Popular

30
Sep 09

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

FT + Popular96 comments • 7,693 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.

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28
Sep 09

SISTER SLEDGE – “Frankie”

FT + Popular61 comments • 4,600 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.

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27
Sep 09

THE CROWD – “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

FT + Popular116 comments • 7,704 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.

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25
Sep 09

Welcome to Popular

FT + Popular7 comments • 1,115 views

Now I’ve got today’s actual post up I’d like to say hello to any newcomers who’ve arrived via Bob Stanley’s Times article on this project. I see some new faces in the comments boxes already, which is just fantastic – any undertaking like this needs refreshing occasionally. I hope you stick around and wade in to any new entries (as well as restarting debate on old ones, of course).

Also a reminder for old and new alike that next Friday night it’s Club Popular, where we play only #1 hits all night, and next Sunday afternoon (the 4th) we’re invading the Hangover Lounge, at the Lexington in Islington, where Mr Stanley and I will be spinning some of the mellower #1s, and the regular DJs promise “number one themed” sets. Hope to see some of you one or both of those.

PAUL HARDCASTLE – “19”

FT + Popular76 comments • 6,612 views

#550, 11th May 1985, video

Before writing this entry, I spent a while researching Paul Hardcastle’s later career as a highly successful figure in the land of Smooth Jazz. I cannot tell you how long this actually took, as time can have no meaning in a world where tracks are called things like “Visions Of Illusions” and “Constellation Of Dreams”. But what this voyage of illumination showed me is that “19” is a very odd fish indeed: even Hardcastle’s prior output, if YouTube is any guide, sounded like the on-hold music for a flotation centre. What happens when such a man decides to make a cut-up electro record?

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23
Sep 09

PHYLLIS NELSON – “Move Closer”

FT + Popular32 comments • 3,350 views

#549, 4th May 1985

For all that “Move Closer”‘s intro positions the song as a see-what-you’re-giving-up-boy move, on the surface there’s something surprisingly chaste about this record – maybe it’s Nelson’s high-register sweetness, or just the way she calls her lover “my dear”. It’s the sort of song people make Hallmark Card-style videos for, all soft focus and sunsets.

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21
Sep 09

USA FOR AFRICA – “We Are The World”

FT + Popular80 comments • 6,669 views

#548, 20th April 1985, video

A charity record is a bargain struck between the urgency of the situation and the weight of the subject: you want to get something done quickly, but it also has to be serious enough not to seem tasteless. As gesture turned into genre, instigators would reach for readymade gravity in the form of cover versions: but initially the donation of songwriting talent was as important as that of singing time. “We Are The World”, written and performed by genuine heavyweights, is the most monumental example of this.

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17
Sep 09

PHILIP BAILEY (DUET WITH PHIL COLLINS) – “Easy Lover”

FT + Popular68 comments • 6,830 views

#547, 23rd March 1985, video

The two Phils team up to warn a vulnerable pal off a wicked woman, this intervention requiring a jeepful of mid-decade production flim-flam. “Easy Lover” is full of wannabe hooks – a guitar jab here, a keyboard twinkle there – which collide more than they connect. It stomps and stumbles and hollers about chaotically before pulling itself together just in time for another round of “SHE’S AN EASY LOVER!” – and then it’s off again.

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Good Night Sweet Plinth*

FT + Popular11 comments • 1,114 views

*thankyou Mark.

Mike TD – a comments box regular – was ON THE PLINTH in London’s Trafalgar Square on the 17th. Here’s what happened.

15
Sep 09

DEAD OR ALIVE – “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)”

FT + Popular61 comments • 6,311 views

#546, 9th March 1985, video

If “Relax” – as Mark Sinker put it during the subsequent discussion – was a non-DJs idea of a club record, “You Spin Me Round” is a DJ’s idea of a Frankie track. In fact, it sounds like Stock, Aitken and Waterman have broken into Trevor Horn’s studio at night, nicked a load of his gear, done a bag of speed and started pressing buttons at close to random. Marvellous, in other words.

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