[19] Prefab Sprout, ‘Billy’


“We had this song at home,” points out Junior 3 as we try this out in the car. She’s right. Prefab Sprout have been part of my staple musical diet for nearly 30 years so the girls are never going to get away with it. ‘Billy’ – probably the most immediately lovable track on surprise Paddy McAloon comeback Crimson/Red – does all the right Sprout things: a fanciful story, a succession of shivering catches (if not hooks, which might explain the lack of hits) and a woollen warmth.

There’s a song on the album (‘The Songs Of Danny Galway’) that plays out a meeting between McAloon and Jimmy Webb, but ‘Billy’ is where Webb really looms. A melody of tear-choked comfort, imagined wide vistas, harmonica taking us to the prairies – it just needs McAloon to leave the house for once and go and find a string section. “I like the harmonica,” says Junior, which would please Paddy. He’s letting his feelings show.

[15] Cornershop featuring Bubbley Kaur, ‘Don’t Shake It (Let It Free)’

Cornershop featuring Bubbley Kaur

Bubbley meets Jimmy Webb on Sesame Street.

That’s about the size of it, that irresistible thought. Cornershop returned this year with a lovely album rooted in friendly funk and Punjabi lyrics I don’t understand. There is nothing bad about The Double ‘O’ Groove Of – unless it’s a 10-song celebration of George Osborne’s dynamic economic skills and the joys of drowning kittens. I don’t know, I don’t understand.

Junior cuts to the chase: “Is she Indian?” She doesn’t stick around for the answer; just plays ring-a-roses with her sisters before finishing with the splits.

[1] Glen Campbell, ‘Wichita Lineman’

And you thought we’d forgotten. You try launching two websites in a month. The good news is, one’s done and has for the past two days been revolutionising the way the world thinks about music channels run by corporate communications portals; as for the bad news, the other one’s the work of just me and a couple of associates, and we’re lazy as hell. Expect Jukebox Junior entries to come flying thick and fast while I put off doing proper work. That’s a promise, by the way. The 1969 chart’s taken longer than the actual year.

But here we bid it farewell, with some tastefully wrought sentiment and an arrangement that stands just as proud in 2008 as it must have done in 1969, because it’s timeless, definitive and enduring. Well, it’s still on the line. It’s a Jimmy Webb special, strings and horns present and correct alongside a sense of vastness, of a granite-hewn cowboy standing on the verge of getting it on. I’m going all Brokeback. The song houses one of my favourite couplets (“And I need you more than want you” – Oh dear – “And I want you for all time” – Ah, I see) and pulls off ingenious capers with violins and synths, recreating the Morse code of the telegraph – all bundled together to form a peerless, romantic whole.

Junior sat in the back of the car, waving her arms, conducting the orchestra. I’m not even sure she’s seen a conductor in action, so it must be instinctive. Of course she asks “Who’s singing?” It’s the sonorous tones of Glen Campbell, the golden teddy bear, the country and western Jack Nicklaus.

Back after Glastonbury with a seething vengeance. All you shy readers can select a new year to slice, dice and swathe with unlikely records that only a shameless pop freak of dubious taste could love. Anything except 1969, 1973, 1977, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2005, 2006 and 2007. They’re either here or archived over there. Think that covers it.