The Church Of Me
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Kissing in the churchyard, I know a righteous woman

Monday, October 23, 2006
PICK OF THE POPS

A brief explanation is in order; firstly of the
programme, which used to be the BBC’s main singles chart rundown show. Presented by Alan Freeman, the original series ran from 1962-72, following which it was succeeded by the Solid Gold Sixty show and subsequent variations on the basic Top 40 countdown model. The name was then revived in the ‘80s, firstly on Capital Radio and then on Radio 2, the show’s aim now being to count down a Top 20 from that particular week in a previous year.

Currently the programme is broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on Sunday afternoons, between 3:30-5:00 pm, and hosted by Dale Winton. In most ways Winton is the ideal choice of compere for Pick Of The Pops in 2006; active as a DJ and mainstream radio and TV broadcaster since the ‘70s, he is extremely camp but does not need to remember Sontag’s dictum that camp has to take itself with absolute seriousness. Given my own dismal memories of Radio 1 in my youth, a world of feeble fantasy where every record was great, Winton is just about the only broadcaster who could tell me that every record IS great, and I’d believe his sincerity, even if I didn’t agree with his opinions.

In May this year I began an impromptu weekly rolling thread on ILM analysing the Top 20 featured on that Sunday’s edition. It must be emphasised that the first 30 of the programme’s 90 minutes are devoted to climbers and new entries from lower down in that week’s Top 40, together with new releases (the choice is usually and commendably unpredictable) and a track from that week’s number one album. But I confine myself, on the grounds of spurious historical objectivity (because I want to look at history as it actually happens), to the show’s remaining hour, which counts down the Top 20. Unless the chart is taken from the very early sixties, where singles were so short that twenty could easily fit into an hour, the Top 20 is not played in full, though the top ten usually is, provided there is no Gary Glitter record present.

I enjoyed writing on that thread; it was an opportunity to experiment with opinions and ideas in a way which didn’t quite fit in with CoM, and it was also something of an oasis in the increasingly feral world of ILM, a throwback, even, to the forum’s earlier and more pleasant days.

However, as of this week I am transferring my weekly POTP observations to CoM. I had hoped to be able to avoid doing so, since among other things it precludes worthwhile and friendly commentary from friendly readers. I have felt compelled to move it off ILM, partly because of the increasingly unreliable ILM server, which at present is crashing on average about once a week, and irritatingly usually on Mondays.

But far more importantly, as demonstrated by this extremely sad farrago, I have recently felt less and less compelled to post anything on ILM; the board seems to be drowning under a tsunami of careerist trolls, fevered egos, sociopathic inadequates and assorted other malcontents and bullies with bipolar free passes to whom the board moderators appear unwilling or unable to apply even basic regulation, monitoring or discipline, which makes me reluctant even to look at New Answers, a pre-emptive weary yawn anticipating (usually correctly) the ill-conceived drivel that each thread is likely to provoke. After due deliberation I’ve decided that I’m not prepared to throw gallons of effort and resources into compiling this stuff on a weekly basis only to watch them being trashed by vultures (and all for free, too! I wonder how dramatically the standard of posts on ILM would improve if posters were charged for each post they made). My life is pretty damn good at the moment, and there is no space in it for this kind of unnecessary stress. Similarly this is why I am not opening the comments boxes on CoM; the brief experiment in doing so on Koons proved that all such things are likely to be overrun by spammers and trolls sooner rather than later.

This week, POTP featured the Top 20 of the week ending 25 October 1980 – 1980 again, so soon after Brighton Pier! Is time speeding by? I hope so, since this means that January isn’t far away. In the meantime, let us look at the following list with the kind of resignation which accompanies the cast iron belief that the only way in which human beings aren’t going to finish by tearing each other up towards extinction is to treat each other with a basic level of respect.

20. Air Supply – All Out Of Love
The only major British hit for the Australian Billboard Hot 100 perennials; soapy, portentous balladry which I’m sure whoever wins this year’s X-Factor will be roped in to cover.

19. Adam & the Ants – Dog Eat Dog
The beginning of time; up from the previous week’s 37 after one of the most extraordinary performances ever to be witnessed on Top Of The Pops, and which would most likely be banned now under health and safety regulations; theatrical, pilfering and profound, it felt as though this rock and roll thing was new once again. And from, of all people, Adam and the Ants, turning McLaren’s Burundi model back on him and demonstrating a far greater understanding of the pop. “For Your Love” via Barry, Morricone, Glitter, Roxy and the Roxy. Still sounds mindbendingly new.

18. Thin Lizzy – Killer On The Loose
17. Linx – You’re Lying
16. Black Slate – Amigo
Dale passed on playing any of these, which is fine by me with regard to Lynott’s foolish rape fantasy, just as the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper was reaching crisis pitch (and the “ladykiller” excuse was no excuse at all) and Black Slate’s nondescript pop-reggae (would that it had been “Warrior Charge” or “Youth Of Eglington” instead), but Linx’s first hit was and is one of the sleekest and most gorgeous exemplars of the New Wave of Britfunk – so light, so serious.

15. Bad Manners – Special Brew
Oafish 2-Tone ambulance chasers en route to the top three with Buster Bloodvessel comparing his true love to a can of lager. Romance, don’t you just love it? Garry Bushell certainly loved them.

14. Stevie Wonder – Masterblaster (Jammin’)
13. Coffee – Casanova

Dale didn’t play either of these; the second of three Wonder tribute singles to stall at number two, and to me a rather forced Marley salute (interesting and instructive to note that within his lifetime Marley never climbed higher in the British singles chart than number five); and a by-the-book piece of slinky female funk-pop-disco.

12. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Enola Gay
Now this is how to do pop entryism – a cheerful, upbeat singalong about the Hiroshima bombings. From the very fine Organisation album with its two setpieces; the immense “Statues” and astonishing “Stanlow”; slightly and inevitably in the shadow of Closer, but it still shouldn’t be overlooked.

11. Diana Ross – My Old Piano
The sexiest record in this chart; with Diana’s baby grand, who needs a vibrator? Chic still full of punctum – note those subtle Basie touches in Robert Sabino’s piano solo.

10. George Benson – Love x Love
More sublime use of space from Quincy Jones, even though the song isn’t quite up to the par set by “Give Me The Night.”

9. Nolans – Gotta Pull Myself Together
God, this sounds done on the cheap. Dale on the Nolans (I say!): “They were nice to watch on TOTP, all dancing together, except from that one at the end who couldn’t quite keep up with the others…sorry Colleen, only joking!” Or is he?

8. Sweet People – …Et Les Oiseaux Chantaient (…And The Birds Were Singing)
An extremely odd piece of French ambient orchestral MoR from 1978 (with birdsong) which amazingly now sounds like a Badalamenti outtake from the soundtrack of Twin Peaks. Its belated success was Noel Edmonds’ doing, but I still harbour considerable affection towards it.

7. Odyssey – If You’re Looking For A Way Out
This ballad was the most atypical of the periodic hits they enjoyed in Britain between 1978-82 (though possibly also the least adventurous). They make a better job of it than Tindersticks did on their lamentable cover version, but as always with Odyssey I find the lead singer’s harsh contralto rather offputting – and no, Dale, it doesn’t tug at my heartstrings.

6. Matchbox – When You Ask About Love
Showaddywaddy and Shaky, yes, but I always forget about the missing link; as I recall this lot briefly had a modicum of credibility (or was that Whirlwind, whom my school chum Andrew thought were brilliant?) but by the time of this depressingly popular and bland cover version I wondered whether they actually still did think it was 1962. Hardly Darts, were they?

5. Madness – Baggy Trousers
This is turning out to be one of those okayish lists with nothing much to get one’s teeth into. Laura always reckoned “Baggy Trousers” to be Madness’ shark-jumping moment, and I can’t say I disagree with her on this evidence; chirpy, matey Madness were always far less interesting to me than miserabilist, doomed Madness. But then I’m not Phill Jupitus.

4. Status Quo – What You’re Proposing
Notably far more trebly and light than the last time we heard them on POTP (“Whatever You Want” from just 12 months previously) with what sounds like a ceilidh band rehearsing in the next room. Nonetheless, credit due to Parfitt and Rossi for rhyming “runny-nosing” with “proposing.”

3. Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me
The T-shirt striptease! “That book by Nabokov”! Even that ambient Joy Division drone at the beginning and the Luftwaffe of string synths which invade the instrumental break didn’t dispel the increasingly tedious Police formula…and all this after Sting in the NME had convinced Morley that the next Police record was going to be “seriously off.” Still, it was the biggest-selling single of 1980 and proved to Sting how little effort he really had to make. Does that explain the subsequent quarter-century?

2. Ottowan – D.I.S.C.O.
Daft Punk’s parents (or at least one of them) being heavily ironic about the naffness of their music. The epitome of ILM “Do You Hate Fun?”ism. Sometimes shit is just shit. Note their difficulty in finding alliteration for the letter “C.”

But “That book by Nabokov”!!

1. Barbra Streisand – Woman In Love
It was at around this time that the Bee Gees (for various reasons, but mainly legal ones) began to concentrate on writing for other singers. And Barry Gibb gave Barbra her only UK number one. “I stumble and fall, but I give you it ALL!” Oh it is exquisite…hymnal in its procedural, willing to worship and be worshipped (“What do I do?”). Streisand could sing Ayn Rand and make you believe her (except that Streisand commendably never sings anything she doesn’t believe). “We may be oceans away – but you feel my love, I hear what you say.” Oh YES!!!! It’s beautiful, you’re beautiful and the time is getting closer when the oceans will be banished from our life, except those which we ourselves create.


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