Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? – Year 5 – the Number 4s.

You know: for a while back there, I thought that we were going to get our second ever run of perfect 5s, to match Harold Melvin’s recent triumph. But no: for a couple of you renegades (and I name no names here), Mason & Princess Superstar’s chunky club track has the edge over The Beatles’ all time classic (© Mojo, Uncut, The Word, Rolling Stone, Dad Rock Monthly etc etc). Such heresies are what we live for, here at WDITFP.

As for today’s selection, things could get a little more unpredictable once again. At the time of writing, I have no idea which one of these five tunes is going to come out on top. Could we be looking at our closest photo-finish since the epic tussle – still going strong, incidentally – between The View and Depeche Mode, back in the Number 8s? Set your stop-watches: it’s the Number Fours.

1967: Here Comes My Baby – The Tremeloes. (video)
1977: Side Show – Barry Biggs.
1987: Male Stripper – Man 2 Man featuring Man Parrish. (video)
1997: Don’t Let Go (Love) – En Vogue. (video)
2007: This Ain’t A Scene It’s An Arms Race – Fall Out Boy. (video)
Listen to a short medley of all five songs.

Every year without fail, one or two hidden gems reveal themselves during the course of assembling the project – and here’s a case in point. Over the past few weeks, I’ve devloped quite an unseemly obsession with the first hit to be scored by The Tremeloes, following their split from front man Brian Poole. “Here Comes My Baby” has so many of the elements I love: it’s ridiculously catchy, with a spirited rhythmic thrust that puts me in mind of “If I Had A Hammer” by Trini Lopez – and to top it all, THERE ARE COWBELLS. I’m such a sucker for a good cowbell – in fact, it’s probably half the reason why I retain such a soft spot for Hi-NRG.

Despite all of its surface cheeriness, “Here Comes My Baby” sports a incongruously melancholic set of lyrics – thus pre-dating the collective oeuvre of Steps by over thirty years. Sticking with the love-lorn and the bereft, Barry Biggs‘ “Side Show” provides a neatly turned example of the time-honoured “sad showman mocked by the gaiety of the fairground” lyrical archetype. This time, however, both the jauntiness and the melancholy are reflected in the song’s light pop-reggae stylings. There’s a wonderfully haunting quality to the tune and the arrangement – plus a great el cheapo synth break further down the line, which somehow evokes the gaudy cheapness of the fun fair – and in other circumstances I would have had no hesitation in doling out the 5 points…

…except that, with Man 2 Man featuring Man Parrish on the agenda, no-one else was likely to get a look in. “Male Stripper” is the second late-period Hi-NRG hit in the 1987 Top 10 – and my my, it has lost none of its power over the years. In fact, I think it still makes me feel a little bit “funny” down there. Hey, I never said that my sexuality was sophisticated. Shall we move on?

Much as I enjoyed En Vogue‘s soulfully sassy early 1990s hits such as “Hold On” and “My Lovin'”, R&B and rock have never struck me as a particularly winning combination. Fine on their own – but stick ’em together, and they don’t half curdle in the churn. Throw in a dollop of Power Ballad, and the stench can become unbearable. Although I dare say it will find its supporters in the comments box, I find “Don’t Let Go (Love)” a deeply annoying piece of music, which is currently tying with Five Star as my Dud Of The Year. (Hey, at least Michael Crawford has some comedy value.)

And so to Fall Out Boy, who make their second consecutive appearance on Which Decade, following last year’s “Sugar We’re Goin Down”. (Oh, so they’re American, are they? Why did none of you correct me last year? I feel such a fool!) This is another case of a single which would normally fall into the Not My Sort Of Thing category, but for which I have developed a creeping fondness. I like the slight nods to pomp-rock, especially with some of the backing vocals – and as such, I guess that you can forge certain stylistic links between this song and the recent work of My Chemical Romance and Muse. (Er, can you? How the hell should I know; this falls so far outside of my generational demographic, that it’s almost embarrassing to be caught discussing it in public.)

My votes: Man 2 Man – 5 points. The Tremeloes – 4 points. Barry Biggs – 3 points. Fall Out Boy – 2 points. En Vogue – 1 point.

As I say, this one’s wide open. Will Man 2 Man give the lagging 1980s a much needed boost? Or Will The Tremeloes widen the 1960s’ lead even further? Over to you.

Running totals so far – Number 4s.

1987: Male Stripper – Man 2 Man featuring Man Parrish (102)

It’s crass, it’s banal, it’s pointless, it’s predictable, and it’s absolutely bloody excellent. (diamond geezer)

Homoeroticism pure and simple. No pretence at being gender neutral. (Amanda)

Wonderfully camp. Makes me want some poppers. (Clare)

A great favourite with the Women’s Institute and as backing music on Strictly Come Dancing, so I’ve heard. (betty)

Ah, more nostalgia. What a great chart it was back in early 1987. This rather frightened me as a young gay, such unabashed homo lust. I always wondered how this sneaked onto the playlists and living rooms of Middle England and seemed pretty subversive and defiant at the height of AIDS panic. But I think the marketing angle was more in the way of some Chippendales dancing to it on TOTP and it was cast as some heterosexual men-stripping-for-women hen-night anthem. LOL @ the youtube comments of The Chuckle Brothers being in the video, didn’t realize they were leather daddies! (loomer)

All my friends told me this was rubbish, but I insisted on enjoying the raw NRG of this track. For all I know it might be a rip off of something else but it still sounds innovative, and well constructed, with the different elements – dance tracks, two different vocal lines etc, all molding together. Then the change of key, temp and mood. It’s sophisticated. If not quite a classic, it has considerable merits. (Gert)

There’s a certain appealing crudeness to the composition here. Strange but catchy, and 80s in a very good way. (Simon C)

Splendid in its way, but it’s not for me in any sense, is it? (z)

A little too stripped down for me. (asta)

The music sounded like it belonged on an old mega-drive video game. (Alan)

1967: Here Comes My Baby – The Tremeloes (93)

Madras plaid,chinos and Mookie and Cee Cee at the clam bake. What fun. (asta)

They didn’t let any old rubbish into the top ten 40 years ago, did they? (diamond geezer)

There are other songs of theirs I’m willing to confess to liking a lot. If I’ve been drinking. This isn’t one of my stand out favourites though. (betty)

I have also, like Mike, been rediscovering late period Tremeloes recently. There’s a good compilation that Sanctuary put out a couple of years ago, that made the case that they were proto-bubblegum, especially circa 1967. Not sure I buy that, but this song is tremendous. (jeff w)

I once came across an ex Tremeloe whilst on holiday on a Greek Island. Looking at the video I can’t figure which one it was. (Amanda)

Look Mum, I bought a formula for how to have a hit. Derivative. In almost every bar I expected it to turn into some other Merseybeat tune. Harmless enough, I suppose, but no better than what many local amateur groups could do on a Friday night at the youth club. (Gert)

1997: Don’t Let Go (Love) – En Vogue (80)

Great song. Probably the best of their hits, can’t understand your prejudice against it – I still have the tape you made me of their album. The intro instantly takes me back to the dancefloor. (Dymbel)

Very run of the mill by their standards. They were clearly running out of steam. (betty)

I loved their early 90s stuff (Funky Divas is an excellent album), but their ’97 “comeback” was unnecessary, to put it mildly. (jeff w)

Again, this is a differnet version than the one I remember being released over here. I still loved the ‘Rock’ chick in the group. (jo)

From the title I can just picture the Elbow cover – a la Independent Woman. Sadly the Northern accent is missing and replaced with some run-of-the-mill r’n’b. (Adrian)

Love them, was there ever a girl group with so much vocal talent where all the girls could really sing? Never much liked this song though. (loomer)

The talent’s there, but they just can’t get beyond the packaging. (asta)

It’s not bad; it’s like a combination of various mediocre components addingup to less than some of their parts. And that ghastly pre-menstrual wailing which masquerades as emotion. Get rid of it. (Gert)

Crank! Creak! Moan! (Hedgie)

2007: This Ain’t A Scene It’s An Arms Race – Fall Out Boy (78)

Fall Out Boy are probably the most consistent of the recent wave of so-called ’emo music’ bands (and I don’t think you need to an alienated 14 year old to appreciate them). This is a great, anthemic rock tune and I had half expected to give it the maximum points… (jeff w)

Sorry, but this wins by miles. Weapons Grade Earworm. (SwissToni)

The title’s a clunker, but it’s nice to hear that angry rock is alive and kicking- even if it’s in pseudo-surrealist art film costumes. (asta)

Shamefully I quite like this, their best song yet. That Pete Wentz is highly annoying though, and why is he the frontman? He isn’t even the singer. (loomer)

Shouting disguised beneath a tune, but not an especially talented tune. (diamond geezer)

They can’t seem to decide if they want to be proper emo or Blink 182. (Alan)

Loses me after the arresting first line, “I am an arms dealer”. (Amanda)

I initially thought it was a cover of something else. It’s just noise without any inherent musial values. I presume by the title it’s supposed to have a meaning but as I can’t actually decipher the lyrics it’s lost on me. (Gert)

1977: Side Show – Barry Biggs (67)

‘Side Show’ is right up there in my pop-reggae canon. I have happy memories of it during its original chart run and upon rediscovering it in more recent times on Trojan compilations. Such a sad, sweet vocal from Biggs, that perfectly fits the mood of the song. (jeff w)

Ah, this is nice. Warm and snuggly. (Clare)

I think we’ve hit a vein of records that evoke fond recollections of early days at comprehensive. I’m on the verge of not mentioning the pale-reggae backdrop. (Stereoboard)

I only knew the song as performed by Blue Magic and it remains my favourite. I just can’t wrap my head around this one. (jo)

I almost like the chorus, but I can’t sit through the verse without falling asleep. (diamond geezer)

This is bad. The cheesy strings, the attempted reggae beat, the laboured cadences, the thin wispy colourless unexpressive strained voice. If you don’t have the high note, don’t attempt it, even in the studio. (Gert)

Decade scores so far (after 6 days).
1 (1) The 1960s (23) — Here comes my baby! Here she comes now!
2 (1) The 1970s (19) — No doubt about it, satisfaction’s guaranteed!
3 (3) The 2000s (18) — And I don’t really care which side wins!
4 (3) The 1990s (16) — There’ll be some lovemaking, heartbreaking, soul shaking!
5 (5) The 1980s (14) — Built like a truck! I’d bump for a buck!

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