476. ‘Jealous Guy’, by Roxy Music

The fourth and final part of Britain’s period of national mourning for John Lennon and we end, quite fittingly, with a glossy tribute.

Jealous Guy, by Roxy Music (their 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, 8th – 22nd March 1981

To my ears, this is an interesting choice of both song and band to end up with the big Lennon tribute hit. ‘Jealous Guy’ wasn’t one of his very biggest hits, and Roxy Music aren’t the first act you’d think of to have been influenced by The Beatles, or John Lennon. Then again, what band that formed in the early ‘70s wouldn’t have been influenced by The Beatles? And maybe a more predictable cover of ‘Imagine’, or ‘Give Peace a Chance’, would have been met with a collective shrug.

I went through a phase, as a teenager, where ‘Jealous Guy’ was my favourite song, ever. It’s overwrought, and needy, you see… It’s Lennon’s ‘emo’ record. Feeling insecure… Swallowing my pain… Shivering inside… Those sorts of things. I still like it, though there are other Lennon tracks I much prefer these days. And I quite like this cover version. Bryan Ferry’s vocals are excellent – tremulous but powerful, and not as theatrical as he sometimes can be – but the music is slightly self-indulgent soft-rock.

It’s slow – though the original is, too – and over-long. I count three solos: guitar (good), synth (fine), saxophone (not for me). At least they kept the whistling. That was always my favourite bit. If there’s one thing I’ve discovered since starting this blog, it’s that whistling in pop songs usually works for me. If every sax solo ever recorded was replaced by whistling then the world would be a better place.

This was Roxy Music’s sole number one single, almost a decade into their chart careers. They had a similar chart run to ELO, who had scored their solitary #1 a year before. Both were a huge presence throughout the seventies (though Roxy Music had a two-year hiatus in the middle), and both scored a belated chart-topper with what was far from their best song. Though, I have to admit, my knowledge of Roxy Music beyond their biggest hits is patchy.

It’s worth noting, as we reach the end of it, the effect John Lennon’s death had on the top of the UK charts for three whole months. Other big, premature artist deaths – Buddy Holly, Elvis – resulted in posthumous #1s, but not in weeks of domination. And it will never happen again, in the download/streaming age, where an artist’s back-catalogue is at our fingertips, and we are no longer at the mercy of re-releases. Anyway. Next time out, ‘normal’ service is resumed.

475. ‘Shaddap You Face’, by Joe Dolce Music Theatre

Giving us a three-week break from the Lennon-love-in, even if we didn’t ask for it… Joe Dolce and his Musical Theatre.

Shaddap You Face, by Joe Dolce Music Theatre (his 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, 15th February – 8th March 1981

Giuseppe is in 8th Grade, and he don’t want to follow no rules. He shoots pool, flunks school. What does his mother think about this? Well, mama’s not happy: Whats-a matter you, Got-ta no respect… Luckily for her, Mama’s got a catchphrase. Altogether now: Ah… Shaddap You Face!

What comes immediately to my mind are those adverts for Dolmio pasta sauce, with the ridiculous Italian puppets (‘Whens-a your Dolmio day??’) Dolce gets away with it (just about) as he is Italian-American. Plus this tune is so dumb, the contents so lightweight, only the professionally offended could actually complain about the caricature.

What you may well want to complain about is the music itself. Giuseppe grows up, becomes a big star… All he can hear is Mama’s catchphrase. We are treated to an accordion solo, and then a raucous call-and-response section: One more time for Mama! (Oh, must we…?) This record is a load of crap; but it’s not abhorrent in the way that the very worst novelty songs can be. I’m not sure what the joke is, or why it became such a big hit, but as I suggested in my previous post maybe the world was just desperate for something light after The Great Lennon Mourning Period.

‘Shaddap You Face’ was, for many years, the biggest-selling single in Australia (a fact that says much more about Australians than it does about the merits of the song.) Actually, I should say it was only the best-selling single by an Australian act, as Dolce had moved to Melbourne in 1978. This was his first hit – the only single he had released before this was a much more worthy number about the struggles of Vietnamese boat people.

In the UK he is a one-hit wonder of the purest kind. A chart-topper, then nothing else. Zilch. And he’d have probably faded into even greater obscurity, if it wasn’t for the record he kept off #1. Any bore with a passing interest in the charts can tell you two things: that Bryan Adams holds the record for most consecutive weeks at #1, and that Ultravox’s stark, synth classic ‘Vienna’ was held off the top by ‘Shaddap You Face’. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, so I’m going to come out and say it: ‘Vienna’ is overrated, and more than a little pretentious. I’m glad that it was outsold by this Joe Dolce trifle, causing the snobs to fume.

Anyway, has ‘Vienna’ ever been translated into an Aboriginal dialect? ‘Shaddap You Face’ has… Joe Dolce is known more these days as a poet and an essayist. He’s doing alright for himself. Mama would be proud. Meanwhile, coming up next, one final tribute to John Lennon.

474. ‘Woman’, by John Lennon

Part III of the Great John Lennon Mourning Period. A single from his brand new record kicks the re-released classic from top spot, only the second time an artist had replaced themselves at #1 (Lennon was also quite heavily involved when ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ replaced ‘She Loves You’ seventeen years earlier).

Woman, by John Lennon (his 3rd and final #1)

2 weeks, 1st – 15th February 1981

Just like ‘Starting Over’ – see what I did there –this is another love-letter to Yoko. He starts off by whispering The other half of the sky… (reminding me of the whispered ‘Happy Christmases’ on ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’) and then launches into a detailed explanation of why this woman is so special: Woman, I will try to express, My inner feelings, And thankfulness…

It is a bit soppy. And a bit simplistic. Like ‘Imagine’, the message is sincere but basic. And Lennon’s voice is as close to simpering as I’ve ever heard it, especially on the Hold me close to your heart… line. While the chorus is all ooh-ooh-oohs and do-do-do-dodos. ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ it is not. Nor is it the equal of much of Lennon’s earlier solo stuff: ‘Mind Games’, ‘Whatever Gets You Thru the Night’, ‘#9 Dream’ and the like…

That’s not to say it’s a bad song. It’s fine. It’s still a song written by John Lennon, and the quality is there. But like ‘Starting Over’, this wouldn’t have been coming anywhere close to #1 had the tragic not occurred. And I’ve always thought that calling the song ‘Woman’ was a little insulting. He could just as easily have called it ‘Yoko’ and it would still have scanned (though perhaps wouldn’t have sold quite as well…) Still, as Lennon himself said, it is a tribute to all women: Yoko, and you’d imagine his late mother, the aunt that raised him, his first wife Cynthia… That makes it a little more sincere to my ears.

I’ve never fully listened to ‘Double Fantasy’, the album from which this and ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’ came, released three weeks before Lennon’s murder. Going by the song titles there was a bit of a theme going on: ‘Dear Yoko’ and ‘Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)’ from John, and ‘Beautiful Boys’ and ‘Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him’ from Yoko. It’s a celebration of love and family, against which the image of Lennon being gunned down in the doorway of his home, his wife watching on, becomes even more horrific.

But from what I have heard from the album, I’m not sure it would be so well-regarded if it hadn’t been for his soon-to-follow death. Lennon himself won’t be back on top of the charts – the 3rd single, ‘Watching the Wheels’, only made #30, which is a shame because it’s better than either of the #1s – but there is one more tribute to come before the Great Mourning Period wraps up. It must have been a sad time, and people must have been looking for some light relief. For what else would explain our next #1 single…? Gulp!

473. ‘Imagine’, by John Lennon

Herein lies the beauty of a weekly chart of popular singles based solely on sales, rather than on accepted tastes and public decency. We can swing straight from ‘There’s No One Quite Like Grandma’, to this…

Imagine, by John Lennon (his 2nd of three #1s)

4 weeks, 4th January – 1st February 1981

There are surely very few people left on this planet who haven’t heard ‘Imagine’s hushed and reverential piano. I’m not sure what this was recorded on, but the piano sounds off in the distance, as if the opening chords are floating in from the nearest cloud. Then in come John’s vocals, and it is young John – Beatles John – sounding significantly different from ‘Starting Over’, though I couldn’t put my finger on why.

It’s simple, it’s stately. Piano, drums and subtle strings. It already sounds like a remnant from another era, despite being only a decade old (I noted the same thing with ‘Suicide Is Painless’), and musically I find this record quite beautiful. This is as close as we’ve come to a pop music hymn… If it weren’t for the irreligious lyrics.

And the lyrics are where ‘Imagine’ starts to lose its shine. Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try… Imagine no hell, no countries, no religion or possessions. Imagine all the people, Living life in peace… I’ve taught ‘Imagine’ to twelve-year-olds and, if we’re being honest, pre-teens are the only people who are going to buy the message on offer here. From our teenage years onwards, the vast majority of us are far too cynical to genuinely believe in a world of people living life in peace.

Maybe Lennon was being playful when he wrote this. He did have a wicked streak, and you can perhaps picture him grinning evilly at the thought of there being no countries, or possessions, and of every one living in the moment, in an orgy of flesh and, let’s face it, violence. Not to mention the church’s tutting at the idea of there being no heaven. Or maybe not. I think he did mean it. And only he, perhaps, could get away with recording this and not having people laugh in his face.

It’s easy to dismiss this song as the trite ramblings of a very rich rock star. In the wrong hands it can sound deludedly ridiculous. (Remember that celebrity cover version from the early days of Covid last year, later described as ‘creative diarrhoea’…?) But you can see why this was the Lennon record that everyone flocked to in the wake of his horrific death: a fitting eulogy for a flawed but beautiful man. It was the title track of his 1971 album, and had been released belatedly in 1975, when it made #6.

‘Imagine’ is a huge, weighty record. It’s impossible now to properly judge it. Or even to properly enjoy it. I doubt I’d ever actually choose to listen to it and, if I did want to be preached to by John Lennon, I’d opt for ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’, which was also riding high in the charts during the festive season of 1980-81. But it feels only right that ‘Imagine’ had this month on top of the UK singles charts, only to be replaced by…

472. ‘There’s No One Quite Like Grandma’, by St. Winifred’s School Choir

There has been a lot of talk in recent years that 1984 was ‘The Best Year’ for pop music, ever. I would disagree and, from the chart-toppers POV that this blog takes, 1984 is in truth a far from vintage year which we’ll hear all about soon enough. No, my vote for best year of the ‘80s, in terms of #1s, would be 1980 itself. Blondie, ABBA, The Jam, The Pretenders, The Specials, Bowie, Lennon and ELO. Yes, yes, yes. A done deal. Except…

There’s No One Quite Like Grandma, by St. Winifred’s School Choir (their 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, 21st December 1980 – 4th January 1981

1980 had to go and ruin things with its final #1. For, ladies and gentlemen, I present this year’s Christmas Number One, and the record that kept the late John Lennon from scoring an unprecedented three consecutive chart-topping singles: the sweet, sweet tones of St. Winifred’s School Choir.

Whichever way you try to approach this record – as a novelty, as a camp curio, as a nursery rhyme, as a cynical attempt to cash-in at Christmas – one thing’s for sure. It’s a God-awful piece of music. The budget kiddies-TV backing track, the choir, the little girl who sings the lead… Grandma we love you, Grandma we do…  The key-change! (Oh Christ, the key-change…) The stench only intensifies when you find out that this was originally written as a tribute to the Queen Mother for her eightieth birthday!

It’s so bad that it’s almost not worth elaborating. The bit where the lead girl sings about ‘potty time’ (I presume it’s actually ‘party time’) and the bit where grandma is killed off towards the end… We’ll look back and say, There’s no one quite like grandma, She has helped us on our way… It’s all terrible, and you don’t need me to tell you why. Just listen, shudder, then go about your day as best you can (after liking and commenting, ta…) It would also be whacking some very low-hanging fruit to make fun of these seven and eight-year-olds, singing their little hearts out for their dear old grannies.

This song storms instantly into my Top 3 worst chart-toppers so far (alongside ‘All Kinds of Everything’ and ‘No Charge’, in case you’re wondering). But I’ve never bothered properly ranking them because I don’t want to really remember that they exist. It has also caused me to reassess this song’s obvious counterpart, Clive Dunn’s ‘Grandad’, the (almost) Xmas #1 from 1970. Compared to this, ‘Grandad’ is quite the sharp-eyed satire.

This isn’t actually the first time we’ve heard from St. Winifred’s School Choir – the school is in Stockport, Greater Manchester, and they provided uncredited backing vocals on Brian & Michael’s Mancunian anthem ‘Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs’. It is though, thankfully, the last time we’ll hear from them. The choir has released eight (8!) albums, and if you’d like to hear their takes on ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Bright Eyes’ and ‘Rivers of Babylon’ then you’ll have to search for them yourself cause I ain’t linking!

So there we are. The first year of the 1980s finally draws to a close. Though its final chart-topper was a complete and utter howler, I am still ranking it among the very best years for the quality of its number ones. I fear I may not be so generous about what remains of this decade…

(I’m breaking my rule on not posting ‘live’ versions here but, to be honest, each one’s as bad as the next…)

471. ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’, by John Lennon

It’s been well over a decade since we heard this voice at the top of the charts, one of rock’s most famous. It’s great to hear it again… just a shame about the circumstances.

(Just Like) Starting Over, by John Lennon (his 1st of three #1s)

1 week, 14th – 21st December 1980

Three clear notes are struck – three notes that always make me think of a yacht coming into harbour – before an old-style acoustic intro. Our life… Together… Is so precious… Together… John Lennon made no secret for his love of rock ‘n’ roll music, and this is his tribute to the stars he grew up with, those who caused him to pick up a guitar: Elvis is the one who comes across most in the vocals, but there’s Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent in there too.

It’s a love-letter too, to his second wife, Yoko Ono, who appears on the cover and on the ‘B’-side… But when I see you darling, It’s like we both are falling in love again… It’ll be, Just like starting over… As controversial as her role in The Beatles’ final years is (and I think she gets a very bad rap), Lennon loved her dearly.

When the beat kicks in, the production is very early-eighties gloss. Thick, echoey drums, noodley guitar licks and the like. It’s got a karaoke backing-track feel to it – if that isn’t a huge insult to one of the 20th century’s most revered musicians – and doesn’t scream ‘lead-single from John Lennon’s first album in five years’. He chose it as the lead, though, not because he thought it was the best song on the LP, but because the theme of ‘starting over’ fit in with his comeback.

‘(Just Like) Starting Over’ doesn’t scream ‘huge #1 hit’ either, to be honest. It’s fine, it’s catchy, it’s far from Lennon’s greatest moment. I prefer the rock ‘n’ roll covers he had put out a few years earlier: they’re rawer, cooler. This needed a push to return him to the top, and that push came on the evening of December 8th, when a deluded fan, Mark Chapman, shot him in the entrance to his apartment in New York.

This single had peaked at #8 a few weeks earlier, but had dropped to #21 the day before his death. When the news broke, fans rushed out to buy his records as a mark of respect – in those pre-download days you had to make do with what was on the shelves – and this single was waiting for them. It’s the same reason why ‘Way Down’ became Elvis’s ‘funeral number one’. And ‘… Starting Over’ must have seemed nailed-on to become Christmas #1 too… yet fate had other ideas.

Unlike Elvis’s death, this chart-topper kicks off a run of Lennon-mania at the top of the charts. Between December 1980 and the following March, four out of the six UK number ones will be by John Lennon, or a cover of. The two records that disturb this run…? Um, classics, the pair of them… The first of which is up next.

470. ‘Super Trouper’, by ABBA

I had no idea, when I wrote this post on ABBA’s final UK #1, that I would be publishing it the day after ABBA returned triumphantly to the top of the charts with their comeback album. It’s a nice bit of symmetry…

Super Trouper, by ABBA (their 9th and final #1)

3 weeks, 23rd November – 14th December 1980

In my eight earlier posts on ABBA, I believe I’ve given very short shrift to those among us that dislike Sweden’s greatest gift to the world (sorry IKEA, sorry Vikings…) Until now, that is. For I do kind of understand why ‘Super Trouper’ might get on your nerves.

That’s not to suggest anything but love for this, their final UK #1. Ask twelve-year-old me, and he’d probably name ‘Super Trouper’ as his favourite ABBA song. The chorus is pitched perfectly at a kid’s ears: the soopapa troopapa backing vocals, the computer game synths… But the chorus, unexpectedly, is the worst part of this song.

One of the reasons I loved this song as a child is that it name checks Scotland’s biggest city in its opening lines: I was sick and tired of everything, When I called you last night from Glasgow… (Glasgow! My gran and grandpa live in Glasgow!) Childhood associations aside, that line is pure ABBA. Then they go and rhyme it with ‘last show’. Most bands using English as a first language would have tossed it out with the first draft. Besides, Glasgow is hardly the first place you’d think of to encapsulate the life of a world-famous pop star…

Or maybe that’s the point. Because ‘Super Trouper’ is all about the drudgery of pop stardom. All I do is eat and sleep and sing, Wishing every show was the last show… (A super trouper is a stage light, whose beams might indeed blind those on stage.) ABBA weren’t the first, nor the last, band to write a song about how terrible it is being famous. But somehow they manage to do it without the message grating. It’s a gift, definitely, to be able to wrap lines bemoaning a success that never ends in glossy pop chords, and getting away with it.

This record might not hit the heights of some of the band’s earlier hits, but there’s still one moment of pure ABBA Gold. Frida’s vocals in the bridge: So I’ll be there, When you arrive… In ABBA’s final number one, it’s the last of many moments of pop perfection. From ‘Waterloo’s glam-rock pre-chorus, to this. Thank you, as they themselves would say, for the music. Just in case anyone’s interested, I would rank ABBA’s nine #1s thusly:

‘Fernando’ > ‘The Name of the Game’ > ‘Take a Chance On Me’ > ‘Super Trouper’ > ‘Mamma Mia’ > ‘Waterloo’ > ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ > ‘Dancing Queen’ > ‘The Winner Takes It All’

That list only tells half the story, though, as many of the band’s classics, and some of my favourites, never got to number one. I will do a ‘Best of the Rest’ soon, and I can’t wait. Following this final chart-topper, they would have just two more Top 10s, releasing what many think is their best album, before finally fizzling out in 1982.

I don’t know quite how true it is, but popular knowledge would have it that ABBA were done and dusted, the carpet pulled over them like an embarrassing stain, by the late eighties. My parents liked them, though they are definitely not representative of society as a whole. But then the ‘90s brought ‘ABBA Gold’, Erasure’s covers, and ‘Mamma Mia’. By the time the stage-show had been made into a movie, everyone loved ABBA again. Unless you’ve already moved to your doomsday bunker in the woods, you’ll have heard that they reformed earlier this year, and have released said #1 album, their first in forty years. Who knows, there may still yet be time for them to add to their tally of #1s…?

469. ‘The Tide Is High’, by Blondie

I spoke of the variety that 1980 has offered us in my last post, and talking of variety… For their 3rd #1 of the year, Blondie go reggae.

The Tide Is High, by Blondie (their 5th of six #1s)

2 weeks, 9th – 23rd November 1980

It’s a huge departure from their two quick-fire, pounding, disco-rock chart toppers – ‘Atomic’ and ‘Call Me’ – from earlier in the year. I love those two hits and have to admit that, although this is catchy pop, it’s not in the same league. The tide is high, But I’m holding on… coos Debbie Harry, whose voice has lost much of the bite it had in those earlier hits… I’m gonna be your number one…

There are still good things to make a note of. The way Harry flirts with the I’m not the kinda girl, Who gives up just like that… line, for a start. And the extra snarl she gives the hi-igh in the closing lines. Plus there’s a cool drum intro on the album version. But overall, it’s quite sedate, quite pleasant. Quite nice. But I’d say it was the band’s huge fame that took this to the top of the charts, rather than any real ‘wow’ factor that this new single had.

‘The Tide Is High’ is a cover, originally recorded by Jamaican group The Paragons in 1967. Their version has a nice, homely charm to it. Blondie took it, changed the pronouns, and scored a #1 on either side of the Atlantic ahead of their new album. They also made a video for the song: a classic example of the low-budget, pre-MTV age. A flooded apartment, a rocket launch, Darth Vader… What’s not to love?

I’ve recently been listening to all of Blondie’s studio albums and, ‘Parallel Lines’ aside, they definitely come across more as a singles band. That’s not to say the rest is all filler – their first album has some great moments, for example – but the singles they released were consistently outstanding. Few bands can match Blondie’s run of hits between 1976 and 1980.

In conclusion, then… I do like this song. If it were by a lesser band, a one-hit wonder perhaps, then I might be singing its praises. But I expect a little more from Blondie. For this to be their swan-song at the top of the charts feels like a bit of a damp squib. After this came ‘Rapture’ – the first rap #1 on the Billboard charts – and one more studio album, but drugs and in-fighting meant they called it a day in 1982. Then… oh yeah. Forget that stuff about this being a swan-song. Then they reformed, nearly twenty years later, and scored a sensational middle-aged comeback #1, that you’ll be able to read all about if/when I manage to crawl my way to 1999…

468. ‘Woman in Love’, by Barbra Streisand

Is there a softer-rock intro than that of this next #1? Woozy guitars, soaring strings, a gentle riff…

Woman in Love, by Barbra Streisand (her 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, 19th October – 9th November 1980

We came through the plodding soft-rock of the mid-to-late seventies – the David Souls, the Commodores, ‘If You Leave Me Now’ and more – and made it to the promised land of New-Wave. But any fears I have that this record might be the start of another soggy patch of MOR balladry are banished pretty quickly. Yes, this is glossy, and soppy, but if it isn’t a bit of an earworm too…

Life is a moment in space, When the dream is gone, It’s a lonelier place… OK, the lyrics are the usual love-song piffle: grand imagery that actually means very little. But Barbra Streisand sells it, cooing the verses and belting the chorus… It’s a right I defend…! she hollers. The right to be a woman in love. It’s hard to dislike any song when the singer goes for it as she does.

Also on this record’s side is the fact that it was written by two out of the three Bee Gees, who had spent the last couple of years ruling the charts (in the US in particular.) Pair the Gibb brothers’ pop nous with Streisand’s vocal chops and you’re on to a winner. Sometimes, yes, the Broadway-ness of ‘Woman In Love’ gets a little too much. It’s not subtle but, if you’re in the mood for it, perhaps three or four glasses of wine deep into a karaoke evening, then it’s a classic.

Streisand was of course already a huge star by this point in her career. ‘Woman In Love’, and the album it came from – ‘Guilty’, which features her and Barry Gibb clinching on the cover – was definitely the peak of her pop chart powers, in the UK at least. (In the US she had been charting since the mid-sixties, and had scored four chart-toppers before this, her last.)

While you could, and I did, draw a line from this back to seventies soft-rock, I feel like this is a different proposition from David Soul or Leo Sayer. Bigger, bolder, more muscular. Aggressive soft-rock? Can that be a thing? It’s definitely a window into what awaits later in this decade. In my post on David Bowie’s ‘Ashes to Ashes’, I wrote that that record was the most ‘eighties’ moment yet at the top of the charts. I’d add ‘Woman in Love’ here – for completely different reasons. In fact, this is something of a template, a ‘Women Singing Power Ballads 101’, that will last on through Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera, well into the next century.

Not only has 1980 had a lot of #1 singles, it’s had a wide variety too. Ska-punk from The Specials, TV-show weirdness from M*A*S*H, pop-perfection from ABBA… now this. Is it too early, ten months in, to name 1980 as the best year of the entire decade…??

467. ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me’, by The Police

You’ve probably noticed that we’re taking our time to meander through 1980. The #1 records in this year didn’t hang around long at the top, with lots of one or two-week stays. But here comes the longest-lodging chart-topper of the year, the lead single from The Police’s brand-new album, entering at the top, for a whole month.

Don’t Stand So Close to Me, by The Police (their 3rd of five #1s)

4 weeks, 21st September – 19th October 1980

Ominous synths, and some guitar noodling. Not the blockbuster kick-off you might have hoped for. But if The Police’s last #1, ‘Walking on the Moon’, taught me anything it’s that this is a band who don’t mind dragging things out. Then in comes a familiar reggae-rhythm, and in that moment you know exactly who you are listening to.

Young teacher, The subject, Of schoolgirl fantasy… I have a few issues with this record, this eighties reboot of ‘Young Girl’, but first off I do like the short, sharp, tabloidy snippets that make up the lyrics. She wants him, So badly, Knows what she wants to be… Though, the tone is so fraught, the synths so ominous, that I think it would be better suited to an even more serious subject. A killer on the loose, Jack the Ripper, something like that…

As with the band’s first chart-topper, ‘Message in a Bottle’, I’m waiting for something to grab me. Luckily, like ‘Message…’ this record has another great chorus. It whacks the song right into life: Don’t stand, Don’t stand so, Don’t stand so close to me… It’s driving, and catchy, and I wish more Police singles could have kept this sort of pace up throughout.

‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me’ is based on Sting’s own experiences – he was an English teacher before the band took off – and here is where my concerns creep in. ‘Creep’ being the key term. In it the teacher offers the girl a ride, we can assume he sleeps with her, and word travels around… Then we arrive at what is either one of the best or one of the worst rhyming couplets ever to feature in a chart-topping single: It’s no use, He sees her, He starts to shake and cough… Just like the, Old man in, That book by Nabokov… One things for sure: any English teacher worth their salt knows the name of that book!

There is no evidence that Mr Sumners ever had his wicked way with one of his young charges. Though he has gone on record to say that the temptation was real: “I don’t know how I managed to keep my hands off them,” he revealed, in an interview the following year. I mean… I think it might be the modern-day, slightly pretentious, Tantric-sex version of Sting that makes this sit so uncomfortably. Plus, the song comes across as a bit of a humble-brag: oh how awful it was having teenagers throwing themselves at me, so I became a rock star – a profession famous for its limited access to horny sixteen-year-olds…

Anyway. This is an enjoyable song, though I’m still finding it slightly irritating in the same vague and undefinable way that I’ve found all of The Police’s #1s so far. But, not only was it the longest-running #1 of 1980, it was also the year’s biggest selling single. The Police were huge in this moment, at the height of their fame. Four weeks was enough to make this the year’s longest-running, a run which in other years would have been completely average. 1980 will have a total of twenty-four #1s, tied with 1965 for the most up to then. It’s a figure that won’t be matched again until 1996, or beaten until 1998, when #1 turnover was about to reach its peak.