Every time a reggae chart-topper comes along, I feel duty bound to mention how writing this blog has taught me to finally enjoy the genre… ‘Israelites’, ‘Double Barrel’, ‘Uptown Top Ranking’… All Jamaican gold.
I Got You Babe, by UB40 (their 2nd of three #1s) with Chrissie Hynde (her 1st of two solo #1s)
1 week, from 25th August – 1st September 1985
Sadly, though, the reggae run ends here with this Sonny & Cher cover. I can’t get into this one. It’s very slow and sloping, as most reggae hits are, and that’s fine. We all need to chill out sometimes. But the relaxed pace rubs up against some very jagged edges. The gunshot drums are jarring, for example, as are the synths that dial out the same, repetitive riff.
They say we’re young and we don’t know, Won’t find out until we grow… Interestingly, the original was sitting at #1 exactly twenty years before this version made it. And it’s actually quite surprising how much Chrissie Hynde sounds like Cher. They do have quite similar, deepish voices; but it took them singing the same song for me to realise it. Hynde’s vocals are, for me, the best bit of this record.
UB40 keep the false ending from the original here, but that just reinforces how dull their interpretation is. The I got you babes… that take us through to the end feel unnecessary. The video is similarly underwhelming. It’s a live version of the song, in which the band and their guest singer go from a soundcheck to a showstopping performance, complete with fireworks and cheering fans. It’s not bad, but you do wonder what about this made it a big hit…
Something I also mentioned in my post on Sister Sledge’s ‘Frankie’, which was another retro hit (though a pastiche rather than a straight cover), comes to mind here: I think it would sound better if they hadn’t made it sound so up to date. It’s the modern touches – the synths and the drums – that stick out. And yes, that’s my anti-eighties bias coming out for the umpteenth time, but I can’t help myself!
We last heard from Chrissie Hynde on ‘Brass in Pocket’, this decade’s very first chart-topper. UB40 made #1 a few years afterwards with ‘Red Red Wine’. Both acts have one further #1 to come, but both will have to wait until the nineties are in full swing. Meanwhile, up next we have another all-star duet cover of a sixties classic (and I mean all-star.) But I’m not sure I’ll be calling that one ‘underwhelming’. We’ll see…