Tuesday, 16 June 2015

My Top Ten Quiz Show Songs

It's time to spin the wheel, double your money and decide whether it's deal... or no deal.

I tried to avoid referencing quiz shows that were obviously named after songs - such as Who Wants To Be A Millionaire... Two Tribes, Holding Out For A Hero and The Great Pretender (really: google them if you don't believe me). Thank you for reading. You're so much better than the audience we had last week.  

10. The Fat Boys & The Beach Boys - Wipeout!

On TV, Wipeout was a pretty non-descript gameshow hosted by Paul 'not a lot' Daniels, then Bob 'Joke Book' Monkhouse. It's musical cousin is much more impressive though...

Originally recorded by The Surfaris, this 1987 remake teamed the famed hip hop-opotamuses with the legendary Beach Boys - and apparently it was all the Beach Boys' idea. Originally due to be recorded with Run-DMC, they were obviously hoping for a Walk This Way style crossover... and they got one. A novelty record, to be sure, but such a joyously fun one, it can't help but bring a smile to your face.

9. Sparks - Beat The Clock

Beat The Clock was an American gameshow that also featured for a number of years as part of ITV's Saturday Night At The London Palladium. That was before even my time. I was, however, fond of Mark & Lard's version on Radio 1 20 years ago... it even featured this Sparks track as its theme tune. Named after the American gameshow, Ron & Russell roped Giorgio Moroder in to produce this one. You can tell from the beat.

8. Greg Kihn Band - Jeopardy

Jeopardy is one of America's longest running game shows. Despite various UK versions (on Channel 4, ITV and Sky), it never really took off over here.

Greg Kihn's biggest hit (#2 in the states, though it only made #63 in the UK) benefitted from a bizarre, MTV-bait music video in which Kihn gets wedding day jitters and his bride shows her true colours (she's Skeletor's ugly sister). Then things get really weird. I'm guessing MTV broke a lot of US hits in 1983, songs that never received the same exposure on UK TV.

Weird Al Yankovic's parody of the song ties it even more closely to its gameshow namesake... and Greg Kihn even pops up to rescue Weird Al at the end of the video.

7. The Divine Comedy - Mastermind

Neil Hannon's specialist subject is crafting lush pop gems with arched eyebrows and twisty moustaches. He's started: I hope he never finishes.

6. The Sweet - Blockbuster (s)

You could argue that this one is a bit of a cheat, but how else am I going to shoehorn this classic glam stompathon into one of my Top Tens?

The TV show is notable - musically - for two other reasons. Firstly, Stuart Maconie's widely believed urban legend that Blockbusters host Bob Holness played the saxophone solo on Gerry Rafferty's Baker Street. And secondly, Half Man Half Biscuit's top tune Hedley Verityesque in which Nigel Blackwell confesses...

But I don't want anymore
Stark German film noirs
And I could well do without
The hand-clapping sequence at the end of Blockbusters...

I'd like a P, please, Bob.

5. Saint Etienne - You're In A Bad Way

Although it's not as obvious as the rest of the songs in this chart, this deserves consideration for actually mentioned a game show in its lyrics (not just sharing a name) and also: being great. When Sarah Cracknell's boyfriend gets home from work, he puts the TV on and gets his kicks watching Bruce on the old Generation Game. He needs to get his priorities right...

4. Tavares - Whodunit? 

You have to be of a certain age to remember Whodunit?: a crimebusting Cluedo-esque panel game quiz show that ran in the 70s, originally hosted by Shaw Taylor, then Edward Woodward, and finally Jon Pertwee (the host I vaguely recall).

While it's pretty easy to forget the show, no one should ever forget this top disco hit of a similar vintage in which the Tavares brothers (Ralph, Pooch, Chubby, Butch & Tiny) enlist the aid of a roll call of fictional detectives (including Sherlock Holmes, Ellery Queen, Kojak, Dirty Harry and McCloud... well, it was the 70s) to solve the mystery of "who stole my baby?" The problem was: everyone in the room looked shady...

3. Sleeper - Sale Of The Century

And now, from Norwich (!), it's The Quiz of the Week!

This week's Top Three relive the glories of Britpop with three of the genre's finest bands.

For many young men in the mid-90s, the big questions wasn't Blur or Oasis... it was Justine or Louise. Me, I've always been a Louise man.

2. Shed Seven - Going For Gold 

For those of us who grew up with Kylie & Jason era Neighbours, Henry Kelly's Going For Gold was the show we left the TV on for. A few years later, Rick Witter and chums paid homage with this, one of the best lad-rock tunes of the Britpop era.

If you ask me, Noel Gallagher lies awake at night wishing he could have written a song as uplifting as Going For Gold.

1. Pulp - Countdown

Of course, Pulp were around long before Britpop. And this is one of their very best songs from a time when very few people had heard of them. For many years, I carried around in my wallet a little clipping from an interview with Jarvis where he explained what this song was about, "feeling like you're standing on a launchpad, waiting for your life to finally take off". Why I did that, I don't really know. You do some pretty weird things when you're young and lonely and seemingly without hope.

Countdown is one of the longest running gameshows in the world - although the UK version (originally featuring the late Richard Whiteley and Carol 'I'm in Mensa, me' Vorderman) is still a bairn compared to the French original which has been on TV since 1965.

Those were my top quiz show songs... which is your Winner Takes All... and which one was Pointless?

Would you like to phone a friend?


  1. Sweet, Tavares and Pulp all in the same top 10...who would have guessed it?

  2. Excellent top ten, although I must correct the Saint Etienne piece - it's Sarah Cracknell innit.

  3. Aye Hirst Sarah Nixey was in Black Box Recorder

    1. Duly corrected. I don't know what I was thinking. Well, I do know what I was thinking. I was thinking about Sarah Nixey....

  4. I was always a Louise man too. Her book, "Just For One Day: Adventures in Britpop" is worth a read.

    At the risk of a second entry for the same show, how about The Final Countdown by Eighties poodle-haired Scandi-rock muppets Europe, for when Channel 4 eventually pull the plug? Ridiculous song enlivened by a genuinely terrific guitar solo. Of course the Pulp song is, ahem, different class.

    1. You won't get any argument from me. The Final Countdown is a "classic".

  5. A complete cheat, but Manfred Mann's 5-4-3-2-1 almost points to the classically awful 3-2-1 with Ted Rogers...


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