387. ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’, by Brotherhood of Man

Oh Lordy, it’s Eurovision time again. Our 5th Eurovision chart-topper. (We need some kind of advance warning system – a Eurovision siren that I can sound to prepare you, dear listeners, for what you are about to hear…)

Save Your Kisses For Me, by Brotherhood of Man (their 1st of three #1s)

6 weeks, from 21st March – 2nd May 1976

Not that every Eurovision entry is terrible, of course. For every ‘All Kinds of Everything’ (shudder) there is a ‘Waterloo’ (hurray). ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ is, though, more towards the Dana end of the Eurovision-ometer. It is the easiest and the cheesiest slice of seventies pop-pap. I think this might actually be the very pinnacle of the genre, and that’s not a compliment.

Though it hurts to go away, It’s impossible to stay… We’ve got all the sentimental schlager themes going on here: separation, a man doing a man’s work, a cute woman pining at home… I’m getting whiffs of ‘The Green, Green Grass of Home’ and ‘Billy, Don’t Be a Hero’, minus all the war and executions. I’m also getting more than a whiff (an almighty reeking stench, to be honest) of Dawn’s ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon…’ The melody is uncannily similar, and lead singer Martin Lee’s ‘tache and chest-hair combination is veryTony Orlando.

Save… Your… Kisses for me, Save all your kisses for me, Bye-bye baby, Goodbye… You don’t have to dig too deep for other chart-topping comparisons, either. The ‘bye-bye baby’ line sounds mighty familiar, while Brotherhood of Man’s two boys-two girls line-up was clearly following ABBA’s successful formula from two years earlier. And it worked. Not only did ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ win the contest, it was the biggest single of 1976, and is still one of the biggest selling singles of all time in the UK…

There are a few things to like about this record. There’s a barroom piano, which always sounds good in singalongs like this, and some ridiculous trumpet flourishes. And at least it doesn’t take itself too seriously, which would be a disaster. I’m about to admit that I’m warming to this silly little record… Until, wait a moment. There’s a plot-twist in the very last line.

Won’t you save them for me… Lee croons… Even though you’re only three… The song ends as you’re still wondering what the hell just happened. Ah, of course. He was singing to his daughter all along. Awww… Actually, no. If I were scoring each #1, then that would have just knocked five points off this one’s total. And not because it’s unintentionally creepy – making you think he’s singing about his girlfriend only to find out it’s a toddler – but because it’s dumb. And it’s been done before. Gilbert O’ Sullivan did it in ‘Clair’ four years ago, and it annoyed me then, while Chuck Berry did it in ‘Memphis, Tennessee’ way before that… It is the pop song equivalent of a TV show playing the ‘It was all just a dream…’ card.

Whatever the reason, people clearly dug this kind of cute trick in the seventies. They launched this record to the top of the charts for six long weeks. And they launched the chart-topping career of Brotherhood of Man, who managed something that not many Eurovision acts (ABBA excluded) manage… follow-up hits. Follow-up chart-toppers, even. Save your kisses until then, then, as the Brotherhood will be back. I’ll have my siren up and running by then, to give you plenty of advance warning…

348. ‘Waterloo’, by ABBA

And entering, stage right: some genuine pop music legends.

Waterloo, by ABBA (their 1st of nine #1s)

2 weeks, from 28th April – 12th May 1974

Are ABBA the best pop group ever? Like, pure pop? Well, they get my vote. I will not hear a bad word spoken against them. And these days, you don’t often hear much bad spoken about ABBA – they’ve shaken off the image that they were fit only for gay bars and hen nights, and have assumed their rightful place in the pantheon. Everyone loves ABBA. But… I’m writing as if wrapping up their final chart-topper; not introducing their first. To business!

It is perfect, the manner in which Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid shoot out the blocks on their first #1. ‘Waterloo’ is not a record that takes its time to reveal its charms. It’s a wham, bam, thankyou ma’am sort of pop song. It won the Eurovision Song Contest, for God’s sake: a feat not often achieved through subtle means. The churning bass, the thumping piano… My, my! At Waterloo Napoleon did surrender…

For a band that specialised in camp melodrama, this opening line – comparing their love for someone to an 19th Century military leader’s last stand – is as camp and melodramatic as it comes. Oh yeah! And I have met my destiny in quite a similar way… Cue one of the catchiest choruses ever recorded: Waterloo! I was defeated you won the war, Waterloo, Promise to love you for ever more… (A big part of this song’s success, I think, is the way they pronounce the title in their Swedish accents: Wardahloo! With added emphasis on the ‘ooh’.)

It’s pointless looking for the hook here. The entire song is a two minute forty eight second long hook. The ridiculous saxophone licks, the woah-woah-woahs, the pounding piano ‘n’ drum intros to each chorus, something the band admits were ripped straight from Wizzard’s ‘See My Baby Jive’. ‘Waterloo’ is a huge, unashamed sugar rush of a song. Perfect, perfect pop.

In 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated once and for all, and exiled to the south Atlantic. In 1974, Agnetha and Anna-Frid give in and admit their love. As they put it in the song’s best line: So how can I ever refuse? I feel like I win when I lose! (The writers of ‘Mamma Mia – The Musical’ clearly gave up on trying to shoe-horn a song about a two-hundred year old battle into the story, and stuck in at the very, very end, as an encore.)

As a kid, this was my favourite track on ‘ABBA Gold’. It is no longer my favourite ABBA song, but it is the perfect first chart-topper for the band. They would go on to reach much greater heights of subtlety and sophistication; though it’s debatable whether they wrote a catchier hit. Meanwhile, it was also voted as the greatest Eurovision song for the contest’s 50th anniversary.

This hit proved to be a bit of a false start for ABBA, though. They struggled to follow ‘Waterloo’ up, in the UK at least, and we’ll have to wait almost two more years for their next #1. Once that arrives, however, there will be no looking back. It feels like we’ve entered a new phase in our journey through the chart-toppers… It’s the mid-seventies, and we’ve finally met the decade’s greatest band!

284. ‘All Kinds of Everything’, by Dana

We are only four #1 singles into the 1970s, and we already have a contender for the worst chart-topper of the decade. Prepare yourselves…

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All Kinds of Everything, by Dana (her 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, from 12th – 26th April 1970

The intro comes in like the theme-tune to an educational show, aimed at nursery school kids. You brace for something bad, but nothing can quite prepare you for just how bad it’s going to be. Snowdrops and daffodils, Butterflies and bees, Sailboats and fishermen, Things of the sea… The entire song is a list. A list of the things that remind the singer of her special someone. Seagulls, And aeroplanes, Things of the sky… (Seagulls? Who sees a seagull and thinks of their beloved? Maybe he saved her from one that was trying to steal her chips?) All kinds of everything, Remind me of you…

Literally everything reminds her of him. Insects, the wind, wishing wells, morning dew, neon lights, postcards, grey skies or blue… Everything. It just doesn’t work. These are lyrics that could have been written by a ten-year-old (though, actually, I teach ten-year-olds, and it’s insulting of me to think they couldn’t write something better than this.) The only way this song works is if the singer is a wide-eyed child, no older than thirteen.

And, to be fair, Dana does have a very innocent, childlike voice. She sells the drivel that she’s signing, in her lilting Irish accent, and sounds like she believes in it… (*Edit* She was eighteen when ‘All Kinds of Everything’ was released. Far too old.) Things take a slightly creepy turn when she starts to sing of dances, romances, things of the night… And you think, be careful Dana, I know what happens to young Irish girls that find themselves ‘in trouble’. I’ve seen ‘Philomena’…

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This was a hit thanks to the Eurovision Song Contest – an evening famous for terrible music. But not this type of terrible. Eurovision is over the top, camp, cheesy glitz. We’ve had one winner hit #1 so far – Sandie Shaw’s ‘Puppet on a String’ – as well as Cliff’s ‘Congratulations’, which took the runners-up position. Neither of those records were very credible, but they were fun. This, though, isn’t interesting terrible or fun terrible… It’s just terrible terrible. And yet… it won. The rest of Europe heard ‘All Kinds of Everything’ and though, yeah, go on then.

Dana Rosemary Scallon is from Derry, in Northern Ireland, and grew up in London. She represented Ireland at Eurovision, though, and got them their first ever win. In return, she received death threats from the IRA, incensed by the fact a British girl was representing the Republic. (Or maybe they just really didn’t like the song either…)

‘All Kinds of Everything’ was Dana’s first big hit, though she had been releasing music since 1967. She would have hits in Ireland, and in Europe, throughout the seventies, but her star slowly waned. By the eighties she had turned to more traditional, Christian music before she was elected as a member of the European Parliament for Connacht-Ulster in 1999. She still records music (in 2007 she released an album called ‘Good Morning Jesus!’, no less.)

Well then. It’s been a scattergun start to the seventies. Like I said, we’re only on the 4th number one and we’ve already had some catchy, no-nonsense pop, a grizzled actor and a genuine classic at the top. And now this… The charts come and go in peaks and troughs. We’re definitely hitting a bit of a trough through the tail-end of ‘69 and into the seventies. But then, the golden days of the swinging sixties couldn’t last forever, could they? We will wait with bated breath for the 1970s to spring fully into life…

248. ‘Congratulations’, by Cliff Richard

Just what we needed – a bit of Cliff. 1968 has so far been a year in which everything and everyone has had a go at #1, and Sir Clifford doesn’t need to be asked twice before claiming his ninth number one single.

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Congratulations, by Cliff Richard (his 9th of fourteen #1s)

2 weeks, from 10th – 24th April 1968

I’d say that this, along with ‘Summer Holiday’ and ‘Mistletoe and Wine’, are the quintessential Cliff hits. The ones that people would go for if you shoved a microphone in their face and yelled ‘Name a Cliff Richard song!’ I know without even checking that this was one of the songs he sang during that rain delay at Wimbledon. Peak Cliff.

It goes without saying that ‘Congratulations’ is complete and utter cheese. It blasts into life with a goofy grin, all horns and handclaps, sounding like the theme song to the campest game show never commissioned. Congratulations, And celebrations, When I tell everyone that you’re in love with me… It also goes without saying that it’s pretty irresistible.

The big drums, the whimsical strings, the jaunty guitar, the music hall horns… It’s pop at its most disposable; yet also at its purest. ‘Congratulations’ is a song that exists to make people smile and tap their feet – a song that would get a reaction out of anyone aged between seven and ninety-seven. Congratulations, And jubilations, I want the world to know how happy I can be…

And, unlike some of the snoozers Cliff was releasing towards the end of his imperial phase – ‘The Next Time’, ‘The Minute You’re Gone’ and the like – at least it’s upbeat. I especially like when it slows down and Cliff starts doing the can-can (in my mind at least…) I do wish they’d kept it up and gone for a big, bawdy brass finish.

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It’s tempting to see this as a comeback for Cliff – his 1st #1 in three years. But that would be to rewrite history. Between ‘The Minute You’re Gone’ and ‘Congratulations’ he had managed to score six Top 10s. Just because he wasn’t topping the charts with every release doesn’t mean he had gone anywhere. He was a still huge presence, and would continue to be for the next forty-odd years. But, after a year in which Engelbert, Petula Clark, Tom Jones et al had taken easy-listening back to the top of the charts, perhaps he felt safe enough to stop trying to catch The Beatles and to just settle into middle-of-the-road comfort. Maybe this is the exact moment that Cliff the rocker finally is laid to rest, and Cliff the housewives’ favourite is born?

‘Congratulations’ was famously the British entry to the Eurovision Song Contest in ’68, in which they were defending the crown won by Sandie Shaw’s ‘Puppet on a String’ the year before. It was the hot favourite, but was beaten at the last by the Spanish entry ‘La La La’. Rumours abounded that the result had been fixed on the orders of Franco himself! But still, ‘Congratulations’ was a huge hit across Europe – #1 from Norway to Belgium, to Spain itself.

Looking back, we’ve only gone nine years since Cliff’s first chart-topper ‘Living Doll’, but so, so much has changed. Rock ‘n’ roll has died, been revived, died again… Merseybeat, R&B, Soul and Folk have all been the order of the day. Meanwhile, Cliff has stayed afloat just by being Cliff. Fortunately / Unfortunately (delete as appropriate) we won’t hear from him now for another eleven years…

232. ‘Puppet on a String’, by Sandie Shaw

Oh, won’t somebody drag us out of the middle-of-the-road slump we’ve been in for months now…? Can that somebody be Sandie Shaw? I have high-hopes…

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Puppet on a String, by Sandie Shaw (her 3rd and final #1)

3 weeks, from 27th April – 18th May 1967

…that are not disappointed. Roll up! Roll up! This is a crazy little record. From the get-go. From the oompah band intro that morphs into a fairground soundtrack – a demented, horror-movie kind of fairground, that is.

Love is just like a merry-go-round… sings Sandie, like your aunt after a sherry or two… With all the fun of the fair… It’s a fairly simple metaphor: love as fairground ride. But this song takes it all the way, to the extent that we get Big Top sound-effects and crashing cymbals. You really can picture her as a marionette, or as a Judy doll behind a makeshift stage.

If you say you love me madly, I’ll gladly be there, Like a puppet on a string… It’s a fun record. A bit mad. If it were a person you might cross the street to avoid them. But it’s interesting, if nothing else, unlike some of our recent chart-toppers. It’s chanty, and catchy, and Sandie does at least get to stretch her lungs on lines like: Are you leading me on, Tomorrow will you be gone…? At other points she sounds a bit drunk, to be honest. It’s a ‘proper’ pop song, but it’s comes very close to crossing the line into ‘novelty’ territory’.

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It makes complete sense that this was a Eurovision Song Contest entry. In fact, it explains a lot. Subtlety and  nuance are not in big supply at Eurovision. And not only was it an entry, it was the winning entry! Britain’s first ever! (Yes, the UK used to win Eurovision.) Sandie had been convinced to perform the British entry to get back into the public’s good books after a divorce scandal, although she hated it. In her own words: ‘I hated it from the first oompah… I was instinctively repelled by its sexist drivel and cuckoo-clock tune.’ Brilliant stuff, up there with Frank Sinatra’s dismissal of ‘Strangers in the Night’.

I think she was a bit harsh, to be honest. It’s fun, camp, silly… Perfect for Eurovision and, most importantly, not a bland, easy listening, country-lite ballad. Had ‘Puppet on a String’ come along elsewhere in our countdown I might have had less patience with it but, as it is, I’m just happy to have it liven proceedings up. And Sandie must have softened towards it, or the royalty cheques it brought her, as she rerecorded it for her sixtieth birthday.

That’s it for Ms. Shaw and the top of the charts. She would only have one more Top 10 – the equally kooky ‘Monsieur Dupont’ in 1969. I’ve enjoyed it every time she’s come along, with the classy ‘(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me’ and the fluffy ‘Long Live Love’ and now this. She just seems very, I don’t know, sixties. She officially retired from the music business in 2013. And, if nothing else, I appreciate the symmetry of all three of her chart-toppers spending three weeks each at the top!

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