Which Decade Is Tops For Pops: Volume II, A New Decade.

Well, I do hope you’re all enjoying New Look Troubled Diva so far! But if I can just step in and quell the madness for a second: “Which Decade Is Tops For Pops?” has just made its debut at its new home at Freaky Trigger, now with six decades to place under our collective microscope. All previous running totals from 2003 to 2009 have duly been reset to zero, as the game begins again.

Please join me!

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Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? – THE FINAL SCORES.

Yes, folks: after seven years of judicious voting and meticulous tabulation, which have seen us examine 362 different singles from 37 different singles charts (allowing for a couple of tie-break rounds), I can now reveal the ULTIMATE answer to the question which I first posed to my readers in February 2003.

In fifth place, with a cumulative score of 172 points, it’s The 1990s.

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Never finishing higher than fourth place at the end of our seven annual “Which Decade” episodes, The 1990s have endured a rough ride. In 70 rounds of voting, our least popular decade has placed first on just eight occasions – a pitiful showing indeed. Let’s list them again, shall we?

1993: Sweet Harmony – The Beloved.
1993: Ordinary World – Duran Duran.
1994: Girls And Boys – Blur.
1995: Reach Up – Perfecto Allstarz.
1995: No More I Love You’s – Annie Lennox.
1996: Slight Return – The Bluetones.
1998: Never Ever – All Saints.
1999: Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) – The Offspring.

And in fourth place, with a cumulative score of 196 points, it’s The 2000s.

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The Noughties stiffed badly between 2003 and 2006, before rallying towards the end of the decade, and peaking in second place for the chart of 2007. Here are those 2000s winners in full (and with the benefit of hindsight, some of them are strange choices indeed).

2003: Lose Yourself – Eminem.
2004: Amazing – George Michael.
2004: Red Blooded Woman – Kylie Minogue.
2004: Toxic – Britney Spears.
2006: You Got The Love (New Voyager mix) – The Source featuring Candi Staton.
2007: Same Jeans – The View.
2007: Grace Kelly – Mika.
2008: A&E – Goldfrapp.

Now, here’s a surprise: just like the 1990s, the 2000s only managed to notch up 8 winners out of 70. Instead, the mid-table was their natural stamping ground – placing them 24 points clear of fifth place, but a mere 15 points short of third place.

And in third place, with a cumulative score of 211 points, it’s The 1980s.

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The Eighties finished on top in just one annual round, and in the most unlikely year of all: 1985, which I have long considered to be one of the worst years in singles chart history. Its least popular year – and again, this comes as a surprise – was the fifth placing for 1988 in last year’s contest. So, which Eighties records came out on top? Let’s list them…

1983: You Can’t Hurry Love – Phil Collins.
1983: Too Shy – Kajagoogoo.
1984: Jump – Van Halen.
1984: Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
1984: 99 Red Balloons – Nena.
1985: 1999/Little Red Corvette – Prince.
1985: You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) – Dead Or Alive.
1985: Dancing In The Dark – Bruce Springsteen.
1986: Borderline – Madonna.
1986: Chain Reaction – Diana Ross.
1987: Male Stripper – Man 2 Man featuring Man Parrish.
1988: I Think We’re Alone Now – Tiffany.

Yes, that’s still just 12 winning songs out of 70 – meaning that our two most popular decades have notched up 42 winning songs between them. Decisive, or what?

There’s a big jump in the scoring between our third and second placed decades – but most nail-bitingly of all, a mere 4 points separate the winner from the runner-up.

So, who’s in second place? Why, it’s The 1970s, with a cumulative score of 235 points.

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The Seventies won two annual rounds – but only 1976 enjoyed a clear, outright victory. On two other occasions, the Seventies were forced to go to a supplementary tie-break round. Last year, 1978 lost out to our winning decade on tie-break – but their luck was better in Year One, when they beat off a challenge from the 1980s. And the 19 winning songs were:

1973: Wishing Well – Free.
1973: Daniel – Elton John.
1973: You’re So Vain – Carly Simon.
1973: Blockbuster – The Sweet.
1975: Angie Baby – Helen Reddy.
1975: Shame Shame Shame – Shirley & Company.
1975: Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) – Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel.
1976: Dat – Pluto Shervington.
1976: Mamma Mia – Abba.
1977: Daddy Cool – Boney M.
1977: Don’t Leave Me This Way – Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes.
1977: Don’t Cry For Me Argentina – Julie Covington.
1978: Mr. Blue Sky – Electric Light Orchestra.
1978: Uptown Top Ranking – Althea & Donna.
1978: Wishing On A Star – Rose Royce.
1978: Take A Chance On Me – Abba.
1979: Milk & Alcohol – Dr. Feelgood.
1979: Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick – Ian Dury & the Blockheads.
1979: Heart Of Glass – Blondie.

And so to the decade which you, the readers of Troubled Diva, have judged to be the BEST! DECADE! EVAH! for pop music. Four points ahead of the 1970s, with a cumulative score of 239, it’s…

THE SWINGING, THE FABULOUS, THE TOPPER-MOST, POPPER-MOST… NINETEEN SIXTIES!

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The 1960s were the first-placed decade in four of our seven annual rounds, with three consecutive victories in the last three years. 1963 might have scored a comparatively low third place in Year One – but since then, it’s been Top Two all the way. Over and over again, your votes have confirmed the increasingly inevitable: that the music of forty years ago will always be dearest to your pop-loving hearts.

Looking at the final scores once again, there’s another clear conclusion to be drawn: that the quality of chart pop music steadily deteriorated from the Sixties to the Nineties, before rallying slightly in the Noughties. Can this be true? Is popular culture forever destined to be on a downward slide – or are there glory days yet to come?

There’s only one way to find out – but it might take us another ten years to draw our next set of conclusions. So the question is this: have I got in me to reset the counters to zero, and to start the exercise all over again next year, with six decades instead of five to evaluate?

And the answer is this: maybe. Let’s see how I feel in a year’s time, eh? And if “Which Decade” is indeed to be reborn, then I’ll have to move from my birthday week in mid-February to another month. Maybe I’ll pick K’s birthday week, in late May?

We shall see, readers. We shall see. But for now, let’s sign off by thanking all of this year’s voters: Adrian, Alan, Amanda, Andy, An Unreliable Witness, asta, betty, Billy Smart, bob, Chig, Clare, diamond geezer, Dymbel, Erithian, Geoff Mild Peril, Geoff Itinerant Londoner, Gert, Hedgie, Hg, jo, John, JonnyB, LB, Lena, Lizzy, LKSN, Marcello Carlin, Matthew, NiC, Nottingham’s ‘Mr Sex’, Oliver, Raw P, Richard, Sarah, Simon, Simon C, Stereoboard, Sue Bailey, suz, SwissToni, The Lurker, Tina, Tom, Will and Z. Special thanks go to Gert, who has provided mini-reviews of all 356 songs over the years, and also to Marcello for his truly exceptional and magnificently interesting contributions in the comments box.

We conclude “Which Decade” with a lap of honour for our winner, whose 23 winning songs are listed below.

1963: Please Please Me – The Beatles.
1964: Needles And Pins – The Searchers.
1964: Not Fade Away – The Rolling Stones.
1964: Anyone Who Had A Heart – Cilla Black.
1965: Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – The Animals.
1965: You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling – The Righteous Brothers.
1966: Keep On Running – Spencer Davis Group.
1966: You Were On My Mind – Crispian St Peters.
1966: 19th Nervous Breakdown – Rolling Stones.
1966: These Boots Are Made For Walking – Nancy Sinatra.
1967: Mellow Yellow – Donovan.
1967: Let’s Spend The Night Together – Rolling Stones.
1967: Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane – The Beatles.
1967: I’m A Believer – The Monkees.
1968: Judy In Disguise (With Glasses) – John Fred & His Playboy Band.
1968: Bend Me Shape Me – Amen Corner.
1968: Everlasting Love – The Love Affair.
1969: For Once In My Life – Stevie Wonder.
1969: Dancing In The Street – Martha Reeves & the Vandellas.
1969: Albatross – Fleetwood Mac.
1969: Blackberry Way – The Move.
1969: I’m Gonna Make You Love Me – Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptations.
1969: Where Do You Go To My Lovely – Peter Sarstedt.

Those archive links in full:
Which Decade 2003
Which Decade 2004
Which Decade 2005
Which Decade 2006
Which Decade 2007
Which Decade 2008
Which Decade 2009

Update: Listen to the winning songs on Spotify (UK readers only).

People, it’s been an honour. Thank you once again! I love you all! XXX

Which Decade: The years we missed.

For the sake of completeness, and as these were never voted on at the time, let’s take a quick peek at the Top Threes from the first three years of each decade.

First up, here are the top threes from 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000. I’m going to highlight my favourites in green.

Number Threes:
Freddie Cannon – Way Down Yonder In New Orleans
Canned Heat – Let’s Work Together
The Whispers – And The Beat Goes On
Beats International featuring Lindy Layton – Dub Be Good To Me
Oasis – Go Let It Out

Number Twos:
Cliff Richard & The Shadows – Voice In The Wilderness
The Specials – Too Much Too Young
Technotronic featuring Ya Kid K – Get Up (Before The Night Is Over)
Peter Paul & Mary – Leavin’ On A Jet Plane
Sash! – Adelante

Number Ones:
Anthony Newley – Why
Edison Lighthouse – Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Grows)
Kenny Rogers – Coward Of The County
Sinead O’Connor – Nothing Compares 2 U
Gabrielle – Rise

So that’s 2 points to the 1980s, and 1 point to the 1990s.
Let’s move on to 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001.

Number Threes:
Johnny Burnette – You’re Sixteen
Ashton, Gardner & Dyke – Resurrection Shuffle
Ultravox – Vienna
Nomad featuring MC Mikee Freedom – (I Wanna Give You) Devotion
Limp Bizkit – Rollin’

Number Twos:
Petula Clark – Sailor
The Mixtures – Pushbike Song
John Lennon – Woman
The KLF featuring The Children Of The Revolution – 3AM Eternal
Wheatus – Teenage Dirtbag

Number Ones:
Elvis Presley – Are You Lonesome Tonight?
George Harrison – My Sweet Lord
Joe Dolce Music Theatre – Shaddup You Face
The Simpsons – Do The Bartman
Atomic Kitten – Whole Again

The 1980s now have 3 points, the 1990s have 2 points, and the 1970s have one point.
Finally, let’s see what 1962, 1972, 1982, 1992 and 2002 have to offer.

Number Threes:
Let’s Twist Again – Chubby Checker
Son Of My Father – Chicory Tip
A Town Called Malice – The Jam
I Love Your Smile – Shanice
Hero – Enrique Iglesias

Number Twos:
The Young Ones – Cliff Richard
American Pie – Don McLean
Mickey – Toni Basil
My Girl – Temptations disqualified as a reissue, and replaced by Goodbye Girl – Wet Wet Wet
Whenever Wherever – Shakira

Number Ones:
Can’t Help Falling In Love / Rock-A-Hula-Baby – Elvis Presley
Without You – Nilsson
The Lion Sleeps Tonight – Tight Fit
Stay – Shakespears Sister
Evergreen / Anything Is Possible – Will Young

This gives us final scores – and remember folks, these are just for fun! – as follows:

1980s – 4 points
1970s and 1990s – 2 points
2000s – 1 point
1960s – 0 points

As might have been suspected, the early 1980s convincingly take the prize. And HA! Take that, 1960s! You weren’t ALWAYS wonderful!

That’s the interlude act over with, then. Next up, later today: THE FINAL RESULTS.

Can you contain your excitement? No, but can you though?

Which Decade: your Top Ten and your Bottom Five.

Before I announce the final results of our seven-year quest, and the ultimate answer to our oft-asked question, here’s our customary round-up of the songs which you loved and loathed the most.

As always, scores are derived by dividing the total scores for each song by the number of people who voted for it, thus producing an average score.

(Note: This is where 1969’s popularity asserts itself most clearly, with six songs placed within the Top Ten.)

1. Heart Of Glass – Blondie.
2. Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick – Ian Dury & the Blockheads.
3. Dancing In The Street – Martha Reeves & the Vandellas.
4. For Once In My Life – Stevie Wonder.
5. Blackberry Way – The Move.
6. Albatross – Fleetwood Mac.
7. I’m Gonna Make You Love Me – Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptations.
8. Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) – The Offspring.
9. Where Do You Go To My Lovely – Peter Sarstedt.
10. You Got It – Roy Orbison.

46. (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice – Amen Corner.
47. Enjoy Yourself – A+.
48. Belfast Child – Simple Minds.
49. Don’t Cry For Me Argentina – The Shadows.
50. Heartbeat/Tragedy – Steps.

Which decade is Tops for Pops? – THIS YEAR’S WINNER.

ist place – The 1960s. (34 points)

2008: 1st place, 36 points + 1 tiebreak point.
2007: 1st place, 34 points.
2006: 2nd place, 37 points.
2005: 2nd place, 33 points.
2004: 1st place, 36 points.
2003: 3rd place, 28 points.

10. For Once In My Life – Stevie Wonder. 5 points.
9. The Way It Used To Be – Engelbert Humperdinck. 1 point.
8. You Got Soul – Johnny Nash. 1 point.
7. Dancing In The Street – Martha Reeves & the Vandellas. 5 points, most popular.
6. Albatross – Fleetwood Mac. 5 points.
5. Blackberry Way – The Move. 5 points.
4. Please Don’t Go – Donald Peers. 1 point.
3. I’m Gonna Make You Love Me – Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptations. 5 points.
2. Where Do You Go To My Lovely – Peter Sarstedt. 5 points.
1. (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice – Amen Corner. 1 point, least popular.

wd09-1969If you ask me, there’s something special about years ending in 9. In pop-historical terms, they’re habitually overlooked, most likely because they tend not to fit neatly into decade-based summaries. By the time that you get to them, the overall “sound” of each decade has already been identified – and it’s usually centred around the music from a quarter of the way through (Merseybeat, Glam, New Pop, Rave/Grunge), or the three-quarter point (Psychedelia, Punk/Disco, House/SAW, Britpop/the “superclub” Dance boom).

But in those years-with-a-nine-on-the-end, you’ll often find clear pointers to the music which will go on to define the decade to come. In 1979, we see the dawn of the more heavily image-based video era. In 1989, Madchester is the big story: placing indie guitar bands back into the equation, and setting in motion the chain of events which would lead to Britpop. Even in 1999, we can find the roots of pure pop’s resurgence: your Britneys, your Christinas, your S Clubs.

But what of 1969? Ah, I wish you hadn’t asked me that – for this is where my already shaky theory starts to fall apart. The Beatles, The Stones and The Who were still riding high; Marmalade, The Move, Amen Corner and Herman’s Hermits represented business as usual for home-grown pop; and while Motown provided many of the year’s most durable classics – three of which are represented here, although we’re stretching the term “classic” for one of them – the label’s success was largely founded on re-issues, and its new hits offered few clues to the direction that soul music would take in the 1970s.

None of which is to play down the many glories of the 1969 singles charts, which have been thoroughly and lovingly catalogued and celebrated by Marcello in this outstanding piece of writing (scroll down to April 07) – but I still can’t help feeling that the Sixties have fluked it this time round.

Look at those day-by-day scores, and you’ll see what I mean. For in 1969, there were no half measures where your voting was concerned. Six songs won outright, four songs placed last – and there was nothing – absolutely nothing – in between.

Yes, you loved your Motown – and rightly so. And there’s no arguing with the unique “Albatross”, or with the wonky psych-pop of “Blackberry Way”. But did the chart which contained the out-of-time Donald Peers, the perpetually irksome Engelbert Humperdinck, the utterly forgettable “You Got Soul” (bet you’d forgotten it already, right?) or the laboured ho-hummery of Amen Corner really deserve this year’s crown?

Or am I just pissed off because my beloved 1979 was pipped at the post, by one measly little point?

Ah, there’s the rub. 1969, I congratulate you – but this time, it’s through gritted teeth.

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.

Which decade is Tops for Pops? – the results: 3rd place.

3rd place – The 2000s. (32 points)

2008: 3rd place, 31 points.
2007: 2nd place, 32 points.
2006: Equal 4th place, 21 points.
2005: 4th place, 27 points.
2004: 5th place, 26 points.
2003: 4th place, 27 points.

10. T-Shirt – Shontelle. 3 points.
9. Day ‘n’ Nite – Kid Cudi vs. Crookers. 4 points.
8. Omen – The Prodigy. 3 points.
7. Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) – Beyonce. 2 points.
6. Broken Strings – James Morrison featuring Nelly Furtado. 2 points, least popular.
5. Take Me Back – Tinchy Stryder featuring Taio Cruz. 3 points.
4. Crack A Bottle – Eminem featuring Dr Dre & 50 Cent. 4 points.
3. Breathe Slow – Alesha Dixon. 4 points.
2. Just Dance – Lady GaGa featuring Colby O’Donis. 3 points.
1. The Fear – Lily Allen. 4 points, most popular.

Barack Obama takes the Oath of Office as the 44th President of the United States as he is sworn in by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts with his wife Michelle by his side during the inauguration ceremony in Washington...Barack Obama takes the Oath of Office as the 44th President of the United States as he is sworn in by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts with his wife Michelle by his side during the inauguration ceremony in Washington, January 20, 2009. Obama became the first African-American president in U.S. history. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES) So, it’s official then: you quite like 2009.

You don’t exactly love 2009: none of this year’s Top Ten polled higher than second place, although Kid Cudi’s “Day ‘n’ Nite” led the voting in the Number Nines for most of the way. And you certainly don’t loathe 2009: nothing polled in last place, although none of you had anything very nice to say about James Morrison’s “Broken Strings”. And again, the luck of the draw played its part: many of you expressed frustration at not being able to place Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” higher, and Lily Allen’s “The Fear” drew almost unanimous praise, despite being soundly trounced by Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass”.

It’s been heartening to see the once-reviled 2000s doing so well in recent years, compared to its dismal showing from 2003 to 2006. As regular readers will know, I’m strongly in favour of giving all due weight to the contemporary, despite its in-built disadvantage of being untested by posterity. And this was a good crop, from what has been a strong year for pop hits (but a slow year for equally strong albums, it has to be said).

As for my own personal experience of 2009: it’s been a busy, exciting and energising first three months, with plenty of challenging and satisfying projects already completed, and still more to come. A natural progression from the equally engaged optimism of 1989, with the mid-life misery of 1999 looking all the more like a distant blip of misfortune, poor judgement and self-defeating self-indulgence.

If I were ranking these five years in terms of personal achievement, then 2009 would definitely come out on top. But a closely fought third place on “Which Decade”? Well, that ain’t too shoddy.