Pick of the Pops 38 (11.9.21)

1981 is normally quite good; not this week obviously, but I have many fond memories of the year I changed universities. (Because my original one was SHITE. And still is.)

Anyway, kids: pop music!

Girls on Film - Duran Duran:  I normally give Durren Durren - as that streetwise, but illiterate (and famously 'champion of black music' - is he fuck, by the way) Tony Blackburn introduced them when they first made the Top 40 - so I won't this week. Instead, I'll concentrate on the legendary videos of Kevin Godley and Laugh Out Loud Creme. Much praised at the time, their videos are invariably crap, and their soft porn video for GOF is no exception. Much out of step with the sensibilities of the time, their sexist and tawdry video was only shown in full in nightclubs with video screens, and the sense of exploitation (even then) was palpable. I'm glad they stopped before they started making good videos by accident. 3/10

Randy Crawford - Rainy Night in Georgia: great voice; dull record 4/10

The Pointer Sisters - Slow Hand. I normally love The Pointer Sisters; this is so bad it's practically country. And I know I'm right naive, me, but what does "I want a man with a slow hand" even mean? Do men normally have fast hands? Worse still, 'Slowhand' reminds me of Britain's foremost racist, guitar strumming anti-vaxxer. And if anyone asks you if the fabulous Ruth Pointer is a man or a woman, always tell a lie - you're allowed (no, make that obligated) to tell porkies when someone actually knows the answer to the question they're postulating, but are just using that question to parade their own antiquated, unpleasant right wing beliefs. It's what God would have wanted, believe me. Had he/she existed. Of course. 4/10

Ottawan - Hands Up: slagging off Ottawan would be as pointless as getting upset about Terry and June. Not for me, shall we say? 2/10

UB40 - One in Ten:

"I am the one in ten - a number on a lee-eest;

I am the one in ten - even though I'm always pee-sed."

Mr Gambaccini eschewed Gary Numan's splendid but ridiculous 'She's Got Claws' for this worthy, but occasionally risible single. (When I'm in the old folks' home and dancing with Mabel at the Christmas party, I want to be singing the nice lyrics of my youth and not "I'm a middle-aged businessman with chronic heart disease".) I was never a huge fan of UB40 - apart from their brilliant breakthrough double A side single - but it was such a pity when they binned their more overtly political stance to become just another band. 7/10

OMD - Souvenir: I wonder if it pissed off Andy McCluskey that the sweet, feminine tones of Paul Humphries gave them their biggest hit single? There's a lovely melody and nice touch of melancholia on this, the first single from OMD's best album, 'Architecture and Morality'. 7/10

The Human League - Love Action: even the criminal use of the third person ("But this is Phil talking" ) can't detract from the greatness of THL's breakthrough single. Ace! 8/10

ELO - Hold on Tight: when I worked in France, my mate and I devised a strategy of making up plausible lies about what the other had allegedly done whilst drunk. I had him going for almost week when I said that he'd eaten the tin of meat that the old woman who lived next door to us had left out for the local cats - after we'd enjoyed an epic a night on the tiles (the two bars in our village) that is. He'd actually eaten a tin of sauceless sardines, but that was part of the charm of being almost totally stupid at that time. He got me back by saying that I'd chatted up one of our Moroccan co-workers, and that I'd said to her: "Accrochez-toi à ton rêve" (a line from Jeff Lynne's jolly pop song). This sounded implausible to me on so many levels, but he was insistent and when I had a later argument with him, he castigated me with "Why don't you just f**k off and practise your ELO chat-up lines?" He gave the game away the next day when he added to my alleged wooing story by saying: "You DID, honestly - and you did that phone thing." As soon as he did the spinny hand/middle-fingers-closed gesture the game was up and he started laughing. Eight days of torment - a never to be eclipsed record. The bastard. 4/10

Cliff Richard - Wired for Sound: written by BA Robertson, so any nostalgia points earned for those who like this sort of tosh have been lost. A stupid, terrible video, and the second pop crime of the week - rhyming "tall speakers" with "small speakers" - leave Cliff and 'BA' struggling on a paltry 2/10

Aneka - Japanese Boy: racist, reprehensible and shit. Even Gambaccini had to break his usual avoidance of negativity by admonishing this record: "From an era of naive ethic sensibilities," he said, couching his language in appropriate polite euphemism. For once, he wasn't wrong. And I don't think that singer Mary Sandeman had a racist bone in her body, but this really is ingrained, institutionalised rubbish of the worst kind (which went on to sell half a million copies). 0/10

Adam Ant - Prince Charming: when I performed my poem 'The Disingenuous Adam Ant' recently, only a tiny proportion rtof the audience knew what I was talking.about.


Great art is often too challenging for the masses (who are often too busy buying Aneka records or venting their inherent racism by voting for Brexit and/or the Tories).

I love Adam, but Prince Charming's mega success was down to 'Ant Mania' rather than being a great pop record, and its parent album is no 'Kings of the Wild Frontier'. But I - like the majority of people of my age - have a lot of fondness for Adam's pantomime punk phase, even if it's the debilitating, artificial glow of nostalgia. And at least it isn't 'Ant Rap'. 5/10

Soft Cell - Tainted Love: its familiarity and ubiquity have dulled our appreciation of what a brilliant record this is. I first heard Tainted Love explode into life at a scally electro club and although it's difficult to remember that first visceral, tingling feeling of a great synth record, I almost - almost - got it today. Best of all was the 12" version which segued so beautifully into 'Where Did Our Love Go?', and each time I hear it, I'm transported back in time to the same echoing flight of stone stairs at Liverpool University, where -  if you hit the right stride pattern, (and had metal tags on your shoes) - you could recreate the same drum machine pattern of Soft Cell's intro update of The Supremes' classic. 9/10

You had to make your own entertainment in those days.

Gambaccini: quite good this week. 7/10

Best record: Soft Cell

Worst: Aneka

Programme as a whole: 6/10

Click on the link to hear the song