Pick of the Pops

Pick of the Pops

December 26th 1979 (Broadcast 26.12.21)

Have to say this is my favourite pop year (from my youth), and certainly my favourite chart year ever. I’ve said before that 1979 ran out of steam somewhere in November, so let’s see who or what can destroy my memories.

The Beat – The Tears of a Clown: I’m (generally) not a fan of cover versions, but The Beat were great. The other ‘A’ side – ‘Rankin’ Full Stop’ (the only hit song named after an Everton goalie and an item of punctuation) is much better. 7/10

Rose Royce – Is it Love Your After? They’re best remembered for (the admittedly great) Love Don’t Live Here Any More and Wishing on a Star, but for me, this is their masterpiece. As S’Express would attest. A fabulous record. 10/10

Status Quo – Living on an Island: normally, the Quo would be lucky to get a ‘three’ (Pictures of Matchstick Men excepted), but this is strangely bearable. 4/10

ELO – Confusion: see above. Jeff Lynne knew how to fashion a nice melody, but ELO are/were/ always will be a divvies’ band. 5/10

Blondie – Union City Blue: A pop star who could still look beautiful in a bin bag and her ma’s tights (as she proved in the subsequent Atomic video). UCB didn’t do particularly well, but that’s a pity as this is just a great (and sadly underrated) record in the Blondie ‘canon’. 9/10

David Bowie – John, I’m Only Dancing (Again): I liked, but didn’t LOVE this when it came out in '79, but now I prefer it to the original JIOD. I was playing DB’s Young Americans (‘JIOD Again’ came from the sessions) album in the shop the other day. The terrible version of Across the Universe excepted, it’s a brilliant (and again, much underrated) album.

A customer asked me “Who’s singing this?” when she heard Win the other day. When I told her who it was, she said “Well, it doesn’t sound like him!” in an almost brusque - and moderately hurtful - tone. (I’m a sensitive soul, me. The ending of Paddington 2 almost finished me off before.)

I wanted to say: “Alright then, it’s Peter Glaze.”

But being ever the modern professional, I Shazam’d the phone I was using to connect to the amp with my other phone, and lo, the legend ‘David Bowie’ appeared, along with Win and Young Americans.

“Oh, you’re right!” she said when I showed her the evidence.

I forgave her when she bought a copy of Emily St. John Mandel’s excellent Station XI, and said she would order a vinyl copy of Young Americans when she got home.

“Do it now! It only takes thirty seconds!” I wanted to say, but being ever the modern professional….9/10

Michael Jackson: Off the Wall: it’s such a great record. A pity…well, you know the rest. 9/10

The Pretenders – Brass in Pocket: I first saw The Pretenders in Eric’s in April 1979. An ace band and a fabulous lead singer/guitarist. A brilliant record, and more specifically, a brilliant ‘Number One’ record. And it’s not even in my Top Three Pretenders’ singles! 9/10

The Three Degrees – My Simple Heart: I didn’t know this was a Giorgio Moroder production until Gambaccini announced it (thus giving him an extra point for this week). It’s sort of OK, but nothing special, and just like that useless turd who’ll inherit the throne, I do have a soft spot for TTD. 5/10

The Gibson Brothers – Que Sera Mi Vida – my sister and I used to go to the weekly quiz at The Willow Bank pub (not the vaguely bohemian one on Smithdown, but the rough as arseholes version at the corner of Priory Road and Townsend Lane) somewhere in the mid-eighties.

The ‘quizmaster’ fancied himself as Kevin Ashman because he’d been on Jimmy Tarbuck’s TV quiz programme in the late seventies. We would hand in our papers at the end of each round, he would mark them and then give us the running scores. It was really quite exciting, and it made a substantial contribution to our meagre funds because we would win every week!

Anyway, it was worth going for the team names alone, and one week a gang of local villains entered their name as ‘Dook, Dook and the Dooks’ (pronounced in the American manner of ‘Duke’), but they obviously got bored and for the second round decided to name themselves ‘The Gibson Brothers’ (without telling mine host). Quizmaster’s over-the-top rant/Alan Partridge style breakdown regarding the impossibility of “trying to keep a good, honest pub quiz on an even keel when there are people out there changing their team names for every round!” remains one of my favourite quizzing memories. A good pop song. 7/10

Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmas Time: I’ve no idea why I love this so much. And I thought McCartney looked better than he had done in years on that BBC interview last week; and was both charming AND really interesting (for a change). Idris Elba (who I really like – Sky ads excepted), however, was f***ing dreadful. 8/10

The Tourists – I Only Wanna Be With You: another band I saw in 1979. They were a bit hippy-riding-the-new-wave-bandwagon, but I loved their lead singer. 6/10

Fiddler’s Dram – Day Trip To Bangor: 0/10

The Police – Walking on the Moon: I was listening to an old John Peel tape the other night from December 1979. He’d just returned from a Dutch pop festival, and he was really effusive in his praise of The Police (although they were not really a ‘Peel group’ by then). Nonsensical lyric(s) aside, this is a great pop song, and has an almost unique sound. The elephant in the room, however…. 7/10

ABBA – I Have a Dream: I love ABBA. Sometimes, though, they’re really, really terrible. 2/10

Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall - I remember a short letter in the NME from this time: “All in all, I’m just another prick who bought The Wall.” I actually don’t mind ‘Floyd’ (in small doses) these days, but this is shite. 2/10

Gambaccini: 6/10

Programme: 9/10 – the best in weeks.

Best Record: some storming tracks this week, but only one 10/10. (Click on pic to play the song!)


And don’t forget kids, don’t take it personally – it’s only pop music!