From an extremely harrowing chart-topper, to one as lightweight, as ephemeral, as they come…
Sealed With a Kiss, by Jason Donovan (his 3rd of four #1s)
2 weeks, from 4th – 18th June 1989
I am glad that I don’t have to ponder life, death and injustice as I listen to Jason Donovan’s take on ‘Sealed With a Kiss’. I don’t have to think much at all, for this is basically karaoke. Perfectly good karaoke, I mean that as no slight on the singing abilities of Mr Donovan, but it’s karaoke nonetheless. The production (Stock Aitken Waterman yet again, as was almost mandatory in 1989) is exactly what you would hear in a Japanese karaoke booth: a cheap replication of the early-sixties original.
It is an odd choice of cover for the hottest young pop star in the country. The melancholy chords, the tempo, and the tone of the song feel very out of step for the Hi-NRG late eighties. I suppose, though, it’s a current teen idol singing a former teen idol’s hit from nearly thirty years before (the song tells the story of two lovebirds separated for an agonisingly long summer) thereby appealing to both kids and their parents. Yet part of me wishes SAW had tarted the song up in their usual tinny Eurodisco dressing – that might have been quite fun. As it is, the song washes past almost unnoticed.
‘Sealed With a Kiss’ had been a #3 hit in 1962 for Brian Hyland, his biggest British record, as well as making #7 on re-release in the seventies. (Hyland’s breakthrough hit, ‘Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’ will also soon be reappearing at the top of the charts, in truly traumatic fashion… I can’t wait!) This cover gave Donovan his 3rd #1 in under six months, which is some going. For me, though, it’s a step down from the classic (yes, classic) ‘Especially for You’ and the perfectly fine ‘Too Many Broken Hearts’.
It was also the 3rd SAW #1 in a row, and I’m not sure how many (if any) other producers have done that. Plus, it’s the second consecutive cover of a golden-oldie to make #1. And, even more interestingly for chart nerds like myself, it was the second chart-topper in a row to enter in top spot. That had only happened once before, in 1973. Pre-1990, entering at the top pretty much announced you as the biggest act in the country (or a charity single). As we move into the 1990s, songs are going to enter at the top of the charts more often, and the turnover of #1s is going to increase. The ‘90s are going to take a while to get through, that’s for sure…