Number Ones: #94


  • ROBBIE NEVIL C’Est La Vie (EMI/Manhattan)
  • Week Ending 28th February 1987
  • 1 Week At #1


After a surprise, we have a curiosity (albeit not one that killed the cat). First released at the tail end of 1986, C’Est La Vie was well on its way down the UK Top 40 when, for reasons I cannot recall, I decided to purchase the 12″ single in mid-February of 1987.

Produced by the late Alex Sadkin, who helmed the Thompson Twins’ imperious pop masterpiece from 1984, Into The Gap, it’s sharp and slick; there are echoes of the sublime Chic sound, as well as a passing similarity to Skin Trade from Duran Duran’s then-current opus Notorious. So, plenty for me to alight upon and find appealing. Yet whatever appeal it had, was strangely slow to take hold.

It was unusual, to say the least, for a single to peak such a long time after release; if it ever did happen, there was always a reason (an earlier hit is re-evaluated after I become a fan of current release, or I discover/buy an album and start playing the track enough to cause a rebound on my chart). In 1986, the latter occurred with Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel, after the So album became something of an obsession, and still to come in 1987, Swing Out Sister’s Breakout – which I had originally loathed – managed to reach #6 thanks to the Surrender effect.

C’Est La Vie would prove to be Robbie Nevil’s only significant chart action in the UK; the follow-up Dominoes scraped into the Top 30, while the reggae-lite of Wot’s It To Ya just missed the Top 40 later in the summer. All three were big hits in the US, and as a Billboard Hot 100 follower, they helped to make them a success on my own Top 40. I would probably have bought the self-titled album (subsequently repackaged) around that time too, but there were just too many others competing for my money (and attention). I eventually got a US import edition of the CD in the 1990s.

Despite such a promising start, it would be another singer-songwriter on the Manhattan label who would really go big, both in America and then eventually across the pond. Richard Marx’s debut single Don’t Mean Nothing and eponymous album arrived on the scene, just as Wot’s It To Ya? was reaching the US Top 10.

In fact, the first Robbie Nevil album to be added to my collection ended up being A Time Like This, released in December 1988 to very little fanfare. Its lead single, Back On Holiday, had been a minor US hit, and attempted to repeat the C’Est La Vie template with slightly diminishing returns.

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