Popular

19
Jul 09

Popular ’83

FT + Popular/37 comments • 2,217 views

Every Popular entry has a mark out of 10 – here’s where you get to choose which you’d have given 6 or above to (and make any general comments on the year in the comments boxes, of course). The highest 1983 mark I gave was 9, for Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” (pre-death!). The lowest I gave was 3 apiece for UB40 and Rod Stewart.

Which Of These Number One Singles Of 1983 Would You Have Given 6 Or More To?

View Results

Poll closes: No Expiry

Loading ... Loading ...

18
Jul 09

THE FLYING PICKETS – “Only You”

FT + Popular46 comments • 6,376 views

#529, 10th December 1983, video

Aged ten I didn’t have much time for the wounded, crafted dignity of the Flying Pickets. I probably wouldn’t have had time for Yazoo either, if I’d even remembered them. “Only You” was distilled adulthood, and not the kind of adulthood you aspired to, the kind you couldn’t put a name to.

13
Jul 09

BILLY JOEL – “Uptown Girl”

FT + Popular74 comments • 4,717 views

#528, 5th November 1983, video

Billy Joel pays tribute to the music of his childhood, and so inevitably there’s something childish about “Uptown Girl”: its instant singability makes it sound like a Grease outtake, except there was more sex and chemistry in Grease’s flirtatious goofery. The street music – doo-wop and rock’n’roll – that “Uptown Girl” draws energy from was able to speak so powerfully to sexual and social codes partly because the act of addressing those codes head-on was itself a breach of them. There’s nothing at stake in “Uptown Girl” – how could there be? Rock and roll moved uptown long ago.

8
Jul 09

CULTURE CLUB – “Karma Chameleon”

FT + Popular63 comments • 7,382 views

#527, 24th September 1983, video

How to sell a contradiction: “Karma Chameleon” is a song about frustration and confusion that consciously transforms itself into colourful frippery, and by doing this it gets its hooks into you even deeper. And such hooks! Though true to the song the very best ones dance around the tune’s edges – those little harmonica licks in the chorus, for instance, or the gorgeous middle eight: “Every day is like survival / You’re my lover and I’m my rival.”

6
Jul 09

UB40 – “Red Red Wine”

FT + Popular65 comments • 6,311 views

#526, 3rd September 1983, video

UB40, I was aware, made reggae. Therefore reggae sounded like what UB40 made. I can’t have been the only one who made this logical mis-step, and I expect I wasn’t the only one who spent a decade-plus assuming they disliked reggae because of it.

For many people, of course, UB40 will have served as the gateway into reggae: that was the aim of Labour Of Love, after all, one of the best-intentioned smash hit albums of its era. Good intentions don’t always make for good music: so deadening is “Red Red Wine” in its UB40 form that I’ve never had a twitch of motivation even to go back and see what they polished up.

4
Jul 09

New Shiny Thing Syndrome

FT + Popular3 comments • 789 views

I have built a Facebook Page for Popular. I will freely admit that I have not much idea of what I will USE it for: I’m thinking links to the entries, alerts to particularly interesting discussions developing on older entries, and any other material I happen to find of interest to fans of #1 hits. A use case will either evolve or not, I imagine. But anyhow there it is and you can now become a “fan”.

3
Jul 09

KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND – “Give It Up”

FT + Popular33 comments • 2,810 views

#525, 13th August 1983

At first listen – and honestly at tenth listen – “Give It Up” seems like another disco carriage clock hit: thanks for all the hard work boys, now have a number one. On the other hand, if you want a splashy summer hit you could do far worse – this is a little rigid and lacking in bottom end perhaps, but full of bright carnival touches. It’s a marvellously airy record – good (as I’ve discovered this week) for clearing the head on a muggy day. The production aesthetic is “salad of all the trebles” – buzzy synths, high rhythm guitar, falsetto and brass all hustling for prominence. KC himself isn’t the intense central presence he was on “Please Don’t Go” – he’s upstaged by the backing singers, whose “Nana-nana-nanananananaNOW!” is the song’s most delightful (and enduring) element.

29
Jun 09

PAUL YOUNG – “Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)”

FT + Popular52 comments • 4,988 views

#524, 23rd July 1983, video

In the mid-90s I worked in the Music And Video Exchange chain in Notting Hill Gate. Paul Young’s No Parlez holds a special place in my affections from those years – not because we ever knowingly played it, but because it was the undisputed number one landfill vinyl “penny each for these, mate” champ. Browsing the 20p albums down in that malodorous Pembridge Road basement, it seemed like every fourth flick would bring you face to face with Paul’s teased-up hair, quizzical expression and sweaty leather suit.

24
Jun 09

ROD STEWART – “Baby Jane”

FT + Popular41 comments • 2,837 views

#523, 2nd July 1983, video

A blowsy wreck of a single, this, keys and sax and guitar and Rod all fighting for the same earspace over an aggressively chuntering rhythm. What you really notice is how one-note and shot Stewart sounds – his great strength as a vocalist, that way he could lead you into a story, completely gone. Though even if he did still have the power to turn “Baby Jane” into something that might intrigue you, that clunking chorus would kill the momentum anyway.

22
Jun 09

THE POLICE – “Every Breath You Take”

FT + Popular47 comments • 3,835 views

#522, 4th June 1983, video

I guess the mid-paced slog of a rhythm which dominates “Every Breath You Take” is meant to suggest its narrator’s implacability – the unresting patience of a stalker. Rock is a generally lively medium though and it takes some craft to build a “classic song” out of stony resolution, so credit to Sting and crew for that much at least. It must have been quickly obvious that “Every Breath” was going to be with us for a lifetime, a grey new fixture in the hall of fame.