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KING OF THE CHARTS

By Dayle Crutchlow
Go! Magazine


love and pride japwww.paulking.itJANUARY 1985. It's 7pm on Thursday night and time for Top of the Pops.
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 alone.
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 up.
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 soon.
"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.







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