Pick of the Pops 31 (24.7.80)

One of my favourite chart pop years - this week's chart was shaping up like Anne Elk's dinosaur theory (thin at one end; much, much thicker in the middle, and then thin again at the other end), but then Odyssey popped up and ruined the symmetry.

Sheena Easton - Morning Train/9 to 5: not a huge fan of Not the Nine O'Clock News, but Rowan Atkinson's* exasperated commuter husband's "If you must know, I spent the day with a whore!" line still works. Everytime I think of Sheena, I think of Lulu's envious, spiteful comments on talent/reality show The Big Time. Sheena went on to be quite a decent pop star after these first few terrible pop songs. And '9 to 5' is truly shite! 2/10

The Gap Band - Oops Upside Your Head: I first heard Sheffield United's mob singing "Ooh - ah, Bob Boo-kah!" in 1989, and it went some way to eradicating the memory of another ghastly wedding where two rows of absolute twats were doing the 'long canoe' thing that such twats do on the floors of wedding receptions across the length and breadth of the. UK and Ireland. Hideous. 1/10

The Undertones - Wednesday Week: almost pop perfection - John O'Neill's songwriting and Feargal on absolutely ace form. 9/10

Yellow Magic Orchestra - Computer Game (Theme from Invaders): not the late-night Roy Thinnes (I've often wondered if there are two syllables in his surname) sixties Cold War/sci-fi thing, but a real oddity that interprets the sounds of the 'popular arcade game' (Space Invaders). It sounded strange back then. Stranger now. Gambaccini decided just to play just a truncated version of the intro (before the rather beautiful melody kicks in). I bet he's never even heard it. (Those 'classic' Billy Joel and Toto album don't play themselves, you know.) 7/10

Change - A Lover's Holiday: a kitchen disco classic for many years 'round our way' . Its strange lyrical conceits are still unfathomable to me some forty one years later, and when that chorus kicks in (which isn't Luther, unfortunately)...
An awesome record! 10/10

Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart: I don't know how many pop pilgrimages I've dragged my loved ones to over the years, but Macclesfield and Brussels are now inextricably linked in my mind. Bizarrely, it was only through reading David Hepworth's tremendous 'A Fabulous Creation' this week that I discovered the fact that LWTUA's title was occasioned by Joy Division using the same Stockport studio where Neil Sedaka** had recorded 'Love Will Keep Us Together'. Love Will Tear Us Apart is (obviously) one of the greatest singles ever to grace the charts - it's been over-played and over-heard (certainly by me), and when the likes of Jeremy Vine*** claim to be Joy Division fans (to make himself more interesting - fail - again obviously), or you remember Paul Young's terrible version (TAUTOLOGY KLAXON!), or worse still, some ghastly football fans (see previous bracket) bonding/herding by singing 'Giggs will tear us apart', it's time to separate the song from the semiotics. I've just finished Will Sergeant's autobiography (a great companion piece to Steven Morris's book) in which he writes in some detail of how much he loved Joy Division and how - from the very start - he realised that they were the best of the post-punk bands by a long way. I remember bringing the single into work - the Mecca Bingo in 'Kenny' - to play it across the speaker system (the Olympia had a record player to play the call-to-arms 'Bingo' single!). I was the DJ and my good friend Vincent Hughes was the audience.
Pop music never sounded so good. 10/10

Dexy's Midnight Runners - There, There, My Dear: Jebus, there are some great records this week! I've been obsessed with 'Searching for the Young Soul Rebels' ever since Cathy Porter bought the album in May 1980, and we sat there like two divs passing the record sleeve back and forth so that we could read the lyrics. There, There, My Dear has one of the most explicit and dangerous pieces of political rhetoric/advice within its three minutes' playing time, and the usual nobhead daytime Radio One DJs (see that bracket again) would play it without recourse to a solitary mention of the lyric's almost literal call-to-arms. A fabulous record - and I haven't even mentioned the corking tune or Kev's brilliant, impassioned vocal. 10/10

The Rolling Stones - Emotional Rescue: I quite like this. A great bassline (from scumbag Wyman, I presume), and I would have loved to hear Vic and Bob's Donald and Davie Stott having a go at Mick's bizarre high-pitched, yelpy vocals. 6/10

Diana Ross - Upside Down: (for me) this is the high point of Diana Ross's career. A brilliant Chic production (and song) that just bursts out of the speakers in an explosion of joy and greatness. I was going to deduct a point for "respectfully I turn to thee", but I decided not to. A fantastic record. 10/10

Kate Bush - Babooshka: probably the nadir of her career (and I love Kate, me). Similar (very similar) to the 'narrative' of Rupert Holmes's terrible 'Escape (The Pina Colada Song)', with a ghastly drama student chorus, and chiefly remembered for its 50p video aimed at the incurably priapic. 4/10

Darts - Let's Hang On: I don't dislike Darts, but there's only so many imagination-free 50s/60s covers that a human being can tolerate. An anaemic version of The Four Seasons single - it's only saving grace is that it's not the Barry Manilow monstrosity (see that bracket yet again). 2/10

Bob Marley - Could You Be Loved: not Bob's best, but (as I've said before), it's Bob. 7/10

Stacy Lattisaw - Jump to the Beat: a tremendous, assured vocal from one so young. 7/10

Leo Sayer - Love You More Than I Can Say: It was all going so well, and I didn't mind even the rubbish records this week. And then this. There are certain genres that are never going to be for me (metal, folk, perhaps) , but I understand why people love them. It's the same with specific artists - they're just not for me, but I understand why they're great. Leo Sayer's (very) early chart career is OK  -Moonlighting/I Won't Let the Show Go On - are fairly good pop songs  but his huge popularity after that I just find unfathomable. An irritating little shit who tossed out rubbish, bland, crappy records ad infinitum to great financial and chart success. The fact that people had to go out of their way to a record shop and then part with their hard-earned is a mystery I'll never understand. There were any number of great records in and out of the charts this week, and yet some half a million people chose to buy this pedestrian version of Bobby Vee's rather nice original. It's like rejecting a gourmet meal in favour of a two day-old bread roll. That's been near some dog shit. No wonder the Tories always get in. 0/10

Olivia Newton John/ELO - Xanadu: there were some great number ones this year. This wasn't one of them. This song reminds me of my father's inexplicable hatred of Gene Kelly. 1/10

Odyssey - Use It Up and Wear It Out: regular (and those who need 'a little help'/stool softeners) readers of this tosh will know how much I love Odyssey. This is a slinky little number which takes its time to reach its frankly ace crescendo chorus. Possibly the only record with whistles in it that doesn't bring me out in hives. A great number one. 9/10

Gambaccini: I tried not to listen. 0/10
Programme as a whole: 8/10
Worst song: 'little Leo'
Best: there are four 'tens' this week. Joy Division's song is probably the best; `A Lover's Holiday' is the song I play the most; Dexy's blew my mind, but... Diana never look more beautiful than on the cover of both single and album.

*What a c*** he turned out to be.
**Neil Sedaka - both man and music - make me ill. In my 'neck of the woods', there is a coterie of men who pronounce his surname as 'Seddakker' (in much the same way that Big Frank is 'Sin-attra'). They think that using this short vowel 'a' version is somehow more 'manly' and avoids the possibility that somebody might think of them being 'gay' (because - of course - that is the unqualified essence of being male and gay. As scientists categorically proved in 2014). These men all die lonely, unfulfilled lives - and desperate for some man-on-man action.
***Worse than Atkinson, Seddacker and Little Leo put together***** was Jeremy Vine's plea to 'Her Majesty' to come and sort out the 'political mess' that had enveloped the country in 2019. He did it as a straight-to-camera invocation at the end of that shitty little programme he does on Channel 4 or 5 It's the most gut-wrenching piece of obsequiousness and lickspittling/arse-licking you'll see all year. And it's on YouTube if you want to spoil your day.

*****But not worse than Giggs. Again, obviously.

Click on the link to hear the song: