Aug 09

JIM DIAMOND – “I Should Have Known Better”

FT + Popular61 comments • 7,254 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. 31
    Pete on 31 Aug 2009 #

    Except of course for the “in Space” bit of the title which is also how it suckered me in when it was shown on Moviedrome.

    I think I may have also had a brief bit of confusion beween Jim Diamond and Jim Davidson, who certainly should have known better for his entire career.

  2. 32
    AndyPandy on 31 Aug 2009 #

    Will at 25: I’m unsure about Radio 2 play but this defintely had heavy Radio 1 play at the time as it reminds me of an office where I was a messenger at the time and the girls in there used to have Radio London in the morning and Radio 1 in the afternoon (Steve Wright etc).

    As I remember it of the number 1’s from the period 1979-early 1990s (I dont really know about the period afterwards)I’d say only Lena Martell and probably Dr Hook, Barbra Streisand and Art Garfunkel were played significantly more on Radio 2 than Radio1.

    * PS St Winfreds School Choir was only grudgingly (chart countdowns etc)played by ANY station and Goombay Dance Band semed to come from nowhere on the back of holiday plays and therefore didnt rely on radio plays for its success

  3. 33
    Billy Smart on 31 Aug 2009 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Just a paltry single appearance for Jim;

    THE KEITH HARRIS SHOW: with Bucks Fizz, Jacqui Scott, Bernie Winters, Brian Conley, Jim Diamond (1985)

  4. 34
    col124 on 31 Aug 2009 #

    Wow. Never heard of this one until today, and now I’m sorry I clicked on the video link. There’s a real rancidity to the thing: “I should’ve known better with a girl as beautiful as you” because a homelier girl would’ve been easier to cheat on? A 2 at best.

  5. 35
    LondonLee on 31 Aug 2009 #

    I don’t doubt that this got heavy play on Radio 1 as it’s earnest, singer-songwritery quality would have been right up the street of most of their DJs who seemed uncomfortable with the new fangled 80s pop – apart from that Phil Collins chap, that was proper music! – and wished they could play Gerry Rafferty and Harry Chapin all day. I distinctly remember Steve Wright doing an awful limp-wristed and fey impersonation of Marc Almond whenever he played ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ and just cringing. It was like the charts were Alexie Sayle and he was still Jim Davidson.

  6. 36
    MikeMCSG on 1 Sep 2009 #

    35# I get your point (and I hate Steve Wright too) but should point out that Sayle is actually older than Davidson.

  7. 37
    Rory on 1 Sep 2009 #

    On the ‘beautiful as you’ line, I’d cut Jim some slack – we all tend to see our partners as beautiful/handsome, particularly in the early stages of a relationship. I don’t think he’s really claiming that only supermodels deserve fidelity.

  8. 38
    Billy Smart on 1 Sep 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: Jim Diamond performed ‘I Should Have Known Better’ four times on Top Of The Pops (I’ll come to the Christmas day show in the fullness of time);

    1 November 1984. Also in the studio that week were; Heaven 17, Duran Duran and Wham! Mike Smith and Gary Davies were the hosts.

    15 November 1984. Also in the studio that week were; Matt Bianco, Slade, Alvin Stardust and Nik Kershaw. Mike Read and Bruno Brooks were the hosts.

    29 November 1984. Also in the studio that week were; Nik Kershaw, Kool & The Gang, Alvin Stardust and Black Lace. Peter Powell and Janice Long were the hosts.

  9. 39
    Erithian on 1 Sep 2009 #

    I remember the bit where Jim Diamond thanked record-buyers for making him number one but then urged them to go and buy (what turned out to be) the next chart-topper but one instead. As I recall it was in a radio interview rather than on TOTP, but no doubt he was saying that to quite a few people at the time. As for having a choice in the matter, Mike at #5, no doubt that “glad to do my bit” was a gag. He came across as a thoroughly nice bloke, which makes it all the more a pity that his record is drivel – whiney, dull, and the I-YI-YI-YI bit which is presumably supposed to convey emotion thoroughly unconvincing. His previous hit with PhD was far more palatable.

  10. 40
    pink champale on 1 Sep 2009 #

    ah, mr diamond [not that one] with his hits “i should have known better” [not that one] and “hi ho silver” [not that one]. surely the first pop star to have a career based entirely on administrative error.

    i’m with the majority in never having heard (of) this, but i always quite liked “hi ho silver” (“you cockney lone ranger”) as a very low rent take on “rhinestone cowboy”.

    is ‘gregory’s girl’ 80s kitchen sink? probably too early for highlights, but there are certainly perms.

  11. 41
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 1 Sep 2009 #

    ooh GOOD call re gregory’s girl! (1981, feat.claire grogan’s atrocious acting) — don’t recall any schoolkids in it sporting would-be new-romantic or 80s glam modes, but it certainly belongs in this territory: however like most of forsyth’s work it has a kind of militant anti-dowdiness: ordinary life is not so awful!

    local hero of course — set in far-flung coastal north-west scotland? — has a local punk-rock girl, with a babby in a pram if i am not mistaken…

  12. 42
    Stevie T on 1 Sep 2009 #

    I think Letter to Brezhnev is unsurpassable in the kitchen sink romo stakes.

  13. 43
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 1 Sep 2009 #

    True! I haven’t seen it since it came out though. It reminded me of actress Alexandra Pigg, who previously played Petra in Brookside (a character who committed suicide in a hotel on the outskirts of shrewsbury: a soap fact possibly only my sister and i recall!); and that made me think that Brookside’s KAREN GRANT is actually the avatar of what i’m getting at

  14. 44
    Stevie T on 1 Sep 2009 #

    Karen Grant is responsible for me deciding to leave school aged 16!

  15. 45
    Pete Baran on 1 Sep 2009 #

    Its the Hi Ho Silver (theme to Boon) I am getting confused with That’s Livin’ Alright and the inestimable Joe Fagin.

  16. 46
    LondonLee on 1 Sep 2009 #

    All the Grants – Bobby, Sheila, Damon, Karen – were avatars of one sort or another.

    I think I used to fancy Karen a little, she had that clever working class girl sass about her.

  17. 47
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 1 Sep 2009 #

    Don’t forget Barry Grant!

  18. 48
    LondonLee on 1 Sep 2009 #

    Oh yes, the black sheep of the family.

  19. 49
    small_circle on 1 Sep 2009 #

    re wichita at 26: There was always an element of self-mockery (or at least self-awareness) in this one though. I remember the billboard posters for the single said (writ large, white on black, no photos):


    (then, small at the bottom)

    I Should Have Known Better – Jim Diamond

    which I was always very impressed by. Unlike the record.

  20. 50
    intothefireuk on 2 Sep 2009 #

    Oh dear – Mr Diamond – an erstwhile good bloke and no doubt a bit of a muso trooper kind still manages to make a dogs breakfast of this. A voice like nails down a blackboard with additional vocal ticks doesn’t make for good power – ballad material. Having said that I pretty much hate the power ballad genre so it was never gonna be a fav of mine. With the exception of a couple of decent no1s I certainly don’t see 1984 as being the mighty year everyone else seems to think it is. Admittedly though my music radar tended toward the whole chart (and beyond) rather than just the number ones and I judged each years ‘worth’ accordingly. Some very good stuff around in 1984 – just not necessarily at the top.

  21. 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.

  22. 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).

  23. 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.)

  24. 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!!

  25. 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

  26. 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.

  27. 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.”

  28. 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.

  29. 59
    Paulito on 6 May 2015 #

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

  30. 60
    Kinitawowi on 10 Oct 2015 #

    RIP at 64.

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

  31. 61
    Gareth Parker on 17 May 2021 #

    Jim seemed a likeable enough performer, I think the song’s OK, so I could stretch to a 6/10 here.

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