Following on from the sweaty, pounding ‘Theme from S-Express’ comes the jaunty, acoustic ‘Perfect’. One of the biggest style switches between consecutive chart-toppers?
Perfect, by Fairground Attraction (their 1st and only #1)
1 week, from 8th – 15th May 1988
I’ve always liked ‘Perfect’, long before I knew it had been a number one hit. It’s the sort of song that plays in the background, throughout your life: the sort of song you think you’ve heard even when you haven’t. A little rockabilly ditty, with a cutesy hook: It’s got to be-e-e-e-e-e-e, Perfect…
But, like I said, I knew the song long before I knew it had made #1. And I’m thinking there must have been some sort of story behind ‘Perfect’ making top spot, because it’s just not the sort of song that should have been making #1 in 1988. Was there a movie? An advert? A climactic scene in ‘Brookside’…? Seems not. It wasn’t even basking in the glow of a big preceding hit, as it was Fairground Attraction’s debut single.
To be fair, it’s not as if rock music didn’t exist in the 1980s, it was just largely absent from the top end of the charts. Maybe ‘Perfect’ was at the sweet spot between ‘80s indie (Smiths, Housemartins) and ‘80s rockabilly (the solo here features twanging guitars last heard in a Shakin’ Stevens hit, and might just be my favourite bit of the song), which gathered it enough steam to sneak a week on top. And hey, let’s not quibble! Guitars are back on top for a week! Having glanced ahead at the #1s to come… we’ll take what we can!
My second favourite part of the song is Eddi Reader’s vocal performance. Crisp and clear, playful on the verses, near soaring on the chorus, Reader had been a busker and a session vocalist before finding fame with Fairground Attraction. Their success didn’t last long, as the group split while recording their second album, but Reader has gone on to have a lasting folk career, re-recording ‘Perfect’ in Irish and interpreting the songs of Robert Burns among many other things.
To finish… Here’s where I’m going to get a bit picky. As nice as this record is – and ‘nice’ is an apt adjective – I do wish that our first rock (with a small ‘r’) #1 in a while had a bit more substance to it. A bit more beef. But it is what it is. We take what rock we can get and we move on…