For the past three rounds, we’ve had clear and easily predictable winners right from the off. Dead Or Alive, Bruce Springsteen, The Righteous Brothers – all of these have established leads of at least 30 points each.
I’m expecting another clear winner today, for a decade which badly needs the points, albeit with a considerably reduced margin. But whoa, let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Eyes forward! Chins up! Backs straight! It’s the Number Twos!
1965: I’ll Never Find Another You – The Seekers
1975: January – Pilot
1985: Love And Pride – King
1995: No More I Love Yous – Annie Lennox
2005: Wooden Heart – Elvis Presley
Listen to a short medley of all five songs.
When it comes to The Seekers, whose 1966 hit Morningtown Ride is one of my strongest early musical memories, normal rational judgement fails me. There’s something about those folksy harmonies, that warm tone – at once yearning and reassuring – and Judith Durham’s pure, soaring voice which just gets me; not necessarily because of any particular objective musical merit, but because I am instantly transported back into the security and certainty of early childhood. Is it pap? Is it crap? Is it just too horribly Church Youth Group for words? Let me down gently, readers.
Pilot‘s almost-seasonal January (which didn’t reach Number One until the first week in February) is the second track from the 1975 top ten to feature on Sean Rowley’s delicious compilation CD from last year, Guilty Pleasures Vol. 1 – the other being Helen Reddy’s Angie Baby. However, it’s also one of the very few questionable choices on the album. For once the “ooh, I remember this one!” thrill has faded, all you’re left with is a rather slight, anaemic confection; nicely turned in several respects, but with some shrill, jarring qualities which tend to jar ever more with repeated listens. It also loses points for disobeying Pop Law, by failing to rhyme fire (FYE-yah!) with desire (diz-EYE-yah!).
Aside: Guilty Pleasures Vol. 2 – a double album this time round – is released on March 14. Despite the odd worrying choice (am I truly ready to welcome Foreigner, Exile and Chas & Dave in from the cold?), I am positively slathering with the piquant juices of anticipation (Starland Vocal Band! Clout! England Dan & John Ford Coley! Randy Edelman! Lonely Boy!).
King! The hot new band to watch in 1984! Oops, take two. King! The hot new band to watch in 1985! With a “style press” hype stretching at least as far back as the spring of 1983 (which is when I saw them live at Nottingham’s Asylum Club), some of us were getting a little impatient for King to start delivering on their promise. We knew all about the hairdos and the painted Doc Marten boots; but what about the music?
By February 1985, the tide was just beginning to turn against what the USA were dubbing the “haircut bands”. With Springsteen and U2 in the ascendant, Culture Club and Spandau Ballet in slow decline, and the paradigm shift of Live Aid only a few months away, words like “authenticity” were being banded about with ever-increasing frequency. Suddenly, King looked not fashionably late to the party, but awkwardly, disastrously late, swinging gaily through the doors just as the caterers were starting to pack up the crockery. (By the time that Sigue Sigue Sputnik showed up, a full year later, with a magnificently bad timing which verged on the heroic, the room was all but deserted.)
“Take your hairdryer, blow them all away”, indeed. Grrr! Bitch-slaps at fifty paces! I ask you, what kind of “manifesto” is that?
Now, I’m not normally one to get embarrassed about musical purchases that popular opinion might consider questionable. Five Nolan Sisters singles and proud of it, mate! And two by the Vengaboys! But if there is one item in my collection which makes me shudder with shame every time my eye catches its spine, it is Medusa: the wretched covers “project” which Annie Lennox inflicted upon the world in 1995. And why did I get suckered into buying it? Because of the one decent track on it: this cover of No More I Love Yous, which had flopped for an act called The Lover Speaks in the mid 1980s.
Yes, it’s lovely. We all know that. But oh, Annie – with your fifty squillion Brits awards and your seemingly unassailable position as First “Hey, She’s A Great Lady!” Of British Rock And Pop – you had always steered a precarious course between inspired and naff, but you well and truly jumped the shark with this one, didn’t you? Your career was never the same again, was it? Still, you have your trophy cabinet, and we have our Eurythmics Greatest Hits CDs. Shall we leave it at that?
I can scarcely muster the enthusiasm to comment on the ongoing Elvis Presley singles re-issue programme, which has seen a new Top Three chart entry for “The King” in every week of 2005 to date. Wooden Heart: ghastly kitsch from a neutered giant, or quaint sing-along fun that’s not worth making a fuss about? Don’t ask me; I’m past caring. (Well, almost.) It’s marketing stunts like these which rob the singles charts of their meaning, you know.
(What’s that? They never had any meaning in the first place? Hello, should you even be here?)
My votes: 1 – Annie “Hey, She’s A Great Lady!” Lennox. Because when has Annie ever NOT won anything she’s been nominated for? 2 – The Seekers. 3 – Pilot. 4 – Elvis Presley, who gets an extra point for singing in German. 5 – King.
Over to you. As the first three songs are all within a single BPM of each other, you’ll find that today’s selection is quite the Disco Mix. (I can still do it, you know.) Looking at the decade scores, we find that the 1960s are staging a remarkable comeback: from a poor fifth position, to just two points away from the 1980s. Meanwhile, the 2000s have yet to earn a single first place position in any of the daily rounds. Will Elvis bring it home for the Noughties? Or will Annie Lennox spearhead a late resurgence for the 1990s? There’s only one way to find out!