524. ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)’, by Paul Young

Delving deeper into the decade, we arrive at another synthed-up, peak-eighties sounding hit…

Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home), by Paul Young (his 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, 17th July – 7th August 1983

First things first, let’s mention the things I like about this record. The bassline, or whatever effect has been applied to it, is very eighties but very cool. It’s bendy, and twangy. It sounds like a beast emerging from the depths… There’s an ominous edge to its funk, that reminds me of something I can’t place.

Then there’s Paul Young’s voice, which is also good. A strong, blue-eyed soul voice, that takes command of this song, and sings it with conviction. For I’m the type of the boy, Who is always on the run… You could argue that he over sings it at times, but it’s fine. He’s listing all the ways he’s a dick to women: he loves and leaves them, he gives them the eye before upping sticks and disappearing… It’s basically ‘Desperado’, sung from Desperado’s POV. I think we’re meant to pity him, to sense a hint of regret, or false bravado, in his voice, but I’m not sure we do. In the video, meanwhile, one of the women he’s dumped returns to shoot him… Or, at least he dreams she does.

Away from the bass, and the voice… I’m already checking the runtime. It’s a bit dull. And the dullness lies, yes, in the production. It’s very polished, perfect for playing in the background at a dinner party, but I’m not getting ‘number one single’. Rather, I’m not getting ‘number one single at any time other than mid-1983’. It’s very of its time. If you love eighties music, you’ll like this. If not, then it’ll drag…

I did wonder if ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat’ perhaps followed Young’s bigger hits. I could name ‘Love of the Common People’ and ‘Every Time You Go Away’ ahead of this. It smacks of ‘shadow number one’ (a concept I’ve explained in other posts). But no. This was his breakthrough hit. ‘…Common People’ made #2 as the follow-up to this, and ‘Every Time…’ #4 a couple of years later.

I was also amazed to find that this song dates from as far back as 1962. And that it was originally recorded by one Marvin Gaye. Two more different versions of the same song you will struggle to find. The original’s Motown vibe, while far from being a classic, just sounds better to my ears. I have been programmed from a very young age to prefer the sixties, and seventies, to the eighties… Earlier, when I wondered what this bassline reminded of, perhaps it just reminds me of ‘the mid-1980s’ in general…

The last time I focused so much (nay, complained…) about the ‘sound’ of the time was way back in the pre-rock days, when I despaired of the never-ending parade of overwrought ballads occupying top spot for weeks on end. I’ll try not to focus so much on the fact that the 1980s has a certain sound. It just does. It’s the summer of 1983. Paul Young is #1. Get over it!

Young won’t be chart-topping under his own steam again, but he’ll have hits until the early ‘90s. He is still touring and recording as we speak. His voice will appear at #1 again, though. In fact, next year he will utter one of the most famous lines in British pop history… Until then, then…

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7 thoughts on “524. ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)’, by Paul Young

  1. That incredible bassline is by bass virtuoso Pino Palladino who used a fretless bass – one of the most beautiful bass sounds I can think. I’ve always enjoyed Paul Young as a soulful vocalist. Yes, it sounds very ’80s but it’s still sweet music to my ears!

  2. We’ll have to beg to differ over the virtues of Marvin Gaye vs Paul Young’s version 🙂 I knew and loved the Paul Young version first, and it was a culture shock to hear the original Gaye song in all its inappropriate jauntiness. I was expecting Paul to have done a carbon copy in 80’s stylee, but what he’d done was take a throwaway B side that didn’t even get to be a B side for 6 years and reinvent it. Young sounds sorry and out-Marvin’s Marvin for emotion. It’s got that 1983 gloss to it, but it’s all about the vocal and the song to me (and to record buyers of the time). It kind of had to be cos self-written Paul Young tracks tended not to be the big hits. Mostly, they tended not to even be singles. So, his talent was in singing, and in picking obscure songs and reinventing them for the 80’s.

    I suggest playing his previous 1978/9 hit record, as lead singer of Streetband. Once you’ve played Toast, anything seems majestic and emotional in comparison! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Recap: #511 – #540 | The UK Number Ones Blog

  4. Pingback: 543. ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’, by Band Aid | The UK Number Ones Blog

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