BEST! DECADE! EVAH! (35 points, plus a tiebreak score of 218)

OK, so it’s the Seventies, innit?

Right from the first day of polling, the 1970s never dropped below second position. This decade went on to claim no less than four of the winning songs (Free, Elton John, Carly Simon and The Sweet), and only one losing song, from The Strawbs.

If I had been a betting man, then I would have put money on the Seventies right from the outset. Although 1973 is generally known as the year of Glam, there were in fact only two examples of the genre in our Top Ten, from Gary Glitter and The Sweet. The shrill charms of Little Jimmy Osmond aside, the rest of the chart is made up of solid, bankable acts: Carly Simon and Elton John at their respective artistic peaks, ELO at the start of their career (and come on, let’s be honest: in their day, ELO were bloody great), and a healthy contingent of that frequently forgotten genre: Good Old-fashioned Greatcoat And Faded Denim Hairy Rock (from Free, Focus and Status Quo). A strong week, unquestionably. Coupled with a tie-break selection which included two further classics (from Abba and Althea & Donna), the Seventies could hardly have failed.

The pop charts of the 1970s peaked in 1973 and 1974 with Glam (Bowie, Bolan, Sweet, Slade, Wizzard, Mud, Suzi Quatro, Alvin Stardust, Sparks, Cockney Rebel, Mott The Hoople, Queen), before dipping away dramatically between 1975 and 1978 (Leo Sayer, Wings, Hot Chocolate, Boney M, Bay City Rollers, Smokie, David Soul, Rod Stewart, Showaddywaddy). It then took the twin forces of Disco and New Wave to breathe new life back into the charts, from around the middle of 1978 onwards, when Blondie and the Boomtown Rats started to make it big.

Nineteen Seventies…you were Magic! You were Supersonic! We salute you.

And if you’re thinking that maybe your favourite decade didn’t get a fair crack of the whip this time round, and if you’re wondering whether…then the answer is an emphatic, resounding Yes. I fully intend to do this all over again in twelve months time.

Goodnight, pop-pickers. You have spoken loud and clear. So bring on…The Nineteen Seventies!

Click here for a stunning 1970s Visual Cavalcade, which has been placed on a separate page in order to spare the agonies of dial-up users. Once again, you might wish to hover your cursors over the images.

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The Top Ten, and the Bottom Five.

It is of course traditional to prefix the Number One (oh for Christ’s sake Mike, we’ve been waiting ALL BLOODY DAY, will you JUST GET ON WITH IT!) with a chart countdown. And this project will be no exception. Here then are the ten most popular records from the project, in order. I’ve calculated this by dividing the total number of points scored for each record by the total number of votes cast on the day in question, in order to derive a ratio. Excel is a wonderful thing, is it not?

1. You’re So Vain – Carly Simon
(The winner by quite some distance, this was voted first by 19 out of 22 voters, with the remaining three voting it second.)

2. Please Please Me – The Beatles
3. Too Shy – Kajagoogoo
4. Lose Yourself – Eminem
5. Ordinary World – Duran Duran
6. Daniel – Elton John
7. Sweet Harmony – The Beloved
8. Wishing Well – Free
9. (steady, Peter!) Gloria (GLORIA!) – Laura Branigan
10. Blockbuster – The Sweet

And the bottom five?

46. Loop De Loop – Frankie Vaughan
47. Part Of The Union – The Strawbs
48. Stairway To Heaven – Rolf Harris
49. Stop Living The Lie – David Sneddon
50. Reminisce – Blazin’ Squad

The next posting will reveal – because obviously, at this stage you still have absolutely no idea – the winning decade. Honest, it will. I promise.

The Tops For Pops Project Golden Notepad Award, for commenting beyond the call of duty.

Before we get to the Top Decade, a word of thanks to all who voted, and especially to those who came back day after day to leave comments on every record featured. Special mentions are due to Amanda, Asta, David, Douglas, Gert, Junio, Pam, Stereoboard, Steve, Sue Bailey – and particularly to the incomparable noodle vague (to give him his full title), whose comments generally rocked like an incandescent motherf***er from Hell, y’all.

However, the Troubled Diva Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? Golden Notepad award, for consistently delivering a quite superb set of comments throughout the entire lifespan of the project, on every single last record featured, has to go to…

Nigel R (the UK one).

Somebody show this man how to set up his own weblog! This is a talent which deserves to come out of the Google-can’t-find-me-here shadows of the comments box, and into the sunlit uplands of the, OK I’ll say it just this once just once more and then that’s it, Blogosphere. You can find just about every single one of his comments – maybe even the whole lot – further down this page, and stretching back into the last two weeks’ archives. I heartily commend them to you.

A round of applause for Nigel, please.

Thank you. Back later.

In second place: The 1980s. (35 points, plus a tiebreak score of 181)

Let’s face it: right from the start, we all knew that this poll would be a straight fight between the Seventies and the Eighties – didn’t we? This could of course be a natural consequence of the demographic breakdown of my readership, many of whom were at their prime age for pop music consumption during this period. However, I don’t think that’s the sole reason. The pop charts of 1980s – especially in the first half of the decade – were a place where innovative, cool, startlingly new records frequently ended up, with many artists coming in from the post-punk cold and unashamedly embracing the possibilities of commercial mass appeal. What was great about this period: these people had a broadly “artistic” agenda, which went well beyond a lust for fame for its own sake – they were in more or less full artistic control, with their bewildered record companies frequently struggling to keep up – and they were keen to push the envelope of what was possible in a chart hit.

Which is not to say that this particular Top 10, from February 1983, was a particularly good case in point. Wham!, Tears For Fears, The Belle Stars and Kajagoogoo were all well towards the commercial end of this ethos, although all four acts were – at least for a short time – producing fresh, distinctive pop records. Meanwhile, Fleetwood Mac, Phil Collins and Joe Cocker were all still plodding along, hanging on in there with their airbrushed AOR sound, waiting for the more favourable musical climate which – after Live Aid once again re-drew the musical map – was only just over two years away. For I always thought that Live Aid sounded the death knell for early 80s “new pop”, re-introducing as it did the concept of a “rock aristocracy” which punk and new wave had only briefly swept aside.

In this poll, 1983 produced two slightly unlikely winners (Phil Collins and Kajagoogoo), and no losers at all – a unique achievement. It also spent most of the 10 days yo-yo-ing for position with the 1970s, on two occasions sharing the top position.

Congratulations on coming second, Nineteen Eighties. Let’s celebrate your decade’s Best Bits visually, shall we?

Click here for a stunning 1980s Visual Cavalcade, which has been placed on a separate page in order to spare the agonies of dial-up users. When viewing, you might also care to hover your cursors over the images.

I thought this might happen…

With only three points separating the bottom three decades, a massive seven point gap now divides them from the top two decades. And guess what? After an incredibly close-run battle, with changes of position taking place right up until the very last vote (***), we have – gasp! – a dead heat. That’s right: both the 1970s and the 1980s have managed to accrue exactly 35 points.

You know what that means, don’t you?

That’s right. We go to tie-break.

(You see? You see? So I wasn’t going OTT barmy on Friday after all, was I? There is always method in my madness.)

For the tie break, I shall be aggregating the total points scored by the three singles from each of the two decades. Thus Althea & Donna, Abba and Brotherhood Of Man go head to head with Bros, Kylie Minogue and Tiffany.

May the best decade win. Back later. Could this be more exciting?

1978: PLUS PLUS

— VERSUS —

1988: PLUS PLUS

(***) In fact, the very last vote came from noodle, who when giving two points to Men At Work, openly admitted that they were “marked down in a desperate bid to prevent the worst decade ever from winning the competition.” Controversy right to the very end, eh!

In third place: The 1960s. (28 points)

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Just as the singles chart of the 1990s enjoyed a clearly identifiable Golden Age (1994 to 1998: the Britpop years), so did the singles chart of the 1960s, from 1964 to 1968. Unfortunately for both decades, our poll was taken from the year before both Golden Ages got underway, during a time when nothing particularly exciting was going on. Indeed, the first four years of the 1960s were a particularly moribund time for the charts, as the world waited for the Beatles, Stones, Motown and Memphis to kick-start the decade.

In our 1963 sample, The Beatles’ Please Please Me is demonstrably streets ahead of the competition, providing the 1960s with its only winner in ten days. Meanwhile, you were suitably horrified by Frankie Vaughan and Del Shannon to vote them both into last place. Despite this, there were some hidden gems in the 1963 charts, with Maureen Evans, Frank Ifield and Jet Harris & Tony Meehan all attracting a certain level of interest from some quarters.

In another year, the 1960s could undoubtedly have given the 1970s and 1980s a serious run for their money. This year, they will have to settle for an honourable third place. Let us now remind ourselves of just a few of their many, many Best Bits.

1960: Only The Lonely – Roy Orbison
1961: On The Rebound – Floyd Cramer
1962: Wonderful Land – The Shadows
1963: She Loves You – The Beatles
1964: Always Something There To Remind Me – Sandie Shaw
1965: Mr. Tambourine Man – The Byrds
1966: Reach Out…I’ll Be There – Four Tops
1967: A Whiter Shade Of Pale – Procol Harum
1968: Jumping Jack Flash – Rolling Stones
1969: I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye

In fourth place: The 2000s. (27 points)

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The decade of R&B, nu-metal and Reality TV Pop had a rough ride all the way through the contest, being in bottom position on nearly every single day. However, a late surge on Day 10 (courtesy of tATu) proved enough to save it from total defeat. The Noughties provided just one winner (Eminem’s Lose Yourself), and was also responsible for the two most unpopular songs in the entire poll: David Sneddon’s Stop Living The Lie and Blazin’ Squad’s Reminisce.

In just over three years, the Noughties have as yet done little to distinguish themselves. Perhaps they will go down as the decade in which – at least in terms of the singles charts – the forces of slick commercialism, precision marketing and pre-planned, fixed-term shelf lives finally triumphed against the spirit of innovation, experimentation and rebellion which had burst forth in the mid-fifties with the rock & roll revolution, and which had continued via Merseybeat, Motown, Psychedelia, Funk, Reggae, Glam, Prog, Heavy Metal, Punk, New Wave, Disco, 2-Tone, New Romantic, Hip Hop, Electro, Indie, Goth, House, Acid, Madchester, Garage, Techno, Grunge, Britpop, Trance, Drum & Bass, Big Beat and all points West.

Or maybe we’re simply making the same mistake that “serious music lovers” (hem hem) have made all the way down the line – of not recognising Classic Pop when it’s staring us in the face. For let’s not forget that, at the time, the “serious music lovers” all hated Motown, scoffed at Disco, sneered at Abba, laughed at the New Romantics, and would cheerfully have strung Neighbours-era Kylie up from the nearest lamp post. Maybe in ten years time, we’ll have canonised Britney, Justin, Christina and S Club 7, fondly viewing them as belonging to a Golden Era of pop, whilst sorrowfully shaking our heads over whatever shiny new breed of fresh-faced popsters is currently holding sway.

For now though, the grim truth is staring us in the face: the last two decades have been adjudged the worst ever for pop music. However, before we bid the Noughties farewell, let’s take a quick trip through their Best Bits, such as they are.

2000: Stan – Eminem, Pure Shores – All Saints, The Bad Touch – Bloodhound Gang.

2001: Can’t Get You Out Of My Head – Kylie Minogue, Get Ur Freak On – Missy Elliott, Don’t Stop Movin’ – S Club 7.

2002: Freak Like Me – Sugababes, There Goes The Fear – Doves, Lazy – X-Press 2 with David Byrne.

2003: Lose Yourself – Eminem, Cry Me A River – Justin Timberlake, All The Things She Said – tATu.