Popular

16
Mar 09

PAUL MCCARTNEY AND STEVIE WONDER – “Ebony And Ivory”

FT + Popular51 comments • 3,844 views

#499, 24th April 1982

An awful suspicion lingers that Paul McCartney wouldn’t have tried something like this if it hadn’t been for “Imagine” doing so well the year before. Some partnerships and rivalries create reflexes that run way deeper than conscious decision can account for, and anyhow Lennon was – naturally – on the man’s mind as he put the Tug Of War material together. A piano ballad whose simple truth can bring the world together as one? What could possibly go wrong?

13
Mar 09

BUCKS FIZZ – “My Camera Never Lies”

FT + Popular33 comments • 2,106 views

#498, 17th April 1982

“The Land Of Make Believe” was a good song made mysterious by its muffled production; “My Camera Never Lies” is an ordinary song with an arrangement that bristles and shines like a Swiss Army Knife. Unusually, it’s a record almost entirely carried by its backing vocals – all that jittery “ma-ca-muh-ruh-ruh” stuff which gradually takes over the whole track (to be replaced with more conventional harmonies, and children’s voices considerably creepier than the one at the end of “Make Believe”).

The result is jumpy, slightly desperate, annoying in repeated doses, but surprisingly effective. It’s like Bucks Fizz, aware their fame is running out, are trying to cram all of new wave and new pop into a single supercompressed hybrid, halfway between Devo and Dollar.

11
Mar 09

GOOMBAY DANCE BAND – “Seven Tears”

FT + Popular39 comments • 3,456 views

#497, 27th March 1982

“Seven Tears” is a platonic ideal of rubbish European pop: if it came out today you could half believe it was some kind of plot by the UK Independence Party. In its three and a bit minutes the poor man’s Boney M hit an impressive number of touchpoints:

9
Mar 09

TIGHT FIT – “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

FT + Popular64 comments • 5,473 views

#496, 6th March 1982

All you need to know about this record – and its relationship to the Tokens’ hit arrangement it’s based on – is on the sleeve. The Tokens’ single comes wrapped in a funny, almost suggestive picture of a girl and a stuffed lion, and its hints toward exotica are playful and gleeful. This lion sleeping tonight could be a sly metaphor, or just a bit of nonsense, the song a liberation tune or a nursery rhyme – and this nebula of possible meaning helps give the song an uncatchable, enchanting quality.

6
Mar 09

THE JAM – “A Town Called Malice”/”Precious”

FT + Popular56 comments • 4,522 views

#495, 13th February 1982

Almost everyone agrees that 60s Motown is good, but Motown-esque records are far from a stylistic sure thing. This is only partly because most bands don’t have the Funk Brothers as a rhythm section: despite the directness of their formula, Motown songs often come at you obliquely. They cover a hefty emotional punch in gloves of charm, sweetness, melodic nuance or wit. The elemental force of the mighty mid-60s Four Tops hits was so effective because it was an exception, a glimpse of the storm beneath the skin.

17
Feb 09

KRAFTWERK – “The Model”/”Computer Love”

FT + Popular67 comments • 5,069 views

#494, 6th February 1982

Cometh the hour, cometh the robots: there is no other moment in pop history when Kraftwerk could have got to number one here – and were it not for those meddling DJs, they wouldn’t have. It still feels slightly odd and unlikely to be writing about them – it’s like Noel Edmonds deciding to champion “Jesus” and giving the Velvet Underground a chart-topper.

Not that “The Model” isn’t an obvious hit: it’s never been my favourite Kraftwerk tune, but as those DJs realised its translated awkwardness gives it commercial legs as a novelty record. That isn’t to say I don’t like it: all Kraftwerk’s immense virtues are here too.

13
Feb 09

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – “Oh Julie”

FT + Popular34 comments • 2,456 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.

11
Feb 09

BUCKS FIZZ – “The Land Of Make Believe”

FT + Popular76 comments • 5,198 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.

10
Feb 09

Popular ’81

FT + Popular/78 comments • 3,307 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

Loading ... Loading ...

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

9
Feb 09

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

FT + Popular109 comments • 5,878 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.