Thursday, 5 December 2019

Mid-Life Crisis Songs #40: Pop Quiz

On Saturday nights, Sam and his mum have taken to watching Strictly together. I would rather dig out my own eyeballs with a rusty spoon, but so as not to be a complete grouch, I have agreed to sit and watch the show before Strictly, one of those awful quiz shows where everyday people get close to winning big money and then blow it all at the last second for the entertainment of millions.

I'm no TV critic, so I'm not going to review The Hit List. It's no worse than any other pointless quiz show on TV, with the possible exception of Pointless, which at least has Richard (brother of Suede bassist Matt) Osman. However, this show is of marginally more interest to me because, as long time devotees of Saturday Snapshots will no doubt guess, I love a good pop quiz.

Twenty years ago and counting, back in the golden age of my radio days, I used to host a pop quiz at work every Christmas. Not on air, just for my colleagues, but it was always a fun evening. I spent weeks preparing the questions, which ranged from current hits right back to the 50s. One of the best competitors every year was not a DJ, but a salesman in his late 40s (about the age I am now) who was a particular fan of Bruce Springsteen... and Rod Stewart. But for a guy in his 40s, he was pretty up on contemporary music too. This was in the era of Britpop, of course, when guitar music was back in fashion and a lot of middle-aged blokes were tricked into feeling young again by liking the same bands as their children. I keep waiting for that renaissance to come around again - they say everything is cyclical - but I'm starting to think it never will.

Now when I watch The Hit List with Sam, I just feel old. I'm fine with anything from the 20th Century, but after that... anything from the last TWENTY years... I'm stuffed. Pop music has always been aimed squarely at young people, but I always thought my generation would be different. We grew up with pop music. We grew up in the 80s, when pop music was at its worst... and its best. But pop music will not grow old with us. It will betray us and leave us feeling old, because pop music is the enemy of the old. I can no more appreciate Radio 1's playlist than I can understand how it must feel to be a teenager in the 21st Century.

I don't even know who the hosts of Hit List are, yet apparently they're both former pop stars. It almost makes me miss Mike Read. Or at least Cheggers...

Here's John Moreland.

I can’t remember when I’ve felt this lost
I took a wrong turn trying to carry this cross
Why’d I have to go and get blessed with a curse?
I’m chasing death or glory, whichever comes first

One for the money, four on the floor
You were born last week with your foot in the door
I heard truth is what songs are for
Nobody gives a damn about songs anymore


  1. I've always thought that if I was on Who Wants to be a Millionaire that I would struggle with a £200 pound question on 21st century pop music.
    I wouldn't even be able to phone a friend

  2. I inadvertently watched this the other week and...yes. All of this. The final prize round, where questions were contemporary R&B... I might just as well have been my dad.

    1. Yes. I almost stopped watching it after that.

  3. The woman presenter on "The Hit List" is Paul Ince's niece, allegedly.

    I did see her on "Pointless" so I presume she's a celebrity. I've managed to avoid watching all "reality" TV shows since the dawn of time.

    I used to be brought in as a "ringer" to pub quiz teams because I was devastatingly wonderful on the pop quiz section. Youngsters (up to their late 40's) would be left crying after I won yet another round.

    And finally - I'm a fan of John Moreland.

    1. I wish I knew who Paul Ince was.

      I'm not sure quiz shows count as "reality" TV. Please tell me they don't, or I may have to seriously injure myself. I think of this tradition as being akin to watch 3-2-1 with my mum and dad when I was a kid. (I don't think that any of us actually liked 3-2-1. I'm not sure anybody did, except people who were high. It was so surreal, it was like a quiz show from a broken dimension. But it was all that was on.)

      We should all form a blogosphere pop quiz team.

      I only just discovered JM, but I do like that one.

    2. Moreland has a new album out on Bandcamp:

    3. Cheers. I'll keep an ear out for that in February.

  4. I may buck the trend a bit here but we watched the last series of The Hit List and actually found it enjoyable! The presenters (he used to be in JLS and she in The Saturdays) are married to each other so I rather like their easy sort of air, and especially that they don't seem to make it all about them, when so many other presenters do. We watched one episode where one of the contestants who was only in her twenties, displayed a really extensive knowledge regardless of the era and it was really heartening... Bring it on, I say!

    On the Pop Quiz front, Mr SDS, a friend of his (both v good at this stuff) and me used to be a team in a contest where the winners then got to set the next week's quiz. It got to the point where there was just one other team and ours setting the quizzes on alternate weeks for some time... you get the picture, we always won theirs and they always won ours... we pissed everyone else off I'm afraid, but we couldn't help it!

    1. You say JLS and The Saturdays as if it actually means something to you, C.

      CC - if you need to phone a friend, call C!

  5. I too watched the Hit List on Saturday Night (and the Dancing Show) as we've decided to eschew any news/politics programmes at the moment as well as "gritty" dramas so it doesn't leave much else (we were getting seriously depressed).

    As for the quiz show, like everyone else I'm fine on the 20th century stuff and pure pop from the early 21st century (as I have a 20-something daughter who grew up with much of it) but am seriously lost with everything else. We often comment around here whether futuristic bloggers will be writing about the kind of music in today's chart (if there even still is one) the way we write fondly about the work of Jimmy Webb etc and I doubt it very much.

    Sounds as if we were all the lynchpins of our local pub quiz teams when it came to music rounds but that was a fair few years ago now, and I doubt if I would be much help at all nowadays.

    As for Marvin and Rochelle, looking at them they were destined to be picked up for presenting work and again because of my daughter, I knew all about JLS, S Club Juniors (a mini version of S Club 7 that included Rochelle) and The Saturdays.

    I have had an earworm for a couple of weeks because of something I heard on Strictly Come Dancing actually but thought it would be uncool to mention it around here - Your post has given me the green light so will get on to that later today.

  6. I've been in Dubai the past 19 years so to be honest most music from the start of this century has passed me by however i do still take some recommendations from blogs on any new stuff that i might be interested in.
    Like everyone else i do love a good pop quiz.
    My claim to fame was back in 1997 i won Music Brain on Radio 1, was hosted by Mark Goodier and ran a full year, i was on the radio 3 times during this time and won a head to head just before Christmas.
    In an an earlier round you had to pick an artist as a specialist subject, i went for Aztec Camera, mainly because i knew more about them than some other peoples chosen bands such as The Beatles, Oasis etc, i felt Aztec Camera was a narrower field.
    Was very proud in my local pub to be crowned music brain.
    It only ran that one year so couldn't defend the title.

    1. So you're the champion for life!

      I often thought I'd be good at Ken Bruce's Popmaster on Radio 2. Or at least, I would have been 20 years ago.

    2. Yeah im exactly the same, i listen to some of the pre-recorded ones that are available online, still do ok on the pre 2000 stuff but almost nothing thereafter so would have no chance.

  7. Not just me then.
    Just about everything pre 21st century I am shouting out within 3 notes. Anything else, I've suddenly become mute.
    There's a point where the charts and the radio 1 playlist cease to be important.
    This usually coincides with leaving school and getting some form of income. At that point the latest "chart sensations" become a different world

    1. There's a huge difference between Radio 1 / The Charts now and when we were younger though. Sometime in the late 90s, Radio One stopped playing anything by what we might class heritage acts and that changed young people's listening habits and the charts forever, Back in the 80s, Radio 1 still played good new songs by older artists - which is why we got the Kinks - Come Dancing and Paul Simon - You Can Call Me Al, 60s stars still getting airplay in the 80s. You wouldn't hear Jarvis Cocker or Noel Gallagher's new single on Radio 1 these days.

      When Radio 1 made that conscious effort to be young, rather than young but old-friendly, they put up a wall between old and new artists and gave pop a shelf life it never had before. They also cut their own audience in half and lost all relevance to anyone but teenagers and 20 somethings who still want to pretend they're teenagers. And even a lot of teenagers are turned off by Radio 1 these days, because many actually like old music... just as I liked rock n roll and Motown in the 80s.

      There's a lot more to it than that - digital, downloading, too much easy choice, the death of the music press... actually, the more I think about it, the more I reckon pop music as a force to be reckoned with died around the turn of the century anyway.

      But I would say that, because I'm an old fogey.

      And don't even start me on 6music...


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