Jan. 20th, 2008

peterbirks: (Default)
The Sunday Times had a review today of "Your Inner Fish". by Neil Shubin. Aha, I thought, another psychobabble book on poker. But, apparently not. It's about evolution. A pity, because it's a better title for a poker book.


The strengths and weaknesses of the format of "Pop On Trial" came to the fore with the latest edition -- "The 1970s". The plusses were: Stuart Maconie, who is a lot better than you might think from the evidence of his rent-a-comment contributions to Channel Four's "The 100 best non-networked US programmes ever", or whatever it is that the channel is using to fill up its schedules this week; and Pete Shelley, ex of The Buzzcocks. The minuses were that the series is glued to decades. With music, decades just aren't the right system of categorization. And nowhere is this more in evidence than in the 1970s, which could just about be split neatly in two -- pre-Sex Pistols and post Sex Pistols.

The entire programme managed to ignore Tubular Bells (although Pink Floyd did get a passing mention). When you realize that Tubular Bells was fucking EVERYWHERE in 1974, you can see how much of the coverage uses the benefit of hindsight (or licence to broadcast -- perhaps Mike Oldfield simply said "no").

Notwithstanding that, it threw up some interesting snippets. First, play David Cassidy's "Daydreamer" (I'm sure that you have it in your collection). Remind you of anyone? Yep, this is Wham!, nine years ahead of its time.

Secondly, I was pleased to be reminded of Baccara, whose existence had been wiped from my memory. Who can forget "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie"? The wonder of the web informs me that this pair were Spanish ex-flamenco dancers. Marvellous.

This was the era of the manufactured disco song (perhaps evidence of the simplicity of the disco sound -- any half-arsed studio engineer could have a go) and indeed of the "Summer Hit". This was the time when the great unwashed went not to Orlando but to Majorca or Torremolinos (although the real plebs headed for the Costa Brava in those days -- Ibiza was "upmarket"). All the hotels had three things as a rule -- a jukebox on which one song would be played 15 times more often than all the others combined (I recall in 1973 that it was "Sylvia's Mother"), a disco that featured some manufactured disco-pop number, and a live band who played excrutiatingly blandisized versions of pop classics such as, well, Yes Sir, I Can Boogie.

Now, what do you reckon were the best selling singles of that decade in the UK? Abba perhaps? Bohemian Rhapsody? Imagine? Bridge Over Troubled Water? Perhaps a one-hit wonder like Freda Payne's immaculate Band of Gold? Or The Jackson Five? The Osmonds? The Bay City Rollers, even?

Nope. All wrong. Two of the top five were from the film Grease, one was the execrable Mull Of Kintyre (beaten only into irredeemable badness by "Sailing") and two were by Boney M.

Yup, a class decade indeed; and evidence, if evidence be needed, that the popular vote should never, ever, be heeded.

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