Aug 09

JIM DIAMOND – “I Should Have Known Better”

FT + Popular60 comments • 5,030 views

#541, 1st December 1984, video

This song marks a minor turning point in Popular: it’s the very last which I had absolutely no memory of ever hearing when I started the project. Plenty of later ones are forgettable – even more forgettable than poor Jim – but this is my final “here be dragons”.

As dragons go, this is a somewhat puny specimen; its tail is drooping and it suffers from scale rot. Can it still breathe fire? Only on the howled “IY-YI-YI-YI” hook, which I’d say was the only reason anyone bought this except it takes its own sweet time getting there. And once it’s past the energy level quickly drops again: “I Should Have Known Better” wants to be a big-striding alpha power ballad but doesn’t quite have the gumption, which perhaps explains its lack of afterlife.

The rest of the song is sturdy, chest-beating guilt pop which never quite escapes the stocky shadow of Phil Collins. But while Collins at his ugly best captures the rage and frustration lurking behind male regret, Diamond is just a bit of a sad sack, appealing though his chewy Scots vowels are. You clap him sympathetically on the shoulders with one hand while sneakily checking your watch on the other.



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  1. 51
    Rob K on 2 Sep 2009 #

    In the most part a totally forgettable song but it is responsible for the origination of the phrase “Jim Diamond Vein” round my neck of the woods. On one of his TOTP appearances Jim’s emotionally wrought performance went into overdrive on the “Ay Ay Ay Ay” bit and a large protruding vein started bulging on his forehead. It was like an extra limb and was the talk of our school the next day. Henceforth, anytime anyone suffered same said protrusion the cry “Look at his Jim Diamond Vein!” could be reasonably expected to be yelled ad nauseum.

    Fast forward 20+ years and one of the “Jim Diamond Vein” crew was DJ’ing in a bar in Leeds. The owner introduced him to a new DJ called Lawrence, a mere slip of a lad. Being a DJ groupie as I was in those days we soon got chatting away and over the course of the night he let slip that he got a lot of his record collection from his Dad who was a musician. “Oh”, I asked innocently “anyone I’d have heard of?” “Maybe” said Lawrence “Jim Diamond, he had a couple of hits, he even had a number 1”.

    “You mean Jim Diamond, I Should Have Known Better, Hi Ho Silver, PHD, I Won’t Let You Down, The Jim Diamond Vein!?!?!?!?!?!?!” I blurted unable to contain my disbelief. “Erm, yeah” said Lawrence, looking a touch worried. Naturally I filled him in on the JDV phenomenon and made him promise that he’d tell his Dad all about it. I don’t know if he ever did.

    Not to long after that, in an entirely unrelated series of events, Lawrence moved to London to seek his fortune. I still wonder if somewhere, in some town, on some stage Jim doesn’t get to the “Ay Ay Ay Ay” bit and think about how prominent his vein looks.

  2. 52
    AndyPandy on 2 Sep 2009 #

    Seemed a decent enough bloke although not exactly the kind of thing I was rushing out to buy back then and it might just be me but theres a certain something in the delivery which reminds me of the pompous, overwrought nonsense peddled by David Gray. One of who’s worst crimes was the stripping away from ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ of every molecule of anything that made the original so good in an effort to turn it into some awful, po-faced, American music business pleasing acoustic rock ballad (qv ‘Mad World’ by some bunny embargoed person who I couldnt remember the name of even if I was allowed to).

  3. 53
    mike on 3 Sep 2009 #

    This was one of those songs that provoked an automatic UGH of bored disdain, whenever it forced its presence upon me. It’s also the first Number One since “Coward Of The County” which refused to cue itself up in my mental jukebox; until I found it on Spotify, I couldn’t recall a single note. Unfortunately, and even though I’ve only played it the once, it has now restored itself in my memory in full grisly detail, and has duly been one of this week’s most unshakeable earworms.

    So, er, thanks a bunch for that. It’s at times like these that I question the value of this project!

    (N.B. To be fair to Big Veined Jim, I was always rather fond of “I Won’t Let You Down”, which feels like the epitome of glacial restraint in comparison to this clammy, clenched car-crash.)

  4. 54
    Doctor Casino on 3 Sep 2009 #

    This is tremendous sample bait – great, sonically novel hook surrounded by dross that nobody has ever heard. Dibs!!

  5. 55
    Guy Della Corte on 9 Sep 2009 #

    well i can assure everyone that i knew Jim very well as we went to school together and i contacted him by e mail and he replied to me after we had no contact for 38 years and met up after a gig he did with Snake Davis and was just a nice guy you could ever meet so down to earth and a very good songwriter and musician and still took the time to contact me even though he forgot what i looked like

  6. 56
    punctum on 15 Sep 2009 #

    PhD’s “I Won’t Let You Down” was one of the great one-off hits of 1982, a Jon and Vangelis derivé which manages to become something more, especially in its hosanna of a final section when Tony Hymas’ cathedral organ and Jim Diamond’s pinched contralto turn it into a New Pop hymn, just the other side of yellow from the Teardrop Explodes’ “Tiny Children” and the two prog rock/pub rock veterans succeed in exceeding themselves.

    Hymas proceeded to a curious career which involved both extensive session work and some toe-dipping in the world of improv – playing and recording with, inter alia, Lol Coxhill, Steve Beresford and Tony Coe – while Diamond, a stockily cropped Glaswegian with an alarming resemblance to Jimmy Somerville’s unfunny uncle, returned as a solo artist, managing to squeeze himself into the top slot for just one week in between the heavier hitters.

    “I Should Have Known Better,” co-written by Diamond and Graham Lyle, and nothing to do with either the Beatles or Wire, is a far more conservative proposition than “I Won’t Let You Down,” a fairly straight would-be power ballad – a Cumbernauld “Careless Whisper” – which with its pre-Knopfler guitar solos seems to belong in 1974. Although there are some interesting touches – the regretful, shoulder-shrugging three-step semitone descent after Diamond’s “I know that you saw me…you turned away,” his rueful “yeah!” in the third line of the first verse – the dominant strains are Diamond’s yodel of “Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay,” which unintentionally echoes in part the next number one, and his rather less attractive vocal stridency, a patch of grass somewhere between Freddie Mercury and Kevin Rowland on which you wouldn’t wish to sit for more than four minutes, not to mention the completely out-of-place phlegmatic “ooh yeah!” just before his final assault. After PhD, it’s a bit of a letdown.

  7. 57
    Doctor Casino on 25 Jul 2012 #

    I just have to chime in and say that Rob K’s “Jim Diamond Vein” story is amazing, and I think about it every time I hear the song now. Bravo. Also “Chounonbert.”

  8. 58
    Cumbrian on 5 Aug 2013 #

    Scanning around on the music channels tonight, I saw that Summer Hits TV (whatever that is/whoever they’re affiliated to) is playing the #1s of the eighties, so I switched on and was greeted by this. I’d never heard it before, so of course I came here and found general amnesia was the view here too. Its not very good, so nondescript I can well imagine that people forgot it quickly. It finished 15 mins ago and I can’t remember anything about it.

    Rather than Fran Healy, I think the sleeve looks like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.

  9. 59
    Paulito on 6 May 2015 #

    @58 etc: I think the sleeve pic makes him look a bit like his fellow Glaswegian, Midge Ure.

  10. 60
    Kinitawowi on 10 Oct 2015 #

    RIP at 64.

    Always preferred I Won’t Let You Down, but this was fun.

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