ABOUT THE EPISODE
It was the musical era of big hair, big hits and big names – but between Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince, George Michael and the rest, who was the best 80’s pop star? Host Sandro Monetti debates the question with a panel of experts in this latest lively episode of the top pop culture podcast with ‘The One and Only’ Chesney Hawkes, Grammy-winning songwriter Michael Jay, Carol Decker of T’Pau, Denise Pearson from Five Star and Graeme Clark of Wet Wet Wet. At the end of the show we reveal the result of the public vote and answer the question: who’s the best 80’s pop star?
WHY CHESNEY HAWKES IS POP’S ULTIMATE WINNER
by Sandro Monetti, host, Who’s the Best Podcast
While other ex-teen idols despair over lost stardom, obsess over a comeback hit or follow a path of self-destruction, Chesney Hawkes seems perfectly happy and content. ‘The One and Only’ singer is at peace with his place in pop history – and that’s why he is a role model to all past, present and future pop stars.
The reality could have been quite different. Dropped by his record label after the hits dried up, he saw friends, fans and finances disappear. It was a devastating blow.
“It’s like being in a night-club, in a private booth, with the champagne and all the trappings of fame – then being kicked out by the bouncer, and landing on your ass,” he told me in the latest episode of my podcast, Who’s the Best.
But he’s since picked himself up, and lives a happy life with his wife and kids in Los Angeles. He’s recording some terrific new material, but still goes back to Britain every now and then to play the old songs on the revival circuit, taking genuine pleasure in seeing the nostalgic smiles his music brings to people’s faces.
Getting through those difficult times, he says, is a matter of who you have around you. “I grew up in a very rock and roll household, but there was a lot of love there. I met my wife when I was 23, and when I was in the red. I’d lost all my money, I’d lost everything – my wife was instrumental in bringing me back from that.”
The other guests on this episode – 80s pop icons Carol Decker from T’Pau, Denise Pearson of Five Star and Wet Wet Wet’s Graeme Clark – can relate to Chesney’s experiences, and have all emerged from pop’s rollercoaster with a real sense of fun, pride and smarts as well.
This episode also brings me full circle, as I started my journalism career as a columnist on much-loved pop magazine Smash Hits covering the likes of Chesney, Carol, Denise and Graeme. As all those performers know very well, fans respond not just to their music but the memories of the people and places around them when they first heard it.
So often we learn of the dark side of the music business claiming many victims, including some of the superstars discussed in this episode. But these great guests are winning examples that the joy of life as a pop singer can continue for many years after the screaming stops, to borrow a phrase, and far beyond.
That’s largely what this show, Who’s the Best, is about – looking back fondly on the work of memorable artists, be they legends or one hit wonders, whose work continues to bring joy to so many. I hope this Who’s the Best episode brings back wonderful memories for you too.