Number Ones: #91


  • THE STRANGLERS Big In America (Epic)
  • Week Ending 3rd January 1987
  • 3 Weeks At #1


For my fourth chart-topper in a row, I had a song first heard as part of an album I’d bought make it to #1, rather than a brand new single release. Bizarre Love Triangle had been the clear standout on New Order’s Brotherhood LP, Warriors Of The Wasteland was the obvious other single from Frankie’s Liverpool, and Radio Musicola made everything else pretty much redundant as soon as it entered my orbit.

Now it was the turn of Guildford’s finest, The Stranglers. I’d been partial to many of their 80s releases (Golden Brown, European Female, Skin Deep) and found myself buying the Aural Sculpture album in November 1984 mostly due to Skin Deep (only denied top spot on my chart by Adam Ant’s Apollo 9). There were other appealing tracks on the album, notably No Mercy, Ice Queen and Uptown. All were characterised by a kind of loping, sleazy, horn-filled groove and lyrics delivered in Hugh Cornwell’s strangely compelling trademark drawl.

Big In America was in exactly the same vein. The third single from Aural Sculpture‘s follow-up, Dreamtime, it failed to emulate Nice In Nice and Always The Sun‘s Top 40 placing, a victim of the seasonal pre-Christmas chaos that prioritises novelty and party records above the normal output by often-established artists. Though it only peaked at #48, Big In America hung around for the best part of two months on the UK Top 75.

The sheer volume of new albums released towards the end of 1986 meant that I didn’t get around to buying Dreamtime until about a month after it came out, but as soon as I played it on my Walkman on the journey home from the music store, I knew Big In America was the track I’d be hammering for the next few weeks (along with Radio Musicola, of course!).

Those two songs were the soundtrack to 1986 turning into 1987, with nothing on the actual UK charts interesting me that much; a sorry mix of oldies, cover versions, the inexplicable popularity of The Final Countdown and underwhelming stuff from Alison Moyet, The Communards and Dexys Midnight Runners.

My personal Top 40 was moving further away from the real one, and the distance seemed only to be widening.

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