Singles of the year: #1

But first: the albums countdown (as it stood at the end of 2004; if I were doing it now, a few positions would be adjusted).

40 – bjork – medulla
39 – lhasa – the living road
38 – gwen stefani – love angel music baby
37 – ilya – they died for beauty
36 – boredoms – seadrum/house of sun
35 – kerrier district – kerrier district
34 – the earlies – these were the earlies
33 – the streets – a grand don’t come for free
32 – prince – musicology
31 – warsaw village band – uprooting
30 – nellie mckay – get away from me
29 – nancy sinatra – nancy sinatra
28 – the fiery furnaces – blueberry boat
27 – the go! team – thunder lightening strike
26 – annie – anniemal
25 – kings of convenience – riot on an empty street
24 – jane birkin – rendez-vous
23 – lambchop – aw c’mon/no you c’mon
22 – mbilia bel – belissimo
21 – junior boys – last exit
20 – hot chip – coming on strong
19 – animal collective – sung tongs
18 – franz ferdinand – franz ferdinand
17 – morrissey – you are the quarry
16 – omara portuondo – flor de amor
15 – kanye west – the college dropout
14 – nick cave & the bad seeds – abattoir blues/the lyre of orpheus
13 – stereolab – margerine eclipse
12 – cesaria evora – voz d’amor
11 – sons and daughters – love the cup
10 – tinariwen – amassakoul
9 – dani siciliano – likes
8 – chungking – the hungry years
7 – mylo – destroy rock ‘n’ roll
6 – air – talkie walkie
5 – phoenix – alphabetical
4 – youssou n’dour – egypt
3 – brian wilson – smile
2 – scissor sisters – scissor sisters
1 – hidden cameras – mississauga goddam

But second: the compilation albums countdown.

10 – original soundtrack – lost in translation
9 – tom middleton – the trip
8 – various – eurovision song contest istanbul 2004
7 – various – biba – champagne & novocaine
6 – norman & joey jay – good times vol. 4
5 – snow patrol – the trip
4 – various – froots #23 (covermount)
3 – bbc radio 3 – awards for world music 2004
2 – coldcut – life:styles
1 – sean rowley – guilty pleasures vol. 1

But third: the “best gigs” countdown.

15 – cesaria evora
14 – basement jaxx/audio bullys
13 – pet shop boys: battleship potemikin
12 – glenn tilbrook & the fluffers
11 – bent/chungking
10 – duran duran/goldfrapp
9 – violent femmes
8 – white stripes
7 – franz ferdinand/fiery furnaces
6 – scissor sisters/phoenix (nottingham rock city)
5 – hidden cameras
4 – fiery furnaces/sons and daughters/red organ serpent sound
3 – scissor sisters/syntax (leicester charlotte)
2 – the magic band/wreckless eric
1 – omara portuondo/javier rubal

But fourth: the full singles countdown, from 90 to 2.

Click on each song title for a write-up. Items listed in bold denote a write-up which is longer than the usual.

90 – bloc party – she’s hearing voices
89 – keane – everybody’s changing
88 – ignition – love is war
87 – franz ferdinand – michael
86 – air – surfing on a rocket
85 – franz ferdinand – matinee
84 – deep dish – flashdance
83 – the killers – somebody told me
82 – jamelia – see it in a boy’s eyes
81 – will young – your game
80 – the fiery furnaces – tropical ice-land
79 – phoenix – run run run
78 – eminem – mosh
77 – annie – chewing gum
76 – hidden cameras – i believe in the good of life
75 – kings of leon – the bucket
74 – green day – american idiot
73 – gwen stefani – what you waiting for?
72 – lcd soundsystem – yeah
71 – will young – friday’s child
70 – animal collective – who could win a rabbit?
69 – mu – paris hilton
68 – rachel stevens – some girls
67 – dogs die in hot cars – godhopping
66 – maroon 5 – this love
65 – morrissey – i have forgiven jesus
64 – scissor sisters – take your mama
63 – nick cave & the bad seeds – there she goes, my beautiful world
62 – rex the dog – prototype
61 – ruslana – wild dances
60 – the walkmen – the rat
59 – morrissey – let me kiss you
58= – the delays – long time coming
58= – sons & daughters – johnny cash
57 – pay tv – trendy discotheque
56 – mcfly – 5 colours in her hair
55 – ce’cile – hot like we
54 – wolfman ft peter doherty – for lovers
53 – the concretes – you can’t hurry love
52 – phoenix – everything is everything
51 – jamelia – thank you
50 – sex in dallas – everybody deserves to be f**ked
49 – girls aloud – the show
48 – morrissey – first of the gang to die
47 – usher ft ludacris & lil’ john – yeah
46 – alexandra & konstantin – my galileo
45 – ana da silva – the lighthouse
44 – ramón – para llenarma de ti
43 – the thrills – whatever happened to corey haim?
42 – annie – my heartbeat
41 – pet shop boys – flamboyant
40 – graham coxon – freakin’ out
39 – alicia keys – you don’t know my name (reggae remix)
38 – girls aloud – love machine
37 – gene serene & john downfall – i can do anything
36 – kylie minogue – i believe in you
35 – the fiery furnaces – single again
34 – alcazar – this is the world we live in
33 – mylo – drop the pressure
32 – britney spears – toxic
31 – air – cherry blossom girl
30 – mylo – destroy rock ‘n’ roll
29 – the prodigy – girls/rex the dog mix
28 – keane – somewhere only we know
27 – scissor sisters – mary
26 – chungking – making music
25 – o-zone – dragostea din tei
24 – ce’cile – rude bwoy thug life
23 – lena philipsson – it hurts
22 – jc chasez – all day long i dream about sex
21 – estelle – 1980
20 – nick cave & the bad seeds – nature boy
19 – 3 of a kind – babycakes
18 – junior boys – high come down
17 – chromeo – needy girl
16 – kelis – trick me
15 – the knife – heartbeats/rex the dog mix
14 – the streets – blinded by the lights
13 – belle & sebastian – your cover’s blown/wrapped up in books (ep)
12 – kelis ft andre 3000 – millionaire
11 – kanye west – through the wire
10 – eamon – f**k it (i don’t want you back)
9 – johnny boy – you are the generation that bought more shoes and you get what you deserve
8 – belle & sebastian – i’m a cuckoo/avalanches remix
7 – the streets – dry your eyes
6 – portobella – covered in punk
5 – morrissey – irish blood, english heart
4 – franz ferdinand – take me out
3 – kanye west ft twista & jamie foxx – slow jamz
2 – basement jaxx ft lisa kekaula – good luck

Back later, when I’ll be appending this post with the Number One single of 2004.

1. Lola’s Theme – Shapeshifters

1999: Westside – TQ
1994: Bits And Pieces – Artemisia
1989: She Bangs The Drums – The Stone Roses
1984: Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood

How unexpected that, in a year where it became less relevant to my life than ever before, my favourite two singles of the year should both have emerged from “dance” culture. But then there’s no arguing with this kind of sheer, unassailable magnificence.

What makes Lola’s Theme so special is simply this: that it can single-handedly turn a shit night out into a great night out. Instantly. For during the few minutes that it’s playing, even the bleakest, shoddiest dive on the planet can glimpse transcendence – and even the most wretched of lost souls can experience redemption. As for me, I’m not ashamed to say that I have openly wept to this record in the middle of a crowded dancefloor – and have felt all the better for having done so.

All of which means that, thanks to a cannily timed vote earlier in the day, WE HAVE A WINNER!

Step forward Chav Gav: citizen of Leith, frequently mentioned in dispatches at Naked Blog, and even a very occasional blogger in his own right. (I remember this lurid tale particularly vividly.) E-mail me with your address, and I’ll stick the CDs in the post.

However. I do feel that a consolation prize is due to one poor soul: a dogged tryer in this contest, who has dolefully admitted that he never wins anything, and who came so agonisingly close to tasting victory this week.

dave: The CDs are yours as well, mate.

(How could I ever refuse? You’ll feel like you win when you lose! Oy!)

I hope that at least some of you have enjoyed this ridiculously long and drawn-out spectacle over the last few weeks. It has probably cost me what little chance I had of winning a Bloggie, but f**k it: I still have my integrity, and isn’t that infinitely more important than these mere baubles?

(You know: for a moment there, I almost convinced myself.)

To the rest of you: thank you for bearing my indulgence with such good grace, and I hope that you managed to mine at least some small measure of value from all the trainspotterishness. I know this isn’t a music-blog, and I’ve not even been particularly aspiring/adhering to music journalist values during this series. What I’ve really been trying to do – especially in some of the longer pieces, as highlighted in bold in the list above – is talk about music as it relates to my own personal experience, rather than to the world at large. In this respect, maybe I haven’t really departed so far from “personal” blogging after all.

There will now be a brief refractory period, during which I shall endeavour not to talk about music at all for a couple of weeks or so – at least until the next overblown blog stunt comes along. (Long-standing readers will know of what I speak.) Wish me luck!

#1 Lola’s Theme – Shapeshifters (chav gav) · #4 Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand (Blue Witch) ·#7 Dry Your Eyes – The Streets (dave again) · #15 Heartbeats – The Knife (Swish David) · #16Trick Me – Kelis (Ben) · #19 Babycakes – 3 Of A Kind (dave) · #29 Girls (rex the dog mix) – The Prodigy (Waitrose David) · #32 Toxic – Britney Spears (Angus) · #36 I Believe In You – Kylie Minogue (Joe) · #38 Love Machine – Girls Aloud (Alan) · #49 The Show – Girls Aloud (Paul) ·#64 Take Your Mama – Scissor Sisters (Chig) · #85 Matinee – Franz Ferdinand (timothy)Not listed:
Tits On The Radio – Scissor Sisters (Todd) · Filthy/Gorgeous – Scissor Sisters (asta) · Common People – William Shatner & Joe Jackson (Gary F.) · Real To Me – Brian McFadden (Alan again) ·Music Is My Boyfriend – Hidden Cameras (timothy again) · Double Drop – Fierce Girl (Chig again) · Galang – MIA (dave, for the third time)

Singles of the year: #2

2. Good Luck – Basement Jaxx featuring Lisa Kekaula

1999: It’s Not Right But It’s Okay – Whitney Houston
1994: Waterfall – Atlantic Ocean
1989: Pacific State – 808 State
1984: Rocket To Your Heart – Lisa
Tell me, tell me, is life just a playground? Think you’re the real deal honey, and someone’ll always look after you? But wake up baby, you’re so totally deluded, you’ll end up old and lonely, if you don’t get a bullet in your head…

So unarguably great that it was a hit twice over in 2004 – reaching #12 in January and #14 in July.

Tactical last-minute voters: this is your final chance to make an educated guess, before I reveal my favourite single of 2004 some time between now and midnight (UK time).

Until then, in the words of Basement Jaxx themselves … GOOD LUCK!


Singles of the year: #3

3. Slow Jamz – Kanye West featuring Twista & Jamie Foxx

1999: My Love Is Your Love – Whitney Houston
1994: Whatever – Oasis
1989: Back To Life – Soul II Soul featuring Caron Wheeler
1984: Two Tribes – Frankie Goes To Hollywood


“It is one of the most perceptive and sublime dissertations there has been on the relative role of the male and female psyches in our perception of music and what effect it has upon us, what functions it can serve or surpass. Moreover and beyond this, it is one of the finest meditations on how we view music of the past, what we allow it to mean to us when we are not exhausting ourselves pursuing the ghost of newness.”

– Marcello Carlin, The Clothed Maja, excerpt from THE COLLEGE DROPOUT – THE BEST HIP HOP ALBUM IN THE WORLD…EVER? (If you’re at all familiar with Kanye West, then scroll down to April 21 2004 and read the whole article, because it’s brilliant.)

Singles of the year: #4

4. Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand

1999: Red Alert – Basement Jaxx
1994: 7 Seconds – Youssou N’Dour/Neneh Cherry
1989: One Man – Chanelle
1984: Why? – Bronski Beat
With two Franz Ferdinand singles already in my countdown (at numbers 87 and 85), this one – by far their biggest song, and so ubiquitous in 2004 that you scarcely need me to explain its appeal – was another doddle to predict.

And predict it you did! Well, kind of. For hereby hangs a tale.

Having been knocked off the top of the leader board some time in the middle of last week, dave requested a slight change to the rules, in order to give himself a second chance at winning make the game more interesting and enjoyable. Being an accommodating kind of guy, I instantly acceded to his request – allowing anyone who was knocked off the top another chance to make a guess.

But ONLY WHEN they were KNOCKED OFF the top.

And NOT WHEN they were STILL AT the top.

Unfortunately, this is the part which dave failed to grasp. And so, when Dry Your Eyes by The Streets put him at the top of the heap, what did he do but attempt to place a third – yes, a THIRD – guess, for Take Me Out, BEFORE being dislodged from pole position?

Having disallowed his guess, it was – of course – still visible in the comments box for all to see. Because I only delete comments in highly exceptional circumstances.

You can probably guess what happened next. Someone else saw the comment – thought “hmm, good guess” – and repeated it as their own.

So, should I have disqualified the guess, or should I have made dave accountable for his mistake and accepted it as valid?

Being a harsh yet fair task-master, I decided upon the latter course of action. Meaning that – of ALL PEOPLE! – the Steve Earle and Bruce Springsteen loving, all-modern-music-is-boring, I-thought-Franz-Ferdinand-was-a-dead-duke, look-dear-can-you-get-a-move-on-because-I’m-fed-up-with-all-this-pop-nonsense, defiantly and resplendently un-trendy Blue Witch now takes over the lead from dave.

This is all very amusing, I must say.

Three left!

Already listed:
#4 Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand (Blue Witch) · #7 Dry Your Eyes – The Streets (dave again)· #15 Heartbeats – The Knife (Swish David) · #16 Trick Me – Kelis (Ben) · #19 Babycakes – 3 Of A Kind (dave) · #29 Girls (rex the dog mix) – The Prodigy (Waitrose David) · #32 Toxic – Britney Spears (Angus) · #36 I Believe In You – Kylie Minogue (Joe) · #38 Love Machine – Girls Aloud (Alan) · #49 The Show – Girls Aloud (Paul) · #64 Take Your Mama – Scissor Sisters (Chig)· #85 Matinee – Franz Ferdinand (timothy)

Not (yet?) listed:
Tits On The Radio – Scissor Sisters (Todd) · Filthy/Gorgeous – Scissor Sisters (asta) · Common People – William Shatner & Joe Jackson (Gary F.) · Real To Me – Brian McFadden (Alan again) ·Music Is My Boyfriend – Hidden Cameras (timothy again) · Double Drop – Fierce Girl (Chig again) · Lola’s Theme – Shapeshifters (chav gav) · Galang – MIA (dave, for the third time)

Singles of the year: #5

5. Irish Blood, English Heart – Morrissey

1999: No Scrubs – TLC
1994: End Of A Century – Blur
1989: Musical Freedom – Paul Simpson featuring Adeva
1984: Strike – The Enemy Within
It ends today, folks.

Our shared musical odyssey. Our crazy roller-coaster ride. Our castle in the sky.

My, but we’ve shared some times along the way, haven’t we? Trudging through the foothills of the lower positions – ascending the graceful slopes of the middle positions – and now here we all are: giddy with altitude sickness, inches away from the summit, half-blinded by the dazzling lights of the Final Five. Exhausted, and yet strangely exhilarated.

Yeah, you’re right. I can’t think of one damned thing to say about this Morrissey single. Ummm… well… it’s yer Masterful Grasp Of Rock Dynamics, innit? It’s yer Tension And Release!

Kids: with Morrissey’s other three singles of 2004 already listed in the countdown (at numbers 65, 59 and 48), you could have seen this one coming. Time is running out. Choose wisely.

Singles of the year: #6

6. Covered In Punk – Portobella

1999: My Name Is – Eminem
1994: All I Wanna Do – Sheryl Crow (WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?)
1989: Ride On Time – Black Box
1984: Beat Box / Diversions 1-4 / Moments In Love – Art Of Noise

Another smash hit that never was: irresistible turbo-charged bubblegum punk, as assembled by the same guy (Michael Gray) who was responsible for one of 2004’s big gay club anthems (The Weekend).

Apparently, Portobella were also the winners of some reality show on MTV. Fat lot of good it did them, then.

Coming Soon: The Top Five. Have you made your prediction yet?

(To view the countdown so far, please check the comments box beneath this post.)

Singles of the year: #7 (NMC)

7. Dry Your Eyes – The Streets

1999: Rendez-Vous – Basement Jaxx
1994: Parklife – Blur
1989: Fools Gold/What The World Is Waiting For – The Stone Roses
1984: I Feel For You – Chaka Khan

Friday June 25, 2004.


I tried, I really tried.


We had just finished watching the so-so Michael Douglas thriller on Sky. As I needed to check the progress of the match before heading out to meet A in the pub, I successfully negotiated a lightening-quick flick over to BBC1, in the few available seconds before Big Brother.

Only to witness, at that precise moment, Portugal’s extra time goal.

“Oh my God!” we shrieked.

“That’s it then”, I authoritatively declared, still labouring under the delusion that extra time operated on a sudden-death principle. “England are out of Euro 2004”.

And texted A in the sports bar:
I'll get my coat. 😦

And finally looked up again, and realised that the game was still going. A-hum.

“I feel like we’ve jinxed the match”, I wailed.

“Better watch the rest of it, then.”

Within seconds, the last two effete footie-phobes in town had metamorphosed into standard issue Come On Englanders. Why, I could hear our very vocal chords hardening over, even as our vocabulary contracted into guttural monosyllabics.

Shoe-horned into the collective consciousness. Helplessly abased before the Higher Power of Speuuurght.

As Engerland equalised, some deep-seated Pavlovian impulse caused us to rise up off the sofa as one, making those tight little fist-stabs as we did so.

“It’s going to penalties!”

I text A again:
F***ing hell! 🙂
He texts back:
My heart!
We’re not built for this.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Striding into town to make it to the Roberts for last orders, deftly weaving my way through the shell-shocked crowds spilling out of the sports bars, I am struck by the weird, subdued atmosphere that prevails. It’s so… quiet. Everywhere I look, lads are perched on the edge of the pavement; or stretched flat out on it; or slumped against walls, absently texting. Directing my own video-montage, I start mentally overdubbing the soundtrack.

Dry your eyes mate / I know you want to make her see how much this pain hurts / But you’ve got to walk away now / It’s over.

Snatches of conversation:

“I wanna see Sweden f***ing smash them in the semis. No, even better; I wanna see them get to the f***ing finals, think they’re gonna f***ing win, then…”

“Can’t believe they just played that Britney Spears song at the end. Like that’s gonna cheer us up…”

“Yeah but, you gotta admit, it takes a lot of guts to come back and equalise like that, right at the end…”

I give K a quick call, just to bear witness.
“Honestly, you’d think Princess Diana had just died.”

Even in the Roberts, the queens are all a-twitter. At the bar, I tell the story of how my Nokia – the gayest mobile in the whole world, like, ever – had changed footie to ennui. People start checking their own.

“No, it just comes up with foothe.”

“Darling! Ennui simply isn’t in my lexicon!”

As the beers kick in, a sort of refractory queeniness has begun to steal over us. A necessary corrective process, no doubt. Excitedly, A starts to tell me all about his new bit-of-rough builder friend.

“Darling! Lucky you! How rough exactly?”

“Well, just before Euro 2004, the police called round to his house and confiscated his passport. I think he must be on some sort of List.”

“Darling! The sex must be fabulous! But does he know that you’re a native Portugese speaker? He doesn’t? Oh, I don’t think you should tell him. At least, not unless you’re up for some extremely adventurous role play…”

In the late bar over the road, the mutual healing continues until stupid o’clock. Even the regular Thursday night trannies are bitching about that silly Swiss hem-hem of a ref. As ever, the more slurred and messy everyone gets, the more fulsomely articulate I become. (Why is this?)

It’s the landlord’s last night, so the final rounds of drinks are on the house. The wiry little skinhead in the corner has hitched his T-shirt up, his beltless waistband down, and is distractedly stroking the area in between, over and over and over again; the effect is quite mesmerising. Pints are sloshed onto the carpet, nonchalantly; arses are grabbed, inappropriately; no-one can understand a word that anyone else is saying, but no-one seems to care.

Good grief. We’re not even like this over Eurovision.

As you were, sisters. As you were.

(This piece originally appeared as a guest post on Sashinka.)

Already listed:
#7 Dry Your Eyes – The Streets (dave again) · #15 Heartbeats – The Knife (Swish David) · #16Trick Me – Kelis (Ben) · #19 Babycakes – 3 Of A Kind (dave) · #29 Girls (rex the dog mix) – The Prodigy (Waitrose David) · #32 Toxic – Britney Spears (Angus) · #36 I Believe In You – Kylie Minogue (Joe) · #38 Love Machine – Girls Aloud (Alan) · #49 The Show – Girls Aloud (Paul) ·#64 Take Your Mama – Scissor Sisters (Chig) · #85 Matinee – Franz Ferdinand (timothy)

Not (yet?) listed:
Tits On The Radio – Scissor Sisters (Todd) · Filthy/Gorgeous – Scissor Sisters (asta) · Common People – William Shatner & Joe Jackson (Gary F.) · Real To Me – Brian McFadden (Alan again) ·Music Is My Boyfriend – Hidden Cameras (timothy again) · Double Drop – Fierce Girl (Chig again) · Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand (Blue Witch)

Singles of the year: #8

8. I’m A Cuckoo / I’m A Cuckoo (Avalanches remix) – Belle & Sebastian

1999: Afrika Shox/Phat Planet – Leftfield
1994: Live Forever – Oasis
1989: She Drives Me Crazy – Fine Young Cannibals
1984: Rock Box – Run DMC

Best bit of the Avalanches remix (although “remake” is probably a better term in this instance) – when the track finishes, and the South Sudanese choir keep right on chanting, eventually dissolving into whoops and cheers, and one final uproarious burst of laughter.

Singles of the year: #9

9. You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve – Johnny Boy

1999: I Try – Daffy Duck Macy Gray
(Hmm. Some songs have more longevity than others, don’t they?)
1994: Regulate – Warren G/Nate Dogg
1989: French Kiss – Lil’ Louis
1984: Lost In Music (1984 remix) – Sister Sledge

1. For the title alone. I mean, come ON, classic or classic?

2. For James Dean Bradfield’s widescreen, Spector-esque production – right down to the nicking of the “Be My Baby” drumbeat intro. (I’ve been a sucker for Spector pastiches ever since the days of Wizzard.)

3. For the trumpets.

4. For the “yeah yeahs”.

5. For the Tomorrow Never Knows screechy squawky bits.

6. For the way it builds, and builds, and builds, and then builds some more.

7. For the way it sounds like the missing link between Pete Wylie’s Wah! and Little Does She Know by The Kursaal Flyers.

8. For the way that, despite my not having the faintest clue what they’re actually singing about, this still manages to sound Anthemic and Significant and A Definitive Statement Of Its Time, To Which We Should All Pay Heed. Because I like it when pop plays tricks like that.

Singles of the year: #10 (NMC)

10. F**k It (I Don’t Want You Back) – Eamon

1999: Turn Your Lights Down Low – Bob Marley & Lauryn Hill
1994: I’ll Stand By You – The Pretenders
1989: Promised Land – Joe Smooth
1984: Holiday – Madonna

F**k what I said, it don’t mean shit now, f**k the presents, might as well throw em out, f**k all those kisses, it didn’t mean jack, f**k you, you ho, I don’t want you back…

For all the perceived “scandalousness” of this blog – the bursts of should-he-really-be-saying-that? confessionalism, the coy, veiled references to buried-safely-in-the-past misdemeanours – an altogether different set of dangerously unhinged impulses seem to be snapping at my feet these days, tempting me into committing ill-considered indiscretions which I might later regret.

For now that my Inner Party Monster has been more or less safely tethered, it is my Inner Middle Aged Daily Mail Reader which is rattling the cages and struggling to break free. All this Colonel Blimp-ish disapproval of modern manners and mores – from where has it sprung?

Warily threading my way through the city centre on a Saturday night not so very long ago, I caught myself eyeing up a screeching gaggle of severely under-dressed young binge drinkers, clacking their way up Pelham Street on their way to the Hockley pick-up joints, and thinking – actually, truly thinking, without any discernible level of redeeming irony – do their mothers know they’re out dressed like that?

Sneaking a semi-interested peek at Top Of The Pops last Spring, I caught 19 year old Eamon performing the UK’s Number One single – a song with the word “f**k” actually in its title – and found myself thinking: OK, that’s it. The barbarians are at the gates. It’s the death of Empire, the end of civilisation, the dawning of a new Dumbed Down Dark Age of unfettered coarseness and brutality.

I mean to say: this was Top Of The Pops! The programme I used to watch before bedtime with the family, hoping that Clive Dunn or Rolf Harris or The Scaffold or Mary Hopkin might be on! And here was this callow, insolent youth, miming to an absurdly “cleaned up” version of the track which merely involved the surgical removal of the rude words in question:

What I said, it don’t mean – now – the presents, might as well throw em out – all those kisses, it didn’t mean jack, – you, you – I don’t want you back…

And this from a year where the UK singles chart contained one record with the sampled word “motherf**ker” repeated over and over again, and another record which described the consumption of poor-quality ecstacy tablets in forensic detail, to say nothing of the “answer record” which succeeded Eamon at Number One: a charming little ditty entitled F**k You Right Back. I mean, what’s coming next?

“It’s the Nation’s Favourite Song! Straight in at Number One, it’s Give Me Back My F**king Gear, C**t Face!”

What’s more, nobody but me seems to be in the slightest bit bothered by any of this. It’s like I’m the only one who has even noticed. Did I miss a meeting or something?

Compare and contrast with the wholesome innocence of the Top Five from the particular week in Summer 1971 when, aged nine, I first started “following the charts”. Tom Tom Turnaround, Me And You And A Dog Named Boo, Co-Co, Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep … and a record by Atomic Rooster called Devil’s Answer, whose title I didn’t dare to speak out loud in front of my parents, because it had the word “devil” in it.

Aged nine in 1971, I would be told off for saying “Damn”, “Oh God”, or even “Good Heavens”. Aged nine in 2005, I would be expected to collude in the flimsy fiction that the Number One song onTop Of The Pops actually went: “– you, you – I don’t want you back“.

Aged nine in 1971, I had never even heard of the F-word. That came a year later, when one of the cooler kids in my class faux-casually dropped it into conversation on the way home from school.

“Oh, bloody f**k.”

I can still hear – and see – him saying it (and repeating himself, for effect) and wondering what it meant, but not daring to ask, because I already had a reputation for being comically naive about these things.

(So naive, that I spent a year or so thinking that sexual intercourse took place between a man’s “little thing” and a lady’s nipple, because the nipple was the rudest part of a lady’s body that I could think of, and besides, if milk could get out, then surely the other stuff could get in. “Down there” never occurred to me, because “down there” was simply where a willy wasn’t. Nothing to see here; please move on.)

(Although, when I thought about it, sex must be an awfully uncomfortable business. How did the man manage to balance his “little thing” on the lady’s nipple without it slipping off? Perhaps you could buy double-ended plastic funnel things, to help things stay in place. Also, wouldn’t the lady have to bury herself halfway down the bedclothes, and wouldn’t that get a bit hot, and she might suffocate? I really didn’t like the sound of any of this, so why did grown-ups get so excited about it?)

(But I digress.)

Aged fourteen in 1976, I brought home Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s Derek And Clive comedy album; unaware, despite the warning message on the cover, of just how staggeringly foul-mouthed it was. Seeing the warning message, my father snatched the record from me, and demanded to listen to it before I took it up to my room.

Sitting at the head of the family dinner table, the rest of us all seated for lunch, he solemnly placed the record on the family hi-fi, and solemnly donned the family headphones.

An uneasy silence descended, as my father’s face grew redder… and redder… and redder.

After five minutes or so, with a great show of dignified self-control that (as so often was the case with my father) bordered on the farcical, he solemnly removed the headphones, and addressed me with one of his quiet, steady, only-just-keeping-it-together voices.

“Michael. There are … words … on this record … that I didn’t even know existed until I joined the army. You are to listen to this on headphones ONLY, in your bedroom ONLY, and you must promise me that you will NEVER let your sisters hear it even for a SECOND DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?

Within the week, he’d nicked it. Late one night, I could hear him playing the track Winkie Wanky Woo to his friends downstairs, and them all falling about laughing.

His vocabulary was never the same again. Seriously. Swore like a trooper after that. And they say that these things don’t deprave or corrupt.

Aged 42 in 2005, I realise that the word “f**k” has virtually lost all of its power to shock. They’ll be using it on Children’s TV by the end of the decade, I reckon.

“Hello, and welcome to Blue Peter! We’ve got a f**king good show for you today!”

You just mark my words and see if I’m wrong.

Back to Eamon, then. So how did a song which initially repelled me end up as my tenth favourite single of 2004?

Because I actually sat down and listened to it, that’s why.

And realised that, rather than being the puerile exercise in lowest-common-denominator Gonzo Capitalism of my imaginings, (“Tee-hee, he said f**k, I’m buying it!“) Eamon’s single fits easily into a tradition of classic teen rejection ballads which stretches all the way back through to Atlantic soul and Fifties doo-wop. He’s hurt, he’s betrayed, and as the pain hardens into bitterness, so the anger comes flowing out, nullifying everything that he thought was good and pure. From “Baby I love you” to “f**k you, you ho”.

Great pop.

Fucking great pop.

Singles of the year: #11

11. Through The Wire – Kanye West

1999: Once Around The Block – Badly Drawn Boy
1994: The Most Beautiful Girl In The World – Prince
1989: Keep On Movin’ – Soul II Soul featuring Caron Wheeler
1984: Let The Music Play – Shannon

Kanye West? It’s rap music for people who don’t like rap music“, they say. Well, that can’t possibly apply; I’ve been enjoying rap music for the past quarter of a century, and I’ve got the Kool Moe Dee 12-inchers to prove it.

Then looking down the rest of this year’s list, I realise that – Kanye West aside – there’s scarcely a scrap of rap to be found. So what changed there then?

Singles of the year: #12

12. Millionaire – Kelis featuring Andre 3000

1999: You Don’t Know Me – Armand Van Helden featuring Duane Harden
1994: The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get – Morrissey
1989: Tell Me When The Fever Ended – Electribe 101
1984: William, It Was Really Nothing/How Soon Is Now? – The Smiths

It’s got a catchy tune and a good beat to it, and it’s one of those tunes that can buzz around inside your head all day long without you minding too much. What else do you want to know?

Oh, and it’s got thingy out of Outkast on it. You know, him who did the one that sounds a bit like Prince. Not the rap one with all the swearing on it; the other one, with Hey Ya! on it. Yeah, the nice one, with all the jokey bits and stuff.

Milkshake? No, that was in my Best Of 2003 list actually. Yeah, I know!

Those Number Twelves from Yesteryear are a stronger bunch than usual, aren’t they?

Are we nearly there yet?

Singles of the year: #13

13. Your Cover’s Blown/Wrapped Up In Books – Belle & Sebastian (from the “Books” EP)

1999: Northern Lites – Super Furry Animals
1994: Incredible – M Beat/General Levy
1989: Dirty Blvd. – Lou Reed
1984: Somebody Else’s Guy – Jocelyn Brown


…and exhale.

Gosh, are we nearly into the Top Ten already?

Singles of the year: #14

14. Blinded By The Lights – The Streets

1999: Unpretty – TLC
1994: Stay Together – Suede
1989: Say No Go – De La Soul
1984: Song To The Siren – This Mortal Coil

Because even grossly overrated and hugely disappointing albums like A Grand Don’t Come For Free can still contain a couple of tracks of such luminous brilliance that you remember why you fell so heavily for the artist in the first place. As I said very recently: The Streets’ Weak Become Heroes was my Nineties. But just as every shiny, brilliant surface has its dull, matted underside, so every Weak Becomes Heroes should have its Blinded By The Lights.

For this too was my Nineties. And just as Weak Becomes Heroes never fails to make me dewy-eyed with nostalgic fondness and a certain sense of longing (“if only…“), so Blinded By The Lights never fails to pull me up short with a shudder of sharp recall and a tangible sense of relief (“thank God…“).

Besides, there just haven’t been enough songs about being monged out on shite eckies in the UK Top 10.

Singles of the year: #15

15. Heartbeats / Heartbeats (rex the dog mix) – The Knife

1999: Flowerz – Armand Van Helden featuring Roland Clark
1994: Girls And Boys – Blur
1989: Eye Know – De La Soul
1984: Unity – Afrika Bambaataa & James Brown

The fifth Swedish act to make an appearance on this God-will-it-NEVER-end list, and the third single in which dance music’s man-of-the-moment Rex The Dog has had a hand. Like JC Chasez before it, this was first recommended to me last April, as part of the reader-compiled CD project, with the remix not coming my way until several months later.

Which, to be honest, is how I like it with remixes. To my mind, one of the great wrong turnings that dance music took in the early 1990s was when remixes started getting included on the original releases of tracks. Which is all well and good from a value-for-money point of view, but all wrong from a timing point of view. To enjoy a remix properly, you need to have spent at least a few weeks gaining familiarity with the original track, before being hit with the “bloody hell, what have they done to it?” shock of the new version. Now, back in my day, we…

…no, not going there again for a while. What is this: Grumpy Old Men? Let’s get straight back to the competition instead.

So, who has snatched the lead from Ben’s eager grasp? Why, if it’s not David: my original Blogdaddy, and former host of the still much-missed Swish Cottage. (Yes, I tried; no, he’s not, not never ever.)

Don’t forget (as if you could): the person who makes the closest guess to my favourite single of 2004 wins a self-compiled triple mix CD: 2004 – The Year In Song. Keep ’em coming, kids!

Already listed:
#15 Heartbeats – The Knife (Swish David) · #16 Trick Me – Kelis (Ben) · #19 Babycakes – 3 Of A Kind (dave) · #29 Girls (rex the dog mix) – The Prodigy (Waitrose David) · #32 Toxic – Britney Spears (Angus) · #36 I Believe In You – Kylie Minogue (Joe) · #38 Love Machine – Girls Aloud (Alan) · #49 The Show – Girls Aloud (Paul) · #64 Take Your Mama – Scissor Sisters (Chig)· #85 Matinee – Franz Ferdinand (timothy)

Not (yet?) listed:
Tits On The Radio – Scissor Sisters (Todd) · Filthy/Gorgeous – Scissor Sisters (asta) · Common People – William Shatner & Joe Jackson (Gary F.) · Dry Your Eyes – The Streets (dave again) ·Real To Me – Brian McFadden (Alan again) · Music Is My Boyfriend – Hidden Cameras (timothy again) · Double Drop – Fierce Girl (Chig again)

Singles of the year: #16

16. Trick Me – Kelis

1999: Bills, Bills, Bills – Destiny’s Child
1994: Loser – Beck
1989: Manchild – Neneh Cherry
1984: Slippery People – The Staple Singers

Right then. Somewhat in the manner of a desperate Endemol executive, I’m going to introduce a SURPRISE NEW RULE into the Exciting Blog Game! That Everyone Is Playing!

(Because, frankly, this game is slowly dying on its arse, and we’ve got to ratchet up the tension somehow.)

From now on, if or when your guess is knocked off the top of the leader board (but NOT before), you will be permitted to GUESS AGAIN.

As Ben takes over at the top, this now leaves dave (and everyone else below him) free to take another stab.

As it were. Oh, behave!

(Yes, I’m even playing the Sauce Card. As I said: Desperate.)

Already listed:
#16 Trick Me – Kelis (Ben) · #19 Babycakes – 3 Of A Kind (dave) · #29 Girls (rex the dog mix) – The Prodigy (Waitrose David) · #32 Toxic – Britney Spears (Angus) · #36 I Believe In You – Kylie Minogue (Joe) · #38 Love Machine – Girls Aloud (Alan) · #49 The Show – Girls Aloud (Paul) · #64 Take Your Mama – Scissor Sisters (Chig) · #85 Matinee – Franz Ferdinand (timothy)

Not (yet?) listed:
Tits On The Radio – Scissor Sisters (Todd) · Filthy/Gorgeous – Scissor Sisters (asta) · Heartbeats – The Knife (Swish David) · Common People – William Shatner & Joe Jackson (Gary F.)

Singles of the year: #17

17. Needy Girl – Chromeo

1999: At The River – Groove Armada
1994: 100% Pure Love – Crystal Waters
1989: Express Yourself – Madonna
1984: Hip Hop Bommi Bop – The Incredible T.H. Scratchers starring Freddie Love

Pure retro, this. A flawless pastiche of exactly the sort of smooth 1980s US soul/funk which rocked my world back in the day, no doubt made by people who were barely out of nappies at the time.

If you’re the sort of person who reads Dazed And Confused magazine and hangs out in London’s trendy Shoreditch (it is still Shoreditch these days, I take it?), then you’ll probably be able to detect, ooh, a good five or six additional layers of artful post-modern so-far-In-that-it’s-Out-which-makes-it-back-In-again irony. (Because in certain circles, irony is always, always In.)

However, as someone whose bleeding-hedge-zeitgeist days are receding faster than his hairline (look, it’s a HIGH SIDE PARTING, okay?), I have finally attained that blissful state of grace which puts me above and beyond such transitory considerations. Meaning that I can simply enjoy this as nothing more or less than a quaint piece of Olde Tyme Dance Musick.

My parents’ generation probably felt the same way about Showaddywaddy.


Singles of the year: #18

18. High Come Down – Junior Boys

1999: Hey Boy Hey Girl – Chemical Brothers
1994: Boundaries – Leena Conquest
1989: Voodoo Ray – A Guy Called Gerald
1984: Give Me Tonight – Shannon

I spent the first nine months of 2004 not liking The Junior Boys because they reminded me of wet Tuesday afternoons.

I spent the last three months of 2004 enjoying The Junior Boys because they reminded me of wet Tuesday afternoons.

This suggests that I have reached some sort of accommodation with wet Tuesday afternoons. Does this count as Personal Growth?

Singles of the year: #19

19. Babycakes – 3 Of A Kind

1999: Windowlicker – Aphex Twin
1994: Ghetto Day – Crystal Waters
1989: Express Yourself – N.W.A.
1984: You Think You’re A Man – Divine

My great blogging regret of last year was that I never put together a decent tribute to one of the very few true “hero” figures I have ever had in life: the late John Peel. For although “somebody famous has died” is right up there with “today I had a cheese sandwich“, “Blogger ate my post“, “aren’t spam commenters ghastly?“, “Googlers search for the darndest things!“, “look what I just found on Boing Boing!” and (embarrassed cough) “isn’t it amazing what you can do with” in the pantheon of Blog Postings We Never Want To Read Again Unless There’s A Very, VERY Good Reason, I felt that there was much that could usefully be said about the powerfully benevolent influence that Peel exerted on so many of us in our formative years – to say nothing of the cultural legacy which he has left behind.

On the other hand, the sheer number of well-worded, insightful and affectionate tributes which poured forth on seemingly every weblog within my orbit over the ensuing weeks was a source of both astonishment and delight. I simply had no idea that so many of us related to the man in such an intensely personal way, and that there was so much shared ground between each of these individual relationships. As time went on, the urge to pen my own tribute slowly dwindled. Everything that needed to be said had already been said, to the point of saturation.

(Or even beyond it, as some testily observed. Given the overall mood of National Grief which briefly prevailed, it’s a small wonder we haven’t ended up with a Memorial Garden.)

However, a point which I only saw being made once or twice, and a point on which I have since reflected upon at some length, concerns the particular nature of Peel’s preferred musical aesthetic. Just why did he continually favour the new over the established, the debut single over the third album, the rough over the slick, the barely “musical” over the practised and accomplished?

To some, this indicated a fickleness, a shallowness, an inverted snobbery, an unseemly arrested development. But the particular observation which struck me as being closest to the truth was this: that Peel’s primary aesthetic was that of the Primitive. Once you start to apply this guiding principle, then a lot of Peel’s seemingly baffling eclecticism begins to add up and make sense. The thrash metal, the nosebleed techno, the dub reggae, the English folk, the Southern African hi-life, the low-budget early hip-hop, the dour indie miserablists, the original punk rockers, the assorted outsiders and refuseniks… nearly all of them shared something of this unifying primitive quality.

But what the f**k has any of this to do with Babycakes by 3 Of A Kind: a massive overground chart hit in the UK, which could be heard blaring from every other car window in town over July and August of last year? To most of my generation of former Peel fans (who actually stopped listening years ago, provoked beyond endurance by some newly favoured “call this music?” genre; for me it was the thrash metal), this could easily be held up as a prime example of the sort of gormless commercialised pap that Peel had fought against all his life.

Except that in this instance, I beg to differ. To these ears, there’s something of that essential primitive quality in Babycakes: a stuttering, clattering piece of four-years-out-of-date two-step UK garage which sounds like it was recorded in a back bedroom in East London on a budget of tuppence by a bunch of Nike-ed up no-marks whose only other pleasure in life is to get strung out every night on super-skunk and carry-out Breezers in the car park of the local Burger King.

(All of which is an unnecessarily roundabout way of avoiding the use of one snide, smug, hateful little word which became an unavoidable part of 2004’s cultural currency. Four letters, begins with C, ends with V: class hatred in a single syllable.)

Indeed, it’s the very gormlessness of Babycakes which appeals: that disaffected, detached vocal delivery; that take-that-gobstopper-out-of-your-mouth diction; that fumbling emotional inarticulacy; that accidental quality, which has you seriously wondering whether 3 Of A Kind will ever be heard of again (at least beyond the confines of the promo racks in their local vinyl store).

You see the problem here? For someone like me – pushing 43, second home in the country, nice collection of contemporary ceramics on the leather console table – to appreciate somehing like this, which comes from a place well outside of his experience or even his imagination, the temptation to apply the patronising and ignorant critical aesthetic of the “noble savage” becomes almost overwhelming. We’re a heartbeat away from Henry Higgins territory here.

And maybe that’s the same problem which some suspicious commentators had with John Peel: this privately educated bourgeois boy with the dry, self-deprecating wit and the singular blend of cynicism and idealism, who shed his posh accent and comprehensively re-invented himself (several times over) as a classless, class-blind Everyman.

But, ahem, let’s not get too carried away here. Shall we crack on with The Big Competition instead? Yes, I think we’d better.

As Dave Spellcnut thought that Babycakes would be my favourite single of 2004, he takes over the leader board from Waitrose David (whom I forgot to credit earlier, when his prediction for The Prodigy came up). Remember: the person who makes the closest prediction wins a copy of my Best Of 2004 triple mix CD. So keep those guesses coming!

Already listed:
#19 Babycakes – 3 Of A Kind (dave) · #29 Girls (rex the dog mix) – The Prodigy (Waitrose David) · #32 Toxic – Britney Spears (Angus) · #36 I Believe In You – Kylie Minogue (Joe) · #38Love Machine – Girls Aloud (Alan) · #49 The Show – Girls Aloud (Paul) · #64 Take Your Mama – Scissor Sisters (Chig) · #85 Matinee – Franz Ferdinand (timothy)Not (yet?) listed:
Tits On The Radio – Scissor Sisters (Todd) · Filthy/Gorgeous – Scissor Sisters (asta) · Heartbeats – The Knife (Swish David) · Trick Me – Kelis (Ben) · Common People – William Shatner & Joe Jackson (Gary F.)

See also: Tuesday October 26, 2004.

Singles of the year: #20

20. Nature Boy – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

1999: Praise You – Fatboy Slim
1994: Saturday Night – Whigfield
1989: That’s The Way Love Is – Ten City
1984: Cockney Translation – Smiley Culture

I was walking around the flower show like a leper
Coming down with some kind of nervous hysteria
When I saw you standing there, green eyes, black hair
Up against the pink and purple wisteria
You said, hey, nature boy, are you looking at me
With some unrighteous intention?
My knees went weak, I couldn’t speak, I was having thoughts
That were not in my best interests to mention…

Finally, after all those long years of tortured Sturm und Drang, music’s Mister Misery Guts pops some Happy Pills and releases a jolly, bouncy, genuinely funny out-and-out pop single – complete with a knowing musical nod to Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel’s Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me). Next thing we know, he’ll be smiling. Are there no certainties left in life?