Dec 09

CHRIS DE BURGH – “The Lady In Red”

FT + Popular84 comments • 16,654 views

#574, 2nd August 1986, video

In a market economy, value is not intrinsic – it’s determined by the extent to which other people desire a thing you possess. “The Lady In Red” captures this at the romantic level – Chris De Burgh’s realisation of the value of a woman occurs only when he sees higher than expected demand for her in the marketplace of a dance. A “dah-nce” no less. De Burgh lengthens and stresses the vowel, breaking its rhyme with “romance” – this is not some high street discotheque he’s in, we are given to understand: it’s a place where his lady can be properly appreciated. After all, high ticket items realise part of their value through their status as display objects and the true audience for “The Lady In Red” is that crowd of suitors, not the lady herself. The song lets De Burgh proclaim his monopoly position in this market to them: “the Lady In Red is dancing WITH ME”, and they simply vanish from the lyric. De Burgh sways across the floor victorious, an unlikely alpha male – there are many things I dislike about his performance on this soporific record, but his mock-spontaneous interjections of “’swhere I wanna be” carry off the crown for their grasping smugness.

After the song became successful, a number of women claimed – or apparently claimed – to be its inspiration, and De Burgh’s own story changed over time. Was it his wife, or a woman he had fleetingly seen, or perhaps Princess Diana, who the singer suggested had once confronted him in the knowledge that only she could be the Lady, that modern day Mona Lisa, muse of the synthpad and the fretless bass! We may never know for sure. Besides, the actual identity of the Lady In Red is quite irrelevant: what matters is her value, not her self.



  1. 1
    punctum on 10 Dec 2009 #

    Is this how Nick Drake might have ended up had he survived? Drake and Chris de Burgh were contemporaries at Marlborough School in the early sixties and even played in a band together. Then again, de Burgh’s music has always been decidedly less complex and troubled, at least on its placid surface. Musically and lyrically he is the equivalent of a Jilly Cooper or a Jeffrey Archer; easy emotions designed to appeal to the widest possible demographic.

    “The Lady In Red” was his biggest hit, helped not a little by the contemporaneous and coincidental wedding of top Sloane Rangers Andy and red-headed Sarah (unlike Chas and Di, the shops and offices did not close down for the occasion). The production is one of expensive-sounding minimalism; a drum machine, a wistful Fairlight, tasteful fills from guitar and bass. Of its kind it’s a ruthlessly constructed across-the-board hit single, perfectly symmetrical and ending with a whispered “I love you,” though de Burgh’s anxious vocal, wherein he manages not to rhyme “dance” with “romance” with “chance,” is like being kissed with Marmite-covered lips. But the cynicism of the whole enterprise is reinforced by the fact that, despite the song being written about his wife, he was actually fucking the nanny at the time. Sadly, not that many cared, or noticed.

  2. 2
    Matt DC on 10 Dec 2009 #

    Is this the lowest mark so far? It’s pretty deserving of it, in any case.

  3. 3
    pink champale on 10 Dec 2009 #

    the way chris db sings “cheek to cheek” in an urgent erotic* whisper is endlessly a little bit amusing, so that’s a plus. otherwise, lir reminds me of “wonderful tonight” – the singer can’t actually find much to say about his veryspeciallady except that she’s his veryspeciallady and looks very nice, but choses to express this sentiment in a kind of pained moan. very strange

    famously, chris db later dumped his wife (who i always thought was the lady in red) and went off with their teenage babysitter. this event was celebrated with comparable literalism, though rather less chart acclaim, in “blonde hair, blue jeans” – apart from richard hammond’s haircut, the single clearest expression of a mid life crisis in western culture. (ohmygod, i’ve just googled the lyrics – chris is going to” take her on the floor/and when morning comes she’ll beg for more” aaargh!).

    *this word should be inside more quote marks than exist in the universe.

  4. 4
    MikeMCSG on 10 Dec 2009 #

    Hope you had a good holiday Tom !

    When this came out you could hear the hinges of a thousand cupboard doors creak as graduates rushed to stash away their copies of “Far Beyond These Castle Walls” and “Crusader” lest people think they endorsed this tripe. In the late 70s/early 80s he was a middle class cult,one of those English-speaking artists (see also Roger Chapman, Fischer-Z, Flash and the Pan) who were big everywhere but the two big Anglo-Saxon markets, a sort of Irish Al Stewart. To those of us who were partial to him this represents one of the biggest sell-outs since Rod Stewart’s “Atlantic Crossing” (others might cite the Fuzzbox re-invention).

    You can’t listen to this now without recalling its 1994 follow up “Blonde Hair Blue Jeans” a similarly sincere ode to the babysitter he was banging during his wife’s illness.Nice chap.

  5. 5
    Steve Mannion on 10 Dec 2009 #

    About 5-6 years ago I was on the bus to work and as usual the air was filled with the tinny treble of someone’s earphone output just being too loud. At the exact same time that the guy sitting opposite me glanced around with mild annoyance at the hiss we both realised that the song playing was in fact The Lady In Red. Somebody was listening to THIS song of all songs on the bus on the way to work that morning. We exchanged a brief look of horror and puzzlement and waited out the remaining aeons.

  6. 6
    MikeMCSG on 10 Dec 2009 #


    “this event was celebrated with comparable literalism, though rather less chart acclaim, in “blonde hair, blue jeans” – apart from richard hammond’s haircut, the single clearest expression of a mid life crisis in western culture.”

    They come in 2nd and 3rd to Tin Machine in that category !

  7. 7
    Tom on 10 Dec 2009 #

    The nanny thing I think was later than TLIR. As for the identity of the Lady, he claimed it was his wife when necessary I think – he seems also to have claimed it wasn’t (presumably when the nanny was involved).

  8. 8
    Tom on 10 Dec 2009 #

    #5 this is one of the most shameful aspects of Popular – I always keep the next dozen or so tracks on my mp3 playlist and occasionally have had to scramble to pull out the headphone cord when something like this comes on in public.

  9. 9
    Tom on 10 Dec 2009 #

    #2 would I take “Grandma” or “Liverpool” over this? Hmmmm, not sure. It’s down there in the basement though.

  10. 10
    Steve Mannion on 10 Dec 2009 #

    I’m assuming the song is about meeting his wife for the first time. “I hardly know…this beauty by my side”. But does that makes Chris the beast?

  11. 11
    pink champale on 10 Dec 2009 #

    #7 no, no, no, tin machine weren’t a mid-life crisis, they were a PROPER BAND.

  12. 12
    Nick D on 10 Dec 2009 #

    I always assumed it was about a horse.

  13. 13
    pink champale on 10 Dec 2009 #

    er, why?

  14. 14
    col124 on 10 Dec 2009 #

    This is the sort of song that seemed deliberately intended to become Muzak, but its grotesque cheesiness and its already-synthetic production made a Muzak version superfluous. I worked at a grocery ca. 1988-1990, and this song cycled through the PA system at least once every four hours, triggering each time, perhaps subconsciously, a number of customers to start murmuring the chorus while they pushed their carts along the frozen foods aisle.

    Quintessence of a 1 rating.

  15. 15
    David Belbin on 10 Dec 2009 #

    I’m afraid that Punctum’s comments about Nick Drake being in a band with Chris De Burgh at no.1 are one of those urban myths. It’s in neither of the biographies and Trevor Dann’s excellent “Darker Than The Deepest Sea” lists the members of The Perfumed Gardeners as Drake, MIke Maclaran, Randall Keynes (grandson of JMK) Simon Crocker, Johnny Glempser (‘who couldn’t keep time’ and ‘a boy called Payne’. They were at Marlborough at the same time, though.

    As for whether Drake would have tranmogrified into DeBurgh, that’s a gross calumny. More likely, had he recovered from the depression that led to his death, Nick would have continued his tentative career in computer programming, where he would have had a successful and lucrative but low profile career and taken early retirement a few years ago. His music was so good that it was bound to have re-emerged without the ‘suicide chic/tragic death’ aspect, much at Vashti Bunyan’s has, perhaps via an ad campaign. A new album might have been released three or four years ago, containing songs written since ‘Pink Moon’, titled, perhaps, ‘Black Eyed Dog’. Drake, however, would have refused all attempts to get him to perform live or grant interviews, but would still live at Far Leys, in Tanworth-In-Arden with, it would be nice to think, his wife of thirty years and frequent visits from his grandchildren.

  16. 16
    Jimmy the Swede on 10 Dec 2009 #

    A week or two after this colourless dirge came off the top, I was on holiday (basically just a piss-up) in Jersey with a couple of salty pals – we were all in our mid twenties at that time. “Lady in Red” was still extremely popular, being played all over the island, which was and remains a favoured destination for honeymoon couples from the mainland. But the record to us was like a bad stain which simply wouldn’t go away and to this day, I don’t think it ever will. Grrrrr!!!!

    Twas also at this time that Ted Moult, the double-glazing geezer, followed the principle of Pete Duel and shot himself. Hence:


    “Suicide Teeeed
    He is no more (He’s a stiff)
    He took out a gun
    And put himself out the door
    What a bore
    But I hardly know-ohhhh
    Why he filled his bonce with lead
    Never forget
    Ted Moult is dead.”


  17. 17
    MikeMCSG on 10 Dec 2009 #

    #16 Thanks for that one Jimmy, you’ve set a precedent for when we get to a football-related one in 1994.

  18. 18
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 10 Dec 2009 #

    “A Boy Called Payne” is a good name for a song. Esp.if written by another boy.

  19. 19
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 10 Dec 2009 #

    Plus the notion of “kissing marmite-covered lips” is generally to me a win-win proposition: even with CdB on the other end of the lips it would be “lose oh wait win”

  20. 20
    Conrad on 10 Dec 2009 #

    #14, did it trigger any particular purchasing patterns? perhaps more cat food than really necessary, or a tendency to zone in on the luxury microwave dinner for two range – nice bit of coq au vin, that sort of thing?

    I had to sit through de bore’s new single last night at Anfield, a cover of you’ll never walk alone in christmas style. i don’t think it will be troubling the scorers

  21. 21
    lonepilgrim on 10 Dec 2009 #

    I’m not sure if ‘A spaceman came travelling’ which popped up on some Christmas compilations was better or worse.
    The only pleasure I associate with CdB is when he appears on ‘The Mighty Boosh’ played by Noel Fielding’s dad

  22. 22
    thefatgit on 10 Dec 2009 #

    When the spark goes out of a marriage, Relate tend to advise try to rediscover what brought the couple together in the first place. This usually involves nightclub + drink + erection section = “your place or mine?”. So a jaded couple dress up in their finest and do the “fantasy roleplay” thing of pretending to meet for the first time. After all, what do they have to lose? They are decent people with nice kids and a nice home. It would be a shame if they didn’t give it “one more try”. They send the kids off to stay at her sister’s house for the weekend, then make their plans for the evening. They get seperate taxis to the club where they met, both dressed to impress.

    So it’s getting late. After the initial embarassment, and a few more drinks for dutch courage, the scenario plays out. The DJ slows the pace down and from opposite ends of the dancefloor they walk towards each other. She chose a brand new red dress especially for this. He notices it for the first time and her. Maybe it’s the drink or the heat of the dancefloor but she looks gorgeous. They meet in the middle and begin that “walk around slowly whilst holding on for dear life” dance. Then they begin to relax and get into it. She’s wearing that perfume he likes and he’s wearing that aftershave she bought him for xmas 4 years ago. They exchange corny chat up lines and strangely, they are beginning to enjoy this fantasy of pretending to be strangers. The talk flows like the drink and they put aside their routines and petty squabbles for just one night.

    In the taxi home, they can’t keep their hands off each other and the night draws to a close. But the morning comes around all too quickly and the hangover just underscores the cold realisation that this is all there is. “What was that song we danced to last night?”
    ” ‘The Lady In Red’ by Chris De Burgh”.
    They both shudder and realise that their marriage is more doomed than they thought.

    Does anybody know if Relate publish figures on how successful they have been in keeping marriages afloat?

  23. 23
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 10 Dec 2009 #

    A reminder: CdB on his critics (or one of them)

  24. 24
    MichaelH on 10 Dec 2009 #

    There is one extraordinary line in this song, which marks it of its time – it now sounds absolutely baffling, but in 1985 must have placed it in the wine bar-Howard’s Way-new middle class continuum:

    “I have never seen that dress you’re wearing
    Or the highlights in your hair that catch your eyes”

    Yes, he’s really complimenting her on her highlights. That line stops me in my tracks every single time, but I can’t tell if it’s for clunkiness or for showing complete understanding of his market.

  25. 25
    punctum on 10 Dec 2009 #


    “I want to do it.”
    “You can’t stop me.”
    “Who are you to judge me?”
    “I’m as good as you are.”
    “You don’t understand me.”
    “I’ve got a right to.”
    “Do it for me now.”
    “You’ve got to.”
    “What have you ever done for me?”

    Polonius, ending up cowering behind the arras.

  26. 26
    Tom on 10 Dec 2009 #

    “Returning the favour, presumably, he departs the stage for Lady in Red , invading boxes and draping himself over audience members, some of whom have worn red for the occasion.”

    :-0 this sounds less lady in red and more woman in black.

  27. 27
    Jimmy the Swede on 10 Dec 2009 #

    The Holy Trinity of Tom, Sukrat and Punctum are mocking de Burgh here. And by cracky they’re spot-on! Precious twat. Did poor old Ted Moult really level himself over this git?!

  28. 28
    wichita lineman on 10 Dec 2009 #

    Re 23: If I had CdB’s track record I’d have settled for “slightly tarnished squeaky clean persona”. It makes him sound more like Davy Jones than Alan Partridge and his blonde haired blue jeaned accoutrement.

    Re 22: I was shocked but pleasantly surprised to recently hear that a friend’s marriage had been saved by a counsellor. He’s American though – possibly the advice goes deeper than smelly candles and The Lady In Red in the States.

    I think A Spaceman Came Travelling might be even worse than TLIR; it’s as if Greg Lake’s snowdome of a hit had been hijacked by modern Christian hymn writers with a Blakes Seven obsession. At least, I’ve always assumed it’s about Jesus. Maybe it’s about Jas Mann.

  29. 29
    johnny on 10 Dec 2009 #

    can’t let this occasion pass by without a mention of The Lady in Red’s cameo in the brutally hilarious 2000 screen adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel “American Psycho”. This song pretty much typifies what Ellis was spoofing in his book which, correct me if I’m wrong, was set in 1986 (and published two years later).

  30. 30
    TomLane on 10 Dec 2009 #

    This peaked at #3 in the U.S. This song is sort of the 80’s version of Dan Hill’s 1978 “Sometimes When We Touch”. And like that song it won’t ever go away. I still hear it on AC stations and even in TV commercials. Interestingly, Hill’s song also peaked at #3. As a big fan of cheesy guilty pleasures I should like this more, but to be honest I never cared much for it when it was popular. And Dan Hill’s song is better, anyway.

  31. 31
    MichaelH on 10 Dec 2009 #

    re 23 To be fair, that does read like a review written by a part-time critic in a country with a population the size of Greater Manchester.

  32. 32
    JonnyB on 10 Dec 2009 #

    As ever, unanimous dislike in a comments box is usually enough to make me go searching for the positives.

    But I’m with the mob on this one. Would you pass a flaming torch and pitchfork, please?

  33. 33
    swanstep on 10 Dec 2009 #

    As they say in Spinal Tap, there’s a fine line between clever and stupid (and between cloyingly naive and cynical, and refreshingly direct), and this song isn’t a million miles removed from clever and beautiful Blue Nile stuff I’ve loved over the years (see esp. ‘Saturday Night’ from their Hats album – or most of that album really). And, #24, consider that ABC’s ‘Many Happy Returns’ also discussed highlights in hair.

    Yet, I’ve always (like everyone else here) reacted allergically to LIR. I’m honestly not sure why that is. At any rate, I don’t quite buy Tom’s attempt to rationalize what’s distasteful here: that the singer is appreciating the gal extrinsically, or for her market value, or some such thing. De Burgh *is* getting at a real, interesting, relatively benign phenomenon: couples often fairly quickly end up so accustomed to each other that each becomes almost invisible to the other. Suddenly, on a special occasion when your partner is dressed up for an event of some kind you see them again as others see them (maybe as you first saw them), and you also see the attention they’re understandly getting, and so on. That’s a rather good topic for a song and not the nasty, distastefully objectivizing (or whatever) thing that Tom tried to stick onto LIR.

    Still, this record is limpid enough to be genuinely irritating, even if it isn’t exactly morally objectionable. I’ve hated a lot of the (literally) pathetic #1s since Power of Love, and I’ve criticized a lot of them for their ‘woe is me’ character. LIR, however, has a ‘wow is me’ character which is evidently worse. Triumphant patheticalism – if it starts to grow on you, scrape it off (maybe ‘marmite kiss’ can’t be improved on now I think about it):
    2 (my heart says 1)

  34. 34
    Stevie T on 11 Dec 2009 #

    Swanstep has managed to articulate – right down to the Blue Nile comparison! – precisely how I feel about this song.

  35. 35
    Tom on 11 Dec 2009 #

    #33 – yes, I admit my write-up here was a bit of a stretch, and a little tongue in cheek: my dislike of the song casting about for a suitably damning frame. But the comments thread has done the record’s cynicism and wetness justice.

  36. 36
    Mark M on 11 Dec 2009 #

    This represents something of a portent of doom for me: a month or so after this reached number one, I arrived at de Burgh’s alma mater and embarked on two of the lousiest years of my life…

  37. 37
    tim davidge on 11 Dec 2009 #

    My goodness, people don’t like this one, do they? And I’m not going to disagree with them, at least not by much. It’s a reasonable performance of a syrupy, over-sentimental song with a not particularly imaginative arrangement – what with the gauzy electronics that were becoming more and more widespread, and that bass. It’s better than the Christmas novelties and kiddie claptrap that usually get ones and twos on here, but only just. It has a kind of self-satisfaction about it that I find irksome. A four – just – from me.

  38. 38
    Jungman Jansson on 11 Dec 2009 #

    Like JonnyB, I wonder – doesn’t anyone like this song here? Not a single voice of dissent so far. That’s quite remarkable.

    I can’t stand it either. It’s just dreadful to listen to. De Burgh sounds at once unspeakably smug and anxiously wavering; it’s not a successful pairing. But what is it that we’re all missing? This isn’t a quick novelty hit riding on the wave of a specific phenomenon – like TomLane says, “Lady in Red” just won’t go away. There must be something about the song that speaks to a good amount of people – people who don’t see it as wet, cynical and smug, but as beautiful and moving – but for the life of me I can’t figure out what it is. It’s not like we live in a world that’s lacking better songs about romantic love.

    SwedenWatch: #3 for two weeks. Bizarrely, it got to #1 on the Tracks chart – strange considering the show’s youthful bent. It’s not the kind of song I’d imagine being a big hit with a predominantly teen audience.

  39. 39
    David L on 11 Dec 2009 #

    An 8 or 9 for me. The Lady In Red is a wonderfully observed oneiric fantasy: a sombre, hermetic track with beautifully layered synth lines and that mysterious synth choir effect achieving something similar to 10CC’s I’m Not In Love, interspersed with subtle guitar licks. The ambiguous lyrics hint at a story without ever really giving it, playing a series of dreamlike binaries off each other. Are they on a crowded dancefloor, or are they alone? There is that lovely lyric slippage from the “highlights that catch your eyes” to “blind”. By the end of the song we are no clearer as to who the lady in red really is – a wife, a lover or merely a masturbatory fantasy figure? We are forever left in the dark.

  40. 40
    Rob K on 11 Dec 2009 #

    It seems a good time to wheel out my favourite Chris De Burgh story courtesy of Popbitch some years ago.

    Some time post Lady In Red, Chris completed the recording of a new album. After the sequencing was decided he had a full play through with his engineer and they got to the penultimate track, a ballad very much in the mould of LIR.

    After sitting through the track, (Chris with his eyes closed swaying back and forth with the melody, the engineer picking his nose), the last notes wafted gently into the ether. There then followed a 30 second gap until the last track kicked in.

    “Don’t worry”, piped up the engineer, “We’ll cut that gap down to a couple of seconds”. “You will not”, replied Chris knowingly, “People need at least 30 seconds to get over a De Burgh ballad.”

  41. 41
    Erithian on 11 Dec 2009 #

    A deliciously ambiguous phrase Rob!

    As sometimes happens, I don’t object to this one quite as much as some others have done, but it is a bit of an ear-strain to hear him approaching (as opposed to hitting) some of the notes. With the right people and in the right atmosphere I can understand it being effectively romantic (or romahntic) but it doesn’t quite do it for me. Thing is, as Mike points out at #4, he’d been around for years and produced some pretty good stuff – the historically based material as opposed to the spaceman-based material, obviously – and even on the Lady in Red album (which my sister taped for me, thanks hon!) tracks such as “Say Goodbye To It All” show a flair for storytelling and drama.

    One of my oldest friends was a big fan, and took me to a Chris de Burgh gig in 1981! We went to Fairfield Hall in Croydon with his girlfriend and a mate of hers, and by the end of the evening we’d paired off. His girlfriend was named Pat and it was during “Patricia the Stripper” that the sparks started flying with her friend. Our relationship lasted about three months, his is coming up for thirty years – but if the friend ever reads this, I hope you’re well and thanks for the memory!

    Anyone remember de Burgh turning up on the Liverpool coach on a Cup Final Grandstand in the 90s? He serenaded them with “The Team in Red”. I think a few players had to go the treatment room afterwards to have their toes uncurled.

    Number 2 Watch – the pretty appalling “So Macho” by Sinitta, she of the outsized palm leaves. It was an example of a record selling far better in one region than in the country as a whole – in this case the North of England, just as Viz comic and Sid the Sexist were expanding their empire beyond Newcastle. Go figure.

  42. 42
    StellaVista on 11 Dec 2009 #

    “Lady Di…muse of the synthpad and the fretless bass!” Brilliant!!!

  43. 43
    LondonLee on 11 Dec 2009 #

    His “Spanish Train” album was a surprisingly consistent seller when I worked at WH Smith in the late 70s/early 80s, never enough to really bother the charts but every weekend you were guaranteed that some dad or mum would come in and buy a copy.

    If ‘Abigail’s Party’ was set in the 80s I think this is the record Beverley would play instead of Demis Roussos to conjure up a sort of middle class aspirational hell. Though while Demis makes you think of Greek Islands this one is about as sophisticated as a Bernie Inn.

  44. 44
    LondonLee on 11 Dec 2009 #

    #24 Howard’s Way! Yes, spot on.

  45. 45
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 11 Dec 2009 #

    I’ve only ever seen it explored spitefully but there’s a fascinating essay to be written about the “cool” and the “uncool” sides of 80s cultural aspirationalism: the sub-suburban outreach towards the Cultural Other read as a bold post-punky* move or as a naff and sad move — is peter saville actually abigail? (or beverley, but that doesn’t sound so well…)

    *i’m tidying continuity mod into postpunk here, which will rile andypandy!

  46. 46
    johnny on 11 Dec 2009 #

    i suppose i could’ve mentioned in my first post yesterday that i don’t really mind this song. in fact, i think it’s a good deal more interesting than many of the recent chart-toppers discussed here. it’s what a friend and i jokingly refer to as “business psych”; that is, music predominately for squares that is a good deal weirder than most so-called “head” music. it’s like de Burgh told the engineer to get him “that Avalon sound” and this is the best they could do.

    This was a huge hit in the states when i was 7, and was a fixture on the lite-rock radio stations my mom would listen to as we drove to the grocery store. it seemed mysterious to me at that age. i thought it held all the secrets of the nature of adult love. forbidden passion, intrigue, deception, jealousy. years later i realized maybe the guy was just being a douchebag. i’ll still leave it on if it comes over the radio. the phase of ironically appreciating cheesy ’80s songs ended for me long ago, but the pompous hilarity of this particular tune still endures.

  47. 47
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 11 Dec 2009 #

    “business psych” is a terrific phrase and actually i think a better stab at what “american psycho” is exploring — certainly mary harron’s film of same catches this well

    n effect, it’s not about “ironic appreciation”: or rather, the term “ironic appreciation”, used positively or negatively, is really a dodging of the vertiginous terror the fact that hipsters (by whuch of course i mea “us” not “them”) do not now and have never understood more about the systems and the passions of the world than anyone else, however lame, after all…

    disclaimer: for years i failed to distinguish between chris de burgh and chris spedding

  48. 48
    CarsmileSteve on 11 Dec 2009 #

    so normally when I’m reading the comments (and i do read the vast majority of them like some sort of lurky mclurkington) the number one in question stays in my head whilst i’m reading and for the next few hours.

    today i am singing Drive by The Cars, clearly my brane has some sort of malfunction/safety override with regards to LiR

  49. 49
    Matthew H on 11 Dec 2009 #

    Chris De Burgh always looks the type to be wearing aftershave so old, it smells of vinegary whiskey.

    One of those songs I didn’t quite get, assuming it was for people of my parents’ generation who paid rather more attention to the charts than my folks actually did. The sort I thought were a bit flash. God, I’m probably one of them now; fortunately, Lady In Red still makes me squirm. De Burgh is simply ticking boxes.

  50. 50
    johnny on 11 Dec 2009 #

    #49 – yes, as i kid i assumed those sort of people were its audience as well. along with the omniprescence of this song, this period also marked the debut of adverts for expensive designer ice creams. for some reason, as a child i always equated the two.

  51. 51
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 11 Dec 2009 #

    haha the totality of the market that i knew for those ice creams was my gran who ate ALL OF THEM (but was unmoved by CdB)

  52. 52
    Kat but logged out innit on 11 Dec 2009 #

    I always got Chris DeBurgh mixed up with Chris Rea until that dude did him on Stars In Their Eyes – there’s a videoclip on that website of them singing together – it’s excruciating.

  53. 53
    Alan on 11 Dec 2009 #

    RIGHT THEN – it’s up to me is it?

    ok, so i am not going to defend this song, nor take up the unusually (for popular) untouched contrarian angle


    I do like this song. I shouldn’t for all the reasons already cited and for the bonus personal reason that my mum was a huge CdB fan prior to this song’s popularity and I must have heard this song any number of times at just the wrong age…

    But I like it all the same. It’s nice. It’s *shudder* pleasant. It’s very very saccharine of course, but the sentiment that inspired the song is a mushy one. It would be hard to make this sentiment expressed in song sound anything but cheesier than melted (and then deep fried?) brie to most people and it doesn’t help that his acting, the whispered asides, would shame the resident band at a wine bar.

    The melody is fine, memorable even, and the wash of sound is spot on erection-section fodder. Being suddenly overwhelmed with feelings of mush for someone you are in a long term relationship. Nice one Chris. It’s less hokey than Escape! (The Pina Colada Song).

    Anyway, I have to stop and go and cook for my wife who has been looking after my poorly sons all day. Look how lovely she is there watching Eastenders. aw.

    I am now determined to sing this song at Karaoke. I will be very embarrassed. But that is a cast-iron guarantee karaoke chums. HOLD ME TO IT

  54. 54
    moongolfer on 12 Dec 2009 #

    Did you kno that chris de burgh was bullied by supertramp? Yes, think about that for a moment. Bullied by Supertramp. He played support on their tour and they used to stuff him in a box. Also de burgh claims to have healing hands and has claimed to ‘heal’ his roadies when they’ve put their backs out. That is all.

  55. 55
    inakamono on 12 Dec 2009 #

    I would agree this is the most well-deserved “1” rating since Grandma.

    Not trying to suggest a positive side to Lady In Red, but I guess more than 90% of the comments here are by men; I wonder how a similar exercise whose commentators were predominately female would rate this?

    I was in the UK when this was released, and I knew a lot of 20- and 30-somethings [all female] who loved it.

    Was it speaking to a desire to be somehow objectified? Maybe women “past-the-first-flush-of-beauty” looking for an assertion that they were “still” attractive and desirable? It’s a sentiment I could understand, even if it’s lacking in PC credentials.

    I can imagine a parallel-universe Popular where this gets a “10” — which makes it kind of unique among the No.1s rated “1” here, which are mostly devoid even of parallel-universe potential.

    Despite which, it’s still a definitive “1” for me…

  56. 56
    Tom on 12 Dec 2009 #

    Surely there is a parallel world Popular read only by Grandmas!

  57. 57


  58. 58
    inakamono on 12 Dec 2009 #

    And, hate to think, a parallel-universe inhabited solely by long-haired lovers from liverpool…

  59. 59
    AndyPandy on 12 Dec 2009 #

    *What’s this “romARnce” bollocks?!Is it some obscure Anglo-Norman Irish (CDB’s backround?)pronunciation because I know no-one else pronounces the it like that…no I think he’s just being a contrary jerk.

    *Cant quite see why the middle-classes get it in the neck with this one -I realise prior to this he had a bit of a following amongst that class but as someone mentioned most of those fans cringed when confronted with this. However I’ve heard versions of this in Working Mens Clubs (a friend of mine was a member of one in Wakefield being my excuse for being there – incidentally they have one positive – they must be the only places where you can be turned 40 and still feel 20 years younger than the average punter!)on more than one occasion and I should imagine that the a majority of its buyers were from the working classes (or that grey area where the working mesh with the lower middle class). Which brings me to “Abigail’s Party” that I’d wager is a bit of a red herring as Abigail has far more than one foot placed firmly in the lower class than that she aspires to. And that leads me on to a pet theory of mine that the major fissure in the English class system is not between the working and middle classes but between the lower (extended families usually a mix of both) and middle middle classes (very culturally different, a harder bridge to cross
    and scornful of their lower middle class neighbours)but that’s another story…

    *I’ve mentioned on here before the parallel universes as regards the soul/funk/dance world and the rock world ie in the 80s most rock either completely ignored or slagged unmercilessly in the soul press with the exception of such as Steely Dan which werent exactly regulars in the 80s NME etc, However this track briefly united the two worlds as I remember how “Blues and Soul” reacted with horror when extremely cool jazzy combo Pieces Of A Dream (of “Mount Airy Groove” etc underground fame)included a version of this on an album.
    Maybe shades of the bewilderment of the white boy press at
    the black props for Phil Collins?

    Don’t find it particularly offensive just pretty boring and to have lasted this long (without an iota of trendiness)and be checked out by the jazzers it must have some kind of musical merit – so I suppose that’s a 3 for me.

  60. 60
    thefatgit on 12 Dec 2009 #

    @53…oddly enough, I discussed this song with my mum the other day (69, twice-married, BIG Journey and Phil Collins fan), and she mentioned the CdB and Rupert Holmes songs as 2 of her favourites. So now I shall attribute this and others like it to those “women of a certain age” who are the chosen target market. It certainly makes sense that this particular market went out and spent big to get it to #1.

    I put Tom’s hypothesis to her regarding TLIR and she never saw it that way until now. I think she’s never gonna hear it in the same way again. Sorry Mum!

  61. 61
    Caledonianne on 12 Dec 2009 #

    Hmmm, I was 27 when this was around, and loathed it. I do, however, remember attending a wedding in August 1986, wearing a red dress, and having this warbled to me. I cringed, but had a wee secret smile, even amid my sneering.

    But I like the Dan Hill. He actually sounds as if he knows what passion is!

  62. 62
    swanstep on 12 Dec 2009 #

    God help me, but the talk about grans and CdB’s mangled ro-mahnce, has suggested speeding LIR up from its 77 BPM to 119 BPM, then mashing away with Gaga as follows:
    (I’ve never seen so many men)
    [1]Ask you if you wanted to dance
    They’re looking for a little ro-mahnce
    Rah rah ah-ah-ahah!
    Ro mah ro-mah-mahah
    Gaga Ooh-la-laa!
    Want your (bad) romance
    I want your ugly
    I want your disease
    I want your everything
    As long as it’s free
    The lady in red
    is dancing with me
    Cheek to cheek
    There’s nobody here
    It’s just you and me
    I want your love
    I want your love…

    And so on. For some reason, one appears to be able to slip Gaga in anywhere!

  63. 63
    rosie on 13 Dec 2009 #

    Don’t know about this being a grrl think, or even an older woman thing. This middle-aged woman enjoys a good smooch as much as anybody, and the best smooch records are great. In Popular terms, I’m Not In Love is a clear 10 in my book and If You Leave Me Now not far behind. In both cases the man is being emotionally vulnerable, and that is a big turn on.

    Mr de Berk is not being vulnerable. He’s being a big prat, and if I were the lady in red I’d be feeling used, a trophy not a person with a brain to be cherished. I hate TLiR with a vengeance and it well deserves its score.

  64. 64
    Matthew H on 14 Dec 2009 #

    #50 Ha HA. My wife bought a Viennetta the other day and I said I’d never had it before, probably because my mum – whether consciously or un- – refused to buy food advertised on the telly. So I’m equating the two as well, Johnny.

  65. 65
    MichaelH on 14 Dec 2009 #

    It’s not a “middle-class” record. It’s an aspirational record: it’s like a newspaper supplement selling a lifestyle that doesn’t actually exist, or like the Ferrero Rocher ads – of course ambassadorial recceptions are not like that. LiR is the ambassadorial reception of pop.

  66. 66
    weej on 15 Dec 2009 #

    I’m no fan of this dirge, but another song with similar sentiments seems to me to be worse – Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” – though for some reason it doesn’t enjoy the same terrible reputation.

  67. 67
    Mark G on 15 Dec 2009 #

    Possibly because Eric explained the song is about going to a do and drinking too much and having the wife drive them home.

    Also, it’s about the man being definite/strong in tha face of the woman’s mild insecurity about her look.

  68. 68
    Billy Smart on 16 Dec 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: Chris de Burgh performed The Lady In Red on Top Of The Pops on four occasions;

    17 July 1986. Also in the studio that week were; Steve Winwood, Hollwood Beyond and Stan Ridgeway. Mike Smith was the host.

    31 July 1986. Also in the studio that week were; Spandau Ballet, Five Star and Stan Ridgeway. Mike Read & Janice Long were the hosts.

    7 August 1986. Also in the studio that week were; Status Quo, Lulu and Sinitta. Mike Smith was the host.

    14 August 1986. Also in the studio that week were; It Bites, Anita Dobson and Phil Fearon. Simon Bates was the host.

  69. 69
    Billy Smart on 16 Dec 2009 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Mawkish balladeer De Burgh has been a frequent presence on UK television;

    CANNON AND BALL: with Chris Collins, The Brian Rogers Dancers, Nosher Powell, Linda Lusardi, Dennis Waterman, Chris De Burgh, Brother Beyond, Kim Wilde, Rosie McClure, Toni Contay (1988)

    CHRIS DE BURGH IN CONCERT: with Chris De Burgh (1985)

    GRACE KENNEDY: with Jack Jones, Chris De Burgh (1982)

    LATE NIGHT IN CONCERT: with Chris De Burgh (1984)

    LATE NIGHT IN CONCERT: with Chris De Burgh (1985)

    LIVE FROM THE PALLADIUM: with George Benson, Les Dennis, Chris De Burgh, Gloria Estefan, Maggie Moone (1988)

    THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST: with Bob Harris, Ox, Claire Hamill, Chris De Burgh (1975)

    THE ROYAL VARIETY PERFORMANCE: with Michael Ball, Elaine Boosler, Melvyn Bragg, Frank Bruno, Chris De Burgh, Lance Burton, Harry Carpenter, The cast of Coronation Street, Wayne Dobson, David Essex (1989)

    SIGHT AND SOUND IN CONCERT: with Gilbert O’Sullivan, Chris De Burgh (1978)

    SIX FIFTY FIVE SPECIAL: with Chris De Burgh, Clifford Ward (1981)

    A SONG FOR CHRISTMAS: with Chris De Burgh (1986)

    SUNDAY, SUNDAY: with Chris De Burgh, Paul Nicholas, Fatima Whitbread, Pia Zadora (1988)

    THIS IS YOUR LIFE: Chris De Burgh (1992)

    VAL DOONICAN’S HOMEWARD BOUND: with Chris De Burgh, The Fureys (1989)

    WOGAN: with Barbara Castle, Chris De Burgh, Giant Mice, Baroness Sear, Baroness Trumpington (1987)

    WOGAN: with Chris De Burgh, Ann Miller, Milo O’Shea, Ride For The Rhino, Sir Stephen Spender (1988)

    WOGAN: with Chris De Burgh, Kathy Lee, Regis Philbin (1989)

    Stephen Spender was on Wogan! I’d endure several dDe Burgh performances to see that.

  70. 70
    abaffledrepublic on 4 Jan 2010 #

    Re A Spaceman Came Travelling: didn’t David Brent write something on a similar lyrical tip?

  71. 71
    lonepilgrim on 4 Jan 2010 #

    re 68 I’m guessing that was Stan Ridgeway singing ‘Camoflage’ (“he was an awfully BIG marine”) – which he gave a compellingly straight delivery – but which almost begs for a camper reading.

  72. 72
    ace inhibitor on 11 Jan 2011 #

    Came to this via a discussion of hauntology on the Wire website, of all places:


    So many of you have tried and failed, here, to find the redeeming feature of LiR – could this be it, looped to repeat as endless existential crisis?

  73. 73
    punctum on 11 Jan 2011 #

    Wow, that was amazing – Toronto as well! Made me feel a little homesick… :-(

    Got a lot of time for OPN and that will be reflected in our EoY list. The only other cut-up of “LiR” I’ve heard is the v/vm one from Sick Love about ten years ago which in comparison sounds rather cynical; this is great, though, an alternative soundtrack to the film Last Night.

  74. 74

    […] published a list of ‘The top 20 political songs’.  There is even one journalist who argues for a message in Chris de Burgh’s Lady in […]

  75. 75
    Lazarus on 15 Nov 2013 #

    Just hearing this on the radio now, for the first time in maybe 15 years. It’s not so bad, and I don’t think we should be marking songs down because of failings in the artist’s personal life, otherwise where would we start with Gary Glitter? 3, I reckon.

    PS I admit to owning a copy of ‘High on Emotion’, couldn’t tell you when I last played it though.

  76. 76
    Paulito on 21 Nov 2013 #

    How exactly do you infer that the song has had marks deducted because of ”failings in the artist’s personal life”?

  77. 77
    Lazarus on 21 Nov 2013 #

    I was wondering when and if that would get a response. I didn’t mean to suggest that that was necessarily what Tom had done. I think it can be too easy to mark down something like this on the basis of the artist rather than the song, though. “I don’t like X, he’s a smug git, and he left his wife – I’m giving it 1” sort of thing. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of that myself at some stage. As I said, I don’t think the song is that bad – there are far more deserving candidates for the lowest score.

  78. 78
    Kinitawowi on 21 Nov 2013 #

    This song… it all depends on the angle of attack, I guess. It’s one of those that was destined to be picked in karaokes and jukeboxes by loved ones, inviting their scarlet-clad partners to the slow dance floors; is that “WITH ME” a tacky presentation of the lady as a trophy, or a personal celebration that you were the one lucky enough to land her?

    It’s this dichotomy that ultimately resulted in my parents’ divorce two years later (he thought the latter, she thought the former, and that was his first clue that maybe they didn’t know each other as well as they thought they did), so clearly this stuff matters. It doesn’t really matter who it’s about specifically – the song is sufficiently benign that any numer of people could claim it was about them, which was almost certainly the point – it’s just a cold, calculated weepie intended for anybody about anybody.

    It’s generic, it’s tosh, it’s generic tosh, it’s nowhere near as good as A Spaceman Came Travelling or Spanish Train or even Patricia The Stripper. It’s a song to be called “Our Song” by couples for decades. It’s not being called that by me. 2 at most.

  79. 80
    Tom on 22 Apr 2014 #

    The best part of that is his dangerously Partridgean swerve into talking about liking smooth jazz but “not so smooth”. (Shades of the much-missed Andypandy’s comment about ‘the jazzers’ digging CdB!)

  80. 81
    Ed on 22 Apr 2014 #

    @80 You get the sense with Coogan that the boundary between his personality and his comic creation is pretty fuzzy. See also Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David.

    To be fair, though, I did laugh out loud at ‘Babysitter in sweatpants’.

  81. 82
    hectorthebat on 17 Jan 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Theater van het Sentiment, Radio 2 (NL) – Top 40 Songs by Year 1969-2000 (2013) 24
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  82. 83
    mapman132 on 30 Jan 2015 #

    I have to say I’m not feeling the hate here….I liked it then, I certainly don’t hate it now. Yet another late 80’s song on which my views are at right angles to the consensus. I wonder if it’s because this was the period of my adolescence (I turned 14 in 1986)….I’d probably dislike this if it came out today, but fond memories die hard. 6/10.

  83. 84
    Gareth Parker on 1 May 2021 #

    It’s all rather flat and uninspiring to me. 3/10 at most in my opinion.

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