May 11


Popular146 comments • 15,421 views

#671, 7th December 1991

There are fantastic number one records which are over and done with in two minutes thirty, which is how long “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” takes to hit its chorus. A streamroller chorus, to be sure, given a chest-thumping delivery, but it’s near impossible to care. George Michael at this point was a defensive, self-conscious sort of pop star. He was all-too aware he’d been a teen idol, desperate to be part of the pop establishment at the exact point – poor George! – when that establishment was going ironic or weird or getting cold feet about the half-decade of wholemeal soul-pop it had just served up. He’d catch up in the end, but meanwhile this is a grim trudge of a single: you can hardly hear the song through the sound of mutually slapped backs.



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  1. 121
    Mark G on 6 Jun 2011 #

    Back when I used to work at NHS offices, one place would always have the Radio2 on, (I was massively helpful during the music quiz), but it always amazed me that it was basically the same old rubbish except occasionally they’d play “Teenage Kicks” to ‘prove’ they were ‘kids’ at ‘heart’ or something.

  2. 122
    Jimmy the Swede on 6 Jun 2011 #

    Do you know something else? If I hear “The Year of the Cat” or “On the Border” one more frigging time between rounds of “Pop Master”, I’m going to do Ken Bruce an injury!

  3. 123
    punctum on 6 Jun 2011 #

    I’d even rather hear the Crackerjack version of “Year Of The Cat” which subsitutes “Tom and Jerry” for “Peter Lorre.” Clearly the BBC thought we were all dragging our knuckles behind us on the ground even in 1977.

  4. 124
    DietMondrian on 6 Jun 2011 #

    Rather late to the party, I’d like to chuck in a couple of names:

    Yo La Tengo – began their imperial phase with their eighth studio album, 1997’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, a good 13 years after they formed and when they were all in their mid-thirties (probably – I can’t find their actual ages).

    Kraftwerk – Ralf und Florian were in their fifties when they released Tour de France Soundtracks, an album every bit as good as their 1970s/early 80s output. (I’m not trolling, I’m completely serious. It’s an album that can pass one by as pleasant but slight on the first few listens, but keep listening and it reveals itself as a masterly work of subtle, hypnotic beauty [sonic cathedrals, gibber etc]).

  5. 125
    Wheedly on 6 Jun 2011 #

    #119 – American radio formats can be useful when thinking about what kind of pop music someone like Paul Simon might be making (AOR? Adult contemporary? Adult alternative? You could probably fit something from his new album into any of those formats), but what’s great about Tom’s work here (and Marcello’s on Then Play Long) is that these issues aren’t really that relevant.
    If an artist is being covered here (or on TPL), they’re pop. The purity of that is what I enjoy most about Popular. By the same token, it’s a shame that Radio 1 and Radio 2 don’t come closer to encompassing everything pop music is and can be.

  6. 126
    wichita lineman on 7 Jun 2011 #

    That’s pretty much my definition of pop – if it’s Top 40, it’s pop.

    The American Balkanisation of pop is depressing and only adds to snobbery. Adult Contemporary, I only learned from BBC4, is literally Easy Listening – they changed the name of the Billboard chart in 1979 (iirc).

    Re Radio 2 and Ken Bruce… might be on my own here, but that’s where I’ve first heard top notch, non hit, new acts like Lissie, and the Pierces, so I’m not complaining too hard.

  7. 127
    punctum on 7 Jun 2011 #

    The Pierces have a #4 album with their set of Belinda Carlisle/Bangles tributes. The “single” probably should and would have been a hit in different times but the sealing of the Radio 1 Customs gates has probably helped put pay to anything getting into the singles chart that doesn’t strictly adhere to the criteria listed above. One of TPL‘s many modest aims is to try and get these gates pulled down again.

  8. 128
    punctum on 7 Jun 2011 #

    A potentially interesting question which occurred to me while typing out the above; R2 faves like Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald – how popular (or even “pop”) have any of these artists been with the British public at large, brief spells of interest, TV commercials and cover versions notwithstanding?

  9. 129
    wichita lineman on 7 Jun 2011 #

    I always assumed Ella was popular – you see original copies of Every Time We Say Goodbye a lot. Nina Simone had two Top 5 hits in ’69, but her best known hit is 80s ad related. You never see old UK copies of Billie Holiday records, but I’m guessing Desmond Carrington and David Jacobs were well aware of her in the olden days.

    Brian Poole’s version of Do You Love Me just came on Gold… not the Contours! Re-revisionist!

  10. 130
    wichita lineman on 7 Jun 2011 #

    Pierces – add F Mac to that list. It’s not exactly challenging, but everything on the album sounds like a ‘hit’ except the last two tracks. Sequenced for listening posts? Is that nineties retro??

  11. 131
    punctum on 7 Jun 2011 #

    It always seems to me that radio plays Nina, Ella etc., because programmers think it sounds “correct” to play them, fits in with the winebar/Giraffe café/drive kids to and from school/bedroom-painting pseudo-aspirational/demographic ideal ethos, whereas people who were truly popular, whether Kathy Kirby or Peters & Lee or Adam Ant, get ignored.

    No one ever plays the Dave Clark Five version of “Do You Love Me?,” almost the tonsil-ripping equivalent of the Fabs’ “Twist And Shout.”

  12. 132
    Jimmy the Swede on 7 Jun 2011 #

    # 126 – You’re not on your own, Lino. As a fellow Ken Bruce groupie, I am particularly grateful for being introduced to Rumer and her delightful work. Voice like Karen Carpenter, style of Carole King. An uber-talented young woman and extremely pleasant and unstarry to boot.

    Ken is a wonderful broadcaster. Still like when Zoe stands in for the old boy, though. She’s turned 40 now and what a box of delights she truly is.

  13. 133
    Izzy on 7 Jun 2011 #

    I think I’ve found a genuine, incontestable pop peak at age 35 – Barry Manilow released ‘Copacabana’ pretty much dead on his 35th birthday.

  14. 134
    wichita lineman on 7 Jun 2011 #

    Re 132: Phew! Ken B seems an odd target when the rest of Radio 2 appears to be happy to mimic Radio 1 in the late 80s. Aside from the late Ray Moore, I’d say he’s the funniest dj Radio 2 has ever had.

  15. 135
    Ed on 7 Jun 2011 #

    @120 Punctum, I like the sound of non-R2 “adult pop”. Where would I find it?

  16. 136
    Snif on 9 Jun 2011 #

    So is it a case of ‘Once a pop singer, always a pop singer”?

    What’s the statute of limits? How long after their last (or only) hit is an artist or group to be no longer considered Pop? Ever?

  17. 137
    punctum on 9 Jun 2011 #

    Pop is not AC Grayling.

  18. 138

    AC Grayling vs AC Temple: WHO WILL WIN?

  19. 139
    Mark G on 9 Jun 2011 #

    AC Marias, obv.

  20. 140
    Ed on 9 Jun 2011 #


  21. 141
    Rashmika on 26 Mar 2014 #

    I’ve been waiting for you to post an origmai bunny for Easter! This looks like a challenge but worth it! I mean, check out the little bunny hands! I’m linking you up to my blog. Hope you don’t mind.Funny cause my daughter and i were just wondering the same thing—how do people imagine these things up?

  22. 142
    Rory on 26 Mar 2014 #

    Spoiler Bunny, meet Spam Bunny. Check out the little bunny hands!

  23. 143
    Alan not logged in on 26 Mar 2014 #

    We’ve had a spate of entirely harmless spam comments of late – all in the same random manner, and where the site link would normally link to filth or scams it’s just some random facebook profile. eh?

  24. 144
    Andrew Farrell on 26 Mar 2014 #

    They’re also getting eerily close to actual engagement with the topic. And in the 16th year of the Trigger, the wars started…

  25. 145
    Cumbrian on 2 Jun 2016 #

    Re: Mark S @ 103 in this thread. Following the leaked news that Prince probably was a victim of painkillers, I’d say this idea (i.e. “Someone should write a history of pop drug abuse arising out of pain-killer addiction”) whilst bleak would likely be illuminating.

  26. 146
    Gareth Parker on 1 May 2021 #

    I think George and Elton’s vocal abilities and charisma salvage this single, where many others might fail. 6/10

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