heard on the wire

The birds fly a lot better than we do


Since it began broadcasting in 2006, the estimable Dandelion Radio has been the home of the “official” Festive Fifty, the annual listeners’ chart that John Peel started in 1976.

That first chart was compiled from listeners’ favourite records of all time and, with Led Zeppelin at number one, stands as a pre-punk anomaly. Henceforth the top spot would be shared by the Sex Pistols and Joy Division until 1982, when Peel retired the all-time list and introduced an annual chart. The ’82, ’83 and ’84 versions are perhaps the finest end-of-year countdowns ever compiled, reflecting a time when Peel truly was shaping the musical landscape. Later, 90s charts tended more to the dull and predictable, to the extent that Peel threatened to abandon the rundown altogether, not least because he was still totting up the votes by hand. But it survived, the last Peel 50 being chosen and broadcast in the wake of his untimely death in 2004.

The BBC maintained the chart for another year before handing the reins—or, more accurately, the spreadsheet—to an internet radio startup. Dandelion collects votes towards the end of each year and broadcasts the subsequent chart throughout the whole of January, so it’s only now that we can fairly reveal and revel in the full 2013 countdown.

Unusually, one of my votes counted, Helen Love squeezing into the coveted number 50 position with Atomic. In Dandelion Radio’s world, festive fifty placings are always coveted. In this case the covetous Ms Love only lends weight to Peel’s oft-stated maxim that the bottom end of the chart makes more interesting listening than the top.

And the record at number 47 in the 2013 countdown is certainly interesting. One place below the absurdly popular Chvrches, I can’t decide if this is brilliant or nonsense, but it wouldn’t have sounded out of place in those early eighties charts.

The Count Of Chateau Noir :: After The Carnival

At 41, something rather less interesting, per se, but very lovely nonetheless. It’s Veronica Falls and a ditty from their 2013 LP, Waiting for Something to Happen, whose title track we played in July.

Veronica Falls :: Buried Alive

At 40, Mogwai, and the first of two tracks from The Revenants, the soundtrack that the pioneering Scots recorded for the eponymous French TV show. Last time I posted a Mogwai track, their record company told me to remove it, so it’s straight on without stopping to Seattle and number 33. Don’t expect any sub-Nirvana grungisms from this lot.

Tullycraft :: Lost in Light Rotation

That’s the eponymous title track from the Tullycraft’s sixth studio LP, their first in more than five years, during which time this band were knocking around Bristol and sailing under the smithsockradar—until they grabbed the coveted number 32 position.

The Short Stories :: Angry Young Man

There is more juxtaposed loveliness at numbers 29 and 28. First, this single from a female five-piece sweetly sounding like a bunch of Edinburghians washed ashore on the California coast.

TeenCanteen :: Honey

TeenCanteen are the latest in a long line of lovely Scottish pop bands, but this must be the finest music ever to come out of the Isle of Man.

I’m cheating a bit here: while Sunfield claimed the coveted number 28 placing, this is the first and best track from the same record.

Postcode :: Reds

In the increasingly coveted 20 and 15 positions, songs that will be familiar to regular readers: Brains by Norwich electro-popsters MegaEmotion and Flies On You’s Josephine. Originally released on the Nothing to Write Home About LP in 2012, Josephine was remixed to within an inch of its life in 2013. There are 10 versions to wade through, but at least you don’t have to pay. And it is a great record.

Flies On You :: Josephine [Rough as a dockers chin remix]

Two places higher at number 13 is a track from Weird Sister, the debut long player by Joanna Gruesome. I featured Secret Surprise in October; Dandelion listeners chose Sugercrush, the most recent single. I’m cheating again; this is the b-side.

Joanna Gruesome :: Tugboat

And so to the top 10. At 10, the first of two tracks from Re-Mit, the 30th studio LP by The Fall. Quite accustomed to such heady heights, having graced the number one spot in both Peel and Dandelion charts, Mark E Smith and friend have to happy with the number three placing for another track from the smithsockarchives, Sir William Wray.

At nine, another Edinburgh entry from the self-styled four-piece indie-pop–rock-’n’-roll band that came of age in 2013.

The Spook School :: I’ll Be Honest

David Bowie is at number eight with that dreary comeback record of his, just behind Durham’s Martha, the kind of middling-to-good indie band who, while always making a pleasant noise, lack a certain I-don’t-know-what, as the French say.

At number six is another Scottish contribution: globetrotting troubadour, activist and polemicist John Donaldson. The Amsterdam-based musician records as JD Meatyard and was at number 26 with Blow it out of Your Arse. This is a nother track from his second LP, Northern Songs.

JD Meatyard :: Jesse James

One of the most talked about records of the year graces the number five spot. Inform – Educate – Entertain gave us the Ted Moult tribute that livened up this blog in June as well as this ode to a bird—or is it a plane?—that spits out death and destruction.

Public Service Broadcasting :: Spitfire.

The inexcusably named and interminably boring Fuck Buttons are inexplicably fourth and second in the rundown, sandwiching Mark E Smith & Co. And, at number one a fine, albeit by their own standards unremarkable, Wedding Present single. They’ve made and they’ll make better records than this, but, that said, most bands can only stare and gape in awe, wonder, admiration and daresay jealousy at what David Gedge is still capable of after 30 years of delighting our eardrums.

The Wedding Present :: Two Bridges

And, oh yes and once more, at number 50—coveted.

Helen Love :: Atomic

➡ The Dandelion Radio 2013 Festive Fifty

Photo: Dandelion Spree by photographer; some rights reserved.

Twitter: Veronica Falls; TeenCanteen; Postcode; Flies on You; Joanna Gruesome; The Spook School Public Service Broadcasting; The Wedding Present; Helen Love.

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One Response

  1. Thanks for the kind words about Postcode, much appreciated. Mark King’s not from here though, I suspect he’s probably from the Isle of Wight.



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