Time to continue this seasonal nostalgia trip with the second part of the Top 40 from December 1987, as documented by the Radio One chart show of the time. Here are ten more songs, only nine of which were actually played on the show for reasons which should soon become clear.
File this one under "great forgotten Hi-NRG acts of our time". This was the one and only hit for Blue Mercedes, a duo consisting of David Titlow and Duncan Millar. They always made a striking pair in performance, one wearing a double keyboard synth around his neck, the other dancing around in lurid purple denim shorts. I Want To Be Your Property had the sound of Stock/Aitken/Waterman all over it, despite the fact that the record was nothing to do with them, which makes you wonder if they would have been the massive stars they seemed destined to be had they actually been a part of the PWL stable. After subsequent singles flopped the duo reinvented themselves as an indie group but still failed to find success. Maybe I'm viewing this with a sense of misty-eyed nostalgia, but the epic sounding intro, the perfect pop nature of the record and their never less than 100% TV performances of the track actually makes this a rather underrated classic.
Continuing something of a theme to this Top 30 run, another rather famous single which underachieved in comparison to the exposure and airplay it received at the time. This was the first-ever hit single for the folk and rock fusion band whose previous claim to fame was opening the Philadelphia leg of Live Aid. Featuring their trademark melodica sound, the track was a commentary on the TV evangelist scandals that were plaguing America at the time, several TV ministries having fallen into disgrace following revelations of tax fraud and/or infidelity. Big things were expected of the followup Karla With A K' but that too sadly flopped and failed to chart at all, although it had a subsequent life as a "what is that tune" moment after the BBC adopted it as the theme to their rallying coverage.
21: There Ain't Nothing Like Shaggin' - The Tams
An odd one this as this harmless R&B track was all but banned outright by Radio One and so became the second single of 1987 to be ignored completely by the Top 40 show (Bruno Brookes just referring to it as "a record by the Tams" and moving swiftly on). The track is about the Carolina Shag, a jazz dance that originated in the 1940s and which was experiencing a resurgence in popularity in the States in the late 80s. Of course in Britain "shag" means something rather different which meant that the track took on an unwitting hidden meaning, hence the almost total airplay ban by a po-faced BBC. As a result, it went all but unnoticed that the presence of the track on the chart rescued the Tams chart obscurity, the group having vanished completely after topping the charts in 1971 with Hey Girl Don't Bother Me. Lest we sneer at the quaint idea of refusing to play a record on the Top 40 show for being too rude, the same thing was going on ten years later when Smack My Bitch Up from the Prodigy was deemed unsuitable for daytime, resulting in the Top 40 show playing the b-side of the track and calling it "The Prodigy with a track from their EP". Back to The Tams then, and due to its airplay ban at the time it was genuinely years before I heard a single note of the track. It is to this day absent from Spotify and we are entirely reliant on YouTube needledrops to keep its memory alive.
Originally famous for tupping Madonna and producing some of her earliest recordings, 1987 was the year that John "Jellybean" Benitez became a star in his own right, producing a well-received album of club tracks. Who Found Who was his second hit of the year, a chirpy and appealing pop record that also became the one and only UK hit single for Elisa Fiorillo who at the time was being tipped for very big things indeed. The followup, a new take on instrumental favourite Jingo was released just a few weeks later, resulting in Jellybean seeing in the new year with two simultaneous Top 20 hits.
The highest new entry of the week and the first appearance of the third single from Bad, this the track with the famous video featuring Jackson seducing a lone female walking down a darkened street by dancing around and waving his crotch at her a bit. Just a few months on from the scenes of people queuing through the night to buy the album when it was first released, this was at a time when Jacko could do no wrong and when his collection of underage "friends" was a symbol of his personal charity and not a cause for police concern.
One year prior to this the fourth-best band in Hull were in contention for Christmas Number One with Caravan Of Love, losing out at the death to the reissued Jackie Wilson. This track was seen by many as their attempt to repeat the feat although this climb to Number 15 would ultimately prove to be its peak. The third single from their second album, the track was a memorable duet between Paul Heaton and new drummer Dave Hemingway, foreshadowing the work the pair would do together as members of the Beautiful South. Build would turn out to be their penultimate release, as after one more farewell track in early summer '88 they would go their separate ways.
Those who have been following my accounts of the strange betting odds for the seasonal chart-topper should be aware that the bookies getting it badly wrong early on is nothing new. Case in point, this track from Macca which was being tipped by all and sundry to hit the top for Christmas but which was released far too early and was charging down the chart by the end of December. A new single to promote his All The Best Greatest Hits collection, this is famously Paul McCartney's final Top 10 single for the moment [until fourfiveseconds came along anyway]. By no means his last truly great single release (that honour I think goes to Beautiful Night) this was certainly the last time Paul McCartney made a truly mainstream pop record, a lavishly produced tale of childhood fantasies with nostalgic imagery abounding. The track is also notable for a violin solo from the then all but unknown Nigel Kennedy who proved that in the right hands a Stradivarius can indeed sound just like an electric guitar. Not the festive success it was supposed to be then but most definitely one McCartney's finest moments as a solo star.
1987 represented the one and only flowering of Boy George's solo career, a shame really as the singles he released during this period showed off his versatility an artist to perfection. After hitting the top with a cover of Everything I Own he showed his political colours with the marginally less successful anti-apartheid track Sold and the rather uninspired Keep Me In Mind before sparkling with this rather lovely ballad that many took to be a metaphor for his well-documented struggles with drug addiction. Rather lost in the mix at the time, it just missed the Top 10 and is sadly all but forgotten today, but perhaps the biggest shock was that it was destined to be his last Top 40 hit as a solo star. Another ill-advised foray into politics with No Clause 28 the following spring flopped and then to cap it all he attempted to abandon his trademark falsetto croon and released Don't Cry which featured him singing in a deep baritone. The reaction to that track prompted his label to hold back his next album and subsequently all but cast him to the wilderness, leaving the star to reinvent himself as a star of clubland.
Now here is a question. How many other songs can you name that have had three wildly different versions become hits over the course of just five years and with each one winding up a classic in their own right? Following new wave versions by Robert Palmer ('82) and Rod Stewart ('84), Maxi Priest took the ode to loneliness and turned it into a near-perfect slice of lovers rock, his reward being his first-ever Top 20 hit. Although bigger things were to come the following year thanks to Wild World and his effortless riding of the ragga wave turned him into a club star in the 90s, it was with this unashamed slice of romanticism that the reggae star came to mainstream attention. I don't think he would have had it any other way.
Nowadays the distinctive piano introduction is enough for anyone to identify the jazz classic, but before 1987 it was all but unknown. Originally recorded in 1958, the single was propelled into the chart thanks to a perfume commercial, the release of the single accompanied by a plasticine video made by Aardman Animations which itself is well worth three and half minutes of anyone's time.