As the political punter’s search for clues to Election 2015 outcome grows ever more desperate, it’s time to look at one of history’s most accurate indicators – the pop charts.
You may scoff that the weighty decisions of millions in the polling booth have nothing to do with the passing musical fancies of a few thousand teeny-boppers.
But – whatever our age – the current Number 1 in the singles charts will subliminally enter most of our minds, whether it’s blaring out of the kitchen in the staff canteen or background music for the football highlights on telly.
And since they first started appearing regularly in 1952, the charts have also been a reliable barometer of popular opinion; after all, record labels earn their crust by staying in tune with the public mood.
The predictive nature of the pop charts where British elections are concerned dates back at least to October 1974, when Harold Wilson called the second election in a year to try and secure a Labour majority.
The week before polling day, John Denver took the No.1 spot with Annie’s Song, and lyrics that summed up Wilson’s love affair with the British people:
Let me lay down beside you, let me always be with you. Come let me love you, come love me again.
Five years later, it was a very different story.
As Margaret Thatcher (above) sought her first term in office, Art Garfunkel implicitly bemoaned the Winter of Discontent’s power cuts in his tear-jerking chart-topper Bright Eyes, his famous bouffant a clear tribute to Mrs T’s.
Even more significant was the song Garfunkel kept off the top. Racey’s Some Girls belonged to a misogynistic mindset where women existed for only one thing, and it certainly wasn’t being Prime Minister. Thatcher soared, Racey sunk.
By the time of the Iron Lady’s third election victory in 1987, a nation blindly gorging on the first taste of the Lawson Boom was in a mood for upbeat pop.
Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now was outdone at the top of the chart in election week only by Whitney Houston’s even more relentlessly optimistic I Wanna Dance With Somebody (below). Neil Kinnock didn’t stand a chance.
He was scuppered again in 1992, but it should not have come as a surprise.
The writing was on the wall for Labour from the moment Shakespears Sister hit the top spot in February, and held it throughout the campaign. John Major may not have looked or sounded like Marcella Detroit, but his soapbox entreaty to ‘Stay with me’ – whatever the horrific consequences – was essentially the same.
Roll forward to 1 May 1997, and we find R Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly at the top of the charts. If ever there was a metaphor for the insane public optimism which saw Tony Blair running through the open door of 10 Downing Street, that was it.
And despite the ups and downs of that first term, Labour’s second landslide was assured as – for election week only – DJ Pied Piper took the top spot in June 2001 with Do You Really Like It?: Blair’s question to the British people, resoundingly answered: ‘Yes, we’re lovin’ it, lovin’ it, lovin’ it. We’re lovin’ it like that.’
The 2005 election was all about the Blair-Brown double act, and sure enough, as they toured the country together, top of the charts at election time were their doppelgangers, Tony Christie and Peter Kay (above) with Is this the way to Amarillo?
Could we have called the last election using chart-theory? Well the No.1 for polling week only was Once by Diana Vickers, and if that doesn’t tell you how screwed up the British mindset was back in 2010, nothing will.
Onto May 7 this year, and it may be too early to say what chart-toppers will influence or predict the election outcome, but if I was David Cameron, one song would be playing in my head more than others.
Hozier’s (above) UK follow-up to his slow-burning No.2 hit Take Me To Church – officially released in election week – is another soulful number with a chorus that rattles round your head.
The title? Someone New. The Prime Minister better hope not too many people are whistling that tune on their way into the polling booth.
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