‘Peak-eighties’ is a term I’ve used many times over the past few months, as the drum machines and synths took over, as the power-ballads boomed, as the mixing desks scratched and chopped…
I Owe You Nothing, by Bros (their 1st and only #1)
2 weeks, from 19th June – 3rd July 1988
Well, the decade is peaking once again, as quintessential late ‘80s boyband Bros meld Hi-NRG dance with MJ-esque soul-pop. It’s a song, an intro in particular, that will test the patience of anyone who isn’t an ‘80s fan, as the producers throw every OTT trick in the book at the listener. The synths sound like B-movie air-raid sirens, every edge is sharp, the chops and changes an assault on the senses. Every tiny gap is filled by a sound or effect, with no room left to breathe…
Having said that… I do like it. Under all the make-up hides a pretty decent pop tune. It’s an aggressive song, one that throws subtlety to the wind, but as long as you don’t stop to think then it will carry you along. And Matt Goss’s vocals are pretty strong too. Yes, he’s trying very hard to be Michael Jackson, with all his growls, whoops and tics. But from the absurd opening line: I’ll watch you crumble, Like a very old wall… he sings it with such gusto that you can’t help playing along.
There seem to have been two main versions of ‘I Owe You Nothing’, one released to little fanfare in 1987, the other remixed after Bros had broken through with the aptly named ‘When Will I Be Famous?’ The latter version – the hit version – is better as it adds a rockier edge, and an actual electric guitar for the solo.
Was this a shadow number one, making the top in the wake of ‘When Will Be Famous?’ Maybe… Except #2 hit ‘Drop the Boy’ came in between. In fact, Bros (pronounced phonetically, and not in the American ‘What’s up, bro?’ sense) could have been the biggest chart act of the late ‘80s, with four #2s between ’87 and ’89, alongside their sole chart-topper. They certainly had legions of fans – the ‘Brosettes’ – who at one point forced Oxford Street to close during an HMV signing session.
It wasn’t to last, though. Following their debut album the one non-brother, Craig Logan, left due to illness. (Interestingly, for me at least, Logan was from Kirkcaldy, which means there has now been a Scottish connection to four consecutive chart-toppers!) Luke and Matt Goss continued into the nineties, before splitting. They had a go at solo careers, reformed in 2016, producing a well-regarded documentary about the preparations for their comeback tour.