Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? – Year 5 – the Number 8s.

OK, time to face facts. No longer quite the carefree little thing that I was in previous years, my ongoing “professional” duties – plus a fatal weakness for, you know, actually enjoying the occasional night in front of telly with a fine wine and my man by my side – do rather stand in the way of being able to maintain a daily service.

On the other hand, it does give all of you busy little blog-hoppers and feed-snappers a bit of breathing space, and more time to form thoughtful evaluations of the material on offer.

But here I am, and here we are, and here they are: the Number Eights.

1967: Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron – Royal Guardsmen. (video)
1977: Jack In the Box – Moments.
1987: Running In The Family – Level 42. (video)
1997: Barrel Of A Gun – Depeche Mode. (video)
2007: Same Jeans – The View. (video)
Listen to a short medley of all five songs.

With the memory of Snoop “Doggy” Dogg’s unseemly slavering still fresh in our minds, let us now turn to his predecessor in title, as immortalised by the Royal Guardsmen‘s dodgy stab at World War Humour. Dozens of dead soldiers! Ho ho ho!

As an eleven-year old fan of the Trojan Records sound, and a Peanuts afficionado to boot, I was mightily fond of the 1973 pop-reggae re-working of “Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron” by the Hotshots, which blared out of my newly acquired Bush monaural gramophone with the smoked perspex lid, all the way through the High Summer of Glam. Some of our childhood enthusiasms stay with us through to adulthood, while others are gladly cast aside – and this song, in any version, shall forever reside in my mental Clearance Bin.

Like Whizzer & Chips, The Sutherland Brothers & Quiver, and Alfreton & Mansfield Parkway, The Moments shall be forever linked with their musical other halves, The Whatnauts. Sans Whatnauts, The Moments merely feel like half the deal – and sans any genuine disco-funkiness, or even a halfway decent song, the sickly, cloying “Jack In The Box” merely feels like bargain basement fodder for the Port and Lemon set.

It’s at times like these that I reconnect with my inner adolescent crypto-Maoist year-zero scorched-earth Punk Rocker. Production line garbage for the brainwashed masses! With my Slaughter & the Dogs and Eater singles, I shall obliterate you all!

None of which can adequately prepare me for the creeping realisation that “Running In The Family”, by the hitherto irredeemable Level 42, is – whisper it if I dare – actually quite good. There, I’ve said it. Back in 1987, when I was in thrall to more received notions of “cool” than were good for me (for what is a man, if he cannot be judged by the cut of his 501’s and the badges on his black MA1 flying jacket?), I wouldn’t have given this track house room. Looking back, it’s so bizarre…

By 1997, former electro-pop pretty boys Depeche Mode had reached the height of their gnarly, “industrial”, wannabe-Nine-Inch-Nails phase, and Dave Gahan had just begun to emerge from his own private Skaghead Hell of self-destruction. Produced by Tim “Bomb The Bass” Simenon, “Barrel of a Gun” is a harrowingly accurate reflection of his turmoil. I’ve never formed much of an emotional connection with the work of Depeche Mode – a band whose continued international mega-success has always bemused me – but this song comes pretty close to convincing me otherwise.

“Hang on, Mike: what’s this cover of “Brimful of Asha” by The Proclaimers doing in the 2007 chart?” Oh, I will have my little joke, even if it’s scarcely an original one. The Lurching Around At The Friday Night Indie Disco With A Pint Of Cooking Lager Aesthetic gets far too short a shrift in some purse-lipped quarters, and I happen to find it a perfectly acceptable aesthetic – which means that, bless my soul, The View have turned in my favourite track of the bunch. Oh, come on. It’s FUN. You remember FUN, dontcha?

My votes: The View – 5 points. Depeche Mode – 4 points. Level 42 – 3 points. Moments – 2 points. Royal Guardsmen – 1 point.

Over to you. Cartoon capers, plastic disco, yuppie funk, f**ked-up self-loathing, or Sheer Youthful Exuberance From Some Promising Youngsters Who May Go Far? The choice is yours!

Running totals so far – Number 8s.

2007: Same Jeans – The View (130)

Same Jeans is actually quite good; if I cared enough it could become my favourite song from this entire decade. Which probably means it’s retro derivative and un-original… (Gert)

For the benefit of those who didn’t hear it, Mika performed a cover of this track by The View on Jo Whiley’s Live Lounge on Radio 1, and he blended it with a bit of Brimful of Asha. I had already had the thought independently that they were a bit similar(as did many people, I’m sure) so it was a bit freaky hearing him do them together. (Chig)

Ha, never mind Brimful of Asha, I hereby declare “Snoopy” and “Same Jeans” to be the same song! Seriously, try singing the tune of one over the backing of the other. The best thing about The View is their singer, who sounds (a) his age, (b) like he just woke up up – and indeed has been wearing the same clothes 4 days in a row, and (c) more like a Scouser than a kid from Dundee the way he mangles his vowels. “Same Jeans” is bona fide teenpop, albeit dressed in indie garb, and a deserved Top 5 single. A pity all their other songs are turgid rock, then. Enjoy your fleeting success, guys. (jeff w)

Well, it’s kinda cute… This will never be hit over here. The Proclaimers filled our quota for strong Scots accent songs long ago. (asta)

The View are good live and I bought this too, but I suspect it’s a bit ephemeral, Monkeylite. (Dymbel)

A thousand rowdy folk groups probably sing similar songs in pubs nationwide every Saturday. (diamond geezer)

It’s got that “I’m sure I’ve heard it many times before” quality, even on first time listening! (Amanda)

Another identikit guitar band, don’t any of them have any original ideas any more? (Alan)

1997: Barrel Of A Gun – Depeche Mode (126)

A tremendous piece of sleazy synth pop from a fantastically innovative band. The drugs, well yeah, but the sounds and the hips, oh the hips… (Caskared)

Even at their least commercial DM were still naggingly accessible. (diamond geezer)

I’m not always won over by Depeche Mode, but I love how they can produce such powerful, energetic odes to misery. (Adrian)

Erm – well I can imagine that if I’d been drinking heavily I’d think it was pretty good – it’s loud and has guitarry things. (JonnyB)

Ooh, look! A sound effect! It’s the 90s! It’s the future! I can shout into a microphone and rely on the sound engineers to gloss over my total absence of talent or creativity! Crap. (Gert)

Dear oh dear – way to sh*t on your magnificent 80s legacy, dude (jeff w)

I have a complete blank as far as this group is concerned, total shit. (Dymbel)

1987: Running In The Family – Level 42 (107)

The only one of their singles I bought, and still stands up I think, hints of Madness, but that’s no bad thing – I shall be pulling out the single for a full play later. (Dymbel)

What a great record. Dig that slap bass. Flea eat your heart out. (SwissToni)

Listening to Level 42 is okay, but I think watching them put people off, as Mark King played his geetar with it hoisted up around his nipples. It just looked a bit stupid. (Chig)

Horribly smug. If I was a bass guitar I’d slap him back. (Stereoboard)

Not as good as that song where he declares that he wants to make love to someone before they drop the atom bomb. (betty)

1977: Jack In the Box – Moments (84)

Was really happy when I found this on a cheap disco compilation. Yeah, Girls was a much better song but as a one time port and lemon drinker I’m not complaining. (betty)

Could we not have the Clodagh Rodgers song with the same title instead? It’s much more fun. (Chig)

It’s disgusting innuendo disguised as sickly syrup (“Jack comes out of the box” indeed!) (diamond geezer)

OMG!OMG! Just Jack’s got a lounge act on the Princess Carnival Cruise. (asta)

Good intro but then belly-flopped. (chris)

For about two seconds the Moments track kids you that it’s gonna be a funky bit of ‘Philly’, before it goes horribly wrong. (JonnyB)

I can’t believe that the group who, when teamed with the Whatnauts, brought us the superb Girls could produce something as dire as this. (Adrian)

1967: Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron – Royal Guardsmen (63)

Were they really allowed to sing “bloody” on the radio in the 60s? Bloody hell. (diamond geezer)

Quite pleasant if you only hear it once every ten years, but the problem with stupid novelty records is how quickly they get very irritating. (Gert)

I don’t want to like it, but I need to know what happened to Snoopy! (Adrian)

Tuneful and sweary…. excellent 🙂 (NiC)

There was a tune in there? (chris)

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