What makes a Perfect Pop song? For me, it’s two to two and a half minutes at the outside of music that grabs your attention immediately, makes all its points, throws in a memorable hook and quotable lyric or two, then buggers off and leaves you alone, preferably with a sweet taste on your lips.
Such a band were the Shop Assistants, who during my research seem to be sorely missed by many. They were originally known as ‘Buba And The Shop Assistants’ on their formation in Edinburgh in 1984, and their original vocalist Aggi, who recorded only one single with them, left to join the Pastels. Alex Taylor replaced her and All Day Long (FF 1985 #50) came out on the Subway label to critical acclaim (Morrissey named it his favourite single of the year), and public indifference. Sounding for all the world like the Velvet Underground’s third cousins, with languid, unaffected female vocals and a thumping backbeat, this was the epitome of the brief, telling miniature. It set the standard for Shoppies songs to follow: a realistic appraisal of the singer’s (ex-) partner couched in terms so honest they made you smart.
The 21st October 1985 saw their first Peel session date and from that came All That Ever Mattered (FF 1985 #17), a love song of sorts (‘When the world is out to get you, you won’t die cos I won’t let you’).
It looked like the band were to become the next big thing: the smashing Safety Net (FF 1986 #8) with its irresistible licks and twists and turns topped the indie chart, and I Don’t Want To Be Friends With You (FF 1986 #43) cemented their bittersweet style with panache.
All four songs were fast-paced journeys through love and its alter egos, but their appearance on the legendary C86 album was with an uncharacteristically slower but no less fetching song, It’s Up To You.
They went on to sign with Chrysalis Records, releasing one more single and an album before a shock split in 1987. They reformed and split again at the end of the decade, and as I say, have appeared on lists of bands that people would most like to reform. A fulsome and pungent tribute to their pop prowess can be found here.