Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Twelve Tasks of ToffeeBoy - #1 Microdisney

I could have called this herculean task that I have, rather foolishly, set myself, "In Defence of Pop". Because, ladies and gentleman, my aim, over the course of the year, in twelve, monthly instalments, is to convince those of you who need convincing (frogprincess, you’re excused) that pop music needn’t be clichéd, sickly sweet, overly simplistic, or anodyne – in other words, that pop music doesn’t need to be pap music (see what I did there?).

Pop music has, over the years, developed a bad name when put up against its cooler cousins; rock, jazz, indie, folk and blues. My task is to put right what I perceive as wrongs; to persuade you all that melodies and harmonies can, in the right hands, produce music of sublime (oops!) splendour; that pop can display just as much depth as jazz and classical music, that a 4/4 time signature can still create astonishingly exciting results; that light and shade have a big part to play in all this and that pop can use them as a means to achieve aims beyond its expected horizons. But, above all, to demonstrate that pop music can be achingly beautiful and moving.

The way I aim to do all this is to introduce you to (or possibly to remind you of) twelve acts who I believe demonstrate some or all of the above qualities. And we’re going to start off with Microdisney. I’m not going to waste my time and yours by regurgitating facts that are readily available elsewhere on the interweb. Instead, I’ll place some links to useful websites – I’ll even risk incurring Abahachi’s wrath by routinely including the relevant Wikipedia link!

Most importantly, I’ll post a representative selection of their music, together with a video courtesy of YouTube. Another regular feature will be a recommended album so, under the banner, If You Buy One Microdisney Album It Should Be … I give you … The Clock Comes Down The Stairs.

Hope you enjoy – let me know what you think and if you’re so inclined, you might even suggest acts I could feature in the future (!) or, damn it, do it yourself.

So here it comes – the First Task of ToffeeBoy …

Warning - this video is a bit loud and distorted - TURN DOWN YOUR VOLUME BEFORE PLAYING!!!!



DarceysDad said...

And next week ToffeeBoy will start his "12 Step Plan For Easily Achieving World Peace", or somesuch other trifling little task !!!

Blimey, TB, you don't take the easy jobs, you, do yuh?

I promise to give your mammoth task the attention it deserves, when I get home to a computer WITH speakers.

Chris said...

Good luck, TB! I presume you have been bouyed by last night's excellent effort by the boys.

I love Cathal Coughlan's voice and Fatima Mansions' Viva Dead Ponies is one of my fave albums but the Microdisney sampler I have doesn't really do it for me. I'll listen to these and see if they move my attention.

But I do have one very difficult question about your self-imposed task. Just what exactly is this 'Pop Music' you're promoting? What identifies it as different from rock/indie/soul etc?

Chris said...

TB: The upbeat rhythm and jingliness (that is a word, honest) may make this sound like pop but the voice, words and musical sophistication say it isn't really. There is no period in the last 40 years where this would have been genuinely 'popular', IMHO.
Personally, I prefer the more jagged stuff he did with the Mansions but there's goodness here. And I do love the more obvious Irish accent.
Plus, where do I sign up to bring back 'The Street'? That's what '464' seems to be campaigning for....

ToffeeBoy said...

@ DsD - anything to avoid doing what I really should be doing! Actually, I have a rare day off when I don't have anything major to do (until later this afternoon when the school team that I coach has an important league match - I'll let you know the result later).

@ Chris - I am indeed buoyed by last night's result - top stuff! I think that two valuable lessons can be learned from last night's match which other premier league teams would do well to take notice of:

1) It's a good idea not to give Gerrard too much room on the edge of the box.
2) It's a good idea not to give Cahill too much room in the box.

Football's quite a simple game really...

As for your question regarding my definition of pop music, jeez, that's a tough one. I was rather hoping I could avoid the matter by letting the music I chose define itself, but I guess I've fallen at the first hurdle.

I think that it may actually be easier to define what I don't mean by the term. The music I'm talking about isn't rock because to me that's a rougher, harder-edged beast, with big, crashing drums, and guitars to the fore and, let's face it, a bit too much male posturing for my liking. It's not soul because I think there's a particular discernible rhythm in soul music which makes it soul/r&b and it's not there in what I'm talking about.

It's not indie because it's more structured and, for want of a better word, 'together'. The production values are more refined - it's a cleaner sound, I suppose.

If I were to attempt a broad definition of the sort of music I'm talking about, I suppose I would say that it's the sort of music that you could have on in the background without upsetting the in-laws; you could play it in the street without frightening the horses; you could have heard it on Top of The Pops and not thought, 'good god. Why is that on?' and it's even possible that your granny might have tapped her feet along to it and said 'ooh, this is nice, dear'.

That, of course, could define all pop music - good and bad (and no, I can't quite believe I've used those terms myself but I think you know what I mean) so what I'm hoping to show is how pop music can raise itself from the anodyne and insipid and yet still be pop music.

Some of the Microdisney tracks here may not quite fit the definition. My granny certainly wouldn't have tapped her feet along to the strains of 464 but I wanted to include it as a very good example of what I was talking about when I referred to 'light and shade' in pop music - I would argue that this track is one of the very best examples around of how well this can work.

I also chose Microdisney because they offer a really good example of how two very different personalities can work so well together as songwriters. Cathal Couglan's rough edges were smoothed by Sean O'Hagan's pop sensibilities and together they produced, in my opinion, some truly magnificent pop songs. And although, I like some of The Fatima Mansions material and a lot of The High Llamas, I still believe that the best music either of them produced came when they were almost fighting each other in Microdisney - the artistic tensions seem to do the trick. I always think that Robert Forster and Grant McLellan worked the same way in The Go-Betweens, as did Chris Difford and Glen Tillbrook in Squeeze. And then there's that Lennon and McCartney pair as well...

Does that answer it?

sourpus said...

I am looking forward to this series with some anticipation Toffee. Not least because, although I am familiar with many eighties bands (I went to Goldsmith's College in London to do my degree and Microdisney, for example, were one of our social sec's bookings) I didnt buy that many of the albums by such bands, including your recommendation here. We will see how many more you can bring back to their rightful place in my listening. Tally ho!

Chris said...

Yeah, sorry TB, it was a mean question. And you've answered it as well as possible, although I could probably nominate several Dead songs, for example, which would also fit your definition of in-law-, horse- and granny-friendly. And, as everyone knows, the Grateful Dead are nowhere near pop music ;-)
My point, of course, is that genre-labelling just allows people not to listen to something they might actually like. I hate musicals but I absolutely loved Sweeney Todd, which I would never have gone to see if it hadn't involved Johnny Depp and Tim Burton.

Proudfoot said...

Being a bit longer in the tooth I would look to the 70s to define 'pop' as opposed to 'rock'. There was quite a clear understanding that album charts defined 'rock' success. (Led Zep, the Who, ELP, Yes etc- bands who rarely released singles, and certainly didn't bank on being in the top 5) whereas the singles charts reflected 'pop' (Sweet, Slade, Hot Chocolate, Chicory Tip- bands who didn't tend to have successful LPs). Obviously by the end of the 70s you could be No1 in both categories, and, unlike Demis Roussos or Abba, be taken quite seriously.
Blondie and the Pretenders were two acts who were pure pop but still considered cutting edge and important by the Music Press.
My perfect pop singles would probably boast quite a few from that era. (Undertones, XTC, Pretenders, Blondie)
Starting with Microdisney? Good luck to you TB. Look forward to it.

PS Cahill's worth a bit more than 2million now isn't he? Bargain.

treefrogdemon said...

But, proudfoot, in the 60s the Who were definitely a singles band...

Shoey said...

Am guessing 3 of the 12 montly episodes will be devoted to the life and works of a certain J Richman (not that there's anything wrong with that). Look into the Wave Pictures, if you haven't already, for heavy JR Influence.

ToffeeBoy said...

Thanks for all the comments, the encouragement and the thinly-veiled threats (OK, I made that last one up).

@ Chris - I love the word 'jingliness' and will now aim to use it frequently.

I've been trying not to equate pop music with popular music - and yes, I do understand that that's the original derivation but, as we all know, language can, does and indeed should change so I don't necessarily feel that we're stuck with pop meaning popular.

I actually like the opening paragraph on Popular Music on Wikipedia so I'll quote it here in full.

"Popular music is music that is accessible to the general public and disseminated by one or more of the mass media. It belongs to any of a number of musical genres, and stands in contrast to classical music, which historically was the music of the elite and upper strata of society, and traditional music which was disseminated orally. Although popular music sometimes is known as "pop music", pop music usually refers to a specific musical genre and is not necessarily contemporary."

I think this leaves the door neatly open for my broader definition of what pop music means to me.

I don't know the GD songs you hinted at Chris (in fact, before becoming a regular on RR/The 'Spill I can't honestly say that I'd ever heard anything by the Dead!) but they sound to me like they could well be the sort of songs I have in mind - perhaps you could post some or point me in their direction.

@ Proudfoot - I think you're absolutely right about the 70s dividing line between pop and rock (I lived through it myself) but there were always groups/acts who could sit comfortably on either side of the divide (Roxy Music spring instantly to mind and I'm sure I could come up with many more given time). I also think that the line wasn't there in the 60s (or at least it wasn't so well defined) and that the combined effects of punk, new wave and britpop have now blurred the boundaries (blurred - geddit?) once more. As with most things like this, there are lots of things you could say were definitely pop and lots that you could say were definitely not - but there's so much in between which, for me, makes the whole argument academic and unresolvable.

ToffeeBoy said...

Oops - didn't mean to press 'Publish' - meant to Review first.

@ Proudfoot - yes, Microdisney might seem like a strange first choice but I think they're important to my argument because most of their music is so poppy (I nearly typed 'poopy' there) and, as Chris said, 'upbeat' and it's precisely the type of music I have in mind.

@ Chris - I'm not sure about the argument that pop music can't be musically sophisticated. One of the things I'm aiming to demonstrate is that it can be and is - so if we start with the idea that a musically sophisticated song is by definition not pop music, then I've got problems!

How about this? Would you agree that The Carpenters' Goodbye To Love is pop music? Would you describe it as musically unsophisticated? Answers on a postcard to ... or as a comment here if you prefer ....

And finally, for those who are remotely interested, my school team won 7-0 today and I am in heaven!

Chris said...

TB: I do have an approximate understanding of what you mean. I think the defined structure and clear, quality production have to be there as a minimum, with a defined - preferably memorable - melody on top. The risk with sophistication is that it can undermine the structure and/or the memorability of the tune. Probably the best songs are those that succeed it getting that balance right.

I didn't start here with the intention of suggesting Dead songs for you.... but it would be interesting to know if there are any you would classify as 'pop'.
High production values were never a priority but studio versions of these songs are poppish (two 'p's): Sugar Magnolia (on American Beauty); Row Jimmy, Stella Blue and Here Comes Sunshine (Wake Of The Flood); Loose Lucy and Scarlet Begonias (Mars Hotel); If I Had The World To Give (Shakedown Street); Althea and Easy To Love You (Go To Heaven); Touch Of Grey and When Push Comes To Shove (In The Dark). Touch Of Grey was their only top ten hit in the USA.

Keep the footie mojo workin!

steenbeck said...

I'm not sure how I'd define "pop" and I think it was brave of you to try it. But I've always thought that the term pop could be applied across almost any genre. I think there's pop-rock, indie pop, blues pop, poppy hip hop, even (I'm thinking of Rancid or Green Day, here) pop punk. I could think of examples of each one, but it would tax my lazy brain. Many of the things you mentioned apply--more up-beat, less offensive versions. Something that could be played on mainstream radio, maybe.

FP said...

New York, London, Paris, Munich,
Toffee's gonna talk about...
Pop Music!!!!!

Japanther said...

Excellent idea for a series TB - Microdisney are a band name that I knew but had never heard, so thanks for the introduction..... I enjoyed all of the tracks on there (especially liked "Begging Bowl").

Won't comment on the 'what is or isn't pop' debate as I think it's all subjective, if it's "pop" for you, then it's pop! Simple as that!

Looking forward to the next 11...

Proudfoot said...

@TreeFD, yep, the Who were a singles band, until 'Tommy'. After that (and the inexplicable failure of 'I can see for Miles' to dominate the singles charts) then I think Townsend's forays into the 45 market were desultory.

@TB:'Goodbye to Love' is definitely pop and sophisticated, so we agree there. Roxy Music definitely sprang to mind as a 'straddler'. Roxy never put out B-list material as singles either.
Now, when I was a nipper I studied Plato. He wanted to ask Theaetetus what knowledge was. Cue boy wonder Theo Walc...Theaetetus

Theaet:I think that the sciences which I learn from Theodorus-geometry, and those which you just now mentioned-are knowledge; and I would include the art of the cobbler and other craftsmen; these, each and all of, them, are knowledge.

Soc. Too much, Theaetetus, too much; the nobility and liberality of your nature make you give many and diverse things, when I am asking for one simple thing.

Theaet. What do you mean, Socrates?

Soc. Perhaps nothing. I will endeavour, however, to explain what I believe to be my meaning: When you speak of cobbling, you mean the art or science of making shoes?

Theaet. Just so.

Soc. And when you speak of carpentering, you mean the art of making wooden implements?

Theaet. I do.

Soc. In both cases you define the subject matter of each of the two arts?

Theaet. True.

Soc. But that, Theaetetus, was not the point of my question: we wanted to know not the subjects, nor yet the number of the arts or sciences, for we were not going to count them, but we wanted to know the nature of knowledge in the abstract. Am I not right?

Theaet. Yo, Socrates, you the man.

So, TB, we can either aim at a definition of 'pop', or find examples of what we think to be pop and see what links and defines them. I'm going to do the latter.
POP RECORDS - A random selection
1. Heart of Glass - Blondie
2. Brass in Pocket- Pretenders
3. Mr Blue Sky - ELO
4. Panic - The Smiths
5. Ballroom Blitz - Sweet
6. Mayor of Simpleton - XTC
7. The Name of the Game - Abba
8. Baby Come Back - The Equals
9. Jimmy Jimmy- The Undertones
10. Afternoons and Coffee Spoons- Crash Test Dummies.

I haven't attempted to cross genres, they're just 10 records I really like and would definitely class as 'pop', and which I don't think too many would disagree with me. Now I'm going away to think for a few weeks about what it all means.
BTW, who were the school team playing? Newcastle?

Abahachi said...

Resisting the temptation to get excessively Aristotelian... I would happily agree with all but one of Proudfoot's suggestions, and I think the idea of trying to spot the common denominator rather than come up with a single definition is a good one. In terms of Weberian sociology, I think we're looking for a polythetic rather than a monothetic model; that is, rather than a definition that says "pop = a, b and c", and rejects anything that lacks all three of those characteristics, we want a definition that says "pop = a sufficient number of a, b, c, d or e", such that abc and cde both count as pop although they have only a small amount in common.

Where I have a problem is with Steenbeck's comment; not that I think you're wrong, exactly, but my instant reaction is that pop itself is great but applying pop as a prefix to rock, punk, indie or whatever is intrinsically negative in all the ways you describe (lightweight, mainstream, watered down etc.). Is this why pop gets a bad name, because it gets associated with pop-rock?

ToffeeBoy said...

@ Shoey – I haven’t actually got a list of twelve acts in mind – I’m not quite that anal! I’ve got a few ideas of some that I definitely want to include but I hadn’t actually planned on Jojo. I’m not sure that I would count him as pop – he (usually) lacks the production values which I would count as qualifying.

@ Proudfoot – the entire Everton team on Monday night cost less than Torres. Cahill is worth at least £20 million and Arteta probably more than that!

@ Chris – thanks for the Dead ‘noms’ – I’ll try to check them out. The footie mojo is definitely working overtime this week. My daughter’s school team have just reached the last 16 of the national schools knock out cup.

@ Japanther – glad you liked Microdisney. I have to confess that the whole ‘In Defence of Pop’ thing was a bit of an after thought. The initial idea was simply to share some of my favourite toons with y’all in a structured way! It seems that my marketing training may have got the better of me when I looked for a peg to hang it all on!

@ Proudfoot (noch eim mal) – so what is knowledge???!!!

I think you’re absolutely right that we need to find examples of what we think ‘pop’ is and this is essentially the conclusion I reached myself when I said somewhere up above, that I hoped the music would define itself. Your list is as good a list as any list of pop songs and I wouldn’t argue for a minute that every song on the list is a pop song – and that they’re all damn fine pop songs at that. But I think they only go part of the way towards defining what I’m looking for. The problem I have with them is that they all fit another definition of the term, where pop music is equated with popular music - my argument is that it needn’t be; that pop music can and does exist on obscure albums that only saneshane has ever heard of; that, although those songs are indisputably pop songs and possess all the attributes I’m looking for, there’s a danger that, by including only popular songs, we risk muddying the waters. Anyway, I suspect that we’re on the same wavelength here, so thanks for your thoughts – particularly for the rare breath of classical air.

@ Abahachi – the temptation to resist getting excessively Aristotelian is one that I rarely experience but … well … what can I say? You’ve expressed exactly what I wanted to say in a way that I couldn’t even begin to attempt. I think it might be safest for me simply to shrug my shoulders, make a nod in the direction of your good self, as you’re sat in the snug, supping your glass of port and utter the wisest words I can think of in the circumstances: “Wot he said…”

Oh and…

@ FP – I wasn’t intending to go an a world tour with this but if you’re in touch with that Speng geezer, perhaps you could have a word in his shell-like…

DarceysDad said...

Whew, where to begin on a definition of 'pop'?

I know I'll get self-contradictory here, but I'm feeling buoyed and emboldened against looking a pillock by (i) the willingness of you lot to jump off the comfort zones to help, and (ii) the rather nice plum brandy I've treated myself to this evening.

I have loads of songs - singles mostly - which I can file nowhere other than pop, but where 'pop' certainly isn't short for popular, as most sank without trace - Notorious' The SWALK; Zoe's Sunshine On A Rainy Day; In Tua Nua's All I Wanted; One The Juggler's Passion Killer, and so on. And as far as I'm concerned, The Sundays' Static And Silence is one of the best (guitar) pop albums ever made by anyone anywhere in any era.

- Songs that get otherwise disparate music fans all singing along, even if only mentally.
- Songs that give the impression of being ridiculously simple.
- High production values essential.

Not pop:
- Anything on Top Of The Pops that gave you a small thrill that the band/song had somehow snuck on there.
- Any song with "message" lyrics.
- 99% of songs with rough-edge singers.

Re Microdisney specifically, I've never investigated either, so my initial impressions would be that 'Goodbye Its 1987' is definitely pop, 'Love Your Enemies' is not and never will be.

Oh I don't know . . . to give you an example mentioned in the Anti-Love blog, Living Colour's Love Rears Its Ugly Head was their biggest seller, most played, some would say most accessible. Does that make it pop? No chance! But they could certainly *DO* pop: anybody know their early single Glamour Boys (don't start me on the U.S. missing 'u's, alright?!)? It's absolutely, unashamedly, bouncing guitar, happy-for-four-minutes-then-forget-it, pop music.

See for yourselves:

A DsD list of out&out pop songs:
Katrina & The Waves - Walking On Sunshine
Simple Minds - Alive And Kicking
Dire Straits - Money For Nothing
Bill Withers - Lovely Day
Van Halen - Dance The Night Away
Prince - Cream
Hot Chocolate - Every 1's A Winner
Shack - Natalie's Party
The Go! Team - Bottle Rocket

A DsD list of not-pop songs:
Katrina & The Waves - Going Down To Liverpool
Simple Minds - Someone Somewhere (In Summertime)
Dire Straits - Private Investigations
Bill Withers - Who Is He What Is He To You
Van Halen - You Really Got Me
Prince - Purple Rain
Hot Chocolate - Emma
The La's - There She Goes
Chemical Brothers - Block Rockin' Beats.

*SIGH!* Time for bed. I'll pop (sorry) back in in the morning with me tin hat on to see if Swells found this rant too easy a target to resist deconstructing ...

Abahachi said...

Isn't the Swells rule that being able to play the guitar with any degree of competence automatically renders an artist incapable of producing anything other than turgid indie or rock and so by definition not pop?

My major query - as opposed to lots of little quibbles - is with your Top of the Pops criterion. Doesn't that imply that pop/not-pop is not an intrinsic quality of a song but determined by historical context? That is, there are songs which appeared as a bit of a shock on TotP but which in retrospect we (or I) could happily label pop? They're a shock because they don't fit with the existing expectations, not because they're not pop. A few suggestions: MARRS Pump Up the Volume; anything by the KLF; Manics' You Love Us; Culture Club Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.

In academic speak, pop-ness is realised at the point of reception.

Somebody shoot me...

Abahachi said...

Actually I'm not that keen on port, but I can be obsessive about real ale if that helps...

The NOT justified but definitely ancient DarceysDad said...

@ Abahachi - Hmmm, point well made re TotP.

I certainly agree that whilst there WAS the shock/thrill/wtf factor when we first *SAW* Boy George, Culture Club's singles were mostly pop, and having heard DYWTHM before I saw the image, I think you're being conned by the visual part of your memory there, my friend.

I don't agree that Pump Up The Volume is a pop song, so would see that as an example that reinforces my argument as much as you say it supports yours!

The mindf**k example is KLF. By their own cynical, brilliantly executed strategy, as revealed AFTERWARDS, the music was absolutely pop, but it didn't bloody sound it at the time. Your mighty blow at my TotP non-fit criterion thus exposes a glass jaw on my argument. And yet and yet, but but but ...

Ah, back to work. I'll have a ponder.

Chris said...

Not really wishing to jump back in but DsD's TOTP definition made me scratch my head too. I think pop is determined at least in part by historical context, as Aba observed. The point was made by TFD above that The Who were a singles band in the sixties; well, everyone was. The strange tour I saw in 1967 starred bands who all had singles chart success: The Move, Amen Corner, The Nice, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix. That's how the business operated back then.

BTW TB, have you ever come across the Heart Throbs? They did a gorgeous album called Cleopatra Grip, produced by Martin Hannett, containing lots of what may be described as pop songs, IMHO. Never popular though.

Abahachi said...

Deep Purple: Hush pop, Black Night pop, Concerto for Group and Orchestra clearly not.

Rainbow: I Surrender pop, Street of Dreams pop, Stargazer not.

Tending to agree with ToffeeBoy that one of the significant criteria (so not invariably but usually) for pop must be brevity.

saneshane said...

DsD "Any song with "message" lyrics" not pop?

didn't the specials write perfect pop songs.. were does Band Aid fit (melted into goo.. but, you know).. wouldn't Boomtown Rats 'I don't like mondays' fit pop and message?

or Wham Rap (enjoy what you do)

"Hey everybody, take a look at me
I've got street credibility
I may not have a job, but I have a good time
With the boys that I meet, "down on the line"
I said, I don’t need you (I don’t need you)
So you don't approve, well who asked you to? - Hey
Hey jerk, you work (hey jerk, you work)
This boy's got better things to do - hell…

I ain't never gonna work, get down in the dirt
I choose to cruise
Gonna live my life, sharp as a knife
I've found my groove, and I just can't lose
A.1. style, from head to toe
Cool cat flash, gonna let you know
I'm a soul boy, I'm a dole boy
Take pleasure in leisure, I believe in joy"

Thatchers Britain eh.. weren't we an enlightened country voting a woman in years ago!
(never mind eh.. shiv's sorting it this RR)

But then I think the Pixies made perfect pop songs... you know I wouldn't usually give this that much thought.. but I am supposed to be doing paper work..

p.s well done to your daughters team ToffeeB (and your coaching skills)
...and well done on the draw against DsDs lot, but you have handed the title to the team that stole your best player, draw some lose some eh.

DarceysDad said...

Now you see this is where I WILL stand my ground.

One of MY defining characteristics of 'pop' would be that it is an escapist form of music - usually joyously so. Another is that every play is one "for the moment" with no intention of creating more *work* for the brain. In both of those cases, message songs are anti-pop.

Had I drawn the short straw for pitching this thread, those would be cornerstones on which I built my house.

So, no Shane, for me, I Don't Like Mondays or Band Aid or Too Much Too Young cannot be pop, however excellent they may be. Wham Rap on the other hand IS pop because the sod-it-let's-dance mentality of the so-called message.

Agree completely about brevity, and the Rainbow examples.

@ Chris - again, bear in mind that I'm a little younger than you ... the first single I ever remember even hearing is Lily The Pink (Pop with a capital P, surely!?). But the thing about my TotP argument is that I think it still stands as an indicator, if not a parameter. Your point about the sixties, specifically that it was rarely a surprise to see any of the above on the programme because it was a 'singles' era, stands, but I'll adopt it too. Referring back to one of my own examples, The Kinks original You Really Got Me: pop. VH's cover: not pop. Difference? Partly intent of the artist, partly historical context.

I knew this would happen; I'm about-facing so fast I'm screwing myself deeper and deeper into a hole I was trying to concrete over!!!


Oh and re Shane's last line - I fear you are spot-on, and I'm heartbroken.


Blimpy said...

pop=catchy for me!

some of my favourite pop songs are the ones where the artist has attempted to cover up the popness with all sorts of noise and distortions and craziness.

eg: jamc and ride, animal collective's new LP, raveonettes, viva voce, nirvana, and even to a small degree Girls Aloud (earlier work)

another good barometer, similar to the milkman's whistle test, is whether or not Mrs McFlah's ears prick up. She's no used to unlistenable and 'challenging' things eminating from my direction that comment doesn't get passed very often on them - so it's the rare occasion when she asks "Who's this?" that I know i'm onto a good n poppy thing.

Proudfoot said...

With you there. I woke up humming the middle bit of 'Since You Been Gone' so that's spooky. I haven't even got any Rainbow records.
Here's some long 'uns to chuck in the mix.

Donna Summer. Love to Love You Baby. 17 mins. OK this was rarely played in its entirity on daytime AM radio.

O Superman - Laurie Anderson

Um, lots of things by Meatloaf/ Dire Straits.

November Rain.

My problem is I don't really view these things as pop music, but rather album stuff that's been edited to be AM radio-friendly unit shifters when the band/A&R people decided what the most commercial songs were.
For instance Bob Dylan's 'Hurricane'. Made UK/ US charts in 1975, admittedly only just top 40. Has got a catchy riff, which is maybe why it was chosen over other, shorter songs on 'Desire'. They split the song over two sides of the single. They bleeped out the word 'sh**'. Such tampering suggests that the thing was never really a pop song in the first place, even if it had been number 1 for 16 weeks.
In the case of disco, no-one minded the co-existence of 12 and 7inch versions so I think we should let that pass. Donna Summer is pop music isn't it?

There is stuff like 'Hey Jude' and 'Bohemian Rhapsody' which was long, released as a single and didn't get edited down (although some git like Siomon Bates couldn't bear not hearing his own voice for more than four minutes and gurgled the traffic news or something over the best bits).
Plato says that length isn't what counts (or girth) but that may be a contributory factor.

Blimpy said...

that should be "she's so used" not "she's no used".

the other great pop test is whether a tune can spring into your head by dint of reading the title alone.

Abahachi said...

DsD, I'm completely with you on the Kinks, but pop as joyous escapism? Erm, the entire later works of Abba? Papa Was A Rolling Stone? Not So Manic Now? And for message songs, Just Say No?

saneshane said...

okay.. get what you mean DsD

was just doing a flick through my 7" singles going "didn't they make SO much better chart records back then"
(please tell me they don't make RECORDS any more that get in the charts- or I'll have opened another can of worms!)

maybe your emoticom will cheer up for the cup (or you'll keep making TB happy)... can't win making any statements today.. I might even have to get on with that work.... oh, lunch time!

oh and I've just found some JaMC singles...

Proudfoot said...

Oh, this won't go away will it?
My last comment ("with you there"... was @ abahachi about song length and not intended as a comment on Blimps' 'catchy' post.
I can't believe 'Going down to Liverpool' and 'There She Goes' aren't pop songs D'sD! Is this a Scouse thing?

@TB.Arteta and Cahill would grace any team in Europe right now.
Re: Theaetetus.
I think Plato/ Socrates decided that either knowledge was Perception + 'logos' (= roughly translated, a reason or account), or he couldn't make up his mind, even after extra time. I can't remember. I just recall thinking, every time I started studying a new philosopher, "Great, I'll get some answers at last" and then being sorely disappointed a few weeks later.
I'm going to go away now and think of some 'Microdisney' items.This, to me means, Pop, but not commercial or on TOTP. I can't go with 'escapist' because 'Supper's Ready' would fit into this category, though the joyousness would only be intermittent.
@Blimpy. Peel used a similar technique. His other half (The Pig) would occasionally comment "That sounds a bit Eurovision", which was a high compliment in Peel Acres. This was usually meant to mean that she liked it/ it was catchy, whether it was Belgian techno, Zimbabwe pop or Seattle Grunge.
Unfortunately Blimps, we don't all have access to your 'pop' radar device. Which is only right and proper.

Blimpy said...

@proudfoot - that's fascinating about Peel/The Pig!

And if you would like anything submitted to "The Device", as she may now be known, please let me know.

Previous comments from The Device:

Lightning Bolt: "Turn it off, it makes me want to kill myself"

Animal Collective: "That strange tribal stuff you insist on listening to all the time"

Most of everything else: "Guff"

Proudfoot said...

"the other great pop test is whether a tune can spring into your head by dint of reading the title alone".
You mean whether I could team up with Phil Jupitus and hum the intro (without sneak listen/practising first) in such a way that someone-from-Kenickie on the panel could recognise the song?

Sometimes the title isn't how many casual listeners know the song.
Try these on a few folk. They'll know the song but not the true title.
"I hope you had the time of your life" Green Day
"Feeling groovy" Simon and Garfunkel
"Everybody Must Get Stoned" Bob Dylan
" Hey! What's going on?" 4 Non Blondes. God I hate this song.
"If you like Pina Colada"....
I agree that (as the last song shows) that various marketing types probably get involved and end up putting what everybody calls the song in parentheses, at least by the time of the second pressing.
One of my faves is "Map Ref" by Wire. It's pop! It has tried to sabotage its popness by weird guitar sounds and obscure lyrics!It didn't chart (well barely)! It's still pop!.
I can't remember what that Map Ref was though, and probably wouldn't even if it were tattoed on my hand.

Proudfoot said...

@ Blimps. Perhaps we're all married to a device.
Typical evening chez Proudfoot (assuming CSI/ Desperate Housewives etc not on):

Buzzcocks- Box Set. Can you turn it down?
(tinny noises- even tinnier than usual on Buzzcocks box set)
This is still annoying me. Could you play something more mellow?
Neil Young- Harvest. OK until 3 or 4 tracks in.
Call that mellow? And I don't want any yowling cat women either more argument about feline noise re Joanna Newsom/ Joni Mitchell/Kate Bush/ Bjork etc, Proudfoot sighs, puts on:

Bon Iver. Oh that's nice. Is that Damien Rice?
Ya see what I have to live with?

Abahachi said...

Oh yes... Any jazz made after 1938: I find that rhythm really annoying - and this from a woman who seems to be incapable of hearing a 4/4 beat when dancing...

DarceysDad said...

@ Proudfoot:

Re - There She Goes. This is one of THE great subversives. Taken at face value, it is a fantastic pop song. But given the alleged real meaning of the lyrics, the brain kicks into gear, and the joy is whipped out from under you; Lee Mavers leerily waves it back in your face in a "J'accuse..." manner. Not pop.

Re - Going Down To Liverpool. K&tW (Kimberley Rew)'s original: serious song, not pop. The Bangles guileless cover: outstandingly pop.


[I'm not even sure you're convincing yourself there, DsD! - Ed.]

Blimpy said...

@proudfoot - hahaha the "yowling cat woman" thing seems very familiar. I think we should do a "Spillers' Wives/Hubbies" feature. My Device does have impeccable taste, which would be evident if i published some sort of top ten from her.

@abahachi - i daren't put on any jazz. i can only get away with it if my dad's here. safety in numbers.

Blimpy said...

also, re axis of cool things being compared to uncool things (bon iver/damien rice) - I HATE IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS!!

Frightened Rabbit are NOT a combination of Snow Patrol and Counting Crows, thangyewverramuch!

Blimpy said...

also, re axis of cool things being compared to uncool things (bon iver/damien rice) - I HATE IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS!!

Frightened Rabbit are NOT a combination of Snow Patrol and Counting Crows, thangyewverramuch!

saneshane said...

my other half has great taste too... and for a moment I thought that would make a fantastic post. (I think we should do a "Spillers' Wives/Hubbies" feature.) then I remembered that she has useful things to do.. like proper work and finding stuff for me to do... it would take me about a year to get a top 10 out of her.... then while overhearing some my records that don't just sound like depressing noise, she will change her mind.

I might just go "name ten songs you really like NOW or you can't have any wine" but then she'd leave me.. and no one in the world wants me out and about again.

ummm time to pick my son up.

Abahachi said...

We simply have to have the 'Other Halves' Top 10s' discussion at some point.

On the basis that it's the problematic marginal cases that are most interesting for discussions of definitions: Love Will Tear Us Apart as pop? I would say so...

Chris said...

Needless to say but my other half isn't a Deadhead....

And I've had to grit my teeth quite often when buying music presents.

Proudfoot said...

@blimpy (and my wife). Apologies for Damien Rice comment. I'm just sick to death of it and can't stand the notion that anything strummed acoustically in a slightly high pitched but melodic voice must be Damien Rice!
She still says things like 'Has Shearer scored?' when I show delight at football on telly. I love her to bits.

@DsD. Well, clearer anyway. Can't we have subversive AND pop? Please?
If a song is so ubiquitous that even a milk float can whistle it then surely it has become a pop record, no matter what the lyrics refer to.
As for Katrina & Waves I think I'll
have to give it another listen and let you know what I think.
@abahachi. 'Love Will Tear..'? Pop?
I should say yes but feel a bit uneasy. I don't know why. Hmmm. Fertile ground here.

I think other halves' Top 10s would be interesting too.

treefrogdemon said...

Look, Dorian's been trawling the 'Spill for ideas again:


Blimpy said...

@tfd - and also, the new band of the day is Titus Andronicus, who were posted about on the Spill simply MONTHS ago!

Blimpy said...

(13th september by snad, if you must know)

steenbeck said...

Are we asking our better halves top 10 songs ever? Or in the past year?

BLimpy, I heard a review of Animal Collective's new album on the radio yesterday. And then on a different station the DJ said that people had been calling all night asking him to play Animal Collective. I liked what I heard. Do you feel like posting a few tracks for the general good of all 'Spillsters?

and GHE, if you're listening, I also heard the Forest FIre track that you posted--on the same radio station! I was very excited.

and Abahachi (and anyone else) I didn't mean to imply anything negative about cross-genre pop music, the only terms I used were "more Up-Lifting" and "Less Offensive," and I don't think of either of those as bad things. Sorry if it seemed like I was being judgmental.

Abahachi said...

Okay, we need to set a date for the 'Him/Her Indoors Top Ten', so that we all have time to pick the moment to ask, and then wait a fortnight for a response. How about Valentine's Day? I'll volunteer to write a post to which you can all respond, if you like.

DsD, I'm disagreeing with you more every time you post. Of course pop can be serious, and actually a lot of the time it's way more subversive than rock or other supposedly serious genres, precisely because it's erroneously supposed to be all light and fluffy. Of course There She Goes is pop. Ditto original version of Going Down To Liverpool, though I'd agree that the Bangles version is even more pop...

Abahachi said...

And I think it has to be Top Ten ever, as I don't think Mrs Abahachi has listened to any pop music since c.1997. Duffy, possibly.

Chris said...

If there is anyone out there with access to the Sky Arts channel in the UK, you may be interested to know (fat chance! - Ed.) that they're showing 'Anthem To Beauty' at 10.50 tonight. It documents the change the Grateful Dead made from the psychedelic pop of 1968's Anthem Of The Sun to the country pop of 1970's American Beauty. The programme ends just in time to get a cuppa/glass/bottle/can before tonight's race...

As to the idea of a better half's top ten: mine came in tonight singing Danny Boy a la Bryn Terfel. Yeuchhh!

Blimpy said...

@steen, i would do, but cos the LP is hot property just now, the DMCA takedowns will be out in force!

I recommend "My Girls", "Brothersport", and "Summertime Clothes" - but it's all good really.

Hype machine has some of these:


Blimpy said...

Talking of pop, our readership has increased by 10% since last month, taking us to an astounding 6,000 unique visitors per month.

Also astounding me, is the fact that 5 people googled the phrase "put a donk on it" and ended up at our doorstep!

Still very popular searches: Haggis Serving, Medium size dogs, Indian Runner Ducks, Scottish Sea Mist, Extreme Yodelling, and of course Sex Spill.

Blimpy said...

I'd also like to say "hi" to our one reader from St Kitts and Nevis - "Hi!" - I hope you enjoyed the 1 minute and 2 seconds you spent on The 'Spill!

steenbeck said...

Thanks, Blimpy, I'll take a listen.

Maybe we should do our own all-time top ten at the same time, for comparison purposes and because it's a hard task to ask someone else to undertake if you're not prepared to do it yourself.

saneshane said...

steenb.. please no!

I'm prepared to ask R's top 10
(and have done.. so far it's going a bit like "that band we saw... dance to it like this... kinda goes a bit like.... STOP INTERROGATING ME.. that one.. ska band, oh they all covered each others tracks!... ummm so it might be a guess as to which Tinariwen track is in the top ten)

as for our own top ten.. you will send me crazier than I 'm going already.

steenbeck said...

Right? It's impossible. I don't think I could do it.

And Shane, you're SANE!! Your name says so, so it must be true!!

saneshane said...

tis true!!

Animal collective is just a great (still nutty) album but less grating than Strawberry Jam...

I'm finding 'Bluish' very beautiful today... to add to Blimpys suggestions.

even just the mention of a top 10 makes me want to try.. that's why I send myself crazy.

DarceysDad said...

@ Abahachi - that's why I knew I should never have got involved in this one in the first place! But I owed it to ToffeeBoy to at least try.

Re Spouse's Top Ten idea: I'm in for contributing if I can, but as I'm away for half of Feb visiting Uncle Walt (not taking the laptop btw) I'm not going to promise/volunteer to actually DO anything to help with it.

Re tonight's RR - I'm absolutely cream-crackered, and have a 5am alarm for work again. If I'm not there in 90 mins, I've gone to bed.

May1366 said...

Frustratingly late onto this (having given Microdisney as wide a berth as when they were releasing these records - sorry TB!). I worry that ToffeeBoy's task is closer to that of Sisyphus than Hercules, trying to define pop to the exclusion of all the other forms that have shaped and absorbed and been shaped and absorbed by pop, and without the context of time and the popular consciousness. But as an excuse to come up with some lists of songs, it's gravy.

So here are Ten Songs That Might Be Defined As Something Other Than Pop Because We're All Cool And That, But Everyone Knows They're Pop So Deal With It:

1. Love Will Tear Us Apart -(as mentioned) Joy Division
2. Hey Ya - OutKast
3. Buffalo Soldier - Bob Marley
4. Umbrella - Rhianna
5. Leaving On A Jet Place - Peter Paul and Mary
6. Walking In Rhythm - The Blackbyrds
7. Totally Wired - The Fall
8. Born Slippy - Underworld
9. A Boy Named Sue - Johnny Cash
10. My Baby Just Cares For Me - Nina Simone

ToffeeBoy said...

Bloody hell! All I said was "that piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah!"

Errrmm ... I don't really know where to start ... so much has been written here since I last tried to respond to everyone about 24 hours ago, and I'm not sure that I can do it all the justice it deserves, particularly having just got back from attempting to play football (I know, I really should know better) and craving only my warm, cosy bed, and feeling as cream-crackered as young Darcey's pater, if not more so.

Fortunately, Abahachi has said almost everything I wanted to say so, by repeating my "Wot he said" comment of last night and, noting that it is indeed a glass of ale and not port in his hand (the light in the snug is tastefully dim and my eyes are not what they once were) I think I've covered most angles for now.

I promise to give this more thought tomorrow evening, although by then we'll all be sucked into whatever new theme Maddy has chosen for us by then (Pop Songs, anyone? No? Well, perhaps you're right).

I can't resist making two comments - sorry DsD - they're both in disagreement with you!

1 I think that the subversive nature of pop is one its potential strengths. This is what I was struggling to say when I talked about pop achieving aims "beyond its expected horizons". I think that the 'message' element in pop is an important one - particularly when it's unexpected. Some good examples have already been mentioned but I would just like to add 'Free Nelson Mandela' and 'Shipbuilding' - both pop classics, both 'popular' and both undeniably containing a message.

The other point I want to dispute (and you are entirely getting the spirit in which this is written, aren't you?) is your inclusion on your list of not-pop-songs of There She Goes. To me this is just about the epitome of what I see as good pop music (apologies for the use of that very weak adjective - I've mislaid my Superlasaurus). It glistens with jingliness (see Chris, I did it), it's up-beat, it was popular and (for me most important of all) the lyrics provide the dark bit of the light and shade that I look for in 'good' pop. Its inclusion in a key scene of the Lindsey Lohan (that should help your 'Spill Google hits, blimpy, especially when I gratuitously add the words naked and sex) ... where was I? ... yes, the Lindsey Lohan remake of Parent Trap. If that's not pop, I don't what is!

There's lots more I want to say about all this - thank you all so much for joining in and helping me to focus on the task ahead. I will be back with more tomorrow - night, night, hope the bed bugs don't bite.

ToffeeBoy said...

Dear 'Spill readers.

Please place the following word in its appropriate place in the above post.


Thanks, ToffeeBoy

DarceysDad said...

Oh, and re our own Top Tens, Jon Wilde asked me for mine a while back, here:


Scroll down from there and you'll find my three-comment reply.

DarceysDad said...

PANTS! That didn't work well. It extracted the comment and stuck it at the top of 318 others!

Use CtrlF or scoot down using the timestamp on JW's request ...

Blimpy will remember, as I've just noticed he had a Ten on the same page.

DarceysDad said...

I've now noticed several of us (frogprincess, ejaydee, sourpus, gordonimmel and Carefree spotted so far) contributed to that Jon Wilde thread, and a certain Blogmeister of our acquaintance got carried away and posted several Tens!!

@ Toffee - Absolutely no offence taken, that man. That's why I'm glad it's your thread, not mine!!

Cheers and goodnight, TB.

Blimpy said...

09 Aug 07, 2:58pm

10: "Bros" by Panda Bear
9: "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" by Them feat Van Morrison
8: "Time For Heroes" The Libertines
7: "Lover I don't have to Love" by Bright Eyes
6: "La Tristesse Durera" by the Manics
5: "Under My Thumb" by Rolling Stones
4: "Honestly" by Zwan
3: "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel
2: "Venus In Furs" by The Velvet Underground
1: "Shivers" by the Boys Next Door

Gosh that wasn't easy, it took more than a minute to type it! Fun though!

It is really interesting the songs that spring to mind when under pressure.

Ask me tomorrow however, and the list may well be different. "

Blimpy said...

Rereading that thread was dead good, a reminder of the time before the GU music blogs got troll-ied.

I always find myself mentioning my mythical Top 600, maybe one day I'll have to put my money where my mouth is, and present it all (as a podcast....)

saneshane said...

1 pixies cactus, u-mass, nimrods son
2 the earlies wayward song
3 sugercubes birthday bjork bachelorette, hyperballad, violently happy ooh loads.
4 mountain goats no children
5 galaxie 500 pictures
6 happy mondays bobs yer uncle
7 modest mouse bukowski
8 buck 65 wicked and wierd
9 ooberman shorley walls
10 postal service such great hights

that was my pissed 10
didn't it used to be so fun!!!!

steenbeck said...

Ha! it's funny looking back at all you crazies.
I did a top 10 very quickly, trying not to think too much. And I was very happy about it, but then I thought about it and now I don't know anymore...

saneshane said...

we have to do a new post for this and see all the changes (or not) from a lot of us still about

post your 10 steenb

May1366 said...

OK, here's another list while waiting for the mothership and phoning up that Francois Truffaut bloke to check I've got the directions right.

Ten Perfect Pop Songs (no particular order, genre or ulterior rationale, other than a standard reaction similar to Barry Davies after Maradona's 2nd against England in '86 - "you have to say that's magnificent")):

1. Baby Love - The Supremes
2. (I Get The) Sweetest Feeling - Jackie Wilson
3. Suburbia - Pet Shop Boys
4. Can't Get You Out Of My Head - Kylie
5. Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
6. Come Back - The Mighty Wah!
7. Concrete And Clay - Unit Four Plus Two
8. Don't Look Back In Anger - Oasis
9. Mr Blue Sky - ELO
10. Thinking Of You - Sister Sledge

Shoey said...

Lovely thread.

On the great pop debate, I am against these arbitary classifications as it's all so subjective. Does pop have to be popular or could/should have been? Does indie have to be on the right flavour record label? Is it jazz or noise (LOVED the latest podcast btw Abahachi - any chance of a rebroadcast of the 1st one as I can't find it)? WTF is "alternative"? Is "world" really pop from another country? Who cares, we all like what we like & chances are someone else likes it too - or doesn't.

Classification has it's place: the pandora site will give you a playlist where the next song has some kind of connection to the last. Haven't played with Apple's "Genius" much yet, but the idea of a playlist that fit's the mood of the 1st song you play is interesting.

'Spillers unite & delete the "genre" tags from your iTunes collection

Shoey (hic) said...

Forgive me for spelling & grammer even worse than usual -am now slightly drunk.

Japanther said...

The usual response to the records I bring home:

"urusai" (literally "noisy" but with heavy connotations of "annoying" - and yes, the same as "Urusei" as in Yatsura- the difference in spelling makes the person saying "urusei" sound coarser and more rough, fact fans!).

or the more direct:
"chou uzai, yamete" - "this is really fucking annoying, turn it off now!"

Love the idea of an "other halves" top ten though, not sure if we'll manage ten but will try to wring a few nominations out of Mrs Japanther - expect lots of original UK punk!

There's no way I could do my own top 10 though, literally, I wouldn't know where to start...or stop!

...shit, now you've got me thinking about it though....

Blimpy said...

@shoey - i love (hic) comments - i think all drunk comments should be identified in such a way from now on. DsD, you are specially good at letting us know, keep up the good work. I think I said before, a long time ago, that what with timezones and all that - guaranteed there's always a Spiller slightly pished at any given moment! (or maybe its just me)

@japanther - love it!

Abahachi said...

Can't wait to see what the next featured artist is going to be, TB; of course I'm sure you have better things to do than indulge us, but might well be most effective to press on with your take on this subject rather than trying to get an agreed definition of pop in advance - 'cos clearly that ain't gonna happen.

Ten more classic pop songs, on the basis of writing down the first things that come into my head...

Ronettes, Be My Baby
Pulp, Common People
Labelle, Lady Marmalade
Spice Girls, Wannabe
Captain & Tennille, Love Will Keep Us Together
All Saints, Never Ever
Bangles, Manic Monday
Roxy Music, Love is the Drug
Kenickie, Come Out Tonite
Prefab Sprout, Cars and Girls

Interesting how far I seem to associated pop with female rather than male voices...

May1366 said...

Compiled but then literally pulled the plug on a list of 10 male artists/bands who also define pop in their own ways (I think I had Prince, Michael Jackson, Phil Oakey, Edwyn Collins, PSBs, Beach Boys, Lionel Ritchie, George Clinton, Marvin Gaye and Kanye West, but The Buzzcocks, The Stylistics and T Rex could also have featured). Anyway, what I was getting onto was that this doesn't disagree with Abahachi because the common factor in so much great pop sung by men whereby it aspires to the heights habitually occupied by the female voice: thinking of how The Beatles, Take That, the PSBs and The Beach Boys, to name four, were (in their inception at least) girl groups with dicks; how Frank Sinatra's phrasing came through Billie Holiday; thinking of the vocal androgyny in Jacko, Prince, Smokey, Morrisey and, at times (e.g. Crying In The Chapel) Elvis; and how even music by and for boys (e.g. The Jam) exists, as boys do, in a world delineated by more femininity.
So, given the massive female and gay male sensibility that informs it in the first place, and taking into account its brightness, levity and emotional vulnerability, is it possible to pull together a list of 10 pop songs that are bullishly, swaggeringly, hairily male by macho men's men?

Abahachi said...

There's a challenge... Rod Stewart, obviously. Mud. Slade. Um. New Order (yes, I think significant parts of their output are pop). Microdisney, obviously. Will keep thinking...

Abahachi said...

On reflection, and at the risk of getting lynched for possible political incorrectness, I think we need to look more closely at that 'gay male sensibility' idea. I think you're absolutely right in general terms, but there seems to be to be an enormous difference between the 'girly' end of gay male pop (PSBs, Erasure; stuff I love, just not sure why it didn't leap so instantly to mind earlier) and the very macho end of it (Queen, most obviously), which doesn't float my boat to anything like the same extent.

Shoey said...

Lad pop: Rod Stewart, Status Quo, Slade, Oasis, Andrew WK, Kaiser Chiefs?

ToffeeBoy said...

I'm loving all these pop top tens (pop tens?) - I never knew you all had such good taste!

Here's one I made earlier:

1 Girl From Mars - Ash
2 Oblivious - Aztec Camera
3 You're Gorgeous - Babybird
4 Once Around The Block - Badly Drawn Boy
5 Punchbag - The Bees
6 Graceland - The Bible
7 (I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear - Blondie
8 Cath - The Bluebells
9 Coffee & TV - Blur
10 Wake Up Boo! - The Boo Radleys

And that only takes me up to the end of the letter 'B' on my iTunes...

Categorising anything is always going to be fraught with difficulties and there's probably nothing that's less suited to categorisation than art. We seem to have this obsession with trying to fit things into neatly into pre-defined pigeon holes but it rarely works - in fact, not even pigeons can be fitted neatly into pigeon holes, the family Columbidae (as any fule kno) containing as it does nearly subtly-different 300 species - and that's before we consider the hundreds of 'bred' varieties. Which, don't fear, we won't.

Although a broad definition of what we all mean by pop is desirable (don't worry Abahachi, I'm not aiming for consensus, but I think we're getting there), the issue I was really trying to tackle is that the term 'pop music' is often used in a derisory way and I want to right that wrong (within the confines of our admittedly tiny community anyway).

I certainly agree with those who have argued that the music should define itself. I think that any attempt to define the categories first and fit the music in later must be doomed to failure. It's a bit like the zonal marking in the penalty box adopted by certain teams at corners and free kicks - it doesn't work. Why mark the spaces when it's the players who score goals? (I've no idea if this analogy is holding water but I know what I'm on about.)

Anyway, I'm thoroughly enjoying the debate and it's certainly encouraged me to proceed with the herculean (or even sisyphian) task in hand. Watch out for the sedond task of ToffeeBoy in a 'Spill near you, next month...

saneshane said...

You're Gorgeous - Babybird
"For all of its lifespan, this ugly and squalid song has been mistaken for something of happiness and love"
just found that quote.....perfect pop

they sold baby pain killers with it on an advert!!!

ToffeeBoy said...

@ saneshane - the whole of that first Babdybird album (Ugly Beautiful) is full of subversive pop at its absolute best. I often wonder what people who bought it on the strength of the single made of a track like King Bing - one of my favourite sweary songs:

"Oh. We're getting into Jamiraquoi territory now man,
Fucking stop it dead now,
Shut the drummer up. shove it up the arse!
Saxophone - fuck off!

glasshalfempty said...

I'm coming late to this one (hopefully not so late as to qualify as Blimpy's lurker). You've really started something here TB, and it's a brave but worthwhile venture. Good pop has so many uses that aren't well served by other genres. Car rides. Times when you want a lift or are too tired to concentrate. The shower. Jukeboxes. Weddings. Nostalgia kicks. Whatever.

We've had threads before that have touched on the difficulty of defining genres - for example indie. And I share the struggle others have had (I'm looking at you, Shoey). I tend to think of pop mostly as stuff that has charted, been on Now compilations, etc. But of course there are lots of light, tuneful, catchy songs that fit in with the stuff that the promo men succeeded with, but never made it to the Billboard. I hate to fall back on the "you know one when you hear one", but...

I'm also with jap on this - top tens are an impossible task as there are so many good contenders and many are already listed here (I really liked May1366's, and Abahachi's seems to me right in the spirit of it). So I'm going for the 'top of my head' approach, with:

Praise you - Fatboy Slim
I'm like a bird - Nelly Furtado
Sisters are doing it.. - Aretha Franklin, Annie Lennox
Vienna - Ultravox
Orinoco flow - Enya
All I wanna do - Sheryl Crow
The days of Pearly Spencer - David McWilliams
Ready to go - Republica
Always the last to know - Del Amitri
River deep, mountain high - Ike & Tina Turner
The sun ain't gonna shine anymore - Walker Brothers
Imagine - John Lennon
Smalltown boy - Communards
Born to be wild - Steppenwolf
Good vibrations - Beach boys
No particular place to go - Chuck Berry

Oh, is that more than 10? Makes my point really. And in 10 minutes my list would be different...

But that list is just stuff I have enjoyed. There's nothing deeper than that. And it overlaps quite a bit with another of our recurrent themes - guilty pleasures. I haven't given the thought that TB is seeking - what are really GOOD pop songs. Quintessential. Subversive (his criterion). Instantly memorable (blimpy). So I need to go away and think first about the criteria I'd apply (ho-hum), then select qualifying tracks. Not sure I've got the discipline for this game...

Anyway, this thread seems to have really got us going, so hats off to TB, and I'm looking forward to his February post.

Blimpy said...


May1366 said...

10 Songs I'm Cool About My Primary School-Age Kids Digging:

1. Where Is The Love? - Black Eyed Peas
2. Reach - S Club 7
3. Dr Jones - Aqua (actually, this is more mine than theirs)
4. Party Starter - Will Smith
5. Crazy In Love - Beyonce
6. Toxic - Britney Spears
7. Lovebug - Jonas Brothers
8. Rehab - Amy Winehouse
9. Always Right Behind You - The Zutons
10. Penny Lane - The Beatles (it's practically the school anthem, given the location and alumni)

ToffeeBoy said...

@ May1366 - some great pop toons here - particularly love Crazy In Love. If it was an obscure Rare Groove track from the mid 70s, we'd all be raving about it.

May1366 said...

ToffeeBoy - good result today, impressed by Lescott's performance, pity you're so stripped bare up-front that you couldn't counter-attach in the second half. Don't bother with reciprocal comments about my shower.

Yes, thanks for the comments and for the equivalent of the classic "If his name was Joe Bloggsinho, we'd all be raving about that goal for years" comment. Of course, in many ways, not least the killer horns on intro and the percussion break, it is an obscure-ish Rare Groove track from the 70s, The Chi-Lites' Are You My Woman?

Nonetheless, what Knowlesy adds (and if only her dad Cyril was still alive and available to shore up the left side of the Spurs defence!) is something of the indefinable alchemy that turns a great song into an amazing pop song. Whether it's the "uh-oh uh-oh oh-oh-a-nanna" or the tongue-twisting chorus, it starts off instantly memorable and then just grows in stature, beyond the inhibitions of genre (not that it's not 100% R'n'B - it's just that, as with pretty much all suggestions people have made, this categorisation ceases to matter) and despite the inevitability of over-exposure.

ToffeeBoy said...

@ May1366 - yes, it was good result but somehow it doesn't feel as good as Monday's - partly because I'm not entirely convinced that we deserved it.

Thanks again to everyone for the inspirational contributions to this thread. I'll try to rationalise it all before I attempt task the second.

Proudfoot said...

Christ I'm begiinning to like Everton, woss wrong with me?
OK. (hic and double-hic).
I've loved the Spillers' Top 10s. Mainly because every now and then I've clutched my head in my hands and gone'Nooooooooooooo!' I'm not going to get into particulars.
I've got some new rules:

1. Was a top 10 hit.

2. (adopts Casey Kasem voice) Shoulda been a top 10 hit!

There. Sorted.

treefrogdemon said...

Finally, my Pop Top Ten:

Love Potion No. 9 - the Clovers
Charlie Brown - the Coasters
Bird Dog - the Everly Brothers
Runaway - Del Shannon
Substitute - the Who
I'm a Believer - the Monkees
Will You Love Me Tomorrow? - the Shirelles
Be My Baby - the Ronettes
Leader Of The Pack - the Shangri-Las
Jole Blon - Gary US Bonds and Bruce Springsteen

Last one's a bit of a cheat as it never got anywhere - but I was convinced it would and still love it.