Jul 11

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops 2011: the Number 6s

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops49 comments • 1,550 views

1961: Are You Sure – The Allisons (video) (lyrics) (Lena’s write-up)
1971: Hot Love – T.Rex (video) (lyrics) (Popular entry)
1981: Can You Feel It – The Jacksons (video) (lyrics)
1991: Born Free – Vic Reeves & The Roman Numerals (video) (lyrics)
2001: Dream On – Depeche Mode (video) (lyrics)
2011: E.T. – Katy Perry ft Kanye West (video) (lyrics)

Spotify playlist (all 6 tracks)

Modelled so closely on the Everly Brothers that they even affected a fictional sibling status, The Allisons followed a career path that became familiar in the 2000s: a TV talent show, a record deal, a chance to represent the UK at Eurovision, a lone hit, and a quick slide from public view. Still, at least their brief star got to shine a little more brightly than Jessica Garlick’s, or James Fox’s, or Andy Abraham’s, as – in accordance with Sixties/Seventies Eurovision custom – “Are You Sure?” finished in second place for the United Kingdom, beaten by the entry from plucky little Luxembourg.

(Eurovision Stats Overload Parenthesis, For Those Who Care: Kathy Kirby and The New Seekers were similarly trounced by France Gall and Vicky Leandros in 1965 and 1972, while Anne-Marie David elbowed Cliff Richard into third place in 1973. It almost goes without saying – but let’s say it anyway, because there’s nothing the British like more than a decades-old competitive grudge – that none of the victorious acts were actually native to Luxembourg. Poor show, what?)

Having watched The Assassination Of Richard Nixon over the weekend, I can’t help but imagine “Are You Sure?” being crooned by Sean Penn’s simpering, simmering salesman-turned-killer. For while the track might start with soft, courtly entreaties to the departed lover – “Look here, old thing, are you absolutely positive about all this?” – an increasingly unveiled sense of menace starts to seep through the well-mannered veneer. The tone becomes accusing (“for you’re the one who went and broke the vow”) and then threatening (“You’ll be sorry, wait and see, spend your life in misery”), casting a different complexion on the final iteration of “hold you tightly in my arms”. Just how tightly, you flukey fraternal fakes?

And so we move to the most influential single to have appeared in this year’s Which Decade thus far. Boosting a standard shuffle blues rhythm with brutal wallop and clout, T.Rex set the template for British glam rock, birthing a beat that would re-surface time and again over the next three years: Son Of My Father, Rock And Roll Part 2, Blockbuster, The Jean Genie. And by trading Blakeian hippy mysticism for Lear-esque bubblegum whimsy, Marc Bolan ditched an older audience for a younger one – leading the charge, while offering a cooler, sparklier, more richly imaginative alternative to your Co-Cos and your Chirpy Chirpys.

To my nine-year old self, “Hot Love” had it all. A sonic representation of silver and gold, its playground verses bore endless repetition, as did its endless everybody-join-in coda (less self-consciously forced than “Hey Jude”, and accented with a cavernous stomp that Slade would soon make their own). Even the band name thrilled me: T.Rex, big like a dinosaur! I loved dinosaurs!

This summer, at the Lovebox festival in London’s Victoria Park, in a set which inevitably featured his cover of Bolan’s widow’s best known song, another Marc exhumed it. He must have been smitten too. We all smiled; we all boogied. I’m giving it six.

The Jacksons may not have been big like dinosaurs – although Michael was on his way – but in the immediate aftermath of the disco era, they needed to avoid extinction. Cue “Can You Feel It”, the opening track on Triumph, in which disco’s lightness and romance was replaced with a stiff, maximalist march, bearing an overtly anthemic, Utopian message. Michael co-wrote the song, and perhaps it’s here that we find the first manifestations of his burgeoning emperor/messiah complex; the Ruritanian epaulettes and tassles would follow, as would the Heal The Worlds and the Earth Songs.

“Can You Feel It” flopped in the States, perhaps partly due to its genre unorthodoxy, in a segmented pre-MTV world that didn’t quite know which box to put it in. In Europe, where boxes mattered less, it fared much better, giving the group their penultimate Top Ten hit in the UK. Seventeen years later, The Tamperer would sample it, subvert it and smuggle it to Number One. Unmoved by its rhythmic clumpiness, and unstirred by its lyrical platitudes, its appeal has always been lost on me. I suspect that’s also box-related.

As Vic Reeves was discussed on Popular just two months ago, there’s little to add when it comes to examining the hit which preceded “Dizzy”: a cover of Matt Monro and John Barry’s Oscar-winning theme song for a film about an adopted lion cub, mashed up with elements of Shuggie Otis’s “Strawberry Letter 23” (better known in its cover version by The Brothers Johnson).

Reeves plays it fairly straight here, avoiding the temptation to ham it up in his trademark “Northern club singer” style – but he also stops several yards short of sincerity, opting instead for a Mike Flowers-prefiguring pastiche. Thus “you” becomes “ye”, now rhyming with “free”, and Monroe’s “the world still astounds you, it’s time you looked at a star” becomes “the world still astounds ye, each time he looks at a car”.

A clue to the “star/car” switch comes during Reeves’ megaphoned voiceover section. This starts as some sort of mini-Wikipedia entry, before Reeves turns his mockery directly onto Monro. Not only is Monro, ho ho, a former bus driver (and hence astounded by cars, and even incapable of art?), but Reeves also claims – or rather his comedy persona claims – to be the better singer. Reeves’ subversive intent is then hammered home in the last lines, which riff on differing interpretations of the word “free” to allegedly comic effect.

I say “allegedly” because, as with much of Reeves’ work, any playfulness in the surrealism is – for me – smothered by the smugness, leaving me poker-faced and mildly irritated. Sure, he and Bob Mortimer got the laughs – but the laughter always felt cliquey, a collective “yeah, we’re clever enough to get it”, underpinned by a certain measure of “actually, we don’t get it, but we’d die rather than admit it to our peer group”. Oh, enough! This was supposed to be a short one!

By 2001, Depeche Mode‘s Dave Gahan had long since conquered the addictions which nearly killed him five years earlier (insert poignant Winehouse comparison here). If it wasn’t for the fact that Martin Gore wrote it, “Dream On” would therefore read as the personal testament of a rehabilitated survivor, recalling both the physical horror and the emotional alienation of his former, half-lived life. Perhaps that was Gore’s aim, and perhaps that makes “Dream On” some sort of oblique scold. Or, as seems more likely, it’s an empathetically drawn portrayal: part atonement, part warning.

As with many Depeche singles, which slip in and out of the charts so quickly that I never pay them much heed, “Dream On” forces me to give overdue respect to a band whose prolonged success mostly baffles me (at least when I give matter any thought, which is rarely). It’s a restless, skittering thing, in which Mark Bell’s production strikes the right balance of sparseness and detail, and Gahan’s theatrical tendencies are wisely reined in.

Halfway through her show at Nottingham Arena this March, Katy Perry left the stage for one of God-knows-how-many costume changes. On returning, she excitedly told us of the news that she had just received offstage: that “E.T.” had reached Number One in the Billboard charts. It was Perry’s one moment of true emotion, in a show that, while impressive in many ways, was marred by the hollow-eyed neutrality of its star performer. And this is the problem that I have with her: that for all the cleverness and wit that she has invested in her pop persona, her core self remains curiously absent. She’s a hoofer, a trouper, a gifted show pony, and she’s made some able pop moves – but I could never love her like Gaga or like Kylie, because she never drops her guard.

As for “E.T.” in particular, my least favourite of her hits, it feels fitting to hand over to the late Martin Skidmore – a man who I only met once, although Tom’s tribute makes me wish I’d got to know him better – who had this to say about it on The Singles Jukebox.

This Luke/Martin number is kind of like “We Will Rock You” with a bit of “All The Things She Said”, with Katy droning on about loving an alien, and with a heavily autotuned Kanye playing that role. I suppose it’s less obviously catchpenny than her usual, what with being darker and having no big hook or anything, but she still doesn’t interest me at all.

It’s scoreboard time. As predicted in the last round, Diana Ross has lifted the Seventies off the bottom of the pile – but the Nineties hold onto their lead, albeit with a much narrower gap (you can blame Zucchero for that). The last round’s positions are in brackets.

1 (1) The Nineties (16.27)
2 (2) The Sixties (15.73)
3 (4) The Eighties (14.57)
4 (3) The Teens (13.92)
5 (6) The Seventies (12.56)
6 (5) The Noughties (10.95)

Assuming that you all love “Hot Love” as much as I do, I’m expecting another climb for the Seventies – but beyond that, I’d say the field was fairly open. What say you, voters?


  1. 1
    Mike Atkinson on 27 Jul 2011 #

    My votes:
    6 points – T.Rex
    5 points – Depeche Mode
    4 points – The Allisons
    3 points – The Jacksons
    2 points – Katy Perry
    1 point – Vic Reeves


    Hot Love – T.Rex – 132 points
    Can You Feel It – The Jacksons – 120 points
    Dream On – Depeche Mode – 88 points
    Are You Sure – The Allisons – 70 points
    E.T. – Katy Perry ft Kanye West – 54 points
    Born Free – Vic Reeves & The Roman Numerals – 40 points

  2. 2
    Weej on 28 Jul 2011 #

    6 – The Jacksons – Almost as good as anything else in MJ’s golden period, I just love the way this builds over the six minutes.
    5 – T Rex – Great song, but the silly contrived lyrics always stop me just short of loving it
    4 – Vic Reeves – Just about ok, just through throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it, it seems. And anything using bits of Strawberry Letter 23 is given a pass.
    3 – The Allisons – Oh, this one! But hold on, do I actually know it? No, don’t think I do. Is this reaction a positive one or a negative one? Not sure, but the song’s just finished and I’ve already forgotten it.
    2 – Katy Perry – Polished 2011 pop product. But the way she sings “extraterrestrial” is pretty annoying. And it might be racist. Possibly.
    1 – Depeche Mode – Boring.

  3. 3
    AndyPandy on 28 Jul 2011 #

    6 T Rex – one of the best number 1s ever yet alone no 6’s
    5 The Jacksons – the other good one out of this lot

    and a long long way behind…

    4 Allisons
    3 Vic Reeves
    2 Katy Perry
    1 Depeche Mode

  4. 4
    Lionel d'Lion on 28 Jul 2011 #

    This was an interesting mix for me. I couldn’t separate my favourite three by much (but have, Mike, because that’s The Rules) and was equally unfond of the bottom two.

    6 points – T.Rex
    5 points – The Jacksons
    4 points – The Allisons
    3 points – Vic Reeves and The Roman Numerals
    2 points – Depeche Mode
    1 point – Katy Perry ft Kanye West

  5. 5
    JonnyB on 28 Jul 2011 #

    6 – The Jacksons. ‘Can you feeeeeel it’ – a track close to my heart, and if this doesn’t make yours leap then yah booo you are a misery.

    5 – T Rex. ‘What IS it with your T-Rex? I just don’t get it,’ a New Zealander asked me once. File under ‘one trick pony, but pretty good trick,’ and it would be churlish to mark this down due to over-familiarity or the fact that Marc Bolan doing the same thing over and over and over again grated after a while.

    4 – Depeche Mode. I was trying to work out what this reminded me of, then twigged that it was ‘Up To Me’ by Jethro Tull, a track that sounds nothing like it whatsoever. I have a fondness for Depeche Mode, as I very nearly ended up HAVING SEX with a cute German exchange student due to my pretending to come from Basildon and know the band. It didn’t happen, but in my sixteen year-old mind, it COULD HAVE. Anyway, I was a little hampered by the fact that I didn’t really know any of their songs. Hadn’t heard this before and quite liked it in a hypnotic way.

    I feel that there should be some sort of intermission before we heave a sigh and move on to:

    3 – Katy Perry. Weej, above, had forgotten the Allisons – I have already forgotten Katy Perry and it was the last track on the playlist. It has no positive or negative features for me.

    2 – The Allisons. Well I forgot the tune, but not everything that annoyed me about it. I often wonder whether the record industry of the sixties and early seventies had some sort of conspiracy to destroy pop music. The light-programme arrangement; the lack of any form of emotion; the desperate, desperate lyrics – everything I hate about that sort of thing.

    1 – Which leaves us with Vic. I felt the same as you, Mike – didn’t get the joke, was suspicious about people who did. Perhaps not being one of the cool kids didn’t help, and I should say that I appreciate him more now. So reviewing this as a piece of music rather than a comedy skit or something of its time, the only thing I can really say is that it’s an arrangement I don’t like of a song I don’t like, sung badly. Reviewed in the broader sense, this is essentially the sound of a man and his entourage wanking.

  6. 6
    Mike Atkinson on 28 Jul 2011 #

    JonnyB – I nearly said in my Depeche blurb that the song reminded me of “Being Boiled” by the Human League. But, like Tull, it doesn’t really sound like it at all. There’s just something in the verses, I think.

  7. 7
    JonnyB on 28 Jul 2011 #

    Will listen to the League later on and check…

    Clear-light-of-day addendum to my rant about the Allisons – not sure ‘early seventies’ is correct. I think I was thinking of the way EMI took Jake Thackray and overlaid him with the Mike Sammes Singers, light strings and a sodding celeste. That was probably late sixties anyway.

    Best get on with some work now.

  8. 8
    chelovek na lune on 28 Jul 2011 #

    JonnyB – Good Lord, I can only presume the Mädchen in question had never seen or been to Basildon. That strikes me as a very Germanic (or at any rate Northern European) story indeed. Still, as it said in the graffiti in the lift of the 18-storey block I lived in St Petersburg for a time in the early 90s, “DEPECHE MODE ARE GOOD” (also “Sex is my hobbey” (sic!) . This is far from them at their best though..

    Ratings later. I shall join in the general slating of Vic Reeves for sure.

  9. 9
    David Belbin on 28 Jul 2011 #

    6 points – T.Rex: Great. I bought this and played it to death, aged 13
    5 points – The Jacksons: Good track – think you have a blind spot here
    4 points – The Allisons: Not heard this before & sure, it’s bland, but, after 2 plays, it beats the tracks below
    3 points – Katy Perry: Like a lot of Kanye and some KP, but this is minor
    2 points – Depeche Mode: I must have a blind spot, never got them. Dull, dull
    1 point – Vic Reeves: Horrible, horrible. I loved this song when I was a kid, and this is sacrilegious shit

  10. 10
    lonepilgrim on 28 Jul 2011 #

    6 points – T.Rex
    this still sounds wonderful – it wasn’t usual for Pan’s People to dance with the band, but I suspect they couldn’t help themselves – marc combines hippy head lyrics, rock and roll mannerisms (uh-huh-huh) and glittery pop to create an intoxicating groove
    5 points – The Jacksons
    I’ve always liked this for its euphoric qualities and the tubular bells – I’ve never bothered to decipher the lyrics but they work well as a series of kinetic syllables – it gets a bit relentless after a while and would have benefitted from a a sparer and more varied production

    4 points – Depeche Mode
    I’d never heard this until now but didn’t mind it too much – it sounds a bit like a demo and the sparse production sheds too much light on Dave’s wobbly vocal – could benefit from a remix. They’re still better than U2 and would make a great headliner at Glastonbury if they haven’t done so already

    3 points – The Allisons
    A light, pleasant production and good vocal mix applied to a Buddy Holly knock-off

    2 points – Katy Perry
    I enjoyed Kanye’s bits but as soon as KP stomps in with her gulping girly voice the whole thing becomes a black hole

    1 point – Vic Reeves
    I don’t like the snarky attitude and the vocal is poor – Matt Monro was a good singer and doesn’t deserve VR’s condecension

  11. 11
    Mike Atkinson on 28 Jul 2011 #

    Goodness me, all this love for “Can You Feel It” – I must indeed have a blind spot. And there’s more Depeche Mode “meh” than I was expecting, as well.

  12. 12
    enitharmon on 28 Jul 2011 #

    I’ve not done one of these before for some reason. Actually part of the reason, I’ve just discovered, is that to give a fair assessment I have to listen to things outside my comfort zone, and despite my now feeling the need to reach from the co-codamol that may not be a bad thing.

    Now, my verdict:

    6: The Jacksons: Briefly I thought I didn’t know this one, but on investigation I find it very familiar. Understated by MJ standards but still a piece that more than hints at great things to come and the driving disco rhythm is infectious. Perhaps it outstays its welcome somewhat.

    5: T Rex: Something I’ve come to grudgingly admire over the years. Not surprising, perhaps, as I am of the generation it was intended to overthrow and I liked the original, Blakean, Tyrannosaurus Rex. The trite, forced rhymes may be a deliberate attempt to subvert but they still grate, as does the overblown cockney-ness.

    4: The Allisons: Primaeval earworm for me, I have a fixed recollection of being in my infants school canteen with this on the brain. One of the tentative moves towards a distinctive British take on the new music coming out of America; the missing link between the Everlys and Billy J Kramer perhaps. I feel more affection than love for it but this reminder hasn’t been unwelcome.

    3: Depeche Mode: There’s something I like underlying this. What it reminds me of isn’t quiet clear – not Tull, though some Tull wouldn’t be far wide of the mark as there’s an early-70s prog feel to it, like the sort of ambient thing my student contemporaries got stoned to. It’s a pity the effect is ruined by a vocal filled with all the emotion of somebody reciting the small ads from the local paper.

    2: Katy Perry: There’s an interesting voice lurking in there but the robotic delivery does it no favours, and nor does being drowned in a kind of sonic sludge. The result is a sort of sub-trip-hop mess, the aural equivalent of all your coloured Plasticene merging into muddy brown. That would be Kanye West doing the rap about men from Mars eating cars and bars – Debbie Harry was so much more fun. Overbaked and lacking in subtlety but at least the lass (or rather, her producer) were trying, unlike…

    1: Vic Reeves: What’s he playing at? Is he being serious? Ironic? Taking the piss? A perfectly nice song spoilt to no good effect.

  13. 13
    swanstep on 28 Jul 2011 #

    6 points – T.Rex (Monumental in context, but ultimately it doesn’t seem finished to me either musically or lyrically…. still it’s got enough for the win here)
    5 points – Katy Perry (This is for me the most complete pop song here. The album/non-Kanye version and mix of the song is a beast, notwithstanding its Tatu steals, and would be my winner here. This single version, however, is seriously compromised: the Kanye cameo is frickin’ terrible and the whole mix of the song just sounds wrong to me. Still, even so weakened there’s enough here to claim second…)
    4 points – The Jacksons (Love this for the first two minutes, but as with Hot Love I keep waiting for the song to really blast off after that, and when it doesn’t… Needed more work – a common theme this batch!)
    3 points – Depeche Mode (Very dull. Kiss of death for DM’s title to court comparison with Aerosmith in its pomp. What were they thinking?)
    2 points – The Allisons (very very dull – variation people, please!)
    1 point – Vic Reeves (what is this ****?)

  14. 14
    Mike Atkinson on 28 Jul 2011 #

    Aha, glad someone picked up on the Kanye/Debbie Mars/cars/bars thing!

  15. 15
    Scott M on 28 Jul 2011 #

    6 points – The Jacksons – Hard not to be taken away by its overwhelming joyfulness; has a lot in common with Hot Love in that sense.
    5 points – T. Rex – Would have easily topped the 10s, 9s, 8s and 7s, just not Can You Feel It
    4 points – The Allisons
    3 points – Depeche Mode
    2 points – Katy Perry – Rather odd and not in a good way. Like Perry herself, it leaves me cold.
    1 point – Vic Reeves

  16. 16
    wichita lineman on 28 Jul 2011 #

    6 T Rex – first thing I loved about this when I was little was that descending three note Duane Eddy line – it lifts it from its John Peel Theme (what was that thing called?) that I’m guessing it’s based on and into something entirely new. Beautiful.

    5 Jacksons – if they’d carried on making records as literally awesome as this, the whole frigging group could have had their statues floating down the Danube and it would have been justifiable.

    4 Depeche Mode – new to me, light and slippery, I was waiting for a trad rock interlude that never happened. Not earth shaking, but ok.

    3 The Allisons – more luke warm praise, this is the UK’s best Eurovision entry of the 60s… but Cathy’s Clown it ain’t.

    2 Vic Reeves – if only for mixing John Barry and Shuggie Otis. If he’d played it straight it would be so much better; instead his vocal is cowardly.

    1 Kanye and Katy – Not bad til the chorus – god, I really don’t like her voice. Aggressive, unsexy, cold, none of those things in a good way.

  17. 17
    Mike Atkinson on 28 Jul 2011 #

    The Peel theme was Grinderswitch’s “Pickin The Blues”, but that came out a few years after “Hot Love”…

  18. 18
    Z on 28 Jul 2011 #

    6 points – Depeche Mode – Unable to decide about this batch, I ended up listening to them all five times (take this too seriously? Never) and this was the one that continues to grow on me.
    5 points – T.Rex – I was part of the older generation ditched, and I was only 17. But I have to relent, I finally can enjoy this, although it goes on too long.
    4 points – The Jacksons – Six minutes. Hm. Good, but not six minutes good.
    3 points – The Allisons – The words and tune don’t go together at all. Nicer-natured, perhaps rueful lyrics and I might have liked it, albeit as a period piece.
    2 point – Vic Reeves – If it had been a send-up, delivered with humour, it might have worked better, but an apparently straight version with a knowingly snarky edge doesn’t endear and it doesn’t come off well.
    1 point – Katy Perry – Went from indifference to dislike.

  19. 19
    thefatgit on 28 Jul 2011 #

    6 pts-T.Rex
    5 pts-The Jacksons
    4 pts-Depeche Mode
    3 pts-The Allisons
    2 pts-Katy Perry
    1 pt-Vic Reeves

    Quite a vast gap in quality. Vic’s Born Free irritates. He adds nothing to the song and I’ll purge myself of this with some Matt Munro at the earliest opportunity.
    Katy Perry strip-mining Tatu…Kanye strip-mining Debs Harry. It’s poor at best.
    The Allisons? So long/farewell…oh, this one! Sentiment aside, it’s catchy at least. I kept thinking they were going to morph into the Von Trapps!
    Take away Dave Gahan’s voice and Dream On predicts OK Computer (you can take that positively or negatively if you like). Not one of their best, but they’re a band that enhances the pop landscape IMVHO.
    Can You Feel It is a marvellous piece of Disco-Pop. I love it.
    And it was a close-run thing for me, but T.Rex edge it for the six. On another day, it could have been The Jacksons. It was THAT close!

  20. 20
    chelovek na lune on 28 Jul 2011 #

    A pretty good bunch all in all (with one glaring exception)

    6 points T-Rex. Joyous.

    5 points – Katy Perry & Kanye West. I think it’s a fab pop song, actually: New Pop, straight out of 1981, almost, with the depersonalised vocals and the simple keyboard that makes me think of early 80s theme tunes from “Tomorrow’s World” or “Me and My Micro”. (Could one even compare some of the music to OMD when they were still good and exciting? I almost think so) Kind of futuristic-in-the-past (actually, given the title, and when the film of that name was released, I’m wondering if the early 80s feel isn’t deliberate). Not sure the Kanye bit is necessary or desirable, at all actually.

    4 points – Jacksons. Definitely too long (for listening, rather than dancing, purposes), but otherwise, pretty sublime actually.

    3 points – Depeche Mode. Which is harsh, because it’s far from horrid. A great group (and some of their more recent stuff – notably, single-wise, “Precious”, especially, and most of the “Playing the Angel ” album is 1st rate, and up there with their best.) This isn’t, though. It has a beautiful simplicity and tone, but still seems like a bit of an aside to me, an esquisse, or at best an acceptable album track rather than a complete song, let alone a lead single. Will still happily listen to it though.

    2 points – Allisons. Rather slight

    1 point – Vic Reeves – self-reverential and pointless, even were the gimmicky bits to have been omitted, and far too long

  21. 21
    The Lurker on 28 Jul 2011 #

    Just about everyone in this round has done better things…

    6 – T Rex – not my favourite T Rex song, but still the best here
    5 – Depeche Mode – a long way off their peak but not offensive
    4 – Vic Reeves – not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be
    3 – Allisons – inoffensive
    2 – Jacksons – plodding and goes on far too long
    1 – Katy Perry – grim

  22. 22
    Clair on 28 Jul 2011 #

    6 – T-Rex
    5 – Jackson 5
    4 – Depeche Mode
    3 – Vic Reeves
    2 – Katy Perry
    1 – Allisons

  23. 23
    hardtogethits on 28 Jul 2011 #

    Fascinating selection. They definitely all succeed as hits with potentially broad appeal – which is surprisingly rare. However, I sense that on each record some form of consensus is being reached. For me:

    6 Jacksons; brilliant, but way too long.
    5 T Rex; pretty magnificent, but a bit daft if examined very closely, and also drawn out.
    4 Depeche Mode; so odd – for a band who have become so cult-ish (incredibly so in terms of sales patterns), the records seem incredibly conventional and non-threatening.
    3 Allisons; of its time; an admirable song which has not aged terribly well.
    2 Katy Perry; it works, kind of, because it’s a catchy record. However, there’s v little melody, and if its a pastiche of space-related records (and videos), why is there not the slightest bit of humour? Nothing good to say about Kanye West – it’s almost an obligation of records with chart aspirations.
    1 Vic Reeves; smug in-joke, which relies on an easy, sardonic irreverence towards the original. All these years later I realise just how much Matt Monro meant to people, and I’m not prepared to be that irreverent.

  24. 24
    Erithian on 28 Jul 2011 #

    6 pts 1971 – T. Rex: an obvious choice for the impact it made and the pop world it helped create, although there are other Bolan outings I prefer – it’s still always a joy to hear again.

    5 pts 2001 – Depeche Mode: as you rightly said, unless you’re a true Mode fan many of their singles would pass you by with their brief chart career, and it’s good that we’ve caught this one. I don’t remember it from the time, but it’s got balance, tension, structure, a winning vocal and an imaginative video. It’s pushing T. Rex closer than I expected.

    4 pts 1961 – Allisons: blimey they look nervous on that Eurovision clip, playing to the biggest audience of their lives and maybe wondering how they’ve got away with it so far. Giving it a good rating for the harmonies and the delivery, although the tweeness makes you think : it’s why the Beat Boom had to happen.

    3 pts 1981 – Jacksons: the bells, the beat, the euphoria, yeah yeah, but it doesn’t really break new ground after the first couple of minutes. Totally agree with Z that it’s not six minutes good.

    2 pts 2011 – Katy Perry: I do like what Katy does with her voice (using that phrase deliberately instead of the words “her singing”!). But the backing does nothing for the song, Kanye contributes precisely nothing, and as our dear friend Martin hinted, you’d think that tATu’s learned friends might be quite interested in this.

    1 pt 1991 – Vic Reeves: neither fish nor fowl, this one, isn’t it? Aware perhaps that he’s a good crooner but not *that* good, Vic gives it a go but doesn’t quite play it straight and doesn’t quite make it funny. Not sure what he’s getting at with the megaphone bit, although if it’s mocking Matt Monro he no doubt deserves the lack of love he’s getting here. And the motorbike bit in the video is just embarrassing.

    Oops, just realised I’ve matched Mike’s placings exactly – totally by coincidence, honest!

  25. 25
    Mark M on 29 Jul 2011 #

    6 points – The Jacksons – monumental.

    5: T-Rex – The version on Spotify seems terribly long, past the point of enjoyment. Was the 45 shorter? In any case, it’s full of that swagger that kids seem to be seeking these days.

    4: Depeche Mode – I don’t think I’ve ever heard this before. It’s a bit flimsy…

    3: The Allisons – …and this is really flimsy.

    2: Katy P w/Kanye – God her voice is horrible, something she got away with on a couple of the sparkier early singles, but at this point, it’s just unbearable. As for Kanye, I think he’s really good about 20% of the time and woeful the rest.

    1: Vic Reeves – Much as I hate Reeves, the very worst thing about this is those drums.

  26. 26
    AndyPandy on 29 Jul 2011 #

    re 25) no ‘Hot Love’ always had a long outro – to me that’s the whole point of it – he gets a real groove going (not something many white pop stars are capable of) and just keeps – I just wish it would last another 3 or 4 minutes!

    ps I don’t know why I was so kind on Vic Reeves – its an abomination – even worse than Depeche Mode (IMO a terrible group once Vince Clarke left)

  27. 27
    JonnyB on 29 Jul 2011 #

    #10 – it’s definitely the tubular bells for me. They give the track a grandeur that lifts it – I think it’s the contrast between the mental picture of a crazed guy with gritted teeth whacking them with a heavy hammer and the beautifully tight and joyous playing underneath (I love that rhythm guitar).

    Appreciate the other comments that the track doesn’t particularly go anywhere. Of course if released today, it would have a truck-driver’s at 3:52.

  28. 28
    Mike Atkinson on 29 Jul 2011 #

    Re the “Hot Love” coda: I re-checked Tom’s Popular entry after writing my blurb, and I liked his take on it:

    “Every time Bolan starts another round of “la la la”s he sounds like he’s getting away with something, rewriting more of the world in his newborn glitter image, and then inviting us to join in for as long as we dare make it last.”

  29. 29
    Billy Smart on 29 Jul 2011 #

    6. T. Rex
    5. Jacksons
    4. Depeche Mode
    3. Katy Perry
    2. Allisons
    1. Vic Reeves

  30. 30
    Lena on 1 Aug 2011 #

    Great round, much more to chew over here…

    As much as I don’t like to admit it, there is a generational bias for me here, not to mention a transatlantic one – thus…

    6 – The Jacksons – Always one of my favorites of theirs, they bestride the globe here and beam down goodness. The lyrics make it all the more poignant, especially the one about blood. Good enough to inspire Altered Images, too!

    5 – T. Rex – A fine balance between rocking and gentility, elegant as Art Deco and free as a floating feather. This is rock aristocracy that actual aristocrats couldn’t hope to make.

    4 – Depeche Mode – What can I say? I like Dave Gahan’s voice, that kernel of innocence and wonder still in it after going through so much…corruption? He’s indestructible and I wish he could have spoken with Amy, if only to give her a rock, an anchor.

    3 – Katy Perry w/Kanye West – Yes she is cold but you see this serves the song; she is already in awe of this alien creature and is stuttering and yelping and losing control, crushing all in her path in order to get to HIM. Katy goes right for the heart of what it is to be seducing, so much so that Kanye seems almost superfluous – she is seducing *herself* here, ordering him around, in order to be more like him. It is as close to Bjork as she’s gotten yet.

    2 – Vic Reeves – I can appreciate the joke but I think this is more of a UK thing humor-wise.

    1 – I’ve said what I’ve had to say about this already (thanks for linking to the post Mike)!

  31. 31
    thefatgit on 1 Aug 2011 #

    I have just re-read my own post @19 and my Depeche Mode comment makes no sense! Replace “predicts” with “emulates/acknowledges/strip-mines” but the score stays the same. And I agree with Lena regarding Dave’s voice.

  32. 32
    lockedintheattic on 1 Aug 2011 #

    6 – The Jacksons
    5 – Depeche Mode
    4 – T Rex
    3 – Katy Perry
    2 – The Allisons
    1 – Vic Reeves

  33. 33
    Ed on 2 Aug 2011 #

    @31 I wondered about that! I thought maybe it was like in ‘Small World’ by David Lodge, where a character writes a thesis about the influence that TS Eliot has had on Shakespeare. The idea being that it is impossible for us to see Shakespeare now without thinking about the use Eliot made of similar ideas and effects, so our perception of Shakespeare is inescapably shaped by Eliot. (“Us” here means the English academics that Lodge is writing about, obv.)

    In the same way, hearing ‘Dream On’ made me decide that the themes, techniques and tricks of ‘OK Computer’ were less impressive than I had previously thought.

  34. 34
    Ed on 2 Aug 2011 #

    Oh, and the scores… For a supposedly personal and subjective medium, there’s a lot of settled agreement here, and I am not going to dissent from it. For me, this is the round that has shown the widest variance in quality. If this was Pazz and Jop, I’d give 11 points to the Jacksons, 10 to Marc Bolan, and nothing to the rest.

    But as it is:

    6 – The Jacksons. From Michael’s imperial phase; he really could do no wrong at this point. Amazing to learn that it was not a hit in the US. I guess they learned their lesson, tried again with the rockier, and inferior, ‘State of Shock’, and got a hit. If you are dancing, the length of ‘Can You Feel It’ is a joy, not a trial.

    5 – T. Rex. Bolan’s combination of airiness and grit is unique, not matched in any pop before or since, and it is deployed to full effect here.

    4 – Depeche Mode. I had not been paying attention, and had no idea they were still going in 2001, let alone having hits. In *their* imperial phase, they were magnificent, delivering one of the greatest runs of singles in British pop. But their glory days were long behind them by this point.

    3 – The Allisons. Their nervousness onTV is charming,

    2 – Katy Perry. Her best work is all up-tempo, bit she is trying to be serious here, aims for something more measured, and falls flat on her face. Without the melody, energy or verve of ‘Last Friday Night’, this is thin stuff.

    1 – Vic Reeves. I was of the right age to get the joke and be part of the in-crowd, and loved the TV shows. But the Wonder Stuff collaboration was ghastly, and this is even worse.

  35. 35
    thefatgit on 2 Aug 2011 #

    #33 What would you call that Ed? Retrospective Influence? I see what you mean though, like looking at an object very far away through a distorted telescope.

  36. 36
    punctum on 2 Aug 2011 #

    It’s also what some still call “hauntology.”

  37. 37

    (haha i shall cherish the idea that hauntology was first theorised by DAVID LODGE)

  38. 38
    thefatgit on 2 Aug 2011 #

    Jacques Derrida, apparently. “Spectres Of Marx”

  39. 39
    thefatgit on 2 Aug 2011 #

    Going back to DM, if you see the video of “Suffer Well” (unable to link at work), you’ll see it celebrates Dave Gahan’s survival of his Rock&Roll excesses, emerging from the ’90s older and wiser.

  40. 40

    Oh Derrida may well have given it a fancy latterday name, yes — but he obviously copied the actual idea from David Lodge…

    (apologies this is recidivist Theory Humour, i will stop now)

  41. 41
    thefatgit on 2 Aug 2011 #


  42. 42
    Alan not logged in on 2 Aug 2011 #

    david lodge played with structuralist, text-theory stuff in a way that looked like lampooning, but was eerily spot on. he had a thing for the modern analytical philosophy of consciousness stuff. ‘Semiotic materialism’ was a phrase Dan Dennett picked out, only half lolzing, for use from Nice Work. Thinks, AuthorAuthor, all have stuff like that going on. (I haven’t read any in years tho TBH)

  43. 43


    (The Morris is a reference to Morris Dancing — a classic bit of “hauntological” folk reinvention there, well done Lodge — and the Zapp is a reference to the great Roger Troutman.)

  44. 44
    AndyPandy on 2 Aug 2011 #

    43: that’s great! ps I might have to finally get round to reading those David Lodge books I’ve never got round to, after this thread

  45. 45
    DietMondrian on 2 Aug 2011 #

    6 – The Jacksons. I couldn’t really separate this from T Rex for first place, so I’ve given it to The Jacksons for the somewhat dubious and arbitrary reason that as I so despise much of Michael Jackson’s later stuff, I should give him/them his/their due for this one.

    5 – T Rex. Unlucky, Marc.

    4 – Depeche Mode. A bit slight, as others have said, but I like the mood.

    3 – The Allisons. Quite charming, inoffensive, already forgotten how it goes.

    2 – Vic Reeves. Quite a battle for last place. I might have found it funny as a one-off performance at the end of his show (which I loved at the time), but it really does stink.

    1 – Katy Perry ft Kanye West. How can sci-fi pop be this unthrilling, this unjoyous? I don’t care if those aren’t real words. Lazy, bellowing, clod-hopping… this song makes me sad.

  46. 46
    Ed on 3 Aug 2011 #

    @6 Yes! You can sing “Listen to the voice of Buddha / Saying stop your sericulture” along with the verse, and it fits perfectly.

    @42 Indeed. Many more British people have encountered Derrida through David Lodge than have read the man himself, I am sure. It’s true for me, anyway: Lodge plus Ian Penman are responsible for the sum total of my knowledge. That may have given me a slightly distorted view of him, of course…

  47. 47
    taDOW on 3 Aug 2011 #

    6 – t. rex
    5 – the jacksons
    4 – depeche mode
    3 – vic reeves
    2 – the allisons
    1 – katy perry

  48. 48
    jeff w registered on 8 Aug 2011 #

    A slightly half-assed contribution from me for this round. I’ve forgotten the 90s song (probably no bad thing from what I’m reading above) and don’t think I’ve heard the 00s and 10s tracks. Some of the rankings below are based on built-in prejudices then.

    I was just too late for ‘Hot Love’ the first time round. ‘Get It On’ and then, with a vengeance, ‘Metal Guru’ were where I (aged 7) first got to know and love T.Rex. Even adjusting for chronology, I still think those two songs are superior in every way. But Marc still gets the maximum here.

    6pts – T.Rex
    5pts – Jacksons
    4pts – Allisons (ISTR the “video” for this is v. embarrassing)
    3pts – Katy and Kanye
    2pts – Dep Mode
    1pt – Vic

  49. 49
    intothefireuk on 20 Aug 2011 #

    A late entry so just the scores

    6 pts Hot Love – T.Rex
    5 pts Can You Feel It – The Jacksons
    4 pts Born Free – Vic Reeves & The Roman Numerals
    3 pts Dream On – Depeche Mode
    2 pts E.T. – Katy Perry ft Kanye West
    1 pt Are You Sure – The Allisons

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