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

Once again – and this happens every year – there is still plenty of jockeying for position going on across the board, as a steady flow of late votes continues to trickle in. As various songs quietly swap places further down the page, this has a knock-on effect on the cumulative scores for each decade. So, if you’re late to the party, then be assured that late votes can still make a difference.

As I write this, the Spencer Davis Group and the Miracles are battling it out for first place among the Number 8s, with the lead regularly swapping – and the same holds true for the Cilla Black/Candi Staton bitchfest in the Number 7s. Meanwhile, Crispian St Peters is only just ahead of Tina Charles in yesterday’s Number 3s. It’s so exciting! But wait, there’s more! It’s the Number Twos!

1966: 19th Nervous Breakdown – Rolling Stones.
1976: Forever And Ever – Slik.
1986: Starting Together – Su Pollard.
1996: Anything – 3T.
2006: Nasty Girl – Notorious BIG featuring Diddy, Nelly, Jagged Edge & Avery Storm.
Listen to a short medley of all five songs.

A few days ago, some of you confidently predicted that there wouldn’t be a better song this year than Abba’s “Mamma Mia”. Well, here’s your challenge, right here, right now.

This classic number from the Rolling Stones represented a quantum leap forward from the beefed-up R&B of the band’s earlier hits, ushering in a darker, more menacing, more confrontational attitude. As a result, “19th Nervous Breakdown” broke their run of five consecutive Number Ones, and kicked off a sequence of six “dark period” hits, ending with the incandescent “Jumping Jack Flash” just over two years later. It’s about now that Mick Jagger became the British establishment’s premier whipping boy – indeed, I remember genuinely believing that he was the most evil man in the country, thanks to the sustained outrage of my parents and grandparents. Listening to this track, you can still see why the Stones must have seemed such a threat.

But how do you compare a swaggering rock workout like this to the intricately crafted pop of “Mamma Mia”? Both convey a certain sense of accusation – but where the one shakes its fist, the other merely wags its fingers. So which is the greater record? Which moves you the most? Are you Rock or are you Pop? Which SIDE are you on?

Ah, it’s the age old question – and one which I prefer to side-step, having a foot in both camps. However, of one thing I am certain: that there will be a string of 5 points for the Stones. Maybe even our first ever 100% score, who knows. Because, yeesh, have you seen the state of the competition?

Slik – featuring a fresh-faced Midge Ure on lead vocals, before he graduated into Pop’s Mister Worthy And Dull (sorry, but all the Live Aids in the world won’t excuse him ruining Ultravox) – were being heavily promoted as The New Bay City Rollers, with the tartan swapped for bowling shirts, and the cheesy grins swapped for “mean and moody” poses which generally included chewing on matchsticks. (Grr!) Other than that, both bands were Scottish, and both used the services of the same songwriting/production partnership.

Not that you can tell this at the beginning of “Forever And Ever”, which is impressively weird for a teen group, all monk-like chanting and, erm, clanging chimes of doom. But just as you’re thinking “You know, I could quite get into this”, the whole track lurches into a godwaful chunka-chunka-chunka satin-scarf-waving limp-wristed (sorry) Thing Of Complete Hideousness, which has NOTHING to do with what has come before it. 5 points for the verse, but 1 point for the chorus. I’m seeing a string of second places. Unless… unless…

“Can I do yer chalet?” Rejoice, rejoice, IT’S SU POLLARD, HERE TO SAVE THE EIGHTIES!

(In fact, so eager was Su to do her duty, that she barged in ahead of Slik on the MP3 medley. An unstoppable force, that’s our Su.)

I’ve written about “Starting Together” before, you know. But to recap: it was the theme tune from a BBC documentary series about a young couple getting married. This was particularly memorable for its video, in which Su, looking fetching in a furry white winter cap with matching pom-poms, indulged in a playful snowball fight in the woods with said young marrieds.

OK, so it’s shit. But at least it’s entertaining shit, unlike…

3T, who were benefitting from heavy attention due to being Michael Jackson’s nephews. Tito’s sons, weren’t they? Three of them, right? Hence the awful name 3T, which makes them sound like a bunch of straight-to-cabaret no-hopers off The X Factor.

I can’t stand “Anything”. Really, really can’t stand it. Worst record we’ve had so far. Hell, even Mariah Carey was good for a snooty giggle for a couple of seconds. This is just… ugh. And, especially given their pedigree, it’s disgracefully badly sung. Adenoidal, that’s the word. But, oh, just wait till we get to the witless necrophiliac slobberings of the collected might of (deep breath)…

Notorious BIG featuring Diddy, Nelly, Jagged Edge & Avery Storm. One has been dead since 1997, and the rest are a bunch of vultures crowded round the still profitable cadaver, and dribbling mildly offensive pre-pubescent inanities all over it. Putrid stuff, which tempts me to re-activate my inner Unreconstructed 1980s Gender Politics Warrior… but maybe not, maybe not.

Nevertheless, at least “Nasty Girl” is built around a cute and catchy 1980s soul/funk retro backing, the niftiness of which lifts it up to third place in my voting. Sorry, Su. Fair’s fair. Luvya loadz.

My votes: Rolling Stones – 5 points. Slik – 4 points. Notorious BIG – 3 points. Su Pollard – 2 points. 3T – 1 point.

Over to you. Come on, it’s the Stones all the way, isn’t it? So perhaps the real battle is for last place. It’s gonna be tough!

Running totals so far – Number 2s.
1966: 19th Nervous Breakdown – Rolling Stones. (141)

  • his was the first song so far for which I turned the volume up. (z)
  • Mick & Co’s rocking enthusiasm is wholly infectious (diamond geezer)
  • 5 points: and so far in front of the rest, that it’s a speck on the horizon. (asta)
  • 5 points: by a f**king mile. A few days ago, some of you confidently predicted that there wouldn’t be a better song this year than Abba’s ‘Mamma Mia’ – that’d be me, then. Well, all I’ll say is that I’m definitely ROCK rather than POP, but despite how good this is, ‘Mamma Mia’ is immeasurably better. So, no need to go out and buy a hat to eat, then. (Ben)
  • Their late ’60’s singles just kept getting better and better, and this isn’t even one of the best ones. They just sound so menacing, don’t they? (betty)
  • Pure Class. Way before they chose to waste the talents of Ronnie Wood (a guitarist far more talented then Keef… who nicked his most famous riff off Ry Cooder anyway) and when they were a really hungry sounding blues rock band. (David)
  • Say what you want, this band has a serious catalogue of quality r’n’b influenced tunes. (Gordon)
  • Strangely, I’ve only started to appreciate early Stone’s stuff fairly recently. I was a very sheltered child. This rock classic is a veritable ruby amid the torrent of pig slurry which follows. (Hedgie)
  • Against my inherent Stones allergy one has to admit that, given the competition this’ un’s a star. (Andy)
  • Obviously brilliant, but I have no personal connection to it, or childhood memories of it. (Chig)
  • I have never been a Rolling Stones fan. I obviously just don’t ‘get’ them. Although this is probably one of the very songs of theirs that doesn’t drive me to switch off. Still don’t like it very much…! (Gert)
  • I’ve never met a Rolling Stones song I liked. I’m not a fan of their sound at all. This is better than most of the other Stones tracks I’ve heard but I wouldn’t choose to listen to it. (Will)

1976: Forever And Ever – Slik. (99)

  • L’Ecosse, cinq points! Yes, 5 points to Slik! This song was very, very special to the 9 year-old me in 1976. It was one of the tunes that I taped off the radio (by holding the mic of my 1975 Kasuga cassette recorder next to the radio) and played endlessly. My friend Stephanie and I then dissected the lyric to Forever And Ever by sitting in my walk-in wardrobe (sounds posh, but it’s where the plug socket was), playing short sections of it over and over and over again and writing it down. We then learnt it and sang it rather a lot. Those chimes still give me goosebumps. An ‘arms aloft’ pop classic. (Chig)
  • Love the intro and I don’t mind the fact that it’s a standard satin-scarf-waving teenybop song. Far superior to the Bay City Rollers. One other positive thing I can say about Midge Ure is that he was in the Rich Kids, whose Ghosts Of Princes In Towers is a great single. (betty)
  • That first verse really is the best thing ever. The chorus is slightly cringeworthy true, but I’m a sucker for the cadence on “and ever” (jeff w)
  • One of these songs I feel I ought not to like, but I really do. Probably not in my top hundred, but worthy, nevertheless. I like the atmosphere, the soundworld, if you like. (Gert)
  • Are they the clanging chimes of Band Aid at the beginning of Slik? Decades of piety start here. (dem)
  • ooo he liked those chimes didn’t he? Same ones for Feed the World? About three years earlier and it might have just made my collection. But verse and chorus… did they really come from the same song or did he feck up on the splicing? (NiC)
  • Both songs would be good on their but the whole seems less than the sum of its parts. (Will)
  • starts like the Sweet’s Blockbuster, but ends all Osmonds-y (diamond geezer)
  • Sweet meets Bay City Rollers, and nothing good comes of it. (Stereoboard)
  • yeah I see that saccharine Osmond thing going on too and I don’t like it. The verse is just weird. (Lucie)
  • Tremendous opening, worthy of a Dr Who soundtrack, and then disaster. (Chris Black)
  • I kind of like the beginning, even though he sustains a note on a really long “nnnnnnnn”, which I have been told is considered bad form. The rest is horrid. (Simon C)
  • Fantastic start, but – well – then I remembered to lower the sound again. Appalling chorus – and their punishment is that I’m putting it lower than Su. Hah! (z)
  • Clue is in the name. Can’t spell, can’t write songs either. (Gordon)

1986: Starting Together – Su Pollard. (80)

  • Blimey, she sounds sincere doesn’t she. And she took singing lessons too. The enunciation made me think of Cilla as well. (z)
  • ahh, I’ve been waiting for Su’s appearance in WDITFP for months now, and she doesn’t disappoint. Surely the finest Eurovision classic the UK never had. I’m not sure I could listen to it again, though (diamond geezer)
  • Incidentally, there are a fair few Clanging Chimes Of Doom on “Starting Together”, as well. She’s from Stapleford, you know. Yo, homegirl! (mike)
  • 4 points: – how? Mostly for some affinity I felt as an 80s bad spectacle-wearer. And for not making any more records (that I remember – thanks but I don’t want to know if there are any I’ve missed). (Lucie)
  • Call me a philistine but if I was stranded on a desert island with Su, Midge and Mick, I’d play this one. If you hadn’t told me it was her, I wouldn’t have guessed. The backing track later turns up in Steps’ version of Tragedy… (Will)
  • Su Pollard, bless her. She loved the gays so much, she married one! (Knowing this makes the song sound a little more poignant, but it’s still just kitschy.) Hell, this single was even on the Rainbow label! And I also thought that if you imagine it’s Cilla singing, it sounds better. Note to Lucie: Su had already had a minor hit, with the intriguingly titled ‘Come To Me (I Am Woman)’, but she didn’t trouble the charts again. Her album ‘Su’ made number 86. This may explain the lack of further singles. (Chig)
  • I’m impressed by Chig’s knowledge of her body of work. I have to admit that I know someone who looks uncannily like Su Pollard, which you wouldn’t think was possible. She really IS sincere. She means it, maaan. Interesting attempt at an American accent, too. (betty)
  • What is the world coming to when I find myself giving Su Pollard 4 points?!?! (Bryany)
  • The D-J at my sister’s wedding decided that this would be the opening tune. My brother-in-law was not impressed. Nor were most of the guests. It’s twee, with a twee tune, twee lyrics. and the chambermaid from Hi-de-Hi barely holding a tune sounding like the third best singer in the school concert ie not bad, for a school concert. (Gert)
  • Decent voice, decent tune, decent production, poor lyrics. (Chris Black)
  • It could have been pretty much like a half-decent normal tune, had it not been so awful. (Simon C)
  • I was expecting the worst. But really. Excruciatingly bad, from Su’s over-enunciated consonants to those patented DX7 “chimes”. Ugh. (jeff w)
  • Kill me. kill me now. It’s about as entertaining as stabbing yourself in the knees with a rusty fork. (Gordon)
  • I don’t think this could even be used to sell furniture polish. (asta)

2006: Nasty Girl – Notorious BIG featuring Diddy, Nelly, Jagged Edge & Avery Storm. (68)

  • This is pretty poor but I suppose it’s fairly easy to have on in the background. They mention listening to Prince; they’re nowhere near as funky/interesting/dirty as was in his prime. (David)
  • I’m sorry, the cute and catchy backing did it for me. Try not to listen to the ‘lyrics’. (Hedgie)
  • The most boring kind of rap music, saved from further humiliation by a half-decent beat. (Simon C)
  • As corpse-F*cking goes, this could have been – and has been in Biggie & 2Pac’s cases – a lot lot worse. (jeff w)
  • I suspect it’s probably better I don’t try and decode the lyrics. (Gert)
  • I suppose the chorus is catchy. Sexist drivel though. (betty)
  • Would pay to hear the thoughts of Germaine Greer and Andrea Dworkin on this. Misogynistic rubbish embodying nearly everything that depresses me about mainstream rap. (Ben)
  • most offensive lyrics, catchiest beat/tune of the also-rans (asta)
  • might have been higher but they offended both my Gender Politics Warrior and my Grammar Police. “I hope she swallow” indeed. (Lucie)
  • I’d have preferred this if it was ‘featuring a tune’ (diamond geezer)
  • Misogynistic rubbish. (Will)
  • Oh dear, have the charts got this Nasty? (NiC)

1996: Anything – 3T (47)

  • If only they could have taken lessons in sounding sincere from Will Young… as opposed to being aural aspertame. (David)
  • This is what I call a “girl … you KNOW it’s true” song. Mush. (betty)
  • I can’t get past the irritating nasality of the ‘singer’. (Gert)
  • He should get those sinuses fixed. (Stereoboard)
  • no redeeming features whatsoever (asta)
  • how did any of this get to number 2? (Chris)
  • a time-wasting slab of slushy directionless vacuum (diamond geezer)
  • There is one thing I hate more in life than green pepper soup. Nu-soul ballads. (Gordon)
  • Mike, we should sue you for putting us through some of these songs. It might have been wise to have included a disclaimer somewhere… (Ben)
Decade scores so far.
1 (1) The 1970s (31) — With just days left, can 1976 still be toppled?
2= (3) The 1960s (26) — A strong performance from Crispian St Peters draws the 1960s level again. Could the Rolling Stones give them a further boost?
2= (2) The 1980s (26) — Su Pollard could spell tragedy for this plucky if over-produced decade.
4 (4) The 1990s (19) — A four point gap widens to a seven point gap.
5 (5) The 2000s (18) — It’s 3T vs BIG in the Battle Of The Losers.

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