Number Ones: #100


  • LIVING IN A BOX Living In A Box (Chrysalis)
  • Week Ending 25th April 1987
  • 1 Week At #1



The hundred’s up. Three years and four months after I began compiling my personal Top 40s, the debut single from Living In A Box became the 100th Number One.

Not that I knew it at the time. In fact, it wasn’t until I had to sort out all the artwork for my #1s, for the purposes of this blog, that I realised which single had taken that honour. You’d think I’d be on top of all those kind of stats, but I was always looking forward; to the next possible chart-topper, the next thing to excite me, the next single or album to buy. The extent of my retrospectiveness would be a half-hearted “Best of the Year” list scribbled down somewhere, to be swiftly forgotten.

So, to Living In A Box. Upon first hearing it, via Radio 1’s Singled Out, I was struck by its similarity to Level 42’s Hot Water (a medium-sized hit in 1984). The 12″ single had already been climbing the Record Mirror club chart, so I (wrongly) assumed they were a black band, or at least the singer must be, as the vocals were surely far too soulful for a white guy.

My local chart-return shop had the 12″ on special offer, and I figured it was too good to resist. Of course I hadn’t realised that the extended versions were very different to the 7″ mix being played on the radio! Hardly any of that distinctive Hot Water element was left intact, although I still loved its House Music vibe.

There were more surprises to come. When the video debuted on the Chart Show, the band were revealed to be “three accountants from Swindon”, rather than the funky dudes we may have been expecting. A less exciting vision was hard to imagine, even at the height of Yuppiedom and the fashion for sharp suits among the pop glitterati. They made the blokes in Swing Out Sister look glamorous and interesting.

Nevertheless, the single did brisk business on the UK chart, charging into the Top 10 within a fortnight. Chrysalis had successfully broken a completely unknown band with a gifted lead singer via Go West’s We Close Our Eyes exactly two years before, and just as they’d done then in 1985, they rushed out a self-titled Living In A Box album within weeks of the debut single’s appearance on the Top 40.

Living In A Box was catchy and hard to dislodge from the brain, but it was not quite in the same league as We Close Our Eyes. Frontman Richard Darbyshire likewise had a fine voice, but lacked the charisma and vocal personality of Peter Cox. On too many of the album’s so-so efforts, he sounded like a Michael McDonald clone. It was all very run of the mill and quite a disappointment, truth be told. Go West’s debut LP wasn’t perfect, but it backed up the fantastic first single with the likes of Call Me and Don’t Look Down, and established a definite, recognisable identity.

Although they would score a couple more minor hits from the set, Scales Of Justice and So The Story Goes, it wouldn’t be until their second long-player Gatecrashing, in 1989, that the British public really warmed to Living In A Box as bonafide chart regulars. And even then, it would turn sour very soon afterwards, the band going their separate ways and Darbyshire gamely attempting to forge a solo career.

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