Pink Jackets are Not Cool

Christmas 1981.

When asked what I want for Christmas, by now, despite (or perhaps because of) my ill-fated public display of musical knowledge, I have decided that what I want more than anything else is more records. There can be no more embarrassing moments. I need to get my shit together.

But……I remain torn. I know Shakin’ Stevens will not earn me any cool points in either this or the next life, yet still there’s a hankering, a soft spot. I want his new album. I have seen him resplendent in a pink jacket. I have witnessed him attacking Richard Madeley, and this is how I want to live.

And yet…there’s this other band I’d become vaguely been aware of. They had first crossed my radar when they were mentioned on Nationwide for having a song the chorus of which sounds like they’re singing “Sue Lawley” over and over again (They’re not). I’ve seen their new stuff on Top of the Pops. But in a video, not in the studio. Remember: this is pre-MTV, so pop videos were still a rarity. Usually if an artiste wasn’t able to appear in person on the show, we’d be treated to Legs & Co’s often far too literal dance interpretation of the hit record in question. They seem, if you’ll allow me to slip into American colloquialism for a moment, pretty cool.

They are The Police.

At this point I am blissfully unaware that The Police are the biggest band on the planet. All I know is I’ve heard “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” and think it’s one of the most amazing things I ever heard. Steel Drums!!! Sting in a trilby hat in the video, in a place where it’s sunny!!!! (I remember sun. I lived through 1976. I remember that, but do I remember punk? Nosireebob. No recollection. Life sucks sometimes.) And, ironically, there’s “Invisible Sun”, which is the polar opposite to “Every Little Thing…”; it’s dark and moody, and seems to be about a political situation in Ireland that I don’t understand (still don’t, truth be told). But it’s music with a message, something above the “Ooh Baby I Lurve You” that constituted 99% of the charts. And even though I didn’t understand it, this piqued my interest.

So when I am asked what I want for Christmas, I imagine my parents were expecting I’d give some Dr Who related answer, as I had for several years previously. But no. I am clear and distinct in my request. I want either (always best to give a choice, I think – it makes the buyer feel like they’ve had some input in the process other than simply purchasing): “Ghost in the Machine” by The Police or “Shaky” by Shakin’ Stevens. One of these would have the distinction of being the first proper album I ever owned.

On Christmas Eve, I spy under the tree a present that is clearly a record. It’s square. It’s about 12″ in diameter. It has a gift tag with my name written on it. Oh yes. that’s an album alright. And soon, it will be mine.

I am confident by now. Yes, I’ve asked for either album, but I’ve dropped enough hints since the question was asked. I no longer care for the Welsh rock’n’roller. I have grown up. I’ve wandered round the house whistling “Every Little Thing…”. I’ve turned Top of the Pops up and told people to “Shush!” when they came on. It is The Police that I crave.

Christmas Day. Presents are distributed. I have in my hands the present. This is the moment when I don’t have to pretend to be excited about my gift, my adrenaline rush will be genuine, unforced, real, and will see me over the line.

It’s worth noting at this point that both album sleeves have something in common. They are both predominantly black. This has not occurred to me. So I tear open the wrapping paper, exposing a jet black (back) sleeve (Oh, alright I’ll do it, Spinal Tap aficionados: How much more black could it be? None more black, that’s how much). Black. It’s black. Black!!! It must be… I hear myself squeal with delight: “The Police! Brilliant! ” only to be met by an “Err…no….” from my parents, as I stripped the last of the wrapping paper away, flipped it over to view the front cover, only to be confronted by Shaky. That’s him in the spotlight, that’s him dressed all in black bar his pink jacket, doing his weird Elvis-pastiche pointing dance, his Brylcreemed hair flicked into something approaching a quiff (but is actually an over-elaborate side parting).

This is not how it was supposed to be. This was Christmas ruined. This was me learning how to do that “just what I always wanted” face you have to perfect at some time in your life. And at that moment I knew that the Shaky bubble had been burst. My musical coming of age had happened. I would have to unpick his badge from my parka (well, not just yet, but it definitely has to go before term starts again). I was ready for proper music. Cheerio Shaky.

Here’s one of the oh-so many singles from that album:


Shakin’ Stevens – You Drive Me Crazy

Buy it here: Shaky

NB – It’s pronounced “Crazy” not “Cwazy”, you mad Ely Elvis-lite.

More soon.

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