Pick of the Pops 33 (14.8.87)

A pleasingly palindromical digital date is possibly the best thing about this week's chart.

Hold your noses, we're going in.

Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up: music as commodity from the SAW 'Hit Factory'. He's white! And he can sing soul!
He is! He can't.
This record is absolutely horrible.
And shit.

Luther Vandross - I Really Didn't Mean It
I love Luther - this is OK rather than great, but a Luther Vandross on autopilot is million tiles better than that last garbage. I've nothing against Rick Astley, by the way, and I'm sure he's a charming fellow, but the cynical saturation and control of the charts in 1987 was a precursor to today's infinitely worse and almost totally stagnant Top 100. Once Elvis and The Beatles showed the way, pop music is great in an almost every era. If you know where to find it and what to look for. Those of you who've read my Top 50 and Top 100 Songs of the Year for Jay's wonderful We Are Cult website will know that I take as much pleasure from today's indie, electronic, soul and 'alternative' offerings as I've ever done (and in some cases, much more), but that which makes up the charts is just unbearable - cynical, manipulated and largely big corporation American (and the other caveat here is that most of my favourite current bands and acts are American) dross that simply refuses to go away. And Ed Sheeran, of course. Always Ed Sheeran. 7/10

Def Leppard - Animal: when I was getting bored with my MA course, and its shit, attendant 'tuition', I'd see how far I could hoodwink my less-than-inspiring tutors by handing in submissions with linked, ridiculous character names. My Pinter-esque tale of urban ennui and almost-unspoken menace featuring Ian Maiden, Jeff Leppard and Judith Priest earned me a distinction. 
'Animal' has a great chorus. 7/10

Freddie McGregor - I Just Don't Wanna Be Lonely: nothing special, but a pleasant enough reggae/lovers rock song. 6/10

Pet Shop Boys - It's a Sin: I like The Pet Shop Boys, and this song has assumed hagiographic status because of the flawed but excellent TV series, but this really does rip off Cat Stevens' 'Wild World'. 4/10

Bananarama - I Heard a Rumour: they were never very good, but some of the early singles had a roguish charm. Once they hooked up with Stock Aitken and Waterman, however, any vestigial regard I had with them disappeared. Like seeing your ex hooked up with a Tory. 3/10

Ivana Spagna - Call Me: Ivana Spagna's 'Uncle Vanya - featuring Kanye*, Tanya**, Anya*** and Kenny Bania****. 3/10

Hue and Cry - Labour of Love: I quite like some of the white boy soul/dance singles of this era - even 'Curiosity' - not enough to buy anything, but few boots were lashed at the radio, and that's always a good sign. There's some really good wordplay in here from Pat Lane - a very clever lad. 7/10

New Order - True Faith: the best New Order song? One of the problems with New Order is that Bernard Sumner's lyrics can be a bit, well, shit. I mean who forget:
"It' s called love - love, love, love, love, love - and it BELONGS to every one of us"? He's on the nail here, though. Great video, as well. 10/10

Heart - Alone: I quite like their 'In Dreams', but thanks to sex offender Jonathan King's horrible TV programme of the time, loads of these divorcee-in-a-wine-bar songs were given free air time during peak viewing hours and were clogging up what was left of the charts once Stock Aitken and Waterman had sprayed their mess all over them. 3/10

Michael Jackson and Siedah Garret - I Just Can't Stop Loving You  - this is quite a good song once you get past Jackson's strange yelps and other weird noises. I still think Jarvis Cocker's stage invasion of Jackson's ghastly 'Earth Song' Performance is one of the last times I ever felt patriotic. 5/10

Atlantic Starr - Always: a gooey, mushy, treacley, and other sort of semi-solid adjectives, late night 'slowie' that does no harm to anyone. 5/10

Madonna - Who's That Girl? I've never seen the film, but I remember it being savaged by the critics. The excerpts you see in the video look alright to me - like an eighties screwball comedy, and any film with Griffin Dunne, Peggy Mount and Lovelace Watkins in it can't be all bad. Come to think of it, though I'm a huge fan of early Madonna, I've never seen a single film she's appeared in - including that rude one with Willem Dafoe, or Desperately Seeking Susan - which has an excellent critical reputation, and features two actresses who I also love: Rosanna Arquette and 'Patti' Coombs. Who's That Girl? the song is a rather charming - if insubstantial - addition to the Madonna 'canon'. 7/10

Los Lobos - La Bamba - yet another record for really stupid people to dance to at weddings.
Shite. 2/10

Gambaccini: 10/10 (Listened to it on iPlayer; simply zipped past his contributions using the difficult-to-manoeuvre sliding bar. He was great this week.)

Worst record: Astley. I loved Rick's 'sensititive artist phase' when he grew his hair dead long (to show he meant it - like REALLY meant it). Deep down, I think it was a cry for help.

Best: True Faith

Programme as a whole: 4/10 - your average '1987' is nowhere near as awful as an average '1984'. (See next week's horror show.)

**Harding (possibly 'Tonya' now I come to think of it.
***Seton - popular bodice-ripper author in the 60s and 70s
****Weirdo actor and Arnold Schwartzenegger lookalike Stephen Hytner