Inga Humpe – Riding Into Blue (Cowboy Song)
I started thinking about the end of the eighties at the beginning of the eighties, thanks entirely to this let’s-take-the-shine-off-your-party lyric from Happy New Year by ABBA: “It’s the end of a decade / in another ten years time / who’s to say what we’ll find / what lies waiting down the line / in the end of….’89”. Had I known that the answer to that particular query was a fair bit of disappointment and a brief flirtation with clubby tops, I might not have bothered thinking much about it. But as the eighties progressed and I went from being seven years old to seventeen, I started to realise that I probably wasn’t going to enjoy myself as much ever again – at least in terms of pop – and began to faintly dread the nineties.
Still, you have just have to get on with things don’t you? And in fact 1990 itself turned out to be remarkably exciting, with all my eighties favourites at or near the top of their game, by which I mean Vogue, Better the Devil You Know, So Hard and I’m Your Baby Tonight (specifically the completely different UK single version). And then of course there was all that newness to look forward to, which included the chart debut of what turned out to be my all time favourite pop group, Saint Etienne – but for a brief and fairly intense period I was officially All About Inga. She came from Germany and swaggered into town in July, minus her sister Anete (with whom she’d made a chart assault in 1988 with the amazing Careless Love) but plus one of the more unusual debut solo records in pop history, Riding Into Blue (Cowboy Song) – a gorgeous but very strange wild-west themed Trevor Horn “number”. In the charts, it did about as well as you might expect, which is not very. But goodness me, I thought it was ace. Still do.
I can’t think of many records that start with a big old “yee-ha!” and then lope along on a Bontempi-sponsored horse for a bit, but Riding Into Blue does, and it’s wonderfully different from anything else at the time and also, well, ever. And just when you’re wondering how on earth they’re going to keep this up, the record jumps onto a steam train and chugs off in a new direction, becoming more energetic and expansive as it goes. Just like a train, it makes stops along the way, first picking up a harmonica and then Lol Creme, and then finally a truly gorgeous lollop-ing guitar line that makes me grin and tip my head from side to side. It then grinds to a halt in a way that makes me smile and think of Cloudbusting, so what I’m really saying is that there isn’t an awful lot here not to love. Of course the best thing about all of it is Inga herself. With lots of beautifully layered vocals, she comes across a bit like a one woman Andrews Sisters on sedatives, which is obviously no bad thing. She also manages the impressive feat of sounding a bit like a human version of a steam whistle, which as far as I can recall isn’t something anyone else was trying in 1990. I bet Enya was kicking herself.
Railway-related pop – by which I mean pop that at some point compels you to use your arms to replicate the motion of a train and yank on an imaginary steam whistle pull cord – is a tricky thing to master. When it goes wrong (Locomotion by OMD) it’s a tiny bit embarrassing, but when it goes right (Love Train by Holly Johnson) it’s hugely exhilarating. Riding Into Blue is more sedate than either of those, but it’s had me chugging around my living room on many an occasion, so by that measure it is very much a success. Sadly, as we’ve now learned literally hundreds of times, success in my living room does not translate to success in the wider world, and despite a few showings on the Chart Show (god bless that programme), Riding Into Blue was only able to make no.93. When the follow up also flopped, along with the quite-good-but-not-that good album Planet Oz, Inga pretty much vanished from view in Britain – but were you to tell me she’d been moonlighting as Alison Goldfrapp all these years I would not be in the least bit surprised.
Entered chart: 28/07/90
Chart peak: 93
Weeks on chart: 3
Who could sing this today and have a hit? This is yet another song I would add to my planned Incredible Emma Bunton Comeback Album.