Saturday, 23 August 2008
Some things in this world can't be explained. My love for Alexander O'Neal is one of them. I understand to everyone else he could be perceived as a fat, sweaty, conk-wearing, creepy, reality TV whore coke head who's probably gay (you might even find him quite scary). To me aged 9 however, he was my future husband. If Kenny Thomas said no. All road trips had to be accompanied by our "This Thing Called Love" album as we yelled all the words to Fake, Criticize and Never Knew Love Like This and bumped through the potholes and police stops on the road from Warri to Benin, Lagos or Port Harcourt. I still know every word, every ad-lib, every weird speaking moment of all those songs. FYI you can't cuss him off too much - he was the lead singer in The Time (with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis) and got signed by Prince. Alex was replaced with Morris Day after he allegedly had a row with the purple one about "looking too black"...
A few years back I got VIP tickets to see him live at the Hippodrome - I can't tell you how excited my sister Katy and I were - and it was probably one of the saddest, most disappointing things I've ever seen. For some reason I was expecting the place to be rammed with screaming fans since he's always been more popular here than the US - there were maybe 50 people there, and it's one of the biggest clubs in the country. The show began with Alex coming up through a hole in the stage, and as he rose from the depths the realisation of how far he'd fallen seemed to hit him. Katy and I were right at the front and determined to make up with enthusiasm what the crowd lacked in numbers. Apparently this only made things worse for Alex because he avoided our side of the stage all night as we sung our little hearts out - we were the only two young black women who knew every word in a (small) sea of uncomfortable middle aged white people who only remembered Fake...I guess that could hurt. By the end of the night he seemed really angry and bitter, had a load of awful drunk women on stage and looked like he'd done loads of coke...a far cry from the days my Mum used to tell me about when he actually had a bed on the stage - he's still to this day the only black singer to ever sell out 6 straight nights at Wembley Arena.
Despite it all - I still love his music. I've never heard an Alexander O'Neal song I don't like and his voice is probably one of my top 5 favourites of all time. If I had the cash I'd buy everyone in the world a copy of his greatest hits. I even have a tough time picking out my favourite 5 AO songs...I think they're; All True Man, If You Were Here Tonight, Innocent, What Is This Thing Called love, and What's Missing. I'm going to post a couple of videos...unfortunately I can't find any where he's not doing really weird and scary over-acting to camera. Thanks Alex.
All True Man (and the only high top perm I've ever seen)
What Is This Thing Called Love (the video isn't going to explain that's for sure)
If You Were Here Tonight (it was 1985 - what?)
Love Makes No Sense (and neither does this video)