[11] Alex Cameron, ‘The Comeback’

alex-cameron-2016

I give the girls an intro for this one to shed some light, add a bit of context: “He’s a very strange Australian man.” “Cool,” says Junior. “He has a deep voice. Although all men have deep voices.” Eleven years. Eleven years I’ve spent force-feeding Bee Gees records to my kids and it’s all been for naught.

‘The Comeback’ reminds J2 of “chilling on the beach” and J3 of “flying”. It reminds me of a hyper-sleazy, washed-up Bryan Ferry trying to rekindle former, very lost glories. I don’t know who’s more right. It’s affecting; you want him to reconnect with his “show” because there’s still a trace of charisma in there and he may yet have the energy to exploit it. Right now I’m imagining Shakin’ Stevens doing a startling cover of it, limbs no longer quite under his command.

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[20] Karl Blau, ‘Fallin’ Rain’

karl-blau-2016

Before we start, a word on Brexit and Trump.

Not really. More pertinent questions: what’s a single? What is this? Who are we?

A single is a single, and we’re going to make the best of it. It’s also an ‘impact’ track these days, and pretty much any song that’s even marginally promoted outside the confines of its album. Look, these are confusing times.

This is a blog that’s been running since November 2005. Admittedly, it’s running rather sporadically now, but if I’m going to go through my favourite songs of the year, it’s still the best place.

We are me and my three daughters. Junior (J1) who’s 11 and has been doing this since she was flapping her babygro arms to Kanye West all those years ago; Junior 2 (J2) who’s eight and massively into Top Of The Pops 1982, smuggling Dexys and Haircut 100 CDs up to her room; and Junior 3 (J3) who’s six and opinionated.

Finally, Karl Blau is a honey-toned C&W geezer from the Pacific Northwest who, after years on the circuit, released the wry Introducing Karl Blau this year, a collection of covers that’s the best of 2016, pipping good old Dexys’ mind-bogglingly loose selection of ‘Irish and Country Soul’. They both did the Bee Gees’ ‘To Love Somebody’ but Blau wins there too by the length of a Hammond organ. This wildly extended version of Link Wray’s ‘Fallin’ Rain’ uses gently tinkling piano to evoke the raindrops and Blau’s own gentle commitment to convey the woes of the world. He’s a Nashville Isaac Hayes.

Over to our panel: J2 is measuring angles on her mum’s macbook, J1 is watching her. J3 is bouncing a cuddly tiger on my head.

J1: “It’s all right.”
J3: “It’s bad.” She pops on her headphones and goes to play the little Yamaha keyboard on the rug.

[20] Scissor Sisters, ‘Comfortably Numb’

Scissor Sisters

It seems odd that the Scissor Sisters’ debut album was the UK’s biggest seller of 2004. It’s not as if its songs have entered the national fabric, is it? For good or bad, its chief rivals – Keane’s Hopes & Fears, The Killers’ Hot Fuss – have insinuated their way under our skin, their leading singles revived again and again for adverts, idents, party political campaigns, but I’d guess you’d be hard-pressed to name more than a couple of tracks from Scissor Sisters, let alone associate them with time or place.

I could be wrong. You might prance around to ‘Filthy/Gorgeous’ before every night down the pub. You should be prancing to ‘Comfortably Numb’, the cheekiest, most fully realised Pink Floyd cover yet; a record that, all the same, stands on its own two feet as a modern disco wonder, layered with Bee Gees, KC & The Sunshine Band, Frankie Knuckles, Joey Negro… Now, I’m no enormous Floyd fan, so I find extra relish in this thumb-of-the-nose to the crushing seriousness of the original – but, then again, all of Floyd have at some point or other given this version the props it deserves, so perhaps I’m the one who’s outside the joke.

Junior says: “It’s crazy but I do like it,” rolling her shoulders to that glittery pulse.

Best bit: The handclaps after “You may feel a little sick” puncturing any lingering pomposity.

[1] Scissor Sisters, ‘Comfortably Numb’

Scissor Sisters

In many ways – visual, musical, camp – Scissor Sisters were a shot in the arm for a moribund pop scene. The teen bracket was thriving, sure, mainly through the reality parade, but Jake Shears, Ana Matronic, Babydaddy et al negotiated a glitzy path to the heart of the big record buyer. A crossover triumph. Their showtuny, Elton John-infused (and frankly pretty flimsy) debut album was neck and neck with the more prosaic Keane in the year’s bestselling chart, laying bare 50 Quid Man’s lesser-spotted appetite for gay-as-a-window flim-flammery.

They waved their jazz hands over the parapet with this impudent romp over Pink Floyd’s dour classic. We heard the Bee Gees, KC & The Sunshine Band and – perhaps most of all, but less acknowledged – Frankie Knuckles. What initially appealed as a Night Fever throwback turned out to be a modern house monster with pop bells on, a gleeful destruction of Roger Waters’ puffed-up, jacked-up sense poem, but a destruction somehow executed with poignancy and cheeky respect.

I think it’s respect anyway. The euphoric hand claps after “But you may feel a little sick” don’t suggest much forelock-tugging.

Reactions from Junior tread the thin line between the surreal and Keanely prosaic – “Are they cutting?” “Is it Lily Allen? Is it soldiers?” “Where’s the lady?” Junior’s in the back of the car, but I can hear her clapping along, sending up Pink’s peril and “Uh-huh-uh-huh”ing where called upon. “I sang lots of that,” she tells me as the song echoes away, so there’s your proof. A crossover triumph.


Come on, it’s time to go:

[11] Malcolm McLaren, ‘Madam Butterfly’

One of Talcy Malcy’s grand follies. He’s had loads, hasn’t he? “I know, hip-hop sounds just like country dancing! Hmm, that Vivienne Westwood’s rather cute. What if I did a record about a skipping troupe, with Soweto singing? I’ve had this idea that I could mix house music with Strauss. No, it doesn’t sound like Hooked On Classics at all. This is a good one: it’s about the history of Oxford Street, only with Alison Limerick singing and the Happy Mondays being the Bee Gees. What about these chaps? Yes, I know he’s ginger, but he isn’t half nasty and anarchic and that.”

This is a brilliant conceit. Junior even flexes her knees to it. Go on, track it down; it’s even better now.

I met Malcolm McLaren at a dinner party about six years ago. He’s a pleasant old duffer.