Number Ones: #136


  • ELTON JOHN I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That (Rocket)
  • Week Ending 9th July 1988
  • 2 Weeks At #1

Further evocations of Summer 1983 came with Elton’s first new material in almost 2 years, as the glorious uptempo piano stomp of I’m Still Standing was revisited for Reg Strikes Back‘s lead single.

Although not a very big hit in Britain (#30), it reached #2 in the US and was widely heralded as some sort of return to form after a miserable couple of years both personally and professionally had seen his worst-received album of the 1980s (Leather Jackets), serious throat problems and a bitter court case with the tabloids over lurid accusations about his private life.

1987’s Live In Australia set had offered some respite, with its rendition of Candle In The Wind going Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic. But his last new track to be a major UK chart hit had been in late 1985, when Nikita hit #3. Its parent album, Ice On Fire, sold strongly as a result but there were worrying signs that the quality control was in decline, something which the dreadful Leather Jackets only seemed to confirm.

I’d bought Ice On Fire, mainly due to a couple of tracks performed on TV at the time (This Town, Cry To Heaven) rather than having any great passion for Nikita. The duet with George Michael, Wrap Her Up, might now seem hilariously inappropriate (two gay men singing an ode to sexually attractive ladies across the world) but it was another catchy single that had more of a Wham! feel than the traditional Elton style.

Leather Jackets should have been an automatic purchase, but I was fortunate to hear a good chunk of the album on Radio 1, either in the Saturday afternoon slot or a weekday evening special (I forget which), and could tell it wasn’t up to scratch. There were only two singles taken from it, and neither made the Top 40 (though Slow Rivers had a low-key appeal, hanging around the lower half of the charts for ages).

By contrast, I Don’t Wanna Go On… immediately struck me as a brilliant record. Musically, it had an urgency and directness lacking on anything since Too Low For Zero five years earlier, and the lyrics were some of Bernie Taupin’s best in about as long, too. “One more set of boots on your welcome mat”, was a line which caught the ear of Green Gartside, judging that week’s new single releases on R1’s Round Table (he would anoint Tiffany’s cover of I Saw Him Standing There as his personal favourite).

As for Reg Strikes Back, its sense of renewed focus (and purpose) was etched into every track. Some of the overblown, kitsch production traits of his previous couple of albums were still evident, but it was clear that both he and Bernie were getting somewhere near to their best again.

To my surprise, no further UK chart entries would follow for Reg…‘s other singles (the boisterous Town Of Plenty, and the exotic ballad Word In Spanish). My personal choice would have been The Camera Never Lies, another track which recalled the commercial splendour of those 1983 hits. The album itself lasted just 6 weeks on the (then) Top 100.

We weren’t to know it then, but a remarkable and deserved return to prominence was just around the corner.

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