Number Ones: #15


  • HOWARD JONES Pearl In The Shell (WEA)
  • Week Ending 2nd June 1984
  • 2 weeks at #1


Another HoJo single, so another #1 on my personal Top 40. Predictable but unavoidable, I’m afraid!

Since his last single, the Human’s Lib album had been released and hit #1 on the UK charts. Of course, it did the same on my own Top 30 Albums list (which I had began to compile simultaneously from March 1984), and had only relinquished top spot to Blancmange’s Mange Tout the week before Pearl In The Shell became his third #1 for me.

In the pantheon of Howard Jones hits, Pearl In The Shell occupies a similar position to that of Dancing Girls in Nik Kershaw’s catalogue of singles; a medium sized hit (#7 in this case) sandwiched between better-known tracks which enjoy a higher profile when viewed through today’s retrospective lens.

Pearl In The Shell is also something of an anomaly for HoJo, with its bold and brassy refrain driven along by an incessant snare drum beat. There are still some keyboards, and a subtle but inventive arrangement from producer Rupert Hine, to add to the playful mood, yet it doesn’t sound like anything else in his repertoire.

As with You Take Me Up on the Thompson Twins’ Into The Gap LP, I didn’t spot Pearl… as an obvious future hit from Human’s Lib. Even now it still surprises me how it did so well on the UK Top 40, proof of just how high his stock was during that period. It has more in common with the non-single cuts such as Conditioning, Equality and Natural in its structure, lyrical style and overall vibe. Perhaps after the sombre, reflective and very grown-up Hide & Seek, showcasing the opposite side of his persona was a clever move on WEA’s part. It kept the pop fans onside without alienating those who had been drawn in by New Song and What Is Love?

Oh, and the 12″ mix is incredible.


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