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Should Have Been A UK Top 10 Hit – Vol. 3

May 11th, 2017 4 comments

 

Best hashtag ever? #sheeranalbumparty. I’m sure I was not alone in being dismayed when it turned out that the hashtag for Ed Sheeran’s new CD was just a gag made up by a journalist. The anal bum party marked the startling fact that the British singer — whom I regard as the ultimate in white bread — had 14 of the Top 15 hits in the UK charts in March.

It’s impossible to say how impressive that is, for the nature of the charts has changed completely. To me, there are no more charts, because there are no more single releases. But there was a time when the UK charts were like sport: I’d study them and would celebrate the success of a favourite record or take the success of a loathsome record as an affront to common decency. Often enough, the latter would prevail over the former.

And this is the third mix of songs that fall in the former category: singles that climbed up the UK charts without ever reaching the Top 10.

The strangest case of all of these is Blondie’s Union City Blue, which many Blondie fans would consider strongly for inclusion in their Top 5 of Blondie songs. It peaked at a disappointing #13, following five consecutive Top 4 singles , including two #1s, for Blondie. More than that, Union City Blue was followed by three consecutive chart-toppers and a #5 hit. And it’s not like Union City Blue was the fifth single of an album. In the UK, it was the second of three single releases from the Eat To The Beat LP. The first, Dreaming, reached #2; the third, Atomic, even #1. In fairness, there were many very good songs ahead of Union City Blue (see that week’s charts).

Likewise, A-ha’s quite excellent Manhattan Skyline followed six Top 10 hits, including the awful Cry Wolf, and was followed by two more. Manhattan Skyline reached only #13 in March 1987 (that #13 was unlucky for a lot of acts here). There were three soul tracks from the 1960s in the Top 10 that week, including numbers 1 and 2. And the rest doesn’t look intimidatingly brilliant: Freddie Mercury’s entertaining version of The Great Pretender, Boy George’s Everything I Own, Level 42’s Running In The Family, Crush On You by The Jets (no, me neither), Male Stripper by Man 2 Man meets Man Parrish, Live It Up by Mental As Anything, and  Curiosity Killed The Cat’s Down To Earth (which isn’t bad). Surely there was a place for Manhattan Skyline in the Top 10!

Poor Nick Heyward never enjoyed a solo Top 10 hit, after a run of four of them in 1981/82 with Haircut 100. At least two should have been Top 10 hits: Whistle Down The Wind and Blue Hat For A Blue Day, both from 1983. And in the case of the latter, which features here, we can claim a genuine grievance: while Heyward stalled at #14, novelty crapmeisters Black Lace moved into the Top 10 alongside The Rock Steady Crew.

Labi Siffre’s It Must Be Love stalled in the same position, in the first week of January 1972. It later was a Top 10 hit in the cover by Madness in 1981, but poor Labi — a quality guy in many ways — had to see his original struggle up to #14 (after two weeks at #16) while being outsold by Benny Hill’s grotesque Ernie The Fastest Milkman, Sleepy Shores by the Johnny Pearson Orchestra, The New Seekers’ I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing,  Softly Whispering I Love You by the Congregation, and a couple of forgettable efforts by Cilla Black, Gilbert O’Sullivan and Elvis. What were you thinking, 1972’s Britain?

I could have sworn Murray Head’s One Night In Bangkok, from the musical Chess, was a Top 10 hit. Turns out, it peaked at #12 in December 1984. It was about to be overtaken by Nellie The Elephant by the Toy Dolls and by Black Lace (those fuckers again) and their revolting Do The Conga.

I’m not sure I am entirely convinced that Ester & Abi Ofarim deliciously nasty One More Dance should have been a top 10 hit. The folky arrangement for the English version of the song is awful, certainly in comparison to the German version, with which I grew up. In Britain the song, the follow-up single to chart-topper Cinderella Rockefella, reached  #13 in July 1968. There were some very good songs ahead of it.

I cannot think of many songs that sound as 1974 as Beach Baby by First Class does, nor many that sound as self-consciously summery. And it was a hit in the summer of 1974. Peaking at #13 in the middle of summer. Not in early summer, having ejaculated prematurely. Not at the end of summer, when everybody has had enough of beach babies. But in the middle of July. And again, it’s not like Beach Baby was up against hot competition. Sure, there was Rock Your Baby, The Six Teens and Band On The Run. And The Drifter’s Kissin’ In The Back Room had a nice seasonal vibe. But Beach Baby should have been a Top 10 hit. As it should’ve been all of the songs here.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-recorded covers. PW in comments.

1. Blondie – Union City Blue (1980  #13)
2. Split Enz – I Got You (1980  #12)
3. Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy – Icing On The Cake (1985  #14)
4. A-ha – Manhattan Skyline (1987  #13)
5. Wet Wet Wet – Temptation (1988  #12)
6. Jonathan Butler – Lies (1987  #14)
7. Sherrick – Just Call (1987  #23)
8. Delegation – Where Is The Love (We Used To Know) (1977  #22)
9. Labi Siffre – It Must Be Love (1971  #15)
10. First Class – Beach Baby (1974  #14)
11. Harpo – Movie Star (1976  #25)
12. Harley Quinne – New Orleans (1972  #19)
13. Chris Spedding – Motor Bikin’ (1975  #14)
14. Judas Priest – Breaking The Law (1980  #12)
15. Murray Head – One Night In Bankok (1984  #12)
16. Nick Heyward – Blue Hat For A Blue Day (1983  #14)
17. Suzanne Vega – Marlene On The Wall (1986  #21)
18. Sally Oldfield – Mirrors (1978  #19)
19. Kate Bush – Wow (1979  #14)
20. Donovan – Atlantis (1968  #23)
21. Esther & Abi Ofarim – One More Dance (1968  #13)

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Should Have Been A UK Top 10 Hit – Vol. 2

July 23rd, 2015 5 comments

Should Have Been A Top 10 Hit - Vol. 2

The second mix of singles that unaccountably failed to make the UK Top 10 starts off with a trio of songs that have become timeless classics since: Joe Jackson’s Is She Really Going Out With Him, Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart and Lloyd Cole & The Commotions’ Perfect Skin.

Joy Division even had two failed cracks at Top 10 glory, though one expects that reaching the upper reaches of the hit parades wasn’t really the group’s objective. Still, Love Will Tear Us Apart reached only #13 in 1980 and #19 when it was re-released in 1983 on the back of successor band New Order’s success (including a Top 10 hit a couple months earlier with Blue Monday). Happily, Paul Young’s version, also of 1983, wasn’t released as a single in the UK, so we were spared the indignity of his warbled interpretation inevitably going places the original twice failed to reach. Still, Young had Top 10 hits with it in Belgium and the Netherlands.

My selection criteria for this series have mostly excluded underperforming records by serial Top 10 residents. Every run of hits is liable to include an aberration or two. But I include ABBA’s Ring Ring because it was a spectacular flop, peaking at only #32 in 1974, rather than an aberration. Released as a follow-up to the #1 hit Waterloo, its failure (and that of the inferior I Do I Do I Do I Do; #38 in 1975) suggests that ABBA were initially seen as a fleeting one-hit wonder, not as the mammoth gold record accumulating machine they’d become following the release of the sublime S.O.S. in the summer of 1975.

gallery_2The year 1974 was particularly notorious for fine songs missing the Top 10 — and some rotten songs getting there instead. Though even in that year there were times when one could see why there was little room for a song as great as Pilot’s Magic, which really deserved to get to #1, as its lesser follow-up, January, did (in the first week of February ‘75).

As Magic peaked at #11 in the first week of December 1974, the Top 10 included Barry White’s You’re The First, The Last, My Everything; David Essex’s Gonna Make You A Star; Rubettes’ Juke Box Jive; Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet; Eddie Holman’s (Hey There) Lonely Girl; and Queen’s Killer Queen, plus records by Gary Glitter and Elvis and a reggae thing by Rupie Edwards called Ire Feelings (Skanga). Still, why did Hello’s now rightly forgotten Tell Him zoom past Pilot from #12 to 6 in the charts? Where is the justice in that?

I imagine Lynsey de Paul’s Spector-Wall-of-Sound takeoff Ooh I Do was in its anachronistic ways a little ahead of its time. In the mid-1970s the revivalist taste was ‘50s rock & roll, with Sha-Na-Na and Showaddywaddy (though their big hit, Under The Moon Of Love, was a cover of an early ’60s song). The early ‘60s girl-band revival obviously had some traction in 1974, as Hello’s glam-rock cover of The Exciters’ Tell Him shows, but the pastiche of these songs had to wait another six years, when the Ramones hit the Top 10 with Baby I Love You.

I am ready to acknowledge that opinions on Malcolm McLaren’s Something’s Jumping In My Shirt might differ. I hold it to be one of the best pop songs of 1989, so its peak at #29 is inexplicable. The #1 was Black Box’s Ride On Time, and Tears for Fear’s Sowing The Seeds Of Love was featuring in the Top 10 as well. But the great British public also made Top 10 hits of such horrors or lightweight nonsense like Swing The Mood by Jive Bunny And The Mastermixers, Every Day (I Love You More) by Jason Donovan, Blame It On The Boogie by Big Fun (not to be confused with the fine dance song Big Fun by Innercity), I Just Don’t Have The Heart by Cliff Richard and Hey Dj I Can’t Dance To That Music You’re Playing by The Beatmasters featuring Betty Boo. McLaren might have had a legitimate grievance…

And when Joe Jackson’s Is She Really Going Out With Him peaked at #13 in late August 1979, ahead of it were, in order from #1 to 12: We Don’t Talk Anymore by Cliff Richard, I Don’t Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats, Bang Bang by B.A. Robertson, Angel Eyes by Roxy Music, After The Love Has Gone by Earth Wind & Fire, Gangsters by The Special AKA, Duke Of Earl by Darts, Money by Flying Lizards, Reasons To Be Cheerful by Ian Dury And The Blockheads, Ooh! What A Life by the Gibson Brothers, Just When I Needed You Most by Randy Vanwarmer, and Hersham Boys by Sham 69. You decide whether or not Jackson suffered an injustice in that company. The inclusion of the song in this series clues you in on my view.

gallery_1As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-labelled covers.

1. Joe Jackson – Is She Really Going Out With Him (#13 1979)
2. Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (#13 1980 / #19 1983)
3. Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Skin (#26 1983)
4. The Christians – Hooverville (#21 1987)
5. Squeeze – Hourglass (#16 1987)
6. Swing Out Sister – You On My Mind (#28 1989)
7. Malcolm McLaren feat. Lisa Marie – Something’s Jumping In My Shirt (#29 1989)
8. Heatwave – Groove Line (#12 1978)
9. Hi-Gloss – You’ll Never Know (#12 1981)
10. Propaganda – Duel (#21 1985)
11. The The – Heartland (#29 1986)
12. Bad Company – Feel Like Makin’ Love (#20 1975)
13. P.P. Arnold – The First Cut Is The Deepest (#18 1967)
14. The Mindbenders – Ashes To Ashes (#14 1966)
15. Emile Ford & the Checkmates – Them There Eyes (#18 1960)
16. The Bar-Kays – Soul Finger (#33 1967)
17. Abba – Ring Ring (#32 1974)
18. Lynsey De Paul – Ooh I Do (#25 1974)
19. Pilot – Magic (#11 1974)
20. Candlewick Green – Who Do You Think You Are (#21 1974)
21. Daniel Boone – Beautiful Sunday (#21 1972)
22. Barry Ryan – Can’t Let You Go (#32 1972)

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Should Have Been A UK Top 10 Hit – Vol. 1

April 9th, 2015 10 comments

Should Have Been A Top 10 Hit

Every year an American radio DJ invites the public to vote for songs that should have been Top 10 hits in the US. Billing the vote as It Really Shoulda been a Top 10 hit!”, Rich Appel releases the annual list to coincide with 15 April, the big tax day in the US (hence the initials IRS).

Borrowing the concept, here’s the first lot of UK hits that missed the Top 10. More will follow, for UK chart outrages are many. But to keep the number of tracks in check, I instituted certain rules. The songs must have had a shot at the Top 10, so only songs that reached the Top 40 qualified (though on my shortlist there are a couple of exceptions) . If songs were Top 10 hits in the US, they were usually disqualified, so were songs that are now bona fide classics, else the Motown catalogue alone would flood my already long shortlist. And I used the year 1990 as a cut-off, since after that the UK charts gradually lost any meaning, even if the Oasis vs Blur battle for #1 was big news a few years after.

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While promotion strategies and pure chance often decided whether a song would become a Top 10 hit or not, it is inexplicable why some of those included here failed to climb such heights. How did The Whole Of The Moon, a real classic, stagnate at #26, when in the week the song peaked the Top 10 included such garbage as Elton John’s Nikita and Jennifer Rush’s The Power Of Love? How did The Undertones’ utterly glorious Teenage Kicks get stuck at #31 when awfulness such as Frankie Miller’s Darlin’, Smokie’s Mexican Girl and, have mercy, Father Abraham & The Smurfs’ Dippety Day ranked above it?

And what injustice befell The Cure’s Inbetween Days to get stuck behind such horrors as Baltimora’s Tarzan Boy, Opus’ Life Is Live, Amazulu’s Excitable and Tina Turner’s We Don’t Need Another Hero?

One song here that failed to even crack the Top 30 did make it to #1, in a way, when Dexys Midnight Runners hit the top with Geno, a song dedicated to soul singer Geno Washington which references his #39 hit Michael (The Lover) from 1967.

And for the UK election in May, let’s have The Redskins’ song as the anthem, even as the return of the ghastly David Cameron seems inevitable.gallery-1As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-charted covers. PW in comments.

1. The Undertones – Teenage Kicks (#31 1978)
2. Aztec Camera – Oblivious (# 18 1983)
3. Big Sound Authority – This House (Is Where Your Love Stands) (#21 1985)
4. The Blow Monkeys – Diggin’ Your Scene (#12 1986)
5. Hipsway – The Honeythief (#17 1986)
6. The Waterboys – The Whole Of The Moon (#26 1985)
7. The Redskins – Bring It Down (This Insane Thing) (#33 1985)
8. The Jesus And Mary Chain – Darklands (#33 1987)
9. China Crisis – Black Man Ray (#14 1985)
10. Prefab Sprout – When Love Breaks Down (#25 1985)
11. The Colourfield – Thinking Of You (#12 1985)
12. ABC – When Smokey Sings (#11 1987)
13. Geno Washington – Michael (#39 1967)
14. The Foundations – Back On My Feet Again (#18 1968)
15. The Young Rascals – A Girl Like You (#37 1967)
16. Jesse Green – Nice And Slow (#17 1976)
17. The Beginning Of The End – Funky Nassau (Part 1) (#31 1974)
18. Osibisa – Sunshine Day (#17 1976)
19. Kiki Dee – Star (#13 1981)
20. Susan Fassbender – Twilight Cafe (#21 1981)
21. The Alarm – Sixty-Eight Guns (#17 1983)
22. The Cure – In Between Days (#15 1985)

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