Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? – Year 6 – the Number 3s.

Le sigh. Once again, I am Homo Alone, with only the upstairs PC and a freshly poured glass of Valdivieso for company. K is in Copenhagen until Saturday, and has just loyally logged on, in the hope of finding today’s selections and “cheering me up”. Given his habitual hatred of the voting process, this takes loyalty to a new level, and so I do feel a bit bad for letting him down.

Shall we? Yes, we shall. Ladies and gentleman of the blog, it’s the Number Threes!

1968: She Wears My Ring – Solomon King. (video)
1978: If I Had Words – Scott Fitzgerald & Yvonne Keeley with the St. Thomas More School Choir. (video)
1988: Tell It To My Heart – Taylor Dayne. (video)
1998: Never Ever – All Saints. (video)
2008: Now You’re Gone – Basshunter. (video)
Listen to a short medley of all five songs.

wd08-03-68Making Engelbert Humperdinck sound positively rock-and-roll by comparison, there’s something disturbingly proprietorial about Solomon King‘s ode to wedded bliss, which conjures up images of a scene from an imagined 1980s “suburban noir” David Lynch movie. Can’t you just picture this being crooned by a nitrous oxide-inhaling Dennis Hopper, while a caged, shackled, gagged Isabella Rossellini cowers behind him? I know I can.

Why, it’s almost enough to make She Wears My Ring sound interesting… and on one level, the downright creepiest Which Decade entry since Billy J. Kramer’s Little Children.

wd08-03-78And speaking of little children: although, as I can now reveal, you have been spared the sound of the St Winifred’s School Choir – backing Brian And Michael in pre-Grandma days, on pop music’s other ode to L.S. Lowry (which didn’t chart for another couple of weeks) – it is nevertheless my duty to inform you that the St. Thomas More School Choir have gamely stepped into the breach, with their contribution to Scott Fitzgerald and Yvonne Keely‘s reggae-fied vocal reworking of the Maestoso from Camille Saint-Saëns’s Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78 (Gert, I hope you’re impressed by my research).

(There, I swore I wasn’t going to waste more than a sentence on that load of old toot. Scott Fitzgerald ended up doing Eurovision, you know. Surprised? No, I didn’t think you would be.)

wd08-03-88Although my “alternative” night down the Barracuda Club on Hurt’s Yard (“A Polysexual Pink Playground for Lesbians Gay Men and their Friends!” ran one slogan; “An Equal Opportunities Dancefloor!” ran another) operated a strict NO HI-NRG! policy (the battle lines had been drawn, and one simply had to make a stand), we weren’t above bending the rules to let in the odd disco diva or two… and they didn’t come much odder (Wa-hey, I Am On Fire Tonight!) than the capaciously-gobbed and frankly bloody scary Taylor Dayne.

Although, like the depressing majority of our 1988 Top 10, this is fairly standard issue stuff, Taylor belts it out like a trouper (eventually receiving a Grammy nomination for her labours), and I cannot help but gaze fondly on – meaning that, unlike, Scott and Yvonne, she’s worth, ooh, two sentences.

wd08-03-98And at last, a touch of class. With lyrics inspired by the break-up of band member Shaznay Lewis’s relationship, and with a chord progression borrowed from Amazing Grace (Scott and Yvonne please note: this is how you nick stuff and make it work), the second single from All Saints took a couple of months to climb to Number One, before taking an equally leisurely amount of time dropping back down again.

Despite the faintly comical spoken intro, which can’t quite decide which side of the Atlantic it comes from, Never Ever oozes class from the moment that the main track kicks in. (And frankly, dear hearts, class is in rather short supply today.)

wd08-03-08Right then, who’s ready for some good old Swedish Schaffel-Bosh? Anyone? Come on, I need to see hands in the air.

Basshunter‘s Now You’re Gone started life nearly two years ago, in a distinctly slower Swedish-language incarnation known as Boten Anna: a love song directed to an IRC bot, if you can countenance such a thing. (Or rather, to a woman whom Mister Basshunter mistook for an IRC bot. What’s IRC? What’s a bot? Oh, you go and look it up.)

If you think that all sounds quite quirky and interesting, then I’m afraid that none of it translates to the duller-than-dull English language version, which is to its Swedish original what the clunking 99 Red Balloons was to the delightful 99 Luftballons, and hence not worthy to lick the boots of the H “two” O track with which it shares a record label.

My votes: All Saints – 5 points. Taylor Dayne – 4 points. Basshunter – 3 points. Solomon King – 2 points. Scott & Yvonne – 1 point.

Over to you. Not the best bunch we’ve ever had, I’ll grant you. A string of Fives all round for All Saints, then? Or are you all a bunch of closet Schaffel Boshers? The 1960s are back ahead again, but the 2000s could still catch up, at least in theory. Phone lines are open…. NOW!

Running totals so far – Number 3s.

1998: Never Ever – All Saints (149)

One of the greatest of number ones and the competition which the Spice Girls direly needed at the turn of ’97/8; so patient a record, so effortlessly hip an approach (their Woody Allen-style hands-in-pockets/shrugging-shoulders routine), and the red alert sign for New Pop Mk II (Cameron McVey changes music for the third time in less than a decade) – a wonderful Shangri-Las in W11 intro (as Brit-born, Canadian-raised expats I think we can accommodate the Appletons’ AC/DC accents – the magic lies in the accentual instability), a sublime shuffle of a pop song which turns into a near-gospel hymn at the end (that organ) without descending into Jools Holland worthiness and then SNAP! the beats break up and they become even hipper as the song fades. (Marcello Carlin)

5 points. Totally has to be, and not just because I’ve been mates with Melanie Blatt’s dad for 20 years or so. (Check out his book “Manchester United Ruined My Wife”, the Old Trafford answer to “Fever Pitch”.) Yes, it’s a little patchy with that spoken intro, but a deserved massive hit. Marcello will confirm it holds the record for the most copies sold before the week it reached number 1. (Erithian)

Confirmed – 770,000 copies sold before it topped the chart, and it ended up selling just short of one-and-a-half million. (Marcello Carlin)

This is how you do ‘slow’ without ‘plod’. Quite what the formula for success here is I couldn’t say, but the ladies stumbled on it here. (jeff w)

Well yes, there’s really no choice but All Saints is there? Head and shoulders and pretty much all other parts above the rest of these selections. Never really liked them much, but this one was palatable and easily the best of their singles. Pity they chose to follow it up with their execrable wimpy cover of Under the Bridge. (Alan)

One of the best pop groups of the 90s who hardly put a foot wrong. They even made a silk purse out of a plodding Red Hot Chilli Peppers sow’s ear. (Geoff)

Not as good as “Black Coffee” but an awful lot better than their cover of “Under the Bridge” and any of the rest of this motley selection. It’s classy sounding, for heaven’s sake, even if I seriously dislike the alternating pronunciation of Ay to Zee and Ay to Zed. (SwissToni)

The almost pseudo-Shangri-Las spoken intro is a bit dubious but once that’s over it’s pure pop genius (though very much a slow grower on me at the time I recall). (NiC)

Not even my favourite song by them, but gets the most points by default. Always had a soft spot for that wobbly thing Shaznay does with her vocals … (betty)

Never ever have I ever liked this song. Clearly written by someone with a limited vocabulary. It’s the sound of a toddler having a lazy tantrum. (imsodave)

When Shaznay sings: I’ll take a shower, I will scour… am I the only one who pictures her cleaning under her arms with a green scouring pad and some fairy liquid? (Oliver R)

1988: Tell It To My Heart – Taylor Dayne (118)

Haven’t heard this in years. It’s held up better than I remember, and although it’s not fantastic, it’s easily top here. (Adrian)

Blistering vocal performance from TD and again a breakbeat which seems to skate right through the walls of Streathamm Ice Rink; furiously busy, completely 1988, as tinny as any Carnaby Street Acieed smiley T-shirts but it still feels exciting. I wonder if McCartney might want to have a word apropos “No Reply,” though. (Marcello Carlin)

While I sit at home and say “ah yes, very fine specimen of 80s pop, that”, sipping my wine, I know that if I somehow found myself at an 80s disco night and it came on, I’d be on my feet in seconds. (Simon C)

I certainly enjoy this more now than at the time. But enough about me. This is a cracker. Crackles and fizzes with sexual energy. Hang on, that’s me again. The song is good. The best of a poor bunch today. I like it. Cheers. (imsodave)

I’ve always felt that this would be better without the tinny computer drumtrack; I’d like to hear it done as Rock Anthem, and I think her voice makes her a Rock Belter. It’s not bad, but don’t need it in my collection. (Gert)

My mother would have called her rough. We all thought she was scary. Song’s nothing all that special- but better than the dregs to follow. (asta)

This drips testosterone, oddly. (SwissToni)

Is this where Stock Aitken & Waterman got that irritating keyboard sound from? Curse you, Taylor. (jeff w)

I assume she was a former backing singer for Foreigner or Toto. That’s where she should’ve stayed. (betty)

2008: Now You’re Gone – Basshunter (86)

As this genre goes, I find I can live with this track – effective use of the big beats, and it’s even got a tune you can whistle. Loses a point for deploying the old “chewed-up cassette tape” effect. (Erithian)

Went home to celebrate midsummer the right number of years ago for this to be The Song in Sweden at the time. Was horrified. Now I would say, well, fair enough. Untz untz fodder for the masses. (Simon C)

Formulaic… even when the beat kicks in it hasn’t got any energy. (Adrian)

A sort of Bachman-Turner Overdrive to the Guess Who of the superb Swedish original. (Marcello Carlin)

Will have to have a listen to the Swedish version then. Doesn’t really go anywhere, does it? Reminds me of Snap!’s Rhythm Is A Dancer, but nowhere near as good. (betty)

Not sure I agree with you about Nena, but this is clearly the most disastrous attempt to anglicise a eurohit since Las Ketchup. This did so well in the end, I’m sure ‘Boten Anna’ could have been a hit in its own right here. (jeff w)

Are you sure this is from the Noughties because it even has Eighties Big Hair and Sinclair Spectrum drum track. At least it doesn’t scratch. (Gert)

This must have taken all of 1 minute to write. I bet Chris Moyles probably took longer writing his parody. Is that chorus bit meant to be euphoric? It fails and only serves to depress. (SwissToni)

Look at any edition of the Now series from the last fifteen years. They’re packed full of garbage like this. I think it was existential philosopher-lover-poet Haddaway who said it best when he sang “What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me”. Alright? Quite. This nonsense is essentially just a ringtone. Basshunter indeed! We know where the f*cking bass is. It’s all over this mess of a tune. (imsodave)

1978: If I Had Words – Scott Fitzgerald & Yvonne Keeley (80)

I do like this song. I liked it way back when I was 10. And I continue to like it, I think there is a very bright mood about it. I don’t think the ‘reggae’ bit ever really came through a valved radio tuned to Medium Wave (although obviously, the Top 20 on Sunday did also go out on Radio 2 VHF). Someone on YouTube has made some comment about it not being shown on TOTP, and I have to admit I have always assumed the male singer was black. White men shouldn’t sing falsetto. (Gert)

I have always liked it despite itself – better known these days for its use in the film Babe, I guess, but I like the fugal/spiritual construct, the French/reggae fusion which hasn’t been properly followed through, and the bells at the end – undeniably corny, but as a 14-year-old boy with a doomed classmate crush it spoke directly to me. The missus heard it for the first time when Dale played it on Pick Of The Pops the other Sunday and she loved it! (Marcello Carlin)

Nice bit of cod reggae with a James Last feel. (Geoff)

A pleasant surprise after your build up. I do like cod-reggae in general though. (jeff w)

Never heard this before, and it’s not as completely horrendous as the other options today, despite the weird, choral, reggae-lite nature of it. Yvonne is not a sexy name. (imsodave)

4 Points – Oh dear, none of them deserve it, do they? I’m going for Scott & Yvonne just because, well they tried to do something. I’m not sure what though. This could have at least been inoffensive if it weren’t for the falsetto screeching. That man cannot possibly have any testicles to be able to sing that high. (Alan)

I didn’t care for it much at the time, and since then it’s been tainted even further by being used to the point of nausea on the soundtrack to “Babe”. (Erithian)

What was it with the late 70s and school choirs? Did people think that was the good bit from Pink Floyd’s Wall? Or is my timeline completely out. Still, trying to work that out will help me ignore this track. (Adrian)

Is this a really rubbish attempt by an uncool white woman to do reggae? I do believe it is. What was Fitzgerald thinking? And I can only assume that a white person wrote this too, with all that talk of “moonshine”. (SwissToni)

I wish someone had been there at the time to say, “Please step away from the microphone, and no one will get hurt”. (asta)

1968: She Wears My Ring – Solomon King (62)

Superb opening, kind of sinister, but then he starts singing, and it sounds like its being played about 10% too slow. (Stereoboard)

I’ve actually got a copy of this, on a 3CD compilation called The Greatest Voices. Good thing it didn’t say greatest songs, or greatest lyrics… (Adrian)

See what he did with the name there, clever huh? Even my mum would think this was too old fashioned, and she’s nearly eighty and likes Perry Como. (Alan)

Memories of drunken family party choruses of “She wears my ring, ding-a-ling, ding-a-ling…” Ugh. (Erithian)

So they DID have a cure for insomnia in the 60s then? Dreadfully tedious crap. Oh, perhaps I’m just being unfair and it’s aged badly. Maybe in the 60s it made perfect sense. (SwissToni)

t’s astonishing that, in any week of any year, this could be deemed to be more popular than The Love affair or Amen Corner. People will buy any old rubbish. And this is both old and rubbish. (imsodave)

The bad bit of Sixties Music already (over) represented by EngHump. “She belongs to me” – ha ha ha, the Seventies were just round the corner. (Gert)


Deeply creepy with the added potential to induce vomiting. (asta)

I’ve reached the stage of finding twisted humour in it, but context is everything, and perhaps the smirks are ultimately misplaced. (mike)

Even as a four-year-old this record gave me the creeps (and this involves personal, family-related reasons which I’m not going to go into here)…Solomon King, nee one-time (and future) Jordanaire Allen Levy from Kentucky, standing at 6 ft 8 out of his polished shoes, who belted out this genuinely frightening belch of proprietorial pride, curiously written by the generally placid Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. “She belongs to ME!” “She’s MINE – ETERNALLY!” he intones like Victor Mature following a steroid overdose; he begins at Engelbert level but quickly progresses to Mario Lanza skyscraper-shattering high Cs so dementedly immense that they actually drown out the music. Like Jerry Vale’s similarly-themed “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife” this record was especially popular among prospective wife beaters in Scotland and the North of England. Number three this got to in our charts, where it stayed for the best part of half a year. Meanwhile, America got things like “Tighten Up” and “Grazing In The Grass.” No wonder Radio 2 is now so ardent to rewrite its own history and hopefully make its audience forget that this was the sort of Brylcreemed drivel they played endlessly at the time, rather than “Brown Eyed Girl” or “Piece Of My Heart” or whatever. Oh, and for examples of how to do the big ballad thing and carry it off, please investigate the collected works of the late, great Roy Hamilton. (Marcello Carlin)

Decade scores so far (after 7 days).
1 (1) The 1960s (28)
2 (1) The 1970s (27)
3 (3) The 2000s (21)
4 (4) The 1990s (17)
5 (5) The 1980s (12)

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