Friday, 27 January 2012


Some three and a half years ago I made a rash New Year's resolution to myself that I was going to write a teenage 'autobiography' solely by reference to every number one of the eighties. No reason really other than it seemed like a good idea at the time (i.e. when I wasn't sober). I'd turned thirteen in 1981 so it seemed neat way to map out my time as a teen by referring to what I was up to in relation to what was number one at the time. Neat, that is, until I actually made a start. Because while I could probably do a fair job of it by referring to what was number three or fourteen or twenty seven at any particular point in time, number one's with any resonance were thin on the ground.

Maybe in my rose tinted dotage, personally significant eighties songs like 'We Could Send Letters', 'The First Picture Of You', 'Once In A Lifetime', 'Just Like Honey' etc etc actually
did get to number one. But they didn't. Most didn't even come close, and those that did may has well not have bothered to chart at all; I could have spun an entire essay of loss and anguish around Ultravox's 1981 Hit 'Vienna', but that only got to number two. The song ahead of it, 'Shaddup You Face' only generates a cold indifference and a mild irritation that my plans were being thwarted. Suffice to say it Joe Dolce did not play any great role in my teenage years.

Being thwarted (and knowing a lost cause when I saw one), I abandoned my original brief and decided to treat it purely as an exercise in creative writing and just take the songs as they came on their own merits. As a lifelong lover of music who, not satisfied with just knowing what he likes, I've harboured a frustrated critic inside who wants everyone else to like it as well and is only too willing to tell them why.

And while that critic has managed to break free on occasional bits and pieces over the years, it was only ever in relation to commenting on stuff I either loved or hated. Which is easy to do. Gushing over something I adore or sticking the knife into something I don't is easy peasy - writing about something I have no interest in is much harder. Much much harder. And so I never did. Until now. By taking each number one in turn (I reasoned), I'd be forced to confront a wide range of 'random' songs, some of which were going to arouse strong feelings and others none at all but all of which were going to require a reaction of some kind.

To keep it interesting and stop me completely disappearing up my own rectum, I created a self imposed a rule that stated I wasn't allowed to spend more than thirty minutes on any of the entries. Neither would there be any edits or re-writes later - form a view, write it up and bang it out, that kind of thing. I will own up to straying from this path on occasion, but on the whole I've been faithful and tried to keep it as spontaneous as I could. For the eighties decade anyway. And it shows; some of the entries there are so sloppy they make me cringe but I've let them stand, warts and all. Be kind to my mistakes. I only ever intended to do the eighties, and it was literally only after adding the full stop on the last 1989 entry that I decided to carry on until it grew into the blog you're reading now. I relaxed the thirty minute/no re-write rule for the remainder of the decades too, but in general I've tried not to bust too much of a gut over any of it and to keep it as on the fly as I can.

I've been asked why I don't end each review by giving the song a score out of ten (or whatever). The simple answer to that is…..I don't want to. This, I think, stems from my own attitude to the reviews sections of music or film magazines that use a rating system; I'll read the reviews that interest me by virtue of what/who the subject is, but other than that I'll only read those awarded either a very high or very low mark; the former out of fear that I'm missing something, the latter in the hope I can pick up a bitchy comment or two. Somebody getting six on a ten scale will pass unread - if the reviewer is non-plussed then I am too.

And so this became part of my brief/challenge too - to not let you the reader know what I think about song X without a quick glance at the score at the end; either you're going to read the entry or you're not. Hopefully I've not fallen into what I call the 'Sight And Sound' syndrome, a magazine where I can read a thousand word review and still be none the wiser at the end of it as to whether the reviewer even likes the film or not. If I don't like something, I try to justify why, and on the whole I've tried to strike a balance between pure, ranting opinion and the dry sterility of a series of glorified Wikipedia entries. Whether I've succeeded will be down to you to decide.