Sigh. Another squishy, easy listening ballad. It seems the general public was in a queasily romantic mood during the summer of ’86.
I Wanna Wake Up with You, by Boris Gardner (his 1st and only #1)
3 weeks, from 17th August – 7th September 1986
At least this latest #1 is a reggae ballad. Reggae tinged, at least. There’s the merest hint of reggae in the piano that keeps everything in time, ticking along with a tiny spring in the step, which elevates this record above its gloopy predecessor, ‘The Lady in Red’. I’ve pointed out before the indestructibility of reggae as a chart-topping genre – it’s never been popular enough to dominate any one era, but it also keeps popping up long after other, wilder fads have died away.
I wanna wake up with you… I wanna be there when you open your eyes… The reggae-ness of this song is also the best thing about it (along with the fun, squiggly synths in the intro). The rest is sickly sweet lyrics, and chord progressions so simple that the whole thing could be rewritten as a hymn, the kind kiddies have to sing at Easter assemblies (it had originally been written as a country song). Boris Gardiner croons his way through it like a pro and, like all the best crooners, when he runs out of words he just doo-doo-doos…
Gardiner was an established and respected reggae singer, who had been active since 1960 without much major success. His one and only previous UK chart hit, the instrumental ‘Elizabethan Reggae’, had made #14 in early 1970. Which must make that one of the biggest gaps between hit singles, ever. ‘Elizabethan Reggae’ is much more rough-round-the-edges, ‘proper’ reggae. Meanwhile, he wrote the soul soundtrack to the movie ‘Every N***** Is a Star’, the title track to which has been sampled by Kendrick Lamar, and featured in the Oscar-winning film ‘Moonlight’. He had an edge to him, then, and definitely softened his sound for this sweet, if pretty boring, love song. But can you begrudge a bloke one big hit almost thirty years into his career?
The fact that Boris Gardiner was forty-three years old when ‘I Wanna Wake Up with You’ hit number one means 1986 is turning into a very middle-aged year for chart-toppers: Billy Ocean, Diana Ross, Cliff, Hank Marvin, Chris de Burgh and now Boris were all aged between thirty-six and forty-five when scoring their recent chart-toppers. That’s some pretty old pop stars (I write through gritted teeth, as I note that I too would now fall into this group…)
I have no idea why this average little ballad was such a big hit (the 3rd biggest seller of the year!) in 1986. Or why this is turning into the eighties’ version of the Summer of Love. Ok, two songs don’t make a summer, but it is tempting to compare the three all-time classics that made up the original 1967 SoL, with the past two drippy, over-produced #1s from the class of ’86, and draw conclusions on the respective merits of the two decades…