Which decade is Tops for Pops? (3/10)

Day 3, and we’re onto the Number 8 singles for this week in the past five decades.

1963: Don’t You Think It’s Time – Mike Berry.
1973: Paper Plane – Status Quo.
1983: You Can’t Hurry Love – Phil Collins.
1993: How Can I Love You More? – M People.
2003: Reminisce – Blazin’ Squad.

This was my first encounter with the Mike Berry record (complete with its bizarre “is this really playing at the right speed?” introduction). A certain period-kitsch charm aside, this is essentially a fairly slight, forgettable ditty – except that I have actually begun to find something rather creepy about it. The singer is basically trying to pop his girlfriend’s cherry – most likely late at night in a deserted graveyard, by the sounds of it – and is using every sly, manipulative trick in the book to do it. I’m particularly struck by his mention of the church bells, carrying as they do the implicit yet comfortably vague suggestion of future nuptial bliss ahead. Fall for that one love, and you’ll fall for anything! Men are pigs! Knee the smarmy bugger in the groin, then keep running and don’t look back!

Status Quo and M People are both acts which are liable to induce automatic groans of withering contempt these days – and yet in the actual years in question, both were seen as breaths of fresh air. Paper Plane was the Quo’s big comeback hit, which kick-started the rest of their career. Their brand of boogie had yet to become stale and formularised – we were still a good four years away from the likes of Rockin’ All Over The World, Again And Again, and the descent into self-parody. In 1973, the Quo were where it was at, maaan. They were also the first act which K saw live in concert – a fact with which I love to make him squirm (he saw them six times, you know!) Anyway, what I’m saying is this: you have to try not to view the band’s early work through the distorting mirror of their later work.

The same holds true for Heather “Pineapple Head” Small, Mike “Bad Sax Mime” Pickering, and the rest of the People They Call M. Although it had already grazed the lower end of the Top 40, the reissued and remixed (by Sasha) version of How Can I Love You More? was the band’s breakthrough hit – and for a while after that, they were awfully, awfully popular, right across the board. One Night In Heaven, Moving On Up, Renaissance…ah, c’mon, don’t tell me you didn’t enjoy them at the time? How were we to know that, like the Quo before them, M People were little more than a one trick pony, whose trick would pall even more quickly? It was a good trick while it lasted. That’s all I’m saying.

Onto Phil Collins, then – the man who was memorably described by Julie Burchill as looking as if he had a stocking placed permanently over his head. Now, this may surprise you, but I loved this single when it came out. There, I’ve said it. In fact – and despite his many, many heinous crimes against music, and the whole ghastly 1980s mindset which he came to represent – when it comes to Phil, I’m going to have to line myself up with the US hip-hop/R&B community (who even produced a tribute album to the man last year). He Did Some Good Stuff. At his best (and okay, so it wasn’t that often), he was capable of producing simple, direct, heartfelt, soulful tunes with great melodies and lovely, musicianly arrangements which were sometimes understated, sometimes funky. He also had the good judgement to make repeated use of the brass section from Earth Wind & Fire, one of the mightiest acts ever to walk the face of the planet. So several plus points for that alone, I reckon.

You want examples? I’ll give you examples. I Missed Again, I Cannot Believe It’s True, If Leaving Me Is Easy (there was a great lover’s rock cover of that, by the way), Don’t Let Him Steal Your Heart Away, Sussudio…and yes, even his duet with EW&F’s Philip Bailey, Easy Lover, which was Number One when K and I first got together. And let’s not forget Paperlate and – especially – That’s All with Genesis, either. With tunes like those, I can readily forgive him the horrors of Against All Odds, In The Air Tonight (oh LORD!) and Another Day In Paradise. (Well OK – no-one should forgive him for Another Day In Paradise. I’m stretching my point now, aren’t I?)

So why You Can’t Hurry Love? Silly reasons, really. I didn’t know the song too well before, and – coming as it did at the height of my I’m-Coming-Out, I’ve-Got-To-Find-Me-A-Man phase – it struck a chord. In fact, as February and March of 1983 progressed, with their endless rounds of Saturday-night-down-the-club misjudgements and disappointments, it became something of a theme song. It also helped that the song had now been given a fairly sincere sounding male vocal delivery, rather than Miss Ross’s dreamily detached rendition of yore. I could, y’know, relate.

OK, I know you all still hate it. I’ve said me piece!

Actually, I’m just putting off having to think about Blazin’ Squad. Guess what? There’s actually a worse record in the current Top 10 than David Sneddon. At least Sneddo means well, in his dull, plodding, sweetly limited way. Whereas the Blazin’ Squad’s watered-down bastardisation of G-Funk, with its hilarious-if-it-wasn’t-so-tragic fake Home Counties Homeboy delivery, is nothing but a crushingly careerist, soul-deadening experience which turns my heart to lead. Must we fling this filth at our pop kids? Besides which, I haven’t yet forgiven them for completely wrecking one of my favourite singles of the 1990s, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s Tha Crossroads. A pox on all your houses, Da Squad!

My votes: 1 – Status Quo. 2 – M People. 3 – Phil Collins. 4 – Mike Berry. 5 – Blazin’ Squad. K’s votes are in the comments box below.

Over to you. So far, we’ve had a winner each from the 1990s and the 2000s. Is it time for one of the earlier decades to take over?

Running totals so far – Number 8s.

1983: You Can’t Hurry Love – Phil Collins. (108)

Such a good song it just doesn’t matter who does it. (Stereoboard)

Obviously a pale shadow (ba-dum-dum) of the original, but the song’s so good even he can’t screw it up too much. (Junio)

…sorry, but he murdered a fabulous Supremes song and turned it into white boy pish. (Elisabeth)

Twenty years ago this single was bought by the very people who are now running the country. Bland. Bland. Bland. I really do not like covers which don’t add to the original version, apart from being sung by a bloke, that is. Even Melanie (Safka) did a better cover of this. (Nigel R (the UK one))

started the 80s trend for shagging the corpse of motown (noodle)

1973: Paper Plane – Status Quo. (99)

Sounds really rockin’ and good! (Elisabeth)

Always had a soft spot for the Quo, and this is a fine example of their very own head-bangin’ wall of sound, way back before they became jokes. (Nigel R (the UK one))

Les Battersby (Coronation Street) has ruined Status Quo for me, but I must admit that they were fun and half-decent during this time. (trev!)

There really is only one “dance” move possible to this rhythm, isn’t there? (Junio)

OK, maybe they were new at it then, but it still sounds like the Heebeegeebees’ parody Boring Song. (David)

not their best song, but I lurve SQ in a non-thinking way. they simply do not take themselves at all seriously. (Gert)

noel gallagher hears this at wedding reception, thinks “hey, there’s a good idea for my entire bastard career” (noodle)

1993: How Can I Love You More? – M People. (93)

I like her voice OK? Plus I’m having problems sleeping at the moment and this is cheaper than Mogadon. Weren’t they responsible for Tony Blair though? (Nigel R (the UK one))

Yeah, I bought that album with them on sofas, but can’t bear her voice now. (David)

Evidence that the nineties are destined to become a decade that taste abandoned. (Steve)

…they’re so boring that I get a headache just looking at them. (Elisabeth)

1963: Don’t You Think It’s Time – Mike Berry. (79)

lovely early 60s production and faux-buddy holly vocals. (noodle)

Jingly and sweet, but losing points for the Buddy Holly-esqe “a-hey hey”-ing. (Steve)

There’s a certain cheeky charm to this, I suppose. (Nigel R (the UK one))

2003: Reminisce – Blazin’ Squad. (41)

Sounds like the sort of record a football team would release. (Junio)

Consider this: The people who have placed this at Number Eight include some of the people who will be running this country in twenty years’ time. (Nigel R (the UK one))

I have a soft spot for Blazin’ Squad – they smack of E17 x 4 but younger. And, if it’s actually possible, less personality, less talent and worse lyrics. And the singing! Just listen to those high notes on Love on the line or Reminisce, slathered with pitch control and reverb to try and get them vaguely on track. It never fails to crack me up. And do they make up those hard poses themselves? Brilliant!

Oh, and when we saw them on Top of the Pops once they were all secretly pissing themselves, so at least they know they’re rubbish. (Elisabeth)

would fail to dampen the knickers of an 11 year old with attention deficit disorder (noodle)

Not cuz I’m old, honest – it’s just shit. (David)

Today’s choices were tough – a godawful bunch of dross. To think some people believe that chart positions are a measure of a song’s quality… (Ben)

Can I vote all five as being 5th equal. I.e. all equally shonky and abysmal? (Lyle)

I’d cross the street to avoid hearing all of them. (Asta)

This may well be an exciting and historical musical experiment but we’ve had fifteen songs so far and I can count the number of good ones on one finger. (djg)

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