Popular

29
Jul 09

NENA – “99 Red Balloons”

FT + Popular45 comments • 6,715 views

#532, 3rd March 1984, video

1984 was pop’s year of war. I’m not talking about Macca or Nena or Frankie: it was the moment I most keenly felt the charts as a battleground. There was a cosmic struggle raging in the Top 40 between the awesome and the terrible and in some huge and undefinable way it mattered which side won each week. Before this point I’d experienced the charts as a source of pleasure – the bad stuff rubbed up against the good but it hardly bothered me. After this, my concept of what pop included started to expand – the war continued but with the Sunday evening chart only one of its (many, many) fronts.

24
Jul 09

FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD – “Relax”

FT + Popular110 comments • 11,735 views

#531, 28th January 1984, video

In the beginning was the ban. Oh, there’d been a Frankie before, and a “Relax” before, but the ban was the B of BANG!, that Paul Morley-driven hyperconcept which when completed would lead to….. well, something. (A computer game, as it turned out.)

The ban, of course, was consensual. Relax, in its flesh-and-leather sleeve, ached for punishment – as public and official as possible. Mike Read duly doled some out. The record became an instant legend and soon had the sales to match the publicity. Classic McLaren playbook, as many a veteran must have pointed out. And the really clever thing was, when you played it it was hardly obscene at all: its filth was all in the aura and the rumour.

21
Jul 09

PAUL MCCARTNEY – “Pipes Of Peace”

FT + Popular66 comments • 4,044 views

#530, 14th January 1984, video

“In love our problems disappear”: ever since the high days of the Beatles, Paul McCartney had a thing about love. Even after – especially after – he’d had to play the hard-nosed one and break up that band, “love” remained as a presence in his songwriting, something increasingly abstract and mystical: a universal solvent.

19
Jul 09

Popular ’83

FT + Popular/41 comments • 2,369 views

Every Popular entry has a mark out of 10 – here’s where you get to choose which you’d have given 6 or above to (and make any general comments on the year in the comments boxes, of course). The highest 1983 mark I gave was 9, for Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” (pre-death!). The lowest I gave was 3 apiece for UB40 and Rod Stewart.

Which Of These Number One Singles Of 1983 Would You Have Given 6 Or More To?

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Poll closes: No Expiry

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18
Jul 09

THE FLYING PICKETS – “Only You”

FT + Popular46 comments • 6,531 views

#529, 10th December 1983, video

Aged ten I didn’t have much time for the wounded, crafted dignity of the Flying Pickets. I probably wouldn’t have had time for Yazoo either, if I’d even remembered them. “Only You” was distilled adulthood, and not the kind of adulthood you aspired to, the kind you couldn’t put a name to.

13
Jul 09

BILLY JOEL – “Uptown Girl”

FT + Popular74 comments • 4,756 views

#528, 5th November 1983, video

Billy Joel pays tribute to the music of his childhood, and so inevitably there’s something childish about “Uptown Girl”: its instant singability makes it sound like a Grease outtake, except there was more sex and chemistry in Grease’s flirtatious goofery. The street music – doo-wop and rock’n’roll – that “Uptown Girl” draws energy from was able to speak so powerfully to sexual and social codes partly because the act of addressing those codes head-on was itself a breach of them. There’s nothing at stake in “Uptown Girl” – how could there be? Rock and roll moved uptown long ago.

8
Jul 09

CULTURE CLUB – “Karma Chameleon”

FT + Popular63 comments • 7,554 views

#527, 24th September 1983, video

How to sell a contradiction: “Karma Chameleon” is a song about frustration and confusion that consciously transforms itself into colourful frippery, and by doing this it gets its hooks into you even deeper. And such hooks! Though true to the song the very best ones dance around the tune’s edges – those little harmonica licks in the chorus, for instance, or the gorgeous middle eight: “Every day is like survival / You’re my lover and I’m my rival.”

6
Jul 09

UB40 – “Red Red Wine”

FT + Popular65 comments • 6,346 views

#526, 3rd September 1983, video

UB40, I was aware, made reggae. Therefore reggae sounded like what UB40 made. I can’t have been the only one who made this logical mis-step, and I expect I wasn’t the only one who spent a decade-plus assuming they disliked reggae because of it.

For many people, of course, UB40 will have served as the gateway into reggae: that was the aim of Labour Of Love, after all, one of the best-intentioned smash hit albums of its era. Good intentions don’t always make for good music: so deadening is “Red Red Wine” in its UB40 form that I’ve never had a twitch of motivation even to go back and see what they polished up.

4
Jul 09

New Shiny Thing Syndrome

FT + Popular3 comments • 790 views

I have built a Facebook Page for Popular. I will freely admit that I have not much idea of what I will USE it for: I’m thinking links to the entries, alerts to particularly interesting discussions developing on older entries, and any other material I happen to find of interest to fans of #1 hits. A use case will either evolve or not, I imagine. But anyhow there it is and you can now become a “fan”.

3
Jul 09

KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND – “Give It Up”

FT + Popular33 comments • 2,833 views

#525, 13th August 1983

At first listen – and honestly at tenth listen – “Give It Up” seems like another disco carriage clock hit: thanks for all the hard work boys, now have a number one. On the other hand, if you want a splashy summer hit you could do far worse – this is a little rigid and lacking in bottom end perhaps, but full of bright carnival touches. It’s a marvellously airy record – good (as I’ve discovered this week) for clearing the head on a muggy day. The production aesthetic is “salad of all the trebles” – buzzy synths, high rhythm guitar, falsetto and brass all hustling for prominence. KC himself isn’t the intense central presence he was on “Please Don’t Go” – he’s upstaged by the backing singers, whose “Nana-nana-nanananananaNOW!” is the song’s most delightful (and enduring) element.