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!