This is a British group that I wanted to feature, not just because they made some memorable songs, but they also achieved something that I’m fairly sure is unique, and is a great piece of trivia. In April 1987, before The Beloved had any hit singles, their frontman Jon Marsh appeared as a contestant on Countdown, when he was still an aspiring singer/songwriter.
He did rather well, becoming an octochamp, winning his eight games before retiring undefeated (he actually played nine games, because one was a draw and required a replay, before the tiebreaker rule had been introduced). “Your record had better be a hit after all this”, said host Richard Whiteley. Marsh qualified for the knockout stages at the end of the series as the number 1 seed.
But he was knocked out in the semi-final, meaning that he missed out on that big bunch of dictionaries. He returned in June 1987 to take part in the Champion Of Champions series, but this time he was eliminated at the quarter-final stage. But I suppose that it’s one way of increasing your profile. In October 1989, The Beloved finally had their first hit single when “The Sun Rising” reached no. 26.
Now this was a nice piece of chill-out dance music, you really do feel that you could close your eyes and drift away whilst listening to this, and it was always great to hear this on the radio. In January 1990, their next single “Hello” was released. This was a rather remarkable song that namechecked everyone from Kym Mazelle to Bobby Ball, and this reached no. 19. They also appeared on the cover of Melody Maker around this time.
In March 1990, “Your Love Takes Me Higher” made the Top 40 at the second attempt, after failing to chart on its first release a year earlier. It then went quiet for a little while, but they returned in January 1993 with “Sweet Harmony” (not to be confused with the hit of the same name around at the same time by Liquid, which was totally super-duper, as the children would say nowadays I’m sure).
The video also caused something of a stir, because it seemed that Marsh was continuing to have some trouble keeping his clothes on in them. This was also performed on shows including ITV’s The Beat. “Sweet Harmony” reached no. 8, to become their biggest hit, and I would presume that Marsh is the only person to have been a Countdown octochamp and also have a Top Ten hit single, what an achievement.
Two more Top 40 hits followed in 1993 with “You’ve Got Me Thinking” and “Outerspace Girl”. After another break, in March 1996 “Satellite” made the Top 20. And curiously, in August 1997, their final Top 40 hit single was the same as their first, when eight years on, “The Sun Rising” returned to the chart, this time in remixed form, reaching no. 31, and it was still great to hear.