541. ‘I Should Have Known Better’, by Jim Diamond

On with the next thirty, and in 1984’s ongoing battle between ballads and bangers it’s another… ballad. I make that Bangers 6-5 Ballads.

I Should Have Known Better, by Jim Diamond (his 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 25th November – 2nd December 1984

I confess that the only thing I know about Jim Diamond is that he was Scottish. We Scots are brought up to know two things off by heart: our brave football defeats, and the singers that have represented our tiny country in charts around the world. There are actual compilation CDs with titles like ‘The Best Scottish Album… Ever!’, which stick The Bay City Rollers next to Jimmy Shand, but it’s not weird because they’re all SCOTTISH! (as if it was a musical genre to squeeze in between ‘samba’ and ‘ska…)

Anyway… All I knew about Jim Diamond is that he was Scottish and he had a surprise #1 in 1984, sandwiched among all the Wham! and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. A plucky #1. (Any Scottish successes, in sport, or music, or film, must be described as ‘plucky’. It’s a rule.) So it’s nice to finally put a song to the name. And it’s… not bad?

Diamond has a distinctive voice. It’s a good, white-soul voice, but the way he pronounces his vowels is odd… I shooda knohwn baytah… The song starts off nicely enough: standard mid-eighties balladry. I shoulda known better… To lie to one as beautiful as you… He regrets lying to his girlfriend mainly, it seems, because she was hot. Lying to ugly girls is, as we all know, okay. I can see what he’s going for, but it lacks depth. It’s a bit lightweight.

Then halfway through things get simultaneously better, and worse. Some huge drums come slamming in – this might be the first chart-topping example of those huge drums that just scream ‘1985!’ – and Diamond goes for it. Aiyayayayayayay… lo-ove yo-ou! Guitars soar. Fists are clenched. Chests are thumped. This common or garden ballad has become a power ballad.

But still it lacks something. Whether it’s in Diamond’s voice, which struggles the further this song moves from soul into rock, or in the production, which never goes as huge as, say, ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’. That’s probably the reason why this record hasn’t taken its place in the pantheon of eighties ballads, and why this feels like a forgotten #1 in between 1984’s other enormous hits.

Still, I do quite like it, and am glad to have discovered it. It sounds like a great one to belt out after a few drinks (which, at the end of the day, may be the one unifying quality every Scottish song has). Jim Diamond’s career makes for interesting reading. He’d been active in the music industry since the late sixties, had been in a band with a future member of AC/DC, and had fronted a Japanese act (??) called BACCO, before finding fame as lead singer of new-wave band PhD. They had one big hit, and then Diamond went solo.

He’s not quite a one-hit wonder, as he would score a #5 a couple of years after his only number one. Diamond continued to record and perform up until his sudden death in 2015, aged just sixty-four. He will also feature, uncredited, on a couple of charity singles still to come. Sadly not, though, on the big one that’s on its way very soon…

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538. ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’, Stevie Wonder

And so we reach the last of 1984’s colossal ballads. ‘Hello’, ‘Careless Whisper’, now this. Fifteen weeks at #1 shared between them. And can I admit, straight off the bat, that this is my favourite of the three…?

I Just Called to Say I Love You, by Stevie Wonder (his 2nd of two #1s)

6 weeks, from 2nd September – 14th October 1984

Yes, yes, yes. It is fashionable – and quite correct – to scoff at this silly little song for being THE Stevie Wonder’s only solo chart-topper. No ‘Superstition’ (a #11), no ‘Sir Duke’ or ‘Master Blaster’ (both #2s)… Only ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’. And while it’s not anywhere near Wonder’s best work, there’s a charm to it.

It’s a lullaby of a song. And I don’t mean that it’s dull, like ‘Hello’; I mean there’s something in its strangely reggae-ish rhythm that just chills you out. Plus, it’s an easy song to remember, and to sing. It’s a song a mother might sing to their baby, or that a dorky boy might sing down the phone to his crush. It’s cute. It’s not Valentine’s Day, or New Year’s, or the 1st of spring (??)… Stevie’s just calling to say he loves you. (In fairness, some cynics have argued that if a man unexpectedly ‘just calls to say he loves you’, then he must just have done something fairly shitty…)

That’s not to say there isn’t quite a lot wrong with this song, though. The production is cheap and tacky – the drum machine is pure karaoke backing track. Then there are the key changes, which start early, on the second chorus, and just keep coming (to be fair, they are so cheesy I can help enjoying them). And then there are the three rinky-dink notes that it ends on, possibly the laziest ever ending to a number one single.

But I do like the ‘second’ melody – the higher, synth line that compliments the chorus. And if it were a little faster, and the production better, this could be a great song. Seriously. As it is, I like it a lot more than ‘Hello’ and, while I admire ‘Careless Whisper’, ‘I Just Called…’ is a simple love song, simply told. And that’s nice. At least it slightly redeems Stevie Wonder’s UK chart-topping career, after ‘Ebony and Ivory’

I’ve lived abroad for a lot of my life, in non-English speaking places, and I can confirm that this song is universal. ‘Top of the World’ by The Carpenters, ‘My Heart Will Go On’, this. And you can see why… Aside from the blatant sentimentality, which other cultures don’t seem to mind as much, the lyrics are slow and simple, and you can make them out clearly. As I’ve mentioned in posts before, that was a big bug-bear of my late Gran’s: pop singers you couldn’t make out. I never had time to ask, but I’ll bet she approved of this one.

Before we go, it’s worth noting how long songs are staying on top of the charts at the moment. In the last twelve months, we’ve had three 5-weekers, three 6-weekers, and a jumbo 9-weeker. There hasn’t been a one-week #1 for a year and a half. Not sure what this means, if anything, but it’s interesting. What’s also interesting (and slightly depressing) is that this is Motown’s biggest-selling record of all time in Britain. It’s a colossus and, yes, I do kind of love it…

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537. ‘Careless Whisper’, by George Michael

We’ve had a famous chart-topper earlier this year that was obsessed with sex. Here, we have a number one that is all about sax.

Careless Whisper, by George Michael (his 1st of seven solo #1s)

3 weeks, from 12th August – 2nd September 1984

Can I just admit right now that ‘Careless Whisper’ has always left me feeling a little… icky? It’s the epitome of mid-eighties slickness: glossy, shimmering, and very heavy on the saxophone. But it’s an important record. Not only is it the first solo #1 for one of Britain’s biggest ever stars, but it set the template for boyband members looking to break away from their group, from Robbie Williams to Harry Styles.

I didn’t appreciate how early George Michael’s solo career began – just a few weeks ago Wham! were scoring their own first #1 – or how confidently he launched into it. This does not sound like the early fumblings of a boyband star going solo; this is a supremely well-made pop ballad. And, amazingly, he wasn’t even twenty when he and Andrew Ridgeley wrote it… His maturity and attention to detail can be found in the fact that he went through nine saxophonists before finding one who could play the famous riff to his liking.

I will not deny how well made this record is. And there are bits I can appreciate. The sax, for a start. This has to be the most famous use of the instrument on a pop single, alongside ‘Baker Street’, and the solo from ‘True’. And the chorus is timeless: I’m never gonna dance again, Guilty feet have got no rhythm… Both this and Wham’s earlier #1 have centred around dancing: on missing out on it, and now on being unable to do it through guilt…

Towards the end, as George is belting out that we could have been so good together… there is a real confidence on show. It’s a song that takes its time, that fills its five-minute runtime at a stately pace. It’s also an interesting lyric: Time can never mend, The careless whispers of a good friend… It’s a classic of late-night ‘love song’ hours on commercial radio, but it’s clearly a break up song… Now who’s gonna dance with me…? Is it also possible, knowing now what we do, that it’s about George hurting a girl thanks to him being gay…?

The video is everything you want from a mid-eighties ballad: soft-focus, gorgeous hair, pointless but moody ropes hanging from the ceiling, sexy yachts, a Princess Diana lookalike love-interest… But the fact that this record is so precisely of its time is what ultimately hurts it in my eyes. Give me the fun, retro stylings of ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ over this.

I mentioned that this was the launch of George Michael’s solo career, when in actual fact it’s something of a false start. His next solo record will not be for another couple of years, when Wham! were indeed coming to an end. In fact, in the US ‘Careless Whisper’ reached #1 as a Wham! single. George Michael clearly wasn’t yet enough of a name to carry a record over there. That would change though, and quickly.

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533. ‘Hello’, by Lionel Richie

And so the promising start that 1984 had made comes to a crashing halt. Actually, no. ‘Crashing’ makes this sound way more exciting than it is. ‘Shuddering’? Still a bit too dramatic. A whimpering halt….? Yes, that’s it.

Hello, by Lionel Richie (his 1st and only solo #1)

6 weeks, from 18th March – 29th April 1984

‘Hello’ is a dull record. The lyrics are trite… Let me start by saying, I love you…. and Sometimes I feel that my heart will overflow… The pace is that of a glacier. Lionel Richie’s voice, while technically decent, is bland. After two records that showed how fun the 1980s could be – ‘Relax’ and ’99 Red Balloons’ – it’s dross like this that gives the decade a bad name.

It’s not that dull ballads were invented in the 1980s. The fifties, for example, was stuffed to the brim with them. But the production here, the glossy soft-soul gloop oozing from this record’s grooves, is prime mid-eighties. And it doesn’t enhance… There’s a soppy organ, a soppy piano, a soppy brass section. There are some weird swirling synths, which are as close as the music gets to being interesting. And then there’s an insipid acoustic Spanish guitar solo that really tries the patience.

Having never actually listened to this snooze-fest through choice before today, I was expecting a more OTT power-ballad element to it. You know: bad, but ridiculous. Except that’s just the video… In it, Richie plays a drama teacher with the unfortunate habit of creeping around behind one of his female students. Who just happens to be blind. He finally plucks up the courage to call her – the way he sings Hello! Is it me you’re looking for…? down the phone is actually hilarious – and she displays her love by making a truly monstrous clay model of his head.

Play ‘Hello’ away from the video, however, and you lose all this silliness. It is a truly boring experience. It’s only four minutes long, but it feels like twice that. I named Richie’s previous #1 – ‘Three Times a Lady’, with the Commodores – as a ‘Meh’ chart-topper, but this one takes ‘Meh’ to new levels. Why this was top of the charts for six weeks, and why it has since become an eighties pop culture cornerstone, is beyond me.

I have to admit that even his more upbeat hits of the mid-‘80s, the likes of ‘All Night Along’ and ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’, leave me feeling cold. Lionel Richie is, for whatever reason, an artist I don’t connect with. Too slick? Too glossy? Soulless soul? Maybe. Either way, for now I’m reminded why this decade will, at times, be a slog.

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529. ‘Only You’, by The Flying Pickets

And so we hurtle towards the end of 1983, with our latest Christmas number one. And, yes, it’s a novelty record. But wait! No! Come back! This is a ‘novelty’ in the sense that it’s different and interesting; not in the sense that it’s a bunch of gap-toothed schoolchildren singing about their grandma…

Only You, by The Flying Pickets (their 1st and only #1)

5 weeks, from 4th December 1983 – 8th January 1984

The novelty here lies in the fact that this record is (almost) completely a cappella. The only bits that aren’t a cappella are the two drum beats which follow the intro. There might also be a non-human synth right in the background, but I can’t be sure. You wonder why they didn’t go the whole hog and make it completely a cappella, but it was enough for this to go down in the record books as the first a cappella #1. (I’m now going to try writing the remainder of this post without using the term ‘a cappella’, as I keep mis-spelling it.)

All I needed was the love you gave, All I needed for another day… You can see why this was a big festive hit: it’s unusual but still accessible, it’s melancholy, it sounds like a festive choir… It’s got a romantic-sounding title, though it’s actually a fairly miserable break-up song if you stop and listen to the lyrics. All I ever knew, Only you… Plus, the original had been a #2 hit for Yazoo only a year or so earlier, so it may well have appealed to trendy young types too.

The Flying Pickets were a vocal group from London, with a background in fringe theatre. The band’s name would have had a particular resonance at the time, and may have helped them to a few more sales, with the country on the verge of a huge miners’ strike. The Pickets were radical socialists, and the members had been on the front lines of earlier strikes in the seventies. Once ‘Only You’ had made number one, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher displayed either supreme ignorance or shamelessness (both are quite feasible) in naming it her favourite song of the time.

The video adds to the gritty, socialist vibe, shot as it is in a North Shields pub. The band members play darts, pool and the fruit machine as they harmonise. Once you see them, it’s a bit of a shock trying to reconcile the angelic voices on the record with these fairly grizzled looking blokes. They definitely have a ‘fringe theatre’ vibe to them – I think I might have given them a wide berth had I been at the same pub – and all the a cappella-ing does feel a little ‘community centre am-dram’ at times.

Still, it’s a fun record: a ‘novelty’ in the best sense of the word, and a welcome addition to the festive canon. It’s one of those Xmas #1s that, despite having nothing to do with the season, still feels very festive. And it’s another retro-sounding chart-topper to list alongside the doo-wop, disco and reggae tracks we’ve featured in the latter half of 1983.

The Flying Pickets aren’t quite one-hit wonders (the follow-up to this gave them one further Top 10 hit), but their chart success wasn’t sustained beyond the mid-1980s. They are still around and recording to this day – their latest album saw them covering Sia’s ‘Chandelier’, as well as re-recording this #1 hit – although none of the members who feature on this song have been a part of the band since 1990.

That’s it for 1983, then: the year in which it felt like the eighties truly began. Up next, we embark on a year described more than once as the best year for pop music… ever. I may have to take exception to that…

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520. ‘True’, by Spandau Ballet

Down your bottle of fizzy pop, pluck up the courage to talk to that boy or girl you’ve been avoiding all evening… For we are in last dance territory with this next number one…

True, by Spandau Ballet (their 1st and only #1)

4 weeks, 24th April – 22nd May 1983

Is ‘True’ the ultimate ‘last dance at the school disco’ tune? I’m pretty sure they were still playing it fifteen years later, when it was my turn trying to blend into the shadows at the back of the gym. The tempo is perfect for a slow clinch, and the Ha Ha Ha Ha Haaii sound like a lovestruck swoon. They work well as a hook, combined with I know this much is… true!

I also like the chiming, one-note guitars, that sound like an eighties update of the guitars from any number of fifties ballads. But, I don’t think I’ve ever listened to the verses. And, sitting down to listen to them now, they’re the sort of verses that slip right by you. They’re unremarkable, and bland to the point of incomprehensibility. Take your seaside arms and write the next line… References to sand, and Marvin Gaye, delivered in the deliberate New Romantic style. Is it even a love song?

I could say that this was a record with some great moments, floating along in a sea of gloop, and be done with it. Except the ending saves it. The way Tony Hadley finally lets loose and gives the last I’ve bought a ticket to the world… line his all is a punch the air moment. And the This much is tru-ue… fade out is perfect for finally going in for that sloppy smooch.

I’d say that any ‘Best of the ‘80s’ compilation worth its salt has to have ‘True’. In truth, the compilation would also have to have all of our past five number ones: ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Total Eclipse…’, ‘Let’s Dance’ and Duran Duran, though perhaps a better-remembered song than ‘Is There Something I Should Know?’ And while ‘True’ isn’t in the same league as the likes of ‘Billie Jean’, it deserves its place in the 1980s pantheon. In fact, the moment midway through, where there’s a pause and then BOOM: saxophone solo, is as eighties as you can ever get.

I’m enjoying this more than I thought I would. I thought it would be too gloopy, but there are enough catchy moments to see it through. The biggest problem is that it’s way too long. The album version is six and a half minutes long, for goodness sake. There is a single edit, but even that runs to 5:30. Not much of an ‘edit’… And excruciating if you’ve been roped into dancing with a girl you’d been trying to avoid all night… (I may be talking from experience, here…)

It’s surprising that this is Spandau Ballet’s one and only chart-topper. Like Duran Duran – a band they exist in complete conjunction with in my mind – they had been scoring hits since the early eighties (usually with more up-tempo songs than this one). And like Duran Duran their fortunes would fade by the end of the decade (though DD have had a couple more successful chart comebacks than Spandau…) They split up in the ‘90s, though they have reformed for tours in the past ten years or so. And I have to show my age before we finish, by admitting that for years I knew them primarily as the band Martin Kemp from ‘EastEnders’ was once in…

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517. ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, by Bonnie Tyler

It’s easy to laugh at some of the worst excesses of the 1980s. The size of the hair! The size of the shoulder-pads! Huge mobile phones! Mountains of cocaine! Well, at least two of those things are in play for our next #1: hair and shoulder pads. (I wouldn’t rule out the cocaine, either…)

Total Eclipse of the Heart, by Bonnie Tyler (her 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, 6th – 20th March 1983

Like I said, looking back, it’s common to sneer at certain aspects of the 1980s – in a way that doesn’t seem to happen with any of the other decades currently within human memory – but when they combine to produce something as outrageous as ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, then you’ve got to be glad they happened.

First things first: this is a duet. Kind of. There’s a significant, if uncredited, male voice throughout – one Rory Dodd. Make no mistake, though. This is Bonnie Tyler’s song. She sings it like she’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown, like she’s just downed that third glass of wine, like her very life depends on belting these lines out. And there are so many great lines. For a start: I’m living in a powder keg and giving off sparks! (For many, many years I had no idea what she was singing here. It wasn’t a misheard mondegreen; I simply had no idea what a ‘baldergag’ was…) Or the howled: And I need you now tonight…

Then there’s the classic chorus line: Once upon a time I was falling in love, Now I’m only falling apart… It’s the musical equivalent of a telenovela actor’s slow-motion swoon, but it works. What is a total eclipse of the heart..? It’s madness brought on by love. It’s poetry, that’s what it is. This was a bit of a comeback for Bonnie Tyler – her first real hit for six or seven years – and you feel that she could sense this as she recorded it. She leaves nothing behind out there, as they say on ‘Match of the Day’.

But actually, Tyler is only 50% responsible for this record’s brilliance. The rest lies with Jim Steinman’s writing and production. The moment when those enormous eighties drums come thumping in – like Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound on steroids –is actually hair-raising. Later on there are explosions, thunder and lightning… and sleigh bells. Was this originally meant to be a festive release? Or did Steinman simply see nothing wrong with sleigh bells in a February release? I hope it’s the latter…

This is a power ballad. It’s probably the ultimate power ballad. It’s certainly the first ‘modern’ power ballad to top the charts. (Honourable mentions to Nilsson’s ‘Without You’, and Babs’ ‘A Woman in Love’.) And though it’s a genre synonymous with ‘80s excess, there aren’t too many of them that will top the UK charts in the coming years. In fact, the next #1 to rival ‘Total Eclipse…’ for first-clenching pomposity might well be the next one written and produced by Steinman, which won’t be for another decade…

We can’t finish this post without mentioning the video. Bonnie Tyler is a teacher in a boys boarding school, who spends her nights prowling the corridors in a white negligée, imagining boys at their desks having their shirts ripped open by wind-machines, fencing in the halls and, by the end, prancing around her in loin cloths a la ‘Lord of the Flies’. Well, a song like this couldn’t have any old, common-or-garden music video, could it…?

‘Total Eclipse…’ offers a different side of the eighties to our previous #1, ‘Billie Jean’. One is slick and modern; the other completely OTT. If I had to choose which side of the decade I’d like to remember, and which song I’d like to come on towards the end of a night out, then it would be this one. And the British public agrees. Sort of. ‘Total Eclipse…’ was voted as the 3rd best #1 of the ‘80s (with ‘Billie Jean’ in 2nd) but, much more importantly, it won a 2013 poll of ‘Best Songs to Sing in the Shower’.

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512. ‘Save Your Love’, by Renée & Renato

Festive chart-toppers tend to come in three varieties: actual Christmas songs (Slade, Mud, Boney M…), bona-fide classics (Bo Rap, Pink Floyd, ‘Don’t You Want Me’…) and novelty dross (Little Jimmy Osmond, ‘Lily the Pink’, and St. Winifred’s School Choir…) Take a guess, then: what variety of hit 1982’s Christmas number one was…?

Save Your Love, by Renée & Renato (their 1st and only #1)

4 weeks, 12th December 1982 – 9th January 1983

Yes, the British public’s capacity for sending crap to #1 for Christmas knows no bounds. Of the three varieties, ‘novelty dross’ reigns supreme. A middle-aged Italian, and a pretty blonde (though the Renée in the video below and the Renée whose voice you hear were apparently not the same person…) Save your love, My darleeeeng… Strings and trembling guitars complete the ‘Valentine’s in a Bella Italia’ vibe.

Songs like this are never worth the effort of holding up to any sort of examination. You can see what they were going for: Christmas, romance, one for the oldies… Except, it’s so cheap and tacky it’s almost unbearable. Back a decade ago, people put some love into their novelty hits. There was a charm, for me at least, to ‘My Ding-A-Ling’ and ‘Ernie’. But ‘Shaddap You Face’ and the St. Winny’s kids, and now this, are almost aggressive in their cheapness. They know they’re shit, and they’re going to batter you into submission.

Sample rhyming couplet: I can’t wait to hold and kiss you, Don’t you know how much I’ve missed you… If they’d gone for a slightly higher-quality production, and spent more than three minutes on the lyrics, I might actually enjoy this. Maybe. Slightly… It’s got a ‘This Is My Song’, or ‘It’s Now or Never’, Venetian gondolier vibes to it, .

Actually, I can half-imagine Elvis belting this out in Vegas, if he’d still been around in 1982. Renato is, sadly, not Elvis. Technically, he can sing. He sounds like a constipated boar, but he the notes are all in the right place. Renée can hold a tune, in a bland kind of way. Who were they? I did hope that this was some kind of ‘Allo Allo!’ spin-off… Except, Rene was a man in that show. (Although, in a spooky coincidence, ‘Allo Allo!’s pilot aired while ‘Save Your Love’ was on top of the charts…)

This record’s ‘cheapness’ can perhaps be excused by the fact that it was written, produced and released all by a man and wife duo (Johnny and Sue Edwards, not Renée and Renato). It is therefore the first truly ‘indie’ chart-topper which, as someone who lived through the height of indie-snobbery in the ‘90s and ‘00s, I find hilarious. Like I said, I want to enjoy this one, want to embrace the ridiculousness of it… but I can’t. It’s just too much.

Renato Pagliari was genuinely Italian, and had waited tables in a Birmingham trattoria before fame came calling. I say ‘fame’, the follow-up to this made #48 and that was that. Rumour, has it that he was the singer of the famous ‘Just One Cornetto’ jingle, though his son denies it. He was also a big Aston Villa fan, and was invited to perform ‘Nessun Dorma’ to the team at half-time, following a poor first-half showing. Sources are quiet on whether the team played any better afterwards… He passed away in 2009.

Meanwhile, Renée (not her real name) had quit the duo before this record even became a hit. She came back for a few years, but retired from the business before the decade was out. One last thing before I go: the grandiose ending to this song is so familiar, but I just can’t place it. It’s driving me mad trying to think what song it copies… Do let me know if you hear it. Anyway, just like that, we make 1983…

503. ‘I’ve Never Been to Me’, by Charlene

Slowing things down considerably, after the e-numbers overdose of Madness and Adam Ant, Charlene has some life advice, some pearls of wisdom, some preaching to do…

I’ve Never Been to Me, by Charlene (her 1st and only #1)

1 week, 20th – 27th June 1982

Hey lady, she intros, You lady, Cursin’ at your life… She’s a discontented mother, this lady, and a regimented wife. It’s a bit of a harsh opening verse. Alright, Charlene, take it down a notch! Meanwhile the music is very easy listening, the softest of country lilts.

Who the ‘lady’ is is never specified. Whether she wants Charlene’s advice is neither here nor there. She’s getting it. This is a sanctimonious, humble-brag of a song. Charlene lists all the things she’s done – guzzling champagne on yachts, gambling in Monte Carlo, making love in the sun – before trying to pretend that it wasn’t all that fun. I’ve been to paradise, But I’ve never been to me… (honest!)

Some of the rhymes are true clankers: Oh I’ve been to Nice, And the isles of Greece… I’ve been undressed by kings, And I’ve seen some things, That a women should never see… At this point I’m rating this record as ‘iffy’ at best, ‘pretty crap’ at worst. Until Charlene starts talking, that is, sending this song into the realms of the truly awful.

I won’t quote the spoken word section verbatim. The gist is: paradise is actually soothing your screaming baby and arguing with your husband. Paradise is duty. Paradise is definitely not champagne and casinos. Who wrote this? It sounds as if it were commissioned by a mega-church, in order to promote Christian values through the radio-waves. I’m sure you can claim that the song is an argument for taking pleasure in the small things, in accepting happiness wherever you can find it, but I’m not having it. For a start, as Charlene lists all her escapades, she does not sound like she regrets any of it. No way has she cried for the unborn children that might have made me complete. She was too busy shagging her way around the south of France… Whoever the ‘lady’ in the song is, I hope she told Chaz to piss off after she’d finished her sermon.

Of course, ‘I’ve Never Been to Me’ was a giant hit around the world, because people will always gobble this sort of nonsense up. Though it took a while for the song to take off. Originally released in 1977, it took a DJ in Tampa to start its second wind. Charlene was in semi-retirement, and took some convincing to come back and promote the song. And imagine my surprise when I discovered that this was a Motown release! The label that sent The Supremes and The Four Tops, and ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ to the top of the charts is also responsible for this… It was the label’s first big hit featuring a white female vocalist.

‘I’ve Never Been to Me’ has been recorded in Czech and German, Cantonese, Korean and several times in Japanese. It has also been re-claimed as a camp classic in the decades that have followed, beloved of drag queens and cabaret shows. It’s a silver lining, I suppose, that not everyone is taking this song seriously. But it’s still a terrible record. Next please!

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497. ‘Seven Tears’, by The Goombay Dance Band

Like Marcel Proust biting into his madeleine, the intro of this next #1 brings the memories flooding back. Hints of Boney M, wafts of ABBA at their cheesiest, ‘Mull of Kintyre’, even a base note of ‘Auld Lang Syne’…

Seven Tears, by The Goombay Dance Band (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, 21st March – 11th April 1982

I have never heard ‘Seven Tears’ before, I am pretty much positive of that. But it sounds so familiar, so damn sentimental, that it comes through like a folk standard. Seven tears have run into the river, Seven tears have run into the sea… The singer stands at home, pining and crying for his love, his tears mingling with the river, then the sea… (To me, it sounds like a bit of a subtle dig: just the seven tears…?)

It’s a nice enough tune, I’ll admit. There’s something relaxing in its calypso-plod. Yes there are myriad key changes, and a spoken-word section, but somehow ‘Seven Tears’ stays just the right side of annoying, unlike Tight Fit before them. Cheesy, yes. Cloying, yep. Complete and utter Eurotrash. But something about it appeals to me.

I was convinced that this, like ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, must have been an old song, remixed and repackaged for the early-eighties. But nope. It was written by two Germans, in 1981. In fact, the similarities between The Goombay Dance Band and Boney M are pretty blatant: they were created in 1979 by Oliver Bendt – who takes lead vocals on this record – a German who had lived in St. Lucia in the Caribbean. ‘Goombay’ is a beach on the island.

They weren’t as successful as Boney M, though. This was their only sizeable hit in the UK (though their breakthrough, ‘Sun of Jamaica’ topped the German charts for nine weeks). And for a few weeks in the spring of 1982, it seems the UK charts were looking farther afield. Not just to Germany (though this does make them already the second German chart-toppers of the year) but to the jungles of Africa, and then to the beaches of the Caribbean.

The charts were also, you have to admit, sounding a lot tackier than even just a year earlier. I don’t want to sound like a guitar-snob, because I’m really not – and there have been some very high-quality electronic #1s recently – but it is much easier to use computers to make music. I’d wouldn’t bet against ‘Seven Tears’ having been thrown together in an afternoon… I’d also bet that it’s been completely forgotten by the general public (I meant it when I said I’d never ever heard it before). Today, though it’s back, at least for the time it takes you to read this post. A toast, please, for The Goombays, and their ‘Seven Tears’… May we not leave it another forty years before listening to this again. Thirty-nine will be plenty.