Singles of the year: #21

21. 1980 – Estelle

1999: She’s In Fashion – Suede
1994: Sour Times – Portishead
1989: Can’t Be Sure – The Sundays

File alongside Jamelia, in the box marked “Superior UK urban music which could show those damned Yanks a thing or two if only they’d care to listen”.

(Forgive me, my American chums. I’m still reeling from the double whammy of George Bush’s hideously chilling inauguration address and being passed over for Best British Poof at the QueeriesTant pis, as they say in Freedom Land.)

Singles of the year: #22

22. All Day Long I Dream About Sex – JC Chasez

1999: Beautiful Stranger – Madonna
1994: Love Is All Around – Wet Wet Wet (yeah yeah, get over it)
1989: Losing My Mind – Liza Minelli

This was first brought to my attention by Zbornak last April, when I was assembling my reader-compiled “Songs You Have To Hear” CD. It was then used as part of the backing track for my “Squint” performance piece (still available for download, and possibly my favourite piece of work on the blog last year), where its combination of full-on chorus and unexpectedly reflective middle section suited one particular part of the narrative to a tee.

To my great surprise, this then turned out to be a complete flop as a single, despite being the follow-up to a #13 hit, Some Girls (Dance With Women). I’m not even sure it even made the Top 75, and in these depressed-market days you have to make quite a serious effort of will to avoid making the Top 75. I was therefore pleased to see that at least Stuart Hydragenic hadn’t forgotten about it, singling it out for a mention in his long-awaited Best Albums Of 2004 round-up.

The Smash Hit That Never Was, then. You’ve always got to have at least one of those in your list.

Singles of the year: #23

23. It Hurts – Lena Philipsson.

1999: Comedy – Shack
1994: Supersonic – Oasis
1989: Me Myself & I – De La Soul

Following Pay TV, The Concretes and Alcazar, Lena Philipsson becomes the fourth (*) Swedish act (**) to make my Hot Ninety, with a cheeky ode to taking it up the jacksie that stormed last year’s Eurovision in Istanbul. (OK, it actually came sixth. But for anyone who saw just how suggestively Lena worked that giant microphone stand, it was a moment to treasure.)

(*) But will she be the last? Eh? Eh?

(**) And there have also been two entries by Annie, from Norway, which is sort of Sweden isn’t it?

Singles of the year: #24

24. Rude Bwoy Thug Life – Ce’cile

1999: Let Forever Be – Chemical Brothers
1994: Son Of A Gun – JX
1989: Your Love – Frankie Knuckles

Not strictly speaking a 2004 release, but an MP3 of an Jamaican dancehall track from a year or so earlier, which seemed to get everywhere last year following an appearance on Fluxblog. The rhythm track (I think we’re actually supposed to say “riddim”, but I can’t quite bring myself to) is of particular interest, as it’s a direct re-working of The Cure’s 1985 hit Close To Me, and you don’t generally find much of a Goth-pop influence in Jamaican dancehall, so you know, fascinating innit?

Singles of the year: #25

25. Dragostea Din Tei – O-Zone

1999: Walk Like A Panther – The All Seeing I featuring Tony Christie
1994: Superstar – Sonic Youth
1989: Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin’ – Inner City

Basically, I’m with Nigella Lawson on this.

When describing her tastes, the Domestic Goddess explained (and I wish I could find the precise quote, because she explained it so well) that she tended to favour music with an intense, surging, ecstatic quality to it; music whch floods the senses with an overwhelming feeling of elemental joy.

As it is with Nigella, whose Desert Island Discs choices included Sugar Sugar, Ye Ke Ye Ke, Hey Boy Hey Girl and the Hardfloor remix of Blue Monday, so it is with me and daft little Eurodisco nuggets such as Dragostea Din Tei (which even moved me to start a weblog conga line over the summer).

Because when all is said and done and dusted and dissected, and considered and compared and contrasted, and appreciated and accomodated and alphabetically filed by artist: the musical aesthetic which perhaps chimes closest to my singular little soul is precisely this aesthetic of ecstatically joyful abandon. It’s an instant hit, which frequently (if by no means always) wears off quite quickly, forcing me to trawl with a wide net.

(Which helps to explain all the accumulated yardage of DJ mix CDs from the 1990s, unplayed for years, mutely festering in the spare room.)

Yes, it’s formulaic, and thus best not picked apart too closely. And OK, its best examples may often be achieved as much by accident as design. And sure, I can see why this stuff pisses so many people off – including my long-suffering Life Partner, to whom it is an anathema. Apart from anything else, it’s just so damned intrusive; drafting you into its slipstream, robbing you of free will, insisting that you surrender to its relentless collectivism and – worst of all! – join in.

To finely tuned sensibilities, this must all be distressingly jarring. However, it’s precisely this intrusive, communal quality to which I respond. Indeed, I positively embrace it. For when tunes such as these are playing, some measure of happiness cannot help but leak in through the cracks, no matter how glum my overall state of mind might be at the time.

Even during some of the worst episodes of my Uniquely Troubled And Tortured Adolescence (oh yes) – right in the middle of some unendurable family screaming match, for example – the chance intrusion of a jolly tune on the radio would allow me, on some scarcely conscious level, to detach from my immediate reality, granting me some small but vital measure of sanctuary. Even in the eye of the storm, I could tune out the blind rage and tune into the good cheer, tapping my toes even as the tears rolled down my face.

– Why not go and give the little pansy a touch-up?

– F***ing p***ing s***ing BITCH. I want a DIVORCE.

– Oo-wah oo-wah, cool cool Kitty, tell us ’bout the boy from New York City…

With that characteristic contrariness which I hold so dear, K often asserts that while happy music makes him miserable, miserable music makes him happy. Consequently, I try to keep him shielded from tunes such as Dragostea Din Tei as much as possible. (When Eurovision is on, I have even been known to flee the country.) However, for me the equation is much simpler: happy music – even the dumb stuff, and sometimes especially the dumb stuff – makes me happy. Generally speaking, I like to think that this is evidence of a healthy, straightforward attitude to life’s pleasures.

Neverthless, I have my doubts. What if all this stuff is merely acting as an SSRI, crudely boosting my diminished stock of happy-juice? Is it dysfunctional to rely so heavily on so much transient froth and nonsense?

Well, f*** it. There are many worse ways to self-medicate. So come on everybody: on the count of three, and let’s see those hands in the air!

Ma-i-a hi, Ma-i-a hu, Ma-i-a ho, Ma-i-a ha-ha…

See also: various weird unofficial videos. (via Adrian Mc)

Singles of the year: #26

26. Making Music – Chungking

1999: New York City Boy – Pet Shop Boys
1994: Confide In Me – Kylie Minogue
1989: The Real Life – Corporation Of One

So come on, Mike: tell me honestly. Ninety posts on ninety singles is one hell of a tall order. Haven’t there been times when you wish you hadn’t embarked on such an ambitious project?

Actually, I think this might just be the first of them. But plough on we must. (Endurance blogging: it’s a fine and noble tradition.)

I first became aware of this track – and of Chungking – on the 2003 compilation from Radio One’s Blue Room, where it stood out from the crowd straight away. It was therefore good to see both the single and its parent album re-released in 2004, with somewhat better (*) promotion and distribution – although this still proved insufficient to bring Chungking the mainstream commercial success which should by rights be theirs.

(*) Although when searching out a copy of the album (re-released less than three months ago) for a friend’s birthday present last week, I was dismayed to find that it had already vanished from the racks in Selectadisc and Fopp, with only a couple of full-priced copies left in Virgin’s “dance” section. Which is daft, as they’re not a “dance” act by any stretch of the imagination.

Singles of the year: #27

27. Mary – The Scissor Sisters

1999: Superfreaky Memories – Luna
1994: Let The Music Lift You Up – Loveland featuring Rachel McFarlane
1989: Looking For A Love – Joyce Sims

Following a song bearing my name at #87, here’s a song which bears my sister’s name. (Incidentally, if you know of a song which features K’s name other than The Undertones’ My Perfect Cousin, then please let me know.)

I know you’re not a travelling girl, croons Jake Shears: monumentally inappropriately, given that in the last few years, my sister has lived and worked in Sudan, Iran, Jordan, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone… and those are just the places I can remember. On the other hand, if the lyric had been I know you are a travelling girl, then this might have placed inside the Top Twenty. Pop music, she works like that.

Singles of the year: #28

28. Somewhere Only We Know – Keane

1999: Straight From The Heart – Doolally
1994: 977 – The Pretenders
1989: The Beat(en) Generation – The The

You know: I sense I might just have lost a regular reader with this one.

The first time I realised that I might have been wrong about this dreary whiney droopy gloopy faceless spineless gutless sub-Coldplay corporate-indie-lite dirge: when it was used as the backing track for the really rather poignant and effective end-of-season montage of highlights from Big Brother Five. I’m just digging a bigger and bigger hole for myself here, aren’t I?

Singles of the year: #29

29. Girls (rex the dog mix) – The Prodigy

1999: Re-Rewind The Crowd Say Bo Selecta – Artful Dodger
1994: Sweetness – Michelle Gayle
1989: Lullaby – The Cure

Of the astonishingly few straight-up utilitarian dance tracks which came my way in 2004, this is the only one which made me wish that I still went clubbing, just so that I could experience it “in context” (shall we say). I particularly like the fractured staccato cut-up nature of the first couple of minutes, which conjure up certain experiences which I may or may not have had on a fairly regular basis in the mid-to-late 1990s particularly vividly.

As for The Prodigy’s original version, of which this is a “mere” remix: I’ve only heard it twice. To be honest, it sounded like a pointless breakbeaty remix of the Rex The Dog version. I fully realise that this viewpoint wouldn’t stand up in court, but there you go.

(Oh, and that early 1980s soul/funk sample which crops up a few times on both versions: it’s D-Train’s “You’re The One For Me”, isn’t it? Anybody?)

Singles of the year: #30

30. Destroy Rock & Roll – Mylo

1999: Glamour Girl – Chicks On Speed
1994: Philadelphia – Neil Young
1989: Respect – Adeva

“…and working specifically through these individuals, for whom we call forth the Judgement of the Sacred Fire in this hour before the Throne of Almighty God: Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, David Boowy…”

…not to mention “Cyndi Looper”, heh heh. And my my: haven’t they got it in for poor old Michael Jackson, who gets called forth for Judgement twice: once by himself, and once with Paul McCartney. (Although “The Girl Is Mine” was pretty unforgivable, come to think of it.)

I particularly like the way that Culture Club becomes “Culture Club including Boy George“, though. You know: just to ram home the point. They may not have heard of the rest of the list, but they’ve certainly heard of him.

(And why Band Aid?)

Singles of the year: #31

31. Cherry Blossom Girl – Air

1999: Bug A Boo – Destiny’s Child
1994: Hold That Sucker Down – O.T. Quartet
1989: Sister Rosa – Neville Brothers

Boom thwack crunch screech wallop: this hasn’t exactly been the most relaxing selection of tracks so far, has it? In which case, it’s time to kick your shoes off, light the scented candles, and enjoy a well-earned chill-out break with this single from Talkie Walkie: an album for which the phrase “welcome return to form” could have been invented.

(Hang on: this is a weblog, not an independent local radio station. OK, as you were.)

Singles of the year: #32

32. Toxic – Britney Spears

1999: Everything Will Flow – Suede
1994: We Are The Pigs – Suede
1989: Always There – Charvoni

The Britney single that all the hi-brow New Pop Conceptualists flipped their collective wigs over, and with good reason; it’s a brilliantly crafted confection.


When you’ve spent as many Wednesday nights down at NG1 (the local gay club) as I spent in the first half of 2004, in a lagered-up, laboratory-beagle-nicotined-up, what-am-I-doing-here, don’t-wanna-go-home-yet-either stupor of dumbed-down expectation and imagination-bereft habit, waiting for at least one half decent tune to lurch around to, because then at least you’ll be able to synthesise at least some vague approximation of Having Fun, and they’ve already played Girls Aloud’s cover of Jump (For My Love), which is usually as good it gets all night…

…then you’ll seize upon the opening notes of Toxic with progressively less desperate glee as the weeks go by, until eventually it sounds as much of an empty, forced rattle as everything else that surrounds it.

But conceptually speaking? Sure, it’s still a great record. But I have heard it enough now.

Angus takes the lead from Joe. Keep those guesses coming!

Already listed:
#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) · Babycakes – 3 Of A Kind (dave) · Filthy/Gorgeous – Scissor Sisters (asta) · Heartbeats – The Knife (Swish David) · Girls (rex the dog mix) – The Prodigy (Waitrose David) · Trick Me – Kelis (Ben) · Common People – William Shatner & Joe Jackson (Gary F.)

Singles of the year: #33

33. Drop The Pressure – Mylo

1999: I Surrender – David Sylvian
1994: Life’s A Bitch (Can’t Get A Man, Can’t Get A Job) – Sister Bliss featuring Colette
1989: All Around The World – Lisa Stansfield

The Jerry Springer – The Opera of the UK singles charts, this managed to make Number 19 with what must be the highest usage of the word “motherf***er” in musical history. Strangely, nobody ever bats an eyelid when this is playing, probably because the repeated word fits so well texturally into its surroundings. In other words, it has been used for its sound rather than its meaning, and without any attempt at shock value beyond a mild sonic tickle.

Singles of the year: #34

34. This Is The World We Live In – Alcazar

1999: I Don’t Know What You Want But I Can’t Give It Any More – Pet Shop Boys
1994: She’s Got That Vibe – R. Kelly
1989: Pump Up The Jam – Technotronic featuring Felly

I like the airbrushed ersatz Studio 54 sheen. I like the self-mythologising, and the way that every time you say their name (“Alcazar!”), a little starburst of glitter detonates above your head and flutters to the ground. (It also happens every time you say “Shalamar!”, but you’ll already know that.) I like it that they’ve melded an 1980s Genesis song which I’ve never heard before (Land Of Confusion) with the Diana Ross/Chic classic Upside Down, making it sound like the most natural combination in the world. I like it that they’re a Swedish two-boy two-girl combo; always a good sign. And I like it that this song never fails to make me smile.

Singles of the year: #35

35. Single Again – The Fiery Furnaces

1999: She’s The One / It’s Only Us – Robbie Williams
1994: Connection – Elastica
1989: Nothing Has Been Proved – Dusty Springfield

Sometimes, they do these great long rambling episodic 12-minute epic things. Sometimes, they do these short sharp snappy rinky-dink late 70s/early 80s new wave power pop Lene Lovich Bette Bright very very early XTC things. This is one of the latter.


Singles of the year: #36

36. I Believe In You – Kylie Minogue

1999: Cold Blooded Old Times – Smog
1994: Nervous Breakdown – Carleen Anderson
1989: Helyom Halib – Capella

This collaboration between Kylie and the Scissor Sisters had one f**kload of a lot of expectations to live up to. Consequently, it rather underwhelmed on the first few listenings. (I was expecting more from the chorus than simply repeating the title four times over, for instance.)

But then, like the Phoenix album before it (see below), what at first seems disappointingly slight and gossamer-thin slowly reveals itself over time, as Kylie’s delicate magic touch swooshes you up into a giddy swirl of breathless delight.

(Or a breathless swirl of giddy delight. The effect varies, so I’m told.)

I Believe In You is also the first single on this year’s list which, on a clear day with a good following wind, can sometimes sound, if only for a few seconds, like the best single ever made. There will be many more.

In a recent-ish interview, Kylie explained that – after fighting against it for many years – she had reached an acceptance of the fact that, on some level or other, she would always be a little bit naff. And that, I think, is a key element of her appeal. (Conversely, Madonna won her fight against naffness – but in doing so, lost a crucial part of her appeal.)

Alan’s brief sojourn at the top of the pile comes to an end, as nascent super-blogger Joe. My. God. (just watch them Bloggies; you heard it here first!) takes over the lead.

Already listed:
#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) · Babycakes – 3 Of A Kind (dave) · Filthy/Gorgeous – Scissor Sisters (asta) · Heartbeats – The Knife (Swish David) · Girls (rex the dog mix) – The Prodigy (Waitrose David) · Toxic – Britney Spears (Angus) · Trick Me – Kelis (Ben) · Common People – William Shatner & Joe Jackson (Gary F.)

Keep those guesses coming!


Singles of the year: #37 (NMC)

37. I Can Do Anything – Gene Serene & John Downfall

1999: Carrot Rope – Pavement
1994: Shinny – Elevator
1989: I Can’t Dance (To That Music You’re Playing) – The Beatmasters featuring Betty Boo

Since I can’t think of anything useful to say about this (except to say that it sounds a bit like Peaches before she went boring), let me tell you about Saturday night instead.

Saturday night. Fifteen of us are in a restaurant just outside Whitby, celebrating a fortieth birthday. The restaurant rejoices in the name of “Cross Butts”. As you might imagine, this is the cause of some amusement.

Twelve of us – the birthday boy and his boyfriend, me and K, a lesbian couple, a heterosexual couple, two single gay men (a Buddhist and an actor), a happy-clappy Christian mum and a female-to-male transsexual – are staying in a spacious, comfortable and pleasingly appointed farmhouse (ooh, another Aga!) near Robin Hood’s Bay. The house is a couple of minutes’ walk from a small bay called Boggle Hole. It almost goes without saying that this too is the cause of some amusement. In the smaller house next door, all of three feet away from the farmhouse, the birthday boy’s mother and father are staying, along with the birthday boy’s niece. Family in one place, “family” in the other.

Following the previous night’s extraordinary gales, we were without electric power for most of the day. (In this respect, the Aga was a godsend.) About twenty minutes after it got too dark to read, about ten minutes after the candles were lit in the sitting room, and just as we were wondering how to get ourselves ready for the evening without lighting and hot water, power was restored. (As this threatened to kill the cosy twilight atmosphere, we decided to stick with the candles.)

Just before leaving for the restaurant in the hired minibus, the five occupants of the house who sing in the same choral group, plus the birthday boy’s mother, arranged themselves around the kitchen table, handed out the sheet music, and treated us to a six-part harmony arrangement of a medieval elegy. The effect was spellbinding.

(Aside from the birthday boy to me and K, the following morning: “Because you live in a village at weekends, you get to be friendly with Tories. Because we sing in a choral group, we get to be friendly with Christians. It goes with the territory.”)

In the restaurant, the conversation has turned to smoking, with various ex-smokers talking about why they started. For many, it was the usual story of wanting to be cool and rebellious at school.

I turn to the birthday boy’s niece: a carefully made up young miss in a matching pink crocheted cap and poncho. I’m guessing she’s about seventeen. Poor kid must be feeling a bit left out. Must make an effort.

“So what’s the situation like for people of your generation? Do many of you still smoke, or has it fallen out of fashion now?”

“Well… um… maybe there’s one or two…”, she mutters, gazing at me with wide-eyed astonishment.

“But then, I’m only twelve.”

Uproar around the table, as I bury my head in my hands, all theatrical groans and profuse apologies. The birthday boy says I’ve made his weekend.

I’m always doing stuff like this. They grow up so fast these days, don’t they?

Back in the farmhouse, the iPod and I host an easy-listening disco until four in the morning. My debut gig with the iPod, in fact. Tune of the night: Up Up And Away (In My Beautiful Balloon). In situations like these, a DJ has to know his crowd. No point hitting them with the new stuff, is there?

(Of course, if you had been there, then I could have been as upfront as I pleased. Because we understand each other, you and I. That’s why you’re special.)

Singles of the year: #38

38. Love Machine – Girls Aloud

1999: Eurotrash Girl – Chicks On Speed
1994: The Wild Ones – Suede
1989: Like A Prayer – Madonna

Your call’s late, big mistake. You’ve gotta hang about in limbo for as long as I take. Next time, read my mind and I’ll be good to you. We’re gift-wrapped kitty cats; we’re only turning into tigers when we gotta fight back. Let’s go, eskimo, out into the blue.

Barking mad, I tells ya. Barking mad. Fellas: you can’t say you weren’t warned. Anyhow, who cares about lyrics when you’re digging on that ker-azy rockabilly rhythm?

(Incidentally, I reckon there’s a potential bootleg mash-up to be made here. Simply add a healthy dollop of Katrina And The Waves’ Walking On Sunshine, stir, mix and serve.)

Alan Oddverse takes over the leader board. Keep those guesses coming!

Already listed:
#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) · Babycakes – 3 Of A Kind (dave) · Filthy/Gorgeous – Scissor Sisters (asta) · Heartbeats – The Knife (Swish David) · I Believe In You – Kylie Minogue (Joe) · Girls (rex the dog mix) – The Prodigy (Waitrose David) · Toxic – Britney Spears (Angus) ·Trick Me – Kelis (Ben) · Common People – William Shatner & Joe Jackson (Gary F.)

Singles of the year: #39

39. You Don’t Know My Name (reggae remix) – Alicia Keys

1999: Coffee And TV – Blur
1994: Renaissance – M People
1989: People Hold On – Coldcut featuring Lisa Stansfield

This started life as an unauthorised bootleg mash-up, with the instrumental lifted from an old Gregory Isaacs cut, before being cleared for official release on a B-side. Another strong track from an artist whom I don’t generally have much time for (especially after witnessing her tedious, shallow, hopelessly misjudged live show a couple of years ago). I’ve never heard the original version – and what’s more, as great as this is, I have no desire to. Because as far as I’m concerned, this is the way the song is supposed to sound – and I’d like to keep it that way.

Singles of the year: #40 (NMC)

40. Freakin’ Out – Graham Coxon

1999: Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? – Moby
1994: The Queen Of Old Compton Street – Fruit
1989: Every Little Step – Bobby Brown

(…and 1979: Into The Valley by The Skids, by the sounds of it – just listen to that opening guitar riff.)

Snotty brat punk rock from the sulky speccy git who used to be in Blur. You might say that he’s getting a bit long in the tooth for such juvenile bursts of misanthropic phlegm. I say: you’re never too old to throw your toys out of the pram.

(As you might have gathered from some of yesterday’s posts, he added with a watery grin.)

And talking of freakin’ out: K took a phone call yesterday evening from J, an old friend who had just returned from a beach holiday in with his partner M. A beach holiday in Malaysia.

Sleeping off the jet lag on the second morning, J and M were woken by a rumble in their room on the sea front. “What’s that?” “Probably an earthquake. Go back to sleep.”

A little while later, unable to sleep any longer, M gets up and decides to go for a morning dip in the sea.

Wow, that looks like a big wave. Cool! I’ll be able to body-surf it.

That was fun. Oh look, here comes another.

The second wave is maybe twelve feet high, sucking M in and pulling him down. But M is a strong swimmer with an athletic build, and he eventually manages to save himself. Meanwhile, his stuff has all been washed away, leaving him to walk back up to the room in nothing but his swimming shorts, covered in sand and scratches.

As the resort is towards the edge of the tsunami area, damage is slight: several injuries, a few broken bones, but no casualties. The beach is restored within a day or so, and the holiday continues.

If M hadn’t been such a strong swimmer – or even, like me, a non-swimmer – the outcome might have been quite different.

The first big “it could have been me” moment.