May 10

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? Round 5: the Number 6s.

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops57 comments • 1,500 views

First things first: let’s see how Round 4 has affected the cumulative scoreboard. I’ve put positions from the previous round in brackets.

Cumulative scores so far:
1(1) The Eighties – 15.84 points.
2(4) The Nineties – 14.94 points.
3(2) The Teens – 14.24 points.
4(3) The Noughties – 13.96 points.
5(5) The Sixties – 13.59 points.
6(6) The Seventies – 11.44 points.

So it’s good news for the Nineties, as “The Power” nudges them up a couple of spaces at the expense of the Teens and the Noughties. The Eighties are holding steady at the top, while the Seventies have a lot of catching up to do.

Eyes down for the Number Sixes, then…

1960: Jimmy Jones – Handy Man (video)
1970: Christie – Yellow River (video) (Tom’s post on Popular)
1980: Sky – Toccata (video)
1990: UB40 – Kingston Town (video)
2000: Mandy Moore – Candy (video)
2010: Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha – Dirty Picture (video)

(Download the MP3)

I have two overriding problems with “Handy Man”. Firstly, there’s something fingernails-down-the-blackboard irritating about Jimmy Jones’s voice. It sounds modelled on Sam Cooke, but Cooke’s sweetness is replaced here by an oddly grating quality – particularly on the higher end of Jones’s falsetto, which wafts in and out of focus like the wavering signal on an AM radio dial. And secondly, there’s the whistling, of which I’m rarely a fan – although in fairness, it should be noted that this was a hastily conceived replacement for a flute player who failed to show up.

I’m also a little unsettled by the video clip, in which Jones ingratiatingly skips around – almost in a Freddie Garrity style at times – in front of a sullen, gum-chewing representation of middle American youth. “I’m your handy man”, he chirps – and perhaps that’s how his audience would like to see him, as a happily subservient service provider.

But if this is so, then what of the lyric, in which Jones offers his services as a 24-hour on-call mender of broken hearts? This is a very strange service to be offering the newly dumped daughters of America! And what, pray, is his remedy? “I’m handy with love”, he boasts. “I whisper sweet things, you tell all your friends, they’ll come runnin’ to me!” Quite the player, isn’t he? So there’s a certain subversion here which intrigues me – but it isn’t quite enough to turn “Handy Man” into an enjoyable listening experience.

I have a different set of problems with Christie‘s “Yellow River”, which is so deeply embedded into my memories of 1970 that I experience it almost synaesthetically. Appropriately enough, it makes me think of waterways – and boat clubs, and outboard engines, and dirty-blue reflections of petrol on the surface of a muddy canal. The sense of acute nostalgia which it invokes is mirrored by the intense longing for home which the song’s returning soldier expresses – as if both he and I are yearning to return to a simpler, happier time and place.

The effect it has on me is almost unbearably powerful. I well up; I get shivers down the spine; and I find it impossible to disassociate these feelings from the objective qualities of the record itself. What would it be like to hear “Yellow River” for the first time in 2010? Is it a great pop record, or merely a catchy little period piece of no great import? Well, that’s for you to tell me, isn’t it?

One of prog rock’s more foolish aspirations – and I speak as someone with a great affection for the genre – was the way in which it sometimes seeked to position itself as classical music’s contemporary equivalent. Think of Emerson Lake and Palmer’s assault on Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition; think of Rick Wakeman, butchering Brahms on Yes’s Fragile; and more generally, think of the way in which musical technique was prized as an end in itself.

Although not exactly prog in its purest form, Sky represented a logical (ahem) progression from – or reduction of – these ideals. Their aridly flashy reworking of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor is just the sort of thing your music teacher would have approved of, as “a cut above the usual pop nonsense” – and yet if the now barely remembered Sky were indeed aiming for posterity, how cruelly has history served them! “Toccata” barely rises above the level of a theme tune for a TV arts documentary, and while the playing is nimble enough, it’s far from exceptional.

Subjectively speaking, I’ll grant it two redeeming features. Firstly, the drummer once played on a Kevin Ayers album, and so he can’t be all bad. Secondly, my exhuming of “Toccata” has served to unlock a long-held musical mystery: so that’s where Jam and Spoon got the riff for their wonderful 1994 dance anthem “Right In The Night”! I’ve puzzled over that for years!

You can keep your Beanos and your Dandys – my favourite DC Thomson comic was Sparky, and one of my favourite Sparky strips centred around the adventures of Willie Getaway: a short-sighted heir to a fortune, who misread the “WANTED – reward offered!” posters bearing his image as a sign that he was in trouble with the law. Every week, well-meaning members of the public would attempt to flag him down, and every week he would give them the slip.

I was reminded of Willie Getaway when reading the story of Lord Creator, who recorded the orginal version of UB40‘s “Kingston Town”. By the time that UB40’s version was a hit – and it was a massive hit, topping the charts in France and the Netherlands – Lord Creator was living the life of a homeless destitute, unaware of the substantial royalties that were owed to him. When approached on the street by Clancy Eccles, the record’s original producrer, Lord Creator assumed that Eccles was chasing him for an unpaid debt, and fled the scene. Happily, Eccles gave chase. Justice was duly done, and Lord Creator’s fortunes were restored in a way that was always denied to the hapless Willie Getaway.

With this heart-warming tale in mind, I’m inclined to think more kindly of UB40’s fond, if somewhat workmanlike, cover. It must have been galling for them to realise that the only way to maintain chart success was to crank out the covers – “Kingston Town” is taken from their sequel to 1983’s Labour of Love, and one wonders how much the labour had come to replace the love – but there are far worse ways to spend one’s time than by engaging in wealth redistribution operations on behalf of the ripped-off Jamaican heroes of one’s youth, and so I must salute their endeavours accordingly.

Let us now turn to hallowed quartet of so-called “pop princesses” that emerged at around the turn of the last decade: Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson… and Mandy Moore, charting here with her debut release. I find little to love here: the track is conceived in blatant imitation of Britney, right down to Mandy’s horrible mis-pronounciation of “me” as “maaay”.

My memories of Mandy’s brief reign are mostly centred around an in-flight movie which I half-watched a couple of years later, in which she played an annoyingly perfect “America’s Sweetheart” character. I resented the way that she seemed forced upon us by an invisible marketing committee; nothing new there of course, but these calculations struck me as particularly clinical, and Mandy did little to stamp her own character on her work.

Reviewing the pop princesses ten years on, only Jessica Simpson seems largely unchanged by the passing of time (although I’m no expert, and maybe I missed a scandal or two). Britney flipped out – Christina went DIRRTY – and (oh my goodness, can this be true?) Mandy ended up marrying Ryan Adams, and denouncing her early recordings as “so bad” and “just awful”. And frankly, who are we to contradict her?

As few of you showed much love to Chipmunk in the previous round, I question whether you’ll be any kinder to composer/producer Fraser T. Smith’s second offering, as joylessly intoned by Taio Cruz and Ke$ha.

Smith and Cruz are not without some degree of form – I enjoyed their work on Tinchy Stryder’s “Take Me Back”, for instance – but Cruz’s godawful chart-topper “Break Your Heart” marked the exact moment when I fell out of love with the predominant pop sound of 2009. Truly, it was a club banger too far – and despite some vaguely appealing electro-dance rasping and parping (which pale into insignificance next to the likes of Fedde Le Grand, Mason’s “Exceeder” and the Crookers remix of Kid Cudi’s “Day n Nite”), “Dirty Picture” is scarcely any better.

In its defence, I suppose you could argue that the witless, charmless, endless repetition of “take a dirty picture, take a dirty picture of me” accurately portrays a state of feverishly monomaniacal erotic obsession – but why make the effort, when Taio and Ke$ha have made so little of their own?

Over to you, then. Christie might be a five-star classic in my head, but does it tower over the rest of today’s selections like a colossus for the rest of you? Something tells me that, by virtue of its overall mediocrity, this round is wide open. Let’s find out!


  1. 1
    Mike Atkinson on 19 May 2010 #

    167 points: Sky – Toccata
    165 points: Christie – Yellow River
    138 points: Mandy Moore – Candy
    136 points: UB40 – Kingston Town
    122 points: Jimmy Jones – Handy Man
    112 points: Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha – Dirty Picture

    My scores:
    6 points: Christie – Yellow River
    5 points: UB40 – Kingston Town
    4 points: Sky – Toccata
    3 points: Jimmy Jones – Handy Man
    2 points: Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha – Dirty Picture
    1 point: Mandy Moore – Candy

  2. 2
    Billy Smart on 19 May 2010 #

    Dear oh dearie me, what a poor selection! Not much to say about any of these;

    6 – Christie

    5 – Taio & Ke$ha

    4 – Jimmy Jones

    3 – Mandy Moore

    2 – Sky

    1 – UB40

  3. 3
    lockedintheattic on 19 May 2010 #

    Oh dear oh dear indeed. The fact that there is a world where I’m even considering giving UB40 top marks for anything is something I could never have imagined, but this round has put me right in that position.

    6 – UB40 – Actually I quite like this
    5 – Mandy Moore – Oh, you’re a bit harsh about this, it’s no Britney but it’s not that bad
    4 – Sky – mainly for reminding me of ‘Right in the Night’
    3 – Taio & Ke$ha – remarkably unsexy
    2 – Jimmy Jones
    1 – Christie – really, really dull

  4. 4
    lonepilgrim on 19 May 2010 #

    An odd selection – nothing that I really care for
    6 points: Christie
    They come across like a UK version of CCR – the bass and drums provide a strong counterpoint to the vocal melody
    5 points: Mandy Moore
    I’ve never consciously heard her before, and while there’s a lot that’s irritating about her performance the song has a sense of momentum that kept my attention
    4 points: Jimmy Jones
    This has some of the same appeal as Brenda Lee’s song but lacks the smouldering restraint of ‘Sweet Nothing’ substituting a manic cheeriness instead
    3 points: Sky
    I was fully prepared to loathe this but found it made me feel quite nostalgic for an age when the charts included music and musos like this. Against more engaging competition they wouldn’t stand a chance.
    2 points: UB40
    Just as Sky sought to embalm classical music in a pop style so UB40 do the same with KT. There’s no real ambition to this music
    1 point: Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha
    I don’t think this works particularly well either as a song or as a dance number. The only redeeming feature is Ke$ha who actually sounds engaged

  5. 5
    asta on 19 May 2010 #

    6 pts- Christie. As it is for Mike, this song is directly tied to a time and space in my life- a specific turning point. I simply can’t mark it down for bounciness, or being bubblegum with a conscience.

    5 pts- UB40 I think of UB40 as the group fueled by Xanax rather than ganja. this song is coma-inducing. It’s getting 5 pts because the rest are worse.

    4 pts- Jimmy Jones I listened to this twice, thinking, I KNOW this song, but how? James Taylor. That I prefer the James Taylor version to this one, is more of a crticism of Jimmy Jones than praise for James Taylor.

    3 pts- Mandy. Oh gawd yes, this is Brittney-lite right down to the hand gestures and the hair toss. I still like this beat. I confess. I am a sucker for this beat, but if I had to listen to this on repeat, I might come to hate it.

    2 pts- Sky. Nice guitar work there boys. Now go away.

    1 pt- Taio and Kesha- No, I’m not going to spell it with a dollar sign, she doesn’t deserve it after lending her voice to this kodachrome catastrophe.

  6. 6
    Lionel d'Lion on 19 May 2010 #

    6 – UB40
    5 – Sky
    4 – Christie
    3 – Mandy Moore
    2 – Jimmy Jones
    1 – Taio Crux

  7. 7
    JonnyB on 19 May 2010 #

    What Billy said. A poor selection indeed, Mike, when Sky gets such a mediocre write-up, yet still achieves a 4 rating.

    But I’d come at them from the other direction? John Williams, a very notable classical guitarist, having a go at the pop thing. So in a way, the opposite of the rock music trying to be classical approach, which had always ended in shame and disgrace. Tristram Fry was an orchestral percussionist as well, methinks – as I remember him from Jim’ll Fix It. Although, granted, Herbie Flowers did write ‘Granddad.’

    So classical musicians wanting to be with da kidz, and roping in some of their rocky/jazzy mates as collaborators.

    I’ll have another listen tomorrow. But no great enthusiasm as to marking this one…

  8. 8
    thefatgit on 19 May 2010 #

    Hmm it becomes harder to choose when faced with bleakness of this calibre:

    6 points-UB40
    5 points-Jimmy Jones
    4 points-Mandy Moore
    3 points-Taio Cruz
    2 points-Christie
    1 point-Sky

    Sky represent the folly and pointlessness of taking a well known piece of classical music and bringing nothing new or imaginative to the table. It’s about “chops” for “chops” sake. I can imagine Williams and Lloyd-Webber high-fiving after listening to the master being played back through the cans. Tomita had his moog. Orbit had his trance mixes. These fellas just have smugness.
    I should like “Yellow River”, but all I’m reminded of is schoolboy sniggering as you cross piss streams in the boys bogs.
    Taio Cruz down the boozer showing porno pics of his latest conquest to his mates does not a good pop song make. Even if Ke$ha was a willing participant. Misogyny sux bro!
    Mandy’s Candy…never liked it then. Still don’t like it now. If we had Britney, then what was Mandy for?
    Jimmy Jones’ whistle really grates on this.
    UB40. One word. Meh!

    None of the above really deserve top marks. So the track I hated least got the 6.

  9. 9
    Alan on 19 May 2010 #

    dittoing ‘not much in this’. sky is way ahead, then there’s little in 5-2 and mandy is just pff. the sky track had quite an impact on me and has reminded me of a brief interest in Tomita I had (sue me)

    6 1980: Sky
    5 1970: Christie
    4 1990: UB40
    3 2010: Taio Cruz
    2 1960: Jimmy Jones
    1 2000: Mandy Moore

  10. 10
    Abe Fruman on 20 May 2010 #

    Dearie me……another mediocre half-dozen. It appears this was a bad week for the charts over all the decades ( well, so far anyway ).

    God, what a load of shite – impossible to pick a best, all I know is UBfucking40 will be last.

    6 Sky – Hmm, all a bit wank but at least it’s a decent tune.

    5 Taio – Erm, for the Audi. Seems like 2 songs spliced together?

    4 Mandy – Bland, safe, anodyne.

    3 Jimmy – Standard early 60s fayre.

    2 Christie – Rock n’ Roll never felt so good!

    No, they’re not getting any points from me. If you wish to allocate them one, Mike, then on your own conscience be it – UBfucking40

    Surely there must be some decent tunes on the way?

  11. 11
    swanstep on 20 May 2010 #

    I’m not really participating in Which decade? but I thought that Mandy Moore’s acting career deserves a shout out if the early ’00s popettes’ subsequent careers are going to be scored in passing. She gave one of the better performances in Southland Tales for example, and is good (and game!) on Gossip Girl.

    And what the hell is up with that mushy/blurry harpsichord in the Sky? They might all be great players, but that instrumentation choice makes this one of the most unpleasant Bach recordings ever in my view. (I’d take Jem’s strip-mining of one of B’s preludes over this, any day. And Bach is absolutely fool-proof for techno/dance…)

  12. 12
    taDOW on 20 May 2010 #

    6 – mandy moore, can still remember when mtv pop used the intro as their bumper music, still love the spoken bridge; not as strong as top tier trl era britney but much better than second tier. at the time i always put this on mixtapes w/ ‘playground love’, steady pervin.

    5 – sky, walter murphy meets harry thumann, later that year the drummer would kill john lennon

    4 – taio cruz feat ke$ha, somehow actually needs more ke$ha

    3 – christie, intro is very nearly chopped & screwed karma chameleon intro

    2 – jimmy jones, loved them moves though

    1 – ub40, abe otm

  13. 13
    taDOW on 20 May 2010 #

    a little disturbing that of the teenpop girls that emerged late 90s/early 00s over there apparently only the white ones crossed over to the uk! i’d always dismissed lex’s rants before but were aaliyah, maya, tatyana ali, brandy, monica, inoj, nicole wray, etc really more obscure (on the radio at least) than jessica simpson?

  14. 14
    weej on 20 May 2010 #

    Brandy, Monica and Aaliyah were pretty well exposed over here, but I’d say they were more remembered as pop/r&b than as teenpop.

  15. 15
    punctum on 20 May 2010 #

    Remembered? Brandy and Monica are still releasing great records and still having huge hits in the States. “Everything To Me” by Monica – a brilliant performance, astonishing song, if Dave Godin were still here he’d put it on his Deep Soul Treasures compliations – has been top of both Billboard R&B charts for seven weeks there and the fact that nobody’s playing it here because of the British music industry’s stupid combination of misogyny, ageism, racism and latent pederasty should make this pasty-faced, racially arrogant, cramped, spotty and joyless country ashamed of itself.

    Truthfully I don’t feel like giving most of these records even one point. Apart from the Ke$ha elements of “Party Animal” they’re all worthless.

  16. 16
    Mike Atkinson on 20 May 2010 #

    Ah, but ranking the crap rounds is all part of the challenge!

    Depressed to learn that Radio 2 is currently playing an edit of the Keane single, with K’Naan’s rap snipped out. QED, etc.

  17. 17
    punctum on 20 May 2010 #

    See also the Radio 2 edit of “She Said” which just leaves a huge gap where the rap should be, thereby rendering the song nonsensical. Or indeed the recent 1999 edition of Pick Of The Pops where Eminem’s “My Name Is…” was skipped over, despite the fact that it was a new entry at number two.

    Yes, I know that’s the “challenge” but really this is a Dale Winton list if ever there were one and unfortunately some days I just don’t have it in me to make gold out of dung.

  18. 18
    punctum on 20 May 2010 #

    Sometimes I wish I really could be Anthony Burgess and pump all this stuff out.

    Anyway, I’m cranky and un peu depressed today so it’s my duty to overcome both.

    But really:
    6 points – Ke$ha and Gerry Munroe
    Sadly the bespectacled Tyneside falsetto pub singer has long since checked out but he would have been a much better counterpart to Kwazy Ke$ha’s Kooky Kutz (which, if you’re not already aware, is No Bad Thing) than the ‘phone-in/a word about your last American Express card payment please Mr G Staid tones of Mr Cruz. I did enjoy how she thoroughly erased the despicable 3Oh!3 on her “Blah Blah Blah” but this doesn’t quite match up.

    5 points – Mandy Moore
    I have to remind myself not to confuse her with Mandy More, the strange British actress/seventies singer-songwriter, whose And This Is Me album has recently been reissued on CD (worth it for “If Not By Fire” alone; imagine Cilla Black singing Annette Peacock while Sun Ra’s clavichord malfunctions behind her), but in this lame competition the Britney knockoff isn’t too bad (Samantha Mumba’s “Gotta Tell You” was probably the best of this category, and its having been written and produced by StarGate was probably a major factor in its status).

    4 points – Sky
    Tristan Fry played vibes on John Martyn’s Solid Air and One World (including “Small Hours”) and tympani on “A Day In The Life,” and Francis Monkman was in Curved Air. Yes, it’s all Holiday With Judith Chalmers (yes, I know they were two different shows on two different stations, don’t bother to write in and correct) and more pressingly what my best friend at school liked in terms of “modern music” (he wasn’t much of a fan of music and was considerably more interested in Dungeons and Dragons, wargames etc.). Richard Cook reviewed an album of theirs in the NME in one line: “Look, I’m a tolerant bloke, but Sky’s the limit.” Plus the album from which this is taken made number one so I have to write about it/them. John Williams and his pals, getting paid, but I have a bit of a soft spot for it.

    3 points – Christie
    The only thing I remember about Jeff Christie is that Ruby Wax shared a flat with him when she came over from Chicago way back in the kwazy kooky seventeez. Also that the song was intended for the Tremeloes but the demo was so good that CBS opted to run with it. Civil War as analogy, trying to get back home – all very 1970, of course, but unfortunately years of “Yellow Pages! Yellow Pages!” have removed the song’s minimal bite.

    2 points – UB40
    “Hi, it’s Dale, and it’s UB FOR-TYYYY, with the 12th of their nine number nine hits, on its way up from last week’s number eight to this week’s number 15. VERY strange!” OK, so the guy got paid, but that’s the only reason this is getting two points. Paracetamol-inducing pabulum.

    1 point – Jimmy Jones
    “Now then now then it was like Mis Ter JimmEE Jownes you see not content with like aving one record in the charts he had two records owowowooo goodness gracious and it was like the Hand E Mann you see God rest my sowel one and own-ly Sir Cliff Mister Forever Guy Uncle Ted”

    WTF with that video? It’s SCARY! All I know is that he had these two humping great hits at the same time then effectively disappeared forever and James Taylor’s version is much better. It’s creepy, in an Eraserhead kind of way.

  19. 19
    Alan not logged in on 20 May 2010 #

    (just noticed me and thefatgit cross-post mentioning Tomita within mins of each other.)

  20. 20
    Mike Atkinson on 20 May 2010 #

    Easily our closest round yet in terms of scoring – only five points are separating the first four tracks. This is where crap rounds become EXCITING!

  21. 21
    JonnyB on 20 May 2010 #

    I’ve worked out – this is the Polly Toynbee round. Hold your nose and vote for…

    6 – Sky
    5 – Christie
    4 – Ke$ha
    3 – UB40
    2 – Jimmy
    1 – Mandy

  22. 22
    Martin Skidmore on 20 May 2010 #

    6 Christie
    5 Mandy Moore
    4 Jimmy Jones
    3 Ke$ha
    2 UB40
    1 Sky
    What a lousy selection! Christie would get maybe 5/10 from me, yet it’s an easy first place.

  23. 23
    Tom on 20 May 2010 #

    RIGHT finally carved out some time to attend to Which Decade? again so let’s work backwards from the 6s. Contrary to much of the above this is a pretty tight, solid round: nothing amazing but few horrors either.

    6 points – Mandy: This hasn’t worn quite as well as I thought it might but I still like it a great deal (though not as much as her latinised romp “In My Pocket”) just because I like that pneumatic overdriven post-Britney style so much.

    5 points – Christie: The overwhelming jolliness of it wins me over.

    4 points – Taio ft Ke$ha: is this the first hit song based around the scary barter economy of sexting? Addictively callous.

    3 points – Sky: I take great pleasure in the classical bosh end of semi-prog; also this makes me remember a holiday with my parents’ best friends, who owned NO RECORDS AT ALL apart from Sky ones as far as I could tell.

    But honestly those four could have been in any order, I like ’em all on this hearing. Big gap between them and

    2 points – Jimmy Jones: the pseudo-exotica ‘tribal’ busy-ness of the backing is pretty good, but yeah, he’s a bit of a dick.

    And then a really VAST gap to

    1 point – UB40: Yes I like the “robs from the cloth-eared, gives to the talented” model of Ali Campbell’s activities but the collateral damage to the rest of us, viz. we had to hear latter-day UB40, was too great.

  24. 24
    Amanda S on 20 May 2010 #

    6 Points: UB40
    5 Points: Christie
    4 Points: Sky
    3 Points: Mandy Moore
    2 Points: Jimmy Jones
    1 Point: Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha

  25. 25
    thefatgit on 20 May 2010 #

    Six 6’s (666,666) and the worst quality round so far. Did we accidentally invoke a Dogma-esque shit demon?

  26. 26
    scott woods on 20 May 2010 #

    YouTube was just blocked at work so that’s it for me — finding time at home to go through all these is not likely to happen, and I’m averaging about one-per-round thus far that I actually know well enough that I wouldn’t need to do more than a cursory listen (there are probably four-per-round I don’t know at all, and another one or two I may be vaguely familiar with). In short, little point trying to bluff my way through these.

    Anyway, I won’t rank these because I’ve only listened to the medley, but based on that a few comments:

    – Sky is a gas — maybe not a “Classical Gas” (one of my top 40 records of 1968), but at least in the same vicinity of sheer look-how-smart-we-thinks-we-is incidental/accidental loopiness. (I imagine it wears its welcome after 90 seconds or so.)

    – @ 12 taDOW calling Christie’s song “chopped & screwed karma chameleon” is OTM, and I like the casualness of his vocal swoops (it runs roughshod over JT’s version, though, which ain’t devoid of prettiness but is fairly nondescript).

    – The arrangement of Christie is lovely — that big player piano bit at the start says “Prepare thee for an epic…” but do they deliver? Mmm, not based on the ho-hummable chorus that follows.

    – I have a soft spot for a bunch of UB40 songs, none of which I ever listen to anymore, at least one of which I avoid like the plague, but for a band that you can at least credit as once upon a time having some melodic smarts, this is really pretty drab shit.

    – Agree with Mike’s sentiments about Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart,” paint-by-numbers radio fodder that ain’t nothing but cloying, but as others have mentioned he’s likely rescued here by his partner.

    – Mandy is fine with me. I like this sound on just about anyone. There’s no “her” there it’s just an “it” but it’s a nice it.

  27. 27
    Steve Mannion on 20 May 2010 #

    Pretty much nothing between these six shades of slop.

    6: Sky
    5: UB40
    4: Mandy Moore
    3: Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha
    2: Christie
    1: Jimmy Jones

  28. 28
    Mike Atkinson on 20 May 2010 #

    Ke$ha fans should note that there’s an alternative “Ke$ha edit” of “Dirty Picture”, with more of her vocals. On Amazon, I think it’s the only version available for purchase.

    Interesting to see “Karma Chameleon” mentioned a couple of times in relation to “Yellow River”, as it was widely thought that George ripped the “karma-karma-karma” bit from “Handy Man”…

  29. 29
    scott woods on 20 May 2010 #

    Okay, wait, I screwed up — I thought the “Karma Chameleon” reference above WAS to the Jimmy Jones track, not the Christie (even though I repeated that it was about Christie).

  30. 30
    pink champale on 20 May 2010 #

    6: tiao and kesha — i really like this, though no one else seems to. that great farting bass noise is excellent.
    5: sky – compellingly horrible is something at least. a poor show when this is the second best
    4: mandy more – do not remember this or her at all. rightly by the sounds of it.
    3: UB40 – they’re nice chaps who are sincere and unpretentious about what they do. i just wish they wouldn’t do it.
    2: jimmy – sam cooke meets freddie is dead right.
    1: christie – um, i just don’t like it.

  31. 31
    David Belbin on 20 May 2010 #

    I’m nearly in agreement with you on this lot.

    6 points: Christie – Yellow River reminds me of the summer before I became a teen, boy scouts and a holiday in Jersey
    5 points: UB40 – Kingston Town I saw them on their first tour, back in 82. They were quite hip then
    4 points: Jimmy Jones – Handy Man I much prefer the James Taylor version, which is lovely, and in which he sort of takes the piss out of his ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ persona
    3 points: Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha – Dirty Picture
    2 points: Mandy Moore – Candy When she married Ryan, I thought she was a porn star, but no – worse
    1 point: Sky – Toccata now this is porn, and certainly worse, Ayers connection not withstanding

  32. 32
    Erithian on 20 May 2010 #

    6 pts: 1980 Sky – Yah boo to all the hataz, I enjoyed this a lot back in the day and still do – stylish (apart from Tristan Fry’s glasses of course) and stands up as a fine record regardless of the “look we can do a classical piece as rock” aspect. I saw them at Manchester Apollo! – only gig I’ve ever seen where the band remained seated throughout.

    5 pts: 1970 Christie – this and others in the lower half of 1970’s top ten remind me that this was the month after the Beatles finally broke up, when it was all to play for as regards what pop and British pop in particular would sound like. This was one option, and good to spend time with, although Christie were not to stick around as major players. Of course we’ve stumbled upon two elements of “Karma Chameleon” unconnected except by the coincidence of being number 6 in charts ten years apart – “Yellow River” for the intro and “Handy Man” for the “karma-karma” hook.

    4 pts: 1990 UB40 – take it in isolation leaving aside the knowledge of the band’s long history of retreads, and it lopes pleasantly enough – it’s worthy, encourages empathy with the Windrush generation and all that, but it’s a wee bit boring by the end.

    3 pts: 1960 Jimmy Jones – this of course was the year that historic Kennedy-Nixon TV debate. They say Nixon won convincingly among those who listened to it on the radio, whereas Kennedy won it with the TV audience. Same goes here – this is a far better track if you only hear it! Without the dancing and the bemused audience, the vocal is endearingly quirky.

    2 pts: 2000 Mandy Moore – dull and generic. But still infinitely preferable to…

    1 pt: 2010 Taio Cruz – this would have been better if two things had happened: (i) the vocalists hadn’t turned up; (ii) the track had stopped after about 35 seconds. Up until then I was pleasantly surprised. As it is, it’s not even good soft porn.

  33. 33
    intothefireuk on 20 May 2010 #

    This decades thing is like pulling teeth so far…….

    6 UB40 – cos I heard it a lot when I was in Barbados in 1990.
    5 Sky – What we need is more musos in the charts.
    4 Christie – Despite the p*ss references a nice mediocre song.
    3 Jimmy Jones – purely for the dancing (& whistling).
    2 Mandy Moore – cos she isn’t Taio Cruz.
    1 Taio Cruz – disgusting nonsense.

  34. 34
    jeff w on 20 May 2010 #

    Oh, I looooved Sky 2 back in 1980/81. Right up my street it was, what with being a proper musician what played in school orchestras and stuff. Or at least I wanted it to be right up my street. Secretly, I thought half the (double) album was a bit boring and much preferred The Higsons and The Pretenders and Rush. Still, Tristan Fry was something of a hero (I was a percussionist in said school orchestra) and “Toccata” still stands up now, is still great to air drum-fill to.

    6 pts – Sky
    5 pts – Mandy M

    And after those two, everyone deserves 1 point. They cut cards for the honours shown below. You wouldn’t think 1970 was one of the classic pop years from the selections so far, would you? And much as I like both Taio Cruz and Ke$ha separately, this collab is a bit of a disaster.

    4pts – UB40
    3pts – Christie
    2pts – Taio Cruz ft. Ke$ha
    1pt – Jimmy J

  35. 35
    Mike Atkinson on 20 May 2010 #

    Poor old Jimmy. Only two voters out of 21 have awarded him 1 point, and yet he’s still trailing behind the pack. Elsewhere, the 6s and the 1s are being thrown around so haphazardly, that they’re sort-of cancelling each other out…

  36. 36
    grange85 on 21 May 2010 #

    OK – pretty tired bunch – quite liked Sky and Christie, quite didn’t like UB40 (I have always had such a problem with UB40 that I was never going to love this – but I do feel that my dislike is justified in this case). Mandy Moore was awful – it looked like a by-numbers shot at a pop song… but that was so much more enjoyable than the vile Taio Cruz…

    6 – Christie
    5 – Sky
    4 – Jimmy Jones
    3 – Mandy Moore
    2 – UB40
    1 – Taio Cruz

  37. 37
    Lena on 21 May 2010 #

    Well, as the immortal Mike Holmes of Holmes on Homes would say, “I’m looking at a world of crap.” Nevertheless I will try to rate this as best I can.

    6 – Taio “Pablo” Cruz and Ke$ha, Queen of the Desert – I’m not much for M. Cruz and His Sunglasses, but I like Ke$ha.
    5 – Mandy Moore – Candy rarely doesn’t work for me as a metaphor/reference, same as Cupid really.
    4 – Sky – What ‘hip’ people in the 70s avoided I guess, which means its hipness, if it has any, is still intact. For now.
    3 – UB40 – The sort of song you hear on the radio before something more exciting comes on…
    2 – Jimmy “Hello Metaphor” Jones – If only because it’s interesting to hear how, um, VIVID the song’s original version is, compared to the James Taylor lullaby one I grew up knowing…
    1 – Christie does nothing for me but make me want to listen to CCR, but then as a Californian I need no prompting to do that anyway.

  38. 38
    Mark Davis on 22 May 2010 #

    6p: Jimmy Jones – Handy Man
    5p: Christie – Yellow River
    4p: Sky – Toccata
    3p: Mandy Moore – Candy
    2p: UB40 – Kingston Town
    1p: Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha – Dirty Picture

  39. 39
    Martin on 22 May 2010 #

    6 points – Christie
    5 points – Jimmy Jones
    4 points – Sky
    3 points – Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha
    2 points – Mandy Moore
    1 point – UB40

    Not much to say — the last three tracks are pretty bad. The notable thing about Sky isn’t the cringeworthy arty pretension but the surf-pop elements. By rights JJ should be number 1 but I go for the thick, lush popness of Christie.

  40. 40
    DietMondrian on 22 May 2010 #

    6 – Sky – obviously it’s pretty dreadful but it reminds me of things like The Adventure Game and Think of a Number, and as such was the only track here that gave me any kind of positive feeling
    5 – Mandy Moore – sounds like a randomised version of a Britney Spears song but I’ve heard worse
    4 – Jimmy Jones
    2 – UB40
    2 – Christie – quite an effort to be worse than UB40
    1 – Taio Cruz – now I like a bit of filth as much as the next man, but this is just depressing

  41. 41
    Ben on 23 May 2010 #

    6 – Sky
    5 – UB40
    4 – Christie
    3 – Mandy Moore
    2 – Jimmy Jones
    1 – Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha

  42. 42
    Tina on 23 May 2010 #

    6 points: UB40
    5 points: Christie
    4 points: Sky
    3 points: Jimmy Jones
    2 points: Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha
    1 point: Mandy Moore

  43. 43
    Gordon on 24 May 2010 #

    Ugh. Christie was a nice surprise, Sky was better than I remember when it was force fed up on me, and UB40 still have something that I grudingly like.

    6 points: Christie – Yellow River
    5 points: Sky – Toccata
    4 points: UB40 – Kingston Town
    3 points: Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha – Dirty Picture
    2 points: Jimmy Jones – Handy Man
    1 point: Mandy Moore – Candy

  44. 44
    Pete on 24 May 2010 #

    Need to vote if just because I think Mandy Moore has has a pretty good career as a teensomething actress in the 00’s, and due to a preference of my mp3 player I think Candy may well be one of the most played songs of the 00’s for me, and I always love the spoken word breakdown. So Mandy gets 6.

    And then it gets tough.
    Tiao & Ke$ha get 5 because it sounds very jolly, even if it is not much cop.
    4: Sky – cos its prog
    3: Jimmy Jones, cos he’s handy
    2: Yellow Fever Yellow Fever
    1: Cos its UB40 and this is terribly tired bilge.

  45. 45
    Clair on 25 May 2010 #

    6 points – sky
    5 points – UB40
    4 points – jimmy jones
    3 points – christy
    2 points – mandy moore
    1 point – tiao & ke$ha

  46. 46
    Al Ewing on 26 May 2010 #

    Made the mistake of looking at videos for some of these rather than letting the pure sound wash over me.

    6 points – Jimmy Jones. Plus points for the yodelling.
    5 points – Tiao Cruz feat. Ke$ha – pronounced like Kilg%re presumably. Plus points for ‘witcha/pitcha’ rhyme. Anyway, a song ABOUT SEXTING, so of its time that presumably in 20 years it will sound as dated as…
    4 points – Sky – Jeff Wayne flashback but without the martians.
    3 points – Christie – Bearably dull.
    2 points – UB40 – similar problems to Christie only slower and duller. Still, some warmth here unlike…
    1 points – Mandy Moore – This is what Britney Spears would sound like if she was dead. Also, that video is like Mini Pops. YOU’RE NINE YEARS OLD BUILD A TREE FORT.

  47. 47
    wichita lineman on 26 May 2010 #

    6 Jimmy Jones – I didn’t know that flute substitute story. Reckless pitching, hiccups, fabulously odd
    5 Christie – CCR go Eurovision. Double trouble!
    4 Taio Cruz/Kesha – Repetition, like falsettos, is something I dig. It is pretty grubby, too
    3 UB40 – never knew the original before this came out. Sleepy + melancholy = good combo
    2 Mandy Moore – as Punctum said, not a patch on Mandy More and her proto Kate Bush-isms
    1 Sky – I was on a German exchange in West Berlin when this came out. It wasn’t the soundtrack

  48. 48
    Z on 29 May 2010 #

    6 – Christie. It may be nostalgia – and it’s a bit relentlessly plinky (I remember it as slower) but it’s the best of this lot.
    5 – Sky – If I were a real Bach fan, I’d hate it. As it is, this rather perks up the relentlessly repetitive genius.
    4 – UB40 – everything of theirs sounds exactly the same. Okay.
    3 – Jimmy Jones – better listened to than watched. But not much. That this had three points is a reflection on what comes afterwards rather than appreciation of its quality.
    2 – Mandy Moore. I’ve nothing to say about this.
    1 – Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha – nondescript and mildly unpleasant..

    I’ve spent two hours of a Saturday night on this, Mike. And Eurovision on and all. I’ll return tomorrow.

  49. 49
    Mike Atkinson on 30 May 2010 #

    Blimey Z, your commitment impresses me!

    As for my own commitment, which has been sorely lacking in recent days… the Number Threes should be along tomorrow (Monday May 30th).

  50. 50
    Lord B on 31 May 2010 #

    6 points – UB40 – although I’m not a fan, I actually quite like this record.
    5 points – Christie
    4 points – Mandy Moore – it’s alright, as **** pop goes…
    3 points – It sounds like Nana playing a better record on her Bontempi organ. Eeeewwwww. Like Jean Michel Jarre without the lasers
    2 points – Jimmy Jones – Does nothing for me, I am afraid
    1 point – Taio Cruz and Ke$ha, by a country mile. Horrible

  51. 51
    Rachiesparrow on 3 Jun 2010 #

    Are you sure I can’t give all of these an equal score of nothing? i suppose I could just not vote…. But where’s the fun in that?

    6pts Christie
    5pts Sky
    4pts Jimmy Jones
    3pts Mandy Moore
    2pts Taio Cruz and Ke$ha
    1pt – UB40. Nothing can match the loathing I have for this band.

  52. 52
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 6 Jun 2010 #

    6 for Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha – Dirty Picture
    5 for Mandy Moore – Candy
    4 for Jimmy Jones – Handy Man
    3 for UB40 – Kingston Town
    2 for Sky – Toccata
    1 for Christie – Yellow River

    Liked UB40 better than expected: this has a Culture Clubbish light melancholy to it, which I don’t routinely associate with them.

    I spent yesterday in and around the house I lived in in 1970, with old friends of my dad. This song reminds me of then — I remember being frustrated that if you listen closely you don’t learn more (as in “Puff the Magic Dragon”: I like dragons and want a fuller story please); turns out this is because it is rather a boring and flimsy song!

    Toccata is arguably Bach’s proggest work, but Sky’s part here writing is all propulsive sludge. I was hoping to like this more, if only in a shout-out to jeff w

  53. 53
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 6 Jun 2010 #

    Sky’s part here writing = Sky’s part-writing here

    There’s a semi-famous story of Bach improvising a five part fugue alone in a church organ (with pedals), and someone — knowledgeable — listening and thinking to self: wait, no one human has this many fingers and feet. when he quizzed jsb after, the great man confessed he had played some of the notes with his nose

    so i don’t think he would have been totally against prog’s self of purpose: for technicians, technique is indeed occasionally its own reward, and plus toccata is kinda asking for the phantom of the opera stuff that’s befallen it over the centuries

  54. 54
    RobMiles on 6 Jun 2010 #

    6 – Christie
    5 – UB40
    4 – Mandy Moore
    3 – Sky
    2 – Jimmy Jones
    1 – Taio Cruz

  55. 55
    Mike Atkinson on 6 Jun 2010 #

    Still absolutely neck and neck between “Yellow River” and “Toccata” on this one, “Yellow River” now regaining the lead by a single point.

  56. 56
    Tom Lawrence on 9 Jun 2010 #

    6 points Mandy Moore
    5 points Sky
    4 points Taio ft Ke$ha
    3 points Christie
    2 points Jimmy jones
    1 point UB40 – no reason for them to exist ever

  57. 57
    sarlitchin on 10 Jun 2010 #

    6 points – Sky (I never thought I’d be placing one of my Dad’s favourites at the top of a poll!)
    5 points – Christie
    4 points – Mandy Moore
    3 points – Taio Cruz
    2 points – Jimmy Jones
    1 point – UB40

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