Which decade is Tops for Pops? (Interval Act / Tiebreaker)

Every decent song contest needs an Interval Act, doesn’t it? And this song contest is no exception. As the final few votes keep trickling steadily in, allow me to offer something to keep you distracted until Monday’s results are announced.

Actually, this is slightly more than an Interval Act. There is a strong possibility that on Monday morning, we will be faced with – gasp! – a dead heat, with both the 1970s and 1980s on equal points. In which case, we need a Tiebreaker.

As Amanda suggested in one of the comments boxes a few days ago, it might be worth taking a comparative look at the charts from this week in another part of the decade. Maybe five years on, she said. Well, this is precisely what I’m going to do now – at least for the two decades which are in the lead. Thanks for putting the idea in my head, Amanda.

It’s going to work like this. Here are the Top Three singles from this week in 1978 and 1988, in alternate reverse order. Take a listen to all six using the MP3 provided, and then score them in the normal way. Once again, you have until Sunday night to vote. On Monday, I will add up the total scores for each song. I will then aggregate them to produce two final scores, one for each decade. If needs be – and only if needs be – I will then use this score to decide the eventual winner.

Alles klar? Also, los! HERE COME THE TIEBREAKERS!

#3 in 1978: Uptown Top Ranking – Althea & Donna.
#3 in 1988: When Will I Be Famous? – Bros.
#2 in 1978: Take A Chance On Me – Abba.
#2 in 1988: I Should Be So Lucky – Kylie Minogue.
#1 in 1978: Figaro – Brotherhood Of Man.
#1 in 1988: I Think We’re Alone Now – Tiffany.

A bouncy little selection, aren’t they? Distinctly chirpier and boppier than their counterparts in the earlier part of the decade.

There’s an obvious classic here: Abba. The unanimous critical consensus which has grown up around this group in the past ten years or so is astonishing – especially given the way that they were generally dismissed as cheesy lightweights by the self-appointed tastemakers of their day. In fact, is there anybody out there who doesn’t love them? If so, then I’d be interested to hear from you.

As an obscure Jamaican import, Althea & Donna‘s single had been played incessantly on the John Peel show for most of the latter half of 1977, before being eventually licensed to a UK independent label. I had taped it off the radio months before it made the charts, and – despite never having been a huge reggae fan – had played it over and over again. Seeing it crossover to daytime radio and the national charts was quite a thrill at the time – like some sort of rare victory for, I dunno, “real” music or something (bear in mind that even in early 1978, the UK singles charts were still dominated by middle-of-the-road pop, the New Wave having yet to make much of a commercial impact). I loved the freshness and cheeky sassiness of the track, as Althea & Donna unselfconsciously bigged themselves up (“see me in my halter-back, see me give ya heart attack”), bringing the phrase “and ting” into the collective consciousness as they did so (“see me in my pants and ting”).

A crying shame about the follow-up single, then. The Puppy Dog Song was a reggae-fied version of the “Frogs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails” nursery rhyme, coupled with the one tune that every child can bash out on the piano: the dreaded Chopsticks. Every bit as ghastly as it sounds, it stiffed completely. Althea & Donna presumably got on the next plane back to Jamaica, and were never heard of again.

There’s little to choose between 1988’s two new pop princesses on the block: Tiffany and Kylie Minogue. Like any good music snob, I hated both of these records at the time – and yet now, I find them utterly charming. What is it with music snobs only being able to appreciate good throwaway pop ten years later? And what is it about good throwaway pop that makes it endure in a way that so much other supposedly “quality” music fails to do? After all, who do we celebrate now: Abba or Gerry Rafferty? Kylie and Tiffany, or The Christians and Terence Trent D’Arby? I rest my case.

Anyway, Tiffany just edges ahead of Kylie for me, on account of the song. I Think We’re Alone Now was already an old favourite of mine – as taped off the John Peel show once again, in its late 1970s version by The Rubinoos (ah, the days of Power Pop!) Tiffany’s version does it full justice, in my opinion.

Brotherhood Of Man always made me laugh. Having won Eurovision with Save Your Kisses For Me– a song with a cutesy little surprise twist at the end (“even though you’re only three – aaah!”), they followed it up with a carbon copy (My Sweet Rosalie) which had, guess what, another cutesy little surprise twist at the end (“the cutest little puppy dog you’ll see – aaah!”) It didn’t do terribly well – thus establishing one of the Golden Rules Of Pop, which Althea & Donna would have done well to heed: never follow up a Number One Smash Hit with a song about a puppy dog.

Undaunted, the BOM had a flash of inspiration. Hey – we’re two boys and two girls – and we won Eurovision – so let’s be Abba! Noticing that Abba had recently gone to Number One with Fernando, the BOM promptly hit back with…Angelo! Ker-ching! O-lay! Never ones to deliberately mess with a winning formula, they then followed it up with…Figaro! Woo-hoo! Port-and-lemons all round!

God knows why – and I don’t think I want to analyse this too closely – but Figaro sounds appealingly quaint to me now. Perhaps it’s because music like this has now slipped off the cultural radar entirely, leaving no trace. Even Radio Two is too hip to play stuff like this now. Not even local radio would touch it. Which makes me feel peculiarly protective towards it all of a sudden. Show a little respect, people – after all, let’s not forget that this was voted Single Of The Year by the viewers of the children’s TV programme Magpie. (Mind you, just as BOM were a poor imitation of Abba, so Magpie was a poor imitation on Blue Peter. I bet the nice Blue Peter children would have voted for Abba.)

Bros, then. Again, like Kajagoogoo, surprisingly bearable in hindsight. But still the worst of the bunch for me.

My votes: 1 – Abba. 2 – Althea & Donna. 3 – Tiffany. 4 – Kylie Minogue. 5 – Brotherhood Of Man. 6 – Bros. (I’m giving K the day off, by the way. He has suffered enough.)

For one last time, over to you. This could well be the most crucial vote of them all. Choose carefully now…

Continue reading “Which decade is Tops for Pops? (Interval Act / Tiebreaker)”

Which decade is Tops for Pops? (10/10)

Here we are at last then, folks. I’ve got my best bib and tucker on today, to mark the shattering climax of the project. It’s been a long and crazy journey, hasn’t it? From the sublime (Carly Simon) to the ridiculous (Blazin’ Squad) and all points in between. We’ve sighed, we’ve swooned, we’ve squirmed – we’ve squirmed again – and we’ve squirmed again. My, but we’ve had to wade through some shit. ‘Twas ever thus.

But now, weary travellers, the end of our journey is finally looming into view.

[lights down – dramatic pause – soft drumroll in background]

Yes – [adopts Davina-esque shriek] – ITSTHENUMBERONES!

1963: Diamonds – Jet Harris & Tony Meehan.
1973: Blockbuster – The Sweet.
1983: Down Under – Men At Work.
1993: No Limit – 2 Unlimited.
2003: All The Things She Said – tATu.

For me, the battle here was between Jet Harris & Tony Meehan (formerly of The Shadows), which I had never heard before and instantly fell in love with (oh, that ger-oovy Tijuana brass break!) and The Sweet, which I have loved since boyhood (oh, that siren – that riff – that “We just haven’t got a clue what to do” psuedo-campness!). Objectivity can be hard to muster at times like these. In fact, even as I’m typing this I’m wavering again, as both tunes crash around inside my cranium in an unholy soundclash medley.

It’s got to be The Sweet, though. For the riff alone. One of the early 70s classic riffs, right up there with The Jean Genie, School’s Out, Rebel Rebel, Smoke On The Water, Caroline, Get It On… ooh, it was the era of the riff alright. But if you, like me, hadn’t heard it before, then do give Diamonds a fair crack of the whip. Better than The Shadows, I would venture to say.

Until last Friday’s Top Of The Pops, I had been fairly resistant to tATu‘s alleged charms. Cynically manufactured pseudo-lesbo-softcore-wankerama, right? All I could hear was a steely harshness. Was this really, with its Trevor Horn production and the attendant media hoo-hah, the Noughties version of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax? And did tATu actually have any say at all in what they were doing?

Their TV performance changed my mind. Goodness, no pseudo-lesbo-softcore-wankerama at all! Instead, a playful, knowing insouciance which, goshdammit, almost had me convinced that they were a real life couple (but of course, this being Pop, whether they are or not is supremely irrelevant). In turn, the artful dynamics of All The Things She Said finally fell into place for me – in particular, the rushed, slightly strained urgency. Now I get it. And yes, it is a classic pop moment after all.

There was a similar tussle between Men At Work and 2 Unlimited for last place – although in all honesty, I can cheerfully live with both. Men At Work strike me as a bunch of amiable beer-swilling Aussies who accidentally struck gold, and who probably enjoyed it while it lasted – and hey, it’s a catchy tune, which reminds me of some pleasant times. Meanwhile, No Limits never fails to make me smile these days. I hated it at the time – but having since been right through the invigorating-yet-enervating mangle of hardcore-techno-nu-energy-hard-house-boshin-bangin-hardbagging-boom-boom-thwackery and out again, I am now inclined to view it with rather more fondness than before. Like The Ramones, its the very dumbness that appeals. However – and crucially – unlike The Ramones, this is more by accident than design. By any objective measure, it’s really not very good at all, is it? Still, the “techno techno techno techno” bit (sadly not featured on this medley) is another classic pop moment all of its own.

My votes: 1 – The Sweet. 2 – Jet Harris & Tony Meehan. 3 – tATu. 4 – Men At Work. 5 – 2 Unlimited. K’s votes are in the comments.

Over to you. The 1980s have suddenly surged ahead of the 1970s, with the 1960s climbing back into third position. Meanwhile, things aren’t looking too good for the most recent two decades. Were the whinging old gits right all along, then? Is pop music really not as good as it used to be? This is your last chance to make that judgement.

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Which decade is Tops for Pops? (9/10)

It was getting really good for a while back there, wasn’t it? Too good to last, though.

Just two more days to go then, and here come the Number Twos. I’ve been dreading this.

1963: The Wayward Wind – Frank Ifield.
1973: Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah) – Gary Glitter.
1983: Too Shy – Kajagoogoo.
1993: I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston.
2003: I Can’t Break Down – Sinead Quinn.

Let’s get Gary Glitter out of the way first, shall we? Ten years ago, I would probably have been chuckling indulgently, and giving him the five points without a second thought. But now that we know what we know about the man, is it still at all possible to derive any enjoyment from his records? Before listening to this track, I told myself to try and view it as a collective effort, and not just as the work of one man. I told myself to leave Glitter’s crimes out of the equation, and to make a strictly objective assessment. Maybe with a different record (Rock And Roll Part 2 for example), this might have been possible. But oh deary deary me, out of all the songs that could have come up, did it have to be this one? Listening to Glitter’s lewd barking now, I find that what I once viewed as harmless comic bawdyness now comes across as grotesque, disturbing, and difficult to endure.

As for Whitney Houston – yes, the vocal gymnastics are technically impressive, but I don’t buy her ludicrously overblown, bombastic mis-interpretation of Dolly Parton’s tender, vulnerable classic for one moment. It was never supposed to be sung this way. Ghastly stuff.

Sinead “runner up in Fame Academy” Quinn‘s effort is the sound of grim careerism, of please please make me famous, of let’s mint some dosh out of this while we still can. Despite a deftly crafted chorus, this remains a bleak, joyless, soulless experience. At times like these, I despair.

Which means that Frank Ifield‘s piece of daft old hokum rises up, as if in a vacuum, to be my second favourite from this woeful selection. Well arranged, with a widescreen cinematic atmosphere that suits the song. I’m imagining him riding out of town on horseback, cheroot clamped between his teeth, never to return, as the camera pans back to reveal his jilted lady love still standing there in the middle of Main Street, clutching their infant to her heaving bosom. Or something like that, anyway.

I can’t believe that I’m actually giving the five points to Kajagoogoo – but to my surprise, Too Shy has worn rather well. It’s sorta jazz-funky, innit? Mmm, syncopated! Like it!

My votes: 1 – Kajagoogoo. 2 – Frank Ifield. 3 – Sinead Quinn. 4 – Whitney Houston. 5 – Gary Glitter. K’s votes are in the comments.

Over to you. The Seventies and Eighties are now starting to pull clear of the rest of the field. Are you all going to reveal yourselves as Whitney fans, dragging the Nineties back into contention? Or will the might of the Googoo send the Eighties shooting into the lead? The endgame approaches…

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Which decade is Tops for Pops? (8/10)

Another strong selection today, as we reach Day 8 of the project and the Number Threes.
Enjoy it while it lasts, though. That’s all I’m saying for now. You’ll see soon enough.

1963: Please Please Me – The Beatles.
1973: Part Of The Union – The Strawbs.
1983: Electric Avenue – Eddy Grant.
1993: Little Bird – Annie Lennox.
2003: Cry Me A River – Justin Timberlake.

Listening to the Top 10 for 1963 thus far, you might have formed the reasonable conclusion that, even in the fourth year of the decade, the Sixties hadn’t really started happening yet. Kenny Ball keeping it trad, dad. The high-kicking Frankie Vaughan, with his hammy old variety act. Brenda Lee, Mike Berry, Maureen Evans and Cliff Richard, all sweetly crooning away on Tin Pan Alley. Del Shannon, representing the tired fag end of Fifties rock and roll.

And now – crashing right into the middle of all this staleness, and blowing it right out of the water in one fell swoop – nothing less than the sound of the future. The Beatles, with their first major hit, Please Please Me, sounding so advanced by comparison that they come across as positively alien. Everything feels different here: rhythms, harmonies, arrangements, the unpredictable melodic twists and turns, and the sheer youthful energy and urgency on display. The Sixties had finally started.

While admiring her immensely as a vocalist, and especially as a performer, there was still always something about Annie Lennox which kept me at bay. Maybe it was all the stuff which surrounded her. Her marketing. Her ubiquity. Her positioning within the self-congratulatory aristocracy of rock. Those Brit awards every single goddam year. Her essential safeness. Those sometimes dodgy Eurythmics albums. Dave Stewart. However, I couldn’t deny that she had her moments. Walking On Broken Glass was one of them – and for me, Little Bird was the other. You could keep all those ponderous, glacial ballads on the Diva album – I liked Annie Lennox best when she was at her most obviously Pop. And this is a right belter of a pop record, containing so many progressions that I found it impossible to limit this excerpt on the accompanying MP3 to just one minute. The accompanying 12″ remixes were great as well – especially the Todd Terry mix, which soundtracked plenty of top nights out in our scuzzy local gay club.

Justin Timberlake is, of course, pop’s current Golden Boy. The former boy band member who – in true Robbie Williams style – has taken control of his career, gaining ever-soaring popularity amongst The Kids, and even the beginnings of critical acceptance from the Grown-Ups. In the latter respect, that recent Top Of The Pops appearance with the Flaming Lips certainly didn’t do him any harm. Neither did enlisting the services of the hip-hop guru Timbaland on this track (he’s the man who gave us such ground-breaking tracks as Missy Elliott’s Get Ur Freak On and Aaliyah’s Try Again). There is a crisp, vibrant freshness here. We all love Justin now, don’t we? Don’t we?

The last time that Eddy Grant‘s Electric Avenue was in the charts – in remixed form, a couple of years ago – we had all just switched offices, to a bleak site in the middle of a semi-industrial wasteland on the edge of the city. No nearby pubs, no nice shops (unless you counted the carpet warehouse and the DIY superstore), nowhere to go at lunchtime (unless you counted the nearby Harry Ramsdens fish and chip emporium). For a committed urbanite such as myself, the culture shock was severe. And what was the name of the windswept, anonymous piece of landscaped tarmac which led up to our new offices? You’ve guessed it. Electric Sodding Avenue. Every day as I walked past the street sign in those first few weeks, Eddy Grant’s voice would start reverberating mockingly in my head. “We’re gonna rock down to Electric Avenue, and then we’ll take it higher…” I used to have a certain fondness for this track. Now, it is forever tainted with memories of my bleak daily half-hour trudge. Which is a crying shame.

I never knew what to make of Part Of The Union, which was a hit back in the days of endless strikes and Three Day Weeks, when the trade unions still wielded real power in this country. Were The Strawbs celebrating, denigrating, or merely commentating? Probably the latter, I suppose. Anyway: this piece of folk-club-singalong whimsy, although an interesting sociological period piece of sorts, has not aged at all well.

My votes: 1 – The Beatles. 2 – Annie Lennox. 3 – Justin Timberlake. 4 – Eddy Grant. 5 – The Strawbs. K’s votes are in the comments.

Over to you. The Seventies have been enjoying a run of success, but I rather suspect that The Strawbs are about to put paid to all that. Will the Beatles lead a rearguard surge for the Sixties, or will Annie Lennox shore up the faltering Nineties? Or are we all Justin fans now? The choice is yours.

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Which decade is Tops for Pops? (7/10)

“For the first time, I’m battling to decide which is the best, rather than the worst.” (David)

It’s day 7, and it’s the Number Fours

1963: Little Town Flirt – Del Shannon.
1973: You’re So Vain – Carly Simon.
1983: Sign Of The Times – The Belle Stars.
1993: The Love I Lost – West End featuring Sybil.
2003: Stole – Kelly Rowland.

Your patience has been rewarded. Today’s selection is possibly the strongest yet, with four singles that I could easily have awarded 5 points to on other, less worthy days.

Plus one that I couldn’t. Del Shannon is one of those names that regularly pop up in lists of early 1960s hitmakers, and yet there is definitely something of the also-ran about him. In fact, beyond a certain familiarity with a couple of his other hits (Runaway, Hats Off To Larry), I know absolutely nothing about him. Was he British or American? Was he cute? What happened to him after the hits dried up? Has anyone ever quoted him as an influence on their work?

(Pause, as I discover that the man is even struggling for recognition on his own domain name, the front page of www.delshannon.com being primarily concerned with plugging a tribute act. Now, that’s sad.)

A routine piece of hack-work, Little Town Flirt already sounds four or five years out of date. Un point to Del.

That was easy to sort out. Now things get more difficult. Both Sign Of The Times and The Love I Lost are singles which I bought and loved at the time, for no particularly deep reasons. They were just fun – and “fun” has always been one of my key aesthetics of Pop. Listening to them again now, I therefore find it hard to discount the associated warm glow of nostalgia, and to give them an objective assessment instead. But if I am going to be strict-but-fair, then I suppose that in the final analysis, West End featuring Sybil‘s cover of the Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes classic is, well, a bit on the cheesy side. Although much classier than most examples of that ilk, it’s still just a dancey cover version – albeit one which carries powerful associations with some top nights out. Deux points to Sybil.

The Belle Stars are represented here by their finest hour. Bright, fresh, breezy stuff, which is only hampered by a rather synthetic production that hasn’t aged too well. Great tune, though. Trois points to the Belles.

Time for the next dilemma. The beautiful and talented Kelly Rowland offers further proof that she has far more to offer than merely supplying backing vocals for Beyoncé Knowles in Destiny’s Child. Whereas last year’s duet with Nelly (Dilemma) limited her to endlessly repeating the same melodically repetitive chorus (“No matter what I do, all I think about is you…”), Stole gives Kelly Rowland a chance to truly shine. It’s a gorgeous piece of work, and possibly my current favourite single of the moment. So how do I go about comparing it with Carly Simon‘s acknowledged classic? It’s quite impossible. Will Stole also still be fondly remembered in thirty years time? Or does that even matter? Do I accede to seniority, and mark down the precocious young upstart accordingly? Or do I strike a blow for the New over the Old?

You’re So Vain is distinctive, unique, and damn nearly faultless. Meanwhile, Stole maybe doesn’t do quite enough to transcend its genre. If you don’t like R&B, then you might dismiss it as “just another faceless R&B track”. You’d be wrong of course, but at least I can appreciate the logic. Kelly gets four points, and Carly gets five.

My votes: 1 – Carly Simon. 2 – Kelly Rowland. 3 – Belle Stars. 4 – West End featuring Sybil. 5 – Del Shannon. K’s votes are in the comments.

Over to you. As with Laura Branigan and Duran Duran on Saturday (and it’s still not too late to vote retrospectively on that), I’m predicting a closely fought battle today. Although I can’t see poor old Del Shannon picking up many points – can you?

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Which decade is Tops for Pops? (6/10)

Today, it gets better. After yesterday, how could it not?

Day 6, and we’re into the Top Five for this week in the past five decades. Here come the Number Fives

1963: Bachelor Boy – Cliff Richard.
1973: Daniel – Elton John.
1983: Change – Tears For Fears.
1993: Deep – East 17.
2003: Don’t Worry – Appleton.

For the first time since this project began, I find that I can cheerfully live with all five of today’s selections. Elton John is the obvious classic here, complete with its staring-you-in-the-face, ooh-but-we-didn’t-realise-at-the-time depiction of unabashed homosexual longing. The line “Daniel my brother” threw us all off the scent, you see. Such innocent times.

Speaking of…well, you know…Cliff Richard has to come next. Eerily prophetic, as you hardly need me to point out. Although obviously, Cliff’s declared lifestyle choice is entirely due to classic “fear of commitment” issues. (Good grief – I’ve just remembered that I was dreaming about Cliff’s friend Mary Whitehouse last night. And Zsa Zsa Gabor. What’s going on in that subconscious of mine?) Great tune, and indelibly linked to Summer Holiday, which will always be one of the best films ever ever ever, so there.

This is where the decisions get tough. After careful consideration, I’m giving my three points to those Appleton sisters – formerly half of All Saints, one of whom is married to Liam Gallagher. This is despite their rather annoying “the world owes us a living” public personas, and their “haven’t we finished yet, the Met Bar’s open and we’ve got much better things to do than stand around here for much longer” performance style. Simply put, Don’t Worry is a perfectly well crafted and pleasant pop record – admittedly not up to the standard of All Saints, but respectable enough all the same.

I was never particularly fond of Tears For Fears – too wet, too limp, too thin, too drippy, like a piece of soggy green lettuce in the colourful salad bowl that was Eighties Pop. (Hey, it’s not yet noon on a Sunday, and I’m waxing metaphorical already. This is going to be a good day!) However, they could pen a decent tune at times, and this is one of their better efforts.

As for East 17 – they really were the Blazin’ Squad of their day, weren’t they? It’s those Home Counties Homeboy accents again. Compare and contrast with Reminisce, if you will. East 17 are heaps better, aren’t they? It’s the leeriness that puts them ahead, I think. Unlike their perpetual rivals Take That, who tempered their exposed nipples with sweet smiles and general all-round wholesomeness, East 17’s appeal was unmistakeably skanky, dirty, love-bites-in-the-bus-shelter, are-ya-shaggin-me-or-wot? And we need a bit of that in the charts, don’t we? Having said all that – I suppose that Deep is a bit of a low-rent botch job at the end of the day, even if it does make me smile fondly and indulgently. Oh, you boys!

My votes: 1 – Elton John. 2 – Cliff Richard. 3 – Appleton. 4 – Tears For Fears. 5 – East 17. K’s votes are in the comments.

Over to you. The 1980s have now taken over from the 1970s at the top. Will Elton John help to push the 1970s back up there, I wonder?

Continue reading “Which decade is Tops for Pops? (6/10)”

Which decade is Tops for Pops? (5/10)

It gets worse, I’m afraid.

Day 5 brings us the Number 6 singles for this week in the past five decades. And guess what? They’re the biggest pile of old toss yet. Things can’t sink any lower than this, can they? Can they?

Let’s open the trap doors and bring them on, then. Steel yourselves, people. This isn’t going to be pretty.

1963: Loop-De-Loop – Frankie Vaughan.
1973: Long Haired Lover From Liverpool – Little Jimmy Osmond.
1983: Gloria – Laura Branigan.
1993: Ordinary World – Duran Duran.
2003: Songbird – Oasis.

With this cheerily moronic pub singalong, Frankie Vaughan could rightfully claim to be the DJ Otzi of his day. At least Little Jimmy Osmond was too young to know better.

Although – if I’m going to be strictly honest here – I did rather like Long Haired Lover From Liverpool in its day. Partly because I was still too young to care about Cool, partly because I could play the tune on my recorder, partly because Little Jimmy was the voice of my generation (kids in the charts – yippee!), and partly because I was always partial to a Novelty Hit back then.

Novelty Hits said to me that anything could get in the charts. They kept things fresh, surprising and fun. One month, it would be Lieutenant Pigeon’s Mouldy Old Dough, with a plump old dear bashing away at the Joanna. Another month, a bunch of bagpipers skirling through Amazing Grace, which I could also play on the recorder (and did, at great length, much to the annoyance of everyone around me). Or else it might be Benny Hill, bringing us Ernie’s ghostly gold-tops, a-rattlin’ in their crate, or Ray Stevens (“Don’t Look, Ethel!”) singing about coo gosh, naked people, in The Streak. I loved all that stuff. In which case, perhaps it wasn’t too surprising that I was only 18 months away from getting into the full-on intergalactic whimsy that was Gong.

Despite enjoying something of a commercial and critical renaissance last year (up to a point, at least), Oasis are back to scraping the barrel with this tossed-off-in-five-minutes-flat piece of inconsequential whimsy. Not much more than two minutes long, and yet after the first minute it’s more or less all over bar the strumming. Lazy, complacent, pointless. Only a certain residual folksy charm saves it from the last two positions in my vote.

Back in 1993, the once ubiquitous Duran Duran had long been consigned to the dumper, with two original band members gone and no Top Ten hits in the past four years. Ordinary World (and its follow-up, Come Undone) marked a brief and unexpected comeback for the group, much in the same way as Adam Ant had bafflingly resurfaced three years earlier with Room At The Top. The song is certainly not without merit, in particular its soaringly memorable chorus and some nice guitar figures towards the end. On the other hand, isn’t it just a bit of a plodding dirge at heart?

Which leaves a rather surprised looking Laura Branigan sitting at the top of my heap, by default rather than on account of any particular merit. Gloria was one of the first of those rather nasty rock-disco fusion records which briefly cluttered up the US charts in 83 and 84 – the most notable example being Michael Sembello’s Maniac (a guilty pleasure of mine, as it happens). But the queens all loved it, of course. They – and I – went on to love Laura even more the following year, when she unleashed the absolutely fan-TAST-ic Self Control on the world (“I live among the creatures of the night!”). Compared to that, Gloria is as nothing. But at least it’s got “a catchy tune and a good beat to it”, as callers to Tony Blackburn’s “National Pop Panel” used to say without fail, every single sodding weekday afternoon in the late 1970s. And for today, a catchy tune and a good beat is all you need to get yourself cinq points from moi. Pass the poppers, the chorus is coming up!

My votes: 1 – Laura Branigan. 2 – Duran Duran. 3 – Oasis. 4 – Little Jimmy Osmond. 5 – Frankie Vaughan. K’s votes are in the comments.

Over to you. We haven’t yet had a winner from the Eighties or the Sixties. I can’t see Frankie Vaughan topping today’s poll, but will Laura Branigan go all the way? Oo-er!

Oh, and a quick reminder, as Chig thinks some of you might be cheating. Although to be fair, I don’t think any of you are. Bastion of integrity, this place. Anyway, the reminder is this: please don’t vote unless you actually have heard all the tracks in question, preferably via the medley MP3 of course. But you were doing that already, weren’t you?

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