Oct 09


FT + Popular74 comments • 8,216 views

#556, 7th September 1985, video

One of the questions I asked myself as I got halfway through Popular is: have the charts got worse? The answer to that question remains “let’s wait and see” but one reason people who grew into pop before 1984 might think they have is that the nature of the charts seems to have changed. I’d guess that for most of those people the ideal of the charts is as a mirror to all of pop music: if something exciting is happening in pop, it should be reflected in the Top 40. If that doesn’t happen, either the charts are broken, or the thing wasn’t so exciting after all.

But there’s another way the charts work, which is as a mirror to anything in mass culture: cinema, TV, the news, gameshows, sport. Band Aid – and associated releases – weren’t the first example of that by any means, and of course they emerged from within a pop establishment that was showily flexing its muscles as such a thing. But the way in which the charts of 1985 seemed quite so full of post Band Aid releases sets the tone for future hijackings and interruptions of the story, which gradually became as normal as a record going straight in at number one. If you want a division between the first and second “halves” of Popular, there it is.

And for me in 1985, aged 12, this was really the final straw, the moment Band Aid and Live Aid lost me: these intolerable old ninnies capering about for four long weeks, roaring some old song I didn’t care about but could tell had been coarsened and worsened, bullying me into joining their party.

Now, as I approach the age Bowie was in 1985, my tolerance for the two of them acting the goat is much increased: “Dancing In The Street” is vastly improved on video, and watching the two stars flirt and battle is three minutes’ solid entertainment. On record, however, it’s still a stinker.

The obvious comparison is “Under Pressure”, but that was a battle of styles, whereas this is celebrity karaoke given a rocked-up Double Whopper production. Lots of fun to do, for sure, and that comes through to put it above Ali and Chrissie at least. Jagger has much the best of things – he knows the territory, and his bellowing at least stands up to the bombast. Bowie just flaps around, not sure whether to stick to his mannerisms or try and rock out. When I did finally hear the Martha and the Vandellas original, expecting not to think much of it, I was floored by how this boorish hustle was once so full of joy and conviction.



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  1. 61
    flahr on 20 May 2011 #

    The video for this is played in full in a recent episode of Family Guy*. Reaction from the corridor was bemusement (of course) but there seemed an acceptance that the video was, in its campness, amusing if not hilarious. “This happened, and we all let it happen.”

    *not sure if this is experimentalism or just laziness. OR BOTH?!?!?!?

  2. 62
    lonepilgrim on 17 Jan 2012 #

    This gets a well deserved and detailed kicking at the Bowie Blog here:


  3. 63
    stand for phil on 17 Jan 2012 #

    Phil Collins and his Motown cover are saintly by comparison.

  4. 64
    DanH on 3 Aug 2013 #

    61: Yes, this video has made a comeback in public consciousness thanks to Family Guy…seems to be a favorite at the bar I frequent for that ironic reason, and friends at work reference this video constantly.

    And actually, a 3 is darn generous for this version. Maybe it’s the Live Aid bump ;-)

  5. 65
    Tom on 21 Jan 2014 #

    A potentially important intervention.


  6. 66
    tm on 22 Jan 2014 #

    That is pure genius. The first 45 seconds are by far the best, loads of coincidental syncing! A thought occurs to me: was Mick Jagger ever cool? His preening and prancing haven’t actually changed since 1964 it’s just just that back then he’d have been modishly styled and filmed on stylish looking 60s film (B&W or that pleasingly rich Blow Up style ultra rich colourset). Maybe he was always a Berk but a) used to make enough good music that you’d overlook it and b) the fashions of his heyday are still widely well regarded whereas the fashions of 80s rock stars are not!

  7. 67
    wichitalineman on 23 Jan 2014 #

    Re 66: On the strength of the DitS video it’s hard to believe David Bowie has ever been cool. But as for Jagger, I recommend watching the Stones’ film Charlie Is My Darling: Brian is a posh bore who drones on and on, Keith is a mumbling muso, Bill is OK, Charlie is very low profile. Mick is clearly the star of the group – impressive, charismatic and (yes) very well dressed.

  8. 69
    Weej on 19 Jun 2014 #

    #68 – Quite an improvement, well done those people.

  9. 70
    Larry on 16 Dec 2014 #

    The most cringe-worthy (and memorable) moment is right at the beginning — “OOO-KAY!” A 1 if anything is.

  10. 71
    Rory on 28 Jan 2016 #

    Following #68: “I remember us watching this thing…somebody did a series of music videos without the music. Somebody did one of those for the video he did with Mick Jagger for “Dancing in the Streets.” But there’s no music, there’s just footsteps and grunts and burps and stuff like that. He thought that was hilarious and would just have us watch the whole thing.”

  11. 73
    Cumbrian on 5 Jul 2016 #

    Tous ces moments
    Perdus dans l’enchantement
    Qui ne reviendront
    Pas d´aujourd´hui pour nous
    Pour nous il n´y a rien
    A partager
    Sauf le pass

    Bryan Ferry on the nose re: Brexit.

  12. 74
    Gareth Parker on 25 May 2021 #

    David and Mick’s rather clumsy and clunky cover of the Motown classic would get a generous 4/10 from me.

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