Friday, April 15, 2011

Clearing the table

For our latest old chart, we turn to week beginning 18th May 1986 for the chart height of a song that defined a sport whose world championships start tomorrow and accidentally stumble across one of the oddest top tens of all:

40 Mantronix - Bassline
No, not like Man 2 Man Featuring Man Parrish, that was something different. A week earlier and we'd have had Samantha Fox and the Grange Hill Cast to write about; a few sales less for this and we'd be saying a big how you're doing to We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Gonna Use It's mighty Rules And Regulations EP. In fact, let's all listen to and watch that now.

1986, then.

39 Freddie Mercury - Time
Sounds exactly like a Queen song. So what was the point of holding it back for the solo record?

38 Miami Sound Machine - Bad Boy
It didn't become Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine until 1988, with the Machine stopped shortly afterwards despite pretty much still being her backing band. Here they're caught in another awkward transition, between Latino and synths with big keys.

37 Real Thing - Can't Get By Without You (The Second Decade Remix)
That's something they should have continued with into 1996 at least.

36 Atlantic Starr - Secret Lovers
Tinkling slow jam of the sort that gave Arista a bad name throughout the decade.

35 Nu Shooz - I Can't Wait
What a poor, poor name. Something of a sealed deal as far as jazz-funk goes, with the sort of break that one of those sampler keyboards was made for.

34 Rod Stewart - Love Touch
33 Big Country - Look Away
32 Dire Straits - Your Latest Trick
Arena rock singles that nobody really cares about triple whammy! We could get through this much quicker if it were all like this, it's the top ten where the bulk of this week's action was.

31 The Bangles - If She Knew What She Wants
As above, apart from the arena bit despite their best efforts. Hurry back, Prince/Rameses III!

30 Cashflow - Mine All Mine
Workaday funk like a Netto Cameo.

29 Force MDs - Tender Love
Is this Michael Jackson's fault?

28 Pete Wylie - Sinful
Scouse braggard and alleged inventor of word 'rockist' attempts to make all in path shudder at the forcefulness of his convictions.

27 AC/DC - Who Made Who
From the soundtrack of Maximum Overdrive, Stephen King's sole attempt at film directing. Because you kind of imagined AC/DC would record the soundtrack to a film called Maximum Overdrive directed by Stephen King sooner or later, wouldn't you?

26 Queen - A Kind Of Magic
Some of you may spot there's a small handful of records in this list that were in the chart from two months earlier we commented on not one month ago. Well, there's enough not to have to repeat too much, and we're sticking to that line. So here again is Freddie in his 1920s stage magician cloak summoning up the kind of instantly dated line-and-fill cartoons that blighted the late 80s.

25 The Cure - Boys Don't Cry
That's not really them in the video. Popular mopers preen.

24 Princess - I'll Keep On Loving You
Second and last top 20 single from royal flush completing early SAW also-ran soulstress, a template that would be refined many times over the following eight years or so.

23 ZZ Top - Rough Boy
The other video from their MTV girls and blues fantasia sequence, Eliminator (this time as a sub-Starbug space vehicle), lingering looks at legs, the lot. At least Billy, Dusty and Frank as disembodied mounted heads overshadows balladic notion.

22 Aurra - You And Me Tonight
Funk bassline blogs would go mad about today dissolves into talky overshiny soul vocals that those same bloggers just seem to have forgotten about.

21 George Michael - A Different Corner
It'd been number one three weeks before, and so the great Wham! schism was set with a song George wrote, played, produced, engineered, arranged, designed, built the studio by hand and carved the instruments from wood and plastic all by himself. The next time he did all that was for I Want Your Sex, and therein lies a world of extra-curricular issues.

20 Jaki Graham - Set Me Free
Dance diva dance diva-ises.

19 Simply Red - Holding Back The Years
An old Frantic Elevators song gets a major label budget and, at the second time of asking, sends Hucknall, still sporting hair less like that of an international jet-setter and more Alannah from the Thompson Twins, towards the sphere where he can call upon all the women and teeth he wants.

18 Marvin Gaye - I Heard It Through The Grapevine
The first big hit from a Levis advert (though it actually used a soundalike), the Nick Kamen kit off in launderette business which turned the company right around by invoking the then youth cool market of imagined 1950s Americana. Nick Kamen as James Dean. It was very late 1985 onwards, a simpler time.

17 Joyce Sims - All And All
You'd be surprised how far you can get as a disco/soul singer with the name Joyce.

16 Robert Palmer - Addicted To Love
It was supposed to be a duet with Chaka Khan, wherever her vocals would have come; Noddy Holder calls it the perfect pop song. And yet all you know about it is the strangely robot-sex video. The women were based on the look of those in Patrick Nagel paintings, apparently. And it was the first video shown on the Chart Show (and the last, come to it). STOP EJECT

15 Janet Jackson - What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Janet's first solo hit on the back of an impeccable Jam & Lewis swing production turning soul, funk and disco strands into a new thing we would all come to call R&B, here actually inventing a bass tone extensively later used on house and techno tracks.

14 Five Star - Can't Wait Another Minute
Army manoevure-precise choreography from matching tracksuited siblings. They say they're making a comeback, but they say that every two or three years. And no, that didn't happen until 1989.

13 Billy Ocean - There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)

12 The B-52s - Rock Lobster/Planet Claire
For no apparent reason their debut album was only issued over here in '86 despite Rock Lobster being a minor hit first time around seven years earlier, and at a time the band were in seclusion after Ricky Wilson's death. For all the comedy hairpieces and Fred Schneider taking David Byrne's act and attaching it directly to the mains this is a pretty unbeatable combination of surf sci-fi absurdity. Lennon has said he was inspired to return to music by Rock Lobster, but he's credited with saying that about half the records released in 1979.

And now spot the reused bits:

11 Whitney Houston - The Greatest Love Of All
Somewhat more successful and respectful than Kevin Rowland's version. Source of "children are our future" lols.

10 Madonna - Live To Tell
The first real proof that Madge could do adult orientated, and the first real image makeover of her career as she got a Monroe hairdo and some proper clothes so you couldn't see her belly button.

9 Status Quo - Rollin' Home
Guess what it sounds like.

8 Van Halen - Why Can't This Be Love
Sammy Hagar takes over from prime irritant David Lee Roth and takes the Halen into the top ten for the second time with the sort of guitars with leopardskin straps plus arena keyboards plus shouting that Bon Jovi were on the brink of emerging to refine and ruin for us all.

7 Falco - Rock Me Amadeus
Like Chumbawamba and Little Jimmy Osmond a one hit wonder who wasn't (Vienna Calling reached number ten). There was quite the Mozart revival going on at the time, with the film Amadeus not long out of cinemas. In the version of his backstory offered by the sometime Johann Hölzel - a conservatoire-trained former bassist with both hard rock and disco bands, and not a perpetually angry faux-Welshman - though, an odd future Wolfgang kills them all in polite mid to late 18th century Austrian society as a "punker" who "had flair". For the record, the last verse translated into English reads thus: "It was around 1780 and it was in Vienna/No plastic money any more, the banks against him/From which his debts came it was common knowledge/He was a women's man, women loved his punk". Much more poetic in the bitty German, isn't it?

6 Matchroom Mob With Chas And Dave - Snooker Loopy
So this is why we're all here. At the time, it almost stood to reason - Cup final teams release records, so as snooker was now seen as the number one sport on television (this was during football's bleak years) why not pick up on that as a source of tie-in chart crossover potential? Barry Hearn ("he likes country and western, what chance has he got of recognising a good song?" - Hearn protege and prog fan Steve Davis) put in a call to near-local lads Chas & Dave and wondering if they wouldn't mind writing a song for the members of his Matchroom managerial stable, who virtually ran things at the time. Neither of them knew the game well but worked to the concept of "a song to be sung by the seven dwarfs", hence jaunty Cockney, baffling bits about suits and hairbrushes, Willie Thorne Sings!, all that. Tony Meo's line is "I always pipe me eyeballs", apparently because he always cried after a match. He sings this while sporting a broad grin.

There was a follow-up a year later. There's a reason why you never hear it.

5 Doctor And The Medics - Spirit In The Sky
Merry prankster in kabuki whiteface attempts to restart psychedelia revival through his club night, then goes the direct route about it to surprising success, albeit just for themselves. The guitarist went on to play in Badly Drawn Boy's band, the bassist co-formed acid jazzists Corduroy and the drummer is in Die Toten Hosen. There's eclecticism.

4 Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer
Don't mind saying the video, apparently MTV's most screened ever, frightened the life out of us at the time, all that turning into clay and the essential Gabriel visage being messed about with. If you've not seen Broken Pixel's tribute for Lone Wolf from last year, please do. The song? Lots of ungainly sexual metaphors, as Gabriel was pretty much solely doing at the time.

3 Level 42 - Lessons In Love
Slap bass-led jazz-funk - but popular! What a time.

2 Patti LaBelle And Michael McDonald - On My Own
Earnest AOR peddlers bellow at each other long distance over some of the flattest drum sounds ever recorded. Produced by Burt Bacharach, perhaps over a couple of sandwiches in a pre-meeting rush.

1 Spitting Image - The Chicken Song
Good god, how did this happen? Actually it's unlikely the latex lampooners (thank you, every newspaper TV column) knew themselves. Uncrowned genius of satirical pop parody Philip Pope on music and production, future smegverlords Rob Grant and Doug Naylor on deliberately nonsensical words, target "those two wet gits with the girly curly hair", only for the same people who bought the precision targeted post-holiday summer hits to go for this one too in large numbers. B-sides I've Never Met A Nice South African ("except for Breyten Breytenbach!"; somewhat overtaken by future events apartheid satire written by inventor of all comedy John Lloyd and eclectic composer Peter 'not the Field Music one' Brewis), Hello You Must Be Going and We're Scared Of Bob restored acidic comedic equilibrium, the 12" mix with random repetition and a locked groove ending added a certain something.

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