Sunday, December 05, 2010

The only chart that counted: 1981

Returning for three Sundays up to the big weekend with our obsession with Christmas top forties of yore. Now, what haven't we covered? In this case, an entirely ordinary number one in the greater scheme of Yule things...

40 Holly And The Ivys - Christmas On 45
Yeah, the whole disco medley thing was still big. Assorted rumours online that laughing boy David Gilmour played on it, and that future Dream Academy principal and Gilmour's mate Nick Laird-Clowes was involved. And to think this held off all sorts of stuff just outside the top 40, not least our old friends the Barron Knights at 61 and at 68 the damn near incomprehensible here in nearly 2011 One Nine For Santa by Fogwell Flax And Ankle Biters From Freehold Junior School.

39 Bad Manners - Buona Sera (Don't Be Angry)
A surprisingly low charting single, and after that it was pretty much it chart-wise for the full-figured, heavily tongued, still doing well for ticket sales in decent sized venues Buster and colleagues.

38 Modern Romance - Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey
Nobody salsa! Still touring with a different singer, Geoff Deane having gone off to write Birds Of A Feather and later the film Kinky Boots.

37 The Four Tops - Don't Walk Away
Still with their classic lineup they signed for a big comeback to Casablanca, famous for its elastic attitude to legal stimulants, chemically and sexually, in partying and signing incentives. By 1983 the label had gone under but they did their job with the Tops for a while with two top 20 singles in 1981. Their only subsequent shot at the UK radar was Loco In Acapulco, and we'd all rather that hadn't happened.

36 Olivia Newton-John - Physical
Substantially controversial video at the time, not in the modern sense as Neutron-Bomb remains fully clothed but in the muscle men/gay subtext becoming gay text element. Plus, comedy fat blokes with full overhang.

35 Queen And David Bowie - Under Pressure
As beautifully rendered at Latitude by Ben Miller and David Cross.

34 The Pretenders - I Go To Sleep
A Ray Davies song, in common with about 70% of early Pretenders material.

33 Brown Sauce - I Wanna Be A Winner
The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop spin-off single! Edmonds co-wrote it with STN cult hero and Swap Shop theme writer BA Robertson, but they got session musicians in behind Cheggers and Philbin cocking a snook at the concept of 'Reagan' and 'Keegan' not actually rhyming. Apparently it achieved some success in Germany. We'd love to know how that was plugged.

32 Slade - Merry Xmas Everybody
Its only top 40 re-entry before the advent of downloads. They gave it a good go, though, missing out only two years between 1980 and 1990. "Does your granny always tell you that the old songs are the best?" sounds more ironic as the years pass.

31 Showaddywaddy - Footsteps
Doo-wop bass men are a commodity that need reviving if the boy band is to have any lasting future in pop.

30 Meat Loaf - Dead Ringer For Love
We used to think Cher's presence as co-singer was a secret for years, but now we see she's in the video, and it wasn't while her career was in the doldrums, at least not in America. That said, she can't have done a lot of overblown highway rock before.

29 Toyah - Four More From Toyah
We'll say this for her, she had a pragmatic attitude to titling EPs.

28 John And Yoko And The Plastic Ono Band - Happy Christmas (War Is Over)
Making a slight return after an obvious reissue resurgence the previous year, but this was as far as it got. Unswerved in impact despite the Shirehorses' live-only reappropriation Happy Xmas (Fighting's Brilliant).

27 The Fun Boy Three - The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum)
Reportedly written and recorded before the Specials putsch, as can probably be told by the lack of much conventional instrumentation on a song by three singers, one of whom played rhythm guitar.

26 Kool And The Gang - Get Down On It
Music to sell affordable couches to.

25 Earth, Wind And Fire - Let's Groove
Unbeatable electro-funk with falsetto bits and video full of the sort of effects that seemed revolutionary in 1981 and can now probably be done on a laptop given ten minutes' practice.

24 David Bowie - Wild Is The Wind
A cover of Nina Simone's cover of Johnny Mathis, released to promote a compilation five years after making up space on Station To Station.

23 Imagination - Flashback
Whatever year we do on these there always seems to be something by Imagination turn up, and they definitely weren't that successful for a long period. There's only so many references to headbands and extraneous second vowels that can be made.

22 Tweets - The Birdie Song (Birdie Dance)
Actually a Swiss accordion tune originally known as the Chicken Dance. And at 55, Let's All Sing Like The Birdies Sing. Well, the follow-up is always difficult to get right.

21 Chas And Dave - Stars Over 45
Jaap Eggermont can't have ever imagined his moment of inspiration would one day lead to a medley of Cockney pub interpretations of When I'm Cleaning Windows, Any Old Iron, Run Rabbit Run, The Laughing Policeman and What A Rotten Song, whoever's otherwise heard of that. And, you know, they wiped nearly all video footage of Troughton-era Doctor Who, Z-Cars, Apollo 11 coverage and Not Only But Also, but...

20 Altered Images - I Could Be Happy
The awkward period between post-punk gone awkward pop and adopting the glossy 80s sound, where Clare Grogan was on every adolescent wall and Gregory's Girl had happened. Somewhere Haircut 100 were taking notes.

19 Foreigner - Waiting For A Girl Like You

18 The Snowmen - Hokey Cokey
Oh, all the crackers this year - Jingle Bells (Laughing All The Way) by Hysterics was at 44, and somehow we don't need to hear it. This? A Stiff Records fallacy fronted by a curiously gravelly voice for something constructed of frozen rain and stones. Rumoured to be Ian Dury and the Blockheads in character, though Will Birch's so-called 'Definitive Biography' never so much as touches on it - it's 29 years after the fact, someone should own up. Also they seem to be moving with a suppleness Dury's polio would have prevented.

17 Kim Wilde - Cambodia
"He was Thailand based, she was an air force wife" as opening lyrics aren't exactly subtle scene setting. This is about when Kim realised people found her sexy and acted accordingly.

16 Soft Cell - Bedsitter
Marc and Dave's second top five single, straight after Tainted Love, as good a tale of post-club life ennui as you'll find and one of the few times Almond's limited pipes - a man who recorded endless tributes to Scott Walker later on, somehow - found their niche.

15 Duran Duran - My Own Way
They didn't get to go anywhere in the video, that's how you remember it.

14 Julio Iglesias - Begin The Beguine
Somewhere between Pope John Paul II and Gordon Ramsey in the list of famous ex-goalkeepers, this Cole Porter song was on a rapid route down from number one. Anyone remember the attempt to launch Julio Jr at the same time as Enrique?

13 Diana Ross - Why Do Fools Fall In Love?
A former You've Been Framed montage favourite.

12 The Police - Spirits In The Material World
Ska doesn't sound like that, Sting! Additional material: Should you be able to bear it, and indeed Sumner's chest flauntage, some prime Kenny Everett.

11 Rod Stewart - Young Turks
It's easy to believe there's an audience for all those Great American Songbooks if the alternative is his digging the synths out again.

10 Jon And Vangelis - I'll Find My Way Home
Jon Anderson of Yes, for the uninitiated, and lots of tinkly keyboards that don't seem to be in the same time signature.

9 Dollar - Mirror Mirror (Mon Amour)
With David Van Day's reputation since and their place as a poor retrospective's Bucks Fizz assured, it's easy to forget how oddly produced a lot of their early work was. This one's just steely synth tinkles and Therese's flyweight vocals.

8 Status Quo - Rock 'N' Roll
Actually a ballad. How unpredictable.

7 Godley And Creme - Wedding Bells
Wry 1970s hitmakers had a brief return around this time. Entering at 47, Phil Lynott was telling us, in perhaps greater detail then required, that we are now living in a situation where that self same situation depends on the Yellow Pearl. It would reach number 14 in January. helped by its recent unveiling as the Top Of The Pops Theme, and there's a clip no longer on YouTube in which Jimmy Saville commends the new music before very briefly introducing its maker by only referring to him as "Mr Thin Lizzy". Meanwhile Kevin and Lol, shortly before discovering the brave new frontiers of music video, were producing the sort of cynical under a Motown vocal arrangement song that must have adorned every wedding reception for the next half-decade.

6 Madness - It Must Be Love
At least the mobile DJ would be safe with this one, Labi Siffre's song given a video in which Chris Foreman plays a guitar in a swimming pool, leading to the necessity of recording a special intro where it was advised kids don't follow his lead. As it were.

5 Bucks Fizz - The Land Of Make Believe
Written by Pete Sinfield of King Crimson, who claimed it was his anti-Thatcher song. Jay Aston promptly went on to support Thatcher in 1983.

4 Adam & The Ants - Ant Rap
"Basically I was making a point of saying 'Well, it's not about the music anymore.' I made a wonderful video, the Ant Rap video is the best fucking video I've ever made; jumping out of turrets and shit, but I was just trying to kill myself. And it was an attempt to do a record that had no fucking music on it, and take the piss. And I'd heard about this rap thing and I did it and I paid the price. It was the end of Adam and the Ants. It was basically my grand finale saying 'There's nothing here anymore, you're not listening. You're still buying the cunt, but it's shit.' Well it's not shit, it was a beautifully-made record, and bold in that respect, but looking at it now, asking me thirty years later when I've had time to think, I shouldn't have done it, I should have had a break." (Adam Ant, talking to Simon Price for The Quietus)

3 ABBA - One Of Us
Imagine this breakup raking being the first single from their new (and last, it would transpire) album. After all, Super Trouper had been a year earlier. As we're now duty bound to say, they didn't put this in Mamma Mia!

2 Cliff Richard - Daddy's Home
Saccharine even by Cliff standards. He'd had singles out just before Christmas in between but this was his first top ten Christmas chart hit since 1967. You may be aware it wasn't his last.

1 The Human League - Don't You Want Me
And so, almost without trying, the 'sort of Yorkshire ABBA' - thank you, Mr Morley - found their third of five weeks at number one was also the Christmas chart topper, and with the fourth single from Dare! at that. Film-within-a-film video, spectacularly flat vowel sounds and suspicion that embittered love story might have a trifle to do with the Heaven 17 split all present. The two The Ascent Of The Human League strips from Smash Hits in 1985 are worth your while.

NEXT WEEK: two legends in their fields disgrace themselves, Tim Burgess and Mark Gardener have a kickabout and Debbie Thrower does something about her overgrown garden.

Previous years covered: 1975, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002


Steve Williams said...

I like the poor quality of The Snowmen's costumes, especially the fact that they can't actually do the "arms stretched" bit because their arms don't stretch. They also can't bend their knees, actually.

I also like the member of the audience about fifty seconds in in full morning dress, including top hat.

xxxxx said...

Great Year!!!

23 Daves said...

I've also heard that the person behind The Snowmen is Jona Lewie - believable if only because he also had a hit under the name Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs in the seventies.

They had a number of seasonal singles out, actually, one of which is due to be unveiled on my blog fairly soon. I would say that I'm ruining the surprise element of it all by talking about it here, but let's be honest, it won't be an mp3 the Internet has been crying out for.

23 Daves said...

When I say "they" I mean The Snowmen, not Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs, incidentally. They just had some novelty summer hit with "Seaside Shuffle".

ruudboy said...

Yes, Ben Miller, but were you at Kevin Eldon & Co's marvellous Hokey Cokey at Latitude?

Simon said...

Lewie would seem more likely than Dury, for the Terry Dactyl reason and the vocal wouldn't seem too much of a stretch for him. It does seem to have done very well for Stiff throwing something leftfield out.

Tim: No, I left to see something else after Under Pressure, and very little could have followed that and Pappy's destructive Common People.