2009 Top 20 Singles?

We did this about this time last year, so why change a vaguely popular feature? These are the Top 20 Most Played 2009 Singles on the ever-honest iPod:

[1] Yeah Yeah Yeahs, ‘Zero’
[2] Dananananaykroyd, ‘Black Wax’
[3] The Horrors, ‘Sea Within A Sea’
[4] Passion Pit, ‘The Reeling’
[5] Animal Collective, ‘My Girls’
[6] James Yuill, ‘No Surprise’
[7] Sunny Day Sets Fire, ‘Adrenaline’
[8] TV On The Radio, ‘Dancing Choose’
[9] Frankmusik, ‘Better Off As Two’
[10] Röyksopp featuring Robyn, ‘Girl And The Robot’
[11] Jamie T, ‘Sticks ‘n’ Stones’
[12] Coldplay, ‘Life In Technicolor ii’
[13] U2, ‘Magnificent’
[14] The Phantom Band, ‘The Howling’
[15] Eg, ‘Broken’
[16] Junior Boys, ‘Hazel’
[17] Lily Allen, ‘The Fear’
[18] Fischerspooner, ‘Supply & Demand’
[19] Saint Etienne, ‘Method Of Modern Love’
[20] Red Light Company, ‘Arts & Crafts’

But will it bear any resemblance to the year-end chart? Be sure to check in 18 or 19 weeks.

[16] Fairport Convention, ‘Si Tu Dois Partir’

Aged 15 and in the throes of a short-lived U2 obsession – The Joshua Tree was the best album ever for a summer at the very least, the musical equivalent of a pair of black jeans, a flat-top haircut and a misguided strut down the high street – I bought the freshly minted Island Story compilation, a bit of self-congratulation for 25 years of quirky eclecticism from the label that always insisted white men could dance to reggae. The U2 contribution was ‘With Or Without You’, which I had anyway, so Lord knows what I thought I was getting. An intro to more impossibly earnest chest-beaters with ringing guitars and unforgivable headgear? Turned out to be an intro to Jim Capaldi, Pete Wingfield, Bob & Earl and Fairport Convention. And I was grateful.

Like any kid who grew up in the 70s and 80s, I nurture a natural suspicion of folk music. Where are the synths, the make-up, the safety pins and the snarls? Get these guitar-fumbling drips away from me! My stance has softened now, but Fairport Convention – at least from a distance – threw another problem into the mix: Q Magazine and their bewildering worship of Richard Thompson. I’m sure he’s brilliant and everything (this is 15-year-old me speaking, but it might as well be me, here and now) but I haven’t heard anything, and besides – he has a tidy beard and astonishing taste in shirts. If I drop my guard now, I’ll be championing Little Village and The Robert Cray Band within minutes.

Chaos and joy define Fairport Convention’s French Cajun and French language version of Bob Dylan’s ‘If You Gotta Go, Go Now’. Sandy Denny’s woeful accent (worse than Jane Birkin’s in the serendipitously adjacent entry) and her “Come on, children, join in!” schoolmarm-ish tone could be a turn-off, but I prefer to get involved. Anyway, you can only love a song that makes a tumbling stack of chairs meld seamlessly into the percussion. Junior swanned around the kitchen and didn’t get involved herself until the last few bars, but I think we can put that down to reticence – she’s obviously tired of grown-up rock mags prostrating themselves in front of Thompson too.

Hey, maybe he really is great. 

[16] Pet Shop Boys, ‘Where The Streets Have No Name (Can’t Take My Eyes Off You)’

Pet Shop Boys

I used to put this on the jukebox in the hall bar at university, just to antagonise the rockists. The Jimi Hendrix lookalike and his Led Zep pals would become particularly vexed, often because it tended to interrupt their ‘American Pie’ loop.

This record’s a thumb of the nose – it couldn’t be anything else with the merging of the Andy Williams camp classic – but there’s affection too. The Pet Shop Boys’ aural soundscapes (wow) are wide enough to do justice to the sweep of the song, and it’s all big and dramatic like Bono thinks he is. I’m sure they’re not JUST taking the piss. Ok, I’m not sure. It’s great, though; I hadn’t heard it for years until this morning, and I still love it.

I’ve banged on about this before, but it’s interesting (well, sorta) that the PSBs and Prince should own the ’80s but then lose the plot at about the same time as each other. Can’t think of any proper good PSBs singles after this – honourable mention, however, to the bit where it goes mad at the end of ‘Go West’.

Junior was rather smitten with this, the Hi-NRG beats bringing forth the cockateel moves. I’ve really brainwashed the poor kid. She’ll be writing her own version of ‘Being Boring’ in about 30 years:

“I came across a cache of digital photos,
And countless blog entries from my dull old father;
He played me records and voiced my opinions,
And Girls Aloud got him all in a lather,
In my 20-noughties…”

[17] Prince & The New Power Generation, ‘Gett Off’

Prince & The New Power Generation

My daughter appeared to be performing the funky chicken to this one, helpless in the face of the snaky, strutting Minneapolitan grooves spun by the indigo imp of funk. That’s right, the indigo imp of funk.

Wringing out the last of Prince’s creative juice here, saving just a smidgen for ‘Sexy MF’. It’s a treat to hear him being all naughty again, the horny pony, and it’s a damn sight more enjoyable than the rest of the Diamonds & Pearls album.

Junior’s heard a lot of Prince, songs and allusions. I reckon he can only be topped as the main act here if the next song has anything to do with U2…

[18] U2, ‘Mysterious Ways’

U2

Never having heard Rattle & Hum, Junior’s not well placed to assess U2’s seismic brand realignment from holier-than-thou, campaigning rock monoliths to fun-loving, wraparound-sporting, INXS wannabes with better songs. Good. 15 years on, Achtung Baby is just another rock album, most songs a bit tighter and poppier than U2’s earlier offerings but there’s more obvious filler.

The Perfecto Mix of ‘Mysterious Ways’ did it for me. A couple of minutes of looped guitar at the start before the nice big riff comes in, and then no sign of the first verse, just the second verse twice with a couple of choruses. It’s careless, but it works. Oakenfold’s sausage fingers were all over 1991.

Junior rocked side to side throughout; she definitely goes for the rock guitars and the sturdy drums. She needs to hear more Belle & Sebastian and Eg & Alice. I won’t have an infant Suzi Quatro on my hands.

[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.

[16] U2, ‘Pride (In The Name Of Love)’

The high chair was today’s listening platform. Junior did her side to side move, as if she’s trying to dodge you on the basketball court, and was as enthused with the stadium rock power as ever.

‘New Year’s Day’ was the first U2 single I heard, and I hated them. I liked this song and ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ but hated them again in time for the next year’s arrogant, show-stopping Live Aid performance. Bono’s antics at Live Aid made me cringe. My mum was in hospital waiting to give birth to my brother, and my nonplussed dad let me sit in front of the TV all day. I remember him being rather taken with Madonna, able to identify her whenever she appeared on Top Of The Pops after that. Quite a feat when you consider that he usually thought that all pop stars were Cliff Richard.

He even let me sleep on the sofa that night so I could catch the Philadelphia concert, and particularly Duran Duran. I knew I wouldn’t make it so I set my alarm clock, but – portending my adult future – I slept right through it. I was gutted. Still haven’t seen Duran Duran’s bit. Was it any good?

Back to 1984. ‘Pride’ is one of those huge, undeniable records that will have you nodding your head, hate it or love it. Junior and I got into it, air drums on the tray, but we’ve probably heard it enough now.

[1] U2, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’

I was given my first CD player for my birthday that year and had to choose one CD. A friend suggested I replace my favourite album. The Joshua Tree had been out for three months, ample time for me to decide – briefly – that it was the greatest record ever released, so that was the one. How fickle our young selves are.

I forgot about it for a few years, when chest-beating stadium behemoths were painted as the devil incarnate, but have come back to it a bit now, and it’s not too harsh a shock to see this song at the top of the pile. U2’s plodding and patchy recent efforts, and the “will this do?” likes of Coldplay’s vapid X&Y are giving impassioned, crowd-pleasing rock a bad name again, though, and the superior quality of The Joshua Tree is shown in stark relief.

Not everyone’s cup of tea, of course, and not really my favourite stuff these days. Some songs break through. I like the yearning and insistent chords, and the way it builds, shown to more obvious effect on Rattle & Hum’s gospelified version. The Chimes’ fantastic soul cover a few years later takes it even further, bringing out the potential Bono hoped it had.

Of course, it could just be a load of cod-religious, bombastic, empty posturing. Hey, that’s why we love them, right? Junior tried to get with the questing theme by working out how to sit up unaided. Didn’t quite manage it, but she put on a decent performance. Acting baby.

[13] Duran Duran, ‘Skin Trade’

Like a typical Duranie of the period, Junior was indifferent to this. There was a brief slapping of the thighs at the start, yet attention soon turned to the socks. So, what made the fans desert in their droves? I don’t think it’s a bad record even now, but it was the first to miss the Top 10 in years. Maybe it’s because it had an almost intelligible lyric.

Arcadia and the Power Station diluted the fanbase and the preceding single ‘Notorious’ scraped to No.7 on comeback power alone. A-ha had nicked the girls and the CD age had come and populated the chart’s upper reaches with the more ‘serious’ artists. The biggest bands in the country were now Dire Straits and U2. Duran Duran’s fabled mix of the Sex Pistols and Chic – without the Sex Pistols and the disco joy – wasn’t cutting the ice.

So, Simon, we’ve explained the reason for this strange behaviour. Perhaps you shouldn’t have allowed all those Taylors to jump ship, and then replaced them with AMERICANS.