For a fortunate few acts – The Beatles, ABBA, Westlife – the UK #1 lists offer a fair representation of a full career arc. For many others the public at least have the decency to pick a highlight. For some, their one or two Number Ones come too early or too late to show an act’s full range. But only in the case of Michael Jackson do British record-buyers simultaneously gift an artist with a large haul of #1s and miss out most of what made him a superstar. If you showed the average pop fan a list of Jackson singles and said “Pick the chart-toppers” I suspect they’d get things spectacularly wrong. There’s one incandescent exception but otherwise “One Day In Your Life” sets a pattern: after a run of superb hits from Off The Wall, Jackson’s first number one here is with a six-year-old ballad cannily resurrected by Motown to front an odds-and-sods cash-in.
Despite all this, “One Day” is rather fine, thanks to a deceptively tremulous vocal from the adolescent Jackson. It’s a shame the arrangers didn’t give the performance a little more space – there’s iron beneath Jackson’s wounded quaver, and he’s quite capable of handling how the song crests without the dubious help provided by banks of Roussos-style strings and irritating drum pans. Much better to have kept the storming bridge, Shangri-Las style, and let Jackson do the heavy lifting elsewhere. So “One Day In Your Life” ends up a badly flawed gem, as frustrating as it is pretty.