29 Years Ago China In Your Hand Reached No1

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On this day in 1987, exactly 29 years ago, #ChinaInYourHand reached the top spot in the UK charts where it was to stay number one for five weeks!! It was the longest serving number 1 of that year!! ;-()

How we made China In Your Hand:

Carol Decker, singer, songwriter

I didn’t start singing professionally until I was 22. I’d dicked around, fluffed my A-levels, bumbled my way into art school, and ended up singing in a friend’s band. Then I met Ronnie. We lived and wrote music together above the Pengwern boat club in Shrewsbury for seven years. It’s in a lovely spot, in the middle of a quarry, so we could record until God knows when, and use the social club for gigs. But it was also bloody freezing. There’d be ice on the inside of the windows. We had to watch telly in sleeping bags. Then one day I saw this documentary about Mary Shelley.

I’d only seen the clonky Hammer horror Frankenstein film – all that bolt-in-the neck business – but I’d always been fascinated by how prophetic Shelley’s story was, that idea of man playing God. I got interested in her, this 19-year-old girl writing a pulp fiction hit that blew the essays and poetry of her contemporaries, and her husband Percy, out of the water.

It gave me the idea of writing her story within the wider Frankenstein tale. So I started it: “It was a theme she had / On a scheme he had / Told in a foreign land.” The message, basically, is be careful what you wish for. The actual China line – this sounds terrible – but I had this flimsy tea set from Ronnie’s mum, who’d always give us crockery and duvets. I remember holding this cup up to the light, and seeing this Japanese lady’s face in the bottom. It was so beautiful and fragile, so it gave me the idea for that line about what dreams are like: “Don’t push too far / Your dreams are china in your hand.”

I didn’t think more about it until we were in America recording our debut album, Bridge of Spies. You know the expression “polishing the turd”? One song wasn’t working, so we had to stop polishing! Our producer, Roy Thomas Baker, went: “Well, what else have you got?” I’d brought my cassette of China and played it to him very unsurely, and that was that.

A year later, in October 1987, we were at No 1. We found out while we were on tour with Bryan Adams in Germany. We screamed the place down backstage. He was grumpy because he was getting into his zone before the gig – or shagging his girlfriend – but he bought us lots of champagne afterwards, bless him.

Ronnie and I are no longer together – we’re both happily married to other people, with kids – but I still perform, and when I get back into that past, it’s like I’m another Carol. I still love playing it.

Ronnie Rogers, guitarist, songwriter

Although we’d been signed, I was still working as a telephone engineer. I got home one day and Carol had this quiet sketch she’d written on the piano. To me, it was just another song – it didn’t sound like it had a chorus either. But we did some tricks, gave it a false ending in the middle to get people clapping, and finished the chorus with the title again, as I’d heard in a Howard Jones song, No One Is to Blame.

China only really came into its own when we gave it to Roy. It was a quiet piano song and he turned it into something else, with that big crashing chorus. I find it funny that nowadays everyone takes big crashing songs and makes them quiet.

I still can’t believe how huge China got. You never really know why one song does it. We did a reunion tour in 2013 and it was always the highlight. Fans would come up after, saying: “We played this at our wedding.” Another bloke, who couldn’t stop shaking my hand, said: “I was in a coma. They played me China in Your Hand and that’s what brought me out of it.”

4 thoughts on “29 Years Ago China In Your Hand Reached No1

  1. Saw you in Frodsham in Cheshire last year Carol. You were awesome.
    It was a trip down memory lane and rolled back the years.
    what made it was having a photo with you and your signing of my Bridge of spies Album.
    Best wishes for many more great Tpau giggs

  2. I was only 16 when this got to number one (Nov ’87) and moved into my first flat, so it has a very special meaning to me. I loved the song, the lyrics, the imagery, the video. It has such a prophetic meaning – our dreams are so fragile, just like china in our hands which are often broken by our foolish actions!

    Loved T’Pau’s other hits: Heart & Soul, Valentine, Sex Talk and I Will Be With You – if memory serves me right!

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