9 March 2009

"Take your hairdryer, blow them all away..."

Love And Pride by King. Still a tremendously parping piece of pop which could appeal to the moody adolescent bumfluffer in black while enjoying the attention of teen pop kids.

Paul King had a great voice and a terrific onstage charisma - and he knew it. The two appearances King made on Top Of The Pops with this song proved this, as he hurtled around the stage, flamboyantly gesturing the words and jumping on and off the bass drum while systematically failing - or not especially caring - to look like he could actually mime.

Both appearances were in early 1985 and the first was introduced by Steve Wright (imperially in tinted pilot specs and perm) as "it's King - right here!" and the camera whizzed 270 degrees to the sight of this tall guy with an impossible seven-haircuts-as-one and a yellow and black check suit. He capered around the stage as if insects had been released into his undercrackers while his two similarly barneted axemates did the cloudy backing vocals and mimed diligently.

King had shot from #21 to #6 that week and this performance raised them a further two places. The character of the song - which was on re-release - and the willingness of the singer to be interviewed helped their cause tremendously - he was the sort of chap who my father would instantly write off as a "yob" until he heard him speak, then a smooth, articulate Home Counties accent would soon make him alter his mind. Radio 1 went crazy for King, and another week later they were at #2 and back on Top Of The Pops, hosted by Richard Skinner and Gary Davies. The latter had opened the show with the mantra "Stick around, we've got hit after hit after hit..." and Skinner paid off that line with "... starting with this one, it's King with Love And Pride!"

The camera panned to their right and there were the chaps again - the three front men with the cockatoo hair, their balding Jim Diamond-alike keyboard player and a leather becapped drummer who, like Graeme Duffin, Dee C Lee, DJ Milf and others, was onstage with a band for pretty much every TV appearance and concert they did, despite being not an official member.

This Top Of The Pops performance was remarkable to my eleven year old eyes. If you saw footage of a heart-throb band in concert at the time - Duran Duran, Culture Club et al - the screaming from teenage girls was as audible and as shiver-inducing as the performance and the music. Yet even when these A-list acts, who only (in Simon Le Bon's own words) had to "release a fart and it would go to Number One", did Top Of The Pops, there was never any out-and-out fanatical screaming. There was appreciative cheering and that staid bit of "indifferent bop" (as described by Danny Baker on TV Heroes) dancing from the proles, but that's all they were allowed to do. There were the 1980s hired dancers, all puffballs and lemon trousers, doing the twigs-in-vest gubbins on the circular stages, and the rest were there to clap, watch and get as close to the host as they could without actually giving him a wedgie. They barely even smiled.

So when Skinner introduced King, I was rather taken aback to hear really piercing teenage screams drown out the generic cheering and that marvellous hup-two-three-four drum fill which began the song. It was unheard of in the 1980s. Someone has rather kindly put it on YouTube...

The singer was in a white suit this time, along with the obligatory black Doc Martens boots, graciously mentioned as a backing vocal in the song itself. He milked the screams, isolated as they were, doing even madder things when not required to mime and making sure he fixed that winning smile as much as he could whether looking at the 19 year old conquests-in-waiting in the bearpit or at the cameras. Two moments spring to mind - the "aah, aah, aah, aah" interlude into "I'm taking it round the wor-wor-wor-wor-wor-wor--wor-world"; and the final "some love and pride (woooooOOOH!) - that's...!" from which he garnered just this amazingly high-shrilled shrieking from these girls somewhere in the studio, who were presumably being hunted out by both Top Of The Pops bailiffs for breaking noise rules and King's own entourage for age verification and then, if suitable, a spot of entertainment in the dressing room.

Despite the brilliance of song and performer, Love And Pride stuck at #2 for three weeks as aunties everywhere were bulk-buying Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson.

The video (YouTube has blocked embedding, but here it is) was never shown in full on Top Of The Pops but there were enough snippets on the Top 10 countdown - in the mid-1980s the Top 10 was always done with clips from the videos, longer clips for the songs not falling down the charts - to see the basic premise. The band were in a desolate country location with scrap cars and metal, dressed in familiar attire bordering between garish and smart, while the singer (I can't just call him King, as that poses a problem distinguishing between he and his band) messed about with discarded branches, corrugated metal and spray paint. Then a bunch of identically-clothed stage school lads pitch up, get their boots sprayed (obviously) and begin a dance routine of backspins, caterpillars and sub-Blockbusters clapping, led by one who looks like Roman Abramovich aged 14.

The same week that King appeared on Top Of The Pops to screams, the video snippet was naturally shown 20 minutes later during the Top 10 countdown and - yes - there were more screams. Clearly the bouncers didn't do a good job.

King followed it up with Won't You Hold My Hand Now, complete with green and white check suit, then returned later in the year with the excellent Alone Without You and the less memorable, piano-led Taste Of Your Tears. Paul King's looks and presentable speaking voice was soon getting him on telly with MTV and the band barely lasted out of 1986.


Valentine Suicide said...

Just when I think you can't dredge up any more crimes against music ad fashion from the eighties, you out-do yourself with this horror!
I understand Paul King was sentenced to several years in the maximum security wing of MTV for this heinous act?

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

Can't recall if it was the first or second time on TOTP, but when it was on we were at my German aunt's house, and she was so taken with Mr King she did a note-perfect impersonation, complete with hand movements.

Darlastonian said...

Good stuff. Nice to see someone who cares about '80s music almost as much as I do.

I always quite liked King, despite the fact it was never really fashionable to do so, but then again, i've never been fashionable either, so there you go.

Their LPs were pretty good too, especially the second one.

That Valentine bloke seems like a nasty piece of work though, doesn't he?