Which decade is Tops for Pops? (4/10)

“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.”

A telling comment yesterday from djg, who I suspect might be speaking for a few of you. Maybe the real lesson to emerge from this project will be that the charts have always been full of crap.

Or maybe not. Maybe all the solid gold classics are yet to come. Who can say?

(Well, I can say. But I won’t.)

Day 4 then, which brings us the Number 7 singles for this week in the past five decades. Fingers at the ready, panel!

1963: Like I Do – Maureen Evans.
1973: Wishing Well – Free.
1983: Up Where We Belong – Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes.
1993: Exterminate – Snap!
2003: If You’re Not The One – Daniel Bedingfield.

So what do you reckon, then? My view: there are two Corkers, two Clunkers, and one which floats about somewhere in the middle.

Let’s dispose of the Clunkers first, then. Snap! had already given the world a couple of fairly enjoyable commercial dance hits: The Power and Rhythm Is A Dancer. You might not have liked them, but you couldn’t deny that they at least had a certain efficiency. In contrast, Exterminate runs out of ideas almost as soon as it has started. Thirty seconds in, and I was bored already.

As for Cocker & Warnes: I can only hope that they were paid well for this sub-Christopher Cross drivel. Actually, it had never occurred to me before that anything could be fairly described as “sub-Christopher Cross”, but that gruesome electric piano alone is almost enough to push me over the edge. The other tragedy of this record: Joe and Jennifer are both worth so much more than this. After all, this is the man who sang Delta Lady, and this is the woman who went on to produce that timelessly wonderful album of Leonard Cohen covers, Famous Blue Raincoat. It is only their residual vocal talent which lifts this effort one point ahead of Exterminate.

What of Daniel Bedingfield, though? K detests this, and wasted no time in placing it last. As for me: most of my instincts are telling me it’s drivel, and yet, and yet…there’s something curiously beguiling about the melody, which has slowly sneaked up on me in the past few weeks. I don’t hate it. It registers with me somewhere along the line. I’m not altogether sure this is a good thing.

Let us now turn our mind to happier things. With Focus, Status Quo and now Free, February 1973 was clearly a great time for patched and be-denimmed Hairy Rock of the old school. Where did I put my army greatcoat? And where are my Permaprints posters, as ordered from the back of Sounds? (Note: readers under 40 probably have no idea what I’m on about here.) Anyway, Wishing Well still sounds as mighty as ever to these ears. It’s a hirsute, beer-stained, faded blue lump of sheer unreconstructed testosterone, with dirty nails, split ends and the unmistakeable whiff of patchouli oil and Lebanese Black. Top of my pile, then.

Finally, and in complete contrast: a forgotten gem from Maureen Evans, which I had never heard until now. Like yesterday’s Mike Berry track before it, the subject matter of Like I Do is quite unmistakeably sexual: something which I hadn’t expected to find in seemingly innocuous early Sixties Tin Pan Alley pop. On this tune, Maureen Evans deftly spins her web of sexual jealousy, accompanied by some deliciously mocking string counterpoints. I imagine her standing there, smiling oh-so-sweetly, her eyes narrowing in spite all the while. Anyhow, the message comes across loud and clear: Bet she’s a crap shag. Serves you right for dumping me, you bastard.

Oh yeah, and the melody. Does it sound familiar at all? Because K and I were singing along to it from the first line: “Hello Muddah. Hello Faddah. Here I am at Camp Grenada…” Again, you youngsters probably have no idea what I’m on about.

My votes: 1 – Free. 2 – Maureen Evans. 3 – Daniel Bedingfield. 4 – Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes. 5 – Snap! As always, K’s votes are in the comments box below.

Over to you. We’ve now had winners from the 80s, 90s and 00s. Is it time for Maureen Evans to swing it for the 60s, or will Free bring it on home for the 70s? Use your votes wisely…

Running totals so far – Number 7s.

1973: Wishing Well – Free. (118)

Burnt into the party-pack consciousness of every spotty teenager from the Seventies. Only to be listened to after a minimum of five Snakebites, in the middle of a soggy dancefloor, when all the girls you had a crush on have turned you down and you really can’t understand why, you idiot. (Nigel R (the UK one))

I can’t believe I’m admitting I like this, but it’s one of those tunes that’s stuck with me. And it brings to mind the tabloid headlines about David Kosoff’s pain at his rocker son David’s drug addiction. (Junio)

I haven’t heard this for years and years. It hasn’t aged well. Still I remember quite liking it. There’s something mysterious and appealing about that wishing well. (Amanda)

His voice sounds a bit like Colin Blunstone which I can’t help but fall for. (Elisabeth)

good song, pedestrian execution. i prefer gary moore’s version (noodle)

No, it’s from that dreary dirgy rock genre that put me off pop music in the early 70s. (Gert)

1963: Like I Do – Maureen Evans. (90)

First time I’ve heard this one, but already in my catalogue of you-dumped-me-you-snivelling-little-bastard-but-how-I’ll-enjoy-making-you-pay songs. Sung so straight it ends up delicious with venom. (Nigel R (the UK one))

So brilliant to put those lyrics on that familiar melody – isn’t it Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” (also featured in Disney’s “Fantasia”)? (Luca)

“Dance of the Hours” makes me think of piano lessons. *shudder* (Su(zi)e)

It’s got that Doris Day ‘Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps’ feel to it; not as good though. (Amanda)

Would have ranked higher except for the Camp Granada melody. (Asta)

i used to love “camp granada” as played by ed stewpot stewart. it kind of detracts from this song’s credibility. and the guitar sounds like hank bloody marvin. (noodle)

1983: Up Where We Belong – Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes. (81)

This is the sort of thing I usually loath. An overblown power ballad full of manipulative and fake emotion beloved by Hollywood where it’s used so you can sit there with tears glistening in your eyes as the credits roll (An Officer And A Gentlemen, wasn’t it?). It’s the sort of territory that Celine Dion has made her own. However, I can’t find it in my heart to hate this one, maybe it’s the singing, maybe it’s a well-constructed song, maybe it’s just a better example of the genre. (Amanda)

Over-orchestrating the schmaltz and syrup but alarmingly effective on Closet Softies like me. Surprisingly penned by 60s protester, Buffy Sainte-Marie, who also wrote Until It’s Time For You To Go, and who, unlike Joe and Jen, always delivered her love lyrics in a refreshingly lo-cal way. (Nigel R (the UK one))

I don’t want diss this one too much, since it was written by a Canadian (Buffy St. Marie), but I’m afraid it’s quite, quite awful. A good ballad (like Daniel’s) should make you feel sentimental. This, I guess, is meant to be “inspirational”, but like Bette Midler’s schlockfests, it suffocates under its syrupy Hallmark self. (Elisabeth)

Will forever remind me of a brief stay in hospital, where the in-house radio station would play this over and over. (Alex M)

My dislike of this track is proportional to the number of times I had to play it on the Request Show I used to host on hospital radio. Elton John’s Sacrifice and that damn Lady in Red were the other two ‘most-requested’ week after week after week after…. (Gordon)

When did producers decide to use such heavy reverb on the vocals while keeping the bed tracks so “close”? It’s just irritating to me (production wise). Jennifer’s voice is lovely, Joe is capable of much better! (trev!)

Such a waste of talent (Asta)

Joe – you were at Woodstock. What were you thinking? (Stereoboard)

I hasten to add that in any other list, Bedingfield would’ve been bottom, but I loathe Cocker/Warnes with a passion only beaten by the bile of a thousand demons. (Lyle)

2003: If You’re Not The One – Daniel Bedingfield. (77)

So this is what the young people are listening to today, is it? Although it’s nothing special, I surprised myself by liking both it and his plaintive whimpering, which, however, wouldn’t have been out of place any time since the 80s.. Best listened to after five Smirnoff Ices, and I bet spotty teenagers will be snogging to this for years to come. Ahh, pop music, don’t you love it? (Nigel R (the UK one))

I can imagine lovesick 13 year olds across the country listening to this over and over, much as I would have done at that age (my ballad vice then was Corey Hart though…) Secretly quite like this one. (Elisabeth)

Sniggered at it for a while, now fond of it as it comforted me through hard times (OK, I cried along it on many a Wednesday lately). (Luca)

i hate his pugnacious face on principle, but the production is lush. (noodle)

I shouldn’t like this song, but I do. The melody is quite catchy and lovely production. (trev!)

I imagine it would grow on me if I let it. (Gert)

That heartbeat rhythm is very calculated, isn’t it? (Amanda)

Why do all these 00 artists, none of whom I’m heard of have such completely and utterly UN-show-bizzy names? It’s inoffensive. (Junio)

This bloke is passing me by. I do hope it stays that way. (Stereoboard)

1993: Exterminate – Snap! (69)

diabolical cheap nothingness, and those horrid Enigmaesque pan pipes make me want to scream. (Elisabeth)

i may have spent too many nights sitting shitfaced in the corners of tawdry nightclubs daydreaming to this sort of thing (noodle)

They are capable of creating better than this, but it’s still not too bad. The whole “trance-meets-world-music-fusion” thing did become a little over done, but still nice. (trev!)

A bit of drum & bass influence there, and an Enigma flute. Not enough. (David)

I can’t even dance to this. And I can dance to anything. (Nigel R (the UK one))

Even they sound bored. (Asta)

Decade scores so far (after 3 days).
1. The 1980s (11) — Deely boppers! Red braces! Lacquered black ash!
2. The 1970s (10) — Anthea Redfern! Curly Wurlys! Decimalisation!
3. The 1990s (9) — Chris Evans! New age crystals! This Life!
4. The 1960s (8) — Flower Power! Smashing Time! Simon Dee!
5. The 2000s (7) — Reality TV! Tate Modern! Kate Thornton!

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