Number Ones: #33


  • HOWARD JONES Things Can Only Get Better (WEA)
  • Week Ending February 16th 1985
  • 1 Week At #1

Business as usual for HoJo, with his first new single since the Summer of 1984 duly hitting the summit and extending his unbroken run of chart-toppers to five (six if my charts had officially begun while New Song was around).

Yet all was not quite as rosy as it appeared; although Things Can Only Get Better reached #1, it did so for just a solitary week. Singles were also beginning to chart much higher on my Top 40 (two of the previous four #1s had debuted in pole position), but not even a brand spanking new Howard Jones record could emulate The Thompson Twins and Heaven 17’s achievements. It got there eventually, but took longer than anticipated.

Most tellingly of all, having purchased everything HoJo had released thus far (What Is Love 12″, Hide & Seek 7″, Pearl In The Shell 7″, Like To Get To Know You Well 7″, plus the two LPs Human’s Lib and The 12″ Album on vinyl), I didn’t feel suitably inspired to add Things Can Only Get Better to my collection. I can’t even use the “well I decided to wait for the album instead” excuse, since that never happened either (I’d belatedly pick up Dream Into Action towards the end of the 1980s for completism’s sake). Hmm.

Nevertheless, it was the perfect lead single for that difficult second album, containing enough elements of the Human’s Lib-era sound and lyrical outlook to counterbalance a new, more synthetic approach to the arrangements and especially his visual persona. Its reliance on a “woah woah woah” refrain, boosted by the wonderful female vocal trio Afrodiziak, recalled What Is Love? to some extent, and it had no trouble reaching both the UK and US Top 10. So far, so good.

Even now, I can’t make up my mind about Dream Into Action; there were aspects of it which felt hugely disappointing in 1985 and still strike an unconvincing note 30 years later. Was it simply rushed? Did the end of his lyrical partnership with William Bryant really make such a difference? Had the prospect of US success turned his head and prompted a less subtle approach? Who on earth decided on the final running order?

Pop was becoming more plastic by 1985, too, so in a paradoxical way this jazzed-up, multicolour version of Howard Jones fitted into the changing chart landscape. It certainly cemented his popularity in America, but at a cost to his UK profile. Sales for the album were decent in Britain, though not at the same level enjoyed by Human’s Lib and each of the singles peaked at a lower position than its predecessor.

Things Can Only Get Better would be his last #1 of 1985 on my own Top 40; Look Mama reached #5, while Life In On Day – one of Dream Into Action‘s worst culprits for banality (musical and lyrical) – could only make #9 on a very brief sojourn. It would take until 1986, and a reworking of one of the album’s genuine highlights, to get Howard Jones back on track.


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