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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Caribbean Queen - No More Love On The Run

I've decided to go with an all new look for the year 2014 in the blog, and I thought that I would also give the Whatever Wednesday logo a little bit of a revamp as well.



How do you like it? I think it turned out great. It's amazing just how cool things can look with just a little bit of basic Paint Shop skills. Just imagine what I could do if I had more advanced skills in digital art?

Hey, I have to talk myself up every now and again, right?

Okay, so I'm sure that those of you who are regular followers of the blog know what the Whatever Wednesday entry is about. But for those of you who might just be tuning into the blog for the first time, I'll go over it once more.

You remember the board game Clue? And, you know how the game of Clue has six different suspect cards? Well, I've assigned one of the regular theme days for all six character cards, and every Wednesday, I randomly select one character card. Whatever card I draw for that week corresponds with the subject of the blog.

Just to recap, the cards are...

Miss Scarlet – Sunday Jukebox
Colonel Mustard – Monday Matinee
Professor Plum – Thursday Diary
Mrs. Peacock – Friday Night On The Tube
Mr. Green – Saturday Smorgasbord Wks. 1-2
Mrs. White – Saturday Smorgasbord Wks. 3-5

Now you know why red, yellow, white, green, blue, and purple are the most dominant colours of the logo.

So, let's see what we'll be talking about this week...



Aha...this week's card is the Miss Scarlet card. So, what this means is that we're going to be adding a little bit of music to the mix.

Which is actually a good thing, because I have a story to tell you.

You know how yesterday, I decided to do a blog entry on the DeLorean, as it first rolled off of the production line on January 21, 1981. Well, as interesting a story as it was, and as glad as I am that I chose that topic, I do have a confession to make. It wasn't originally going to be my first choice. Indeed, I had another topic (one that happened to be music related) as the subject for the Tuesday Timeline. But after I started reading articles about the DeLorean, I decided at the last minute to switch things up.

So, I thought that for today's edition of the blog, I would talk about the topic that I left on the cutting room floor, because I think that it's also another interesting story to tell. And, besides...I have to admit that this singer – who turned 64 years old yesterday – is someone who I consider to be a sort of guilty pleasure artist. Would I readily admit to listening to his music and loving it? Well, until now, not really. However, I will also be the first to admit that he made a ton of danceable songs that I am always going back and listening to. Though he has been in the music industry since 1976, his peak was the five year period between 1984 and 1989.

Now, this singer was born on January 21, 1950 in Trinidad and Tobago under the name Leslie Sebastian Charles.  But you'd probably know him better by his stage name, which he adopted from a building known as the Ocean Estate in the East End of London, where he once lived.




Yes, we're going to be featuring the singer known as Billy Ocean, who had a string of successful hit singles from the mid to late 1980s, and who happens to have the song that we'll be featuring today!

But before we get to the song, let's talk a little bit about the man.  I already revealed that he was born in Trinidad and Tobago in the community of Fyzabad, but by the time that he was eight years old, his family had relocated to the United Kingdom, in Romford, Essex.


Being that he was the son of a musician, I suppose it came naturally for Billy Ocean to pursue a career in the musical arts.  By the time he was a teenager, he was working two jobs.  By day, he was a tailor in Savile Row, but by night, he was touring the club scene in London, singing at every possible venue he could book!  He certainly was an ambitious youth.

Still, his first love was singing, and when he was twenty-two, he released his first single - as Les Charles.  And he even secured a manager to represent him in John Morphew when he was first starting out.  However, by the time that Ocean had released his first double A-side single, the style of music that he was accustomed to (slow ballads) were out of style and being replaced with disco and punk rock, and the partnership between Morphew and Ocean ended almost as quickly as it had began.


Of course, Ocean refused to give up on his dream.  He changed his stage name, released the "Billy Ocean" album in 1976, and immediately scored a #2 UK hit with "Love Really Hurts Without You".  That single also became a top 30 hit in the United States as well, with the single peaking at #22 on the Billboard Charts.  And over the next eight years, Billy Ocean would have a string of successful singles in the United Kingdom.

But it wouldn't be until 1984 that Billy Ocean would have global success.  And to think that this would be the song that would catapult Ocean into super stardom.






ARTIST:  Billy Ocean
SONG:  Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run)
ALBUM:  Suddenly
DATE RELEASED:  September 7, 1984
PEAK POSITION ON THE BILLBOARD CHARTS:  #1 for 1 week

Now, there's actually a reason why I decided to choose this song over all the others.  I suppose the main reason why I picked this single is because it was truly the first single that kicked off a five year run of hit singles for Billy Ocean.  But it's not the only reason.

Truth be told, there's a lot of interesting pieces of trivia about this particular song, and plus, it's a song that I absolutely love.

I mean, sure, I could have chosen any Billy Ocean song, really.  But they just didn't have as many pieces of intersting information linked to them.  I could have chosen "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car", which on its own is a fantastic song - but the only thing I know about this song is that it was used in a series of Mazda commercials.  Hardly entertaining.

"Loverboy" was another brilliant single by Billy Ocean, but unfortunately, I could not find any info on that single either.  And, while I admit that I love the message behind "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going", I could not stand the movie "The Jewel of the Nile", in which this song appears, so it kind of soured my stance on that song.

(I'm just now realizing that Billy Ocean may just very well have some of the longest song titles ever released.  Only "Primitive Radio Gods" have a single that has a longer title - at least to my knowledge".)

So, "Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run)" was really the only option I had.  Which is fine by me.  Considering that as I type this, the temperature outside is a balmy -24 degrees Celsius, I'm thinking that most people in my area would love to go to the Caribbean right about now!

So, what's cool about this single?  Well, everything really.  The music video is spectacularly done, even by 1984 standards, and seeing how calm, cool, and debonair Billy Ocean is, it's easy to see why the song became so popular.  You see, 1984 was a rather interesting year in music.  It was the year in which Cyndi Lauper and Madonna dominated the charts and encouraged other female singers to make their mark on the music scene.  Heavy metal was also big during that year with Van Halen and Bon Jovi making the scene.  And of course, the British New Wave Invasion continued as Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, and Wham! continued to have huge chart success in 1984.

But 1984 was also the year that a lot of adult contemporary music began to make appearances on the chart.  I definitely wouldn't consider "Caribbean Queen" to be a song that was hard rock of any kind.  In fact, that song can now mostly be heard on easy listening stations.  In fact, I think the whole period between 1984 and 1988 saw a lot of easy listening songs reach the top of the charts.  Not that I was complaining.  Those songs were a huge part of my childhood.  And I think one of the main factors behind 1980s music was being comfortable in your own skin.  After all, the music video generation began in the early 1980s, and people began to associate good music with good music videos.  And, I think that by watching the video for "Caribbean Queen", it really showed off Billy Ocean's confidence.  The dude had swagger, what can I say?

And this single was certainly a rewarding one for Billy Ocean.  Not only did the song become a #1 hit for Ocean in November 1984, but it also became an award-winning hit.  Billy Ocean won the Grammy Award for "Best Male R&B Vocal Performance" in 1985 - the first British artist to take home the honour.  How is that for impressive?  I'd say that "Caribbean Queen" was a huge success.

But wait...do I detect a mistake in the music video?  Here, look very closely at the music video.  Particularly in the scene in which Billy starts singing the "Caribbean Queen" chorus for the first time as he descends down the backstage staircase.



Is it just me, or does that poster actually say "EUROPEAN QUEEN"?

And just to confuse us even more, just a couple of seconds later, the scene cuts away and returns with the poster reading "CARIBBEAN QUEEN!"  



OMG, IT'S MAGIC!

(And, yes, I am using Windows XP for my screenshots.  Do not judge.  I'm merely waiting for this computer to kick the bucket so I have an excuse to buy a new one.)

Well, not really.  Turns out that "Caribbean Queen" was just one of THREE different versions that Billy Ocean recorded.  Now, the version that all of us living in North America were used to was the "Caribbean Queen" version...which makes sense, given that the Caribbean lies just outside of North America.  But if you lived anywhere in Europe circa 1984, you would have likely heard the song "European Queen", which was more or less the same exact song as "Caribbean Queen", only you swap out the word Caribbean with the word European.  And, that's not all.  Apparently in South Africa, the song "African Queen" peaked at #7 there.  It's a wonder that Ocean didn't release "South American Queen", "Australian Queen", or "Antarctic Queen".  Get all the continents represented!

But, you know, regardless of what version you grew up listening to, it was still a great song.



These days, Billy Ocean still does singing, though not as much as he used to.  He is currently a patron for Tech Music Schools in London, and frequently hosts clinics and seminars for its music students.  And his latest album, "Here You Are", was released in April 2013.

But that's not to say that Billy has been entirely quiet.  He did earn an honourary doctorate of music from the University of Westminster in 2002, worked with R. Kelly on some musical endeavours, and was presented with the MOBO (Music of Black Origin Award) Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to music in 2010.

And, that wraps up our look back at Billy Ocean and his Caribbean Queen.  Or, is it European?  Or, African?

Oh, yeah...one last thing.  I couldn't find any information about whether Billy Ocean actually had someone in mind when he performed Caribbean Queen.  But wouldn't it be fun to speculate just exactly who it could be about?  I'm interested in hearing your theories!

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