10) Bucks Fizz – My Camera Never Lies
A pleasant surprise given it was once at risk of being the great forgotten number one of the 1980s (sorry, Boris Gardiner and Robin Beck), ver Fizz cram all they knew about harmonic pop, New Pop and whatever the producer had lying around into one shiny song. Eventually the lead vocal just stops and lets everything else play itself out. Just imagine what Trevor Horn might have done with it too.
9) Madness – Baggy Trousers
Lee ‘Kix’ Thompson on wires outdoors is an indelible image, but for a song rooted in memories of tough schools it sucked kids in completely with jauntiness and immediacy of the ska rhythm, beginning a long and prosperous career of their being banned from Top Of The Pops.
8) M – Pop Muzik
Our highest placed one-hit wonder – Robin Scott was art college friends with Malcolm McLaren and had been around in various forms for a decade, all of which feeds into his presentation as an “organisation” (look at the international junta chic of the outfits in that TOTP performance) and it being a song about modern pop that’s too slow for disco, lacks a synthpop hook and still sounds great despite only being held together by single syllable vocal hooks.
7) Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes
Just admire that Pops performance, from the dictatorial staging, white suits and walkabout to Holly retaliating to a Sun piece about the band with the aid of a copy the front page lead of which appears to read ‘STREET STAR VERA FACES SACK’, and sure enough Liz Dawn only stayed on Corrie for another twenty-four years. The rest you know- apocalypse as Wagnerian steroid disco filtered through Paul Morley’s big notebook, sex and horror as the new gods and all that.
6) David Bowie – Ashes To Ashes
Dame David mostly falls somewhere between too famous for this list and too arty for pop wonder, but Ashes To Ashes gets misleadingly playful in its self-conscious spectral revisiting and demeaning of a previous hit in paranoid, cryptic fashion. That he spent the rest of the Eighties trying to shape up and fit in to mixed effect seems fitting when he was accidentally kickstarting scenes in the decade’s first big video.
5) The Human League – Love Action (I Believe In Love)
Something from Dare had to win out here, that spark of modern sounds meeting earnest lyrics referencing heroes – the old man Phil believes is apparently Lou Reed – and when Jo and Suzanne were still kind of going along with it rather than wanting to become equal partners. Phil’s talking, of course, but competing with Martin Rushent’s mewling pulses and more hooks than the melody knows what to do with.
4) Abba – Take A Chance On Me
“Takea-takea-chan-chance…” The highest placed number one single on our list, and a song we suspect resonates in the memories of many for the acapella roundel opening. The previous single was The Name Of The Game, maybe their most adult and sophisticated single to date, so this is pretty much them sitting back and showing that they could still knock one of these instantly memorable radio hits out with the minimum of fuss. Abba are now a weird kind of Beatles for hen party karaoke and RAK collector alike, but that’s not to denigrate how they got there.
3) ABC – The Look Of Love
We’re spoilt for choice for the accompanying clip, either the Henley Regatta Temptations setup on TOTP or the seaside visual humour and gloriously shoehorned in Paul Morley cameo of <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNEdxZURTaI”>the video</A>. Both versions achieve Martin Fry’s aim of soul-pop in dayglo quotation marks, of the type that leave one to be photographed in a trademark gold lame jacket blowing fire out of a saxophone on the cover of Smash Hits.
2) Electric Light Orchestra – Mr Blue Sky
Jeff Lynne made a career out of regret that he wasn’t a Beatle and here is where he threw everything he had into picking up where A Day In The Life left off – layers of synths, disco strings, that Sparky’s Magic Piano vocoder. Lynne never met a mixing board track he didn’t want to fill to capacity, big sawing cellos and a classic MOR guitar solo the decoration around which everything else dug in.
1) Cliff Richard – Wired For Sound
And so your number one Cream-era pop song is a song purely about the love of music, co-written by BA Robertson and given Alan Tarmey’s sharp, gleaming production that gives a good name to the concept of adult contemporary. A song with lyrics about the connection to pop radio that sounds absolutely made for it, and as its position her proves that’s all that’s needed sometimes. Among its supporters, many thanks to Claire Whitfield for a beautifully evocative nomination as “it really reminds me of getting ready to go to school when I was about six and hearing it on the radio… and eating Readybrek on dark winter mornings with steamed up windows in the kitchen. I recall having Rise and Shine (the vile powdered orange juice) but I think this must be false memory as it was only for special occasions in our house. In a similar vein, Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty reminds me of being a similar age and being driven through the outskirts of Coventry in the back of my granddad’s car in the rain, probably to the bakery to get an apple pie for tea.” And isn’t that correlation to place and time what memorable pop is ultimately about?