Which Decade is Tops for Pops? (4/10) – 2005 edition.

Three days down, and we’ve already had victories for three of our five decades: Helen Reddy for the 1970s, Prince for the 1980s, the Perfecto Allstarz for the 1990s. Meanwhile, it’s all looking a bit shit for last year’s winning decade, as the oh-God-not-ANOTHER-beat-group 1960s lag behind the pack with two losing songs out of three.

With a reminder to newcomers that late votes are still welcome, as some of the earlier positions are still running neck and neck (Alex Party vs Ciara, Perfecto Allstarz vs Chemical Brothers, Art Of Noise vs Ashanti), let us plough on with the Number Sevens.

1965: The Special Years – Val Doonican
1975: Shame Shame Shame – Shirley & Company
1985: A New England – Kirsty MacColl
1995: Run Away – MC Sar & the Real McCoy
2005: Angel Eyes – Raghav (featuring Jucxi & Frankey Maxx)
Listen to a short medley of all five songs.

Well, at least it’s not another beat group! If Nicki French was our favourite auntie, then smiling Val Doonican was our favourite uncle: a reassuring presence for many years on a host of light entertainment TV specials, with his rocking chair, his chunky-knit sweaters, and his deep, honeyed, mellifluous tones that put me in mind of an Irish Jim Reeves.

But oh, Uncle Val! How ever did you get away with this one? And if its shall-we-say dated sentiments are anything to go by, then is it any wonder that you were quietly dropped from the schedules all those years ago? And was The Special Years single-handedly responsible for the feminist movement of the 1970s, one wonders? Listen to this, pick yourself off the floor, and marvel at how far we’ve come.

Having bought my second-hand copy of Shirley And Company‘s Shame Shame Shame from John Harvey (the guy who wrote the Resnick novels), I then proceeded to plug it at every opportunity at my late 1980s club nights, turning it into one of my biggest guaranteed floor-fillers. (It mixed particularly well out of the rap in the middle of Prince’s Alphabet Street.) “Rare groove”, we called it – conveniently forgetting that this had been a Top Ten hit in its own right. Anyhow, my love for this tune runs so deep that all further objectivity is impossible. I expect a sea of first places for this one, please.

Except that you’ll probably all choose Kirsty MacColl‘s cover of Billy Bragg’s A New England instead. And who could blame you: it’s flawless stuff, the pop equivalent of a 1960s kitchen sink drama, with an understated literacy that has all but disappeared from today’s… but no, I’m not going to fall into that easy Grumpy Old Man trap. Nevertheless, the nostalgic pull of this song, and all that it represents, is almost enough to make me physically ache with longing for what has been lost. Dearie me, what a cliché. But I am old, and frail, and sentimental, and you must not begrudge me my memories.

There are no such issues at stake with MC Sar & the Real McCoy‘s workmanlike slab of Euro-dance-pop by numbers, over which it is perhaps best to quickly pass. Goodness, did we ever stop dancing in 1995? I thought this was the Age of Britpop! How selectively do we remember.

If anyone would like to mount an objective, non-ironic defence of Run Away, based on its intrinsic artistic merits, then I would be fascinated to hear it. Because by my reckoning, this is the first out-and-out Total Stinker of this year’s selection. Even Johnny Wakelin had a certain charm about it; this just sounds designed by committee, in order to fulfil some obscure EC quality directive.

And finally… if it’s another record with a simple repeated melodic figure running all the way through it, then it must be the 2000s! But that’s as pungent a criticism as I can make of Raghav and his chums’ splendidly frisky piece of New Asian Undergr… oh, I can’t bluff you, for I have no idea what “scene” spawned Angel Eyes. I am simply grateful for its presence.

Indeed, over the last two or three days, I have become a little obsessed with its presence. Earworm of the moment. Who knows, I might even go out and buy it (and the Ashanti single, for that matter). On any other day, this could easily have been my first choice. However, in the face of the BOO-HOO-HOO-HOW-I-WEEP-FOR-MY-LOST-YOUTH-ness of Kirsty and Shirley (*), it will have to settle for third.

(*) Is it just me, or is does Shirley’s voice put anyone else in mind of Jake Shears from the Scissor Sisters? OK, so it’s just me then…

My votes: 1 – Shirley & Company. 2 – Kirsty MacColl. 3 – Raghav (featuring Jucxi & Frankey Maxx). 4 – Val Doonican. 5 – MC Sar & the Real McCoy.

Over to you. Will Kirsty push the 1980s ever further forward, or will smiling Uncle Val lead a surprise resurgence for the 1960s? Please leave your votes in the comments box.

Running totals so far – Number 7s

1975: Shame Shame Shame – Shirley & Company (152)

  • “Shame on you if you can’t dance too.” Fan-bloody-tastic, I’ve been trying for years to put succinctly into words my entire take on life, and someone just sums it up in one single snatch of shocking-pink, seventies schlock. Wait for the Scissor Sisters’ cover: it’ll be massive. Now get out of the way: that bit of dancefloor’s mine. (Nigel)
  • I grew up hearing this stuff. This, the Hues Corporation, and Bonnie Pointer are basically my strongest memories of the 70’s. (Barry)
  • Oh yes, it would have to be Shame Shame Shame – Shirley & Company as I spent 1985 pressed against cross dressers, beautiful boys with hairless chests and tight Jordache jeans and girls with shaved heads well before lipstick and lesbian were entrenched together in a phrase. Straight back to college that one was….. (jo)
  • An almost perfect pop song (asta)
  • Timeless brilliance and stunningly good vocals. (Simon)
  • the demented, gorgeous vocal leaps and blasts make it, while the backing track sounds kind of creaky. The vocal charisma gives it a close victory… (Tom)
  • Yes, fantastic. There’s an early nineties version isn’t there, that sounds exactly the same basically, but somehow misses that little bit extra, like that voice going aaoow júst a little too loud. Great stuff. (KoenS)
  • The cover version y’all may be thinking of was done by NYC drag doyenne The Lady Bunny). I’ve always thought that Shirley & Co. sounded a lot like Disco Tex & The Sex-O-Lettes. (Joe.My.God.)
  • That early 90s cover of “Shame Shame Shame” might have been by Sinitta, who had a small hit with it. (mike)
  • I was shocked by how much the verses of “Shame Shame Shames” (which I’d totally forgotten) resemble a 1930s gangsters and flappers musical number. It’s a monster chorus, however, and has to be top of the pile this round. (zebedee)
  • gets me thinking about a teeny tiny marvin gaye (timothy)
  • Maybe the Company are the ones playing the spoons. Are they spoons? Disco spoons? I like the sound of disco spoons (it’s much more pleasant than breaking glass). (djg)
  • good and all, but kind of annoying and squawky (David)
  • That other aspect of mid-Seventies horribleness, the perfect companion to ConceptDadRock. (Gert)

1985: A New England – Kirsty MacColl (146)

  • A goddess singing a very great anthem. (Gert)
  • It is that line you quote in the decade scores. The space hardware one. Most romantic line ever, gets me sobbing everytime. Billy Bragg, songwriting genius. And it’s that voice of course. Kirsty MacColl, sorely missed chanteuse extraordinaire. (KoenS)
  • Husband’s comment upon listening was ‘such a beautiful song’. I had never heard it done by her before. To me she will always be ‘In these shoes?” But she still ranks as number two on sheer ‘Kirsty is cool’ merit. (jo)
  • Although I like Billy Bragg better, This is a nostalgia knock out, if a bit Hyper-active (timothy)
  • I love Kirsty. This is not her best work, though. (Emma)
  • It’s a tie between Shirley and Kirsty, but I’ll plump for Kirsty, just cuz she’s produced so much brilliance over the years, and I miss her so. (David)
  • Kirsty gets a sympathy vote, but truth to tell it’s a pretty anaemic take on an OK song. (zebedee)
  • I’ve got no sense of nostalgia about this song. I’ve never heard it before and over here, ‘New England” is a collection of American states to the south of where I live. Did she really sing ” I put you on a pedestal. You put me on the pill.”? It’s a charming little song, but that’s all this snippet says to me. (asta)
  • It’s a nice song and Kirsty does it justice, but not more than that. (Simon)
  • I know I really, really, really should like this, and Billy Bragg is brilliant, and so for that matter is Kirsty, most of the time, and it’s all terribly worthy and relevant and all that, but Kirsty’s monotone played against that strident beat just leaves me cold. Where’s the passion? Where’s the emotion?
  • Used to love it, but it sounds very stumbling and tinny now, and I’ve heard the lyric too many times. (Tom)
  • Bit too slick & upbeat, especially when compared to the superior original. (djg)
  • I concur with others in that I prefer the original. (Barry)
  • pleasant melodically but horribly over-produced.. was it Steve Lilywhite? it has that mid-80s strangled sound (David)
  • Sorry, my votes would have been in earlier, but Ms MacColl’s caterwauling woke the baby. (Stereoboard)

2005: Angel Eyes – Raghav (featuring Jucxi & Frankey Maxx) (89)

  • unexpectedly classy – current records aren’t supposed to be this good, are they? (diamond geezer)
  • I’m a sucker for that ‘sound’. Bollywood all the way baby. (jo)
  • This cultural melting pot works for me. (asta)
  • Yes, good dancehall/tabla crossover, it only really comes to life when the toasting starts though. (Tom)
  • Doesn’t sound like 2005 to me, but it’s quite good. (Simon)
  • Not much to it, is there. Fun at weddings, no doubt. (djg)
  • Not unpleasant, but I’m sure it’s been done a hundred times before. (Gert)
  • Poor. The beat is just weak [We’ve been spoiled by MIA], the singing is awful. The toasting can’t rescue it, too little too late. (KoenS)
  • Raghav come in last because they remind me too much of Peter Andre… (Adrian)
  • Who let the dogs out? (timothy)
  • He can’t wait for the whole world to feel his vibe, apparently. I can. (Nigel)

1995: Run Away – MC Sar & the Real McCoy (84)

  • You’re right, this is absolutely generic. But what a genre! Obvious chord changes deployed for maximum effect, that particular synth sound, a particularly gruff Euro-rapper (all Euro-rappers sound terrific, that combination of total deadpan serious and obvious eagerness just to be doing rapping at all), Eurodance is one of my minor obsessions at the moment and while this isn’t one of the greats it presses all the right buttons. (Tom)
  • We remember the mid-90’s for Britpop because of all those NME covers. Of course, the charts were printed right there in black and white, and they were always dominated by stuff like this. In the meantime, f**king Menswe@r were on the cover but were struggling to crack the top 20. (Barry)
  • This gets to place so high for purely sentimental reasons…. I’m almost ashamed to say, but it was the first thing I got on CD. I’m not sure what possessed me. (megan)
  • …get third, mainly because I’ll have to admit to egging them on by buying their Another Night single (Adrian)
  • Not at all bad. Not as good as “Another Night”, but indeed: what a genre. And yes: actually sounds much fresher than it should. (KoenS)
  • Like Tom said – “that particular synth sound“. It’s probably going to stay with me, given how I was hormonal and 18 in 1995. The song is quite dire though. (Simon)
  • Can take this or leave it, but I’ll dance to it if nothing else is on. Just don’t tell my friends. (Nigel)
  • I quite liked the intro and the riff/beat but the lyrics annoyed me – ‘run away, if you want to survive‘ wtf? – and I hate that kind of Euro-rapping (David)
  • It has a tune. In a parallel universe they may even have appeared on the Val Doonican show. But it was cancelled by the cynical Noineties. Oh, Val! (Gert)
  • I was going to place this higher, but that was before I heard it again. (diamond geezer)
  • Godawful but at least you can take the piss out of it. (Emma)
  • Totally fake. Devoid of even the tiniest soupcon of genuine feeling. (asta)
  • Oh, I’m feeling bad about the Real McCoy now.

    1) I spelt his name wrong; it’s McCoy, not McKoy.

    2) The lyrics are some sort of vague rant against materialism and, like, corporate mind control, man. So at least he means well.

    3) No-one who was an electro-boom-box-b-boy-breakdancer in Berlin in 1983 can be all bad. (I’ll bet we both saw Newtrament at The Loft. That was a good night, that was.)

    4) He’s a blogger! http://www.the-realmccoy.blogspot.com (mike)

1965: The Special Years – Val Doonican (68)

  • I like this. It’s just the right amount of corny. (Barry)
  • It’s actually quite a pleasant tune. It’s also much better if you imagine that the lyrics are ironic. (djg)
  • (2nd place) And no I am not being ironic. Say what you like, but it’s a voice as warm and as comforting as a cup of late-night Horlicks. And, for its more innocent time, an utterly charming piece, a love song to a child, with a lovely waltz melody that sweeps you up as a fellow big softie into its cosy fireside rocking-chair. Hello? Is anyone taking me seriously out there? (Nigel)
  • On Madmusings we have a very special fondness for Val Doonican. We believe that he has never actually offended anybody. When it started Himself in th’other room said Jim Reeves. (Gert)
  • this takes me back to listening to Two-Way Family Favourites on a Sunday lunchtime… but in a “trying to finish my lunch as quickly as possible so as not to have to sit around listening to bland dirges like this any more” kind of a way (diamond geezer)
  • at least he captured something of the sentiment of the time of some of the population. ok, maybe not. at least the song can be used by david lynch. (hedgerow)
  • The white-hot sound of a culture war in progress. Val lost. I think. I hope. (Tom)
  • Val also gets a sympathy vote: the sound of normalcy in a ever more rock-centric chart. (zebedee)
  • He got my attention at “from play toys to college boys” and then lost me completely… (timothy)
  • My Mum loved him and his rocking chair, and he blighted several hundred of my early Saturday evenings as a child, but that cuts no ice with me! (Tina)
  • Was karaoke invented back then? It’s as if his singing is completely unconnected to the music. I can hear how he’s just so full of himself and his perfect pitch and vibrato that he doesn’t even notice what a dreadful and boring song it is. Bleh. (Simon)
  • Holy cow! What were they thinking? (jo)
  • An OMGWTFROFLOL if ever there was one. But not in a good way. (KoenS)

Decade scores so far (after 3 days).
1. The 1980s (12) — It’s wrong to wish on space hardware, I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care!
2. The 1990s (10) — A generation without soul, perfect people in a perfect world!
3. The 2000s (9) — There’s no-one above it, we all need some loving, some kissing and hugging!
4. The 1970s (8) — I’m gonna dance dance dance, ooh to the break of day!
5. The 1960s (6) — So stay awhile in the special years, their magic will soon be gone!

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