Popular

13
Oct 08

Popular ’79

FT + Popular/289 comments • 8,984 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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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 • 6,673 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 • 3,427 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 • 4,666 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 • 4,188 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.

1
Oct 08

BUGGLES – “Video Killed The Radio Star”

FT + Popular110 comments • 4,447 views

#444, 29th October 1979

A self-fulfilling prophecy: Buggles’ MTV-launching promo clip for “Video Killed The Radio Star” is as extraordinary is it had to be. Had to be not because of that particular historical coincidence, but because if they’d got it wrong they’d have turned the track into the novelty it almost sounds like. Instead the film – unlike a lot of music videos – enhances the song, stays true to its contradictions and tensions, threats and regrets. So, for once but I hope aptly, this is a review of a video not so much a record.

29
Sep 08

THE POLICE – “Message In A Bottle”

FT + Popular85 comments • 3,307 views

#443, 29th September 1979

The number ones of 1979 look from one angle like a beauty parade – a line-up of ambitious talents sniffing a chance at genuine, lasting superstardom. Whether punk rock had actually cleared any decks, or whether disco had changed the market, or whether simply the enormous surges in singles sales led smart operators to look again at the medium’s potential for making names, there’s a feeling in the air of a brass ring up for grabs – for the first time maybe since Bowie and Elton’s early-decade breakthroughs.

26
Sep 08

GARY NUMAN – “Cars”

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#442, 22nd September 1979

“Here in my car I feel safest of all” – this is what marketers, bless us, refer to as a ‘consumer insight’ – one of the unspoken reasons people buy what they buy, do what they do, crystallised in a one-liner that seems obvious as soon as you’ve heard it. It’s no wonder this track enjoyed such a prosperous second life via advertising: the message is barely even subliminal. Okay, Numan is going out of his way to sound chilly about the prospect of Cartopia, but the gleeful clunk-click of the synths gives him away: compared to the messy, shabby confusion “Are ‘Friends’ Electric” left him in, “Cars” is pure liberation.

24
Sep 08

CLIFF RICHARD – “We Don’t Talk Anymore”

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#441, 25th August 1979

The strictures of the Popular project give Cliff’s career a sort of cometary aspect: he shows up around the end of a decade just to check on how British pop is doing. But of course he rarely stopped having hits – look at the Everyhit stats and his late 70s comeback doesn’t seem like a revival so much as a realignment, helping an established hitmaker get his bearings back at a time of unusual turbulence in the pop market.

23
Sep 08

THE BOOMTOWN RATS – “I Don’t Like Mondays”

FT + Popular67 comments • 3,854 views

#440, 28th July 1979

So, you’ve got a theatrical #1 record about teen alienation under your belt – how do you follow that? Why, more histrionics, greater alienation, and – the trump card – this time it’s all true! This wouldn’t be the last time Bob Geldof’s gut reaction to a news story made a mark on pop, but there’s no good cause associated with “I Don’t Like Mondays” and no good comes of it.