The Charts, the BRITS and all that stuff

 

BRITs

 

Back in my day, the charts really mattered and just to break into the top 40 was a big deal, to go top 10 was really special and to get anywhere near the echelons of the top was a rare, career altering, achievement.

Tuesday lunchtime was about being huddled around my radio listening to the brand new chart run down.

All those songs you think made number one in the 1980s didn’t (Duran Duran’s, ‘Save A Prayer’ (No 2), one of their best known ‘Rio’ (No 9) and  Wham’s ‘Young Guns‘ (no 3) but that didn’t mean they weren’t huge and still classics now.

Radiohead announced the release of their album yesterday, not to be released in the spring or next month as with most new announcements, but this week. The news included the fact that their previous albums had reached number one but really, does that matter anymore?

My idea is that perhaps at the start of the year, we should start a ‘year to date’ chart based entirely on sales so far. Therefore, a track may come out in June but if it sells more than everything that preceded it, it will become number one until another single sells more. This is much truer test of what’s popular (these are the ‘pop’ charts after all) and it will hopefully discount whatever is popular on X Factor or with those pesky Glee kids in any particular week.

If these pop pretenders still end up at the top of the heap, well I won’t like it but I may attention to the charts once again.

Similarly, the BRITS were about what’s popular, right at the top of the charts and familiar to your mum and your kid brother alike.  Nowadays, there’s always some act I’ve never heard off, or at least not heard the music.  Call me middle aged but isn’t the Mercury prize for uncovering new talent, the BRITS used to be to recognise what’s already at the top of the tree.

It was going this way when still with the BBC but moving to ITV ensured it was all about the glitz and not about the music any more.

Still, I’ll watch it – and record it – religiously every year and disagree with every win, just like my Dad would have done thirty years ago.

With the BRIT Awards today, it got me thinking, why do we still have weekly charts?

Music Monday: D is for Duran Duran

As, my first favourite band, Duran Duran were life changing so they will always hold the most special place in my musical heart. I would never (I imagine) have come to Birmingham, never mind lived in the city three times if it wasn’t for their introduction.

To pick five from the ‘Fab Five’ (as coined by Rolling Stone magazine) is very hard so I have chosen the five that I would like to see them perform. Others like New Religion, Hold Back the Rain, The Chauffeur, Wild Boys, Union of the Snake, Is There Something I Should Know – oh so many more could easily have made the grade and on another day, they probably will.

Planet Earth – their first single and the track that got me into music in a serious way; as in life changing way.
The Reflex – Re-mixed by the magnificent music God that is Nile Rodgers and so began their beautiful friendship
Sound of Thunder – the first song they wrote together in 1980
Hungry Like The Wolf – trademark ridiculous lyrics that I love them for, outstanding tune
Careless Memories – passed me by at the time but it’s the one I love hearing live

Do you have a different choice?

Duran Duran

Music Monday – C is for Chic

If I have musical heroes, they are Chic.

Their records are just the half of it, they, Nile Rodgers or Bernard Edwards or both, have produced a stack load of my favourite artists including Duran Duran and Madonna but also ‘supergroup’ The Power Station (2 members of Duran Duran, Tony Thompson – Chic’s drummer and the brilliant Robert Palmer). Sad to note that Tony Thompson, Robert Palmer and Bernard Edwards (just 43) all passed away but left not only a huge musical legacy but a big influence on me.

They’ve also produced (revived) Diana Ross and Sister Sledge and so many more.
What I have learnt is that Bob Clearmountain, known to me as Bryan Adams’ main producer but also works with Springsteen, Bon Jovi and hundreds of others, engineered their first album. So in fact they link up a vast majority of my favourite artists.

Let’s go for a top 5 of these genius artists:
Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)
Le Freak – known for being a gigantic influence on a huge variety of bassists, the bass line in this is the most amazing. Apparently this track was the biggest seller for Warner Bros until Madonna’s Vogue came along
My Forbidden Lover
He’s the Greatest Dancer (Sister Sledge but heck, it’s their track. “One night at a disco on the outskirts of Frisco, I was cruising with my favourite gang”. That line made me go to the only place on the west coast of America I ever wanted to go, San Francisco.
Good Times – in my top 10 of all time and possibly the most sampled track of all time although possibly Rodgers & Edwards are the most sampled producers of all time?

My childhood, indeed my life is deeply enriched for hearing Chic.
Nile Rodgers

50 things that make me smile in Birmingham

In no particular order, just how they spilled out from my thoughts…

The building of the new library
Town Hall – From Robert Plant to the BBC Big Band
Symphony Hall – Chandeliers, acoustics and an organ
Alpha Tower (or is that just me? – my favourite building)
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery – because it’s majestic on the outside, magnificent on the inside and it’s all free.
Theatre Land – to be able to just walk to the theatre, no subway for us.
The Jewellery Quarter
Custard Factory – if the name isn’t enough there’s the vintage fairs
St Pauls Square – 1 min from Colmore Business District and all is quiet
24 Carrots – an excellent reason to go to the JQT, if you needed one
Urban Coffee Co – the best in Birmingham (although I have said that many times)
Kiss Me Cupcakes – ditto
The canal –a scenic walk to somewhere fabulous
NIA – knowing people from all over the world come to perform there
Birmingham Airport – oceans ahead (pun intended) from the big London airports
The Evening Mail sellers in their kiosks “Maaaeeeil”
Cadburys (thanks to @blondepinky3)
That I can walk everywhere
That Digbeth is now apparently called the Irish Quarter
The new National Express coach station – like they said, just like a (tiny) airport and it was opened by Fabio Capello.
That Helena Bonham Carter pops into Urban Coffee Co for breakfast
The Jazz (and blues) Festival
The arts festival
The film festival
The book festival
Gay Pride & the gay village
St Patricks Day parade – I was at the New York version when I learnt Birmingham’s huge Irish community make this the 3rd largest in the world, after NYC and Dublin
Selfridges, House of Fraser and Harvey Nicks – strategically placed 10 minutes from each other. House of Fraser will forever be known as my 7 floors of heaven.
The old school musical heritage (Ozzy Osborne, Roy Wood, ELO, Robert Plant, Slade)
The new school musical heritage (Duran Duran, UB40, Ocean Colour Scene, The Editors)
The comic heritage (Lenny Henry, Frank Skinner)
The acting heritage (Julie Walters, Martin Shaw)
The multitude of live music venues, huge and tiny including Yardbird Jazz Club,  The Jam House and of course the O2 right in the city centre
The ICC – because it houses so much, it brings revenue & jobs and at night at any case, it’s stunning (not so much in the day but I’m being positive)
The student population – or to be honest, the fact they are being educated at any number of our fine educational establishments
3 Michelin star restaurants, the now famous Lasan and the huge variety of gorgeous restaurants. Birmingham will never go hungry
The Balti Triangle
Bull Ring – not The Bull Ring
The Electric – the oldest working cinema in the country and one of four in the central area
The Broad Street ‘Walk of Stars’
JR Tolkien
St Pauls Gallery with the album covers exhibition that quite frankly, I want to move into.
Brindleyplace – it’s just one word you know
Jekyll & Hyde (via @blondepinky3)
The Actress & Bishop (via @blondepinky3)
The Lord Clifden – music, BBQs, glitter balls and Banksy. We are truly spoilt.
Birmingham Cathedral
@likemind – my favourite start to any day, never mind a Friday
The thing I love most about Birmingham – the warmth of the people. It’s not just me; all the outsiders say the same thing.
One more ???
Give me a minute, I’ll think of lots more as soon as I hit ‘publish’.

All time top 10 tunes

In no particular order

  1. Bryan Adams – Run To You (1984)

From the opening brilliant riff, this made me realise I can like all types of music, however uncool and if had to choose just one best track, this is it

  1. Duran Duran – Planet Earth (1981)

This track blew me away and got me committed to music. Finally a band I could call my own

  1. Abba – Dancing Queen (1976)

The first record I danced to in public, at the school disco. I’d taken it in. This is to be played at my funeral as the coffin disappears.

  1. Billy Idol – Rebel Yell (1984)

Raw energy in this; the cross over record between punk and rock – and you can dance to it.

  1. The Cult – Sanctuary (1985)

Raw energy for longer. I always love a track that starts in gear 4 but still manages go higher as many do on this list do.

  1. The Undertones – Teenage Kicks (1978)

Everything we need to know and remember about being a teenager. It makes the heart tick faster just as it would have done all those years ago when the object of our desire so much as walked past us.

  1.  Modjo – Lady (2000)

The newest addition and now ten years old. Seriously, I had to kick ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ out of the top 10 for this. Disco 21st century style.

  1. Chic – Good Times (1979)

Turned me onto disco and then to New York. Bernard Edwards & Nile Rogers are my musical ‘heroes’. Everything they touch turned to gold. RIP Mr Edwards, you made me listen, you made my smile, you made me dance and you make it worth-while.

  1. Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel –Make Me Smile (Come & Up & See Me) (1975)

I got into this through Duran Duran’s cover version. Timeless.

      1.  Candy Station – Young Hearts Run Free (1976)

From a childhood memory song to a grown-up theme tune

Whereas the ultimate all time Top Ten is unchanging, until something comes out that is worthy of it’s presence at the top the following can change from time to time but they are more or less solid. I do believe a track has to be around a good 5-10 years before it can be categorised as an all time favourite.

NB I’ve included the release dates but that doesn’t mean I knew the song when it came out. Additionally, at least three of my all time faves are missing here, Springsteen, Madonna and Gun but they’ll feature in the lists coming up each week.

What’s your all time top 10?

Found – Mix tapes

Since moving back from New York, I’ve been bemused of my decision of over a year ago as to what I took to New York with me and what I didn’t bother with. Some of those things needed special handling so were not worth sending – for now.  Others, I guess I was unsure off.

I’ve come across a few cassette tapes amongst my big collection of music magazines from my yoof.

I haven’t owned a cassette player for a several years but I’m still keeping all the ones that include taped radio interviews of Duran Duran, Edwyn Collins (Orange Juice), Echo & the Bunnymen on the John Peel sessions, more Duran Duran, The Rock & Pop awards before they became the BRITS and before they were televised, interviews and live tracks with U2 (I was a big fan until New Years Day, not at all since).

One day I’ll get to listen to these and transfer them onto….well whatever the technology is then.

I’m throwing out all the Madonna albums, these are just recordings from the vinyl and I have them all in CD anyway. I stopped playing my records when I was young, instead transferring them all to cassette leaving my vinyl pristine.

There are also albums from Gun, my all time favourite rock band – still, INXS, Bon Jovi, Jamiroquai, Blur, Georgia Satellites and Take That and  Party. I actually stole that one from an Oasis fan during the war with Blur. Which Blur so obviously won. Somehow a Now 40 is in there and it has my handwriting on it. Must have been a rare good year for chart music.

I have a tape called Disco which includes:

  • Odyssey – Native New Yorker (of course)
  • Village People – Can’t Stop the Music (do you remember that one?)
  • Yvonne Elliman – If I Can’t Have You (still love that one)
  • Tina Charles – Love to Love

But looking at the tape inside, it’s the best album Bryan Adams ever made – Waking Up the Neighbours, at his loudest and best and great value as it’s a double.

The Dance tape includes

  • Madonna – Lucky Star (if held at gun point I would choose this or Borderline as my fave Madonna track but there are so many)
  • Greg Phillinganes – Behind the Mask (with Eric Clapton?)
  • Madonna – Stay (that would be the best album track – again if at gun point)
  • SOS Band – The Finest
  • Cherelle – Saturday Night (But wasn’t that Alexander O’Neil too?)
  • Five Star – System Addict (Their finest hour)
  • Jellybean – Sidewalk (I vaguely remember this track from Madonna’s early producer)
  • Chic – Good Times (my musical heroes and in my all time top 10)

Most intriguing is the Obscure/Alternative  1980 – 1982

  • The (Psychedelic) Furs – We Love You (plus 2 more)
  • Orange Juice – Blue Boy (2 more OJ tracks)
  • A Flock Of Seagulls – Wishing (made 2 of the best records of the decade, the other being I Ran)
  • Simple Minds – Someone Somewhere (plus 2 more Minds tracks, loved, loved that Glittering Prize album)
  • Farmers Boys – Muck it Out
  • Pale Fountains – Thank You (don’t remember how the track goes)
  • The The – Uncertain Smile (loved it)
  • Wah! – Story of the Blues (Loved this but my fave now is probably ‘Remember’)
  • The Cure – Let’s Go To Bed (nostalgic reason)

Actually, I’m going to keep that one.

Oh and there’s a cassette head cleaner.

I feel like I’m 14 again. Good Times indeed.

All going to a charity shop, as soon as I find one as they appear  to be  obsolete in the city centre.