Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? – Year 6 – the Number 4s.

Sometimes, I think that my whole life could be defined as an epic struggle against procrastination – and it’s a struggle which, regrettably, I have spent most of today losing. And so, while K packs his clobber for Copenhagen (where he’ll be from tomorrow until Saturday), I’m going to seize the moment and squeeze out today’s instalment. Number Fours, get your arses over here! And look lively about it!

1968: Everlasting Love – The Love Affair. (video)
1978: Come Back My Love – Darts. (video)
1988: Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car – Billy Ocean. (video)
1998: My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion. (video)
2008: Sun Goes Down – David Jordan. (video)
Listen to a short medley of all five songs.

wd08-04-68Remember what I was saying last time, about the simple joys of a boom-thwack beat and a parping brass section? Well, here’s further evidence of the same – as well as another example of a song which charted in a different version in the States.

Although I’m still not entirely clear as to whether Amen Corner covered American Breed or vice versa, the provenance of Everlasting Love is a clear one: Robert Knight performed the “authentic”, “soulful” original, and The Love Affair (or rather lead singer Steve Ellis and a bunch of session men) followed up with the “watered down”, “manufactured” cheapo Brit-pop copy (Marmalade having already rejected it as “too poppy”, THE FOOLS).

Having been cleansed of my residual “rockism” a long time ago, I can’t say that such issues of “authenticity” particularly trouble me. The Love Affair’s version is, after all, still the work of living, breathing human beings, and to my ears it works gloriously well, anything that the song loses in hesitant tenderness and lightness of touch being adequately compensated by the soaring, widescreen grandeur of the production.

wd08-04-78A decade on, and the British doo-wop revival group Darts were up to a broadly similar trick: taking a US hit, and poppifying it for the UK market. Except that in this case, the hit in question (for a long-forgotten act called The Wrens) was already 23 years old, and the band covering it had the sort of solid pub-rocking, dues-paying credentials that lifted them head and shoulders above those other 1950s revivalists of the day, Showaddywaddy.

(And, oh look, here’s a 1975 clip of the band in their former incarnation as Rocky Sharpe and the Razors, performing the self same song.)

Darts were always just the right side of Hip for people like me, with a winning freshness and an underlying knowingness, which somehow tipped you the wink that there was slightly more to them than met the eye. And of course, for school kids of a certain age, there was the added thrill of The Bit Where It Sounds Like They’re Singing “Do The Wank” – which should never be discounted.

wd08-04-88Enough with the Learnedness already. Sheesh, we’ll be here all night. Thankfully, Billy Ocean‘s slight little effort need not detain us for too long. Repeating more or less the same formula that had brought him so much success two years earlier with When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going (and tellingly, following a period when he had once again started to flounder commercially), Get Outta My Dreams is an unimaginative reduction which, as I said earlier, needn’t detain us long. Hey, if he can do it, then so can I.

wd08-04-98After yesterday evening’s lecture (see below), Dymbel kindly treated me to dinner – during which he presented me with a copy of a book which I have very much been wanting to read: Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey To The End Of Taste, by the Canadian music journalist (and blogger) Carl Wilson. Its premise, if I have correctly grasped it, is that Wilson embarks upon an exhaustive examination of the work of an artist that he cannot stand, in order to reach a better understanding of why so many millions of people love her work.

The artist in question is Wilson’s fellow Canadian Celine Dion: a singer whose appeal has similarly always been lost on me (or in other words, I can’t f**king stand her either). Despite her own early hatred of it, My Heart Will Go On became Celine’s biggest hit – eventually landing her an Oscar for her trouble – and it has since been ranked as the 14th most successful song in music history.

Even after making allowances for the massive boost that it received from the equally risible Titanic, I too am at a loss to explain why this banal little dirge captured the hearts of millions. As for Celine’s performance, it’s Humperdinck Syndrome all over again: technically adept, but smarmily over-egged and clinically devoid of true emotion.

All of which makes me more than eager to get stuck into Carl Wilson’s worthy little tome – especially since, as Dymbel was quick to point out, Wilson has seen fit to quote selections from my 2006 Eurovision series for Slate on pages 43 and 44: fully attributed, although he’s a full decade out on the date. Woo! And indeed, Hoo!

wd08-04-08K has finished his packing and is now preparing dinner, so my window is rapidly narrowing. What to say about David Jordan, then? To be honest, I know nothing about the man, and have no idea where Sun Goes Down came from. Standing quite at odds stylistically from anything else in the 2008 chart, this is a curiously old-fashioned sturdy campfire sing-a-long, which puts me in mind of 2002-era Shakira for some strange reason. Somewhat despite myself, I find that I quite like it. Don’t ask me why. It’s, um, catchy? Yes, that’s probably the long and the short of it.

My votes: Love Affair – 5 points. Darts – 4 points. David Jordan – 3 points. Billy Ocean – 2 points. Celine Dion – 1 point.

Over to you. The 1960s and 1970s are neck and neck once again, but otherwise there’s not much change in our accumulated chart – which, to be honest, could do with a few upsets. (It’s not always this static, you know!) Then again, have the 2000s ever scored so consistently well before? As a perennial champion of the underdog, that gladdens me mightily. OK, dinner time!

Running totals so far – Number 4s.

1968: Everlasting Love – The Love Affair (146)

This is miles ahead of anything else so far this year. (chris)

The kind of timeless greatness that WDITFP should ultimately be about (but, alas, that would be too hard to judge for the more recent decades) (Simon C)

5 points: it just has to be. For me a beginning of time; it was number one the day I started primary school (and therefore the day where my memory really begins) and it felt like the whole world in all its bizarre colours had been suddenly opened up for me – I think of FAB ice lollies, Tintin books, the kiddies’ crazy golf course in our local park, Glasgow with everyone still wearing hats and suits, the transistor radio blaring while playing on swings and roundabouts, my first piano lessons – it feels, in short, like waking up on a brilliant day when there have been no previous day.

As a pop record it stands up brilliantly and I would argue better than the Robert Knight original (though this also marks, in tandem with Felice Taylor’s “I Feel Love Coming On,” the early onset of Northern Soul crossover; and also Carl Carlton did a very fine cover in the mid-seventies) – Steve Ellis always wanted to be his great personal mate Steve Marriott, really, and he more than holds his own against Keith Mansfield’s opulent orchestration and Clem Cattini’s characteristically clattering drums (and Mike Smith’s production – with that last cymbal/backing vocal/drum roll sequence it’s hello, Trevor Horn). Great b/vox also (Sue and Sunny) which sometimes threaten to overtake Ellis. Who cares who played on the record, especially since one of the people who didn’t – Morgan Fisher – went on to Mott, Lol Coxhill and much, much else? (Marcello Carlin)

1968 seems to have been the year for these big, orchestrated numbers. This packs so much punch compared to whatever the modern equivalent would be (I dunno, The Kooks?!). Love the follow up, Rainbow Valley, as well. Is it worth the £6 to get the Best Of compilation in HMV, I wonder? (betty)

One of my favourite songs of all time, in whatever incarnation. Possibly prefer this above Robert Knight’s (original?) as it’s more frenzied and less mannered. Bass, drums, horns and soul. “Need a love to last forever”. Indeed. (imsodave)

Soaring chorus, this is far far above any of the rest of today’s offerings. (Adrian)

Love the bass, as up in the mix as Chris Squire’s. The only decent song today. (Geoff)

Good to find that fond memories of 1968 aren’t simply nostalgia. (Z)

I absolutely have to give this five points, plus another five bonus points, because this is my birth song. Can you believe it, what a wonderful song to have as the number one on the hit parade when I made my auspicious start in the world. I didn’t actually find this fact out until I was sixteen – for some reason it didn’t matter to my parents – so I was delighted to discover it was a really ace song. At that point I knew another version, by Rachel Sweet and I was going to write Rex Harrison, but that would be so so wrong, so I w’k’p’d it and it’s actually Rex Smith, but thinking about it, a Rex Harrison version would have a certain something. (Gert)

Generally I listen, review and then read your commentary so as not to be SWAYED. It’s a good thing I read the top paragraph because there I was again thinking…yet again, another version that is different from the one I knew. Husband and I went through this also in the summer when I was playing Seals and Crofts Summer Breeze when the night blooming jasmine was smelling up the entire back garden and he told me about the version he had known all along by The Isley Brothers, of course I had never heard that version. (jo)

Brilliant. Right from the ‘woo-ooo-ooh’ bit, the brass and the bass line. Even the limp singing can’t ruin that kind of a start. Just think of that chorus people…. hang on for the chorus! Sadly not the best version of this song, but it’s still a great song, innit. (SwissToni)

They were a moddy little bunch weren’t they – I seem to think Steve Ellis was about 14 at the time (actually looking at Wikipedia he was 17). (Tina)

Solid 60s fare, always great to hear again. Another favourite from my personal dawn of time. (Erithian)

Great song, but while it’s playing, I’m wishing it was Carl Carlton singing. (asta)

Yes it’s a decent song and a big epic sweeping production but it’s all a bit soulless. (Alan)

Tries too hard for significance. And the singer reminds me of hotel bar performers in the Balearics in the 70s. (jeff w)

1978: Come Back My Love – Darts (111)

5 points – if only for the way that, one second after I read the title, my bonce was reverberating with “WOP! (do-de-doo) DO THE WANG! (do-de-doo) DO THE WOP, DO THE WANG…” I might not have given them more than a passing thought for 20 years, but the names of the four singers – Den Hegarty, Rita Ray, Bob Fender and Griff Fish – spring to mind like a Proustian madeleine… (Erithian)

Ooooo I was raised on Doo Wop. My Dad was a city boy with leather jackets, the hair and the cars and doo wop played a lot into my later years when he would come home from work, start pouring Manhattans and playing music. PURE nostalgia – not that I ever heard this version…but Doo Wop..she is the doo wop universally. (jo)

This happens to be my favourite Darts song and such a shame that’s it up against such a fabulous song from the Sixties, otherwise it would be worthy of 5 points. It is okay to have a favourite Darts song isn’t it? I can’t believe that we have just missed the 30 year reunion 😦 nor can I believe that I am now watching Duke Of Earl as well. And I never knew that Darts had common DNA with Rocky Sharpe and the Replays. Obviously not cool enough for a Smash Hits Family Tree. Interestingly, someone has said they bought Boy from NY city for 65p but in February 1978 singles cost 69p. (Gert)

Them and Rocky Sharpe must have been the only band to split up due to ‘musical similarities’. (Nottingham’sMr Sex‘)

I’d forgotten them but this one got my feet doing a hand jive (maybe you had to be there). Unreconstructed reconstructed rock’n’roll-be-bop or something. They were sort of a cool Showadiwadi weren’t they? (NiC)

Darts were essentially the cool alternative to Showaddywaddy and this is agreeable enough if not quite “Boy From New York City” or “Daddy Cool Oblique Stroke The Girl Can’t Help It Open Brackets Medley Close Brackets Ten Points Dignified Don” since there’s not enough Den Hegarty on it and a little too much of the guy who looked like Simon Cadell Out Of Hi-De-Hi. (Marcello Carlin)

And again the watchword is fun. I was a confused punk/metaller when this came out so of course I hated it. And yet I kind of secretly liked it, even then. And amazingly it holds up really well. Also, I have the right voice to sing the “doh doh doh doh doh” bits. (Alan)

Were Showaddywaddy part of a scene then? On second listen it redeems itself a bit – my foot was even tapping. (Adrian)

Thought that there may be more here than meets the ear, but there’s not, is there. I’d rather listen to Showaddywaddy. (imsodave)

The Boy From New York City is far superior to this. They used to be played so much on Radio One that their singles usually became extremely irritating after a while. I’m surprised that Geoff didn’t share his Rocky Sharp And The Replays anecdote with you. (betty)

I’m going to go and listen to Jive Bunny now! (Rebecca)

It’s Doo Wop. Sha-Na-Na killed Doo Wop for me. Sorry. (asta)

Whatever happened to the Flying Pickets anyway? (SwissToni)

2008: Sun Goes Down – David Jordan (98)

Did somebody say “hello, Trevor Horn”? Well, this is he producing, and Jordan seems to be set (up) to become a soberer Seal for the noughties. Good record, this, with lots of subtle approaches and divergences – a real slow burner (the album is also recommended). (Marcello Carlin)

I’m as surprised as anyone about me giving top points to a current hit, but despite not having heard it before, this is great. Okay, it sounds a bit like it should be an Eastern European entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, but it’s lively, fun, quirky and I think I’m now going to earworm it for about a week. (Alan)

5 points: I’ve surprised myself here looking at the competition but I think it’s great, should be the Turkish Eurovision entry or something of that ilk. (Tina)

My kids are (hopefully) too young to be embarrassed by Daddy, but I can see myself à la Hugh Dennis’s character in The Mary Whitehouse Experience, dad-dancing and saying “This has got a good beat!” I still find myself wanting to sing Stop The Cavalry to the tune of that chorus though. (Erithian)

Love, love, love this, and this is the first time I’ve heard it. I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned that this is essentially a work song ( slave work- prison chain gangs) one of the original American Roots beats. At the end it’s got the flavour of Eastern Europe and Klezmer. (asta)

I heard this on the radio this evening for the first time, and it struck me then as it strikes me now: as an interesting song that gets less interesting and more repetitive the longer it goes on. I was interested enough to sit in the car to see who it was, but Scott bloody Mills thought it would be more entertaining to blather on with his crew instead. Now I know, eh? Oh, I’ve forgotten his name already. (SwissToni)

I wouldn’t rush out and ‘borrow’ it from Limewire, but it’s passable. (chris)

I’m slightly perturbed by how easily this morphs into Cotton-eye Joe in my head. I was hoping for something to bolster a poor selection, but now I have to work out which comes last… (Adrian)

This is the first time that I’ve heard more than a few seconds of this, because whenever it’s on TV/Radio I change channels. I’ve got this idea into my head that some record company has signed him up as The Sensible Mika, which has put me off. Actually, as said before, it sounds like a Eurovision entry, although minus the fifteen tribal drummers and flame throwers. Not much going for it. (betty)

I’ve had a quick thunk, and I don’t think I like it. It’s all a bit incongruous. Shimmering pop with vaguely Turkish overtones. A eurovision song looking for a contest. I hear this and I want to smash something. Is that right? (imsodave)

Bland and featureless, I’ve already forgotten it. (Stereoboard)

1988: Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car – Billy Ocean (87)

It’s so utterly, utterly ridiculous that it’s brilliant. I stupidly adore this silly, naff little record and I don’t care who knows it. I’m rolling up the sleeves on my linen jacket as we speak. (SwissToni)

He was far better in the 1970’s of course. Even my dad, who hated virtually all music, thought Billy Ocean had a lovely voice! This is inoffensive enough. He now looks like The Old Man Of The Sea, which is quite a good way to grow old gracefully. (betty)

My dad was a big fan, but he preferred the “go and get stuffed” song. (Alan)

4 points: Because I like his silver dreads and Everybody Hates Chris wouldn’t be the same without him. (Geoff)

I was on the point of damning it below Darts, then the power-chorus kicked in. Good work William. (Stereoboard)

I wasn’t overly enamoured with this first time round, and it hasn’t improved with age. (Adrian)

I was never a fan of “When the Going Gets Tough”, so Billy Ocean doesn’t help himself by remaking it under a different name, although it does benefit from not actually being the same song. (Will)

Props for the seventies stuff (someone really needs to do a proper appraisal of Ben Findon and Pete “Not The Buzzcocks One The Dulux Dog One” Shelley and why are you all looking at me all of a sudden?) and for his surprisingly Billy MacKenzie-like vocal support on Scott’s “Track Three” but the hi-gloss thrusting Thatcherkid eighties stuff I couldn’t take to at all (including all the carefully worked out geographic demographic versions of “Caribbean/European/African/Antartica Queen”) and this ghastly effort perhaps least of all. The title instinctively draws me back to Ringo’s “You’re Sixteen” from ’74 which is everything this isn’t – warm, funny and spontaneous. Plus he kept Sigue Sigue Sputnik off number one the bastard. (Marcello Carlin)

I thought this had a dubious message when it was a hit, and it only makes me think of a criminal case that concluded this week. (Dymbel)

Never really understood what he was going to do to her if she ever got into his car, but it didn’t sound healthy. More dreadful 80’s production, but it’s bouncy enough to get away with it. A slowed down, acoustic version of this would sound very seedy indeed. (imsodave)

When the going gets tough, somebody brings out a crap record like this. (Tina)

1998: My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion (53)

You remember when Tomorrow’s World would regularly tell us that in the future songs would be written by computers by analysing the elements of previous successes. If it ever happened, this is the song they would come up with. It doesn’t miss a trick, from the big soaring choruses to the little riverdance touches. Everything calculated for maximum effect, nothing left to chance. And utterly devoid of any artistic merit whatsoever. (Alan)

Titanic ruined it a bit, but it’s a good song. Although now it reminds me of slow dances at discos. (Rebecca)

Michael I fear you may be grievously wrong about La Celine but equally I think we both need 1 x CRASH COURSE in her singing in French as I am told by the missus that the French stuff is absolutely magical and I can believe it. Can’t really abide this with or without the Sigur sealions and as with “Think Twice” she has the fatal habit of climaxing too soon (usually midway through the second verse) instead of waiting for natural emotional build-up. I speed-read Carl’s book and it’s a fair-ish try but he should never have apologised for writing it. I think I could write a better book about her but I’d have to write it in French as well. (Marcello Carlin)

I forget this song every time I hear it. I read the whole Wilson book without any recollection of what Dion’s voice sounded like and had to dl this to remind me. He says a lot about the songs in French. That Las Vegas mash up is excellent and rather endeared her to me. It also reminded me to track down this post-Katrina clip, which is discussed extensively in Wilson’s thought provoking book. Looting’s OK with Celine.(Dymbel)

She’s done many things better than this, esp. (as others have mentioned) in French, but I don’t hate it. Titanic is 90% of a great movie too. (jeff w)

Don’t be fooled. Celine in French is just as execrable as she is in English. She just emotes more and uses more bizarre hand gestures. No really. It’s been more than 15 years since its release, and I still can’t shake Je Danse dan ma Tete. I live in Quebec where she is worshipped. I keep mum. (asta)

The oddest thing is that there are so, so many people who don’t find her, or her songs, appalling. It’s the dreadfully ‘authentic’ flute that really crowns this plodding monstrosity. (imsodave)

I actually think that this is so bad it makes Katherine Jenkins’ version sound listenable. I do like that Celine Dion is amazing video, found it few weeks ago. It’s mesmerising. Amazing. I wonder if Celine will outdo EngHump and get an entire clean sweep on the bottoms. (Gert)

I would like to listen to your dirge fairly but I can’t. I hate it. (NiC)

I tried to give this a fair hearing. But I can’t. Wasn’t this used in some film that I haven’t seen? (Adrian)

I fail to understand why I still hate this tripe even a decade later. Does that make me a bad person? (chris)

In my darker moments I wonder if there’s a parallel universe in which I am less cynical, and can enjoy this sort of thing. I think I might be happier. But no, it’s just not me. (Stereoboard)

Ah, Celine. I remember going to watch Titanic (a film I remember enjoying at the time but can’t imagine now ever wanting to watch again) and as this song began at the end being struck by just how much it didn’t belong there. It is, as you rightly say, a dirge. My beloved 1990s are let down again. (Will)

I can’t hear this without also hearing The Dame Edna Experience imitating a foghorn. (David)

Another act rightly torpedoed by French and Saunders in their Titanic spoof – “go wooooorrn”… (maybe torpedoed isn’t quite le mot juste) (Erithian)

Robbie’s Angels plus this would make for the funeral of a lifetime. (Geoff)

I’m sorry to break this to you, Geoff, but it is not at all unusual to get requests for both the Celine Dion track and Robbie’s Angels at the same funeral. I haven’t yet been asked for Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears In Heaven’ as the third track with those two, but I expect it’s only a matter of time. (Zinnia)

Oh Jesus, the last thing anyone needs is to hear sealion honking all over this neverending pile of sentimental rubbish. Climb back into your trunk and don’t bother us with this vocally gymnastic claptrap ever again matchstick woman! And don’t even get me started on that appalling Oirish pipe music either. Come back Michael Flatley, (nearly) all is forgiven. Never seen the bloody film either. Life’s definitely too short for that. (SwissToni)

Somehow that Celine Dion seems like it’s been around for a lot longer than those 10 years. And if it gets stuck in my head this evening, I’m holding you responsible! (Clair)

OK, head over parapet, I like My Heart Will Go On. It’s the only English-language Dion I do like, and indeed the French ones I like best are her Jean-Jacques Goldman collaborations. So I suppsoe I love MHWGO despite Celine rather han because of her, perhaps with a feeling of relief that she doesn’t fire up her afterburners and start belting it out until the last verse. When she can be bothered to sing sensitively, she’s surprisngly good at it. But no, this one’s all about James Horner, who until “Titanic” was an unsung (though not unplayed) hero of Hollywood. Field Of Dreams, Willow, Sneakers, The Mask Of Zorro: you’ve heard a lot of his music. I feel no need to apologise for liking MHWGO, which has as good a melody as any ballad of the past 50 years. The words are only so-so, but so-what? More here.

And why all the carping about the tin whistle? The whistle, and that tune fragment, are an idée fixe in the film score (remember the film?), and here simply serve as a link with the rest of it. To complain about them is as irrelevant as moaning about the manic laughter at the start of the Bonzos’ “Urban Spaceman” (a link from the previous album track)(“Monster Mash”)(on “Tadpoles”)(I’m starting to sound like Mike, aren’t I?). Anyway, yes, 5 points for Celine. (Rob)

Decade scores so far (after 6 days).
1= (2) The 1960s (23)
1= (1) The 1970s (23)
3 (4) The 2000s (18)
4 (4) The 1990s (16)
5 (5) The 1980s (10)

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