Number Ones: #63


  • THE DAMNED Eloise (MCA)
  • Week Ending 15th February 1986
  • 1 Week At #1


So, a-ha’s lengthy reign atop my charts meant that it was well into February before the first new #1 of 1986, a cover of late-Sixities smash Eloise by Barry Ryan (formerly half of hit-making duo Paul & Barry Ryan).

The Damned are widely credited with releasing the first Punk single, the seminal New Rose in 1976, but by the mid-1980s they were a substantially different beast. Their bassist, Captain Sensible, had jumped ship for a (briefly successful) solo career at the start of the decade (Happy Talk, Wot, et al), and the rest of the band settled on a kind of archly gothic form of mainstream-friendly pop, produced by the likes of Alan Langer & Clive Winstanley who had helmed hits for Madness and Dexys Midnight Runners amongst others.

Signed to MCA, the relaunch had gone well in 1985; the Phantasmagoria album included Top 40 hits Grimly Fiendish, The Shadow Of Love and Is It A Dream. Some of their hardcore following may have despaired at this new, sanitised version of the group, but Phantasmagoria was an enjoyable collection with just enough edge to maintain some “indie” credibility in a summer of She Sells Sanctuary and Inbetween Days while courting the Smash Hits crowd.

Cleverly sensing the retro boom that would soon take hold of pop culture – with the endless remixes, re-issues with film/television connections as well as the growing reverence of, and reference to, the past – The Damned’s energised run through Eloise proved a commercial masterstroke. On the UK charts, it debuted at #18 (higher than the eventual peaks of all three Phantasmagoria singles) and reached a career-high of #3.

Its ascent to the summit of my own Top 40 wasn’t quite as unexpected; Grimly Fiendish and Is It A Dream had both made #2, The Shadow Of Love #3, and Phantasmagoria itself grabbed a fortnight at #1 during July/August 1985, interrupting the 6-week run of O.M.D.’s Crush.

Perhaps inspired and emboldened by the reaction to Eloise, the band went back into the studio and would release another new album, Anything, towards the end of 1986. Two of the self-penned singles, Gigolo and the title track, were minor Top 40 entries but neither of them especially appealed to me and I wouldn’t add Anything to my collection for over 30 years.

The album surprisingly stiffed on the charts, too, but did feature a decent cover of Love’s Alone Again Or which became their final UK Top 20 hit in early 1987 and – rather more bizarrely – another album cut In Dulce Decorum ended up being included in an episode of Miami Vice.

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