Friday, 11 February 2011

Nik Kershaw and Howard Jones

Is it just me, or do certain things or people just belong together? I’m not talking about pairs like salt and pepper or Laurel and Hardy, which clearly do belong together but other rather unrelated stuff. Perhaps it’s a memory thing.  As I'm in a bit of an 80s mood at the moment let's go with it.

Often, when I try to remember something from the past, something else muscles its way in, like they were magnetised together. For example, when I think of the album ‘Chicago III’ my mind immediately shows me a picture of the dirty living room windows at the house we lived in during the early 1970s. The linkage goes something like this: in 1971 I did not own my own record player and was thus forced to use the family ‘Alba’ auto-changer-in-a-box player that sat in the living room. The living room faced south and in the depths of winter when the sun was low on the horizon, its watery beams would spear into the room illuminating the window pains and revealing them to be a bit on the shabby side after a winter of rain and frost. Quite why I would only play this particular disc on sunny winter days rather escapes me, but there it is – a memory frozen for all time.

More particularly, I was reminded of another linkage when I heard Chesney Hawkes one-hit-wonder rendition of ‘I Am The One And Only’ on the radio the other day. Most people will know by now that this song was written for him by Nik Kershaw who churned out a number of very competent songs for both himself and others from the mid 1980s onwards. And as soon as I think about Nik Kershaw there is a knock on the door and who should rush in but Howard Jones. To me the two just seem to be inseparable and I can’t think of one without the other.

Why does this happen? Well, let’s see…

They both bothered the charts in the period 1983-1986 then disappeared

They both sported a ridiculous mullet

I own two albums from each of them

Er…that’s it

Doesn’t really seem enough does it? Yet they even sit close together in my alphabetically stored LPs (J,K) and you feel like separating them like an over-zealous primary school teacher and banishing them to the A and Z sections. Musically, however, they were quite different. Howard Jones offered a dose of care-free pop in the classic tradition of hummable throw-a-way tunes set in the genre of the day, electro-pop. Listening to ‘New Song’ and 'What is Love’ now just make me smile which is what they are designed to do so mission accomplished.

Kershaw, on the other hand, was always a bit more knowing musically and wore his jazz leanings on his padded shouldered sleeves. There was always an aura of cleverness associated with his output which, because it was always topped by a good tune, I kinda liked. Things like ‘The Riddle’ with its slithery melody and ‘Wouldn’t it Be Good?’ are beautifully crafted songs.

Perhaps that’s the link. For a brief period, I liked them both, but I still haven't worked out why Kershaw gave away his best song.


Perplexio said...

Howard Jones Things Can Only Get Better is a must include for any respectable 80s playlist.

I'm not as familiar with Kershaw's work (although I am familiar with the name). He didn't leave quite the same impression on me as Jones.

The other 80s musicians/bands that come to mind from that era in the same stream of thought (as Jones and Kershaw) for me include The Outfield, Level 42, and Dan Hartman.

music obsessive said...

Perplexio - Oh Dear! Don't get me started on Level 42 - I suppose they seemed a good idea at the time (I even liked some of their stuff) but they became inextricably linked to the YUPPIE culture and thence the kiss of death. LOL!

Perplexio said...

Level 42 had some solid jazz chops though-- at least in the earlier days. Their later material did get a bit more "pop-friendly."

I prefer the Outfield-- the had/have tighter vocal harmonies and imho a better sense of melody than Level 42 had/has.

Anonymous said...

Just like you, I always thought of them as belonging together. And here's a real treat for fans of them both: