20 December, 2008

Pop Picking

Paul Cornell's now annual attempt to do 'The 12 Days of Blogging' (or 12 Blogs of Christmas, or something to do with the number 12) has brought up a brilliant blog that I hadn't previously heard of, but has apparently been running since 2003.

[Sidestep: did I even know the word 'blog' back then? I'm surprised how long I've been writing this one - I spent an hour yesterday adding keywords to all of the entries and was amazed at how much I've written. I know it's nowhere near the 'blog every day' ethos, but I also note that a couple of my chums abandoned their blogs over a year ago, so, um, I win. Ha!]

Over on Freakytrigger, Tom Ewing has been reviewing every single UK number one record, starting at the beginning with Al Martino and 'Here in my Heart' and working his way through in order. As I write this, he's just completed his 477th review - Shakin' Stevens' 'This Ole House'.

A good few years ago, I decided I needed [oh wait, hold on a sec, I'm not writing this while Fern Kinney is playing. Skip to The Jam's 'Going Underground'. Better.] to get an MP of every number one single. I had a few already so I added those to my playlist, then set about scouring the internet for the rest. Entirely coincidentally, the last number one I managed to find before I'd caught up was Don Cornell's 'Hold My Hand'.

Tom has managed to find the sleeve artwork for a lot of these songs, so I've wasted a fine hour this morning stealing the pics and adding them to my playlist on iTunes. This is how I came to make a discovery - that there's an astoundingly perfect run of number ones in the late 1970s. David Soul's 'Silver Lady' was tripe, but I've seen grown men wilt at the first cautious electronic organ sighs of Baccara's Euro-pop hit 'Yes Sir, I Can Boogie'.

Grown gay men, but grown men nonetheless.

From then on, it's one great pop track after another until late-1979 when Buggles' 'Video Killed the Radio Star' was bumped for Lena Martell's 'One Day at a Time'. I can imagine a collective exhalation there, when the record-buying public asked 'Who bought that? COME ON - own up!!'

I've always loved the 1980s, but I have to concede the late '70s was a brilliant time for pop fans. Just have a look at this list (the numbers in square brackets give the song's order in chart history):

[414] Yes Sir, I Can Boogie Baccara
[415] The Name Of The Game ABBA
[416] Mull Of Kintyre Wings (okay, I'm conceding this Macca hit because I did like it at the time)
[417] Uptown Top Ranking Althea and Donna (best one-hit wonder ever!)
[418] Figaro Brotherhood Of Man
[419] Take A Chance On Me ABBA
[420] Wuthering Heights Kate Bush
[421] Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs Brian and Michael
[422] Night Fever The Bee Gees
[423] Brown Girl in the Ring Boney M
[424] You're the One That I Want John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
[425] Three Times A Lady The Commodores
[426] Dreadlock Holiday 10CC
[427] Summer Nights John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
[428] Rat Trap The Boomtown Rats
[429] Da Ya Think I'm Sexy Rod Stewart
[430] Mary's Boychild Boney M
[431] YMCA Village People
[432] Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick Ian Dury and the Blockheads
[433] Heart Of Glass Blondie
[434] Tragedy The Bee Gees
[435] I Will Survive Gloria Gaynor
[436] Bright Eyes Art Garfunkle (c'mon, it's the most-played song at children's funerals. That has to count for something)
[437] Sunday Girl Blondie
[438] Ring My Bell Anita Ward (pew pew!)
[439] Are Friends Electric Tubeway Army
[440] I Don't Like Mondays Boomtown Rats
[441] We Don't Talk Anymore Cliff Richard
[442] Cars Gary Numan
[443] Message in a Bottle The Police
[444] Video Killed The Radio Star Buggles

Here's something else though: Baccara were Spanish; Abba were Sweden's biggest export; Boney M were German. We had European acts in our charts, and they were bloody good.

In a similar time period, we've had a number one from Swedish Basshunter ('Now You're Gone' - tripe!), a dreary, overplayed song by another Swede, Robyn, and a godawful one by bloody Chico! European acts just aren't crossing over the channel any more. I wonder if their charts are as dominated by English and American acts. There are more American artists in the charts now, the majority of which are R&B-based. In fact, the genres have become very samey too, with identikit R&B singers warbling through tuneless songs, or skinny white guys moaning to a dreary Coldplay-lite backing track (including - Heaven help us - Take That, whose 'Greatest Day' sounds as if it were written specifically to be used on an advert for BT).

I'm sure it's not just nostalgia - music was more varied, more adventurous and more surprising in the 1970s and '80s than it is today. Or rather, the stuff that tops the charts tends to be kind of the same as the stuff we heard last time. Simon Cowell's got the Christmas number one sewn up again in the form of X Factor winner Alexandra Burke - the only surprise there being that she's doing a Leonard Cohen track!

I'll go back to my number ones now. I can feel an old fogey rant coming on.

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