Oct 08

Popular ’79

FT + Popular/329 comments • 12,371 views

’79 ends up as one of the best years, according to my marks anyhow – but which of its tracks would you have handed six or higher to? Pick as many as you want, then discuss the year in the comments boxes if you like.

Which of these Number One hits of 1979 would you have given 6 or more to?

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Poll closes: No Expiry

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My highest marks were 9s for Buggles, Dury, Blondie – lowest 2s for Lena M and the Rats.


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  1. 1
    Billy Smart on 13 Oct 2008 #

    Cor! a 14 – 4 victory for singles that I like, though a few of them are only sixes. This may well be the greatest year for number ones ever.

  2. 2
    Tom on 13 Oct 2008 #

    13-5 here, and 3 of the no-ticks are 5s from me anyway. That run of tracks up to “…Mondays” is very high quality.

    I’ll be very interested to see which ones end up winning – lot of almost unanimous positivity in the comments for many of these.

  3. 3
    mike on 13 Oct 2008 #

    It went 15/3 with me (the excluded three being Art Garfunkel, Lena Martell and Pink Floyd).

  4. 4
    lonepilgrim on 13 Oct 2008 #

    12-6 for me. I didn’t vote for Buggles, Rats, Art, Lena, Hook and Floyd.
    1979 was a top year for music that I like: Slow Train Coming, Metal Box, London Calling, Rickie Lee Jones; to name but a few.

  5. 5
    mike on 13 Oct 2008 #

    When we did Popular ’78, I compiled a list of favourite Top 40 singles from that year that failed to reach Number One. My quality cut-off point for that year fell at around 50 singles.

    For 1979, the same cut-off point falls at 125 singles. That’s how good a year it was.

    Here’s my Top Twenty:

    1. Blondie – Dreaming
    2. Chic – Good Times
    3. Public Image Ltd – Death Disco
    4. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Oliver’s Army
    5. Fleetwood Mac – Tusk
    6. Sheila B Devotion – Spacer
    7. The Jam – Strange Town
    8. Sister Sledge – Lost In Music
    9. M – Pop Muzik
    10. The Jam – The Eton Rifles
    11. The Crusaders ft Randy Crawford – Street Life
    12. The Pretenders – Stop Your Sobbing
    13. Sister Sledge – We Are Family
    14. Diana Ross – The Boss
    15. The Undertones – You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It?)
    16. The Special AKA – Gangsters
    17. Doobie Brothers – What A Fool Believes
    18. Michael Jackson – Off The Wall
    19. Sister Sledge – He’s The Greatest Dancer
    20. Squeeze – Up The Junction

  6. 6
    lonepilgrim on 13 Oct 2008 #

    Thanks for reminding me of some of those songs Mike. Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards ruled that year. One of my happiest memories ever was sitting in a London bar in 1979 celebrating a friends birthday with cocktails to the sound of ‘We are family’. ‘Thinking of you’ from the Sister Sledge album may well be my favourite desert island song for its optimism and lightness.

  7. 7
    JimD on 13 Oct 2008 #

    1979 has always been my favourite year for number ones, but I’ve always wondered how much that was a result of the fact that the 3rd casette tape ever I owned (*) was a Top Of The Pops “Number Ones of 79” compilation (not featuring the original artists, of course).

    Still, pretty much everything here stands up for me. 17-1!

    (*) Numbers one and two were given to me along with the tape deck – Mickey Mouse Disco, and The Wombles Christmas Album. four and five actually came in a batch along with the above TOTP tape – The Best of Boney M (not featuring Boney M) and The best of Isao Tomita (featuring Isao Tomita!).

  8. 8
    Conrad on 13 Oct 2008 #

    1979 was indeed a wondeful year. 15-3 for me. And to add just a few of my favourite non-Number 1 singles to Mike’s list:

    – Lene Lovich “Lucky Number”
    – Squeeze “Cool For Cats”
    – OMD “Electricity”
    – Roxy Music “Dance Away”
    – Roxy Music “Angel Eyes”
    – EWF “After The Love Has Gone”
    – Madness “The Prince”
    – Ian Dury “Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 3)”
    – Patrick Hernandez “Born To Be Alive”
    – Dollar “Who Were You With In The Moonlight” (did OMD listen to the intro to this before composing “Messages”?)
    – Skids “Charade” (er, did OMD listen to the intro to this before composing “Messages”?)
    – Carrie Lucas “Dance With You”
    – XTC “Making Plans For Nigel”
    – Dave Edmunds “Girls Talk”
    – Three Degrees “The Runner”
    – Frantique “Strut Your Funky Stuff”

    Truly, a vintage year.

    Oh – and great call on “The Boss” Mike, how did that only reach Number 40?

  9. 9
    vinylscot on 13 Oct 2008 #

    I voted 9-9, which surprised me. However, even in the nine I didn’t vote for, I can concede that there are only three I could actually say I disliked, or didn’t at least appreciate. There are usually a good few I hate with a passion, but only one this year. (no, not Lena Martell) So yes, one of the best years for #1s.

  10. 10
    wichita lineman on 13 Oct 2008 #

    9-9 for me too. I love the personal Top 20s above, it really was a great year even if it did provide airspace for BA Robertson.

    Two songs which figure very highly in my Most Sensuous Songs Ever list date from ’79: Fleetwood Mac’s Sara (all time no.1) and Judie Tzuke’s Stay With Me Til Dawn. The Bee Gees’ Until (from Spirits Having Flown) would make the list, too, but is trumped by their ’74 single Charade.

    I was tempted to add Chas & Dave’s Gertcha for a minute.

  11. 11
    Steve Mannion on 13 Oct 2008 #

    well while we’re at it, here’s another excellent 20 not already mentioned (from the disappointingly small list of ’79 tracks on my PC – must rectify this):

    Herb Alpert – Rotation
    Joy Division – Transmission
    Christopher Cross – Ride Like The Wind (“GP!”)
    ELO – Don’t Bring Me Down
    The Slits – Instant Hit
    Telex – Moskow Diskow
    Tata Vega – Get It Up For Love
    The B-52s – Rock Lobster
    Throbbing Gristle – Hot On The Heels Of Love
    The Motels – Kix
    Candido – Jingo
    Sugar Hill Gang – Rapper’s Delight
    Rose Royce – Is It Love You’re After?
    Vernon Burch – Get Up
    Archie Bell & The Drells – Strategy
    Edwin Birdsong – Cola Bottle Baby
    Wire – The 15th
    Yellow Magic Orchestra – Rydeen
    Michael Jackson – Rock With You
    Public Image Ltd. – Careering

    was surprised to see how late all of the disco hits there were (except Chic)

  12. 12
    LondonLee on 13 Oct 2008 #

    Looking at the lists over at Every Hit I thought I could make the argument that 1980 was a better year, there are some cracking Number Ones that year but I’ll have to admit nothing that can match the long-term impact of ‘Rhythm Stick’ or ‘Heart of Glass’

    I forgot ‘Transmission’ came out that year too. What a great time to be 17.

  13. 13
    DV on 13 Oct 2008 #

    what a year! given that 6 is what you give something that is at least kind of alright, I ended up giving it to nearly all of them. But not to Lena Martell – I didn’t give it to her.

  14. 14
    Billy Smart on 14 Oct 2008 #

    The (rather superb) NME critics’ poll for 1979;

    1. Eton rifles – The Jam
    2. Gangsters – The Specials
    3. London Calling -The Clash
    4. I will survive – Gloria Gaynor
    5. Strange town – The Jam
    6. Message in a bottle – The Police
    7. Oliver’s army – Elvis Costello
    8. Spacer – Sheila B Devotion
    9. Shake your body – The Jacksons
    10. Memories – Public Image Ltd.
    11. Death disco – Public Image Ltd.
    12. My feet keep dancing – Chic
    13. Rock lobster – The B52’s
    14. Don’t stop ’til you get enough – Michael Jackson
    15. Making plans for nigel – XTC
    16. Queen of hearts – Dave Edmunds
    17. The pictures on the wall – Echo & The Bunnymen
    18. Life during wartime – Talking Heads
    19. She’s beyond good & evil – The Pop Group
    20. Boogie wonderland – Earth Wind & Fire
    21. Rowche rumble – The Fall
    22. Living on the front line – Eddie Grant
    23. The prince – Madness
    24. Boys don’t cry – The Cure
    25. Touch – Lori & The Chameleons
    26. Transmission – Joy Division
    27. Get over you – The Undertones
    28. Memphis tennessee – Silicone Teens
    29. On my radio – The Selecter
    30. Pop music – M
    31. Girls talk – Dave Edmunds
    32. Heart of glass – Blondie
    33. We are family – Sister Sledge
    34. Stop your sobbing – Pretenders
    35. Where’s Bill Grundy now – TV Personalities
    36. Saturday night beneath the plastic palms – Leighton Buzzards
    37. Time goes by so slow – Distractions
    38. Protection – Graham Parker
    39. A message to you rudi – The Specials
    40. Electricity – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

  15. 15
    Billy Smart on 14 Oct 2008 #

    The Sounds critics’ poll is slightly different, but also very good;

    1. Eton Rifles – The Jam
    2. Gangsters – The Special AKA
    3. I Don’t Like Mondays – The Boomtown Rats
    4. Strange Town – The Jam
    5. Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3 – Ian Dury
    6. California Uber Alles – Dead Kennedys
    7. Message In A Bottle – The Police
    8. We Don’t Talk Any More – Cliff Richard
    9. Walking On The Moon – The Police
    10. Heart Of Glass – Blondie

    Melody Maker didn’t do polls of singles, but did declare Death Disco as single of the year.

  16. 16
    mike on 14 Oct 2008 #

    There’s nothing on that NME list that I’d rate less than 6 out of 10. (Lori and the Chameleons! The Distractions! Television Personalities! The Pop Group! “Rowche Rumble”!)

  17. 17
    Erithian on 14 Oct 2008 #

    Lori and the Chameleons much played by the aforementioned Mike Read…

  18. 18
    Tom on 14 Oct 2008 #

    One amazing thing about the NME list – which I agree is terrific – is quite how many of those were big hits: the music press really aligned with the charts in a way that I guess presaged their continuing engagement w/”new pop”.

    (And even the hits that weren’t big were often by groups who then went on to have hits, like Talking Heads) (Though not all – sorry Leighton Buzzards :(:()

  19. 19
    mike on 14 Oct 2008 #

    Actually, Geoff Deane and David Jaymes from the Leyton Buzzards went on to form…. Modern Romance!

  20. 20
    LondonLee on 14 Oct 2008 #

    I was just about to say that. Funny how the memory plays trick on you, I always thought ‘Saturday Night…’ had been a hit. Did I just imagine seeing them on TOTP then?

  21. 21
    LondonLee on 14 Oct 2008 #

    No I didn’t! Though the single only got to #53 which seems awfully low to get a spot on TOTP.

  22. 22
    mike on 14 Oct 2008 #

    It’s almost certainly because the Leyton Buzzards had just won a Radio One “battle of the bands” competition, which came with the prize of a record deal with Chrysalis. “Saturday Night…” was their first single with the label.

  23. 23
    mike on 15 Oct 2008 #

    Lori and the Chameleons much played by the aforementioned Mike Read…

    …and “Touch” was composed by someone we’ll be dealing with in the first half of 1988.

  24. 24
    Martin Skidmore on 15 Oct 2008 #

    Surprisingly, I only ticked six – but I can see another five that might conceivably have got 6s, so if I’d been generous, I could have ticked 11. The first part of the year is particularly stellar for me, but it could have been much better if Chic had hit the top a few times – there are 4 or 5 Chic singles I’d give 10 to.

  25. 25
    SteveM on 15 Oct 2008 #

    for the record i ticked 12, would’ve been 13 but have decided to be a bit harsh on ‘Sunday Girl’.

  26. 26
    Doctormod on 15 Oct 2008 #

    I told you I’d be back when the seventies were over!

    (No, really–I hadn’t visited this site for some weeks, and then this morning I groggily clicked the FT bookmark when I meant to click the one next to it on the list and. . . .)

    I actually ticked ten here, and they more or less coincide with the majority. (OK, I really do like the PF track in spite of myself.) This must mean:


  27. 27
    Erithian on 15 Oct 2008 #

    Hope you’ll stick around Doc – we’re losing too many good people here!

  28. 28
    LondonLee on 15 Oct 2008 #

    And it would be 20 years before we could talk about the decade without people laughing and making jokes about flares.

  29. 29
    abaffledrepublic on 15 Oct 2008 #

    Voted for 8, didn’t vote for 10, but then I’m really picky. Seems that a strong year for singles in general means a strong year for no1s, rather than the rubbish holding sway at the top.

  30. 30
    Chris Brown on 15 Oct 2008 #

    XTC also got to make their TotP debut with the massive Number 54 smash ‘Life Begins At The Hop’ – interestingly, both this and ‘Nigel’ are of course Colin Moulding’s songs. Pity he seems to have given up now.
    Of the records I know from that NME list, there are only three or four I’d rank below six, and a couple of them are probably more to do with overexposure than the records themselves. ‘Shake Your Body’ is a solid five for me though.

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