May 10

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

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops47 comments • 1,771 views

Although our scoreboard currently remains unchanged from last time, the inconclusive voting pattern of the previous round has left our middle-ranking decades in a constant state of flux, and the gap at the bottom of the table is beginning to narrow:

Cumulative scores so far:
1(1) The Eighties – 19.81 points.
2(2) The Nineties – 18.44 points.
3(3) The Teens – 17.44 points.
4(4) The Noughties – 17.42 points.
5(5) The Sixties – 16.33 points.
6(6) The Seventies – 15.56 points.

After the grimness of our last selection, will today’s Number Fives restore our spirits? We can but hope…

1960: Cliff Richard & The Shadows – Fall In Love With You (video: expired link fixed)
1970: Dana – All Kinds Of Everything (video) (Tom’s post on Popular)
1980: David Essex – Silver Dream Machine (video)
1990: The Adventures Of Stevie V – Dirty Cash (video)
2000: Sisqó – Thong Song (video)
2010: Aggro Santos ft Kimberly Wyatt – Candy (video)

(Download the MP3)

Over the last few years, I’ve become a good deal more enthusiastic about going to see “legends” playing live, while there’s still some life left in them. With this in mind, I felt compelled to attend last year’s 50th-anniversary-slash-reunion-slash-farewell-tour by Cliff Richard & The Shadows – just to witness a bit of history, and to cross Cliff of my seen-him-done-that list.

To my delight, Cliff and the boys opted to play it straight, eschewing all expected showbiz cheese in favour of fond, faithful renditions of their joint back catalogue. There were no Millennium Prayers, no Don’t Cry For Me Argentinas… indeed, nothing that was released after 1966. Hank Marvin was a revelation, and the numbers that the Shadows performed without Cliff were the highlights of a superb show. But, just as Mick Jagger has become the least interesting aspect of the Rolling Stones, Cliff proved to the least interesting aspect of the Shadows. Like Jagger, he had perfected all the moves, delivering them in a confident, capable, entertaining manner – but also like Jagger, I sensed a certain void at the core of his performance.

Occasionally, though, glimpses of something more heartfelt would seep to the surface – such as on a touching version of “The Next Time” from the Summer Holiday soundtrack, which topped the charts in 1962 as a double A-side with “Bachelor Boy”. And although the song itself is nothing special, I can hear similar qualities in “Fall In Love With You”. Cliff’s vocal is a delight here: a supine sigh, a velvet-toned and vulnerable swoon of surrender, accented here and there by Hank’s sparing twangs.

If, as someone said in an earlier round, Elvis was turning into Cliff imitating Elvis, then here (and on its accompanying video clip) we find Cliff, not yet fully sullied by Tin Pan Alley acquiescence, drawing continued inspiration from Presley, and sounding really rather marvellous with it.

One of the fringe benefits of shifting “Which Decade” to May is that we get to examine the occasional Eurovision entry – and so here’s the first of two in this year’s selection, courtesy of the first of Eurovision’s pair of victorious Danas. Dana International’s “Diva” famously brought it home for Israel in 1998, while in 1970’s contest, the honour fell to Dana Provincial (old joke, sorry), after a closely-fought battle with the UK’s Mary Hopkin and her sprightly “Knock Knock, Who’s There?”

And what a battle it was! Forget Blur vs. Oasis, forget Joe McElderry vs. Rage Against The Machine, forget Victoria Beckham vs. Sophie Ellis-Bextor… for this was the MOTHER of ALL such showdowns, dividing lovers of Simply Great Music everyhere – and even, on occasion, splitting families down the middle. How well I recall the struggles at the family gramophone, as my younger sister’s copy of “All Kinds Of Everything” fought for airtime against my copy of “Knock Knock, Who’s There?”… you WEREN’T THERE, man, you JUST COULDN’T KNOW.

“All Kinds” might be tweeness incarnate, its debt to “My Favourite Things” barely concealed, but its kitschy innocence still resonates. And, soppy old sausage that I am, I’ll take “dances, romances, things of the night” over “take a dirty picture, take a dirty picture of me”, every time.

David Essex is someone else that I’ve ticked off my see-him-before-he-sods-off list; sharing a bill with David Cassidy, The Osmonds and Les McKeown, he soared above them all, demonstrating a noble dignity that the others conspicuously lacked. His hit singles had a habit of lurching between boundary-nudging artistry and cheerily undemanding froth, and I’m not entirely sure in which category I should be placing “Silver Dream Machine”.

Taken from the soundtrack of Silver Dream Racer, in which Essex starred alongside Beau Bridges and Harry H. Corbett as a dashing motorbike racer of the Barry Sheene school, the song hasn’t worn as well as I had hoped – but typically for Essex, there’s a certain skewed oddness to its arrangement, underpinned by a rather fetching post-Moroder/pre-hi-energy ONG-DINGA-RONG-DINGA synth line. And you can’t go too far wrong with an ONG-DINGA-RONG-DINGA, can you?

I was a bit sniffy about The Adventures Of Stevie V‘s “Dirty Cash” when it came out, and I’ve never really understood why it did so well. Granted, its hook does the job – but there’s a doleful drag to its swagger, which drains it of life. In particular, there’s a fatal instrumental passage – just after the rap – where nothing seems to happen at all, transporting me right back to those dismal, blank moments on club dancefloors when the energy dips, and everyone around you looks a bit grim and a bit lost, and it’s clear that nobody’s much into the track, and you can’t remember why you’re dancing in the first place, but you’re kept in place by inertia and the vague hope that something better will come along in a moment. It’s not a memory that I welcome.

Consequently, I’m at a loss as to why Dizzee Rascal chose to update “Dirty Cash” as “Dirtee Cash” in 2009 – except that in Dizzee’s hands, the track becomes tighter, more purposeful, more provocative and heaps more fun. (We’ll pass over the recently charting Dizzee/Florence “You Got The Dirtee Love” mash-up, as nothing remains of Stevie V’s original composition.)

If, as has become axiomatic, we accept the assumption that 30 years ago = “timeless classic”, 20 years ago = “retro cool” and 10 years ago = “OMG, so naff, what were we thinking”, it would help us to understand why two acts from our 2000 Top Ten – Dane Bowers and Sisqó – fetched up drinking in Celebrity Big Brother‘s last chance saloon at the start of the year. The Reality TV gamble might have paid off handsomely for the Peter Andres of this world – but for the hapless, fifth-placed Sisqó (who largely came over well in the show), the rewards stretched no further than a chart re-entry for “Thong Song” at a lowly Number 97.

Although it would be silly to view it as anything more than a novelty hit, “Thong Song” has a counterbalancing elegance – a grace, even – which raises it a cut above your Lou Begas and your Afromans. I’m particularly taken by the stateliness of the string arrangement: as unlikely as a chamber ensemble in a titty bar, and all the more welcome for it.

One question remains, though. What are these pantechniconal DUMPS, of which our lisping, pint-sized, priapic Lothario so fondly speaks? I’m a man of the world; I know what HUMPS are. (Fergie has them!) But I am a stranger in Sisqó’s universe, and I require guidance.

As if two grime acts gone pop-dance weren’t enough, here’s a third: Brazilian born Aggro Santos, playing Taio Cruz to ex-Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt’s Ke$ha. Once again, mucky photos are our loved-up twosome’s principal stock in trade. Once again, lazy raps and blank, bored, phoned-in vocals are plonked over lurching, juddering electro sound-farts. Once again, “candy” is deployed as a metaphor for slap and tickle. Once again, the influence of David Guetta and Fraser T. Smith looms large (although neither worked on this particular track). And yet, and yet… something about this particular configuration has drawn me into its clutches. It’s arguably 2010’s dumbest track yet – but there’s an unyielding ruthlessness to that dumbness, which I am powerless to resist.

Nevertheless, “Candy” is guilty of breaking one fundamental rule of contemporary pop: Thou Canst Never Sing About The Internet And Get Away With It. (Remember Mousse T’s “Horny”? That’s when the emergency legislation was passed.) Pop music should never reference the internet, just as politicians should never reference pop music (and to close the circle, perhaps new legislation should be drafted, limiting the internet from spouting off about politics).

Also, if you must sing about the internet, then a) don’t indulge in free product placement for bloody Facebook and b) don’t plug your bloody website, especially when all that greets you is a video for the same bloody song. (“Have you been to visit me at Aggro Santos dot com…” YES! I’M BLOODY HERE, YOU TURNIP!)

Sorry, folks. I had less than five hours sleep last night, I was in the office by 6:45, and I’m beginning to lose it. Let’s move on to the voting. Over to you, etc.


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  1. 31
    Al Ewing on 26 May 2010 #

    back to the heights! Four great songs battling it out for hotly contested top spots with two bringing up the rear.

    6 points – Stevie V – A dancefloor smash WITH A MESSAGE. Impossible not to dance to this one.
    5 points – David Essex – surprisingly durable! Really captures some nebulous mixture of the spacey 70s and the grasping 80s. David’s dream will end with dirty cash!
    4 points – Aggro Santos – Why am I such a sucker for songs about mobiles, facebook, dot-com adresses and so on? nearly toppled Essex with that ‘dot-com’ line. I must be enjoying living IN THE FUTURE.
    3 points – Sisqo – Thong thong thong thong thong. Catchy stuff. If it had gone one place lower in the charts it would have grabbed the crown.
    2 points – Dana – One of the most sugary-sweet songs I’ve ever heard, but doesn’t quite cross into saccharine.
    1 points – Cliff Richard – COME TO HAWAII WITH ME FOR SOME CHASTE HANDHOLDING. The band and the singer want to be in different places ie choirboy vs cowboys. Also sounds very frankenstein-y – I’m sure I’ve heard big swathes of this in other songs.

  2. 32
    Al Ewing on 26 May 2010 #

    Having now read the article (I don’t before I vote) I’m struck by the contrast between my love of lyrics referencing THE INTERNET and Mike’s obvious dislike of them. I wonder where other people fall on this marmite-like divide?

  3. 33
    lockedintheattic on 26 May 2010 #

    This: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVBVOmn8-rY clinches it for me. songs about the internets rock.

  4. 34
    pink champale on 26 May 2010 #

    good round, the top four could be in any order, but (almost at random) i’ve gone for

    sisquo – seemingly a nice bloke, his sound is super classy, and i admire the extent to which he really does want to see that thong.
    essex – excellent not-quite-right futurism from another nice bloke
    aggro – modern romance. nice.
    stevie v – it’s quite a hook
    dana – thought i didn’t actually know this. i do.
    cliff and co. – didn’t really notice it go by.

  5. 35
    wichita lineman on 26 May 2010 #

    6 Sisqo – one of the best key changes in pop ever
    5 David Essex – musically alludes to something more space age than a Norton
    4 Cliff & The Shadows – more Ricky Nelson than Elvis, suits his creamy voice just fine
    3 Dana – “things of the sea”
    2 Aggro Santos – 2010 identikit pop without Dirty Picture’s “oooh, sauce” nov value
    1 Stevie V – cold, dull, just don’t get it, soz

  6. 36
    asta on 27 May 2010 #

    6pts Sisqo- Love the strings, love the whole arrangement, and for a song about underwear, I suspect the glossing was intentional.

    5pts- Aggro Santos and Whats’ername- It’s catchy. It’s summer. I could change my mind tomorrow about the placement of this one because I feel the female half of this duo is doing a fairly lame Lady Gagga impression.

    4 pts- Cliff and the Shadows It’s just soooo Wonderbread.

    3-pts David Essex- I think of his vocal style in this as 80s Perry Como. I really do get the impression he’s just one more verse away from a nap.

    2 pts- Stevie V- Droning droning thump, swagger, oh, let’s just go home. Yes Mike, I agree with you on this one. Dance floor buzz kill.

    1pt- Dana – This would make a lovely children’s lullaby if you’re willing to risk insulin shock.

  7. 37
    Z on 30 May 2010 #

    Oh dear – takes me back to Cliff trying to be like Elvis, only nice, and David trying to appeal to the girls while not wanting to annoy their mums. And Dana making my teeth hurt with sweetness. So reassuring to know that, while I may be old and grumpy, I was once young and grumpy.

    Unlike most of you others, I didn’t much like anything here. I’m sorry that the oldies not at their best beat the more modern stuff, but there we go.

    6 points – Cliff Richard & The Shadows
    5 points – David Essex
    4 points – Dana
    3 points – Sisqó
    2 points- The Adventures Of Stevie V
    1 point – Aggro Santos ft Kimberly Wyatt

  8. 38
    Lord B on 31 May 2010 #

    Now this really is a horrid selection.

    6 points – David Essex (proves what an awful selection it is if the Essex is in top spot)
    5 points – Cliff
    4 points – Dana (although this is so sweet it could give you tooth decay at fifty paces)
    3 points – Adventures of Stevie V
    2 points – Aggro Santos
    1 point – Sisqo

  9. 39
    grange85 on 31 May 2010 #

    Never heard that Cliff/Shads song before which is weird given the world I grew up in – got better as it went along. Never noticed the awful arrangement of All Kinds of Everything… I also never noticed the “things of the night” lyric – is that like vampires and werewolves? I always want to like David Essex because he seems like a really nice bloke – but oh… the flatness of it… and again the 90s,00s and 10s are completely new to me. I like Dirty Cash… or did until the rap happened… Sisqo = dreadful, dull and really… “let me see that thong” – ugh! Similar reaction to Candy…

    6 points The Adventures of Stevie V
    5 points Cliff Richard & The Shadows
    4 points David Essex
    3 points Dana
    2 points Aggro Santos ft Kimberly Wyatt
    1 point Sisqo

  10. 40
    Amanda S on 1 Jun 2010 #

    6 Points: Aggro Santos ft Kimberly Wyatt
    5 Points: Cliff Richard & The Shadows
    4 Points: The Adventures Of Stevie V
    3 Points: Dana
    2 Points: Sisqó
    1 Points: David Essex

  11. 41
    Rachiesparrow on 3 Jun 2010 #

    6pts – Adventures of Stevie V.
    5pts – Dana
    4pts – David Essex
    3pts – Sisqo
    2pts – Cliff Richard
    1pt – Aggro Santos

  12. 42
    Tom on 4 Jun 2010 #

    Time to catch up on Which Decade! These are pretty good for the most part!

    6 – ADVENTURES OF STEVIE V – Spartan and cold but no more so than Killer!
    5 – SISQO – This won a Pop Music Focus Group back in the day, stands
    4 – SIR CLIFF – Pure 1960 sweetness, if the whole chart had been like this it would be in with a shout I’d hope.
    3 – AGGRO SANTOS – I am with Al on the merits of putting yr website into the song as a big advert! Not sure WHY he does it since web ads pay even less than the record biz.
    2 – DAVID ESSEX – Endearingly galumphing.
    1 – DANA – Was I harsh on it? In tone perhaps but not in essence.

  13. 43
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 6 Jun 2010 #

    1990: The Adventures Of Stevie V – Dirty Cash
    2000: Sisqó – Thong Song
    2010: Aggro Santos ft Kimberly Wyatt – Candy
    1970: Dana – All Kinds Of Everything
    1960: Cliff Richard & The Shadows – Fall In Love With You
    1980: David Essex – Silver Dream Machine

    Dana: THINGS OF THE SEA <— this is what reminds me of you! I would like this uberperky kidsong more if she expanded on this insight. Also made more of the peculiar slipperiness of her accent.
    Santos: I rather like the video as a a tale of ordinary clubbing sexfail (the two prefer to dance than get it together, in various difft types of club during one fun unsexy evening); the song is a soundtrack though, not a song…
    Essex: I love him like a big brother but this is v.ploddy given the glide it aspires to.
    Sir Cliff: the linked video has been removed* — I found another performance, on TV, but it may not be representative….

    *Mike at admin: to draw to yr attention?

  14. 44
    mike on 6 Jun 2010 #

    Oh dear, I had a feeling that Cliff/Shads vids might not last too long on YouTube. I had a similar problem sourcing The Shads’ “Argentina” last year.

    Anyway, here’s a link to the original studio version.

  15. 45
    RobMiles on 6 Jun 2010 #

    Hardest round so far, except for the 6 pointer, which was easy.

    6 – Adventures Of Stevie V
    5 – David Essex. Wasn’t expecting that.
    4 – Cliff Richard
    3 – Dana. Mary Hopkin is better.
    2 – Aggro Santos. Don’t mind the synths, but hate the lyric
    1 – Sisqo

  16. 46
    Tom Lawrence on 9 Jun 2010 #

    6 points SISQO
    5 points Adevntures of Stevie V
    4 points – Clif RIchard & The SHadows
    3 points – Aggro Santos (urgh but hell of reluctantly it is kind of gross)
    2 pts – David Essex – can’t relate to this at all but will give it the benefit over Dana
    1 points – Dana (ick horrid)

  17. 47
    sarlitchin on 10 Jun 2010 #

    6 points – The Adventures of Stevie V
    5 points – David Essex
    4 points – Sisqo
    3 points – Aggro Santos
    2 points – Dana
    1 point – Cliff Richard

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