Sep 13

Ten Years In Ten Marks

Popular49 comments • 5,267 views

Ten years ago tomorrow, I started writing a review of Al Martino’s “Here In My Heart”. I’d never heard the first UK Number One, and thanks to P2P networks I had the chance. Somewhere between starting the blog entry and finishing it, I thought of reviewing all of them.

I had no idea how long it would take. That hasn’t changed: I still have no idea how long it will take. At the time, the No.1 was The Black Eyed Peas’ “Where Is The Love”, and we’ve had around 300 new ones since then. Unless the Official Charts Company dies before I do, the project is unfinishable – but I admit I’d imagined I’d have reached the present day before now. For a variety of reasons – job, family, fluctuating motivation, other things to write about – I haven’t managed that. Maybe by 2023!

Popular has been a terrific hobby. I started it when I was an established blogger but not a published journalist: I was feeling wrung out and underconfident, and wanted something I could write quickly and thoughtlessly, about songs nobody cared about: a reaction to the higher-powered, febrile blogosphere of the time, which was very focused on being up-to-date and expert. I wanted to be able to feel my ideas and opinions out, like I had when I started blogging.

The blog has now outlasted my part-time career as a music journalist, and probably played a big part in me getting those opportunities. I now think a lot more – sometimes too much – about each entry, but Popular is the most satisfying writing I do. I’m also conscious of the marvellous, entertaining, informative and – by web standards – fantastically good-natured comments each entry will attract – which also means I can leave stuff out, and zoom in on a particular feature or scrap of context if I want to. If I felt I had to be comprehensive I’d have given up long ago.

Thanks so much for reading, and commenting.

If not for the trick of putting a mark out of 10 at the end of each review, I would have far fewer readers. So here’s a Popular “highlights reel” centred on the marks, one entry/thread for each.

ONE: The lowest mark available, reserved for records I have a particular loathing of. Occasionally these are songs other people quite like but mostly they’re tracks almost everybody thinks are shit too, and as such easy targets. I’m pleased that with “The Stonk” I attempted to rise above my disgust and try and understand Hale & Pace as men of their times. Still a bloody awful record, of course.

TWO: I regret no 1s but a few 2s I’ve been talked around to – since in a lot of cases this is the mark where I’ve seen a tiny glimmer of something forgiveable… such is not really the case with “No Charge” but it has to be the highlighted thread, because it’s the longest comment thread on the whole blog – the one where the comments crew decided, spontaneously, to have the conversation about whether punk “had to happen” or not.

THREE: The upper hell of the ordinarily bad records – the tedious, the mawkish, the overlong. “We Are The World” is all three, and a charity single too – to my surprise I’ve enjoyed writing about charity records, because the dynamics of how and why they happen are interesting and tell you plenty about the pop of their time.

FOUR: The limbo of the underrated (by me) – as well as a host of uninspired makeweights, 4 – sometimes 5 – tends to be a mark I hand out when I know a lot of people like a record, but I basically don’t. Whether I manage to justify the distaste is your call. “Hey Jude” is one example: re-reading it from a more forgiving place I’m not sure I even convince myself, but there you are.

FIVE: In the year-end polls, the boundary of “Any Good At All”-ness is the 5/6 split, so this set of reviews is full of regrets – songs I basically like, damned by my mood, or because they fell apart on repeat plays, or just by me being a chump. On a lot of 5s I simply haven’t listened enough, though, and it’s a good score for the commenters to talk me round – witness “Woman In Love“, where Wichita Lineman (among others) spun me right round (baby). It’s that kind of experience that makes doing Popular so fun.

SIX: For better or worse, one of the things I end up doing in Popular is zooming out sometimes and talking around a song more than addressing it. A 6/10 mark is often a good platform for that – when the context around a record might be more interesting than the perfectly serviceable track at hand. The recent Britpop threads saw the commenters joining in: “Some Might Say” is one of the meatiest threads we’ve ever had.

SEVEN: Looking at the list of 7s it seems particularly full of entries I don’t remember writing, which tells its own story! Every now and then you get a record that’s flawed but kind of magnificent too, like “Earth Song” and those are the 7s I enjoy most. (Great thread, too.)

EIGHT: We’re now into records which are definitely good, and the challenge is working out what’s good about them. One of the other really good things about doing Popular is the rare feeling of satisfaction I get when I think I’ve cracked why I feel how I do about a particular song and isolated what makes it go for me. “Maggie May“, for instance.

NINE: Most 9s would be 10s on another day, so there’s an “I need to get this right” pressure on the writing. “Hoots Mon” was almost the first 9 I gave, and it was probably the first entry I researched in any way or where I felt I really wanted to sell the record. Not saying it’s a brilliant entry, but it’s the point at which Popular turned from therapeutic exercise into ‘project’.

TEN: The original inspiration for the “marks out of 10” thing was videogames magazine Edge, which very rarely gives 10s, so they feel like more of an event. I suspect Edge is extremely calculating in its scores, and I don’t try to be, but I probably am too. They all feel right at the time. And a 10 always means a readership spike – so in an ideal world, the writing on the 10s would be the best on the site. Is it? Not always – but some of them I’m proud of. “The Winner Takes It All“, for instance – scroll down and you get one of Punctum’s terrific comment-box reviews/essays too, and an intense debate about the value of absurd value claims. It’s as good a snapshot of why I love doing the blog as you could wish for.

And off we go into the next 10 years!


  1. 1
    Tom Ewing (@tomewing) on 15 Sep 2013 #

    Tomorrow I’ll have done Popular for 10 years (!) – thanks to all readers & a post on some of my favourite threads. http://t.co/M8MnMygVBw

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    thefatgit on 15 Sep 2013 #


    Wichita Lineman brought me here after his Times article on this blog, back in 2009. My first contribution was a statement of self mixed in with some rockist nonsense on the Voodoo Chile thread. I’ve learnt so much since then, thanks to you and the comments crew. Here’s to another 10 + years. Thanks Tom. Bless this blog.

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    Izzy on 15 Sep 2013 #

    Thanks Tom, you’ve played a small but significant part in making the past x years of my life good ones! I can’t remember exactly when I found you – somewhere around Eleanor Rigby/Yellow Submarine is my guess – but I do remember Don McLean’s ‘Vincent’ as the review where I thought damn, I have nothing to say but a piece this good cannot go unmarked.

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    lonepilgrim on 15 Sep 2013 #

    I stumbled upon Popular via a circuitous series of jumps from one blog to another – I arrived at a very difficult time for me personally and the opportunity to contribute (or just listen in) to a conversation that was both serious and trivial was a great pleasure and much needed distraction. I’ve enjoyed re-evaluating songs both familiar and new – especially ones that I had dismissed or ignored at the time – and the strange detours that threads can take
    Many thanks to you and the Popular crew for such a wonderful experience.

  5. 5
    Kinitawowi on 15 Sep 2013 #

    Can’t remember exactly when I tripped over Popular. I know I was way late to the party; it may have been around the time that Saint Etienne gave us Words And Music, and namechecked the hell out of this place. (The biggest tragedy of this project is that we’ll never get to discuss them properly. There’s an alternate universe somewhere where every track on TFTH got to number one. I want to live in that universe. Also the one where Chesney Hawkes never happened.) I may have hit it at the right time, of course, joining at the moment when I was still enjoying taping the charts off LW 252; I knew music existed but it wasn’t a thing I was *into*, per se. It’ll be great guns right up until I ran out of steam (around 2005, I think – we’ll see).

    Also, Edge lost most of their credibility when they only gave Doom 7/10 because you couldn’t talk to the monsters (they’ve admitted that they bodged this one up since, though; it’s their version of Q giving five stars to Be Here Now); they lost the rest when one of those tens, the carefully guarded gold dust that they have a legendary reputation for being stingy with, was handed out to “the same but with Yoshi” Super Mario Galaxy 2.

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    Chelovek na lune on 15 Sep 2013 #

    Can’t remember how or when exactly I first stumbled upon popular. Two possible routes: I used to write for another (let us say complementary, rather than rival) London pub-review website, and stumbled across the part of FT that once more or less fitted that description. Or secondly, and a bit later, it may have been through discovering one of Marcello’s quite extraordinary and exceptional music blogs- specifically his incredibly detailed, creative, and knowledgeable take on Girls Aloud’s ‘Chemistry’, which may have somehow led me here.

    But, yes, thank you Tom and all, for creating this. The wide-ranging debate has become as essential as, if not more so, than the music, a lot of the time now. I just hope you will have the interest to stick with it, through thick and thin and another bloody Westlife single…

  7. 7
    Brendan F on 15 Sep 2013 #

    Congratulations on a monumental achievement – I was very late to the party but I always look forward to reading your excellent insightful comments – oh no, I sound like one of those Hot Love spammers but (hopefully) with better grammar!

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    JimD on 16 Sep 2013 #


    As it happens, Edge magazine hit its 20th year this month, and to mark the occasion they’ve retroactively handed out full marks to seven games that didn’t but (they now think) should’ve scored a maximum first time round. Which makes me wonder which songs Tom would do the same for.

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    Rory on 16 Sep 2013 #

    Reading Popular has been a constant pleasure – no one-hit wonder, this. Congratulations, Tom, and more power to your elbow.

  10. 10
    JLucas on 16 Sep 2013 #

    Fantastic achievement Tom. I check in every day in the hope of seeing an update. Long may this blog continue.

    For my money (and I’ve broadly agreed with you on most things) the number one you’ve most under-marked to date has been Heaven Is A Place On Earth. I still can’t get my head around such an utterly perfect, joyous pop record scoring a mere six.

    Nevertheless, such disagreements are what pop music are built on. I’m sure every regular contributor to this blog could make a convincing argument for something.

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    @scroll on 16 Sep 2013 #

    one man’s quest to review every #1 in U.K. chart history turns 10 years old (he’s at March 1996) http://t.co/uxfsXf48lD

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    Matthew K on 16 Sep 2013 #

    Thank you so much Tom, you’ve made my decade a more pleasant place on many, many occasions. I am pretty sure I have read them all.

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    Tom on 16 Sep 2013 #

    #8 oh I missed that completely! I still buy Edge occasionally but only when I have time to kill on a flight.

    The top of mind answer is “Jumpin Jack Flash” which I regretted my mark on about 5 minutes after hitting publish. But this is an idea for a post next time I get to a landmark!

    Thanks for the comments everyone.

  14. 14
    Izzy on 16 Sep 2013 #

    How about “God Save The Queen” – you covered that! What about controversial ‘missing’ number ones?
    Wait and see! My rule of thumb with these is that I’ll write about them if I think it’ll make the blog more interesting (as was the case with GSTQ). In general, though, I’m sticking to the official list – flawed though it might be. You’ll notice that the Pistols didn’t get an official mark, though :)

    A gripe! This fell by the wayside a bit – only GSTQ and St Et’s Popular that I can recall. My request for Careless Whisper was rebuffed, and Raving I’m Raving could’ve been another.

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    Erithian on 16 Sep 2013 #

    In common with many, I Googled my way onto this site, researching a quiz question about Alma Cogan and stumbling on the entry for “Dreamboat”. Looking around the site I was enthralled at the reviews, and this was in the days before the comments crew really took off. My first post was on the “Hello Goodbye” thread in July 2006 and I’ve been a regular since. It’s been an absolute joy, of course, and has led to long-established friendships with the likes of Waldo and Rosie, some great Poptimism nights, pub crawls with Tom and people too numerous to mention, and the bizarre night that combined Mike Troubled Diva, the fourth plinth and Time Team.

    So congratulations Tom, happy birthday Popular and all the best for however long it takes to catch up!

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    Mark G on 16 Sep 2013 #

    #14, I think the difference is that for the most part the ‘number twos that missed out’ are covered by contributors (including Tom).

    Yeah! Ten Years! I was indeed there from the 1st day (I think the original comments got lost at some point) but I really should dig out my tape of “Here in my Heart” by “the pub singer” (see thread for context)..

    Happy Bunnies To You!

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    JonnyB on 16 Sep 2013 #

    I arrived here via Mike A, and immediately bitterly regretted missing out on the earlier years. The whole thing, reviews and comments, is magnificent. I’m probably not the only person who wishes such-and-such had got to number one so that it could be discussed here. Cheers!!!

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    pink chamaple on 16 Sep 2013 #

    I’m another who was reading from day one – before day one in fact, starting with your ‘there are only X perfect records’ threads on ilm, which I think pre-dated/inspired this? It took me over twenty popular years to start commenting and I’ve since tailed off so I can only salute your strength and indefatigability and that of the comments crew dependables too – i can’t think of anywhere else so a brains trust has been gathered and kept alive, which is another massive achievement. Congrats to all and I look forward to wasting many many more happy hours here for decades to come.

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    swanstep on 16 Sep 2013 #

    Mid-2009, I was googling around for some interesting writing about ABBA and came across Tom’s Pitchfork column on them. Further googling brought me here, where I was bowled over by Tom’s ‘Dancing Queen’ review/exegesis (still my favorite Popular entry and a piece I regularly recommend to diverse audiences). After lurking for a month or so, I first commented on the then fresh review of Wham’s ‘Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go)’, and I’ve chimed in on almost all subsequent entries. Happy Tenth Anniv. Tom, and thanks to everyone for making Popular a very welcoming, frequently illuminating, near daily port of call.

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    weej on 16 Sep 2013 #

    I really have no idea how I came across Popular, but I remember the first entry I read – Come On Eileen – as it left enough of an impression for me to immediately add the feed into Google Reader, though I didn’t start commenting until a year or two later.

    Anyway, four-and-a-half years seem to have passed since then (!!) so I’d like to thank Tom and all the comment crew for showing me there was a way to write about music which wasn’t a simple ‘music review’, or impenetrably technical or bogged down in critical theory, postmodernism or psychoanalysis. These thing had made me give up on writing about music in the late 90s, but now it seems to be the main thing I want to write about – so there’s a concrete effect on my life from a blog I read. I really can’t think of another.

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    Cumbrian on 16 Sep 2013 #

    Congratulations to Tom. This is a real tour-de-force. I am sad enough and honest enough to admit that it actually brightens my day a little when there is a new Popular post put up.

    Credit too to the comments crew below the line. Tom’s reviews are excellent but, and no offence Tom, the stuff below the line is just as important for me in making this place worth coming back to over and over. I never fail to be at least made to think hard about my opinions by coming here, even if I ultimately conclude that I think I might be right, and a lot of that is down to the quality of thought of the other people writing.

    I can’t remember how I wound up here. Aside from it being enormously entertaining, there is one other thing that I would say Popular is responsible for, for me. Since the demise of TOTP, I found it somewhat difficult to keep abreast of the top of the chart. Without coming here, the run of #1s in the middle of this year for instance (and plenty of corkers amongst them too) might well have passed me by. I’m not ready to stop listening to pop yet – and Popular helped me rediscover something about pop music that I thought I might have lost; the simple pleasure of hearing something fresh.

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    Waldo on 16 Sep 2013 #

    My light bulb with Popular flashed up when I pumped Google for information on The Overlanders one lazy day and one of the proffered links was somebody called Tom being rude about “Michelle”. I had been at primary school with the son of one of the group members. Once I opened it up I was suddenly a fly to Popular’s spider. As we all know now, the surviving members of the group seemed to have made contact with each other. I can’t help thinking that my mentioning Laurie Mason’s son Lance contributed towards this. “Waldo”, meanwhile, I had used as a name of a tennis correspondent and I decided to keep it. It was John Lloyd’s fault really. It was in the early days of texting and during Queens Club I had texed something about how Greg Rusedski always towelled down after every point. I signed myself off “Waldo Price from Wrexham”. Lloydy read it out on air and added: “Waldo Price. What a great name!” Bingo!
    I made my first comment on Popular (on the “Michelle” blog) in February 2007 when the party had already reached “Telegram Sam”. This was certainly my period, coming as I was, up to my 11th birthday and I took to the project like a duckling takes to water. There have been some memorable moments and I have enjoyed massively fencing (sometimes quite fiercely) with fellow commentators (one guy in particular, of course). With very few exceptions, there has been nothing but good-natured banter, although we have certainly had our moments. A difference of opinion is the lifeblood of all civilised debate and in the main the exchanges have been nothing but friendly.
    I should also like to thank Popular for bringing me into contact on a personal level with both Rosie and Erithian. Erithian in particular has become a good buddy, with whom I am in regular contact in other places. My two appearances at Popular nights also enabled me to meet not only Tom but Mark Sinker, Kat and my old sparring partner Marcello and his wife Lena.
    Tom, your project has brought much into my life, all good. These days I restrict myself to comments on the old TOTP shows, keeping to what I know. I’m sorry to say that the number one chain has long since reached the point where nearly all the records are complete strangers to me. Thank you for indulging in the lunacy of not only Waldo, but Peter Goodlaws (whose identity was swiftly unmasked by both Mark and Rosie), Marshmallow Hamilton (a crude attempt to ape one of our truly great contributors who was then absent from our pages and for which I apologised personally to its intended target when I finally met him) and latterly Jimmy the Swede, a character who lives inside a seventies bubble and has a worrying obsession with a certain dancer. Please accept my thanks and congratulations again and long may you continue your work. May blessings be upon you and on all of the comments crew.

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    anto on 16 Sep 2013 #

    Congratulations on ten years of the blog. Always a brilliant read.

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    punctum on 16 Sep 2013 #

    I can’t remember when I began to comment on Popular. I could do a site search and find out but somehow I think that’s against the spirit of the thing.

    What I can (just about) remember is the total mess of a person I was ten years ago – delayed grieving, monstrous self-hatred – and Popular among other places has been an intermittent witness to my subsequent clumsy but determined struggle to get my life back, and maybe also my rediscovery of what music is capable of doing.

    I’m not sure I recognise that 2003 person, and I probably wouldn’t have anything to say to him now.

    But, in 2013, I can look back to a certain extent and think to myself – “I DID it!” Because unbeknownst to me, 2003 was the point when things began to turn around again, specifically when a female blogger in Toronto started to read my writing, and eventually we got in touch, and eventually, and eventually…

    So, as I said above, this blog has borne witness to my rather messy story and (re-)evolution. I suppose that Then Play Long came about as a natural progression from what I was doing in these comments boxes. And I am aware that, just over four months short of my fiftieth birthday, if I don’t get a move on with TPL I may not live to “finish” it (unless in the interim somebody finally decides that the concept of the album is redundant and discontinues the album chart).

    The problem is that TPL has taken over, to an extent where I don’t really have anything to say on Popular any more. Take That? Oasis? Oh, I have plenty to say about both – but selfishly, I want to preserve my thoughts until TPL gets to them (which means that Popular also acts as a get-on-with-it spur to my own blog). The increasing frequency of number one singles from number one albums seems to have settled the matter.

    I’m reasonably happy with what I’ve contributed here – although some things I really ought never to have contributed (so if, for instance, Doctor Mod is still lurking out there, then all I can do is apologise for being more than a little loco at the time). The stroke I had last year was the final kick in that particular backside and since then I’ve slowly been winding down here.

    Much thanks, of course, to those who have stuck with me, and by me, through it all – Tom obviously, and Mark S maybe even more obviously (in blog as in life), and above all Lena who actually married me!

    But thanks are also due to others – Waldo, with whom I have indeed met and who I know to be a basically kind and good soul; Erithian, who has never been less than friendly and welcoming whenever we’ve happened to bump into each other; Wichita Lineman, with whom I sparred verbally for a couple of years when I hadn’t a clue who he was, let alone somebody whose music I’d loved and followed for nigh on twenty years (more like twenty-three or twenty-four years now) – a really good friendship has come out of that. And of course Rosie, whom I’ve never met but with whom I find myself agreeing with more and more as I get steadily older and older (not with everything, you understand, but more often than not). As well as the many others too numerous to mention but whose virtual company has been more than welcome.

    With that I truly am signing out, though will continue to read and enjoy Popular, and I hope that people here will continue to check out our twin blogs, Then Play Long and Music Sounds Better With Two (which it definitely does). Also that, despite now having been forbidden alcohol by the internationally renowned consultants who are taking care of my health, we can all meet up again at some point; the social factor of Popular is crucial, really.

    Oh, and if anyone is wondering what the hell is going on with TPL – entry #267 is “under construction,” like the Shard…

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    enitharmon on 16 Sep 2013 #

    I can’t actually remember exactly when I first came in and of course my first comments fell victim to the comment monster (then lots of my second wave of comments fell victim to Haloscan). It was towards the end of 1961 though, coinciding nicely with my first pop awakening. It was a mention in the Guardian, back in the days when I used to buy the print version, that drew me in.

    Though I don’t comment much these days because the music being covered now means little to me, Popular is still an important part of my life. One of these days I’ll make it to one of those fabled Popular Nights Out but for now Waldo (whom I first met ­– “Brass In Pocket” I think – with a pint overlooking Crazy Horse Corner, a footy match and a twilight walk on the beach) and Erithian (not Ian from Erith at all but Brian from Bexley, first met in a Bayswater hostelry in February this year – “Come On You Reds” of course) have become good friends in the flesh and for ages we’ve been exchanging the potty obituaries by text. I’ve had my spats, notably with Marcello{1} (with whom I often agreed more than he may have realised) but we’ve both mellowed with the passing years to the point where I’m happy to defend him against invading trolls. And then I had my intimation of mortality and came home to all that wonderful support to the tune of Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now”. Sorry Tiffs for stealing your thread! So I’m proud to be a Populista, and I wish Popular a very happy birthday and many happy returns, and a huge Thank You to Tom for facilitating it. On of the best things has been reading Tom’s fresh newcomer’s analysis of things I was very familiar with liked, and then realising why I liked them.

    {1} I do follow Then Play Long ( currently in need of an update) with a great deal of interest but seldom comment because having read all the way through Marcello’s long, meticulous, insightful and sometimes provocative comments (with which I agree more often than not on the whole!) I generally feel exhausted and lost for words.

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    ciaran on 16 Sep 2013 #

    Words couldnt do justice to how brilliant this project is. Unwelcome spam aside, all the contributions are very engaging and tom is one of the finest writers you could get in music.

    First came to my attention when 1981 was covered back in early 2009.May even have discovered popular when Ghost Town appeared.Didnt really get posting until around U2’s Desire (1988) back in July 2019.

    Where else would you come to conclusions like in Phil Collins ‘easy lover’ where men in england were ‘dressing like accountants’, sticking the boot into Nick Berry, appreciate the genius of the Pet Shop Boys, wonder how did Tom give Pump Up The Volume (I now can understand why it got 10 now…and then some!) and so on.

    Not to mention the sheer scale of the comments.Marcello’s pieces on even the very dullest of number ones are compelling.Then theres the welcome additions that the likes of Patrick Mexico have been recently.Among with everyone else as I said above.Its a shame I havent got the chance to meet any of ye but you never know.

    Maybe it just me but I always get excited when a new post appears with inverted commas signalling another debate.

    Well done Tom.Have a night out to celebrate.

  27. 27
    Mark M on 16 Sep 2013 #

    Blimey, Tom, it’s epic achievement to get this far, and probably a bigger one to maintain a proper life while doing it. Well done.

    (I’ve been here from the start).

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    intothefireuk on 16 Sep 2013 #

    Congratulations Tom on reaching 10 years. Don’t exactly remember when I stumbled across Popular – I think it was in the 60s somewhere but I’m still here, just. Not sure I’ll have too much to say about the forthcoming entries but I’m still listening so who knows. It’s always an enjoyable read and one of the first things (along with TPL and MSBWT) I log onto when I fire up the PC. My intention was to try and comment on every entry from the start but I think some of it was wiped when the server changed a few years back and I never got around to catching up. Keep up the good work. Cheers ITF. 10

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    mapman132 on 17 Sep 2013 #

    I’ve been lurking around here since 2010, but only started regular comments recently. This blog has inspired me to listen to all of the Billboard Hot 100 chart toppers one by one (up to 1966 so far), although I’m far too lazy to blog about it (I’m also aware of No Hard Chords).

    Anyway, looking forward to the next, well, however long it takes!

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    Patrick Mexico on 17 Sep 2013 #

    It would be no overstatement to say this site restored my faith in music, and possibly humanity.

    Congratulations on reaching the decade mark Tom, and long may it continue.

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    fivelongdays on 17 Sep 2013 #

    I’m not sure when I started commenting/reading Popular – I discovered FT via search for something, I know not what, and was aware of the project – but I can remember These Boots Were Made For Walking getting a ten and thinking ‘oooh, that’s exciting’. Not sure when I started commenting either, although a quick search shows that I posted at some stage in the 60s.

    Aaaaanyway, I love this blog (doesn’t everyone?), and I’m looking forward to the next entry – largely because we’re slap-bang in the middle of my charts obsession. I’m sure my comments will decrease over time, but I’ll always make sure I’ll read it. Tom’s my favourite music writer in Britain by a country mile, even though he doesn’t normally write about the stuff I listen to, he always makes me think.

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    enitharmon on 17 Sep 2013 #

    The buildup to the first 10 was a marketing coup whether wittingly or not. I remember my personal outrage when it wasn’t given to House of the Rising Sun, which I’d been quietly predicting would be it for some time.

    Thanks to Popular I now have every official number one from Al Martino to John Lennon’s Starting Over, and from John Lennon’s Imagine to the first incarnation of Do They Know It’s Christmas in my random music mix (there are one or two items, not necessarily those given a 1 by Tom, that provide an excuse to take the rubbish out or go to the corner shop but there’s a line that has to be drawn). DTKIC formally marks the beginning of my fifth decade and the end of my interest in charts but there’s a smattering after that of things that passed me by at the time.

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    Will on 17 Sep 2013 #

    Congratulations Tom! To stay ten years at the coalface of such a daunting project and for it to be of such a consistency high quality is some achievement.

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    Rory on 17 Sep 2013 #

    All of these excellent comments have had me thinking I should say more than a quick line of congratulations dashed off at midnight. I knew Freaky Trigger from my early blogging days, following Tanya Headon’s amusingly grumpy outbursts at the time, so I did notice when Tom started Popular. But those early hits meant little to me, and I lost track, picking up as a reader again somewhere in the early 1970s. By the time Tom reached all the ABBA number ones I knew I would have to start commenting here, but held off until I reached a song I had actually bought with my own pocket money back in the day – appropriately, an Australian one. In hindsight I was too mean with my own score for Down Under, but I was trying for at least some objectivity – not really possible when we’re talking about such formative influences, as I later came to accept.

    That was four and a half years ago, so in online terms I can feel like an old hand here now, a proud Populista, although sadly I rarely make it down to London and haven’t been able to join you all in the pub. After a productive 1980s of commenting I tailed off for a while when the UK charts deviated strongly from my own 1993-94 listening, but a string of 1995-96 singles is bringing me back into the fold, and I’m as excited for the next entry as ever.

    When I survey my regular online haunts over the years, three stand out: a group weblog where users post and comment on anything and everything, a mad project to write a limerick for every word in the English language, and this project covering every UK number one. All-encompassing and unfinishable online projects are clearly the ones most worth doing – for me at least, and I’m glad there are so many kindred spirits who agree.

  35. 35
    Tom on 17 Sep 2013 #

    Punctum – thanks so much for your mighty comments over the years, they’ve expanded the conversation in all sorts of unexpected ways. You’re always welcome back, and I really hope that you keep coming back to post TPL links on the relevant threads (and some irrelevant ones!).

  36. 36
    Billy Hicks on 17 Sep 2013 #

    Still feeling a little like a Popular newbie, it was a link on James Masterton’s blog in about 2009 that first directed me here, and then after lurking for a bit I made my first post here when we reached my stork #1 of He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother a year later.

    I also still feel like I’m yet to make my best contributions – the further we go into the 1990s and into the noughties we enter “my” musical era that, intermittently, continues to this day. Still to come are the glorious run of #1s in 1999 that first truly opened my ears to the world of pop, a certain noughties chart topper which was playing as I received my first kiss, and then an almost uninterrupted run from, ooh, about 2008 to 2011 which sees me leave my teens and enter an immensely happy early 20s existence, memories – good or bad – associated with almost every track. It may take several years, but should I still be around I can’t wait to look back at the next 17 years of music and beyond and relive the very best and worst of what the British public’s music taste has to offer.

    A very happy ten years indeed and here’s to the millennium!

  37. 37
    mintness on 17 Sep 2013 #

    Crikey, Billy, if *you’re* a newbie… you certainly look like part of the furniture from where I’m standing, anyway. :)

    On that note, while I’ve barely contributed anything compared with some of the esteemed members above, they (and Tom, of course) often make it unnecessary or superfluous to do so – “my” points are already made, and made terrifically well. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve told someone to “read this blog! and make sure you read the comments too!”. Indeed, in an online world where “under the line” is becoming increasingly synonymous with intolerance, trolling and abuse, Popular has, if anything, helped reinforce what’s actually good about comments threads.

    The late-90s period that approaches, with me currently at age 17 in Popular terms, promises to throw up some fascinating contrasts. I suspect I’ll be giving more 1-3 and 8-10 marks than at any other point along this journey. Bring it on…

    And, as a Eurovision nerd, I suppose I’m all but bound to end on a hearty “Congratulations” to Tom. Let’s pretend it’s the Silvia Night take on the title.

  38. 38
    Auntie Beryl on 17 Sep 2013 #

    Heh, as is standard I get to the comments box to find all the pertinent stuff has already been said…

    I’m new here, but have spent large dollops of the last year working back to the point before my birth, comments becoming scarcer as I went. It’s such a shame web gremlins ate the pioneering comments from the fifties and sixties – I’d have loved to have seen them.

    Thanks, Tom and FT, for hosting, writing and conceiving all of this. It’s remarkable and I hope the recent burst of enthusiasm persists. Thanks too, though, to everybody else’s thoughts below the articles. There were clearly some prickly moments but here we find one of the most treasurable corners of the net. Hats off one and all.

  39. 39
    wwolfe on 18 Sep 2013 #

    I think the first entry I read was the Shadows’ “Wonderful Land.” As an American, I missed out on the Shadows completely, so it was fascinating to read a good piece of criticism about the band and what it signified. I downloaded the song, and was able to find my way into its musical world, based on what you wrote, and I’ve been keeping up with your entries ever since. What keeps me here are your critical acuity and your, for want of a better word, kindness – a quality I appreciate more the older I get. I haven’t commented much since the mid-1980s, since reiterating “I don’t know this record” doesn’t seem to add much to the conversation. (The extent to which the American and British pop charts were two very different worlds after the early 1980s has been an eye-opener for me.) But I continue to find that conversation very rewarding. Thanks for all your work.

  40. 40
    LondonLee on 25 Sep 2013 #

    Haven’t commented here in a while (still in the sidebar though! Cheers) cause you’ve entered an era I don’t know much about having moved to the other side of the Atlantic. But I still love this blog even when you’re writing about records I’ve never heard of (99% of the time these days).

    10/10 for Tom.

  41. 41
    ottersteve on 26 Sep 2013 #

    Nice to see tom getting good feedbacks for his efforts.
    A 10-year project of any kind can get a bit “wearing” at times to put it mildly.

    As for me, my interest in “pop” music faded from the early 90’s onwards (it’s an age thing!).

    However, I still enjoy looking up a randomly chosen No.1 just to see what Tom has to say about it. In 8/10 times I feel we are kindred spirit when it comes to music.

    My only criticism (with a very small “c”) is that cover versions of previous hit singles should not be awarded a 10 – as in in the case of a certain 1987 Xmas hit. A 9 for that particular song would still recognize the greatness of it.

  42. 42
    punctum on 26 Sep 2013 #

    This is as good a place as any to mark the return of TPL – 15,000 words on The Lexicon Of Love, with contributions from Martin Fry himself: http://nobilliards.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/abc-lexicon-of-love.html

  43. 43
    swanstep on 27 Sep 2013 #

    @punctum. Woo-hoo, well done. I look forward to reading that this weekend!

  44. 44
    Rory on 27 Sep 2013 #

    Throughout August I was wondering to myself how long it would end up – I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been 40,000 words. A wonderful piece, punctum, and a towering achievement to get there.

  45. 45
    thefatgit on 27 Sep 2013 #

    Marvellous, marvellous work. And Martin Fry’s input is the icing on the cake.

  46. 46
    pink champale on 28 Sep 2013 #

    Wow. A piece that’s worthy of the record – the Lexicon of Love of writing about Lexicon of Love in fact. I hope Martin liked it too (christ, who wouldn’t? Imagine someone writing THAT about something you’d done…)

  47. 47
    Chelovek na lune on 28 Sep 2013 #

    Aye, a toweringly outstanding piece, and one worthy of a toweringly outstanding record. Or, indeed, and excuse the allusion, vice versa.

  48. 48
    Steviebab on 22 Nov 2013 #

    I love Popular, it not only feeds my nostalgic, completist pop obsessions but it inspires my own writing

  49. 49
    Chap_with_Wings on 6 Sep 2014 #

    Somehow I’ve only just discovered your blog & am working my way backwards. Once I reached this entry, I had to comment for two reasons.
    (1) In 1998, I started to watch all of Doctor Who in order, writing about each one. I’m still nowhere near finished.
    (2) In 1993, I started to write down the top 40 every week. I made myself stop last year.
    All power to you!

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