651. ‘Show Me Heaven’, by Maria McKee

It’s been a while – a whole six months at least. Time for a power ballad!

Show Me Heaven, by Maria McKee (her 1st and only #1)

4 weeks, from 23rd September – 21st October 1990

I love the opening chords, like a wheezy accordion played by the fireside. I also like Maria McKee’s sultry voice, as if she’s just inhaled a lungful of smoke from said campfire. But most of all I love the bridge, a real gear-shift before the thumping chorus: I’m not denying, We’re flying above it all… I’ve never felt this way!

Then the chorus takes a surprising turn. Yes, the vocals are big and the sentiment overwrought: Show me heaven… Leave me breathless… etc. But under that there’s a folky edge to it, with what sound like banjos being lightly plucked. It’s a post-Enya power ballad, perhaps, with a new-age influence being felt in the background. It’s not much, but might I make the same bold claim I seem to make every couple of chart-years, that guitars are making a comeback…?

My favourite bit, though, is the middle eight: If you know what it’s like, To dream a dream… McKee breathes, before embarking on one of the most impressive ten seconds of singing we’ve ever heard in a number one single. I’m pretty sure she does it all in one breath, unless a more trained ear than mine can hear when she sneaks a gulp of air.

From there this most classy of ballads glides to a finish. As the eighties become the nineties, the power ballads are just going to get glossier. But ‘Show Me Heaven’ melds all the OTT fist clenching that we expect – nay, need – from a power-ballad, with genuine credibility and grit. 1990 has already given us ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, and this provides that record with some proper competition in the ‘ultimate power ballad’ stakes.

It probably helped that Maria McKee was an accomplished songwriter. who refused to record the song unless she could rewrite some of the original version’s ‘appalling’ (her words) lyrics. She already has one writing credit on a number one – Feargal Sharkey’s ‘A Good Heart’ – and had been the lead singer of country rock (or ‘cowpunk’, according to Wiki, which is amazing) band Lone Justice. None of her subsequent hits came anywhere near to matching her only #1; but she seems to be a free spirit, doing whatever she pleases, be it recording music, making short films, or writing fiction.

‘Show Me Heaven’ featured on the soundtrack to the Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman, NASCAR racing film ‘Days of Thunder’ (Cruise and Kidman met on set, and were married barely a year later.) This makes it the second song from a Tom Cruise movie to make #1, after ‘Take My Breath Away’ (sadly ‘Kokomo’ couldn’t replicate it’s US success on British shores…) And, lest we forget, Nicky Kidman has her own chart-topping moment in the sun to come…


22 thoughts on “651. ‘Show Me Heaven’, by Maria McKee

  1. And yet another wonderful 45 to prove that the wacky dance music merchants didn’t have a stranglehold on the No. 1 position in 1990. I always loved this – it’s far better in my estimation than ‘Nothing Compares To U’, which never really did it for me. I really enjoyed hearing Maria belt it out with Lone Justice as well. She’s a fine singer, like a slightly less polished version of Pat Benatar (and I like her too), who should have been a much bigger star on these shores than she was.

  2. I’ve always loved this one, from being a child until a couple of years ago i always misheard the line ‘ Hey baby, I need your hand to steady me’ as “study me” instead, and I do prefer my unintentionally more explicit version.

  3. I am a huge fan of her…I liked her music more with Lone Justice (Ways To Be Wicked being one) and her cowpunk days but I’ll take her over any other female singer of the 80s…not counting Aretha.

    Her pre-Lone Justice music is great and raw…but raw didn’t cut it in that infernal decade. She could sing almost anything and I would like it…she sure as hell sounded better, to me anyway, than… nevermind lol.

  4. Brilliant record and as suggested bizarrely not a US hit! For some bizarre reason Mariah Carey could fart into a microphone and get 13 weeks on top of the charts and this couldn’t even go top 40. I know who I think the better singers…

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