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Moments in Cult: Diamond Lights

To give this bizarre set of circumstances a modern context, imagine Jordan Henderson suddenly dropping a duet with Harry Kane on SoundCloud.

Cast your mind back to 1987. What a time to be alive. It was an age where anybody could release a single. Barefooted action man Bruce Willis, topless model Samantha Fox, saviour of breakfast television Roland Rat and EastEnders heartthrob Nick Berry were recording hits, so why not a footballer?

Kevin Keegan had given it a go in 1979, dropping “Head Over Heels in Love” with … mixed success. But no one had tried it in the era of ‘80s synths and electronica. Now, you might say there’s a reason for that, but stay with me…

In 1987, two of England’s best-known footballers rolled up their jacket sleeves and had a crack at pop recognition.

Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle teamed up for what turned out to be a one-off single called ‘Diamond Lights’ a dark, brooding ballad that transcended the pop format thanks to the soaring vocal prowess of the song’s dual frontmen. They were like the Hall and Oates of Football, and Waddle much like Oates, didn’t get the credit of his singing partner despite his moody and mysterious backing vocals.

Yet, it has since gone down in pop mythology as one of the worst specimens of music ever made.

However, pop professors are being somewhat harsh on the duo. Sure, they looked preposterous on Top of the Pops in their pound store Miami Vice get-up. But while they’ve been an obvious target of ridicule all these years, if you just took the song on its own, it’s not actually that awful. If you heard ‘Diamond Lights’ without knowing who it was, I surmise you’d probably quite like it as a sample of catchy ‘80s electro-pop in the style of A-ha, or Ultravox.

But as soon as you realise it’s two footballers with zero stage presence and cultivated mullets, it’s game over.

‘Diamond Lights’ came about after an appearance the duo made for their personal sponsors, Budget Rent a Car, at an annual company awards ceremony. The pair had an impromptu karaoke session, which was supposedly praised by a friend with connections in the music industry, who introduced them to Bob Puzey, the genius behind Russ Abbott’s pop career.

Puzey had also written songs such as ‘I’m in the Mood for Dancing’ by The Nolans, and auditioned the pair and agreed to write and co-produce a single for them. In case you were wondering, the ‘diamond lights’ of the song refer to Puzey’s wife’s eyes rather than the name of a budget cider.

The song ended up rising to number 12 in the UK singles chart, which was pretty decent going considering back then you needed to shift a sizable chunk of copies to get that high. Weirdly, the record company advertised them as Glenn and Chris instead of Hoddle and Waddle. Who made that decision?!

It even had a picture disc version.

However, it’s their Top of the Pops performance which has gone down in pop legend as one of the show’s cringiest moments.

Dad dancing galore, it’s a joy to behold.

Waddle later remembered it as “the most nerve-racking thing [he’d] ever done” and that the duo had to appear on the programme in person, as the producers had refused to air the music video because “[it] was so bad.”

How bad could it be?

Oh. Terrible.

The video sees the boys flanked by an unnamed mysterious lady who leers intensely at the camera. In the end, they leave the studio to sign autographs for football fans, only for the woman to reappear and leer again as if she’s about to do something threatening. it’s a wonderful leer. A queen leer, if you will.

Hoddle later recalled the appearance on TOTP positively, referring to it as “one of the greatest things I ever did. I’m glad I did it and I learnt a lot from it.”

Glenn & Chris even recorded and shot a music video for a follow-up single entitled ‘It’s Goodbye’, but they postponed promotion for its release after Hoddle’s transfer to AS Monaco, and the song only reached 92. Forget about Buddy Holly – the day Glenn left for Ligue 1 was the day the music truly died.

Since then, plenty of other footballers have given music a go with disparate levels of success from Paul Gascoigne, and Ian Wright to Andy Cole and Chris Kamara. But none of them was as awesome as Glenn and Chris’s attempt.

10 years later, when interviewing Hoddle for the England manager job, FA chief executive Graham Kelly allegedly asked him, “Any skeletons in the closet?” before joking, “apart from that record with Chris Waddle?”.

 

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Stephen Pryde-Jarman is a Cult TV and Film journalist, award winning short story writer, playwright and screenwriter. A natural hoarder, second hand shopping fulfils his basic human need for hunter-gathering; but rummaging through a charity shop’s bric-a-brac shelf also brought him the inspiration for his novel Rubble Girl having seen a picture of a Blitz survivor sat amongst the rubble of her house with a cup and saucer. Rubble Girl has been described as " thought-provoking" and "fast paced ... with plenty of twists and turns." Amazon.

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