Jane Wiedlin – Inside a Dream
I always think being in a pop band must be incredibly tough on the psyche, especially nowadays. If you’ve done your homework you’ll know that the chances are your glory years won’t last that long and that out of all you there’s probably only going to be one big solo career. I imagine that must often create an atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion. Bandmate turned up late for a photoshoot? They’ve probably been at a secret meeting with the label top brass. Time to worry. Bandmate opened an Irish themed restaurant in LA? Maybe don’t fret just yet.
Honestly, I don’t know how any of them cope. It’s nearly always blindingly obvious who The Chosen One is in any pop group, and thanks to Buzzfeed quizzes its never been easier to find out if it’s you who is in fact the Geri. Perhaps this partially explains why we’re seeing fewer solo careers these days, and why there hasn’t been a breakout Saturday yet – they did the quiz and they all came out as Victoria.
Of course back in the eighties you had to figure it out for yourself, and the good thing about that state of affairs is that we as pop fans got lots and lots of great records out of it as members of disbanded groups tried their hands at individual stardom. When the Go Go’s ceased activity in 1985 Jane Wiedlin was first out of the traps with a solo album, which is usually half the battle – but it was Belinda Carlisle who nabbed all the American chart glory when she delivered Mad About You in 1986.
The UK was, however, up for grabs. Due to the fact that the Go Go’s never had a top 40 hit here during their heyday (their sole UK hit came much later, with The Whole World Lost Its Head reaching no.29 in 1995), theoretically any member could forge ahead. Of course that member turned out to be Belinda, who ended up being more popular here than she ever was at home – but Jane had a good old stab at it, and enlisted a whole lot of talent for her second album Fur – producer Stephen Hague of Pet Shop Boys and New Order fame, Simon Climie of Climie Fisher ‘fame’ and Tessa Niles, of amazing-backing-vocals-on-more-records-than-you-care-to-name ‘note’. She was rewarded with a big hit in the form of the sublime Rush Hour – no.12 on the charts but surely no.1 in our hearts, so fondly is it remembered. But after that…nothing.
The failure of Fur has always bemused me, because it’s a terrific album. Maybe it hasn’t aged particularly well, given that a lot of the tracks sound like they could play over the end credits of a Shelley Long movie, but that’s no bad thing. If everything sounded timeless it would all sound the same, right? But what Fur has in spades is tons of effervescent, clean sounding pop gems, particularly in its second single Inside a Dream.
We’ll address the obvious thing first: Inside a Dream is not Rush Hour. It lacks the revved up oomph of its immediate predecessor, but it more than makes up for that with its utter joyousness. It has a wonderful innocence and warmth to it thanks to Jane’s vocal, the optimistic lyrics (“Only a dreamer / Can keep the dream alive / I’ll work and pray and sweat and slave / Until the dream is realised”), and some incredibly lovely see-sawing synths driving the whole thing along in a graceful yet exciting manner. It feels – in a good way – like it could float away at any second and I suppose that makes it a sort of zero calorie version of Belinda’s full-fat pop. But the main thing is that the chorus is heavenly, and it has one of those brilliant strip-it-all-away sad-sounding bridges that makes the final return to the chorus even more thrilling.
In fact the only thing wrong with Inside a Dream is that it was released by EMI Manhattan, who I suspect didn’t have much clout when it came getting their releases prioritised by the UK parent company. Rush Hour had been a bit of a surprise hit and when it came to following it up I reckon there was neither the will nor the budget to make much effort. Of course there were no such problems here with Virgin Records, who worked Belinda’s Heaven on Earth album like a runner on Britain’s Got Talent and created a superstar within the space of a year. Had Jane received the same treatment, things could have been very different. We might even have gotten a third single – which if you ask me ought to have been the delicious semi-ballad One Heart One Way.
Jane has continued to be brilliant – as a solo artist, as a Go Go, as an actress (she’s in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) and as an animal rights activist, which explains why she’s hugging a rabbit on the cover of Fur. In doing so she’s paved the way for others – Nicola Roberts, Siobhan Donaghy, Siobhan Fahey – to become the Interesting One out of their group, which often turns out to be the better path. Thank goodness for that, eh?
Entered chart: 22/10/1988
Chart peak: 64
Weeks on chart: 5
Who could sing this today and have a hit? No one’s really doing world-hugging, light as a feather pop these days, are they? I suppose Ellie Goulding could do it in a hairspray advert.