[1] Blur, ‘Girls & Boys’

Oh. Seems they did stand a chance after all.

From baggy also-rans via Kinksian chroniclers of rubbish modern life to standard-bearers of a New England, Blur came back an unexpected success in ’94. The game had seemed up, but ‘Girls & Boys’ was shot through with a new lease of life. For me, the trick wasn’t sustained over the whole Parklife album – although legions will disagree – with nothing repeating the pure pop bounce and sneering conviction of this curtain-raiser. It sounds like early Duran Duran (yeah, that is a good thing), yet bolstered further by its punk-funk credibility and cheery dismissal of Club 18-30 culture.

A dunderheaded chorus, too, which has stick-on appeal for the younger listener. Junior’s up to speed by the second airing, and shows off an interesting dance where the legs stand stock-straight and still while the upper body wigs out. It’s all a bit mid-‘60s Top Of The Pops.

News just in: The 2008 Top 20 Singles countdown will start tomorrow, one-a-weekday until Christmas Eve. It has an extra feature too. Gosh, I’m all a-flutter.

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[2] Oasis, ‘Live Forever’

Well, this just glows with melody, doesn’t it? I’m not sure whose melody it is, but the fact it’s not immediately traceable has to be a good thing. Oasis were that bit too raw in ’94 for the Pastiche Police to really get their claws in – they’d save that for, er, 1995 – and it helps to remember this and Definitely Maybe in context. That context saw a refreshing blast of scally rock, blowing away the grey ashes of shoegaze/any other indie feyness you care to name. It’s best not to think of what Oasis were to become.

But, just in case you were wondering, there are more hooks in Liam’s first “mayb-eh” of ‘Live Forever’ than there are in the whole of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, ‘All Around The World’, ‘The Importance Of Being Idle’, I could go on. That the song is also a statement of intent, fierce belief in the immortality of youth, only makes the grizzled dadrock flavour of later stuff harder to swallow.

Junior ploughed through her cereal as the band waded through what seems a more sluggish record 14 years on. ‘Live Forever’ does lack some oomph out of that context again, but Junior eventually got sucked in, whipping out the guitar to throw some shapes for the final solo.

So, that’s three Oasis singles in our Top 20. Britpop wars? Pah. Blur didn’t stand a chance.

[3] Underworld, ‘Cowgirl’

“Everything everything everything everything everything everything everything everything…”

Now we’ve got that looping around your head, you’re ready to big fish, little fish, cardboard box. Junior was, anyway. Who knew that rave shapes were instinctive? She’s pushing clouds, jabbing elbows, funky-worming; in short, everything (everything) except wearing a boiler suit and making a pilled-up “o” with her mouth. Which is a relief.

15 years on, Dubnobasswithmyheadman is still a scorching good album. It should feel dated, but somehow – my old hobbyhorse again – it’s the dance scene that’s moved backwards, while this keeps step with the vanguard. It’s not rave, no, but it’s the more cultured big brother that came along to see what all the fuss was about. Bit like me at the gay quiz night at that pub in Bushey Heath, only less awkward.

[4] Tricky, ‘Aftermath’

Yes, it was released next year, the following year, that is, 1995, but Maxinquaye was a fantastic album, wasn’t it? Weed-killed, paranoid Tricky and Poltergeist girl-a-like Martina weaving hydroponic magic out of a punk-bred hip-hop, yet still managing to sound pop – and resolutely NOT trip-hop. Way too aggressive for that sort of chilled-out entertainment.

‘Aftermath’ was the initial signal after Tricky had fled the increasingly banal Massive Attack, and it’s a dark delight filled with punchy beats and half-inched Japan lyrics. Plays havoc with the PA, too, if you’re confrontational with the bass.

Not in the best frame of mind to welcome the Brizzle apocalypse, Junior sat sulkily in the naughty seat, having shook the muslin rather too pointedly in her little sister’s direction. By the time we reached the false endings of the track, she was up in her room.

[5] Bomb The Bass featuring Justin Warfield, ‘Bug Powder Dust’

I’m getting weary legs as we stagger towards the 1994 finish – but hey, the thrilling 2008 Top 20 countdown begins a week today! Make a note in your Smash Hits diaries, pop fans.

This is an excellent record and everything; I’m just feeling tired today. Let’s see if I can pep myself up simply by talking about Justin Warfield’s pseudo-intellectual cut-up flow and Tim Simenon’s aggressive electro motor beats. Warfield was ever keen on styling himself as a beat poet and ‘Bug Powder Dust’ is ripe with Burroughsian word clashes and good sounds – verbal and musical – as he waggles his beatnik head to Simenon’s spiky Brit-house. It’s cool and rules, although I think I prefer Warfield’s own ‘Fisherman’s Grotto’. Ok.

We do the bus-listening trick again, reprazenting in the priority seats by the door. Junior rolls her shoulders and twists her hips before announcing at the end, quite unnecessarily, “That made me dance.”

[6] The Stone Roses, ‘Love Spreads’

We tried a new experiment this morning – well, we were pushed for time and it would’ve been a pity to mess up this tune-a-weekday thing we’ve got going on – and listened to the song on the bus to nursery, like teenage rapscallions playing tinny bassline house on the backseat. Don’t worry; we were at the front, listening through sound-isolating earphones at a responsible volume. Junior showed fierce concentration all the way through the lengthy John Squire Led Zep-a-thon, breaking off only to declare that her arms ached from holding the earpieces in place. Afterwards she said that she liked the song and it had “lots of guitars”.

I think Squire would have been pleased with the assessment. That’s why he kept the band holed up in Wales for four years, wasn’t it? To lay down “lots of guitars”.

Anticipation had reached Chinese Democracy levels by the time this surfaced in November 1994, and it was only ever going to be an anticlimax. It’s a pretty solid rocker with a bit of swagger, but last time we’d seen The Stone Roses they looked as if they might Change The World with large jeans and half-inched James Brown beats. This plodded in comparison. Still, with a sense of relief at any kind of output, I loved it for a few months, and Paddy and I particularly enjoyed making Neil and Kate sing “The Messiah is my sister” over and over in the backseat as we drove up to Edinburgh that New Year’s Eve.

[7] Beastie Boys, ‘Get It Together’/‘Sabotage’

What do you mean, “White men can’t rap”? Isn’t rapping just shouting a lot and over-emphasising the final word in each line? No? Oh.

To allow a bit of slack, the Beasties were well into playing their own instruments in a jazz-funk stylee by this stage, and banging on about Buddha – they’d transcended that frat-boy yelling thing. Well, a bit, anyway. Whatever, you have to hand it to this AA-sider. First up, a suffocating, paranoid skip-hop with a sterling turn from The Greatest Laidback Rap Voice In Hip-Hop, A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip, and categorically not the last mention of “macaroni” in this Top 10. Junior gave the track the full shoulders and elbows in exaggerated fashion and even sang along to the fearful “get it togetha”s.

Second on the bill, the screaming punk-rap of ‘Sabotage’. It’s a great video, at least. For this, Junior did the teeth-baring rawk face. It’s something of an ordeal to actually listen to, but come on, at worst you know you’re alive.

[8] Kylie Minogue, ‘Confide In Me’

So Kylie fled the suffocating grip of Stock Aitken Waterman to find credibility, dance chops and, ultimately, zero record sales with then ultra-cool label Deconstruction. Everything looked rosy with ‘Confide In Me’ – all melodrama, crunchy beats and Top 3 success – and a decent album followed, only with diminishing returns. I worked at Deconstruction for one whole day as the album was being released, and made off with tons of promo material including a semi-lifesize (well, you can never tell with the Kylester) cardboard cut-out that my brother now owns. It was small recompense for spending eight hours sending out M People 12”s.

My own diminutive pop star claimed to “like Kylie” and admired the glossy CD booklet. At first she had it confused with the Saint Etienne CD also on the desk, which is quite the coincidence – ‘Confide In Me’’s B-side was a cover of the Ets’ ‘Nothing Can Stop Us’. Even more thrilling, the, er, other B-side was a cover of Prefab Sprout’s ‘If You Don’t Love Me’. Truly a potted history of pristine pop.

[9] Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories, ‘Stay (I Missed You)’

I suppose I could do some actual idle research, but for the sake of argument let’s say that Lisa Loeb disappeared off the face of the planet. She made a nice single though; a meandering little delight with no proper chorus. It was the theme to slacker flick Reality Bites – again, I could get off my behind and find out, but I believe it starred Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder, and was about a bunch of bohemianly beautiful Generation X-ers doing sweet Fanny Adams for an hour or two. I couldn’t get with the slacker thing. Plaid’s too drab.

Junior sat quietly on my lap. She gets “missed” mixed up with “lost” and had a hairy can’t-see-mum moment while disappearing down aisles in M&S this week, so perhaps this was a time for panicky contemplation.

[10] Whigfield, ‘Saturday Night’

Now THIS was a hit. Junior danced like a dervish from the funny quacks at the start to the skipping outro. Of course, the funny quacks continued throughout, but Whigfield was never going to be Aretha Franklin, was she?

Sannie Carlson sprang from Denmark, yet  ‘Saturday Night’ is a purely Italian dance record, if perhaps lacking the pedigree of Italo House classics. Really lacking it. It’s a novelty, with its endless little dance and silly lyrics, but it was so catchy it made me momentarily forget my pint of 80/- when I first heard it in an Edinburgh bar. She’s apparently still making records, so it’s testament to one holiday song’s nagging appeal that we all remember this but don’t have the first clue what she’s lent her squawk to since.