Popular

23
Sep 08

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

FT + Popular67 comments • 3,810 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.

22
Sep 08

TUBEWAY ARMY – “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?”

FT + Popular108 comments • 290 views

#439, 30th June 1979

“I don’t think I mean anything to you.”: it’s a sulky break-up song in android drag. But what drag! There’s a muscley, unpleasantly compelling crunch to the synthesisers on “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” – the song is built on awkward, thrilling mechanical lurches rather than Kraftwerkian glide or Moroderish thrust. It’s futuristic, but this future setting is audibly shabby, an exhausting and dispiriting time to live: you suspect it rains a lot there. Numan himself shifts from distanced scene-setter to hurt suburban boy – the everyday whine of his voice cutting through the future he’s trying to establish, its baffled pique reminding you what these robot worlds get built to cover up.

18
Sep 08

ANITA WARD – “Ring My Bell”

FT + Popular84 comments • 3,812 views

#438, 16th June 1979

“Ring My Bell” is a disco masterclass in how to use the treble – the bell itself (sounds like it’s off a bicycle!), the laserbeam bleeps, Anita Ward’s impishly breathy voice, and the skritch-skratch guitar in the middle of the stereo pan, halfway between a mouse and a typewriter.

15
Sep 08

BLONDIE – “Sunday Girl”

FT + Popular42 comments • 1,955 views

#437, 26th May 1979

I prefer Blondie when they’re poking their noses where they didn’t seem to belong, applying their touch of devastating cool to disco or rap or reggae and getting clean away with it. “Sunday Girl”, delightfully frilly though it is, doesn’t floor me in the same way. In a way its weirdly reminiscent of the Grease singles, a pastiche of something I can’t quite put my finger one – except this doesn’t come alive for me until the last twenty seconds or so, when Debbie Harry suddenly gets some snarl in her voice and the handclaps and guitars start to surge… and then it’s over. Pretty, thoroughly pleasant, beautifully crafted, but too pert to excite.

12
Sep 08

ART GARFUNKEL – “Bright Eyes”

FT + Popular76 comments • 3,612 views

#436, 14th April 1979


Who wrote “Bright Eyes”, and why they wrote it, I don’t care. I know, but I don’t care. You can talk about all that stuff Because all “Bright Eyes” means for me is this:

10
Sep 08

GLORIA GAYNOR – “I Will Survive”

FT + Popular29 comments • 3,074 views

#435, 17th March 1979

It’s not unusual for songs to become cultural fixtures, but it’s a little rarer for their emotional use to be so generally prescribed: “I Will Survive” is so ensconced as the go-to cry of defiance for the jilted girl that it feels more ubiquitous than it actually is. I can’t remember the last time I heard “I Will Survive” on the radio, or at karaoke, and it’s almost impossible to imagine it ever being used seriously on TV or in a film now. But none of that lessens its familiarity.

8
Sep 08

THE BEE GEES – “Tragedy”

FT + Popular45 comments • 4,407 views

#434, 3rd March 1979

The Bee Gees at this point were surely the world’s biggest act: “Tragedy” sounds it, absurd explosion noises and all. It’s a disco epic to file alongside tracks like the Jackson’s “Can You Feel It” but also it’s pop at its most maximalist, a cousin to the largest productions of Steinman, Horn, Martins Max and George – or at the other end of the quality scale, the sickly pomp of a Be Here Now.

Pop on this Roman scale doesn’t seduce, it bludgeons, and you either feel the blow or duck it. For me “Tragedy” is impressive, dramatic, thoroughly enjoyable but not really as effective as the earlier Bee Gees disco tracks – it’s missing the glide of “Night Fever”, the swagger of “Staying Alive”, the paranoia of “You Should Be Dancing”, and replacing them with scale, which doesn’t always age so well. To be sure, somewhere in “Tragedy” there’s an astonishing song capturing a soul – and an era – in meltdown. But I have to stretch to feel it, it doesn’t come over for me naturally, except perhaps in the Gibbs’ panicky falsettos on the chorus, pitched close to unbearable. Though for all that, “Tragedy” has an undeniable decadent power.

5
Sep 08

BLONDIE – “Heart Of Glass”

FT + Popular102 comments • 4,228 views

#433, 3rd February 1979

Most of the great records we’ve encountered on Popular find modern-day imitators – but often these imitators aren’t bands I choose to listen to. If a thrusting young beat combo wants to make their own version of “Hot Love” then they have excellent taste, and I wish them every joy of it, but I’ll just sit that one out, ta. “Heart Of Glass”, though – and the rest of Blondie’s hits – are a blueprint for a lot of the pop records I’ve enjoyed most this decade: Ellis-Bextor, Annie, Richard X, Girls Aloud would all murder to have this in their back catalogue (by some kind of marrying-your-grandmother time paradox).

19
Aug 08

IAN DURY AND THE BLOCKHEADS – “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”

FT + Popular128 comments • 6,765 views

#432, 27th January 1979

What is the relationship between the charts and everything else? The charts are a show home for pop music, filled with its shiniest mod cons, but one stuffed with hidden doors and tunnels, records that can tumble you out of pop and into other worlds which have their own codes and rules and no cosy countdown to set things in order. And in those other worlds – some of them, anyway – the charts are a sunlit palace of temptation, but to step (or be plucked) into it is to risk having your life and art and the world it came from turned higgledy-piggledy.

18
Aug 08

VILLAGE PEOPLE – “Y.M.C.A.”

FT + Popular109 comments • 4,068 views

#431, 6th January 1979

The baton passes from one manufactured disco band to another, but “Y.M.C.A.” is superior to “Mary’s Boy Child” in absolutely every respect – well, the dancing in the video is just as awful, but in “Y.M.C.A.”‘s case the wisdom of crowds soon provided a better alternative. A big part of this song’s success is Victor Willis, who gives his broad-chested lead vocal absolutely everything, starting stentorian and then going steadily more berserk (“PUT YOUR PRIDE ON THE SHELF!”) – gutbucket shouting put to the service of disco goodwill.