Apr 11

CHESNEY HAWKES – “The One And Only”

Popular80 comments • 8,085 views

#663, 30th March 1991

A treatise on individualism from Nik Kershaw, the pop philosopher who brought us “The Riddle”? Expectations raised! And “The One And Only” absolutely does not disappoint. “No one can be myself like I can / For this job I’m the best man / And while this may be true / You are the one and only you.”

The job of delivering this weighty message goes to Chesney Hawkes, a likeably harmless singer not destined for anything much, and so oddly appropriate for a song which thinks about declaring independence, dips a toe in the waters of freedom and then steps back in utter confusion. “I can’t wear this uniform without some compromises” – OK THEN, says The Man, happily changing said uniform’s fit. And what about the magnificently pouty “Don’t tell me I know best / I’m not the same as all the rest”? Not having seen source film Buddy’s Song, I can only guess that the “I know best” is meant to be reported speech, but that’s not how Chesney phrases it, and as it stands the lines capture the sheer incoherence of teenage frustration remarkably well.

Musically “The One And Only” is punchy without being interesting – it sounds like a dull 80s holdover until the goofily rockin’ guitar solo brings it to more vulgar life. But it’s Chesney’s incoherent self-assertion that makes this very much of its time. His affable, clean-cut slackness carries a hint of Bill And Ted, but this being 1991 I also find myself thinking of another song fuelled by impossible demands and compromises. Perhaps “The One And Only” is “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the square majority: hurl your confusion at the world and be home in time for tea.



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  1. 61
    MikeMCSG on 14 Apr 2011 #

    #60 Yeah, I had 6 months of a subscription to RM to run so emap sent me Music Week as a substitute for the remainder. I just ripped out the charts section and junked the rest.

  2. 62
    Erithian on 14 Apr 2011 #

    I’d stopped getting Record Mirror by this point, but I do remember seeing something about its demise in the Sun’s Bizarre column, which adopted a horribly gleeful tone about the paper’s being axed. If I’m not mistaken the column was at that time written by Andy Coulson and/or Piers Morgan.

  3. 63
    23 Daves on 14 Apr 2011 #

    #62 – I seem to remember that in the last edition of “Record Mirror” there was a letter of complaint from a reader about the magazine’s new-found dedication to focussing most of its coverage on “Dance music”. The editor’s reply was “You may not like it, but it’s the way we plan to continue for some time”. Obviously that was not to be!

    Whilst the magazine was a fantastic source of information about the charts, I think it had been in a bit of a decline for awhile before it shut up shop, unfortunately. I used to really enjoy the fact that they’d cover a wide range of musical genres and artists without adopting the same pious tones as MM and NME, but towards the end it did seem to dumb down considerably (or perhaps I grew up?) Also, as much as I loved a lot of the club music they covered, the interviews with the DJs and artists were seldom revealing or interesting, the KLF being the exception that proved the rule. That Guru Josh was ever considered a “character” and a spectre of controversy by the magazine says it all…

  4. 64
    MikeMCSG on 14 Apr 2011 #

    # 63 It was in RM that Guru Josh declared his support for the poll tax – smart career move.

    I think they struggled after 1986 when they pinned their colours to the C86 mast putting bands like the Soup Dragons and Talulah Gosh on the cover. When you actually heard them and realised how mediocre they were it didn’t reflect well on the mag.

    Eleanor Levy and Andy Strickland resurrected themselves with “90 Minutes” a year or so later until that went belly up in similar fashion in March 1997. That was sad but not nearly so much as RM disappearing.

  5. 65
    Mark G on 14 Apr 2011 #

    as Paul Mac sang once, “Read the Record Mirror, Let it be”

  6. 66
    Tim Byron on 17 Apr 2011 #

    I know of this record solely because I happened to go to the UK in mid-1991 with my (Northern Irish) mother, and was very curious about the music people listened to there (even as a 9 year old I had picked up some sense of Australia’s cultural cringe). I remember watching this on Top of the Pops and seeing some sort of profile in an issue of Smash Hits I bought.

    I also clearly remember thinking that Chesney was totally naff. But I think watching him on TV made me realise that our ideas of cool or trendy or whatever are a little random and a little geocentric – it occurred to me that UK kids who really dug Chesney would probably have the same reaction to Ratcat or Deborah Conway that I had to Chesney.

  7. 67
    Wizi on 18 Apr 2011 #

    My little sister and I went to see Chesney play live in 1991. Sis fell for Jodie Hawkes, Chesney’s brother and drummer, and asked if I could arrange for them to meet. Not likely I thought.

    Then we went to see Prince over a year later and I left sis to go to the loo before it started. What did I see, but Chesney and Jodie arrive for the concert too, so I ran back and grabbed sis to meet them. They were lovely and generous with kisses and autographs. I did it and made sis a very happy thirteen year-old!

    We went to see Chesney play Aladdin in panto in December last year and had a fun afternoon. I couldn’t resist buying a signed CD and found that Curt Smith from Tears for Fears appeared on it. It turns out that Chesney had written for him.

    The latest I have seen of Chesney was his entry for the Comic Relief dance thing where he got through to the finals with Toyah, Clare Grogan and Limahl as the eighties supergroup. I had to vote for them, and I have to give this one a nine.

  8. 68
    Kit on 19 Apr 2011 #

    @66: Ratcat would have fitted nicely in the NWONW a few years later in the UK, probably being shiny and polished enough – against the likes of S*M*A*S*H and These Animal Men – to have the moderate chart success while still retaining “indie” as a genre as they did here. Or even at the time, maybe – it’s not that far to Bandwagonesque…

  9. 69
    Steve Williams on 20 Apr 2011 #

    This is perhaps not the most exciting song to make my first comment on but Chesney’s career was rather baffling, as he failed to have another substantial hit, with the follow-up getting to number 27 and the third single missing the Top 40 by miles. Yet Number One magazine went absolutely nuts about him, he was on the cover virtually every other week for three months.

    I think it might have something to do with the lack of teen idols at the time, as New Kids On The Block were careering down the dumper (it was during their awful “NKOTB Get Hard” period where they released turgid records with lots of Donnie shouting, and I remember a shambolic appearance on Top of the Pops) and there was nobody else, hence why bog standard hair metal band Extreme won at the Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party that year, as the guitarist was quite pretty and More Than Words had been quite catchy, because there was just nobody else, and perhaps why Bryan Adams was at number one for so long. Same reason why Number One also enthusiastically leapt on the return of Bros the same year who released a snoozesome album of ballads. Also, Number One wasn’t a very good magazine.

    One of the umpteen Number One covers was the unveiling of his band, including his brother, because on his first TV appearances he was accompanied by his “band” from Buddy’s Song who were actors miming.

    The other odd thing about Ches is that his album was re-released twice, because it originally came out as the soundtrack album, with the same image of Ches as the poster, with “BUDDY’S SONG” in big letters at the top and “Music from the film by Chesney Hawkes” at the bottom, then it was almost immediately re-released with the same picture, but now with “CHESNEY HAWKES” at the top and “Buddy’s Song” at the bottom to make it look more like his album. Then it was immediately re-released again, with a completely different picture of Ches and the words “Buddy’s Song” in the tiniest type imaginable and no other reference to the film at all, to make it look like a proper album. All very strange.

  10. 70
    Tim Byron on 20 Apr 2011 #

    @68: To me the best comparison to Ratcat is Ash – same cartoony aesthetic, same fuzzy guitars, similar vocal tone, etc. I was always puzzled that Ratcat tanked commercially after “Blind Love” – did they move away from straight pop and try and appeal to JJJ types who wouldn’t have a bar of it because of how popular they’d been? I often see the follow-up in second-hand cheapo bins and wonder whether I should pick it up.

  11. 71
    Rory on 20 Apr 2011 #

    @70 Tim: not so much a case of “moving away”, I suspect, as the definition of “straight pop” changing in the interim. I picked up Insideout back in the day, and found it pretty much the same as Blind Love: patchy, but with catchy singles (“Holiday” was fun). Worth picking up for a couple of bucks. The narrative always seemed to be that Ratcat were indie darlings taken by surprise by their popular success, which then lost them their indie cred; I don’t think their music changed that much from album to album.

    Your Ash comparison is inspired, although I think Ash had the better tunes. I still listen to 1977 and buy their latest stuff, but haven’t listened to Ratcat in years.

  12. 72
    wichita lineman on 20 Apr 2011 #

    Re 64: I still have the “Clap hands here comes cutie” edition of Record Mirror, with the Soup Dragons on the cover and style tips inside. All Andy Strickland’s doing, I imagine. He was in The Caretaker Race who were regulars at C86 strongholds the Black Horse and the Falcon in Camden. Pretty sure Tallulah Gosh were never on the cover though; pretty sure I’d have framed it.

  13. 73
    Ed on 21 Apr 2011 #

    @18 Chesney Hawkes wrote for Tricky?! That is a fantastic fact.

    Actually, “I’ve been a player in the crowd scene, a flicker on the big screen” is quite a Tricky lyric.

    Imagine Martina Topley-Bird singing it…

  14. 74
    Erithian on 21 Apr 2011 #

    Strange, if there was such a gap in the market for a teen idol type, that Chesney didn’t stick around for longer. The follow-up singles weren’t that bad either, certainly no worse than others which have made up a teen-idol career. Maybe that’s why this one big hit has made such a mark on people’s memories of the era and this year in particular. Like the melodic line in the verses and the grand built-up chorus – it has the self-confidence to declare I AM A HIT that Tom has spoken about before now.

    A tad harsh to make allusions to Fred West, although I can see where weej is coming from at #34 – to me it’s a nice message about being yourself as opposed to modelling yourself on someone else. It was running through my mind as I watched (and I suppose I should be ashamed for remembering this) Chanelle, the housemate in Big Brother whose entire self-esteem depended on how much she could resemble Posh Spice.

  15. 75
    Ben on 22 Apr 2011 #

    For many many years, my cousin used to get asked if he was Chesney Hawkes. The similarities were really remarkable.

  16. 76
    Wizi on 26 Apr 2011 #

    @69, As a former Number One reader, I agree, especially as I found that other artists became big in the 90s due to vacuums caused by a lack of properly interesting big stars with an image, such as David Bowie in the 70s or Boy George in the 80s. There are not that many artists from the 90s that you would recognise in the street, IMHO.

    The mistake for Chesney was over-exposure and that messed up people’s appetite for him to the extent that they tend to only want him now in bite-sized pieces. The shirtless photos were probably unnecessary too.

  17. 77
    Kinitawowi on 9 Feb 2013 #

    *shakes head*

    Sit Down, man. Apparently Chesney actually rang James to apologise.

  18. 78
    daveworkman on 22 May 2014 #

    Recent Popular reader, going backwards slowly…
    …the only fact I can add to this is that in my ‘moved back home need to find a proper job’ after Uni, I was ushering in our local ‘touring musicals’ theatre, and had the pleasure of having to watch the Barry Manilow musical ‘Can’t Smile Without You’ starring la Hawkes and a host of people who’d come third on reality TV shows, five times in as many days.
    From what I recall the plot revolved around some sort of singer (played by our Ches) trying to break big and going on some TV talent show and winning – the most hilarious part was the characters’ weekend trip to Brazil, to shoehorn in ‘Copacabana’.
    For the suffering it put me through, I have to deduct points.

  19. 79
    benson_79 on 24 Nov 2020 #

    I had no idea he was singing about wearing a uniform in the middle eight until twenty minutes ago! But then, at the time, I didn’t care a jot what the exact lyrics were, and after dancing and singing along to TOAO on hundreds of occasions I find it impossible to review objectively. It’s not even a guilty pleasure, much like Ice Ice Baby it wedged itself in my brain at an impressionable age, and my love for it remains undimmed.

  20. 80
    Gareth Parker on 29 Apr 2021 #

    Breezy and likeable, but not too much else to add here. 5/10

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