All the UK number ones I bought, part two: 1984.
I guess everyone has a year where music was utterly great for them. A year that tips the balance from something you really like to something that you realise will be an obsession for the rest of your life. 1984 was that year for me. Every coin I had was spent on records (and, really, what else could I spend my money on? Music was the only thing). I bought all but two of the number one hits that year. The two I didn’t buy: Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’ and Jim Diamond’s ‘I Should Have Known Better.’
These are the number ones I did buy:
Paul McCartney ‘Pipes of Peace’
A genuinely lovely record, I think. And, to this date, the last number one Paul McCartney has had. And a good history lesson in the video; without having seen that, I don’t think I’d ever have known about the Christmas truce in 1914, which, it seeems to me, must’ve been a great moment for all those involved.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘Relax’
It’s about sex!? Huh? Really? What an innocent young boy I was. And, of course, it was banned by BBC Radio One and Top of the Pops. How funny it was to watch that show when ‘Relax’ was at the top of the charts, knowing the climax of the top 40 rundown would be rather limp (just a photo of the band, I seem to remember).
Nena ’99 Red Balloons’
After I’d moved to Berlin, a large majority of my British friends asked me, do all German girls have hairy armpits? This misconception is one I blame on Nena. When she appeared on Top of the Pops, it was THE topic of discussion at school the next day: she’s quite sexy, but, did you see her armpits!?
Duran Duran ‘The Reflex’
My next door neighbour Mike and I used to hang out a lot. His father was a mildy eccentric chap: the house was full of books, on shelves, table tops, piles on the floor; he had an air rifle; and a double tape deck, the first I’d ever seen. Mike and I would spend many an evening after dinner ‘breakdancing.’ This, I’m sad to say, tended to mean spinning around balanced on one knee, then flipping onto our backs to try and keep the spin going for a bit. We’d also do our own remixes with his spacey hi-fi. We once made a version of ‘The Reflex’ that lasted about ten minutes. God knows how long it took us to make, but most of it was the intro extended for several minutes: Th-th-th-th-th-th-th-th-the re-re-re-re-re-re- fl-fl-fl- th-th-th-th- re-re-re- fl-fl-fl-fl-flex!
Wham! ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’
Girl’s music, but I really liked Wham!, and to a certain extend, I still do have an interest in what George Michael is up to, musically. It’s always kind of a shame when musicians decide they want to be taken seriously, as it usually means that melodies are put on the backburner, if not thrown out all together.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘Two Tribes’
What a record! The sense of something big happening in a song has never, for me, been as great as the intro of this record. At thirteen, it wasn’t easy for me to grasp the subtleties of world affairs; but this record left me in no doubt, the Americans and Russians wanted to duff each other up. And, of course, that’s what happened in the video. It’s good that you can find this stuff on YouTube: I distinctly remember staying up way past my family’s bedtime to watch this.
George Michael ‘Careless Whisper’
If my memory serves me right, this record came out when we were on a family camping holiday in Somerset. There was another family from Essex next to us, and they had a daughter the same age as me. She was called Elaine. I thought she was super. Nothing came of it, of course: I was thirteen and, God, my parents were there…
That holiday was also the first time I noticed a strange odour coming from my underarm area. Up until then, a plume of talcum powder after a bath was the only personal hygiene I’d needed; but, that summer in south west England introduced me to roll-on deodorant. That, and the mindblowing somersaults in my chest caused by wanting to kiss a girl from Romford.
Stevie Wonder ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’
I have no defence. It’s soppy as hell, but underneath it all, I still think it’s a lovely lovely song. And I’m a sucker for a key change. Any song with a key change endears itself to me no end, even though it’s quite a cheesy trick, (and I’m aware I’m being tricked, but I can’t help it).
I was very impressed by the sleeve of this single. Sadly, I can’t find this record, so I can’t do a photo. But it was just a picture of George and Andrew. That’s fame, innit? Just a photograph, no title, no band name.
Chaka Khan ‘I Feel For You’
A Prince song, a Stevie Wonder harmonica, and a Melle Mel rap. Wonderful. Then an appearance on Top of the Pops wearing very tight leggings, which seemed to earn Chaka the nickname ‘Thunderthighs.’ I think someone was flattering her with the drawing on the sleeve.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘The Power Of Love’
Back when consecutive number ones were quite a rarity, Frankie had three in one year. Their first three singles, too. Not since Gerry and the Pacemakers… Of course, these days, any old tosser can have three number ones if they’ve been on some dumb TV show. But, I tell you, son, back in my day, before electricity, you had to be king of the world! It was a good time, too, as Huey Lewis and Jennifer Rush found out, to be releasing songs called ‘The Power of Love.’
Band Aid ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’
Being a rather worthy budding socialist, I bought the 7″ and 12″ of this song. (This was before I went through my anti-charity phase, ranting to my parents that it was the government’s responsibility; something that I still believe, but am no longer naive enough to believe is an option.) I saw the video recently, and it’s amazing how puffy-eyed and just-got-out-of-bed they all look. No fancy video for this, just a bunch of pop stars seemingly bumming around in a studio. Bananarama still looked really foxy, though.
So, 1984: ’twas a good year. Part three will be the Getting Into ‘Real’ Music Years (aka Records That Don’t Get To Number One Years), 1985 to 1991. But, I warn you, if you think that ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’ is a black mark in my music history, wait until you find out which one I bought in 1985…