Jul 13

SIMPLY RED – “Fairground”

Popular128 comments • 11,756 views

#728, 30th September 1995

The scales of pop injustice tip in both directions. It is often taken as scandalous that Prince only managed a single Number One. But what then to make of Simply Red’s total? Mick Hucknall’s blue-eyed soul brand trampled the LP charts underfoot with Stars: they were a ruby-toothed sales goliath. But as far as singles go, “Fairground” is your lot. And it’s hard to imagine many people being sad about it.

Simply Red were one of those bands who are easy to loathe. In a way they were the Mumford And Sons of their day – successful to such a degree they stood in for a pile of musical wrongs: bogus authenticity, misplaced nostalgia for older musics, the supposed complacency of the Great British Public. The traits which might have won another musician a fair hearing – his socialism, his love of dub reggae – were brushed aside in Hucknall’s case. Instead we heard about his arrogance, his pettiness, and his colossal libido.

“Fairground” gives us some of the case for Simply Red and a big piece of evidence against them. It surprised people at the time, and on the verses at least it’s their strangest-sounding single. “Driving down an endless road…” it begins, and that’s not at all a bad description of the lonesome vibe here – the odd combination of flowing, tumbling Latin percussion (lifted from dance act The Goodmen) and Hucknall’s ruminative vocal, working together to create something genuinely arresting, even haunting.

So far, so good. But this journey has a destination, and it’s “Fairground”’s belting, red-faced chorus. In comes the piano, up go the decibels, and suddenly I remember why I detested Simply Red. The Hucknall Yell – incarnate here as that triumphant “LUV the thought” – was Mick’s favourite vocal trick. It took him a while to hit on it – it’s not on “Holding Back The Years” at all, and on “Money’s Too Tight To Mention” he builds up the volume rather than switching suddenly into it. But it’s on “A New Flame”, it’s really prominent on “Stars”, and it takes over “Fairground” completely.

I don’t like it because it feels like a very cheap way to ramp up the passion in a song – and Hucknall seems to me a lazy singer in the first place, a man with a sturdy voice and a checklist of soulful mannerisms rather than any great expressive skill. But the Hucknall Yell is particularly irksome on “Fairground”, because the song was going.interesting places without it. The trouble is, those places probably wouldn’t have included the top of the charts.



  1. 1
    fivelongdays on 17 Jul 2013 #

    Ah, chart injustices. Of course, the big Chart Injustice of 1995 – Common People being kept off the top spot – was exacerbated by this keeping ‘Sorted for Es and Whizz’ from number one. I have a theory that some Chary Injustices are made worse by the act in question not getting to the top. For instance, loads of people talk about ‘Release Me’ keeping ‘Strawberry Fields…’ off the top, but all things considered, it’s not that bad because The Beatles had 17 number ones. Similarly, a certain Chart Injustice we’ll get to next year in Popular Terms is mitigated because the band in question went on to top the charts.

    But, regardless of Jarvis and Co being cruelly denied again, what of this song?

    Well, like Iron Maiden’s number one felt like a special award for services to British Heavy Metal, this is Mick and Pals special award for services to British Pop Soul. It’s a bit ho-hum, a bit meh, and slightly forgettable. Props for the ‘Make amends like all good men should’ line – nod to the sample, thank you very much. However, whereas Holding Back The Years would be a ten from me, and even Stars might squeeze an eight, I think Tom’s got this mark spot on. Four.

  2. 2
    mintness on 17 Jul 2013 #

    From the category “Irrational Moments of Pop Hatred”: the bit in the video where they fling their hands in the air. I’m not mad keen on the song anyway, and Hucknell looks strangely creepy throughout, but there’s something about that moment – the implication of forced “fun”? I dunno – that really grates.

  3. 3
    Tom Lawrence on 17 Jul 2013 #

    Dear God I hate this song, and I hate everything Simply Red ever brought to the charts. I felt the same way then, and time has not dulled my enmity.

    It just seems to sit there, constantly idling in first gear; droning on in the verse and only approximating passion in the chorus. Only the drums bring any interest.

  4. 4
    Wheedly on 17 Jul 2013 #

    A strange one. I agree with Tom that the verse is far more interesting than the chorus, but Hucknall’s soft vocal during the verse is often distractingly out of tune. And not just a little bit, either. It’s really surprising for a guy with a not undeserved reputation for vocal prowess. I’m not normally bothered by off-key singing (there are many Bob Dylan records on my shelves), but in this particular case I find it really painful (can’t put my finger on why – does anyone else feel the same way?).
    I get the sense with this song that perhaps Hucknall and co. (if, indeed, the rest of the band and co-producer Stewart Levine had much input into Simply Red records at this point) were getting a bit lazy. The record has an idea (drums!), but only one idea, so it goes with that idea to the point where the percussion becomes intrusive, perhaps to mask the fact that there’s not much going on in the verses other than an undulating synth line. The chorus, too, is rote, a hedging of bets.
    Similarly, I find it hard to believe such a half-arsed, barely-in-tune vocal would ever have made it to a master if this song had been cut for Stars, which is an album without a hair out of place at any point.
    Not a fan of Hucknall particularly, but even to me this felt like a long way from his/their best work.

  5. 5
    Kinitawowi on 17 Jul 2013 #

    Hated this hated this hated this hated this. The earlier better stuff was just the wrong side of my musical memory – I’m pretty sure I’d heard Holding Back The Years but could never have placed it as a Simply Red song – so this just looked like a terrible song, rather than the reward for a career of nearlies that it so obviously is. It still doesn’t sound like much of anything, and if anything the new appreciation of the earlier work only makes this seem even worse in comparison. 3.

    @1; I’ve thought suchlike before, and even mentioned it, I think (yep – late to the party on Shaddap You Face, natch).

  6. 6
    Chelovek na lune on 17 Jul 2013 #

    I didn’t “hate” Simply Red: their smoochy, vaguely soulful numbers had a purpose: slow dance at end of (school) disco. And some of them weren’t ‘alf bad (“For Your Babies”, “You’ve Got It”, “Holding Back The Years” and their cover of “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”).

    This though…oh no. It’s really rather a dreadful record, that combines wallpaper blandness with percussional aggression. It also, in retrospect seems really an odd time for Simply Red to have got the number 1 (yes, like Prince: well past their prime, if they exactly had one). I was rather surprised to count that they actually had slightly more Top 40 hits AFTER this than they had before. (30+ odd more WEEKS on chart, before, mind, reflecting the way the charts had gone.) Although of their later hits, only “Say You Love Me” has left any impression on me at all, and that’s not a terribly positive one either)

    I’m still unsure whether this record represents a daring piece of experimentation by Simply Red, an attempt to appear “relevant” and contemporary after some time away, or simply an act losing faith in or forgetting what they had a proven talent for (or were simply bored with it: a lot of those ballads had been rather bland: and the uptempo stuff they put out was generally not really worthy of note at all).

    While by this time, there had been a few reasonably high-charting (if not, exactly, mainstream) “jungle” hits, for an essentially “mainstream” pop act to use a manic, rapid, drum beat over the introduction, recalling M-Beat’s “Incredible” was still a little….brave. And later on for aggressive drumming, more or less lifted directly from The Goodmen’s “Give It Up” (which, to be fair, had spent four weeks in the top 10 two years before, albeit in the sales slump of summertime), to play such a dominant part in a track by Simply Red (or an act who could be confident of receiving airplay on the vast majority of commercial radio stations across the UK) was…if nothing else, unprecedented.

    Should, can one praise them for that? I don’t know. If they’d made a more likeable, more engaging, less annoying, less overblown, record, perhaps.


  7. 7
    Kat but logged out innit on 17 Jul 2013 #

    I spent a LARGE AMOUNT of time drumming along to that Goodmen record (Now 26 side 2 iirc) on my old wooden sideboard with two pencils. I was very upset when Simply Red swiped it and had no idea that of course the Goodmen had themselves sampled Sergio Mendez until I started working in music royalties and saw the vast, complicated sample history for many of my favourite tracks (the page for Pump Up The Volume was a wonder to behold on the creaky old database of doom).

    My Mum loved Simply Red though, and for a while I did too – I still know all the words to every song off Stars, because the tape lived in the car stereo for about 18 months (replaced by M People, once Mum finally got sick of it). There is a moral here somewhere.

  8. 8
    pink chamaple on 17 Jul 2013 #

    blimey, I thought everyone agreed that this was the simply red record that was actually good – I was expecting a rash of 8s. totally agree the verses are where it’s at – the half arsed, barely in tune nature of the singing is surely deliberate and creates a lovely dreamy wooziness, that actually i think is bought out more by the song occaisionally snapping into focus for a more pumping (though i think not too anthemic or soulmanish) chorus. well done mick I say.

  9. 9
    DanH on 17 Jul 2013 #

    Simply Red made some waves in America, but we passed on this particular one. Oddly enough, I hate myself deeply for admitting this, and it’s got flaws already mentioned, but I like this one. I dunno, when I heard it in my UK #1’s traversing, I was in a really bad way, and the simple pleasures perked me up a little. They had two #1’s, both #2’s in the UK, and I disliked both of them. And no one here has mentioned “Sunrise” yet. I’ll start that awful ball rolling :-)

  10. 10
    Erithian on 17 Jul 2013 #

    Well I’ve been kind-of looking forward to this. Scroll back to early 1985, when “Whistle Test” featured this new band doing their version of “Money’s Too Tight To Mention”, and sitting in my bedroom in Manchester I’m watching the video and thinking, I’ve seen that singer before somewhere. Then they cut to an interview and put up a caption, and I go “bloody hell, it’s Micky!”

    Micky ‘Ucknall, as we all called him at primary school (unlike the big school lads who reportedly called him Period Head) was in the year above me. My clearest memory of him is the day a school bully tried out a judo throw on me while I was minding my own business in the hall. I landed on my arse and Micky saw the whole thing. And did he “come to my aid”? Did he hell as like – he stood there clapping and just went “What a beaut!”

    Another quote that sticks in my mind is a match report of a very rare win for Denton St Lawrence’s, 3-1 against St Anne’s. The games teacher Mr Little pinned the report to the notice board, including the words: “‘We’re all over them Sir,’ Michael Hucknall said to me after our third goal.” Micky played the Glenn Hoddle role in the school team, but sadly the team played the Barnet role in its league. Bet Mr Little wishes he’d kept the report for posterity.

    I’ve few memories of him after primary school, although we went to the same secondary school as well, and I do remember bumping into him at Crown Point in Denton after he left. I could relate that he told me he’d formed a band, although that would be embellishing the memory a bit. In fact my mum knew his “auntie” Nellie, who looked after him once his mum left home, better than I knew Mick, and it was Mum who bought his biography – and it’s very weird to read about your old teachers in a rock star biography. Maybe my fellow Tamesider Mike MCSG can fill in some later memories?

    As for his music, well I preferred the early stuff! “Picture Book” is without a dud track, including the Talking Heads cover “Heaven”. I can understand why aspects of their later output were loathed, although I didn’t mind them at all. “Stars” (91-92) is one of only two artist albums to have been the UK’s best-seling album of the year in consecutive years (“Bridge Over Troubled Water” being the other in 70-71).

    “Fairground” was an original mix, the combination of the drum patterns and the dreamy vocal a winning one. The drum approach reminded me of Paul Simon’s “The Obvious Child”, but the Goodmen track was an interesting discovery tonight. Bit of a dampener to learn that a track you’ve liked isn’t as original as you thought, but hey it still uses its source to good effect.

    (Edit: blimey, Goodmen was a top 10 hit? I really wasn’t paying attention!)

  11. 11
    Garry on 18 Jul 2013 #

    I love this song. Partly because it was a soundtrack a time and several places – finishing school, then promptly the whole family moving to another town, and three months later I moved on again to University. I heard a lot of the song on commercial radio in the middle of these three towns as I went from a town with commercial radio plus Triple J (Australian national youth station) to one with only commercial radio. The momentum of the song made it one of my favourite driving songs of the time. And I’m a sucker for stretchy, noodley keyboard parts.

    This at a time I really didn’t like what was in the Australian charts.

    Many years later I bought the album for a couple of bucks in a charity shop. But am i right in thinking Sly and Robbie provide rhythms – at the time I was hearing their work in various dub-flavoured electronic outfits. I can’t remember what I thought of the Life album but I think I loved the cover and liner notes.

    (As an aside #1 I love Pulp but I’ve always hated Common People – the Shatner version aside. I can’t put my finger on it but it annoys me greatly)

  12. 12
    Chelovek na lune on 18 Jul 2013 #

    As well as Pulp, this also kept Def Leppard at no 2, with “When Love and Hate Collide”. I had no recollection of it at all, but one listen on YouTube suggests it’s a fairly polished and creditable soft metal ballad of the type that they could, sometimes, do so well. And when it comes to having served their time, among those whom we won’t encounter here, they really are an act that could reasonably be said to rival Mick Hucknall. Or indeed Pulp.

  13. 13
    Tom on 18 Jul 2013 #

    I love “Sorted For Es And Wizz” but, as someone said on the Robson and Jerome thread, it’s hard to work up much of a sense of injustice – even it’s #2 placing seems slightly absurd.

    I thought the “Simply Red song people think is good” was Holding Back The Years! Written at some absurdly young age IIRC.

  14. 14
    Billy Hicks on 18 Jul 2013 #

    Remember it, enjoyed it. Excellent to finally begin to enter an era of #1s I actually remember from the time and that’s gonna continue right up to, ooh, July 2013 at the earliest. It’s tied in my head with both Year 2 of primary school, and indeed ‘Donkey Kong Country 2’ on the Super Nintendo and its fairground levels, which share similar wispy synths to this song. So this is just a lovely nostalgic autumnal #1 for me and even listening to it now takes me back to simpler childhood times.

    ‘Sorted’ would have admittedly been an amazing #1 but then it comes from one of my favourite albums of all time, so no surprise there.

  15. 15
    Richard B on 18 Jul 2013 #

    I love this too. Not just the original drum-stuffed version, but also Rollo & Sister Bliss’s sumptuous remix, which intensifies and deepens that contrast between the sweetly diffident verses and the exultant chorus.

    Completely understand the negative views here – I was indifferent or hostile to most of what Simply Red had done before (except ‘The Right Thing’ which was kind of fun). But ‘Fairground’ was a lovely surprise to me at the time.

    Another surprise was the way the cover photo made Mick Hucknall look like a pretty teenage girl.

  16. 16
    mapman132 on 18 Jul 2013 #

    Simply Red had a strange US career: a pair of #1’s three years apart in the 80’s, both of which I kind of liked, although not necessarily loved. Other than that a couple of minor hits, and nowhere near the album sales they got in the UK. By 1995, they were pretty much long forgotten in America(*).

    So what of “Fairground”, which Wikipedia says was released in the US and “bubbled under” the Hot 100 at #114? It’s hard to pinpoint what to think of it exactly. I guess it sounds like a song that was going for “epic”, only to fall well short. I think, as Tom alludes to, that somehow the verses and the chorus don’t fit together right. So 5/10 for me.

    (*) They still got a shout out in the 2007 Family Guy Star Wars parody. Of course, getting referenced on Family Guy pretty much means you’re culturally considered part of the 80’s.

  17. 17
    swanstep on 18 Jul 2013 #

    New to me, the first verse especially reminds me of The Smiths’ ‘Rusholme Ruffians’ (which drew extensively on Elvis’s ‘(Marie’s the Name of) His Latest Flame’) with the percussion occupying the space the fast-strummed guitars occupied on the earlier record. That comparison maybe helps put Tom’s complaints about the Choruses in perspective: Hucknell’s trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist in the effectively chorus-less originals. Hucknell too should probably have worked on ways to extend the groove of the verses, figured some new ways to scat over the top to stop things getting boring… Scratch your name on my arm with a fountain pen. Anyhow, I could probably go a 5 or 6 (the chorus doesn’t bug me *that* much).

  18. 18
    lonepilgrim on 18 Jul 2013 #

    I also feel quite positively about this song, largely because of the woozy quality of the verses and the sense of propulsion created by the rhythm track. A 6 for me.

  19. 19
    Izzy on 18 Jul 2013 #

    Two great spots here – The Obvious Child and Rusholme Ruffians. The latter especially interesting because it could be just a lazy comparator of lyrical theme, but no, you’re talking about the woozy production. Which of course is the way it evokes that lyrical theme. Does the other big fairground song – Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite! – draw from the same well? Well it more or less does really, how curious – I’ve never paid a great deal of heed to how lyrics influence production (or vice versa) but here’s strong evidence for the case.

    Anyway I do love this. It must be one of the very strangest soundscapes to reach the top. The drum battery (what’s the ultimate source? No.7 reckons Sergio Mendes, which I didn’t know); the pulse with its offbeats and accents being impossible to pin down and thereby keeping the ear searching; and the lazy vocal, which is neither lazy nor irregular but seems so because of the unusual metrics behind it.

    The chorus I don’t particularly love in context, though I like it better than I did and in isolation it’s fine; but Tom is quite right, without it there’s never a no.1 record here.

    Anyway no sense of injustice from me, nor should there be from anyone anyway – this is a far better record than the Pulp one. I recall at the time thinking this was the best no.1 for a while, and I’d stand by that now. (9)

  20. 20
    Tom on 18 Jul 2013 #

    Weirdly I have never assumed this was actually about a fairground – I figured it was a metaphor for something. IIRC the video has them dicking about on a pier so there’s strike one against my theory.

  21. 21
    snoball on 18 Jul 2013 #

    I always hated the early Simply Red material, and didn’t like the later stuff much either. Hucknall’s ego always gets out of control and spoils everything. I guess it’s a fine line. Liam had a fair sized ego, but it somehow always managed to serve Oasis’s songs rather than do a big turd all over them. ‘Fairground’ is the proof for me: a song that could have been a lot better had someone else sung it. Tom hits the nail on the (red)head – the Hucknell Yell more or less ends any chance the song had of being good.

  22. 22
    Andrew Farrell on 18 Jul 2013 #

    I always thought of Simply Red in the same bucket as UB40, 80s UK tributes to ‘other’ music that lasted longer than is easily explicable or desirable. This is not the sort of view that survives actually learning anything about the history of black music in the UK, but somehow the connection still remains in me.

    A difference of course is that UB40’s earlier more credible stuff was obliterated by their history-facing work – Simply Red credible stuff was in part their history-facing work, and was still alive up to roughly this record – you’d still hear people saying that they weren’t any good nowadays of course but that the twin pinnacles of Money’s Too Tight To Mention and Holding Back The Years still held up – though they’ve disappeared from history now as well, leaving only the Yell.

  23. 23
    weej on 18 Jul 2013 #

    Simply Red were something my dad liked, vaguely socialist, slightly credible, the sort of thing that was played at the Green Party and Woodcraft Folk parties I was taken along to, along with Joan Armatrading, Billy Bragg and Tracy Chapman. It wasn’t until Fairground came out that I realised that they were despised by many. Mick Hucknall’s voice isn’t quite as rich and soulful as he imagines, and he does seem to settle for belting something out whenever there’s a lull, but these are still fairly minor offenses, and listening to ‘Holding Back The Years’ it’s still ok. I suspect that there’s an anti-ginger element to the way he’s treated, not on here of course.

    For Fairground itself, I agree that the verses are the best part.

    #19 – I made a mix of fairground tunes a couple of years back. No Simply Red though, I’m afraid. http://haonowshaokao.com/2010/05/30/last-night-a-dj-killed-my-dog-podcast-025-the-unfair-funfair/

  24. 24
    anto on 18 Jul 2013 #

    While I concede that Simply Red are off-putting for all the reasons listed in the review, at the same time I don’t believe they’ve ever made a record that was rankly bad in the stinking out the room sense. Why even their 1987 single “The Right Thing” where their lead singer first tried to convince us that not only was he an outstandingly great singer but also a Stretford End luvin’ machine is one of those songs catchy enough to jump into my head unprompted every 3/4 weeks (and believe me the image of Monsiuer Hucknall insisting “The time is right/Sexily right” is not always welcome on a weekday morning, as you can now see what I mean).
    I was pleasantly surprised at how amiable I found “Fairground” when it came out. I agree that the verses are what make it not least because they showed how Mick Hucknall could practice restraint if needs be. I don’t really have a problem with the chours which is spirited and certainly memorable, but it’s those elusive utterances over the almost 808-State-ish backing in between that made this almost confounding.
    I was on the verge of falling in love with Pulp by this stage. With the release of “Different Class” in autumn 1995 they appeared to be everywhere and it was as pleasing as the far more pervasive ubiquity of Oasis was becoming grating. We were at the stage where the Gallaghers “attitude” was veering from brazen cockiness to a general refusal of basic grace or self-censorship. Also around this time I visited the continent for the first time. I had never been beyond the British Isles before and it gave me a glimpse of an alternate view on a lot of things including pop music. In Italy and Switzerland the Simply Red record was everywhere, but not a single thing about Oasis or Pulp. This was when I realised what “internationally successful” was really about.

  25. 25
    Cumbrian on 18 Jul 2013 #

    I could be wrong but I strongly suspect opinion of this would be (slightly?) higher if it were done by a dance outfit with a Euro Disco Diva over the top of it. Simply Red strike me as a band who it’s OK for people to play the man (i.e. Mick Hucknall – I don’t think I could name anyone else from Simply Red) rather than the ball on. This has good verses and a propulsive jungle meets latin beat. Yes, the chorus does its job, instead of being spectacular but it’s not dragging it down for me. As I said, if it were by someone else, I reckon this would be a bit higher up. I’d not go as far as Izzy but this would be at least a 6 for me.

    Simply Red are an act of minor importance in my life, in that I can remember them specifically as part of my growing up. Prior to the final episode of Series 6 of Only Fools and Horses, I watched it with my parents and enjoyed the pratfalls and the catchphrases. I’d only be about 8 at this point. Then, in the final episode, Rodney gets married and, at the wedding reception, as people file away, Del is left alone on the makeshift dancefloor with Holding Back The Years playing. I felt sad for him – it became obvious to me, as a young child, that there was more going on with Del than being the funny, wide-boy. It’s the point at which I started to see more in entertainment (and indeed in life) than the obvious face value – an important point in my life in terms of developing empathy (of course, this sequence is manipulative – but I would argue that a lot of dramatic moments are manipulative, it’s whether you care that you are being manipulated or not that counts). And Simply Red is part of it – residual affection for them is the result.

  26. 26
    Cumbrian on 18 Jul 2013 #

    Also, looking at the sleeve, I now see where Disney/Pixar got the inspiration for Merida in last year’s Brave.

  27. 27
    JLucas on 18 Jul 2013 #

    This is a bit of a secret shame (I won’t use the dread term ‘guilty pleasure’) for me.

    I remember it being absolutely everywhere. Listening now though I am struck by both the flat verses and the ‘Hucknall yell’. It hasn’t aged terribly well.

    I didn’t know Hucknall was a noted socialist. I read a Q Magazine interview around the time of Simply Red’s 2003 comeback and he seemed like an absolutely horrible man (not that the two things are mutually exclusive).

  28. 28
    Tom on 18 Jul 2013 #

    #25 I see what you’re getting at but “I think you’d like this more if it had a completely different arrangement and singer” doesn’t prove very much! Definitely my objection here – meandering verses making a belting chorus feel unearned – is the very structure I liked in “Never Forget” so there’s an inconsistency here and I suspect an irritation at Mick Hucknall is the root of it. But being irritated by pop stars is allowed, and I really don’t think he has an interesting voice or style.

    But! To redress the balance, things I like about Simply Red:

    – The opening line on this and it’s vibe on the verses, which makes me think of the episode of Halo Jones where Rodice is dribbling on Halo’s shoulder.
    – Holding Back The Years in general but especially in that Only Fools And Horses episode
    – The “Yes I would!” bits in Something Got Me Started
    – Money’s Too Tight To Mention. The people who used to go “ah but have you heard the original?” were really annoying especially because they were right.
    – Wonderland off Stars made me cry! I think after the 92 election. Is it a political song? I can’t bring it to mind now. I should hear that one again.

  29. 29
    Tom on 18 Jul 2013 #

    (No, I’m misremembering – wrong song wrong election. Wonderland was an “ambushed by unexpected emotion” moment but not IIRC actually tearful.)

  30. 30
    Tom on 18 Jul 2013 #

    And it totally is a political song – written after Thatcher’s exit. Surprised I didn’t see anyone mention it back in April, but I was on holiday.

  31. 31
    enitharmon on 18 Jul 2013 #

    One number one is one more than The Who ever had. If not having a number one is an injustice then surely that’s the biggest.

  32. 32
    Izzy on 18 Jul 2013 #

    A random thought: is this the closest sophistipop ever came to no.1? Fairground is at quite a remove both in time and sound, and Simply Red were possibly only part of the movement by association anyway, but so far as I can tell its big moments always stopped a few places short, and this is a comparably adult record imo. (Sweet Dreams Are Made Of These, Careless Whisper and even Sleeping Satellite may have competing claims on the crown)

  33. 33
    Cumbrian on 18 Jul 2013 #

    #28 I don’t think I am arguing for a different arrangement in particular – I think the song, as is, with a different vocalist (and a different name on the sleeve) would be more highly regarded.

    I don’t think it would be that highly regarded though – it wouldn’t be a club banger for instance – because, although I think it’s reasonable, it doesn’t scale the heights properly – I guess this might be where we agree re: the unearned release of the chorus. If it were just a little bit more structurally sound, it might work a bit better.

    I have no problem with people being irritated by pop stars. Indeed, I am highly irritated by many – but odious people can make good records. What I personally try to do is consider the record free from that irritation (unless the reasons I am irritated by them are performance related – for instance, I try desperately not to think about Bono’s cosying up to neo-con leaders when thinking about whether U2 are any good – but am more than happy to mark him down when his tedency to fog-horn his vocals when more restraint might be better for the song). It’s clear that you are marking down on the basis of his delivery though, so I think we’re on the same page – just have differing opinions of whether he goes too far on the chorus or not.

  34. 34
    Alan Connor on 18 Jul 2013 #

    Naming the Simply Red track I played the most risks making me seem like a completist or obscurantist when I am neither: it’s Every Bit Of Me, from the four-track EP sellotaped to the front of the first edition of an ’80s magazine called The Hit which listed BPMs IIRC. The teenage me liked it because it is intimate and mentions nudity someone has recorded a record player playing it. (Other tracks: Kick Over The Statues – Redskins / Walls Come Tumbling Down – Style Council / Taste Of Cindy – Jesus & Mary Chain)

  35. 35
    Mark M on 18 Jul 2013 #

    ‘It’s a pity you didn’t sign The Smiths but you were right about Mick Hucknall’
    God to Anthony H Wilson in 24 Hour Party People

    Ah, Hucknall. He was quoted as getting very narked about 24 Hour Party People, although I don’t always trust those kind of reports. But he always has seemed to be a bit spiky, an unendearing character even when in superfan mode for his deserving heroes (eg in the Bobby Bland doc that was repeated the other night). It seems the money, the fame, the hits, the girls*, have never been quite enough for him. Alas, respect will continue to elude him.

    I’m very much in the camp that says Holding Back The Years is his one decent song (going by the fact it is now fairly easy to hear The Valentine Brothers’ Money’s Too Tight To Mention**), and it predates Simply Red, although I prefer the hit version to the scratchier original from his Frantic Elevators days.

    Wikipedia claims that Simply Red is a slightly accidental name, but it works as a triple reference to his hair, his politics (loosely, they’re more soft pink) and his football affiliation.

    *In clubs in Milan in the late ’80s, he genuinely did stand there in a swarm of models.
    ** It could be seen as a part of a weird economic hard times cultural exchange with The Bangles’ infamous-in-some-quarters version of Going Down To Liverpool.

  36. 36
    Izzy on 18 Jul 2013 #

    I like both versions of Money’s Too Tight To Mention, but Simply Red’s is better I think – it’s punchier and Mick’s vocal is outstanding. It’s one record where the tics – cut-Backs!! – could be ridiculous but are approaching the finest pop is capable of.

    Gosh, Simply Red on Factory is an interesting thought. Where The Smiths would likely have sounded exactly the same, it’s difficult to imagine what would’ve happened had Martin Hannett been set loose on what became Picture Book.

  37. 37
    Tom on 18 Jul 2013 #

    #36 My main problem w/the Red’s version is that ridiculous “did the earth move for you Nancy?” bit he adds in. I mean, I get what it’s doing there, ho ho very satirical, but it diffuses the tension in the song a bit too much – the original brings over the desperation of poverty like few other records.

  38. 38
    punctum on 18 Jul 2013 #

    It came off Spitting Image IIRC.

    TPL bunny, but I did give it a 6.

  39. 39

    Lest we forget

  40. 40
    James BC on 18 Jul 2013 #

    I don’t like this a lot but it’s miles better than the following singles from the same album, and also We’re In This Together which as I’m sure you all know was the official song of Euro 96.

    Simply Red really seemed to lose it after Stars. Not that I’m necessarily blaming Mick – it could equally have been the other band members’ fault, whoever they were.

  41. 41
    Cumbrian on 18 Jul 2013 #

    Re: 24 Hour Party People. I thought it was highly enjoyable, even though it is full of odd ticks and Coogan’s portrayl of Tony Wilson seems to be, simply, a more self aware Alan Partridge. Paddy Considine in particular is terrific in his small part as Rob Gretton. Mick Hucknall is probably just pissed off that he didn’t get the right of reply in the film like Howard Devoto did with respect to the incident where he (Howard) supposedly went to the nightclub toilet with Tony Wilson’s wife/girlfriend.

    Mind you, the bit following the quote at #35 is “His music’s rubbish” – fair enough – “and he’s a ginger” – OK, I guess it’s a funny line to have God say about someone, but really? This is the type of thing I was talking about earlier on in terms of just piling into him. I’ve never met him and – perhaps crucially – never read any articles about him with which to form some sort of an opinion (to be honest, I have never been THAT interested in him) so I am aware that it is possible that maybe he is a dick but I’m willing to give him the benefit of at least some doubt.

  42. 42

    Not that you’d notice, but several early band members had been in the Durutti Column before it was just Vini. (Of all bands that Simply Red don’t remind you of.)

  43. 43
    leveret on 18 Jul 2013 #

    Being fully engrossed in the world of indie, Britpop, the NME and the Melody Maker at the time, this was a deeply unwelcome throwback to the 1980s, unconvincingly tarted up with percussion from a dance track that I had previously quite enjoyed.

    I’ve since come to love much about the pop and rock music of the 1980s, which I was too young to appreciate properly at the time, and am not averse to ‘Holding Back The Years’. Fairground remains, however, something that I frantically rush to turn off if it comes on the radio. The combination of Hucknall’s voice, the overwhelming percussion parts and the bombastic chorus is horrid, horrid, horrid.

  44. 44
    MikeMCSG on 18 Jul 2013 #

    #10 Hi Ian. Sorry I’m going to have to disappoint you here. My association with Tameside only began in 1987 when I started working for the council there. I do recall one or two of the people in the rates office saying they went to school with him – was it Audenshaw High ? – but no interesting anecdotes I’m afraid.

    This is significant as the last number one from someone who was at the legendary Free Trade Hall gig in 76 though you’d be hard pressed to spot a Pistols influence.

    I remember when Virgin started playing it they kept saying it was a poor choice for a single so what did they know ?

    Honorary mention to Joe Meek protégé Glenda Collins whose “I Lost My Heart At The Fairground” is one of her better songs.

  45. 45
    thefatgit on 18 Jul 2013 #

    He’s a Rod Stewart type of singer. You either love his voice or hate it. Bloody Mick Hucknall’s version of blue-eyed soul wore out it’s welcome to these ears pretty much after the 2nd verse of “Money’s Too Tight…”. I’m willing to concede “Heaven” was a fine song and “Holding Back The Years”, but Mick in full cry just annoys me intensely. He managed to assemble a tight outfit out of what was left of The Durutti Column and became massive on the back of that Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes cover. Courting the gossip columns did little to diffuse the impression he was an arrogant little shit, but by the time Fairground came along, he was pretty much a housewives’ favourite. The Goodmen lift, just made me want to listen to “Give It Up” in an attempt to purge my ears of Hucknall. The weird thing is I like having him around as a pop hate-figure. Even the latter-day Hucknall who came across as a thoroughly nice bloke on Sunday Brunch earlier this year, still had my teeth gnashing (please don’t tell me he’s recording again) but then I was always of a similar opinion when it came to Rod Stewart as well. I couldn’t imagine a pop landscape without either of them in it, because I can happily sit there and mutter insults under my breath while they effortlessly murder the Motown back catalogue.

    Yes it’s a healthy, irrational pop prejudice and I have no plans to change my mind about Hucknall or Stewart for that matter.

  46. 46
    punctum on 18 Jul 2013 #

    #42: yep, and one of them will be making an unexpected return to Popular later in the nineties.

  47. 47

    Have to say I still find early Rod an incredibly evocative voice — Gasoline Alley-era — but somehow never quite turned this into an angry John Peel-style rejection of his later sound/behaviour etc. (Possibly because I came on it later, so didn’t have to endure a sense of let-down and betrayal.)

    No such complications enter into my feelings about Mick, in any direction.

  48. 48
    Chelovek na lune on 18 Jul 2013 #

    I’d put Rod (even relatively late Rod) in a rather different category from Mick, vocals-wise. Always felt that one embraced the role of the storyteller as well as singer, and oozed (at very least a good replica of) sincerity, which gave even some of his weaker songs some kind of emotional substance: whereas Hucknall tended to be rather more superficial – perhaps, about drawing attention to his technique, rather than what his technique was intended to allow the expression of.

    Maybe that is harsh. But frankly if I were looking for aching, potentially disturbing, emotional expression I would definitely go to Rod, and definitely not to Mick.

  49. 49
    swanstep on 18 Jul 2013 #

    @ weej, 23. Thanks for that mixtape. I was pleasantly surprised to find some Circus Contraption on it – almost nobody outside the Northwest US has heard of them. I was housemates with one of their main players, Kevin Hinshaw/Chameleo, when I lived in Seattle, hence got to know the whole company well, helped out with their shows, etc.. Their whole schtick is post-apocalyptic, ‘circus at the end of time’; technically, you could have a whole freaky fairground mixtape just from them.

  50. 50
    Tom on 18 Jul 2013 #

    #48 great point – I can’t think of any song where Simply Red even try storytelling, they are all about soul as capturing a moment, an emotion, maybe a situation but even that’s a little too specific. Which is a completely legit approach of course, but as you say one likely to put a spotlight on the showier elements of a singer’s technique.

  51. 51
    Another Pete on 18 Jul 2013 #

    I think it’s one thing being arrogant after all in 1995 with Oasis around Mick was hardly alone. Yet for me Hucknall manages to surpass his fellow Mancunians simply because his arrogance was steely-eyed serious and at the time not very British, though wouldn’t look out of place now. The Gallaghers had each other to bring themselves down a peg. Even the likes of Annie Lennox and George Michael of whom were Simply Red’s closest contemporaries, sent themselves up and as a result endeared themselves more to the British public.

  52. 52
    Ciarán Gaynor on 18 Jul 2013 #

    My favourite Simply Red song is ‘You’ve Got It’ – a minor hit single at the end of ’89, off A New Flame, co-written with Lamont Dozier . Hucknall is fairly restrained on that. It’s the kind of song you hear in a taxi at 2am.

  53. 53
    Alan Connor on 18 Jul 2013 #

    Not the point you were making but do I remember seeing a writing credit “Hucknall/Dozier/Hucknall” for that track or just being told about it?

  54. 54
    Mark M on 18 Jul 2013 #

    Re 35: As Frank Cottrell Boyce always said he based his approach to 24 Hour Party People on Anthony Powell’s 12-novel A Dance To The Music Of Time, I think it would be fair to suggest (to people who’ve read it, obviously, this will be meaningless to everyone else) that Hucknall is the Widmerpool of Manchester post-punk, a much-mocked character who rose inexorably to have far greater success, in conventional terms, than those who had sneered at him, yet remained the butt of the joke for many.

  55. 55
    Chelovek na lune on 18 Jul 2013 #

    #54 Yes, yes, yes! As soon as I saw your ref to “Dance…” (not that I am entirely convinced that there is much of a structural connection with 24HPP), my first thought (before reading the rest of your comment) was “Hucknall is clearly Widmerpool” (down to some pretty dodgy left-wing politics, too, in my book at least: it was someone clearly based on Tito that Lord W ended up shilling for was it not?) …which raises the question of: who was X Trapnel? (just conceivably Morrisssey I suppose)

  56. 56
    Steve Mannion on 19 Jul 2013 #

    #51 Hucknall did try to convey a humourous side on a few occasions, perhaps recognising the perception of him was increasingly damaging. The two most notable examples I can think of are his appearance with Steve Coogan in the Tony Ferrino Phenomenon, with Ferrino as the jealous upstaged host, and the video for the single ‘Fake’ in 2003 in which he tangles with a terrible lookalike. Can’t say either attempt was particularly successful though.

  57. 57
    punctum on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Funniest Hucknall moment was at the Sheffield Kinnock election rally in ’92 whence he appeared on screen singing: “I’ll give it all up for you” (i.e. taxes).

  58. 58
    Ben on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Was just reading a Popular post from last year and people were upset about the closure of ChartStats and didn’t know where they could get archives of top 75 charts. Just wanted to point out in case anyone is interested, I’ve always found this epic UKmix thread very useful as it has every chart in full.


  59. 59
    Mark M on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Re 55: I think that’s a little unfair to Hucknall on the political front – whatever you think about his beliefs, they appear to be sincere and long-held (Widmerpool, who at the beginning of the books is an outsider at a major fee-paying school, opts for the left because a) he thinks that’s the direction history is swinging in, b) it offers him a faster path to the top and c) he is likely to encounter far fewer people who say, ‘It’s that ghastly oik Widmerpool – remember that time when…’ He’s contrasted – Powell loves his comparing and contrasting – with assorted natural leftie trouble-makers, schemers and batty idealists like JG Quiggin, Gypsy Jones, Books Bagshaw and Erry. But yes, one of the rare times in the books where Powell seems actively angry is about Britain’s abandonment of various governments in exile in favour of the Communists, including in what is transparently Yugoslavia).

    I’m not sure I’d want to suggest any other character comparisons, but Morrissey lacks the self-destructiveness of a Trapnel – John Cooper Clarke might be closer.

  60. 60

    I haven’t actually read much Powell — my primary exposure is via CHitchens’s enthusiasm long long ago, and a quite poor high-speed TV dramatisation about ten years ago? — but the project of exactly mapping all UK punk and post-punk and their various aftermaths onto A Dance to the Music of Time seems both urgent and key.

  61. 61
    Kat but logged out innit on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Made the mistake of watching a dude do Mick Hucknall on Stars In Their Eyes in 1991 at work. GENUINE HELPLESS CRYING INTO KEYBOARD. If I didn’t know better I’d say it was a Mary Whitehouse Experience sketch…

  62. 62
    Cumbrian on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Speaking of SITE – does anyone know of an online copy of Jarvis Cocker’s appearance as Rolf Harris? I’ve looked all over for that and never turned it up.

    That Mick Hucknall one is certainly something

  63. 63
    punctum on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Not interested in an overrated nineties pop singer’s impersonation of a man in his eighties who lives in Berkshire, thank you very much.

  64. 64
    Cumbrian on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Well, I’ve never seen it – not having watched the series at the time – and thought it would be moderately entertaining. You obviously disagree. The question still stands for anyone else.

  65. 65
    punctum on 19 Jul 2013 #


  66. 66
    swanstep on 19 Jul 2013 #

    I wonder whether Rolf is watching the cricket? Australia have scored 5 runs in the last 10 overs; Shane Watson may have to be resettled in PNG.

  67. 67
    Cumbrian on 19 Jul 2013 #

    #65: Really? Blimey – I must be living under a rock or something to have missed that. I assume it was in the press?

  68. 68
    punctum on 19 Jul 2013 #

    His lawyers tried to keep it out of the press, but yes, it was made public knowledge some months ago. So you can see that the reason why any SITE/Jarvis/Rolf footage may have been taken down is because of these, um, issues.

  69. 69
    weej on 19 Jul 2013 #

    You can find it here, Cumbrian, or a clip of it at least.

  70. 70
    punctum on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Nope, sorry, if you people are going to go with this, I’m getting well away from here.

  71. 71
    Mark G on 19 Jul 2013 #

    That link is blocked under copyright.

  72. 72
    Mark G on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Actually, I’m fairly sure Jarvis has had the clip blocked himself, for quite some time.

    #73 (ooh, forward in time…) Not the Jarvis “Two Little Boys” one though..

  73. 73
    Tom on 19 Jul 2013 #

    YouTube is bristling with intact Rolf Harris vids.

    Punctum et al – I’m very glad he’s been investigated, as claims like these need to be taken seriously. But as yet – as far as I know – there have been no charges for him, so let’s tread carefully here (& on the 2LB thread).

  74. 74
    Mark G on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Other blocked content type of things..

    There was an advert around christmas time based around “Please please please let me get what I want” for John Lewis. Shortly afterwards, there was an ‘apparently funny’ take-off done where Gordon Ramsay burst in to the scene, advertising his new TV series.

    Anyway, it ran briefly, as they do, but disappeared, and I couldn’t find it. So, I did suggest it was probably Morrissey who objected, but again there was no news on it.

    During the typing of this, I googled it to check who the original ad was for, and I find that Morrissey got £10,000 pay-out earlier this month, and is donating it all to an ant-fois-gras campaign run by PETA.

    So, there you go.

    Back to Huck…

  75. 75
    weej on 19 Jul 2013 #

    The clip isn’t blocked in wherever-my-VPN-is-currently-connected-to. FWIW.

    The Hucknall SIYI clip is as hilarious as billed, good find.

  76. 76
    James BC on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Even if Rolf had been charged I’d still quite like to see Jarvis Cocker doing Jake the Peg. But as you say, he hasn’t.

  77. 77
    Ciaran on 20 Jul 2013 #

    #53 That is kind of witty, if true.

  78. 78
    Patrick Mexico on 20 Jul 2013 #

    Anyway, David Ginola’s turn as Sacha Distel was miles better.

    It was an actual Frenchman impersonating another real Frenchman to make the most (stereotypically) French thing ever. I think he out-Starsteded Peter Starstedt (that was as difficult to type as it is to pronounce in my coarse Lancastrian brogue. Smurk on t’watter anyone?)

  79. 79
    AMZ1981 on 20 Jul 2013 #

    Going back to the case in hand I’ve made the point before that 1995 only had two guitar based number ones (Some Might Say and Country House). However we’ve already seen a pattern of guitar records stopping at number two (Common People, Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, Alright).

    Fairground’s second week at the top starts a curious six week run where the number two position is held by a guitar band. Pulp fly the Britpop flag for two weeks and then the next three runners up are all by what could loosely be termed classic rock artists before arguably the most famous Britpop song of them all comes along.

    From a personal perspective I was fourteen at the time and going through a bit of a hair metal phase; I was sure Def Leppard were going to get to number one when they leapt 7-2 and was gutted when they didn’t.

    By way of an aside one of the stranger records selling that month (it held its peak position of three on Fairground’s last week) was Living Next Door To Alice by Smokie and Roy Chubby Brown.

    Coming up next (apologies if anybody’s already spotted this) we have the first number one by one of the dominant genres of the last twenty years.

  80. 80
    Steve Mannion on 20 Jul 2013 #

    Well observed AMZ re three ancient rock acts stalling at #2, and then you get an even bigger even older act at #2 before the year is out.

    Also in addition to the #2 that occurred during Jacko’s brief reign – N-Trance’s ‘cover’ of ‘Stayin’ Alive’ ft. the late Ricardo Da Force (if nothing else his fourth appearance on a top 2 hit remarkably) – two of the four remaining #2 hits in ’95 were cover versions and after The Original no big club hit that year reached higher than #4 (with no further hits peaking at #3 after The Rembrandts theme from Friends around the same time as ‘Fairground’).

  81. 81
    Tom Lane on 20 Jul 2013 #

    In the U.S. we were spared all the Mick Hucknall tabloid stuff. They only went Top 40 five times, so Simply Red were never a big deal. But it is stunning to think they had more #1’s in the U.S. (2) than they did in England (1). I actually think of him as a very good Blue Eyed Soul singer. So, this song isn’t one of his best, for sure, but I think a good portion of his catalog holds up pretty well. Hucknall yell and all.

  82. 82
    Tom on 20 Jul 2013 #

    #79 not the first! The Guinness Book officially credits “Ice Ice Baby” but “Turtle Power” has a better claim and the first with rapping on is “Candy Girl”. But generally here it’s good form not to discuss number ones until the relevant thread starts ;)

  83. 83
    wichitalineman on 21 Jul 2013 #

    Pre-soul Hucknall, anticipating the La’s by a good few years.


    I love this record, and Peel played it to death in ’81.

    You can see why the Frantic Elevators were on a Liverpool label. I had their spaghetti western/Merseybeat single of Holding Back The Years in ’82 and was surprised and aghast when Simply Red’s version came out. How did this wholemeal soul act know the song, I wondered? having never known who any of the Frantic Elevators were.

    The comparison with Rod Stewart upthread is interesting. I’d say Hucknall has never been charming, whatever his politics and talents, whereas Rod has charm in abundance. Fairground always felt quite joyous, and unshowy to me, something Hucknall hadn’t been since the Frantic Elevators days.

  84. 84
    AMZ1981 on 21 Jul 2013 #

    #82 I was thinking specifically of Gangsta rap but I agree it’s best to wait for the thread.

  85. 85
    wichitalineman on 21 Jul 2013 #

    Enough spoilers!

  86. 86
    speedwell54 on 21 Jul 2013 #

    Mick Hucknall was and still is the go-to loathsome guy. I don’t know how unfair this is. I don’t know him, I don’t read the tabloids. Programmes like ‘Buzzcocks – particularly in the Mark Lemarr era- fostered this scathing attitude to him and many many others. It appears hard to separate the act and the song.

    Cumbrian makes a fair point at 25 about ‘playing the man’. For fear of stating the bleeding obvious, I guess a lot of singles fall into this image/marketing/ promotion stuff and benefit or suffer because of it, either at the time or with revised hindsight .

    Pleased to see a bit of warmth for this. I like it and the things that annoy others don’t annoy me. Video is a bit out of focus though. For me it sneaks into getting a vote at the end of the year, I have it at 6.

    Hardtogethits- a belated well done at 61 on ‘Boom Boom Boom’ but I think there is a great equaliser up thread here!

  87. 87
    Patrick Mexico on 21 Jul 2013 #

    Indeed, back to the #1 in question. A bit uncomfortable with a blue-eyed soul act having a “grunge” dynamic (quiet-LOUD-quiet-With a HUCKNALL YELL, they cried “MARK, MARK, PARK*) but Simply Red – yes, like Blackpool, they have many (understandable) detractors, and make, but they’re popular mainly because they don’t give up when the odds are firmly stacked against them. He was a constant nineties presence in my mum and dads’ car stereo, for such glamorous locales as Hexham** Tesco on a foggy November evening, and I’d say Mick’s like the drunken sage/long-lost uncle type – you definitely wouldn’t want to see him every day but every now and then he can tell a pretty good joke. Deserves a 6.

    * Y’know, the guy from back when Peter Kay was cool.

    ** This town will play a shock role in at least one future TPL entry, but it’s no spoiler – you’d never detect it in the accent, at least.

  88. 88
    Steve Mannion on 21 Jul 2013 #

    I think the Huckster’s 90s nadir was the official Euro 96 song ‘We’re In This Together’ – oh if only England hadn’t qualified.

  89. 89
    Will on 22 Jul 2013 #

    Didn’t mind Fairground, mainly cos of the Goodmen sample I have to say. They fell off commercially after this though, didn’t they? I can’t remember them having another big hit..

  90. 90
    Steve Mannion on 22 Jul 2013 #

    No other hits as the Goodmen although the album ‘Father In The Bathroom’ sounds…intriguing what with titles such as that, the follow up single ‘Damn Woman’, ‘Yokel’ and ‘Hand Wobble’.

    Via further Discogs/Polyhex dot-joining it turns out between them the Goodmen actually had a relative purple patch between 1999 and 2001 rivalling Norman Cook for noms de plume with this lot:

    DJ Manta – Holding On (#47, 1999)
    Jark Prongo – Movin’ Thru Your System (#58, 1999)
    Rhythmkillaz – Wack Ass MF (#32, 2001)
    Chocolate Puma – I Wanna Be U (#6, 2001) + Always And Forever (#43, 2006)
    Riva ft. Dannii Minogue – Who Do You Love Now? (#3, 2001)
    Tomba Vira – The Sound Of Oh Yeah (#51, 2001)

    Only know the mediocre Choc Puma and Riva hits there and I doubt any of the others match up to ‘Give It Up’.

  91. 91
    mintness on 22 Jul 2013 #

    #87, **

    And to think we’ve only just recovered from another Hexham lad of now-dubious accent – but I believe he and his comrade will be back for more…

  92. 92
    AlexN on 22 Jul 2013 #


    Pretty sure Hexham Tesco only opened in 2005, sure you’re not thinking of now-defunct Safeway?

  93. 93
    Alan on 22 Jul 2013 #

    Or maybe it was a Presto – I’ve never really forgiven Ryton’s Presto for turning into a Tesco #stillhurts

  94. 94
    Patrick Mexico on 22 Jul 2013 #


    Meant Safeway, yeah it would definitely be that back in 1995. It was a good year, though 1996 and a return to Lancashire was pretty horrendous for the 11-year-old me who’d only been told he had Asperger’s 18 months before and had no idea how to deal with it, so will be reining in the personal anecdotes for future entries (though 1997, fortunately, was the flipside.)

    Claim to fame: for the year (1995-96) I lived in Northumberland I was in the same class at Corbridge Middle School as Michael Spearman, the drummer from Everything Everything.

  95. 95
    AlexN on 22 Jul 2013 #

    #93 Yeah it was actually a Presto up until about 1989 I think, then a Safeway, and subsequently it became a Morrisons and finally a Waitrose. I’m sure there’s some sort of socio-historical algorithm there, but fuck me if I know what it is.

    #94 I was at St Joseph’s in Hexham in ’95-’96 and also remember it as a pretty good year.

  96. 96

    Datapoint: the first Safeway to open in the UK was in Shrewsbury. Don’t think it’s a supermarket at all now: a whole bunch of all-fields-round-here were developed into retail-park peripherique in the 90s. (Causing the pedestrians-only model of town-centre shopping to collapse entirely — the main malls are currently morgues…)

  97. 97
    D.C. Harrison on 22 Jul 2013 #

    Re 87 – If only New Order had used Peter Beardsley’s version of the rap at the end of World in Motion (he was one of only five of the squad who turned up to the recording, I think), we’d have had a Hexham-related entry on Popular! Lovely guy, I’m told.

    Re 88 – I’m afraid we would have had to suffer that “anthem” even if Graham Taylor had still been in charge. As:

    a) It was the official song of the whole tournament, not just the England team.


    b) As hosts, England would have qualified no matter how inept they might have been in qualifying. Somewhere, Steve McClaren sighs sadly.

  98. 98
    Ed on 23 Jul 2013 #

    @96 Although apparently in America online retailing is in turn killing off the out of town malls, which are themselves becoming Ballardian mausoleums for late 20th Century capitalism.

  99. 99
    Izzy on 23 Jul 2013 #

    If shopping really is dying, where is the public space? I don’t believe people can or should get by without some degree of random social interaction, so what do they do? Shopping has been it for some considerable time, and in the days before shopping urban life looked different – more compact and less vehicle-based. I am uneasy about the social implications of what you describe.

  100. 100
    Rory on 23 Jul 2013 #

    @99 Gigs, concerts, festivals, theatre, cinema, galleries, museums, tours, parks, rallies, marches, matches, schools, universities, public transport…

  101. 101
    Izzy on 23 Jul 2013 #

    And fairgrounds. I don’t know though, those aren’t and can’t be everyday activities for the bulk of the populace; and I’m thinking specifically of America, whose cities are by and large aiui not built for walking around.

  102. 102
    Ed on 23 Jul 2013 #

    @100 All of which sound more worthwhile than shopping malls.

    On this song, it’s the one that fools me every time it comes on the radio. I hear the verse, and I think “This is pretty cool. I wonder who it is?” And then Mick goes “And I LOVE the thought…” And I think “Oh yes. That’s who it is.”

    The pedestrian chorus is not quite lead-footed enough to obliterate the subtle charm of the verses, though. I was fascinated to learn @42 about the Simply Red / Durutti Column crossover, and it made me think about what a proper collaboration would have sounded like.

    Maybe a bit like the fantastic Lewis Taylor, who would have been working on his marvelous, criminally under-bought first album at around the time Fairground was a hit. And maybe a bit like the verses here.

  103. 103
    Ed on 23 Jul 2013 #

    Would have been a 7 from me, but loses a point for the dismal video, especially the entirely unmerited hands in the air at 1′ 16″:


    And finally, Taking Sides: Simply Red vs Wet Wet Wet.

    Both 80s hipster soul with a political edge turned into multi-platinum megastars, while not completely abandoning their earlier ideological positions. Both with frontmen generally agreed to be pestilential. But which is better? There’s only one way to settle it.

  104. 104
    Rory on 23 Jul 2013 #

    @101 Whaddayamean, I have to go to the mall every day? Please don’t make me, officer.

    I don’t know whether dying malls means the death of physical retail, but in any case is shopping the best avenue for “random social interaction”, except on the most superficial “That’ll be 9.99” “Here you go” level? Something like chatting with other parents while waiting for my son at school feels more significant. How about bars and clubs and pubs? Evening classes? Fan conventions? Theme parks? Monster truck rallies? Church?

  105. 106
    thefatgit on 23 Jul 2013 #

    #103 Or an amalgamation of both:

    With his long flowing, curly/straight auburn/jet black hair. A supermodel on one arm and a needle in the other…


  106. 107
    Izzy on 23 Jul 2013 #

    Marti’s a famously nice guy, ‘pestilential’ seems a tad harsh

  107. 108

    Re Shrewsbury: town centre and the retail park still all seem busy enough, it’s currently just the three main malls that are empyy dead. They were originally set up for small local trade and bijou custom though, in grim fake half-timber hobbit holes burrowed deep into the cliff face of the central hill: they were gloomy and oppressive even when business was rockin (Shrewsbury town centre has a tricky underlying geography). The big chains are all clearly doing well enough, for now.

  108. 109
    James BC on 23 Jul 2013 #

    I think town centres will eventually have showrooms, run by big clothes/book/gadget/household item makers so that people can see their products without necessarily buying them there and then. The Apple shop could be a precursor – Apple don’t care whether you buy instore or online because they get the money either way, but there are benefits to having a high street presence.

  109. 110
    Ed on 23 Jul 2013 #

    @105 Great pics! You can see why the zombie apocalypse looms so large in US culture these days.

    The latest evidence seems to show that in the US in the past couple of years people have been moving out of the suburbs and countryside, and into the cities:


    @107 “Pestiliential” not meant to be a character judgment; just a description of a widely-held view. You say Pellow appears to be a nice guy IRL. Isn’t Hucknall?

  110. 111
    Tom on 23 Jul 2013 #

    #104 There was a spate of articles a few years ago, or so it seemed to me, on supermarket hook-ups, how to meet eligible bachelors over the frozen peas, etc. with the ‘why now?’ hook being extended opening hours.

    I am not suggesting the Popular Comments Crew would be able to confirm or deny this social trend, of course.

  111. 112
    Izzy on 23 Jul 2013 #

    I don’t know either of them, though Pellow certainly appears extremely charming whenever he’s on breakfast telly. But I’ve many times seen others describe him as the nicest man in pop, whereas I’ve never once heard that about Mick.

  112. 113
    Rory on 23 Jul 2013 #

    @111 Our new Sunday closing time: was Before Sunset, now Before Midnight!

  113. 114
    mapman132 on 23 Jul 2013 #

    Never thought I’d be posting this on this board: http://www.deadmalls.com

    Especially of note was the Dixie Square Mall in suburban Chicago: opened 1966, closed 1978, used in the Blues Brothers movie 1979, abandoned for good 1980, visited by yours truly 2004, finally demolished 2012.

  114. 115
    thefatgit on 23 Jul 2013 #

    The Waitresses invented supermarket hook-ups, didn’t they?

  115. 116

    Pretty sure (gay) supermarket hook-ups feature quite early on in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City — which was being serialised from 1974. (It’s a good 20 years since I read them, mind you.)

  116. 117
    Chelovek na lune on 23 Jul 2013 #

    I remember Sainsburys in the (original, non-phone company-related – it was still BT Cellnet then) 02 centre on Finchley Road in Hampstead encouraging single shoppers to “flirt in the aisles” on certain evenings by handing out devices that would bleep when you walked past someone of the opposite sex also carrying said device.

    In Hampstead! I ask you…

    This would have been the very late 90s , so somewhat post-Waitresses

  117. 119
    Izzy on 24 Jul 2013 #

    All those malls seem very sad places, but above all very small places. I had had in mind behemoths like Trafford Centre or Bluewater, not that I’ve been to either, rather than those poky rat holes. I guess we have those little centres here too, but I’ve never really thought of them as malls. Humanity doesn’t seem likely to be significantly poorer for their absence.

    I’m not a mall connoisseur as such, my only regular exposure is to the fairly large ones that serve as town centres in a particular kind of UK town. I do enjoy those trips, particularly where the mall has expanded over the years, such that one can see different eras in mall design side-by-side. They seem to break down thusly:

    • 70s low and wide, smoked glass, fairly pleasant and cool environment
    • 80s low and tight, shiny tiles, somewhat claustrophobic
    • 90s narrow and high, a lot of white latticework, rather characterless
    • 00s irregular angles, long sightlines, darker decor
    • 10s not many of those about for obvious reasons, but I’ve seen one or two with large open communal spaces, high ceilings, and more natural textures; they are quite pleasant to be in

    If you could find a town which boomed in the 70s then had a long slump before reviving hard in the last decade, it might boast a mall capable of bucking this sad trend. It would run rather counter to macroeconomic logic though.

  118. 120
    Kinitawowi on 25 Jul 2013 #

    #109: I work in The Land Of The Purple Shirts, whose high street presence basically has just descended into online showroom level. Except we’re a reseller not a maker, so I’d give it three years before we go the way of the rivals. Serves the managers right for thinking “ooh, we’re the last men standing, we’re awesome” rather than “oh shit, how long have we got left?”.

  119. 121
    Kylie on 26 Jul 2013 #

    I just wanted to say that my early childhood was plagued by my mother playing a Simply Red album constantly at home, it might’ve been “A New Flame” because I remember that nasty cover of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” *shudders*

  120. 122
    Rory on 26 Jul 2013 #

    @121 That was Australia’s only Simply Red number one single, for three weeks in 1989.

  121. 123
    Graham on 27 Jul 2013 #

    Great comparison with Mumford and Sons, and spot on about the cheapness of the chorus.

  122. 124
    DanH on 1 Jun 2014 #

    I had a P.E. teacher from Europe who made us exercise to Red’s “Stars” and “Something Got Me Started,” and I heard “Stars” a lot in retail, so I guess both were U.S. A/C hits. Said teacher also would play curious non-American hits like the Maisonettes’ “Heartache Avenue” and Blue Zoo’s “Cry Boy Cry.” When I clicked on both songs many years later, not knowing what they were, both triggered an ‘ohhhhh THAT song!’ revelation…especially the former, which I regard as one of the most cracking pop songs ever, but that’s another discussion….

  123. 125
    hectorthebat on 22 Apr 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Theater van het Sentiment, Radio 2 (NL) – Top 40 Songs by Year 1969-2000 (2013) 17
    Porcys (Poland) – The Best Songs of the 1990s (2013) 69

  124. 126
    Mostro on 23 Apr 2015 #

    I was never a huge Simply Red fan, but at the time this at least seemed like a slight novelty, with its 90s club feel and percussion a departure from their previous work. Listening to it again, that novelty is gone and it’s even less impressive.

    What struck me about the verses- aside from how meandering and pointless they are- is the incredibly flat and dulled down voice they’re sung in. It sounds like a passably competent but inexperienced singer trying to do “low key” under the impression that this consists of singing in a relatively quiet voice and too deliberately trying to suppress anything that smacked of making an effort.

    Pretty sure Hucknall knows his singing at least, but it’s not coming across there.

    And then I remembered what Tom had said and wondered if this was a deliberate attempt to increase contrast with the chorus, which is of course introduced by the “Hucknall Yell”…?

    If so, it doesn’t really work. It reminds me of the Queen song “Mustapha”, which opens their “Jazz” album; much of it is in slightly underproduced mono, but bursts into full widescreen stereo when it hits the chorus. Sounds like a nice trick- and it does work to some extent- but it also means that half the song comes across as very flat, especially when it returns to mono. That’s sort of what happens with “Fairground”.

  125. 127
    Kelly O'Neill on 17 Apr 2021 #

    I actually think I like this more now than when it first came out, however 6/10 for me, and I feel that’s generous.

  126. 128
    Gareth Parker on 2 May 2021 #

    I think this ambles along pleasantly, not too much to get excited about. 6/10 would be my mark.

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