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…


15 thoughts on “493. ‘Oh Julie’, by Shakin’ Stevens

  1. No its not his biggest seller, it got a very lucky break regarding chart compilation day changes i think, from what i recall and the top few records were yo yoing around each other with much of the chart now getting bizarre up down up trajectories as a result of top of the pops appearances sales boosts being affected. I know i was mightily pissed off this annoying ditty helped keep off The Stranglers from a chance at the top spot with the classic Golden Brown along with the next actual well deserved chart topper 🙂

    • I see, interesting to hear that that’s what sneaked this a week at number one. I’d read that ‘Golden Brown’ was also held off number one by The Jam, and the Stranglers’ record label blamed all the different formats that the Jam released in keeping them from #1… Not sure how true that is

  2. I really like this. Yes it is safe in our point of reference…you are right about that…but how safe was it in the 80s when New Wave was the thing? I surprised the guy kept having hits…I wish he would have hit in America…after this song…I want a bratwurst and a beer for some reason.

  3. You don’t find many Top 40 songs with an accordion. I didn’t get the German-feel to it. Watching the video, my first thought was, he was an Elvis fan. It’s not…terrible. I don’t like accordions but, it’s OK.

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