1990 In Motion: Part One

Repost time, seeing as it is topical. Here’s a revised repeat of a chart recap I first wrote a few years ago to hark back to 1900 and the last time an England side was doing spectacularly good things in a World Cup.

July 4th 1990 marks a famous moment in the history of English football. A snapshot in time of shattered dreams, iconic tears and the start of an unbearable cliché that no matter how much hope and expectation we have, England are just never any good at penalty shootouts (the recent Columbia game excepted).

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As chance would have it, the Sunday before I had pressed record on the Radio One Top 40 show and captured for what seemed ever more the way the singles chart sounded at the precise moment that Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle shanked their penalties later that week. So here then as a special midsummer treat is a recap of that very chart show. To save a little time I’ll take the songs as they were played during the two-hour chart show as per the tape, the best 30 in effect, although at the end I’ll link to a Spotify playlist with as much of the full Top 40 intact as is possible.

With all that said, cue the Greenwich pips, cue Bruno Brookes and let’s roll the Official Top 40 as it was broadcast on Sunday, July 1st, 1990.

39: World Party – Message In A Box

Karl Wallinger started his music career first as a theatre director and then as a funk musician before joining The Waterboys, being part of the line up of the ground which recorded the This Is The Sea album in 1985 and its classic hit single The Whole Of The Moon. Leaving the group shortly afterwards, Wallinger formed World Party as a proper vehicle for his own multi-instrumentalist talents. His (or their) second album Goodbye Jumbo had been released in April 1990 and whilst lead single Way Down Now had flopped first time around, the second cut taken from the album became the first ever Top 40 hit single for World Party. One of those records inevitably cooed over by the ageing Radio One lineup at the time, it would these days be regarded as the perfect Radio Two record, an endearingly relaxed production underpinning Wallinger’s intensely meant vocals pleading for environmental tolerance and global peace and love. Having taken four weeks just to reach this initial Top 40 entry, Message In A Box just didn’t have any steam left to carry it further and so it remains a faded memory and a passing curiosity to this day. Still, the album itself remains a worthwhile listen as indeed does 1993 follow-up Bang! which at last contained something approaching some proper hit singles.

36: Del Amitri – Move Away Jimmy Blue

Intense and soulful Glaswegians Del Amitri had taken their sweet time to become properly famous but the breakthrough hit single had been achieved in the early weeks of 1990 with the enduring classic Nothing Ever Happens. After a re-release of earlier flop single Kiss This Thing Goodbye had failed to live up to expectations and missed the Top 40 for the second time, the group moved on to what was actually the fourth and final single from their Waking Hours album (which was by this time a year old having first hit the streets in summer 1989). Move Away Jimmy Blue was at its heart a rather clever bit of poetry, the tale of a man conceived into poverty as “a love match with the moon in a lay-by” and for whom a life of “4 walls of neglected debts and stolen stereos” is only escapable by leaving the small town in which he lives and seeking better in the wider world. An inescapably bleak record it I guess speaks volumes for the hard work the group had put in that it finally became their second Top 40 hit (even if this Number 36 placing was a far as it would get), proof that Nothing Ever Happens was no fluke and formed the bedrock for better things to come.

35: River City People – Carry The Blame/California Dreamin’

Siobhan Maher began her career as a children’s TV presenter, appearing on summertime mornings on BBC1 in 1988 as part of a rotating cast of faces. She had bigger ambitions though and even as her TV career started to take off so her band Peep Show was steadily morphing into the River City People. The group landed a major coup that same summer when still unsigned, they featured in a specially shot video on The Chart Show performing an early version of (What’s Wrong With) Dreaming which would become their first official single a year later. Despite working with producer Don Gehman in Los Angeles their debut album Say Something Good had resolutely failed to sell and hit singles were thin on the group despite sympathetic support from Radio One. Their chart debut was, therefore, a last ditch roll of the dice, pairing one final track from the album with a new track, a straight for the jugular cover version of the old The Mamas and The Papas hippie anthem California Dreamin’. Full marks to whoever had the idea though, because it worked. A new entry here this week, the double A-sided track eventually fought its way to a Number 13 peak and became the high point of the career of River City People. Although technically the second track on the single it was California Dreamin’ which attracted all the attention, lead song Carry The Blame an intense but altogether less sunny anti-abortion polemic.

33: Diana Ross – I’m Still Waiting (Remix)

Consider this our first encounter of something of a leitmotif for this singles chart as for a brief period in the summer of 1990 the British music market was engulfed in revivals of 70s soul hits reworked for modern day dancefloors. I’m Still Waiting is a curious anomaly in Diana Ross’ hit canon, a single which was a hit uniquely in Britain and practically nowhere else with Tony Blackburn having badgered for its release in 1970 and relentlessly promoted it all the way to Number One. Its 20th-anniversary revival came thanks to a remix by Phil Chill, a prospect which sounds grotesque on paper but which was actually respectful enough of the source material to ensure that the Motown soul ballad was transformed gently but effectively into a chill-out club shuffle. The new version of I’m Still Waiting only reached Number 21 but was actually a surprisingly worthwhile exercise.

32: James – Come Home

It genuinely seemed as if Tim Booth and the band James were destined never to have proper commercial success. Manchester-based contemporaries of Morrissey and Marr, they were frequently spoken of in the same breath as The Smiths (they were the support act on the Meat Is Murder tour after all) and as the uncrowned second best band in Manchester. By the end of the 1980s the group had overcome addictions, spells in religious cults, on-stage fights and a grumpy unwillingness to properly commit to record labels to finally record their third proper album Gold Mother for Rough Trade records. Sadly another dispute over its marketing (and Geoff Travis’ belief that they were only going to sell locally) led them to buy the rights to the master tapes and strike a major label deal with Fontana records instead. Their first release on the label How Was It For You had seen them reach the Top 40 for the first time ever in May and it was swiftly followed by a brand new version of a track which had been their final Rough Trade single at the end of the preceding year. The new mix of Come Home was remixed by Mark ‘Flood’ Ellis, at the time a very hot ticket indeed thanks to his work on the Depeche Mode album Violator. He took the jangling indie anthem and thrust the group headlong into the burgeoning baggy scene, adding house pianos and swirling funk guitars to all of a sudden make James sound like the most exciting band in the world. In spite of its seminal status, however, Come Home still wasn’t the single that turned James into superstars, peaking here at Number 32 alongside the rather limply received initial release of the Gold Mother album. True salvation from obscurity was another nine months away.

31: Rolling Stones – Almost Hear You Sigh

“Daddy, was there really still a time in the 1980s when the Rolling Stones were still considered a relevant, commercially viable and contemporary musical act rather than a never-ending nostalgia novelty?”

“Why yes, small imaginary child, take for example their 1989 album Steel Wheels which saw Jagger and Richards end their decade-long sulk with each other and start working properly together for the first time in years. It cast aside ill-advised flirtations with funk and disco and was generally considered their best work for some time, prompting their biggest tour ever and prompting their overdue transformation into living legends. Lead single Mixed Emotions had become a minor Top 40 hit the previous autumn and this third single even exceeded its peak even if it was a quite extraordinary mellow love song that basically came gift wrapped with a “please add me to your playlist” note for American rock radio.”

30: Inspiral Carpets – She Comes In The Fall

A record that was very much a victim of second-single syndrome as She Comes In The Fall was simply put the lesser starred follow up to the classic This Is How It Feels which had dragged the Inspiral Carpets kicking and screaming into the Top 20 three months earlier. Dialling down the Hammond Organ a little and actually slightly more representative of the usual meat and potatoes output of the Oldham noisemakers She Comes In The Fall did at least as I recall coincide with the burgeoning popularity of the band’s notorious “Cool as F*ck” line of t-shirts which prompted a brief kerfuffle about just how legal it was to wear them in a public.

29: Janet Jackson – Alright

Single number 596 from Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 album (actually the fourth, be sensible, this isn’t Smash Hits) Alright can possibly be considered the zenith of Jam and Lewis’ songwriting and production style, the track little more than a blur of New Jack Swing and almost entirely devoid of melody with Janet Jackson reduced to gamely sawing away at the microphone and singing lyrics which might as well have been part of an entirely different song. Simply put this is a record to be experienced rather than heard and whilst it came at the very peak of her fame and was a huge American smash hit, Britain went “meh” and propelled it to a Number 20 peak a week after this chart and then promptly forgot about it. Of more note perhaps is the fact that this was one of the earliest urban singles to be produced in a variety of different versions for single release, including several that added a rap from Heavy D, a contribution absent from the version which charted here in Britain.

27: Massivo featuring Tracy – Lovin’ You

Back on the 70s soul tip and another classic record reworked into a summertime house shuffle. Loving You was the song here, made famous naturally by Minnie Ripperton in 1975 but appearing here in a version that even the extensive Wikipedia page on the song appears blissfully unaware of. The actual identity of Massivo or even singer Tracy has thus far eluded me, but they were a four-piece soul act signed to Debut records and indeed appear to have fluked their way to this hit single given that the version which made the charts was an extensively remixed Soul II Soul-esque take on the rather plastic sounding original that the group had released earlier in 1990. Lovin’ You was a true slow-burner, taking five weeks to reach the Top 40 from its chart debut and here in the middle of a four week run as a Top 30 hit which would see it peak next week at Number 25.

25: Double Trouble featuring Janette Sewell and Karl Brown – Love Don’t Live Here Anymore

Numerous acts have chosen to brand themselves Double Trouble over the years, which can get a little confusing. These guys at least are easy to nail down, the trio of British producers who were active from the late 80s onwards and who had made their name in tandem with the Rebel MC with whom they’d had a brace of hits in 1989. Their take on Love Don’t Live Here Anymore duly became the third version of the famous song to be a hit, following in the varied footsteps of original performers Rose Royce in the 70s and Jimmy Nail back in 1985. Taken from their album Be As One, the Double Trouble version is actually a worthwhile listen, a track which takes its cue from the Rose Royce original and blends it neatly with the beats and strings of 1990 house to make this a cover which adds rather than detracts from what should, in theory, be an untouchable classic. The vocals came from Janette Sewell, one-time backing singer for Simply Red and Double Trouble member Karl Brown who supplies the opening “be true to who you are” monologue and who would go on to become one half of Kiss Fm presenting duo Tuff Jam later in the decade.

21: Glenn Medeiros featuring Bobby Brown – She Ain’t Worth It

A talent show winner in his native Hawaii, Glenn Medeiros had landed a worldwide smash hit (and a UK chart-topper too) in 1988 with his cover version of Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You. Had he wound up a one-hit wonder following this few would have been surprised, but it was maybe more of a shock when he re-emerged two years later with some crunching R&B tracks for his self-titled third album. Leading the way was jilted lover revenge track She Ain’t Worth It which thanks to the then white-hot Bobby Brown on guest rap duty (the pair apparently having a mutual friend in Rick James) duly charged to the top of the American charts at around the same time it was becoming a sizeable hit across Europe. Here, the single was on its way to Number 12 as Medeiros’ second and final British hit single although he did have one final moment of notoriety later that year when his follow-up single was selected for review on the Jools Holland-fronted revival of Juke Box Jury. In a clip that has been shown on countless “TV nightmares” shows since, the entire panel listened to the track and elected to be crashingly rude about the record, much to the horror of the host and the teeth-gritting chagrin of the singer himself who was waiting behind a panel to be introduced as the show’s mystery guest. From career-making record to career-killing TV appearance in a matter of months. Now that takes some doing.

The Forgotten Third Lion

Go On Getting Bad Results

Typical isn’t it? Just as making football-themed songs goes out of fashion, England go and perform unexpectedly well at a major football tournament. The most fascinating side effect to date of the England team’s progress to the semi-finals of the World Cup has been the spontaneous “rediscovery” of 3 Lions as performed by David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and The Lightning Seeds.

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First recorded as the official England team anthem for the 1996 European Championships, the song was uniquely re-worked and enhanced for the 1998 Fifa World Cup. Like clockwork, it has reappeared on the charts for each successive World Cup tournament. Not for 20 years though have we seen an explosion of interest in the song like we have this weekend, the track outselling the rest of the iTunes Top 5 put together briefly and lodging a quarter of a million Spotify streams on Saturday 7th July alone.

Chart rules will almost certainly prevent the single from topping the actual singles charts this week, but that’s an entirely different story.

What continues to fascinate me is the existence of the two versions of the song, the ’96 and ’98 recordings. Both of which topped the charts upon first release but both of which have been duking it out for supremacy ever since. Or so it appears.

Then One Night In Rome

It was all so simple, to begin with. The original 1996 release flew to the top of the charts, was briefly deposed by The Fugees after a week but then fought its way back as England progressed to – yes – the semi-finals of the European championships. They failed to reach the final after losing to Germany in a penalty shootout, the decisive kick missed by a young defender by the name of Gareth Southgate. Such are the whims of fate.

Two years later the same performers re-recorded the track with brand new lyrics, updating the song to reflect the memories of that summer and with a more optimistic look forward to the forthcoming World Cup to be held in France. Unaffiliated with the England team this time around, the production this time gave prominence to the fan chants that the song had so neatly inspired, it already had become something of a terrace anthem.

Writing in his 2001 autobiography, Frank Skinner noted that a new take on the idea meant an excuse to remake the video with all concerned looking slimmer, and that they got to do the Top Of The Pops performance they missed out on in 1996. But he also rather felt that the ’98 remake of 3 Lions sullied the memory of the track, writing:

“…I wish we hadn’t bothered. Respect to everyone who bought the ’98 version, but 3 Lions was all about a specific moment in time: one hot summer in ’96 when England suddenly started playing like winners again, and the crowd had their own, specially written party piece so they could provide the perfect soundtrack.”

Not Creative Enough

Alas for Frank, it was the ’98 version which the record label elected to push as the de-facto standard for the next decade.

The single reappeared in 2002 in a re-issue timed to coincide with the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. Although the CD single contained both versions, it was the ’98 recording which led the disc. Confusingly the single was listed on the charts as “3 Lions” without the year modifier, logical really given that a single suffixed “98” on the charts in 2002 would have been confusing and dated the hit – despite its lyrics referencing events of six years earlier and expressing hope for a competition already played.

It is, for this reason, the Official Charts Company’s own database on their website gets confused here and treats the 2002 re-release as a continuation of the chart run of the 1996 original with which it shares its name. The single peaked at Number 16.

Four years later in 2006, the song was back again. Although we are now into the digital era, chart rules in place at the time meant a physical re-release of the track was still necessary for its downloaded copies to be chart eligible. So a CD was duly flung out, once more featuring 3 Lions ’98 as the “lead” track. It isn’t documented which version of the song people were buying digitally but in any event sales of either counted towards its eventual chart peak of Number 9 and the single’s chart run is once more bolted on to that of the original.

3 Lions returned to the singles chart twice more before this year, conveniently enough in the World Cup years of 2010 and 2014. No re-release was necessary at this point, the hit returned as a result of spontaneous downloads alone. But fascinatingly records from the time show that the, no pun intended, lion’s share of the sales were in fact for the original 1996 recording. Which up to that point had been treated as the poor relation of the revised version by the record label. The moment they no longer had control, however, public taste and popular opinion took over. In any event, as before, sales of either version counted towards its eventual chart position. Number 10 in 2010, a lowly 27 in 2014.

We Still Believe

Which all neatly leads us to 2018 and where once again it is 3 Lions (96 version) which has commanded comparatively huge sales and streams ever since England started showing signs of being able to win the damn competition. The ’98 remake is still hanging in there, but very much a secondary consideration as far as the public is concerned. Although as I noted on the Chart Watch site this week, radio has once more tended towards the revised edition of the song, primarily for the Gareth Southgate references it contains.

Yet did you know there was a third version of 3 Lions? And no, I’m not referring to the ill-advised all-star remake from The Squad which limped to Number 21 in 2010. This is one which received copious airplay at the time it was made but which has never been made available for release.

Pearce Of The Action

It is all because of commentator Jonathan Pearce. It is his voice which can be heard both over the introduction and during the instrumental break of 3 Lions ’98, replacing the soundbites from the likes of Jimmy Hill and Alan Hansen who featured on the original.

Back in 1998, Radio One had a big problem with that. Pearce at the time was well known as the voice of Capital Radio’s sports coverage. His commentary of Southgate’s infamous penalty miss against Germany was that which he did for the commercial radio network during Euro ’96. The BBC at the time had this quaint attitude that the competition did not exist, and so there was no way they were going to play a record featuring the voice of someone who worked for the opposition.

Faced with the prospect of no airplay for the new track, the label had no choice but to allow the BBC to re-cut 3 Lions ’98. Producers at Radio One made their own edit of the track, splicing in commentary and associated soundbites from Five Live commentators Alan Green and Mike Ingham. Replacing Pearce’s bellows with, shall we say, a more Auntie-flavoured take on the moments described. It was this new edit which was played by Radio One during the Top 40 show. Regardless of the fact that it bore no resemblance to the version being bought by everyone else.

By the time the single was re-issued in 2002, the problem had neatly resolved itself. Learning to his dismay that Capital Radio had no plans to cover the World Cup that summer, Jonathan Pearce made the call he arguably should have done years earlier. He joined the BBC just in time to feature as part of the Five Live commentary team for the 2002 World Cup. He’s remained with the corporation ever since. It meant that when 3 Lions reappeared on the charts that summer his voice could be heard on the version of the track played on the Top 40 show for the first time. Because he was now “one of us”.

This does mean that the BBC edit of 1998 is now more or less lost to history. Unless you click below to hear the relevant clips of the song. Enjoy.

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Lazy Buggles Headline*

I Wanna Move With Ya

It has been over 65 years, and the UK charts have always remained in step with changing formats. Whether it is the transition from 78rpm to 45rpm singles, or new forms such as the 12″ single, cassette single and CDs, where the market evolved so too the charts followed. That change also extended into the digital era, with the addition of electronic downloads to the survey in 2005. Then ten years later came the streaming revolution, and it was only right that the charts took this into account as well when measuring the popularity of music, even if that represented a significant paradigm shift as we began to measure repeated consumption rather than discovery and purchase.

However since 2014 and the start of what I always refer to as the “streaming era” there have been voices asking an awkward question: what about YouTube? The survey includes every audio streaming platform, so why not the video one too? Indeed, I’ll often explain the compilation to people with only a passing interest in such matters and surprise them with the revelation that up to now YouTube plays do not count for singles chart purposes.

The same question was repeatedly being asked behind the scenes. Should video streams count for the pop charts? And each time there has been pushback from somewhere in the industry. “Not right now,” has been the view and one that I had always concurred with. To me, there was an important distinction between consuming music aurally and taking it in visually. OK, visuals have been added to music for decades, and the pop video is considered an art form of itself. But the term “incidental music” also exists for a reason.

Music can even be relegated to the background, there for effect only, and the visuals allowed to dominate. Proof of that comes in the way precious few people would honestly sit down an enjoy an OK Go track (their hit singles are few and far between). But we’ll all eagerly tune in to see just what piece of cinematic art the group are going to come up with next.

Time To Move On

It is now clear that this is an outdated view. After all, the personal entertainment devices we all carry around with us have screens as well as headphone sockets. When you play music on your phone, you all too frequently have your eyes upon it also. I may well have a subscription to Google Play Music as my streaming service of choice, yet when I want to call up a particular song for reference or research, time and time again, I’ll end up going to YouTube to see if the video is there. We live in 2018, and music is a visual format as much as it is an audio one. Just look at the way acts such as Clean Bandit have built their success, taking control of the production of both sound and vision in the creation of their art.

Clean Bandit with their Official UK Number One award for 'Solo' - Credit: Official Charts Company

Clean Bandit with their Official UK Number One award for ‘Solo’ – Credit: Official Charts Company

With the announcement in recent weeks that Google is to fold the Play Music streaming service into its new YouTube Music service, merging the two propositions and indeed taking advantage of their dominant role in the online video space, the time has come for the UK chart to answer the question in the affirmative.

Never Be The Same Again

As of Week 27 – the chart published on Friday, July 6th – video streams from services such as Tidal, Apple Music and yes indeed YouTube will count towards the weekly singles charts.

I gather it has been quite the challenge to achieve. YouTube is by no means exclusively a music platform, regardless of the creation of the new dedicated premium service. What truly counts as a “music video” in amongst all the other user-generated content it contains. The answer is apparently that a play counts as a “music stream” if a copyright owner has claimed both sound and vision. So this not only includes official music videos uploaded through the Vevo platform and via official artist channels but also where an independent content creator has associated the visuals with an audio soundtrack registered for chart purposes.

This last detail is important because when Billboard began counting video streams for the Hot 100 five years ago, they only enforced ownership of the audio side. As a consequence, any video featuring more than 30 seconds of a copyrighted music track saw its plays count for the charts, resulting in the bizarre sight of Bauuer’s Harlem Shake flying to the top because the Hot 100 was logging every single Harlem Shake video watched at the height of the 2013 craze. That won’t happen in Britain. It is official video plays only.

Get Your Calculators Out

That’s the headline change, but there is another adjustment to the chart compilation process which may have passed people by. In a move which has been desired by some sectors of the industry for a time, a distinction will be made between premium, paid-for audio and video streams, and ad-supported free ones. Instead of the single flat rate 150 streams = 1 sale ratio there will now be two. Paid streams will revert to the 100:1 ratio first introduced in the summer of 2014, while free streams are to count at an extended 600:1 ratio.

That’s not a typo. Listen to a track on Spotify’s free tier, or on the standard YouTube site, and you will need 600 plays to clock up the equivalent of one purchased sale.

Britain is actually behind the curve on this in many ways. The charts in countries such as France, Germany, Spain and Italy don’t count free streams at all, while Billboard switched to downgrading free plays some time ago. I’ve never myself seen the need for this adjustment, arguing that a stream is a stream regardless of whether you have paid for the privilege or sat through an advert first. The royalty return to the artist is the same no matter what.

Billboard made the change for tactical reasons. Free streams were heavily used by fans of hip-hop acts and it was skewing the Hot 100 to detriment of the rest of the market. So they felt the need to re-balance. In Britain, that is not so much the case, and this separation of powers as it were is more symbolic than anything else. Rewarding those who pay for music rather than taking it “freemium”. Or perhaps more to the point, rewarding the performers who persuade people to pay to listen to them. These are meaningful gestures to make.

There is no need to fear that the charts will now be susceptible to kids and fanbases repeatedly hitting reload or replay on a video to play the game of boosting its view count. Because you’d have to do that a heck of a lot to game the charts. In any event, I have a feeling there’s a technical bar to it as well. YouTube may well only be logging a play for a video every time it delivers the data to a client, rather than the number of times the user clicks the play button. When you replay a YouTube video you are playing pre-buffered data from your browser cache, so it doesn’t count twice.

Simmer Down

The imminent introduction of any change to chart rules immediately conjures up images of drastic changes to the musical landscape and a whole new way for singles to behave. The numerous test charts compiled have revealed no drastic changes to the status quo at all. Indeed at no time has there ever been a Number One single which would not have been there under the existing rules. Like all the adjustments that have taken place since we embarked on this journey, the change will be one of evolution, not revolution.

To recap then: video streams from online services will count as of this Friday (29th June) and register on the singles chart published the following week (6th! July). The ratio of sales : streams will now be adjusted. 100:1 for paid for streams, 600:1 for free tier. How this affects the Accelerated Chart Ratio has not yet been made clear, but I suspect it will remain at 300:1 for paid streams. With freemium plays already at 600:1 they are downgraded almost into insignificance already.

UPDATE: A comment on a Music Week post online has confirmed. A move to Accelerated will double the ratio of a track in the same way it does now. So paid-for will end up on 200:1 and freemium will be a colossal 1200:1.

So strap in for the ride, next week’s chart will be the last under the old rules. And we then have to re-learn the market all over again. Here’s the future (2018 version)!

 

* (Video Killed The Radio Star – duh).