Number Ones: #129


  • Bros Drop The Boy (CBS)
  • Week Ending 16th April 1988
  • 1 Week At #1

These days, Bros are laughed at but in an ironic way. The infamous mockumentary “When The Screaming Stops” has recast them as endearingly ridiculous David Brent-style figures of delusional self-parody (it is all tongue-in-cheek…right? Right?).

Back in 1988, Bros were laughed at but not in an ironic way. They were everywhere, hyped up by their label and a compliant pop media, and buoyed by a staggeringly enthusiastic teen following that seemed to appear out of nowhere within weeks of the year’s beginning.

1987 hadn’t been great for discovering a new, hot, pop band sensation – Smash Hits tried hard to make Curiosity Killed The Cat (and their lead singer) into something, but they had more in common with the likes of Swing Out Sister, Terence Trent D’Arby, or even Hue & Cry. Despite a #1 album, Curiosity’s Top 40 fortunes took a nosedive on only the 4th single (Free) in the late summer of 1987. Their labelmates at Polygram, Wet Wet Wet, were also given a push towards the teen crowd, and had a willing frontman in Marti Pellow, but again their aspirations to genuine musicality and roots in “proper” songwriting rather undermined the approach, as did their lack of photogenic band members.

So, a new year dawned and the media were still searching for that next big thing. CBS had a trio by the name of Bros; two blonde brothers and an unrelated bassist. The problem was, nobody was buying their records. A couple of singles in the second half of 1987 both stiffed outside the Top 75. Bros looked destined to be the next flop major-label pop act of the 80s, to join Drum Theatre, Spelt Like This, Eighth Wonder, Boom Boom Room and the rest of them in the dumper from hell.

Yet, with the help of the charts’ then-traditional post-Christmas lull, and some renewed promo, the previously underperforming When Will I Be Famous? (check the achingly wannabe title) got a foothold on the lower reaches of the Top 40, just in time for the clear-the-decks chart upheavals of January. Bros got on Top Of The Pops, Smash Hits jumped in at full-tilt, and….bingo. Gimmicks like wearing watches on their shoes, being mobbed outside TV studios, the works.

Of course, there were mutterings about how the boys didn’t actually play on the records, and even the scandal (!) that part of the vocals on When Will I Be Famous? – the really high, feminine-sounding parts – were sung by experienced session vocalist Shirley Lewis. Matt Goss miming her sections on TV only added to the fuss, reported on in that idiosyncratic style of the day by Number 1 magazine and Smash Hits itself. Worra swizz, eh? Bros rumbled!

Did all this hoo-hah matter? Not a jot. The single stormed to #2, and Brosmania was born. So, where did I fit in? A 16 year-old traumatised kid with his health in a mess, cut off from the world and immersed in his David Sylvian, Suzanne Vega and Robbie Robertson CDs. Well, at first I didn’t fit in. I dismissed Bros as the ultra-manufactured, over-hyped, artificial late 80s pop that I took them for.

By the time of their debut LP, Push, in March of 1988, I was buying the CD on the week of release.

What changed? Drop The Boy was what changed. I don’t even know why it altered my opinion of Bros so much. It’s definitely an offbeat thing, quirky in extremis. Matt’s growls and yelps sound positively ridiculous now, rather than strangely endearing to my younger self. Yet it’s got a terrific chorus, a great hook, and that oddball time signature and synth riffs in the verses gave me something more to latch onto than its predecessor (though When Will I Be Famous? is actually rather good, and has aged much better).

Drop The Boy suggested a more interesting take on post-SAW chart pop, and the Push album proved it was no fluke. Even though we now know the boys’ input was deliberately marginalised by a combination of their management and record label, the quality of the final product was, and still remains, beyond doubt. Push, with its state-of-the-art 80s sheen, became as much a staple of my 1988 listening as Prefab Sprout or Scritti Politti.


  1. Whoa… Sure, I was only 15 when ‘Push’ came out, and resolutely didn’t ‘get’ them at all, but I don’t remember them being ‘laughed at’ – all the ‘posh’ girls I knew absolutely loved them! And the media generally seemed to be playing ball. It was only when they tried to ‘do a George Michael’ and get all serious that the tide seemed to turn. At least, that’s my memory, which may be unreliable… And hey, what about ‘I Owe You Nothing’? To these ears, it’s their only ‘great’ single of the era, at least in remixed form on the original 7″.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Watch this space for “I Owe You Nothing”….sometimes I have to keep a little over for the future 😉

      Oh, girls had no issue with Bros – or women (a young lady in the hospital I attended that summer absolutely loved them too), but the non-teen media obviously ridiculed them. I remember Mick Jones of BAD gently mocking them, quite good-naturedly – for those “watches on shoes” stuff. Even Smash Hits/No.1 sent them up with the “Ken” thing and Matt’s miming of the female vocals.

      But yes, the 2nd and especially 3rd albums were where their problems really began with how they were perceived.

      Liked by 1 person

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