Happy 2017 everyone! Hope your holiday season treated you well!
For the January 8, 2017 edition of STUCK IN THE 80s, my little retro radio show on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine, I’ll be hosting my final (?) All-Request Fest. It’s something I thought of years ago as a way to give back to everyone who tuned in to the show and pledged money on STUCK IN THE 80s during the bi-annual pledge drives. From Pop to Punk, Rap to Rock, New Wave to New Romantics, it’s about the listeners and their requests, and it’s always spontaneous and fun.
For this final (?) edition of the All-Request Fest, I’ll also be channeling my inner chart nerd and will bring folks 17 for ’17, where I’ll be playing just some of the many songs that peaked at No. 17 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989. So, from now until the All-Request Fest, I’ll be posting all No. 17 hits…just because, well, I AM a chart nerd. And I’m okay with that.
Another one of my favorite No. 17 hits on the Hot 100 is by the short-lived band, Living In A Box, out of Sheffield, England (home of artists like ABC, Human League, Thompson Twins, Heaven 17, Joe Cocker and Def Leppard).
Living In A Box was comprised of drummer Anthony “Tich” Critchlow, keyboardist Marcus Vere and singer / guitarist Richard Darbyshire (who has gone on to work as a musician / songwriter for many folks, most notably Lisa Stansfield).
The band was formed in 1985, and named themselves after the first song they recorded together in the studio. It was that song that would become a big global hit two years later.
The song “Living In A Box” was released a month in advance of their eponymous debut album, and with elements of Synthpop and “Sophisti-Pop” (a combo platter of Jazz, Soul and Pop; think ABC, Scritti Politti and Simply Red) quickly became a hit around the world.
“Living In A Box” reached the Top 10 in the U.K., Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the BILLBOARD Dance chart. Over on the Hot 100, it would go on to spend a couple of weeks at No. 17 in August 1987. It was also covered by late R&B legend Bobby Womack that year, and reached No. 70 on the U.K. singles chart.
The song is about feeling trapped by someone or something (“I’m living in a box / I’m living in a cardboard box”) and looking for that way out, and finds it (“I found a way to break through this cellophane bag / ‘Cause I know what’s goin’ on / In your mind…”).
The band Living In A Box would chart one more song on the Hot 100, with their third single overall, “So The Story Goes,” which spent a week at its No. 81 peak on Halloween 1987.
Living In A Box would go on to release one more studio album, their second album, GATECRASHING, in 1989, which peaked at No. 21 on the U.K. album chart, four spots higher than their eponymous debut album. The first single from that album, “Blow The House Down,” reached No. 10 in the U.K., the Top 20 in four other countries and the BILLBOARD Dance chart, and featured Queen’s Brian May on guitar. The band broke up in 1990 before a third album was released.
Though Living In A Box only had a couple of Hot 100 hits here in the U.S., in their U.K. homeland, they released eight singles, six of which reached the Top 40, and three of those reaching the Top 10.
My interest in Living In A Box began and ended with “Living In A Box,” but the song is still a favorite of mine to this day – the sound, the style, the beat – and if I ever get the chance to dance to it again, do yourself a favor and watch out, because I’ll be hitting that dance floor in a hot second (I have a history of bumping into people on the dance floor with my “mad dance skillz; emphasis on mad”)…