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…