Music Features

Staff Playlist #6 - Happy Birthday

We've decided to take a break from our decade playlists (which will return next month) for a birthday-themed special. April 26th marked the twelfth birthday of No Ripcord, so we thought it a grand idea to look back through the archives and see what was top of the charts on our own birthdays. The rules were simple: pick the #1 single from your date of birth plus any song of your choosing from that week's charts. Some of the No Ripcord writers had the good fortune to be born with a classic track dominating the airwaves, whereas some... not so much.

No 8tracks playlist this month, unfortunately, but the tracks are still collated on here and Spotify (Europe only) here. Tracks are linked to on YouTube and, as it's an external site, we cannot take responsibility for the content of the videos.

If you want to play along, then have a look at the following links. In the UK, a full list of number 1s can be found at everyHit, with full chart records courtesy of The Official Charts archive. In the USA, number 1s at Pop Culture Madness and a list of Top 10s at Billboard. If anyone knows of any full American chart archives, please get in touch.


Number 1: Danny and The Juniors - At The Hop

I know, I’m old, but at least I can claim a good-rockin’ number one song for the day I was born, a sock-hopping ditty about getting your kicks at a dance party, with a Jerry Lee style piano break to boot. The song was the main claim to fame for this New Orleans doo-wop group. It’s been parodied many times ever since, but the original still sounds fresh.

Favourite: Elvis Presley - Don't

I love this Elvis song, which trumped At The Hop a couple of weeks later for the number one spot. Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller were never given enough credit as sophisticated songwriters. At one level, it can be taken as a standard ballad about a lover pleading for more intimacy. It’s actually about sexual negotiations: desiring more than just a cuddle under the blanket. Elvis sounds here like he’s the offended party, coaxing his girl into reluctant submission. This was pretty racy for 1958, but went over the censors' heads. The pill and the sexual revolution loomed ahead.


Number 1: Milli Vanilli - Baby Don't Forget My Number

I see absolutely no reason to write anything about this song, other than it's awful. That’s my relationship with it. It’s a terrible, terrible song.

Favourite: Poison - Every Rose Has Its Thorn

1989 was a pretty weak year for hits in the US. This was the best song I could come up with, which is incredibly sad. I don’t really like Poison, but who does? There’s little redeeming quality in their music, if any at all. This song does get stuck in my head, and Bret Michaels got with Miley Cyrus’s mother and ruined the marriage of the man who wrote Achy Breaky Heart. Gotta give him credit for that.


Number 1: U2 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

For two weeks in 1987, Irish band U2 scored a massive hit Stateside with their song I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. A single released off of the album The Joshua Tree, most consider the song to be a heartfelt statement of a man's desire to be closer to God. Many consider the song to be the crown jewel in U2's musical repertoire.

Favourite: New Order - Ceremony

Released on August 11, 1987, New Order's Substance proved once and for all that shitty musicians could make good music. Stupidly simplistic, the album rocketed the former Joy Divisioners to worldwide fame. This track, Ceremony, exemplifies the minimalist pop sensibilities of history's best ever Joy Division cover band.


Number 1: Rod Stewart - Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)

In all honesty, aside from some very limited time listening to The Faces, Rod Stewart has been one of those popular voices I’ve sought to avoid. That being the case, it offers me no real pride or satisfaction to realize that the tail end of 1976 belonged to Stewart and this song, which is a sort of forgettable contribution to pop-rock’s ever-expanded bin of sappy love tunes. No real effort on my parents’ part, though - whether I’d emerged into the world sooner or later - would’ve worked in my favor, being that for the two months prior to my birth, songs like Chicago’s If You Leave Me Now and Rick Dees’ Disco Duck, would’ve been what I’d had to look back on. Ah, the Seventies.

Favourite: David Bowie - Golden Years

This is no contest. In a year otherwise packed with pop embarrassment (Silly Love Song, Afternoon Delight) or the who’s who of disco’s dreadful reign ((Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty, That’s The Way (I Like It)), David Bowie’s Golden Years at least takes the 70s-centric groove thang and twists it into something timeless and dark. The excess of the culture that led the populace to Studio 54 in droves so it could shake its collective booty is exactly what led Bowie to “run for the shadows,” his own fascinations with funk and Neu!-induced minimalism compounded by his glamorized Thin White Duke persona and his drug use.  


Number 1: Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - Boom! Shake The Room

These days, Will Smith seems to be a pretty serious man; a dramatic heavyweight, winning both critical and commercial acclaim in a slew of serious motion pictures about serious men doing serious things. But before he selflessly saved seven souls or pursued "happyness," Will would lace up his box-fresh Nikes, pull a gaudy snapback cap over his eraser-cut hairdo and wreak havoc on the streets of Bel Air. Though I never quite "got" the music of the Fresh Prince, I have many fond memories of the television show that was so distinctly ‘90s.

Favourite: Radiohead - Creep

I first fell in love with Radiohead after 2000’s Kid A, an album that defined my early adolescence. My feelings for the band have remained strong, through the zeitgeist-capturing In Rainbows, and even this year’s slightly underwhelming The King of Limbs (but hey, Codex is a phenomenal track). Last year, when a Belgian women’s choir, covered Creep for the hauntingly beautiful trailer for The Social Network, I went back and revisited Radiohead’s debut Pablo Honey; and my love for Thom, Jonny, Colin, Ed and Phil, only grew stronger. 


Number 1: The Human League - Don't You Want Me

On 21st December 1981, the day of my birth, the UK's bestselling LP was ABBA's The Visitors; the top spot in the UK Top 40 Singles Chart was occupied by the Human League's synth-pop classic, Don't You Want Me. Although I had absolutely nothing to do with either of these chart placings, I feel strangely proud to have arrived in the world at a rare point when people valued great pop music over novelty dross. Aside from the fact that Don't You Want Me is arguably one of the greatest singles of the 1980s, it also seems fitting that a band from my future adopted hometown were number one at the time of my birth.

Favourite: ABC - Tears Are Not Enough

I could have picked Bowie, Rod Stewart, maybe even Adam Ant, but how could I ignore ABC and this timeless slab of swaggering funk? A truly amazing debut single from another legendary Sheffield band. What a week to be born in.


Number 1: U2 - With Or Without You

On May 25 1987, America's Billboard chart-topper was With Or Without You by U2. Though I'm not much of a current U2 fan, I can see how they might have been popular "back in the day" before the likes of Vertigo and such. Apparently they were peaking around the time I was born and learning to crawl. It's a solid rock song with actual drums, a stand-out accomplishment on this week in 1987.

Favourite: Fleetwood Mac - Big Love

For the best song of the week of May 25 1987's top ten, I choose Fleetwood Mac's Big Love, because, really, what's not to like about a song that ends with a guitar solo and alternating masculine "Uh's" and a feminine "Ah's"?  The vocals are haunting and the guitar plucks, catchy. It maintains that distinctive 80's vibe while holding the cheese, or at least some of the cheese.


Number 1: Madness – House of Fun

An indisputable classic, although I must admit that I've never cared much for it. Yes, it may be the most catchy song ever written about buying your first pack of condoms, but Madness' constant chirpiness always got on my nerves and I felt rather vindicated in my dislike of them when Suggs sold out and started flogging frozen food on TV. On the other hand, I know that it could have been much worse (at the same time over in the US, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder's horrific Ebony and Ivory was sitting at the top of the charts). And it does bring back fond memories of watching repeats of The Young Ones.

Favourite: Yazoo – Only You

One of the few points where my record collection crosses over with my Mum's. She likes it for the damaged yet defiant vocals of Alison Moyet, I love it for Vince Clarke's distinctively minimal synth playing (and the vocals as well actually – Moyet has one of the greatest voices in pop music, and it's a shame that, while not exactly unsuccessful, she's never really received the recognition she's deserved). In addition to providing me with some of the most vivid musical memories of my childhood, it's also a suitably dramatic song to stick on when I'm feeling a bit romantic (or drunk) and overly emotional.


Number 1: 2 Unlimited - No Limit

As many of you, I am sure, can empathise with, I was into old school house as a baby - in particular, No Limit gave the riff and lyrical content that really reflected where, as an unborn child nearing term, I felt my life was headed. It was vital and liberating - perfectly mirroring the day I was sprung upon the unwitting world alongside the bouncing maxim that, "We do what we want and we do it with pride." One might say a little part of me felt that "there [was] no limit" to what was possible.

Favourite: Radiohead - Anyone Can Play Guitar

In contrast to that romanticised, and not wholly accurate, notion, the knowledge that Anyone Can Play Guitar was charting on the day I was born serves only as a cold reminder of the insignificant speck that the extent my lifetime represents on the musical map: Radiohead - who I would consider a very modern, relevant band, are still around today; and none of them are dead, or old. But, while it is, relatively speaking, a long time ago, a more welcome thought is this particular track has so far surpassed the suffocating anonymity of time. It harks back to a time when Radiohead were new and a little too like Nirvana, and Thom Yorke was still rooted in his "I am a Rockstar, no, seriously! I know, how awesome is that?!" phase. All this culminated in lines like the wonderfully pretentious, faux-intellectual parody of Nero's popular myth: "If the world does turn and if London burns / I'll be standing on a beach with my guitar." Honestly? I'm glad the world has moved on.


Number 1: Simon Park Orchestra - Eye Level

The current fetish in the UK for fictional European detectives, as evidenced by the success of Wallander, The Killing and Spiral, marks a point in a cycle that comes around every few decades. In 1973, Dutch detective, Simon Van Der Valk, was solving crimes on ITV. Meanwhile in the music charts, as The Sweet’s glam attack, Ballroom Blitz, hovered at number two, the instrumental theme music from the show took a leisurely stroll to the top spot. It is unlikely that the massed youth of the British Isle were storming the counters of record shops all clamouring for a copy of Eye Level. Just as earthquakes and volcanoes remind us of who has the upper hand in the struggle between man and nature, the success of the single was a reminder that, when an older generation mobilizes to buy a piece of music, they are more than capable of wrestling control of the charts away from the teenage market.   

Favourite: Ike & Tina Turner - Nutbush City Limits

The suburbs are an enduring stage setting in pop music, romanticised as a place of innocence and sexual awakening, and vilified as oppressive wellsprings of frustration that you absolutely must break free from. Nutbush City Limits captured that joyful moment of escape. The dirty diesel funk of Ike Turner’s "grease under the fingernails" guitar, and a Moog solo that adopted the strained, police siren tones of a Theremin, conjured an image of the pair speeding away from a dry town in Tennessee, past the church, the school and the jailhouse. Away from all the daily routines that fix you in place and regulate your behaviour. Whatever abuse characterised the lives of the Ike and Tina offstage, they formed a musical partnership that was infinitely more than the sum of its parts.



Number 1: Boris Gardiner - I Want To Wake Up With You

I'd never heard this slice of ditchwater-dull, smooth reggae until researching this piece and I plan on never hearing it again. An insipid ballad, I Want To Wake Up With You was Gardiner's only Top 10 hit in the UK, and sounds to me like the kind of song that has led to reggae still not being taken seriously by all quarters to this day. I should probably count my lucky stars though; had I been born on my due date, five days earlier, you'd have just read my thoughts on Chris De Burgh's Lady In Red.

Favourite: The Smiths - Panic

I first really got into The Smiths when I was sixteen and someone lent me a copy of the Singles compilation. Other than the two tracks I already knew (This Charming Man and How Soon Is Now?), Panic is the one that really jumped out at me. I'm not really sure why though; maybe it's the immediacy, maybe it's the rollcall of major British towns, or maybe it's the refrain of "Hang the DJ, hang the DJ." Reportedly written as a response to Radio 1's Steve Wright immediately following breaking news of the Chernobyl disaster with Wham!'s I'm Your Man, Panic may not be the most enduring of The Smiths' stellar run of hits, but it's a great indie disco tune nonetheless.


Number 1: John Waite - Missing You

There are two kinds of music you won’t find in my collection: tailor-made power ballads and sentimental power pop that sounded like it came programmed out of a Casio demo. John Waite had the muscle to do both. In fact, his evolution as a songwriter is completely at odds with my taste. The British singer-songwriter first made waves with Missing You, a radio staple about being in denial that exposes his forte in mastering inanely obvious Hallmark musings. Logically, his next step was to grow his hair out and lead Bad English, another project rich with MTV-friendly imagery fit for the karaoke graveyard. He was the precursor to our time’s other schmaltzy lyricist, Chris Martin.

Favourite: Prince & The Revolution – Let’s Go Crazy

The song that should’ve been number one on my birthday, Let’s Go Crazy is the perfect sleazy romp. Prince was always one to blend sexified gusto with Christian subtext, like when he declares, “dearly beloved, we are gathered to get through this thing called life," after the organ kicks in. The rest is pop history in the making: LM-1 drums, triumphant synths, and not one, but two around-the-fret solos were just the right ingredient to join in on Prince’s Mass of Joy. This priest was all about teaching good ol’ ethics to the kiddies, and of course, to the ladies.


Number 1: The Box Tops - The Letter

The week I was born the number one single was by a group featuring a gruff-voiced 16 year old singer named Alex Chilton. Apparently it was the biggest hit of 1967, but frankly it has always bored me to tears. And Joe Cocker’s typically hysterical version released a couple years later does nothing to improve the song’s image in my mind. What’s that thing about being born under a bad sign? Yikes!

Favourite: Bobbie Gentry - Ode To Billie Joe

Far more interesting, as far as I’m concerned, was the song sitting in the number 2 slot – one of the most mysterious hits in the history of pop music. Mysterious not just because we are all still wondering what Billie Joe and his girl threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge, and whether his girlfriend is the singer, and why no one in the family seems to give a hoot that Billie Joe jumped off the bridge himself, but how a simple song without a chorus got to be such a smash. Dylan parodied the family’s indifference in Clothes Line Saga, recorded at the same time and later released on The Basement Tapes, where Mama and Papa discuss the madness of the Vice President while seeing if the clothes are dry.

And what of No Ripcord itself? Editor-in-chief David Coleman looks at the UK music scene on 26th April 1999.


Number One: Martine McCutcheon - Perfect Moment

In its early days, No Ripcord was a very angry little website. I can vividly recall my dear friend Chris Hall, whose passionate if a little aggressive writing helped to launch the site, writing a scathing paragraph on poor old Martine McCutcheon. He concluded his diatribe with the words "stick to what you're good at, Martine: nothing". She was, of course, a pointless and rather pitiful target, but listening to this absolutely horrendous ballad twelve years on I can still see Chris's point.

Favourite: Blur - Tender

There were some good singles (Suede's Electricity, TLC's No Scrubs, Eminem's My Name Is, and Britney's Baby One More Time) and some truly diabolical ones (Vengaboys, Billie, Boyzone, B*Witched, Des'ree, The Corrs, and two fucking Steps songs) in the charts that week, but the pick of the bunch for me has to be Blur's Tender. And that was placed at number 40. If you look at this week's chart in full and consider how hard it was to access alternative culture in 1999, especially in a remote town like Whitehaven, you'll understand just why No Ripcord was born at this specific time.

So, what do you think? We'd love to hear from you using the comments facility below, and maybe let us know what was rocking the nation on the day you were born.