Wednesday 16 January 2019

I've been to paradise, but I've never been to me

American singer Charlene hit the charts while working in a sweet shop
American singer Charlene hit the charts while working in a sweet shop
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Sometimes I come home and I'm blitzed. I go through the motions with the wife and kids but they know I'm struggling so they will let me off for an hour. Oftentimes I will be so braindead that I won't even be up to watching TV or browsing the internet. So it's Top of the Pops for me.

1980s Top of the Popses are currently running on various channels and there is nothing less demanding and more comforting than flicking through eight or 10 of them that have built up on the Sky Box. Sometimes I even convince my wife to come and sit with me. For some togetherness time, like.

The great thing when she comes in is that she gets her Google on. I have a million questions as I watch all these people, about how life ended up for them. You see them there, people who had one or two hits and who are thinking, 'I've arrived. I'm on Top of the Pops. And now I'm going to be a pop star for the rest of my life. And a millionaire', and you wonder, from the vantage point of knowing that they never had a hit again, how it all turned out for them.

Being zombified, I'm too lazy to Google them. So I generally just sit there and wonder. But my wife's much nosier than me so she's all over it. We were barely 10 minutes into a session of 1985 the other night before she was telling me that Paul King, of the band King, who were a bunch of large-haired guys who enjoyed a few hits in the mid 1980s, was actually from Galway.

Then I was sneering at Nik Kershaw and wondering what he ended up doing, when she told me that in fact, he had a reasonably successful second career as a songwriter and that he bought two houses from the proceeds of Chesney Hawkes's 1991 hit The One and Only. Indeed that song, together with Nik's own three hits The Riddle, Wouldn't It be Good and I Won't Let the Sun Go Down On Me made him millions and put his kids through private school and college. Then she said: "Stop! I won't have another word said against Nik Kershaw." It turns out he has a child with DS.

Admittedly you'll find yourself fast-forwarding through a lot of rubbish from the likes of Dollar and Shalamar, and some songs you'll just briefly stop off at, like to marvel at how camp Imagination were, something I didn't really understand fully at the time.

And then you'll find the odd stone-cold classic as well, like Charlene's I've Been To Paradise. Those of you of a certain age will remember this was a song in which a worldly woman who has lived an allegedly glamorous life tells a discontented mother who yearns for a more exciting life that she's not really missing anything.

So Charlene details her life to this woman, how she's done everything from, "Took the hand of a preacher man and we made love in the sun" to being, "undressed by kings and I've seen some things/ That a woman ain't s'posed to see", but ultimately she concludes: "I spent my life exploring the subtle whoring that cost too much to be free/ Hey lady, I've been to paradise, but I've never been to me"

And while I'm listening my wife is telling me that Charlene actually recorded that song years earlier and by the time it was revived and became a hit she was working in a sweet shop in Ilford in East London.

And I know what you're thinking. You're thinking 'Wow, his wife's a lucky woman if this is his idea of a good time." And my response to that would be to refer you to the monologue in the middle of I've Been to Paradise, where Charlene tells the discontented mother:

'Hey, you know what paradise is? It's a lie. A fantasy we create about/ People and places as we'd like them to be./ But you know what truth is?/ It's that little baby you're holding,/ and it's that man you fought with his morning/ the same one you're going to make love with tonight/That's truth, that's love."

The last show in the current season of Brendan O'Connor's Cutting Edge is on RTE 1 on Wednesday at 9.35pm after the news and weather

Sunday Indo Living

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss