Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? – Year 4 – the Number Tens.

Right then. I’ve been postponing this for long enough, so let’s lurch straight in with the minimum of preliminaries. Most of you will be familiar with the drill by now – but if you’ve not taken part in this exercise before, then skip down a couple of posts for a brief introduction. Everything else should become clear as the next couple of weeks roll on – but for now, all you really need to do is listen and vote.

First up, it’s the Number Tens. Have a listen to this eclectic bunch of more-or-less one hit wonders…

1966: Mirror Mirror – Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours.
1976: Dat – Pluto Shervington.
1986: The Captain Of Her Heart – Double.
1996: I Wanna Be A Hippy – Technohead.
2006: That’s My Goal – Shayne Ward.
Listen to a short medley of all five songs.

Crikey. We’re not exactly rolling out the big guns on Day One, are we? So who the hell are this bunch of also-rans, anyway?

All I can tell you about Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours is that they hailed from Rugby, that they “pioneered the use of the amplified auto-harp” (thank you Google), and that they never troubled the UK Top 40 again after this, their debut release. (Although they did hit the US Top 5 three years later, under their new name of The Flying Machine, with a song called “Smile A Little Smile For Me”.) “Mirror Mirror” comes across as an orchestrated version of Merseybeat, two years after the fact; it’s that particular early Sixties pop voice which is the giveaway here. It’s a pretty enough tune, but I can’t say that it moves me particularly one way or the other – it’s just sort of there.

Ah, now… I know loads about Pluto Shervington‘s “Dat”, having bought it at the time and played it dozens of times. Sung in full-on Jamaican patois over what was by then a rather dated “rock steady” beat, it tells the story of “Rasta Ossie from up the street”, who decides to be a very naughty boy indeed, and purchase some pork from his local butcher. The consumption of pork being taboo for those of the Rastafarian faith, this has to be done on the hush-hush, by referring to the meat simply by the agreed code word “dat”. In the chorus, you get to hear the butcher running through the meats which he has for sale (“You want goat?” “Try the beef!”), as Ossie comes up for transparently feeble excuses for rejecting each of them (“I no check for the grass were green”), before concluding “Hush your mouth, mind me brethren hear, sell I a pound of dat thing there”. Yup, it’s a satirical depiction of the breaking of religious taboos, which hit the UK Top 10 without noticeably offending anybody. Impossible to imagine these days, isn’t it?

Just as Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours picked up the fag end of Merseybeat without doing anything particularly interesting with it (groundbreaking amplified auto-harps notwithstanding), so the Swiss duo Double (pronounced Doo-ble, like yer actual French) picked up the fag-end of early 1980s synth-pop, augmenting it with a typically mid-1980s sax solo. Although I’ve not looked at the video (CBATYT already!), I would wager an educated guess that it features a) someone with Big Hair and his jacket sleeves rolled up, staring through a gap in his Venetian blinds at the sunlight outside his darkened room, and b) a champagne flute being knocked off a lacquered black ash coffee table, and shattering in slow motion.

I can still remember the first time I ever heard Technohead‘s “I Wanna Be A Hippy”. It was over a year earlier, on New Year’s Day 1995 to be precise, on the dancefloor of the mega-hardcore gay club FF, in the middle of a particularly brutal and uncompromising set of banging techno from Mrs Wood. As you might imagine, its absurdly bonkers cheeriness stood out a mile, particularly as the track featured – oh horror of horrors! – a full vocal. (Down at FF, we simply didn’t do vocals.) If you had told me then that it would end up being covered by The Smurfs, who took the song back up to Number 4 in September 1996 as “I’ve Got A Little Puppy”, I wouldn’t have believed you. (On the other hand, I was probably in such a messed-up state that I would have believed anything. “Oh my God The Smurfs that’s AMAAAAZING I LOVE THEM…”)

Which just leaves British reality TV’s most recently anointed “star”, Shayne Ward, and the song that he was given to record as a reward for winning ITV’s The X-Factor. As with all of these events, the words have been deliberately crafted to describe the very act of winning the TV competition itself. Just as Will Young sang “Gonna take this moment and make it last forever” (which he sort-of did), and just as Michelle McManus sang “I’m praying this moment’s here to stay” (which it most certainly wasn’t), so sweet, obedient little Shayne faced his adoring viewing public, and began with the lines “You know where I’ve come from, you know my story, you know why I’m standing here tonight”. Shayne’s first single peaked at #1, his second at #2… and his third, just a couple of weeks ago, at #14. We do, indeed, know his story.

My votes: Pluto Shervington – 5 points. Technohead – 4 points. Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours – 3 points. Double – 2 points (because an amplified auto-harp narrowly trounces a naff sax solo). Shayne Ward – 1 point. My partner K’s votes are in the comments.

Over to you. In the comments, please place these five songs in order of preference, starting with your favourite and working your way down. Remember: you must vote for every song, and no tied places are allowed – so there will be none of this lazy “I hate them all equally!” nonsense. Because even shite comes in several shades.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the Number Nines. Have fun!

Running totals so far – Number 10s.

1976: Dat – Pluto Shervington. (141)

  • I had forgotten entirely about this record but as soon as it started playing I started grinning from ear to ear. Great memory. (Alan)
  • The only one of the five I’d have on my iPod. (Em³)
  • Always had an affection for this song, and it’s worth checking out his single Your Honour with the Brian Rix farce lyrics. (betty)
  • Very far from what I think of as 70s music (and all the better for that). (Lucie)
  • Your explanation of this is a revelation. I thought it was fun at the time, but I don’t think, at 9 years old, that I tried to interpret it. I was too busy writing down the words to Slik (see the number twos)and singing Bohemian Rhapsody. (Chig)
  • Distinguished, in this company, by sounding fresh. (PB Curtis)
  • Entertaining, but more as a novelty than music. (z)
  • Ohh reggae-ish. Ohhh it’s … er.. rather boring, sounds over produced (I prefer my reggae to be a little less polished), but doesn’t sound like it’s 30 years old… much. (Gordon)
  • It sounds like a song for one of those old ABC Saturday morning cartoon lessons on things like conjunctions or House a bill is passed in Congress. Sorry. It’s a North American reference, but that’s what it sounds like to me. (asta)
  • deserving of a position beyond Uranus (diamond geezer)
  • Incidentally, Rasta Ossie’s excuse for not buying goat – “No, I might kill a queen” – is the least convincing explanation for homophobic violence that I have yet to hear. “The goat made me do it, your honour!” Or maybe that’s a valid defence under Jamaican law? (mike)

1986: The Captain Of Her Heart – Double. (134)

  • To my surprise, I recognised this. Like so many songs I instinctively know, it must have been on commerical radio when I was growing up. The Big Sound might be a bit of a cliche, but there’s something a bit Al Stewart about it and the familiarity makes me put it top. (Will)
  • I woke up one day thinking that the 80s really were the aesthetic high point of humanity. Still haven’t snapped out of it. (Simon C)
  • I have this on seven inch. In fact, I think it’s in a ‘double’ (sic) pack. It still has a wonderful, mournful atmosphere to it, which suited our miserable student house at the time and the cold Winter we’d just endured in it. (Chig)
  • I must admit that little piano riff just before the hookline is one that has always stuck in my memory so it must have some merit. (Alan)
  • The only one I registered hearing before. I agree with Alan, it must have some merit for being memorable. (Lucie)
  • Ugly synthetic instrumentation, but a great voice and nicely understated melancholy. (Koen)
  • Has a creepy, haunted ’80’s charm. (betty)
  • As I remember, dire. It was a pathetic attempt to be New Romantic but without any vestige of talent. And about three years too late. (Gert)
  • Horrible synthetic instrumentation throughout, particularly the way the piano hook ends, with – excuse me while I get all muso – a frightening lack of decay. It just ‘plonks’ to a dead halt. (PB Curtis)
  • If I never hear this nauseating slab of putrescence it’ll be a fraction too soon, one of the many reasons for avoiding your local BBC radio station. (Andy)

1966: Mirror Mirror – Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours. (114)

  • Believe it or not, we studied this record in a music lesson at school! Our groovy music teacher brought in and played some of his favourite records and we did the same. We even studied the charts. This was one of his choices. Dollar’s cover version was quite different, wasn’t it? 😉 (Chig)
  • 5 points: for that unmistakable 60s sound and for the girl harmonies at the beginning that St Etienne reproduced so well. (Lucie)
  • I think I have to take up where I left off last year: Most of these Merseybeat stuff are perfectly pleasant and entirely disposable. (Gert)
  • The strings and that other “plunky” thing make me clench my jaw. The rest is innocuous enough to get by. (asta)
  • VERY of it’s time, plinky plinky noises, string backing and a key change. And they say today’s song writing is formulaic! (Gordon)
  • The production is very Mamas and the Papas. OK little song but not the most original thing going. (Will)
  • chirpily inoffensive (diamond geezer)
  • not memorable but seemed pleasant enough to listen to (Alan)
  • Boo. There is nothing “sixties” about this song, except the harmonising, which in itself is unimaginative. It’s L7, man. There’s nothing “good” about this song either. (PB Curtis)

1996: I Wanna Be A Hippy – Technohead. (93)

  • Moronic, brilliant. (betty)
  • Totally daffy. The world needs daffy every once in awhile. (asta)
  • Won me over with their relentless stupidity. (PB Curtis)
  • How I hated this back then. How silly and lovely it sounds now. (Koen)
  • Sounds more like 1992 than 1996. (Simon C)
  • It’s just *noise* – I expect you need drugs to appreciate it, but not the sort of drugs that get you stoned. Wasn’t this beat big in about 1990? (Gert)
  • Despite being only 10 years ago this is such an instantly forgettable record I’m not even sure I ever heard it. (Alan)
  • I think I may have heard this at the time, but familiarity isn’t a factor here – it’s too awful, sorry. If, God forbid, this came on in any club I frequent, it would be time to get some air/head to the gents/go to the bar/hack off my ears. (Will)
  • Everything I hate about techno wrapped up in one neat package. Awful awful awful. (Gordon)
  • Please don’t insult techno by calling this techno. It’s just a novelty record, and it’s crap. (Chig)
  • I speak as a hippy, and no-one who really wanted to be a hippy would ever produce this load of toss. (Stereoboard)

2006: That’s My Goal – Shayne Ward. (58)

  • It’s a real junior prom moment. Somewhere under all that computer enhancement I suspect there lurks an honest-to-god voice. (asta)
  • 4 points: Because anyone who sends me an autographed copy of his album booklet for my 40th birthday deserves big points. I do like this though. As you say, it was the perfect choice of song for his first single. It’s a shame that we voted for Shayne as a British Justin Trousersnake, and Louis Walsh, by putitng nothing but schmaltz on Shayne’s debut album, is turning him into Perry Como. He needs to get a new manager and salvage a pop career, quick! (Chig)
  • I expect it’s a perfectly pleasant song, but it’s over arranged, over produced, and you could drive a ten ton lorry through thegaps in his voice which is just breathy breathy breathiness. (Gert)
  • Thankfully I’ve avoided hearing this till now. At first glance I read it as ‘That’s My Goat’ – surely a far more promising title? (Lucie)
  • A sub-Westlife knock-off, as with Double you can predict the video – young man in a suit, arms outstretched, singing pleadingly into the camera. Ballad by numbers. (Will)
  • bland and characterless, could be absolutely anyone (Alan)
  • A remarkably unexpressive voice matched with an entirely forgettable meander through the scales. (PB Curtis)
  • If an alien visitor was presented with this sample I am sure they would conclude that all good songs had been discovered by 2001 or so, humans now reduced to making what best they can from the sub-standard leftovers. While I’m sure this would have earned some friendly neighbour-votes if entered into Eurovision, I hope such saving graces won’t be available for it in WDITFP. (Simon C)
  • the sound of a barrel being scraped (diamond geezer)
  • All of the quirky bits that make pop music interesting have been ironed out of this one. Minus 500 points, more like. (betty)
  • The best I can say about Shayne Ward is that I’m impressed he knew where to put the apostrophe (I suspect he had help though). (dem)

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