Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pop in the Playpen

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pop in the Playpen

Article excerpt

Bob the Builder is Number One again. What the hell has happened to our singles charts, asks Charles Shaar Murray

WHEN they write the list of pop's greatest Bobs, which h a l l owe d names will be inscribed there?

Bob Dylan? Definitely. Bob Marley? Indubitably. Bob Geldof ? Maybe. Bob the Builder? Fergeddaboudit!

Who's buying it? Not the people who listen to it. Kid Sister may save her pocket money for Hear'Say or Britney, and Older Brother might splash out for Travis (if he's a Wet Whinger) or Limp Bizkit (if he's, like, a bit of a rebel) but Bob The Builder, like the Teletubbies before him, is bought by parents to amuse toddlers. And there seem to be an awful lot of them.The mythology of pop suggests that the singles chart is some kind of barometer measuring the convoluted twists and turns of the collective adolescent psyche, with its randomised scratchmix of exuberance, aggression, angst and self-pity. The reality is somewhat different: the chart bears rather more resemblance to a cramped family home with three generations squeezed under a single groaning roof.

Notionally teenage turf, the pop chart has always been grouchily and uncomfortably shared with infants and old folks.

Even the Sixties, retrospectively enshrined as a pop golden age when the Beatles and the Stones and Motown and Stax reigned supreme in a glorious dazzle of expression and invention unparalleled in cultural history, was not immune. It's one thing to remember the Sixties for Otis Redding, Dusty Springfield and Jimi Hendrix; quite another to recall the formidable runs of hits racked up by Ken Dodd, The Bachelors or Tom Jones who, before his Nineties reinvention as a funky elder statesman, functioned as a bit of rough for ladies of a certain age.

This syndrome was never exemplified more perfectly than in 1967, when The Beatles' Strawberry Fields Forever, the curtain-raiser for Sgt Pepper and one

of the strangest, most beautiful pop records of all time, was held off the Number One spot which the Fab Four had come to expect by divine right, by the cruise-liner crooning of Engelbert Humperdinck. …

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