Inexpicably lost down between the sofa cushions of the latest TV Cream Update, here’s Chris Hughes with…
OUR TWENTY BEST TUNES
Radio 2’s Greatest Hits
To complete our celebration of Radio 2’s 40th anniversary, TVC looks back over the network’s imperial phase (roughly 1974 to 1985) and selects 20 songs that, for better or worse, sum up the station that is Radio 2:
1) CHRISTOPHER CROSS – ARTHUR’S THEME (THE BEST THAT YOU CAN DO)
The lush, ivory-tinkling accompaniment to Dudley Moore wearing a top hat in a bath (“Arthur he does as he pleases”), performed by the man booked to provide the entertainment at Newman’s millennium party in Seinfeld. “Think again, longshanks! I started planning this in 1978!”
2) ELAINE PAIGE & BARBARA DICKSON – I KNOW HIM SO WELL
The first ladies of “Theatreland” had to be in here, striding unnecessarily slowly in opposite directions in front of a giant chessboard. The “magic” of messrs Rice, Ulvaeus and Andersson took them to number one in 1985, and their magisterial power duet can still occasionally be heard being belted out on TV Cream office outings.
3) MANHATTAN TRANSFER – CHANSON D’AMOUR
“Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat!” The dinner-dance jazz of “Man Tran” was the height of sophistication in 1977, spending three weeks at number one, although the definitive interpretation surely remains the one by the staff of Grace Brothers on a fictional regional news programme presented by Nick Ross.
4) GLEN CAMPBELL – RHINESTONE COWBOY
“Like a rhinestone cowboy, dah dah! Ridin’ frfrf like a frfrf on a star-spangled horse in a rodeo!” We’re not sure if Wally Whyton ever played it, but this peerless pop-country hit definitely became a Radio 2 staple, the notion of getting cards and letters from people you don’t even know doubtless appealing to David Hamilton and company.
5) MARTI WEBB – TAKE THAT LOOK OFF YOUR FACE
“He’s doing some deal up in Baltimore now!” Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s finest moment, car stickers, corduroy pants and all, from the musical Tell Me On A Sunday. The soundtrack album is probably still lodged at the back of your mum and dad’s record collection.
6) KENNY ROGERS – LUCILLE
The bearded balladeer (“The man makes a strong bird!”) and his heart-rending tale of those “four hungry children and a crop in the field” got to number one in 1977, no doubt aided by the fact Terry Wogan seemed to play it on the breakfast show every day for six months.
7) BARBARA DICKSON – JANUARY FEBRUARY
“Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Barbara Dickson!” The second appearance by the glamorous auntie of pop in our chart, this breakfast-table singalong (produced by the great Alan Tarney) reached number 11 in 1980. The perfect interlude between The Worm That Turned and Ronnie C going on about “the Producer” again.
8) FAT LARRY’S BAND – ZOOM
Fat Larry being a good friend of Fat Harry White (“Nowt down for you today, our kid”), lest we forget, and leader of the eponymous “Band”, whose one and only success was this burst of traffic-jam soul in 1982. “Zoom, you chase the day away! Hi-i-i-i-igh noon, the moon and stars came out to play!”
9) ENNIO MORRICONE – CHI MAI
The “haunting” instrumental theme tune from The Life and Times of David Lloyd George, of course, encased in that beguiling yellow ‘BBC Records & Tapes’ sleeve. For some reason, the B-side was the theme from dull BBC2 teatime chess series The Master Game.
10) CLIFF RICHARD – CARRIE
Sir Clifford was enjoying a bit of a renaissance around this time, turning up on Kenny Everett and in Look-In every week, but he never topped this downbeat saga of his quest for “another missing person” who was “just another number on a payphone wall”. Written by BA Robertson, fact fans.
11) FIDDLER’S DRAM – DAY TRIP TO BANGOR
It was Terry Wogan who championed this novelty folk-rock yarn about a works outing to a Welsh seaside resort by an accordion-squeezing ensemble best described as the thinking man’s Wurzels. Such were Tel’s powers that their rollicking tale of a “luvverly time” on “the big ferris wheel” briefly threatened to become the Christmas number one.
12) ABBA – I DO, I DO, I DO, I DO, I DO
Not one of their imperial hits (number 38, according to Gambo) but this shipment of superlative Scandipop gets into our chart ahead of Dancing Queen and the rest, thanks to repeated plays on early-morning Radio 2 while Creamup was eating its Weetabix and getting ready for school.
13) CRYSTAL GAYLE – DON’T IT MAKE MY BROWN EYES BLUE
Discovered by Val Doonican, no less, country & western songstress Crystal Gayle proceeded to colonise the Radio 2 playlist for much of the late 1970s, but this number 5 hit from 1977 was the one that would have got Terry tapping a sturdy brogue on a winter’s morn.
14) STEPHANIE DE SYKES – BORN WITH A SMILE ON MY FACE
The result of an improbable Crossroads storyline about the construction of a recording studio underneath reception, this hit by motel guest ‘Holly Brown’, aka the future Mrs Angus Deayton, counselled Radio 2 listeners to “forget the politicians, nuclear fission” on a regular basis for much of 1974.
15) RUPERT HOLMES – ESCAPE (THE PINA COLADA SONG)
The one about the bloke who gets bored of his wife so replies to a personal ad (“If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain”) in the paper, only to discover (if you don’t want to know the result, look away now) that it was his “lovely lady” who’d placed it in the first place. Creamup has a definite soft spot for the follow-up, Him.
16) HERB ALPERT AND THE TIJUANA BRASS – SPANISH FLEA
“There was a little Spanish flea, a record star he thought he’d be!”It had originally been a hit in 1965, predating the station by two years, but this nippy instrumental was a Radio 2 standby for much of the 1970s, effortlessly filling any spare time between the JY prog and Waggoner’s Walk. “The Chipmunks he’d seen on TV, why not a little Spanish flea?”
17) SAILOR – GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS
Imagine a group that sounded like a cross between Roxy Music and The Cliff Adams Singers and looked like a Richard O’Sullivan lookalikes convention and you’ve got Sailor, who celebrated the female form from “shy girls, sexy girls” to “Miss World and beauty queens” via the medium of close harmonies.
18) CARLY SIMON – NOBODY DOES IT BETTER
“Glang! Glang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang!” Most sublime Bond theme of the lot, we reckon, from The Spy Who Loved Me, the best bit being that classy throwaway reference to the film’s title just before the chorus. “He starts skiing and he’s being chased by these Russian shits in black jumpsuits with lemon piping.”
19) CHARLENE – I’VE NEVER BEEN TO ME
It sounded like the plot to a lavish Stefanie Powers mini-series set to music (“I’ve been to Nice and the isle of Greece/when I sipped champagne on a yacht”) and somehow spent one week at number one in 1982 on the back of those racy lyrics about that “subtle whoring that cost too much to be free”.
20) THE CARPENTERS – JAMBALAYA
From 1974, perfect back-of-the-car singalong fodder from the duo that encapsulated imperial phase Radio 2 better than anyone else. Now, why can’t Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand play more records like this, eh?