Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? – Year 5 – the Number 9s.

At this early juncture, I should explain something about the thorny matter of re-releases. In past years, I have sometimes included them (Elvis Presley’s “Wooden Heart”), and sometimes excluded them (Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round”). This year, I’m definitely excluding them – and here’s my reasoning.

The objective of this little stunt is to compare the music that was actually made in each decade. Therefore, older records which happened to find popularity in a different decade – most usually because of successful marketing – would only skew the sample. Exceptions can be made for remixes which noticeably change the original, and for re-releases that still belong to the same decade.

This year, three singles fall foul of the re-release rule: Elvis Presley’s “Suspicion” (a 1962 recording which hit the charts in 1977), and two hits from 1987: Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” and Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman”, which were both used in massively popular (and deliciously homo-erotic) TV advertisments for Levi’s Jeans. To fill the gaps, I’ve added Number 11 and Number 12 hits to the bottom of the lists, and shuffled everything up accordingly.

Now that we’re all singing from the same revisionist hymn sheet, let’s crack on with the Number Nines.

1967: Matthew And Son – Cat Stevens.
1977: Daddy Cool – Boney M. (video)
1987: The Music Of The Night – Michael Crawford. (video)
1997: Remember Me – Blue Boy. (video)
2007: I Wanna Love You – Akon featuring Snoop Dogg. (video)
Listen to a short medley of all five songs.

Ah, but didn’t The Artist Subsequently Known As Yusuf Islam have some great moments, before he went all soppy and sappy in the early 1970s? Boasting some terrific orchestration, “Matthew And Son” is a fine piece of slightly Kinks-esque social observation, which bemoans the plight of the Oppressed Worker and delivers a sophisticated pop take on the emergent genre of the “protest” song.

From deep and meaningful to shallow and meaningless, but in the best possible way: Boney M were rarely less than preposterous, and rarely more fun than on this, their debut hit. So good that they based a musical around it, “Daddy Cool” is production-line German disco from that eternal pop tart, Frank Farian (of whom more in a few days’ time) – and as such, it sits at the opposite end of the spectrum from Giorgio Moroder’s increasingly ground-breaking work with Donna Summer. “Daddy Cool” may be no “I Feel Love” – but at eight out of ten wedding discos, it’s the one which is more likely to get me wiggling my pin-striped booty with the bridesmaids.

Ooh Betty, Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s done a whoopsie all over the Top Ten! From the musical Phantom of the Opera, Michael Crawford buries the memory of Frank Spencer with… with…

…no, sorry. We all have our blind spots, and this brand of over-egged, pseudo-operatic Musical Theatre is one of mine. Please don’t make me think about it any more than I have already had to.

Featuring vocal samples from Marlena Shaw’s superb “Woman of the Ghetto”, Blue Boy‘s “Remember Me” was one of those crossover club hits that just about everybody loved at the time. Perhaps it got a little over-played, and perhaps it needs laying aside for a few more years before we can all start loving it anew – for such is the fate of the “used groove” – but you can’t argue with class like this, can you?

I’ve tried to do my best by Akon & Snoop Dogg, even beefing their track up with a running beat-mix from “Remember Me”, but I can already hear the howls of outrage building up in my embryonic comments box. Although bearing the DJ-friendly title “I Wanna Love You”, the word “love” is mysteriously absent from the track itself – and there are no prizes for guessing which four-letter word takes its place, either.

A couple of years ago, I penned a fairly detailed defence of the use of the f-word in Eamon’s huge hit, “F**k It (I Don’t Want You Back)” – and I’d stand by that defence today. With Akon & Snoop’s “I Wanna F**k You” – a straightforward ode of dribbling lust towards a pole dancer – the issues are somewhat different. There’s no subtlety here. No subversion of the apparent meaning. Not even any redeeming wit. They want to f**k her. End of.

So in that case, why do I find myself becoming increasingly obsessed with this song, which I must have played half a dozen times in the past 24 hours? Maybe it’s because I’m trying to absorb the shock – because, yes, having a song like this in the Top Ten does shock me. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to work out, from a generational distance of at least twenty years if not thirty years, how this song is being consumed by its target audience. Do they find it funny, or horny, or thrillingly transgressive (I’ll bet this is huge with 13-year old boys), or are they even listening that closely in the first place?

Although this country doesn’t boast much in the way of a pole-dancing culture, it’s a safe bet that “I Wanna F**k You” will be blaring out thrice nightly, in every titty-bar from New York to L.A. Well, of course it would, as it handily perpetuates the fantasy that the dancers are gagging for it, and that the punters have some sort of legitmate claim over them.

On the other hand, perhaps people aren’t as dumb as I’m making out. Of course this track perpetuates an erotic fantasy. That’s the whole point. It’s a fantasy – and as such, does its existence necessarily have to be a harmful one?

But then again: is it just me, or isn’t there something bleak, desolate and almost mournful about the atmosphere on this track? Doesn’t it exude some kind of languid, disconnected loneliness, which intensifies with each repeated listen, to the point where the tune becomes perversely enjoyable?

Or maybe I’m over-analysing, and it’s just a pile of lazy, offensive crap (and also Akon’s second consecutive appearance in the 2007 Top 10, but I can’t think of anything remotely interesting to say about that). We shall see, soon enough.

My votes: Cat Stevens – 5 points. Blue Boy – 4 points. Boney M – 3 points. Akon & Snoop Dogg – 2 points. Michael Crawford – 1 point.

Over to you. Votes in the comments box, please. I’m predicting an early lead for the 1960s, but what do I know?

Running totals so far – Number 9s.

1977: Daddy Cool – Boney M (149)

Guaranteed to get everybody up on the dance floor, even those diehards who swear Disco was the death of music. (asta)

The Boney M song that sounds most similar to all other Boney M songs. (diamond geezer)

It can’t be easy to make good time party music that can be enjoyed by a wide variety of people and that lasts. (Amanda)

1997: Remember Me – Blue Boy (133)

Breathtakingly bright beats (diamond geezer)

I love this track, brings back many happy (slightly twatted) memories. (TGI Paul)

I like the intro more than the song proper, but it is naggingly catchy, I’ll admit. (jeff w)

Loved this at the time. Still do, but my finger would be hovering above the skip button iTunes picked it, due to the overplaying you mention. (Adrian)

Ooh, look I can scratch my tracks. Dull. Noise. Rubbish. (Gert)

I still say that the line is “I’m the Wombat Badger Baby”. (Lyle)

1967: Matthew And Son – Cat Stevens (132)

Now that’s how to write a tune… and topped off by intelligent lyrics too. (diamond geezer)

Cat pre tuberculosis. I prefer the songs he wrote during and immediately after hospitalisation. (The ones that Mike describes as ‘soppy and sappy’.) (Amanda)

I grew to love this as an oldie on shows like Jimmy Savile’s Old Record Club (as I was only 9 months old for this 1967 selection), but it always made me think of ‘Steptoe And Son’, and still does. (Chig)

Terrific orchestration and delivery. No idea what’s he’s on about, though. (David)

I’m afraid the message is subverted for me by the horns. Makes me think Matthew and Son is just a cover for CS, Sixties Superspy. (asta)

I actually think this is one of his weakest, saved only by effective (if irritating) orchestration. “A cup of cold coffee and a piece of cake” – Oh please. What a devastating critique of capitalism. (Hedgie)

So earnest, so soulful, so…boring. (robert)

2007: I Wanna Love You – Akon featuring Snoop Dogg (65)

I’m no great fan of Akon – his contribution to the Stefani record works quite well, as a sort of counterpoint – but he’s not what I’d call a great frontman. However, the kids upstairs on the buses in Hackney love to have him as their ringtones, I gather. Especially the girls. So I’ll put my indifference down to my age. Certainly I’m not hearing what you’re hearing in this, Mike. But it gets a few bonus points for lack of subtlety. (jeff w)

I’m a bit embarrassed by how much I liked this. Call it mid-life crisis. But the video clinched it. (z)

I was shocked at how much I actually liked this. Nasty. (Hedgie)

This isn’t bad. I think I must be getting desensitised to these sort of lyrics because they seem to be everywhere nowadays, unfortunately. (betty)

The *edited* version of this is on the radio ALL THE TIME. I asked my goddaughters about it–they don’t care about the lyrics, they just like the tune. (asta)

Gosh! Swear words! Shock! Envelope pushing! Must be ever so titillating for the average pubescent primary school child. I’m afraid I’m bit older than that and I can’t think of a single reason why I would want to f**k someone with such an annoying nasal voice. (Gert)

Is combining fan bases the the only way songs get popular these days? (Stereoboard)

Seems incredibly unerotic for a song about sexual desire. (Amanda)

Everything I dislike about lazy rap summed up in one aimless dirge. (diamond geezer)

Vile, vile, vile. Absolutely vile. I bet Akon and Snoop have really small cocks. (Chig)

1987: The Music Of The Night – Michael Crawford (61)

Some people love ALW, some hate him. I just think he’s mediocrely pleasant forgettable derivative mental chewing gum. I like Michael Crawford as Frank Spencer, but the guy can’t sing – he’s growling his way through this. (Gert)

I thought his voice, which could sound good, sounded strained and overstretched here. And ‘mewsic’ clinched it. (z)

Now I love musical theatre as much as the next old queen, but this is too theatrical, too luvviefied in its delivery. There are better versions of this song, but I suspect you’re not going to believe me if I push you in the direction of Michael Ball, so we’ll leave it there. (Chig)

There are some great musical theatre voices out there, Mike ain’t one of them. If I sang this way my vocal coach used to bellow at me “BAGPIPING! You’re BAGPIPING BOY!!!” Awful, awful voice, why did anyone ever allow him to make records???? (Alan)

I’d give it minus points if I could. Phantom is a no-go zone for me. It caused some friction at the height of its popularity when otherwise sane friends would try to talk me into going to NY or Toronto to see Phantom. I eventually learned not to say ‘I’d rather be the pipecleaner for the city sewer system.’ (asta)

“Grasp it, Sense it, Tremulous and tender” – yeah, my hands around your throat with any luck mate. (betty)

I blame Thatcher. (chris)

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