Before this holiday I don’t think I’d actually sunbathed properly on a beach in years. Sure as a Londoner the occasional trip to Brighton is more or less compulsory, but aside from a quick sit on the pebbles and a walk along the pier, you don’t really go there to soak up the sun unless you are unemployed or a student.
In spite of this I quickly learned that the beach routine is more or less universal regardless of how old you are. You pitch up with towels or blankets to either lie on or drape over the sunloungers, you make entertaining farting noises with the tube of sun cream and try to ensure you have smeared it all over the most important areas that you can reach, before lying down and having your back done by a friend or lover. Incidentally isn’t is strange how under any other circumstances having an oily liquid rubbed on your back by a member of the opposite sex is one of the most erotic experiences going, but when on a beach it is actually just a ritual to be endured, tempered with the constant fear that at some point they are accidentally going to rub a handful of sand into you along with the cream.
Once the cream is applied, you then have to stow the bottle away inside a bag, for fear you will drop it in the sand and thus render it pretty much unusable for the rest of the day. Then after that you break out the sunglasses and the beach reading and try to find a comfortable position to lie in for the next ten minutes, praying in the process that you don’t end up with a lady of pensionable age in her swimwear somewhere near your field of vision.
There is another aspect of beach life that is pretty much universal. The beach sellers. It doesn’t matter where on the continent you happen to be, the sunshine reverie is shattered at roughly five minute intervals by an African gentleman cheerfully inviting you to sample his wares. These will generally consist of at least one of the following:
- A pair of sunglasses, as displayed on a large board which he is somehow manipulating in the sea wind without taking off.
- A sun hat or sombrero, generally plucked from the pile of 20 that he is wearing in a comedic pile upon his own head.
- A beach towel, peeled carefully from the large pile that is draped either over his arm or from around his shoulders. This in itself is something of a marvel, given the presumed weight of these items and the often 30 plus degree heat in which the seller is parading them around.
- A handbag, claimed to be of designer quality but which will almost certainly fall apart within a day or so. These last items presumably handed by their paymasters to whichever seller was at the back of the queue given that it is impossible to carry around several handbags at once without looking slightly ludicrous.
Naturally there is a slightly sinister side to it all, as the sellers are almost invariably people who have been trafficked to the resorts in an organised crime wave and who are desperately trying to bring in enough revenue to hopefully work off their debt to their paymasters. Nonetheless there isn’t a beach authority in Europe which doesn’t regard them as a nuisance. In the resort we went to they had taken the view that arresting the sellers achieved little, given that five more would arrive to replace them the next day. No, their solution was to make buying their goods an offence, punishable with a fine of not less than 1000 Euros. Whether this has helped I’m not sure, although the reps did brief us with cautionary tales of holidaymakers who had been caught out by beach patrols. Nonetheless little seemed to disturb the itinerant sellers and you quickly discovered the best way to deal with them was to treat them as you would the tramp on the bus and feign both deafness and blindness – or at the very least concentrate instead on the old lady in her swimsuit who I could swear was FOLLOWING ME AROUND.
I’m told the greatest fear of many people when they go on holiday is that they will wind up with some kind of stomach upset which confines them to their hotel room in a world of foul smelling misery. Frankly, given my experiences on the last two holidays I have taken with the better half, this sounds like heaven on earth. For you see when I go away I suffer from the exact reverse of this problem. I become blessed with mother nature’s rectal corkage and spend much of the first part of the trip in absolute agony.
Some people say it is all to do with displacement anxiety, the fear of “going” in an unfamiliar place. Yet in actual fact I generally don’t have this problem. Not to put too fine a point on it, I will crap anywhere. Trap 2 at work? Not a problem (unless you find the boss queuing outside when you emerge). Local shopping centre? I’ve had more than my 20p worth on many an occasion. Many is the time I’ve been visiting friends or relatives and have visited their facilities only to perform such an act of wholesale desecration that my stay has had to be extended by five minutes simply so I can leave the area as I would wish to find it. No, the problem is not psychological or situational as far as I can tell.
Strange to relate then that the experience of checking into a hotel causes an immediate cessation of what are apparently non-essential functions. Naturally this also coincides with an instant increase in the amount of rich, lovingly prepared meals that you ingest, thanks to hotel hospitality. It means you enter what is close to a living hell. The problem is you can feel the urge. The silo is full, the torpedo tubes are loaded, but the order to fire never seems to arrive. It means despite not quite having the urgency of the opposite problem, you still never dare venture too far from a toilet just in case relief is at hand. You can’t pass a convenience without popping in just on the off chance, only to emerge disgruntled and stoppered and in truth in more discomfort than ever.
Sheer biological fact means that you know the situation cannot persist forever, but you still wind up taking measures to help matters along. This naturally means eschewing the cooked breakfasts in the hotel in favour of endless bowls of tasteless bran cereal. Your number one destination at the salad bar is not the enticing savoury dishes but instead the otherwise ignored bowls full of beetroot that leave your dinner looking not so much like the mouth-watering feast portrayed in the brochures but instead the aftermath of a hernia operation.
Even after this there does come a point where a failure to produce becomes psychosomatic. The need has built up to the point where you have convinced yourself that the mighty monster that has been lurking just before the point of no return for the last 72 hours has thanks to the pressure expanded in size to whale-like proportions. You are scared that it is going to turn out to be a ring-buster, the kind of movement that rips the elastic, leaves the water turning purple and results in the blessed relief of escape being tempered by the knowledge that you will be walking with some care for at least an hour afterwards. So you sit on the ceramic on the horns of a dilemma, willing the agony to end and for some flushable relief to arrive, yet at the same time scared of what might result and praying that the moment will be put off yet again.
The feeling didn’t last long. It passed, as indeed did I. Yet the mental scars are enough for me to be assured that 200 words on being unable to poo is a valid topic for publication here. Still, if you cannot use a blog to give up a little of yourself each time, what other purpose does it serve?
Now let us all be truthful with one another here. In years gone by the biggest dread of greeting friends who had just returned from holiday was that they would instantly break out the souvenir snaps and subject you to 30 minutes or more of “this was me, just moments before I fell into the town square fountain and was fined 50 euros for defiling a public monument”. My only interest in holiday pictures extended to the prospect of seeing female friends in a bikini. I’m sure deep down many others feel the same.
Second only to the hell of the shared holiday snaps is finding that your favourite blog is taken up with an extended travelogue of everything that person did on their travels. I have no intention of inflicting that on anyone outside my immediate family either. That said, a number of thoughts and musings sprang to mind during the long, lazy hours on the beach and on various trips, so consider these next few posts a condensed account of everything that sprang to mind on our just completed trip to the Veneto.
Call it misguided romanticism if you will, but airports and the industry that surrounds them can be quite magical places. I think that most particularly applies when you are there in the evening, when everything is drenched in floodlights and even the dullest stretch of tarmac can seem bright and gleaming. I think it is the idea that bustling human activity can continue even after dark when nature is suggesting gently that things really have to stop. Our flight was at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning you see, so we elected to book a room at an airport hotel for the previous night to save on 3am taxi rides from home. Hence we arrived at Gatwick late on Saturday night and caught the airport shuttle bus to the hotel, one which took a winding, meandering route between the two terminals, diving down subways and offering tantalising glimpses of the backstage world. I was reminded of summer holidays of my youth when in an attempt to squeeze every penny we would habitually book midnight ferries across the Channel and would thus sit in the car with wonder etched on our faces whilst brightly dressed marshals waved glowsticks at rows of traffic as they were all herded onboard.
Sadly the glamour ends when the time comes to actually use the airport for its designated purpose and join the queues to fly off. It was never exactly “fun” in the first place but recent increased terror paranoia has elevated it to a living hell. No other industry would operate by treating every single one of their clients as a potential murderer, but that is what we are subjected to every time we travel. In the aftermath of the recent convictions for the liquid bomb plots, many newspaper columnists expressed the view that “the added security hassles are a price worth paying for knowing our safety is assured”. Utter balls. It is attitudes like that which mean airports can get away with making their customers feel as miserable as possible, herded into queues to be screened, scanned, prodded and glowered at just in case we happen to have forgotten the half squeezed tube of toothpaste in our bag. Bleat all you want about terrorist threats, the airport customer experience makes me loathe the travelling process and I only subject myself to it because I really have very little choice.
Although this is a holiday where the weather is for the most part going to be incredibly nice and I intend to spend as much time as possible on the beach, I do have in my luggage a sensible shirt and some long trousers. These are packed for two specific reasons. Firstly, we are told the restaurant in the hotel prefers a slightly less casual look for dinner time. Secondly, part of the holiday will involve a day trip to Venice and in particular a quick tour of the Basilica where, we are told, they have a strict dress code and require both legs and shoulders to be covered up. This puritanism reminds me of visiting some sacred Orthodox areas in Kiev, where signs abounded that certain places were off-limits to those wearing shorts and where the nuns would cast you disapproving looks if you walked around baring anything more than the most minimal amount of flesh. I was told this was regarded by them as “sinful” which actually struck me as rather outrageous. Only the language barrier prevented me from confronting one nun who shouted angrily at me as I breezed by in a summer outfit. I wanted to ask her just where in the bible it stated that human flesh was sinful, and how this rather narrow view squared with the concept that man was made in God’s image and so it was therefore impossible for my calves and knees to be anything other than a perfect embodiment of the holy spirit itself.
Strangely enough it was some beach reading that made it all become clear to me. The source was oddly enough the Frank Skinner book “On The Road” which theoretically is an account of his journey towards his 2007 comeback standup tour. Skinner does however like to wander down other paths along the way, and a recurrent theme of both this book and his previous autobiography is his Catholic faith and the relevance it has to much of his life. During one aside he notes the fundamental difference between his faith and Protestantism, musing that the Catholic church views itself as a constantly evolving creed, with the various duties and responsibilities of the followers having been developed by the thoughts and beliefs of successive papal incumbents. Hence the importance of the local priest, as he is the vessel by which these instructions and duties are passed to the masses. Protestantism on the other hand is defined by and large by a strict reading of the bible, the more puritanical the follower, the greater their slavish devotion to the teachings it contains and a reluctance to believe it contains anything other than the absolute truth.
This then is the source of my conflict with what must be regarded I guess as the Holy Dress Code. Although not in the slightest bit religious and lacking any need for a man of any denomination in a frock or a robe to advise me on the correct way to live my life, I was still brought up and educated in C of E schools. Hence this educational grounding shapes and defines my approach to the topic and my interpretation of any kind of religious debate. My view that the human body cannot possibly be sinful is derived from a strict Protestant reading of the bible. Here is where both the nuns in Kiev and the keepers of the Basilica in Venice beg to differ. Theirs is a view shaped by centuries of Catholic teachings, originating back in the mists of time when a past Pope after a moment of prayer decided that to display skin in a building dedicated to his God was simply not the done thing. So it passed into accepted fact that a flash of ankle or shoulder was somehow a sin and should be banned at all costs.
It is naturally all utterly ridiculous and no way for grown adults to behave, but this did at least help me make more sense of what on the face of it seemed a rather arbitrary restriction and the reason why I spent a day stomping around the heated streets of Venice in an unwieldy pair of trousers when I would have much rather been parading in something rather more minimal. We only spent 15 minutes in the damn church after all that anyway.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been in the privileged position of working on the most important show we have. I don’t always feel particularly privileged of course when the alarm goes off at 4.30am and I have to creep out of bed as quickly as possible to avoid the prospect of a grumpy wife later that day, but these crack of dawn starts are the price one has to pay for working on one of the biggest and most highly regarded radio shows in the country.
Not that you would always realise just how influential it is. Call it ignorance, call it conspiracy or call it radio insularity but the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast for all its audience figures, all its commercial worth to the radio station and all its market longevity is rarely mentioned in the same breath as the other supposed “big names” in the battle for early morning ratings. I’ve mentioned before about attending industry quizzes where one round was to guess the morning hosts of a variety of national and big regional radio stations. Naturally the talkSPORT show did not warrant a mention alongside shows from the likes of Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow.
Well let me try to correct that perception because after witnessing it at close hand I’m happy to confirm that the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast is one of the best and most entertaining breakfast shows in the whole of the UK.
Mention should be made first of the production team who are all hard at work by the time I arrive in the building at 5.15am. In fact much of the work started the previous day with the two-man setup crew having spent the afternoon chasing stories and pre-booking many of the guests. That said, there is still work for the morning shift to do, preparing the research on the stories that are to be discussed and often formulating new plans for the morning based on events that have transpired overnight. It all sets the stage for the arrival of the talent themselves.
It isn’t unfair to say that Alan Brazil bestrides the show and indeed the entire radio station like a colossus. When you think about it he is one of the longest serving and most well established breakfast hosts in the country, having been waking up at sunrise and forcing the air into his weary lungs for well over eight years now – this in an age when three years on breakfast is considered to be doing well in such a fickle market. Almost alone amongst the talkSPORT roster of ex-professional sportsmen he is the show’s lead anchor, it is his name on the marquee, he leads the interviews, he chooses the callers and trust me, he makes the ultimate call on whether it is time for a commercial break, to the endless chagrin of producers trying against the odds to get the show to run to time.
More so than anybody else at the radio station, his style and personality shapes the output and defines the approach for the rest of the day. Much of this is largely down to years of playful prodding by Hawksbee and Jacobs but few people attached to the station, be they staff or listeners are unaware of his own verbal tics, his own personal roar of MARNING that greets the start of every hour and naturally his propensity for creating some of speech radio’s most memorable ever gaffs.
The hard work on the show may have begun some 15 hours earlier, but it only really starts to matter properly and come together as a package when Alan walks in the building ready to spout forth on the big issue of the day ahead. It is clear that the production team all to a man (and woman) regard him with a great deal of affection. He isn’t the kind of wild ego-driven radio presenter who needs to bark orders at his crew and have them walking around in a state of fear that they are going to get some detail wrong (I’ve seen many of those). They just know from practice when to bring Alan a fresh coffee, which papers he will want at the top of the pile and just how to indulge him when he begs for 2 more minutes with a guest to ask the one question that has just sprung to mind.
Not that we should neglect the contribution of the other on-air participants. Brazil at heart is a good natured class bully and is at his most effective when he has a foil to vainly attempt to counter him and to bounce off. Sidekick of the moment is former Essex cricketer Ronnie Irani who brings to the table a cheerful affability that is forever undimmed by whatever pelters are directed his way by his co-host. The dynamic of the duo is as subtle as it is clever. Ronnie is a big sporting name in his own right with a busy and successful speaking career that he developed even before he retired as a player. Nonetheless bubbling under the surface is a wide-eyed enthusiasm that he gets to be mates with a legend such as Brazil and relishes every opportunity to tag along to whatever sporting or social function may be on the big man’s calendar. I’m a big fan of Ronnie’s abilities, ever since the World Twenty20 coverage earlier in the summer when he kept both those of us in our studio and the entire nation on the edge of our seats as England inched towards victory in a crucial Super8 match.
Newsreaders Moose and Faye play their own parts in the entertainment too. I’ve long said that the velvety tones of Faye, the woman with the richest voice in radio, are reason enough to extend the news bulletins to a full hour. Falling short of that, she appears during the show with several regular features, of which more later. Moose on the other hand has his very own special place in the hearts of the audience. A talented sports reporter in his own right, his place on the Sports Breakfast is to be the affable buffoon, the man who is there to be the brunt of Alan Brazil’s vitriol and derision of the entire crew. The relentless teasing he endures, be it about his dress sense (West Ham shirts no matter what the weather – “does that shirt double up as a tent” asked Brazil in irritation one morning), his sporting affiliations (guess) or some particular error in pronunciation he has made during a bulletin, would almost seem cruel but for the way he takes it with a thick-skinned affability that can at times be almost maddening. His character (for really that is all it is, a role he adopts for the show) is almost oblivious to the reaction he generates, making Alan’s withering putdowns as much a part of the morning routine as the morning cup of tea.
Take the other morning for example when Moose, during an early morning segment when he throws out some of the newspaper headlines for debate, cracks a line about Celtic manager Tony Mowbray throwing more balls onto the pitch to his players stand a chance of touching one during their Champions League tie against Arsenal the previous evening. “Aye,” remarks Celtic fan Brazil with menace, “why not phone him up for a chat – he can tell you what it is like to take a team into Europe”. Leave it to Moose to have the last laugh however. “Constable scored three goals,” he announced in one bulletin, “the third was a picture.”
Visitors to the studio sometimes wonder why Alan keeps a ready stock of paper missiles handy. This should illustrate the reason nicely.
Speaking of routine, every breakfast show lives or dies by theirs, the needs of the audience served perfectly by a series of schedule anchor points that not only serve as moments to tune in for but almost an unspoken reassurance that people are running to time and their day itself will start on schedule. That is why certain things are always in the same place – the racing chat and tips with Derek Thompson before 7, the business bulletin with Henk Potts at 7.30 as well as more contrived features such as an extended weather forecast and “the day with Faye” in which she attempts to purr her way through a list of birthdays and anniversaries although inevitably in the face of some random distraction from Brazil or Irani depending on what planet they have travelled to mentally at that moment in time.
Aside from the japes, serious sports chat is still the order of the day and a typical morning will see reporters from a match the previous night called up at the crack of dawn to give considered thoughts, and big names from the world of football arriving on the telephone to wax lyrical on whatever issue is grabbing the headlines. The headlines themselves are neatly dissected by a daily guest reviewer, a top name reporter from one of the daily newspapers who arrives at the studio to be fed with coffee and then invited on air to chat for half an hour about everything occupying the back pages of the morning newspapers.
Sometimes the best moments are the spontaneous ones. Take the morning after Phillips Idowu grabbed a Gold Metal in the triple jump at the World Athletics Championships. Brazil spent most of the morning watching the footage on the TV monitors marvelling both at his athletic ability and his distinctive red hairstyle. Cue a quick bit of telephoning on the part of the producers and at 8.50am the man himself is on the phone, not only to be congratulated on his gold medal but also advising on his hair care routine and how everyone listening can recreate the Idowu look.
By the time ten o’clock rolls around you can only sit and marvel at the way this small team have between them generated four hours of near continuous speech, a show which commands an audience of over a million listeners every week. Compare that to the other “big names” in breakfast radio who grab all the industry headlines but who are actually mostly playing records all morning with just two minutes of content here and there. That actually kind of makes little sense to me at all.
So whilst I may feel awful, tired and run down and dreading the sound of the alarm going off at a stupid hour of the morning, doing this holiday cover means I am in the privileged position of working on one of the best, funniest, hardest worked and entertaining shows on the dial. At least the next time the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast is overlooked by media commentators when discussing the most important and highest profile breakfast shows on radio, I’ll have plenty of ammunition to ask them why.
Yes, it has been a few days but I’ve been busy. Before the final leg of our nostalgia trip through the sounds of July 30th 2000, it is worth noting the constant references on the Top 40 show to “the official UK singles chart sponsored by worldpop.com”. The decision of the Official Charts Company (or CIN as they were still known back then) appeared to ruffle a few feathers, given that the BBC would have to acknowledge the commercial attachment when using the chart. To make it doubly complicated chart show presenter Mark Goodier was an investor (alongside founder Peter Powell) in the website in question, shares which he was forced to sell to avoid any other conflicts of interest. If memory serves worldpop.com was before too long a victim of the dotcom bubble and went out of business less than a year later. Mind you these were crazy times, with even the site I wrote for dotmusic running TV commercials encouraging people to get on board and visit.
Remember this? Despite two previous hit albums in the US, the first sight of Fred Durst et al on these shores came thanks to their theme to the second in the series of impenetrable Mission Impossible films starring Tom Cruise. Although on the surface not the most instantly commercial of offerings, the single cleverly based itself around a guitar riff inspired by the original Mission Impossible theme and took off from there. The first hit of any kind for Limp Bizkit, it flew to Number 3. This was no one-off either, as the ‘Chocolate Starfish…’ album became a crossover hit and spawned a string of hit singles, including 2001 chart-topper ‘Rollin’.
After a stuttering start, the Corrs’ second album ‘Forgiven, Not Forgotten’ developed into a huge hit in 1998 and 1999, all thanks to their cover of ‘Dreams’ and some inspired remixes of hits such as ‘What Can I Do’ and ‘So Young’. Anticipation for the follow-up ‘In Blue’ was intense. Yet the album itself was a huge miscalculation. Either their label had misinterpreted the source of their appeal, or they decided that turning them into transatlantic stars was the way fowards, but the Irish siblings were dispatched to work with producer Mutt Lange who proceeded to turn them into Fleetwood Mac. Gone was the simple charm of their earlier work, and in its place was a polished mid-Atlantic rock production. Now on the surface there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the music Lead single ‘Breathless’ was a lavish, epic pop-rock track that dutifully stormed to Number One upon release in July 2000. The album swiftly duplicated that feat when released a week or so later. Yet somehow it all felt a bit soulless and manufactured. The album that was supposed to turn the Corrs into global megastars very nearly instead brought their career to a shuddering halt.
With the passage of time it is I guess possible to take a more level view. ‘Breathless’ may not be the prettiest or most charming Corrs single ever, but it is far and away one of the most exciting. The best I ever heard it sound was a couple of years ago in an Irish pub in the West End in the middle of a St Patrick’s Day drinking afternoon. Right at that moment it sounded like the greatest record ever made, which was quite possibly Mutt Lange’s intention all along. If only Shania Twain had recorded it instead.
I’m sure there is a whole essay to be written one day on the concept of wallpaper pop, music that the statistics recorded was popular and sold well at the time, but was culturally speaking nothing more than part of the background. When the artist in question went away quietly, their body of work simply faded away, almost never to be considered or played again. This, you could argue, is the fate of Louise Nurding (as she was then), who began her chart career as one quarter of Eternal before stepping out of the bonds of what she herself suggested was her role as “the token white girl” and embarking on a solo career. The facts of said career are as follows – nine Top 10 hits between 1995 and 2003 (many of which are actually some immaculately made pop tracks) plus three hit albums and a Greatest Hits collection, something which I noted at the time made her pretty unique as a pop act who delivered her full contractual quota of albums without ever once being at risk of being dropped. Yet for all of that, are there actually any of her hits that you can remember off hand, or hear played on the radio these days? You would recognise most from the time if you heard them again, but for the most part they have just faded away into the background of pop history, as if they were just wallpaper that got changed when it began to get old. ‘2 Faced’ was the first single released from her third album ‘Elbow Beach’, and you may be surprised to note that it was her biggest ever, charting at Number 3 upon release. This was its second week on the chart, which point it was making its way back down. Louise’s last chart appearance was the Top 5 hit ‘Pandora’s Kiss’ back in 2003, the first release as part of a new deal she had struck to release records on her managers label. Theoretically she could have carried on, but for the fact she decided motherhood was a greater career priority.
Beyonce! Kelly! The other one! And who the hell are these other strangers? This single was effectively something of a watershed moment in the career of Destiny’s Child, the dividing line between their early history and genuine globe-straddling superstardom. ‘Jumpin’ Jumpin’ (complete with co-writer credit for Beyonce Knowles) was the fourth single from their aptly titled second album ‘The Writings On The Wall’, an album which not only saw them make a huge chart breakthrough but whose promotion was marked by the changes in lineup which saw LeToya and LaTavia replaced by Michelle and Farrah. All four singles from the album went Top 10 here (this single had made Number 5 a week prior to this chart) but it was to be their next single ‘Independent Women’ from the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack which would top the charts all over the world (including here) and take them to the next level. Even if few people noticed at the time why there were suddenly only three of them.
The 1999 release of Santana’s ‘Supernatural’ album goes down as one of the greatest musical comebacks of all time. Without a hit of any kind for some years, the teaming of the legendary guitarist with some of the hottest stars of the time turned to to be commercial gold with smash hits and huge sales all over the world. The exception at first was, oddly enough, Britain. I always thought at the time that it was all about a poor sense of timing. The sun-soaked beats and blues of the album was the soundtrack of long sunny days and warm nights partying on a beach somewhere. Lead single ‘Smooth’ was only released here in October 1999 whereupon it charted at Number 75 and vanished without a trace.
His UK label realised they had dropped a bollock and so set about rectifying the mistake, arranging for the star to perform a showcase for the music industry and assorted journalists at the start of 2000 with a view to creating a buzz about the album ahead of a springtime re-release. The tactic worked, and a re-released ‘Smooth’ duly did the business and shot to Number 3 in April 2000 to do what it had done for the man all over the world – present him with his biggest hit single ever. This meant that the release of the second single was never going to fail, and it is scary to think that in another life we might never have been treated to its presence on the radio. ‘Maria Maria’ was produced by Wyclef Jean and features his own proteges The Product G&B singing the praises of the titular girl, and noting that she fell in love to the sound of a guitar played by Santana – at which point he does exactly that on the song. It is a glorious moment in songwriting, turning the performer into the emotion being expressed rather than casting him as the protagonist. It appears on the chart here as a new entry at its chart peak, giving Santana back to back Top 10 hits, to date despite the best efforts of people like Shakira, his last appearance this high up the rankings.
The most successful rapper of his generation was by no means an unknown on these shores as 2000 rolled around. His 1999 debut ‘The Slim Shady LP’ had sold well and its two singles ‘My Name Is’ and ‘Guilty Conscience’ had both been Top 10 hits (the former hitting Number 2 first week out). For all that however he was by no means the household name he had become in the States where his gimmick of dressing up hip-hop’s usual line in outrageous rhymes and uninhibited profanity in a devastatingly appealing commercial package had caused more than its fair share of horror.
The first clue that he was about to go over the edge in a similar manner in this country came in the week of the release of ‘The Real Slim Shady’, the first single from second album ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’. A Page 6 article in The Sun on July 4th 2000 by Martin Philips spelled out the full horror of what was about to be unleashed:
“Eminem is a drugged-up, bleach-haired, tattooed white gangsta rapper who preaches hatred and ultra-violence. His thumping and obscene rants promote drugs, gun-running, torture, incest, murder, rape and armed robbery. Parents will despair. For Eminem’s foul-mouthed "songs" glorify everything vicious and evil.”
Essentially he could not have wished for a better spot of free promotion. Best of all though was the fact that Number One smash hit ‘The Real Slim Shady’ was a towering giant of a track. As an extended rant against his detractors and those who object to what he is saying, the single managed to be funny, eloquent, poetic and outrageous all at once. As an anti-censorship rant it isn’t quite up there with 2 Live Crew’s ‘Banned In The USA’ but hearing it again nine years on you still cannot help but agree with much of what he is saying. As I wrote in the original dotmusic writeup of the single at the time: “you have to marvel at how the most maligned acts are always the ones to defend their position with the greatest inspiration”. In the wake of the single both of his albums took up residency in the Top 10 of the album chart and ‘The Real Slim Shady’ might have gone down as his finest musical moment ever, but for the fact that by the end of the year he had followed it with ‘Stan’ which naturally stands as the greatest hip-hop single ever, bar none. These days appreciation of his records is more about the production and the creative way he makes them sound rather than the actual lyrics themselves, but any appreciation of 2000 has to include a moment to take in the time when Eminem had a Number One single in which he told Will Smith to go fuck himself.
Ah, remember when Ronan Keating solo singles were fresh and interesting, and not tedious retreads of nu-country songs from Louis Walsh’s personal collection? ‘Life Is A Rollercoaster’ was his second post-Boyzone single and the second in a row to fly straight to the top of the charts. The track was written and produced by Gregg Alexander and is a prime example of the writer syndrome which bears his name – sounding in terms of structure and atmosphere almost identical to everything else he put his name to at the time.
‘Life Is A Rollercoaster’ would have had more than a solitary week on top, but for a label screw-up which saw them release one of the CD formats with a video interview with the star, thus violating chart rules at the time which stated that any multimedia content had to duplicate one of the existing audio tracks on the disc. The result was sales of this CD were disqualified from the charts, damaging its sales enough to ensure it ranked below the Five single in its second week.
So this then was the single which, perhaps regrettably, benefitted from the label screw up, sneaking a week at Number One which in all honesty it did not deserve. This collaboration saw Brian May and Roger Taylor providing the necessary superstar rub for boy band Five’s rap remake of the famous rock classic. For most Queen fans I’m sure it was the latest regrettable chapter in their post-Freddie history during which time they put their name to an ever increasing number of lame remakes and remixes of their older hits – many of which they had the nerve to compile into the inessential “Greatest Hits Volume III” collection in 1999, although that thankfully predated this single. Few people remember Five with quite the affection they deserve, although their run of 11 straight Top 10 hits between 1998 and 2001 speaks for itself. Ritchie Neville can at least look at Billie Piper and think to himself “I was there first..”
As I wrote at the time, you wait years for a hit from Finland and then two come along at once. Hard on the heels of the Darude single came this almost irresistible party track which wikipedia claims wound up as Europe’s biggest selling single in 2000. The track with its tumbling melody managed the unusual feat of conjuring up memories of old school hip-hop tracks of the past whilst at the same time actually sounding like nothing that had ever come before. A second single ‘Up Rocking Beats’ made Number 11 at the end of the year, but by then people had cottoned on to the fact that they were by and large one trick ponies and the pair vanished from view as quickly as they came.
Outselling everything else this week in 2000 to debut at the top was this track, confirming Craig David as the hottest act of the moment. It was his second solo Number One in a row, following on from ‘Fill Me In’ and impressively sounding just as good as its predecessor. The tender tale of “met a girl on Monday, took her for a drink on Tuesday, we were making love by Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday – we chilled on Sunday” has now passed into the realm of popular cliche. Mind you, the most clinical deconstruction of the track came from a quote from Spinal Tap who had resurfaced at the time, David St Hubbins noting that if Craig David met the girl on Monday but took until Wednesday to get her into bed, he probably needed to work on his technique a little. Bo Selecta.
So that was the summer of 2000, glad we finally made it to the end. Spotify and We7 have the playlists of as many of these tracks as possible (36 and 34 respectively) and all I have to do is once again prove that the tapes do exist. Cue the pack shot:
In the rest of the world in 2000, the News Of The World’s brainless “name and shame” campaign against paedophiles led to a man being surrounded in his house by an angry mob in Manchester, the victim of mistaken identity, ITV were being shouted at by the old ITC as their late news at 11pm was shedding listeners like there was no tomorrow, Tiger Woods won the Open championship with a record 19 under par at the age of 24, George W Bush announced that Dick Cheney would be his running mate for the forthcoming presidential elections, and finally a lady called Christine Gwyther was sacked as the Agriculture Secretary of the Welsh Assembly. Farmers had complained that as she was vegetarian, it was like having an Atheist selling bibles.
On to the Top 20 of the chart of July 30th 2000, and our first encounters with the world of 2-step UK Garage. Whilst the style of music had arguably peaked as a club scene at the end of 1999, hits based on the formula were a regular feature of the singles chart during the summer of 2000. More so that any other club scene since, the UK garage style of sugary vocals and a catchy backing track loaned itself nicely to commercial hits, making for some of the most memorable club tracks of the decade.
Is this the great forgotten Steps single? Certainly before listening back to this chart I would have had difficulty even singing a note of either of the two a-sides to this hit, despite the fact that it was as big as any of their hits during this period, flying to Number 5 the moment it was released. Pete Waterman’s creation could do little wrong at this point. ‘When I Said Goodbye’ was effectively the fifth single from their second album ‘Steptacular’ but just as ‘Tragedy’ formed the bridge between their first and second releases at the end of 1998, so this single was paired with brand new recording ‘Summer Of Love’ which would eventually find its way onto their third album ‘Buzz’ later in the year. It is the latter which the Top 40 show plays and having not heard it for nine years I can report that it is actually magnificent, a lavish Eurodisco production that oozes with a vibe of warm summer nights (not dissimilar to the one I’m writing this in the middle of right now) and represents the height of Mark Topham and Karl Twigg’s song writing powers. Forget what I said at the start, this is actually THE great forgotten Steps single and I’m happy to be the one to bring it back to your attention.
So to our first encounter with 2-step garage on this chart, thanks to the all-conquering sound of the Artful Dodger. The duo first charted at the end of 1999 with the now infamous ‘Re-Rewind’ which not only gave them a career, but also helped to propel their featured singer Craig David to his own stratospheric level of stardom as well as giving comedian Leigh Francis a TV franchise thanks to a rubber mask and the words Bo Selecta. Craig David is also in evidence on this single, the third Artful Dodger release, even though his is just a cameo role for continuity purposes and it is Robbie Craig who takes the lead vocal on the tongue in cheek rant at the frustrations of dealing with the females of the species. Of all seven Artful Dodger singles that charted between 1999 and 2001, this is possibly the most appealing and certainly one of the more enduring.
Funny story. I absolutely adored the first Savage Garden single ‘I Want You’ when it was first released in 1997, although its chart career was all too brief and the group seemed to be quickly forgotten shortly afterwards. Thus it was pleasing to see them resurrect their UK career with the all-conquering ‘Truly Madly Deeply’ which then prompted a re-release of not only flop single ‘To The Moon And Back’ but also a remixed version of ‘I Want You’ which still only made Number 12 (compared to Number 11 first time out) but which at least made me feel justice was finally served. After that I got a bit bored with the Australian duo as musically they were rather one trick ponies and later singles struggled to match the inspiration of their early work. Actually ‘Affirmation’ isn’t all that bad and just suffers in comparison with some of their earlier work. It would turn out to be their last Top 10 hit together, making Number 8 in July 2000. Oddly enough they retained an almost fanatical hard core of followers who lapped up with joy the misfiring subsequent solo career of lead singer Darren Hayes. I used to get bombarded with pleas from fans to be nice about every single he released, and thus gained a sadistic pleasure from pointing out how feeble and lame most of them were. I wasn’t just being perverse for the sake of it mind, it was the truth.
17: Alice Deejay – Will I Ever (iTunes)
From the more annoying end of the dance music scale came Dutch trio Alice Deejay who scored a smash hit straight off the bat in the summer of 1999 with the reflective euro-trance hit ‘Better Off Alone’, a Number 2 hit during what was for the time an epic 16 week chart run. Follow-up ‘Back In My Life’ went Top 5 that Christmas and after a long delay this third single arrived in the summer of 2000 to give them a trio of Top 10 hits. I don’t think any of them really made enough of an impact to live too long in the memory, but at least the follow-up hits didn’t hang around long enough to get too annoying. Fun fact: their lead singer was the extraordinarily named Judith Anna Pronk. Naturally it is sod’s law that the uncoolest single of this ten is the one that isn’t listed on any of the online services, which means I have to embed the video here for people to hear it.
More 2-step now and a cautionary tale on how to go from heroes to zeroes in the space of a single release. The story of Shanks & Bigfoot is really all about one record, ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’ which stands proud as one of the most famous UK Garage hits ever recorded. Even before it was released in May 1999 it was one of the most sought-after, fought-over and crowd pleasing club tracks of its era. No garage night was complete without ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’ being played at least five times, and it even prompted a famous story of one London DJ being threatened with knives by a gang of teenage girls when he made the mistake of confessing he didn’t have a copy. Best of all, this wasn’t just hype as the single really was that good. From the insistent tick-tock rhythm, to an exquisitely crafted production featuring strings and harps right the way through to Sharon Woolf’s sweet as the title vocals and the utterly charming animated video, everything about the record screamed perfection. When finally released commercially it was an instant and well deserved Number One.
The loss of the services of Sharon Woolf meant a new singer had to be recruited (a then-unknown Terri Walker) and this had the effect of delaying a follow-up release and a full album until well over a year later. Huge anticipation surrounded the release of ‘Sing-A-Long’ but when it finally appeared it was a crashing disappointment. Attempting to recreate the charm of their first hit, the duo instead produced a twee and rather sickly track that was almost too naff to even dance to. The single stalled at Number 12, the album ‘Swings And Roundabouts’ sank without trace and Shanks & Bigfoot were confined to history, albeit a history that still notes them as the creators of one of the greatest tracks of their era. Not a bad legacy overall.
Better known, for good or ill, these days for their fateful attempt to represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2007, Scooch’s first run of fame came in 2000 when they were promoted as the natural chart rivals to Steps, featuring a similar lineup and a common sound in naturally bright bubbly pop. It did not escape most people’s attention that whereas Steps were the creation of Pete Waterman, their rivals had their records helmed by his one-time collaborators Mike Stock and Matt Aitken, almost as if the former partners were trying to out-do one another. Scooch did not last particularly long, parting company after their much-delayed album ‘Four Sure’ sank without trace despite containing all of their hit singles. I always thought they were badly maligned as ‘More Than I Needed To Know’ and ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ are easily some of the finest pure pop records you will find this side of the mid-90s. The Latin-flavoured ‘For Sure’ was their final single release before their Eurovision inspired reunion and was this week reaching its eventual chart peak, despite surely deserving so much more. Serious music writers are supposed to sneer at music like this, dismissing it as mindless pap for teenagers, but I’ve never subscribed to that view and hopefully never will. ‘For Sure’ is what pop music is really all about, a song that makes you want to smile, to dance, to sing along and to just feel great about the world without worrying what consequences follow in the morning. I just hate the fact that the received wisdom is that you have to be gay to appreciate this stuff without irony.
Coming back down to earth with a bump though, we have a prime example of poorly conceived boy bands of our time. Point Break languish in such obscurity they don’t even have a wikipedia page to commemorate them, so let me refresh a few memories. Point Break were formed from a handful of Byker Grove cast members (either two or three, my own notes from the period are actually inconsistent on this point) and released five singles during 1999 and 2000. The biggest and most successful was ‘Stand Tough’ which became their one and only Top 10 single in January 2000. ‘You’ was their penultimate hit, the fourth to be released from their one and only album and for some reason remains instantly familiar from the very first note right down to its lighters-aloft stadium filling chorus. How strange. By no means the worst boy band of the time of course, they were chart contemporaries with Northern Line after all.
In a way it is kind of sad that Samantha Mumba’s career over the past few years has consisted of Z-list activities such as Dancing On Ice and that rather painful Harvey Goldsmith show which manifestly failed to resurrect her singing career in any sense of the word. Back in 2000 the Irish teenager was set for superstardom, helped not a little by this tremendous debut hit single which not only charged to Number 2 here but also crept to Number 4 in America at the end of the year as well. Even with a 100% strike rate of Top 10 smashes, the hits dried up totally at the end of 2002 leaving her to spend the rest of the decade trying out for acting roles and finding some way of making use of her undoubted talents. It would be remiss of me not to mention her one high profile role in the 2002 remake of ‘The Time Machine’ and that extraordinary chain mail outfit that meant you could hardly bear to take your eyes of her for every moment of her screen time.
It took Aaliyah’s tragic death in 2001 to elevate her from also-ran to proper superstar on these shores. Until then she was the singer with a string of middling to indifferent hits who may or may not have been hitched to R Kelly at an age when she should have still been experimenting with makeup. Her one and only major UK hit single during her lifetime was, I’m happy to report, one of the best. ‘Try Again’ was created for the soundtrack of the film ‘Romeo Must Die’ in which she also starred and is an outstanding example of Timbaland’s early work, an eerie yet naggingly catchy R&B track sung by Aaliyah in a dark, husky tone that draws you in compellingly. Mention must also be made of the “It’s been a long time/I shouldn’t have left you/Without a dope beat to step to” rap intro which is a slightly altered quote of the opening line from Eric B and Rakim’s ‘I Know You Got Soul’ as a nod to all us old school hip-hop fans. It charted at Number 5 upon release in July 2000 and until the posthumous Number One hit ‘More Than A Woman’ was her one and only Top 10 hit single. Oddly enough we7 have very little of her catalogue, so you will only find this one on Spotify to listen to.
The first and most famous hit single for Finnish DJ Ville Virtanen, ‘Sandstorm’ having hit Top 3 in the summer of 2000 after first surfacing as a white label at the tail end of 1999. Quite possibly the defining sound of continental clubs that summer, ‘Sandstorm’ is a track that will evoke many happy memories in those who danced around mashed to it at the time. For the rest of us it is simply that record which fades out to silence about a minute in causing panic to unwitting DJs everywhere.
As I already mentioned, the summer of 2000 saw me in a transitional phase of life. My radio work was restricted to being the local Saturday afternoon man on the otherwise fully networked Big AM station in Bradford. This was a rather short-lived service, lasting merely a year or so on the legacy AM frequencies of Signal Radio, The Pulse and the much-travelled 1458AM licence in Manchester (now home to a Gold service). Although now viewed as a massive failure for all concerned, I actually loved the Big AM format and only wish it had been run by people who knew how to market it properly. This was music radio for blokes, of the kind you always thought Virgin/Absolute should be. I’d spend weekends playing Robbie Williams and then Santana followed by Pulp and Rod Stewart and Bruce Springsteen. I thought it sounded great, but the stations were “soft launched” to replace existing stations in their markets and not once was any attempt made to promote them. Sure enough the audiences vanished and the “big” experiment was swiftly ended. By then I’d escaped to London so missed the project’s demise. Just as well really, I’d have hated talking to grannies on Gold.
One radio show a week wasn’t enough to pay the bills however, so I spent the rest of the time doing a variety of temporary office jobs. Temping can be demoralising (surely only done by people like me who couldn’t land a “proper” job) but at times it was quite fun, effectively having a new job every couple of weeks and with it the chance to meet a whole new bunch of people. It also gave me the chance to play on what was still my latent celebrity. You could almost set your watch by it, normally on the Wednesday of your first week in an office the ice was broken enough for people to ask you about what you had done before. Inevitably when I told people who I had been on the radio someone would shout that they used to listen to me and I would briefly be the most notorious person in the office with at times a queue of people trooping up to meet the “famous DJ” who happened to be doing data entry work in the finance department. Still, it was handy for making friends, and who would have thought that “I was once on the radio every day” was a more effective chat-up line than “I AM on the radio every day”.
Back to the chart of the week, as Radio One continued the countdown.
This was single number 3 from the much-maligned ‘Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants’ album which saw Oasis stir psychedelic elements into their sound in a manner which both delighted and revolted people in equal measure at the time. Featuring a rare lead vocal from Noel (the first such single the group had released since ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ four years earlier), the single made a comfortable Number 4 upon release in mid-July before swiftly tumbling. This week was its fourth on the chart and its last as a Top 40 single. Oasis are one of the more famous acts to resist making their music available for streaming so you won’t find them on any jukebox services. So have the video.
I don’t think anyone ever truthfully tries to spin it this way, but to disabuse any notions to the contrary you might have – ‘NSync were never quite the superstars they affected to be back home. It actually took the UK some considerable time to catch onto them, their first big hit ‘I Want You Back’ only going Top 10 here in early 1999, almost two years after its initial American success. Even after that their chart performances were erratic to say the least. March 2000 had seen them release what was arguably their best single, the Max Martin-penned ‘Bye Bye Bye’ which had flown to Number 3, but they then followed it up with this track which limped to a rather miserable Number 13 before stuttering out. I say stuttering, as this single was a more or less boilerplate Cheiron studios production crammed with spiky synth beats and pitch shifted vocals. Unusually it did not form part of the tracklisting of the original American release of the album ‘No Strings Attached’, added instead as a bonus track to the European version. Like so many flavour of the month hit factories, the Cheiron way was the defining sound of transatlantic pop music in 2000 but looking back the records they made were at the time indistinguishable from one another. ‘NSync’s biggest hit single was their last – ‘Girlfriend’ which made Number 2 in April 2002. After that the Justin Timberlake bandwagon was more or less unstoppable – even if it was actually JC Chasez who was the de-facto lead singer of most ‘NSync songs, ‘’I’ll Never Stop’ included.
28: Different Gear vs The Police – When The World Is Running Down
I must confess I’d all but forgotten about this one. This was the formally licensed appearance of a bootleg track that had been in circulation ever since the start of 2000. ‘When The World Is Running Down’ began life as track 3 on the Police’s third album ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’ but was here presented in a version which stripped away virtually everything except Sting’s vocals and wrapped it up in a Deep House beat to what was in all honesty quite mesmerising effect. The fact that the single had taken so long to go “above ground” so to speak had afforded it something of a legendary status so it was actually something of an anticlimax to see it creep inside the Top 30 and vanish almost as quickly as it came. As you can probably guess, a single so bound up in complex licences at the time has passed into online obscurity and even proper YouTube renditions are hard to come by. You will just have to take my word for it.
Speaking of 80s classics being transformed into turn of the millennium club hits, here is another. Marc et Claude, despite the name, were actually German – the aliases of producers Marc Romboy and Klaus Derichs. They had charted once before at the tail end of 1998 with club hit ‘LA’ but their one and only taste of Top 20 success came with this Number 12 hit. Sampling (with permission) James Warren’s vocals from the Korgis classic hit ‘Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime’ and using the line from the chorus as the basis for an epic sounding trance tune the duo somehow managed to create a record that wasn’t completely offensive to the original. The song had itself only been a chart hit a few years earlier thanks to Baby D’s version which had gone Top 3 in the summer of 1995.
The rise and rise of Sonique really deserves an entire article to itself, such was the long list of records she had to her name before even the faintest sniff of stardom came calling. Having been recording since the age of 17, her first real taste of fame came as the lead singer on two S-Express singles ‘Mantra For A State Of Mind’ and ‘Nothing To Lose’ in 1989 and 1990 respectively. She drifted into DJ work after this, but with the gimmick that she would often sing improvised vocals over the tracks she was spinning. This led to a new recording deal and she released two minor chart singles in the shape of both ‘I Put A Spell On You’ and ‘It Feels So Good’ which had hit Number 24 in December that year. That may well have been it, but for a club in Florida which obtained an import copy of the latter and began spinning it to a hugely positive reaction. Radio stations quickly followed and suddenly Sonique was in demand. ‘It Feels So Good’ was released for the first time in the States and promptly went Top 10 on the Hot 100, the first British single in almost two years to climb that high.
Inevitably a UK re-release followed, although the version that charted here was a new recording thanks to doubts over the ownership and even the location of the original masters of the 1998 version. The single shot to Number One and in a year when there was famously a new chart-topper almost every week, ‘It Feels So Good’ did the unthinkable and stayed there for three weeks. It wound up as 2000’s third biggest seller and led to two further Top 10 hits (including a re-released ‘I Put A Spell On You’) and a long overdue album later in the year. Sadly her 2003 follow-up underperformed, her 2006 album ‘On Kosmo’ fared even worse. Sonique’s last appearance in the news was a couple of months ago when she announced she was receiving treatment for breast cancer. Keep your fingers crossed for a quick recovery for her – word is there is a new single waiting in the wings.
The track that began it all, although actually it wasn’t as everyone forgets that the first Coldplay hit was actually ‘Shiver’ which had crept to Number 35 in March 2000. Nonetheless, ‘Yellow’ was the career-defining moment that launched Chris Martin and his macrobiotic pals to stardom (not quite superstardom – that would come a year or so later). Kicking off an era when rock music was allowed to be soaring and melancholy, ‘Yellow’ hit Number 4 in July 2000 and made parent album ‘Parachutes’ one of the more essential buys of the summer. It was early the following year when I finally realised just how much of a cultural impact Coldplay had made. Staying in a seaside hotel on a business trip, I listened to the pianist in the lounge gently pick his way through ‘Trouble’ for a crowd of old ladies as if it was a long lost standard.
Oh yes, it would be remiss here not to note the first appearance of the big gimmick of the Top 40 show at the time, the potted questionnaires conducted by a breathless voiceover with some of the stars on the chart. Hence for posterity this single was preceded with:
Name: Chris Martin from Coldplay
Best Advice You’ve Ever Been Given: Never Give Up
Here is another legendary tale. David Gray had been releasing folk albums since the early 1990s without even a hint of mainstream success. His fourth album ‘White Ladder’ had been released in 1999 to similar public indifference until it was licensed by East West records and given a full promotional push for the very first time. The single ‘Babylon’ was released at the end of June 2000 and crashed in at Number 5, turning David Gray mainstream and dragging the re-released album into the charts for the very first time. What followed then was one of the most sustained promotional pushes I can remember for a long time. Further singles followed with ‘Please Forgive Me’ going Top 20 in October 2000 and ‘This Year’s Love’ hitting Number 20 in March 2001. Each time a new hit was released, the album was readvertised in print and on TV and radio, thus giving it another surge up the charts. This activity finally reached its peak in July 2001 when ‘Sail Away’ was released as a single and ‘White Ladder’ finally hit the top of the album chart a few weeks later. Having been on the listings since May 2000 this was the longest ever uninterrupted climb to the top by any album ever. Still, a further accolade was to come. In 2002 David Gray – first album release in 1993 remember – was garnered with a Grammy nomination for “Best Newcomer”.
Has enough time passed for this story to need retelling? A creation of Simon Fuller, S Club 7 were arguably the first ever 360-degree commission, their activities spreading across as many different media as possible. At the heart of the project initially were the childrens TV series, starting with Miami 7 which charted the antics of a group of young singers attempting to make it big in the titular American resort. The songs they sung in each episode formed the basis of their albums and singles, and oh yes there was also a website which you could visit to read their own diaries and participate in the S Club 7 community. When debut single ‘Bring It All Back’ flew to the top of the chart in the summer of 1999 it was clear that the music was strong enough to appeal even to those who had never seen the TV show and whilst the various TV shows (and even a film) continued to be made, S Club 7 were first and foremost the greatest pop stars of their era. ‘Reach’ was the first single from their second album ‘7’, put together to accompany the airing of the second TV series LA 7. With the misfortune to be released in the same week as ‘It Feels So Good’, ‘Reach’ stalled at Number 2 but has since gone on to be regarded as one of their greatest ever singles, the Motown themed party track being one of those pop records that is instantly recognisable from the moment it begins.
Looking back it is funny how it seems to be the girls who have remained in the spotlight whilst the boys have vanished into obscurity. Hannah spends teatimes running away from dinosaurs in her underwear, Rachel danced her way to success on Strictly and broke a million hearts by getting married recently whilst Jo, well we don’t like to talk about Jo any more it seems. How can one woman love a dressing gown so much?
I’ve probably said this many times before, but it never hurts to repeat it. I loved the whole indie-Kylie concept, a reference to her flirtation with a more alternative sound for her 1997 self-titled album. It led to ‘Some Kind Of Bliss’, the greatest ever Manic Street Preachers featuring Kylie Minogue single that will ever be made, but it sadly also resulted in some of her worst ever record sales and a suspicion that her decade run of hits was about to come to an end. The motivation for doing so was simple. Kylie was naff, a manufactured pop star with a string of hit singles that appealed to little girls and nobody else. The dive into alternative music was a failed attempt to give her some urgently needed credibility.
Little did she know what was in store. A new deal with Parlophone records in 2000 meant a fresh start and a return to the dance-pop style that had served her well in the past. ‘Spinning Around’ wasn’t actually the greatest track she would ever record, and even when it went to Number One I slated it as a waste of resources. Unwittingly however it was about to become iconic, thanks entirely to the gold hot pants she wore in the video (picked up, we are told, second hand at a market). Kylie had never before been marketed on her sexuality or the firmness of her booty, but suddenly she had a brand new image. From that grew a new found appreciation of her talents as an entertainer, and served with some ever stronger new material she proved that the chart-topping run of ‘Spinning Around’ was no second wind but instead the start of a new run of hits that would last her for most of the next decade.
‘Spinning Around’ incidentally marks the only connection with a UK Number One for future American Idol judges Paula Abdul and Kara Dioguardi who co-wrote the track. When it charted where it did, it actually elevated Kylie Minogue to a whole new level of chart performance as I wrote at the time:
“…it is her first chart-topper since Tears On My Pillow ascended to the top in January 1990. This wait of 10 years and 5 months is one of the longest ever endured by a female artist, second only to the gaps of 26 and 15 years between appearances at the top by Cher and Diana Ross respectively. The success of Spinning Around further means that Kylie is now one of a select band of artists to have had Number One hits in three different decades (80s, 90s, and 2000s), putting her in chart terms on the same level as the likes of Cliff, Elvis, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Queen, Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. Kylie Minogue – chart legend?”
To round off this segment, a new entry and the final chart peak of what was the third big hit single for Moloko. The group had made their chart breakthrough at the end of 1999 with Number 4 hit ‘Sing It Back’ and had followed it up with the almost devastatingly good ‘The Time Is Now’ – probably the world’s first and only organic dance track. Following those classics ‘Pure Pleasure Seeker’ was something of a disappointment, a clunky mess of a record propelled by a grunting saxophone line which becomes annoying within the first 20 seconds. It would be 2003 before they returned to the Top 10 again.
More to come from 2000 including the whole Top 20, which as Scott Mills was only too keen to tell us, could be watching “being revealed live online” on the Radio One website. Yes that is correct, if you were dedicated enough you could log on to an auto-refreshing chart page which added each single as it was revealed on air. Did people actually sit there watching this?
Now this should be an interesting one (“about time too,” chorus blog readers all over the world). In the past when I’ve done these chart retrospectives, the selection of oldies has always been from the dim and distant past, be it the 90s or even late 80s. I thought for a change it would be worth going back just a handful of years, if only to see whether certain records or artists have taken their rightful place in a historical context in such a short space of time.
That said, it does all depend on your own perspective on the era. The summer of 2000 doesn’t seem so long ago to those of us who lived through it, but it was still nine years ago. I think back to my teenage years in 1989 and remember that 1980 seemed like ancient history. Therefore for some, these songs may well reflect a bygone era and a stage in pop music development which is all but unknown. For my part, the summer of 2000 represented a strange transitional period in my life, as I shall recount later, but for all that I do have fond memories of the time, many of which I’m sure are tied up in the songs that will follow.
Therefore the wayback machine is duly in operation, thanks to my own tape of the Radio One Top 40 show as broadcast on July 30th 2000. Deputising host for this show is Scott Mills, which makes you realise just how long he has been around, his first show on the network having been in 1998. That said, the show doesn’t get off to the most impressive start as for most of the intro he is clearly reading the pre-prepared script and not delivering “last week’s rundown” in a way that suggests he actually cares about the material. He warms to the task later on, but for a brief moment you find yourself wondering if Mark Goodier isn’t the more dynamic host.
Now about a year ago I wrote a full account of the entire career of Girl Thing and why they weren’t half as bad as they were painted. Nonetheless the spectacularly failed girl group were for a long time held up as the prime example of Simon Cowell’s fallibility as he had confidently bragged that the five-piece were ideally primed to become just as big as the Spice Girls only to see them fail to make the hoped for impact and vanish just as quickly as they came. ‘Last One Standing’ was their debut single and made a respectable enough Top 10 placing first week out, but sadly for them this was a chart era when a low Top 10 just wasn’t good enough to build a career on and it was an uphill struggle from then on. The final nail in the coffin was seeing the track that was supposed to be their third single ‘Pure And Simple’ handed instead Hear’Say for whom it sold a million copies. For my money ‘Last One Standing’ remains a badly underrated pop record, even if the annoying could have been dialled down just a little. Don’t listen to the doubters, Girl Thing under different circumstances had the potential to be huge.
The sixth straight Top 20 hit for Brian Molko and Placebo, the first single taken from their third album ‘Black Market Music’ and arguably at the peak of their appeal and influence. ‘Taste In Men’ was a typically melancholy epic, distinguished in part by the lead guitar line that was straight out of the opus of space-rock era Pink Floyd, not that I can recall many people making the connection at the time. The single debuted at Number 16 first week out before diving down to this position a week later. Truly this was the era of the in and out chart run, as we shall see further along.
Just the one chart week for this single, Macy Gray’s third hit of her brief run of mainstream fame at the turn of the decade. Her overwhelming strength was the tone of her voice, described by one reviewer as sounding like a muted trumpet, which meant that virtually any tune she performed sounded out of this world and effectively like nothing you had never heard before. ‘I Try’ was the smash hit, embarking on an all but unheard of nine week Top 10 run at the end of 1999 during which time it peaked at Number 6. Heart-rending ballad ‘Still’ had gone Top 20 in March but the cod gospel-funk of this third single was in hindsight something of an error and never quite destined for huge sales. Nonetheless it remains a diverting listen, even if you are all but willing her not to throw up before the end.
‘Amazed’ was one of the major stories of the year in both the US and UK, although for wildly differing reasons. In America the lighters-aloft power ballad made chart history by becoming the first C&W single for almost two decades to top the Hot 100, even if like so many new-country singles of the time it had been extensively remixed for pop radio with electric guitars and a more heavily layered production added to give it that more commercial edge. On these shores it was notable not so much for its chart position, but the fact that it embarked on a chart run that outstripped just about everything else around it, spending a full 17 weeks (of which this was the last) hovering around the lower end of the Top 40. It never once climbed into the Top 20, hitting a peak of Number 21 on two separate occasions five weeks apart. As Mills notes on the tape, by the time it finished it had been around for so long its chart run was 10 weeks older than its nearest rival.
When a single sounds fresh nine years on, is it a sign of how ahead of the curve it was at the time, or a reflection of just how much its genre has stagnated in the decade since? ODB’s one and only chart hit single as lead artist was this colour by numbers hip-hop track that followed the usual formula of rapper and female guest star taking it in turns to play their parts in the narrative. “Baby I got your money, don’t your worry” trilled Kelis in the chorus, the reasons for her debt presumably explained in the verses mumbled by her co-star but I’m damned if I could penetrate them.
Miss A’s third single was a relatively minor hit compared to its predecessors, peaking at Number 19 and moving no further upon release. Nonetheless it was the first example of just how well her powerful voice lent itself to epic ballads, a formula she would return to later in her career with increasingly greater rewards. At the time however, this was just the usual “third single must be a ballad” rule being followed by a new act who was at the time better known for her pop records and in truth nobody paid it much heed. For her next single she’d return to pop and the Top 10 in the form of ‘Come On Over Baby’.
Perhaps one of the great injustices of the turn of the century was that Morcheeba never quite managed the commercial breakthrough they truly deserved. Flirting with soul, trip-hop, electronica and blues – sometimes all at the same time – the group have to date made six albums of such quality and variety it is something of a large regret that they have never turned this into mainstream success. The never more aptly titled ‘Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day’ was only their second ever Top 40 entry, arriving two years after ‘Part Of The Process’ became the first and to date this Number 34 peak remains the height of their singles chart success.
33: Vengaboys – Uncle John From Jamaica
You know I actually didn’t mind the Vengaboys so much, at least not by the end. They may have started out in the late 90s turning out virtually indistinguishable instrumental euro-dance hits such as ‘Up And Down’ but by the turn of the decade they had matured into an act with an ear for the commercial and an ability to produce some rather appealing pop records. Christmas 1999 offering ‘Kiss (When The Sun Don’t Shine)’ may possibly have been the best but they followed it with ‘Shalala Lala’ which somehow managed to out-cartoon Aqua and finally ended their run of Top 10 hits with this calypso-flavoured bit of nonsense which was so unashamedly cheesy it even had a steel drum solo in the middle. Yes, it is a long way from being the coolest song on the singles chart this week, but by the same token a long way from being the worst. Curiously online streaming services are devoid of original tracks by the group and even the iTunes store seems reluctant to stock their back catalogue. I may live to regret this, but have the video on me.
32: Black Legend – You See The Trouble With Me (iTunes link)
On its way out after a seven week chart run, this single was a former Number One hit with a more fascinating history than most. Italian producer J-Reverse was searching for a way to turn the house loop he had created into a record when he hit on the idea of using a Barry White sample. The studio version of ‘You See The Trouble With Me’ sounded a little too static to his ears and so instead he turned to a VHS recording of a 1990 concert in Brussels by the soul legend that his friend Enrico Ferrari had in his collection. Mixed together, the track was almost irresistible and had become a Europe-wide smash and a Top 10 Italian hit before Barry White caught wind of it and went to injunction city. With money being thrown at him desperately by labels worldwide wanting to licence the hit, J-Reverse opted to sidestep the legal difficulties and recreate the vocals, eventually being introduced to Barry White impersonator Elroy ‘Spoonface’ Powell who made a note for note copy of the original, right down to Barry White’s “1975 we brought you an album, with a song” dialogue with the crowd at the start.
Meanwhile as the new version was being prepped for a UK release, copies of the original version found their way into the shops as imports, resulting in the unauthorised mix hitting Number 50 in May 2000. Meanwhile Radio One had got hold of a copy and were playing the “original” until almost a week before the authorised version was due for release. It is quite possible that they were hedging their bets, given the chaos surrounding Oxide and Neutrino’s single ‘Bound 4 Da Reload’ earlier in the year. In truth, the original Italian mix was a thousand times better than the version that eventually charted so who can blame them for going with it. To hear the song you’ll have to stick with Spotify, it isn’t in the we7 catalogue.
This was the high point of the brief spell of mainstream fame for gospel duo Tina and Erica Atkins as they took what was easily the most spiritual track of the year into the Top 10 in the early summer of 2000. Although ostensibly an ode to spiritual ecstasy, the song was written ambiguously enough to be open to interpretation as a straightforward love song and hence was able to become a huge crossover success. Mary Mary only had one other chart single in the UK (‘I Sings’ which crept to Number 32 in the autumn) but remain a successful act on the gospel circuit back home.
So that was the first ten. If you are a regular reader of this site then you will know that there are playlists on both Spotify and We7 of all the available tracks from the chart for you to stream online at your leisure. Numbers 30-21 are on the way soon.
Ask virtually anyone who has worked for one of the big commercial radio groups any time in the last decade and a half, and they will tell you that they have something of a love-hate relationship with Australian radio.
It all stems from what was once the GWR group being owned and run by ex-pat Australians who were all convinced that the way to “fix” British radio was to apply principles and formats that had served them so well back home. Quite aside from the awful homogenisation of local radio that inevitable resulted from the rise of the Evil Empire, it also meant that presenters employed by the stations were ritually played tapes of the “best bits” of Australian radio (mainly the breakfast shows) and told breathlessly by consultants just how exciting it was and how lucky they were to be learning from these masters.
I was fortunate to spend my formative broadcasting years working for a group of companies whose bosses thankfully looked to America for inspiration and so spent time showing us showreels and examples of good practice from the States, for myself and most people the true origin of good, innovative and expansive radio. Thus my only encounter with Australian ways was the boss who arrived at my station in the late 90s and elected to replace almost the entire presentation lineup. Thus my only experience of Australian radio programmers is the only man ever to forcibly remove me from the air, something which colours my approach to the topic somewhat.
I bring it up thanks to a huge scandal which has blown up down under, one which appears to have escaped mainstream attention elsewhere but which is threatening to derail the careers of two of the biggest radio stars in the country. To get the full picture, you are encouraged to click the link below and hear in full every presenters ultimate nightmare – the feature that goes badly, horribly and disturbingly wrong.
I played it to people in our office today and most people who heard it reacted in the same way you undoubtedly just did – with mouth-agape horror. For the full story on the continuing backlash over the incident, broadcast live just a couple of days ago, just check out any Australian news site. It puts last years Brand/Ross fuss over here into a whole new perspective, although opinion is divided over whether the blame lies with the hosts for going ahead with the segment with an obviously scared and reluctant teenager participant or instead with her mother who knew of her daughter’s trauma but still decided live radio was an appropriate forum to confront her about her personal life.
In truth radio is littered with anecdotes of on-air features and stunts which have backfired and produced some rather unexpected results. File sharing sites across the web are littered with examples, such as this one below:
My own favourite tale involves an American station which used to test husbands and partners by phoning them up live and pretending to be offering them a bunch of flowers for their special lady as part of a prize competition, all the while with the wife or girlfriend of the stooge sat on the line waiting to hear his expression of love. One man is called up and told he has won the prize and asked who the flowers should be sent to. “To my beautiful wife..” he replies. “YOU BASTARD” screams his unwitting girlfriend sat on the other line. Cue some frantic backtracking from the hosts.
I think the truth of the matter is that in order to stand out from the crowd or to create new and exciting content it sometimes is necessary to push the envelope a little. Sometimes it works and you can wind up a hero, but when it goes wrong the finger pointing starts. In a way I think it will be a shame if the 2DayFM furore results in the kind of paranoid environment in Australia that we are currently experiencing in this country thanks to the events of last autumn. That said, the largely muted reaction to David Cameron saying “twat” in a comedic context on the radio this week kind of suggests we might be coming out the other side. If the politicians can get away with it…
The alternative is a medium so cloying bland it is almost impossible to listen to. I rarely seem to listen to British radio, so this weekend I made a point of tuning the internet radio by the bed into a small commercial station in the north of England. It shall remain nameless (and it wasn’t named after a part of the body either), but suffice it to say the clip I heard involved a presenter opening his show by telling us that he was live from a local event, one which was to involve processions of people in costumes and the proverbial fun for all the family. “First of all though, I must tell you…” he said before launching into what must have been a close on three minute monologue about his trapped wind problem and the pain he had suffered the night before. You read that right, he spend the first part of an interesting sounding outside broadcast telling us about his bowel issues. Once he had wrapped up the delicate tale, one which left me the listener screaming at him to shut up and entertain me again – he cued to a commercial break. However much he was being paid for that, I do hope it wasn’t much, seriously.
I might have just been unlucky, this might have been an aberration, but in truth I’m scared to find out. Faced with radio of such cloying blandness and mind-scrambling inanity it does actually make you glad that somewhere out there there are indeed radio hosts who are prepared to wire 14 year old girls up to lie detectors, however unpalatable the outcome may be.
Sometime in late 1981 or possibly the early months of 1982 my parents threw a Saturday night party in our home. It was the in thing for all the thirtysomething couples in our village, and I guess they just decided it was their turn to play host.
I vividly remember the night in questions. My sister and I excitedly watched as the living room furniture was rearranged to create a mini-dancefloor area and a mix zone near the stereo before we were packed off upstairs to hide before the guests came. In the absence of any nearby relatives to dispatch us to my sister and I camped for the night in her bedroom at the front of the house – mine was at the back and directly above the living room and it was very unlikely I’d be able to sleep through the noise.
Incidentally, who agrees with me that as a child the one small consolation of being excluded from such adults only gatherings in one’s home was the ability to creep downstairs at 7am the following morning and polish off the trays of nuts and other finger foods that still lingered from the night before.
I digress. In preparation for the soiree, Mum and Dad had also bought some brand new music specially for the occasion. In an LP collection where The Carpenters’ Greatest Hits was about as contemporary as it got, these new additions stood out as a painful anachronism for anyone browsing the racks in the years that followed. Eventually I liberated just the one of them for my own collection and I’m glad that I did, for this one LP in particular represents a neatly taken snapshot of a particular moment in popular culture.
Dance, Dance, Dance was released by compilation factory K-Tel in September 1981, whereupon it reached Number 29 as part of a five week run in the album charts (no separate listings for compilations in those days). The concept was simple – collecting together some of the best moments of the disco medley craze that swamped the charts during the summer of that year.
The trend was famously started by Dutch producer Jaap Eggermont after a music publisher friend had overheard a bootleg DJ mix of songs in a record store, one which included songs he himself owned the rights to and was thus not making money on. Eggermont was instructed to reverse engineer the bootleg (later identifed as Passon’s ‘Let’s Do It In The 80s’ which had originated in Canada) using session singers to recreate the songs from scratch. The result was the Stars on 45 project which became more successful than either man could have predicted, the first medley of Beatles songs topping charts all over the world, including most extraordinarily in the USA. The surprise success of the track prompted a rash of copycat hits from other producers, the fad reaching its peak at the start of August 1981 when no less than five different dance medleys were racing up the Top 40. Thus the material for Dance, Dance, Dance was created.
Side 1 of the album begins with Back To The 60s by Tight Fit. The record was the work of producer Ken Gold who applied the Stars on 45 template of old songs, all sung anew by session singers and stitched together with a handclap beat from a drum machine. Back To The 60s raced to Number 4 in short order in the summer of 1981 but lived on for some years afterwards with just about every mobile DJ in the country proudly owning a copy of the extended 12-inch mix that allowed them eight minutes to visit the bar or to slip backstage to feel up the host’s daughter. A full length album of the same name was released in the autumn that year, adding new songs and extending the mix to 20 minutes each side and to my delight I found a brand new copy of a budget re-release of the disc in the racks of a backstreet record shop in Harrogate some 10 years later. The Tight Fit name lived on for one more 60s medley before being used as the marquee name for the group of models recruited to front a remake of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ which rocketed to the top of the charts in 1982. The less said about ‘Fantasy Island’ the better.
On our album Back To The 60s fades out to be replaced by Beach Boy Gold from Gidea Park. This was the work of the multi-talented Adrian Baker who at that point was best known for his work with Liquid Gold. His talents extended to being able to sing just like Brian Wilson and the rest of the Beach Boys and so he singlehandedly recreated the famous harmonies track by track to produce this entertaining medley of some of their greatest moments. Fans of the originals may have considered it sacrilege but the medley was done with so much love and attention to detail that even the disco beat that linked each song together sounded like it was meant to be there and made the snippets of tracks such as ‘Fun Fun Fun’, ‘Surfing USA’ and even ‘Sloop John B’ sound like they were some of the greatest records ever made. The first of two Gidea Park hits that summer, the track made Number 11 as a single.
Next is one of the tracks that started the whole thing, although perversely the first Stars On 45 single featured is Volume 2, better known worldwide as “The Abba medley”. Puzzlingly the performers here are credited as “Chartblasters” rather than the more common “Starsound” or even “Stars on 45” even though as far as I can tell the track featured is the original hit recording rather than a licensing-mandated remake. Either way, this was the track that for many was indeed the soundtrack of the summer of 1981, certainly it is the one I can recall most vividly from the tape of the Top 40 show that accompanied us on summer holiday that year – nestled as it was at Number 2 at the end of July as ‘Ghost Town’ from the Specials proved immovable at the top. With the Abba back catalogue having become almost over-familiar in recent years, hearing the Dutch session singers attempt to recreate famous songs such as ‘Winner Takes It All’ grates a little but at the time it was a winning formula. From a production standpoint, my favourite moment is right at the end when the “somewhere in the crowd there’s you..” line from Super Trouper seamlessly turns into the “Ooooohhhhh…” of the Stars on 45 theme song that bookended both “volumes” of the medley.
Next is I Love Music from Enigma, although nothing to do with M. Cretu and his chill-out meanderings. This Enigma were none other than Nigel Wright and Les McCutcheon, the record having been produced whilst the former was still to all intents and purposes a full time member of Shakatak. The theme for ‘I Love Music’ was a medley of disco songs, the track stitching together tracks that were for the most part just two or three years old at that point. For whatever reason this didn’t seem to work so well and the medley was at times rather jarring and failed to flow as well as it might. The second of two singles released by the pairing that summer, this single kind of caught the back end oif the fad and peaked at Number 25 in late August 1981. Back in the 80s, the one particular highlight for me was noting that one of the tracks used in the medley was ‘Is It Love You’re After’, which meant that I could get to hear the sample used as the basis for ‘Theme From S-Express’ in 1988 in something approaching its original context.
Side 1 ends with a second Gidea Park track Seasons Of Gold which as the title suggests was this time a run through of the best bits of the Four Seasons repertoire. This time Adrian Baker got to do his nailed-on Frankie Valli impersonation on what was once again a quite lovingly constructed run through of some very famous songs indeed. Only a Number 28 hit in September 1981 as one of the very last dregs of the medley craze, but so good was Baker at his vocal impersonations that he spent most of the following decade touring alongside the Beach Boys themselves and providing falsetto vocals. Spookily he even joined the Four Seasons for a nostalgia tour in the mid-90s and thus for a short time was effectively a member of both of the groups he impersonated in the summer of 1981.
Side 2 of the disc kicks off with something of an oddity, Hooked On Classics by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This was the brainchild of conductor Louis Clark who was already familiar with the fusion of rock and classical, having arranged and scored many of the Electric Light Orchestra’s hits. Jumping on board the medley craze, he arranged the central themes from some of the most famous classical pieces of all time and somehow got the RPO to play it to a disco beat. It mostly works as well, although the demands of maintaining the disco tempo means that the climactic run through the 1812 Overture at the end ends up at twice the speed it is supposed to be. Astonishingly the single cut of the performance shot to Number 2 in August 1981, only denied a place at the top by ‘Green Door’ by Shakin’ Stevens. Pavarotti aside, it remains the highest charting classical music single ever. Although no further hit singles were forthcoming, the Hooked On Classics concept spawned no less than five albums throughout the rest of the decade.
This track wasn’t actually played at the Masterton house party though. I know this for a fact as there is a nasty scratch on the record in the tiny gap between this and the second piece on Side 2. We come back up to date with the original Stars On 45 – Volume 1 hit single, the famous Beatles medley that topped charts all over the world and hit Number 2 here in May 1981. Although most of the tracks on the medley are indeed Lennon-McCartney songs, it takes its time to get to them as the “Stars on 45 theme” turns first into the guitar riff from ‘Venus’ before we are treated to a burst of ‘Sugar Sugar’ and then finally the first Beatles piece in the form of ‘No Reply’. Once you know the history of the track it is obvious, ‘Venus’ had to be included on the single as this was the track “owned” by Willem van Kooten who had commissioned Eggermont to make the record so he could receive royalties from it. ‘Sugar Sugar’ was presumably the track that followed ‘Venus’ on the original bootleg and had to remain there as a means of flowing neatly into the Beatles material. What has puzzled me since is the way the Stars on 45 singles are held up as a shining example of production wizardry, with most writeups noting that they were made in the days before digital technology and so the medleys each had to be edited together by hand. However given that each track was a remake done by session singers, I could never understand why the record could not have just been performed “as live” and thus remove the need to painstakingly edit it all together. Or maybe that just spoils the romanticism of the whole thing.
Now start to scrape the barrel a little as the pool of hit medleys appears to be running dry. The next track is Hot Licks by the punningly titled Silhouettes – the track as you may have guessed being a run through the greatest hits of The Shadows. From what I can glean from the net, the track originally appeared in Germany and failed to tickle the singles charts on these shores. Despite this, two Englishmen are credited with its creation – Jeff Jarratt and Don Reedman who clearly knew what they were doing, given that they also received production credits on Hooked On Classics.
Next week return to Nigel Wright’s Enigma for Ain’t No Stoppin’ which was their first hit mix of disco classics. I say “classics” as once again, the tracks the single contained were only a few years removed from the chart runs of their original versions. Even less in some instances, given that the medley features ‘Jump To The Beat’, ‘Use It Up, Wear It Out’ and ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ which had all been hits just a year earlier in 1980. ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ deserves at least some credit for being the first Stars On 45 cash-in to the market, hitting Number 11 in late may and early June 1981. Listening to the two Enigma singles again it is clear that the production on them is designed to be a little more subtle, using the original rhythms of the featured tracks rather than overlaying the famous handclap beat. Whilst this shows the core material a little more respect, it does mean that the medleys are at times rather clunky and inconsistent. Fun as they are to listen to, I can’t actually imaging being able to dance through the whole thing.
The compilation wraps up with another obscurity Home Cookin’ as credited to Bandanna. Of all artists Sam Cooke is the theme for this one, although the track restricts itself to just five of his most famous hits. Whilst classic soul to a disco beat may seem almost heretical to some, the single is actually suitably respectful of the core material, and the fact that we only have to get through five songs in three and a half minutes means that they are allowed to breathe a little. As the final bars of ‘Twistin’ The Night Away’ fade out to end the record, you are left with an urge to break out the originals to continue the party for as long as possible. Now that is the sign of a good record. Steve O’Donnell and Colin Jennings are credited as producers of this uncharted single, and indeed it seems to be so obscure that even the normally reliable disogs.com fails to list it amongst the production history of either man.
The medley craze persisted in Europe for some time after the summer of 1981, thanks in part to continued Stars On 45 releases and other various copycats. Britain largely lost interest and medley discs were absent from the chart until the late 80s. The revival was thanks to the man whose work we’ve poured scorn on here – Nigel Wright, who realised that the House revolution had resulted in a string of club tracks that all used a similar beat. He quickly formed Mirage and hit paydirt in the spring of 1987 with Jack Mix II which once again used session singers to recreate a brisk medley of recent house hits. A Number 2 hit was the result, and as we now are all too familiar it was followed two years later by the Jive Bunny project which resulted in three successive Number One medley hits of Rock and Roll classics in 1989.
By the start of the 1990s the European trend for what was now called the “megamix” was no longer too naff to promote here, and indeed it was soon noted that by producing official medleys of hits by particular artists you could squeeze out another Top 10 hit without having to record new material. Subsequently acts such as Technotronic, Snap and even Bobby Brown and Gloria Estefan had hit singles with fully endorsed mixes of their last few singles. Before the craze died out again it seemed as if nothing was sacred, how else to explain the chart presence of the Grease Megamix or even The Jungle Book Groove which took the famous soundtracks of two very different films and turned them into hits medleys.
Some ideas were better than others though, and I’m actually quite proud of owing a 12-inch copy of a flop single called Mix Back In Time which came out in 1991. It is another medley of remade disco hits, only it uses Kylie Minogue’s ‘Step Back In Time’ as a bridging device, the chorus of the song returning after each part of the medley to bring on the next. Credited to the mysterious RICO, it may never have been a hit but works to this day as the perfect party track. The man who created it? Step forward Nigel Wright once more…
Disclaimer: I’m fully aware of the hypocrisy of posting a rant about poor spelling and grammar on a website that is full of articles with stupid grammatical slips. Most of them are typos that I never had the chance to sub out, and one day I’ll track them all down and will sleep peacefully at night.
I currently have the pleasure of being a tenant in a large block of riverside flats. Nice as it would be to actually own the four walls I reside within, I’m often glad I don’t, thanks to the howls of outrage that are frequently directed on the residents’ messageboard towards the management company. For reasons best known to themselves they are called Peverel OM and are a giant behemoth of a facilities company, proudly boasting of owning leases and managing everything from small developments to huge office buildings. According to those who have to pay them directly for service charges they are also unresponsive, unaccountable and about as popular as the people in Flat 49 who held another scre aming contest on their balcony at 1am on Sunday morning.
My only contact with them as a tenant is through the occasional circular notice that is distributed to all the post boxes, normally to advise us of some issue they have noticed or behaviour they wish to correct. The one they sent the other week was I’m sure well meant, but somehow managed to undermine any remaining belief in their professionalism possessed by anyone who received it.
I’ll show you a few examples. This letter was posted to all the residents individually on their own headed notepaper and signed off by the lady who has the title of “Property Manager – Customer Services department”.
A good start, and possibly one which suggests their IT department need to check that spellcheckers are activated correctly on the office computers. Or alternatively they just need to educate the people typing letters what the wiggly red lines under words mean.
Then the first paragraph:
No spell-check failures here. Just a grammatical one. The large items of furniture are plural, so really they ARE being dumped in the bin stores. Naturally this could just be a leftover from an earlier draft of the letter which referred to a single item of large furniture but I doubt it. With just one line the entire credibility of the communication has been undermined. Instead of being reminded of our responsibilities as residents and instructed to adjust our behaviour, we appear instead to be being lectured by someone with poor standards of education. I would hope our property manager isn’t someone who failed their English GCSE, but perception is everything, especially where business communication is concerned.
The rest of the letter makes it through relatively unscathed, until the footnote just below the signature:
That’s right. Their exciting new interactive website is not available. Which does beg the question why they are telling us about it anyway. Unless of course this is a typo or a slip of the mind (of which we are all occasionally guilty) and the sentence was supposed to explain to us that it is NOW available. If that is the case then it is desperately unfortunate that the error managed to stand the entire meaning of the sentence on its head. I can sympathise however, having many times in the past merrily composed pieces about the latest releases of Blue when I actually meant Blur, and vice-versa.
Finally, such wholesale mangling of the English language is by no means confined to residential circulars. Take this temporary sign, currently posted up just outside Southwark tube station on the South Bank.
THE BRITISH 10K LONDON RUN SUN 12 JULY. CLOSURE’S THE WEST END & THE CITY.