14
May 10

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? Round 3: the Number 8s.

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops53 comments • 1,631 views

Timely reminder: I’ll be keeping the voting open on all rounds until a few days after we’re done – so if you’ve just breezed in and fancy playing catch-up, there’s no immediate rush. Experience has shown that late votes in earlier rounds frequently affect the final placings, so NO VOTE IS A WASTED VOTE.

Got that? OK, then let’s unveil the Number Eights.

1960: Elvis Presley – Stuck On You (video)
1970: Tom Jones – Daughter Of Darkness (video)
1980: Motörhead – Leaving Here (from the Golden Years EP) (video)
1990: Soul II Soul – A Dream’s A Dream (video)
2000: Toni Braxton – He Wasn’t Man Enough (video)
2010: Diana Vickers – Once (video)


(Download the MP3 medley)

BONUS CONTENT! As we’ve struck lucky on Spotify, here’s a playlist of all six of today’s entries.

Discharged from the US army in March, Elvis Presley was back in the studio before the month was through. By April, his first post-military single was charting, eventually peaking at #3 in the UK. Impressively swift work, to be sure – but what of the results?

The standard critical line on Elvis instructs us that he was “never quite the same” after national service: a tamed beast, sliding into showbiz respectability. Thus it’s tempting to apply this storyline to “Stuck On You”, which does lack some of the unschooled vigour and raunch of his early work.

But if a certain obedience has crept into Presley’s delivery, there are still bursts of fire – most notably when hollering “a team of wild horses couldn’t TEAR US APART”, which in former days could have formed the bridge to a rip-roaring upwards gear shift. But, no: the moment passes, the piano continues to vamp merrily along, and the dear old a-doo-doo-ing Jordanaires ensure that the anchor is never loosened.

How much does any of this matter? “Stuck On You” remains likeable, catchy and fun, and even a tamed Elvis can still sell the hell out of a decent tune.

By the turn of the Seventies, Elvis and Tom Jones were working the Las Vegas cabaret circuit, hanging out together, and ploughing broadly similar artistic furrows. Jones was entering his Medallion Man phase, and beginning to sound faintly preposterous with it.

For how seriously can we take the sweaty “oohs” and “ughs” which crop up towards the end of “Daughter Of Darkness”? How seriously can we take the hammy grandstanding of Tom’s delivery? And indeed, how seriously can we take the song (the work of Les Reed, who brought us “The Last Waltz”, “Delilah” and even “It’s Not Unusual”), which largely fails to build a convincing case against the object of its scorn?

We know she’s wronged you, Tom – but we don’t really know how. Could you be more specific? With Delilah, the charges were clear (even if the rough justice you meted out was questionable, to say the least) – but here, you switch from breast-beating self-pity to finger-jabbing scorn, without actually telling us what went down. More back-story, please!

Back at the end of 1976, Motörhead were mostly regarded as a bad joke. A washed-up freak whose dissolute behaviour had earned him the boot from Hawkwind (no mean feat), playing sloppy, incompetent metal on the toilet circuit – well, who in their right minds would buy into that? Some critics went further, dubbing them the worst band in the world. There was talk of a debut single (“Leaving Here”) on the Stiff label – a catalogue number was even assigned – but the project went tits-up, and few seemed to care.

Three and a half years later, a live recording of “Leaving Here” – a Holland/Dozier/Holland composition, first recorded for Motown in 1963 by Eddie Holland, subsequently covered by The High Numbers in 1964 (before they became The Who), and best of all by The Birds in 1965 (featuring a young Ronnie Wood) – was released as the lead track on Motörhead’s Golden Years EP. Light years better than the slower, clumsier, messier 1976 studio version, its debt to punk rock – and specifically to The Damned – was plain to see, blurring the boundaries between punk and metal. Somewhere along the line, the band had learnt to play – and in this instance, they were rewarded with their first Top Ten entry, and second biggest hit single.

As someone who is emphatically not a metal fan – and yes, I know that Motörhead don’t classify themselves as such, but they’re close enough for me to have given them an equally wide berth – I’m amazed by the greatness of this recording, and my prejudices are confounded by the way it absorbs its influences – early Motown, British R&B and garage rock, thrashy two-chord punk – and channels them into something new and distinctive. We live and learn, eh readers?

Two places above their Family Stand remix, Jazzie B and Nellee Hooper show up again with Soul II Soul, their main operation – and another track which is founded upon that instantly recognisable and ubiquitous downtempo rhythm. You could argue that it was all getting a little formularised (and Jazzie B’s spoken “Voice of God” interludes are beginning to border on the tiresome), but there are still enough added touches – the “I can see right through you” folk-soul operatics which suggest a familiarity with Rotary Connection, the lift from Rose Royce’s “Wishing On A Star” – to move the music onwards, and enough general goodwill towards the band to keep them commercially comfortable.

What I love about Toni Braxton‘s “He Wasn’t Man Enough” is the state of unresolved emotional turmoil that it conveys. Braxton starts assertively enough, setting us up for a typically Millie Jackson-esque love triangle vignette, in which the wronged woman heaps scorn upon her successor. But as the song progresses, the singer’s true emotions seep through, undercutting her bravado with flashes of raw pain, and giving the lie to her attempts at screw-you-sister attitude. I’d never particularly rated Braxton before, but this is a masterful performance.

Set against the energy of Motörhead, the class of Soul II Soul and the passion of Toni Braxton, poor old Diana Vickers can only suffer by comparison. As with Ellie Goulding before her, the single’s over-glossy production sheen does Diana no favours – and although “Once” boasts an A-list songwriting pedigree, being co-written by Cathy Dennis (“Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”, “Toxic”, “I Kissed A Girl”) and Eg White (“Leave Right Now”, “Chasing Pavements”, “Warwick Avenue”), the song fails to fully engage.

That said, “I’m only gonna let you kill me once” is a well-chosen hook for Diana’s intriguingly skew-whiff performance style, and it’s heartening to see her make good on the promise she displayed on 2008’s X Factor. I’d just hoped for something a bit more special, that’s all.

Over to you. The Sixties have been tanking thus far, but could Elvis restore their fortunes? 2010 has been doing best of all, but will Diana Vickers impede its progress? Two rounds in, The Eighties and Noughties are tying in second place, and both have fielded strong candidates in today’s draw – so where will this leave the scoreboard at the end of Round Three? Vote wisely!

Comments

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  1. 31
    Martin Skidmore on 18 May 2010 #

    Don’t feel strongly about any of these – lots of people with substantial careers who won’t be particularly remembered for these singles.
    6 pts: Motorhead
    5 pts: Tom Jones
    4 pts: Soul II Soul
    3 pts: Toni Braxton
    2 pts: Elvis Presley
    1 pt: Diana Vickers

  2. 32
    asta on 18 May 2010 #

    6 pts- Toni Braxton I never thought I’d be giving her 6pts,( I would have said her turn on Dancing With the Stars was the final straw) but this placement has less to do with her strengths and more to do with the weaknesses of the other songs. She’s really a 90s R&B diva and nothing she’s done since Unbreak My Heart has equaled the power of that ballad. This is a fine performance and I like the call and response with the chorus, although it strongly reminds me of TLC’s No Scrubs in that respect.

    5 pts- Soul II Soul- It’s by rote Soul II Soul, but still Soul II Soul. I might have given it the 6 pts if there had been more of the piano and none of the Jazzy B.

    4 pts- Elvis Presley- An entirely forgettable effort, but still sung by one of the greats.

    3 pts- Motorhead I don’t like this at all and it’s not because it’s rock or metal ( I went to an AC/DC concert last summer and had a great time) It’s because it’s a mess.

    2 pts- Diana Vickers- I have no idea who she is. Reading the other comments I see that she either won or took part in an X factor contest, so that explains a bit about the industrial-strength packaging going on here. But. Dear God, that voice is horrid. It’s a bad party trick. Singing from( modulating the tone in) the soft palate and uvula is not a skill or a gift, it’s a fault to be corrected.

    1 pt- Tom Jones Because here’s a man with a legitimate gift, a beautiful voice, who wasted it on crap like this.

  3. 33
    Al Ewing on 19 May 2010 #

    Late result!

    6 points – Tom Jones. DAUGHTER OF DARKNEEEESSS! LEAVE ME ALONE FOR EV-UH! Gorgeous OTT-ness.

    5 points – Toni Braxton. Don’t know if she means to be quite so evil as she comes off, but it’s spine-chilling stuff, and it’s easy to read between the lines and see the drunk woman at the wedding reception desperately trying to make her own part in the story the part that counts. (Also is this the DAUGHTER OF DARNEEEEESSS Tom sang about?)

    4 points – Diana Vickers. Nice.

    3 points – Elvis. Charming.

    2 points – Soul 2 Soul. Fine.

    1 point – Motorhead. Not my cup of tea.

  4. 34
    Tom on 20 May 2010 #

    Even later result! The pitiless cruelty of the marking system well exposed here as honestly there’s little difference between these six

    So:

    6 points – Toni Braxton (pretty much wholly for the backing)
    5 points – Soul II Soul (ditto)
    4 points – Diana Vickers (all over the shop but she intrigues me)
    3 points – Elvis (like Al says, charming)
    2 points – Motorhead (oddly more restrained than I was hoping for)
    1 point – Tom Jones (actually better than most Tom)

  5. 35
    punctum on 20 May 2010 #

    IMPORTANT TOM JONES FACTOID

    He recorded the vocal for “Daughter Of Darkness” in one take – while DRUNK.

    WERE YOU AWARE OF THIS?

  6. 36
    Mike Atkinson on 20 May 2010 #

    No… but it does explain the joyful hamminess. I think I like it a little more now!

  7. 37
    grange85 on 20 May 2010 #

    Motorhead were the first band that were all mine and The Golden Years EP is possibly the single most important record I’ve ever bought – it was one of only two or three genuinely life-changing musical events in my life. I am overjoyed that it’s turned up here. Thank you! Of the rest – Stuck on You is cheerily wonderful; I like Daughter of Darkness so much more than I think I ought to; Soul II Soul I was ready to hate 20 seconds in but by 2 minutes I was taken in. Not so much with Toni Braxton or Diana Vickers. But on the whole (so far) number eights rule!

    6 Motorhead
    5 Tom Jones
    4 Elivs
    3 Soul II Soul
    2 Diana Vickers
    1 Toni Braxton

  8. 38
    lex on 21 May 2010 #

    I’ve been having computer issues this week (I WANT TO KILL ALL APPLE EMPLOYEES) so wasn’t able to listen or comment, and it’s probably too late now, but I just want to say that “He Wasn’t Man Enough” is one of my all-time favourite jams.

  9. 39
    Mike Atkinson on 21 May 2010 #

    Lex, it’s not too late! Voting stays open for all rounds until we’re fully done.

  10. 40
    lex on 21 May 2010 #

    Oh OK cool! Fingers crossed I should be able to listen again by the weekend – that, or I will actually have committed an act of homicide on the nearest computer shop employee and will NEVER be able to listen again due to incarceration.

  11. 41
    Martin on 22 May 2010 #

    6 points – Motörhead
    5 points – Tom Jones
    4 points – Elvis Presley
    3 points – Soul II Soul
    2 points – Diana Vickers
    1 point – Toni Braxton

    All of these tracks are very strong. I kept wishing I could move people up. The 90s-era slacker in me relates to Vickers and would like to put her at 4, but Soul II Soul’s pro ethos too strong. As usual, the earlier tracks have more flava, and win by that standard.

  12. 42
    Mark Davis on 22 May 2010 #

    6p: Elvis Presley
    5p: Tom Jones
    4p: Diana Vickers
    3p: Motörhead
    2p:Toni Braxton
    1p: Soul II Soul

  13. 43
    Ben on 23 May 2010 #

    6 – Diana Vickers
    5 – Motorhead
    4 – Tom Jones
    3 – Elvis Presley
    2 – Soul II Soul
    1 – Toni Braxton

  14. 44
    Clair on 25 May 2010 #

    6 points – elvis
    5 points – tom jones
    4 points – diana vickers
    3 points – motorhead
    2 points – soul II soul
    1 point – toni braxton

  15. 45
    Z on 29 May 2010 #

    I always listen at least 3 times – never let it be said that I’m not conscientious. In this case, it was Spotify, MP3, Spotify. On this occasion, the third listen demoted the first two to second and third and elevated Elvis by two places, and reversed the last two places.

    6 points – Elvis Presley – Even ‘not his best’ is pretty damn good. I enjoyed this very much.
    5 points – Toni Braxton – not really my sort of thing but it grew on me, and I like her voice. But it’s too long and therefore drops off first place.
    4 points – Motörhead – Sad to say, this became boring by the third listen. It started off in first place and has been demoted.
    3 points – Tom Jones – I didn’t dislike the verse but didn’t like the chorus at all.
    2 points – Diana Vickers – This was worse the more I listened to it. I quite liked it first time.
    1 point – Soul II Soul – oh dear no, that’s godawful. I found it very hard to listen to the end of this. 4 minutes 11 seconds out of my life that can never be replaced. I bore with the MP3 but skipped the full version next time round, after a few unhappy seconds.

  16. 46
    jeff w on 1 Jun 2010 #

    6pts – Diana V
    5pts – Motörhead
    4pts – Toni B
    3pts – Elvis
    2pts – Soul II Soul
    1pt – Tom Jones

  17. 47
    Rachiesparrow on 3 Jun 2010 #

    I do love a bit of Tom Jones, even though he does look like he’s been rubbed all over with boot polish.

    6pts – Soul II Soul
    5pts – Tom Jones
    4pts – Toni B
    3pts – Elvis
    2pts – Diana Vickers
    1pt – Motorhead

  18. 48
    i alex on 5 Jun 2010 #

    6p. Once
    5p. He wasn’t man enough
    4p. Daughter of darkness
    3p. Stuck on you
    2p. Leaving Here
    1p. A dream’s A dream

  19. 49
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 6 Jun 2010 #

    6 for Toni Braxton – He Wasn’t Man Enough
    5 for Diana Vickers – Once
    4 for Motörhead – Leaving Here (from the Golden Years EP)
    3 for Elvis Presley – Stuck On You
    2 for Soul II Soul – A Dream’s A Dream
    1 for Tom Jones – Daughter Of Darkness

    Brax: ooh, this is terrific, pin-sharp arrangement and vocal actually hitting the abstraction the technique pulls towards
    Motörhead: gorgeous guitar sound, presumably run straight into the desk (or overdubbed after). Messy otherwise.
    La Vick: not sure yet if she genuinely has a voice in there, let alone a persona that will grow beyond “pasty heifer” — but perfectly judged arrangement all the same…
    Elvis: haha the original “pasty heifer” — i prefer him nimble and uncertain of his identity

  20. 50
    RobMiles on 6 Jun 2010 #

    6 – Toni Braxton. Spot-on sassy vocal and great funky arrangement.
    5 – Soul II Soul
    4 – Diana Vickers
    3 – Elvis Presley
    2 – Tom Jones
    1 – Motorhead

    As you can tell, I prefer female vocals!

  21. 51
    Tom Lawrence on 9 Jun 2010 #

    6 POINTS. TONI BRAXTON! TONI TONI TONI LOVE HER TONI
    5 POINTS Diana Vickers
    4 Points SOUL II SOUL
    3 points – Tom Jones (oddly compellign this one)
    2 points – Elvis Presley
    1 points – Motorhead ( ispend the whole trakc wishing it was Ace of Spades, so…)

    Actually a pretty good round!

  22. 52
    sarlitchin on 10 Jun 2010 #

    6 points – Elvis Presley
    5 points – Soul II Soul
    4 points – Motörhead
    3 points – Toni Braxton
    2 points – Diana Vickers
    1 point – Tom Jones (Vickers should think herself lucky that there was a TJ track in this bunch)

  23. 53
    Steve Mannion on 14 Jun 2010 #

    Heard ‘Once’ in the pub on Friday night and it sounded quite a bit better to me – might’ve bumped it to 4 or even 5 points in hindsight.

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