Friday, March 18, 2011

Comedy songs

Our first old chart rundown in a while is taken from w/b 23rd March 1986, the emergence into popular culture of Comic Relief, the 2011 running of which is unfolding as we type. Yeah, we considered The Stonk just so we could point out The Mary Whitehouse Experience's out of place cameo, and we resolved to go nowhere near Love Can Build A Bridge or any of the witless recent ones, but we had to go to the primary material.

Firstly, let's skip over Made In England And Ray Dorset, Psychic TV And The Angels Of Light and, remarkably, Half Man Half Biscuit's Trumpton Riots in the 92-99 region and glance at the top 75 debut weeks of two colossi of female singing, Janet Jackson's What Have You Done For Me Lately? at 52 and of course Sinitta, now only ever the surely disappointing to Simon's choices regular X Factor mentor. So Macho was the first charting single on Cowell's Fanfare Records and in fact pretty much the only success the label ever had bar Yell!'s all too literal moment in the sun.

40 Bronski Beat - C'mon! C'mon!
The post-Somerville version with one John Foster singing. You'll know Bronski v2.0 for Hit That Perfect Beat, which is fortunate.

39 The Pogues - Poguetry In Motion EP
Very much a Dave Robinson title, that. London-Irish pathos abound on an EP featuring, none as lead track, Pogues standard Rainy Night In Soho, The Wire favourite The Body Of An American and instrumental Planxty Noel Hill, the title a reference to the nominative trad Irish musician who'd described the Pogues as a "terrible abortion".

38 Survivor - Burning Heart
Nothing says 'late night ITV advertised hard rock compilation, mail or phone order only' more.

37 Mike And The Mechanics - Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)
MOR titans of studio sheen's debut single, actually from a film called On Dangerous Ground (Choke Canyon in the US), featuring nobody you've ever heard of and about nothing of explicable interest.

36 Paul Hardcastle - Don't Waste My Time
Fairlight soul before the post-Whitney glut, featuring vocals by Carol Kenyon off Heaven 17's Temptation. One of the three most famous things about Yorkshire, apparently.

35 Viola Wills - Dare To Dream/Both Sides Now
Oddly named disco-soul mid-ranker whose official biography claims her three singles "would land Viola in the Guiness Book of Records for the UK." Well, we're not going to dissuade her from the notion, and not just because she's dead.

34 Big Audio Dynamite - E=MC2
Nic Roeg tribute stew staring Mick Jones, winging it Don Letts and three people who went on to form Dreadzone. Have reformed, like everyone.

33 Tippa Irie - Hello Darling
Reggae tribute to Ed Stewart. Perhaps.

32 Electric Light Orchestra - Calling America
More synths! Even more synths! Well, Jeff Lynne was never someone keen on the concept of subtle minimalism, although getting rid of the actual orchestral bit - ELO were a trio at this point - surely devalues the currency.

31 Whitney Houston - How Will I Know
Second hit and the first where she really opens the pipes on those vocal chords. Very much in the Pointer Sisters idiom.

30 New Order - Shellshock
Is it sacrilege that, despite the ageing nature of some of those keyboard settings (synth trumpets!) we prefer this in New Order Go Detroit terms to all the Arthur Baker stuff?

29 Tavares - Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel
The Tavares brothers, in fact, whose nicknames - Ralph, Pooch, Chubby, Butch and Tiny - all make them sound like cartoon dogs.

28 Alexander O'Neal - If You Were Here Tonight
The sort of entry you don't need to hear to know exactly how it sounds.

27 Falco - Rock Me Amadeus
I love legitimate theatre.

26 Freddie Jackson - Rock Me Tonight (For Old Time's Sake)
See 28, but with gated snares.

25 Stevie Wonder - Overjoyed
Like an anti-McCartney, Wonder's prime age is starting to come back into its own these days when weighed against the big hit 80s schlock that affected his public standing for ages. Actually this one's quite good, largely because it turns out to have been written in the late 70s, and features ear catching "environmental percussion" - crickets, birds, water, that sort of Hexstatic-precursing thing.

24 Atlantic Starr - Secret Lovers
At least he didn't fall victim to the Linn drum soul treatment too.

23 Billy Ocean - When The Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going)
A future Comic Relief single itself, of course, with Adam & Joe in the video, not that they mention it much now for some reason.

22 Frank Sinatra - Theme From New York, New York
Only six years old at this point, originally written for Liza Minelli, and yet by the mid to late 90s it was already established as the only way to end a wedding reception disco. Sinatra recorded it for his concept album Trilogy: Past Present Future, one disc of standards, one of pop hits, one a freeform six track, nearly 40 minutes long experimental suite containing tracks called What Time Does The Next Miracle Leave? and World War None! This is old stager Chairman Of The Board Frank Sinatra, remember.

21 Hipsway - The Honeythief
Sole top 40 single for poor man's Blow Monkeys, what Johnny McElhone did between Altered Images and Texas. Our brother had the lyric page from Smash Hits for this sellotaped up in his bedroom.

20 Howard Jones - No One Is To Blame
Peter Powell reckoned Jones would be "one of the big new names to emerge in 1984", odd wording given he'd had two top three singles in 1983. By 1986 it was all over, this his last top 20 single.

19 Pet Shop Boys - Love Comes Quickly
Whatever can Neil mean?

18 Huey Lewis And The News - Power Of Love/Do You Believe In Love
If the former seems out of place, that's because it is - it'd reached number 10 in October 1985 but reared back up the charts and settled at 9 in March. No idea why. Video release wasn't that quick, was it?

17 Sigue Sigue Sputnik - Love Missile F1-11
"Hi-tech sex, designer violence, and the fifth generation of rock 'n' roll". Or, as everyone not Tony James called them, silly hair and sampledelic electropunk nobody needed, and now nothing is more 1986. Still, this had a vim with its Chuck Berry riffs, and the TOTP appearance with the explosions and flagrant disregard for mic technique or how wrong vocals with loads of echo come across is quite somethin. The director's trying, bless him. Whatever happened to Magenta Devine?

16 Queen - A Kind Of Magic
Look, no 'It's'. Freddie in big cloak summons backing singers in neon colours.

15 Whistle - (Nothing Serious) Just Buggin'
We know nothing else about them apart from what's on Wikipedia, which claims they were Jazzy Jazz (self-explanatory, surely?), Kool Doobie and DJ Silver Spinner. But yeah, how great in the annals of stupid early crossover rap is this? Includes one of those voice sampling keyboards. Heavily.

14 The Rolling Stones - Harlem Shuffle
Bob & Earl's original none more going to a go-go R&B groove (with opening horns sampled on Jump Around) ridden over by a coach and horses by men in pastel colours.

13 Blow Monkeys - Digging Your Scene
The quality side of 80s Brit jazz-soul - that is, 'not Matt Bianco' - Thatcher-baiting floppy quiffed emoter Dr Robert says this is about the initial spread of AIDS amid the gay clubbing community. Future Radio 1 nondescription merchant Dixie Peach on backing vocals, it says here.

12 Art Of Noise Featuring Duane Eddy - Peter Gunn
Even Paul Morley would have had trouble writing up the manifesto for this one.

11 Mr Mister - Kyrie
Now clap above your heads! Classic drivetime man-in-wide-suit-playing-keyboards-on-either-side AOR with a liturgical bent.

10 Culture Club - Move Away
Junkie George was still three months away from having eight weeks to live, but something was definitely slipping away already, this the band's last top 10 single except for a reformation semi-fluke in 1998. With that all in mind it's no wonder the big single from their new album From Luxury To Heartache (yeah, we see) was basically Fairlight-friendly anaemia.

9 Prince - Kiss
Fuck you, Jones, you've never half understood why this was so stunning at the time, and to an extent still is.

8 The Bangles - Manic Monday
Prince on writing credits here too, although in Greenwich Village summer pop mode. Rebecca Black missed out Idon'thavetorunday.

7 Jim Diamond - Hi Ho Silver
The synth horn stab favouring theme to Boon, the series that claimed Michael Elphick as a private investigator and gave Neil Morrissey a career.

6 The Real Thing - You To Me Are Everything (The Decade Remix 76/86)
You wouldn't associate it with the type of globe straddling hit that needed a tenth anniversary revival, but such is wine bar soul.

5 Sam Cooke - Wonderful World
It was on an advert.

4 Samantha Fox - Touch Me (I Want Your Body)
Easy to forget how famous Page 3 made Sam, particularly at a time when legions of glamour models appear in first name terms only on a whole shelf of weeklies and monthlies and outside that little ecosystem have no name recognition at all. Anything could have made her a chart star first time out as long as City boys on Friday nights out could dance to it and it contained lyrical allusions to sex, and that's pretty much the case. "Like a tramp in the night I was begging for you to treat my body like you wanted to"? The East End homeless must be more forward than in most places.

3 David Bowie - Absolute Beginners
The theme from a hopeless box office flop, doing so badly it brought down the company that put out Chariots Of Fire and Gandhi less than five years earlier. Well, that's what happens if you make it a Patsy Kensit star vehicle. A minor rejuvenation after a poor few years musically for Bowie, though, not to mention his getting to arse about on a big typewriter, and both Rick Wakeman and Steve Nieve on keyboards.

2 Diana Ross - Chain Reaction
Gibb provided, Steps bastardised monochrome Motown nostalgia that seemed to be around the top end of the charts forever. Phil King, bassist from Lush and at some point the Jesus & Mary Chain, is supposedly in the video. Now used to sell insurance comparison, if you can sell the concept of comparison.

1 Cliff Richard And The Young Ones - Living Doll
Pop music, let's go! Comic Relief was officially launched on Christmas Day 1985 but this was its first physical sortie, three years before the first telethon, and some argue the first sign that 'alternative comedy', as only Jim Bowen still calls it, was usurping the traditional state. Inspired by Rick's adoration of the man, of course, and Cliff's first team-up with Hank Marvin in more than a decade, though when they did it live at that year's first Comic Relief night Cliff refused permission for it to be included on the following VHS. The studio and video versions are different, which got us at the time (the "which instruments do you want us to break?" bit is fleshed out). The B-side, (All The Little Flowers Are) Happy, is quite something for the time, though Ade Edmondson in full Vyvyan flight is difficult on the unsuspecting.

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