Number Ones: #115


  • ABC King Without A Crown (Mercury)
  • Week Ending 28th November 1987
  • 2 Weeks At #1


Just like the proverbial London buses, ABC waited an age to get their first #1 on my Top 40 and then a second one followed shortly after. Well, with a #5 peak for The Night You Murdered Love in between, making it a pair of chart-toppers within 6 months.

Frustratingly, the era which began with the joyous commercial success of When Smokey Sings in May, rather fizzled out with the surprise #44 failure of King Without A Crown. Anticipation had been high for the Alphabet City album, with the general opinion being it was a decent return to the lavish soundscapes and richly cinematic pop of The Lexicon Of Love.

After five years of determinedly avoiding any comparison with their iconic debut LP, shedding their fanbase and veering off into a variety of challenging directions with 1983’s Beauty Stab and 1985’s How To Be A Zillionaire, messrs Fry and White finally gave the public what they’d been clamouring for. Alphabet City sounded appropriately lush, evoking cityscapes and an air of opulence; all it lacked was the presence of Trevor Horn in the production chair. Even that was not the hindrance it might have seemed.

King Without A Crown felt like the most obvious single on the album, and easily my favourite at first. Melodramatic, and peppered with the kind of regal-themed wordplay that you’d expect from Martin Fry, its gear-change for the chorus is pure bliss.

Having debuted strongly at #7 in Mid-October, Alphabet City‘s sales quickly fell away without the aid of a third Top 40 hit, and couldn’t even cling on to a place in the UK Top 100 by the end of the year. Mercury Records could have plundered the album for a fourth single, but chose not to. Yet their sound was perfectly in tune with the pop of the moment; witness the second-hand Zillionaire-isms of Blue Mercedes and their Top 20 hit I Want To Be Your Property from January 1988. Quite why the public would prefer an inferior copy of the real thing always puzzled (and infuirated!) me.


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