10
May 10

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? Round 1: the Number 10s.

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops67 comments • 1,847 views

Hello! I’m Mike Atkinson, and over the course of the next three or four weeks, I’ll be overseeing an IMPORTANT EXPERIMENT IN PARTICIPATIVE DEMOCRACY, right here on Freaky Trigger. If you’ve ever visited my old blog during the month of February, then you might be familiar with the procedures – but with a new decade underway and the old blog sinking into disrepair, it felt like the right time to move operations to a new home (and arguably its natural home), and to start the process all over again from scratch.

If you’re new to the game, then this is what’s going to happen. I’ll be taking you on a guided, step-by-step excursion through the Top Ten UK singles from this week in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010. Today, we’ll be looking at the singles at Number Ten in each chart. In two days’ time (all being well), we’ll examine the Number Nines… and so on, until we reach the Number Ones.

I’ll be providing YouTube links throughout, as well as a brief memory-jogging MP3 medley, containing roughly thirty seconds from each of that day’s six tracks.

At the end of each post, you will be invited to rank the six tracks in descending order of preference. I’ll be totting up your votes (using an inverse points system, but let’s not sweat the details just yet) and providing running totals at regular intervals.

As we step through the chart positions together – day by day, place by place, from the Number Tens to the Number Ones – your scores will be accumulated into running totals for each decade. So when we get to the end of the exercise, we will have SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN which of our six decades – the Sixties, the Seventies, the Eighties, the Nineties, the Noughties or, um, this one – contains the GREATEST POP MUSIC OF ALL TIME.

Now, if you’re thinking that the whole exercise sounds a bit arbitrary – for how can ten songs in one given chart, in one given year, be in any way representative of a whole decade? – then fret not, for next May we do the whole exercise all over again, looking at the Top Tens for 1961, 1971, 1981 etc etc. And then we combine this year’s scores with next year’s scores, and the scores from the year after that, and so on for the next ten years (oh yes!), until we have accumulated grand totals for each decade. So think of today’s inaugural post as merely the first tentative step on a Grand Quest for ABSOLUTE POP TRUTH.

Excited, much? Then let’s press on with Round One, in which we look at this week’s Number Tens from the past six decades.

1960: Steve Lawrence – Footsteps (video)
1970: The Move – Brontosaurus (video)
1980: The Undertones – My Perfect Cousin (video)
1990: The Family Stand – Ghetto Heaven (video)
2000: MJ Cole – Crazy Love (video)
2010: Kelis – Acapella (video)

(Download the MP3 medley)

And so to my unshakeable earworm of the past four weeks, courtesy of Steve Lawrence. Every time my thoughts turn to the Which Decade project, my mental jukebox invariably cues up the opening refrain of “Footsteps”, whether or not I wish to be reminded of it – and now (hah!) it’s your turn to be similarly plagued.

What strikes me first about “Footsteps” (once I’ve accepted its presence in my brain for the next hour or so) is its musical simplicity. The repeated ascending modulation of its opening refrain sounds a bit like something you might have been given for piano practice, reminding me in turn that sheet music sales would still have been a significant factor in the popularity of many hit songs. Easy to score, easy to learn, easy to play – but to modern ears, does the easiness merely translate as triteness?

That aside, what strikes me most about “Footsteps” is the way that the rinky-dink backing vocals almost threaten to upstage the lead singer. We got this a lot in the Tin Pan Alley pop of the early Sixties – Helen Shapiro’s “Walking Back To Happiness” immediately springs to mind – and I’m a sucker for such campy charms. Close your eyes, and try to imagine a chorus line of chickens from The Muppet Show parading across the screen, clucking away in unison, or perhaps Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, vamping behind their special guest of the week, or… OK, suit yourselves. Shall we move on?

Ten years on, has The Riff supplanted The Tune as chart pop’s compositional foundation stone? The Move have cropped up twice before on Which Decade – with “Fire Brigade” two years ago, and with “Blackberry Way” last year – but they’ve never sounded quite this heavy before.

Well, I say heavy – and in 1970, at the tender age of eight, I certainly thought that The Move were as heavy (and indeed as hairy) as heavy could possibly get – but in truth, this is a pop approximation of “heavy”, and not a very able or convincing one at that. Granted, the riff has all the lumbering qualities of the titular prehistoric beast itself – but really, that’s the problem. Where a good riff should soar, this riff can only plod. There’s a bit of an attempt at a “freak-out” near the end, but one senses that the band’s hearts aren’t fully in it. Even more than “Blackberry Way”, this feels like a stylistic excursion rather than a statement of musical belief – and we can’t have that from our hairy heavy rockers, can we?

Just as I have finished waffling on about the dwindling simplicity of early 60s tunesmanship, up pop The Undertones, ready to challenge my assertions. After all, tunes don’t come much simpler than “My Perfect Cousin” – against which “Footsteps” looks positively baroque.

Thus did the post-punk pendulum swing, affording exposure to those acts who could best make a virtue of the New Simplicity – and of those acts, there were few better exponents than Feargal Sharkey’s bunch. But most winningly of all, “My Perfect Cousin” is rooted in the everyday realities of its audience, depicting an instantly recognisable slice of life as it was actually being led.

And best of all from my perspective, “My Perfect Cousin” describes – with near-faultless accuracy, right down to the bloody Christian name, if you please – the affectionately competitive dynamic between my life partner of five years’ hence and his younger cousin from the house next door. He thinks that I’m a cabbage, because I hate University Challenge… like, how did these people KNOW?

Although obliged to put The Family Stand‘s original version on the MP3 medley, as it was the only version I could legally source (for yes, every 30-second snippet has been acquired without recourse to piratical means), my memories of “Ghetto Heaven” are all centred around the superior Jazzie B/Nellee Hooper remix, which was also the lead track on both the 7-inch and 12-inch versions. (You’ll also find this version on the YouTube link.)

Following Soul II Soul’s massive success in 1989, their downtempo, tough-but-mellow signature sound was ubiquitous for much of 1990. Or at least it was in our house, as I made it my personal mission to snaffle up every last mutation thereof – yea, even unto dodgy cash-ins such as the cover of “Loving You” by Massivo featuring Tracy. (I’m not proud. But such were the times.) But “Ghetto Heaven” was always a class apart, so it has been great to dig the 12″ out of the attic and languish once more within its smoking groove.

All of which leads us nicely into the equally classy mellowness of MJ Cole‘s track, which exemplifies the smoother, more song-based, more overtly soulful, and arguably more aspirational end of the 2-step/UK Garage spectrum.

Touching on my original thesis for a moment, there’s an effortless intricacy to the construction of “Crazy Love” which – in my opinion – places it far in advance of the likes of “Footsteps”, suggesting that pop’s overall progression might indeed have been an upwards one. And I could never quite get a purchase on that skittering 2-step rhythm, whose lack of obvious four-to-the-floor kick came as such sweet relief in an age which had become suffocated by the diminishing returns of Ibiza Trance. (There may be more examples of this to follow, by the way – but let’s not indulge in spoilers.)

And to close today’s entries, let’s go out with an absolute walloping belter. Back in the UK Top Ten for the first time in three years, Kelis sounds fully, thrillingly contemporary once again, with a track that has all the forward-thinking, shock-of-the-new impact of “Milkshake” and “Caught Out There” before it. An electronic club banger about motherhood, you say? Well, why ever not? For if there’s one thing I like better than a forward-thinking, shock-of-the-new electro club banger, it’s a forward-thinking, shock-of-the-new and emotionally affecting electro club banger.

Over to you, then. Take a good listen to these six tracks. Take several good listens, if you need to. And then, in the comments box, please arrange them in descending order of preference, i.e. starting with your favourite and working down.

When voting, please remember these three golden rules.
1) No omissions!
2) No tied places!
3) As much as you are able, please vote on merit, rather than being overly swayed by nostalgic generational predispositions!

Have fun! (Oh, and rest assured: voting for each round stays open right the way through to the end of the whole extended caper, so there’s no immediate hurry.)

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE SCORES SO FAR.

Comments

  1. 1
    Mike Atkinson on 10 May 2010 #

    FINAL SCORES:

    246 points: Kelis – Acapella
    231 points: The Undertones – My Perfect Cousin
    173 points: MJ Cole – Crazy Love
    171 points: The Family Stand – Ghetto Heaven
    139 points: The Move – Brontosaurus
    111 points: Steve Lawrence – Footsteps

    (I’ll be keeping them periodically updated here.)

    My own votes:
    6 points – Kelis
    5 points – The Undertones
    4 points – MJ Cole
    3 points – The Family Stand
    2 points – Steve Lawrence
    1 point – The Move

  2. 2
    JonnyB on 10 May 2010 #

    Oh lawks this is exciting once again.

    I shall settle down properly tomorrow and listen to them all, thus avoiding a kneejerk vote. For now, can I just ask whether anybody else thinks that Steve Lawrence looks like a 1960s Suggs?

  3. 3
    Gordon on 10 May 2010 #

    Right, I’m determined to vote on every one this time round (will be a first for me!).

    And yeah, stand out winner her, the ever underrated Kelis, and once again the 60s show just how hit or miss they can be, awful!

    6 points – Kelis
    5 points – The Undertones
    4 points – The Family Stand
    3 points – MJ Cole
    2 points – Steve Lawrence
    1 point – The Move

  4. 4
    Andrew Hickey on 10 May 2010 #

    6 points – The Move
    5 points – The Undertones
    4 points – Steve Lawrence
    3 points – MJ Cole
    2 points – Kelis
    1 point – Family Stand

    Impossible really to choose between Move and Undertones

  5. 5
    Martin Skidmore on 10 May 2010 #

    6 points – The Undertones
    5 points – The Move
    4 points – Kelis
    3 points – MJ Cole
    2 points – Family Stand
    1 point – Steve Lawrence

    I love all the top three, so this was a tough choice – 6th was the only one I was sure of. Also, why are we only doing this for May each year? I’d love this to happen more often that that!

  6. 6
    Billy Smart on 10 May 2010 #

    What a good start! I like every single, or at least can extract a degree of genuine pleasure out of curiosity;

    6 points – The Undertones
    5 points – Kelis
    4 points – The Move
    3 points – MJ Cole
    2 points – Steve Lawrence
    1 point – The Family Stand

  7. 7
    diamond geezer on 10 May 2010 #

    6 points – Kelis
    5 points – The Undertones
    4 points – Steve Lawrence
    3 points – The Move
    2 points – The Family Stand
    1 point – MJ Cole

    But only because you won’t allow me to have two 6s and four 1s

  8. 8
    Ciaran Gaynor on 10 May 2010 #

    A very strong selection I must say!

    6 points – Kelis
    5 points – The Undertones
    4 points – Steve Lawrence
    3 points – The Family Stand
    2 points – MJ Cole
    1 point – The Move

  9. 9
    Tom on 10 May 2010 #

    You should mention that comments are encouraged too Mike – though your write-ups get better and better – this is cracking stuff to put us all into context!

    The six-pointer in this first batch is very difficult – loyalty to garage vs shock of the new? Not that I think Kelis is especially shocking, just a well-constructed and classier version of the stuff Guetta was doing last year. I love “Acapella” to pieces, though interestingly it got a somewhat lukewarm reception at Poptimism so I wonder if others will swing in behind me here. “Crazy Love” is almost perfect too, that amazing futurist-steel-in-a-silk-glove vibe UK garage did so well. Maybe if this was 2020’s poll I’d let it overtake Kelis.

    Bit of a drop to The Family Stand – and definitely click through to the video before you cast your vote, the excerpt on the MP3 has none of the depth or dread of the video version. Also you’ll miss out on some great examples of early 90s bluescreen abuse. The Undertones is a track which has suffered badly from being so overquoted – you know its best lines already and it doesn’t improve the track.

    The backing vocals on Steve Lawrence are a deal-breaker for me, and it winds up last behind the Move, whose record isn’t very good but is at least about a dinosaur.

    Recap:

    6 points – Kelis
    5 points – MJ Cole
    4 points – The Family Stand
    3 points – The Undertones
    2 points – The Move
    1 point – Steve Lawrence

    Exact reverse chronology! Cor!

  10. 10
    lonepilgrim on 10 May 2010 #

    That’s an outstanding performance from Kelis btw

    6 points – Kelis
    5 points – MJ Cole
    4 points – The Undertones
    3 points – The Family Stand
    2 points – Steve Lawrence
    1 point – The Move

  11. 11
    Billy Smart on 10 May 2010 #

    The Undertones do the double of both best single and best sleeve, says I.

    While The Family Stand are made to display their alleigence to France…

  12. 12
    grange85 on 10 May 2010 #

    6 points – The Undertones
    5 points – Kelis
    4 points – Steve Lawrence
    3 points – The Move
    2 points – MJ Cole
    1 points – Family Stand

    I thought the Undertones would lose position because of what a nob Sharkey turned out to be – but no – the Subbuteo line clinched it. The three most recent tracks come from a world I barely know – but the Kelis track was fine and Family Stand was just dreadful… as were The Move but ultimately the plain old “rock” fan that I am pushed them up a place they maybe didn’t deserve…

  13. 13
    Mike Atkinson on 10 May 2010 #

    Yes, as Tom says: comments are very much encouraged – in fact, they’re usually my favourite bit of the exercise.

  14. 14
    Mike Atkinson on 10 May 2010 #

    Grange85: Actually, the Subbuteo line is the only line that doesn’t channel the spirit of my future life partner. I doubt whether he’s ever flicked a kick in his life…

  15. 15
    Al Ewing on 10 May 2010 #

    6 points – Kelis
    5 points – The Undertones
    4 points – The Family Stand
    3 points – Steve Lawrence
    2 points – MJ Cole
    1 points – The Move

  16. 16
    lockedintheattic on 11 May 2010 #

    Ooo, what an ace selection to welcome you to your new home.

    The first 20 seconds or so of Ghetto Heaven may well be my favourite pop intro of all time – so much so that the rest of the song doesn’t quite match up that beginning. Although that alone is worth my 6 points. (oh – and Mike, thanks for reminding me of that Massivo track – will have to dig out my vinyl copy now). As for the rest – awesome comeback for Kelis there; Funnily enough I like MJ Cole waaaay more than I did at the time – as back then I was listening to garage in clubs more and it’s working much more for me now listening at home. I would give The Move zero if I could.

    6 – Family Stand
    5 – Kelis
    4 – MJ Cole
    3 – The Undertones
    2 – Steve Lawrence
    1 – The Move

  17. 17
    thefatgit on 11 May 2010 #

    Well here goes:

    6 points-The Undertones
    5 points-Kelis
    4 points-The Family Stand
    3 points-MJ Cole
    2 points-The Move
    1 point-Steve Lawrence

    I have to admit that I had no idea who Steve Lawrence was and then I saw the pic on the record sleeve…now I have this unshakeable belief that Biff Tannen from Back To The Future was a doo wop heart-throb. The brain sometimes fails to properly to compute such data. The Move are likeable enough, but this is no Flowers In The Rain. However I enjoyed the steel guitar outro. MJ Cole again, I’m a sucker for Sincere, but this somehow almost feels like a b-side that got lucky.
    Ghetto Heaven places me right in the driving around town stereo blaring headspace. Good times. Kelis and The Undetones? Well I had to choose one for the full 6. The Undertones win out, but Kelis ran them pretty close.

  18. 18
    Lex on 11 May 2010 #

    I’ve only heard two of these songs before, the most recent two.

    6 – MJ Cole. A UK garage classic. Absolutely perfect.
    5 – Family Stand – never heard this but it’s lovely smooth stuff, fits nicely alongside Soul II Soul, Brand New Heavies et al. If I’d been a bit older at the time I’d have LOVED this shit. The strings = proto-“Unfinished Sympathy”, the bassline is killer. A find!
    4 – Kelis – A real disappointment given who she is – reviewed it at the Jukebox.
    3 – The Move – turgid and strained but I don’t dislike that sleazy riff that underpins it. Can someone sample it please.
    2 – Steve Lawrence – sounds like a joke song, WTF are those chirping backing vox about?
    1 – The Undertones – feel like I’ve heard this song a million times before. The kind of song I blame for Britpop existing. His vocal affectations are intolerable, especially on the horrible economics/bionics rhyme, which made me actually wince.

  19. 19
    Mike Atkinson on 11 May 2010 #

    Ulp, I hadn’t even realised that “Acapella” was produced by David Guetta! In which case, kudos to him for channelling Kelis’s spirit and reining in the cheese. (I adored his collaboration with Kelly Rowland on “When Love Takes Over”, but this song required a different approach.)

  20. 20
    Andrew F on 11 May 2010 #

    What exactly is post- about the Undertones’ punk?

  21. 21
    asta on 11 May 2010 #

    I am over the moon with delight at the return of Which Decade.Thanks mike.
    Here we go. I only recognised two of these performers by name, the first and the last, so I’m coming to most of these songs with fresh ears.

    6 pts- Kelis. As others have pointed out, the Guetta hand is apparent here and that’s a good thing.

    5 pts- The Family Stand. It’s got a great baseline,a kicking bridge and sweet groove. My only complaint is I wish the verses were in another key.

    4 pts MJ Cole- The 90s in North America were full to bursting with black R&B divas with almost interchangeable songs, vocal tricks and rhymes. Ah yes, here we have the ‘eyes/disguise’ and the ‘what to do/know it’s true’ of pop. It’s fine for what it is, but it ain’t all that.

    3 pts- The Undertones This is just a hop skip and a Morris Dance away from a novelty song. It’s not without charm, but the regional references do nothing for me.

    2 pts- Steve Lawrence- The best thing about Steve and Eydie, was Eydie and what I liked best about their 1970s television specials was the banter, not the singing. This song is vanilla do wop.

    1pt- The Move- This is why 70s big hair rock gets such a bad name. It’s sloppy and insincere.

  22. 22
    Clapham Mal on 11 May 2010 #

    You really have put me off work this mornig – will take buckets of cofefe to get me back on track!!

    My first thoughts would have to be:
    The Undertones
    The Family Stand
    Kellis
    MJ Cole
    Steve Lawrence
    The Move

    But then I read some of the comments and now think I need to listen again, and again, and again…

  23. 23
    David Belbin on 11 May 2010 #

    6 – The Undertones were the first band I saw at Rock City, shortly after this single was a hit. Fantastic
    5 – Kelis – I saw Kelis in the dance tent at Glastonbury in 03, when she was outstanding. This is good, but not great
    4 – The Move – Love The Move, but this is minor. I just downloaded the only extant live recording of ELO with Roy Wood. It’s dire.
    3 – The Family Stand – I did buy this, a 10p ex jukebox copy from Music Inn on the Alfreton Road, doesn’t seem to have worn too well
    2 – MJ Cole – don’t remember this, but it’s quite good
    1 – Steve Lawrence – whereas this is pretty horrible

  24. 24
    Mike Atkinson on 11 May 2010 #

    We must have been at the same gig, then! In fact, The Undertones played the opening night at Rock City – although the honour of being the first band ever to play there falls to their support act: Orange Juice.

  25. 25
    Tina on 11 May 2010 #

    Points wise:
    6 – The Undertones – I also was at that Rock City gig, indeed the very first ever at Rock City – in fact my good friend Tony, now a pillar of Australian society, was one of those who stormed the stage to have a good pogo and was next day dismissed as a lout by that august organ, the Nottingham Evening Post. Love the band, we even named our son after one of their tracks (not this one!)
    5 – Kelis – I’m not so well up on the happening tunes of today but this sounds like a cracker.
    4 – Steve Lawrence – catchy
    3 – Family Stand
    2 – M J Cole
    1 – The Move – they made many a fine record but this isn’t one of them.

    So glad this is back. I am planning to vote on merit, rather than being overly swayed by nostalgic generational predispositions as requested by Mike, but I can’t just ignore my past history with the Undertones, they hold a special place in my heart.

  26. 26
    Lionel d'Lion on 11 May 2010 #

    Good to see this back again. The votes from the leonine jury are:

    6 – Undertones
    5 – MJ Cole
    4 – Kelis
    3 – The Move
    2 – The Family Stand
    1 – Steve Lawrence

  27. 27
    Amanda S on 11 May 2010 #

    6 Points – The Undertones – For the lyrics
    5 Points – MJ Cole – For her voice
    4 Points – Kelis
    3 Points – The Family Stand
    2 Points – The Move
    1 Point – Steve Lawrence – Have pizzicato strings ever worked in pop?

  28. 28
    Mike Atkinson on 11 May 2010 #

    Interesting. Kelis made a strong start, breaking well ahead of the pack – but five consecutive first placings for The Undertones have reduced her lead to just two points.

    Meanwhile, it’s neck and neck between MJ Cole and The Family Stand in mid-table – and it’s equally close between Steve Lawrence and The Move at the bottom of the table.

  29. 29
    jo on 11 May 2010 #

    1960 Footsteps – Steve Lawrence
    1970 The Move – Brontosaurus
    1990 The Family Stand – Ghetto Heaven
    1980 The Undertones – My Perfect Cousin
    2000 MJ Cole – Crazy Love
    2010 Kelis – Acapella

    UGGGGGH!

  30. 30
    Steve Mannion on 11 May 2010 #

    6 points: The Family Stand
    – Amazingly I’d never heard the original until now! It may help that I’ve been listenining and thinking about stuff from 20 years a lot (I mean more than usual) lately but the remix has retained its power via the potent combo of orchestral and vocal grace with street beats. The original lacks the strings but has more of a Mantronixy vibe I can get with just as readily.

    5 points: Kelis
    – A solid study in how to create a euphoric electro-house hit – reminds me of the Carl Craig remix of Goldfrapp’s ‘Fly Me Away’. Easy for me to like.

    4 points: MJ Cole
    – I tend to find Cole (and this kind of 2Step in general) in refined “smooth+happy” mode as dull as it is pleasant so this is a middleweight. Love ‘Sincere’ a lot but this follow up has never done much for me.

    3 points: The Undertones
    – Probably heard this at least once in the past but haven’t remembered. As vivacious yet one-dimensional as I expected but I’m feeling little patience for someone just having a bit of a whinge about their annyoing relatives, sorry Fergs.

    2 points: The Move
    – First time hearing. Great title (and sleeve). The slowness could be a drag or it could be raucous fun. Likely a poor man’s effort against similar Bowie and T Rex stuff from the time. Don’t really like it but hard to pin down why without more listens (but it doesn’t really deserve them).

    1 point: Steve Lawrence
    – I’m finding the chirpiness and simplicity of this annoying which is probably unfair and inconsistent but again it seems like there’s plenty of better equivalents.

  31. 31
    Pete on 11 May 2010 #

    6: The Family Stand: Ah, lovely Ghetto Heaven. I love all versions of this.

    5: Kelis: Not her finest hour but an interesting work out and one that has been on and off my playlist for the last week.

    4: MJ Cole: With a bit of skittery drum and bass in the background I would like this more, but actually pretty bland for my liking.

    3: Brontosaurus: Rockier than I expected, and actually plenty fun.

    2: Footsteps: There’s a time and a place for track like this, and just before lots of other better tracks isn’t one of the.

    1: My Perfect Cousin – Probably my least favourite Undertones track though its risible lyrics in places are hilarious. Makes my teeth feel funny.

  32. 32
    Erithian on 11 May 2010 #

    Just to join the chorus of approval for this, Mike!

    6 pts – 2010 Kelis: I don’t think I’ll be generous to this year’s chart overall so I’ll start by giving this top marks. “Original” and “different” are rare qualities just now, and this track has them both in abundance. If there’s a better record this year than this mystic, hypnotic sound, I look forward to hearing it.

    5 pts – 1990 Family Stand: Not my usual thang, but an effortless, beautiful groove.

    4 pts – 1980 Undertones: Dear old Fearg never did “angry” convincingly, and it’s funny watching him try to generate anger for what is basically an update of Terry Scott’s “My Bruvver” – spot on Asta at #21 with the “novelty song” bit. A bonus mark for the line about the Human League though, almost a year before the League were a household name.

    3 pts – 1970 The Move: just the thing for standing around at a less corporate Glastonbury, nodding your head vigorously and wondering where you put your stash. People probably actually did this. A bit second division, hard to imagine as a single.

    2 pts – 2000 MJ Cole: don’t remember this, but it’s not too bad at all.

    1 pt – 1960 Steve Lawrence: JonnyB at #2, dunno about Suggs but he reminds me of Schteve McClaren. The song’s new on me, nice enough but doesn’t feel like a newly-discovered gem

  33. 33
    jeff w on 11 May 2010 #

    Scores later. Just to say for now: top marks for the presentation.

  34. 34
    scott woods on 11 May 2010 #

    Cool idea, hope I can find the time and/or motivation to chime in throughout. I suspect that I’ll learn about a bunch of songs that never had much (if any) reach in North America (I’m in Toronto).

    Weirdly, I like all of these but can’t say I truly love any of them.

    6 – The Family Stand – Nostalgia for a track I think I only heard once or twice at the time — nostalgia, that is, for the beat and for remembering how fun it was to follow that beat around, from remix to remix, to the point where it scarcely mattered what the song itself was — so long as it captured some of the aura and the accents of “the Soul II Soul beat” it was all good (and it was! I loved that moment to pieces). This tune is nice and I’m glad I listened to the video version though I do regret the visual of the stand-up bass.

    5 – The Undertones – Like their stateside brethren the Ramones, they pulled off perfunctory fairly well (in a way, both bands just kept doing the same two or three songs over and over again anyway). Still, it’s no “There Goes Norman” or “Teenage Kicks” or (especially) “It’s Going to Happen.”

    4 – Kelis – More enraptured by the feel than by the tune. Like it but it’s not really grabbing me, I don’t know if being subsumed in this kind of gauzy disco really works for Kelis (I’m open to being turned around on this by more prolonged exposure, not that I think it will be any kind of hit in North America).

    3 – MJ Cole – Tried and almost convinced myself that I loved this at the time, but it wore off pretty quickly. Re-listening to it now, though, it’s almost worn back on. The arrangement sounds swell all over again. The vocals and (negligible) hooks do little for me.

    2 – The Move – A lot of their stuff sounds okay, but I can never get past the fact that almost all of it sounds like unrealized ELO.

    1 – Steve Lawrence – Some nice flourishes throughout (the way the background vocals are cut in reminds me of Art of Noise, weirdly enough), and I like a number of post-rock (as in post-legitimate-50s-r&b) vocal songs from the era (cf. “Three Bells” by the Browns, which out-squares this tune by miles), but… it’s a bit jaunty for my nerves this morning.

  35. 35
    Mike Atkinson on 11 May 2010 #

    Nice mix of comments we’re getting here: Freaky Trigger crew + old Troubled Diva regulars = expanded democratic reach! (With plenty of overlap between the two groups, of course.)

  36. 36
    Lena on 11 May 2010 #

    Listening to the songs right now, live comments…

    Chirpy, earwormy Mr. Lawrence!

    The Move invent classic rock, thanks

    The Undertones are the beginning of indie rock, as indicated before;

    The Family Stand are 80s incarnated

    MJ Cole – why have I never heard this before? I like it a lot – ‘sheepishness’ is an underused word

    Ah Kelis, this is as much for Guetta as you, really…

    Thus, the numbers:

    MJ Cole – 6 points
    Kelis – 5 points
    The Family Stand – 4 points
    The Undertones – 3 points
    The Move – 2 points
    Steve Lawrence – 1 point

  37. 37
    punctum on 11 May 2010 #

    Right.

    Kelis – 6 points; this could have been so numbing a performance – the singer more often than not has always sounded as though she’s on the verge of passing out under anaesthetic, the swoon perhaps not entirely voluntary (see for instance the entire, astounding middle section of Kaleidoscope), but there’s a reassurance here which is soundly double scored by Guetta’s quietly purposeful rhythm matrix. We know that she knows what it’s like to be alone and she doesn’t need to make a show of it, but the track’s natural propulsion is exceptionally cheering, like lemon and lime crush on an unexpectedly chilly May evening.

    MJ Cole – 5 points; aspirational, yes; I don’t know about more complex, except in the redistribution (rather than refocusing) of rhythm as the noughties pop song of purpose was about to know it. I think 2Step, both rough and smooth, has weathered the last decade remarkably well and here there’s the elegant suggestion of something much less elegant acting as its secret undertow, like the frantically flapping underbelly of your average swan.

    The Family Stand – 4 points; me, I couldn’t get enough of Soul II Soul derives and peace n’ love stuff in the time of Poll Tax Riot 1990 and this sounds as unaffectedly sunny as it did twenty (ulp!) years ago. Whacked, or kissed, together with EvoStik and Sellotape but its chassis is so damned attractive you want to drive it anyway. Aspiration in the “We Live In Brooklyn, Baby” dread-including sense.

    The Undertones – 3 points; yes, for mentioning the Human League before the Human League had a proper hit, but I’m not sure this has much to say to me now. Fine enough – more than fine enough, really – but I always preferred the Undertones when they were creeping around in the outlying stylistic suburbs (“Wednesday Week,” “Julie Ocean,” “Love Parade”) rather than acting as unwitting apologists for the worse aspects of C86 (listen to the Undertones for half an hour each morning to teach ourselves, um, Pure Pop? Pure Pop? Didn’t anyone stop to THINK about that unresolvable oxymoron?).

    The Move – 2 points; Lynne and Bevan clearly warming up for ELO (you can hear bits of “Hold On Tight” peeping through here) but bellicose and bellowing were never Roy’s strongest suits as indeed he realised when he progressed to Wizzard. OK but you can tell the “progression” here is slightly forced.

    Steve Lawrence – 1 point; Showaddywaddy had the most boring hit of December 1981 with their dreary cover and I can’t say that wholesome Steve Lawrence improves on it with his original. Nor those chirping backing singers who are not robins, or even owls.

  38. 38
    johnnyo on 11 May 2010 #

    6 pts – undertones
    5 pts – the move
    4 pts- kelis
    3 pts – steve lawrence
    2 pts – family stand
    1 pt – mj cole

  39. 39
    JonnyB on 12 May 2010 #

    Undertones – The stand out track here, much as I am DESPERATE to go against prevailing wisdom. 6 points.

    The Move – I don’t have anything against this at all. It’s silly yet entertaining glam rock with lots of bass (on these speakers anyway). So I give it 5.

    Kelis – Energy and a tune. Yes, I like this. 4

    MJ Cole – I am transported via teleportation to a wine bar!!! 3

    Family Stand – They’ve bought all the equipment and all they need is a tune an’ stuff. 2

    Steve Lawrence – Record companies in the sixties loved subverting pop music with their Light Programme flourishes. But this possibly needed it. 1

  40. 40
    pink champale on 12 May 2010 #

    6 kelis – david guettta is someone who’s name i’ve heard a fair bit without that ever translating into me knowing who he is or what he does. he does good things it seems. kelis has been around for ten years. cripes.

    5: mj cole – at first i thought it was blander than i remembered, but then all the lovely details started coming through. sounds expensive in a good way. that staccato plink will be in my head for weeks.

    4: the family stand – when this came out i was buried in a stack of nme and mm, coming out only to listen to peel and attend buffalo tom gigs. but two seconds in and i’ve got a massive 1990 rush. that’s pop music for you.

    3: the undertones – somewhere between loveable and grating. still can’t hear it without thinking of gonch singing it to zammo by way of describing his flash cousin jonah who came to stay and then drowned in the swimming pool on bullet baxters’ watch.

    2: steve lawrence – steve sounds chipper enough but i wouldn’t want those backing singers following me around all day.

    1: the move – oh. i don’t like this at all. did i hear a brontosaurus/saw us rhyme? points for that, i suppose.

  41. 41
    Alan Connor on 13 May 2010 #

    6 – Acapella – moreish; Trades Description
    5 – Crazy Love – loopable-on-shuffle; Womacky
    4 – My Perfect Cousin – chantable; juvenile
    3 – Brontosaurus – raucous; one-note
    2 – Ghetto Heaven – organised fun; fun
    1 – Footsteps – good-natured; irrepressible

  42. 42
    Abe Fruman on 13 May 2010 #

    6 Family Stand
    5 Undertones
    4 Kelis
    3 MJ Cole
    2 Steve Lawrence
    1 Move

    You’re MEANT to “flick to kick”, though….

  43. 43
    taDOW on 14 May 2010 #

    6 – mj cole
    5 – family stand
    4 – the move
    3 – kelis
    2 – undertones
    1 – steve lawrence

  44. 44
    weej on 14 May 2010 #

    6 – Undertones
    5 – Kelis
    4 – The Move
    3 – Family Stand
    2 – Steve Lawrence
    1 – MJ Cole

  45. 45
    Caroline on 14 May 2010 #

    6. Undertones
    5. Kelis
    4. Family Stand
    3. Steve Lawrence
    2. MJ Cole
    1. The Move

  46. 46
    DietMondrian on 14 May 2010 #

    6. Kelis
    5. Undertones
    4. The Move
    3. Family Stand
    2. MJ Cole
    1. Steve Lawrence

  47. 47
    Simon C on 14 May 2010 #

    6. MJ Cole
    5. Kelis
    4. The Move
    3. The Family Stand
    2. Steve Lawrence
    1. The Undertones

  48. 48
    intothefireuk on 15 May 2010 #

    6 – Undertones
    5 – The Family Stand
    4 – The Move
    3 – MJ Cole
    2 – Kelis
    1 – Steve Lawrence

  49. 49
    Martin on 22 May 2010 #

    6 points – The Undertones
    5 points – The Move
    4 points – Kelis
    3 points – Steve Lawrence
    2 points – MJ Cole
    1 point – The Family Stand

    This was hard. All the tracks offer something.

    Stage 1: Man, I’m a fuddy-duddy! I like the older ones more. The writeups on the site seem to favor the newer ones. What’s wrong with me?

    Stage 2: These writeups have a point. These newer tracks are deceptively good.

    Stage 3: No, it turns out that they don’t stick in the mind. I’m pushing the old ones up a bit. These are my tastes. But we must hammer out an accord between the two camps, old and new.

  50. 50
    Mark Davis on 22 May 2010 #

    6 points – The Undertones
    5 points – The Move
    4 points – Steve Lawrence
    3 points – Kelis
    2 points – The Family Stand
    1 point – MJ Cole

  51. 51
    Clair on 25 May 2010 #

    My rating goes:

    6 points – the undertones
    5 points – steve lawrence
    4 points – kelis
    3 points – mj cole
    2 points – the move
    1 points – the family stand

  52. 52
    crag on 26 May 2010 #

    6-Kelis:great to have her back- a pop star with character seems a bit of a novelty these days
    5-Move:No “Fire Brigade” but Roy Wood’s voice is always a pleasure to hear
    4-Family Stand: Better than Soul II Soul for my money- goes on a bit though
    3-Undertones:Good but not great
    2-MJ Cole: no recollection of this-not my cup of tea
    1-Steve Lawrence:Have already forgotten it after 10 mins- not a good sign

  53. 53
    wichita lineman on 26 May 2010 #

    Interesting how the 1960 and 1970 votes are backing up the trad history books. Two of pop’s very weakest years. A pox on revisionism!

    6 Kelis – I was convinced this would knock the equally great OMG off no.1, but sadly not. Mature in a very good way.
    5 Family Stand – warm and soulful. And – gosh – better than any Soul II Soul single bar Keep On Moving/B*** to L***, isn’t it?
    4 Undertones – how DO you play Subbuteo if you don’t ‘flick to kick’? They seemed too old for the song, dumb tune and silly lyric. Teenage heart-wreck Wednesday Week was the magnificent follow up, though.
    3 Steve Lawrence – should be played at a really inappropriate moment in Mad Men
    2 MJ Cole – way too slick for my garage tastes
    1 The Move – they released two whole albums of this unconvincing heaviness, while Roy sat on the mastertape of Boulders for another three years. The clot!

  54. 54
    Z on 29 May 2010 #

    6 points -The Undertones
    5 points – Kelis
    4 points – MJ Cole
    3 points – The Family Stand
    2 points – The Move
    1 point – Steve Lawrence

    I found it quite hard to choose between them – nothing I either loved or hated. I shall try to be unreasonably opinionated later up the charts.

  55. 55
    jeff w on 1 Jun 2010 #

    Catching up with some earlier rounds, having got a chance to listen to the mixes last week. As others have noted, this is not The Undertones’ greatest moment. But they were, after Blondie, the most consistent singles act of the era and I have a massive soft spot for some of the more absurd rhyming couplets in ‘My Perfect Cousin’.

    I’d not heard the MJ Cole song (or indeed any MJ to my knowledge) before and it’s much more spritely than I’d imagined – good stuff. It’s rudely brushed aside by Guetta’s near-perfect hypno disco though.

    6pts – Kelis
    5pts – MJ Cole
    4pts – Undertones
    3pts – The Move
    2pts – Steve L
    1pt – Family Stand (hasn’t worn well, this)

  56. 56
    Rachiesparrow on 3 Jun 2010 #

    Is it too late to join in?

    My choices are:

    6pts – undertones
    5pts – steve lawrence
    4pts – the move
    3pts – family stand
    2pts – kelis
    1pt – MJ Cole

  57. 57
    Mike Atkinson on 3 Jun 2010 #

    Rachie, it’s not too late to join in – welcome!

  58. 58
    i alex on 5 Jun 2010 #

    6p. My perfect cousin
    5p. Acapella
    4p. Crazy love
    3p. Footsteps
    2p. Ghetto Heaven
    1p. Brontosaurus

  59. 59
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 6 Jun 2010 #

    6 for Kelis – Acapella
    5 for MJ Cole – Crazy Love
    4 for The Family Stand – Ghetto Heaven
    3 for The Undertones – My Perfect Cousin
    2 for The Move – Brontosaurus
    1 for Steve Lawrence – Footsteps

    HEE, True-to-type SUKRAT=MERLIN shape again (placing them in exact reverse order). POP IS BETTER IS THAN IT’S EVER BEEN. This is science, like it or no.

    Cousin hasn’t worn well, has it? The opening riff is co-opted from “Alternative Ulster”, which is a better song.
    The Move cuts off too soon
    I thought Family Stand might pop up over MJ Cole, but she has slurred gracenotes within her contained space where they hold back, a little lackadaisical.

  60. 60
    RobMiles on 6 Jun 2010 #

    6 – Kelis
    5 – MJ Cole
    4 – The Family Stand
    3 – Undertones
    2 – Steve Lawrence
    1 – The Move

    This looks similar to the above comment, but it’s my own opinion!

  61. 61
    Tom Lawrence on 9 Jun 2010 #

    6 points MJ Cole
    5 points Kelis
    4 points The Move
    3 points The Undertones
    2 points The Family Stand (shapeless)
    1 points Steve Lawrence

  62. 62
    sarlitchin on 10 Jun 2010 #

    Well, let’s see how many of these I can get through before the deadline…I really never will learn.

    nb – Thanks, Mike, for what I know is a mammoth undertaking on your part

    6 points – Kelis
    5 points – The Undertones
    4 points – MJ Cole
    3 points – Steve Lawrence
    2 points – The Move
    1 point – The Family Stand

    I guess comments will have to go by the wayside this year – but I’ve got to say just how much I *love* the Kelis track. Rich and bouncy.

  63. 63
    Erithian on 10 Jun 2010 #

    So is she, funnily enough. I’ll get me coat.

  64. 64
    sarlitchin on 11 Jun 2010 #

    …here – let me help you, Erithian… (*groan*)

  65. 65
    ottersteve on 4 Feb 2011 #

    Er…. Mike……what’s wrong with the 50’s?

    The charts began in 1952. Surely there was some way you could have included that decade? Or are you saying that in your opinion it is the least important decade (musically) of them all?

    Maybe you could begin with 1952 when you get to the ’62 ’72 etc period later on.

  66. 66
    weej on 5 Feb 2011 #

    Re #65 I was assuming that was the plan – though we may have to wait a bit longer as the chart didn’t start until late 1952, and this feature might well come round in May again.

  67. 67
    Carlynda on 26 Nov 2012 #

    Wow! Talk about a posntig knocking my socks off!

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