Saturday, May 08, 2004

Anyone who doubts the importance of the post-war generation in setting up the "wigger" tendency they now despise might be interested in Westwood's last words on tonight's show: "come on let's go", the title of a Ritchie Valens song covered 46 years ago by Tommy Steele.

Talking of which, I'm off to http://the-other-ones.blogspot.com to deal with the year Macmillan cancelled Blue Streak and Britain's last warship was sold for scrap, the year of Dennis Potter's "glittering coffin" ... now why didn't we take the *right* way out rather than make the eternally costly mistake that we are still having to deal with today?
LIL' FLIP - "Game Over (Flip)"
THREE 6 MAFIA featuring half the Dirty South, seemingly - "Who Gives A Fuck Where You From"

Two sides of the dirty-dirty - the crossover chart smash and the unabashed hardcore anthem. Raised in the House of Bush's home state, Lil' Flip ticks all the right boxes for the southern pimp/playa archetype and there's nothing wrong with that, but it makes "Game Over (Flip)" sound over-familiar - the computer-game production, the arms-in-air chorus, the lyrical threats, all predictable enough and while it's clearly the sound of a clique inherently distanced from the ruling elite, the distance is less obvious - less *total* - than it should be at a time like this.

Three 6 Mafia (once described on ILM as "straight-up evil", and it wasn't by one of us European aesthetes either) are far more unequivocally full-on, and at once both much more convincing and much more problematic. A Dirty South anthem of the first order, it can hardly be summed up in a blog but let's just say it sounds like Three 6 Mafia only *more* so, it calls out pretty much everywhere in the US, with the title always repeated so as to emphasise that (I'm guessing) it doesn't really matter, we're all in this together, hip-hop's bigger than any of us (you may or may not infer White America as the implied enemy). Its excitement and mastery of its aims is total - the kick they get into the opening "We're from Northside niggaz / and we running this shit" burst makes it clear that, to use an inappropriately old-school expression, this is fucking *on point* - but still, somehow, at this time, I cannot see its sound and ethos as anything other than ultimately crypto-fascist.

I've tried hard to see it otherwise. I really have. But the thing is: for all that they bring together a vicious, disenfranchised, defiant black identity from across the country and assert what sounds pretty much like a collective defiance, for all that they say "I'm from that Nashville, bitch" (a definite shot at the Fox News / Toby Keith / Darryl Worley axis of evil - "however passionately you claim to own certain places, we're still deep in there") I still can't quite be sure with myself as much as I'd like that the ethos of this song is truly antithetical to the warmongering of the American Right that is drilled into those they exploit for their own purposes. I start wondering whether or not the plain, aggressive statement "who gives a fuck where you from" can be read - perhaps *is* being read by some of the song's audience, even perhaps some of those who recorded it - as an excuse for any number of prison atrocities, a hurled, monumentally ill-thought-out sneer of "damned Arabs, who gives a fuck where you from, if you don't like our ways we'll damn well make you like 'em whatever the fuck it takes". And, as ever, I don't know *what* I think. Am I just anti-American by nature? I genuinely don't think so; I never thought this way about this kind of hip-hop during the Clinton years, and not to the same extent even two years ago.

Why do I, as someone whose European identity and affinity to the ethos of social democracy becomes firmer and more unequivocal in my mind with every one of these dark days that passes, listen to this kind of crypto-fascist intimidation music (for it *is* that, whatever the differences in terms of wealth and skin colour and social position and allegiance in the culture wars between the Dirty South pimps and America's right-wing elites - if they were younger and less racist, the US military in Iraq would pump "Who Gives A Fuck Where You From" like they pump AC/DC)? The answer, I suspect, must be that "I want to shock myself as much as anybody else", in Momus' Thatcher-era words. Europeans - in the sense that I understand the term - cannot achieve their collective aims without analysing what drives those who do not share those aims. It doesn't equate to agreement or endorsement (though "Who Gives A Fuck Where You From" *is* relentlessly compelling), more an acknowledgement of the fact that you can't win any kind of cultural war by closing your ears.
The weather today suits the mood any rational human being would be in at the moment; grey, cold, frustrated
listening to

Baby Bash featuring Frankie J - "Suga Suga" (smooth as you like; really a soundtrack for more rational times than these)

Mario Winans featuring P. Diddy and Enya - "I Don't Wanna Know" (I'm only just coming to admit to myself that sometimes the chorus of this song may be true in my own life; one of the few genuinely emotionally resonant Bad Boy productions these last ten years)

Michelle Gayle - "Sweetness" (to New Jack Swing what Dusty's "I Only Want To Be With You" was to Spector and early Motown. Yes, it is very nearly that good.)

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas - "Heatwave" (a heartstopper of a record, undeniable and undenied)

The Supremes - "Come See About Me" (as above, but at the next level of sophistication and no worse for it)

Middle of the Road - "Sacramento" (I was too hard on them in my Freaky Trigger Britgum piece back in the day, judging them purely on the irritating football-chant-in-the-making that was their biggest UK hit; MOTR actually came up with some decent shafts of European sunlight of which this German chart-topper but relative UK flop was probably the best - some of the chord changes are breathtaking)

Magic Affair - "Omen III" (top ten-years-ago Eurodance, better than any Cappella track bar "Move On Baby" any day. *Where* did that '94 enlightenment go? Were they *really* talking about disbanding the CIA? I could cry sometimes ...)
You know, sometimes people tell me I worry too much about the influence that the mass culture that really became embedded and took root in the 1980s has had on Britain, I blame Hollywood too much for the unthinking xenophobia so common in this country, I'm too quick to blame US hegemony for the lack of true representative democracy in this country and our sluggishness when it comes to embracing the social democratic European future which is staring us in the face if only we'd wake up and realise it. People say it's other, older, deep-rooted tendencies in Britain itself which do the damage, and they've got a good point, and sometimes I sort of agree - I mean Germany has managed to square the circle remarkably well ...

And then I read reports like this, from the front page of Saturday's Independent:

"An Iraqi prisoner has described how he was allegedly subjected to vicious beatings by laughing *British* (my emphasis) soldiers during interrogation sessions which left another man dead. In a witness statement obtained by The Independent, Kifah Talah, 44, an engineer, claims he was he was hooded and beaten about the neck, chest and genitals by soldiers during three days before being made to dance in front of his tormentors ... One soldier allegedly told them to '***dance like Michael Jackson***' (again, my emphasis). Basa Mousa, 26, a hotel receptionist, died of his injuries."

You cannot disassociate the tendencies, however appealing it might sometimes seem (as it sort of seemed to me as recently as last December, to my eternal shame). Enrique I kiss you and piss in your face at exactly the same moment (I mean, fucking Blazin' Squad ... there can be no forgiveness).
Ten years ago today, at or near the end of my childhood, I listened to the Radio 1 Top 40 in my old bedroom at the other end of southern England, while reading Malcolm Saville's "Home to Witchend", in all senses bar the most literal one his last literary will and testament. I'd never heard of Saville before, or read any of his books - I was born far too late for them to be any sort of part of mainstream British childhood culture, and they were mostly out of brint by the time I was growing up - but immediately it had a sharp, distinct effect on me; this was clearly, obviously, the end of something (I couldn't believe the book was only 16 years old at the time, but that as they say is Thatcherism), it was obvious that the characters were getting old and reaching the end of something special, but where had it all come from? What exactly *was* the beginning? It was a "Sledgehammer" type of doubt / confusion: what exactly was "Home to Witchend" the end *of*?

One song, that week's highest new entry, fitted the mood perfectly. East 17's "Around The World" wasn't quite their best song, but it seemed to be pretty much how the Lone Piners on the brink were feeling - back in the place they loved the best, away from all the temptations they'd encountered - only inevitably seen through 16 years of hindsight; proletarianisation, pop-culture-as-God, the unbridgeable gulf separating us from the old literary culture. Apart from "Around The World", Prince's "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" and Tony Di Bart's "The Real Thing" the chart was a bit of a dud, really - I mean, STILTSKIN were number fucking one, and that Man Utd / Status Quo record, surely Richard Kurt's most hated song of all time, was at number two - but East 17 made some of the better boyband singles, and at times reached genuine levels of importance quite outstripping their pop status (round about March '95 the Telegraph reported that country fairs and shows were increasingly being conquered by the trappings of pop culture, and mentioned that at one such event "Steam", one of their cod-rap hits, was being played; remember the bluntness of the band's Estuary accents and the symbolism is inescapable).

Of course it's ten years on Wednesday since I wondered why TV was full of stock footage of John Smith and then I slowly started to realise what must have happened, but that is a whole different kind of sorrow.
What are we to make of the scheduling of the Prince's Trust Urban Music Festival so soon after the 25th anniversary of Thatcher's election? Charles is surely the most public example in his generation of the old-school romantic conservative, once intimidated even by the sounds of Wham!, Dire Straits and Michael Jackson (I was always amused by the idea that "A Trick Of The Tail" was Diana's favourite album - at that stage Genesis still had old-conservative cultural aspirations in their music, and surely it should have been "Invisible Touch"?), now utterly humiliated, marginalised to fuck, reduced to the level of meeting one of those uppity niggers, associating himself with people who aren't necessarily quite black pop at its most uncompromised and biting (Dizzee Rascal, though!) but are far closer to the source than the nth-degree watering-down of the Live Aid era that he once winced at, dreaming of Highgrove and sleeping with the servants like those Nazi-supporting landowners used to do back in the day.

At any rate, hearing Jay-Z talking to Westwood this evening about meeting Prince Charles today had greater meaning and power than it would otherwise have done (especially considering that new Digby Anderson rant about the cultural proletarianisation of the middle classes "All Oiks Now" - despite Anderson's strong occasion with the most Thatcherite think tanks of the 1980s, the Social Affairs Unit and the Institute of Economic Affairs, which leads him to absurdly fail to blame 80s consumerism for the changes, the timing of the book is again clearly no coincidence). I still can't bring myself to listen to the crypto-fascist "Takeover", but Jay's moved beyond that now.

But it's not the Paris Spring, it's a Britain where the forces of progressiveness seemed to be suddenly, sadly in retreat - offshore radio sunk, Macmillan-era relic Lord Hill getting tough at the BBC, the social conservative Jim Callaghan having replaced Roy Jenkins as home secretary, anger at US policy in Vietnam overshadowing everything but the media suddenly becoming less inclined to reflect such feelings. Specifically, it's the moment when, after the fringes and the mainstream had met in a glorious pinnacle of collective progression in the wake of the Wilson landslide, the young radicals were getting more radical and suddenly it was too much for the media, which was in a phase of retrenchment anyway - the result was a situation where social groups who a year or two earlier had seemed to be coming together were again, defiantly and definitively, at war (will we ever get out of that cycle of advancement followed by retrenchment? The poignancy and tragedy is that four or five years ago I believed it might have been about to happen). This is, in short, Bob Stanley's "year of drear" - and moments of conservative retrenchment in mainstream popular culture and retreating into the underground among those of radical intent pretty much inevitably bring on boring, middle-of-the-road singles charts. Rockists lose interest in the UK singles chart when '68 comes around for a reason (Ian MacDonald, in particular, described the depressing retrenchment far better than I could), and the reason is records like an awful lot of these ...

THE MONKEES - "Valleri"

Heading for the pop dumper by now and accelerating their descent with a pale shadow of their '67 magnificence (they were already in decline before this, though - I've never liked "Daydream Believer", though it may be the football factor). "Head" would, of course, articulate the despair that many felt as Nixon came to power, from unified optimism to shattered and polarised anger in an incomprehendingly short time.


In all its vileness. All its glutinous offensiveness. "What the heck" rhymed with "kiss my neck". The pure 1955 swelling up on the line "the angels came". Fading out by repeating the early lines about some fucking tree having been "just a twig". Almost a Nixon campaign anthem. The reissue of this song in 1975 was driven by its being voted "saddest song of all time" by Noel Edmonds' captive audience on Wunnerful Radio One - personally I'd say it's a far more deserving "worst song of all time" than the inoffensive likes of Black Lace and the idea of listening to it again for The Other Ones - it topped the NME chart on its mid-70s reissue - is already filling with me horror. And, yes, it feels like it goes on for half an hour as well.

GENE PITNEY - "Somewhere In The Country"

"One of his finest pop records" says Dale, but this late-period effort is hardly one of his best-known. Nor is it anywhere near his best (that's "24 Hours From Tulsa", specifically the last line), and the lyrical scenario is cliched melodrama, but it's an interesting oddity.


Or rather just "the Union Gap" at this stage - interestingly this is the second song in this chart to have returned to the Top 10 in the mid-70s, as if to confirm that however tiresomely MOR the singles charts were already becoming as a result of "credible" acts abandoning them, they still had lower to sink. "Young Girl" was *always* a sign of a horrible blandout and it *never* had any redeeming features whatsoever (although the Lovin' Spoonful - implicitly confused with this lot by Dave Simpson in Melody Maker in 1995 when he attributed "Summer In The City" to "Gary Fuckwit and the Union Crap" - have plenty of redeeming features, but then they came from the previous brief shaft of enlightenment).

Reparata and the Delrons' "Captain Of Your Ship" and Jackie Lee's "White Horses" get skipped, disappointingly.

THE BOX TOPS - "Cry Like A Baby"

Better than most in this chart, but still too straightforwardly commercial, a shadow of the desperation of "The Letter" which had me grasping for superlatives when I was 10.

THE HERD - "I Don't Want Our Loving To Die"

The band who best exemplified the glossy watering-down which inevitably went with the transition from offshore radio to Radio 1, perfectly defined in the title of their first hit, the forgettable "From The Underworld" (to the charts ...) - yep, they were the ones who had a teenage Peter Frampton as the "face of '68" and all the rest (see also Marmalade's mutation from "I See The Rain" - significantly a hit only in the Netherlands, where offshore radio had continued - to "Lovin' Things"). Cod-psychedelia for pre-teens and not in a good sense.

He's leaving out all the good records (particularly sad not to hear Honeybus' heavenly - despite certain Jonathan King-related connotations - "I Can't Let Maggie Go") just so he can play ...


At least Peter Alexander had an old-school "European" (in the Millson / Lauder-Frost sense) charm about him. There can be no excuse for this grinning wanker, no excuse at all.

No "Jennifer Eccles" or "Congratulations", thank God, so we hurtle to number three and ...

THE SMALL FACES - "Lazy Sunday"

Well, you know this one - makes "Laughing Gnome" Bowie sound like Peter and Gordon, etc, etc. Often defended as "authentic" Cockneydom by those who condemn their 90s imitators as "cultural tourists", this is actually far more one-dimensional and far less culturally interesting than "Parklife", which for all its faults was at least a fascinating attempt by the young new middle classes to come to terms with the chaos and disorder of the cultural landscape bequeathed them by Thatcherism. This is a tediously nudge-nudge-wink-wink homage to a world which was clearly already passing, which can produce some of the most sublime pop imaginable (cf much of the Kinks' contemporary work), but can also produce this kind of reactionary shite, which teeters on the edge of tastelessness when you think of the East End dockers in spring '68 marching on Number 10 in support of Enoch Powell. Apart from the magisterial "All Or Nothing", how much of the SFs' work do you really need to hear at all?

1910 FRUITGUM COMPANY - "Simon Says"

Nothing to do with Pharoahe Monch, and would probably be better if it was. Never been able to relate or feel any emotional connection at all to most US bubblegum, especially thinking of it in a '68 political regression context. We'd all have been far better off without it.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG - "What A Wonderful World"

And a thoroughly appropriate ending for a chart and a period of old mutton masquerading as great pop music - a turgid Don't Worry, Everything Is Alright, It's Alright ... It's *Fine* anti-thought anti-manifesto of a song which is rightly despised by John Peel, the broadcaster who best reflected at the time where the talent had gone once it had lost interest in the charts. A friend of mine once described the previous week's chart - where this and "Congratulations" were the top 2 - as summing up Britain in early to mid-1968 as utterly detached from the revolutionary political ideas of the rest of the Western world; the tragedy was that the hopes for enlightenment that came with Eugene McCarthy's and Robert Kennedy's presidential candicacies that spring dissolved in the gunshots of Sirhan B. Sirhan and the Gestapo tactics of Richard J. Daley, leading eventually to Watergate, the "New Depression", innumerable wasted lives in war ... and how appropriate *that* is as an analogy for the transition from the spring of 2000 - when my friend wrote those words and talk of a "progressive century" didn't yet sound hollow - to now.

(I must say, however, that "Cabaret" the official double A-side of "What A Wonderful World", is far better despite having once been played by Simon Bates as Our Tune for Neil and Christine Hamilton, but Dale stubbornly refuses to acknowledge its existence.)

Now it's exactly half way between then and now, May '86 and, oh dear God:

SIMPLE MINDS - "All The Things She Said"

Nowt to do with Russian fake lesbians, of course, and little more than the usual piss, wind and shite that characterised their post-'83 music. Once upon a time ... this tale wasn't told by idiots (although you could have fooled me), but it's still full of sound and fury and it still signifies precisely nothing. The very worst of the mid-1980s. Even a Trevor Horn production couldn't have saved it. If it didn't contain the line "let me see your hands" (Jamie T Conway, I salute you) it should have done.

JOYCE SIMS - "All And All"

I have a soft spot for full-on '86 pop-funk, and this is a good example - vocals not coming in until about halfway through, this would probably have sounded like the most structurally unusual record in this chart in a mainstream pop context.

PRINCESS - "I'll Keep On Loving You"

Highest-charting Stock Aitken Waterman production this week only at number 16? Clearly this is still the mid-80s, not the late 80s yet (I'd put the cultural change down to - come on, you knew I'd get it in there somewhere - the departure of Milne and the arrival of Checkland/Birt at the BBC in early '87). This was one of their more Transatlantic productions, more like the upbeat side of Atlantic Starr (whose "Secret Lovers" get skipped) than the usual Warrington Ritzy soundtrack.

PETER GABRIEL - "Sledgehammer"

Thematically, this inevitably feels more like a postscript to last week's show - a soundtrack to High Thatcherism sucking in those who had previously tried to bring old Tory imagery into rock music and even influenced an SNP supporter to sing about beagling, yada yada yada (even more symbolism: at the time Gabriel was married to the daughter of the Queen's former private secretary while carrying on a private affair with the Hollywood actress Rosanna Arquette). Whatever it ended - whether any faint echoes of 60s counter-cultural idealism, romantic Tory Englishness, or both - "Sledgehammer" was, is, and will always remain an absolutely *shite* record, which drags on in such a tedious, unrelenting way as to make its five minutes or so feel like twenty.

SPITTING IMAGE - "The Chicken Song"

"Down seven at twelve, the Grange Hill Cast and Just Say No, I'd love to say no to playing this next record, but I can't ..." quoth Mr Winton. Erm, he does know they didn't mean it straight, doesn't he? Towards the end of the video (one of VH1's Worst, of course), rubber caricatures of Neil Kinnock and sundry other Labour MPs of the time sway along to it; I wonder whether his eurosentimentalist supporters today ever think back to that and give a wry smile?

WHITNEY HOUSTON - "The Greatest Love Of All"

"Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Well if you're still with me, thank you for that - I'll reward you with a Whitney Houston record". I'd rather not, thank you. "Saving All My Love For You" is still an understated gem which deserves to be rescued from the mid-80s mire, but this really is glutinous tripe, brought down in the first line with what must always be the first curse of any MOR ballad, especially from this era - a reference to Children. And how they are Our Future. Mercifully she stopped at #8 with this, and two of her ballads from the second album failed to make the UK Top 10 - for all our Atlanticist faults, us Brits could always see through this shite better than mainstream America. For all her personal troubles, she still made her best music in the late 90s.

QUEEN - "A Kind Of Magic"

Deserved the Laibach treatment. Not as openly crypto-fascist as "One Vision" and "I Want It All", but still crashingly banal and a betrayal of the genuine *character* of their mid-70s work (I will always stand up for "39", pompous though it may be). Never in the last eighteen years has "A Kind Of Magic" been anything other than rock music for Daily Express readers, especially those who think Richard Desmond is "sound" on "them Krauts" (yes, I know Queen were always huge in Germany, but since when has that bothered a certain axis of their UK fanbase?)

MARVIN GAYE - "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"

Remember the NME's Pop Is Dead issue? Simon R's "Return of Rock" visions and vicious invective against "soulboys"? This Levi's-fuelled return was one of the reasons why, although the real insurgence of 60s soul reissues didn't come until early '87. It does say something about the mediocrity of much chartpop at the time that this is easily the best record in this chart outside the Top 3, always on the brink of being brought down by its inherent nerves (which were, as we know, his *own* nerves).

Dale skips Five Star's "Can't Wait Another Minute" with the comment "Well - one star and four dancers, really". What can he mean?


In the spring of '86, Libyan terrorists were suspected of blowing up a Berlin club called The LaBelle and killing several US military personnel stationed in Germany, leading to US air strikes from British bases against Libya (a Panorama programme on the subject was considered "anti-American" by well-known Chingford skinhead Mr Normo Tebbs and was a key factor in Alasdair Milne's political sacking). Around this time, Patti LaBelle said she wouldn't be coming to Europe in the wake of Libya's retaliatory action, ostensibly because the club was called The LaBelle and she thought that might be "an omen". And that's far more interesting than this turgid ballad (it would be a travesty to call it a "slow jam") which was boosted to #1 in the Network Chart through massive ILR airplay - usually among DJs who spoke of "quiet storms", no doubt - but mercifully peaked at #2 behind "The Chicken Song" in the proper chart.

LEVEL 42 - "Lessons In Love"

Not as total in its impact as their best moment, "Running In The Family" (which is lyrically nothing more nor less than a leftist equivalent of Digby Anderson) but still a rueful, mournful song is hidden inside the pop-funk exterior - if you equate this song and this band with blind endorsement-by-default of the politics of the time you're a damn literalist fool. Mark Sinker has described "World Machine" as "Adornoite" - Adornoite pop music is an even greater ideological problem than anti-American pop music, but I can quite see what he meant.

MADONNA - "Live To Tell"

It may well be the most unequivocal moment of *melancholia* - not choreographed Hollywood "depression" - to come out of 80s MTV pop. It's certainly one of her best singles, proof that "Into The Groove" didn't tell the whole story. And a chart with a turgid beginning has a striking conclusion, because keeping it off number one was ...

FALCO - "Rock Me Amadeus"

Altogether now - "Der Kommissar"! It should have been "Der Kommissar" back in '82, not that overegged national-stereotypical pudding "Da Da Da"! Not that I'm criticising Johann Holzel's one moment of worldwide glory (though lest we forget he did have a second UK Top 10 hit with "Vienna Calling") - conversely it's a jewel of pastiche and wit, the sort of cultural cross-fertilisation that great pop thrives on. Three weeks at US #1 as well. Eat that shit and take that boot in your ass, neocons.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

OLDCHARTBLOGGING (slight return)

This week's Pick of the Pops seems to have as its ongoing theme The Cultural Proletarianisation Of The Middle Classes - coincidentally (yeah, right) at the weekend when we "celebrate" the 25th anniversary of Thatcher's election. To this end they've even chosen a chart which is recent enough that I actually listened to it as it was revealed on Radio 1 - very rare on the programme over the last year or so, though more common previously - it's the first week of May 1991, preceded by the same week in 1964, which just happens to have been the last year the Tories fought a general election with a public-school-educated leader. But even I will concede it features some good records which don't make you think of Thatcher at all, like ...

ROY ORBISON - "It's Over"

OK, scratch that, it *does*, because it was the first single Richard Littlejohn ever bought, according to the sickeningly hypocritical cunt himself. It's still brilliant, still tragic, still everything it's supposed to be. The Orbison mythos still justifies itself.

THE FOURMOST - "A Little Loving"

In the second half of the year, Merseybeat would dramatically crash, rendered obsolete by the Stones / Animals / Motown insurgence (among other things). This band, only even half-remembered because of the early death of singer-guitarist Mike Millward, relied mainly on Lennon/McCartney cast-offs and an absolutely reprehensibly shite cover of the Four Tops' awesome "Baby I Need Your Loving", but this was their biggest hit, a jaunty jump through a style about to hit the buffers.

THE MERSEYBEATS - "Don't Turn Around"

You didn't get a group called The Britpops, did you? Actually this lot were a lot softer musically than many of their contemporaries, and this is a pretty enough spring tune - nothing to do with Aswad or Ace of Base, I must stress, and certainly not an inferior cover of a brilliant album track only released because the record company didn't issue the original as a UK single, cf their terrible version of Dusty Springfield's "Wishin' and Hopin'".


Cultural proletarianisation of the middle classes part 1, obviously. Dum-da-DUM, shuffle-shuffle-shuffle-shuffle made into the most potent and driven thing ever - Radio Caroline *had* to start with this record because nothing else at the time had the same power and potency to shout "I don't give a damn about the old way / This is a new day" as defiantly as Chuck D would boom those words much later, except of course here it came joyfully without the historical burden of the Black American experience. One of the better moments for a generally overrated band, when their cultural energy could never be called into question precisely because the entire socio-political debate in Britain seemed so linear.

I'm initially convinced that Dale Winton fades it out when it still has some way to go, but it only runs to 1'49" on my mp3 version so probably I'm just being a smartarse as usual. He also says it's originally by Buddy Holly and I'm astonished to find that he is actually right - it's such a precise Bo Diddley homage that I genuinely believed it was Diddley's work, but that was the Stones at this stage, taking the tamer side of rock'n'roll and making it sound like the rawest thing ever. When people who rate "Sticky Fingers" say "they were just warming up at this stage" I can't hide my pity for them.


So securely in the canon that there's really nothing left for me to say about it - one of Bacharach & David's finest compositions and I can't imagine anyone making it sound bad. No, not even the Stranglers, in case you hate them and you're asking ...

MANFRED MANN - "Hubble Bubble Toil And Trouble"

An Oxford graduate in the POP CHARTS!!! The world's going mad etc etc etc. And it was, at least by those criteria, and Paul Jones had his fair share of nerves (cf "Privilege") - he was the closest thing we ever had to the wonderfully fighting-the-tide "educated pop singer" in one of Richmal Crompton's last William stories from 1965, who keeps wandering off into the woods because he thinks his music is ultimately rubbish. Actually you could sort of discern Jones' education in the structure of this fast-paced Shakespeare-misquoting stomper - it's very precise, quite wordy for its genre, unusually tightly-structured as well.

THE MIGIL FIVE - "Mocking Bird Hill"

Intriguing oddity - British group (were they one of the early mixed-race groups here? Something in the sound makes me think so) set the old chestnut to a ska beat and sound surprisingly fresh 40 years on. I should do a google here ...

THE MOJOS - "Everything's Alright"

Grinning piece of beat boom fodder which I'd forgotten almost instantly. Don't think they did anything else of note.


I've got a bit of a history with this number-one-to-be - its singer, Lionel Morton, was frequently to be seen on "Play School" in my pre-school days (chronologically, about halfway between then and now), and one of my closest friends on the internet encountered an eccentric bus traveller in south London back in the early 80s whose self-defence statement was "remember me, I used to be in the Four Pennies" or something like that (clearly it wasn't Lionel Morton). But for me this song will always evoke Nicholas Whittaker's brilliant autobiographical work "Platform Souls", a Defence of the Anorak (ie the fixated life of a long-term railway enthusiast) which instinctively makes me feel somehow justified and strengthened. The summer of '64 was when Whittaker first fell in love with the railways, and his description of the song as a constant, slow, lazy radio soundtrack set against his romantic affinity to the dying heavy-industrial Britain of the steam railways (of course elsewhere it would have been the dying rural-agrarian Britain, but Whittaker lived in the Midlands) makes me feel like I'm there, living on the cusp and savouring each moment. It's quite amazing what context can do sometimes.

GERRY AND THE PACEMAKERS - "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying"

Maybe it's just because it holds up the mood from the song before, but I'm surprised how much I like this record - I'm thinking of John Verney's children's books and the early Transdiffusion recordings and all kinds of nice 1964 things. I would say this is their best song, and should have been their biggest hit here as it was in the US - "How Do You Do It?" and "I Like It" are still the sort of bilge that I'd probably give 1 or 2 if I was doing Popular.

THE BEATLES - "Can't Buy Me Love"

Like "Walk On By", too firmly embedded in the canon for there to be anything particularly interesting for me to say about it. But Paul McCartney's real importance could be found in the song he'd written which had just fallen off number one ...

MILLIE - "My Boy Lollipop"

If 1964 is to be put forward as the year Modern Britain culturally began - and there is a pretty strong case for it - you couldn't do it convincingly without pointing out that it was the year our former colonies (Jamaica, whence Millie Small came, had only been independent for two years at the time) turned the tables and began to influence us culturally, breaking down the straight one-way traffic of the empire years. And this breakthrough crossover hit for the poppier end of ska is a great song - Momus' invocation of it on one of his ultra-cosmopolitan-sophisticated songs for one of those 90s Japanese Lolitapopsters just makes me value its British context, one of the first signs of a new generation of Londoners trying to work out their identity suddenly catching on like wildfire with the pop masses across the country, all the more.


"They had 17 Top 40 records - but could you name five of them?" says a rather sarcastic-by-his-standards Winton. Yes, this is the Frankie Laine / Robson & Jerome one. Yes, it was even then an appalling relic which should never have been dredged up. But the real heat is awaiting ...

PETER AND GORDON - "A World Without Love"

Last of the three records which anticipate the New Right, third of the five in this programme straddling the pre- and post-Thatcher eras, and a fine song in itself. Only a year earlier, it would have seemed inconceivable that an Oxford graduate could front a pop group or that two young men who'd recently left Westminster School - one of whom had already started a never-completed course at King's College, Cambridge - could top the charts with a song written by a Liverpudlian. But the cultural interchange that would reshape British society so dramatically over the next 40 years (although it should be remembered that Alec Douglas-Home actually came astonishingly close to winning the '64 election - the Wilson landslide was actually achieved against the Tories' first grammar-school-educated leader) was already underway, and this sublimely unobtrusive desire for solitude - sung in impeccable, bell-like voices which, when compared to Will Young's essentially classless vocal style, shine a light on what the social changes have done to the speech of that social class - had shone from the top of the pop chart, having gone Top 20 the day Radio Caroline started, and was heading to be the first British Invasion US number one by anyone other than the Beatles.

Did McCartney deliberately include the archaism "I know not when" - apparently he'd started writing the song back in the late 50s, but he completed it specifically for his girlfriend's brother and said brother's schoolfriend to record - because it fitted his Liverpudlian idea of how public schoolboys spoke? I know Paul sometimes posts on the forums of his personal website, but despite registering more than a year ago I've never asked him there, probably for fear of him breaking my pretty balloon (yes, acknowledgement of my hysteric ego and acknowledgement of the greatness of the Supremes, it's all here). But we do know that the reasons and motivations behind the paranoia of Robert Henderson, the violent intimidation tactics planned by some of the hunting lobby if this fucking government ever does show whatever guts it may have left, the desperate retaliation attempts of Lord H*tt*n - all can be traced back to this week, this moment, 40 years ago. In February 1975, as Thatcher took over as Tory leader amid shadowy campaigns from anti-pop conservatives who desperately wanted her to Make Everything Normal Again, Peter Asher was topping the US single and album charts as Linda Ronstadt's producer - always, seemingly, he could be there in the right place and at the right time.

But despite staying at the top of the Record Retailer and NME charts exactly fifteen years before the Thatcher insurgence began, "A World Without Love" had already fallen off the top on the Light Programme, to be replaced by ...

THE SEARCHERS - "Don't Throw Your Love Away"

They outlasted most Merseybeaters bar the Beatles for a reason - they had a much wider range and musical quality to them ("When You Walk In The Room" sounds like a marauding giant, their take on Malvina Reynolds' "What Have They Done To The Rain?" comes off remarkably well, "Goodbye My Love" is a "Fire In The Punchbowl" tragedy). What they do with the guitar in the first second of this Shirelles cover must have sounded almost avant-garde to pop listeners at the time, and while the rest of the song doesn't match up, it holds up a lot better than some might think.


Dale rushes at indecent haste through the first nine records in the 1991 Top 20 - mercifully we don't hear Rod Stewart bellowing over the bagpipes, nor is there the first of many rapidly diminishing returns for EMF, the now-deceased member of which outfit I thought at the time might be related to Winifred Foley, the finest chronicler of Forest of Dean life not called Dennis Potter (same surname, y'see) - her books were always far more interesting than their music. We don't get Gary Clail's Billy-Graham-invoking "Human Nature", which was all over Radio 1 at the time but I genuinely don't think I've heard it since, and I knew we weren't going to get the Quadrophonia track, part of the brief Belgian invasion continued a few weeks later by T99's "Anasthasia" - I mainly remember "Quadrophonia" because one of the scary tough older kids used to play it at the special school (say no more) I attended at the time. But, on this weekend of all weekends, we *do* get, wave your flags ...

BLUR - "There's No Other Way"

Did someone mention cultural proletarianisation yada yada yada? Heeeeeere's Damon! The mockney whine was fully formed right from the start, of course, but this really was the arse end of baggy (Select magazine later developed something of a running joke about their faux pas in selecting "Leisure" ahead of "Screamadelica" as album of the month for ... September '91, wasn't it?) and only when those mockney tones blared out "she's a twentieth century girl" two years later would Blur seem remotely culturally important - the follow-up to this song, "Bang", was truly one of the most *pathetic* singles of the early 90s, and I think they knew it even at the time.

It's ten years today since I first heard Bruno Brookes - Bruno Brookes! - play the title track from "Parklife" when it charted at number one. Within less than four months, it would be significant enough that the Sunday Times would surely deliberately time an article examining the Estuarisation of the speech of the young middle classes to be published on the day it would enter the singles chart at number 10. Thatcher's cultural children, every one of them, however much they may politically deny it - and one of the most significant articles I recall reading about "Parklife" in '94 was, I think, in the Observer's end-of-year music review, where they lavishly praised the line "du bist sehr schoen - but we haven't been introduced" as a symbol of the greatness and distinctiveness of Blur's Englishness, setting off the idea of European sophistication with stereotypical English reserve *as though that's a good thing*. Quite apart from being politically antithetical to the Observer's stance on Britain in Europe now (and probably then as well), the whole inference of those remarks - that pop music can become *better* through being more stereotypically "English" - is another example of the Jagger / Clapton legacy and the systematic stripping away of any differences between pop music and accepted notions of Englishness. In 1991, though, Blur were just dodgy mockneys with stupid haircuts. Some would say they always remained so, but at least they meant something. Thirteen years ago this week, "There's No Other Way" slouching towards the Top 10 signalled the undignified death of a youth cult.

DE LA SOUL - "Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)"

Posdnuos, Trugoy and the Pasemaster come back and declare the Daisy Age dead, bravely refusing to play along with the "everything is great" post-Berlin Wall hysteria they'd inadvertently caught. It lost them most of their white British indie fans and ensured that their future following would come overwhelmingly from within hip-hop culture, but it didn't stop their last great pop moment, an effervescent single lifting a hook from - of all fucking people! - Curiosity Killed The Cat and still sounding as if all the excitement of life still lay ahead of it. The shock was lying in wait on the album for all the Happy Mondays or EMF fans who bought it ...

ELECTRONIC - "Get The Message"

It wasn't long, of course, before Johnny Marr would be totally irrelevant and Bernard Sumner much less relevant than he had once been. But Nicky Wire was wrong, at least for the moment; this is a shining jewel of a single, great precise Mancunian scientific invention in the truest 19th Century tradition. However one would define pop's Manchester School, it would be a crime to shut this record out.

THE WATERBOYS - "The Whole Of The Moon"

Loved it at the time (though of course it was hardly a new song, and just as I thought some years later that the Incredible String Band were Welsh, I thought at this point that the Waterboys were Irish). When I turned against the whole Celt-pomp thing, I concluded that it must be shite, but now I'm rather with Marcello Carlin on this one; if you're going to do full-on, don't try to hide it, and now the song can re-emerge for what it always was in my mind, the High Romantic soundtrack to the most High Romantic - and, I'm not afraid to admit it, *heavenly* - time of my life, before the autumn's fall.

I must admit (gulp ...) that I have a soft spot for the Adventures' "Broken Land" as well. What next? Carmody defends "Waterfront" or any subsequent Simple Minds record? You can rest assured that I can tell all the relevant differences.

ZUCCHERO & PAUL YOUNG - "Senza Una Donna (Without A Woman)"

Some people had yet to realise that the 80s were over. Among them were Luton's finest glorified hod-carrier and the Italian housewives' favourite who conformed to all the still-extant-over-here-at-this-stage stereotypes of Why Those Funny Continentals Don't Understand Pop Music. Between them they gave us a horrible piece of "soft rock" which really shouldn't have been allowed outside 1985. If the session guitarist didn't have a ponytail, I have a mohican.


First of three Top 10 hits for the man Dale Winton calls "lovely Vic" (ahem) and the only one to be a reasonably straight version of an old song rather than a "wacky" cover version of an old song with an indie band showing their "wacky" side. The first version of the old chestnut ever to be a UK hit - which astonished me at the time - it's an uneventful reading set to the usual '91 indie-dance beat, though I didn't remember that he said "Stay free, where no walls divide *ye*".

OMD - "Sailing On The Seven Seas"

The 80s weren't quite over yet part 2. Getting on for five years since his last Top 40 entry and Andy McCluskey, by this time using the band name purely because it was a more marketable identity for what was essentially a solo project, pulls his career out of the fire and eventually peaks at number 3 with this rather pallid echo, his joint biggest hit with "Souvenir". They did worse - the drum track that drives this song is intriguing enough - but they were never to recapture the spirit of "Architecture and Morality" and a winter when it seemed like the world might come to an end.

JAMES - "Sit Down"

Cultural proletarianisation etc etc part 5; assumed by most at the time to be a Mancunian, Tim Booth was actually raised in West Yorkshire, the son of a self-made nouveau-riche industrialist, and educated at Shrewsbury School - the epitome of the values which the New Right believed that the nouveau riche should no longer aspire to. And there's the son of just such a man doing it for them, setting a proudly Wienerite example for the new breed of nouveau riche right down from being "politely asked to leave" Shrewsbury circa 1977/78 when he bunked off to see Patti Smith in - you got it - Manchester. There's such social energy here - West Yorkshire and the public schools, the main focus respectively of the Republic of Mancunia's safe tribal war within its own social class (OK, Liverpool might also stake a claim here) and its very real (albeit badly-formed and flawed since the Conservative establishment dropped its old Americoscepticism) sense of alienation from established ideas of "Englishness".

And "Sit Down" sounds better than you'd think. And his voice sounds posher than you'd think. But it's still drawn by an inherently Mancunian undertow.

KLF featuring THE CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION - "Last Train To Trancentral"

So sublime I hardly feel qualified to even attempt to describe it. One of the very few pop groups, ever, whose every move was perfect, always augmenting their music and making their actions seem like *more than pop music*. Now the old guard are so rapidly retiring from positions of authority and being replaced by the Wienerites - remember, the main reason why pop music once seemed so exciting was not its own qualities, great though they may often have been, but the context of the society it found itself in - will the feelings so many of us had about Drummond & Cauty's next move in 1991 ever be replicated? *Can* they be replicated?

Dale fades it out just as the best bit is coming on. Bastard. Bastard bastard bastard bastard bastard bastard bastard bastard bastard.

CHESNEY HAWKES - "The One And Only"

Marcello's concept of song titles as straight men comes to mind here; it was - ha ha bloody ha - his one and only proper hit, do you see!!! Lifted from a dated-on-arrival, Roger Daltrey-starring film called "Buddy's Song" - an inevitably and really quite hilariously out-of-time attempt to impose the formulae of the Children's Film Foundation on the Roses/Mondays generation - it was never anything more than a curio, a school textbook writer's idea of what pop/rock music sounds like.

CHER - "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)"

Betty Everett's minor pop classic turned into a horrible piece of rancid corporate stool (was it David Stubbs who used to say that?) and only at number one for five weeks because of the British public's seemingly insatiable and ultimately deeply corrosive obsession with crap Hollywood movies (I'd never have trusted the Network Chart over the proper one, but the Jensen-fronted ILR countdown had a much more deserving chart-topper - Crystal Waters' "Gypsy Woman" - at the top for Cher's last two weeks as the official number one). Not the ideal way to get her first number one since "I Got You Babe". But then we've just witnessed a good deal of social history, so we can forget that. It's Peter and Gordon who truly set the pattern for what we're living through now, for better or for worse ...
Monday 3rd May is the 25th anniversary of the election which paved the way for the full-on cultural proletarianisation of the British middle classes (although it did not seem that way at the time, and it did not become fully apparent until 1983). The two individuals who did most to bring this about were surely Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, who made reactionary Right-wing politics seem culturally approachable and acceptable to those who fundamentally shared those politics but couldn't quite go the whole hog and become unashamed Tory supporters because they associated the party and the movement too closely with Elgar / Vaughan Williams / Betjeman-loving, deeply Americosceptic cultural protectionists.

Over the last few weeks we've seen:

a) Eric Clapton claim that he "stands by" his comments in support of Enoch Powell, which he very controversially expressed in 1976 (the first election after which year was Thatcher's first victory).

b) the US company HBO (Home Box Office) announce that they will make a film of the Rolling Stones "on trial" in 1967. The probable reasons why William Rees-Mogg unexpectedly defended the Stones that summer, when he was editor of The Times, become apparent when you read his repulsively pro-Bush and pro-Iraq-war articles in that paper today; he doesn't share the deep cultural Americoscepticism of many West Country conservatives of his generation and social background, indeed his views on the USA and its global power and its influence on Britain in particular seem closer to those we associate with South East England Tories of the Thatcher generation. Therefore he didn't have the main objection to the Stones held by other conservatives at the time - ie that they embraced all that "frightfully vulgar American music".

c) BBC Four have shown the Scorsese documentary in which British people, generally from Southern middle-class backgrounds in Tory-voting areas, talk enthusiastically about how The Blues Changed Their Lives.

d) The Radio 4 music quiz "Counterpoint" has featured a question to which the correct answer (which the contestant significantly knew instantly) was Child of Wienerisation, born-in-'79 Will Young.

e) This afternoon's Pick of the Pops on Radio 2 (see above).

f) To cap it all, BBC Parliament on Monday will be repeating the entire 1979 election coverage (which they previously did in September 2002).

Anyone seriously believe that all this can be a coincidence?

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