Funny the cards that fate sometimes deals you. Ask any child of the 1980s what the most iconic moment of Five Star's career was and they will most likely hone in one on particular moment. It is unlikely to be any of their chart hits (12 straight Top 30 hits in an unbroken run between 1986 and 1988), their expertly choreographed dance routines nor their rags to riches tale of being a family group trained and mentored by their father who released their earliest material single-handedly on his own record label.
No, it was the moment in April 1989 when caller Eliot Fletcher asked them live on Saturday morning television why they were so "fucking crap". On such moments do reputations pivot.
It is all the more surprising that the group were in a position to provoke such vitriol, as they were hardly around long enough to overstay their welcome. Indeed, despite their hit singles being spread out over a period of three years, their time at the time was confined to just one. Their debut album Luxury Of Life from 1985 had contained a series of minor hit singles, their true mainstream breakthrough not arriving until the release of its final track System Addict in early 1986. It was however their second long player Silk And Steel which contained their most famous singles. Between April 1986 and April 1987 they were hardly ever off the radio or out of the charts. Can't Wait Another Minute, Find The Time, monster smash Rain Or Shine, If I Say Yes, Stay Out Of My Life and The Slightest Touch. All but one a Top 10 hit. Six perfectly crafted British pop classics all from one album.
It was this record that bankrolled the much-reported extravagance. The luxury mansion, the private recording studio, the fleet of Bentleys. The Pearson clan were a big deal and they revelled in it. Except then the wheels started to come off. Sales of third album Between The Lines and its attendant singles were limp in comparison to past glories. Hence the move in 1988 to a radical change in image. Out went the hooped earrings and multicoloured slacks. In came bleached hair, skintight leathers and a brand new Michael Jackson inspired attitude. Yet by this stage nobody cared. Made for the clubs track Another Weekend was merely a moderate Top 20 hit and when Rock My World, the de-facto title track of their fourth album Rock The World, barely scraped the Top 30 it passed almost without comment - little did anyone know that it was the last time Five Star would ever grace the Top 40 again despite repeated comeback attempts.
Looking back it is clear to see how they went wrong. A change of image and style was indeed called for, but both dad and siblings simply did not see which way the wind was blowing. R&B-led pop was out in 1988. House was in. Could a family group of seasoned performers, talented singers with an already strong pedigree of making hit records have effortlessly segued into the new world of breaks, beats and rhythm? Quite possibly yes. In an age when even Samantha Fox was making Acid House tracks with Bolland & Bolland and being danced to unironically, anyone was ripe for jumping aboard this bandwagon.
At the time though there was one record of theirs I was actually rather sad to see flop. Looking back now the third single from Rock The World has some rather gaping flaws. A little more money spent on production could have meant being able to use some proper musicians, adding real trumpets and strings to the record rather than the quite patently synthesised stuff on offer here. Yet There's A Brand New World is actually a small gem of a pop record, the kind of cod-rock track that they and indeed their idol Michael Jackson were able to pull off rather well. For all its production flaws, it is up there with some of the best songs Denise Pearson ever wrote for her family, even if it went unrecognised at the time. Released in September 1988 the single was a resounding and quite spectacular flop, Number 61 their most miserable chart showing of their career.
It is worth noting that the single the group were on television to promote in April 1989 was an entirely new track, destined for a new album which never saw the light of day in its intended form (thanks largely to its own failure to reach the Top 40) and instead landed on the Greatest Hits album at the end of that year which marked the parting of the ways between the group and label RCA. Given they were on Going Live to promote a record which virtually nobody bought, in a sense that makes it all the odder that Eliot Fletcher should have dutifully phoned in, beat the queueing system, passed the call screening process, waited to be called back and then sat hopefully on the line to give the group a tongue lashing. Five Star had already slid from view regardless.