If you have a look at what happened in 1979 in the United Kingdom, you would wonder how anybody survived the year at all.
January saw strikes, from lorry drivers, grave-diggers, rail workers and pretty much every other sector of society, leading to what became known as the Winter of Discontent.
February saw the death of Sex Pistol Sid Vicious, while the wonderful island of St Lucia became independent of the UK. Plus Nottingham Forest unlocked the barricades of footballing green by making Trevor Francis the first million pound footballer.
March saw the Prime Minster at the same, James Callaghan losing a motion of confidence vote, leading to an announcement for a General Election later on in the year.
To break up this negativity, an easy way to listen to the songs on the countdown in one step would be by listening to the Spotify playlist here:
In April, the Yorkshire Ripper killed his eleventh victim.
In May, the Labour party lost the election, with the Conservative party winning by a 43 vote majority, making the leader of the party Margaret Thatcher the first female Prime Minister. In even more traumatic news, 21 days after the new government took power, the price of milk was increased more than 10% to 15 pence a pint.
All this was in the first five months of 1979. The remaining months of the year saw IRA bombings, more murders in Yorkshire, billions of pounds in spending cuts, inflation rising to 13.4%, and the largest amount of working days lost to strikes since 1926.
The only things 1979 had going for it, was the introduction of the first J.D Wetherspoons pub, the births of three members of the popular music group 5ive, and this classic track from The Smashing Pumpkins.
With a year that bad, the Christmas number one single had to be one that summed up the time. You couldn’t have jolliness, Santa hats and fake snow corrupting the charts, the top spot was destined to be filled by a song that signified the sadness of 1979.
This is why the #2 track of Christmas was I Have A Dream by ABBA, a song so powerful in its message of the positive that it managed to reach the top of the festive charts in 1999 via a Westlife cover was unable to claim number one.
Instead, number one for 1979 was taken by Pink Floyd, with their memorable track Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2).
For a band as popular as Pink Floyd were and are, it’s quite remarkable to note that this was their only number one singles hit in the UK, and in fact their only top five hit. Floyd were always an albums band, but even so it’s interesting that 12 years after the release of their first single in 1967 they finally managed the chart smash they had probably always secretly wanted.
Please allow me to share a secret with you if I may. It’s one that may get me into trouble with both fans of music, and fans of sports with rackets.
To me, Pink Floyd reminds me an awful lot of the sport of tennis. Both are very popular, enjoyed by millions all over the world, as a concept, a hobby, and an interest. But tell me, how many people have you ever met who has been a passionate fan of either?
Much like Quavers, Pepsi and Emmerdale, Pink Floyd and Tennis are both pursuits that exist without being loved.
I’ve never heard someone say to me “sorry pal, can’t come out tonight, too busy watching the old tennis.”
Or a keen music fan has never looked at me with passionate eyes, demanding, imploring that I listen to The Wall, or any of Floyd’s other albums. I once tried out the theory that if you listen to Dark Side Of The Moon while watching The Wizard Of Oz at the same time, the two have a synchronicity where everything makes sense. I think I got to the initial tornado in ‘Oz before turning off the record and just enjoying the simple classics of the film instead.
Maybe Another Brick In The Wall was the 1979 version of how modern Britain becomes a tennis fan once a fortnight when Wimbledon is on. ’79 was two years after a Brit had last won Wimbledon, and Another Brick In The Wall was the perfect way to make up for two year of hurt.
The song was about rigid schooling in general and boarding schools at the time, and the popular refrain of “teachers, leave those kids alone” became an anthem for kids tired of beaten whipped and beaten just for spilling fountain pen ink onto their parchment. It’s a decent track with a catchy chorus, a solid bassline and a Children’s choir, but quite honestly, the Christmas number one of just one year later was St Winifred’s School Choir with There’s No-One Quite Like Grandma was a better choir in many ways.
So why is Pink Floyd in my list and not the Stockport schoolkids who loved their Grandma? Because I feel like ‘Brick was a perfect encapsulation of life at the arse end of the seventies, and not some knockabout tune about a grandparent. I don’t care much for Pink Floyd, I think Syd Barrett was an overrated acid head whose curly haired idelogies about bicycles and girls called Emily masqueraded his simpleness, and the sight of Dave Glimour sweating away in a too tight black t-shirt has always disgusted me.
It doesn’t matter though, because as I keep saying in this countdown, the quality of an actual song is only half the story in deserving time and effort in my list. Each track has a significance in terms of Christmas whether or not it has an obvious link with the season at all. ‘Brick might be a song that conjures up images similar to Billy Elliott, but that is what life was like thirty years ago, when pianos were smashed and burned for heat, when a good haul at Christmas was a Shoot annual or a second hand Barbie.
When Andy Murray won Wimbledon this year I was elated, it was the completion of decades and decades of waiting for a British man to lift Wimbledon again. I work in sports production, I’ve a degree in Sports Journalism, and I actually quite like tennis, but I’ve probably only watched about five tennis matches since.
It’s not the sport that appeals to me, it’s the story, and that’s why Another Brick In The Wall deserves its place on my list, if only because it reminds me of this scene from the film Scum.
Don’t take my word for it though, take these…
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