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Apr 11

CHESNEY HAWKES – “The One And Only”

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#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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Comments

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  1. 31
    Chelovek na lune on 12 Apr 2011 #

    @29 saying I like it would be pushing it a bit, but the melody of “No-one can be myself like I can, For this job I’m the best man…” or “Call me by my name or by my number”, or the bit about coming in different shapes and sizes, sticks in my head more than does the chorus (which burns itself out too soon)

  2. 32
    Mark G on 12 Apr 2011 #

    I very much doubt:

    “Buddy’s Song” must be the most obscure film ever to spawn a number one single

    But would the bunny prevent this discussion?

  3. 33
    MikeMCSG on 12 Apr 2011 #

    #32 I think you can hint at other candidates – perhaps a year in which to look ?:-)

  4. 34
    weej on 12 Apr 2011 #

    The last of my run of four contemporary purchases and I have to confess to being a little surprised at it getting the highest score. Re: #29 I could almost certainly sing the whole song if asked to. It’s probably this overfamiliarity that’s made me so sick of it. The production sounds like a bunch of bbc session musicians making a k-tel soundalike soft rock album, everything is so careful and safe that it ends up grating. The lyrics are worse though – especially the bit at the end about “though others may be true / you are the one and only you”. Is there a worse example of the ‘everyone is special / believe in your dreams / because you’re worth it’ 1990s self-help jargon seeping into popular culture out there? Whenever I hear it I just think ‘yeah, but so was Fred West, he really followed his dreams’.

    Re:#14 yes, I read Lost In Music several years ago, good book, probably fits most people’s experience of the rock world better than most memoirs.

  5. 35
    MikeMCSG on 12 Apr 2011 #

    #34 I think the entire works of Des’ree would be another good example of that trend.

    You are dead on the money with the Fred West example. I recall a C4 programme asking people to update the Ten Commandments and the number of airheads who came out with “Be True To Yourself” was frightening. Yeah, give every psychopath a licence to do whatever they want if it’s in their nature. I wonder what poor Meredith Kercher would make of that.

  6. 36
    LondonLee on 12 Apr 2011 #

    I wouldn’t go as far as most folks here to call this “likeable” as it seems way too generic for me to summon up even that level of mild enthusiasm but I suppose I don’t not like it.

    It sounds like the Platonic Ideal of an 80s pop record (especially of the American radio variety) so it’s strange that it came out in the following decade, even stranger that it got to number one.

  7. 37
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 12 Apr 2011 #

    For some* reason I had stuck in my head that “Lost in Music” was by Giles Coren, so I have studiously avoided it.

    *OK it’s quite an obvious reason

  8. 38
    wichita lineman on 12 Apr 2011 #

    Re 30: Unchained has spawned THREE number ones – anyone seen it? But I’ll agree on most obscure movie that spawned a number one and included a topless appearance by Liza Walker.

  9. 39
    Andy M on 12 Apr 2011 #

    The song has strong associations for me of braying boaties punching the air to it en masse at student discos. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that someone like Duncan Bannatyne put this in his Desert Island Discs (#3). 4 is about right for the song but personally I’d have to knock a couple of points off for its hellish ubiquity. At least you never hear ‘The Stonk’ anymore.

  10. 40
    Rory on 12 Apr 2011 #

    @37 Time to snap up a 1p copy on Amazon. A very entertaining read, as I remember (it’s a decade or more since I read it, though).

  11. 41
    MikeMCSG on 12 Apr 2011 #

    # 38 “Unchained” hasn’t stood the test of time but got an Oscar nomination so it didn’t pass un-noticed at the time.”Buddy’s Song” was on VHS before the end of the year.

  12. 42
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 12 Apr 2011 #

    “To thine own self be true” is Polonius’s dictum, said to his son Laertes, in Hamlet. As P is a pompous twerp who comes to a bad end, it may well not be Shakespeare’s own position. Laertes doesn’t exactly thrive either.

  13. 43
    23 Daves on 12 Apr 2011 #

    For a number of stupid and ridiculous reasons, I found it hard to get on with this single at the time, and in many ways still do. Firstly, in my own mind (and arguably nobody else’s) the lyrics remain tied to Nik Kershaw’s slightly naff eighties image. He was much ridiculed in Smash Hits for being a diminutive gentleman, so as soon as Chesney gets to the line “We all come in different shapes and sizes” I always find myself remembering all the old jokes at his expense (including the Kipper Williams cartoons). This then led me to suspect that the entire song was Kershaw’s statement of intent to the world, telling us he wouldn’t let such mockery drag him down – which is probably absolute rubbish, of course, but once the notion entered my brain it wouldn’t leave, and I started to find the song rather painful to listen to, like an Alan Partridge-esque cry against the people who killed the Kershaw’s career.

    Secondly, Chesney had very similar hair and a very similar attitude to a couple of wannabe actors and singers in my sixth form college, which made him seem familiar but unlikable at the same time. I’m sure both they and Chesney were all nice blokes really (even if all three of them did seem to favour soft rock) but I was an insecure teen and I reacted badly to people who were better looking and had more confidence than me. Sorry. It would pass eventually.

    Looking back now, this single isn’t really worthy of much of the ridicule it later picked up, but I can’t find it within my bones to praise it either. There is a certain self-satisfied smugness about a lot of Kershaw’s eighties output I’ve always found grating (“The Riddle” and “Wide Boy” both always seem exceptionally pleased with themselves to me). “The One and Only” is a lot more celebratory in its tone which makes it seem more bearable, but to this day I still can’t help but hear this as having an undercurrent of sadness. The lyrics always seem like the scribblings of a deluded sales rep who is about to get the shove from his or her job – the kind of ridiculously, overly-optimistic material most of us only write when we’re desperately trying to convince ourselves that we are indeed special and there is a way out of whatever mess we’ve found ourselves in. Unlike a lot of bouyant rock and pop tunes, it sounds too hollow to me to be convincing.

  14. 44
    Cumbrian on 12 Apr 2011 #

    @43: Interesting – I am now imagining David Brent doing this at a karaoke evening.

  15. 45
    Andy M on 12 Apr 2011 #

    @29: I always remember the verse for the ‘Lee & Herring’-esque opening line. Chesney Hawkes: CALL HIM BY HIS NAME.

  16. 46
    Alfred on 12 Apr 2011 #

    A #10 single in the U.S., although I don’t know if it ever got airplay.

  17. 47
    Special Girl AKA on 12 Apr 2011 #

    I was prime Chesney fodder, having just turned 10 (this also explains the ‘college ball’ phenomenon c.2000). He played a gig at the Hereford Leisure Centre and all the girls in my class went, apart from me. Interesting to note that Saffron from Republica was the love interest in the vid.

  18. 48
    thefatgit on 12 Apr 2011 #

    I absolutely despised this at the time. For me this was as bad as Every Loser Wins, and even now, the clunkiness of both lyrics still grate equally as much. I never saw Buddy’s Song, and never felt inclined to visit it later, just to confirm in my own mind how good or bad the film was, but I’ll blame my hatred towards the song for that.

    What I am willing to concede is that my attitude has softened somewhat now. Chesney’s only hit has an innocence about it, in a “Hey! I can’t help being me” kind of way, and I’m sure Chesney is a regular bloke, whose shot at fame didn’t damage him all that much.

  19. 49
    chelovek na lune on 12 Apr 2011 #

    Chesney’s number is more poppy, but nowhere near as good as this 1989 Nik Kershaw flop (not even on his greatest hits album!). Mechanical and melancholic works. David Brentesque stuff doesn’t, in short.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQggsJXojx8

    The even more of a flop follow-up, much played on Essex Radio though, “Elisabeth’s Eyes” was alright, too.

  20. 50
    anto on 12 Apr 2011 #

    I found myself watching Buddys Song one of the few times it’s been shown on tv. One of those plodding low-budget homegrown efforts with productions values similar to a Milk Marketing Board advert and various faces familiar from tv including Sharon Duce (“ooh Jim aren’t Valeries implants lovely?”)and the under-rated Lee Ross aka Kenny from Press Gang/Owen from EastEnders who as a co-member of the band The Wild Ones completely upstages Chesneys rather wooden performance with a low-key humour. The disagreements between Chesney as Buddy and Roger Daltery as his teddy boy Dad conclude with the former dispensing dialogue of the “These songs mean nothing to you, but they mean a lot to us” type.
    I don’t think it’s difficult to figure out why The One And Only hit so big. That title hook was just made for daytime radio and it’s certainly a case of a limited singer finding the ideal song – even when he’s tested on the uniform bit there’s an endearing boyishness about it. Compared to some of the other dreary efforts at the top in the first quarter of ’91 this is at least bright and bouncy. The production is somewhat blaring but it’s bubblegum after a lot of oatmeal and blancmange. Chesneys initial career reminds me of the Saturday morning kids shows where he was a regular guest in particular Going Live and the 8:15 from Manchester (the one with the Inspiral Carpets theme song). Certainly one for the youngsters.

  21. 51
    Billy Smart on 12 Apr 2011 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Quite a few post-1991 TV appearances for Chesney;

    THE GRAHAM NORTON SHOW: with Robert Wagner, Stefanie Powers, Sandi
    Thorn, Chesney Hawkes (2008)

    HIT ME BABY ONE MORE TIME: with Chesney Hawkes, Kelly Marie, Nick Van Eede, Sybil, Cleopatra (2005)

    THE LITTLE AND LARGE SHOW: with Terry Wogan, Chesney Hawkes, Eli Woods (1991)

    THE O ZONE: with Chesney Hawkes, Little Angels (1993)

    THE O ZONE: with Luther Vandross, Roland Orzabel, Chesney Hawkes (1993)

    WOGAN: with Chesney Hawkes, Robbie Coltrane, Betty Marsden (1991)

    THE WORD: with Chesney Hawkes, Jellyfish, Lemmy, Tim Simenon (1991)

    THE WORD: with Lionel Blair, Rachel Wresc, Chesney Hawkes, Patra, Posies New Kingdom (1994)

    This list omits the one thing that I remember Hawkes for the most, his appearance – along with Des’ree – as Jarvis’ Cocker’s teammate on Pop Quiz in 1994, a performance of heroic drunkeness on Cocker’s part.

  22. 52
    23 Daves on 12 Apr 2011 #

    Actually, if we’re heading in that direction I may as well say that I hugely enjoyed both the “Buddy” and “Buddy’s Song” novels as a teen – both managed to nail teenage neuroses, class snobbery, and in the latter’s case, why music and being in a band is such an important outlet for so many young people. I haven’t read them since as a grown man, and I doubt if I did that they’d still have any resonance at all for me – they’re kid’s books, silly – but for a brief while back there they were a good world to get lost in, containing enough drama to be escapist and enough gritty realism for a confused young pup to relate to.

    I never did see the film, mind you, perhaps because by the time it was out I was too busy following rather more pretentious literary obsessions to care about Buddy, and also because this song and Chesney Hawkes probably put me off.

  23. 53
    swanstep on 13 Apr 2011 #

    @35, MikeMCSG. To be fair, twisted-enough psychopaths (not to mention the incredibly selfish) don’t get the allegedly right outputs from basic golden rule or what if everyone did that? reasoning either. (‘I want to be able to smack people in the head, and drive drunk, etc., and I’m happy for everyone else to have the same liberties. Seee you in the funny pages. Rock and roll.’)

    Thinking a little more about TOAO. To be With You by Mr Big was from around this time and had a similar flashback/’several years past its sell-by date’ feel to it. Listening to both again now, though, I appreciate TOAO’s good points a little more than I did earlier (so 4 or 5 is my official score for it now). Youtube confirms that TOAO was used in August 1991 for the opening credits of a Michael J. Fox flick Doc Hollywood (the one that Pixar strip-mined for Cars). This song was and is a nice little earner for Mr Kershaw.

  24. 54
    Conrad on 13 Apr 2011 #

    51, You can shortly add “Sing If You Can” to that list Billy

  25. 55
    pink champale on 13 Apr 2011 #

    anto is right above on the “but this is *our* music” aspect of buddy– there’s a lot of roger daltrey looking suspiciously at synthesizers and saying ‘how d’you strum that then?’ while chesney roles his eyes and says ‘oh *dad*. But, iirc, in the film ‘the one and only’ is actually what happens when chesney goes back to basics to pay tribute to his dad (who has a heart attach or something?) and unleashes his inner polite rocker. see also the extraordinary ‘hearts of fire’ with Dylan as daltrey and rupert everett as chesney/bowie

  26. 56
    thefatgit on 13 Apr 2011 #

    The inevitable advert revival kept TOAO in our consciences last year, with the Renault Clio one, where Our Hero (same chap who’s currently telling us all that O2 spend lots of time thinking about it’s customers, while dressed as a cricket jumper-wearing goat) drives his Clio up to the lights belting out “The One And only” with his windows open, alongside a slightly bemused and annoyed older driver in the next lane who…TURNS OUT TO BE HIS GIRLFRIEND’S DAD! Guffaws all round. Needless to say I found that particular ad quite annoying, not only for TOAO, but for it’s attempt to edit out Chesney-Lover’s girlfriend’s mum.

  27. 57
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 13 Apr 2011 #

    Why oh why is GIRLFRIEND’S DAD not also played by Roger Daltrey?

    Or IGGY POP? <— best idea evah

  28. 58
    Billy Smart on 13 Apr 2011 #

    TOTPWatch: Chesney Hawkes performed ‘The One & Only’ on Top Of The Pops on four occasions. Details of the Christmas Show at the end of 1991;

    14 March 1991. Also in the studio that week were; Ride and Happy Mondays. Simon Mayo was the host.

    28 March 1991. Also in the studio that week were; The Gary Clail On-U-Sound System, James and Definition Of Sound. Bruno Brookes was the host.

    25 April 1991. Also in the studio that jam-packed week were; EMF, Vic Reeves & The Roman Numerals, Electronic, Blur and Gloria Estefan. Nicky Campbell was the host.

  29. 59
    Alex on 13 Apr 2011 #

    MORTIFICATION.

  30. 60
    hardtogethits on 13 Apr 2011 #

    #30. You’re not the only one. My chart awareness nosedived with the disappearance of Record Mirror. Music Week have had me as a subscriber for twenty years now, but as that’s business-biased it’s difficult to regard the Top 75 Singles Chart as anything other than a list of self-generating, self-parodying titles and acts. The garden of my dreams is full of weeds. Seven days can easily pass before I’ve had sufficient inclination to even look beyond the new entries. When RM disappeared, without forewarning, I took to Number One for the charts for 4 weeks. And it delivered this nugget…

    #6 – in response to the doppelganger question – “JODIE HAWKES, CHESNEY’S younger brother [is] the drummer with his band!” Their capitals made sense in the context of the magazine, I suppose.

    The record’s appeal was a mystery. Melody by numbers, a la Crash, Somewhere In My Heart, dull production – nothing happens. As so many others have pointed out, the lyric is banal. To speculate that it might have anything to say of any real meaning is absurd. I looked back at “On Marks Out Of Ten” and found this was the definition by example of a 1.

    It’s a shame, because Nik Kershaw’s work has plenty to like in it, and Chesney Hawkes seems like a lovely man.

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