Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Birthday Number Ones (2002 - 2011)

This is the final post in this series looking at songs which made number one in the charts on my birthday. It been an interesting exercise, because I think it disproves the old chestnut "Pop is not as good as it used to be": every decade has thrown up classic songs as well as horrors. And the last 10 years has certainly seen some great songs that I'm pretty happy are in my birthday chart. So here is the final run down:

2002: Enrique Iglesias - Hero

Enrique comes across here as the male version of those power divas from the 90s, singing very much a power ballad. He looks good though.

2003: Christina Aguilera - Beautiful
Disabled by request A gorgeous ballad by Christina - will this be a clasic? She succeeded Tatu as number one in 2003; they were the official on my birthday number one:

2003: Tatu - All The Things She Said

Hard to believe now this manufactured girl band were number one for a whole month. Great fun pop song though.

2004: Busted - Who's David

Huge in the mid-00s. Why? Oh wait. This trio completely passed me by; I have no recall of this song.

2005: Jennifer Lopez - Get Right

Stunning sounds and moves from Jenny from the block

2006: Meck ft Leo Sayer - Thunder In My Heart Again

"It wasn't just because it was a hot tune, it was all because "Oh my God, it's Leo Sayer" - Leo Sayer
And Leo becomes the third artist to have two number ones on my birthday chart! - this time, almost three decades apart. Stunning achievement, Leo ( and great assistance from Meck)

2007: Mika - Grace Kelly

The next three hits are amongst my favourites of the last few years; amazing to think they all made number one around my birthday. Mika's video was another one directed by Sophie Muller (who did Shakespears Sister's Stay)

2008: Duffy - Mercy

Duffy's amazing voice and debut single livened up the beginning of 2008.

2009: Lily Allen - The Fear
Embedding disabled by request
How can anyone say Pop has dumbed down faced by this brilliance?

2010: Helping Haiti (Various Artists) - Everybody Hurts

I prefer R.E.M.'s original version, to be honest, but still this was in aid of a very worthy cause and it's great having something by R.E.M. in my birthday chart - they are one of my favourite bands.

And the final, most recent song, is:

Adele - Someone Like You

Words cannot express how thrilled I am Adele made it to number one with this astonishingly affecting song. She blew me away when she sang it on Later With Jools Holland last November - I pre-ordered her album on the strength of this performance - but I never imagined she would get to number one with it, even less so against Lady GaGa's hugely hyped Born This Way (which I have also bought!) Big congrats to Adele.

from viagogo:

"Adele tickets are likely to become even more in demand as she has made history this week with her latest chart positions.

The singer has become the first artist since the Beatles to have two top five singles and two top five albums in the charts simultaneously.

Fans of the soulful singer appear to have been inspired to buy her latest single 'Someone Like You' after her Brit Award performance last week as her single jumped nearly 50 places to land the number one spot."

And that's all folks - thanks for coming with me on the journey :-)

Monday, February 21, 2011

My Birthday Number Ones (1992 - 2001)

Here we are in the 90s, the time when super divas roamed the earth. It is also another decade in which an artist scored two number ones on my birthday. Who do you think? Is it one of THEM? Time to find out.

1992: Shakespears Sister - Stay

I absolutely love this, and the video must be in my personal top three (it was directed by Sophie Muller). Just wonderful stuff. This stayed at number one for 8 weeks.

1993: 2 Unlimited - No Limit

"No no lyrics" - but this slice of Eurodance was the best-selling European song of 1993, and clearly popular in the UK too, as it reached number one. I sneakily quite liked it too.

1994: Mariah Carey - Without You
The first of the super divas reigning supreme (Embedding disabled by request). Mariah takes the 1970 Badfinger song to number one again, and stays there for a whole month. Although it is possibly the most covered song of the last forty years, Badfinger themselves never released it as a single, not seeing its potential.

1994: D:Ream - Things Can Only Get Better

Maria was preceded as number one by D:Ream's biggest hit. The song achieved immortality as the theme tune to Tony Blair and New Labour's successful 1997 Election campaign.

1995: Celine Dion - Think Twice

. . . and the second super diva hoves into view. Celine's voice is of course incredible but this is surely a very poor choice of song: desperately cloying, sentimental, and obvious. I actually can't remember this at all; it must have passed me by completely in 1995.

1996: Babylon Zoo - Spaceman

A bit of an oddity, this: although it held the record for the most number of records sold in the first week of release, and stayed number one for a month. Jas Mann seems to have had bad luck with contracts which slowed down his subsequent career. Nice, very memorable debut though.

1996: Oasis - Dont Look Back In Anger

My 1996 birthday week saw Oasis's iconic song claim the number one spot, and mark out space for mid-nineties Britpop.

1997: No Doubt - Dont Speak

No Doubt's biggest international hit, featuring Gwen Stefani's stunning performance.

1998: Celine Dion - My Heart Will Go On

And here it is folks - Celine Dion's second outing in my birthday charts, singing the theme from THAT film. She was number one until the 22nd February, and on that day was superseded by:

1998: Cornershop - Brimful Of Asha

Cornershop reached number 60 in 1997 with this song, but Fatboy Slim's remix took them to number one in February 1998.

1999: Britney Spears - Baby One More Time
Britney's stunning iconic debut video is disabled by request. A brilliant pop song, and one of the highest selling singles in the UK ever, it has already been covered by a multitude of artists, notably by Travis.

2000: All Saints - Pure Shores

The theme to the movie The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and witten by William Orbit and Shaznay Lewis, this was the first single off All Saints' second album (and one of the UK's best sellers of 2000). I remember the group single handedly made combat trousers fashionable in the late nineties.

2001: Atomic Kitten - Whole Again

Aww, poor Atomic Kitten! This was their real-life "save me" song, as Virgin Records wanted to drop them and were persuaded to release one more single. This was it. The record company was unwilling to plough any money into the video (hence the obvious cheapness), and finally, Kerry Katona dropped out of the band just days before the song charted, on account of her pregnancy. Well done in spite of everything!

So that's it for this decade, the last in this series coming up tomorrow.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Birthday Number Ones (1982 - 1991)

My third decade of No.1 Birthday hits starts off with a classic:

1982: The Jam - A Town Called Malice

A bit controversial at the time, as EMI complained that as it was part of a 'double sided' single its aggregated sales were unfairly keeping their contender, Golden Brown by The Stranglers from reaching No.1. Life is tough.

1983: Kajagoogoo - Too Shy

The New Romantics are upon us! Kajagoogoo actually achieved a no.1 - this one - before Duran Duran ever did. Unfortunately it appears to have been their only one, and tensions in the band the band soon soon resulted in the lead singer, Limahl, being fired by his bandmates.

1984: Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Relax

Another iconic hit, notorious for being banned by the BBC at the time, and also for the scandalous original video, which only surfaced recently (the above is not it).

1984: Nena: 99 Red Balloons

In another amusing juxtaposition of styles and cultures, Frankie's raunchy number was followed immediately by Nena and her 99 red balloons.

1985: Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson - I Know Him So Well

Tim Rice, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus teamed up to write the musical Chess and in the process wrote this mammoth hit for Elaine Paige and Barabara Dickson, which was number one for a whole month.

1985: Dead Or Alive: You Spin Me Round

After that, the country demanded something more energetic! - and got it with Dead Or Alive's classic. Apart from launching Pete Burns into the spotlight, the song was the first of many collaborations by Stock Aitken and Waterman.

1986: Billy Ocean - When The Going Gets Tough

Another song from the movies - this was the theme to The Jewel of the Nile starring Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas.

1987: Ben E King - Stand By Me

History works in mysterious ways. This was originally released in 1961 - the year of my birth - and reached no. 27 in the UK charts. However, it recharted after the release of the movie Stand By Me in 1986 and went to no.1 in the UK following its use in a Levi's Jeans ad.

1988: Kylie Minogue - I Should Be So Lucky

I always think this was Kylie's debut but in fact it was her second hit. She flew to the UK to record with the by now ubiquitous Stock Aitken and Waterman. Apparently they forgot she was due to arrive and wrote this in 40 minutes while she waited in reception. She then recorded it in an hour. The rest is pop history.

1989: Simple Minds - Belfast Child

This beautiful song was written in the aftermath of the Enniskillen bombings.

1990: Sinead OConnor - Nothing Compares 2 U

Sinead's beautiful cover of the Prince song took it to worldwide prominence and launched her mainstream career.

1991: The Simpsons - Do The Bartman

Michael Jackson is another iconic figure who does not appear in my birthday charts. However. Michael wrote this (uncredited) because he loved the tv show. It went to number 1 in the UK but was never released in the USA.

And thus concludes my third decade - fourth coming up tomorrow.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Birthday Number Ones (1972 - 1981)

So moviing on to my second decade of birthday week No.1 hits.

1972: Chicory Tip - Song of My Father

Chicory Tip probably hasn't remained in contemporary consciousness. But this, my friends, is real musical history. The song was co-written by Giorgio Moroder, no less, and is the first pop song to prominently feature a Moog Synthesizer.

1973: The Sweet - Blockbuster

Right - now we are in the era of Glam Rock. Sequins! Shiny! This was a massive hit for The Sweet.

1974: Suzi Quatro - Devil Gate Drive

Not I think one of Suzi's most memorable hits, but makes me think. By the end of Glam, Rock was clearly mature enough to allow for a consciously retro, nostalgic approach like this to work (with Suzi's gender being the contemporary twist). Also I wonder how much her look and attitude here fed into Punk a few years later? Fairly sure the Punks themselves would deny all influence!

1975: Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel - Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)

Good grief, just how sexy does Mr Harley think he is here? This is a lovely song though, and is probably still very familiar from its frequent use in tv ads, most recently for Marks & Spencer. It has also featured in two movie soundtracks: The Full Monty and Velvet Goldmine.

Steve Harley's birthday is the 27th February, so this was No.1 for him on his birthday in 1975.

1975 - Telly Savalas - If

Make me Smile was followed by Telly Savalas's If as No.1 - Telly making it as an add-on to his hugely succesful career as tv detective Kojak.

1976: Four Seasons: December 63 (Oh What A Night)

I loved this then, and it has stood up well to the passing of time. A remix charted in 1994.

1977: Leo Sayer - When I Need You

Leo Sayer, like Petula Clark, features twice in my Birthday No.1s! This was a huge hit for him at the time, reaching number 1 in both the UK and the USA. It was the first UK No.1 for its writer, Carole Bayer Sager. However, I feel it's all a trifle tedious and whiny now.

1978: Abba - Take A Chance On Me

But, hey! Abba! Woo!

If Armageddon swept away all late 20th-century popular music and left somehow only these blog posts, we would lose all the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Elton John and Rod Stewart - all massive artists who clearly neglected to have hits in late February. However, Abba saves the day. I was a total fan - this had to be kept somewhat under wraps from cool kid friends, who followed virtually every music critic at the time and dissed them. But ha! Time has vindicated the Swedish super group.

1978 - Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights

Abba was followed at No.1 in February 1978 but this extraordinary debut single by the legendary Kate Bush. Definitely a song one remembers.

1979: Blondie: Heart Of Glass

Was 1979 the greatest ever year in the history of the popular musuc charts? Judge for yourself.This is the amazing Blondie's debut smash.

1979 - The Bee Gees - Tragedy

Followed on immediately by the Beegees! The melodrama of this one has always thrilled me.

1979 - Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive

And the Beegees were followed by this all-time classic by Gloria Gaynor! Honestly, from the Village People to Pink Floyd, 1979 has got it all!

1980 - 1980: Kenny Rogers - Coward Of The County

Down to earth with a thump. Yuck. The obvious sentimentality took this one to No.1, it can't disguise the nastiness now. It deserves oblivion.

1980 - Blondie - Atomic

However, Kenny Rogers was followed quickly by another terrific Blondie effort.

1981: Joe Dolce Music Theatre - Shaddap You Face

Another very efficient novelty number, in grand pop fashion being followed by the sublime:

1981 - Roxy Music - Jealous Guy

Was this the greatest cover ever made? I always think that Bryan is singing about Jerry, but in fact she had left him for Mick three years previously. Anyhow, he sings it with total conviction.

And another ex-Beatle, John Lennon, makes it into my Birthday charts (albeit as the writer) - posthumously, sadly.

Well, that concludes my second decade on an extremely high artistic note: what does decade three have in store? Find out tomorrow!

Friday, February 18, 2011

My Birthday Number Ones (1961-1971)

One of my dearest friends has a blog entitled Fast Approaching Fifty. I've always been in awe at her frankness, because I too am fast approaching fifty and am severely in denial about it. So maybe the time has arrived for me to come out and say I'm fabulous and (about-to-be) fifty! Yikes!

Since it is obviously way too late for me to have a whole blog dedicated to the subject, I thought I could do series of mini-blog posts counting down to this significant event, which is in 5 days' time. I've lived through a half-century of pop music. I thought it would be fun to do a count-down of every No. 1 song in the charts during my birthay week, over the last five decades. I'll do a decade every day, five posts in all, with the last on my birthday. It will be a little snapshot of musical history; a cross-section through time.

So here goes.

1961 - Petula Clark: Sailor

I imagine the nurses were humming along to this tune in my mother's maternity ward back in February 1961. Interesting fact: Petula Clark features twice in my personal charts, and neither time is her song "Downtown" or "Don't sleep in the Subway", the two songs for which she is principally remembered today. Petula actually had a major career in the 50's before she reinvented herself as a 60's pop star. This song definitely harks back to her 50's heyday, and makes me feel positively prehistoric.

1962 - Elvis Presley: Rock a Hula Baby

But hey! Rock was young! And Elvis was in the building. Strangely though, this lesser Elvis hit feels almost as if his handlers were desperately trying a new angle on Rock - as if they felt it was a fad they had to keep going as long as they could. This was from one of Elvis's movies, and is the first representative of quite a slew of movie-music hits in my charts.

1963 - Frank Ifield: Wayward Wind

Another dinosaur. *Blocks ears*

Frank was actually the first artist to have three UK No.1 hits, and was last in the charts as recently as 1990, with "She Taught Me to Yodel".

1964 - The Bachelors: Diane

Ok I've heard of the Bachelors. Didn't they use to hang out with Cliff Richard? Not a song that has lasted well.

1965 - The Kinks: Tired of Waiting for You

I'm going to cheat a bit here (but hey it's my birthday so I can). The Kinks were officially No.1 on the 22nd February 1965 (and a great classic British band they are too); but more importantly for my personal development the No.1 on the very next day, the 23rd February, the day after by birthday, was:

1965 - The Seekers: I’ll Never Find Another You

This was the very first gig I (almost) went to! Oh, the excitement! As I recall, our neighbour's teenage daughter, my babysitter, thought it would be an excellent idea to take the four-year-old me along to a Seeker's concert. I was thrilled to bits. However, my mum thought it was way too past my bedtime and I was grounded :-(

The Seekers were an Australian band and absolutely mega for a brief period mid-sixties. You can hear the way their folk sound fed into the nascent hippy movement.

1966 - Nancy Sinatra: These Boots are Made for Walking

Definitely the most iconic pop song in my charts so far. Nancy Sinatra was pretty much a one-hit wonder, but what a magnificent hit to have.

1967 - Petula Clark: This is My Song

And here we have the second Petula Clark song in my chart, and also the second to come from a movie. Written by Charlie Chaplin, no less. I've chosen the French version here because I think it sounds better. Check out Petula's mini!

1968 - Manfred Mann: Mighty Quinn

Meanwhile, the hippy thing is starting to go a bit psychedelic here. A classic song and performance, but has never done anything much for me.

1969 - Amen Corner: Half as Nice

Another little cheat coming up - Amen Corner were No.1 on the 22nd '69, but Peter Sarstedt took over on the 25th, and stayed no.1 for the next month.

Appealing stuff, Amen Corner - I was into this; hasn't really lasted.

1969 - Peter Sarstedt: Where Do You Go To My Lovely

But Peter Sarstedt's song is a classic! Sentimental and a bit kitsch, this was the ultimate in sophistication when I was 8. Many years later, my first visit to the Boulevard St Michel brought me out in goosebumps.

1970 - Edison Lighthouse: Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes

The happy innocent hippy vibe lives on! Love this, but perhaps you had to be there at the time :)

1971 - George Harrison: My Sweet Lord

The archetypal hippy song, and the only Beatle to feature in my charts. A worthy climax to my first decade!

More coming up tomorrow.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy love-fest to all you loved-up couples out there! Some photos of the Valentine's celebrations in Clapham and London: a veritable orgy of balloons, hearts, cake and pink.

Birksen Florists in Clapham Old Town always have the most ravishing seasonal windows.

Love is a four letter word: cakes from Konditor and Cook in Borough Market

Ceramic Valentines from North Street Potters, Clapham

You know you want me: cards from Scribbler, branches all over London

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chez Jules in Birmingham

Birmingham - Eating & Drinking - Restaurants - French

Ah, Birmingham - I go every year for the Spring Fair. We decided to beat the crush travelling back to London by eating in town first. I chose this place due to it’s mostly good reviews and as a change from our more usual Indian.

Chez Jules is just off New Street very close to the Station. It’s on the first floor, and the rather grubby entrance staircase doesn’t prepare you for the handsome, large, split-level dining room upstairs. There was a great buzz, even on a pre-Valentine grey tuesday in February. We got a big welcome by the friendly and mostly efficient staff.

The smoked salmon pancakes arrived very swiftly. Obviously pre-prepared much earlier in the day and refrigerated sadly flattening the taste of the fish and it’s herby pancake wrapping.

A trainee waiter took away my cutlery at this point, so when my main course arrived I had no knife and fork. Frantic waving to flag down someone to help ensued.

My main was an accurately cooked, meltingly tender chicken chasseur. The sauce was well-judged, not overpowering the chicken. To accompany it I had the house’s famous potato gratin, which comes in it’s own little frying pan - absolutely delicious; perfect comfort food for a cold winter’s night.

To finish, a large slice of tarte tatin - pastry not as crisp as I would have liked but there was an amazing depth of toffee apple goodness, served on a wash of excellent custard.

In all, we felt it was a delightful, characterful yet unpretentious sort of place serving honest, good food. A good choice, and for the price, very deserving of 4 stars.

Check out my review of Chez Jules - I am hedgiecc - on Qype

Monday, February 07, 2011

Chinese New Year

Kung Hei Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year! I went on a photo-walk in Soho and here are the results.

It is the year of the metallic rabbit.I hve mine already! And if I'm very good I'll get to enjoy it at Easter :-)