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Mar 11

The FT Top 100 Songs of All Time #9: Uptown Top Ranking – Althea & Donna

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What to say about this reggae supersmash not already said by Tom, and the army of comment crew enthusiast over on Popular. Ever angle of this amazing one hit wonder has been touched up, a worthy ten and a record that still sounds fresh as light as the day it was birthed upon the charts. The twin guns of confidence and sass bounce this along as such a terrific little pop gem that it really is very very hard to find anything to say except its really, really good.

So instead why not look at the conspiracy theories which swirl around the song. From the sabotage of the BBC Top Of The Pops orchestra to the misspelling of Althea on a record sleeve, its a song with a fair share of odd stories attached to it.

Here is that Top Of The Pops performance. Backing is terrible, ripping the guts out of the rhythm and almost turning it into elevator music. Althea and Donna are out of sync, and fluff the words occasionally, look hugely out of their depth and you can see why the song plummeted after this. Everything wonderful about the record has been destroyed here, and you can start to smell the one hit wonderdom that befell them, I would have cried all night if my genius slab of pop had its largest audience in this version.

And so to the single cover here as well. Its a tatty piece of seventies artwork where at least A&D look better than they did on ver Pops. But Althia? Wither this spelling? Have we been misspelling her name all along? Has the Guinness Book Of Hit Singles let us down? The real story is this cover, attache dto Tom’s Popular piece, is the US single cover, released by Warners trying to sell it on its UK hit status. Or rather it “TOP TEN IN ENGLAND” status, where ENGLAND is represented by a Union Jack. That being the ENGLISH flag and all. Looking on google images for other covers throws up a few potentials but I have a sense that Lightning Records probably just released it in a dust sleeve – perhaps one that advertised hairdryers.

I could go on further and talk about Pop Will Eat Itself sampling it on X, Y and Zee, but as much as I liked it at the time, none of this is doing anything but detract from the lightning (cheers) in a bottle that Uptown Top Ranking was. Sometimes pop comes out of nowhere, and sometimes it goes back. It leaves us the records and that is what counts.

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