613. ‘The Only Way Is Up’, by Yazz & The Plastic Population

There are some songs that get to #1 because they’re great. And there are some songs that get to #1 perhaps in part thanks to the terrible-ness of the #1 that went before…

The Only Way Is Up, by Yazz & The Plastic Population (their 1st and only #1)

5 weeks, from 31st July – 4th September 1988

‘The Only Way Is Up’ is undoubtedly a great pop song, but it sounds even greater when played straight after Glenn Medeiros’s limp ‘Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You’. Did the record buying public hear Medeiros at number one throughout July, decide that they couldn’t have that as 1988’s Song of the Summer, and so sent this banger to #1 for the whole of August…?

Probably not. Most people just buy songs because they like them. But from the opening horn blast, sounding like an express train about to flatten any drippy teenagers left in its wake, this tune means business. I love the squelchy synths, and I love the way Yazz channels Donna Summer herself in the opening note.

But the best bit is the Hold on… build up to the chorus – perfect for belting out on a crowded dancefloor, before punching the air on the title line. Things are certainly getting dancier as we move away from the gloopy mid-80s and towards the nineties… (And yes, I realise that we literally just covered one of the gloopiest hit singles of all time.) Dance is a difficult genre to define – what’s dance, what’s just pop? – but I’d make this the 6th such #1 in just under a year.

Hits like this, and the recent ‘Theme from S-Express’, are bigger budget takes on the SAW Euro-disco sound, with the anarchic feel of acid house. Basically it’s an amalgam of all that was good and fun in pop music at this time. Some of the production does sound dated, yes – the scratching at the end, and the barking dog synths – but with a song as exuberant as this who cares!

I was pretty certain that this would be a cover of a Motown/soul/disco song, much in the mould of ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’, and I was correct in my convictions. ‘The Only Way Is Up’ was originally recorded in 1980 by soul singer Otis Clay. His version is fine – very different, lots of horns equally uplifting – but it wasn’t a hit until Yazz got her hands on it.

It’s hard to distinguish who The Plastic Population were… It looks like maybe they were Yazz’s backing singers? After this hit they were never credited again. Yazz scored two further Top 10s, and continued releasing low-charting singles throughout the 1990s. She’s since moved into Christian and gospel music. Meanwhile, I just discovered that a version of ‘The Only Way Is Up’ is the theme tune to ‘The Only Way Is Essex’… Have to admit, if I were scoring these chart-toppers, that fact would cost this one half a point…

611. ‘I Owe You Nothing’, by Bros

‘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.

607. ‘Theme from S-Express’, by S’Express

Dance music will never be my favourite genre. I will always go for guitars over keyboards and synthesisers. But sometimes, just sometimes, a dance tune will hit my sweet spot in a way that most rock songs could only hope to do…

Theme from S-Express, by S’Express (their 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, from 24th April – 8th May 1988

And this is one of them. It’s far from the first dance #1, it’s not even the first house #1, but it’s the first that I’ve really liked, the first that’s been more than just an interesting distraction. From the opening note of this industrial meat grinder of an intro, as a voice announces Enjoy this trip…and someone counts down in Spanish, I’m sold. I’m quite a fussy dancer, ready to leave the floor the moment a song I even slightly dislike comes on. But I’d be working up a sweat all night if dance music always sounded like this.

To my ears, the two earlier house #1s, ‘Jack Your Body’ and ‘Pump Up the Volume’ were a mess of samples, thrown together for the sake of it rather than because they should have been. But the ‘Theme from S-Express’ is a masterclass in picking the right samples. The foundation of the song is from Rose Royce’s ‘Is It Love You’re After’, which sounds incredibly modern for a song released at the height of disco. And all the vocal hooks work: Come on and listen to me baby now ooh… I’ve got the hots for you boop boop… and the wonderfully dated Drop! That! Ghetto blastah! It all genuinely works well together. It’s still busy, there’s still a lot going on, but it never feels like overkill. Even the screeching. (In the comments to the YouTube video below, someone has kindly listed and time-tagged all the samples.)

I love the Rio carnival interlude that comes along a minute in, as it provides a moment of lightness. But most of all I love the pounding Oh my God… break halfway through (though I don’t know if songs like this can have breaks, verses, choruses and bridges – normal songwriting rules go out the window) The dance music that works for me is dance that could be rock, and there’s something almost metal in this record’s relentless beat. It’s when dance goes all light and airy, with a piano hook and a breathy female vocal, that I tend to lose interest.

But that kind of EDM is a decade or more off. Here we are in the early days of the genre, where people were having fun with samples and filling dancefloors with the results. These results weren’t always perfect, but when they worked – as they do here – it was great. S’Express was a collective helmed by British DJ Mark Moore, and their ‘Theme’ was their first ever chart hit. They’d enjoy two more Top 10s in 1988, and hung around through the golden age of acid house before Moore ended the project in 1994. Whether they were ‘S-Express’ or ‘S’Express’ seems to depend on what font they used when printing their record sleeves, so I’ve used both. (And I’ve just noticed that it clearly spells ‘Sex Express’.)

I first heard this song when I worked in a bowling alley as a student – the very same bowling alley I mentioned in my post on ‘Give It Up’. Who knew bowling alleys would offer such formative musical experiences? But if you can picture bowling to ‘Theme from S-Express’ with the lights dimmed and the neon flashing, then you’ll know why it worked so well.

606. ‘Heart’, by Pet Shop Boys

Neil and Chris are back again. And when acts score #1s in such quick succession – it’s been barely three months since ‘Always on My Mind’ – you know they’re at the peak of their fame.

Heart, by Pet Shop Boys (their 4th and final #1)

3 weeks, from 3rd – 24th April 1988

But are they at the peak of their game? Or is this Pet Shop Boys-by-numbers? It’s undeniably them, identifiable after about two point five seconds of the soaring synth intro and the dead-panned Beat…! Heartbeat…! The main riff is a fun one: a vocal riff, a collage of different ‘oh’s and ‘ah’s (one of which is apparently Pavarotti!), and it’s a great hook. Despite their songs rarely featuring guitars, Pet Shop Boys had some great riffs (their previous two #1s, ‘It’s a Sin’ and ‘Always on My Mind’ being two prime examples).

Actually, I just wrote that last paragraph before realising that I was listening to the album version of ‘Heart’. The single remix is slightly less PSB; a little more Euro-disco, and a little more instant. That intro sounds like a cross between Damian’s ‘The Time Warp’ and Kelly Marie’s early-eighties banger ‘Feels Like I’m in Love’, with the heartbeat pew-pew effects. It was the 4th single from the ‘Actually’ album, and they clearly felt they needed to do something different with it.

The Pet Shop Boys themselves are a little down on this record, claiming it inferior to some of their other big hits. And lyrically, yes, it doesn’t have the edge or the wit of ‘West End Girls’, or ‘Rent’. It’s a simple enough love song: I hear your heart beat next to me, I’m in love with you, I mean what I say… Nor is it as well remembered as their other chart-toppers. I wonder how many people at the time thought that this would be the duo’s final UK number one…?

It may not be as well remembered, but I’d argue it deserves to be. It’s incredibly catchy, and danceable, and yet sweet. Not every song has to be clever and caustic. Plus, the Boys kept it and released it themselves, despite writing it with Madonna in mind (they never sent it to her, fearing rejection). So they must have liked it at the time. Plus I’d like to shout out to the brilliantly unexpected false ending, which I’m guessing represents a heart that keeps missing a beat… In the video it matches the moment a vampire, played by none other than Sir Ian McKellen, plunges his teeth into Neil Tennant’s newlywed bride…

I mean, that’s reason enough to love this forgotten mini-classic before you even hear the song. Like I said, this would be Pet Shop Boys’ final #1, though they’d have two further decades of Top 10 hits to come, as well as producing songs for the likes of Madonna (they got in there eventually), Robbie Williams and Girls Aloud. They’re icons, bizarre at times and very British, and with a mystique and a presence that makes them genuine pop legends. We bid them adieu here…

598. ‘Pump Up the Volume’ / ‘Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance)’, by M/A/R/R/S

Right at the start of this year (and by ‘this year’ I mean 1987, not the actual year in which you are reading this) we had our first ever house #1: Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley’s ‘Jack Your Body’. That was Chicago house, and here we now have Britain’s answer…

Pump Up the Volume / Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance), by M/A/R/R/S (their 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, from 27th September – 11th October 1987

I’m pretty sure everybody’s heard the classic title line: Pump up the volume… Dance! Dance! The adjacent, ominous piano note is iconic, too. Problem is, that line and the piano note add up to about five seconds of music. The rest of the song – four minutes in its shortest edit; a good seven minutes on the 12” – suffers from the same gimmicky feel as ‘Jack Your Body’.

But whereas ‘Jack…’ was just repetitive, ‘Pump Up the Volume’ suffers from an everything but the kitchen sink, ‘what does this button do?’ approach. It makes for an interesting, if rarely very enjoyable listen. It’s a mix of distorted guitars, whale noises, your neighbours letting off fireworks in their back garden, and someone shouting Brothers and sisters, Pum-pump it up! ‘Less is more’ was clearly not the M/A/R/R/S motto.

I like the funky, more hip-hop leaning break that pops up a couple of times, in which all the effects are discarded. It’s the only part of the record that makes me want to Dance! Dance! and it doesn’t last long enough. I also like the ‘Indian’ sounding section. But, at the risk of sounding like my late grandmother, a lot of the song is just noise.

There isn’t an original note in it, either. This was a watershed moment for sampling in popular music. In its various edits and mixes, a grand total of twenty-nine different samples feature on the record, from acts such as Public Enemy, Run DMC, James Brown and Stock Aitken Waterman (who took legal action). Some of these samples amount to nothing more than a ‘Hey’ or a couple of musical notes. Anyone opposed to sampling on the grounds of musical puritanism should probably stop and consider that it would likely have been easier to write a completely original song than to stitch all these parts into something even vaguely listenable.

And that isn’t all. It’s been a while since we had a double-‘A’ single on top of the charts: well over five years. While ‘Pump Up the Volume’ is a ground-breaking record, it’s still a pop song at heart, that sits comfortably on top of the chart. The flip-side, ‘Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance)’ is a completely different beast. This has no business being at #1…

It’s abstract, arty, and avant-garde. It’s grungy and acidic. Trippy, distorted vocals with yet more samples reverberating around them, and everything absolutely dripping in harsh feedback. It’s not an easy listen, and it’s definitely not anything you’ll be dancing to – the title is misleading in the extreme. But I like it more than its gimmicky twin. It’s harsh and uncompromising, and potentially the most uncommercial track ever to make the top.

I say ‘potentially’, for I’m not sure how much airplay ‘Anitina’ got at the time. I’m guessing next to none. But it’s there, listed in the records, and from it you can pretty much trace a straight line to the Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers a decade hence. And these were the only two songs that M/A/R/R/S ever released. They were a supergroup of sorts, composed of an electronic act called Colourbox and an alternative rock band called A.R. Kane, brought together in an uncomfortable arranged marriage by their label manager. Colourbox added the dancier elements to A.R. Kane’s ‘Anitina’, while A.R. Kane added the wailing guitars to ‘Pump Up the Volume’. Neither particularly liked the other’s song and they refused to work together again. And so M/A/R/R/S are one-hit wonders in the purest sense.

At least one half of this record lives on, though. ‘Pump Up the Volume’, and its nods towards hip-hop and the beginnings of acid house make it as central to the late-eighties as Madonna and the SAW stable of hitmakers. While up next, following on from this most modern of chart-toppers, come a group who have been popping up on this blog for quite a while now…

Advertisements

593. ‘It’s a Sin’, by Pet Shop Boys

Ah, yes. Cleansing the palate after the rotten ‘Star Trekkin’, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a… classic. In fact, with Whitney before and Pet Shop Boys after, we have two beauties sandwiching a stinking turd. Such are the pop charts…

It’s a Sin, by Pet Shop Boys (their 2nd of four #1s)

3 weeks, from 28th June – 19th July 1987

It’s an epic, statement intro, juddering in like a train about to overshoot its platform, followed by a dramatic ‘Skoosh!’ It’s a sound effect last heard on ‘Relax’, and that’s a comparison I think could be maintained for the entirety of this post. Not only in the skooshing, but in the fact that ‘It’s a Sin’ is every bit as gay as its more infamous predecessor.

If ‘Relax’ was an unrepentant celebration of all things queer, then ‘It’s a Sin’ is a little more introspective. A lot more. When I look back upon my life… Neil Tennant announces… It’s always with a sense of shame… I’ve always been the one to blame… Tennant had gone to a Catholic school, where he was taught that pretty much every natural urge he had would earn him a one-way ticket to hell. For everything I long to do, No matter when or where… Or who… It’s a sin…

As serious as the lyrics are, though, the PSBs keep things moving, and shaking. You can pay scant attention to the words, if you wish, and just dance. Tennant himself has said he wrote the song more in a camp than an angry frame of mind. That comes through in the ‘do’ and ‘who’ rhyme, and I can’t help but picture a Noël Coward-esque arched eyebrow on the They didn’t quite succeed… line.

While if you listen harder still, you realise that he isn’t quite as ashamed as he first suggests. In the glorious Father forgive me… middle eight, he ends with a chest-beating moment of affirmation: I didn’t care, And I still don’t understand… It’s a brilliant feat, to write a song about something so unpleasant – his experiences could be seen as child abuse, who knows – but make it so catchy, and so funny. ‘Relax’ was in your face; ‘It’s a Sin’ outs itself more slowly, but just as effectively.

‘West End Girls’ is the Pet Shop Boys’ song which is routinely crowned as one of the best songs of the 1980s, if not of all time. But for me, this one beats it all ends up. Tennant and Lowe wanted Stock Aitken Waterman to produce it, but Pete Waterman hated the demo version. The one that got away… (I’d love to hear the SAW take on it.) Tennant has also likened it to a heavy metal song, in its tempo, it’s portentous chords and it’s overblown production. I’d also like to hear a metal version, and the closest I could find was this take by Finnish (of course they are) band The Jade… None of them can touch the original, though. One of the high points of the entire decade.

Advertisements

591. ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)’, by Whitney Houston

And so on to one of the decade’s biggest voices, with her poppiest moment…

I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), by Whitney Houston (her 2nd of four #1s)

2 weeks, from 31st May – 14th June 1987

Her poppiest #1, at least. ‘Saving All My Love for You’ was slinky jazz, and the following two are Whitney Ballads™. Here, though, she sings like the young woman she was, and sounds like she’s having one hell of a time.

Clock strikes upon the hour, And the sun begins to fade… It’s girly-pop 101: the need to dance with somebody, anybody, as long as they love you; from ‘Dancing Queen’ to ‘Just Dance’. It’s slightly contradictory, she is looking for an anonymous encounter with someone who already loves her… A man who’ll take a chance, On a love that burns hot enough to last… but really, who’s looking for lyrical depth?

This is cheese. The lyrics, the castanet flourishes between lines, the strident synth chords before each chorus, and a peach of a key-change. But, there are levels of cheese. And there are two things that save this from being cheesy pop of the Stock-Aitken-Waterman variety. The first is that it’s being sung by Whitney Houston. SAW never had a singer of her capabilities (sorry, Kylie). Check out the way she breathes the ‘falls’ then belts the ‘calls’ in the When the night falls, My lonely heart calls… line. While Sonia ain’t never hit notes like Whitney does in the fade-out. The usual complaints about her over-singing don’t apply here either: it’s much harder to over-sing a bubbly pop tune like this. And even if you do, people are less likely to notice.

The second is that, under all the cheese, the production has quite an edge to it. The squelchy bass in the intro is fun, and the middle-eight breakdown especially has a Prince-like funk to it. It’s worth contrasting the ‘cool’ production on an American hit like this, with the most recent British equivalent, ‘Respectable’. As much as I did enjoy it, and I know it sounds like I’m picking on SAW here, there is a big difference in quality…

Critics picked up on ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’s similarity to Houston’s own ‘How Will I Know?’, and Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, similarities which are there for all to hear, but they didn’t stop it from being a worldwide smash. And, in the UK at least, it marks a significant milestone: the first single issued on CD. The future is rapidly approaching…

And as fun as this song is, it’s skirting very close with being overplayed to oblivion. At hen-parties and ‘80s nights you can safely bet your house on hearing it. I’d suggest it be retired for a decade or so, in order to preserve what is one of the most enjoyable moments, for me at least, in Whitney’s discography.

Advertisements

583. ‘Jack Your Body’, by Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley

1987, then. Officially the ‘late-eighties’. I think you can divide the 1980s into roughly three chunks: the early, new-wave, post-punk years (‘80-‘82), the gloopy, synthy, new-romantic years (‘83-‘85)… I’m excluding ’86 from this, as I’m still trying to wrap my head around that strange year… And the poppier, dancier, HI-NRG years of ‘87-‘89. And speaking of dance music…

(Steve ‘Silk’ is on the left)

Jack Your Body, by Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley (his 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, from 18th January – 1st February 1987

We have our first ever house #1. In fact, we probably have our first modern dance chart-topper, if by ‘modern dance’ you mean a repetitive, electronic beat twinned with a repetitive, inane lyric. Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley was a DJ, a leading light in the Chicago house scene, and jacking is a free-style dance move that looks like a cross between the robot and break dancing (and which Wikipedia helpfully reminds us is not to be confused with ‘jacking off’… something not seen on a dancefloor since ‘Relax’).

It is repetitive and, yes, it is inane. The shortest edit I can find of ‘Jack Your Body’ on Spotify is over five minutes, which is three minutes too long. YouTube has the single edit, which has few more vocals thrown in: some Uhhs and a Jack it up out there… to end on. And yet, there is something thrilling about it, something that still sounds fresh and modern. It’s a window into the future, a line in the sand as we reach the halfway point in our journey through the charts… This is a sound that will last from here to eternity. In the UK, there have been several dance #1s this year. Beyonce, no less, borrowed a bass line that sounds a lot like ‘Jack Your Body’ for her recent smash ‘Break My Soul’.

The part of this record I enjoy the most is the complicated bit, around the midway point, where several different synth lines build together. It sounds a little like a fifties piano instrumental gone wrong – like Winifred Atwell on Ecstasy. Dance music isn’t really my thing, as you’ll see as we delve into the nineties, though I’m not morally opposed to it as some rock-leaning people are. Yet I’m glad that this made #1, both for the variety and the statement that it makes, and that I can claim it as a birthday #1 (I turned one year old on its last day at the top).

Being born in January means that I have an interesting mix of birthday number ones: indie faves, nu-metal, a Disney theme, and the only Chicago house chart-topper. Steve Hurley had limited chart success following this hit, but he continues to DJ and in his work as a Grammy winning remixer has worked with Madonna, New Order and both Michael and Janet Jackson.

Except… Controversial postscript alert! Turns out ‘Jack Your Body’ should never actually have been a number one single. The 12” was too long (ooh-er!), running to over twenty-five minutes which meant it should have counted towards the album rather than the singles chart. Apparently nobody at the Official Charts Company had bothered listening to it until it made the top and so, rather than delete it, they quietly let it remain there. Luckily the worst thing that happened was that ‘Reet Petite’ and then our next chart-topper were both denied an extra week at number one…

Advertisements

576. ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’, by The Communards with Sarah Jane Morris

Back to business, then. Our next #1 ups the pace, thankfully, after the past two treacly chart-toppers. It’s a soaring piano ‘n’ strings intro, a mish-mash of ‘I Will Survive’ and ‘It’s Raining Men’ – in my head anyway – which means disco is back, baby, for four weeks at least…

Don’t Leave Me This Way, by The Communards with Sarah Jane Morris (their 1st and only #1)

4 weeks, from 7th September – 5th October 1986

In comes a throbbing, Hi-NRG synth beat, and a high-pitched voice: Don’t leave me this way, I can’t survive, Can’t stay alive… Jimmy Somerville is the latest addition to our list of androgynous eighties voices, a worthy successor to Boy George, Limahl, Pete Burns and co. He hits some genuinely astonishing high notes, especially as the song builds towards the end. The only downside is that he makes this bloody hard to sing along to…

Aaaaah… Baby! That’s a great hook – one that is fun to sing along with – especially when, ahead of the final chorus, the ‘Aaaah’ is drawn out even further and followed by a ridiculously life-affirming key-change. Over the top brilliance! Meanwhile guest singer Sarah Jane Morris, who wasn’t officially a Communard, complements Somerville’s falsetto with a warmer, deeper voice on the second verse and in her Come satisfy me… lines.

Oh and there’s also the ear-catching solo, with a clattering piano and horns. I’m enjoying this. It’s fun, frothy, and full of life (something much of 1986 has been lacking…) ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ was a cover of a cover. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ disco-soul original had made #5 in 1977, while a pure disco version by Thelma Houston (on which The Communards’ take is based) had made #13 around the same time.

Houston’s version had been taken on as a gay anthem, with significance added to the lyrics as AIDS swept through the community. Both Communards were gay, Somerville having left the poor area of Glasgow he’d grown up in for London, becoming a sex worker in Soho. He’d been in the Top 10 before, with Bronski Beat, but this was his first and only #1. And if he had the interesting back-story, then keyboardist Richard Coles has had the more interesting after-story, becoming an actual Church of England priest, and radio presenter.

Sarah Jane Morris, meanwhile, worked with the duo on several more songs, before moving into jazz and opera. The Communards were only together for two albums, and for three Top 10 singles. A short and sweet chart-career, though one that did give them the biggest-selling single of 1986. This has felt like a bit of a palate-cleanser after the mix of novelties and mawkish ballads that had begun to bog things down. A straight-up, pop banger for the ages. Aaaaaaaaaah… Baby!

Advertisements

Random Runners-Up: ‘So Macho’, by Sinitta

Our second #2 of the week is almost as recent as it was possible to go, and a slight change in mood from Ned Miller…

‘So Macho’, by Sinitta

#2 for 1 week, from 3rd – 10th Aug 1986, behind ‘The Lady in Red’

The world can be a cruel, unjust place. War, famine… ‘The Lady in Red’ keeping this camp classic from reaching #1… plagues, natural disasters…

First things first. This is complete and utter trash. From the clanking, processed, so dated it grates your teeth intro, past the unbelievably cheesy video, and onto the opening couplet: I don’t want no seven-stone weakling, Or a boy who thinks he’s a girl… as Sinitta lays down her dating manifesto (‘man’-ifesto… see what I did there…?) Second things second, I love it.

The chap who wins Sinitta’s heart has to have ‘big blue eyes’ and ‘be able to satisfy’… He’s gotta be big and strong, Enough to turn me on… By the second verse, things have taken a mildly BDSM turn… I’m tired of taking the lead, I want a man who will dominate me… I love these lyrics in part because, let’s be honest, they probably wouldn’t cut the mustard these days.

As much as I love this song, I can admit that, by any barometer of taste and decency, it is pure crap. I assumed it was a SAW production, given the tinny synths, but no. Sinitta was, however, the very first act signed by a young Simon Cowell (the pair even dated for a while). ‘So Macho’ was his first hit single, although it took two re-releases over the course of a year for it to take off. And, as fun as this tune is, if it had flopped we may well have been spared Robson & Jerome, Pop Idol, The X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent… (Sinitta, what did you unleash…!)

In a shocking and truly unforeseen twist, ‘So Macho’ proved very popular in gay bars and clubs, giving Sinitta a fanbase that meant she was good for a few more Top 10 hits. Since the chart career ended she has gone into appearing on daytime TV, helping Cowell out on his ‘talent’ shows, and dating a pre-fame Brad Pitt! A life well lived…

Another #2 up tomorrow…