[12] Stevie Wonder, ‘For Once In My Life’

There are few more ecstatic records than this in the pop canon, and few better singers to express it. Stevie’s beautiful improvisation around a melody can convey pretty much any emotion, but joy is his calling card. And why wouldn’t he be on top of the world? At last, he’s found The One, “someone warm like you”. From the anticipation-building intro, a close cousin of Sam & Dave’s ‘Soul Man’ jump-off, to the delirious harmonica solo and beyond, Stevie etches a template for lovestruck abandonment.

As far as the Wonder catalogue goes – off the top of my head – this is only trumped by ‘Sir Duke’ when it comes to communicating the delight of just being. That’s a bit of a cheat, of course, because there’s no risk with Basie, Miller and Satchmo. Right here, Stevie is laying his heart on the line.

Junior recognised the bliss and let herself go, wheeling around the kitchen with her mum and admiring her reflection in the oven door as she did so. Narcissus would wilt.

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[20] The KLF featuring The Children Of The Revolution, ‘3 A.M. Eternal (Live At The S.S.L.)’

The KLF

Another slab of ludicrous brilliance from Rockman Rock and King Boy D. “Basic face kick, elemental”. You had to laugh, but they were so good at what they did, and they built up their own mythology with every single they released. Then, within a year, they were gone, leaving rumour and apocrypha in their wake. Now there are people – mentioning no names – who look out for KLF-in-disguise records in each crop of new singles.

‘3 A.M. Eternal’ is meaningless, of course – “down with the crew crew” – but we’ve heard as much tosh from serious emcees. It’s the flow that matters, man. Junior was down with the mayhem, shaking the head and shoulders from side to side. Rocking the Stevie, if you will.

Someone nicked my copy of The White Room days after I bought it. I’d hazard that it’s not as good as I think it is, so I’ll continue not replacing it.

Author’s note: There is no Wham! in this chart. I repeat, there is NO Wham! in this chart. However, there is – as Kiss AMC might put it – a little bit of U2.

Stevie Wonder, ‘I Wish’

Even Junior’s mum can only think of Stevie as a fat bloke in a bedsheet making sappy records, so goodness knows what the little one will think when she’s older. Or maybe those critics fanfaring a “return to form” will eventually hit the mark with their scattergun and Steveland will once more bestride the world like a blind, bead-sporting behemoth. 

There’s nothing new about praising his 70s output, but today we found a certain sort of context. This wasn’t the only one we played. Once Junior had bounced along to the rhythm and her mum had discovered where Will Smith’s “Wikki Wikki Wah Wah Wild Wild West Switch Hitch Turn Around Now” came from, we moved onto ‘Pastime Paradise’ and ‘As’ to marvel at how many of the album’s songs had been lazily regurgitated to form far bigger hits with a bit of mumbling over the top. So much hip hop is fresh and bright and shaking with invention, but the last 10 years have seen Puff Daddyfication sucking the life out of it. Why don’t the clever ones plunder Stevie?

Junior enjoyed ‘I Wish’ for a while until she was distracted by Roobarb on the television. As the tales of childhood high jinks came out of the stereo’s speakers, I remembered watching Roobarb and Custard as a boy and Junior looked forward to the day when she could write something nasty on the wall.