Jan 10

NICK BERRY – “Every Loser Wins”

FT + Popular102 comments • 9,544 views

#578, 18th October 1986, video

Here’s a thing: I have never watched an episode of Eastenders. Not all through. Too much shouting for me. I’m neither proud nor ashamed of this but it does mean I missed out on the astonishing storyline in which “Every Loser Wins” made its debut before it became the first soap star single to reach number one. I’m missing some critical context on “Wicksy” here, people, and I expect you to fully enlighten me in the comments box.

I’m not expecting it to change my view of the record, mind you, since free of its story context “Every Loser Wins” is beyond terrible. The work of ‘stenders theme composer Simon May it’s one of the faffiest, most disheartening songs to drift our way: every loser wins, but only when they’re dreaming, but it’s still a win, and this is for the losers, who are really winners, we nearly made it. For pity’s sake it features the lyric: “every loser knows / the light the tunnel shows”, whose contortion is only marginally worse than “In time you’ll see / Fate holds the key”.

As a performer, Nick Berry is a blow-dried void, a soft-focus nullity and certainly the best thing about the record. Though listening to it he’s easily overwhelmed by that high piano trill, cutting repeatedly through “Every Loser Wins” with all the heartbreaking sensitivity of the Intel chimes. The record also boasts perhaps the clumsiest drum drop-in of the whole decade, wellington-booted snares whomping down painfully into the AOR murk. There are no winners here.



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  1. 1
    punctum on 14 Jan 2010 #

    From the very first shot of episode one, when the door is smashed open to reveal the decaying figure of a dead old man in a rotting armchair, the BBC’s premier soap opera EastEnders was never going to be a harbour of sunshine and light, and over its subsequent quarter-century it has kept that promise. None of its thousands of hapless characters has been allowed more than a glimpse of what might be termed happiness or hope; always the chance is snatched or pushed away, misery invariably embraced over love. The series has tended to take its original remit to be “the anti-Coronation Street” rather too literally, and yet it has continued to attract millions whose only derivable pleasure from the series can be their own knowledge that however wretched their own lives might become, nothing could conceivably be as disastrously terminal as the car crashes witnessed nightly with the peeling puce house sets, the lighting which invariably looks as though somebody forgot to put a shilling in the electricity meter, even when out in the Square of Albert in midsummer. Lapsed lovers – usually men old enough to be their lovers’ father, and women young enough to be their lovers’ daughter – are re-courted in grimy gents’ toilets within the Underground station. Familial tensions in the local pub can resemble the last days in the Berlin bunker. Though a supposed suburb of the East End of London, “London” remains a quotidian chimera, rarely glimpsed, mentioned only in passing (“I’m goin’ up West!”), and indeed the whole thing is filmed out in Borehamwood (or is/was it Elstree?); at times it looks like one of those stranger, later episodes of The Prisoner where McGoohan wakes up to find himself in a mock chirpy Cockney community.

    The series, however, was spectacularly successful in its first year, such that the BBC opted to launch some external brand awareness by having some of its cast “sing.” Thus Anita Dobson, the tormented barmaid Angie Watts (a.k.a. Mrs Brian May), made number four with her vocal version of the show’s theme tune, “Anyone Can Fall In Love,” while Letitia Dean and Paul J Medford (Sharon Watts and Kelvin Carpenter, the show’s primary “teen” interest) also went Top 20 with their offensively bland “Somethin’ Outta Nothin’,” allegedly performed by their pop group, The Banned (geddit?).

    The most successful spinoff by far, however, was “Every Loser Wins” and its story is thus. Teenager Michelle Fowler has foolishly fallen pregnant by evil Machiavellian pub owner Dennis “Dirty Den” Watts – a man old enough to be his lover’s father – and in a curious melange of desperation and defiance decides to marry the affable, amiable, borderline Aspergic barman Lofty Holloway. But when the ceremony comes around (with her already having given birth) she realises her heart isn’t in it and jilts the hapless Lofty, who thereupon crumples into a Kleenex of suicidal ideations. In pity, Michelle reconsiders, and they elope to marry. However, after a couple of months of Lofty’s well-meaning but unsexy “Would you like me to take Vicky round der park, ‘Chell?” (for the now-born child is called Vicky, named after the Queen Victoria pub – do you see what luminous avenues of plot we are strolling down here?) Michelle calls the whole thing off, tells Lofty that she was pregnant with, but aborted, his child, and moves back in with her family (or “fairm-ly”). Bereft and broken (having screamed and sobbed “I hate you!” at Michelle several hundred times), Lofty’s only consolation now is his best mate, Simon “Wicksey” Wicks, who throughout all of this time has been playing a dolorous ballad on the pub piano about how “every loser wins, once the dream begins” (for said “Wicksey” is also an aspiring songwriter – not that this is ever alluded to again in the series after about January 1987). Something about it catches Lofty’s heart, and with its regretful hues of “we nearly made it” and troubled water bridges of hope (“Shine down on me/And those who believe/That we can make it”), he wanders manfully out of Albert Square, out of the series and into a still-successful radio sports commentary career.

    The ballad caught on with the public, too, and “Every Loser Wins” – helpfully, if ungrammatically, described on its front cover as “The song featured by ‘Wicksey’ in EastEnders” – became the year’s big weepie, shooting to number one and outselling every other single that year bar the Communards. It’s as hard now as it was then to make anything out of it; though skilfully hacked into shape by veteran soap song composer Simon May (who you may recall was responsible for “Born With A Smile On My Face” a dozen years previously), its over-facile construction, coupled with Berry’s lugubrious and unsteady voice (as a singer, he’s a fine actor) and the bargain basement synths and drum machines, place it in an odd limbo, stranded somewhere between a bad British attempt at American AoR (Richard Marx, say) and a precursor of the pained piano-based ballads in which Gary Barlow would specialise a decade hence. And despite its belief that “we can make it,” the song hardly ever turns up on CD; its 800,000 sold copies continue to filter down through charity shops the land over, as demonstrated by the mention of “two copies of ‘Every Loser Wins'” on Saint Etienne’s “Teenage Winter”; a brief, novel attraction whose resonance was quickly found to be hollow.

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    Tom on 14 Jan 2010 #

    Blimey! Right, that’s the context sorted out then – thanks MC!

  3. 3
    col124 on 14 Jan 2010 #

    Wow, this is horrendous. Thankfully a non-entity in the US, its closest equivalent maybe being Don Johnson’s “Heartbeat,” which sounds like “Gimme Shelter” in comparison to this turkey.

  4. 4
    Pete Baran on 14 Jan 2010 #

    One of my favourite childhood memories was seeing my hated Games teacher Mr Hore (indeed) being told off by the headmaster of our School. As may be the case in many schools, every teacher had to do an ten minute assembly during the year, often telling inspiring stories of their youth, telling us about their awesome birdwatching hobby, or ill advisedly telling us that their first name is Kim, which was inadvisable in 80’s for a man while Kim Wilde was so big. A smart teacher would get their form group to do all the heavy lifting, but to our surprise Mr Hore walking up to the lectern, and waved to an invisible person and played all of “Every Loser Wins”.

    No we never got any pop music in assemblies so this was better than the time our RE teacher saw God in the bath (it was never clear as I was only half listening whether God or the RE teacher was bathing or not). But we all though ELW was a bit shonky so it was an undemandingly poor three minutes. At which, when the track finished, Hore said the following.
    “No they don’t. Winners win, losers lose. This song is dangerous to suggest anything else.”

    And that was it. We were left dangling, five minutes short with the vision of a bully (for he was) misunderstanding a NICK BERRY SONG. And then I heard him getting told off for his piss poor assembly. Whichw as ace.

    So its worth more than 1 for me for the memory. Maybe a 2.

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    pink champale on 14 Jan 2010 #

    more context is scarcely needed after punctum’s enders masterclass, but it’s probably worth adding that wicksy was an uber 1986 pie faced lothario who invariably wore open necked shirts with wide pastel stripes and tiny collars and always had a twinkle in his eye and a ready quip for the ladies. i fear i thought he was pretty cool in 1986 – and might even have quite liked this song – but with the clarity of time, it is obvious he was a substantial arse.

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    pink champale on 14 Jan 2010 #

    that is a fantastic assembly story!

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    Tom on 14 Jan 2010 #

    What is the highest-charting Corrie-related single? Apologies if this is bunny-baiting, though I don’t think it is.

    (of course we have another Enders encounter to come and I hope Punctum will put his subscription to Inside Soap to equally good use then)

  8. 8
    Billy Smart on 14 Jan 2010 #

    I think that the first two or three years of EastEnders are, along with 1960s Coronation Street, probably the dramatic height of British TV soaps, the situations more thought-through and well-paced than you’d expect, the dialogue generally surprising, the characters the type of people that we hadn’t seen in soaps before (this reading is supported by the 1995 tenth anniversary daytime repeats). This period didn’t last all that long; the introduction of a third, then forth, weekly episode and the increasing reliance on gangster plots where I started to lose patience.

    However, this enthusiasm doesn’t carry over to the records, holy relics for people too enthusiastic to extend their television-watching experience. I thought that I’d forgotten the lyrics of this, but hearing it again for the first time in 24 years, I realise that they failed to make any impression on me even at the time!

    Punctum forgot to mention the spin-off LP, 1985’s “The EastEnders Pub Singalong Album”…

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    pink champale on 14 Jan 2010 #

    #7 my guess is it’s not peel fave ‘coronation street’s not really real’ by kevin seisay (“in the supermarket people go up to rita/it’s barbara knox really but they’re still thrilled to meet her”)

  10. 10
    Billy Smart on 14 Jan 2010 #

    Number 2 Watch: A week of Status Quo’s ‘In The Army Now’! I remember this being massively popular at school, probably for thematic reasons, especially with the College Cadet Force. It’s a bit lame, and Quo after they had outlived their usefulness.

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    Billy Smart on 14 Jan 2010 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Nick Berry seems to have been remarkably shy to promote ‘Every Loser Wins’, Top Of The Pops making do with the video on five occasions. His only non-acting TV appearance seems to have been to promote his comeback hit, a weedy Buddy Holly cover version;

    WOGAN: with Nick Berry, Mary Black Band, Adrian Walsh (1992)

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    Jungman Jansson on 14 Jan 2010 #

    We never got Eastenders here, at least not on any channel that’s even close to being widely available (apparently it is broadcast on BBC’s international Entertainment channel, but I had never even heard the name until today). But seeing as it keeps getting referenced in various British texts, I assume it must have made quite an impression on people.

    But nevertheless, this is horrible. A song that makes even the sappiest Eurovision ballads seem like unstoppable forces of nature – I’m impressed that it’s even possible for a song to be so listless. Tom already covered the drums, but they are astonishing in their clumsiness. They pop in, trying to turn the whole thing into some kind of funeral march, before they suddenly decide it wasn’t worth bothering with and just quietly slink away.

    “Winners win, losers lose”, though – that’s almost good enough to adopt as a motto. :)

    SwedenWatch: No.

  13. 13
    Erithian on 14 Jan 2010 #

    Tom #7 – Sir, me sir, sir, sir me! Highest charting Corrie-related single was “I’m A Believer”, by Davy Jones, who played Len Fairclough’s nephew or something circa 1961, and his three American pals.

    And Noddy Holder made a cameo appearance in (IIRC) Corrie’s 40th anniversary show in 2000, so there’s six more number ones to factor in there.

    In fact there was a similar situation to Nick Berry’s, although not as big a hit – “Not Too Little Not Too Much” was a top 20 hit in 1963 for Christopher Sandford, whose Corrie character, milkman Walter Potts, became a pop singer. Sandford went on to be a Radio Caroline DJ and had a minor hit as half of Yin and Yan spoofing Telly Savalas’ “If” in 1975. (I note that Marcello told this same story in the ”If” thread and it’s a pound to a penny he’s posted it again by the time I post this…)

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    Erithian on 14 Jan 2010 #

    Enders was a seriously big deal in 1986, as I mentioned in the “West End Girls” thread. This was the year the Den-and-Angie divorce storyline reached its dramatic climax on Christmas Day with one of the biggest TV ratings in history (the official figure is a staggering 30 million, but that includes the weekend omnibus so no doubt millions of people watched it twice). Somewhere I have a full-ish list of acts who’ve had hit records before, during or after a stint on Enders (ranging from Wendy Richard to Goldie) which I’ll have to dig out.

    The final quarter of 1986 should have been the biggest down of my life – my seasonal job at French Railways had not turned into a permanent one, and for the only time in my life I was alone and unemployed in London, trudging from New Cross to Greenwich to sign on once a fortnight. Somehow, though, probably because I planned to return to the seasonal work again so it was only ever going to be three months, I found a perverse enjoyment in the freedom to explore that part of London during the daytime, to see what lay beyond the route to work, to read and go to as much football as I could. My memories of the time stop short of actual nostalgia, but aren’t as bad as they might be. Even this song, naff as it is, didn’t get me down.

  15. 15
    punctum on 14 Jan 2010 #

    #7: Joint Corrie champ with Davy Jones is Peter Noone, who played Stanley Fairclough and topped the chart in 1964 with “I’m Into Something Good.” Bronze to Adam Rickitt who made #5 with the overwrought “I Breathe Again” in 1999. Honourable mention to Sue Nicholls who reached #17 in 1968 with the shakily-intoned Hatch/Trent country-flavoured ballad “Where Will You Be?” although she was actually in Crossroads at the time. Then there’s Status Quo who made a very funny cameo appearance which culminated in Rossi and Parfitt beating up Les Battersby.

  16. 16
    vinylscot on 14 Jan 2010 #

    Corrie No1s – does Kym Marsh count?.. Keith Duffy?… Brian Hibbard of Flying Pickets?

    Non No1s from Joanna Lumley with the Abfab comedy relief cr*p, and going back even further, Dave King?

  17. 17
    MikeMCSG on 14 Jan 2010 #

    I must congratulate Tom on being a fellow ‘Enders refusenik; my objection to soap on the Beeb having survived hallmates, mother, sister and wife watching the damned thing.

    This has got to be a 0. It has nothing going for it at all. Dreadful Hallmark-card lyrical cliches cobbled together without any conviction, little melody, cheap production and a vocal so lacklustre it makes Kevin Keegan’s “Head Over Heels In Love” sound like a soul classic.
    Somewone like Barry Manilow could at least have given it some welly but this is bad karaoke at best. Billy at #11 is quite right that Nick was very reluctant to promote it; he seemed embarrassed by the whole episode. You could commend him more for this if he hadn’t returned in the 90s with some pisspoor covers (displaying no improvement in his vocal technique) off the back of “Heartbeat”

    I actually quite like Simon May’s self-performed “The Summer Of My Life” hit. He was a low-rent Tony Hatch,even looked a bit like him if I recall. This was actually third time lucky as two previous soap-launched singles the aforementioned De Sykes in 74 and (also through Crossroads)”More Than In Love” by (subsequent supposed comedienne and McCartney relative) Kate Robbins in 1981 had stiffed at two.

    This is a lowpoint in the history of the chart.When the parade of shite that was the 90s list of number ones was in full swing I often looked back at this as the start of the deluge.

  18. 18
    Simon on 14 Jan 2010 #

    McLusky were right: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoF17mvYVMw

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    Tom on 14 Jan 2010 #

    #17 you can take it as proof that there is no 0 in the marking system!

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    lonepilgrim on 14 Jan 2010 #

    I watched Eastenders for a while in 1986 because, as a shared experience, it provided a common topic of conversation as I adjusted to life in a new career in a new town. Despite that I have no memory of this whatsoever – which is hardly surprising given that it doesn’t appear to have much of a melody. It’s function as a marketing tool over the BBC no longer seem especially keen to play it – or perhaps Nick Berry has bought up every copy.
    The big soap news in 1986 was the arrival of Neighbours on UK TV. The kids at the school where I worked would rush home at lunchtime to watch it. IIRC that spawned a few hits….

  21. 21
    LondonLee on 14 Jan 2010 #

    #7 You have to add mid-80s Brookside to that list. While Corrie and RearEnders (that’s what we called it, weren’t we funny?) presented some fantasy of chirpy Northerners and gritty Cockneys I thought Brookie was the one that actually looked and felt like the 1980s.

    This really is spectacularly bad isn’t it? The glow of nostalgia can often give a little polish to the worst of turds but not in this case.

  22. 22
    Sean on 14 Jan 2010 #

    Surely the most successful Corrie champ is Peter Kay, who had a brief but hilarious cameo as luckless drayman Eric Garmin, who tried but failed to woo barmaid Shelley Unwin (Sally Lindsay). Lindsay and Kay both feature in Popular further down the line of course.

  23. 23
    Billy Smart on 14 Jan 2010 #

    #21. Sorry, yes, that’s obviously completely right, its just that I never got into the habit of being a regular viewer at any stage – two soaps being generally as much as I can follow at a time.

  24. 24
    swanstep on 14 Jan 2010 #

    This one’s new to me… Blimey, puts all quibbles about Jennifer Rush in perspective doesn’t it? The in studio bits of the vid. reminded me a little of the in studio bits of Careless Whispers’ vid.. This in turn made me wonder whether the song would romp home with at least a 4 or a 5 if someone competent like Michael or Elton John or (Abba’s) Agnetha sung it (horrifyingly, the backing track did remind me a little of ‘Slipping through my fingers’)? Maybe, but I’m not prepared to listen to the song (watch the vid.) again, let alone many times, to try to answer that question fairly. First time through though, the song did seem painfully melodically limp, and not a patch on the rather pleasant East Enders theme.

    Slouching towards Ramsey St…

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    koganbot on 14 Jan 2010 #

    For once I am absolutely speechless.

    (Except to say that as far as I know Davy would have had nothing to do with “I’m A Believer,” because that early in the Monkees’ career all tracks were recorded by session men and lead singer, and it’s Mickey singing. But “Daydream Believer” came the next fall, with Davy on lead and Peter doing the arranging, and it reached number 5 in Britain in November ’67, and is a terrific song even though Davy’s meh.)

    (EDIT: Actually, “I’m A Believer” has background singing, so Davy may be on there after all!)

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    anto on 14 Jan 2010 #

    If you don’t watch EastEnders you missed a cracking episode tonight.

    The most interesting thing about Every Loser Wins for me is that the chours merges seamlessly with the Lords Prayer
    as in

    Every Loser Wins
    Once a dream begins
    Thy kingdom come
    Thy will be done
    On Earth

    As it is in Heaven

  27. 27
    swanstep on 14 Jan 2010 #

    BTW, so far average and median Tom-scores for 1986 are running slightly ahead of 1985 (which, you may recall, was the low-scoring flameout year after 1984 to rival 1967’s bummer after 1966’s highs). S. dev is high (behind only 1967 and 1972, which also had pairs of 1s). Chart here if anyone’s interested.

  28. 28
    Alan on 14 Jan 2010 #

    Anthony Newley (Popular bothere twice in 1960) was VERY briefly in EastEnders. He was meant to be playing a permanent character, but died.

  29. 29
    thefatgit on 14 Jan 2010 #

    The Banned introduced a couple of new characters specially written for the pop group storyline.

    Harry Reynolds: Lefty student, looking like a cross between Rik from the Young Ones and a spotty proto-Mark Lamarr. Reynolds wore his politics (Marxist radical) on his sleeve. He was mates with Kelvin Carpenter and Tessa Parker, Kelvin’s love interest and fellow radical student. Harry’s involvement was as band manager and wannabe songwriter, but when Wicksy’s song was chosen for Battle of the Bands competition, Harry turned saboteur and nobbled the band’s backing tape.

    Eddie Hunter: Tubby Limahl-haired mate of Wicksy. Eddie supplied the instruments and played lead guitar in The Banned. He’d got the money from loan sharks, and when he failed to pay back the money, Eddie did a runner to Clacton to work as a Redcoat leaving Wicksy with the debt.

    The Banned got their name after their debut gig at the Vic, playing as Dog Market (other suggested band names were So So Reverso, Left Of Arthur, Bottled Up, Conjugal Rights and The Harry Reynolds Quartet). Their amplifier blew a fuse in the pub and Den Watts threw them out telling them they were banned. Cue the name. ‘Enders writers were maybe unaware there had been a punk/new wave band of the same name already, so “Something Outta Nothing” was performed by Letitia Dean and Paul Medford.

    ELW comes after The Banned play a shambolic set at Battle of the Bands, thanks to Harry. Simon Wicks writes the song that Lofty adopts as his theme tune after ‘Chelle drops the bombshell, which Punctum describes so eloquently above.

    So this particular soap’s invasion of the charts reaches it’s apogee with this dire piece of mawkish drivel.

  30. 30
    anto on 14 Jan 2010 #

    As we’re on a thread about Soap/Pop Crossover-BBC Records-Italia Conti
    1986 was also the year Grange Hill went pop with anti-drugs dross
    Just Say No followed by an official LP which it’s claimed featured tracks entitled Girls Like It Too and No Supervision At Break.

    I heard David Essex very nearly joined the EastEnders cast but changed his mind at the last minute.

    By the way has anyone mentioned Jennifer Moss? The diminutive Actress who played cheeky teenager Lucille Hewitt during the first decade and a half of Coronation Street. She recorded the charming girly pop tune
    Hobbies produced by Joe Meek.

    As for Nick Berry if I ever doubted that Britain was a civilised country it might be because having let him go to number one once we very nearly allowed it to happen a second time.

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