Number Ones: #148


  • Week Ending 31st December 1988
  • 3 Weeks At #1

Yes, I succumbed. Despite having zero interest in Neighbours, and still not being able to watch television of any kind due to my condition, somehow Kylie & Jason managed to squeeze themselves into the No.1 spot on my own chart, right at the very end of 1988.

Early Stock/Aitken/Waterman (1984-1986) had often been to my tastes; the Hi-NRG stylings of Hazell Dean and Dead Or Alive in particular. SAW had already scored a trio of #1s on my Top 40 in 1985 with the latter’s You Spin Me Round and Lover Come Back To Me, followed later that year with the sublime debut by Princesss, Say I’m Your Number One. They almost repeated the trick with Mel & Kim, whose third single – the title cut from F.L.M. – made #2, while the funky Roadblock – released under their own name, amid some mystery white-label wind-ups – came equally close to the summit.

That same summer, however, brought the first signs that Mike, Matt and Pete were taking their sound (and their choice of artists) into places I was less enthused by. Sinitta’s Toy Boy, Bananarama’s Love In The First Degree and Never Gonna Give You Up by their latest discovery Rick Astley were all monster hits, but I couldn’t stand them. The first is no surprise of course, but I’d liked the ‘Rams collaboration with SAW on the True Confessions album as well as the lead single from 1987’s Wow, the more subtle pop of I Heard A Rumour. As for Rick, my absolute bafflement at the enormous success of his debut single was only multiplied when the Americans went gaga for him/it as well. Strange times indeed!

And then along came Kylie. We can look back now and say, oh I Should Be So Lucky is something of an 80s classic, but at the time I wasn’t having any of it. Her second and third singles were greeted with the same reaction. In a world of I’m Not Scared, why on earth would you want Got To Be Certain or a pointless cover of The Locomotion? COME ON PEOPLE, PULL YOURSELVES TOGETHER!

But 1988 pop was like that in general. A bit bonkers. A bit crap. But sometimes unexpectedly brilliant. That’s not to say Especially For You was especially brilliant, but it was rather unexpectedly decent. The seeds of my change of heart towards Kylie Minogue (or the music that SAW were creating for her) went back to the release of her debut album in the summer of 1988. In amongst the hits and a handful of other tracks cut from the same cloth, lurked some more interesting moments; Turn It Into Love was a minor-key stomper, more akin to the Hi-NRG style of earlier SAW, while Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi showed a quite brazen nod to ABBA. Look My Way, with its convincing approximation (and appropriation) of US R&B flavours, was another indication that perhaps SAW hadn’t totally turned their back on what they used to do so well.

By the end of the year, the Kylie juggernaut (and SAW themselves) were at the epicentre of the pop culture universe. Her onscreen character in Neighbours was getting married, to the good-looking chap played by Jason Donovan (who had recently made inroads of his own on the UK Top 5 with SAW’s Nothing Can Divide Us). It was (so I believe) the televisual event of that winter; even the painful ballad sung at the wedding by a bloke called Angry Anderson hit No.3.

What better moment for SAW to put TV’s golden couple together on record! I’m surprised Smash Hits didn’t combust with the excitement of it all. And, importantly, what better moment for SAW to come up with their finest offering in ages. Okay, so Jason had yet to fully acquaint himself with being in tune, but the result was endearing enough and the format of the song meant it didn’t really matter. This was pure pop. A little sappy, shamelessly manipulative, but somehow celebratory.

Of course, this being the Christmas charts in Britain, no amount of planning could legislate for the Mistletoe & Wine shaped curveball which temporarily prevented our Neighbourly icons from scoring the actual UK Xmas chart-topper as it had been written in the stars (or by Pete Waterman, though there’s little difference. He invented the stars, you know…). Yes, it was peace and goodwill to all men, even those named Cliff Richard, as Especially For You patiently waited its turn for 4 weeks, ringing in the New Year by toppling the King Of Christmas himself.

So, rather oddly, even with Pet Shop Boys and Bros initially keeping it at bay on my own chart, it was still a #1 for me before the rest of the country.


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