Eight years. No small amount of time when you think about it. Eight years ago there was no such thing as the Iraq War, only the earliest of early adopters had even heard of this thing called an iPod and petrol was about 70p a litre.
Despite this I’m still curious to see how this turns out – looking back at a Top 40 chart from what seems like only yesterday, that of May 12th 2002. Has pop music really changed since then? What acts have evolved from the sounds of that era? More importantly will I be able to get my head around where dance music was at during this period, and just how many of the tracks will we find to playlist on streaming services?
These questions and many more will be answered over the next few days. Let’s roll the tape, a diligently preserved copy of the Radio One Top 40 show from that date – still presented at this time by Mark Goodier who by the middle of 2002 was just a few months from his eventual departure from the network. I think by this time the Sunday Top 40 show was practically the only regular show he had on Radio One, his position on the show still reasonably secure and with a generation of listeners having grown up hearing nobody else but him present the Sunday afternoon flagship programme.
The dying embers of Bristolian trip-hop were briefly fanned to a smoulder at the start of the early 21st century thanks to Kosheen, a still active quartet from that city who were fronted by the silky vocals of lead singer Sian Evans. Their first album ‘Resist’ was home to some of their biggest hits – ‘Hide U’ going Top 10 in September 2001 contemporaneously with its release. ‘Hungry’ was their third single to reach the Top 40, hitting Number 13 in early May the following year. Eight years later it still sounds utterly gorgeous, Evans’ vocals riding a wave of acoustic guitars and blissed out beats and ensuring that this particular retrospective has been worth the trip even before it has started.
Far and away the biggest hit single of Marilyn Manson’s career, outstripping every other single he has released to date, ‘Tainted Love’ stands out as a marvellous oddity in his discography. The occasion was his contribution to the soundtrack of ‘Not Another Teen Movie’ which featured some original interpretations of 80s classics alongside some of the cheesier choices featured in the tongue in cheek parody film. Hence Manson’s version of ‘Tainted Love’ takes its cue from the most famous Soft Cell version, borrowing wholesale some of the electronic effects on the original production whilst applying his own unique style to take the song in an unexpected new direction. As I noted when originally reviewing the single, it is amazing how the most innocuous of songs can take on a totally different meaning when certain people perform then. Manson changed virtually nothing about ‘Tainted Love’ and yet by drawling “don’t touch me… please!” in his trademark groan he somehow elevates the 1960s song into an ode to sadomasochism. It remains today as it did then, a moment of joyful inspiration.
A rare mainstream hit for Drum N Bass producer Shy FX, his usual frantic style here tempered by a collaboration with fellow producer T-Power who was known for his more experimental temperament and a willingness to make tracks that had a lighter, party friendly vibe rather than the more aggressive style that his contemporaries favoured. ‘Shake Your Body’ is regarded to this day as a shining example of how well what you might term pop n’ bass could work. Singer Di’s languid vocals sit prettily atop a jazz piano tracing out a descending chord that at time sounds for all the world like a slowed down version of the Sex And The City Theme. About to exit the Top 40 here, the track had peaked at Number 7 in early April. Once more a terrific pop record that I genuinely can’t recall hearing again since.
This was the second single lifted from Anastacia’s second album ‘Freak Of Nature’, a release that struggled to quite live up to the explosive success of her debut release ‘Not That Kind’ whose hits such as ‘I’m Outta Love’ and ‘Not That Kind’ shot her to Europe-wide stardom. Not that ‘One Day In Your Life’ was a bad record, far from it, just that for the most part it was more of the same from the small lady with the huge voice and without anything in the way of sensation she was for the most part playing to the gallery with her singles selling to a rapid fanbase pretty much by default. A Number 11 hit in April 2002, she would not hit such chart heights again until two years later after her breast cancer scare and a brief enforced career break. It remains one of pop’s more amusing oddities that the Chicago born singer commands a special place in the affections of music fans worldwide except in her own country where she remains a virtual unknown and resolutely hitless.
We appear to be fair sprinting through these songs so far, although this may have something to do with the fact that all four records were played back to back on the Top 40 show with no links between them. Our host finally breaks his silence to recap the four fallers that have gone before, teases the tracks yet to be played and directs us to the Radio One website where we can all participate in the core feature of what passed for online interaction in 2002 – the chatroom! My abiding memory of said chatroom was Easter Sunday 2002 and the Top 40 show which had the misfortune to be aired 24 hours after the demise of the Queen Mother. Not wishing to show disrespect, the producers of the show dropped all features and indeed half the songs on the chart just in case any of them were either too frivolous or mentioned death in any way. All Mark Goodier could do on the show was fill time by encouraging participation in the self same chat room – filled entirely with disgruntled listeners marking each skipped track with a cry of JUST PLAY THE BLOODY RECORDS.
Just to prove that Xtian music isn’t all happy clappy and gleeful, presented here as the first new entry of the week is one of a handful of hits for American god-metal band P.O.D. – the initials cheerfully standing for Payable On Death. The group had made their UK chart breakthrough earlier in the year with the Number 19 hit ‘Alive’ and this was the only week of Top 40 glory for the follow-up single. As you might expect, ‘Youth Of The Nation’ had a message behind it, a wry commentary on school shootings such as the Columbine Massacre three years earlier. Both tracks were lifted from the album ‘Satellite’ and although the group continued to release singles here throughout the 2000s, their two hits of 2002 remain for now their only mainstream success.
35: Mad Donna – The Wheels On The Bus
Only in Britain could you get an oddity like this – a novelty record inspired entirely by an online viral video. ‘The Wheels On The Bus’ was the creation of American writer and director Richard Snee who hit on the idea of updating nursery rhymes and children’s songs by remaking them in the style of modern day pop records and parodying the artists who performed them. The project came to be known as Mother Goose Rocks and their website claims hundreds of thousands of CDs sold worldwide. Many of the tracks had flash videos made to accompany them, and it was the widespread circulation for the animated video for ‘Wheels On The Bus’ (as performed by a Madonna soundalike all to a backing sounding uncannily like ‘Ray Of Light’) which prompted one British label to sign the track up for single release. Launched into the world in early May 2002, the single shot into the Top 20 and promptly charged back out again, proving perhaps that it was a one shot joke that wasn’t necessarily an essential purchase. Nonetheless for a brief time the TV music channels were airing this track in heavy rotation, complete with the “click to play again” caption still intact at the end.
Needless to say this kind of novelty is absent from streaming services, but really it is a track that exists only for its video, so it seems only right to include it here.
Blue’s fourth single and the final one to be lifted from their acclaimed debut album ‘All Rise’. Simon, Lee, Duncan and Antony had a great deal to live up to here, having topped the charts with their two previous singles ‘Too Close’ and ‘Come Back’. As its title suggests, ‘Fly By II’ was a reworked version of a track that appeared in its original form on the album, the single version having been dramatically remixed with a few Herb Alpert samples sprinkled here and there. The track reached Number 6 upon release in April 2002, really all it deserved given that melodically it was a straightforward retread of their first hit ‘All Rise’ a year earlier and was little more than a final roll of the dice on their debut release. The continuing antics of some of their members and their at times ever more desperate attempts to remain famous are still to this day a source of some amusement, but Blue were always more than just another boy band, their ear for soul and some well produced records ensuring their career stretched until late 2004 with a 100% strike rate of Top 10 hits.
The single which arguably rescued Iglesias Jnr from the dumper at a time when it looked as if his 1999 hit ‘Bailamos’ would forever mark him as a one hit wonder – on these shores at least. ‘Hero’ was on the face of it a fairly straightforward love ballad but it took on a whole new meaning in the USA at the tail end of 2001 when it was paired with footage of 9/11 firefighters and other suitably “heroic” images, the metaphor extended still further by radio stations which remixed the track to include soundbites from people involved in the aftermath of the WTC attacks. Upon release in this country the song shot to Number One, turning Enrique Iglesias into a bone fide star and enabling him to emulate the chart success of his father just over 20 years earlier. As a pop record ‘Hero’ simply shouldn’t work, the lyrics filled with every cliche imaginable and with Enrique delivering each line as if he is about to burst into tears any moment. Somehow the production just manages to press the right buttons, lending the song a suitably epic feel and one which in an instant you just knew merited its sensational debut at Number One the moment it was released. ‘Hero’ remains one of those which can tug at even the most cynical of heartstrings and catch you out just when you are least expecting it.
Oh yes, the song that pretty much started it all. Everyone kind of knew that the first single released by the winner of Saturday night TV sensation Pop Idol was going to do well. After the original documentary format of “Popstars” created Hear’Say and propelled them to Number One in their first week, it was kind of a given that the follow-up series which introduced the innovation of having the public vote week by week for their favourite singer was going to connect with an even wider audience. What happened in the week after Will Young was crowned the series winner however surpassed all expectations. The double-sided ‘Anything Is Possible/Evergreen’ became only the second single in history to sell a million copies inside a week (1,108,269 to be exact), blasting the competition out of the water and setting a benchmark which will surely never come close to being equalled. We all knew that television was the most effective promotional tool the music industry had – Pop Idol simply took this to the most logical conclusion.
This CD single was arguably the final exclamation point on the singles boom of the late 90s and early 2000s, one final rush of glory before people got out of the habit of buying singles and left the industry frantically scrabbling for a new format. As for the track itself, the record was the first of what has now become the standard formula for coronation singles by TV show winners. Although the Cathy Dennis-penned ‘Anything Is Possible’ was theoretically the lead track it was really just a supporting act to ‘Evergreen’, a song from three Cheiron studios writers that had originally appeared as a Westlife album track but which was instead handed to the Pop Idol winner. The lyrics fitted perfectly after all, with lines about taking the moment and making it last forever. Think back to your memories of the record and the chances are they are synonymous with the moment in March 2002 when Will Young stood centre stage, surrounded by all the other eliminated competitors and sang the song with glitter raining down on him from above. There is more Pop Idol related music to come before we are done with 2002, but it seems only appropriate that our first encounter with a song from the series is the biggest one of all.
So to finish this first quarter of the chart, the first of four hits in 2002 from Belgian trio Lasgo, whose singles are typically unremarkable Eurodance but which found their own modest degree of success at the time. Is this me flannelling for something constructive to say about the most inconsequential track we’ve heard on this chart so far? Damn right it is. ‘Something’ at the very least made a creditable Number 4 upon release in March 2002. Given that I have all the dotmusic articles from this time on file, it seems only appropriate to look this one up and see if I had anything particularly insightful to say about it back then:
On Positiva, so you suspect it is going to be good, comes this bubbling piece of Belgian euro-trance complete with the obligatory female vocal. Evi is the name of the lady on the track, better known back home than she is here and indeed a singer with a vocal style that is eerily reminiscent of Kim Wilde. The truth of the matter that Something is really just an Ian Van Dahl track with a little more energy but it sounds great on the radio and is more than worthy of its place in the Top 5. Which is all that matters really.
Hooray, I didn’t so much, and what a twatty thing to write really “better known back home than she is here” – of course she bloody wasn’t it was her first hit after all. Cut me some slack, I’d just written six paragraphs on the Will Young single which had hit Number One in the same week.
That’s 40-31 then, and the obligatory Spotify and We7 playlists are in place and growing nicely. Surprisingly pretty damn good isn’t it so far? I always argued that 2002 was a far better time for pop than it was often painted. See youy shortly for Part 2 – there’s a football song in there somewhere. I knew it couldn’t last.