Feb 09


FT + Popular34 comments • 2,443 views

#493, 30th January 1982

Shaky’s first two number ones left us with an open question: was he attracted to rock’n’roll because of the wit and invention in songs like “Green Door”, or was he simply a hard-working stylist with decent taste in material? The shrill “Oh Julie” quickly resolves the issue: it’s written by Shaky himself, and is an excellent case study in why doing your own songs is not always a good idea. Julie/truly, baby/maybe, leave/believe – he clunks his way artlessly through the Ladybird Book Of Rhymes and the song’s one-trick melody certainly can’t save it. Nor does the Elvis imitation: it’s a source of relief when he shuts up and gets on with doing the Shaky shuffle. Short as it thankfully is, “Oh Julie” still manages to be one of the most boring number ones going: a painfully perfunctory exercise in the deliberately generic.

Feb 09

BUCKS FIZZ – “The Land Of Make Believe”

FT + Popular76 comments • 5,152 views

#492, 16th January 1982

If “The Land Of Make Believe” is – as lyricist Pete Sinfield later claimed – a song about Thatcherism, then he has to be congratulated on one of pop’s more thorough veiling jobs. Thing is, the song doesn’t need added significance to be a striking and successful lyric: “Something / Nasty in your garden’s / Waiting / Patiently till it can have your heart” – strong stuff, especially sung in Bucks Fizz’s blandly chipper tones.

Feb 09

Popular ’81

FT + Popular/78 comments • 3,295 views

I give every song on Popular a mark out of 10 – these polls are your chance to nominate which YOU would have given 6 or more to. Pick as many as you feel qualify! My highest mark this year went to “Ghost Town”, my lowest to “Woman”.

Which of these Number Ones of 1981 would YOU have given 6 or more to?

View Results

Poll closes: No Expiry

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And by all means leave comments on the year in general!

Feb 09

THE HUMAN LEAGUE – “Don’t You Want Me”

FT + Popular109 comments • 5,846 views

#491, 12th December 1981

It’s almost a shame that after three years making records concerning sericulture, medieval time-slips, singles-as-singularities, assassinations, Judge Dredd, Dr Who and whatever the hell “Crow And A Baby” was about, the Human League get to #1 with a straightforward song of embittered romance. They maybe felt the same: “Don’t You Want Me” was the fourth single off Dare, released at the insistence of the label. Who of course were quite right.

Feb 09

JULIO IGLESIAS – “Begin The Beguine”

FT + Popular30 comments • 3,318 views

#490, 5th December 1981

It seems to me there’s no such thing as a bad motive for buying music. The exact same impulse – to brighten up a drizzly British autumn with the sounds you met on your summer holidays – has been responsible for both the most fearsome novelty hits and the most transformative movement in British youth culture this side of the 60s. Julio Iglesias’ reading of “Begin The Beguine” sits somewhere between these two outcomes.

Feb 09

QUEEN AND DAVID BOWIE – “Under Pressure”

FT + Popular86 comments • 1 views

#489, 21st November 1981

Here’s a type of record which really came into its own in the 80s: rock or pop songs which were terrifically likeable despite having little or no emotional grip. “Under Pressure” is a good example of this because there’s a colossal gap between what the song is notionally about – “People on streets”, as the working title had it – and the actual sensation of listening to it. The video – a badly-synched montage of collapse, depression and hardship – adds to the disconnect. “Under Pressure” simply has nothing whatsoever to do with its purported subject: all you really need to know is in the artist credit, not the title. This is a tag-team bout between two of Britain’s stagiest acts, who go for broke in an attempt to outdo one another. Who wins? (Aside from us.)

Feb 09

Bunny Through The Looking Glass

FT + Popular21 comments • 953 views

Popular is on a brief hiatus while I play in the snow.

But here’s something to have fun with in the meantime (if you live in the UK, and are on Spotify!)

Bunny Through The Looking Glass is a collaborative playlist in which you can upload cover versions and remixes of No.1 hits. There are only two rules:

1. Only versions of songs that I’ve already written about on Popular. (I’ll delete later ones)
2. As far as possible try to move them to the right chronological bit of the playlist.

That’s all! Have fun with it!

Jan 09

THE POLICE – “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”

FT + Popular37 comments • 2,336 views

#488, 14th November 1981

Gratifyingly throwaway by the increasingly intense standards of The Police, “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” is the band at their most blithely enjoyable. A lot of that’s down to the arrangement – steelband percussion, Jean Roussel’s delightfully rolling piano, and the uplifting synthesiser chords coming out of the middle eight and colouring the fade out. The whole thing has an off-kilter charm to it slightly reminiscent of XTC, though more straightforward than anything that band did (which is why this is as close as we’ll come to discussing XTC on Popular!). The only downside is – yet again – Sting’s singing, a closed-in growl in the middle of all this splashy colour.

Jan 09


FT + Popular70 comments • 3,858 views

#487, 17th October 1981

If the Number Ones of 1981 had been scripted, this is where the editors would have stepped in. “Sorry, darling, you’ve gone too far. War Canoe? Great twist. The leather boys doing that old soul tune – brilliant stuff, really edgy. But two prog refugees with an experimental version of a girl group era classic? Nobody will believe it! You’ll lose our credibility. One of them used to be in Gong, for pity’s sake!”

Jan 09

ADAM AND THE ANTS – “Prince Charming”

FT + Popular73 comments • 5,620 views

#486, 19th September 1981

“Prince Charming” is the ultimate Adam Ant record, but also weirdly redundant. It’s his manifesto – a series of commandments building up to a credo that’s come to envelop Adam’s whole era: ridicule is nothing to be scared of. But almost every one of Adam’s hit singles had worked like this: the man was a walking manifesto, in slogans and looks and actions and sheer presence. There’s something too harsh, too stark about “Prince Charming”, this undiluted concentrate of Ant-iness.