Aug 11

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops 2011: the Number 5s

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops43 comments • 1,401 views

1961: Warpaint – The Brook Brothers (video) (lyrics)
1971: Mozart Symphony No 40 – Waldo de los Ríos (video)
1981: Grey Day – Madness (video) (lyrics)
1991: Sailing On The Seven Seas – OMD (video) (lyrics)
2001: Get Ur Freak On – Missy Elliott (video) (lyrics)
2011: Sweat (David Guetta Remix) – Snoop Dogg (video) (lyrics)

Spotify playlist (minus Waldo De Los Rios)

One place up from The Allisons, we find another “Britain’s answer to the Everly Brothers” – but there’s no sibling fakery this time round, as The Brook Brothers are properly born of the same stock. This cover of Barry Mann’s “Warpaint” (a rare excursion into performance for the songwriter, which didn’t chart in the US) gave the former skiffle act their biggest hit, and deservedly so; it’s a likeable romp, boosted by a strong production from Tony Hatch, which adds an affectionately teasing quality to Mann’s harsher original. Why, I can even forgive the yakety sax.

If our 1971 entry reminds you of dressage music, or of TV theme tunes, then there’s context for that; other Mozart adaptations by Waldo de los Ríos were used for the BBC’s Horse of the Year coverage, and for Radio 4’s Brain of Britain. When he wasn’t MOR-ifying the classics, Waldo also led an Argentinian folk group – which perhaps accounts for the incongruous Spanish-style guitar, adding confusion to the otherwise smooth arrangement. Waldo was on a roll in 1971, having just helped Spain to second place at Eurovision with his work on Karina’s “En un mundo nuevo”, and although darker days lay ahead – struggles with depression, and eventual suicide in 1977 – none of that is apparent here. It’s kitsch writ large, of course – but you can’t altogether keep a good tune down, and the perky augmentations never quite tip over into full “Hooked On Classics” horror.

Its position in Madness’s discography might mark “Grey Day” out as a sharp break from (and maybe a pointed reaction to) the knockabout nuttiness – for singles-wise, this was the first full surfacing of their glummer, wearier streak – but the song itself was already three years old, dating from the band’s early days as the North London Invaders. Hitting the charts after “That’s Entertainment” and before “Ghost Town”, it helped to define a key theme of 1981: fed up, pissed off, all but defeated, offering sour commentary on the new recession. It’s not clear if the narrator is ground down by the emptiness of unemployment, or worn out by long hours of brutal labour – but whatever the cause, mental and physical suffering have brought him to the edge of insanity. Dirty, bruised and vilified, he sinks to the grass in the pouring rain, longing for extinction. And this got to Number Four?

Five years on from their last hit, OMD had shrunk from a duo-led six-piece band, to a solo vehicle for Andy McCluskey. Perhaps a certain measure of nice-to-have-them-back goodwill helped propel “Sailing On The Seven Seas” upwards – remarkably, only “Souvenir” matched it for chart peak success – because if it didn’t, I’m left struggling to understand why it did quite so well. McCluskey’s still-characterful vocals provide the only discernible link to the OMD of old, while the hired hands heave and ho through an insistent, uncluttered shanty, its rhythms carrying faint echoes of glam-rock’s stomp. Its forcefulness pulls you in, its momentum keeps you engaged, but it scores next to nothing for lasting impact.

Matching and arguably exceeding “Hot Love” for initial clout and lasting influence, elements of Missy Elliott’s “Get UR Freak On” persist to this day – you can trace some sort of wiggly line to MIA, and thence to “Run The World (Girls)” – and it duly bestrode the pop landscape of 2001 like a colossus, topping every end-of-year poll and hatching a thousand forensic dissections within the newly emerging blogosphere. Overplayed and picked to pieces, its tricks long since co-opted and subsumed, the track’s shock-of-the-new aspects are hard to re-imagine ten (TEN!) years on. So its exhumation still feels premature. Another decade should re-vitalise it, for sure – but as of now, I can’t recapture the thrill I once felt. (It still gets the six points, of course – and my favourite bit is still the dubby instrumental wind-down in the closing minute.)

First released as the altogether ruder “Wet” – and written, if you can credit it, to honour the impending nuptials of Wills ‘n Kate – Snoop Dogg‘s slinky, atmospheric and (needless to say) slobbering original (“I’m in like a cigarette” – don’t do yourself down in the downstairs department, dawg!) didn’t blow up properly worldwide until David Guetta got hold of it. Daubing it with hefty splodges of Felix’s “Don’t You Want Me”, Guetta dutifully fed it into his state-of-the-art ClubBangaTron – and out popped “Sweat”, his biggest hit of 2011 thus far. Speaking not only as a total sucker for GuettaBeat, but also as someone who has DANCED to “Sweat” in a PROPER CLUB in LONDON with HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE in it (I’ll be fifty next year, it doesn’t happen often, it’s a big deal when it does), I can give this nothing but praise. History has yet to record whether it graced the dancefloor of our new Duke and Duchess’s wedding bash – but hell, why wouldn’t it?

You can blame Vic Reeves for this: the Nineties have crashed from first to fourth place, while T.Rex have revived the fortunes of the Seventies and The Jacksons have sent the Eighties to the top of the heap. At the bottom of the heap, Katy Perry has done the Teens no favours, and not even a respectable showing for Depeche Mode has managed to lift the Noughties from last place.

1 (3) The Eighties (19.61)
2 (2) The Sixties (18.63)
3 (5) The Seventies (18.08)
4 (1) The Nineties (17.89)
5 (4) The Teens (16.16)
6 (6) The Noughties (14.63)

Can Missy Eilliott bring it for the Noughties? Will Madness strengthen 1981’s lead? It’s all to play for!


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  1. 31
    Scott M on 4 Aug 2011 #

    6 points – Missy Elliott – Basically still amazing
    5 points – Madness – Brilliant – had no idea it predated Ghost Town
    4 points – Brook Brothers
    3 points – Waldo de los Rios
    2 points – OMD
    1 point – Snoop & Guetta – Empty Guetta House, crass in every way.

  2. 32
    chelovek na lune on 5 Aug 2011 #

    Tough to rank these, as I neither intensely dislike four of them, but wouldn’t go out of my way to track any of them down either… So the top 4 rankings are a bit by default; only the last two am I certain about their position in these ranking…

    6 – Madness – I also generally prefer them when they are more understated and melancholic rather than nutty (and like Jonny B I too put this alongside “Cardiac Arrest” – which is certainly imperfect but has something glorious about it in its structure and form. Don’t you worry, there’s no need to hurry…). Actually I prefer “Cardiac Arrest” to this, but it’s still a skilful & proficient piece of pop.

    5 – Brook Brothers – starts promisingly, ballsier than the Allisons. yakety sax tolerable in small quantities, but for a time is a bit too much swanney kazoo territory

    4 – Missy Elliot – I can see that this is a quality track, but still, I have never really loved this. For some reason the earlier parts throw into my mind the Cookie Crew “gainin’ respec’ in a cool British dialec'”, although this is way more interesting and experimental than that. Definitely a “great on the dancefloor” track that requires a physical response rather than something jus’ to listen to…

    3 – OMD – a bit of a travesty compared with much of their earlier, more experimental stuff. Or even their paler post-Dazzle-Ships-oh-god-we-need-to-rediscover-our-commercial-potential mid-80s stuff. (“Secret”, “So In Love”, “If You Leave” I still have a soft spot for all of those). This, it’s alright + it is memorable, but not really much more. (“Pandora’s Box” definitely superior, yes). Once great bands denuded of key personnel have made far worse comebacks than this, anyway. But hardly wow-inducing as they consistently were up to about 1983…

    2 – Snoop Dogg/David Guetta – the Guetta remix destroys the so intense you can almost smell the dope hypnotic feel of “Wet” and makes it profoundly dull, uninteresting, we are transported from Snoop’s somewhat sleazy but interesting world (the Serge Gainsbourg of hip hop that he is) to a Chelmsford nightclub that still is playing Felix. A dully commercial destruction of something that started out with considerable character.

    1 – Waldo de los Rios – oh my god that’s so inanely and unpleasantly and unnecessarily middlebrow and provincial (/London snobbism) Mind you in London it’s the sort of thing they play in the ticket halls of deserted tube stations in rough suburban estates (e.g. Elm Park) to deter the local yoof. (/inner London snobbism) So it is good for something.

  3. 33
    Clair on 7 Aug 2011 #

    6 – Madness
    5 – Brook Brothers
    4 – Missy Elliot
    3 – Waldo de los Rios
    2 – Snoop Dogg/David Guetta
    1 – OMD

  4. 34
    Waldo on 8 Aug 2011 #

    Hello fans, esp Rosie (Barrow as opposed to Cracklin!)

    Waldo’s Mozart 40 was originally introduced on Radio 1 as a backing track over which birthday requests were broadcast. Thereafter it was known as the “birthday music” and then it charted. And then a few years later Waldo killed himself. I don’t think he jumped off Beachy Head, though.

  5. 35
    jeff w registered on 8 Aug 2011 #

    Nothing to hate here, in fact much to like. Only the 90s are letting the side down (a bit). I was a big OMD fan up to ’86 and “Sailing…” was a real let down when I first heard it. I can still hum the hook though, so it’s no big surprise that it did so well.

    I share others’ concerns about the Guettafication of the current charts, but Mike’s right: this is a monster tune, in a club or on the radio. Madness are just a bit more classy here though – and I really like the contrast between the depressing subject matter and the entertaining arrangement.

    I only paused over where to rank Mozart. This is one of his most ‘pop’ compositions (and if Waldo was broadly faithful – I haven’t relistened – then no reason not to give this high points). But the 40th was probably less of a game-changer than the Jupiter symphony. “Get Ur Freak On” OTOH…

    6pts – Missy
    5pts – Waldo
    4pts – Madness
    3pts – Snoop
    2pts – “Warpaint”
    1pt – OMD

  6. 36
    Mark M on 9 Aug 2011 #

    Another fairly duff bunch, so…
    (Written before I’ve read everyone else’s comments, sorry if I repeat obvious points)

    6 points: Missy – an absolute monster, of course. Not my very favourite Missy track, but brilliant and a landmark. The winner by a couple of hundred of miles.

    5 points: Madness – I always liked The Specials more, and Suggs’ has subsequently become a bit of a plague, but they had a whole bunch of fine singles, and this is certainly the best of the rest here.

    4 points: The Brook Brothers – the rather objectionable lyrical sentiment is just about outweighed by plenty of energy and a decent tune.

    3 points: OMD – their answer to Personal Jesus, I guess, and typically cloying and underpowered. Shocked they were still around at this point.

    2 points: Waldo – what the hell?

    1 point: I love Snoop, but the appalling Guetta has swamped him here.

  7. 37
    David Belbin on 16 Aug 2011 #

    Been on holiday for two weeks but only one update, which is useful.

    6 points – Missy Elliott This was on our best of year cd. 10 years, blimey
    5 points – Madness I used to use the lyric of this song for a writing exercise when I was a schoolteacher. It was old even then, but the kids would always recognise it, and the sentiments. Never underestimate the love people feel for Madness, a quintessential English band with as many good songs as the Kinks. Not one of my faves but I never thought of the ‘Grade A’ pun, which is brilliant!
    4 points – Brook Brothers Don’t remember this but I like it better than the rest
    3 points – Snoop & Guetta Dull
    2 points – OMD Double dull
    1 point – Waldo de los Rios Eh, if Fast Car wasn’t allowed, surely a number from the 1780’s should be ruled out?

  8. 38
    Mike Atkinson on 17 Aug 2011 #

    David, you really need to let go of the “Fast Car” ruling! My word is final (if sporadic)!

  9. 39
    intothefireuk on 20 Aug 2011 #

    Madness some way ahead of the rest but I can only score them one point more than OMD.

    Grey Day 6 – Blissfully gloomy
    Sailing on the 7 Seas 5 – The 80’s in the 90’s
    Mozart 4 – You’ve got to love it’s schlock
    Get Ur Freak On 3 – Was a big deal – now pretty tame – never that impressed myself
    Sweat 2 – only due to it’s felix lift
    Warpaint 1 – very bouncy

  10. 40
    Ed on 27 Aug 2011 #

    6 – Missy Elliott. One of the best things about this series is being reminded to listen to fantastic records like this one. Wonderful in every respect, especially the way that the delicacy and detail of Elliott and Timbaland complement each other. Top video, too, although I see that it’s not a Hype Williams, and perhaps falls just just short of the master’s greatest work.
    5 – Snoop Dogg. It’s true that Guetta crushes all the subtlety out of it; the original (heavily influenced by Tim and Missy) is much better. But Snoop’s aging roue act is always fun. He’s like a rap Sid James.
    4 – Madness. Beginning to scrape the barrel here. ‘Embarrassment’ and ‘Night Boat’ aside, I’ve never had much time for them: Two-Tone’s sharp black-and-white smeared together into something drab. I can see this is cleverly done, and the 1981 context makes it more powerful. But there’s something about the combination of dour and wacky that I cannot love. Sad clowns, ugh…
    3 – Brook Brothers. Isn’t that a bit sexist? “Let me introduce you to a cake of soap”, indeed. Still, I’d like to hear Warpaint doing it. When I was little, the idea of the song ‘Iron Maiden’, by Iron Maiden, from the album Iron Maiden, seemed like the most hilarious move in rock history. (cf ‘Black Sabbath’ by Black Sabbath, from Black Sabbath, also.)
    2 – OMD. More No-Longer-New Pop. Cannot form any opinion of this whatsoever, after repeated listens.
    1 – Waldo de Los Rios. I think it’s Mozart’s symphonies that they say are like the music from God’s waiting room, but this is just Purgatory. Proof that not even the greatest melodies are indestructible, it makes Sky sound like Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

  11. 41
    lonepilgrim on 26 Sep 2011 #

    * bump *

  12. 42
    Weej on 14 Nov 2011 #

    Any chance of these being done before the end of 2011?

  13. 43
    Elisha Sessions on 12 Jan 2012 #

    More, more!

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