Robson & Jerome
About Robson & Jerome
One of the stranger British pop phenomenons of the '90s, the duo of Robson Green and Jerome Flynn catapulted from television actors to music stars in 1995 with their slick covers of "Unchained Melody"/"White Cliffs of Dover," a double A-sided single that became the biggest-selling British single of the '90s. Of course, Robson & Jerome were essentially one-hit wonders, but they were of an enormous magnitude, out-selling artists like Pulp, Oasis, and Blur during the height of Brit-pop. Such grand success made them the target of derision for much of the music press, who criticized the duo's manufactured, polished covers of pop and rock classics as nostalgia mongering. And, to a certain extent, they were right, since Robson & Jerome not only offered nothing new musically, the two actors, who portrayed soldiers on the drama Soldier, Soldier, were designed to appeal to a nation that was enveloped by a swell of nostalgia surrounding the 50th anniversary of VE Day. Robson & Jerome offered just enough flair and charisma to make their pleasant, undistinguished records palatable and, for many, charming. Like most one-hit wonders, the duo's second album was a sales disappointment, although it sold respectably and spent a number of weeks in the British Top Ten. Nevertheless, they will always be remembered for the months that they ruled the charts in 1995 with their smooth crooning and unrepentant nostalgia.
Robson & Jerome would never have made the transition from television to music if it wasn't for Simon Cowell, an A&R executive for RCA Records. Cowell, who had previously been responsible for hit records by such novelties as Zig and Zag, Power Rangers, and World Wrestling Foundation, became convinced that Robson & Jerome were capable of becoming pop stars, simply by watching Soldier, Soldier. Previously, he had rejected the duo's fellow cast member, Denise Welch, as being unsuitable for a musical career, but he grew aware of the growing cult around Soldier, Soldier and once he heard of the positive response to Robson & Jerome's version of "Unchained Melody" on the show, he was certain they had star -- and chart -- potential. Cowell approached the actors, who were initially not interested in making a record, afraid that such a move would ruin their reputation as serious actors. After three months of persuading, the duo agreed to make a record, partially because of the enormous sales potential of the endeavor and partially because the career of Jimmy Nail proved inspirational in how he managed to act and sing simultaneously, without losing credibility.
"Unchained Melody"/"White Cliffs of Dover" was released early in the summer of 1995, and immediately shot to the top of the charts, where it stayed for weeks on end, fending off challenges from Pulp and Michael Jackson, among several others. By the end of the year, it had sold nearly two million copies, becoming the biggest-selling British single of the '90s. It was followed in the fall by "I Believe"/"Up on the Roof," which was nearly as successful, spending several weeks at number one. Toward the end of the year, the duo's eponymous debut appeared and it too went to number one. Produced by Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Nigel Wright, the record was a slick, commercial effort comprised entirely of covers, including versions of "Danny Boy," "Daydream Believer," "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore," and "Amazing Grace." As the choice of material indicates, the album primarily appealed to baby boomers, leaving the younger generation cold. Consequently, Robson & Jerome became the target of a number of attacks in the British music press, which had little effect on the group's sales.
Robson & Jerome delivered a second album, Take Two, in the fall of 1996. Like its predecessor, it entered the charts at number one, but it didn't stay there for long, as they were usurped by the U.K. pop phenomenon of 1996, the Spice Girls. Nevertheless, Take Two sold well enough to guarantee the duo a longer pop career than anyone would have initially expected, yet it did nothing to erase the impression that they were essentially one-hit wonders. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine