Friday, 17 March 2017

The Top Ten Songs I Hated When I Was A Kid... #3

No Top Ten today - I'm saving this week's till Sunday. You'll find out why then.

In the meantime, another one of these...

3. M/A/R/R/S - Pump Up The Volume

Can you pinpoint the moment when you fell out of love with the Top 40? If you want to say, "This week, with Ed Sheeran taking up 9 places on the Top 10", then good on you... you've stuck it out far longer than most. There is a point in everyone's life when the singles chart switches from being a treasure chest full of dazzling pearls to a bucket of clams you have to sift through to find an occasional oyster. When that happens varies - it might be in your late teens, it might be in your 20s. Chances are if you're still in love with the Top 40 in your 30s, your taste just ain't that discerning. But it comes to us all in the end.

For me, it was 1987. And I was only 15 years old. Ironic, really, considering that was the year I actually started buying singles...

Here's how you can tell the moment the charts stopped being perfect for you. A quick google search and you'll find a Top 100 best selling songs for any year of your choice. If I pick a random year from the late 70s up to the mid 80s, I could sing you virtually every song from that hundred. Even the ones I don't really dig, like Jennifer Rush - The Power Of Love; or Elaine Paige & Barbara Dickson - I Know Him So Well... the two best selling songs of 1985. They were both very annoying at the time, but now they fill me with nostalgia. (There was a brilliant version of I Know Him So Well on last week's episode of Inside Number 9 which made the memories come flooding back.)

But as soon as I hit 1987... the clams start gathering.

Stock Aitken & Waterman. Steve 'Silk' Hurley. Sinitta & Spagna. Man 2 Man Meets Man Parrish. Five Star. Taffy. House Master Boyz & The Rude Boy Of House.

Worse was yet to come, in '88, '89, '90... the years when music should have meant the most to me, and the charts kept kicking me in the balls. And I can trace it all back to one track, a novelty Number One by a group who never released another record (not under this name, anyway).

Thirty years later, I can listen to Pump Up The Volume without hating it. Certainly not in the way I still loathe Technotronic, S-Express, Bomb The Base, Krush, D Mob... and all the others that would slither through the doors M/A/R/R/S kicked open. They said nothing to me about my life.

But M/A/R/R/S... I can recognise its influential place in the history of pop... it's an audacious mish-mash of samples over an infectious beat with some cutting edge / extremely dated sfx sprinkled over the top. When I hear it, it can't help but take me back to 1987. Childhood's end...

That's not to say you can't fall back in love with the singles chart later in life, by the way... I did again in the mid-90s. But it didn't last, and ultimately I had my heart trampled all over once more. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson...


  1. Funnily enough, my next post at New Amusements (coming soon, possibly even this evening) touches on the musical wasteland that was 1990, how the tail-end of the 80s was such a fallow period.

    I'm with you on this though. And even more so on the brilliant version of I Know Him So Well on the beyond-brilliant Inside Number 9.

    1. Cheers, Martin. I look forward to reading that.

  2. "the years when music should have meant the most to me, and the charts kept kicking me in the balls."

    Genius. Simon Armitage would be proud of that line.


    1. Thank you, JC. I'm presuming you remember well enough that, for me, there is no finer compliment.

      I am, however, not worthy.

  3. You cite the main one's for me too - Jennifer Rush and Elaine Paige/Barbara Dickson inflicted the first blow, most of 1987 effectively killed my love for the charts.
    I'll go so far as to suggest 1987 was the nadir of the musical times - blandness, boredom, looking backwards and PWL - I was 17, I wanted so much more.
    In fairness, there was some good stuff about, just (very) rarely being pumped from Radio 1 or other chart based radio formats.

    Can I do a bit of self promotion?
    Here's my take on it:

  4. You're right, Brian, looking back we can always find good stuff. But it stopped being in the mainstream. It only returned to the mainstream (as you rightly point out) in the Britpop era, but that became a blessing and a curse. I think for me, being a couple of years younger than you at the time and not yet ready for the alternative scene, I just wanted some decent pop music like I'd had throughout the early 80s. '87 was bad, but '88 - '90 were living hell. I can see the bright shoots of recovery looking back now, but at the time... it was horrible!

  5. I was long gone by 1987, but I remember this song. Hated it. I must have checked out of Top 40 in 1984 because the hits from '83 immediately come to me... Dexys, Bowie, Pretenders, Human League, Clash, Madness, Kinks... but it 's much tougher to recall the next year. Makes sense. I was 13 the summer of '83, and my tastes were going through a change about then. Starting buying records like crazy. Love this series, Rol.

  6. I love the new look and very apt tagline - suits the whole premise of your revitalised blog much better. (Doing the maths you are on target for 200 posts this year if you keep it up!)

    Amazingly stuck with TOTP right from 1964 (very blurry memories obviously) right through to 2006, so kept up with the charts that way. Yes we watched it right through the desperate wilderness years but then started watching with darling daughter as she grew up, so know all about the pop hits of the early noughties. Lost the plot regarding the Top 40 after 2006.

    Interesting that you say you were 15 when you lost interest as that was also the year I would have stopped religiously recording the charts in notebooks. Maybe it's teenage hormones that make us so attuned to music when we are 12-15 and behave a bit ridiculously about it (especially if you are a girl) - At 16 we're a bit more developed and real life relationships become more important, and, those pesky exams take up so much of our time.

    As for the music of 1987, it wasn't all SAW as that was the year I came to live in the Scottish Highlands and there were just so many great Scottish and Celtic bands around then that we were able to go and see live, so a bit of a golden age for me.

    If you are no longer going to "irk the musos" perhaps you can no longer be my blogging buddy as I'm sure I unwittingly irk them with just about every post I write!


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