Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thirty years' war

No good music is made these days. That's the stock line people of a certain age cling to when they see JLS on television, and it was one given house room to advance in Metro this week, wherein the reliably useless Keith Barker-Main was given space for this:

Listening to the top 40 recently

Well, that's obviously where to start any consideration of the broader sweep of music. He probably didn't listen to it anyway, he read it.

any lingering notion that Britain's musical tastes are superior to the rest of the world's was finally laid to rest.

Because he knows all the rest of the world's charts, you know. His evidence that British palates are so inferior? The international success stories Glee, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga...

wall to wall Yank w***.

He's not even mentioned Owl City. Ooh, take that, everyone, and we've not even got to the part where he suspects the youth have had a "sinister Mickey Finn slipped into their burgers", which would be fascinating given a Mickey Finn is traditionally something used to spike a drink. But what of home grown talent?

invariably a cash Cow-ell.... or something equally lame like Marina & The Diamonds.

Well, there's your leap of faith. Slamming an entire nation's musical output on the basis of Hollywood is like... well... like claiming Britain is a nation of imbeciles because it allows Keith Barker-Main to be employed by a newspaper, or Metro, which is close enough. The Family Jewels, incidentally, was given four stars by Metro in the previous day's edition.

Rewind a generation to February 1982

Very precise of him.

when, Shakin' Stevens notwithstanding, Britannia ruled the airwaves with The Jam, The Stranglers, OMD, XTC, Soft Cell and The Human League all charting.

And sure enough, this week in 1982 A Town Called Malice was number one, with Say Hello Wave Goodbye, Golden Brown and Maid Of Orleans in the top ten. Unfortunately, Barker-Main seems to have somehow skipped over Tight Fit (2), The J Geils Band (3) and Hall & oates (8), not to mention Toni Basil (11), Christopher Cross (12), Meat Loaf (15), Adrian Gurvitz' Classic (22), the theme from Hill Street Blues (25) and Stars On 45 III (29). See, Keith, we can all pick and choose.

Still, maybe he's right and things were so much better before pop got its marketing on. Let's see. Here's the top 40 from this week in 1980.

40 Gibson Brothers - Cuba
France's gift to disco, as writer and producer Daniel Vangarde's son Thomas would be two decades later. This might be where jazz-funk started. Be careful what you wish for. Loads of interesting stuff just below this chart, from the Flying Lizards' TV at 46 to Jon Pertwee's Worzel's Song at 57, Bad Manners' debut at 64, the theme from Monkey at 61, the first appearance of Martha And The Muffins' Echo Beach at 67 and at 47 Liquid Gold's Dance Yourself Dizzy, a song which Steve Lamacq once noted Smash Hits wrote out the lyrics to in full: "D-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-dizzy!"

39 John Foxx - Underpass
Icy early electro from Ultravox escapee, the sort of thing you wish someone would bring back in this synth-dominated pop world (rather than, say, Spandau Ballet, eh, Hurts?) while knowing you don't have a hope of hearing it if someone does.

38 Iron Maiden - Running Free
37 Styx - Babe
36 Sammy Hagar - I've Done Everything For You
Sounds was well into its NWOBHM phase, meaning even workaday metallers like pre-Van Halen Hagar got moments in the sun. Curious days.

35 Donna Summer - On The Radio
Later covered, which might be too strong a word, by Martine McCutcheon.

34 The Vapors - Turning Japanese
Course, the whole Japanese/wanking thing is a PC minefield, and the band say it's not actually about that at all (the opposite, in fact, to the Undertones, who say Teenage Kicks was about buffing the happy lamp, but only in its original lyrical form)

33 Regents - 7 Teen
2wo Third3, Ke$ha and Prince song titles start here. Maybe. Not really worth bothering with, basically someone's attempt to catch a Boomtown Rats wave.

32 Matchbox - Buzz Buzz A Diddle It
If 2010 is going to have a pernicious 1980s influence, it stands to reason that part of the 1980s never quite got over the 1950s. Showaddywaddy and Darts were still reasonably big having emerged at the end of the previous decade, the Stray Cats were to perfect and update the image, even Tight Fit had a go, and these were perhaps Britain's straightest mid-west rockabilly revivalists. Maybe eventually someone, and we don't mean Mark Kermode, will make a go of repopularising it again and then we'll have revival wheels within revival wheels.

31 Kool And The Gang - Too Hot

30 The Captain And Tennille - Do That To Me One More Time

29 AC/DC - Touch Too Much

28 Dave Edmunds - Singing The Blues
Odd career, yer Edmunds. He had a top 5 novelty hit with a rock'n'roll cover of Sabre Dance, I Hear You Knocking was a Christmas number one, was in David Essex's Stardust, then ended up as pub rock's own production guru, collaborating with Nick Lowe and ending up on Stiff covering Elvis Costello's Girl's Talk. Then he produced Paul McCartney and the Stray Cats, was musical director for a Carl Perkins television special and is now a regular guest with Jools Holland's Rhythm'n'Blues Orchestra. And all the while cultivating some lusciously thick hair.

27 The Selecter - Three Minute Hero
Pauline Black doubtless playing near you soon. She plays round here about three times a year.

26 New Musik - Living By Numbers
Tip to new bands - don't call yourself something like New Musik. On the TOTP2 clip on YouTube Steve Wright calls it a "massive Euro hit". New Musik were from London.

25 Stiff Little Fingers - At The Edge

24 Queen - Save Me
They used to put 'no synthesizers' on their album sleeves. The album this is from? Covered in 'em.

23 David Bowie - Alabama Song
Weird thing, this. A record contract was coming to an end, so Dave nipped round Visconti's and put down a version of a Brecht-Weill showstopper, largely because you can't really mix it into anything afterwards. It entered here and immediately disappeared.

22 Rainbow - All Night Long

21 Jefferson Starship - Jane

20 The Beat - Hands Off She's Mine
Touring soon with Neville Staple's Specials. Jerry won't be in them either.

19 The Police - Sue Lawley
Seriously, So Lonely is the title! How can you know the song and all still think it's something else?

18 Jon And Vangelis - I Hear You Now
Jon. How very utalitarian a stage name.

17 Peter Gabriel - Games Without Frontiers
Having to explain the 'jeux sans frontiers' relevance to this day.

16 The Buggles - Living In The Plastic Age
Like Chumbawamba, Martika and Sophie B Hawkins, they weren't one hit wonders, they just made follow-ups that were too lame to survive the collective conscious.

15 The Nolans - I'm In The Mood For Dancing
Well before Coleen became the most famous person in Britain.

14 The Boomtown Rats - Someone's Looking At You

13 The Specials - The Special AKA Live! EP
Too Much Too Young, Guns Of Navarone and the Skinhead Symphony medley. Five tracks, four covers and a lead track based on someone else's melody. Dammers was a creative genius, you know.

12 The Shadows - Riders In The Sky
Their last top 20 single, capping a career renaissance based on Evita and The Deer Hunter. Now there's a movie double bill.

11 The Ramones - Baby I Love You
Gun drawing, solitary chord for hours, you know the story. We don't think they picked their own string quartet.

Ladies and gentlement, that was the Ramones. Now, here's the sort of juxtaposition only old singles charts can throw up.

10 Keith Michell - Captain Beaky

Yeah, the charts had so much more cultural and qualitative awareness then, didn't they? Michell was a veteran Shakespearian actor who also illustrated the poetry book from which this was derived. Junior Choice, established 1954, was still going on Radio 1 at the time, and hosted by Tony Blackburn by 1980, who did a double shift with the chart show. Reggie Yates, look upon your past with awe. What we wouldn't give to just once hear him introduce My Bruvva.

9 Fern Kinney - Together We Are Beautiful
Just made for ironic montages and advertising.

8 The Tourists - So Good To Be Back Home Again
It's a wonder that we ever took Annie Lennox for the gender-playful imperious ice queen of synth when her background in power pop was so successful.

7 Michael Jackson - Rock With You
Written by a man from Cleethorpes.

6 Marti Webb - Take That Look Off Your Face
They didn't have to go to reality shows to find singers with big musical number potential back then, they were virtually falling out of trees.

5 Elvis Costello - I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down
Nearly released on 2-Tone after a dispute. The Attractions get to prance like fools while Elvis got the dinner in.

4 Cliff Richard - Carrie
This came in the middle of a period when the none more British Cliff was having American success about three decades after he aimed for it, this the only one out of five straight singles not to make the Billboard top twenty. They never got Wired For Sound, by the way.

3 The Whispers - And The Beat Goes On
Not to be confused with the Sonny & Cher one, or the All Seeing I one.

2 Kenny Rogers - Coward Of The County
A meme before we knew what to call them, it's essentially a song about why fighting's brilliant. What sort of example is that for the pop kids? And what sort of father tells his son to be a weakling at all costs?

1 Blondie - Atomic
Black bin bags as fashion. Might work better now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Funny stuff, good article