Nov 09

PET SHOP BOYS – “West End Girls”

FT + Popular114 comments • 11,739 views

#563, 11th January 1986, video

Talk about intelligence in pop and you quickly find yourself on slippery ground. Behind every successful record there’s someone, somewhere with a good brain but the smarts required vary by case: initiative, speed of thought, low cunning, political skill, not to mention a host of effects and reactions so canny and quick we handwave them away as “instinct”. And that’s without even touching on composition, studio skill, technique…

So if I said something – and I very well might – like “Neil Tennant is the most intelligent man in pop”, let’s be clear that what I’m talking about is a kind of intelligence critics like me are comfortable with, understand, perhaps envy: an unshowy, wide-ranging sort of brain that in another life would have ended up writing minor novels or maybe reviewing them. An intelligence nurtured and to an extent measured by education: “West End Girls”, for instance, is apparently inspired by T S Eliot’s The Waste Land.


Oct 09

REPOPULATE: Singin’ The Blues

FT + PopularPost a comment • 1,132 views

Repopulate happens while Tom is away to try and chivvy more comments on some of our older entries that may seem poorly represented. The original haloscan comments have been lost, so we did have a lot to say about these tracks, they are just lost in the mists of internet.

And today is a twofer: the voting is difficult so please don’t even try but since Guy Mitchell and Tommy Steele both charted consecutively with Singing The Blues, Tom thought he would tackle them together. So you can too. Who whistles best? Which is more lairy? Do you like Tommy, or Guy Mitchell more. Click through for debate.

GUY MITCHELL – “Singing The Blues” TOMMY STEELE – “Singing The Blues”

Oct 09

Popular ’85

FT + Popular/116 comments • 5,845 views

I give every entry on Popular a mark out of 10, and at the end of each year’s worth of entries you get the chance to vote for any YOU would have given 6 or more out of 10 to.

My highest rated tracks were Madonna and Dead Or Alive, with 9 each. Shakin’ Stevens, Midge Ure and UB40 all got 2s.

Which Of These Number One Singles Of 1985 Would You Have Given 6 Or More To?

View Results

Poll closes: No Expiry

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Use the comments box to discuss the year in general, critics and readers polls at the time, etc etc. (Hopefully you’ll find plenty to talk about cos the next entry won’t be up until a week on Monday!)

Oct 09

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – “Merry Christmas Everyone”

FT + Popular//93 comments • 7,981 views

#562, 28th December 1985, video

The Christmas we get, we deserve: sometimes a Christmas song can reveal a group’s nature more than any other formal exercise. Slade’s raucous bacchanal; Wizzard wanting the whole year to be overloaded with tinsel; Wham turning the season into an excuse for soft-focus mirror-gazing – and now Shakey, offering shopworn material in bargain-bin fashion. It’s cheerful – when was he otherwise? – but it’s very, very cheap.


Oct 09

WHITNEY HOUSTON – “Saving All My Love For You”

FT + Popular105 comments • 7,488 views

#561, 14th December 1985, video

The chiming, soft-focus keyboards that open “Saving All My Love For You” suggest late-night romance, low lights and the chink of glasses. This is a bluff and a lie: “Saving” isn’t a song about romance, it’s a song about pain and anger, and how its singer copes with and channels those.


Oct 09

WHAM! – “I’m Your Man”

FT + Popular37 comments • 6,655 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.


Oct 09


FT + Popular82 comments • 8,738 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.


Oct 09

JENNIFER RUSH – “The Power Of Love”

FT + Popular57 comments • 7,590 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.


Oct 09

MIDGE URE – “If I Was”

Popular58 comments • 6,671 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”?


Oct 09


FT + Popular74 comments • 8,216 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.