Number Ones: #93


  • RED BOX Heart Of The Sun (WEA)
  • Week Ending 7th February 1987
  • 2 Weeks At #1


Well. This wasn’t in the script at all. Red Box, purveyors of For America, the most annoying, idiotic-sounding, childish pop tosh to grace the charts in 1986 (and the most irritatingly crap single that wasn’t from Eastenders). Red Box, the chaps who specialised in a rather rum brand of happy-clappy, sing-along-with-me twaddle, set to cod-military drums and choirs of children.

(Did I ever mention how much I hate children’s choirs on pop records?).

Red Box, who tried to appeal to the very very young, and the very very old with Lean On Me (Ah-Li-Ayo), with its jolly chorus and jaunty demeanour. Both singles had the nerve to make the UK Top 10. Grrr.

In the words of the late, great Tom Hibbert, “who the HELL do they think they are?”.

And then they released Heart Of The Sun and it went to #1 on my charts.

There’s a certain irony in how I became a Red Box devotee at precisely the moment their commercial fortunes went into freefall; the low chart placing for their debut LP The Circle & The Square could, at first, be blamed on its release at the very end of November 1986. It was a period of the year which regularly proved terminal for most new studio sets, even those by fairly famous acts, let alone one with just a brace of chart hits to their name (Cutting Crew found it equally tough at the same time with Broadcast). However, the #75 entry for Heart Of The Sun proved that a New Year bounce wasn’t on the cards for the album, and the band’s hot streak had come to an end.

Which was puzzling, since Heart Of The Sun is another bouncy, easy-going, highly melodic slice of dippy pop. Not nearly as annoying, of course, so perhaps that was the problem. Red Box, previously experts in the kind of music you hate to love and love to hate, had actually made a single which didn’t inspire extreme reactions.

January 1987 saw very little action in terms of new releases, so I had both the inclination and money to immediately take a chance on the Red Box album, already consigned to the Our Price reduced bins along with Swimmer by The Big Dish and God’s Own Medicine from The Mission. Those, along with Eric Claption’s pristine Armani AOR of August, kept me busy until the first major albums of the year arrived.

The Circle & The Square is a quite remarkable album. Totally bonkers, and stylistically schizophrenic, but never dull. Even the wretched For America somehow didn’t sound so terrible anymore, in its natural habitat. Heart Of The Sun, since it contains the album title in its refrain, is something of a key track yet to my delight there were even more sublime moments to be found. Chenko (a completely overhauled version of an early 80s independent single on Cherry Red Records) just blew me away, a foreboding, dramatic piece of politico-pop that made you wonder how it could actually be from the same people that harped on gormlessly about the “Urelei urelei urelei urelei urelei USA”….

Saskatchewan was another old track, previously issued as a single before signing with WEA, and evoked another of my favourite bands, the Architecture & Morality-era O.M.D., as well as a fair bit of Tears For Fears in Everybody Wants To Rule The World mode. Who knew?!

Sadly, the failure of Heart Of The Sun seemed to deter the record label from further promotion, at least until the end of August 1987, when a remix of the re-recorded Chenko (Tenka-io) was released as the final act of the album campaign. Despite an expensive-looking video, shot on location in South America, it predictably flopped and neither the 7″ nor 12″ versions of this particular Chenko have ever turned up on CD (the 2008 reissue of The Circle & The Square was in the days before largesse and indulgence took hold of the market).

From a personal (chart) point of view, it’s a pity that WEA didn’t issue Chenko sooner, as there was every chance it would have given them another #1 on my Top 40. I must have played that track more than any other piece of music for weeks after buying the album, and still loved it enough to put it at #3 all those months later.



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