Jul 10

WHITNEY HOUSTON – “One Moment In Time”

FT + Popular80 comments • 7,660 views

#617, 15th October 1988

Written for the Seoul Olympics, “One Moment In Time” makes an age-old connection between sport and character – if you want to win, you have to suffer, be more than you thought you could be, and so on. Do this, and you might be rewarded with your moment when you’re “racing with destiny” – only caring about the Track And Field is a classic US Olympic-watching stereotype, of course, though I guess all your dreams are a heartbeat away in the dressage or synchro too.

We’re a long way from “it’s all about the taking part”, but in a sporting context I’ve no real problem with the message. This generic glory-of-sport stuff doesn’t quite work as a song though, for two reasons: one sporting, one pop. First of all, the thing about glory is that it isn’t generic. Every triumph comes with its own story, which is why the most effective sporting songs are often from the fan perspective – people with a powerful investment in that story. “One Moment In Time” is more like sport as understood by ‘the neutral’, people who care about the effort of winning, but not who the winner actually is.

I should point out that if the Guardian’s What’s Rocking Sport columns are anything to go by, actual sportspeople often love this kind of stuff. So it’s emotionally true and resonant for some. As a spectator, I can’t really relate, not just because I’ve never won a race but also because from the outside the moment of triumph needs no empathy or elaboration: it stands by itself. And here’s my pop reason for not feeling “One Moment”: something I think pop music is amazing at is capturing and condensing feelings, putting an emotion or situation you recognise into a song. Winning a gold medal honestly doesn’t need that kind of capture – it is what it is, already so focussed and concentrated that it makes pop seem clumsy. Something not helped by “One Moment” moving at the pace of an action replay, and in the process setting a grim template for every winners’ single in 00s reality pop.

But Whitney Houston’s two earlier number ones were superb examples of the pop song as emotional snapshot, so if anyone could make “One Moment In Time” mean something, it would be her. But the brief glimmer of hope that she might is snuffed out when those painfully sedate drums pad their way into the song, and from then she’s bracing herself against the arrangement. Key changes – she’s ready. Brass – she’s ready. Strings – SHE’S READY. And actually, by the end you realise there is an Olympic sport “One Moment In Time” evokes perfectly: weightlifting.



  1. 1
    MikeMCSG on 14 Jul 2010 #

    This would be my nomination for the most depressing chart topper of the 80s. Two of the best songwriters of the 70s , Albert Hammond and John Bettis selling their souls to cobble together this Reaganite shite for Ms Houston to shout her way through.

    I’m tempted to think that its successor was bought as an antidote to this one but we’ll come to that soon enough.

  2. 2
    flahr on 14 Jul 2010 #

    It’s a bit “My Way”, isn’t it? I was listening to it as I read through the review and the final score seemed a bit harsh – until that dreadful brass section wanders in, as if they were recording in the adjacent studio and some of the sound leaked through. It really is laughable.

    The drums, on the other hand, I think I’ve built up an immunity to. I know that they’re ridiculous but stately dull drums which speed up to telegraph a Big Moment are pretty much the bread and butter of some pop nowadays.

  3. 3
    TomLane on 14 Jul 2010 #

    By the time this came out, Whitney already had 7 #1 singles in the States. So who better to do the big Olympic theme than her? Lord knows she give it her all, but she does indeed get tripped up by the overblown arrangement. Yet again, it’s an Olympic theme, so why wouldn’t it be going for the sky?
    Like Tom, the message doesn’t bother me, but the record is a big lead balloon. The sort of song the winning contestant would sing at the finale of American Idol.
    And all in all it peaked at #5 in the States.

  4. 4
    Tom on 14 Jul 2010 #

    Yeah it’s the brass not the drums that really kill it, you’re right.

    Fair play to the sleeve designer for giving you a pretty good warning of what you’re getting though.

  5. 5
    Tom on 14 Jul 2010 #

    #3 were there big Olympic themes before then? Was there a record for the 1984 one? (I can’t imagine there was for 1980, maybe BORIS GREBENSHIKOV did it)

  6. 6
    Kat but logged out innit on 14 Jul 2010 #

    Ohhhh I have a big old post brewing about what is on swimmer’s ipods.

  7. 7
    Stevie T on 14 Jul 2010 #

    Supposedly this by Sergio Mendes was the 1984 theme :

    Sounds like a Gilette ad.

  8. 8
    Stevie T on 14 Jul 2010 #

    And there’s a whole bunch of them for the 1980 Moscow games!:
    Doubtless better than Orange Juice’s effort.

  9. 9
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 14 Jul 2010 #

    “all your dreams are a heartbeat away in the dressage or synchro too”

    no! this is false:

    a) because dressage and synchro are GENUINE sports requiring the TIMELY JUDGMENT of the judges, not just all this running and lifting not-a-actual-sport foolishness — hence all your dreams take a little while to be realised
    b) see (a): pop based on the metaphor of winning at synchro or dressage would WIPE THE FLOOR with pop based on the non-sport “objective measurement” events (as if nine seconds isn’t ALWAYS LESS THAN TEN SECONDS zzzz)

  10. 10
    thefatgit on 14 Jul 2010 #

    “Love Will Save The Day” was a Top 10 hit for Whitney earlier in 88. It’s the last uptempo funtime song I tend to associate with her. Produced by John Jellybean Benitez, with that lovely mix of glockenspiel, cowbells and milk bottles driving the song along, how could you not dance to it?

    Then along comes “One Moment In Time”. Written by John Bettis and Albert Hammond, it’s awfully stodgy in comparison. NBC commissioned it for their Olympics coverage. I’m unsure if Whitney performed it during the Opening Ceremony, but this is the point where my admiration for Whitney began to be tested. She’s bang on every note, but although the melisma is kept to a minimum, it just feels bogged down by it’s own worthiness. I can’t help feeling the song is weighing her down, so Tom’s weightlifting reference strikes a chord with me.

    I won’t go as far as saying the song is “bad”, because I feel it serves it’s purpose very well. OMIT sweats struggle. It’s seeping from every pore. It’s a challenge for the listener to “enjoy” it. You feel a huge sense of relief when it’s over. Put a medal round my neck. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

  11. 11
    lonepilgrim on 14 Jul 2010 #

    it starts off sounding a little bit like ‘The winner takes it all’ before Whitney opens her lungs and the producers start hitting every effect button they can find. Bombastic, sententious overblown rubbish.

    I was at a conference in Nottingham yesterday with some of the people responsible for the 2012 Olympic ceremonies and the Cultural Olympiad leading up to the games. The regional group for the East Midlands played a promo video featuring Take That’s ‘Greatest Day’ and that worked a whole lot better – brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye.

  12. 12
    Billy Smart on 14 Jul 2010 #

    The gorgeous 1964 Olympics theme, ‘Tokyo Melody’ by Helmut Zacharias & His Orchestra, got to number 9, and is one of my favourite hits of the 1960s;


  13. 13
    Billy Smart on 14 Jul 2010 #

    This is one of my unfavourite singles of the 1980s, however… Toothgrindingly tedious, I think that its the lack of any sense of playfulness – and the interminable length of the thing – that really grates. Being told that I can achieve the dream, have to go for it 101%, etc, by some managerial type with no sense of irony, will always bring out the misanthropic slacker in me.

    Its mildly interesting to hear something that I dislike in precisely the same way now that I did when I was sixteen, I suppose, but I really am clutching at straws here. The one point in its favour is that it seems to have left little trace in popular memory – The only times that I’ve heard it since has been when Dale Winton is doing October 1988. A small mercy.

  14. 14
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 14 Jul 2010 #

    I have to say — given such a pifflingly composed and arranged song, repetitively based on a not-uninteresting idea that isn’t in the slightest allowed to evolve or be explored (“if i ever get a moment where i better myself in that moment i will be free”) — that whitney gives a pretty awesomely controlled performance and (technically) fascinating* not-quite-perfect performance**

    towards the end it’s like they’re tossing flaming chainsaws of effects at her and she’s catching them casually in her teeth (“now suddenly make her sound like she’s teenytiny and far away in a stadium the size of a galaxy!” “ok she handled that, now unleash the rubbish trumpets!”)

    *i don;t think there’s anything emotionally interesting to find the the song, unless you read her reading against its grain (and claim that she’s runnign a marathon in order to mock the 100-yard-dash-centrism of the lyric-writer)
    **ilx’s dan perry — himself a semi-professional singer — used to say that whitney tends sharp, and there’s a couple of slightly uncharacteristic yelpy swoops, which i guess i like because you don’t often catch her out being less than goddess-size

  15. 15
    Billy Smart on 14 Jul 2010 #

    Number 2 Watch: A week of Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’.

  16. 16
    Billy Smart on 14 Jul 2010 #

    Oh, and Orange Juice’s joyous unofficial 1980 Olympic theme, ‘Moscow’, is perhaps the binary opposite of ‘One Moment in Time’;


  17. 17
    Rory on 14 Jul 2010 #

    @15 – We had six weeks of “Don’t Worry” at number one in Oz, by the end of which everyone was thoroughly sick of it. And zero weeks of Whitney, mercifully. No quibble with Tom’s 2 from me.

  18. 18
    swanstep on 14 Jul 2010 #

    And I thought Weezer’s World Cup song was bad… blimey this is horrible. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to watch Olympics coverage in the US (almost everything’s delayed, compressed and repackaged with lots of backstory spliced in about, esp. US, athlete struggles, events get cut away from before you’ve had a chance to figure out how they work etc.) then you’ll probably agree that this record captures some of that 4-yearly torture on NBC or CBS or whichever main network has it. Americans who live close to the Canadian border get to watch the vastly superior Canadian coverage, but everyone else is stuck with a travesty that’s a lot like having to listen to OMIT for an hour or two straight.

    I agree with Lord Sukrat’s suggestion at #14 that Whitney’s not really to blame here (any more than Katie Couric or whomever is personally to blame for wretched network Olympics coverage).

    @Billy Smart, 12. I’ll see your Helmut Z. and raise you a Paul Mauriat

  19. 19
    thefatgit on 14 Jul 2010 #

    Rory, am I right in thinking Whitney did diddly squat with this in Oz?

    I’m just thinking that Australians’ attitude to sport is much more pragmatic than the Brits, and superfluous bullshit like this wouldn’t chime well with those Down Under. Not wanting to generalise of course.

  20. 20
    thefatgit on 14 Jul 2010 #

    Just read your post Rory, and it confirms my suspicions.

  21. 21
    Rory on 14 Jul 2010 #

    Thefatgit, I meant zero weeks at number one – this appears to have peaked at number two in Oz, according to Wikipedia; but the usually reliable australian-charts.com says it peaked at 49. Hmm.

  22. 22
    Tom on 14 Jul 2010 #

    #9 the idea of a pop song about synchro is ringing bells with me somehow, it’s the kind of thing Foals or someone might have done, except a bit softer than them… hmm.

    And yes, I don’t think Whitney’s “to blame” here – for some she’s not someone I tend to ascribe with a lot of agency in her song choice: she seems very concerned about inhabiting a song but not especially bothered about what it is. I guess my grounds for this is the way her material tends to fit the public image of what she can do/ought to be doing at a given time, i.e. Whitney is in a Troubled Marriage to an R&B star, ergo she will sing Troubled R&B. (Britney is someone else whose material is a bit too neat in this way).

  23. 23
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 14 Jul 2010 #

    Well there’s an entire whole excellent LP by King Sunny Ade called “Synchro System”: I shall have to relisten to see if it fits the bill as I envisage it… (it’s largely in Yoruba so i don’t know the precise subject)

  24. 24
    Tom on 14 Jul 2010 #

    #19 this is actually something that hadn’t occurred to me writing this – we know that Brits in the 80s weren’t as sentimental about football as they later became, but what about other sports? Why WAS this such a hit here, if as Swanstep says it’s so keyed to a US perception of the Olympics. It feels ahead of its time almost, a record I’d expect to be a hit in a post-Gazza, maybe even post-Diana culture.

    (OK Chariots Of Fire is a semi-precedent but it’s not really SPORT that’s getting sentimental about.)

  25. 25
    Mark G on 14 Jul 2010 #

    The last line of this song rings “I will be freeeeeee… righto I’m off, cheers.”

    It’s built to be the sort of song someone might do on GenericCountry’s got talent show. But have they?

  26. 26
    thefatgit on 14 Jul 2010 #

    It’s like the Boat Race. In the pre-race build up we’re encouraged to share the pain of the rowers in training, with their extended training montages (SWEAT PAIN SUFFERING). The race itself lasts about 10 minutes. Then more lingering shots of the losers’ (usually Oxford) SWEAT PAIN SUFFERING, with voyeuristic relish. Like we’re almost made to feel guilty in sharing the victors’ elation. Even the winning cox gets a dunking.

  27. 27
    Elsa on 15 Jul 2010 #

    Maybe 22 years is an awkward interval in pop history, but many of these recent entries sound like parodies of the type of song they are, as might be seen on some sketch-comedy program.

  28. 28
    MikeMCSG on 15 Jul 2010 #

    #22 Tom, one of Frazier Chorus’s singles – I think it was “Nothing” – had the band doing synchro in the video. Youtube is firewalled here so I can’t link it.

  29. 29
    punctum on 15 Jul 2010 #

    Here is some commentary that I wrote, privately, about this record a few years ago:

    “One argument at the time of the assorted 1988 Olympics scandals suggested that if athletes of the modern age were to be disqualified and/or banned from competition, then the Beatles, the Stones, Dylan et al should be excluded from all of those Greatest Albums Ever Made lists on the grounds of being out of it. But sport isn’t pop, or even rock; whereas the culture ties between music and drugs are so intimately, if not umbilically, bound that much of the former would be unimaginable without any of the latter, sport still signifies, if only just, an aura of purity; that men and women can compete on honest and fair grounds and strive for physical and spiritual nobility; become, perhaps, outside themselves, prove an example, an inspiration, a paragon of virtue where all else is greased with greed.

    ”It is fitting that the sinisterly pompous 1988 Olympic anthem, “One Moment In Time,” should have been the theme to the year when sport revealed itself to be as dirtily venal and grasping as any other twentieth century activity, when nothing was demonstrated to matter except winning (and gratifying the winner’s sponsors/bank manager) at whatever cost. Thus records were broken to virtually inhuman – or superhuman – levels, and then routine testing took them all away again. Carl Lewis’ exasperated, raised eyebrow as Ben Johnson swept past him in preparation for disgracing his country said it all – no wonder Canadians prefer to honour the clean memory of Jack Donohue, the Canadian basketball coach who guided his team from total obscurity to fourth and sixth place in the 1984 and 1988 games respectively; better a sporting sixth than a false first. And there was Florence Griffith-Joyner, winner of three track golds and systematic breaker of records in 1988, who tested clean but retired abruptly thereafter and was dead before she was forty of causes which may or may not have been steroid-related.

    ”This, then, was the background to “One Moment In Time” which, with its careful, escalating architecture of synthesised orchestra, synthesised tubular bells and synthesised choir, was false to its would-be supremacist gym shoes. Co-written by the inescapable Albert Hammond, Whitney does her best with such crass metaphors as “racing with destiny” and “you’re a winner,” but there is something vile and repulsive about the Reaganite vibrati of “I will feel eternity,” “I want it all, no time for less” and the final “I will be free” with its echoes of “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” and general air of Leni Riefenstahl. But free market economics have prevailed; sport having long since descended into another cynical money-generating machine, and its decline probably terminal. Who wants to watch programmed machines routinely beating each other? Dare I even contemplate that question’s gruesome answer?”

    Subsequently, I read Simon Barnes’ book The Meaning Of Sport. In it he reckons that the 1988 100 metres final is the second greatest sporting event he’s ever seen (and he was there in Seoul, reporting on it for the Times) – well, of course it was brilliant, the greatest run any man had undertaken up to that point; never mind the tools Johnson had used to enable it, wasn’t it just superhuman? Wasn’t that the point? And what’s all this about “aura of purity” anyway – the modern attitude towards sport stems, as with so many other inconvenient things, from the Victorians; it’s all a sham, a ploy to keep manners and classes in their place (Murray lost to Nadal in the semis? Shoulder shrug. Murray beat Nadal in the final? Polite clapping; not one of “us,” everyone’s an Endersby in this world). Yes, it was fake, but no more so than the construct of civilising sport, and eventually it was always going to come down to the question of which brand can best propagate itself rather than providing entertainment, or art, or with any luck both, for the people who are supposed to be watching it and for whose benefit sport is supposed to be – World Cups where teams close each other down, knowing that one goal is enough to get them through, and play cynical softball for the other 83 minutes (and isn’t Barnes correct that the format of the football game itself is the chief thing that’s holding football back, since everything else, including financial gain, is necessarily secondary to that one-goal advantage?) – but we’d never seen it done before, it was man exceeding himself, and so what if he achieved that excess by means of biochemical enhancements? Becoming closer to God, or to a machine – the race is still running. But Ben and Florence; they were never going to be “us” and a sneaky but truthful part of ourselves recognises how awed we might still be by their fatal examples.

  30. 30
    swanstep on 15 Jul 2010 #

    @punctum, 29. I’m not sure why you say “we’d never seen it before” 1988, given that Soviet Bloc athletes had been piling up medals and records (some of which still stand) all through the ’60s and 70s in ways that everyone suspected was artificial (and what’s emerged since as the truth about esp. East German women’s programs during that period is truly horrific). The ’80s just saw western athletes belatedly adopt the same techniques (albeit privately, individually). Win-at-all-costs (and cheat if you have to) evidently appeals across economic and political systems!

    Relatedly, an snl classic on the topic from the period.

  31. 31
    punctum on 15 Jul 2010 #

    The point is we’d never seen a man run that fast before. Had Johnson not swerved his head and done his wave at the end he would probably have cut a few further seconds off the record. With all due respect to the field aspect of track and field, javelin, weightlifting etc. don’t carry the same symbolic value as events such as the 100 metres.

    (N.B.: Self-correction: “Enderby,” not “Endersby.”)

  32. 32
    swanstep on 15 Jul 2010 #

    @punctum,31. OK, I see what you were saying then. For what it’s worth, the Canadians I knew at the time weren’t at all despondent about Ben Johnson’s cheating, rather they seemed to revel in Canada being badass and losing a little of its ‘nice, inoffensive guy’ image.

  33. 33
    Tom on 15 Jul 2010 #

    I had totally forgotten that this was the Ben Johnson olympics (I remembered Flo Jo because of the nails, of course) – thought it was 92 for some reason. Anyway, yes, that gives One Moment In Time a whole extra layer.

    (This was probably the apex of my not caring about sport, though – the twin anti-sporting pulls of Dungeons And Dragons and indie music meant the whole thing passed me by oblivious.)

  34. 34
    Erithian on 15 Jul 2010 #

    #32 Wasn’t there a bit of the Andy Murray/Lennox Lewis syndrome too? – i.e. he was Canadian until he got found out, whereupon he became Jamaican again.

    Coming four years after the Hollywood treatment of the LA Games, the time must have seemed right for the aspirational/inspirational power ballad anthem – and as pointed out above, this effectively set the template for all those reality show winners’ songs (so we should maybe be careful about judging it in the context of the songs that followed and how fed up we are with them!) Whitney overpitches it a couple of times in the overblown environment she’s singing in, but generally it’s a competent performance.

    Indeed, echoing Swanstep’s comment at #18, our TV coverage of the Olympics is increasingly following the US model, with airtime devoted to sporting action being squeezed between arty and/or sentimental profiles. After all, no two countries’ viewers see the same Olympics – apart from the marquee events a broadcaster will concentrate on its own main contenders’ sports, and not every country will see, for instance, as much rowing, sailing and cycling as we do. And what was our most cherished moment at those 1988 Games? If any non-Brits reading this understand the significance of the commentary line, “Where were the Germans? – but frankly who cares?” hats off to them.

    Another then-unguessed-at feature of these Olympics, the first since 1972 without a major bloc boycott, was that it was the last Games in which the Soviet Union and East Germany would take part, both entities being history by the time of Barcelona ’92.

  35. 35
    Matt DC on 15 Jul 2010 #

    I have no memory of this one at all but the sleeve is awesomely naff.

  36. 36
    thefatgit on 15 Jul 2010 #

    Punctum, re: Leni Riefenstahl… hasn’t the smear of Berlin ’36 been present at every Olympics since, no matter how much the organisers would dearly love to sweep it under the carpet? Recent Olympiads have focused on the World’s Largest Party aspect of the Games, but there’s still that tincture of supremacy in the overall flavour of the whole event. In fact doesn’t the Olympic ideal lend itself to ideological extremes? Compare the Olympics to the World Cup (the 2nd largest global sporting event, and predominantly post-fascist), the differences become even more apparent.

  37. 37
    Kat but logged out innit on 15 Jul 2010 #

    I loved Flo Jo so much that I began running around the back garden as fast I could, asking my Dad to let me know once I’d reached 100 metres. He watched me run round and round for about 20 minutes before admitting ‘that’s probably enough’. It was a good few years before I managed to stop biting my nails though.

    At school we talked about the Olympics, and the teacher asked us who our favourite sportspeople were. Nearly all the kids named footballers or Linford Christie, and when I said ‘Flo Jo’ then Mrs White actually had a go at me for being unpatriotic. “Do you not like any of the British team, Katherine?” What you mean the LOSERS? I mean ffs. I didn’t know about Adrian Moorhouse then obviously.

  38. 38
    Billy Smart on 15 Jul 2010 #

    Martin Grimley, from the British gold medal hockey team was a teacher at my school at the time! I can remember him wearing his medal to school, giving a talk at assembly which climaxed with him – ‘One Moment In Time’-style – holding his medal and saying to us boys “Your destiny”, and him driving a new car which had a sign attached reading “Britain’s gold medal Olympic hero Martin Grimley drives a Metro supplied by Southwark Motors”

    We all thought that he was a cock, gold medal Olympic hero or not.

  39. 39
    anto on 15 Jul 2010 #

    The melody of One Moment in Time being played on tenor horn is oddly redolent of childhood for me. It was one of the tunes my Sister would play for school band practice. The original is very grating mind.

    My Dad is a sports fan and he insists Ben Johnsons chemically enhanced
    ” moment in time ” at Seoul was the most thrilling sports victory he’s ever seen on TV.

  40. 40
    DietMondrian on 15 Jul 2010 #

    Carl Lewis has a go at pop with not quite the success he had on the track:


    If you’ve not seen it I really urge you to. Worth stick with to the end if you can bear it. Astonishing stuff.

  41. 41
    ciaran 10 on 15 Jul 2010 #

    #40. Thanks for that.Now that is Youtube Gold.not the best track (excuse the pun) i have heard.Looks liike one of the jacksons in that.cant think which one.

  42. 42
    LondonLee on 16 Jul 2010 #

    Tom: “only caring about the Track And Field is a classic US Olympic-watching stereotype”

    Actually, they only care about Track and Field (and Gymnastics) when it’s at the Olympics, it’s not shown on television here any other time. Even when the world champions at various races are Americans they’re unknown back home until they compete in the Olympics. Bit like the Brits with Wimbledon, we don’t give a shit about tennis outside that.

    Anything to avoid talking about this record.

  43. 43
    12XU on 16 Jul 2010 #

    Anyone else remember ‘Rust’, Echo and the Bunnymen’s weak, wannabe hit from the late 90s, that they hoped would be as big for them as ‘Nothing Last Forever’?

    The chorus had McCulloch go, “Give… me… one…”

    To which I’d always think, “…MOMENT IN TIME!”

    And its always tickled me, because it’s just when McCull’s forgotten how to be his cool former self, and started trying to do some middle aged post-Liam Gallagher thing- how gutted he’d be to realise he’s doing Whitney.

    Was it just me? Yeah, probably. As you were…

  44. 44
    wichita lineman on 16 Jul 2010 #

    Carl Lewis’s effort is way more enjoyable than Whitney. I’m guessing he wrote and produced it too, keeping the amateur spirit alive in music as well as sport.

    Which other unlikely, non-football sports stars have had a stab at pop? I remember liking John Conteh’s The Boxer – from memory it was rumbling, a bit of wah-wah, a little like early Hot Chocolate. Oh, and not the Simon & Garfunkel song.

  45. 45
    Erithian on 16 Jul 2010 #

    Try this – Surrey and England cricketer Mark Butcher’s tribute to his friend and team-mate Ben Hollioake who died in a car crash aged 24:

  46. 46
    Kat but logged out innit on 16 Jul 2010 #

    Snooker Loopy, dudes…

  47. 47
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 16 Jul 2010 #

    Wikipedia sez: “The lyrics are a mild satire on the style and antics of the players involved: old Willie Thorne; his hair’s all gone for example” — the word “mild” doing a surprising amount of work there IMO

  48. 48
    MikeMCSG on 16 Jul 2010 #

    # 46/7 There was a brilliant review of that in RM (possibly by Eleanor Levy) which ran something like this

    “Steve Interesting Davis and his mates get round the old joanna with Chas and Dave for one of the most gruesome singalongs of all time. But where are Alex Higgins, Kirk Stevens and Tony Knowles ? Having more fun with various of the seven deadly sins no doubt !”

  49. 49
    wichita lineman on 16 Jul 2010 #

    ‘Tony Knowles, the matinee idol of the snooker world’ as Ted Lowe once whispered, with great delicacy.

  50. 50
    vinylscot on 16 Jul 2010 #

    What about Gerd Muller’s “Dann Macht Es Bumm”?


    …one of four singles he released during the best years of his career (1969-74). I think I’ve got one of them in a box somehwere….

  51. 51
    abaffledrepublic on 16 Jul 2010 #

    #15: oh dear. Has there ever been a worse 1-2 at the top of the charts?

    To me this sounds like most everything Whitney Houston ever released, ie horrible, predictable and totally unloveable.

  52. 52
    lonepilgrim on 16 Jul 2010 #

    in a strange piece of loosely linked synchronicity I had my hands on an Olympic gold medal today at a symposium on the Art of swimming and rowing in Oxford – it belonged to Rowley Douglas, the cox of the GB men’s eight rowing team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and was surprisingly hefty

  53. 53
    Erithian on 17 Jul 2010 #

    The only gold medals I’ve handled belonged to Tanni Grey-Thompson, who gave a talk at our workplace – my opinion of her couldn’t be further removed from Billy’s re hockey guy.

  54. 54
    rosie on 17 Jul 2010 #

    My friend Maggie and I called in on some cousins of hers in Edinburgh. “What’s that?” I asked, pointing at a framed, rather tarnished, medal on the wall. It was an Olympic gold, won for hockey in 1928 by grandfather, playing for India as an officer in the Indian Army.

  55. 55
    swanstep on 17 Jul 2010 #

    The discussion here and especially *that* Carl Lewis video has prompted me to read up a little (just wiki+ really) about the guy. He was always just a name to me, but I have to say that he seems pretty fascinating.

    A dropped-by-sponsors-because-of-sexual-ambiguity/not-macho-enough, vegan, relatively drug-clean while all round him were juiced to the gills, 9-time gold medal winner across 4 or 5 different Olympics, loses the biggest race of his career to Johnson on the day, but gets the gold after the cheating is exposed.

    I dunno, but like Freddie Mercury’s story in pop, you just can’t make up that sort of stuff! It’s a biopic waiting to happen if someone can write a good script.

  56. 56
    weej on 18 Jul 2010 #

    Is this the first full-blown example of the mid-syllable-warble singing style which we’ve only begun to escape in the last few years?

  57. 57
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 18 Jul 2010 #

    No, because it’s not at all full blown — it’s surprisingly controlled (or unsurprisingly, if my “marathon mimesis” theory is correct).

  58. 58
    Jimmy the Swede on 18 Jul 2010 #

    # 34 – “Wasn’t there a bit of the Andy Murray/Lennox Lewis syndrome too? – i.e. he was Canadian until he got found out, whereupon he became Jamaican again.”

    Erithian. I had no idea that Andy Murray was a Jamaican..

    Linford, of course, was indeed born on “The Isle” but has never been anything other than British. The case of Lennox Lewis is a tad more complicated. Having been born in London, he was taken to Canada as a small child, grew up there and won a gold medal in Seoul under the flag of the Maple Leaf before coming back to this country to persue a magnificent professional career under the guise of a freeborn Englishman. The remarkable thing to say about Lennox is that whether he was Canadian or British, he certainly was not an American, which is why he was always so lowly-regarded by blinkered correspondents in the United States. An outragious slight, imho.

    Greg Rusedski muddies the waters still further. A Canadian, born to an English mother, he was adopted, so to speak, and enjoyed large support in this country, reaching the final of the US Open in 1997 and subsequently winning SPOTY that year. I saw Greg a couple of weeks ago on court at Eastbourne with Annabel Croft anchoring a Davis Cup tie. And I would gladly be anchored to Annabel any day of the week, I can tell you that for nothing!

  59. 59
    Erithian on 19 Jul 2010 #

    A role should be found in Swanstep’s Carl Lewis biopic (#55) for Daley Thompson, who after retaining his Olympic decathlon title in LA in 1984 responded to those “is the world’s greatest athlete gay?” rumours by donning a T-shirt with the slogan “Is the world’s second greatest athlete gay?” No doubt that was not so much homophobia as a good-natured dig at the assumption that Lewis was the number one while Daley had won the all-round event twice, but like other examples of his humour it was, shall we say, offbeat. On the same day he hinted that he wanted Princess Anne to have his baby and said of winning the gold that he hadn’t had so much fun since his granny caught her tit in the mangle (a Derek and Clive reference if I’m not mistaken). Talked his way into trouble but fun to have around.

  60. 60
    pink champale on 19 Jul 2010 #

    thanks thanks for that erithian – i’ve seen footage of DT in that t-shirt a few times but have never had the slightest idea what he thought he was doing. now it makes (at least some) sense. as you say, DT is quite nuts, isn’t he? *fights urge towards gormless reminiscence about ‘delay thompson’s decathlon’ on the spectrum*

    as for whitney, it’s certainly true that how she sings it is brilliant on its own terms and that she’s got a real discipline and restraint that you don’t normally get in the winners songs, but it’s still pretty painful. in the end it’s kind of the difference between being beaten up by amateurs or professionals.

  61. 61
    Jimmy the Swede on 19 Jul 2010 #

    Daley was indeed pleasantly bonkers. And, yes, he quoted Derek and Clive’s “Jump” by saying “(he) hadn’t had so much fun since grandma died or Auntie Mabel caught her left tit in the mangle”, a bizarre thing to quote even given D&C’s undoubted popularity back then. He also distinguished himself by merrily whistling the national anthem on the podium on receipt of one of his gold medals.

    I first remember a very young Daley in the mid-seventies appearing on “We Are The Champions”, a kiddies’ sports magazine programme, presented back then by the sainted Ron Pickering. Ron, I think, introduced Thompson as “an Olympic hopeful”. I can’t think what went wrong there.

  62. 62
    Mark G on 19 Jul 2010 #

    Funny you mention Derek and Clive, it struck me yesterday that if the chart was primarily based on downloads back then, the top ten may well have comprised of “Nurse”, “Cancer”, and “Having a Wank” etc…

  63. 63
    Jimmy the Swede on 20 Jul 2010 #

    Ah! What classics, Mark.

    Btw, I saw this bloke the other day…

  64. 64
    jojo on 26 Oct 2010 #

    Hi…i wanna 2add that i addore whitney houston she’s my best and this song……oh my Gosh…really it’s make me strong…..i just listen 2the angel voice my beauty whitney and i got power….i maked like my best friend …..thanks whitney…..cuz really every one needs one moment in time……..my lovely lady.

  65. 65
    Billy Smart on 28 Dec 2010 #

    MMWatch: Caren Myers, September 24 1988;

    “Of all the nauseating pop stars in all of history, Whitney has always, unafailingly, brought me that little bit closer to total raving despair. This cruel hoax has a new twist – it’s this year’s Olympic Anthem., which leaves me no choice but to lob my TV out of the window in case any coverage from Seoul creeps up on me unawares.”

    Myers awarded no single of the week. Also reviewed that week;

    Siouxsie & The Banshees – The Killing Jar
    Dinosaur Jr – Freak Scene
    U2 – Desire
    The Lilac Time – You’ve Got To Love
    Alexander O’Neal – Fake
    EPMD – Strictly Business
    Talk talk – I Believe In You
    Erasure – A Little Respect
    Duran Duran – I Don’t Want Your Love
    The Wedding Present – Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now?

  66. 66
    malmo58 on 14 Jan 2012 #

    I like this a lot. As a fan of the Olympic Games and athletics generally, it’s redolent for me in that context.

    It seemed, though, incongruous to me when this went to the top of the charts more than a whole week after the Games had ended.

    And by then I was deep in the despair of the disappointed sports fan – at the Seoul Games a competitor I’d been a long-time supporter of, who’d been through years of trials and tribulations and, thanks to boycott and injury, never lifted an Olympic medal, lost her last chance. Suffering an infection, and in truth a little past her prime, she finished way out of the medals in both her events.

    Being young, and then having a tendency to put my whole heart and soul into all my fandoms, be they sporting, musical or televisual, I spent most of the rest of 1988 with a broken heart. A Hearts fan at 5.10 pm on 3 May 1986 would have looked cheerful compared to me in October 1988. Worse, I had to carry it largely on my own, as my heroine was foreign so none of the Little Englanders around me understood why she meant so much to me. Only one fellow student at my FE college was sympathetic.

    So this song, as much as I like it, is always tinged with sadness of the shattered dreams of Seoul…

  67. 67
    sbahnhof on 8 Jul 2015 #

    Re 66 (and anyone who knows), which mystery heroine are we taking about?

    It’s a good game, actually. Guess the sportsperson – denied an Olympic medal by boycott and injury… Lost in ’88 in 2 events, had an infection… And she’s not English.

  68. 68
    Izzy on 8 Jul 2015 #

    I think it’s Zola Budd, though Malmo58 is wrong about Seoul being her last chance – it was Barcelona 92 where she finished way out of the medals, by which time she was competing for South Africa.

  69. 69
    chelovek na lune on 8 Jul 2015 #

    #68 That was my presumption too, but maybe my memory fails me, but her Wikipedia entry, at least, suggests she was not present at the Seoul Olympics at all…

  70. 70
    Erithian on 8 Jul 2015 #

    The name could be on the links here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athletics_at_the_1988_Summer_Olympics
    – although Malmo58 didn’t specify athletics. Doubt it’s Zola, as the Little Englanders would have been in favour of her! Has to be a Western bloc athlete whose country boycotted Moscow and who was injured for LA, or vice versa for an Eastern bloc athlete. Has to do two events (e.g. 100/200, 400/800, other combos in different sports?) And assuming Malmo58 is male, can we hazard a guess that the competitor inspiring such devotion was not unattractive?

  71. 71
    Cumbrian on 8 Jul 2015 #

    Probably an athlete but could be a gymnast (a specialist on one apparatus and the team event), a distance swimmer (Rebecca Adlington doubled up at 800m and 1500m but below that swimmers tend to do many more than two events), a diver, etc. But yeah, it’s probably an athlete.

    If the original comment is chronologically accurate, I think we’re looking for an 80 boycott and an 84 injury. This makes it a bit more difficult, I think – as there were many more boycotting nations in 80 than in 84. Looking at the nations involved in 80, and assuming it’s a female in athletics competition, it’s either an American, a West German or a Canadian. Possibly someone from one of the West Indian islands too – there are no athletics powerhouses in the other countries by the looks of things.


  72. 72
    sid on 8 Jul 2015 #

    Is it not the other party to that infamous incident, Mary Decker-Slaney?

  73. 73
    Cumbrian on 8 Jul 2015 #

    You know – it might be. Charitable description of Slaney tripping herself over by running into the back of Budd as an injury though (and then complaining that Budd somehow deliberately tripped her, hounding her through the press, etc, even though the evidence and the inquiry into the incident cleared Budd of blame). She carried the US flag at the 88 Opening Ceremony. She failed to get a medal.

    Also, a drugs cheat. Not someone I’d be looking back on with fondness personally – a whiner and a cheat – but each to their own.

  74. 74
    Izzy on 8 Jul 2015 #

    I’m still heartbroken at dear Ben Johnson being denied his medal to be honest.

    Mary Decker does seem to be the answer – there’s a rather striking six-second margin of victory denying her (and, to be fair, seven others) that gold in the 1500m. It was 1976 that she missed through injury, says Wikipedia – it also reckons that she could’ve run in 1972, but for her being under competing age at the time. I was never a fan, but that’s some serious longevity there.

  75. 75
    malmo58 on 17 Apr 2016 #

    You are correct – Mary Decker Slaney was my heroine.

    @73 – I sympathised with her in 84, impossible to put all the blame on her when Zola also did cut in too sharply. I never viewed her tears as whining, but as a pretty human reaction to shattered dreams, and thought the press’s demonisation of her was unforgivable. And I’d like to know how, in 84 and 88, I was supposed to know she’d be charged with doping in 1996.

  76. 76
    Erithian on 17 Apr 2016 #

    So the question is answered several months on! Welcome back Malmo.

    And while we’re on a sporting theme, can I enquire about your nom de web? Malmo was where Northern Ireland earned a 2-2 draw against the holders West Germany and went on to reach the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup. So can we suppose you have a Norn Iron connection?

  77. 77
    Cumbrian on 18 Apr 2016 #

    75: We will have to agree to disagree I am afraid. Budd was not at fault – at all – as her DQ was subsequently rescinded by the jury looking into the race. Subsequent to that race, Budd tried to apologise (even though she wasn’t at fault) and Slaney wasn’t having any of it. Time obviously changed her mind as Slaney herself, in a 2008 interview, said that the reason she fell was she was “very inexperienced running in a pack”. At the time though, difficult to see her as anything other than someone seeking to blame anyone but herself for not looking where she was going, as indeed the race organisers thought.

    Of course, you couldn’t have known that Slaney was a doper at that time. Apologies on that. Rather stupid of me.

    I rather suspect, in the fullness of time, one of our Golden Girls in the UK may will be in the Slaney position.

  78. 78
    malmo58 on 18 Apr 2016 #

    76 : my great grandfather was Northern Irish, and I enjoyed watching the film of the 1958 World Cup when it was on TV, but the explanation’s simpler. In the mid-90s I played play-by-mail football, and was manager of Swedish club Malmö in game 58.

    77 : I stand with the world’s pre-eminent Olympic historian David Wallechinsky. Both Decker and Budd made mistakes that led to the collision. That Budd’s DQ was rescinded doesn’t mean she made no contribution at all to the incident, just that it was too much of a grey area, and that she was innocent of any intentional wrongdoing.

    Ah, 32 years on that incident is still being debated…

    You know, I actually believe MDS might well have been clean in the 80s. Remember she wasn’t charged with steroids (which the East Europeans had ways of masking in the 80s so presumably some westerners did too) but with unacceptable testosterone/epi level (difficult if not impossible to consistently mask for over a decade).

  79. 79
    Kinitawowi on 19 Apr 2016 #

    Couple of my mates roped me into one of those play-by-mails at one point. Fond memories of a) my Charlton side getting beaten in a cup final by Arsenal because I had two matches that week and my team creation got shot to bits by two injuries in the first game, b) the guy who managed Rangers buying EVERYBODY (he had six 86+ rated goalkeepers) and c) becoming a legend among my mates for working out how to plug everybody’s sides into Excel spreadsheets and run some optimisations to work out where best to play everybody…

  80. 80
    Gareth Parker on 3 May 2021 #

    Can’t really add too much to Tom’s review. 2/10 would be my score as well.

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