Eighth Wonder – When the Phone Stops Ringing
It’s often said (by me) that there’s nothing new in pop, and this is especially true when it’s something old. In the case of Eighth Wonder‘s When the Phone Stops Ringing, the something old is both immediately and blindingly obvious. Forget you know the title – just listen to the first seven seconds and then hit pause:
You started singing Heart of Glass didn’t you? I know I did. While you couldn’t get away with that sort of shameless pop pilfering in these post-Blurred Lines days, it seems that in 1987 no-one really gave a toss if you borrowed the ‘vibe’ of another record.
When you decide to call your band Eighth Wonder you’re basically asking for trouble, in that you’re essentially comparing yourself to something legendary, in this case the Colossus of Rhodes, Hanging Gardens of Babylon and some other pretty major stuff. So a pop band led by former pea-spokesperson Patsy Kensit (known as Patsy Peapod in her Birds Eye days) would have to be the best thing ever to earn the title. Which of course they weren’t. Other pop stars have run into similar issues – Princess (good, but not a counterpart to Prince), King (no Queen) – names that must have seemed like a good idea at the time (even if King happened to be your surname) but which set you up to fail.
And this lot certainly failed. There’s a certain irony to the lyric “It’s over when the phone stops ringing” because for a long time it never started ringing for Eighth Wonder. They were one of those bands that seemed to have quite a lot of money chucked at them but somehow just couldn’t have a hit outside of Japan. It’s hard to figure out why, because they were certainly no better or worse than many other pop groups of the time, and When the Phone Stops Ringing is actually a pretty solid tune – sure, it could benefit from a slightly beefier production, but it’s nicely fizzy and Patsy has one of those classic English girl voices that can’t do too much but suits throwaway pop perfectly. I think maybe part of the problem was British resistance to being told what to do – having bagged a lead role in Absolute Beginners in 1986, she became a tabloid darling and was touted as the Next Big Thing. And being a nation of pedants, we didn’t swallow any of it.
Things got a lot better when Patsy teamed up with Pet Shop Boys for I’m Not Scared, which was released under the Eighth Wonder banner in 1988 and soared into the top 10. It is – and this is an empirical fact – one of the best singles of the entire decade and gives Patsy her own special place in pop history. Nowadays, Pet Shop Boys songs tend to clear the dancefloor – I don’t understand why – but I’m Not Scared is still a floorfiller to this day, or at least it is in one or two specific south London venues. You can be pretty much certain that you’ll never hear When the Phone Stops Ringing played in public ever again, but it remains a great pop moment from happier, less litigious times.
Entered chart: did not chart
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Solo single for…*throws dart at a poster of The Saturdays*