Which decade is Tops for Pops? (2/10)

Day 2 of the project brings us the Number 9 singles for this week in 1963, 1973, 1983, 1993 and 2003.

1963: All Alone Am I – Brenda Lee.
1973: Sylvia – Focus.
1983: Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do) – Wham!
1993: Stairway To Heaven – Rolf Harris.
2003: Lose Yourself – Eminem.
Listen to a short medley (about a minute each) of all five songs.
(Apologies for the iffy sound quality on the Brenda Lee, by the way.)

After yesterday’s rather motley selection of Number Tens, I think you’ll agree that the quality rises sharply today – with one glaring exception, that is. I wonder whether anyone will place Rolf Harris any higher than fifth? (The particular problem I have with Rolf: when this was a hit, my hearty, rugger-buggerish, Antipodean line manager at the time – a perfectly nice guy in most ways – thought it was one of the funniest records ever made, and used to wander round the office quoting it and giggling. As I was at the time deeply miserable in my job, I can still never hear the line “How does it affect you blokes?” without shuddering.)

Brenda Lee delivers a competent ballad in a suitably plaintive style, but maybe its stock sentiments are just a little bit too run-of-the-mill Tin Pan Alley. Which leaves three great singles with barely a hair’s breadth between them.

As a precocious eleven year old, the Focus single blew my little socks off – as did its follow-up, Hocus Pocus. I’ve even got a copy of their Moving Waves album up in the attic, unplayed since the 1970s. Jan Akkerman and Thijs Van Leer, where are you now?

As for Wham Rap! – I bought the original (flop) 12-inch version of this in the summer of 1982, back when Wham! still had considerable lashings of street cred (no, really – they did!) Ever the snooty “I heard them first!” indie kid, I actually thought they “sold out” when Bad Boys was released (with the following year’s Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go coming as the final betrayal).

But the true classic here has to be Eminem’s Lose Yourself – one of his most arresting singles to date, and one of my favourite singles from the past couple of months. I love its epic, widescreen quality, which lifts it above some of his more routine whinings (such as the ultimately annoying Cleaning Out My Closet).

My votes: 1 – Eminem. 2 – Wham! 3 – Focus. 4 – Brenda Lee. 5 – Rolf Harris. K’s votes are in the comments box below.

Over to you. Remember – no tied places, and no omissions. Will Rolf Harris surprise us all, and provide the 1990s with a second consecutive victory? Democracy is a strange and wonderful thing.

Running totals so far – Number 9s.

2003: Lose Yourself – Eminem. (110)

His politics are appalling, but his skill with rhythms and internal rhymes make him the only white boy who can rap. (Asta)

easily his best single after stan. to everybody carping about him being a dickhead – isn’t that the point? but the boy can rap. (Noodle)

It really is a shame to lose your chance to blow. (Junio)

And I was sure the Naughties were crap. (Gert)

1983: Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do) – Wham! (87)

wham invented rap you know. but they also wore those really thin slipper type shoes with jeans rolled up above their ankles. and had big rubbish hair. when this song was out boys called them poofs (dancing round the totp studios with those 2 beards. paul weller married the black one you know). then suddenly they weren’t poofs and the boys that called them poofs were packing into wembley stadium to watch ms michael pull shuttlecocks from under his foreskin. these comments are littered with inaccuracies. sorry. (Dave)

Wham! A couple of Dole Boyz from Norff London being cocky and in-yer-face. If you were around in Thatcher’s Britain at the time then you’ll know they got it exactly right. “So you don’t approve? Who asked you to?” Abso-bloody-lutely perfect. (Nigel R (the UK one))

Sorry I can’t vote, as I will not listen to Wham. (Peter)

1963: All Alone Am I – Brenda Lee. (77)

Heart-broken divas get me crying into my gin and tonic every time. But this is just so run-of-the-mill, the pap churned out by the ton in the early sixties. (Nigel R (the UK one))

1973: Sylvia – Focus. (71)

Sorry Mike, but Focus made me want to tear my headphones off in a rabid frenzy. (Steve)

It’s no Hocus Pocus is it. (Stereoboard)

Insipid stuff to listen to in the hairdressers. (Nigel R (the UK one))

The reason punk rock was invented. (Gert)

Come on, anything with that much Hammond Organ MUST be a good thing. (Gordon)

1993: Stairway To Heaven – Rolf Harris. (45)

Good idea until all the young trendies insisted it was cool. (Gert)

Rolf, I used to love you for Two Little Boys, but now, for this, you are an idiot. (Stereoboard)

“All together now..” AARGH!! (Gordon)

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