Which decade is Tops for Pops? (2/10) – 2004 edition.

Earlier on today, controversy poked its ugly head into my dinky little fluffball of a project, as it was revealed that Beenie Man (yesterday’s 2004 entrant) is a rampant homophobe, who has recorded a song (Bad Man Chi Chi Man) with vicious – nay, murderous – anti-gay lyrics. But does this make Dude a worse record? Should we all be amending our votes to mark it fifth? And what does his fragrant sidekick Ms. Thing make of it all?

While we wrestle with our consciences, let’s all do it to the soundtrack of today’s sparkling array of contestants. Let’s hear it for the Number Nines!

1964: I Love You Because – Jim Reeves.
1974: I Get A Little Sentimental Over You – New Seekers.
1984: Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell.
1994: I Like To Move It – Reel 2 Real featuring The Mad Stuntman.
2004: Amazing – George Michael.
Listen to a short medley (about a minute each) of all five songs.

In terms of the history and development of pop, Jim Reeves is a name which has slipped off most people’s radar altogether. Apart from the appearance of the occasional K-Tel 40 Golden Greats compilation in the album charts of the 1970s or 1980s, and an early 1970s BBC Nationwide film about an obsessive fan who had converted her flat into a Reeves shrine, curtains permanently drawn, never stepping outside the front door, and relying on her neighbours to fetch her groceries, he is someone whom I have always tuned out. Indeed, I Love You Because, a hit for Reeves just four months before his fatal plane crash, is the first record of his which I have ever knowingly listened to. And OK, so it’s hokey, sentimental and a heavily diluted take on Hank Williams – but nevertheless, there’s something which draws me in. I think it’s the song’s deeply reassuring quality; the aural equivalent of being wrapped in warm, freshly laundered, fluffy white bath towels. Reeves’ voice is so honeyed, so velvet smooth, that I begin to understand what it was that prompted so much posthumous adulation.

By the time that the equally hokey – and consciously “old-fashioned” sounding – I Get A Little Sentimental Over You hit the charts, Eve Graham & Lyn Paul had announced their departure from the New Seekers, who were midway through a marathon farewell tour prior to splitting up in May. As such, this was their final hit until a new line-up enjoyed rather more modest success two years later. It sounds a little bit valedictory, as it liltingly sways along in its cosy saloon bar sing-song style. It’s not much cop though, is it?

However, my real derision is reserved for so-called “mystery artist” Rockwell, enjoying his only real hit, assisted by Michael Jackson on what passes for the song’s chorus. In reality, Rockwell was the son of Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown records – which explains a) how this crock of poo got recorded/promoted in the first place and b) how a genuine talent like Jackson came to lend his name to it. (Bear in mind that in early 1984, Jackson was at the height of his Thriller-era mega-popularity; he would have had a hit with anything, even his shopping list.) Jobs for the boys, in other words. Oh, just listen to that ghastly, boggle-eyed, faux-spooky “comedy” rap and that weedy, wafer-thin backing. Unforgiveable.

I’m really making K suffer this week. Even ten years on, I can remember his near-violent reaction to Reel 2 Real‘s (admittedly total kack) appearance on Top Of The Pops, with The Mad Stuntman tunelessly growling his way through the track. It was one of his defining “this is the end of the line for all decent pop music” moments. As for me, I never cared much for I Like To Move It either… except that, as with yesterday’s Needles & Pins, it actually turned out to be quite prescient. There’s a line that can be drawn between this song and such gems as Basement Jaxx’s Jump & Shout, and on through to today’s dancehall/house crossovers. Viewed retrospectively, I find myself rather fond of it. Maybe that’s because, when all is said and done, I too like to move it, move it.

Which leaves us with dependable old George Michael, sounding for all the world like the eight years since his last album had never happened, with a song that basically comes across as a slightly re-jigged version of Fast Love. And what, pray, is wrong with that? I’m a sucker for this kind of smooth wine-bar funk, and George does it so well, so “classily”, with not the slightest nod to contemporary musical fashions.

My votes: 1 – George Michael. 2 – Jim Reeves. 3 – Reel 2 Real. 4 – New Seekers. 5 – Rockwell.

Over to you. The 1960s and 1980s both got off to a strong start yesterday, with the last two decades trailing badly behind. Will George and the Stuntman even things up, or will the dulcet tones of Gentle Jim send the Sixties soaring? Oh, I could drivel on like this all evening! Please leave your votes in the comment box.

Incidentally, it’s not too late to vote for yesterday’s selections either – voting will stay open for all ten groups of singles until the end of the project.

Running totals so far – Number 9s.

2004: Amazing – George Michael. (94)

  • I’ve surprised myself lately by loving this. Not the biggest fan of his later solo stuff, but this is smooth, white chocolate pop confectionery. Would have been number 1 if released in the Summer. Silly boy. Will still be the soundtrack to a million barbecues. (Chig)
  • now that man has talent, looks and is a year younger than me so he can be my toyboy. anyday. (Zed)
  • Well. It’s George, isn’t it, and I’ll have nothing bad said against him. On initial hearing, it appears bland, almost to the point of perfection. And then you realise that it’s formulaic, predictable – and still almost to the point of perfection. And then you cotton on to the fact it’s probably the weakest track on the new album, but still almost close to perfection. By which time, it doesn’t really matter, because, guess what, it’s almost close to perfection, and besides, you’ve no choice, because it’s slinked its way into your consciousness, whether you like it or not, and you just know it’s going to be with you from now on, through chill-outs and lounge-bars, and babies and divorces, and face-lifts and hairdressers, and ISAs and pensions, and all the way through to the nursing home. They’ll probably even play it at your cremation. He’s never going to go away, you know, so we might as well get used to it. (I danced with him once in a club in North London, by the way. He was a crap dancer.) (Nigel)
  • Sorry, but George Michael’s voice always brings me back to college, convertibles, and life before responsibility. Arguably not his greatest, but I’d rather that on in the background over some of the others any day. (jo)
  • It’s a George Michael song, so it’s never going to be too catastrophic. Doesn’t inspire me like some of his better work though. (Adrian)
  • people either love him or hate him. I think he’s great…as long as he’s singing. (asta)
  • always good for a fond shagging memory, our George, but he could have released this any time since 1986. some people call this timelessness, i call it running out of ideas. wouldn’t it be ace if he went dancehall on the freebie album? (noodle)
  • I’ve liked George more as a phenomenon than a music artiste. Just last week I heard something about him giving his music away having made enough money and I thought ‘how noble’. That thought has changed somewhat since hearing the music. (Demian)
  • I have huge respect for him as a musician, but this is a really boring song. perhaps he’s saving the good stuff for his download-only-charity-album? (sarah)
  • god this is awful. you’ve got to be shoving a lot of gak up you to think this should be released to the great british public. (quarsan)

1964: I Love You Because – Jim Reeves. (93)

  • A voice, and a sentiment, as warm, and as solidly-true, as your mum and dad’s old mahogany sideboard, and as comfy and as reassuring as that C&A cardie your favourite auntie bought you. “I love you most of all because you’re you”: has it ever been said any better? Timeless and true. (Note to next year’s TV advertising execs: use this in the next Renault Clio ad, and you’ve got the Number One slot sewn up for the next decade.) (Nigel)
  • such a distinctive voice. i remember sitting out one night in Tanzania and the neighbours were playing him. A warm lovely sound. Nothing special, but pleasant to listen too every now and then. (quarsan)
  • My Gran’s favourite singer, and consequently, unlike with Mike, very familiar and comforting to me, as it used to get played on the huge ‘record player in a sideboard’ thing that my G&G had. (Chig)
  • just drown me in marshmallows now and be done with it. (asta)
  • well, i am an ex-trainee cabaret singer. if i was pissed, this would make me cry. did you know he’s Nick Cave’s dad? (noodle)
  • When I saw the list I thought I’d be putting him last. Not as good as Half Man Half Biscuit’s I Love You Because (You Look Like Jim Reeves) but I suppose without this there’d be no that so for that reason alone (ie enabling a better HMHB song) I make it my no 1. (Demian)
  • Sounds like the 60’s equivalent of Seal, i.e. music for people who don’t listen to music but would like to have something to play when they have guests. Though I would probably like the same song if it was sung by a different artist. (Simon)
  • Last seen crooning carols amongst my parents’ LPs, I’ve never been tempted to liberate him for a listen. Second-rate easy listening I’m afraid. (Adrian)
  • the sort of music that could be played for hours and i’d not even notice. it’s so sickening. (Zed)

1994: I Like To Move It – Reel 2 Real featuring The Mad Stuntman. (90)

  • loses credibility thanks to its appearance on a Chewits advert which renders the chorus “I like to chew it chew it” forever in my head. but it does make yr booty wobble. (noodle)
  • Used to get me moving “back in the day”, and still does. This particular single didn’t make it into my collection, but a couple of others did. They do sound a bit like Zig & Zag, but given that “Them Girls” was one of the best 99p I’ve spent, I can’t hold that against them. (Adrian)
  • …are just irritating and sound too similar to zig and zag for their own good (quarsan)
  • it’s the sort of music that makes me go into the kitchen and start sharpening the carving knives. (Zed)

1984: Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell. (79)

  • Ooh, I’d forgotten all about this paranoid ditty from the equally paranoid eighties. Now I know why. (Nigel)
  • It was an act of mercy not putting him last. He can’t help being related to the kind of people who could make his dreams come true. If he’d been you or me this would have stayed in the shower – a cautionary tale against nepotism. Is that an English accent? (Demian)
  • if this had been released on Ze records, you’d all be lovin’ it lovin’ it lovin’ it. i’d completely forgotten what the verses sounded like. (noodle)
  • It has some kind of dark futuristic touch, like a lot of things had in the 80s, and I like that. (The verses are ghastly, though. Especially the part about washing his hair.) (Simon)
  • The verses are dire, however there’s a nice chorus aftertaste. I guess in this company a hint of Thriller-era Michael Jackson is all you need… (Adrian)
  • GACK, Cough, ACK. It could have just have easily been ‘Funky Town’, or ‘Puttin on the Ritz’ or something of that ilk. (jo)

1974: I Get A Little Sentimental Over You – New Seekers. (64)

  • oh lord, there’s worse? They make Hallmark Cards seem edgy. (asta)
  • I’d like to teach this lot something – accounting, saying ‘fries with that?’, summat useful. (Demian)
  • always had that fatal flaw of looking like an evangelical choir. possibly the ‘whitest’ act this side of helmut lotti. the sort of crap we’d be listening to if hitler won WWII. (quarsan)
  • Pish. I’m having Black and White Minstrels flashbacks.(noodle)
  • Ever since Eve Graham smiled at me from the stage of Preston Royal Corn Exchange, I was always a New Seekers fan. The eighteen months-or-so running up to, and including, their Eurovision “Beg, Steal Or Borrow” period, proved that they were one of our finest, and best-harmonised, vocal groups of the early seventies. And then key member and wannabe serious rocker, Peter Doyle (the blond bloke with the moustache and electric guitar), left, and they lost whatever edge they had, and slipped down the light-entertainment route, and wound up with cream-cake dross like this. Once is great. Twice is OK. Three cream-cakes and you throw up, all over your newly-ironed Brutus jeans as well. Still, that Marty Kristian, well, he was kind of fit, wasn’t he? (Nigel)

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