ABC – Ocean Blue
Perceived wisdom has it that ABC went a bit rubbish after The Lexicon of Love, and although I hate to say it, perceived wisdom was perhaps onto something. No doubt there are many defenders of Beauty Stab and How To Be a…Zillionaire! out there, but these are probably the type of people who rushed out to buy Terence Trent D’Arby’s Neither Fish Nor Flesh on the first day and still don’t regret it.
It’s not really ABC‘s fault – when you achieve perfection on your very first attempt it must be dreadful to have to try and top it. So wisely they didn’t, but unwisely they dumped the strings, brought in the guitars and eventually drafted in a couple of new members who may or may not have been cartoons. And of course as a result we sort of folded our arms in “impress me” fashion and willed them to do The Look of Love again.
But amongst all the guitars and bizarre keyboard noises that must have come packaged with a new Fairlight was Ocean Blue. As the fourth and final single from their third album it never stood a chance of cracking the top 40, which is a gigantic shame as I reckon it’s the best ballad the band ever recorded.
I’ve included their performance from Wogan here (though he appears to have been off that week with Ronnie Corbett standing in) because the video was possibly the most boring one ever made. How a song named Ocean Blue can have a video featuring neither the ocean or the colour blue is quite beyond me – but I digress. The beauty of Ocean Blue is to be found in the string arrangement, which drives the entire song. We have Anne Dudley (of Art of Noise fame) to thank for this – and if you look at the credits for many a pop record with an orchestral flourish you’ll find her name there. Literally a genius, that woman. The song itself proceeds at a lovely stately pace until 2:03 when the strings suddenly get excited and for a full 33 seconds deliver one of the best bridges ever made. It’s sort of like the exciting version of the Howard’s Way theme you got over the end credits (apart from that year where they used the awful Marti Webb ballad version.)
I like to think that Ocean Blue reminded ABC of their strengths, and soon enough they were back with Alphabet City, which restored them to the charts and made everybody unfold their arms again. Phew!
Entered chart: 11/01/1986
Chart peak: 51
Weeks on chart: 4
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Maybe Avicii could sample the strings. That’d be nice.