PICK OF THE POPS - WEEK ENDING 2 DECEMBER 1978Yet another not-very-much-of-anything chart – what a contrast to the Top 20 of a month so later, with its rhythm sticks, hearts of glass and one nation under a groove, which I suspect unlikely to be aired. Nonetheless Winton did pay due tribute to Fluff, and next week they’ll be broadcasting an archive Freeman programme (well, from 1998) and, as we all know, he was capable of illuminating the drabbest of charts with stardust of nascent neon.20. Darts – Don’t Let It Fade Away19. Barron Knights – A Taste Of AggroI really wish they’d expand the programme to include the whole Top 20 instead of being blandly selective of its bottom half. The Darts number I can’t recall at all, other than vaguely as an atypical, elephantine ballad; meanwhile the Barron Knights, Britain’s Weird Al Yankovic (times five), sent up various recent hits, including “Rivers Of Babylon” recast in a dentist’s chart. Neither was aired.18. Chic – Le FreakWell at least they had the wit to play this classic – such troubled elegance, sassy like a Studio 54 Cole Porter revue, and Simple Minds clearly paid close attention to Bernard Edwards’ bassline over the instrumental break. Stompin’ at the Savoy – their present to the future. Unlike all other disco hits in this list – and there are surprisingly few – it swings.17. Patrick Juvet – I Love America (Part 1)Didn’t play this either, which is a shame – an anonymous, woebegone Frenchman looks west, idolises what he glimpses – but did he ever get there? The dance goes on, but its key is cautious and minor.16. Elton John – Part-Time LoveEntering his nearly four-year spell of blank international AoR – even “Are You Ready For Love?” couldn’t get past #42 in 1979, at a time when “Death Disco” went Top 20, so you figure out how much we’ve lost – and this really could have been written and performed by anybody.15. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John – Summer NightsOn the way down, so not played since Olivia turns up again later, and the Grease soundtrack was the number one album. From the latter Dale spun “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” which you don’t hear every day.14. Bee Gees – Too Much HeavenReputedly Brian Wilson’s favourite single not produced by Spector; from the astral harmonies you can grasp his point, but the cushions of bland brass are laid on a little too thickly.13. Queen – Bicycle Race/Fat-Bottomed GirlsHe didn’t play either side.12. Elkie Brooks – Don’t Cry Out LoudHe did play this interminable lump of Two Ronnies musical interlude banality, though.11. Heatwave – Mind Blowing Decisions/Always And ForeverHe didn’t play either side of this either. Sunday afternoons on Radio 2 – don’t you (un)just(ly) love them?10. Frankie Miller – Darlin’Glum “One Man Band”-style singalong from the man whose “Caledonia” sold a million in 1992 but no copies south of Carlisle so that’s why you’ve never heard (of) it. Can’t really forgive the rhyming of “lonesome” with “’phone some.”9. Sarah Brightman and Hot Gossip – I Lost My Heart To A Starship TrooperNow this really was a shock. This was one of my declared favourite singles of 1978, for reasons which I admit were not entirely to do with its musical content. Having seldom (i.e. never) played it since those days, it now sounds unbelievably tacky and crass with its bargain basement synths, its absurd SPELL IT OUT double entendres of quotes from Star Wars and Close Encounters. There are guilty pleasures, or there are things which are never rehabilitated because they’re crap. I would instead recommend another hit from 1978, Dee D Jackson’s gay crossover smash “Automatic Lover” with its far smarter subtext and a suitably inflated sense of its own importance which actually works in its favour (Tommy quotes included).8. Dan Hartman – Instant ReplayFar more agreeable proto-hi-NRG disco to which we famously used to do The George Carlton Walk; I say “famously” but unless you were in the fourth year intake at Uddingston Grammar School during the academic year 1978/79 that reference will mean precisely nothing. If I tell you that we also did it to “One Step Beyond” one years later, however, you might get an idea.7. Boney M – Mary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord (Medley)As I say, some things are just irredeemable rubbish. I hated Boney M at the time and detest their uncalled-for restoration in 2006 doubly. “Ra-Ra-Rasputeen/Russia’s greatest love macheen” sounds like a fantastic idea until you hear it. They dressed up in white (fake?) furs to sing/mime this dull retread of a duller song. 1978’s Christmas number one, of inevitable course.6. Showaddywaddy – Pretty Little Angel EyesTheir second raid on the Curtis Lee back catalogue, and like “Under The Moon Of Love” they systematically strip it of all sex, danger and interest. Because they could.5. Blondie – Hanging On The TelephoneAlong with “Le Freak,” the only record in this bundle to exhibit any real passion or spunk, and its dynamism and cheek put all of its contemporaneous polite pools of music to shame. The words of Mark Perry from Alternative TV’s The Image Has Cracked – one of 1978’s truly great records – stuck in my mind throughout this programme: “You’re getting DILUTED SHIT!”4. Cars – My Best Friend’s GirlSpeaking of which, the Cars, whose arrival in the chart at number ten – in such days when no such thing happened unless you were Abba or similar – provoked plaintive cries of “Whit’s that?” and “Ye whit?” among my youthful peers. It was a picture disc, you see – a rare thing in those hype-free days, wink wink, nudge nudge – and without the gimmick this hopelessly lame organ-led attempt at New Wave, Ric Ocasek sounding as ever like Tom Verlaine being attached to the National Grid by his Y-fronts, one suspects that it would have spent three weeks on the listings, peaking at number 54.3. Olivia Newton-John – Hopelessly Devoted To YouSpecially written for the film of Grease – as was “You’re The One That I Want,” by the same writer, John Farrar – and you can tell it’s been grafted onto the musical, since it’s basically another of Olivia’s (admittedly very fine) C&W-lite ballads in the “Have You Ever Been Mellow” lineage. She performs it as beautifully as ever, though “I Honestly Love You” cuts far, far deeper. At our school discos of the period, this was always the third last record played, viz. Your Last Chance…2. Boomtown Rats – Rat TrapThe ripping up of Travolta’s picture! The candelabra as saxophone meme! The Top Of The Pops lyrical citation! Ah, what rivulets of subversion spluttered through the first “official” New Wave number one in a don’t-mention-“God-Save-The-Queen” kind of a way; and indeed it would be grossly insulting to the Pistols to bracket them in with this lumpen pub-rock retread of Springsteen’s “Jungleland.”1. Rod Stewart – D’Ya Think I’m Sexy?The most tolerable of Rod’s six number ones since it doesn’t take itself too seriously, has a half-interesting story to tell – one night stand pick-up on the verge of blossoming into Actual Love – and in addition the numbing string-synth line and dual throbbing basses make me think of “Sound And Vision” and regret that Rod didn’t risk a whole Low-type album of depersonalised disco.That having been said, Paris Hilton’s version is as blank and numb as any pop I’ve heard, and with her the song has perhaps found its ideal destination; indeed the whole Paris album sounds as if recorded in a shrouded corner of nothingness – no matter how much she attempts to tease (“Turn You On”), boast (“Fightin’ Over Me”) or plead (“Screwed”), she sings – or more properly intones – in a voice drained and prematurely exhausted; the animation of “Not Leaving Without You” is roughly cosmetic, and you will search in vain for a human heart within “Heartbeat.” From this evidence, this star has been blinded; meanwhile, in 1978, the protagonists of “D’Ya Think I’m Sexy?” debate about whether to unleash her on a world looking the other way.
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