Released today in 1984: Hide And Seek

WEA HOW3

WEA HOW3

WEA made every effort to ensure that Howard Jones’s debut album was a hit. It was even given the honour of the catalogue number WX1 – the first with the new ‘WX’ prefix the label used for all domestic LP product for the rest of the 80s. According to Music Week, WEA said it was putting “all its marketing muscle” into promoting the release to gain “maximum exposure”. The campaign involved

  • Point-of-sale materials featuring the artwork for retailer use
  • 30-second television commercials on Channel 4 and some ITV regions
  • National newspaper and music press advertising
  • Fly posters in major cities
  • Merchandizing including prints, badges and posters

  • in addition to the existing ‘high profile media’ spots the WEA marketing department had already secured for Jones over the previous months, with radio and television interviews and other PAs. Jones’s key personal contribution was to embark on a national concert tour from 17 March to 7 April to further spread the word. And, of course, the single Hide And Seek, released 31 years ago today, was steadily climbing the singles chart at the same time, narrowly missing providing him with a third Top 10 hit.

    Human’s Lib was released on 9 March 1984. Confusingly, the week before another synth-heavy debut album with ‘human’ in the title by a male singer-songwriter was released: Nik Kershaw’s Human Racing appeared on 27 February via MCA. Both albums were reviewed in Smash Hits in the same issue. Ian Cranna awarded Kershaw’s 1 out of 10 and called it “an offensively bland collection notable only for making Howard Jones sound like Twisted Sister”. Ouch. Neil Tennant had Jones’s album to listen to. After pointing out the daring (for a mainstream pop record in the mid-80s) lyrics in the title track (“Sometimes I’d like to go to bed/with a hundred women or men”), he concluded that Jones had “a neat talent for writing melodic pop songs with clever hooks and real 1970s singer-songwriter lyrics.”

    Tennant’s review was by far the most favourable. The rockist press didn’t like Human’s Lib one bit. NME: “It’s as hard to discuss his music as it is to distinguish it from your carpet… the dreams and schemes of a normal liberal, some tales of ordinary sanity… quite sad really.” Melody Maker: “He’s the aural equivalent of painting by numbers… on Jones’ kaleidoscopes of synths there’s none of the freshness, vitality and wit that have, for example, made Vince Clarke’s contributions to three different groups so devastating. Too often Jones resorts to irritating keyboard gimmicks and equally hackneyed falsetto vocals to flesh out the inadequacies of the material.” Sounds: “An LP of simple/simplistic electronic-pop tunes, irretrievably lightweight, that offer nothing new except more music to tap your feet and grin inanely to… People should ask for something more demanding than this aural air conditioning. And this isn’t it. The synthesized Gilbert O’Sullivan revival starts here.” Record Mirror’s write-up was more encouraging, but ended: “Howard rests somewhere on a sliding scale between Nik Kershaw and Thomas Dolby with Thompson Twins in the middle, having neither the former’s soft charm, the latter’s innovative genius, or the Twins’ cosmopolitan appeal, and I can’t help feeling Eurythmics could’ve done some of these songs more justice”.

    Nevertheless, WEA’s campaign won out despite the negative press coverage. Human’s Lib debuted at #1 on the album chart the following week.

    NEW SINGLES on sale from Feb. 10
    1984
    The BOOMTOWN RATS Tonight (Mercury MER154)
    Howard JONES Hide And Seek (WEA HOW3)
    The STYLE COUNCIL My Ever Changing Moods (Polydor TSC5)
    1986
    DEPECHE MODE Stripped (Mute 7BONG10)

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