I’m not sure what it’s about and perhaps that doesn’t matter. Some say it’s about Ray Charles, whilst others are of the opinion that it’s about Man Ray, the American artist famous for collaborations with Salvador Dali, amongst others.
To be honest though, I just loved the tune. As a fifteen year old, the lyrics didn’t really mean that much to me – I’m not 100% sure that I ‘got’ them properly to be brutal. This was not so uncommon, mind – I certainly struggled with Bob Dylan when I was first introduced to his music at University. Der! I treated the voice as an instrument, the actual meaning of the lyrics was always secondary to how they sounded in conjunction with the instrumental accompaniment.
Any road up, this was the first of China Crisis’s singles that I noticed. 1983’s Christian reached the dizzy heights of number 12 in the UK singles chart, but it certainly passed me by. Early in 1984, Wishful Thinking scratched the top ten, and the band was apparently set for a big career. However the follow up, Hanna Hanna, didn’t have anything like the same impact and the band remained dormant, certainly in terms of single releases for twelve months.
Black Man Ray entered the UK chart on 30 March 1985 and less than a fortnight later I had secured my copy of it. It reached the lofty position of number 14 halfway through its nine-week run on the chart. Subsequently, King In A Catholic Style (Wake Up) also performed respectably, making number 19, but by now it seemed like the band’s time had passed. Three further releases, You Did Cut Me, Arizona Sky and Best Kept Secret failed to trouble the top 30 and that was pretty much that for the 7″ single.