The Big Man Restless by Kissing the Pink is one of the most deceptively bonkers pop singles of the 80s — a cult hit that appears on the odd DJ mix but wouldn’t get a mention in one of those I ❤ the 80s shows.
In 1983, new wave synth pop act Kissing The Pink were probably a bit too smart for their own good. The big hits of the year like David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Michael Jackson’s Beat It and Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams had created an arms race for blockbuster production, gleaming synths and choruses you could hum within a minute. Even Kraftwerk reportedly dumped their ill-fated album Techno Pop at the 11th hour when all the upcoming pop chancers started catching up on them with the new commercially available synths.
Kissing The Pink were a bit of an outlier — too wordy and oblique for the pop charts, but too fussy and aloof compared with more experimental synth acts like Cabaret Voltaire and Fad Gadget. It also didn’t help that singer Nicholas Whitecross had a voice you’d hear in Thatcher’s cabinet.
This posh boy shtik is unleashed on The Big Man Restless as a yuppie spoken word rap, coasting on a mid-tempo drum machine beat that hitches a lift on Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express. There’s no real synth melody bar a few Morse code bleeps and some warm pads, as a plummy Whitecross describes our Big Man, who’s “so relentless… like 40 Indians”.
The chorus is the devastating hook, as a male choir loftily sings “the legal quarter of tight-lipped men push for order, and repeat again”. It sounds like some hymn to glorious bureaucracy, or a musical outtake from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. There’s also a ridiculously ornate saxophone solo that recalls ads for Flakes or Galaxy bars, with women shaking their sumptuous perms.
The term ‘it shouldn’t work’ is so overused it’s redundant, but I’ll cheat here and use it for The Big Man Restless — it’s a hark back to a time when pop could be utterly pretentious, when failure to chart was often down to self-sabotage or a “so relentless” obsession with staying weird.
“Ladies and gentlemen… The Big Man Restless…”