My Proper Top 40 Tunes, by Neil (aged 40)

Its now officially Forty years I’ve been knocking and rocking around on this planet and to quote Elton John ‘I’m still standing’, a fact I think that should be celebrated, by me at least. Too many people worry about getting old and tend to look at all the negative aspects that come along with being another decade closer to hanging out with Elvis. Not me, I’m just happy to be here and enjoying the party. Though the closer I’ve got to this land-mark of middle age the more I’ve started to vividly reminisce about the twists and turns my varied and exciting life has led me on so far. Rather than waste these rousing recollections I thought I’d at least document the music that seems to have sound-tracked the first half of my life as my special present to you. I’ve tried to match each of these 40 songs to the year that they were most pertinent to me rather than the exact time they were released, so please don’t email me with dates (you dweebs).

1972 Chicory Tip Son of the Father Though divided by the Atlantic ocean, rapper Biggie Smalls and I both entered the world on May the 21st in this year and both had umbilical cords wrapped round our necks and then both grew up to have size 13 feet. Weird eh? It’s a wonder I’ve not been shot yet. Anyway it’s a bit early to mention gangster rap so I think this tune by Kent outfit Chicory Tip (with some help from Giorgio Moroder) reflects the pure joy that must have been felt upon my long awaited arrival with its lovely knock-about feel, a real fun track.

1973 Peter Sartsedt – Where do you go to my lovely? Though released in 69 it felt like this tune was permanently on the airwaves in the Seventies and early eighties (I’m looking at you Simon Bates). It’s like the theme tune to a French Disney film where a hapless gypsy girl gets lucky and severs all ties with her vile family in return for a wardrobe full of Balmain shoes and the keys to Red Rum’s stable.

1974 The Tots – Please Yourself In an era where Gary Glitter was king, the combined wrongness of artist and song-title shouldn’t come as much of a surprise here. Erasing all thoughts of vile-ness for a moment, this bassoon driven glamthem was the first piece of sugary vinyl I ever owned. Sadly it doesn’t appear to be on Youtube. Trust me though it’s great.

1975 Windsor Davies & Don Estelle – Whispering Grass I remember being genuinely entertained by WW2 sitcom ‘It aint half hot mum’ when it was on the box as we called it back then. Nowadays I’d probably be horrified if my own child caught wind of its xenophobic plotlines. Comedy racism aside I heard this song from the show on the radio recently and felt compelled to start writing a gritty drama about British drug dealers. Purely so I could use this haunting song to soundtrack the opening scene as the camera pans across a trio of monochrome hi-rise flats before finally ending on the gruesome execution sight of a police informer. Sounds good doesn’t it?

1976 Showaddywaddy – Under the Moon of Love I used to think I was the Fonz boppin and a hoppin round my nanna’s front room to this number. I think this is where my appreciation for bands with black drummers started, later becoming a fan of A Certain Ratio and Orange Juice to name but two bands with non-white percussionists that I really liked listening to.

1977 Leo Sayer – When I need You When the youth of the nation were pogoing up and down whilst catching each others spit in their mouths, I was getting to grips with flared dungarees and singing along to this tune with my mum in between episodes of Pebble Mill and Pipkins. Fuck you anarchy.

1978 Jilted John – Gordon is a Moron Little did I know back then that the purveyor of this perfect piece of playground punk would later become my all time comedy hero ‘John Shuttleworth’. Oof!

1979 Spyro Gyra – Morning Dance Seven years old is no age to be exposed to Jazz fusion but musically my dad took no prisoners back then and if you got into his Volvo then you were having some Morning Dance come hell or high water. About ten years later at the Café Del Mar I was finally ready to accept Spyro Gyra into my life.

1980 Blondie – The Tide Is High The first piece of vinyl I ever bought with my own money, pretty cool eh? Years later I would run into a night-club in town hearing that Blondie was in there only to realise (after paying a tenner to get in) that I’d just ran past her on the stairs. FML.

1981 Landscape – Norman Bates Though not as popular as their previous hit Einstein A Go Go it was this paean to the celluloid serial killer that got the heaviest rotation in my little bedroom. The fact it made my mate David Leicester run off in fear whenever I played it was an added bonus.

1982 Heaven 17 – Let Me Go Heaven 17’s Luxury Gap was the first album that I remember owning and truly felt was my discovery. Much as I loved the Human League’s Dare that would be blasted out of my older sister’s bedroom on an hourly basis, Heaven 17 were all mine and their futuristic synth pop helped add to the atmosphere of many a Star Wars figure confrontation in our lounge. I still have nightmares about Glenn Gregory’s teeth, mind.

1983 Howard Jones – New Song This could well be the year where encouraged by Howard I  threw off my mental chains, it was certainly the year I kicked the primary school bully to a bloody pulp after he called me ‘fatty’ on the Rounder’s pitch. Howard’s Humans Lib tour was also the first concert I ever went to (at the Manchester Apollo) kitted out in a leather body warmer, espadrilles and jeans with lots of zips and elasticated bottoms. In fact not dis-similar to how some grown men dress now.

1984 Raggio Di Luna – Comanchero Though the start of this record sounds like a Red Setter getting sexy, this cosmic, tepee torch-song became our official anthem on a skiing trip to Muhlbach in Austria. I will never forget the sight of half a dozen of my class-mates running out of a Salzburg sport emporium waving freshly taxed Ellesse sportswear above their hands whilst triumphantly shouting ‘Comanchero!’ to rapturous applause from the rest of us as we gorged on the newly discovered ‘milka’ bars.

1985 A-Ha – The Sun Always Shines on TV The big production values on this tune by Gorton market and the lads made for a striking album that sounded like it came from outer space. Is it me or can anyone else hear a young girl singing along to the song in certain sections of this? Maybe it was just on the album version. For some reason this reminds me of the time my nanna gave me a picture of page three stunna Suzi Mizzi that she’d lovingly ripped out of The Star newspaper for me. She clearly thought at 13 I was now old enough to enjoy the feminine form, she wasn’t wrong. RIP Nanna and RIP Suzi without you two I could well have turned out to be a homosexual.

1986 The The – Slow Train to Dawn Though probably a bigger fan of the earlier album ‘Soul Mining’ it was the album ‘Infected’ that got me instantly hooked on the genius of Matt Johnson and his brother’s accompanying art-work. A year or two later both albums became the soundtrack to a hundred bedroom sputnik sessions followed by a similar amount of whiteys.

1987 Pet Shop boys – What Have I Done To Deserve This? Though I spent a lot of this year listening to New Order compilation ‘Substance’ it’s this tune that teleports me right back to what was an emotionally difficult year. Somewhat naïve to the game of love and brimming with hormones, I spent a six week holiday in north America trying to get my head around the fact that my best mate’s girlfriend had secretly declared her love for me just before I left. After much soul searching on the beaches of Cape Cod I finally flew home and told her to swivel.

1988 Todd Terry Project – Weekend A constant floor-filler throughout the glory years of the Hacienda this disco reworking was always a welcome break amidst the bleeps and squelches provided by Baby Ford and Tyree that I came to enjoy in my first forays into Manchester night-life. It also reminds me of jumping off the stage with an ice pop in each hand for some strange reason.

1989 Stone Roses – Mersey Paradise Though I’m unlikely to attend the Roses reunion gig this year unless in the safe confines of a fully inflated Zorb, back in a pre-google 1989 I collected everything written down or recorded by Ian, John, Gary & Alan. As with most decent bands, their B-sides were just as good as the As, Mersey Paradise having a particular resonance with me as I’m from Stockport where this legendary river begins.

1990 The Farm – Stepping Stone (Ghost Dance mix) Though Manchester was the centre of both mine and the music world’s universe during this cool as fuck year, for me it was this Scouse/Cockney collaboration that sticks out the most. It will be forever ingrained on my mind as THE tune to accompany the amazing lighting rig experienced at Legends nightclub. Which puts me in mind of the girl I met there every week for about a month who I only realised was from Moston and not Moscow on the fourth week of getting off with her.

1991 Talk Talk – Life’s What You Make It (BBG remix) Though at this point no stranger to the crazy world of club-land, in January of this year I took a trip to Longton in Stoke to visit a club called Shelley’s and it changed my life forever. I will never forget dancing/hugging on the stage as Sasha played Talk Talk and a thousand people instantly became my best mate. I’ve still got some of the goose-bumps that appeared on my arms during that emotional night in the potteries.

1992 NWA – Alwayz into Something Sadly the salad days of Manchester club-land soon passed their sell by date with the emergence of the Salford/Moss Side/Cheetham Hill gangster triangle as plenty of friends and former associates funded their ostentatious and violent past-times by eagerly buying smack off them. A tape of NWA’s controversial album Niggaz4Life was permanently in the cassette deck of my rather un-gangster Renault 18 estate back then. Though quite possibly the most un-PC collection of songs ever put together it’s without a doubt one of the finest and funkiest Hip Hop albums of all time. RIP to Stevie a great friend who sadly passed away this year, this one’s for you kid.

1993 Annie Lennox – Little Bird (Utah Saints mix) I remember giving up on raving this year, after a successful 5 year career of bouncing the bean, I became bored of sleepless nights and sacked it all off for the simple life. I do remember having one last bash in Ibiza and some foam based shenanigans to this Annie Lennox tune in Es Paradis before nearly dying of heatstroke then getting chased back to my hotel by a rugby loving lager lout. Strange days.

1994 Portishead – Wandering Star This murky year conjures up images of repeatedly viewing taped footage of Portishead performing on Later with Jools Holland, in an old Victorian flat in Shaw Heath, wired on skunk and urging my mate Shane into drinking Vimto rather than his preferred Special Brew. I liked this band so much I even bought the T-shirt. Sour times indeed.

1995 Fleetwood Mac – Don’t Stop A pretty sad year for me, where after nearly 30 years of marriage my fossils called it a day on their partnership, or to put it another way my dad got caught cheating and my ma nearly killed him. Luckily and rather appropriately given the bands historic inner turmoil my dad left behind his copy of Rumours, which somehow managed to help me make sense of the unwanted demise of our once tight family unit.

1996 Francis Cabrel – Je t’aime, Je t’aimais, Je t’aimerais Where was this tune when I was doing French verbs at school? To translate the title it means ‘I loved you, I love you and I will always love you’ This was without a doubt a vintage year in my life, the majority of which was spent living in a forest in South west France with some truly amazing people. The sentiment of the song reflects exactly how I feel about that year and all the people who featured in it. Apart from you Roger, you were a proper dick.

1997 Whirlpool Productions – Disco to Disco The majority of 97 was spent hanging around a campsite in Tuscany cleaning mobile homes and listening to Italian radio who rinsed this tune to within an inch of its life. Somehow though it never got boring and captured the spirit of la dolce vita and partying to 3am every night in the Campsite’s Disco. I’d not seen the video until now, it’s kind of ruined it for me to be honest.

1998 Ian Brown – Corpses I can’t tell you how happy I was when Ibex popped up with a solo career and wasn’t shit. Now living in Birmingham I played his first album regularly to keep in touch with my Northern roots and well because I just really, really liked it. This tune instantly takes me back to a hazy summer day sat in my front room in sunny Acocks Green.

1999 De La Soul – Buddy You know when cynical types say ‘I never win competitions me’ that’s because they don’t enter enough of them. In this year due to living in the midlands and being rather skint I entered a competition (via a promotion for the terrible film Face/Off) in the hope of an all expenses paid holiday abroad. And guess what? I won it! It was only whilst being driven around Beverley Hills in the back of a stretch limo with my favourite De La Soul song ‘Buddy’ blasting out that the enormity of this once-in-a-lifetime prize fully dawned on me. Don’t hate me too much though as I got food poisoning the day after and was bed ridden for the rest of the holiday.

2000 Gavin Clark – If this Is Love Though clearly the dawning of a new millennium is a time not to be forgotten I can’t remember much about the new year celebrations other than we set off a distress flare we’d borrowed from an aeroplane that managed to turn midnight into day-time for a couple of minutes, such was its brightness. Also this year I first saw one of my favourite ever films ‘A Room for Romeo Brass’ whose soundtrack (which includes Gavin) perfectly compliments the astounding performances displayed in this perfect film.

2001 Roots Manuva – Dreamy Days *details for this year are unavailable due to White Widow and Aftershock abuse*

2002 Queen of Japan – I was made for loving you In this year I had something of an epiphany music-wise, partly from the results of buying a weird looking, game-changer of an album called ‘As Heard on radio Soulwax: Vol 2’ by some mad Belgian fuckers with paper bags on their heads and partly because I re-discovered going mental in night-clubs via the uniquely hedonistic ‘Chips with Everything’ night I started frequenting. I think this electroclash (remember electroclash?) reworking of this Kiss anthem sums up those wild nights quite well.

2003 Elton John – Ready for love Another year and another split, this time my Sister sensibly walked away from her self-centred, controlling husband which meant that I got to live with her and my two amazing nieces for a couple of years, whilst we all decided what we were going to do with our lives. It’s true that every cloud has a silver lining as out of this sad event we all became really close and made the best of things. I will never forget the day my youngest niece sang the chorus to this tune to me at the top of her voice in a way that only a two year old can do. It was amazing moments like these that made me grow up (a bit) and decide that I really wanted to be a dad one day. Elton’s new one’s a bit cosmic too innit?

2004 Electric Six – Danger! High Voltage This was the year I got my first job in TV as a researcher on You’ve Been Framed! and established myself firmly in the show’s folklore by making a two minute music package containing various clips of people on fire. Everyone loved it but apparently it wasn’t tea-time viewing and so never made the light of day. They still use it to train newcomers as an example of how not to make a music package or just when everyone needs a giggle. I also saw Electric Six in concert around this time and they were proper good.

2005 Love – The Red telephone I’m pretty sure this was the year that I was first lucky enough to see a freshly released Arthur Lee performing his criminally underrated ‘Forever Changes’ album live, though the second time I saw him was still great this first gig was the real mind-blower. Possibly because of the poignancy of his new-found freedom and the inclusion of a spine-tinglingly good brass section it was one of those times where I was totally lost in the music, totally gone. RIP Mr Lee.

2006 Rhymefest – Brand New  Though not particularly enamoured by the new fun-boy-friendly brand of Hip-Hop emerging in this year, for several weeks I couldn’t shake this tune by Kanye cohort Rhymefest out of my head. It provided a welcome break from the expensive disco re-issues and the Arctic Monkey album I’d been hammering, at least for a short while.

2007 I Am Kloot – Over My Shoulder Another land-mark, 2007 was the year when I met ‘the one’, female perfection in the form of a Salford/Aberdeen vixen. Our first date was at the D:Percussion festival in Manchester City Centre. I can’t for the life of me remember any of the bands but I have a feeling my mate Andy and his band I Am Kloot were playing, even if they weren’t I was definitely listening to them loads in this year, especially this slow-burning corker ‘Over My Shoulder’.

2008 Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma Although they soon got picked up by the Chino Wanker festival crowd, these funky prepsters’ sound-tracked some cracking days out in this year. Mainly spent driving around the Peak District buying old tables, drinking real ale, spitting over dry-stone walls and doing loads of forward rolls just for the hell of it.

2009 Average White Band – Pick Up The Pieces A bit of a downer here which is ironic given how much fun my mate Shane and I got up to during his all too brief time on the earth. This song reminds me of the aforementioned Shane, who despite several periods of sobriety succumbed to the evils of alcohol and sadly passed away in August of this year. For some reason I can’t hear this tune without recalling Shane in happier times buzzing his face off and on the prowl for the next girl or bar-tender to go and mither.

2010 Richard and Linda Thompson – I want to see the bright lights tonight This was a year to eclipse all others as my indescribably ace daughter was born and not only did she make me the happiest man in the world but she also turned me into a proper dad, which meant a renewed love of beardy folk music (hence the Thompson tune), chunky jumpers and beer with funny names.

2011 Groove Armada – History I love this tune for several reasons, the main one being it reminds me of an even gayer song from the 1980s by Bronski Beat. Funny vid too. Dad pop at it’s best.

2012 Stealers Wheel – Right or Wrong Much as I love pussy-popping along to the Rizzle Kicks I think you get to a certain age where your ears refuse to fully accept any new music and your musical tastes start regressing back to stuff that was probably pretty cool when you were about three years old. Hence I’ve picked a song, so old it’s not even on YouTube. There’s a seriously good chance that in another ten years time I’ll be listening to Edith Piaf and nothing else. If I can still hear anything by then that is…. See you in 2022.



  1. Shellys was the best that year and the Stevie I think u mean was always there with Boothy etc life and soul!
    Great idea to go through the years like this, really enjoyed it.

  2. Swiss James

    “repeatedly viewing taped footage of Portishead performing on Later with Jools Holland”

    Me too!

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