Which decade is Tops for Pops? – the results: 2nd place.

2nd place – The 1970s. (33 points)

2008: 2nd place, 36 points.
2007: 3rd place, 31 points.
2006: 1st place, 38 points.
2005: 3rd place, 30 points.
2004: 2nd place, 31 points.
2003: 1st place, 35 points + 1 tiebreak point.

10. Car 67 – Driver 67. 2 points.
9. Milk & Alcohol – Dr. Feelgood. 5 points.
8. Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick – Ian Dury & the Blockheads. 5 points.
7. Tragedy – The Bee Gees. 3 points.
6. Contact – Edwin Starr. 4 points.
5. Don’t Cry For Me Argentina – The Shadows. 1 point, least popular.
4. I Was Made For Dancin’ – Leif Garrett. 2 points.
3. Woman In Love – The Three Degrees. 2 points.
2. Chiquitita – Abba. 4 points.
1. Heart Of Glass – Blondie. 5 points, most popular.

Margaret Thatcher at Downing StreetOver the course of “Which Decade”, we’ve examined the charts of thirty-five different years. And of these thirty-five, the single year that I’ve been looking forward to the most is this one: the golden, glorious year of 1979.

For my money, the singles charts of the final year of the Seventies have never been bettered – and as if to illustrate the point, this was also a high-water mark for the 7-inch single, with UK sales for 1979 peaking at a whopping 89 million.

Not only had pop music never been more popular; it had also never been so creative, with any of number of acts rising from the underground to the mainstream without compromising their vision. The new wave reached maturity (Oliver’s Army, Eton Rifles, Heart Of Glass), the first ripples of synth-pop began to erupt (Are ‘Friends’ Electric, Pop Muzik, Video Killed The Radio Star), disco reached its commercial peak (Good Times, We Are Family, Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now), while the autumn of 1979 saw the 2-Tone movement blowing up from nowhere, and rap music scoring its first hit single. And was there ever a finer selection of UK Number Ones? Oh, I very much doubt it.

That said, I remained nervous about the quality of this particular Top Ten, which I felt didn’t quite show 1979 in the best possible light. Driver 67? The Shadows? Leif Garrett? One of my least favourite Abba songs? “Woman In Love”? This could be a tough one.

I needn’t have worried. The Feelgoods, The Blockheads and Blondie won their respective rounds; “Chiquitita” proved more popular than I had expected; Edwin Starr and The Bee Gees did just fine; and only The Shadows found themselves settling for bottom place. And in the final reckoning, 1979 finished just one point short of winning the match.

In personal terms, February 1979 – and specifically the night of my 17th birthday – marked the moment when I began to turn the corner on a particularly nasty and debilitating bout of teenage angst. Six months earlier, I had been isolated, friendless and deeply f**ked up. But now – with A-levels approaching, and the prospect of independence and escape looming ever larger on the horizon – I somehow found the strength and resolve to begin a conscious process of re-invention.

If I were ranking these five years in terms of personal growth, then 1979 would definitely come out on top. And if I were undemocratically ranking them in terms of their pop music, then the result would be the same. As it is, I’ll have to settle for second-best placing, for an altogether first-rate year.

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