20
Jan 14

ROBSON AND JEROME – “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted?” / “Saturday Night At The Movies” / “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

Popular66 comments • 8,249 views

#750, 9th November 1996

satan In an act of unprecedented generosity, Robson and Jerome’s return single – the first from a new LP of reworked covers – was a triple A-side. If they were indecisive over the lead track, that’s no surprise – each of these songs is a worthy addition to the Robson and Jerome catalogue, quite the equal in quality of “I Believe” or “Unchained Melody”.

Why such a bold treble-header release? Perhaps, deep down, they knew that – in the words of another triple-disc-making member of rock’s pantheon – all things must pass. Much like the Jam, Robson and Jerome split at the peak of their fame. This is their final single, making the dying chords of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” – a true people’s anthem, given a highly affordable production here – that much more poignant. Their legacy is immense: not only did they help launch the career of hitmaker Simon Cowell, they remain the only act whose every original release – single and album – hit the top of the charts. It’s a stunning testament to their efforts and the judgement of their fans.

The other tracks on this landmark single are just as good as “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. “Saturday Night At The Movies” sees the boys tangle with the Drifters back catalogue again – which they showed such sympathy for on “Up On The Roof”. They’ve been practising in their time away, though – high notes which would have given Jerome (or Robson) pause last time are now yomped over with something close to aplomb. But best of all is “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted?”, a powerful reading of the Jimmy Ruffin hit. “All that’s left is an unhappy ending”, Ruffin sang. But it’s a mark of the imagination and goodness of Robson and Jerome that they won’t let that depressing state of affairs lie. Instead they give us a happy ending – with a cannily-placed key-change and an exciting drum break to end on. “Now departed – yeah!” And as these two men themselves depart, let’s not forget that nothing really ends. Robson and Jerome are gone, back to the starry world of television, but maybe we will see their like again.

2

Comments

  1. 1
    To Mewing! (@tomewing) on 20 Jan 2014 #

    Mr Robson and Mr Jerome, with these three A-Sides you are really spoiling us. http://t.co/FuOBte6hhW [Popular entry]

  2. 2
    Query on 20 Jan 2014 #

    You can really hear the money poured into those sumptous arrangements.

  3. 3
    flahr on 20 Jan 2014 #

    Bravo.

  4. 4
    punctum on 20 Jan 2014 #

    It is a truth universally acknowledged to say that all pop music had been leading up to this point.

  5. 5
    hardtogethits on 20 Jan 2014 #

    Tom, that’s a wonderfully diplomatic write-up, concluding with a mark that just seems so … right. Of course, as gossips say of those who have been through IVF, we’ve said of R&J before: “they had help, you know”. Does anyone know if this record was conceived naturally?

  6. 6
    Tom on 20 Jan 2014 #

    Our last encounter with “YNWA”, which I didn’t do justice to first time out, I feel now I have been punished enough.

    The MP3 I had of “What Becomes…” was brutally cut off just before the production starts getting ‘inventive’, so until a few days ago I’d never heard it properly, and had it in my head that at last, here was a song so granite-strong that even this pair of chumps couldn’t actually ruin it. How wrong I was.

  7. 7
    Chelovek na lune on 20 Jan 2014 #

    Arf arf. I can’t help but note that there is a definite hierarchy in quality among these three tracks though: “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is so cheap and nasty in its production (synthesizer presets a go-go) that it is positively offensive (even not taking into account the reverence elsewhere accorded this song) – it recalls their take on “Unchained Melody”. The other two are marginally less exceedingly objectionable. In strictly relative terms, “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted” gets the best treatment of the lot (as well as arguably being the strongest song of the triplets.). But my, it’s a chore.

    YNWA = (a generous) 1/10, SNATM = (a no less generous) 2/10, WBOTBH = 3/10
    which averages out at 2.

  8. 8
    Alan not logged in on 20 Jan 2014 #

    It’s the werewolf from Being Human and the voice of Tommy Zoom’s dog, Daniel

  9. 9
    lonepilgrim on 20 Jan 2014 #

    I’ve been prepared to listen to every number 1 up to this point, on Youtube or whatever, but I just can’t be bothered with this – thank God it’s their last

  10. 10
    iconoclast on 20 Jan 2014 #

    Three standards lovingly reworked for you by two popular entertainers with good taste and dignity. What could go wrong?

    Well: the arrangements, while pleasant enough, are bland and unadventurous, and the songs all grow monotonous too quickly. The singing is undistinguished, with parts of WBotBH sounding like Paul “Housemartins” Heaton on an off-day. Worse, all three sound like half-arsed demo versions where more effort went into trying not to offend anybody than into making something of substance. In short, “will this do?” It’s all rather pointless and unnecessary, and the only redeeming feature is that none of them manages to be a complete stinker. FOUR.

  11. 11
    Mark G on 20 Jan 2014 #

    It does what it says on the tin.

  12. 12
    thefatgit on 20 Jan 2014 #

    My old neighbours were lovely people. When they were together, they just complemented each other so perfectly. And nobody was more shocked than I, when their marriage went down the plughole, because afterwards, both parties came out of the whole thing changed for the worse, unfortunately. Why do I mention them? Well, they both had a love for Dire Straits, UB40 and Robson & Jerome. They enjoyed the comedy of Jim Davidson and they enjoyed the soaps. And neither of them spent any time reading. This didn’t make them bad people. They both enjoyed a few drinks. Their children were well behaved. It wasn’t enough for them. As the story so often goes, infidelity did for their marriage. I haven’t heard a peep from either of them in donkey’s years, although a mutual friend tells me their youngest boy, now an adult is apparently full-time carer for his ill mother these days. There are so many people like them. Their stories, unremarkable as they seem, are probably not dissimilar to many other people.

    Robson & Jerome could have forged out a successful career covering pop and R&B from the ’50s and ’60s well into the new millennium, cheerfully patronised by the sort of people like my old neighbours and many others like them. For they are legion. They are our past, present and future. Ignore them at your peril…

  13. 13
    Lazarus on 20 Jan 2014 #

    The bubble burst in 1997 it seems, when their ‘Best Of’ could only make number 20. Fair play I suppose, they got out while the going was good (and both left ‘Soldier Soldier’ quite early on) and at least they didn’t cause a wave of singing actors to follow in their wake. Green actually released a dud album in 2002, but by then there was plenty more TV karaoke.

  14. 14
    Rory on 20 Jan 2014 #

    This was a disturbing listen, not because of the songs, but because at first listen a couple of days ago my reaction was: This isn’t that bad. Could I possibly end up giving higher than 3 to a Robson and Jerome song?

    But then I realised that the single had two more A-sides beyond “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?”, and was quickly reassured by YouTube that they were just as horrible as their earlier number ones, so the average comes down to a far more respectable figure.

    Their WBOTBH really isn’t that bad; it’s never going to bother the ranks of the six-and-above, but the song itself is a drop-dead Motown classic, and the production and performances here are unobjectionable enough to make it passable radio fare, at least before they go all polyphonic in the last 30 seconds. I’d give Jimmy Ruffin’s original an 8, and Robson and Jerome only destroy about half of that inherent value, so if they’d stopped there they would have scored a four from me. If they hadn’t worn out their welcome with two previous number ones, I might even have stretched to five.

    However! “Saturday Night at the Movies” is pointless, and a 2. And “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is positively painful, and a 1. So that’s an average of 2.333, which rounded to the nearest whole number equals 2. That’s more like it.

    (Now that I’ve voted: who on earth are these 25 other voters giving this an average of 5.7? Have the Robson & Jerome fan club flocked here to pad the numbers? Or are people just voting on the basis of WBOTBH? Live by the triple A-side, die by the triple A-side, soldier.)

  15. 15
    Tom on 20 Jan 2014 #

    #12 they could have continued a bit longer, except a) they really couldn’t sing very well and b) they had other stuff to be doing. Simon Cowell’s take out from this whole thing, I guess, is that he almost got it completely right, but next time needs celebs he owns (and ideally a slice of the publishing too). More of that anon, obviously.

  16. 16
    Brendan F on 20 Jan 2014 #

    there’s definitely something not right – it’s gone up above 7 now – lol

  17. 17
    nixon on 20 Jan 2014 #

    I thought the best of – with no new material IIRC and from an act who’d only had 2 albums in 2 years, both of which went to #1 and both probably still available on sale for less than the repackaging – “failed” as a transparently cheap and unnecessary cash-in. Had R&J kept pumping out the standards as the budget rose, instead of going back to acting, we might have seen something akin to but bafflingly worse than the key “classic catalogue raiding” component of the Irish Model.

  18. 18
    admin on 20 Jan 2014 #

    OK, something is up with the popular voting, sorry. investigating…

    actually, think i may have already fixed that. anyone want to give it a kick?

    or maybe not :-( still checking…

  19. 19
    Brendan F on 20 Jan 2014 #

    yes – it reverted back to 2 a few minutes later

  20. 20
    admin on 20 Jan 2014 #

    I’ve sussed the problem for def, ie i know WHY it’s doing it and what it’s doing, but not fixed yet.

    DON’T CLICK THE “YOU SAY” SCORE – it’s not registering on the right post

  21. 21
    Tom on 20 Jan 2014 #

    It’s added a little bit of intrigue and excitement to the third Robson and Jerome post so well done that glitch.

  22. 22
    admin on 21 Jan 2014 #

    OK, this time for realsy. Since the new design went up (last night) a fair few votes will have accidentally found their way to JJ Barrie, Sinead and a couple of other older posts.

    I’ll attempt to restore the votes on THOSE posts to what they were at the last backup.

    For now, try voting again, and let me know if something still feels off

  23. 23
    flahr on 21 Jan 2014 #

    At the start of the video for “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?”, Robson & Jerome stand in the studio; one sings into the mike, the other stands behind and taps. My mind is thrown back to that clip of the Righteous Brothers performing “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” and the parallel (probably unintentional) feels like a vicious slap to the face of popular music.

    Elsewhere, “Saturday Night at the Movies” exudes such a powerful aura of B-side that it threatens to turn the whole single into a triple B-side by association; the “who cares what picture you see” line has a certain sonic similarity to the chorus of “Under the Boardwalk”, a comparison which once again only reinforces the direness of this joyless tosh (joylessness underscored by the ‘hilarious’ vid). The shiny crescendo “You’ll Never Walk Alone” hits at about 1:50, meanwhile, is a cavalcade of grimness so complete that it’s almost awe-inspiring.

  24. 24
    23 Daves on 21 Jan 2014 #

    It could have been worse, they could have released their cover of “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” as a single.

    I always thought this was an interesting version of WBOTBH, probably not least because it was the first version I was actually aware of (forgive me, but I was only a small child – I didn’t know about Motown classics yet): http://youtu.be/sGxZsnm7srU

  25. 25

    Jerome F can be a very entertaining actor.

  26. 26
    Billy Hicks on 21 Jan 2014 #

    I just realised that the modern day equivalent of Rob & J covering 40 year old ballads that have already been #1 twice is Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman releasing a million-selling cover version of Love Me For A Reason.

    That’s something I’d probably buy.

  27. 27
    Billy Hicks on 21 Jan 2014 #

    …except it was only #1 once. Bugger.

  28. 28
    mapman132 on 21 Jan 2014 #

    First, I want to thank Tom for getting out the review for “Say You’ll Be There” on Sunday rather than Monday. Therefore I was able to conduct my required scientific inquiry with the backdrop of the AFC Championship Game on mute, making the exercise slightly more palatable, especially the existential crisis I suddenly found myself thrown into.

    I was fully expecting to hate this trio of recordings, and don’t get me wrong, I do hate them, just not in the way I was expecting. First up was WBOTBH, a song I primarily associate with Paul Young’s US hit from 1992 (yes, I’m also aware of the much older Jimmy Ruffin version). I like the song, so the disturbing problem for me was even R&J’s inferior version caused me to start tapping along with it.

    SNATM was unfamiliar to me and R&J did not give me interest to investigate further.

    And that brings me to YNWA, a song which is truly moving to me when I’m in the right frame of mind. Would that frame of mind ever include R&J’s butchered version? It didn’t last night, but who knows? Part of my problem is my interest in the pop music charts is to large extent statistical geekery as my ears are admittedly not as refined as most music fans. Does that mean that there exists an alternate universe where I was actually taken in by this R&J crap? Gosh, I hope not.

    And so for a very brief flicker of a moment, I had the perspective of a person who might actually buy this record: A person with a tin ear who wants a trip down memory lane but can’t call up the quality versions of these songs at a moment’s notice in 1996 like we can in 2014. So Mr. Cowell’s fluky, and very cynical, discovery of this market with Unchained Melody the year before led to more of the same. I feel like saying much more, but I might start devolving into incoherent babbling if I try to analyze this further…..

    Ok, I’m back. Tom’s 2/10 sounds right to me. Obvious next question for discussion: Which was worse, this trilogy, or Jive Bunny’s?

  29. 29
    mapman132 on 21 Jan 2014 #

    #4 Please tell me if this is the record you wanted to give a zero to? I feel like I have to know this for some reason.

  30. 30
    Tommy Mack on 21 Jan 2014 #

    I vaguely remember their video for SNATM, I wasn’t even aware there were two more A-sides, did any particular song win out in terms of airplay? Does anyone care?

  31. 31
    Cumbrian on 21 Jan 2014 #

    I did not arrive at this triumvirate with anything like an open mind. How could I with what had gone before? Furthermore, WBOTBH in its Jimmy Ruffin version would probably be up there for consideration on my Desert Island Discs, so it’s with a deep sense of foreboding that I reach for Youtube, search it out and press play. Immediately, we’re in trouble; the horribly recorded piano pounds out the chords like Bob and Midge’s clanging chimes of doom and we’re into an anodyne run through of a great song, by two personality free voices, taking the song evenly throughout, showcasing none of the emotion and desperation that Jimmy Ruffin manages before it ends on the backing singers repeating “now departed” over and over to the point where I thought that the video might be stuck or something before ending on a plastic synth wash. It actually makes me angry.

    SNATM somehow contrives to be worse and now I am on the edge of fury, inspired by the cheeriness of both backing and delivery. They do know that they’re rubbish right? This is trolling of the deepest kind.

    Why am I doing this to myself? I click on the link for YNWA. Oh God, we’re back to Unchained Melody – nasal, horrible singing voices over a rotating piano figure with more horrendous strings and cheap ascending synths underneath the ascent into the chorus. I will say this for Simon Cowell – even though they’ve managed 3 number 1s, the only way has to be up from here quality wise surely (I’m not all that familiar with the X Factor tunes we will be coming across in due course)? It’s a 1 all the way from me – it’s not quite as bad as Grandma but the overall experience is three times longer or thereabouts, so the experience is probably just about as awful.

    Never has the next #1 been so appositely titled. And Breathe.

  32. 32
    James BC on 21 Jan 2014 #

    The triple A-side concept gives a bit of an insight into Simon Cowell’s genius. Why had (almost?) nobody done it before? Well, it’s cheesy, it’s superfluous if your lead song is any good, and it’s an uncultured break with the rock tradition of A-side/B-side. But Cowell is coming from a completely different place, where none of these are considerations and a triple A-side becomes a no-brainer – three times as many chances for people to see a song they like and buy the single. As a music fan I have a tendency to react against it, mainly, I think, because it seems like bad manners. But who am I to tell him what to do?

  33. 33
    enitharmon on 21 Jan 2014 #

    Two? TWO??? What the hell has this done to deserve such a high mark?!

  34. 34
    AMZ1981 on 21 Jan 2014 #

    In the YouTube era this would at least have had the effect of people checking out the original version. It does say a lot about 1996 that this is not the worst number one of the year.

    Tom correctly notes that it was Robson and Jerome’s third and final single and also their third number one. At the time they were only the fourth act to place their first three singles at the top (Gerry and the Pacemakers, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Jive Bunny), by the end of the year there would be a fifth and by the end of the decade a further three acts would do it – with three going on to score four or beyond.

  35. 35
    leveret on 21 Jan 2014 #

    @32 – I was going to say that it was surprising that there wasn’t some arcane chart rule prohibiting singles with 3 A-sides, but I suppose there must’ve been 3 track EPs in the past, and this is effectively the same thing.

  36. 36
    Rory on 21 Jan 2014 #

    @35 Introducing the new nonuple A-side single from Michael Jackson, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” / “Baby Be Mine” / “The Girl Is Mine” / “Thriller” / “Beat It” / “Billie Jean” / “Human Nature” / “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” / “The Lady in My Life”…

  37. 37
    wichitalineman on 21 Jan 2014 #

    The funereal piano chords on the front of Jimmy Ruffin’s WBOTBH last for an unnerving three bars, meaning that you are then caught off guard, and plunged downwards into the song’s whirl of heartbreak and desperation.

    Simon Cowell thought this was silly. ‘It sounds like the backing singers are coming in a bar early! Let’s add a fourth bar of “Dunnn-duh-dunnn”. That’s better.’

    Simon Cowell is an idiot.

  38. 38
    Tommy Mack on 21 Jan 2014 #

    Rory @ 36. Octuple A-side iirc: Human Nature was the B-side (in terms of release, not in terms of musical quality, obv.)

  39. 39
    Rory on 21 Jan 2014 #

    Tommy @38: true. I was thinking more of a rebranding of Thriller the LP, just as Cowell did with this should-have-been-an-EP.

    The only triple-sided record I can think of is Matching Tie and Handkerchief.

  40. 40
    DietMondrian on 21 Jan 2014 #

    Julian Cope’s Jehovahkill LP was triple-sided on vinyl.

    Robson and Jerome? 1/10.

  41. 41
    Query on 21 Jan 2014 #

    For those wondering why there weren’t R&J singles after this, apparently Jerome Flynn walked away from the whole thing in 1996 to join a religious sect.

  42. 42
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 21 Jan 2014 #

    Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s Three-Sided Audio Dream in Colour precedes Jehovahkill in format if little else. (Haters and scoffers would describe it as a double LP with one blank* side but they can do one…)

    *Was it groove free or a silent groove? Eccentrically the secondhand copy I own only has the ordinary disc…

  43. 43
    Cumbrian on 21 Jan 2014 #

    #41: I too would want to take some serious time off to question the meaning of life had I been involved in this run of 3 singles.

  44. 44
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 21 Jan 2014 #

    Did he take a break from acting altogether? His employment does seem patchy in his wikipedia and imdb entries but there’s no obvious hiatus of significant length. And (see pic above) he’s currently playing a major minor character in Game of Thrones.

    (ADDING: I don’t remember anything at all about Badger, the TV cop series he was in in the late 90s, after he left Soldier, Soldier.)

  45. 45
    admin on 21 Jan 2014 #

    AND THE VOICE OF TOMMY ZOOM’S DOG

  46. 46
    enitharmon on 21 Jan 2014 #

    @41 an extreme but understandable strategy for getting away from the oleagenous Cowell.

  47. 47
    Pink champale on 21 Jan 2014 #

    @44 Imagine a cop specialising in wildlife crimes. Who’s surname is Badger. There’s your show.

  48. 48
    Andy M on 21 Jan 2014 #

    @ 47 Does he persistently nag everyone until he gets his man?

  49. 49
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 21 Jan 2014 #

    more badger than sainsburys

  50. 50
    James BC on 21 Jan 2014 #

    More nag than Findus.

  51. 51
    mapman132 on 21 Jan 2014 #

    #38-39: You laugh, but due to arcane rules about club play the entire Thriller album occupied #1 for while on Billboard’s Dance chart in 1983: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_number-one_dance_singles_of_1983_%28U.S.%29. Apparently this occasionally happened with other albums as well.

    Billboard charts are very strange sometimes.

  52. 52
    iconoclast on 21 Jan 2014 #

    #51: Not to mention the Beatles’ second album being one of the top 20 singles in Britain one week…

  53. 53
    admin on 21 Jan 2014 #

    750!

    In all the site change kerfuffle I forgot to give a big cheer to Tom making it to 750. Well done, dude! (Half way there?)

  54. 54
    Tom on 21 Jan 2014 #

    Pretty much exactly three-fifths through – the next number one will be #1250.

  55. 55
    Alan on 21 Jan 2014 #

    Zeno’s paradox of pop

  56. 56
    Lazarus on 21 Jan 2014 #

    Anyone who’s an occasional visitor to this site, who last looked in when Barlow was the latest entry and who’s just checked in to see if Tom has got around to ‘Wannabe’ yet, will be pleasantly surprised I would think, even bewildered.

  57. 57
    taDOW on 21 Jan 2014 #

    ha – the billboard dance chart is so weird in general. ‘thriller (all cuts)’ topping it for a couple of months seems perfect, i suspect if you went out to a club in winter 83 you would eventually hear the entire album after a few hours. robson & jerome remain a mystery (though not a complete one apparently – lo and behold game of thrones), i don’t think they crossed over to the continent and obv they didn’t to the states. the first i can recall seeing them was circa ‘common people’ and wondering wtf robson & jerome was. eventually thx to popular i learned tv stars putting out a cash-in oldies cover, which was disappointingly mundane though i suppose there was no chance the answer would turn out to be interesting. still have never heard a note but i lived thru the return of bruno so i think i get the idea.

  58. 58
    23 Daves on 21 Jan 2014 #

    #52 Yes, I’ve often wondered about this but never thought to question it (until now). Why did the early British singles charts occasionally have albums in them? Does anyone know? Was it as simple as it being an overall records sales chart, and if any LP ever sold enough copies it found its way in? I seem to recall a Frank Sinatra LP barging its way into the list once as well.

  59. 59
    Rory on 22 Jan 2014 #

    #51 Many a true word was spoken in jest, apparently. (And to think that Thriller was my second choice for that joke. I was going to use Dark Side of the Moon, but it has ten tracks and I wasn’t sure ‘decuple’ was a word. Although apparently it is.)

  60. 60
    enitharmon on 22 Jan 2014 #

    I would imagine that there were so few albums around in the early chart days, and even fewer that sold in numbers comparable to singles. And sheet music, remember that those 50s charts included sheet music too.

    What about albums that are effectively singles anyway? Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play spring to mind.

  61. 61
    Brendan F on 22 Jan 2014 #

    Blue Room by The Orb was released as a single (and made the singles chart) despite being about 40 minutes long

  62. 62
    Ed on 22 Jan 2014 #

    @60 – Prince’s ‘Lovesexy’ is a single track now in digital formats, for no good reason I can work out.

    I am pretty sure it had separate tracks when I had it on cassette.

  63. 63
    lockedintheattic on 22 Jan 2014 #

    @62 Lovesexy was originally released on CD as a single 45 minute track ‘for artistic reasons’, it was only later a tracked version was released.

  64. 64
    iconoclast on 22 Jan 2014 #

    For some reason SNatM has put me in mind of Queen’s “Man on the Prowl”.

  65. 65
    Paulito on 22 Jan 2014 #

    @32, 35 etc: the Stones hit #2 in ’71 with a triple A-side comprising Brown Sugar, Bitch and Let It Rock. I’m pretty sure there have been other such instances, although none spring to mind…

  66. 66
    flahr on 4 Feb 2014 #

    I seem to remember one of the early 80s anarcho-punk acts putting out a triple A-side – possibly Zounds.

    Right, after some research “Can’t Cheat Karma”/”War”/”Subvert” by Zounds was either a triple A-side or an EP or a double A-side with a B-side. As far as I can remember “Subvert” was the only one that was any good.

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