Halleluiah Man, by Love and Money
On the blind side and down the back ways, The roots of sadness crawl,
When you can't get what you need, You feel like taking a torch to it all
Recorded in 1988, Halleluiah Man is a glowing testament to the songwriting ability of the criminally underrated James Grant. I saw them as a support act that year at the Victoria Hall (for Lloyd Cole?) and they were simply brilliant, with Grant and his quiff an effervescent focal point for the packed house. ‘Halleluiah Man’ was met with a few hugely unfair comparisons with Curiosity KilledThe Cat – for some strange reason. Grant’s longevity and eye for a hook and a great lyric was still going strong a few years ago.
99 Red Balloons, by Nena
No other choice for our penultimate selection, was there really? Rumoured to be inspired by the band’s guitarist observation of balloons being released at a Rolling Stones concert, this was a particularly annoying earworm that the British public unfathomably seemed to love. Like a Teutonic Matt Hancock it was somehow popular, and despite the band not being too enamoured by how the song came across when translated to English, like Hancock ‘s landlord it soon had a very decent effect on their bank balances as it was a huge number 1 hit in the UK.
Freak Like Me, by Sugababes
Formed by All Saints’ manager, the superbly named Ron Tom, Sugababes have had more personnel changes than a NathanJones starting Stoke 11. Without the bitten nails, chest-thumping and regular homages to Jesus’ dad. A cover of Adina Howard’s original, this was a streetwise, sassy2002 slice of UK pop that went to number one and brilliantly combining a Gary Numan and Tubeway Army sample and bolshy vocals to superb effect.
Wood Beez, by Scritti Politti
Whilst he might have sound like he was singing after inhaling from a balloon, Green Gartside knew a tune.Unfortunately, it took this brilliant one before too many others thought likewise, and it was this homage to Aretha Franklin that finally gave the bandit’s big break. From their superb Cupid & Psyche 85 album, it hit the UK top 10, and whilst influenced originally by the late 70’s punk scene, Scritti Politti’s carefully crafted catalogue had many a pop, hip hop, and reggae tinge to it.
Crash, by The Primitives
Without checking, I reckon a large proportion of this list of 100 feature female vocalists, and #97 is no different. Tracy Tracy (yes, I know) was the voice behind The Primitives, the first Indie-Pop band to feature in the list. Released in 1988, it was a kind of prototype for the genre that saw the likes of Transvision Vamp and later Republika reap rewards in later years:jangly guitar intro leads to well-crafted, catchy popcorn indie tune – you know the dance by know but it’s done so bloody well. A slightly different version was featured in the film Dumb & Dumber, fact fans.
Breakout, by Swing Out Sister
Catchy as you like, this was pop music for the slightly older crowd than your regular teeny-boppers and featured a cracking pudding-bowl haircut adorned by lead singer Corinne Drewery, who would later be appointed by England manager Glenn ‘Glenn’ Hoddle to assist his players in her role as a faith healer*. Upbeat and joyous, this was written shortly after Drewery was incapacitated after falling off a horse and fracturing her skull.
The Captain of Her Heart, by Double
A massive slice of Swiss cheese?You betcha. A strangely hypnotic mid-80’s ballad featuring wistful lyrics about a woman who stops waiting for her absent lover to return, set to the charming interludes of a grand piano and saxophone. Distinctive, haunting, beautiful, and with more than a whiff of cheese, Double (pronounced doo-blay) produced a melancholic pop classic without possibly even realising it. And I bet they would chase aimless balls lumped forward despite them going out for goal kicks, too!
Hallucinate, by Dua Lipa (Tensnake remix)
There’s an advantage of having kids aged between 13 and 22 – you sometimes get to hear an absolute beaut of a song break out in the middle of the utter dirge that they listen to. This is one of them, and it actually led me to check out the Tensnake remix of the song, which is absolutely brilliant. Great bassline, breathy vocals, this builds and builds into a pop-dance cracker with attitude that had me dad-dancing in the kitchen during lockdown. ‘Hallucinate’ wouldn’t sound out of place in a club sandwiched between the likes of All and All or Let The Music Play. It’s that ace.
Reward, by Teardrop Explodes
An instant, incessant trumpet, bass, and drum opening leads into Julian Cope snarling the immortal “Bless my cotton socks I’m in the news…..”line. And the song never loses a second of pace thereafter! Brought out in1981, it remains the bands biggest ‘hit’ after peaking at 6 in the UK but was astonishingly omitted from the initial release of their seminal ‘Kilimanjaro’ elpee. Frantic and over in a lot less than three minutes, feel free to drop-in your own joke about my love-life here…..
Fly By II, by Blue
I can hear it now – I reckon this will be the first “what the *** is Bunny on about?” from the list of 100. ButI’m not arsed. As a pop song, I absolutely love this. It’s brilliant. I’ve never been too arsed about being in the in-crowd with music – if I like it, I play it. And this an absolutely cracking slice of boy band R&B with a side of groove and a dollop of harmonies. And if you watch the video, I reckon the band know it too – they probably know that anything else they’ve ever done is not in this league. Indeed, for the genre, it’s even touching on being ‘cool’. There I said it. Fill your bloody boots folks, I’ll make sure that my wifi is down.