The Chimes – 1-2-3
A mere 9 months after Songs of Innocence-gate, the moment it became abundantly clear that Bono, The Edge and co. couldn’t even give their music away, it’s hard to imagine anyone turning to the U2 songbook in search of a career enhancing cover version. Oh, and while I’m here, I’d like to say one thing with regards Songs of Innocence…it wasn’t spam. It was an album. And anyone complaining about it cluttering up their iTunes library needs to take a step back and think about their lives. The really simple solution to your problem, if you don’t want to hear the new U2 album, is not to click on it. You probably received a note from an African Prince asking for money to sponsor his UK university education and an email about penis enlargement that day too, and I bet you didn’t click on them. Anyway, back to 1990, when the idea that covering a song written by one of the biggest bands in the world might be the best way to provide you with a hit record. Welcome to the story of The Chimes and their first faltering steps towards the Popvoid.
After a couple of false starts, The Chimes decided a U2 song was just the ticket to end their nine month hit drought. It had worked before. While Pet Shop Boys‘ Behaviour album has grown in popularity over the years, and many fans consider it their finest work to date, in 1990 it marked a considerable downturn in the band’s commercial fortunes. First single So Hard had failed to get to no.1 and the follow up, Being Boring, had become their lowest charting single since their breakthrough in 1985 when it stalled at no.20 – I can almost see the young Niall McMurray standing on the side lines screaming, “Deploy the Emergency Cover Version”, at the top of his (newly broken) voice (this actually happened – Ed.) Thankfully someone was listening and a hastily recorded version of Where the Streets Have No Name, mashed with Can’t Take My Eyes of You, was released as a single in a double ‘A’ side format with album track, How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously? It resulted in a no.4 hit and one of the best (and probably apocryphal) stories in pop, when it was reported that Bono sent Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe a message which simply read, “What have we done to deserve this?”
It would work again for the C&C Music Factory (Pride (In the Name of Love) – no.15 in 1992) and Mica Paris (One – no.29 in 1995) – but perhaps we should just skip over Mary Kiani’s With or Without You (no. 46 in 1997). For The Chimes, their soul infused re-make of I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For gave them their biggest hit, but it also overshadowed virtually everything else they released. Save for one other top 30 placing – for a re-issue of their second single, Heaven – the band failed to trouble the top 40 again and split after only one album.
It’s unfortunate, because their debut single, 1-2-3, should have served as a triumphant introduction. Produced by Jazzie B and Nellee Hooper and infused with their signature summer-y swagger, sweeping strings and Pauline Henry’s soaring, soulful vocal ride a groove which simply oozes feel-good positivity. Powered by the same shuffling beat which had taken their very own Soul II Soul branded Back To Life (However Do You Want Me) to no.1 only a couple of months earlier, it really should have been another late summer club anthem.
Instead 1-2-3, and the similarly euphoric follow-up, Heaven, failed to chart. While hitting the top 10 with their subsequent U2 cover, and achieving a top 20 debut placing for its parent album can’t have been too shabby, no one wants to be thought of as a one hit wonder, and you definitely do not want the world to think you owe everything you’ve ever achieved to Bono and The Edge. Really? What did they do to deserve that?
Entered chart: 19/09/1989
Chart peak: 60
Weeks on chart: 4
Who could sing this today and have a hit? – I’d like to see this get a sonic make-over by Disclosure. And if they can’t lure Pauline Henry herself back to the mic to re-record her vocal, maybe they could persuade their mate Jessie Ware to do it.