Pick of the Pops 32 (31.7.68)

1968 - I got really sick from measles this year, and my father and brother never forgave Jeff Astle for his extra-time winner against the Toffs. I did. Poor old Jeff.

Anyway, pop music. "Does anyone here like Human League?"

It's a rare excursion to the sixties this week - and it's another decent chart.

The Beach Boys - Do It Again: I was asked about this song in a Mastermind semi-final. Being a huge fan of Steely Dan, I almost fell into the trap by the programme's abrasive, priapic host John Humphrys. But you'd have to get up pretty early to catch me on this one. (John once said to Catherine Bennett). A great pop song. 8/10

Pigmeat Markham - Here Comes the Judge: a real oddity this one - PM's vaguely anti-Vietnam record virtually invents hip-hop some ten years before it surfaces again. Malcom McLaren stole the essence of this (great) song for 'C30, C60, C90, Go!' , and there are backing vocals from Minnie Riperton and drums from the young Maurice White. (Why doesn't the quarter of a million pound plus per annum Gambaccini and his team* tell you this sort of thing?) HCTJ is well worth a listen if you haven't heard it. 8/10

The Kinks - Days: a really lovely song, but it makes me depressed when I think of Kirsty MacColl's equally lovely version - and the utter fucking selfish horrible twat who killed her as she swam with her children. 8/10

R Dean Taylor - Gotta See Jane: I picked up an RD album in Coventry Market the other week. He is so underrated as an artist (and a Motown artist, at that). Co-written with legendary Motown songwriter Eddie Holland, Gotta See Jane is terrific pop music - urgent, heartfelt, lyrical and borderline existential:

"Just gotta see Jane -
A ton of steel that isn't real
It could not feel what's in the heart of me;
I was so alone in a world of stone."

What more could you ask of a pop song? (And it's still not his best chart entry!) 9/10

A good start to this week...

The Small Faces - The Universal: I like The Small Faces, and this is a decent Dylan knock-off, but points deducted for:
the added dog barking sound effect - what an effing stupid idea;
the 'Good morning, Steve' line;
Steve Marriott inventing the 'Wellend'

I'm all for people wearing/sporting whatever makes them happy (so long as it's not hatred-apparel), but lads, really? 6/10

Bruce Channel - Keep On: a BeeGees-esque song with more truck gear changes than Le Salaire De La Peur (intellectual reference of the week). Quite good. 6/10

Herman's Hermits - Sunshine Girl: even the rubbish records are OK this week. Extra points NOT deducted for the rude version someone sang in my infants school and Sunshine Girl's tune being adopted as a terrace/hoolie chant in the early seventies. Oh, and Peter Noone's David Bowie link. Herman's Hermits - harmless, but crap. 4/10

Sly and the Family Stone - Dance to the Music: what a band. What a song. Their/his influence on Stevie Wonder's progression is so evident in this fabulous record. Bizarrely, Magazine's cover of SATFS 'Thank You' is the only low point of their genius album 'The Correct Use of Soap. But that's another story. 9/10

Cupid's Inspiration - Yesterday Has Gone: an ace song that references the similar-sounding hit singles of Gary Puckett. A pity YHG is a cover (I'll give Gambaccini that), otherwise it would have got a nine. 8/10

Tom Jones - Help Yourself: fifty years after the event, I find it difficult not to think of the vulgar version of this song that the weird, but hilarious kid (who told me all about sex and that there was no Father Christmas) that Miss Jones/Mrs Parry decided would be a suitable person for me to sit next to in junior school. (And I was certainly no angel.) Albert Goldman's scurrilous Elvis autobiography tells of the King's fears when he heard that the vitrile, sexy, inheritor-of-the-King's-crown Tom Jones had landed in Vegas.
Colonel Tom Parker should have made Elvis listen to this. It's f***ing awful! 3/10

Dusty Springfield - I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten: tremendous. As ever. 8/10

Equals - Baby Come Back: good song; great band. My cousin John roadied for Eddy Grant at the New Brighton Festival in the mid eighties. He said Eddy was 'sound'. That'll do me. He also said that Spandau Ballet were c***s. That'll do me. 6/10

Simon and Garfunkel - Mrs Robinson: is it just me who thinks of 'Ron Simon and Geoff Garfunkel - Live at the Tennis Club, Purley' when they hear S and G's names? Probably. I'm not a huge fan of sixties American films (the US took so long to embrace the workings of the new wave) as they're often so ponderous and depressingly linear. It took me ages before I saw (the excellent) The Graduate, but Dustin Hoffman - though very good - is not the Benjamin Braddock of the novel. 7/10

Richard Harris - MacArthur Park: Gambacinni said: "Warning: classic alert!" Again. He really did! What a c***. I was watching a bit of 'Major Dundee' before I went to work on Friday morning on one of those Sony free-to-air channels that shows ponderous, depressingly linear American sixties films. Unbeknown to director Sam Peckinpah, Richard Harris and Charlton Heston were having a who-can-wear-the-most-make-up/strike the most ridiculous pose/try to auto-fellate themselves competition. Harris won the make-up, but Heston being Heston easily won the other two competitions, along with the 'What a Preening, Ridiculous, Solipsistic, Right-wing Arsehole I Am' comp. That Jimmy Webb is one of the greatest songwriters of all time is indisputable, and Harris does a lovely job on this brilliant, but annoyingly pretentious (and massively overlong) record. 8/10

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown - Fire: probably the longest gag set up in Nigel Blackwell's/Half Man Half Biscuit brilliant career takes place in the wonderful 'Descending the Stiperstones'. Being a Nigel song, DTS is riddled with obscurity, but if you were a Crossroads fan in the late 70s/early 80s, you'll really appreciate the pay-off line/gag that is 'The Crazy World of Arthur Brownlow'. The actual Arthur Brown is still valiantly plying his trade, ignoring calls from the audience to play this OK, Doorsy number on permanent repeat throughout his set. 6/10

Des O'Connor - I Pretend: it's strange how these rubbish sixties songs don't boil my piss in the way that their 70s/80s/90s equivalents do. With the exception of Marston's dirge and 'Where Do You Go To, My Lovely?' of course. Every time Des made an appearance on TV, Frank would issue the proclamation "Get 'Chuckles' off" and one of us would traipse across the room and manually change to one of the other one and a half channels available to the great British public. And I've never been sure of the 'genius' of Morecambe and Wise** (they were alright, like), so I never really witnessed Eric's 'good-natured' dismemberment of Chuckles's oeuvre. 2/10

Tommy Roe and the Shondells - Mony, Mony: 'Dizzy' is a great record, but I much prefer Billy Idol's version of this likeable halfwit's song. 5/10

*'An independent production for the BBC'! Tory-like greasing of palms aplenty!
**'Eric, Ernie and Me' (YouTube/BritBox) - a superb, if far too short BBC drama. Stephen Tomkinson - of all people - gives an astonishing performance as M and W Eddie Braben.

Gambaccini: another day, another unearned dollar. Thousands of them, in fact. 1/10
Programme as a whole: so many great records, and two rubbish ones top the charts. Same as it ever was. Same as it EVER...was.
Average score: 6.88235294
Best Song: Sly and Co just snatch it from R Dean. (Click on link to hear the song.) 
Worst: Des.

I was going to 1995 as well this week, but first off was Robson and Jerome***. So I didn't.

***Despite his revelatory excellence as 'Bronn' in 'Thrones'.