Which decade is Tops for Pops? (1/10)

Just under a year ago, I did a comparative evaluation of the Top Ten singles from the same week in five different decades, in an attempt to establish which decade was truly Tops for Pops. (Result at the time: the Seventies.) However, it was a bit of a half-baked job, as I didn’t actually bother to sit down and listen to each of the songs before making a decision. In fact, I had never even knowingly heard some of the songs that were listed. Disgraceful, I know.
So this year – and to mark the week of my birthday – I’m going to redo the exercise properly. And this time round, I’m also going to invite your participation.

This is how it’s going to work, then.


I’ve collected together the entire Top 10 singles for this week in 1963, 1973, 1983, 1993 and 2003. Each day for the next ten days, I will be publishing details of the five matching songs which are up for comparison. Thus today, we’ll comparing the singles at #10 in each year – tomorrow will be the #9 singles – and so on, up to the #1 singles on the final day.

To make things easier, I’ll also be posting a short MP3 medley of the five songs in question, containing around a minute or so of each.

Your job is to listen to each song (most probably using the medley MP3) and to cast your votes accordingly in the comments box for that day. You’ll need to put all five songs in strict order – no tied positions, and no omissions. Even if you loathe all five songs from the bottom of your soul, you’re still going to have to order them somehow. Tough, eh?

I will then award points to each song accordingly, using the old “inverse points” method. The total for each song will then be added to the cumulative total for each decade, with the favourite getting 5 points, the second favourite getting 4 points, and so on. Thus at the end of the ten days, we’ll have a combined comparative total for each of the five decades. That way, we’ll know once and for all…which decade is Tops for Pops!

Was all that clear enough?
It wasn’t?
Ach, don’t worry too much. You’ll get the hang of it soon enough.


Here we go with Day One, then: the Number 10 singles for this week in 1963, 1973, 1983, 1993 and 2003.

1963: Sukiyaki – Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen.
1973: Roll Over Beethoven – Electric Light Orchestra.
1983: Oh Diane – Fleetwood Mac.
1993: Sweet Harmony – The Beloved.
2003: Stop Living The Lie – David Sneddon.
Listen to a short medley (about a minute each) of all five songs.

To kick things off (and just in case nobody else decides to have a go, which is entirely possible), here are my own deliberations.

The turkey of the pile for me is, quite clearly, David Sneddon. The charts have frequently been riddled with winners of TV talent shows in the past – most notably in the Seventies, when Opportunity Knocks and New Faces were in full swing. Berni Flint, Candlewick Green, Showaddywaddy, Sheer Elegance, Lena Zavaroni…these were the true spiritual heirs of Hear’say, Will Young, Girls Aloud and David Sneddon. The only difference now is that TV talent show winners automatically go to Number 1 rather than Number 8. The songs and performances are usually as crummy as ever, though.

Both the Fleetwood Mac and the ELO records are exercises in souped-up 1950’s nostalgia, but with wildly varying levels of success. Where ELO rock out, symphonically, Fleetwood Mac merely plop along, drippily. Besides which, without Stevie Nicks on lead vocals, Fleetwood Mac are as nothing. The fragment of ELO on this medley doesn’t perhaps do the track full justice; a couple of minutes later, the strings are sawing away in full effect, with a rather wonderful Beethoven’s Fifth-style melodic counterpoint to Chuck Berry’s original song.

It’s difficult to say much about the Kenny Ball track other than: It’s Trad, Dad. Fairly bog-standard trad, at that – but harmless enough. Which leaves The Beloved. Stylistically and subjectively, the Beloved track is the one that’s most up my particular street, being all chugging electro-disco. However, I do have to admit that it’s not one of their strongest efforts – too simplistic, too few ideas going on.

My votes are as follows, then.
1. ELO
2. The Beloved
3. Kenny Ball
4. Fleetwood Mac
5. David Sneddon.
(You’ll also find K’s votes in the comments box below.)

Now it’s your turn. Let’s sort this out once and for all, shall we? [turns and points to camera] Which decade really is…Tops for Pops?

Oh, this could be so much fun!
[claps hands together repeatedly, in short swift movements]

Running totals so far – Number 10s.

1993: Sweet Harmony – The Beloved. (99)

i despised the beloved. and a man called adam. professional ibiza’ers. cnuts. (Dave)

1973: Roll Over Beethoven – Electric Light Orchestra. (90)

we admire the craft now, but weren’t they always just a bit square? (noodle)

I have been known to dance to ELO when I’m drunk. (Stereoboard)

1963: Sukiyaki – Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen. (76)

Musically, I just have to say that Kenny Ball is the most interesting of the lot. Reminds me of a Brit-sitcom opening theme, which is good (for me). (trev!)

simple and feel-good – got me swinging about pretending to be at a House of Elliot fashion collection launch party. (Luca)

Thinking about Kenny Ball brings to mind Mike Yarwood and 1970s Saturday night television variety shows. Bland but unobjectionable. (Junio)

by the time kenny released this, Ornette Coleman had already recorded Free Jazz. fuck off you bowler hatted buffoons. (noodle)

1983: Oh Diane – Fleetwood Mac. (58)

cinq points (prob’ly just my taste for dead-eyed cocaine divorce shiny emptiness) (noodle)

The Reynolds Girls were surely thinking of this when they penned “I’d rather Jack”. (Steve)

I didn’t know Fleetwood Mac ever got this bad. (Stereoboard)

They wouldn’t do very well on Pop Idol with this, would they. (Junio)

2003: Stop Living The Lie – David Sneddon. (37)

I’ve always thought that ‘Oh Diane’ by Fleetwood Mac was one of the most banal, awful records ever written. Alas for David Sneddon, he rates lower than that. (Diamond Geezer)

who *is* this man? The offspring of a night of passion between Ronan Keating and Marty Pellow? – both not my favourite singers. (Luca)

SNEDDON? Come on now, if you’re going to do that pop star “catch in your voice” thing, you might as well do the pop star “change your name to something not entirely naff” thing too. Perhaps to something cool like Seddon. (He also sounds like he needs new false teeth whenever he sings a word that begins with S.) (Junio)

thanks for shitting all over the grave of pop, dave. now go away and take your chartered accountant’s name with you. (noodle)

None of these songs sound as if they come from the decade they’re supposed to. The Kenny Ball track should come from the fifties, the Beloved one sounds as if it was made in the eighties, I suppose the ELO one in combining fifties rock-n-roll with a sixties Beatles sound could only have been made in the seventies, the Fleetwood Mac one has a sixties sound and the David Sneddon one sounds as though it was recorded in the nineties. (Amanda)

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