535. ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’, by Wham!

In my last post, on ‘The Reflex’, I wondered if Duran Duran had produced the most obnoxious-sounding intro ever. In this post, I will pose a similar question: is the intro to ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ the happiest intro ever?

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, by Wham! (their 1st of five #1s)

2 weeks, from 27th May – 10th June 1984

In fact, is this entire record not just the happiest piece of music ever recorded? It’s pure, pure pop. If you were to look up ‘pop song’ in the dictionary, I hope the entry would simply read: Noun. 1. As in ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ by Wham. There are finger-clicks, there are organs, there are Jitterbugs!… The moment where George Michael goes for the I wanna hit that high… line, and the horns come smashing in, is perfection.

You can picture the smile on Michael’s face as he sings – though his voice isn’t quite as strong as it would grow to be – probably because he knows he’s just sealed his first UK (and US) chart-topper. In the back of your head you’re thinking: this should be way more annoying than it is, nothing this perky can be ‘good’… But the irritation never comes, not for me anyway. Lines like You put the boom boom into in my heart… float past unchecked. ‘Go-Go’ is rhymed with ‘yo-yo’, and nobody bats an eyelid…

The record’s innocence runs deep. George is upset, he feels betrayed… All because his friend went dancing without him. (I just noticed the potential pun in the title: ‘go-go’, as in ‘go-go bar’…?) The video is also a slice of wholesomeness: an all-white set, George and Andrew in their ‘Choose Life’ tees, as if they are hosting a primary school anti-drugs talk, before things go all neon. (At the very end, as the music fades, a message on screen reads: ‘Go-Go Buy It’, which feels very eighties…)

There’s a cleanness and a simplicity to this record, especially compared to the Blitzkrieg-pop that was ‘The Reflex’ and ‘Relax’. It’s timeless, appropriate for everything from a kids’ party to a stag do, and everything in between. On a completely unrelated note, I’ve always subconsciously connected ‘Wake Me Up…’ with Queen’s ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’. Both are slight outliers in their band’s discography, both are ridiculously catchy, both are throwbacks to the fifties and sixties – rock ‘n’ roll in Queen’s case, doo-wop and Motown in Wham’s. Doris Day even gets a name check here!

This was the first single to be released from Wham’s second album, and it was clearly a step up into the pop stratosphere. They’d had their earlier hits – ‘Wham Rap’ and ‘Club Tropicana’ among them – but this made them global superstars. Back when I wrote my post on ‘Relax’, I confidently claimed 1984 as Frankie’s year. But maybe they’ll need to share it with Wham!, and George Michael, who will also have scored three chart-toppers before the year is out, plus one of the biggest-selling number twos in history. ‘Choose Life’ versus ‘Frankie Say…’ Much more to come from both camps…

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530. ‘Pipes of Peace’, by Paul McCartney

Recently, I’ve seen a couple of articles that have claimed 1984 as the best year ever for pop music. Ever. On the one hand I get it: Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, Springsteen… MTV hitting its stride. Fashion choices that remain ingrained on our collective conscience. On the other hand, looking down my list of #1s, none of these artists will be bothering top spot in the UK during this hallowed year. Instead, we start with an ex-Beatle, with the only truly solo chart-topper of his long career…

Pipes of Peace, by Paul McCartney (his 2nd of three solo #1s)

2 weeks, from 8th – 22nd January 1984

And to be honest, I’m expecting something truly horrendous here. Still scarred from Macca’s first ‘solo’ chart-topper, ‘Ebony & Ivory’, I see the word ‘pipes’ in the title, and am imagining more bagpipes a la ‘Mull of Kintyre’ or even, shudder, pan-pipes… But actually, no. It’s quite nice. After a strange intro, that sounds like a rusty orchestra tuning up, we glide into a gentle, late-Beatlesy melody. This could have slipped quite easily onto Side 3 of ‘The White Album’ (it was produced by George Martin, too).

Even the earnest message… All round the world, Little children being born to the world, Got to give them all we can… doesn’t grate like it did in E&I. Paul, as ever, just wants us to all get along. Help them to learn, Songs of joy, Instead of burn baby burn… (Either that, or it’s an anti-disco message…?) And it ends in a nice a cappella section which, following on from the Flying Pickets, makes this truly the sound of the season.

It’s not perfect. There are some weird synthy touches that border on cartoonish sound-effects. And there’s a disjointed feel to this song, as if it’s a gathering of ideas rather than a finished version. On the whole, though, it’s a pleasant enough start to the year. It was clearly going for the Christmas market, even if it couldn’t dislodge the Pickets until long after the decorations had come down. Still, peace is for life, not just for Christmas…

The video is set in the trenches of World War I, in which Paul plays both a British and a German soldier who meet during the famous (and possibly apocryphal) Christmas Day truce of 1914. They exchange photos of their sweethearts back home as soldiers play a game of football around them. Again, it’s quite nice. And again, as with ‘Ebony & Ivory’, you can just about make out John Lennon scoffing from beyond the grave…

I’d say that this keeps our run of retro number ones going – just the fact that it’s by Paul McCartney is already pretty retro for 1984 – but that is all about to end. Up next, we have one of the most aggressively ‘eighties’-sounding chart-toppers of the entire decade. And if you have some pearls handy, now might be the time to start clutching them…

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528. ‘Uptown Girl’, by Billy Joel

We are now racing through 1983 – no chart-topper in the second half of this year will spend less than three weeks on top. And after six for Culture Club comes five for Billy Joel…

Uptown Girl, by Billy Joel (his 1st and only #1)

5 weeks, from 30th October – 4th December 1983

In my post on ‘Karma Chameleon’, I pointed out how that song took pleasure in its retro touches. Well, here the retro theme is not just maintained; it’s shoved front and centre. ‘Uptown Girl’ harks fully back to the doo-wop and male vocal groups of the late fifties/early sixties. The eighties are temporarily on hold. It’s a pastiche, yes, but one that’s lovingly done, and that’s certainly good enough to stand up on its own.

Uptown girl, She’s been livin’ in her uptown world… It’s a tale as old as time (or at least as old as the invention of social class structures…) A working class boy besotted with a high class lady (I’ve always liked the lyrical contrast between her ‘white bread world’ and this ‘back street guy’). In the video Billy Joel’s a well-groomed mechanic, with some impressively slick dance moves, and the object of his affections goes from being a pin-up in his locker to riding side-saddle on his motorbike in barely three minutes. It has strong overtones of ‘Grease’, which adds to the fun, campy feel of the song. The uptown girl is played by swimwear model Christie Brinkley. Life imitated art, and less than two years after meeting on the set of ‘Uptown Girl’ they married.

This is a great pop song, timeless in the best possible sense of the word, and one that defies too much critiquing. ‘Uptown Girl’ comes on the radio, and you sing along with the woah-oh-ohs. It’s non-negotiable. I’d even go so far as to say that using the word ‘uptown’ in a song title almost guarantees classic status. To date, there have been three ‘uptown’ #1s: ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ (a classic, dripping in attitude), this (a singalong classic) and another one, still thirty-odd years off, that I’m sure you can guess at (another great pop song).

(This has to be the biggest disconnect between ‘mood of song’ and ‘mood of record sleeve.’.. ever)

The fact that I still like this record is, actually, quite surprising. Not only have I heard it several thousand times (I’d imagine), I also suffered through Westlife’s cover version hitting #1 when I was fifteen. That’ll be along soon enough on this countdown, don’t worry… Actually, as Westlife hits go it’s not that bad – although that’s the very definition of ‘damning with faint praise’. And as if that wasn’t enough, a supermarket chain in Hong Kong, where I live, has used the tune of ‘Uptown Girl’ for an in-store jingle. And when I say ‘in-store’, I mean: In. Every. Single. Bloody. Store. Twenty. Four. Hours. A. Day. The poor checkout staff must suffer PTSD episodes every time they hear this original.

A song that can survive both Westlife covers and terminal overplaying as a supermarket jingle must have something truly great at its core. ‘Uptown Girl’ was good enough to give Billy Joel his sole #1 single in the UK, in marked contrast to his US chart career. I once read a theory suggesting that Joel isn’t as big in Britain because we already have Elton John to fill our piano-based balladeering needs. Which is an interesting theory, until you remember that Elton is as big in America as he is across the Atlantic. Whatever the reason, and despite not being short of hits, this was indeed Joel’s only chart-topper. But if you’re only going to have one chart-topper, you might as well make it a million-selling, 2nd biggest hit of 1983, 19th biggest hit of the decade kind of chart-topper…

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527. ‘Karma Chameleon’, by Culture Club

In which we arrive at a mega-hit. The biggest song of the year, a number one in thirty countries, the longest stay at #1 so far this decade, and the… checks notes… thirty-eighth biggest seller of all time!

Karma Chameleon, by Culture Club (their 2nd and final #1)

6 weeks, from 18th September – 30th October 1983

Right from its nifty little intro, this is a record that pulls out all the stops in its efforts to burrow into your brain. It’s jaunty, it’s fast-paced, with lots of little retro flourishes, and with a hook that just won’t quit: Karma (x5) Chameleon, You come and go… You come and go…. It’s the purest of pop, from the biggest pop group of the moment. You can see why it was so huge.

Purest pop, but not perfect pop. ‘Karma Chameleon’ falls short of the level of, say, ‘Dancing Queen’, or ‘Heart of Glass’. (Too much harmonica, for a start… And the lyrics are a kind of pretty-sounding nonsense.) But that’s a fairly unreachably high bar I’m setting. This song’s best bit – the middle-eight where Boy George’s voice soars through the Every day, Is like survival, You’re my lover, Not my rival… line – can rank among the best moments of the decade. Then it descends into a marching beat, which flirts very heavily with the cheesy side of things.

In fact, the entirety of this record is one big flirtation with cheese. It stays on the right side, though, for the most part (harmonicas excepted). In the video, Boy George sits astride a Mississippi steamboat, looking as fabulous as ever. It is interesting that a band as provocative as Culture Club have two such safe chart-toppers to their name. ‘Karma Chameleon’, as good as it is, could have been recorded by Bucks Fizz (the drum beat here is really similar to ‘Making Your Mind Up’…) while ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me’ was, to my ears, a little dull. Maybe, though, the fact that their music was so accessible is a good thing, meaning that Boy George was beamed into family homes around the world as they scored hit after hit. Fathers scowled, mothers tutted, and all the kids who didn’t fit in secretly saw hope…

Having said that, I’d still have taken the stomping, Motown-esque ‘Church of the Poison Mind’ to have been the mega million-selling hit over this. Culture Club did have an edge to them, it just isn’t to be found in their #1s. They were also at the peak of their powers here: between October 1982 and October ’84 the band saw seven singles chart no lower than #4…

They would split up soon afterwards though, in acrimony and drug addiction. They wouldn’t work together for twelve years, until their 1998 comeback. Which must have been a big deal, as it filtered through into the consciousness of twelve-year-old me. I remember their comeback single, ‘I Just Wanna Be Loved’ well, and liked it at the time. Boy George, meanwhile, will feature in this countdown under his own steam before too long.

I mentioned in the intro that ‘Karma Chameleon’s six-week stay was the longest run at the top since 1979, and it means that we are suddenly racing through to the finish of 1983. Our next #1 is a big ‘un too. I also mentioned this record’s ‘retro flourishes’ which, added to KC & The Sunshine Band’s disco touches, and UB40’s reggae rhythms, means the ’80s are suddenly sounding a little less ’80s’. Whether I think this is a good or a bad thing… I’ll leave that for you to decide.

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523. ‘Baby Jane’, by Rod Stewart

Following on from The Police, another superstar act returns for a final bow atop the UK singles charts…

Baby Jane, by Rod Stewart (his 6th and final #1)

3 weeks, 26th June – 17th July 1983

And if we might continue the comparison for a few moments more… This record isn’t as ‘good’, or as well-regarded, as ‘Every Breath You Take’. But it’s a lot more fun to listen to…

Baby Jane, Don’t leave me hangin’ on the line… I knew you when you had no one to talk to… Lyrically, it’s a throwback to Rod’s earliest hits – ‘Maggie May’ and ‘You Wear It Well’ – in that he’s singing about an old flame. One who loved him and left him, and who now moves in ‘high society’. Musically, though, he’s slap-bang in 1983, with a synth riff and an outrageous saxophone solo (I’m often quite down on sax solos, but this one’s a belter.)

Actually, it’s not completely given over to the sounds of the day. The beat that drives this song along, and that makes it such a fun listen, is decidedly disco. (I miss disco…) Rod’s last #1 had come almost five years before – ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy’ – and ‘Baby Jane’ was a bit of a comeback hit for him (he’d only had one Top 10 single between these two chart-toppers.) It was a wise decision to keep the disco guitars and drums, for me, and not to go completely electronic.

I mentioned it in an earlier post, but it’s interesting that the run of huge eighties hits we are on have largely been released by established stars, or those on the comeback trail: Michael Jackson, Bonnie Tyler, Bowie, now Rod Stewart. Bowie is perhaps the most obvious comparison for Rod, and his performance on ‘Let’s Dance’, while iconic nowadays, wasn’t typical of a dance record. I’m not sure he enjoyed making ‘Let’s Dance’, as much as Rod enjoyed ‘Baby Jane’. Just listen to the Yeah! before the final chorus.

Fans of Rod the Mod, who enjoyed his work with the Faces, and his earlier, acoustic, solo hits, are probably as down on ‘Baby Jane’ as they are on ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy’. And I can understand, to an extent. Sir Rod hasn’t always exercised the greatest quality control over his work. But then again, I think most people could find it in themselves to enjoy this big, dumb puppy dog of a song; while recognising that it’s not among his very best.

This may be the end of Rod Stewart’s chart-topping career, but he’d go on scoring big hits well into the 1990s. Which is in itself very impressive: he was thirty-eight when ‘Baby Jane’ made #1, and has a twelve year span between his first and last number ones – a longevity that not many acts can boast of. His most recent album made #5 last Christmas, while he has also branched out into model railwaying, and drunken Scottish cup draws. Here’s to Sir Rod, then, a true legend, in more ways than one…

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521. ‘Candy Girl’, by New Edition

Hmm… On the one hand, you could argue that this next #1 emphatically breaks the run of eighties classics that we’ve been enjoying. On the other, you could argue that this record is as much an eighties classic as ‘Billie Jean’ or ‘Let’s Dance’

Candy Girl, by New Edition (their 1st and only #1)

1 week, 22nd – 29th May 1983

I mean ‘classic’ not so much in the sense that this song is any good; but that it is jam-packed with eighties flourishes. There is no mistaking when this record was released. And this is American eighties. We’ve had lots of ‘British’ eighties over the past three years, in the new-wave, post punk, New Romantic acts that have topped the charts. The 2nd British invasion is well underway but, as the decade wears on things will get a lot more US-led. Starting here…

Candy girl, You are my world… First things first, this is a pretty blatant rip-off of The Jackson 5’s ‘ABC’. And not just in terms of the melody: we’ve got five young, black Americans bringing a bright and peppy pop tune to the top of the charts. (They weren’t shy about the comparison either: the group’s name refers to them being a ‘new edition’ of the Jacksons.) Second things second: we’ve got rapping!

We’ve had bands toy with rap – mainly reggae acts like Dave & Ansil Collins and Musical Youth (who are another point of comparison with New Edition) – but this is the first genuine hip-hop number one. No other genre will dominate the next forty years of the charts as much as rap, so this is a bit of a moment. My girl’s like candy, A candy treat, She knocks me right off my feet… People complain about modern hip-hop lyrics, but… My girl’s the best and that’s no lie, She tells me I’m her only guy… Give me ‘WAP’ any day of the week.

It’s not just the rapping that makes this sound so modern though. The beat is clear and heavy – a glimpse ahead to new jack swing later in the decade – and the squelchy, farty synths are almost a voice in their own right. Which isn’t a good thing… Someone was let loose on the decks, and needed to be reined in. By the end they’re mimicking ‘ring a ring a roses’ like a demented playground chant…

In a classic boy-band debut single move, there’s a break to allow an introduction to the members who will soon be adorning bedroom walls the world over. Check out Mike and Bobby’s ladies… Ooh-wee… What about Ronnie’s? She’s bad… It’s incredibly cringey, but these moments always are. I’m forty years too late, and thirty years too old, to appreciate it.

If that write up sounded harsh then I didn’t really mean it to. I have to admit I’m enjoying this… Sort of. If you’re going to build a song so obviously around ‘ABC’ then you’re giving yourself a solid foundation. There’s an endearing energy to it, the boys were all just fourteen or fifteen when this was released, even if the farty synths and the high-pitched voices are a bit too much. Plus there is one of the clunkiest key-changes ever heard in a chart-topping single.

This was New Edition’s first ever release, and for some reason the UK took to them much quicker than the US (‘Candy Girl’ only made #46 on the Hot 100). In the long run, though, their American chart success would be much more long-lasting, reaching well into the 1990s. The members would also try their hand away from the group, the most prominent career being that of founder Bobby Brown’s (and not always for musical reasons…)

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516. ‘Billie Jean’, by Michael Jackson

In my last post, on Kajagoogoo’s ‘Too Shy’ I announced it as the eighties-est moment yet. (I also quite liked the intro.) And here we have a ginormous smash hit that is even more ‘eighties’, from the biggest album of the decade, by the biggest star of the decade. (With another pretty cool intro.)

Billie Jean, by Michael Jackson (his 2nd of seven solo #1s)

1 week, 27th February – 6th March 1983

We won’t come across many songs more famous than ‘Billie Jean’ on this countdown. Everyone knows it, has danced to it, has sang along to it. We’re familiar with every ‘hee’ and every ‘hoo’. But it’s the sort of ultra-ubiquitous song that you don’t – or I don’t, at least – stop to pay attention to anymore. And what stands out now is how much there is going on. In my head, ‘Billie Jean’ is that bass riff and Jackson’s voice. But there’s a lot more than that.

There are strings, finger-clicks, a guitar, and about ten different synth lines and effects. It doesn’t feel cluttered, though. Everything is in its right place, where and when it needs to be. Even the vocal ad-libs feel planned and thought-out beforehand. You could argue that music this well-produced can come across as soulless, and you might have a point. But that would be a harsh criticism of an almost perfect pop song.

Billie Jean is not my lover, She’s just a girl who claims that I am the one… It’s a grown-up topic for a former child star. Billie Jean was an amalgam of the groupies who had thrown themselves at his older brothers in the Jackson 5. But the kid is not my son… And the singer of this record sounds like a different person to the boy from his first #1, ‘One Day in Your Life’ – a false start if ever there was one. This is the moonwalking, ‘hee-hee’-ing MJ, who has been parodied ever since. It’s also the first sign of a troubled Michael Jackson, in the ominous lyrics and the paranoid vocals. Of the fact that being world-famous since the age of ten might have made him a little… odd.

Since it’s the 1980s, and this is Michael Jackson, we also have to take the famous music video into the equation. Like the song as a whole, it’s a video I could picture without ever having watched in its entirety. My main take-aways… Jackson still looks very young (he was only twenty-four), there are more cats than I remembered, and it actually looks pretty dated in its slow-motion sequences and its graphics. It suits the song well, though, which isn’t something you can always say about Jackson’s later videos, where it felt like he was just throwing money at them rather than trying to tell a story.

Famously, ‘Billie Jean’ was one of the first songs by a black artist to get played on MTV. But that was only after the president of CBS records threatened to pull all the label’s other acts from the channel. You could spend a day lost down the rabbit-hole of ‘Billie Jean’ trivia. Producer Quincy Jones, for example, didn’t think it was strong enough to even be an album track. My favourite factoid, though? That someone suggested the song be called ‘Not My Lover’, lest people thought Jackson was singing about tennis legend Billie Jean King.

As is so often the case with the biggest stars, the UK singles charts never really played fair when it came to MJ’s imperial phase. ‘Billie Jean’ got a solitary week on top of the charts. While almost all the other singles taken from ‘Thriller’ –famously there were seven from the one album – were Top 10 hits, he only has one further #1 in this decade. But, despite not being the biggest-selling, or longest-lasting, number one ‘Billie Jean’ will probably outlive us all. Deep into the 21st century it is still regularly voted as ‘Best Pop/Dance/Eighties Song Ever’, while in 2021 it became the first music video from the 1980s to reach a billion YouTube views.

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515. ‘Too Shy’, by Kajagoogoo

I think it may have arrived, the moment I’ve been anticipating for a while now… The official start of the 1980s.

Too Shy, by Kajagoogoo (their 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, 13th – 27th February 1983

This is the most eighties chart-topper yet. Everything here has been filtered through some kind of ‘80s-ifier: the synths, the electronic drums, the bass, the icy piano… And that’s before you get to the band’s hair-dos… Just look at those mullets! I really like the intro, though: the slow build up and funky bass riff. There’s also a killer, if slightly nonsensical, chorus: You’re too shy shy, Hush hush, Eye to eye…

Singer Limahl’s delivery is also very of its time. It’s very arch, very airy and knowing. I don’t want to plant the ‘New Romantic’ flag, as I don’t think Kajagoogoo were quite that, but that’s where we’re heading. The rest of this song, though…? It’s OK. The nice touches aren’t enough to cover up the fact that it’s a bit lightweight, and a bit dull in places. I’ve heard of ‘landfill indie’… Can this be ‘landfill eighties’?

While the song is fine, we have to take a moment to examine the band name. Potentially one of the worst band names in history? It’s based on the sounds babies make, apparently. Before Kajagoogoo they were known as ‘Art Nouveau’, which is the sort of name you’d give a fictional parody of a new-wave band. They weren’t around for very long. Limahl left after just two years as lead-singer, citing personality differences, and the band officially spilt up in 1985.

I do think this is a moment where any remnants of what went before have been ditched. There’s no disco here, no post-punk or soft rock. Just pure and unadulterated eighties. Even the big, decade-specific acts we’ve met so far – Adam Ant, Culture Club, Human League – didn’t have the mid-eighties glossiness that ‘Too Shy’ has. But I think we’re set now, and about to foray into the deepest depths of it.

And I have to admit that I’m making that statement not based solely on this one record – though it is very now. I’m also making it with one eye on the chart-toppers that will immediately follow. The next five number ones will feature either some of the decade’s biggest stars, or its biggest songs. Kajagoogoo’s ‘Too Shy’ is the appetiser to a giant ‘80s feast that is on its way…

513. ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, by Phil Collins

We embark on 1983, then. And we start off with a classic. Well, a version of a classic…

You Can’t Hurry Love, by Phil Collins (his 1st of three #1s)

2 weeks, 9th – 23rd January 1983

I’m a big fan of The Supremes. Who in their right minds isn’t? They only had one (1!) chart-topper in the UK – unlike the States, where they went toe-to-toe with The Beatles for the most #1s in the ‘60s – but they churned out pop gem after pop gem. ‘Baby Love’, ‘Stop! In the Name of Love’, ‘Where Did Our Love Go’, and this ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’. (They loved to ‘love’ in a title…)

All of which is my long-winded way of saying that this song is classic… And, actually, Phil Collins does a decent enough job of covering it. He doesn’t ruin it. He keeps all that makes it great – most notably that much-copied bass intro (which we last heard on the Jam’s ‘Town Called Malice’.) He doesn’t go all ‘eighties’ on us, and he doesn’t strip it back. As a record, it stands out as ‘retro’ among the class of ’82-’83.

In recent months, we’ve seen Captain Sensible, and before him Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin, take fifties and sixties classics and, well, re-invent them. Collins doesn’t do that. But the problem with sticking so close to the original is that it’s clear when it’s not in the same league. Phil Collins is not Diana Ross, in more ways than one. You do wonder why he bothered…? It sounds nothing like his stuff with Genesis, or his biggest previous solo hit: ‘In the Air Tonight’. But then again, it delivered him his first number one. So whatever he was going for worked.

Like The Supremes, Collins had much more (solo) chart success in the USA than in Britain (seven #1s to three). As someone who wasn’t around at the time, he’s always seemed such an unlikely figure for one of the decade’s biggest stars… Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Phil Collins… It just seems weird.

Then I grew up with him as half-laughing stock beloved by estate agents, half-reclaimed hip-hop icon. He’s never been an easy man to categorise, I suppose. And that’s not a bad thing. But, he will be back atop the UK charts again, so we don’t need to sum his career up just yet. This looks like it’s going to be quite a short post; but I don’t think a straight-forward cover such as this needs much more analysis…

Though if even that was too much, here’s my TL;DR: ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ is a great song, and Phil Collins neither ruins it, nor makes it his own.

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510. ‘I Don’t Wanna Dance’, by Eddy Grant

The final part of our autumn of reggae comes from Eddy Grant. It’s a cute, catchy tune. But, alas, Eddy does not want to dance to it…

I Don’t Wanna Dance, by Eddy Grant (his 1st and only solo #1)

3 weeks, 7th – 28th November 1982

This record has a likeable homemade feel to it. So homemade, in fact, that I had to double-check that I wasn’t listening to a cheap, karaoke version instead of the original. Once upon a time, not so long ago, the sound of synths in a chart-topper was genuinely exciting. Now they more often tend towards cheap and tacky.

‘I Don’t Wanna Dance’ is a break-up song. But it is such a perky break-up song that you don’t really notice. Eddy is tired of his girl’s flirty ways, and has had enough. I don’t wanna dance, Dance with you baby no more… He’ll remain a gentleman, though. I’ll never do something to hurt you, Though the feeling is bad…

My favourite bit is the unexpectedly scuzzy guitar solo. It’s a really raw moment in what is a pretty safe, reggae-pop number. And in the video he cuts a very Slash-esque figure, plucking it out on a floating raft. Don’t wanna dance, Don’t wanna dance… he chants for the fade-out. It’s an undemanding number, a bit slow and repetitive, but enjoyable enough.

Of the three reggae hits in a row, I’d rate the first one – ‘Pass the Dutchie’ – as my favourite, and this second. ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me’ was by far the most culturally significant, and best remembered, but it just didn’t grab me. Though I may be getting ahead of myself – I should save all this retrospection for the upcoming recap.

I did wonder if this was the follow-up to ‘Electric Avenue’ – the Eddy Grant solo hit that pretty much everybody knows – and perhaps rode the wave of that record’s success to top spot. But no, ‘Electric Avenue’ was actually this disc’s follow-up, making #2 in early 1983. And we mustn’t forget that Grant has been at #1 once before. Well over fourteen years earlier, in 1968, he and his band The Equals topped the charts with ‘Baby Come Back’, one of the very, very first #1s with a hint of reggae.

You could link this hit – and the gap between group and solo #1s – to Smokey Robinson, who also waited over a decade before his very own chart-topper away from his group. Eddy Grant continues to record and perform, and released his most recent album in 2017. It was titled ‘Plaisance’, after his hometown, in Guyana. Which is nice. Up next, that recap.

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