scene had moved on to House and USA Big haired rock and The Fizz were SO 1982. Still around making good records btw, minus bobby g, they had a cracking xmas track the other year Dont Start Without Me which sounds like a classic 80s xmas song that never was. Getting zero radio and tv exposure ensures itll never get the classic status methinks.

    • I will definitely check out the rest of their hits, after covering their final #1. I do like when talented songwriters and producers get their hands on a group, and pass some pretty innovative ideas off as ‘pop’ (Girls Aloud circa 2004-2008 being a great example of this, too)

      • Girls aloud xenomania are very much inheritors to bucks fizz andy hill. Andy had later hit credits with leo sayer cher celine dion with a number one you will be reviewing in a year or two eminem cliff the wanted westlife and many more…..!

      • When We Were Young is, and always has been, one of my favourite pop songs of all time, miles better than everything else they did in my opinion. And I love the Top of the Pops performance with Jay Aston plastered with make-up and not wearing very much.

  2. It’s funny you compare Bucks Fizz to ABBA since Todd in the Shadows said regarding their original recording of the Tina Turner classic “What’s Love Got To Do With It” that they sound like if ABBA had made it further in the ‘80s and got worse.

    • I mean, the ABBA comparison is kind of lazy: two boys, two girls, Eurovision winners… They are a pound shop (dollar store?) version of the Swedish legends, but they had some pretty solid pop songs along the way.

  3. They never made it to America…ever as far as I remember. They remind me of someone but I can’t put my finger on it…not Abba.
    The video is fun to watch…I could see how catchy it would have been then.

    • I have a theory, that I’ll write about in their final #1, that Bucks Fizz are the first ‘modern’ pop group – synth pop songs, dance routines, cool music videos… So basically they remind you of every pop group ever from the 80s to the modern day… This might be because they are one of the first acts I’ve written about that are almost in my living memory (they were on kids TV when I was very young…)

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  8. I love this song, but strongly disagree with you about the drums – in my opinion that disruptive, jagged drum track is the best thing about the song.

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