Popular

27
Oct 08

FERN KINNEY – “Together We Are Beautiful”

FT + Popular50 comments • 4,086 views

#453, 15th March 1980

After “Atomic”, this is something of a let-down: a record about modesty that succeeds, modestly. I’m fond of “Together”, actually: there’s something refreshing about the candour of “I’ve been with better looking guys / You’ve been with prettier looking women”, and I like its rather tidy, bubbly take on disco. It’s a song that sets out to be sweet, and despite a somewhat cloying chorus it gets there. But ‘sweet’, in the middle of a landmark era for pop, isn’t really enough.

23
Oct 08

BLONDIE – “Atomic”

FT + Popular74 comments • 4,891 views

#452, 1st March 1980

At some point in the early 1980s – after this, but not long after – I realised we were all going to die, rather horribly and rather soon. I acquired the conviction before I picked up the geopolitical knowledge to put names to it – Reagan, Afghanistan, Cruise. Maybe I picked up the information at school, or watched the wrong five minutes of the news. Once I became aware of the imminent nuclear doomsday, I avoided fresh information on it, but when some did break through my filter it was like overproof liquor for the imagination. How bad would it be? Infinitely. How would we know the hour of its coming? You wouldn’t. What on Earth would you do when they dropped the bomb?

21
Oct 08

KENNY ROGERS – “Coward Of The County”

FT + Popular65 comments • 3,773 views

#451, 16th February 1980

There’s a term in comics criticism, “Women in Refrigerators Syndrome”. It’s applied when the murder, rape, torture or otherwise abuse of a female supporting character provides the impetus for a male hero’s character development. This being superhero comics, “character development” and “whuppin’ the villain’s ass” are generally synonymous. “Coward Of The County” is women-in-refrigerator pop: the hero may have the best of motivations for being yellow, but yellow is what he is, until his girlfriend is gang-raped and he discovers his inner man.

20
Oct 08

THE SPECIALS – The Special AKA Live! (EP)

FT + Popular69 comments • 3,879 views

#450, 2nd February 1980

The Specials are a nexus point in British pop, and it’s easy to see why they were so important to so many. They pick up on the thread of Britain’s love for Jamaican dance music and the skinhead culture of the early 70s. They’re another incarnation of Britpop’s Hamburg Ideal – bright, straight-talking lads honing their pop to an awesome no-bullshit sharpness. Their working model of collective, cross-racial collaboration has been an indirect blueprint for almost every mutation in the UK’s urban music scenes since. And by giving that concept a label – Two Tone – and tying their creativity so closely to the ferment of British street politics, the band moved from blueprint to inspiration. Like all bands, they were a roil of individual egos; like many, they fell apart too soon, but it would be tough to argue that the Specials were anything other than a Good Thing.

17
Oct 08

THE PRETENDERS – “Brass In Pocket”

FT + Popular70 comments • 3,777 views

#449, 19th January 1980

I had a pub conversation once about Radiohead’s “Creep”, where we decided the ideal cover would be one grounded in full-on swagger, simply inverting every “I” and “You” in the song: “I’m so fucking special – you wish you were special…you’re a creep!”. “Brass In Pocket” isn’t quite what we were getting at – there’s no sense that Chrissie Hynde’s target is any weaker than her, even if his capitulation is inevitable – but as an exercise in total confidence it takes some beating. The danger in the song is that its determination could shade into desperation, but when you listen to it you never once doubt that Hynde’s got the moves to back up her words: if anything, the song’s a challenge to her lover-to-be to step up and match her.

13
Oct 08

Popular ’79

FT + Popular/321 comments • 9,691 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.

10
Oct 08

PINK FLOYD – “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)”

FT + Popular72 comments • 6,751 views

#448, 15th December 1979

The 1970s ends with one of its most explicitly anti-establishment hits – Roger Waters’ direct frontal attack on the school system. Education is thought control, the flower of youthful creativity ruthlessly crushed by frustrated men grinding kids through their sausage machine. If we don’t watch out this will end up in a fascist state where we’re all ruled by robot hammers. Grinding conformity is represented by the dark pulse of a disco bassline, which wells into the unfettered individuality of a big old Dave Gilmour guitar solo – hurrah!

8
Oct 08

THE POLICE – “Walking On The Moon”

FT + Popular67 comments • 3,471 views

#447, 8th December 1979

“Walking On The Moon” has two strong, distinct and positive associations for me. It’s one of the first videos I can remember, and I was beyond impressed that The Police were standing around playing in front of an actual spaceship. Having no idea what dub reggae, or indeed any reggae, might be, I associated the record’s strange lope with the bouncy effects of moonwalking, which I knew from Herge’s Explorers On The Moon were quite dramatic. Of course I’m pretty sure this was Sting’s intention – at least on the chorus which has a certain sproing to it.

7
Oct 08

DR HOOK – “When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman”

FT + Popular38 comments • 4,700 views

#446, 17th November 1979

The song may be a standard of sorts, but Dr Hook were one of the acts I came to Popular with very little idea about – kind of bluesy? Rootsy? Definitely rockers – the name summoned vague associations of bike grease and whisky… but then I remembered. I was getting them confused with Dr Feelgood. Of course! How silly of me – I should have known that the smoothies behind “…Beautiful Woman” weren’t some kind of gnarly bar band outfit!

And then I saw the video. Oh well.

2
Oct 08

LENA MARTELL – “One Day At A Time”

FT + Popular72 comments • 4,217 views

#445, 27th October 1979

Like so many of 1979′s chart-toppers, Lena Martell was a new face: but this time trailing no stylistic or cultural shift. In fact “One Day At A Time” is one of those occasional Ronseal hits you got back when the buying base for singles used to be huge – a plain sentiment, quite plainly expressed. If it struck something true in you, you might buy it; otherwise just hunker down and wait for it to pass. Relatively unbowed by life’s trials, and with no great interest in Jesus, I’m in the second camp. In fact after a year so stuffed with delights – or at least interesting failures – this sticks in the craw, feeling like a refugee from grimmer times: it would have fitted into the more erratic, unlucky-dip lists of the mid-70s.