Popular

19
Oct 09

WHAM! – “I’m Your Man”

FT + Popular36 comments • 6,104 views

#560, 30th November 1985, video

Wham!’s first single for a year followed the “Wake Me Up”/”Freedom” model – a Motown template airbrushed for the mid-80s, brisk and bright and shiny-toothed. But something’s changed – George Michael’s no longer the lens of the song, he’s now its focus. “I’m Your Man” does what the title promises, introducing us to someone confident in his stardom and sure of his ability to hold your attention without too much assistance from the music.

»
More

15
Oct 09

FEARGAL SHARKEY – “A Good Heart”

FT + Popular81 comments • 8,008 views

#559, 16th November 1985, video

It’s our misfortune to happen upon Feargal Sharkey in the least interesting bit of his three-stage career. We knew him once as a leader of post-punk’s emotional shock troops, putting that quaverous Derry voice into the service of everyday lust and laughter. We know him now as an industry spokesman, a general in a long, attritional fight to shore up recorded music as something people want to – or at least have to – pay for.

»
More

13
Oct 09

JENNIFER RUSH – “The Power Of Love”

FT + Popular56 comments • 6,831 views

#558, 12th October 1985, video

The hovering synths on “The Power Of Love” seem to be coming from somewhere vastly above the listener, like a Star Wars spaceship-overhead shot which goes on and on and on until the scale just defeats you. We’re heading for something – yes, Aldebaran most likely. Or Rigel.

»
More

9
Oct 09

MIDGE URE – “If I Was”

Popular55 comments • 5,917 views

#557, 5th October 1985, video

I don’t know what you lot are complaining about sometimes. A number one hitmaker from the 70s returns with a thundering mid-paced synth-rock track in which speculation on alternative existences becomes a tool for considering the metaphysics of love? Frankly, who even needs “Running Up That Hill” at number one when you have “If I Was”?

»
More

7
Oct 09

DAVID BOWIE AND MICK JAGGER – “Dancing In The Street”

FT + Popular73 comments • 7,707 views

#556, 7th September 1985, video

One of the questions I asked myself as I got halfway through Popular is: have the charts got worse? The answer to that question remains “let’s wait and see” but one reason people who grew into pop before 1984 might think they have is that the nature of the charts seems to have changed. I’d guess that for most of those people the ideal of the charts is as a mirror to all of pop music: if something exciting is happening in pop, it should be reflected in the Top 40. If that doesn’t happen, either the charts are broken, or the thing wasn’t so exciting after all.

But there’s another way the charts work, which is as a mirror to anything in mass culture: cinema, TV, the news, gameshows, sport.

»
More

5
Oct 09

UB40 and CHRISSIE HYNDE – “I Got You Babe”

FT + Popular72 comments • 5,442 views

#555, 31st August 1985

An uncannily ill-chosen pairing, this: each manages to cast the other’s vocals in the worst possible light. Ali Campbell sounds, as ever, like a wrung-out flannel, and would be shown up by even a modicum of emotion. But listening to this song you also realise how Chrissie Hynde always gives the same performance too – smoky, world-weary, defiant, and so on.

»
More

2
Oct 09

MADONNA – “Into The Groove”

FT + Popular64 comments • 12,218 views

#554, 3rd August 1985

Madonna enters this story already a superstar – eight-figure sales of her last album, this her third top-three hit of the year in Britain. “Into The Groove” is no kind of introduction, more a victory parade, and it’s become one of her calling-card singles. Perhaps because it’s a manifesto of sorts: not lyrically, but in the way that everything great about Madonna and her pop – movement, power, willpower, sex, hunger, vulnerability – is in here somewhere.

»
More

30
Sep 09

EURYTHMICS – “There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)”

FT + Popular96 comments • 8,212 views

#553, 27th July 1985, video

Pop’s flight to quality continues apace – Stevie Wonder’s harmonica solo on this song is his fourth appearance on a UK No.1 within a year. The mid-80s were a time for safe musical investments, and vintage black pop became the safest of all – who could go wrong with soul? On the Eurythmics’ parent album Aretha Franklin herself took a turn. She and Wonder lent an air of borrowed distinction to the band’s more classicist proceedings – a risky effect, casting pop stars as social climbers on the ladder of taste.

»
More

28
Sep 09

SISTER SLEDGE – “Frankie”

FT + Popular61 comments • 4,987 views

#552, 29th June 1985, video

As I mentioned when we talked about “I’m Still Waiting”, most pop songs about lost childhood loves take them far too seriously – the magnifying power of pop turns some tweenage crush into a life’s great lost opportunity. An adult listener is more likely to feel pity than sympathy.

I had “Frankie” in mind in that discussion – I’d disliked it more than any other record of the time, and not revisited it since: I remembered it as pleading and cloying at the same time. I was quite unfair: if anything this is pop’s most accurate recollection of a lost early sweetheart – rose-tinted memories tumbling back with surprise, slight regret but no great pain.

»
More

27
Sep 09

THE CROWD – “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

FT + Popular116 comments • 8,126 views

#551, 15th June 1985

Band Aid and USA For Africa had established one form of the charity single: a stellar alignment. The biggest names available, coming together on a solemn and unique occasion, performing a specially-composed song that spoke to the magnitude of the situation. This was all fine but it couldn’t scale down. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” set out a more typical working model – a shock troop of names, a just cause, a song everyone knew.

»
More