[1] Dexys Midnight Runners & The Emerald Express, ‘Come On Eileen’

It’s the last song of the night, the bride and groom are long gone and we’ve kicked our legs to ‘New York, New York’ and swayed to ‘The Power Of Love’. A familiar, skipping bassline starts up, with the fiddles in close attendance. The dancefloor is flooded with hardy revellers, linking arms in the auld tradition. One lad stands scowling at the side, he’s had a good night but this strikes a sour note yet again. Doesn’t he like the song? He bloody LOVES it.

How did it come to this? A visionary work struck an unexpected note with the public, sold way over a million and became the wedding/school disco standard, danced along to by a pissed-up crowd who’d normally claim to dislike it but find it a “laugh” in a champagne haze. It cheapens it, steals its wit, strips its pathos.

How did it come to this? Kevin Rowland was no callow youth; Dexys had already had one Number One, had already released the best album of the decade and had already tried a couple of styles and line-ups. 20 years later, apparently free of his cocaine mania, Rowland was in full confessional mode, claiming culpability for all manner of sins. He said he stole the raggle-taggle gypsy style of ‘Come On Eileen’ and beyond from former bandmate Kevin Archer, who’d formed the Blue Ox Babes and played Rowland some demos. Whatever, Archer didn’t have the extra spark to turn ideas into tunes. Rowland ran with it and the rest is history. Blue Ox Babes were painted as Dexys copyists in the press and the rest is, er, history.

‘Come On Eileen’ is hugely ambitious. Strings, tin whistles, banjos, pipes, and pianos should make a folk song, but end up with a rousing piece of power pop. Sheer bombast allows Kev to sneak in some racy lines, while at the same time hiding some beauties, “moved a million hearts in mono”, “beaten down eyes sunk in smoke-dried faces”. It was a revelation until it was a cliché. I guess that’s the way things go.

Of course I’d like my daughter to love my favourite single. She stood in front of the stereo, palms face down on the coffee table in “let’s see if this is all you’ve cracked it up to be” style. I could handle her snubbing Bowie, The Jam, Scritti Politti, even Girls Aloud, but this, this is different. She dances. All the way through. And she doesn’t link arms with anyone.

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[2] Yazoo, ‘Only You’

More humanity in machines. Even Alf’s nasal, masculine drone finds some emotion, tripping over itself in the later lines, cracking and interrupting itself. It’s a great performance; she finds more rhythm in her tone as the song goes on and Vince ups the tempo as all the feeling comes pouring out. Gives Junior’s old dad a bit of, erm, hayfever.

The girl herself raises her arms in the air and sways them from side to side. This is a reaction I haven’t seen, more typical of Rod Stewart fan during ‘Sailing’ or a Foreigner fan during, well, anything. Junior’s calling ‘Only You’ a soft rock ballad. Hmm. Swap the synths for power chords, and what have you got?

Right. Depeche Mode, Yazoo, the Assembly, Erasure, countless productions/remixes: where’s Vince’s Outstanding Contribution Brit? Sign my petition now.

[3] Soft Cell, ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’

Me And The Stars – an occasional series: I saw Marc Almond in the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street when I was about 14. He had peroxide blond hair, which would place him in the classic Duetting with Bronski Beat period. One of my friends, in rather infra dig fashion, chased him as he left the shop, yelling apocryphal stuff about pumping stomachs free of eight pints of something or other. I imagine Marc remembers it fondly too. I was at a dinner party once with Richard Norris, who formed the Grid with Soft Cell’s other half, Dave Ball. My memoirs will be a blast, eh?

‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ drips with sleaze and pathos. No mean feat, but then Almond was always good at that. You could say he belonged in a different age, of torch singers and decadent Hollywood grandeur, but there he was, fitting in effortlessly with the brave new synth age, bringing some Cabaret to the London gloom. Hit after hit, and this would be the best if not for good old ‘Tainted Love’, a cover but an astonishing arrangement.

Electronic music was still a novelty in the mainstream. This and the next song would have surprised many, showing talented artists wringing emotion out of the cold machines. English pop heads taking Kraftwerk and adding drama. Melodrama, even, as Junior screamed throughout. Not crying, just testing the old chords. She even waved goodbye.

[4] Haircut 100, ‘Love Plus One’

When people talk about “perfect pop” they usually mean clever-clever, arch stuff that doesn’t appeal to The Kids. Like most of my favourite records. ‘Love Plus One’ was a huge hit, not too clever but with a stylish conceit, and is pristine perfect pop in practically every way.

They were clearly a bunch of talented lads, possibly backed up by a little too much jazz education, and for a year had the punters eating out of their hands. Four singles, four Top Ten hits – this, ‘Favourite Shirts’, ‘Fantastic Day’ and ‘Nobody’s Fool’ (No.21 on this chart, made-up-fact fans) – and *puff* they were gone. Well, not so much “puff” as, “Here, Mr Heyward, have this large sum of money to embark on a pleasant but hardly George Michael-troubling solo career”. Pity.

I won a Haircut 100 poster at Great Yarmouth Fair – I think I managed to shoot a teddy bear or something – but only three of the band were on it. Portentous, I’m sure. Just a minute ago I did a Google search for their names and found that the band have reformed, or are at least thinking of it, Heyward reckoning the old “magic” would still be there…

Junior will watch with interest, anyway. She was swept off her grubby feet by this one, throwing shapes, even singing along with the “ai, ai, ai, ai”s. Maybe her favourite since ZZ Top. What an odd demographic she inhabits.

[5] The Jam, ‘Town Called Malice’

Please feel free to write your own piece, tackling the following issues:

– Yes, ANOTHER Jam single, but I promise it’s the last one
– Doesn’t particularly hint at the Style Council
– Did Ocean Colour Scene ruin Weller or was it the other way around?
– It’s like Motown on amphetamines
– I had to buy it secretly because my mum disapproved
– ‘The Bitterest Pill’ IS possibly better
– She bounced a bit, but soon asked to be rescued from the playpen
– (Not my mum)
– Actually, Jesus, what a record
– Still to come: Charlene, Fat Larry’s Band, Toto Coelo and the Kids from Fame.

[6] Madness, ‘Our House’

This reminds me of boarding school, yet again. We had a boarding house in the middle of our street, and some of the older lads expertly adapted the lyrics for a Christmas party sing-song. It’s not laced with as much poignancy for me as you’d expect; I knew I was getting out in a few days. Thanks, doctor – same time next week?

Before the melancholy overwhelmed the madcap, this was Madness’s peak. It’ll bring a fond tear to the eye, but still has the jaunt. Their keen eye for the poetry in the humdrum was never sharper and the strings tug at your ducts while the piano thumps at your funnybone. That’s what they did.

Junior only picked up on the thumpy bit, and wriggled from side to side in a new and exciting way of complicating the nappy change.

[7] Marvin Gaye, ‘Sexual Healing’

Junior got up, got up, got up, got up from her cot, but otherwise spent the song pointing at the wooden crocodile, the light fitting, the wet wipes, her clothes and her piggy bank. While saying “Da!”.

Probably best that she wasn’t listening too carefully. She’d have wet herself laughing. “Baby, I think I’m capsizing, the waves are rising and rising”, “I’m hot just like an oven”, “I can’t wait for you to operate”. I mean, REALLY. As an Operations Manager, people are always saying the last of those lines to me. It’s harassment.

But the song works, because Marvin has the voice and the brass balls (no actual mention of them in the song, surprisingly), and the music is as crisp, lean and chromium as any electronic future-revealing groundbreaker released the same year. Perhaps Marvin could’ve pioneered house music if he’d only agreed with his Dad about the colour of the party hats.

[8] Daryl Hall & John Oates, ‘I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)’

Try and educate a baby all you like, she’ll always return to her frames of reference. “No Kandoo? Who cares, Dad? We’ve still got Pampers,” was her reaction. She listened with the lonely, neglected iDog, whose flashing lights suggested this is a hip-hop tune. It certainly launched a million of them.

Hall and Oates absolutely hammered the Billboard charts, like a pair of big-haired doo-wopping blue-eyed-soul Temptation-wannabe male Mariah Careys. They did ok over here too, no doubt helped by regular slots on lovable rascal Jonathan King’s Entertainment USA programme. I’ve opened a Pandora’s Box of memories there, haven’t I?

You’ll all remember John Oates’ huge, bushy moustache, of course. He was one of those fellows who saw the light just a little too late and shaved it off, without making an iota of difference. It might not be there, but you can still see it. As popular football managers Graeme Souness and Sam Allardyce have also found, a phantom ‘tache will always play around his top lip.

[9] Associates, ‘Party Fears Two’

Well, it’s either the most magnificent single of all time or a towering camp folly. Obviously not the former if it can only sashay to No.9 on this chart, but every year it edges closer. Distance brings it classic status. Billy MacKenzie’s swooping vocal flirts with the correct tune and the cascading keyboards try to keep up, all the while carrying the record to its wailing, ecstatic crescendo. It’s all rather understated.

So, does this Junior party fear two? So what if she does? She has almost a whole year to wait.

Yep, she had her first birthday last Monday. We’ve been celebrating ever since.

[10] Duran Duran, ‘Rio’

Junior stood at the coffee table, directly in front of the stereo, bobbing up and down. She fair resembled a Duranie from all those years ago, missing only the baggy trousers tucked into pixie boots, the hair sprayed outwards ‘til it was replacing the ozone layer let alone ripping through it, and the bulldozer-applied make-up. Give her five years.

This is the title track of the first album I owned, no half-shares with big sis, and it was the first song on the tape I took away to school, to play on one of those flat players with the speaker at the top. I had a single earpiece for private listening. Yes, I was at the vanguard of the hi-fi revolution.

What I’m saying is it’s a formative record for me. It’s why I wear a headband with my pastel suit, and blather interminable bullshit about cherry ice cream and how much birthdays and pretty views mean to me.

And it still has muscle and depth of sound, an odd contrast with the more cutting edge likes of Rockers Revenge. The cool dates faster than the naff.