And so, to recap…
This one, our 21st, takes us from late 1987 through to mid-1989: the final fully-eighties recap. And although the highway we’re taking continues on towards electronic dance domination, there have been lots of interesting little side-streets and alleyways to get lost down…
For a start, 1988 saw a bit of a guitar revival, with glossy soft-rock chart-toppers from Belinda Carlisle and Robin Beck, U2 getting a bluesy first #1, Simple Minds going epic, as well as Billy Bragg and Fairground Attraction holding up the indie side of things. I wasn’t expecting that, to be honest, as we delved into the late 1980s, and it was very welcome.
There was also Enya’s ‘Orinoco Flow’, one of the stranger chart-toppers of recent years, announcing new-age as a bone fide chart force (the genre will have a bit of a heyday over the next few years), as well as the now-obligatory charity singles from Wet Wet Wet and the Hillsborough Collective. Plus it wouldn’t be the late-80s without a golden-oldie making top spot on re-release, as the Hollies did with ‘He Ain’t Heavy…’
Meanwhile, Madonna returned with her first single in almost two years. In one fell swoop, ‘Like a Prayer’ managed to announce her as the biggest act on the planet (sorry MJ), invent the modern female pop star, and piss off the Catholic church. Not bad going, even if the song still doesn’t quite make it into my own personal Madonna Top 5.
But despite all these little distractions it is, as I said in the intro, dance music which has formed the backbone of what we’ve been listening to. And it’s evolving, seeping into all corners of the pop world: from the manic energy of ‘Theme from S-Express’, the bizarre ‘Doctorin’ the Tardis’, the funky ‘The Only Way Is Up’, and the chilled-out ‘Back to Life’, via acts like Pet Shop Boys, and even Bros. And we can’t move on without mentioning…
Stock Aitken Waterman, of course. If ‘Back to Life’ is a cool Ibiza beach bar then SAW’s take on dance is pure Skegness. They’ve appeared in earlier recaps, but now the songwriting and production trio have begun to dominate British pop to the extent that three of the last four #1s I’ve featured were SAW numbers, and that we could really dub this ‘The SAW recap’. Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan have been their main vehicles, culminating in their classic smoocher ‘Especially for You’, which was based on their wedding storyline from ‘Neighbours’. I have to admit I’ve enjoyed ‘I Should Be So Lucky’, and ‘Too Many Broken Hearts’, though the formula felt like it was wearing thin by the time we came to ‘Hand on Your Heart’ and ‘Sealed With a Kiss’.
Anyway, the main point of these recaps is to dish out some gongs, so let’s snap to it. First up: The ‘Meh’ Award for those chart-toppers you’d already forgotten existed. For the other three awards I’ve got a pretty clear picture, but this one has me a bit stumped. I could throw in the lazy Kylie and Jason songs I just mentioned, but there’s just enough residual pop charm left in them. I could throw in Simple Minds’ ‘Belfast Child’, but that’s too ambitious to be truly boring. So I’m left with Aswad’s cod-reggae ‘Don’t Turn Around’, and Phil Collins’s ‘Groovy Kind of Love’, and I’m in the bizarre situation of re-listening to them to check which is more boring… (bear with…) And it’s decided! I’m going with Phil: one of the slowest number ones of all time.
The WTAF Award feels more clear-cut. Enya was a surprise, but was too chilled-out to be truly ‘odd’. Whitney’s bombastic ‘One Moment in Time’ certainly raised an eyebrow, along with all the hairs on your head, as well as setting off next door’s car alarm; but at the end of the day it’s just a power ballad. No, I’m going for The Timelords’ Dr Who-glam rock-cum-Gary Glitter mash-up, ‘Doctorin’ the Tardis’ – a song so cynically aiming for chart domination that it spawned a ‘How To’ guidebook.
To the Very Worst Chart-Topper, and a toss-up. Cliff gave us Christmas goosebumps – and not in a good way – with ‘Mistletoe and Wine’. Except, I have one eye on his Crimes Against Christmas to come (plus, he’s already won one ‘Very Worst’ award back in the ‘60s, which I now regret, but hey ho…) All of which leaves the coast clear for Glenn Medeiros’s simpering ‘Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You’. Which, to be honest, isn’t truly awful. But then I don’t think any of the past thirty #1s have been truly awful. It’s just wrong place, wrong time for poor Glenn.
And finally, The Very Best Chart-Topper for the period dated December ’87 to July ’89. I like ‘The Only Way Is Up’; but not that much. I love Pet Shop Boy’s take on ‘Always on My Mind’; but they won this award last time (and, as great as they were, I can’t have anyone winning it twice in a row). Then there’s the Madonna-shaped elephant in the room: ‘Like a Prayer’ felt seismic, thrilling, fairly shocking, but perhaps on reflection it’s been eulogised too much over the years. She’d had better songs before it, and she’s got better to come. No, the winner this time is a song very much of its time… S’Express and their manic, pounding, sample-crazy floor-filler ‘Theme from S-Express’. Very much the sound of the late-eighties, and our 22nd ‘Very Best Chart-Topper’.
To recap the recaps, then:
The ‘Meh’ Award for Forgettability
- ‘Hold My Hand’, by Don Cornell.
- ‘It’s Almost Tomorrow’, by The Dream Weavers.
- ‘On the Street Where You Live’, by Vic Damone.
- ‘Why’, by Anthony Newley.
- ‘The Next Time’ / ‘Bachelor Boy’, by Cliff Richard & The Shadows.
- ‘Juliet’, by The Four Pennies.
- ‘The Carnival Is Over’, by The Seekers.
- ‘Silence Is Golden’, by The Tremeloes.
- ‘I Pretend’, by Des O’Connor.
- ‘Woodstock’, by Matthews’ Southern Comfort.
- ‘How Can I Be Sure’, by David Cassidy.
- ‘Annie’s Song’, by John Denver.
- ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’, by Art Garfunkel.
- ‘I Don’t Want to Talk About It’ / ‘The First Cut Is the Deepest’, by Rod Stewart.
- ‘Three Times a Lady’, by The Commodores.
- ‘What’s Another Year’, by Johnny Logan.
- ‘A Little Peace’, by Nicole.
- ‘Every Breath You Take’, by The Police.
- ‘I Got You Babe’, by UB40 with Chrissie Hynde.
- ‘Who’s That Girl’, by Madonna.
- ‘A Groovy Kind of Love’, by Phil Collins.
The WTAF Award for being interesting if nothing else
- ‘I See the Moon’, by The Stargazers.
- ‘Lay Down Your Arms’, by Anne Shelton.
- ‘Hoots Mon’, by Lord Rockingham’s XI.
- ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy’, by The Temperance Seven.
- ‘Nut Rocker’, by B. Bumble & The Stingers.
- ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, by Gerry & The Pacemakers.
- ‘Little Red Rooster’, by The Rolling Stones.
- ‘Puppet on a String’, by Sandie Shaw.
- ‘Fire’, by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
- ‘In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)’, by Zager & Evans.
- ‘Amazing Grace’, The Pipes & Drums & Military Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guard.
- ‘Kung Fu Fighting’, by Carl Douglas.
- ‘If’, by Telly Savalas.
- ‘Wuthering Heights’, by Kate Bush.
- ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’, by Ian Dury & The Blockheads.
- ‘Shaddap You Face’, by Joe Dolce Music Theatre.
- ‘It’s My Party’, by Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin.
- ‘Save Your Love’ by Renée & Renato.
- ‘Rock Me Amadeus’, by Falco.
- ‘Pump Up the Volume’ / ‘Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance)’, by M/A/R/R/S
- ‘Doctorin’ the Tardis’, by The Timelords
The Very Worst Chart-Toppers
- ‘Cara Mia’, by David Whitfield with Mantovani & His Orchestra.
- ‘The Man From Laramie’, by Jimmy Young.
- ‘Roulette’, by Russ Conway.
- ‘Wooden Heart’, by Elvis Presley.
- ‘Lovesick Blues’, by Frank Ifield.
- ‘Diane’, by The Bachelors.
- ‘The Minute You’re Gone’, by Cliff Richard.
- ‘Release Me’, by Engelbert Humperdinck.
- ‘Lily the Pink’, by The Scaffold.
- ‘All Kinds of Everything’, by Dana.
- ‘The Twelfth of Never’, by Donny Osmond.
- ‘The Streak’, by Ray Stevens.
- ‘No Charge’, by J. J. Barrie
- ‘Don’t Give Up On Us’, by David Soul
- ‘One Day at a Time’, by Lena Martell.
- ‘There’s No One Quite Like Grandma’, by St. Winifred’s School Choir.
- ‘I’ve Never Been to Me’, by Charlene.
- ‘Hello’, by Lionel Richie.
- ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’, by Foreigner.
- ‘Star Trekkin’’, by The Firm
- ‘Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You’, by Glenn Medeiros
The Very Best Chart-Toppers
- ‘Such a Night’, by Johnnie Ray.
- ‘Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White’, by Perez ‘Prez’ Prado & His Orchestra.
- ‘Great Balls of Fire’, by Jerry Lee Lewis.
- ‘Cathy’s Clown’, by The Everly Brothers.
- ‘Telstar’, by The Tornadoes.
- ‘She Loves You’ by The Beatles.
- ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’, by The Rolling Stones.
- ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’, by Procol Harum.
- ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’, by Marvin Gaye.
- ‘Baby Jump’, by Mungo Jerry.
- ‘Metal Guru’, by T. Rex.
- ‘Tiger Feet’, by Mud.
- ‘Space Oddity’, by David Bowie.
- ‘I Feel Love’, by Donna Summer.
- ‘Heart of Glass’, by Blondie.
- ‘The Winner Takes It All’, by ABBA.
- ‘My Camera Never Lies’, by Bucks Fizz.
- ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
- ‘You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)’, by Dead or Alive
- ‘Stand by Me’, by Ben E. King (Honorary Award)
- ‘It’s a Sin’, by Pet Shop Boys.
- ‘Theme from S-Express’, by S’Express.