[11] T. Rex, ‘Metal Guru’

T. Rex

What was No.1 when you were born? And does it say the smallest thing to you about your life? When you found out, presumably many years later, did you warm to the song, did it all make sense? Junior had that godawful Elton meets 2Pac’s corpse mawkfest. Let’s hope she’s never exposed to it again.

We talked about it here, but thankfully any memories were drowned by ‘Metal Guru”s eerie wail and glam vamp, a Wall of Sleazy Sound that seemed to unsettle Junior for a moment. It does disorientate. It’s a technicolour yawn made, er, audio. Although there’s no ‘Get It On’ funky steel to it, its banshee chug just edges out the slinky ‘Children Of The Revolution’ and kooky ‘Telegram Sam’ in the sprint for best T. Rex single of the year.

But I’m biased.

[12] Curtis Mayfield, ‘Superfly’

Curtis Mayfield

You have to hand it to ‘Superfly’: it walks the walk. Few records – even amid the heap of dapper soul from the early 70s – exhibit this sort of swagger, and a still more exclusive number do it while weighed down by a title of such expectation. ‘Superfly’ is superfly. It doesn’t so much start as lean in. Curtis, steel within silk, eases over brass stabs and wakka-wakka guitar, apparently putting in the graft of a Dimitar Berbatov, while we pop our earphones on and pimp-roll through Charing Cross station.

Obviously, Junior thinks Mayfield’s bigging up an insect with awesome powers – but she catches the real sense; the sense that makes swing her hips and put up the customary two thumbs in honour of this cat of the slum.

[13] Faces, ‘Stay With Me’


There’s never been a satisfactory rule about singles which pop up over the festive period. Look at The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’ – No.1 for five weeks over December 1981/January 1982, shifter of a million-plus copies, and where is it in the Official Top 40 Bestselling Singles of 1981? Nowhere. OK, where is it in the Official Top 40 Bestselling Singles of 1982? Er, nowhere. It certainly moved enough units in either year to make an appearance, even if not at the very top, so it must’ve fallen foul of arbitrary cut-off dates.

So here’s our rule in action: ‘Stay With Me’ entered the charts in December 1971, but peaked in January. It goes in the year of its peak. Not that that helps The Human League. Moving on…

Junior likes the guitars, and who wouldn’t? They’re so louche. At about the age of 19, I decided this kind of vagabond rock was the pinnacle of human achievement in the field of cool, and started wearing vintage threads and growing hair and beard like The Black Crowes at almost the exact moment The Black Crowes decided this kind of vagabond rock was the pinnacle of human achievement in the field of cool. Synergy, man.

Today we talked about Rod Stewart’s generosity in keeping his band alive when he was doing nicely enough by himself – but he always was one for gangs – and Junior was pleased to hear that Little Nanny remains his biggest fan. I’m pretty keen on Rod myself. Like Kelly Jones, I’d sacrifice all artistic integrity to have a third of his ruined voice. Anyway, thumb-rating is the theme of this week, and the Faces got two, aloft.

[14] The Stylistics, ‘I’m Stone In Love With You’

The Stylistics

Another example of that impeccable soul sound of the 70s – so clean you could eat your dinner off it, so sleek you’d better be quick eating your dinner or it’s going to slide onto the floor – The Stylistics racked up a surprising number of hits, many better known than this but few so sweetly endearing. Russell Thompkins Jr adorns a succession of great feats with his impossible falsetto, dreaming of everything he could accomplish through the power of his stone love. Delicate strings, muted horns and extremely sparing harmonies make this three-and-a-quarter minutes of spine-tingling gossamer loveliness.

So it’s a shame he “sounds like a girl” and the song’s only worth “half a thumb”.

[15] Steely Dan, ‘Do It Again’

Steely Dan

“I know Steely Dan, I met him at school.” Perhaps Fagen and Becker really did pop into Junior’s school to deliver a talk called – I don’t know – Get With It, Daddio: Sneaking Jazz into Lugubrious Contemporary Rock, but one thing I’m sure of: if I’d met the Dan at school I’d have stifled a yawn and sloped off to play tennis ball football.

You see, more than anything else, more than Phil Collins, Dire Straits or our pal Eric Clapton, in the early 80s Steely Dan epitomised Dad Rock for us. Those others troubled the charts quite seriously, but the Dan only appeared on old boys’ stereos, their liquid grooves and terribly precise harmonies finding a frequency that would instantly dispatch a schoolboy to the Land of Nod. Even in 1989, when De La Soul’s ‘Eye Know’ sent me off in search of ‘Peg’, I still detested ‘Deacon Blues’ and the rest of the queasily perfect aural furniture on Aja.

According to Last.fm, in the past five months I’ve played ‘Deacon Blues’ six times.

Says more than any amount of grey hair, right? So, in the rich tradition of hilarious, ageing voltes-faces, let’s recognise that ‘Do It Again’ is terrific, its easy funk played faultlessly, its smug delivery pitched the righteous side of incredibly annoying. And to undercut my generation gap theories, Junior says she hasn’t got enough thumbs to express how thumbs-up the song is.

[16] Derek And The Dominos, ‘Layla’

Layla. Need those shoes.

Its critical standing has stumbled a bit in recent years, but when I was a kid ‘Layla’ was painted as pretty much the greatest record ever. Haughtily disregarding stiff competition from ‘Stairway To Heaven’ and ‘Hotel California’ (‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was still held in some suspicion), ‘Layla’ had a little bit of manliness about it, and rock critics love that musky whiff. Or whiffy musk. It’s a frightful indulgence, of course, but come on – that’s one deathless riff and a bucket of tasty drum fills. Its swashbuckling energy must’ve taken it out of Eric too, because he never really poked himself out of his slumber again.

I was excited to hear Junior’s thoughts on such a tiresome (yet great) macho rock standard, and she didn’t disappoint. “It sounds like a party,” which is fair on the clatter. I told her that Clapton was once regarded as the best guitarist around and wondered if she agreed. “I don’t know. I know who the best singer is.” Go on… “Lady Gaga.” She and her sister then sang ‘Bad Romance’ over ‘Layla”s endless coda.

[17] The Temptations, ‘Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone’

The Temptations

Ninety seconds in, Junior’s getting restless: “When does he start singing?” “Well, are you sure there’s even going to be singing?” I’d already told her the title – which amused her, of course – and if a song’s got a title, particularly an intriguing one like that, there’s going to be singing, isn’t there? Makes no sense otherwise. That’s what her eyes told me. Then in came Dennis Edwards, “It was the 3rd of September…”

So Junior was happy, but even if she had little patience for the extended, cinematic Blaxploitation-style intro, that’s what makes the record stand out. The story’s a good one – “Bad talk going around town…” – but the bassline’s the driver, swaggering in in fancy shoes and making off with all the loot. And that ain’t right.

[18] Roberta Flack, ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’

Roberta Flack

Speaking of Dexys Midnight Runners, good old Kev half-inched the intro from this for their ‘Reminisce (Part Two)’, didn’t he? Either he’s wracked with guilt about it and fessed up in the sleevenotes of the most recent Don’t Stand Me Down reissue, or, erm, I’m about to get sued.

Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger’s original version of ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ is a bit fairy fey, but it has a certain mystery. Roberta Flack draws that out, then draws the whole song out until it’s almost completely still, a beautiful ambient drone.

Junior’s mum says it makes her sad, but Junior herself thinks it’s about rolling your eyes. As opposed to “rose in your eyes”. So, while the rest of us feel an ache – or a creepy memory of Play Misty For Me – Junior hears Flack sounding exasperated.

[19] Van Morrison, ‘Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile)’

Van Morrison

It’d be difficult to talk about this without mentioning Dexys Midnight Runners. So let’s make this about Dexys Midnight Runners. Their version of ‘Jackie Wilson Said’ was the first single I ever bought, and hence a landmark in the History of Pop. As a callow child, I didn’t get the joke of the Jocky Wilson photo on Top Of The Pops, and also failed to knowingly snigger at Kevin Rowland singing, “real you see” instead of “Reet Petite”. And besides, maybe Jackie Wilson did once say it was “real, you see” or “real”, you see. We’ll never actually know.

What we can say with confidence is Kev says he doesn’t need “no tea” in his cup, while Van doesn’t need coffee. From this, we can extrapolate that it takes a whole lot less to get Kev “wired up”, but I guess we knew that anyway. The DMR version is a tight affair – no surprise with that crazily drilled band – while Morrison and co take it headlong and ramshackle. I’ve a sentimental attachment to the DMR take, obviously, but Van is out on a limb, giving it that extra lick of flame.

Junior flung herself around the room with celtic abandon from first “dup” to last. When I asked her for a more considered view afterwards, her mouth was too full of Rice Krispies to offer a clear assessment. It could’ve been “real you see” or “Reet Petite”.

[20] The Chi-Lites, ‘Have You Seen Her?’


I wasn’t around for much of 1972, so personal reminiscences will be thin on the ground, but having spent much of the late 70s and early 80s heavily exposed to Radio 2, I could be forgiven for thinking ‘Have You Seen Her?’ is emblematic of the time – a time of smooth, honeyed soul, devoid of fear and soaked in sentimentality. But we’ll be also be hearing the popularisers of the Blaxploitation sound, some whiskey-smoked raggedy rock, a touch of glam(our) and the white side of easy listening.

The Chi-Lites are a great way to kick off, with one of pop’s finer intros and an extended spoken preamble that has Junior pressing her ear to the speaker to pick up the drift. The rest of the time, she and middle sister are dancing with two Iggle Piggles (one acquired as part of a replacement set after Upsy Daisy got run over) and Sulley (from Monsters Inc, a temporary guest won by Junior on her second day of term, for being “the goodest”). It’s a song for waltzing dreamily around the room, with soft toys or not. Its own reminiscences are growing hazy too.