Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Ward Brothers 'Cross That Bridge'

Chart Peak: 32
The first hit for Barnsley's Ward Brothers charted at No. 74 on 6th January and finally peaked at No. 32 in early February.
I'm sure I wasn't the only one thinking "the who brothers?" when I first encountered this. Lurking near the end is a track that must rank highly in anyone's list of the most obscure tracks in the series; a single that struggled to a peak outside the Top 30 by an act who never troubled the Top 75 again. It's hard not to suspect that their record company or management were owed a favour somewhere.

Had I stumbled upon that video clip from Top Pop unawares and without my copies of Now 9 to compare it with, I could have mistaken it for a parody. It's not just the suspiciously good stereo sound (which must be a later addition, maybe for a DVD release or something?) but the collection of visual cliches - Dave Ward's spiky bleached mullet and Derek Ward's seal-like keyboard miming (I'm sure you can't really play a keyboard like that, but it's what everyone used to do when they mimed in those days. Perhaps it was some sort of protest?) Only Graham Ward breaks from the formula by actually plugging in his guitar, which most didn't bother with on such shows then. He is flailing around with it though, so he's close.

And the song? I listened to it twice in close succession and I struggled to remember anything about it at all. Is it supposed to be rock? Soul? Dance? Art-school pop? Possibly any or all of those but it's been dragged into a formless void that doesn't really sound like anything particular, despite name producer Don Was. Perhaps it's not the record they intended to make at first, but it doesn't really work as it is. I'm sure they're nice lads but I don't feel it a great loss that, despite the promotional effort they were soon dropped and split. Oddly, they released a comeback album in 1996, possibly the least opportune time for a minor 80s act to re-emerge.

Available on: This Is... 1987

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