Number Ones: #84


  • Week Ending 11th October 1986
  • 3 Weeks At #1


Next up, the return of HoJo; by far the most successful act on my charts in the first few years of compiling them, and now apparently on the way back to his best after the rushed, irritating day-glo pop of Dream Into Action.

The re-recorded No One Is To Blame had already reached #1 on my Top 40 earlier in 1986, and now he returned with a brand new song to launch One To One, (studio) album number three. All I Want was exactly the Howard Jones record I’d been waiting for since late 1984.

On the surface, all the signs were good; the silly hair had been sensibly trimmed, the gaudy shiny suits dispensed with, while the track itself bore similarities with the darker, more thoughtful style of Human’s Lib than the lightweight guff of Dream Into Action. This seemed like good news. As did the prospect of legendary producer Arif Mardin being at the helm for the whole album, fresh from his seminal work with Chaka Khan and Scritti Politti.

Unfortunately, he had made the right record at the wrong time. Autumn 1986 witnessed a quite brutal sea-change in the UK’s tastes, with the barely-established mid-80s pop royalty being unceremoniously shunted aside. Paul Young, Nik Kershaw, Go West, O.M.D., The Human League, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Howard himself would join Thompson Twins, Blancmange, ABC and Madness (the latter pair temporarily) on the scrapheap. More would follow by the time 1987 came along.

All I Want entered the UK Top 40 at #38, limped to #35 (perhaps not helped by a strangely muted Top Of The Pops performance, with HoJo clearly not feeling 100%) and then crashed out. On a chart filled with novelty records, nascent House tracks, Eastenders actors and a lot of music that wouldn’t have been successful a year or two earlier, All I Want sounded lost, an echo of a recent past that with typical cruelty the British public had decided to leave behind. Watching a Top Of The Pops during this era for followers of mid-80s favourites, when a georgeous Paul Young single like Wonderland bombed out at #24 and went down like the proverbial lead balloon with the studio audience, must have been similar to how fans of the great 60s and 70s acts felt as Slade, T. Rex and their ilk went down the dumper.

In America, the label opted for You Know I Love You….Don’t You?, an effervescent bop that rattled along at quite a lick, evoking the plastic pop of Dream Into Action but saved by a superior arrangement and, basically, a stronger melody than anything on that album. It was a wise move, since the US seemed to prefer upbeat, bouncy HoJo on the whole; All I Want would later be a single there, but became his first flop for some time, reaching the mid-80s on Billboard’s Hot 100.

I previously bemoaned the single choices made by Virgin from O.M.D.’s The Pacific Age, but WEA hardly did much better with the One To One campaign. Maybe they ought to have followed the American schedule, with You Know I Love You.. providing a sonic link from Dream Into Action, smoothing the way back towards a more introspective style. There was a standout ballad on One To One, the gospel-tinged Will You Be There? with its shades of Hide & Seek, but that was ignored in favour of Little Bit Of Snow. Perhaps by that stage, WEA allowed Howard to choose something that meant a lot to him, the song having been inspired by the drug-related death of someone he’d known, but commercially it was a raising of the white flag.

If either the record label or HoJo himself had wanted to try and fit in with the changing mood of the UK Top 40, there was what Smash Hits magazine might have called “an ace uptempo track” called Step Into These Shoes; a lyrically lightweight but breezy nod to the stereotypical Howard Jones sound of old, given the expected sheen from Arif Mardin’s presence at the controls. Also overlooked was the track which Howard identified as his personal favourite on the album, The Balance Of Love (Give & Take), by far the closest he’d ever got to the magic formula of Human’s Lib again.

All I Want nonetheless reigned atop my own chart for almost a month, seeing off a new a-ha single (I’ve Been Losing You) as well as singles from his peers Nik Kershaw (Nobody Knows) and Paul Young (the aforementioned Wonderland). It is a little clunky in the lyrical department (“fashion for the parking lot”, “parcel up what’s left of me”, and so on) but that was always part of the charm, and musically it remains one of his most pleasingly sophisticated creations.

None of this was enough to secure the track a place on his first retrospective in 1993, “The Best Of Howard Jones”; in fact, just one selection from One To One made the cut, but as his last UK Top 40 hit single its omission was still surprising.

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