The Number Ones

The Number Ones: Paul Young’s “Everytime You Go Away”

In The Number Ones, I’m reviewing every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and working my way up into the present.

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Paul Young – “Everytime You Go Away”

HIT #1: July 27, 1985

STAYED AT #1: 1 week

“Hall and Oates had their moment,” I wrote. “We won’t see them in this column again.” That’s what I said last month about Daryl Hall and John Oates’ “Out Of Touch.” This was not entirely true.

Technically, I was right. “Out Of Touch” was the sixth and final #1 single for the team of Daryl Hall and John Oates. That’s one hell of a run, and that run didn’t quite end with “Out Of Touch.” A few months after “Out Of Touch” had its two weeks at #1, Paul Young, a British white-soul journeyman, covered a Hall and Oates album track from five years earlier. For one week in the summer of 1985, that Paul Young version made it to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. I’m not going to beat myself up for forgetting that “Everytime You Go Away” existed, but its success is one more reminder of how huge Hall and Oates were in the ’80s. Even when they were done scoring #1 singles, they were not quite done scoring #1 singles.

Daryl Hall wrote “Everytime You Go Away” himself, and the song originally showed up on Hall and Oates’ big 1980 comeback album Voices. It’s not a particularly complicated song, but it does a nice job showing off Hall’s soul-singer chops. Hall and Oates recorded the track as a warm, spacious, gospel-informed lament. The arrangement is built around a churchy organ and an old-timey guitar figure, and it gives Hall’s voice plenty of room to operate.

Hall has said that he never thought of “Everytime You Go Away” as anything more than an album track. At the time, Hall and Oates were making pop music. “Kiss On My List,” the third single from Voices, was Hall and Oates’ second #1. “Everytime You Go Away” was not that.

But Paul Young heard things differently. Before he hit with his own version of “Everytime You Go Away,” Young was a big star in his homeland, but he hadn’t had a lot of success in the US. Since all of Young’s biggest influences were American soul singers, this bothered him. Young wrote songs, but he was more of an interpreter than a songwriter. His big singles were all covers, and most of them were covers of American R&B songs. Maybe it says something that Young finally scored a US chart-topper by covering another blue-eyed soul singer. Maybe the secret was that “Everytime You Go Away” was Black music, twice removed.

Young came from the English town of Luton, and like at least a few of his Motown heroes, he worked on a car assembly line before making it in music. Young’s father had worked at the Vauxhall plant in Luton, and Young had started working there, as well, at 16. For a while, music was a hobby. Young played bass in some local bands, and then he became the lead singer for the hilariously named Kat Kool & The Kool Kats. From there, Young sang for Streetband, a more successful group with a far more generic name. In 1978, Streetband made “Toast,” a goofy and low-key novelty song that made the UK top 20. It kind of reminds me of Blur’s “Parklife.”

Streetband broke up in 1979, and Young immediately formed a new band called Q-Tips with a couple of other ex-Streetbanders. (This was six years before the formation of A Tribe Called Quest; Young’s Q-Tips have nothing to do with the other Q-Tip.) Q-Tips’ sound was pretty much straight-up ’60s-style R&B, which never goes out of style in the UK. They quickly developed a reputation as a revelatory live band.

Q-Tips opened for the Who and the J. Geils Band and Bob Marley, and they played UK TV shows like The Old Grey Whistle Test. But their records didn’t sell. In 1982, CBS Records signed Paul Young as a solo artist, and Q-Tips broke up. (The CBS exec who signed Young was a guy named Muff Winwood. Muff’s brother Steve will appear in this column pretty soon.)

Paul Young’s solo career got off to a quick start. His first two singles didn’t chart, but his third, an extremely ’80s take on Marvin Gaye’s 1962 single “Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home),” made it to #1 in the UK. Over the next few years, a bunch more of Young’s singles hit the British top 10. In fact, the only one of Young’s early singles that wasn’t a UK success was a weird 1984 cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” and you have to at least respect him for giving that one a shot.

In the US, though, Young’s biggest early hit was a cool 1983 version of “Come Back And Stay,” a song originally recorded by the songwriter Jack Lee. “Come Back And Stay” peaked at #22, and most of Young’s other singles landed far outside the American top 40 when they charted at all. Young’s version of John Hurley’s “Love Of The Common People” couldn’t get past #45 in the US even after John Hughes used it on the Sixteen Candles soundtrack.

What really broke Paul Young in the US was his involvement with both Band Aid and Live Aid. Young was the first singer that anyone heard on “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” the big all-star charity song that became a huge UK hit at the end of 1984. The Boomtown Rats’ Bob Geldof co-wrote “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” with Ultravox’s Midge Ure, and Geldof’s plan was for David Bowie to sing the opening lines. But Bowie didn’t make it to the recording session, so Young sang it instead.

On that song, Young, who was just coming back from vocal-chord strain, really just sets the table, laying a foundation for showier vocal turns from Boy George and George Michael and Bono. But when you’re in a room with that many stars and you get the first line, people notice. “Do They Know It’s Christmas” topped charts around the world and peaked at #13 in the US — better than any Paul Young solo song had done.

Young released The Secret Of Association, his second solo album, a few months after the success of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” That album’s first two singles weren’t US hits. But “Everytime You Go Away” would’ve been a familiar Hall and Oates song even if it had never been a single, and Young probably got a boost when he sang a showy, theatrical version of the song at the London Live Aid concert, stretching it out to seven minutes and turning it into a full-stadium singalong.

It makes sense that Hall and Oates never released “Everytime You Go Away” as a single. There’s no big, obvious hook. Instead, it’s a midtempo lope with lyrics that hover dangerously close to pathetic. The narrator begs and pleads for someone to stop dumping him and going off with someone else: “If we can solve any problem, then why do we lose so many tears?/ Oh, so you go again when the leading man appears.” I want to tell this guy to stop torturing himself and go find someone who doesn’t make a habit out of breaking his heart — to become his own leading man.

Like Hall, Young uses “Everytime You Go Away” as a pure vocal showcase. Young’s voice isn’t as muscular as Hall’s. Instead, Young gets fancy. He rasps and warbles and launches off into falsetto runs. Young’s got a serious, athletic voice, but I think he does too much with the song. His voice wibbles and wobbles and dips and curls. It’s a technically impressive display, but when I hear it, my brain just sort of shuts off and goes into sleep mode. Young’s singing style shows a lot of ability, but at least for me, it doesn’t connect.

Young’s version of “Everytime You Go Away” works better as a showcase for the guys in Young’s backing band. The song’s production, from Echo & The Bunnymen/Squeeze collaborator Laurie Latham, is big and slick, full of echoing drum sounds and processed sheen. John Turnbull, formerly of Ian Dury’s Blockheads, plays electric sitar and Spanish-style acoustic guitar. He’s the guy responsible for the big central riff and the nicely fluttery solo.

But the real hero of the song is Welsh fretless-bass wizard Pino Palladino, who had already worked with Gary Numan and who would go on to play with Erykah Badu and D’Angelo and Nine Inch Nails and a whole lot of other people. Palladino’s work on “Everytime You Go Away” is a rich, complicated burble. If you’re not paying attention, he might melt into the background. But when you give it a close listen, you can hear that Palladino is just going crazy on this thing. I don’t think an impressive bass performance is enough to save a song that I don’t really otherwise enjoy, but it definitely adds something.

Daryl Hall was not mad when Paul Young’s version of his album track took off. A few months after Young released “Everytime You Go Away” as a single, Hall and Oates recorded their in-concert album Live At The Apollo, with former Temptations David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks backing them up, and they included a version of “Everytime You Go Away” on that. Later in 1985, Young and Hall sang the song together as an extended duet at a New York show.

After “Everytime You Go Away,” Paul Young only scored one more top-10 single in the US. In 1990, Young’s cover of the Chi-Lites’ 1972 chart-topper “Oh Girl” peaked at #8. (Young’s version is a 6.) Young remained successful in the UK into the early ’90s, when he made the fascinatingly strange choice to form a British Tex-Mex band called Los Pacaminos. Young still tours and records, and he seems to show up on UK reality TV a lot. But as far as his one American #1 hit goes, he was really just in the right place at the right time. That looks like a dig, but it’s not. This column is basically nothing but people who were in the right place at the right time. Some of them figure out how to stick around longer than others, and some of them go away.

GRADE: 4/10

BONUS BEATS: In June of 1986, on the apparent spur of the moment, Paul Young and George Michael sang “Everytime You Go Away” together at the Prince’s Trust benefit concert in London. Elton John, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, and Phil Collins backed them up. George Michael really sang that shit. Here’s that performance:

(George Michael will eventually show up in this column as a solo artist. Mark Knopfler will soon be in this column as a member of Dire Straits.)

BONUS BONUS BEATS: In 1987, John Hughes used a version of “Everytime You Go Away” from a band called Blue Room as the soundtrack of the big, tearjerking final scene from Planes, Trains And Automobiles. Here’s that scene:

(Steve Martin’s highest-charting single, 1978’s “King Tut,” peaked at #17.)

BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Producer Bink! sampled Hall and Oates’ original version of “Everytime You Go Away” on Mobb Deep’s 2003 Kool G Rap collab “Where You At?” Here’s that song:

(As lead artists, Mobb Deep’s highest-charting single is the 2002 112 collab “Hey Luv (Anything),” which peaked at #58. As guests, they made the top 10 when 50 Cent’s “Outta Control (Remix)” peaked at #6. “Outta Control (Remix)” is a 6. Kool G Rap’s highest-charting single is the 1995 Nas collab “Fast Life,” which peaked at #74.)

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Producer Supa Stylez also sampled Hall and Oates’ original version of “Everytime You Go Away” on Styles P’s 2011 Rell collab “I’m A G.” Here it is:

(As a solo artist, Styles P’s highest-charting single is 2002’s “Good Times,” which peaked at #22. As a member of the Lox, his highest-charting single is the 1998 DMX/Lil Kim collab “Money, Power & Respect,” which peaked at #17. And as a guest, Styles’ highest-charting single is Jennifer Lopez’s 2002 track “Jenny From The Block,” which peaked at #3. It’s a 5. The other members of the Lox were on Puff Daddy’s “It’s All About The Benjamins (Remix),” which peaked at #2 in 1997, but Styles isn’t on that one. Rell doesn’t have any Hot 100 hits as a lead artist, but he did guest on Young Gunz’ 2004 track “No Better Love,” which peaked at #36.)