Second To None – Why Catholics Only Have Two Emotions And It’s Often Better Not To Remember Who Came First
There were many gasp worthy events in the year 1981. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt was assassinated. Ronald Reagan was assassinated. Well, sadly he wasn’t, but someone did shoot him. And someone tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II. That attempt was also unsuccessful. As someone whose life has been blighted by Catholicism, my feelings on that are mixed. A mix of guilt and shame. Though the fact that guilt and shame are the average Catholic’s emotional reactions to virtually everything makes it difficult to read anything into that.
It wasn’t all assassinations back in 1981 though. Many other astonishing things happened. Microsoft launched MS-DOS. Scientists identified the HIV virus. Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer. Now that was astonishing. No Brit expected our ageing and rather homely looking heir to the throne to get hitched to a 19 year old aristocratic sexpot.
But perhaps the most astonishing thing that happen in that year was that this song:
Was kept off the number one spot by this song:
That’s right. The mighty “Vienna” by Ultravox was kept from its rightful place at the top of the charts by Joe Dolce’s “Shaddap You Face”. Which wouldn’t have been quite so bad if Joe Dolce had actually been Italian. But he wasn’t. He was an American-born Australian.
Well, actually, Joe Dolce didn’t achieve this on his own. Vienna was initially kept at number two in the charts by the re-release of John Lennon’s “Woman”. And this is fair play. John Lennon had been assassinated a few weeks before. He earned his number one slot it the hardest way possible. (I realise at this point that it looks like I’m a bit obsessed by people getting assassinated. I’m honestly not. History is history and I am merely reporting it. I’ve never even played any of the Assassin’s Creed games.)
There is an old saying: “No one remembers who came second” This saying doesn’t seem to apply to “Vienna”. It’s amazing how many people remember Vienna being Number One in the charts, despite the fact that it wasn’t.
The saying “No one remember who came second” does apply in many cases. Everyone remembers “Enola Gay”, the name of the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. OMD even wrote a song about it. The song was called “Enola Gay”, spookily enough.
Nobody remembers the name of the plane that dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki though. Well, nobody except avid pub quiz enthusiasts, where it’s a bit of a banker question. Like the names of the actors who played The Magnificent Seven. Or the names of all of Santa’s reindeer.
The name of the plane was “Bock’s Car” by the way, if you haven’t Googled it already. You’re on your own with the Magnificent Seven and Santa’s Reindeer though. It would take up too much space to quote these now and I’d have to Google them myself anyway to be honest. I haven’t been to a pub quiz for a very long time.
“Famous records that only got to number two in the charts” is actually quite a popular pub quiz theme. Ultravox’s “Vienna” wasn’t the only classic to be robbed of the number one title. Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones was trumped by Dawn’s “Knock Three Times”. David Bowie only got to number two with “The Jean Genie” because he was fended off by Little Jimmy Osmond and his sugary puke-fest “Long Haired Lover From Liverpool”. And perhaps most shockingly of all, The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl were deprived of the Christmas Number One that “Fairytale Of New York” richly deserved by The Pet Shop Boys’ cover version of “Always On My Mind”. Which just goes to show that the British public really do have no taste.
But it was in 1981 that this lack of taste was brought into its sharpest relief. Many astonishing things happened in 1981. Perhaps the most astonishing of all is that so many of you who were alive back then have managed to convince themselves that Ultravox got to Number One with “Vienna” and also managed to edit the hideous ear worm that is “Shaddap You Face” out of your personal histories.
Until now, of course. Sorry about that.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2015