It’s almost, but not quite, a bit of a cheat using What is Love? for my 1983 track. Released as Jones’ second single in November 1983, the song climbed all the way up to #2 in the chart, where it was kept from the top by Paul McCartney’s “Pipes of
Baloney Misery Peace”.
But to get that high took What is Love? seven weeks, so it wasn’t until the middle of January 1984 that it peaked. In a uniquely ‘80s way of navigating through chart waters, the song’s placings in successive weeks after release were:
31, 23, 14, 11, 11, 10, 2, 3, 4. 16, 25
It’s too early to tell what effect the addition of streaming will have on (what can’t really any more be called) the singles chart, but the inclusion of download sales in 2005 has already thrown up remarkable occurrences. In the first chart after his death in July 2009, 21 solo Michael Jackson songs reached the Top 75, along with six singles by Michael as part of the Jackson 5, The Jacksons and with Janet Jackson. 5 years later, in July 2014, in the first week of the charts to include streaming as well as downloads every one of the 12 tracks on Ed Sheeran’s newly released X found a place in the Top 100.
It seems inconceivable that a new release could enter the chart as low as 31, and rise slowly into the top 10 now. Fail in the first week of release, and that’s it. You had your chance… It’s not that songs don’t linger in the charts for as many weeks any more - in the nine years since the addition of downloads in 2005, vastly more songs have stayed in the chart for more than 40 weeks than managed the same feat in the first 50 years of the chart. Even some older songs with extended chart runs owe that all to downloads - Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey has enjoyed 66 weeks in the singles chart. How many of those weeks are from its original 1982 release? 4.
Remarkably, Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars is second on the all-time list with 111 weeks in the chart, even though it has never been higher than #6. (It was also, according to the PPL, the most widely played track in the UK during the first decade of the twenty-first century. Lucky us).
I keep having to remind myself that What is Love? did not feature on an album called Human Racing: that was the other fella, of course. Howard’s album was called Human’s Lib, and featured “buoyant but orderly techno-pop” from Jones. In today’s world of synth it sounds oddly current, but at the same time like a montage from John Hughes’ Weird Science. The early singles, New Song and What is Love? are the highlights, but the rest are by no means filler - Equality and Pearl in the Shell (the album’s fourth single) ping and bounce off the combination of Jones’ synth and vocals, while the album’s opening track - Conditioning - lays a New Wave foundation for the likes of School of Language today.