Red Letter Days.

(posted by Mr. D.)

This year (this month, in fact) my beloved and I celebrated our 30th anniversary. Aaah.

Our daughter turned 21.

Our son stopped being a teenager. It was the first time for two years he’s been home to celebrate the day, which he shares with his mother. 20 years ago, I’d promised her a birthday present to remember and lying on her back, legs in the air, screaming for mercy, she had to agree with the midwife that it was different.

Come the summer, I reach 50. Can an atheist use the abbreviation OMG?

And today? My current company car is one year old! (An MG ZR 120 for the benefit of the petrolheads).

Parked up on the M25, I mentally calculated that with its previous 10 models stretching back to ’75, and at roughly 100,000 miles per car, I’ve clocked up over 1 million miles.

A one-man global warmer. Sorry, eco-warriors.

Who would win?

(posted by D)

Amazing the sort of guff that five blokes will come up with in a pub at lunchtime. It must be the combination of sunshine, good pub grub and a pint or two of beer.

“Who would win, right, who would win, in a fight between… an ostrich and a chimpanzee?”
“No, no, better yet, between a crocodile and a great white shark… that’d be a fight worth seeing.”
“Depends if they fought on land or in water. Maybe two rounds, one in water and one on land.”
“Then the shark’s gonna be wasted. How about between a bunch of pitbulls and a leopard?”
“Pitbulls are vicious, they’d tear it to shreds.”
“Hyena and… and… a squirrel.”
“Squirrel, no contest. They’ve got those claws and sharp teeth and they can beat other animals to death with their big bushy tails. They’re vicious little b*st*rds, they’ll mess you right up. How about… a mongoose and a mole?”
“Mongoose has the speed… moles have got that blind Daredevil-radar thing… they can probably do all that slow-motion ninja stuff Matrix-stylee too…”
“Don’t be a mong, they’ve got no room to jump around in, they’re stuck in tunnels all the time.”
“Fine, what about a polar bear and a rabbit then…”

Focus eventually shifted to the war coverage muted on the screen behind us.

“I reckon Saddam is dead. He must be, they cruise missiled him all the way to high heaven.”
“Nah, he’s made of stronger stuff than that.”
“What, like… he’s a robot?”
“Better. A cyborg.”
“A cyborg made of asbestos.”
“What the US needs is a moustache-seeker missile. Then they just fire them all into Baghdad and that’ll solve the problem pretty fast.”
“Better yet… they should airdrop mongooses and polar bears into Baghdad…”
“…mongooses and polar bears that’ve been trained to seek out people with moustaches…”
“…yeah… and even a cyborg-asbestos-Saddam wouldn’t be able to beat a pissed-off polar bear!”

I blame the beer.

SIZEMOLOGY. Size matters. Yes it does.

(posted by Mr. D.)

SM1. Mindlessly awaiting my turn in the barbers, I recalled a queue-related incident which this medium makes it easier to share. You’ll understand. And your gender will determine your reaction…

Some years ago, my beloved was temporarily between two regimes of contraception and I was advised to ‘take precautions’.

So, a nostalgic pilgrimage to the chemists then, where a plethora of old ladies had swarmed, to get prescriptions filled, each discuss several ailments with the very patient pharmacist etc. In MY lunch hour.

Nearing the head of the queue, I resolved to avoid future wastes of my valuable time by buying more than the usual ‘packet of 3’. Hell, I could’ve got through 2 of them in the 10 minutes I’d been there!

And so, eventually arriving at the counter, I manfully demanded a box of Durex.

“What size?” asked the harridan assistant.

“I. Er. Um. I. Um. (pre-empting Gareth Gates by some years).

She let me sweat. Hours passed. Someone behind me muttered “C’mon big boy, I’m on me lunch hour”.

“What size box?”. “25, 50?”. As if there could have been any other answer!

“Oh, 25 is fine” I gushed. “please, take all of this money, and keep the change”.

I legged it. I still redden thinking about it.

(You’ll have to wait for SM2. Hey, I’ve gotta pace myself.)


Why I Got The Sack From The Museum.

(posted by one of anna’s b****es, apparently)

Before the Number 15 hoved into view this morning quite a queue had congregated. We stood silent and staring uproad, the Monday Morning Mule Train. Despite that I knew most of the faces in line and they I’m sure knew my face too. Later, I saw an even longer mute queue outside the Post Office on the corner of Brazil Street. Nobody was sambaing.

It was irritating, itchy even, to wake up at 3.15 am with the television still blurting and to see so many mediocrities speaking so earnestly about Art, meaning Money. Hollywood occasionally lets Art slip past the studio Pitbulls, but the Oscars are a celebration of every tawdry, dishonest, faux-artistic impulse that the Los Angeles Petting Zoo holds dearest. Great Art is opaque, but to win an Oscar a movie needs to be so transparent, so dishonest, so Hanks-Spielbergundian that you can watch it whilst asleep and still know exactly what’s happened.

So I’m tired like every Monday and the sun is shining and I’m haphazardly word-sketching the chestnut eyes of the woman on the bus seat in front of me – dark hair dusted burgundy and a smile that took 10 minutes to appear but will make the rest of today liveable. She was chatting happily to her little boy, which makes her pretty freakin’ rara avis round these parts. She gets off 2 stops before me, and then I surf my way down the aisle (3 skips in the road to ride), jump off, and try to forget enough about beauty and wonder that I can be an efficient prole.

Criss-cross rhythms that explode with happiness.

(posted by Mr. D.)

Music is such a personal thing, and this being my first blog proper, I’m worried about being aprosexic.
So I’m hoping that the title (and yes, maybe even that adjective?) has got you at least a tad intrigued.

If not, and you’ve already surfed off in the direction of away, one of us has missed an opportunity…

So, Saturday night and another “band to be seen before I/they die” gets ticked off the list. Osibisa, the godfathers of World music, slayed me in ’71 with their eponymous debut album and in the unlikely venue of Cranleigh Arts Center, did it again.

“Music for Gong Gong”, the tribal equivalent of a disco dance floor filler, reeled ‘em in and from then on, they had you by the feet. We were all taught the chorus to “Ayiko Bia” and “Kilele” (as if we didn’t know them anyway!) and no-one held back.

Teddy Osei, “Mr. Africa” and co-founder, struggled to walk onto the stage but played flute, tenor and alto sax, police whistle, african tom-toms and cow-bell with enviable vigour and verve.

Sol Amarfio, the other original member, who looked like he’d been born behind his drumkit, never stopped smiling once throughout the concert and the relatively youthful rhythm guitarist danced his socks off in a space the size of a telephone kiosk.

N.B. TD – you don’t have to trust me on this. They play their last U.K. gig at the Flowerpot in Derby on May 10th. Take K and your dancing shoes and let rip!

The voice of the ladies – anna pickard, femininity encapsulated.

(posted, unsurprisingly, by anna)

Firstly, sisters, let me thank my gracious host (mike – a man, but he can’t help that…)
(Pause for laughter)
for giving me this opportunity to speak on behalf of the fairer sex this week, if only by default, and thank you, sisters, for allowing me to speak, for, of, and to, You.
In accepting the title of
Miss troubled diva guestblogger
I will, alongside my tireless work for world peace and disabled house-pets, accept the responsibility of furthering the cause of All my sex, and will to this end, be;

  1. Talking about shopping.
  2. Breaking off in the middle of a post to pluck my eyebrows.
  3. Wearing pink.
  4. On a diet.
  5. Propping Barbies and vases of flowers on top of my computer.
  6. Bursting into tears for little reason.
  7. Giggling about boys.
  8. Worrying about the size of my bottom.

I speak not for myself, but for all the girls out there, sitting in front of their computer screens, playing with their hair and thinking about having babies.
Thank you.
(Rapturous applause)

For any readers of my own site, let me assure you that there will be none of the usual nonsense and obscenity, no swearing, ranting, burping, drunkenness, and I will certainly not be referring to my gaggle of co-hosts as ‘my b****es’
Thank you again, sisters, my darling girls, and thank you, Mike, for giving me this opportunity to act like the lady…

Also, if this post recieves more than 2500 comments, I pledge not to talk about periods.
Thank you.


(posted by D)

(tap, tap, tap) Is this thing on?

Whoa, where did that cool title graphic come from?! Needs a 1-pixel border methinks…

I’ll be back later when my fluffy brains sort themselves out. Thanks to the Malaysian Grand Prix I managed to squeeze a three day weekend into 48-hours. Plus, I’ve been reading since she started (I’ve even met the lovely Anna on two occasions) and I’m somewhat in awe of her. Shocked that she was also chosen for this gig, but mainly in awe. Shock and awe… that’d be my general mood at the moment.

Realising the vision.

(posted by Mike)

In my old wild Trade-babe clubbing days, I was often struck by how melodramatic some of the techno-trance-hardbag-nu-energy music could sound. I used to imagine how great it would be to see a group of fully togged-up Spanish widows in the club, standing on a podium somewhere, in full traditional black lacy garb, complete with those mantilla headdress thingys, white-faced, fans and/or hankies in hands, their faces pictures of studied, theatrical woe, throwing “misery me!” shapes above the anonymous bobbing shaved heads of the crowd, as the light beams swirled around behind them.

(I also used to imagine four headscarved Russian-Jewish babooshkas on another, more distant podium, dancing in a circle, kicking their legs and cackling with witchy glee. God knows what I was on.)

Anyway, I was explaining all this to D from Acerbia, and then he came up with the nifty title graphic which you now see above.

Hurrah for Acerbia!
I © Guest Week!


The Faux Oscars.

(posted by Mr. D.)

“…. and I’d also like to thank ……….”

The Phrontistery, who lured me to Tinka’s “Distant Sun” blog (because I’m a “Crowded House” fan too) and of course Tinka herself, who advocated visiting the Troubled Diva, which I did, or I wouldn’t be here today …

(I actually typo’d that as “toady” – thank Microsoft for SpellChecker!) ….

Camera pans back to the podium .. Mr.D. pauses to draw breath, stop blubbing etc.

Picking from the virtual CV which won me this Guest Blog, I’d suggested to mein host that it was like inviting someone to share your “Meal for one” – utterly selfless, but you’re gonna be hungry.

So, without wanting to fawn, dear, I would like to state my gratitude to Mike for this opportunity to share what is, essentially, a very personal medium and hope that my morsels and musings don’t detract you from The Man Himself.

Oh, and, er, yes, Little.Red.Boat is peerless – please read her input if you do nothing else.

Mr. D. (see Track 1 “Goat’s Head Soup” by the beat combo The Rolling Stones).

And this week’s guest contributors are…

…in alphabetical order…

1. Anna Pickard of

I am slightly embarrassed to admit that, after all my talk of wanting to achieve a healthy Gender Balance for guest week, Anna turns out to be the token female of the group. Yes: Troubled Diva is set to become a heaving hotbed of pumping testosterone over the next seven days, with only Anna on hand to redress the inequality.

Why so? Well – contrary to all my expectations, it has to be said – I had considerably more male than female volunteers to choose from. Once I had whittled them down to a shortlist, and once I had eliminated anybody who I had ever met in real life (a particularly capricious and brutal rule to apply, but I had to cut the list down somehow), Anna was the last female standing. Simple as that.

Am I sounding a trifle over-defensive here? Yes, I guess I am.

Let’s put it another way, then. Remember when I said that I was looking for a Liberty X, not a Hear’say? Well, I think what I’ve actually done is created a Blondie, with Anna as its Debbie Harry.

(No, I don’t know who is supposed to be Chris Stein, or Clem Burke, or, er, the other ones. Because that would be stretching the conceit too far.)

Anna is also the token “person blogging under her own full name”. Her weblog is an utter delight, and should be mandatory reading for absolutely everybody in the whole wide world. Bar none.

2. D of Acerbia.

Like the popular 90s rock band Bush, and the popular 80s rock band The Fixx, Acerbia enjoys the peculiar distinction of being a British weblog with absolutely heaps of recognition in the States, but with more of a niche/cult appeal in the UK. (At least if his comments boxes are to be believed. Or maybe that’s just American forthrightness and British reserve coming into play.) This is one of the reasons why I wanted D on board: he has a great site, full of knife-edge humour and unpredictable twists and turns, and it’s high time that a few more Brits were made aware of his unique talents.

A nominee for “Best European Weblog” in the 2003 Bloggies, and for “Best Humourous Weblog” in the 2002 Bloggies, I guess makes D our token Celebrity Weblogger. He is also our token Graphic Design Genius: have you seen some of the stuff he does on his site? It’s genius, I’m telling ya.

3. Faustus M.D. of The Search For Love In Manhattan.

Long-standing readers will have heard me bang on about the brilliance of The Search For Love In Manhattan many times over the past year, and so it is a particular pleasure to welcome Faustus onto the team. As well as being our token American (although D can also claim lineage), Faustus is – another shock, this – our token Homosexual. Yes, it’s Heterosexual Week on Troubled Diva alright! So c’mon Faustus, fag it up!

4. Mr. D. of no fixed abode.

So – we have a D and a Mr. D. Confusing, huh? Oh, I’m sure you’ll cope.

Mr. D., a regular reader and occasional commenter, is our token Person Without A Weblog (I was particularly keen for this to happen), and thus our token Comparatively Unknown Quantity. His lengthy and engaging application letter was enough in itself for me to give him the gig, without any further consideration being needed. I shall say no more about him now, except that I have every confidence that by the end of the week, you will have all clasped him to your collective bosom.

5. noodle vague of The World, Backwards.

Like The Search For Love In Manhattan, The World, Backwards is one of very few weblogs which has prompted me to go all the way back to the first entry in its archives and work my way, er, forwards. Token existentialist beat poet, and token enemy of capitalisation, noodle has lead me to believe that we might expect something different from his usual brand of feelgood hit-and-run nihilism. But whatever he does, rest assured that it will be Class.

Oh, did I not mention that I have gone for five, not four guest contributors? Couldn’t be helped, I’m afraid. This is going to be a fascinating week. So keep it locked on dubya dubya dubya DOT troubleddiva DOT co DOT you kay, why dontcha?

Recitatively yours.


The poetry reading is in Beeston: a gentle, respectable, cosy suburb of Nottingham which is popular with academics from the nearby university. Some distance away from the city centre, Beeston has its own shops, its own big supermarket, its own mainline railway station, a few decent places to eat, and an extensive selection of much-better-than-average pubs. It’s a calm, self-contained part of town, where nothing out of the ordinary is ever likely to happen. Nice people live here. Nice people with pleasant, balanced, ordered-yet-active lives. People who have resolved their conflicts, set their priorities, vanquished their demons.

Yes, Beeston gives me the creeps all right.


Over the years, several friends have moved out here, each announcing their departure with “I know it’s a bit boring, but the house has got the space we need” shrugs and tight little smiles which hover midway between jokey self-deprecation, submerged regret and quiet, steely resolve. And then we never hear from them again. Ring them up to arrange an outing, and they’ll say: “But why would we ever want to leave Beeston? Beeston has everything we need. Our lives are here now. We have no need of Outside. Come to us. Join us. Never leave.

Yes, Beeston even scares me a little. Travelling back into town from the cottage on Monday mornings, I can feel its pull – can hear its siren whispers wafting over the central verge from the other side of the A52. “Join us. Join us in Beeston. There’s a life for you here. A good life. Why resist?

Driving around in search of the venue, one of my companions explains that poetry readings are held here every week. “Perhaps we could start coming here regularly?“, she suggests, brightly.

The voices – again the voices, swirling around in the dusk. First they’ll take our Tuesday evenings – then they’ll take our very souls. Resist! Resist!


I haven’t been to a poetry reading for maybe seven or eight years, maybe longer. Indeed – like opera, classical ballet, and nu-metal – I barely even touch the stuff. Or if I do, then I prefer to read it out loud, on my own, savouring the rhythms as much as the meaning. For despite my disassociation from the genre, I have a voice which is curiously suited for this. Instinctively picking up on the musicality of the language, I am somehow able to give a clear, measured, suitably understated yet broadly empathetic delivery. Even when I am still barely able to grasp the subject matter. I find this slightly baffling.

I found it particularly baffling one Sunday afternoon at a post-club chill-out in someone’s flat in Wimbledon, or somewhere like that, about five years ago, with a bunch of complete strangers I had met upstairs in Trade. Our host revealed that he wrote poetry in his spare time. A couple of sheets of A4 were duly passed around the group. Even before I knew what I was doing, I found myself reading one of them out loud.

As I progressed down the page, I entered a strange, split-level state of consciousness. My rational brain (or what was left of it) was aware that it had not even the faintest idea of the literal meaning of the poem – nor even whether it was good, bad or indifferent. Nevertheless, my instinctive brain could still, somehow, pick up on an overriding mood, or flow, or structure – or something – despite the fact that my sensually perceptive brain was by now so comprehensively battered that every letter on the page appeared to be in a different colour. At the end of my recitation, which had been received in total silence, there was a brief, respectful pause, followed by a flutter of soft, almost post-coital murmurings: “Oh…wow“, and “You read so beautifully“, and – from the host himself – “Thank you so much for doing that”. I felt simultaneously like a a gifted lyrical interpreter and a big fat fraud.


We arrive late. The first poet is already in the middle of a lengthy “song cycle”, and has to pause between “cantos” to let us in. Standing room only at the back. Am I in anybody’s way? Can my friends see anything at all? Dare I take my puffa jacket off, or will the rustling break everybody’s concentration? Oh God, everybody is really concentrating here, aren’t they? Look at them all. They look rapt. Is that how you’re supposed to look? Shall I try to look rapt as well?

OK, how does that look? No, it looks fake, doesn’t it? The poet will be able to see right through me. Hang on – nobody’s looking at me anyway. Egocentric fool. It doesn’t matter what expression you adopt. Now, concentrate. Focus on what he’s saying. Come on. Come out of yourself. Engage. Cross that line.

No, it’s no good. I can’t pick up the threads at all. The language is too dense, the meaning is too tightly packed, there are all these classical allusions which I don’t get. Would it be better if I looked straight at the poet instead of staring round the room? Would that be too intense?

OK, watch the mouth. Blimey – fancy wearing a jacket over a hooded top over a shirt and tie. Particularly a skinny little early-80s retro tie like that, in bright orange. Actually, it’s quite a good look. Sort of funky-academical. Come on, back to the mouth. Good clear diction he’s got, and a nice even delivery. The words sound good, even if I can’t crawl inside them. But really, this is the sort of thing that I’d prefer to read several times over, in my own time.

So, is the problem just with me, or is this stuff just not suited to a live reading like this? I don’t remember having this sort of problem when I used to go and hear Dymbellina read, back in the day. But then, I had always read her stuff several times over in advance. Nevertheless, surely there was a palpable, direct communication going on at her readings? Not like here, then. This is all a bit Poetry In Crowd, isn’t it? A bit up-its-own-arse? Or am I just retreating into the sidelines, in that protectively sneery way of mine?

I need to get over the feeling of “Gosh, so this is what a poetry reading is like, then.” I need to stop observing, and start participating. When did my concentration span get this bad, anyway? Maybe it’s because I’m spending too much time on my own in the office, hopping about from web page to web page, never having to devote appreciable periods of time to any one person, or thought, or task.

Oh look – over the road, one storey up – they’ve got their curtains open and the telly on, and he has come to the window and is staring over the road and down at us, because this sort of thing clearly doesn’t usually happen on his street on a Tuesday night, and now he’s calling her over to the window, and now they’re both looking at us, and I wonder what they’re thinking, and…stop, look away, come back into the room, this is a new poem, maybe you’ll get further with it this time…


The first poet writes a lot about gay sex, and likes his classical allusions, and is frequently funny. I know this because I received a signed copy of his new book for my birthday, which is essentially why I’m here. There’s not so much of the sexy stuff or the funny stuff here tonight, which is a slight shame if you ask me.

The second poet is from the States, and is part of the whole Poets Against The War thing, and so most of the poems she reads are about that. She has a way of looking sharply over the top of her glasses while talking at you, which reminds me of Germaine Greer on Newsnight Review. When she starts to read, her whole voice rises in pitch as she adopts a kind of “performance” style. This is not something I am used to, and I don’t know how I feel about it. She sounds altogether quite cross. She also plays the Gender Politics card full square: this is a man’s war, and you’d think that there was only one sex fighting it, she says. One poem takes the form of an open letter to George Dubya. It is as oratorical as it is epistolary, and so it works well, and I even manage to concentrate all the way through it. We are on the very brink of “war” tonight, and here I am listening to a visiting American poet of some repute expressing her anger and bewilderment and fear and scorn about it, and it all feels awfully Significant, and of Historical Import in some way, and there’s some part of me inside that is rather enjoying that.

(Incidentally: I’m not going to call it a “war” any longer. I’m not going to call it a “pre-emptive strike”, either. Like the letter-writer in today’s Guardian says: it’s not a “war” – it’s an invasion.)

The third poet is vague and dithery, and she doesn’t know what she’s going to read us yet, and she keeps losing her bookmarks and apologising, and she is just not quite of this world. In fact, she quite cheerfully confesses this to us. However, once she starts to read, her voice snaps into focus – into “performance mode” once again. There is a whimsicality here, and a sense of detached, amused observation by a slightly baffled outsider. But really: do people still think like that about the television set, in this day and age? These are the sort of thoughts my grandfather might have had fifty years ago, and he was something of an anachronistic fuddy-duddy even then. There is a lighter, funnier piece about a summer spent in a French chateau with a bunch of crashing snobs, which everyone enjoys – followed by an interminable, seemingly directionless piece about Hildegard Of Bingen which has everybody fidgeting and tapping their fingers. It is so long that the first poet only has time for one more poem before time is called.


Is this where I’m supposed to draw a pithy conclusion? Well, I guess I don’t have one. I can only conclude that poetry just ain’t my bag. So I’m going to end with a link instead. (On a weblog, you can always legitimately cop out like this. It’s a wonderful medium.)

The Clock’s Loneliness: a poem a day, weblog-stylee. The one-stop shop for all your daily lyrical needs.

Maybe that’s how I need to get started. One day at a time, sweet Jesus…

BEST! DECADE! EVAH! (35 points, plus a tiebreak score of 218)

OK, so it’s the Seventies, innit?

Right from the first day of polling, the 1970s never dropped below second position. This decade went on to claim no less than four of the winning songs (Free, Elton John, Carly Simon and The Sweet), and only one losing song, from The Strawbs.

If I had been a betting man, then I would have put money on the Seventies right from the outset. Although 1973 is generally known as the year of Glam, there were in fact only two examples of the genre in our Top Ten, from Gary Glitter and The Sweet. The shrill charms of Little Jimmy Osmond aside, the rest of the chart is made up of solid, bankable acts: Carly Simon and Elton John at their respective artistic peaks, ELO at the start of their career (and come on, let’s be honest: in their day, ELO were bloody great), and a healthy contingent of that frequently forgotten genre: Good Old-fashioned Greatcoat And Faded Denim Hairy Rock (from Free, Focus and Status Quo). A strong week, unquestionably. Coupled with a tie-break selection which included two further classics (from Abba and Althea & Donna), the Seventies could hardly have failed.

The pop charts of the 1970s peaked in 1973 and 1974 with Glam (Bowie, Bolan, Sweet, Slade, Wizzard, Mud, Suzi Quatro, Alvin Stardust, Sparks, Cockney Rebel, Mott The Hoople, Queen), before dipping away dramatically between 1975 and 1978 (Leo Sayer, Wings, Hot Chocolate, Boney M, Bay City Rollers, Smokie, David Soul, Rod Stewart, Showaddywaddy). It then took the twin forces of Disco and New Wave to breathe new life back into the charts, from around the middle of 1978 onwards, when Blondie and the Boomtown Rats started to make it big.

Nineteen Seventies…you were Magic! You were Supersonic! We salute you.

And if you’re thinking that maybe your favourite decade didn’t get a fair crack of the whip this time round, and if you’re wondering whether…then the answer is an emphatic, resounding Yes. I fully intend to do this all over again in twelve months time.

Goodnight, pop-pickers. You have spoken loud and clear. So bring on…The Nineteen Seventies!

Click here for a stunning 1970s Visual Cavalcade, which has been placed on a separate page in order to spare the agonies of dial-up users. Once again, you might wish to hover your cursors over the images.

The Top Ten, and the Bottom Five.

It is of course traditional to prefix the Number One (oh for Christ’s sake Mike, we’ve been waiting ALL BLOODY DAY, will you JUST GET ON WITH IT!) with a chart countdown. And this project will be no exception. Here then are the ten most popular records from the project, in order. I’ve calculated this by dividing the total number of points scored for each record by the total number of votes cast on the day in question, in order to derive a ratio. Excel is a wonderful thing, is it not?

1. You’re So Vain – Carly Simon
(The winner by quite some distance, this was voted first by 19 out of 22 voters, with the remaining three voting it second.)

2. Please Please Me – The Beatles
3. Too Shy – Kajagoogoo
4. Lose Yourself – Eminem
5. Ordinary World – Duran Duran
6. Daniel – Elton John
7. Sweet Harmony – The Beloved
8. Wishing Well – Free
9. (steady, Peter!) Gloria (GLORIA!) – Laura Branigan
10. Blockbuster – The Sweet

And the bottom five?

46. Loop De Loop – Frankie Vaughan
47. Part Of The Union – The Strawbs
48. Stairway To Heaven – Rolf Harris
49. Stop Living The Lie – David Sneddon
50. Reminisce – Blazin’ Squad

The next posting will reveal – because obviously, at this stage you still have absolutely no idea – the winning decade. Honest, it will. I promise.

The Tops For Pops Project Golden Notepad Award, for commenting beyond the call of duty.

Before we get to the Top Decade, a word of thanks to all who voted, and especially to those who came back day after day to leave comments on every record featured. Special mentions are due to Amanda, Asta, David, Douglas, Gert, Junio, Pam, Stereoboard, Steve, Sue Bailey – and particularly to the incomparable noodle vague (to give him his full title), whose comments generally rocked like an incandescent motherf***er from Hell, y’all.

However, the Troubled Diva Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? Golden Notepad award, for consistently delivering a quite superb set of comments throughout the entire lifespan of the project, on every single last record featured, has to go to…

Nigel R (the UK one).

Somebody show this man how to set up his own weblog! This is a talent which deserves to come out of the Google-can’t-find-me-here shadows of the comments box, and into the sunlit uplands of the, OK I’ll say it just this once just once more and then that’s it, Blogosphere. You can find just about every single one of his comments – maybe even the whole lot – further down this page, and stretching back into the last two weeks’ archives. I heartily commend them to you.

A round of applause for Nigel, please.

Thank you. Back later.

In second place: The 1980s. (35 points, plus a tiebreak score of 181)

Let’s face it: right from the start, we all knew that this poll would be a straight fight between the Seventies and the Eighties – didn’t we? This could of course be a natural consequence of the demographic breakdown of my readership, many of whom were at their prime age for pop music consumption during this period. However, I don’t think that’s the sole reason. The pop charts of 1980s – especially in the first half of the decade – were a place where innovative, cool, startlingly new records frequently ended up, with many artists coming in from the post-punk cold and unashamedly embracing the possibilities of commercial mass appeal. What was great about this period: these people had a broadly “artistic” agenda, which went well beyond a lust for fame for its own sake – they were in more or less full artistic control, with their bewildered record companies frequently struggling to keep up – and they were keen to push the envelope of what was possible in a chart hit.

Which is not to say that this particular Top 10, from February 1983, was a particularly good case in point. Wham!, Tears For Fears, The Belle Stars and Kajagoogoo were all well towards the commercial end of this ethos, although all four acts were – at least for a short time – producing fresh, distinctive pop records. Meanwhile, Fleetwood Mac, Phil Collins and Joe Cocker were all still plodding along, hanging on in there with their airbrushed AOR sound, waiting for the more favourable musical climate which – after Live Aid once again re-drew the musical map – was only just over two years away. For I always thought that Live Aid sounded the death knell for early 80s “new pop”, re-introducing as it did the concept of a “rock aristocracy” which punk and new wave had only briefly swept aside.

In this poll, 1983 produced two slightly unlikely winners (Phil Collins and Kajagoogoo), and no losers at all – a unique achievement. It also spent most of the 10 days yo-yo-ing for position with the 1970s, on two occasions sharing the top position.

Congratulations on coming second, Nineteen Eighties. Let’s celebrate your decade’s Best Bits visually, shall we?

Click here for a stunning 1980s Visual Cavalcade, which has been placed on a separate page in order to spare the agonies of dial-up users. When viewing, you might also care to hover your cursors over the images.

I thought this might happen…

With only three points separating the bottom three decades, a massive seven point gap now divides them from the top two decades. And guess what? After an incredibly close-run battle, with changes of position taking place right up until the very last vote (***), we have – gasp! – a dead heat. That’s right: both the 1970s and the 1980s have managed to accrue exactly 35 points.

You know what that means, don’t you?

That’s right. We go to tie-break.

(You see? You see? So I wasn’t going OTT barmy on Friday after all, was I? There is always method in my madness.)

For the tie break, I shall be aggregating the total points scored by the three singles from each of the two decades. Thus Althea & Donna, Abba and Brotherhood Of Man go head to head with Bros, Kylie Minogue and Tiffany.

May the best decade win. Back later. Could this be more exciting?




(***) In fact, the very last vote came from noodle, who when giving two points to Men At Work, openly admitted that they were “marked down in a desperate bid to prevent the worst decade ever from winning the competition.” Controversy right to the very end, eh!

In third place: The 1960s. (28 points)


Just as the singles chart of the 1990s enjoyed a clearly identifiable Golden Age (1994 to 1998: the Britpop years), so did the singles chart of the 1960s, from 1964 to 1968. Unfortunately for both decades, our poll was taken from the year before both Golden Ages got underway, during a time when nothing particularly exciting was going on. Indeed, the first four years of the 1960s were a particularly moribund time for the charts, as the world waited for the Beatles, Stones, Motown and Memphis to kick-start the decade.

In our 1963 sample, The Beatles’ Please Please Me is demonstrably streets ahead of the competition, providing the 1960s with its only winner in ten days. Meanwhile, you were suitably horrified by Frankie Vaughan and Del Shannon to vote them both into last place. Despite this, there were some hidden gems in the 1963 charts, with Maureen Evans, Frank Ifield and Jet Harris & Tony Meehan all attracting a certain level of interest from some quarters.

In another year, the 1960s could undoubtedly have given the 1970s and 1980s a serious run for their money. This year, they will have to settle for an honourable third place. Let us now remind ourselves of just a few of their many, many Best Bits.

1960: Only The Lonely – Roy Orbison
1961: On The Rebound – Floyd Cramer
1962: Wonderful Land – The Shadows
1963: She Loves You – The Beatles
1964: Always Something There To Remind Me – Sandie Shaw
1965: Mr. Tambourine Man – The Byrds
1966: Reach Out…I’ll Be There – Four Tops
1967: A Whiter Shade Of Pale – Procol Harum
1968: Jumping Jack Flash – Rolling Stones
1969: I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye

In fourth place: The 2000s. (27 points)


The decade of R&B, nu-metal and Reality TV Pop had a rough ride all the way through the contest, being in bottom position on nearly every single day. However, a late surge on Day 10 (courtesy of tATu) proved enough to save it from total defeat. The Noughties provided just one winner (Eminem’s Lose Yourself), and was also responsible for the two most unpopular songs in the entire poll: David Sneddon’s Stop Living The Lie and Blazin’ Squad’s Reminisce.

In just over three years, the Noughties have as yet done little to distinguish themselves. Perhaps they will go down as the decade in which – at least in terms of the singles charts – the forces of slick commercialism, precision marketing and pre-planned, fixed-term shelf lives finally triumphed against the spirit of innovation, experimentation and rebellion which had burst forth in the mid-fifties with the rock & roll revolution, and which had continued via Merseybeat, Motown, Psychedelia, Funk, Reggae, Glam, Prog, Heavy Metal, Punk, New Wave, Disco, 2-Tone, New Romantic, Hip Hop, Electro, Indie, Goth, House, Acid, Madchester, Garage, Techno, Grunge, Britpop, Trance, Drum & Bass, Big Beat and all points West.

Or maybe we’re simply making the same mistake that “serious music lovers” (hem hem) have made all the way down the line – of not recognising Classic Pop when it’s staring us in the face. For let’s not forget that, at the time, the “serious music lovers” all hated Motown, scoffed at Disco, sneered at Abba, laughed at the New Romantics, and would cheerfully have strung Neighbours-era Kylie up from the nearest lamp post. Maybe in ten years time, we’ll have canonised Britney, Justin, Christina and S Club 7, fondly viewing them as belonging to a Golden Era of pop, whilst sorrowfully shaking our heads over whatever shiny new breed of fresh-faced popsters is currently holding sway.

For now though, the grim truth is staring us in the face: the last two decades have been adjudged the worst ever for pop music. However, before we bid the Noughties farewell, let’s take a quick trip through their Best Bits, such as they are.

2000: Stan – Eminem, Pure Shores – All Saints, The Bad Touch – Bloodhound Gang.

2001: Can’t Get You Out Of My Head – Kylie Minogue, Get Ur Freak On – Missy Elliott, Don’t Stop Movin’ – S Club 7.

2002: Freak Like Me – Sugababes, There Goes The Fear – Doves, Lazy – X-Press 2 with David Byrne.

2003: Lose Yourself – Eminem, Cry Me A River – Justin Timberlake, All The Things She Said – tATu.

In fifth place: The 1990s. (25 points)

NEON The"Naughty Spice" performing at the American Superstars" on 7-16-97

Despite an early lead, and two tunes (from The Beloved & Duran Duran) which won the daily vote, the 1990s finally slumped to last position on the very last day of the contest. In fact, the 1990s provided no less than half of our losing tunes – with Rolf Harris, Snap!, East 17, Whitney Houston and 2 Unlimited all limping into fifth place.

This was indeed the decade which brought us such horrors as Everything I Do (I Do It For You) – Bryan Adams, I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) – Meat Loaf, Please Don’t Go – KWS, Mama – Spice Girls, I’ll Be Missing You – Puff Daddy and Spaceman – Babylon Zoo. It was the decade that brought you such luminaries as Roxette, Shed 7, Guru Josh, Beverly Craven, Whigfield, Ocean Colour Scene and Bad Boys Inc. However, the decade was also not without its share of future pop classics. Let’s remember them now, as we salute the decade of grunge, superclubs and Britpop. Nineteen Nineties – these were your Best Bits. Thank you and goodbye.

1990: Groove Is In The Heart – Deee-Lite
1991: Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
1992: Man On The Moon – R.E.M
1993: Go West – Pet Shop Boys
1994: Parklife – Blur
1995: Common People – Pulp
1996: Born Slippy – Underworld
1997: Bitter Sweet Symphony – The Verve
1998: Music Sounds Better With You – Stardust
1999: Praise You – Fatboy Slim