Number Ones: #134


  • THE CHURCH Under The Milky Way (Arista)
  • Week Ending 18th June 1988
  • 1 Week At #1

If there was an advantage, and I use that term loosely, to being stricken in bed 24 hours a day, intolerant of any direct light and unable to read anything or watch television, it was the way it stirred my imagination into overdrive.

When it came to music, I seemed to become more open to all sorts of things, as the usual preconceptions and associated guff around artists and records (the videos, the photoshoots, the TV appearances, even the single sleeves for the most part) receded into the background, no longer playing much of a role in the whole experience.

Maybe that explains the kind of singles which were reaching the top of my personal chart; I Don’t Mind At All, My Secret Place and this gem of a low-key classic by The Church. Along with Q magazine (natch), my main methods of discovery had become the US Chart Show with Paul Gambaccini and Johnny Walker’s lengthy stint on a Saturday afternoon/evening. All of the above tracks first entered my strange little world via one of both of those radio programmes.

Under The Milky Way was one of two breakthrough tracks by Antipodean bands charting at the same time in the early Spring of 1988; Midnight Oil’s explosive Beds Are Burning being the other. Neither made the UK Top 40 (at least not originally: Beds Are Burning benefitted from CBS’ ceaseless efforts to get their acts into the charts through re-releases and re-promotions by finally hitting #6 in 1989), but both were steady climbers on the Billboard Hot 100. Both ultimately peaked in the mid-20s. I even bought both respective albums on the same day.

When it came to my own Top 40, Under The Milky Way proved the clear winner. Something about Steve Kilbey’s vocals recalled Lloyd Cole, and something intangible about the vibe of the record (perhaps the “wish I knew what you were looking for” refrain) reminded me of a particular favourite from happier times (The First Picture Of You by The Lotus Eaters). It was a potent combination, as the track possessed the ability to transport me to some sort of internal hinterland where my shattered body and damaged psyche could lose itself.

1988 was the year when my buying habits almost completely revolved around albums; if I liked a single, I would invariably attempt to track down the parent LP if one existed; at a time when CD albums were often £9.99 in the London megastores like Tower or HMV, compared to CD singles’ scattergun pricing of between £4 and £6, it wasn’t quite the gamble it may have seemed. Starfish, the album which included Under The Milky Way, didn’t become one of my favourites from the era; at least, not initially.

I’d probably hoped for several more tracks in the same vein, or of the same sublime quality. Which I admit was a bit unfair. Lost was the closest in feel, and Destination captured a similar ethereal feeling as a strong opener. These days, I have a lot more love for the other songs; enough to splash out on the limited edition SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc) release, complete with plenty of bonus material.

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