Music a couple of months ago Share Tweet Pin Share Custom has staled what was once the infinite variety of the singles chart. The algorithmic analysis of what makes a hit has led to Top 40s dominated by teams of songwriters following templates. The means of calculating sales has caused charts filled by songs from the same album. The focus on Spotify and radio playlists has restricted the number of genres that might appear, and led to the disappearance from the charts not just of certain kinds of artists, but whole subsets of records. Doubtless some would have disappeared anyway, and good riddance to them, but some are worth mourning … The pan-generational duet video fig–has-shares fig–narrow-caption” data-canonical-url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4hOH4YMPoE” data-component=”video-inbody-embed”> Liza Minnelli: Losing My Mind – video The one where the grandee of pop encounters the bright young thing. It’s still a phenomenon on albums, especially in the US, where grizzled, wizened veterans still deploy the services of younger artists to appear alongside them as courtiers at the throne of the old monarch. But the better version is when the younger partner is in control, steering the direction of the collaboration. Think of Pet Shop Boys first bringing Dusty Springfield back into the public consciousness in 1987 with What Have I Done to Deserve This?, following it with Nothing Has Been Proved, from the film Scandal. Then they produced Liza Minnelli’s Results album two years later, which included the sparkling single Losing My Mind: Sondheim transformed into high dancefloor drama. What is crucial in these sort of collaborations is genuine affection from young to old: it’s no good the older artist being the butt of a joke. Walk Like a Panther by the All Seeing I could have made a joke out of Tony Christie, but instead it highlighted his gravitas. The grown-up pop hit video fig–has-shares fig–narrow-caption” data-canonical-url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0A7jAVDPJU” data-component=”video-inbody-embed”> Carly Simon: Coming Around Again – video Another piece of pop magnificence that appears to be a thing of the past is the grown-up pop hit, and I’m not quite sure what killed it: grown-up pop records continue to be made and their makers continue to enjoy huge audiences – just not in the singles chart. Maybe it’s the result of the fracturing of the idea of a pop consensus, something that happened when Top of the Pops started to become irrelevant and Radio 1 refocused itself on youth in the 90s – which meant selling records across the generations became so much harder in the mass market. The single, that vehicle of the mass market, became an irrelevance to these artists. But think back to the 1980s, when sublime singles such as Tougher Than the Rest, The Boys of Summer and Coming Around Again could be big hits, while being both musically and lyrically grown up. There was even a genre, AOR, that would fill large parts of the charts, sometimes with dreadfully trite tosh, but sometimes with records that held an appeal that was palpable but also almost impossible to pin down if you were a teenager – Bruce Hornsby’s The Way It Is, Marc Cohn’s Walking in Memphis. There’s nothing like that any longer. The TV instrumental theme video fig–has-shares fig–narrow-caption” data-canonical-url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0O-2oAvNTo” data-component=”video-inbody-embed”> The titles to Van Der Valk, soundtracked by Jack Trombey’s Eye Level – video How many people even watch opening credits any longer? Half the time they are reduced to a series of titles flashed up amid the first scenes of a programme, with no musical backing. When there is a full credits sequence, watching on demand usually offers a skip button. Sometimes prestige shows will try to grab you with some classy piece of music – The Bridge used Choir of Young Believers; Fiona Apple wrote a theme for The Affair; Regina Spektor’s You’ve Got Time was a pretty fantastic opening for Orange Is the New Black – but so often the temptation is to listen to it once, then move on. There was a time, though, when TV themes could become big hits. And they didn’t even need to be songs. You couldn’t fast forward through them, so you were force-fed them. And people actually went out and bought them. Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman in Orange Is the New Black. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar In 1972, Thames Television selected a piece of music called Eye Level – written by Jack Trombey, who was really a Dutchman called Jan Stoeckart, and recorded for the De Wolfe Music Library by the Simon Park Orchestra – to be the theme for its new detective series Van Der Valk. The following summer the track spent four weeks at No 1. The Johnny Keating Orchestra’s Theme from Z Cars made it to No 8. The Simon May Orchestra reached No 21 with Howard’s Way. Chi Mai by Ennio Morricone, which had already been used in two Italian films, became a No 2 hit in the UK when it became the theme to a drama series about, of all things, the Liberal politician David Lloyd George. Clannad’s Theme From Harry’s Game reached No 5. And the list goes on. Different times. The football team song video fig–has-shares fig–narrow-caption” data-canonical-url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GGAPSx0_vw” data-component=”video-inbody-embed”> Chas & Dave and Tottenham Hotspur perform Hot Shot Tottenham live on Blue Peter in 1987 – video Major tournaments still produce a slew of tie-in records from superstar artists, but there was a time when football records were fronted not by Shakira or Will Smith, but by entire teams. Almost every year from 1971, when Arsenal rerecorded Rule Britannia as Good Old Arsenal – it’s not quite as bad as it sounds – and reached No 16, at least one of the competing teams in the FA Cup final would manage a hit single. (Doubtless because of the smaller market, Scottish teams didn’t manage hit singles until Rangers celebrated their ninth successive league title in 1997 with … a massive No 54 smash.) John Barnes, left, and Craig Johnston recording the video for Anfield Rap, April 1988. Photograph: Bob Thomas/Getty Images So successful were Cup final songs that Spurs, in league with Chas & Dave, managed three top 20 hits in the 80s. Liverpool, in company with Derek B, pushed boundaries in 1988 with Anfield Rap (Red Machine in Full Effect), in which John Barnes rapped that “When I do my thing, the crowd go bananas”, an on-the-nose reference to the bananas thrown at him by racist fans in the 80s. In 1994, Manchester United (of course) became the first club side to reach No 1, with Come On You Reds, accompanied by Status Quo, a record unlikely to have been listened to by any of the players who sang on it. Within a decade, though, the charts would see their final football team records, when Millwall released a Cup final song, and – bizarrely – Yeovil Town reached No 36 with a single that was released only in Yeovil. Since then, nothing. And it’s no great loss. The novelty single video fig–has-shares fig–narrow-caption” data-canonical-url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO5GWJJP3FM” data-component=”video-inbody-embed”> Lieutenant Pigeon: Mouldy Old Dough – video One might argue that one of the great pop sensations of recent years was a novelty record. But Psy certainly didn’t make Gangnam Style as one, and it was only a western inability to parse a portly Korean chap doing a suggestive dance as anything but silly that made it seem like one. That aside, the novelty hit appears to have gone the way of all flesh. But for decades the novelty record was a staple of the charts. Sometimes the boundaries were blurred: Mouldy Old Dough by Lieutenant Pigeon certainly sounds like a novelty record to me, but I know enough pop aficionados who believe it to be one of the masterpieces of the 70s to not press my case too hard. But Agadoo? Novelty single. Barbie Girl? Novelty single. Mr Blobby? Novelty single. The true novelty single was infantile, annoying, ever present and largely bought by kids. Perhaps it’s streaming that has really killed the novelty hit, because few people would listen to them again and again in the way that streaming hits are played, not least for fear their parents would kill them. At least, I hope that’s the case. The soap star single video fig–has-shares fig–narrow-caption” data-canonical-url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyILuowyCzQ” data-component=”video-inbody-embed”> Matthew Marsden ft Destiny’s Child: She’s Gone – video In 1986, a year after it launched, EastEnders had become the BBC’s most popular show. And where there are viewers, there are brand extensions. First, Anita Dobson sang a lyric on top of the theme, and Anyone Can Fall in Love reached No 4. Then a storyline involving a band of the kids in the square spawned two singles: Something Outa Nothing, by Letitia Dean and Paul Medford, reached No 12, but Nick Berry’s Every Loser Wins went to the top and was the second biggest selling single of the year (our old friend Simon May, of Howard’s Way fame, cowrote all three). Après Easties, le déluge. Martine McCutcheon performing on Children in Need, November 1999. Photograph: PA Photos/BBC Copyright The following year the cast of Neighbours started releasing singles (and how different pop history might have been if Stefan Dennis had been the one to have the breakout hit, with Don’t It Make You Feel Good, rather than Kylie Minogue). After that it was open season: more members of the Easties cast followed (Michelle Gayle, Martine McCutcheon, Sean Maguire, Sid Owen), and Corrie people (Adam Rickitt, before he became a Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate, Matthew Marsden, who had Beyoncé guesting on his single. Honestly). Neighbours’ Holly Valance released Kiss Kiss, arguably the most exciting soap star single, and Neighbours’ Natalie Imbruglia made Torn, arguably the best. But the fracturing of TV reduced soap audiences to a sliver of what they were at their peak, and stopped providing the springboard to a pop career they once had. Which is a shame when you think about Torn, not so much when you remember Something Outa Nothing.