Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Every Single UK Number 1 Single (1980-2009) - 1985

Previous entries if you haven't read (soon this bit will be longer than the actual content...)
1980 - http://www.thecinecynic.co.uk/2017/05/every-single-uk-number-1-single-1980.html
1981 - http://www.thecinecynic.co.uk/2017/05/every-single-uk-number-1-single-1980_6.html
1982 - http://www.thecinecynic.co.uk/2017/05/every-single-uk-number-1-single-1980_10.html
1983 - http://www.thecinecynic.co.uk/2017/05/every-single-uk-number-1-single-1980_16.html
And 1984 - http://www.thecinecynic.co.uk/2017/05/every-single-uk-number-1-single-1980_23.html

Now it's time to move right along to 1985:

  • I Want to Know What Love Is – Foreigner – 3 weeks, January 13th to February 2nd

Foreigner had comfortably made a name for themselves with some classic AOR rockers, such as Urgent, Feels Like the First Time and Hot Blooded, as well as hitting the ballads well with Cold as Ice and Waiting for a Girl Like You. But around about the time of 1984’s Agent Provocateur they began to slip and get sluggish and we can see some instances of that with I Want to Know What Love Is. The melody on the keyboard is quite lethargic in how slow it is and paired with the dull drum beat it leads to a song that’s rather downbeat and listless at times – I don’t even think there’s any guitar in this song. Lou Gramm does an alright job overall; though his work on the verse is fairly muted he manages to inject some of his power into the chorus which has a resounding singalong quality to it. Still he can’t quite sell the lyrics which are standard AOR love ballad material. Meanwhile the choral repetition of the chorus at the end get very old very quickly. This ultimately was the beginning of Foreigner’s downward slide and does not at all stand alongside some of their earlier classics.

  • I Know Him So Well – Elaine Page and Barbara Dickson – 4 weeks, February 3rd to March 2nd

Chess is a musical that a lot of people likely know the songs from but have no idea where it came from – who knew that One Night in Bangkok stemmed from this play about an American and a Soviet playing chess that was written by the boys from ABBA? I Know Him So Well was clearly intended to be the breakthrough hit of the musical (and its corresponding concept album) thanks to being a big epic power ballad. This has all the hallmarks of an 80s Broadway musical ballad with the keyboards and strings having that theatrical sound to them, with things getting even more over the top with the entrance of the drums in the chorus, which is quite cheesy but works well for the over the top nature of musical theatre. Both Page and Dickson are strong vocalists, as is to be hoped if you do musicals, and sound their best in the verses as they sing solo, though their harmonies together also are effective (having said that I have no idea which vocalist is which). This is far from the most interesting song from Chess but it’s a solid ballad that fits well into the musical, even if it feels a very odd choice to be a UK number 1 single.

  • You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) – Dead or Alive – 2 weeks, March 3rd to March 16th

Music in the 80s probably didn’t get campier than Pete Burns. A man with so much of an androgynous nature to him that he made Boy George look like Rob Halford, Burns was an entertaining force of nature and we could see that in his biggest hit. You Spin Me Round is perhaps the peppiest record of the year and Burns struts his stuff all over it. His vocals are big and bombastic, selling all of the fun of the song to you from the moment he opens his mouth and leaves you highly entertained. The music of the song only helps with the fun of You Spin Me Round, pounding like a throwback to the disco years and fixating on the keyboard riff that’ll get caught in your head for days. Add in a chorus that’s irresistible to sing along to (likely because it’s lyrically very simple) and you have one of the most entertaining one hit wonders of the 80s.

  • Easy Lover – Philip Bailey and Phil Collins – 4 weeks, March 17th to April 13th

How does pull up the lifeless singer and drummer from Genesis? By pairing him up with the charismatic and talented lead singer of Earth, Wind and Fire, that’s how! This song is an instrumentally exciting one, kicking off with a fiery guitar riff that compliments the keyboard patterns underneath it. The whole song carries on with this hard rock edge with a pretty good guitar solo from Daryl Stuermer. And when the vocals start they’re strong. That’s mainly because of the presence of Philip Bailey, who pulls through with his great vocal range. He sings in his falsetto which helps to add a funky edge to the proceedings and this especially works well in the fade out of the song. But Collins actually manages to do pretty well for himself, with his vocals actually sounding enthusiastic for once; of particular note is the bridge before the chorus. Ultimately this proves how Easy Lover is a surprisingly good duet between these two men; Philip Bailey affirms his skills and this is perhaps the best solo song (so to speak) of Phil Collins. It only went downhill from here for him…

  • We Are the World – USA for Africa – 2 weeks, April 14th to April 27th

Following the mega success of Do They Know It’s Christmas? in Britain, Harry Belafonte decided to create a similar charity song with aims to help the poor people in Africa, only this time using American artists. Getting Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie to write the song, the resulting We Are the World was recorded one night in January 1985, was released that March and became another instant success. But for all that success and all of that good will and benevolent thoughts from the song one fact became clear – We Are the World was a godawful song.

The only thing that really saves this number from being among the worst ever is the performances by a number of the artists involved – if you have Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Tina Turner, Paul Simon and Ray Charles involved then the singing certainly can’t be too bad. Of particular note is the second chorus which is a beautiful consecutive blast of energy from Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry and Daryl Hall (which gets depressing once you consider that for all of these artists this was their only involvement in a UK number 1). But they can’t save a song that’s utterly arrogant in its ambitions right down to the chorus – WE are the world, WE are the people, WE are the ones who make a brighter day. This ultimately bolsters this song from an effort to help citizens of impoverished nations to a stroke of the egos of the artists. The music meanwhile is flat and sappy, trudging along through the endless sparkly synths and building up to that inevitable key change that reeks of desperation. And let us not forget – this song is a bum numbing seven minutes and from the third minute onwards it devolves into nothing but chanting the chorus. The song tries to spice things up by adding solos of the chorus by Bob Dylan and Ray Charles and a duet of the chorus by Wonder and Springsteen but to no avail because they’re all singing the same bloody thing! This makes the song an absolute chore to get all the way through and shows how We Are the World is a saccharine and self-indulgent piece of tripe.

But I will give the song some modicum of credit – at least it isn’t the 25th anniversary version for Haiti. Oh God, the memories of that… Justin Bieber starting the song, all the autotune, Wyclef Jean’s yodelling, archive footage of Michael Jackson to sing his own part, the rap… This song could be a LOT worse.

  • Move Closer – Phyllis Nelson – 1 week, April 28th to May 4th

From the very beginning of this song with the slow moving drum machine and the plodding keyboard riff you can tell that this song is going to be the epitome of fluffy 80s love song filler that’ll be forgotten instantly. And the entrance of Ms. Nelson on the song only makes that more of a given. Her voice is very uninteresting and is indistinguishable from a crowd of generic love song singers. But those style of vocals are appropriate for the song itself which is a mishmash of generic love song lyrics that just trudges along for all of its four minute runtime. This is a snoozer of a song that not even die-hard fans of the 80s will remember.

  • 19 – Paul Hardcastle – 5 weeks, May 5th to June 8th

Songs speaking out against war have been proven to be strong numbers in the past – you only have to look at songs from history such as War Pigs, The Trooper and One, as well as last year’s number 1s 99 Red Balloons and Two Tribes to see that as evidence. Paul Hardcastle jumps onto this bandwagon with his dance song 19 which displays clear anti-Vietnam sentiments… over a decade after that war ended. Even ignoring his remarkable lateness on that subject this song is a pretty boring dance song. Relying upon annoying and repetitive drum machines and synthesiser riffs, the music gets old barely after the song begins. The sampling of voice clips from newscasters discussing Vietnam is also very obnoxious; when it’s not hammering in your face the message of “LOOK HOW BAD VIETNAM WAS”, it’s repeating the titular number over and over again until you get driven insane. There are numerous brilliant songs that are anti-war but this is absolutely not one of them, an annoying dance number that shunts its message down your throat with the same repetitive talking points.

  • You’ll Never Walk Alone – The Crowd – 2 weeks, June 9th to June 22nd

Another day in the 80s, another charity single being released. This time it was in aid of the Bradford City stadium fire that killed 56 people. It’s not a surprise that You’ll Never Walk Alone was chosen as it long has held the reputation of being a football anthem, especially with Liverpool. This rendition of the song however is only marginally higher in quality than that drunk fat bloke belting the song out in the middle of a match. The music and production is very poor, with very weedy keyboards and monotonous drums running through the entire thing, making this another trudging charity single despite only being about 3 minutes long. And the vocalists are not impressive in the slightest, especially the chorus which merely sounds like a chant by drunken football fans. Overall, it’s no wonder this one was forgotten quickly in the grand scheme of charity singles in the 80s – it’s really boring.

  • Frankie – Sister Sledge – 4 weeks, June 23rd to July 20th

Years after Sister Sledge hit their peak in popularity with disco hits such as We Are Family and He’s the Greatest Dancer they finally snuck to the top of the UK singles charts with this song, ostensibly a tribute to Frank Sinatra. Musically Frankie is quite a bit different to those two songs, taking on a more R&B approach with the instruments, especially the trumpet near the end of the song, and the drum beat, accentuated with the finger clicking that happens throughout the verses. This gives the song a somewhat upbeat edge that unfortunately is not bought up a great deal by the sisters. They do an OK job, especially with the harmonies sung together in the chorus, but the lead vocals are overall weak, simpering through the lovey dovey lyrics of the song. Add on the fact that the song feels far too long, with too many repetitions of the chorus, and this is a song that’s rather hokey and is far from the most enjoyable work of Sister Sledge.

  • There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart) – Eurythmics – 1 week, July 21st to July 27th

Of all the songs the Eurythmics released in their lifespan this one was the only one to hit the top spot but it’s an excellent one to hold that honour. Straight away your ears will be hit by the vocals of Annie Lennox who delivers an almost classical music sounding performance. We can see with this the introduction and the chorus, where her backing vocals sound operatic in their style – her delivery following the second chorus is some of the best of her career. This song is another clear sign of how Lennox was one of the premier vocalists of the decade. Musically the song is also very interesting, taking on a gospel style that works with the uplifting and yet somewhat strange lyrics. This tone feels more pronounced following the second chorus with backing vocalists contributing to the atmosphere. Add to that a harmonica solo performed by Stevie Wonder (hey, he finally made it onto a good UK number 1 single! I’m so proud of you, Stevie) and you get a song that’s spiritual in its tones with great vocals and a simple but uplifting melody and one of the most defining tracks of the Eurythmics.

  • Into the Groove – Madonna – 4 weeks – July 28th to August 24th

Give the UK some credit over the US in this instance – whilst Into the Groove languished in America because of its inability to chart as it was not properly released as a single, it rocketed up to the top of the charts in the UK and gave Madonna her first number one. It’s a fitting first number one too as Into the Groove is perhaps her first really excellent song. Relying on a funky beat and keyboard riff, this is a song that really invites you to dance. The lyrics help with this as they’re simply written but effective, written about the fun of going out and dancing, maybe finding that special somebody along the way… This makes Into the Groove a rather sexy song and Madonna’s vocals definitely contribute to this atmosphere. Her voice is powerful and flirty, summoning you to come closer and be with her, especially seen in the chants of “Now I know you’re mine” near the end of the song. This is a simple yet effectively brilliant number that shows the true power of Madonna for the first time.

  • I Got You Babe – UB40 and Chrissie Hynde – 1 week, August 25th to August 31st

Oh, Chrissie, why? Why did you have to throw away your dignity by agreeing to sing alongside one of the most annoying reggae groups of all time? Only last year you did the brilliant Learning to Crawl and now you’re singing on this lame cover of Sonny and Cher’s signature song? And being in the presence of UB40 must have dragged down Chrissie’s enthusiasm quite a lot as her vocals are surprisingly quite flat and uninspired through much of the song, only really soaring in the section before the hackneyed key change. Then again, if your vocal partner was Ali Campbell I could sympathise with you not wanting to be so enthusiastic as he’s very monotonous throughout this number and his attempts to inject more light into his vocals ring completely false. Add onto that is the music, which is so flat and lifeless and just plods along with no plans of being any more interesting any time soon. As such it makes the song, which is only about three minutes long, feel like an absolute eternity. This kind of dullness is to be expected when dealing with UB40, but bringing down a Pretender with them makes this song much worse.

  • Dancing in the Street – Mick Jagger and David Bowie – 4 weeks, September 1st to September 28th

If you were to freeze frame a point in the careers of both Mick Jagger and David Bowie that you could call their absolute nadirs then you would stumble upon this absolutely cringe inducing duet. The fact that it was designed as a charity song following Live Aid says far too much as it shows how two amazing singers were willing to slump into utter embarrassment just to raise a few pennies for starving Africans. A cover of the song by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, this version merely comes across as drunken karaoke between the two stars. Jagger belts the song out with such annoying force that you can tell that he was in the weakest part of his career. Bowie meanwhile seems to be drowned most of the time in the duet between the two as a result of the song’s poor production. But when he does come to the forefront you’ll wish he didn’t as he sounds like he’s slurring as if he hit the wine too heavily, a little reluctant to get into the song. The song just crashes along like it’s attempting to be fun but it instead is an utter annoyance. The lowest point for Jagger and Bowie.

  • If I Was – Midge Ure – 1 week, September 29th to October 5th

Midge Ure had seen his stock rise in the previous year with his co-writing credit on Do They Know It’s Christmas? – clearly this was the time for a big hit for him. Too bad that said hit was as monotonous as If I Was. It’s a weak synth pop song that plods along throughout that makes it a tough sit to get through – the drums are incredibly weak and the keyboards are droning and dull. Not even the guitar solo provides excitement as it simply plays the same repetitive notes over and over. Midge’s vocals are OK but absolutely nothing to write home about, and the lyrics are simplistic tripe about how he’s going to change the world and please his woman. The song also feels like it’s going to wrap up at around 3 minutes but then trudges on for 2 more minutes more. Not your best work, Midge.

  • The Power of Love – Jennifer Rush – 5 weeks, October 6th to November 9th, biggest selling song of the year

In America one of the biggest songs of 1985 was The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News. A crisp 80s pop song, it blasted with wonderfully upbeat keyboards and Lewis delivered a powerhouse performance that bought the song into pop royalty, only accentuated by its appearance in the seminal Back to the Future. But we in Britain were not so lucky; we did not get the success of that song (it peaked at number 9, for God’s sake!). Instead, we got stuck with The Power of Love by Jennifer Rush.

This is an incredibly sappy dirge of a ballad, saddled with all the usual love song clich├ęs in the lyrics about how good the man makes the woman feel and she’ll always be there for him. Bleurgh. This is only made worse by the music, which relies on droning and repetitive keyboard notes and an incredibly dated and slow moving drum machine, and Rush’s vocals which have a very abrasive quality to them. It’s strange to describe but she sounds like she’s almost drunk in her delivery and the vocals sound oddly slurred. The shrillest moments in the chorus do not help this at all. Overall, this is an aggressively annoying and sappy love ballad that just goes on and on with no sign of improvements. No wonder it was covered by Celine Dion later on down the road.

And if that wasn’t reason enough to hate this song, consider this: for three of the five weeks that this song was number 1, an absolute classic and one of the best pop songs of the decade, if not of all time, was stuck at number 2. That song? Take on Me. For shame, United Kingdom.

  • A Good Heart – Feargal Sharkey – 2 weeks, November 10th to November 23rd

The Undertones was a very fine pop punk band and lead singer Feargal Sharkey helped to cement their popularity with his quivery yet strong sounding vocal style – listen to Teenage Kicks for obvious signs of this. His first solo record is much different in style to the punk of his work with The Undertones though, being more in a synthpop style with some soul influences, and I’m not too sure it’s an improvement. Most notable is Feargal’s vocals, especially in the verses, where his Irish accent is far more pronounced and is even shakier than before, almost trying to make himself more vulnerable. He’s relegated in the chorus as a group of female backing singers take his place. The music is decent if not a bit repetitive in the melody, whilst a guitar solo is simplistic but well done. This certainly won’t surpass his work in The Undertones but it isn’t too bad in spite of the radical musical shift that Feargal took.

  • I’m Your Man – Wham! – 2 weeks, November 24th to December 7th

Of the straight up pop songs from Wham!, this one is probably my favourite. It’s still very goofy and silly but it works for me, mainly because George Michael’s vocals were really developing around this time. He sings this song with a great deal of conviction and excitement, which helps to pull up I’m Your Man from a simple song about seducing a woman to something a little more exciting. The music’s also solid for the most part, relying on a funky keyboard bassline and featuring a solid saxophone solo. It does repeat itself a little too much at the end, being dragged out far longer than it ought to be, shows how Wham! could write a solid pop song when they wanted to and is one of their best numbers in spite of the silliness it holds.

  • Saving All My Love for You – Whitney Houston – 2 weeks, December 8th to December 21st

The first number one single by Whitney Houston is certainly not a bad number to introduce her to the world as it was able to demonstrate how strong a singer she could be. Her vocal range on this song is very impressive, most notably in the sections before the choruses. Her singing ranges from being light and vulnerable to strong and independent and she’s able to inject a lot of life into this song, delivering excitement into the fairly generic lyrics about loving a man. The music isn’t anything to write home about though, relying on a slow keyboard rhythm and drum beat, but the saxophone that runs through the song is well done. Overall this is a solid starting block for Ms. Houston’s career, pulling up an average R&B ballad to something really rather good with her powerful voice.

  • 19. Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens – 2 weeks, December 22nd to January 4th 1986

Of the four(!) number one singles that Shakin’ Stevens had, this is really the only one that I find to be understandable. It’s a Christmas song that has an earworm of a melody and simple lyrics that make the whole thing easy to sing along to. That doesn’t mean it’s a particularly good song though – it’s rather cheap and cheesy throughout, with the keyboards being annoying and the sleigh bells being overbearing. The biggest issue though is that Shaky is still not a good vocalist either, with his voice just seeming so lifeless for the most part – for God’s sake Shaky, this is a Christmas song, make it sound like you’re having fun! This clashes horribly with the almost unbearably upbeat music, which frequently sounds like it came straight out of the 1950s Christmas song playbook, particularly with the sax solo, and the lyrics that espouse the fun of enjoying a Christmas party. An obvious key change doesn’t help matters as the song just plods on and on with the vocals being just so lifeless! I get why people would like this but to me it’s just a banal song that’s so desperate to be upbeat and exciting but just fails and feels tacky in a “this song will appear in every Christmas shopping advert” kind of way. Sorry, I assure you I’m not this much of a Grinch with Christmas songs.

FINAL THOUGHTS - What a leap down in quality. 1983 and 1984 were both solid years with plenty of classic memorable songs. This year – barely anything. So many songs that dominated the charts were boring (19, If I Was), cringe inducing (I Got You Babe, Dancing in the Street) or both (We Are the World, The Power of Love). Only a couple of really solid songs existed this year and to say that they weren’t enough to pull 1985 up is an absolute understatement – even these best songs weren’t on par with the top hits of the previous years. The last two years I had trouble picking the best song of the year – this year it was hard to choose the worst, there were so many weak ones. If your nostalgia goggles were still on at this point I hope that they’ve now been well and truly yanked off.

The most depressing thing about doing 1985 was looking across the pond to the songs that were number 1 in the States. So many classics that year – Take on Me, Don’t You (Forget About Me), Money for Nothing and The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and The News! These only serve to make the UK number 1s of this year that much more pathetic and remind us that 1985 still had some absolutely cracking songs released – but the British public clearly did not have enough interest in them. For shame.

  • BEST SONG - There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart)
  • WORST SONG - I Got You Babe

Hope you had a better time reading to this list then I did listening to these songs - did you agree or disagree with me fervently on any of these songs? If you want to see more from me, give my Facebook page a like: (https://www.facebook.com/CineCynic1996/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel) and maybe you can throw me a few pennies on Patreon if you really liked my stuff (https://www.patreon.com/CineCynic1996). Next time we meet we'll naturally be discussing 1986 - hope to see you there.

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