1984 was a quiet year for Paul Young. That isn’t to suggest he wasn’t busy; a more accurate way of putting it is ‘Paul Young was quiet in 1984’, as illness and damage to his vocal chords led to a period of enforced near-silence while he allowed his voice and throat to recover. As the ‘Bitz’ column in Smash Hits (2-15 August 1984) noted, in reference to his album title of the previous year, it was a case of “no parlez” for the time being.
He had been overdoing it in the early part of the year, trying to crack the American market: an effort that had yielded some success. Having already put a single into the lower reaches of the US Hot 100 the previous year, he then almost managed a Top 20 hit at the beginning of 1984. “I’m now an ‘underground success’ in the States and I think it’s pretty cool to know me at the moment,” he told Tom Hibbert in the same magazine a few weeks later. 1 “Come Back And Stay got in the Top 30 but even so, in America that only means an extra ten people come to your gigs. Over there, popularity has nothing to do with hit singles – it’s about albums and ‘credibility’, whatever that is.” Further to this, he said to Maureen Rice of No.1, “I think they’re fools over there not to have caught on to it yet as much as they should have done. It wasn’t intentional at the time, but when we released Come Back And Stay I thought, ‘This is tailor-made for the Americans’.” 2
In order to show them what they were missing, he toured in the States and that was when the problems started when he experienced the first of three throat viruses. “I got the first one in New York. I thought I was getting over it – you know, I felt pretty healthy – so I started getting back to work before I was really ready. I don’t want to sound like a martyr about it, but I had been working a very punishing schedule and I just pushed myself too far. My general health was so poor that I just didn’t have the strength to fight the virus properly. Instead I got another virus, and then another one after that.” Not only was he returning to work too quickly, but at work he was working his voice too hard. “Naturally, my voice tends to be very deep, almost a baritone. You might not have noticed, but practically all successful pop singers are nearer a tenor, and certainly all the singers I admire; so I tend to sing constantly at the top of my range. My singing teacher was horrified: ‘Singing at the top of your range for an hour and a half? And then you wonder that your throat fails strained.’ She’s teaching me about breathing and muscle control.” 2
The ‘Bitz’ column reported the severity of the effect of the illness on his voice. At that point in 1984 he had lost the top six notes in his range, but he regained them gradually over the summer with help from the vocal coach he had hired train him. In the meantime, work continued on his second album, which was now overdue – instrumental work, of course. With the vocals on hold, the album’s release was put back to the Autumn of ’84, then to December when it was realized the project was still behind schedule. Time was ticking away in the UK, where the last single from Young had been issued in November 1983. As the gap between releases approached a year, all the momentum built up during the previous year seemed likely to go to waste. When it was decided that realistically the new album wouldn’t be available until the New Year, a decision was taken to release a single to return his name to the charts.
This was a cover of Ann Peebles’ I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down, with a memorable vocal refrain from The Fabulous Wealthy Tarts (“Uh, uh, Push, Push!”). Kim and Maz were conspicuous by their absence during the single’s promotion: they made no PAs with Young whereas the rest of The Royal Family did, and they did not appear in the promotional clip filmed at the Royal Albert Hall. No.1 asked why Young had stopped working with them. “We haven’t really,” he replied. “The girls are still working with us on the album. I think they just feel they want to do something by themselves.” They had in fact released a single of their own (The Last Time, which flopped) but the rumour was that their fee was too high for Young’s team to afford to retain them permanently. (When the second album finally appeared, The Fabulous Wealthy Tarts were credited as ‘special guests’ rather than full members of the team.) As to the song itself, Young said: “We’ve reshuffled the words a bit to give it a slightly more ‘political’ edge, rather than leave it with the usual lover connotations. This isn’t me getting on the politics bandwagon – I just wanted a change.”
Appropriately, then, his next single was titled Everything Must Change, and things had indeed changed. Young had mentioned in interviews that he had been experimenting with male backing singers and extra percussion, both of which were utilized on this rich, soulful recording. Most notable though was that he co-wrote the song himself, the first time he had done so on one of his own singles. (Remarkably, the single held the #9 slot for five consecutive weeks over Christmas ’84 and New Year ’85; Young also featured on the #1 single for the first four of those five weeks, Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? – he sang the opening line.) A similar sound to Everything Must Change was utilized on his next single, a cover of the Hall & Oates song Every Time You Go Away. This was chosen as the lead single from the long-delayed but now completed second album in the US. The additional of a pedal guitar only improved its chances Stateside and it did better than anticipated: it made #1 on the Hot 100, despite the fact that it had been a year since his last single there. Here, it made #4, reaching this peak the week before the album The Secret Of Association (CBS CBS26234, 25 March 1985) was finally released. An eclectic collection of material, there were traditional love songs rubbing shoulders with further evidence of that “politics bandwagon” he had denied jumping on. There were two songs with lyrics concerning the effect of war on soldiers and their families, which made the already frivolous Hot Love sound positively banal. To be fair, Young had warned everyone: in the previously mentioned interview with Tom Hibbert, he said he thought the forthcoming LP would be “a weird old mixture with some jolly famous people on it, I hope,” and that it certainly was.
Maureen Rice, by this point having jumped ships from No.1 to Smash Hits, picked up on the famous people angle in her review for the latter magazine of Tomb Of Memories: “Well, you won’t catch me saying a bad word about Paul Young, though I do think it’s a bit of a swizz taking a fourth single off The Secret Of Association LP. Paul sings predictably well on this song co-written by him and featuring Squeeze members Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook on backing vocals, but Laurie Latham’s overwrought production is really beginning to grate.” 3 The single brought an end to his run of Top 10 hits in the UK, although it was still a sizeable hit. Touring took up much of his time for the rest of the year, along with continued promotion for The Secret Of Association in America, where the audience was some way behind the UK and needed to catch up on the singles we had had here in the final quarter of 1984.
1 Hibbert, Tom. “I’d rather become a millionaire in ten years than two. A rise like Boy George’s would be just too fast.”, Smash Hits, EMAP, 11-24 October 1984.
2 Rice, Maureen. “Come back and play”, No.1, IPC Magazines, 6 October 1984.
3 Rice, Maureen. “Singles”, Smash Hits, EMAP, 5-8 June 1985.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Jun. 10
INXS Don’t Change (Mercury INXS1)
ROMAN HOLLIDAY (Steve Lambert) Don’t Try To Stop It (Jive JIVE39)
FAT BOYS Fat Boys (WEA International 219032)
Kirsty MACCOLL He’s On The Beach (Stiff BUY225)
Hazel O’CONNOR Push And Shove (Greenpeace FIND1)
Philip OAKEY and Giorgio MORODER Good-Bye Bad Times (Virgin VS722)
Paul YOUNG Tomb Of Memories (CBS A6321)