- HOWARD JONES No One Is To Blame (WEA)
- Week Ending 29th March 1986
- 2 Weeks At #1
Ah, here he is again. It’s been a while!
The last time we encountered HoJo, it was early 1985 and the lead single from album #2 Dream Into Action was (just about) extending his then-unbroken run of #1 hits on my chart, dating back to the very first Top 40 I’d ever properly compiled in January 1984. Things Can Only Better would be followed by Look Mama (#5) and the annoying Life In One Day (#9). Neither single hung around on my charts either.
Shortly after Life In One Day‘s release came Live Aid, the event which scuppered the careers of many a Smash Hits favourite and many of Howard Jones’ peers, some with indecent and unwarranted haste, and ushered in the era of the Global Jukebox, whereupon any number of ageing rockstars and former pop idols were stuffed into leather jackets, or spandex trousers (sometimes both) and an array of garish shirts and tops, all in the name of staying relevant in the age of MTV.
(Actually, despite the car-crash visuals, a lot of the music was rather brilliant, but anyway we digress).
Perhaps mindful of this incoming change upon the horizon, HoJo took the opportunity at Live Aid to play up his serious-artist-at-piano image, and play down the jolly-hit-machine side, which allowed him to position himself as more of an equal and fellow musician to the then elder-statesmen of Rock and Pop. Like, say, Phil Collins, or Eric Clapton, or Mark Knopfler. Further concert appearances at the Prince’s Trust charity shows would help cement this impression, and – one supposes – help him transition from short-term Top 10 regular to a long-term album-oriented artist.
To this end, Hugh Padgham (Genesis producer) was subsequently brought in to re-record one of Dream Into Action‘s few genuine highlights, a pared-down ballad called No One Is To Blame. The song was good enough, and strong enough, to impress in its very sparse original album version, but Padgham’s sophisticated, commercial touch did bring an extra, and surprisingly effective, dimension to the track. The producer also brought in Genesis’ drummer and vocalist, a chap named Phil Collins. Who at the time was pretty much cleaning up in the American charts. The intention wasn’t hard to figure out.
It worked, too; the new No One Is To Blame hit the US Top 5 – by far his biggest hit on the Billboard charts to that point – and continued the generally upward trajectory his fortunes on that side of the pond had been taking.
The story over here in Britain, however, was a little trickier. Although the general reaction was positive, and the song had always been considered one of his best, sales of the single didn’t quite back up this enthusiasm. A #23 debut (pretty good for a song that was now over a year old, from an album that had long since disappeared from the chart) couldn’t translate into anything more than a #16 peak (his then-lowest in the UK). Dream Into Action would be repressed/reactivated with this 1986 version replacing the original, but it had no real commercial effect either.
As far as I was concerned, it helped get me back onside with HoJo and his music, reaffirming some of the reasons why he’d become such an important artist for me in my early years of pop discovery, and of course putting him back at #1 on my own Top 40 for a sixth time.