This Is Pop! #13

Been meaning to post these tunes for a while, and recently I was given an excuse to do so.

On my birthday weekend, Hel had lovingly compiled a playlist of songs that she knew I loved, or which reminded her of me, or more specifically, reminded her of me making an arse of myself to.

Sometime after we were done with trying to explaining to our puzzled friends quite why we both love Bardo’s One Step Further, a tune by today’s popster popped up, and I was suitably impressed that she had remembered how much I like this artiste.

I first heard about her (the artiste, not Hel) via those age-old pages of the NME, back in the days before it went tabloid, and then free-hand out, and then digital only.

Specifically, I was sitting at a train station, reading said music paper, on my way up from Cardiff to visit some friends who lived in the sleepy but cheesy outpost that was Caerphilly.

And there, amongst all the emo-centric rhetoric was an article about a Norwegian singer who has released this incredible – they said (they were right) – album called Anniemal.

I was immediately intrigued, sought the album out and, it will come to no surprise to you since I’m writing about it, I bloody loved it.

Here’s the song Hel chose for the playlist:

Annie – Chewing Gum

I was rather surpised by this choice for the playlist, partly because I didn’t think Hel would remember my love for this Nordic popstrelle, but also because (without wishing to sound ungrateful for a truly wonderful trip down memory lane) if she was going to pick one tune by Annie – and Hel understands the rule of “only one song by each artist” on a playlist more than anyone I know – I would have assumed it would be this one:

Annie – I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me

I’m not complaining – they’re both total bangerz.

More soon.

This Is Pop! #12

The unusual time that the Easter weekend has landed this year means that today is the day that many kids across the UK will have to haul their arses into school after a two week break.

Because of this, I thought I’d try to remind them…erm…what they go to school for.

And because my admittedly-rashly titled series where I try to bust the Monday morning blues doesn’t really translate to something I’m posting on a Tuesday morning.

And because kids need to learn that you can start loads of consecutive sentences with the words “And because” if you want to.

And because I think this is a bloody great pop record.

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Busted – What I Go To School For

Nope, you’re right. I have no shame.

More soon.

This Is Pop

Girls Aloud: who knew that not only were they responsible for some of the best pop records of the 21st century, but that they were also responsible for managing the work diary of that fat old bearded bloke whose one job is to visit all of the kids on Christmas Eve.

And so here’s the girls telling Santa he has arrived prematurely. I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s about, anyway….

Oh, and in case you were wondering about the choice of sleeve, this is lifted from a Bonus CD of Christmas songs which came with their Chemistry album:

fadd2d7be2704b8b7ac3a5deae53f2c757aa6d63Girls Aloud – Not Tonight Santa

More soon.

This Is Pop #11

Question: At what age does it become unacceptable to still have crushes on pop stars?

I mean, perfectly harmless crushes, of course. Not the sort that develop into going through their bins, appearances in Court and restraining orders being issued.

I ask this because a pop singer’s name came up in conversation with Kay at work (I’m not sure how, I suspect that, as with so many conversations we have, she misheard something I said and asked me why I’d just mentioned this particular pop singer) and on the bus on the way home, the stomping ground of many an obsessed pervert over the years, I realised I’d had quite a thing about this popstress back in the day.

The first time I heard her, back in 1989, just like Vienna she meant nothing to me, for she was what I assumed to be “just” a session singer on a record by an R&B act with a terrible pun for a name. This record, in fact:

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D Mob Introducing Cathy Dennis – C’Mon And Get My Love

D Mob knew something we didn’t at that point, of course. Did you spot it? That’s right: not D Mob featuring Cathy Dennis, but D Mob Introducing Cathy Dennis. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow D Mob to introduce you to Miss Cathy Dennis.”

Those crazy D Mob boys knew what they were unleashing on the world alrighty.

My ignoramus belief that she was nothing more than a session vocalist (who, I realise now, are generally incredible singers) seemed to be vindicated when the first three singles she released in her own right stalled at numbers 93, 48 (so close!!!!) and 95 respectively.

And then, in 1991, two years after that inauspicious debut, came the biggest hit of her recording career:

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Cathy Dennis – Touch Me (All Night Long)

I was 21 years old when that came out in 1991, and yet I still recall looking up over the pages of the NME when it came on The Chart Show one Saturday lunchtime, and feeling my little heart beat so hard that I hoped my girlfriend didn’t wander into the room or else I’d have to explain the copious amount of drool on my chin.

Remember I mentioned those three flop singles? Well, actually it was just two, for the one that reached #93 and #95 was actually the same record released twice. Still, third time’s a charm, and so it was that in July 1991 it got released again, and this time: bingo! #13:

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Cathy Dennis – Just Another Dream

Two hits into a career and we all know what record labels want an artist to do next to cash in on them cement their reputation: release a ballad…

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Cathy Dennis – Too Many Walls

…and then follow that up with one last single from her “available in all good record stores now” album:

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Cathy Dennis – Everybody Move

And then, suddenly it was all over. Yes, there were a couple more minor hits, and a brief flirtation with the UK Top 20 again in 1997 with a cover of The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset” which I’m not going to trouble you with here, and there was the time when she quit Club MTV’s first tour amid claims that she had been sexually harassed by one of Milli Vanilli, who presumably wasn’t lip-syncing on that occasion.

But it seemed to me that just as quickly as she had breezed into my life, so she was gone again.

Or so I thought.

For unbeknownst to me, Dennis had merely gone off to reinvent herself, and boy oh boy did she ever did that, writing or co-writing three of the biggest selling and – let’s be honest – best pop records of the 21st Century, namely this…

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Britney Spears – Toxic

(I think that’s the third time I’ve found an excuse to post that record here)

…and this…

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Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out Of My Head

(Kylie’s Harry Houdini tribute act needed some work)

…and this…

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Katy Perry – I Kissed a Boy

I watched Katy Perry’s Glastonbury performance a few weeks ago, and as I sat there watching it I found myself thinking: No really, at what age does it become unacceptable to still have crushes on pop stars?

More soon.

This Is Pop #10

You were warned.

When I first started writing this sporadic thread, I featured a record by Girls Aloud, and mentioned that others by them would feature again at some point.

And so here we are.

I don’t have anything else to say about Girls Aloud that I haven’t already said, other than to reiterate they made some bloody great pop records.

And this, which almost has a rockabilly feel to it in places, is an absolute corker:

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Girls Aloud – Love Machine

More soon.

This Is Pop #9

A little while ago, when I could be arsed to write this regularly, I posted a track by Sugababes, and made reference to a single they did with Richard X.

Well, here’s another single from the same album, this time featuring the gorgeous Kelis singing The S.O.S. Band’s “The Finest”, all mashed up with Human League’s “The Things That Dreams Are Made Of”.

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Richard X featuring Kelis – Finest Dreams

I’d imagine Jamie Theakston, to this day, still has to pinch himself to make sure he didn’t imagine that he once dated Kelis. That’s if he doesn’t have somebody else pinching him, of course, like the prostitute who “tricked him” into visiting a vice club (just the once of course) where he was photographed and subsequently blackmailed.

Which neatly leads me on to another great pop record by that saucepot Kelis:

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Kelis – Trick Me

More soon (after a cold shower).

This Is Pop #8

Generally in this thread, with the exception of the post about Sugababes, I’ve featured pop acts who have made one, maybe two, records that I like.

This week though, a band who I love, who you probably do too, but who it took me some time to actually admit that I like them.

I’d been aware of the Pet Shop Boys since before they were famous, since Head Boy Neil Tennant was writing for the much-missed Smash Hits magazine when I first began getting my Mum to pay for it in the early 1980s, and I remember them getting quite some coverage when he left. There was one interview I remember where he divulged that prior to joining Smash Hits, he had worked for the UK branch of Marvel Comics, employed to anglicise the text, and to ensure that no drawings of female characters included any surreptitious nipples. Can’t think why that stayed in my mind.

I’d thought “West End Girls” was pretty good, liked “Suburbia”, loved “What Have I Done To Deserve This?”, their duet with Dusty Springfield (mostly because of Dusty, it has to be said), but not enough to actually, you know, buy any of their records.

Have a listen to a piece of impeccable pop:

Pet Shop Boys - What Have I Done To Deserve This

Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield – What Have I Done To Deserve This?

There’s a bit in “What Have I Done….” where Tennant’s delivery always, without fail, makes me think of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Arthur Prufrock”, a poem I had studied at 6th Form at roughly the time that the single came out, and which I had fallen in love with almost immediately. You can read it here.

And then there’s Dusty; the bit where she just breezes into the chorus is just…heavenly.

Yet still my shelves remained a Pet Shop Boys-free zone

And why would that be? Well, I’ve written elsewhere admitting that when I was growing up, I had a general aversion to any record which didn’t contain anything sounding even slightly like a guitar, and today’s group definitely fall into that category.

As well as this unjustifiable phobia, they had annoyed me by keeping The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl’s “Fairytale of New York” from the Number One spot in the UK with a bloody cover version, a heinous crime in my book.

By now, I had graduated from the glossy fortnightly pages of Smash Hits to the grubby weekly music paper NME.

And then, this happened:

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This really annoyed me. Not in a Noel Gallagher “Jay-Z shouldn’t headline Glastonbury” kind of way; I had no issue with the Pet Shop Boys being on the cover of my beloved NME, it was the tag-line that got my back up.

“The Smiths you can dance to“.

The inference being that you can’t dance to The Smiths. This incensed me at the time. How they dare imply such a thing??

A few years ago I found myself in an Indie club, and the DJ dropped “This Charming Man”, and I suddenly realised they had a point. Have you ever tried dancing to that, without resorting to doing a Morrissey impression? It’s nearly impossible, the time signature is not conducive to anything other than an awkward Dad-dance shuffle.

So, in short, that tag line confirmed everything I thought: the Pet Shop Boys were the enemy.

I’m not entirely clear when that changed, but it was probably when Johnny Marr formed Electronic with Barney Sumner of New Order fame, and got Neil Tennant to make a guest appearance on a couple of tracks. Hang on a minute…if Johnny likes them, then what the hell was my problem?

Fast forward a few more years and one day I was in Cardiff’s branch of Fopp (R.I.P.) and there was their Greatest Hits album, “Discography”, going for £2.00. I examined the track-listing. How could anyone resist this list of supremely arch and, yes alright, danceable list of hits:

Pet Shop Boys - Discography trasera

Not one duff track to be found there. Why were these songs not already in my life?

Because sometimes I’m an idiot, that’s why.

I admitted defeat. I had been wrong. Moments later it was mine.

If I had to pick one song by them that I love more than any other, it’s this next one. The lyrics evoke “The Day Before You Came” by ABBA, which I’ve written about before.

Older and (a bit wiser) I now realise that a band who can make you think of one of the greatest pop singles ever recorded and poetry within two songs is a very special band indeed.

And that record is this:

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Pet Shop Boys – Left to My Own Devices

In 2010 I was at Glastonbury and was lucky enough to catch Pet Shop Boys’ headline set on The Other Stage on the Saturday night. They were incredible, without doubt one of the greatest sets I’ve seen, not just down on Pilton Farm, but ever. The set was a mix of “the classics” – Dusty made an appearance, albeit via a video screen – and new stuff which was so instantly loveable it felt like I knew them already.

There was even a cover of a song which I didn’t recognise as being by Coldplay until it was way to late to stop myself joining in with the crowd-singing.

Have a look for yourself:

Majestic.

Sometimes it’s alright to be late to the party, as long as when you finally arrive you’re able to admit that you wish you’d set off earlier.

More soon.