OF THE CHARTS
|JANUARY 1985. It's 7pm on Thursday night and time for Top of the
I'm 15, in the midst of a losing battle with acne and a mullet
hair-do that, despite my best efforts, steadfastly refuses to
look anything like John Taylor's from Duran Duran.
Top of the Pops, back then, was still an institution, a must see
weekly event. Okay, it wasn't as cool as The Tube over on Channel
4, but it was still important.
We were a generation defined by our music, in many ways the last
generation to be able to truly say that. You could tell what records
a boy had in his collection just by looking at him. He was a Duran
fan, or a Smiths fan. Or, if he wore too much denim, a Springsteen
fan. The girls - they all looked like Madonna.
So, I'm watching the weekly chart run-down, expertly delivered
by Mike Reed. Or maybe it was DLT. Possibly (ooh) Gary Davis.
The charts are still clogged up by the Christmas fall-out - Band
Aid are still at number one, Wham are stuck at number two with
Last Christmas and Frankie's Power of Love is hanging in there.
There's a multitude of other sins poisoning the top 40 with their
banal presence - Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson caterwauling
and cat fighting with I Know Him So Well, Foreigner are blustering
away with I Want To Know What Love Is and Ray Parker Junior's
Ghostbusters is starting to test our patience.
McCartney's We All Stand Together is really pushing it and Russ
Abbott's Atmosphere, frankly, takes it all a bit too far.
I'm watching all this in my Nuneaton home with my dad. I'm enduring
the usual diatribe about my favourite artists. That Morrisey is
a "speccy pratt". Strawberry Switchblade look like "even
bigger slappers than Madonna, and that's saying something."
Prince is simply renamed "ponce". Her out of Culture
Club though, she's quite nice. Righto.
I'm enduring this. In fact, I'm blocking it out and I'm thinking
about how great it would be if someone from round here made it,
if we had our own thing in Nuneaton, or Cov, to get excited about.
Like it was with The Specials.
And then a new band are introduced. The song kicks in and my young
ears immediately define it as a belter. It's a swirling, joyous
slice of pop, filled with a swaggering energy and topped off with
a treacle deep, distinctive vocal.
And look at them. Gaudy suits. Gravity defying hair-dos, big sideys.
Spray painting their doc martens. Cool.
The setting to the video looks familiar. I say so to my dad and
he agrees. We both look a little closer, before exclaiming simultaneously:
"Hang on. That's Juddy's, that is."
Juddy's, for those not from Nuneaton, is how we referred to Judkins
Quarry which was and still is, well, a quarry really. In Nuneaton.
And this band had filmed the video for their song Love and Pride
there. They'd done this because the band were from Coventry and
they were called King.
And I'd just decided that King rocked.
I couldn't wait to get to school the next morning. I was full
of talk of King, but somehow I'd already been beaten to it. The
coolest kid in class already knew all about them. He'd even been
to see them and he knew obscure songs like Fish. And he was the
first to get the album. And he was good at football. But then,
he also liked George Benson so he wasn't that cool.
Love and Pride was a huge hit,
selling a million and filling dance floors at tacky 80s clubs
like nobody's business.
The album, Steps In Time, came
out in February, went Gold, reached number six and stayed on the
album chart for 21 weeks.
The Cov boys, who had started out playing gigs in the back room
of the General Wolfe in Foleshill, were one of Britain's biggest
bands, playing at some of the biggest arenas in the country.
They had it all, including a lead singer, Paul King, who the girls
were simply swooning for. Looking back, it's not so easy to see
why. I mean, check out that nose. He looks like the child catcher
from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But, hell, the girls loved him.
He had the voice, he had the clothes and he had great hair. Honestly,
back then that hair was more than acceptable. It was cool.
Fine, I thought. I may not get my hair just like John Taylor's
but if I hold my head upside down at the right angle and judge
the trajectory of the hairspray correctly I might just manage
a Paul King. Another glorious failure.
I could do the dance, though. Couldn't I? All legs and leaps and
vaudevillian hand gestures. Looked a right fool. And I wasn't
The hit singles kept on coming - Won't
You Hold My Hand Now, Alone Without
You and my own personal favourite The
Taste Of Your Tears.
And back in those days bands didn't have Stone Rosesque gaps between
first and second albums.
By November of the same year the follow up album Bitter
Sweet had been released, also going gold.
The clock, however, was ticking away on their 15 minutes of fame.
In August of 1986 the band headlined the Yiva! anti-apartheid
show at the NEC. It was to be their last concert. In November
the band were working with Grammy award winning producer Dan Hartman
on a third album when it was announced that they were splitting
A CBS spokesman said: "The split came to a head when the
band started working with Dan. The music direction was changing
and it did not suit King's old style."
Paul flew out to America to embark on a solo career, working with Dan Hartman. The first single, I Know, was a flop. The follow up didn't
fare any better. The album, when it was finally released in 1987,
failed to chart completely.
He kept himself in the public eye by appearing on the Ferry Aid
single Let It Be and joining Wet Wet Wet and others for a huge
Sport Aid gig. He also canoodled publicly with Koo Stark. It couldn't,
however, hide the failure of his solo career.
In November Paul received a dreaded vote of confidence from his
manager Perry Haines, who said: "I don't expect there to
be any problem when his contract with CBS comes up for renewal
"I think Paul is very pleased with the records themselves
and I'm optimistic about his solo career." By January 1988
his contract had been terminated.
All wasn't lost and the charismatic front man quickly built himself
a new and prosperous career as a television presenter, first on
MTV and later on VH1. It was a new experience for him. As he put
it: "The last time I had a proper job was when I worked for
Rolls Royce out in Ansty".
He's philosophical about it all these days, saying: "I went
straight into a solo career which, looking back, was not the right
thing to have done, musically or personally."
Fifteen years on I may claim that the only bands I was really
into were The Smiths, or The Cure, or The Bunnymen, but I have
to admit a nostalgic fondness for bands who wore silly suits,
knew their way around a catchy chorus and put some effort into
their hair. And in that respect, King ruled.