It’s 1985. Everyone is in C&A jumpers and shell suits. Let’s be honest, we look a bit shit. I think it’s fair to say we’ve hit a fashion low. Even the popstars have stopped making a New Romantic effort and don’t know what to do with themselves…
Some thrusting young ad exec thinks the 60s were probably a bit cool. (If only he’d thought of “Mad Men”, eh? We might have been spared “Moonlighting”.) He is in charge of rebranding Levi’s 501s and decides the answer is some anonymous hunk stripping to his boxer shorts to the strains of Marvin Gaye. Sales of Levi’s go through the roof. Sales of boxers do too. Marvin Gaye’s estate probably doesn’t do too badly out of it either. Yay Adman!
Some bright spark (OK, OK, it was Madonna) takes note: hunk, music, huge sales… How’s about we turn him into a popstar? Ker-ching. She writes him a song, gets her producer to record it, sings the backing vocals herself and, well, it’s a bit rubbish. Our hunk may look good in pants but his singing is more of a whine. And what he makes up for in abs, he lacks in charisma. But the record sells. Yay Adman! Yay Madonna!
An equally limp follow-up is released. It is less of a hit. Marketing only works for so long if the product doesn’t cut the mustard. Take heed, Adman! Take heed, Madonna! Yay the great British public!
That’s that, I think, watching from my suburban Essex bedroom. A year passes, two years, three… But wait, what’s this? A new single from said (almost anonymous again) hunk? I am intrigued. And it’s self-penned, you say? Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!
Well, the laugh is on me (or my dubious taste in music), dear reader, because the record’s a corker. The voice is still pretty weak, the lyrics at times downright suspect (“Like sister and brother, you know I’m in love with you”), but the song itself is an uplifting pop triumph. It goes to number one in Austria, number one in Sweden… number, er, 50 in the UK. Boo the fickle British public!
Covered several times since – by the likes of Dead or Alive, Basshunter and the A*Teens – the original has yet to be bettered. Here he is, Nick Kamen, with “I Promised Myself”.