Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? – Year 5 – the Number 6s.

Ooh, but it’s getting close down there. At the time of writing, Depeche Mode have drawn level with The View in the battle of the Number Sevens, and Taffy is slugging it out with Apollo Four Forty for second place in the Number Tens. Which means that, yes, every vote does count, and can significantly affect the final result. So it’s never too late to get involved.

With that in mind, let’s check out the Number Sixes.

1967: Let’s Spend The Night Together – Rolling Stones. (video)
1977: Boogie Nights – Heatwave. (video)
1987: It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way – Blow Monkeys.
1997: I Shot The Sheriff – Warren G.
2007: How To Save A Life – The Fray. (video)
Listen to a short medley of all five songs.

This is the third time that the Rolling Stones have represented the 1960s, having finished in first place on both previous occasions (“Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown” in 2006, and “Not Fade Away” in 2004). “Let’s Spend The Night Together”, while not perhaps quite the equal of its two predecessors (although its unambiguously libidinous intent highlights all the deficiencies of the Akon/Snoop effort in a most instructive and timely manner), has only one real rival in today’s selection…

Heatwave‘s “Boogie Nights” is the second single in our 1977 Top Ten to have lent its name to a 21st century nostalgia-based musical show. Like Boney M, Heatwave began their career in West Germany, before moving to the UK and teaming up with songwriter Rod Temperton (later to write “Rock With You” and “Thriller” for Michael Jackson) and producer Barry Blue (a minor star of the glam-rock period). “Boogie Nights” is a fine early representation of the sort of overground disco music that was to reach its commercial peak in 1978 and 1979 – although my aforementioned crypto-Maoist Year Zero punk rocker 15-year old self loathed everything which it stood for. That’s sexual repression for you.

(I also misheard the lyrics, for many years, as “one two three four dancing, three four dancing“, but that’s AM radio for you.)

The Blow Monkeys are a prime example of the sort of act which seemed cool in the obsessively style-conscious climes of 1987, but whose music has largely failed to stand the test of time. Although this was their biggest hit by some considerable distance, they had better material, such as the still-rather-nifty “Digging Your Scene” from 1986. They were also brave enough to commit commercial suicide just three months later, with a doomed piece of eve-of-General-Election Thatcher-bashing/wishful thinking called “Celebrate (The Day After You)”, featuring guest vocals from no less a figure than Curtis Mayfield, if you please. The band’s hit-making career never really recovered after that, and so it would be tempting to redress this historical injustice by awarding “It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way” oodles of points – but sadly, WDITFP doesn’t work like that. Harsh but fair; it has to be this way.

To endure one lazily rubbish rap remake of a pop classic in the space of a single Top Ten might be a misfortune; to endure two in a row smacks of carelessness. But then, there was a lot of it about in 1997; Notorious BIG’s “Mo Money More Problems”, which massacred Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out”, was a few months away from charting, as was Puff Daddy’s deeply yucky mega-smash “I’ll Be Missing You”. The self-styled “G-funk” artist Warren G had promised so much in 1994, with the sublime “Regulate” – but by 1997 his artistic stock was much diminished. Not that the singles-buying public (puh, them) cared, as “I Shot The Sheriff” duly followed his late 1996 assault on “What’s Love Got To Do With It” into the Top Ten. Tellingly, Youtube doesn’t have a video for this one, either.

And so to The Fray, who would appear to be a US take on the likes of Coldplay, Snow Patrol, and most especially Keane. “How To Save A Life” has all the earnest, preachy, mid-paced ponderousness of the above three acts, and positively drips with the sort of unfocussed “meaningfulness” which can so frequently drive me to distraction – and yet, a dozen or so listens down the line, I have formed a kind of grudging accommodation with it. If preachy ponderousness is the lingua franca of the day, then at least The Fray execute it with a tolerably acceptable efficiency. It’s not for me, but I don’t particularly begrudge its existence.

My votes: Heatwave – 5 points. Rolling Stones – 4 points. The Fray – 3 points. Blow Monkeys – 2 points. Warren G – 1 point.

Over to you. The 1990s are holding onto their lead, but I fear that the combined weight of LL Cool J and Warren G are about to change all of that. Meanwhile, the 1980s are trailing badly, with two last places (Michael Crawford and Five Star) in four days. Today has to be a good one for the 1960s and the 1970s, doesn’t it? Could Heatwave be about to nudge the 1970s ahead? It’s all up to you…

Running totals so far – Number 6s.

1967: Let’s Spend The Night Together – Rolling Stones (126)

Time for my annual “I Can’t stand the Rolling Stones but this is their best song ever and a classic!” comment. Love that piano. Also love the temp/beat etc. Good old-fashioned rock’n’roll! (Gert)

risque lyrics perfectly disguised beneath a singalong classic (diamond geezer)

I would have never believed this was from the same decade, let alone week as the previous ’67 entries. And I’m not a Stones fan. Good work boys. (NiC)

Hard to believe this caused a lyric-changing ruckus on the Ed Sullivan Show. (asta)

Yes, I remember that edition of TOTP. And the woman who said “And so what do you think they were going to do all night?! Huh? Huh?” My mother hated it too. But of course, I’m not swayed by any such subjective judgement and put it top because I like it best of the five. (z)

The production on this track is quite muddy. It doesn’t really fulfill its anarchic potential. I prefer the David Bowie cover. (Amanda)

A good song but there’s something about the production here – the too prominent piano perhaps? – that irritates slightly. Much prefer the Bowie cover of this. (jeff w)

There’s shock from the Norfolk jury at some of the Stones comments. I’d put it down as one of their best singles, by far. I’ve got it on 45RPM, and it’s dynamite – the production was cleaned up a lot for the various CD ‘best ofs’. When I was a kid I didn’t even realise there were any other instruments on it other than piano and drums – there’s a bit of organ audible at the end. The muddiness is why it sounds so great. And Ruby Tuesday on the other side. That’s not a bad bit of vinyl. (JonnyB)

1977: Boogie Nights – Heatwave (121)

It’s almost pure disco perfection–the beat, the vocal harmonies, the funk guitar, and it’s about dancing. (asta)

5 points, partly because I feel guilty about pretending to hate disco when I was young. (David)

utterly groovy, but probably too cool to be a wedding disco floor-filler (diamond geezer)

Fine production and use of harmonies and different voices. But it’s all rather controlled. It doesn’t make me want to dance. (Amanda)

I normally love disco, but this is too dirgish and repetitive for my liking. (chris)

I’m afraid that the video put me right off. Odd costumes and peculiar stilted hand movements. Not my sort of music, but good of its type. (z)

It’s kind of memorable and kind of good, but I think even so, 1977 was crying out for Punk at this point. (Gert)

1987: It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way – Blow Monkeys (90)

Odd, but I can still have this one in my head without need to recourse to the MP3. Ergo, it has some kind of staying power… (Lyle)

There is an atmosphere about this, something about it being in a minor key (I think?) that makes it haunting. I seem to recall this being an anti-thatcher anthem, but I can’t see that from this clip. (Gert)

No wonder Red Wedge failed to get Labour elected, eh! (betty)

It’s a classic, I suppose, but that doesn’t meant it’s any good. (SwissToni)

2007: How To Save A Life – The Fray (69)

One of those songs on at the end of TOTP2 where Steve Wright demonstrates that there genuinely is still some great music out there for us middle aged folks, with tunes and heartfelt lyrics, and it’s not just all noise and shouting and youngsters in silly clothes. (betty)

I like this. It seems that the Noughties are consistently better than the Nineties. Still not enough to make me care. I like non-singing if it sounds like this. (Gert)

So entertainingly earnest. (z)

I can’t turn the radio on at the moment. I don’t think I really like it, but I sort of do… if you know what I mean. No? Me Neither. (SwissToni)

Like The View song a few days ago, it sounds familiar even when heard for the first time. Maybe that’s what people are aiming for these days. (Amanda)

This caught my attention the first time I heard it. Then Grey’s Anatomy picked it up a demi-eon ago and there was nowhere to turn on the dial that wasn’t playing it. Now I wish it would go hang itself. (asta)

I can’t forgive them for forcing my mates’ band to change their name to The Felons, so minimal points from me. (Adrian)

Maybe lots of sixth formers bought it as a Valentine’s Day present. (Stereoboard)

This sort of shit MUST UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES BE ENCOURAGED. NiC – “harmless” and “forgettable” music is the enemy… (Ben)

1997: I Shot The Sheriff – Warren G (44)

But I did not shoot him dead, you see, as introduced on the radio by a friend’s mother) (Pam)

The real surprise package of this bunch is the 90s. When I read the words Warren G covering “I Shot the Sheriff” I immediately thought “oh good grief” (I’d forgotten the track) but actually this has a fantastic beat, and the production (by Warren G himself) makes nice little silk purses from the sow’s ear that was the Clapton cover. In fact, I think I like this just as much as Marley’s Live! At the Lyceum take. So there. (jeff w)

I thought Bob Dylan performed the most annoying version/interpretation of this song. I was wrong. (asta)

Well, I’ve heard Sonny Curtis sing this live. I also have records of Eric Clapton, Bob Marley etc, and this track is an insult to all of them and us. They have no business releasing this. Arrogant tossers. (Gert)

I’ve taken to ratings based upon whether I would change the radio dial if a track came on. If WArren G. came on I might, in fact, shoot my radio to save it the misery. (jo)

Decade scores so far (after 4 days).
1 (1) The 1990s (15) — Why you wanna pull me over? Cuz I’m bumpin’?
2 (2) The 1970s (14) — Get that groove, let it take you higher! Make it move, set this place on fire!
3= (2) The 1960s (12) — You need some guiding, baby! I’m just deciding, baby!
3= (4) The 2000s (12) — And you’ll begin to wonder why you came!
5 (4) The 1980s (8) — You’ve only got yourself to blame, for playing the game!

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