Sometimes the Ace, Sometimes the Deuces

It’s January 8 which means it’s happy birthday Mr. Bowie and that it would have been the 79th birthday of the King.

It’s also the 30th anniversary of the first new singles chart of 1984. I have already stated my goal of proving that 1984 was the greatest year in the history of the world for popular music and, if I’m being honest, this first chart isn’t doing me any favours.

Let’s start with the new entries to the top 40. In at 40 is something by Whitesnake that I don’t recognize. New at 39 was Eartha ‘Catwoman’ Kitt’s novelty hit “Where is My Man“. Fresh at 38 was Gloria Gaynor’s cover of “I Am What I Am” from the stage musical version of La Cage Aux Folles.

I don’t believe I ever related to the song as anything more than a great disco comeback for Ms. Gaynor, but listening now to Jerry Herman‘s lyrics, they are wonderfully determined and moving. I don’t mean to suggest that Ms. Gaynor trivialized the song, but it’s worth meeting this creature in its natural habitat.

working with fire and steelThe next new entry is a proper 80s throwback – “Wishful Thinking” by China Crisis. It’s got stringed instruments, often played pizzicato, and the kind of fey earnestness that is easy to ridicule. Perhaps the most mockable aspect of the “Wishful Thinking” is its parent album with the quintessentially 80s title, Working with Fire and Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume Two. I think we all know that there was never a Volume One.

The next new entry was at no. 32 and it was the last original song ever released by The Police. “King of Pain” may not have been their finest moment, but it was a worthy last gasp and way better than aural nightmare “Synchronicity II”. I think any time you’re writing about black spots on the sun and saying “It’s my soul up there” is probably a good time to break up the band. Sting is on record saying that “Every Breath You Take” was the easiest song in the world to write and he did it mostly with a rhyming dictionary. “King of Pain” is more of the same, but for my money the rhymes are cleverer because they look less obvious.

I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign,
But it’s my destiny to be the King of Pain

New at 28 was the first and only top 40 entry for Icicle Works. I’m listening to it now and I can’t recall ever having heard it before. Poor Icicle Works. I’m putting the video in here now, just so you can see the lead singer’s scarf. I long for a time when popstars will once again wear scarves in their videos.

The second highest new entry came straight from the telly. To my southern ears Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was almost entirely incomprehensible. I couldn’t make any sense of it at all. There was a bunch of men working somewhere on a building site and at least a couple of them were idiots. The only one I paid any attention to was Pat Roach, who I remembered as the Nazi who walks into a moving propeller in Raiders of the Lost Ark (no. 5 on this list of Best Indiana Jones Death Scenes). Somehow, people loved  Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and its theme song was straight it at no. 18, “That’s Living Alright“.

The highest new entry is the year’s first true abomination. It’s Welsh Elvis meets Welsh Ena Sharples. Shaky and Bonny with “A Rockin Good Way“.

ena sharples

I promise to come back and talk about the highest climber inside the top 40 in a couple of days, but for now here is the first top 5 of 1984.

5 Love of the Common People by Paul Young

Still my favourite Paul Young single this was on its way down after peaking just before the new year.

Daddy’s going to buy you a dream to cling to.
Mummy’s going to love you just as much as she can.

4 Tell Her About It by Billy Joel

Following up his no. 1 “Uptown Girl”, Joel would continue to mine the album An Innocent Man for hit singles throughout the year. Not my favourite Joel song, but the first real sign that 1984 was going to be something special.

3 Marguerita Time by Status Quo

It’s not that I hate Quo, I just can’t bear this song. Sorry.

2 What is Love? by Howard Jones

First he implores us to throw off our mental chains and then he actually has the temerity to ask “Does anybody love anybody anyway?” Mind. Blown.

Howard Jones was until only recently the holder of the dullest name in pop (ladies and gentlemen, I give you… John Newman). He’ll show up again in the charts later in 1984, but it might interest you to know that for the past 25 years he has had a regular gig as one of the black keys on Thomas Dolby’s synthesizer.

1 Pipes of Peace by Paul McCartney

Ahhh. Don’t tell me you don’t love this. It was McCartney’s first ever solo no. 1 after 17 with the Beatles and one each with Wings and Stevie Wonder. He was 41 years old. Pipes of Peace the album was a fairly daft affair. His previous album Tug of War had meant an awful lot to me. I played the tape until it wore out. I first wrote about Tug of War on a review site about 10 years ago. You can read it here.

McCartney tried to repeat the formula of Tug of War with Michael Jackson playing the part of Stevie Wonder. But it’s not as good. There’s this single and another McCartney classic ballad called “Through Our Love”, but the rest is pretty poor. If you haven’t seen this in a while, it’s still hokey, but it’s also rather lovely.

Today’s Stats

  • Currently reading – Harvest by John Crace, page 105
  • TV watched since last blog – Sherlock 302 – “The Sign of 3″; The Good Wife 511; Major Crimes 217; Justified 501
  • Best song heard on the radio today – “All the Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show
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2 Responses to Sometimes the Ace, Sometimes the Deuces

  1. Pingback: Hit Me With Your Laser Beams | Guilty Feat

  2. John Fisher says:

    Daniel. The only person I could relate to here was Ena Sharples. Your starter for 10 – In the early sixties (which were admittedly before 1984), who used to sit in the Snug at the Rovers Return with Ena and Minnie?

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