20
Jan 14

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

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#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.

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Comments

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  1. 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.

  2. 27
    Billy Hicks on 21 Jan 2014 #

    …except it was only #1 once. Bugger.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 33
    enitharmon on 21 Jan 2014 #

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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”…

  12. 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.

  13. 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.)

  14. 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.

  15. 40
    DietMondrian on 21 Jan 2014 #

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

    Robson and Jerome? 1/10.

  16. 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.

  17. 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…

  18. 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.

  19. 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.)

  20. 45
    admin on 21 Jan 2014 #

    AND THE VOICE OF TOMMY ZOOM’S DOG

  21. 46
    enitharmon on 21 Jan 2014 #

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

  22. 47
    Pink champale on 21 Jan 2014 #

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

  23. 48
    Andy M on 21 Jan 2014 #

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

  24. 49
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 21 Jan 2014 #

    more badger than sainsburys

  25. 50
    James BC on 21 Jan 2014 #

    More nag than Findus.

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