Friday, 25 March 2011

21: Cola Boy, “7 Ways to Love” (no.8, 1991)

St. Etienne’s short-lived spin-off dance project published “7 Ways to Love” under a pseudonym after deeming it too cheesy to go out under its creators’ chosen name - a judgement that will just have to be a matter between you and your own ears. Personally, I’ve always found “7 Ways to Love” a blast of fresh, summery air amid the relentless, sweaty raving of the early 1990s, with breathy, Cracknell-esque vocals from sometime Steve Wright collaborator Janey Lee Grace, and a crisply perfect xylophone break.

The author is away for the next two weeks; normal service will resume with the Top 20 on or around Wednesday, April 6th. It'll be worth waiting for, I promise.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

22: Wax, “Bridge to Your Heart” (no.12, 1987)

From its opening shouts of “1, 2... 1,2, a 1,2,3,4 - hold it - now!,” the one-hit wonder as knowing, self-aware construction, employing synths for girders, chords for struts, and a shout for a horn when a final flourish is required. “Bridge to Your Heart” takes the songwriting project established in the 1970s by Andrew Gold (“Lonely Boy”) and 10CC’s Graham Gouldman into the 1980s, an era of skyscrapers and Godley & Creme videos; it should, in any just world, have featured on the end credits of one or more of that decade’s glossy romcoms. Which is not to mock the considered slickness of its design: I challenge you not to listen with a broad smile on your face, and defy you not to join in with the extended “whoa”s of the chorus.

23: Doop, “Doop” (no.1, 1994)

The pop equivalent of Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain”.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

24: Boy Meets Girl, “Waiting for a Star To Fall” (no.9, 1988)

A husband-and-wife tale. A couple both personally and professionally, George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam had written and performed on some of the most joyous love songs of the mid 80s, including Deniece Williams’ big Footloose hit “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” and Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”; it was while attending a Houston concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles that the pair observed a falling star in the night sky (and no, not Whitney herself, this being a good 15 years before she discovered crack).

Merrill and Rubicam would offer Houston first dibs on the composition the sight inspired; she turned them down, as eventually would Belinda Carlisle, who recorded a demo version of “Waiting for a Star to Fall” for inclusion on her breakthrough solo album Heaven on Earth. Instead, the songwriters elected to do it themselves, and - even allowing for the inevitable 80s sax solo - there remains something touching, personal and heartfelt about “Star”; the little blonde girl in the video is Merrill and Rubicam’s very own daughter Hilary.

After turning up on the soundtrack of Three Men and a Little Lady (where, let’s face it, we didn’t have wait long for Messrs. Guttenberg, Danson and Selleck to fall), the song was reprocessed as cheese: by one-hit wonders Sunset Strippers (“Falling Stars”, no.3, 2005) and Cabin Crew (“Star to Fall”, no.4, 2005, which at least features a re-recorded Merrill vocal), in Australia by DJ Dan Winter (“Carry Your Heart”, 2007) and - with a degree of hipster savvy, fusing the original with Kim Carnes’ fellow flash-in-the-pan “Bette Davis Eyes” (no.10, 1981) - by Mylo for 2005’s “In My Arms”. As for Merrill and Rubicam, they divorced in 2000, but continue to work together professionally. Sometimes you catch a star; sometimes, you fumble it. Either way, the song - lustrous and golden - is pure pop stardust.

25: Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip, “Thou Shalt Always Kill” (no.34, 2007)

Being, in effect, the streetwise version of Baz Luhrmann’s chart-topping one-hit wonder “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” (no.1, 1999), although “Thou Shalt Always Kill”’s mix of home-made beats and homespun homily remains most notable, and most cherishable, for its rejection of scenester sneering (“some people are just nice”). Instead, we’re offered, from under the cover of a great beard, a mix of gleeful non-sequitur (“Thou shalt not judge a book by its cover/Thou shalt not judge Lethal Weapon by Danny Glover”), smart thinking (“don’t use poetry to get into girls’ pants/Use it to get into their minds”) and sound common sense (“Thou shalt not watch Hollyoaks”). Later updated (with the aid of De La Soul’s Posdnous, and references to basketball and BeyoncĂ©) for the American market; bonus points if you can spot the three bits of advice in the original version with which I wholeheartedly disagree.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

26: The Railway Children, “Every Beat of the Heart” (no.24, 1991)

Northern legend has it that, given the choice between signing this jangly Wigan guitar act and signing the Stone Roses, Factory boss Tony Wilson plumped firmly for the former - and, in this at least, one has to conclude he was entirely right, if only because The Railway Children would eventually go on to give us the haunting, evanescent beauty of “Every Beat of the Heart”, their only chart hit, which just cuts deeper than anything lurking amongst the Stone Roses’ increasingly humourless and flatulent output. The guitars here join the dots between romance and mortality, between falling in love and falling to your death; listening to your heart, we soon gather, only makes us more aware that some day, it’s gonna stop. Back in 1991, this was one of the very few bands I wanted to be a part of, so that I, too, could flaunt my cheekbones and tousled hair in sultry monochrome pop promos.