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May 11

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops 2011: the Number 10s.

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops52 comments • 1,880 views

If you were here twelve months ago, then you’ll know exactly what this is all about. If you weren’t here twelve months ago, then you’ll soon figure out what’s going on; just watch, absorb and imitate, and you should be fine.

But if you do need a quick summary: over the next two or three weeks, we’ll be collectively appraising the Top 10 UK singles charts from this week in 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011. Today, we’ll be looking at the records at Number Ten in each chart; in the next post, we’ll look at the Number Nines, and so on until we reach the top. There will be voting, there will be scoring, and there will be cumulative, decade-against-decade ranking, all of which will be explained in due course.

OK. Ready? Let’s do it!

1961: Where The Boys Are – Connie Francis (video) (lyrics)
1971: Bridget The Midget (The Queen Of The Blues) – Ray Stevens (video) (lyrics)
1981: Lately – Stevie Wonder (video) (lyrics)
1991: Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey) – De La Soul (video) (lyrics)
2001: Star 69 – Fatboy Slim (video) (lyrics)
2011: Buzzin (Remix) – Mann ft 50 Cent (video) (lyrics)

Spotify playlist (minus De La Soul)

Three years on from her chart-topping debut (“Who’s Sorry Now“), Connie Francis was still knocking the hits out at regular intervals. “Where The Boys Are” (officially a double A-side with “Baby Roo”) was her sixteenth chart entry, and the Neil Sedaka/Howard Greenfield composition is sometimes said to be her signature tune. It was also the theme tune from a beach movie of the same name, set in Fort Lauderdale in Florida, in which La Francis made her acting debut as one of a gang of four girls with contrasting personalities and attitudes, on the hunt for boys in proto-Sex And The City style. (The trailer’s quite a hoot: you can see it here.)

Considering that the film advertised itself as a holiday-themed comedy romp, I’m surprised that its theme tune strove to strike such a lovelorn, wistful tone. If its lyrics had cut a little deeper, or if its singer had sold it a little more soulfully, or if its melody and arrangment didn’t mark it so clearly as a poor cousin of “Blue Velvet”, then perhaps I’d be more sold – but as it is, I can’t suppress a retrospective snigger at Connie’s delusions. (Really, honey? You think you’ll find true love “where the boys are”? In Fort Lauderdale? Hmm, well, good luck with that.)

Having just spent a dispiriting fifteen minutes acquainting myself with his recent renaissance as court jester to the tea party movement, I’m loathe to cut much slack to RayOsama (Yo’ Mama)Stevens and this still-more-mirthless predecessor to “The Streak“. The two tracks shared a couple of common features – the “announcer” format (compere/news reporter), the recurring doofus-with-a-catchphrase (“I dig it, I really dig it!”/”Don’t look, Ethel!”) – but where “The Streak” at least had topicality on its side, “Bridget The Midget” centred its gimmick around that well-worn old trick, the speeded-up vocal (as pioneered by The Goons and Pinky & Perky in the UK, and by Alvin & the Chipmunks in the US). I have a dim memory of a diminutive “Bridget” character gracing the Top of the Pops studio at the time – shoulder length black hair, china-doll face, cherry red mini-dress – but Google’s got nowt, so maybe I just dreamt her up.

Widely regarded as Stevie Wonder‘s last good – if perhaps not great – album, Hotter Than July yielded four British hit singles, of which “Lately” – an excursion into more traditional romantic balladry, which cast Wonder as a newly suspicious cuckold on the brink of heartbreak – was the third. Although its songcraft is hard to quibble at, and Wonder does an able interpretive job, I do question certain eccentricities of the bassline that his musical director Nathan Watts supplies (albeit mixed so low behind Wonder’s solo keyboard that it’s taken me thirty years to fully register its presence). Sure, the jazzily note-bending twangs work fine – but at other times, the notes simply plod falteringly behind the beat, occasionally fracturing into semi-fluffed mini-flurries. But hey, I’m quibbling for quibbling’s sake, and “Lately” deserves a good ranking.

In the corners of the Internet which I tend to inhabit, the continued affection for De La Soul‘s awkward, cranky, spiky, self-consciously expectation-busting follow-up to their classic 1989 debut album Three Feet High And Rising has been a source of some bafflement – although in fairness, I’ve not given De La Soul Is Dead an airing since the year it came out. So, yes, I could well be missing the point – but dammit, I was one of those people who wanted another cheerfully absurdist Daisy Age romp, and dammit, I felt let down! (With this in mind, PM Dawn timed their emergence just right, hoovering us all up by the sackload.)

As the taster single from De La Soul Is Dead, the Curiosity Killed The Cat-quoting sunniness of “Ring Ring Ring” does set something of a false trail – but then again, its narrative (depicting the newly successful trio being besieged by endless demo tapes from pushy hopefuls) is broadly in keeping with the more embittered elements of its parent album. So perhaps we had been warned.

Now then. Is it just me, or is Fatboy Slim‘s back catalogue wearing better than we might have expected? Last month, I found myself enjoying “Demons” all over again (even in the teeth of a guest vocal from Macy Gray), and recent chance exposures to “Right Here Right Now” and “Praise You” mesaurably improved my lunchtime sandwich breaks. And so too with “Star 69”, which shifts its creator away from the strictures of Big Beat, depositing him nearer the Underworld/Chemical Brothers end of the spectrum. Its flipside (“Weapon Of Choice”) might have ended up stealing the limelight, thanks to its award-winning Christopher Walken video, but “Star 69” generated the initial interest and sales, and to my mind it’s the track which still sounds freshest.

In marked contrast to De La Soul’s prematurely jaded take on the pressures of success, the 19-year old Mann seems prematurely in thrall to the bounties which it bestows (I say “prematurely”, as “Buzzin'” is his debut hit, which has performed much better in the UK than in his homeland). As I understand it, the remix’s prime function is to pre-load the track with a typically indifferent (but presumably sales-boosting) guest appearance from 50 Cent – but when you consider that a) Fiddy hasn’t had a major hit under his own steam, in either the UK or the US, since “Ayo Technology” in 2007 and b) that the tiredness of his preamble is instantly annihilated by the freshness of Mann’s delivery, you’re left wondering just who needs whom. I like this a lot, in a transitory, sounds-good-on-the-radio kind of way – but then again, I might be unduly swayed by the copious sampling of the 1986 Nu Shooz hit “I Can’t Wait”, which I hadn’t heard in years.

Blurbs dispensed with, let us proceed to THE VOTING! As ever, you are invited to listen to all six tracks (via the YouTube and Spotify links supplied upthread), before ranking them in descending order of preference and leaving your votes in the comments box. Please also feel free to append your own opinions and observations – although equally, please don’t feel obliged to do so. And when you’re voting, please remember these golden rules:

1) No omissions!
2) No tied places!
3) So far as you are able, please avoid being unduly swayed by nostalgic generational bias!

Let the voting commence! And let the best decade win!

CLICK HERE FOR THE SCORES SO FAR.

Comments

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  1. 31
    Pete on 5 May 2011 #

    6 – Stevie Wonder. A little annoyed because its the only one of these tracks I am very well acquainted with, but hey that’s the famous stuff for you. Very fond memories of parents smooching around the room to this.
    5 – De La Soul – quoting Curiosity Killed The Cat made me like this more at the time rather than less, but there is a reason De La Soul Is Dead was maligned.
    4 – Mann. In the end its the samples and backing track that give this legs, but the chorus does work, and I like it a lot more than I expect.
    3 – Connie Francis: Not her best, but she is a belter.
    2 – Ray Stevens. One I thought I liked a lot more than I did. But then I am suspicious of all songs about “midgets” being a short arse.
    1 – Fatboy Slim. I thought this had no interesting features at all.

  2. 32
    Pete on 5 May 2011 #

    (Look how unimportant I found it< I just quoted Johnny B on it.)

  3. 33
    JonnyB on 5 May 2011 #

    Honestly, that is really, really unimportant…

  4. 34
    asta on 5 May 2011 #

    Sorry I sent you to the attic Mike. I wonder why they thought adding a saxophone for the single release was a good idea. Or as you say, the single came first, and for the album, someone had the good sense to remove it.

  5. 35
    Erithian on 5 May 2011 #

    6 – Stevie Wonder. Brings back happy times.
    5 – De la Soul. For their antidote to misogynistic hip-hop.
    4 – Connie Francis. How to get nostalgic for a time before you were born!
    3 – Fatboy Slim. Pity we’re not being asked to mark “Weapon of Choice” though. Was it not a double A-side then?
    2 – Ray Stevens. I used to have this song on a Pinky and Perky album! Trying to conjure up the Bridget character you recall from TOTP, Mike, as it rings a bell with me too, but all I can come up with is an image of Harry Hill’s”Wagbo” (the offspring of Susan Boyle and X Factor’s Wagner, for non-TV Burp fans).
    1 – Mann and Fiddy. Just because it’s nothing we haven’t heard before – the aspirational bling-video, the usual clichés, the sample being the basis of the track rather than a springboard for anything original. Tedious.

  6. 36
    Z on 5 May 2011 #

    6 – Stevie Wonder. A few generic SW vocal tricks but lovely anyway. Quirkily painful subject matter.
    5 – De La Soul. Enjoyable.
    4 – Fatboy Slim. I resolutely listened to this three times and, much to my surprise, it grew on me. Hated it to start with, but you’re right, it’s good.
    3 – Connie Francis. I think this holds up well and I do like her voice.
    2 – Mann. I quite like it, but it’s palling on repetition.
    1 – Ray Stevens. I remember how that high-pitched vibrato and giggle irritated me at that time and they still do. I have heard worse novelty songs, however.

  7. 37
    DietMondrian on 6 May 2011 #

    Weak.

    6 – Stevie Wonder. Melodically interesting, though the version in my head doesn’t plod as much as the recorded version.

    Then a big drop off to:

    5 – De La Soul. OK, but Curiosity Killed the Cat? Really?
    4 – Connie Francis. Meh.
    3 – Mann ft 50 Cent. Just enough life in the sample to keep it above the two below, but I will never willingly listen to it again.
    2 – Fatboy Slim. Sooooo dull!
    1 – Ray Stevens. Actively offensive.

  8. 38
    Steve Mannion on 6 May 2011 #

    My charitable reaction to Ray Stevens was partly based on the memory of that previous hearing and enjoyment but because of the voice I was also reminded of ‘Jam On Revenge’ by Newcleus and that’s always a good thing afaic. I guess I find both closer to Woody Woodpecker than Pinky & Perky and it’s only the latter kind of helium-fuelled vocal effect that I can’t abide. This may be something to do with the harmonised effect (but when the music is as fast as the vocals are pitched up that can work better somehow see many but by no means all Ardkore anthems).

  9. 39
    Mark M on 6 May 2011 #

    6: Stevie – I’ve always loved this.
    5: De La Soul: surely one of the great things about hip hop has always been the redeeming of unpromising songs by reusing and recontextualising them. Which is to say: so what if it’s Curiousity they nicked the chorus from?*
    4: Connie: rather lovely. Can imagine it being used in Mad Men.
    3: Mann: Not bad as current chart rap goes. Although the presence of Fiddy is a drawback.
    2: Fatboy Slim: annoying.
    1: Ray Stevens: horrible.

    *How fate reunited me with De La Soul is dead

  10. 40
    intothefireuk on 11 May 2011 #

    6 Stevie Wonder – nice
    5 De la Soul – ok
    4 Connie Francis – ok-ish – evokes it’s time period well
    3 Ray Stevens – nonsense but slightly more tolerable than….
    2 Fatboy Slim – pretty dumb
    1 Mann – Preferred Nu Shooz. What is the point?

  11. 41
    lockedintheattic on 11 May 2011 #

    6 De La Soul
    5 Mann (admittedly at least half of those points are for the sample)
    4 Connie Francis
    3 Fatboy Slim
    2 Stevie Wonder
    1 Ray Stevens (my god this is dreadful)

  12. 42
    Tom on 11 May 2011 #

    No great shocks in my voting, I’m guessing.

    6 – De La Soul – Like Stevie W. this is a very-well put together track with voices I’m happy to hear but there’s something a bit second-division about it even so. I like the sample and groove very much but the group seem to be holding back, their intentional dourness a drawback.

    5 – Stevie Wonder – Troubled, meticulous, grown-up soul music. Not exactly thrilling but class will out.

    4 – Mann ft 50 Cent – Yeah, agree 50 Cent drags this down a bit, Mann sounds up for it and good for him, like the backing, doesn’t really cohere but a solid 6 out of 10.

    3 – Connie Francis – Sappy, disappointing as my Popular brushes w/her had left me rather pro-Connie.

    2 – Fatboy Slim – Annoyingly, this would have been OK if it wasn’t for the vocal sample which is feeble, annoying and badly used. My guilty FBS pleasure around this time was the JIM MORRISON sampling “Bird Of Prey” though.

    1 – Ray Stevens – My Popular brush with Ray seems to have left me with precisely the right impression of him, on the other hand. Oh, the comedic powers of helium! This is, however, better than “The Streak”.

  13. 43
    wichita lineman on 11 May 2011 #

    6 – Stevie Wonder (some pretty odd lines here “hope my premonition misses” – wossat?)
    5 – Connie Francis (cutesy, far from her best, which for me today is this popcorn finger snapper )
    4 – Mann (catchy enough)
    3 – De La Soul (they sound SO bored)
    2 – Fatboy Slim ( Blake Baxter’s Fuck You Up shows FBS how to use the cuss word and make it sound genuinely scary)
    1 – Ray Stevens (I’d love to say I DIG IT I REALLY DIG IT but I’d be fibbing horribly)

  14. 44

    6: Star 69 – Fatboy Slim
    For some reason I always assume I’m more allergic to FBS than I actually am. A tweak away from hardcore first-gen tape-process minimalism (Steve Reich in the morning), but too long; the last minute or so comes across as loss of interest.
    5: Buzzin (Remix) – Mann ft 50 Cent
    Deeply pretty backing; rap that starts brazenly self-pleased and never really goes beyond one-dimensional brag, in content or tone. Also too long
    4: Where The Boys Are – Connie Francis
    Gorgeous voice of course, but the song’s a bit betwixt and between, performance- and style-wise: there’s something interestingly unsettling about the amount she emotes; but I think it needed to be more unhinged or more held back to fully work that seam.
    3: Lately – Stevie Wonder
    I love every textural and harmonic element that goes into this, but the way they come together is desultory and a bit disspiriting, I guess in comparison with his own best.
    2: Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey) – De La Soul
    DLS are surely nicer people than ultrad!cks like Fiddy, but the phrase-shaping here is tired and rote, and their deliberate recessiveness — once so refreshing — now really works against them; it’s more and more a sign of things they can’t do, less of things they could do but chose not to.
    1: Bridget The Midget (The Queen Of The Blues) – Ray Stevens
    Even before the vaguely degrading chipmunk skit shtick, I recoil a bit at the brash 70s rehash of the 50s breakthrough: borrowed glory, on automatic. The shadow side of glam.

  15. 45
    jeff w registered on 18 May 2011 #

    6pts – Mann. I think Fiddy’s pretty good on this. It’s his verse that first drew me in. But the hook and Mann’s infectious enthusiasm is the clincher.

    5pts – Stevie Wonder. I don’t normally think of Stevie being a great vocalist (all-round instrumentalist whiz and ideas man yes, singer no) but he really nails this ballad. Even the long drawn-out syllables, like the “cryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy” at the end, are affecting.

    4pts – De La. Not a patch on “A Roller Skating Jam” (or even “Bitties” – yes …Is Dead is their masterpiece and has aged far better than much of 3 Feet High). But this has a few good lines. I particularly like the way the trio josh each other by passing the doorstepping demo hawkers on to another band member.

    3pts – Connie F
    2pts – Fatboy Slim
    1pt – Ray Stevens

  16. 46
    imsodave on 6 Jul 2011 #

    6 points – De La Soul.
    The only song of the six that I would choose to listen to. Because it’s great.

    5 points – Stevie Wonder.
    Nice tune. Sounds like it should be in a musical though.

    4 points – Mann ft 50 Cent.
    Never heard this before. It’s *ok*. Groundbreaking ostentatious video.

    3 points – Connie Francis.
    Where *are* the boys? It’s incredibly similar to numerous other songs of the era, but not as good.

    2 points – Fatboy Slim.
    meh

    1 point – Ray Stevens.
    Awful. No fun. The limp backing track (ie the actual music!) is terrible.

  17. 47
    grange85 on 7 Jul 2011 #

    6 points – De La Soul – yes much better without the sax (as most songs are)
    5 points – Stevie Wonder – painful yearning nonsense
    4 points – Connie Francis – painful yearning nonsense
    3 points – Mann ft 50 Cent – Kinda OK once it gets going
    2 points – Fatboy Slim – God is this like dance music by numbers? Yawn
    1 points – Ray Stevens – Oh jesus this is shit… plain and simple.

  18. 48
    crag on 11 Jul 2011 #

    6-Stevie: Didnt realise i knew this- not vintage Stevie but still lovely
    5-De La: Not by quite a stretch my fave from DLSID and the sax on this version is deeply irksome but they were one of my key late 80s/early 90s band so “props”are due
    4- Connie:the bad sound gives it a nice Toni Fisher- Big Hurt feel prob absent on the actual record- bit dreary but pleasant enough
    3-Fatboy: Far from his best
    2-Ray Stevens-until “Bridget” shows up this has quite a cool Vegasy groove to it-certainly better than the Streak anyways
    6-Mann: Hate the Nu Shooz track, hate Fiddy, poor in the extreme

  19. 49
    Lionel d'Lion on 22 Jul 2011 #

    Sorry I’m late to the party. Rather surprisingly (to me, at least), the leonine jury’s points go to:

    6 pts: De La Soul
    5 pts: Stevie Wonder
    4 pts: Connie Francis
    3 pts: Mann
    2 pts: Fatboy Slim
    1 pt: Ray Stevens

  20. 50
    AndyPandy on 23 Jul 2011 #

    I never did the No 10s so better late than never

    Mann – 6pts
    Stevie Wonder – 5pts
    Connie Francis – 4pts
    De La Soul – 3pts
    Ray Stevens – 2 pts
    Fatboy Slim – 1 pt

    for a pre-rocker like me I think its a pity you didn’t do the 50s as well – obviously because you’d have trouble record chart wise doing the first 2 and three quarter years! and I don’t know how easy to access the sheet music chart are. If we were in America we could even be doing the 40s (even better!).
    as a big man

  21. 51
    Clair on 24 Jul 2011 #

    Catching up! Neil and I give the following scores:

    1 pt : Fat Boy Slim
    2 pts : Ray Stevens
    3 pts : Mann
    4 pts : Connie Francis
    5 pts : De La Soul
    6 pts : Stevie Wonder

  22. 52
    hardtogethits on 25 Jul 2011 #

    6 Stevie Wonder
    5 De La Soul
    4 Fatboy Slim
    3 Ray Stevens
    2 Connie Francis
    1 Mann

1 2 All

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