Jun 10

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? Round 10: the NUMBER ONES.

Which Decade Is Tops For Pops47 comments • 1,299 views

With just one round left to run, the Seventies continue to claw back some of their lost ground. Our leading decade took a knock in the Number Twos, as Johnny Logan notched up the lowest average score of any track to date – but with the voting far from over, all this could change in a heartbeat.

Cumulative scores so far:
1(1) The Eighties – 35.52 points.
2(2) The Nineties – 33.72 points.
3(4) The Seventies – 31.05 points.
4(3) The Teens – 30.01 points.
5(5) The Noughties – 29.53 points.
6(6) The Sixties – 29.16 points.

Mindful of the fact that this is a post about UK Number Ones, on a site that already contains the ultimate guide to the subject, I’m going to try and keep these final blurbs short. Toe-trampling ain’t my style!

1960: The Everly Brothers – Cathy’s Clown (video) (Tom’s write-up on Popular)
1970: England World Cup Squad – Back Home (video: at 3:46) (Tom’s write-up on Popular)
1980: Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Geno (video) (Tom’s write-up on Popular)
1990: Madonna – Vogue (video)
2000: Oxide And Neutrino – Bound 4 Da Reload (Casualty) (video)
2010: Roll Deep – Good Times (video)

(Download the MP3)

While I’m aware of the reverence shown to them by the generation above me, The Everly Brothers have never really floated my boat. Perhaps it’s because I don’t get the premise: two brothers, singing love songs to the same girl? Doesn’t that rather dissipate the emotional impact? That said, I’m not about to quibble with their way with a melody, or with the blue-eyed sweetness of their vocal style. It took me a while to unpack the meaning of “Cathy’s Clown”, as it wasn’t immediately obvious that the fourth line of the chorus switches to reported speech. But now that I’m over the hump, I’ll grant them points for competent songcraft and pleasant delivery. I’m sure they’ll be pleased.

Although the England World Cup Squad‘s “Back Home” sounds as if it belongs in a different musical universe to the rest of 1970’s pop, it was in fact the work of Bill Martin and Phil Coulter: best known for “Puppet On A String”, “Congratulations”, Slik’s “Forever And Ever” and various Bay City Rollers hits. This was the first football record to chart, setting the template for “Blue Is The Colour”, “Good Old Arsenal”, “Leeds United” and Monty Python’s “We Love The Yangtse”, and while I’m not about to make false claims for its artistry, I’ll give it credit for avoiding hubristic triumphalism. The message is “We’ll do our best”, not “We’re going to win”. There is a difference.

Like many people – including the committee of my university’s hall of residence, who duly booked Geno Washington as the entertainment for one of our formal dinners at the end of 1980 – I assumed that Dexy’s Midnight Runners were offering unqualified praise for Kevin Rowland’s erstwhile hero. But the warning (“And now you’re all over, your song is so tame”) was there all along, garbled by Rowland’s diction as it might have been – and if we had but realised, we could have been spared a dismal let-down at the student hop. “There There My Dear” was, for me, Dexy’s Mark One’s finest hour, but “Geno” will do just fine.

(A passing mention, if I may, for its producer Pete “Eighteen With A Bullet” Wingfield, who played keyboards for the Everly Brothers for the thick end of twenty years. Met him once, at a family funeral. Nice chap.)

In the wake of Tom Ewing’s excellent (and Pet Shop Boys sanctioned!) Pitchfork piece on the subject, “imperial phase” has been quite the phrase de nos jours in some of the circles which I inhabit. Madonna‘s own imperial phase reached its pinnacle with “Vogue”, which soundtracked my 1990 more than any other record. Even my partner, who hates clubs and doesn’t dance unless he’s pissed to the point of near-collapse, would ritually make an exception when “Vogue” came on in our local gay fleapit disco. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s the ultimate accolade.

Yesterday, while appending a comment to Dorian Lynskey’s Guardian blog post about feeling on the wrong side of a musical generation gap, I forgot to include a prime personal instance of what-the-fuck-are-these-kids-PLAYING-at bafflement. Strictly speaking,Oxide and Neutrino are the fifth UK Garage act to appear in our 2000 Top Ten, but it seems daft to mention them in the same breath as MJ Cole’s “Crazy Love” or Craig David’s “Fill Me In”. Where Cole offers aspirational sleekness, Oxide and Neutrino offer gunshots, gabble and (ahem) grime, crashing the swanky uptown party with their rough mates. If I remember correctly, the leading lights of the established UKG scene were so concerned at this shifting of the ground that some sort of vetting committee was set up, in order to draw up lists of approved and banned records. And so came the schism, as UKG begat grime, and grime begat…

Roll Deep, from whose ranks sprang Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Stryder and Wiley (who remains their leader to this day). And guess what? Yup, you’ve got it. Not to be left behind in the breaking-big-and-getting-paid stakes, Roll Deep have “done a Dizzee” (and a Tinchy, and a Chipmunk, and an Aggro Santos, and a Professor Green…), ditching the grime and chucking out yet another (all together now!) club banger.

If I had been writing this blurb three weeks ago, then I would have been making a stronger case for the raucous cheer of “Good Times” – but listening again to these six songs on the train back from London a couple of days ago, I found that its take on clubbing-as-escape-from-the-daily-grind suffered in comparison to Madonna’s more elevated and empathetic approach. Where Madonna speaks of longing “to be something better than you are today”, Roll Deep merely urge you to grab, to consume, to flash your cash and get twatted to oblivion. But hey, if all you want to do is jump around in the middle of Walkabout, in your sponsored T-shirt, on your Carnage bar crawl, then “Good Times” will serve you well.

Over to you for the last time, then. Voting will remain open on all rounds until the end of Thursday June 10th, and I’ll be revealing the final results on Friday June 11th.


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  1. 31
    Z on 6 Jun 2010 #

    The comments here are always brilliant. And I love it that no one ever criticises anyone else’s viewpoints.

    Many thanks to everyone. You’ll all understand that it’s no insult at all to Mike when I say that it’s the comments that make the blog. It’s also the blog that provokes the comments, and the work and enthusiasm involved continues to impress. Thank you, Mike.

  2. 32
    DietMondrian on 7 Jun 2010 #

    6 – Madonna. Though it sounds a bit tinny to my ears these days.
    5 – Everly Brothers
    4 – Dexy’s
    3 – Roll Deep
    2 – England World Cup Squad
    1 – Oxide & Neutrino – laughable.

  3. 33
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 7 Jun 2010 #

    Six for Oxide And Neutrino – Bound 4 Da Reload (Casualty)
    Five for The Everly Brothers – Cathy’s Clown
    Four for England World Cup Squad – Back Home
    Three for Roll Deep – Good Times
    Two for Madonna – Vogue
    One for Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Geno

    O&N: very bold, very spare — I love when he just hits a nonsense cluster and holds it.
    Roll Deep: Not quite enough Jodie Connor, who has one of the those voices, esp.when autotuned. Also: OFFICIAL ROLL DEEP SWAGGA MUFFIN TEES, BUY NOW!
    Geno: I know I know, I approve of Dexy’s and when everyone writes them up they’re RIGHT AND I’M WRONG — but there’s just something about K.Rowland THAT ISN’T ME :(
    Back home: score untypically skewed by birthday melancholy, and the fact that I spent saturday at the house I lived in 1970, as a memorial from the org he worked for for my dad, who died earlier this year. I had all the little plastic heads of the players, they were given away free with petrol.
    Vogue: one of the great meta-hits, which I have a massive elaborate theory about, not yet fully written out or thought out, birthed while watching GLEE with piratemoggy. Thierry Thaemlitzzzz is wrong in fact: the theory is about the changing tensions within distributed rights and wrongs as an idea goes wide…. (work still neeeded putting it into ordinary english obv). Madge’s vocal is a bit diffident, but as I said, sadness is kinking my antennae this morning…

  4. 34
    pink champale on 7 Jun 2010 #

    hard to choose between the top three (and even the bottom three are pretty good) but:

    geno – thanks to whoever it was on the popular thread that came up with the brilliant notion that the surge and flow of this mimics the feel of being in a crowd – yet another thing to love about it. who is/was ‘michael the lover’ btw?

    oxide and neutrino – the first time i ever heard this was as it blasted out of a car full of somewhat dorky (white) kids pulled up at the lights in peckham. a (black) schoolgirl took offence and started berating them magnificently not to come around here playing that shit – a lovely bit of urban pastoral. comically awful record was my immediate impression, subsequently revised to comically brilliant record.

    everleys – gorgeousness. sounds *golden*. the first 60s record from this lot that actually sounds like ‘the 60s’.

    roll deep – glad there’s a lot of this sort of stuff about at the minute, but not mad keen on this one

    england – likeably humble galumphing

  5. 35
    pink champale on 7 Jun 2010 #

    oh, and 1 for madonna. don’t dislike it at all, but surprised it’s one of her more played oldies. “gave good face” is the best bit.

  6. 36
    Mike Atkinson on 7 Jun 2010 #

    Oh my, the final leaderboard is more volatile now than ever before. KEEP THOSE VOTES COMING, POP FANS.

    I had the little plastic World Cup heads as well – and despite a surfeit of Paul Madeleys, I managed to complete the set. This marked the high point of my interest in football, such as it ever was – but this was mostly to do with the thrill of Collecting Stuff for its own sake, rather than any measurable degree of appreciation for the Beautiful Game itself.

  7. 37
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 7 Jun 2010 #


    Too late to rectify that now — the plastic they were made of was chemically unstable, and if you kept them in a box with a certain kind of (animal-shaped) pencil eraser known as an “itty bitty“, the footballer surface rotted into brown gooey gunk!!

    (weirdly the itty bitties were unharmed)

  8. 38
    Kat but logged out innit on 8 Jun 2010 #

    RIGHT I am finally going to get round to listening to all of these posts!

    1. Madge
    2. Oxide & Neutrino
    3. Dexys
    4. Everley Brothers
    5. Roll Deep
    6. England

  9. 39
    Gordon on 8 Jun 2010 #

    Catch up time!

    1. Madonna – Vogue – one of the songs of my generation, still very catchy
    2. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Geno

    Everything after here could easily be nil point!

    3. Oxide And Neutrino – Bound 4 Da Reload (Casualty)
    4. The Everly Brothers – Cathy’s Clown
    5. Roll Deep – Good Times
    6. England World Cup Squad – Back Home

  10. 40
    Nick P on 8 Jun 2010 #

    Good lord. It’s not been a great year, has it?

    6 points – England World Cup Squad (yes, that’s how bad this selection is)
    5 points – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
    4 points – Madonna
    3 points – Everly Brothers
    2 points – Oxide and Neutrino
    1 point – Roll Deep

  11. 41
    Clair on 8 Jun 2010 #

    6 points – Everly Brothers
    5 points – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
    4 points – Oxide & Neutrino
    3 points – Madonna
    2 points – England World Cup Squad
    1 point – Roll Deep

  12. 42
    Al Ewing on 9 Jun 2010 #

    Not a duffer in the bunch! But unfortunately there must be winners and losers…

    6 points – Madonna. The clear winner, as I had a feeling she would be, given how hard the noughties and teens would need to work.

    5 points – Dexy’s Midnight Runners. A solid classic, and benefits from not being as overplayed as some of their others.

    4 points – Everly Brothers. Taste the bitterness! Simple but highly effective.

    3 points – Oxide And Neutrino. Complex, creepy, with a hint of standing on the shoulders of giants ie the Casualty theme. Probably old hat to grime followers but wonderfully experimental to my virgin ears.

    2 points – Roll Deep. If it had gotten to number 2, it would have cleaned up. There’s a fascinating undercurrent of misery and desperation here – everyone in the song is wanting to escape, to forget their miserable jobs, their short lives. Everybody spending more than they earn, because tomorrow we’re probably going to die anyway, so… the moment that seals this for me is that guest DJ bloke rapping darkly about ‘the freeloaders’ and then buying them all a drink anyway – ‘every day like a b-day’ he says, popping a balloon with his fists. A bit more emphasis on this aspect of total despair and it would have got much higher…

    1 point – EN-GER-LAAAAAND – if only they’d been a bit grimmer and grittier! But any other placing in the charts and this would have come much higher. Does its job well and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Would probably make me proud of my national team in a way more recent songs wouldn’t.

  13. 43
    intothefireuk on 9 Jun 2010 #

    so finally – there some stinkers here as well – considering these tunes have reached the pinnacle I expected more somehow…….

    6 Dexys Midnight Runners – Not a huge fan initially but it’s grown on me.
    5 Everly Brothers – Great harmonies and classic song.
    4 England World Cup Squad – Come on England ! It’s the world cup fer christsake.
    3 Madonna – No I refuse to strike a pose.
    2 Oxide & Neutrino – rappin over the casualty theme – marvellous.
    1 Roll Deep – Is this a good night out ? I think I’ll stay in especially as the world cup is on.

    As I mentioned previously I’m not sure that choosing the first year is going to be very representational of each decade more so the previous one (the 70s in particular seems to be stuck in the 60s at this point). But interesting all the same.

  14. 44
    Tom Lawrence on 9 Jun 2010 #

    6 points – Madonna
    5 – Oxide & Neutrino
    4 – Roll Deep
    3 – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
    2 – Everly Brothers
    1 – England’s World Cup Squad

  15. 45
    asta on 10 Jun 2010 #

    6-pts- Madonna- Tapping into, absorbing (or appropriating, depending on your social politics) the moment and making it her own. the fact that I just rewatched the Madonna episode of Glee is probably influencing me too.

    5 pts- Oxide and Neutrino- Totally new to me. While I’m aware of the show Casualty, I have no familiarity with its theme. This was performance art, more than a song. It’s hard to explain why I like this– a mild interest in post tonal theory and atonal licks? In the right mood I’ll even listen to Shoenberg. I dunno. Maybe tomorrow I’ll hate it.

    4 pts- Everly Brothers- It’s a mighty earworm. For dual May birthdays I put together a Hits of May disc, and this song stuck with me for days without end. Good thing I like the third voice these boys produced.

    3 pts Dexy’s Midnight Runners- It has its moments and most of them are the spaces where Rowland isn’t singing.

    2 pts- Roll Deep- It’s BEP’s with I Gotta Feeling, except Ingerlish.

    1 pt- England’s World Cup Squad- Listening to this I keep imagining a Monty Python/Beyond the Fringe sketch to break out any second.

    Thanks for this Mike. I know how much work is involved for you. It’s great fun to participate, and read all the comments. Good stuff all around.

  16. 46
    sarlitchin on 10 Jun 2010 #

    6 points – Dexy’s
    5 points – Everly Bros
    4 points – Madonna
    3 points – Oxide and Neutrino
    2 point – England World Cup Squad
    1 point – Roll Deep

    Thanks again, Mike – next year give me a prod when I say I’ll start voting ‘soon’…x

  17. 47
    Mike Atkinson on 11 Jun 2010 #

    VOTING IS NOW CLOSED. Full results to follow over the weekend.

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