Before they found multi-platinum success with The Raw & The Cooked and its smash singles “She Drives Me Crazy” and “Good Thing”, the Fine Young Cannibals took their post-English Beat cred and scored underground hits with songs about running away from home, infidelity and the bleak economic landscape of Thatcher England. Far from the shiny pop of their sophomore effort, the Cannibals first self-titled album was a little grittier, a little darker and far less successful.

A fine example is the album’s second single, “Blue”, which on the surface sounds like a typical love gone wrong song, until you get to the second verse and vocalist Roland Gift gets a little more pointed:

Government has done me wrong, IÁ¢€â„¢m mad about that.
And it makes me feel like I donÁ¢€â„¢t belong, IÁ¢€â„¢m mad about that.
ItÁ¢€â„¢s making life a misery, you would have taken the liberty
Government has done me wrong, IÁ¢€â„¢m mad about that.

That makes the chorus:

Good god, almighty
ThereÁ¢€â„¢s no denying life
Would be better if I never ever had to live with you,
Blue – itÁ¢€â„¢s a colour so cruel

…seem less about a tired lover and more about the state of England at the time. “Blue” = the police? Thatcher herself? Only Gift knows for sure. In any case, “Blue” was a fantastic slice of Northern Soul, deftly produced with a performance from Gift that’s nearly heart-wrenching. While their future success would be a little more polished and mainstream, there were still hints of the old Cannibals grit, particularly on “I’m Not Satisfied” and “Don’t Look Back”, two more songs about leaving a depressed town behind. Despite an aborted comeback attempt in 1996, the Cannibals never fully reformed, but the two stellar albums they left behind secured their place as polished hitmakers. We need them more than ever – VMAs, anyone?

“Blue” did not chart.

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John C. Hughes

John C. Hughes began his Lost in the ’80s blog in 2005 and is now proud to be a member of the Popdose family, where he’s introduced LIT80s’s companions, the obviously named Lost in the ’70s and Lost in the ’90s, alongside the slightly more originally named Why You Should Like…

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