Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run) by Billy Ocean

Every New Zealand #1 single…

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Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run) by Billy Ocean

Topped the NZ chart: from 9 December 1984 for six weeks

Billy Ocean is best known for a string of hits in the mid-1980s. ‘Caribbean Queen’ was followed by ‘Loverboy’, ‘When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going’, and ‘Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car’.

But the Trinidad-born singer’s recording career dates back to the late 1960s. He cut two orchestral ballads which remain unreleased. He released music under different stage names through the early 1970s. He settled on working solo as Billy Ocean, and broke through with the #2 UK hit ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’ in 1976. A slice of Northern Soul, it echoed The Temptation’s ‘I Can’t Help Myself’.

His subsequent work went under the radar, and it was only a lucky break that propelled 1984’s ‘Caribbean Queen’ to the top of the charts. It was written originally as ‘European Queen’, but his record company suggested that he record different versions for different markets. While ‘European Queen’ stalled in the UK, ‘Caribbean Queen’ took off in the US.

The song was released in Europe as “European Queen” and nobody was interested in it. When we changed the name to “Caribbean Queen” and released it in the U. S., it took off and started snowballing and they started playing it in Europe. I guess it had more appeal as “Caribbean Queen” because Europe conjures up a vision of rain and snow and cold, but Caribbean sounds like sunshine and blue skies. It’s much more exotic.

Billy Ocean, Chicago Tribune, 1985

‘Caribbean Queen’ bears more than a passing resemblance to Michael Jackson’s 1983 blockbuster ‘Billie Jean’. They’re driven by similar beats and basslines. But ‘Caribbean Queen’ feels inferior. Not enough is happening in the verses, with a monotonous two-chord vamp. It’s mainly noteworthy for a sinuous vocal performance from Ocean, and an energetic sax solo from The Family Stand’s Vernon Jeffrey Smith.

Ocean successfully pivoted to a similar sound to stars like Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson in the 1980s. But he feels more like a talented journeyman than a visionary. His songs are more like enjoyable products than artistic statements.

However, ‘Caribbean Queen’/’African Queen’/’European Queen’ isn’t even the best single on 1984’s Suddenly. I’d take ‘Loverboy’, with its bizarre Star Wars-inspired video.

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8 Comments

  1. I immediately recognized the titles of all ’80s songs. At the time, I paid attention to the mainstream charts, unlike today when I pretty much ignore them.

    I had no idea “Caribbean Queen” in Europe initially was titled “European Queen” – kind of a stupid title. I only knew the song as “Caribbean Queen.”

    While I’m clearly less excited about most ’80s music nowadays than back in the day, Billy Ocean was a pretty good vocalist. I see he’s still active but have no idea how he sounds nowadays.

    Once I started listening to “Love Really Hurts Without You,” I also recognized that song.

    Since my parents didn’t have cable in the ’80s, I couldn’t watch MTV. As such, I hadn’t seen the official videos for “Caribbean Queen” and “Loverboy” until now. I guess I didn’t miss too much! 🙂

    • It’s amazing how that change of one word makes the song work much better.

      I thought the Loverboy video was pretty funny. Surprised they didn’t get a copyright infringement notice from George Lucas!

  2. I may have forgotten or just didn’t know his career went back that far. I only knew the hits but I will agree with you…the Loverboy song is more powerful in the chorus because the structure is framed by that guitar. What a strange theme for a video for that song. For the time it wasn’t cheap looking…just bizarre…mid-eighties…and the drugs were kicking in.
    I want to check out his early stuff now.

    • It’d be interesting to hear what you make of them. My impression from the singles is a guy who was talented and savvy enough to hop onto bandwagons and be successful, but not to carve out his own nice.

    • I don’t think Eddy Grant ever had a number one hit in NZ. I like Gimme Hope Jo’Anna though.

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