A word about the Radio One Top 40 show itself for this week, as recorded on March 4th 2001 and which has effectively been the soundtrack to all of these posts. The production of the show was essentially imperial era Mark Goodier, albeit at a point where he was becoming less and less relevant to Radio One and was clearly starting the slow wind down of his career on the network. This was also during the period when the UK charts had their first ever proper sponsorship, and so the start and finish of the show include a note that the Top 40 chart is “supported by Worldpop dot com”. The site was a short-lived consumer music portal founded by former Radio One DJ Peter Powell which died on its arse after a year owing to not being very good and after burning its way through an astonishing £13m of funding (of which £5m was spunked on the chart sponsorship). A minor kerfuffle ensued when the sponsorship deal was first signed as it was noted that Goodier himself was one of the investors in the site – a conflict of interest which meant he had to divest himself of the shares in order to continue to present the show. Politics.
Time to wrap up the chart countdown with a rather thrilling Top 10, featuring some great stories, huge sales and a one of its kind release gimmick which was itself at the time a very big deal indeed.
Speaking of big deals, here is the lady who was Number One on the album chart this week in 2001 on her way to becoming one of the biggest sellers of the decade. How she got there is actually one of the more intriguing tales of all.
Dido Armstrong (younger sister of Faithless maestro Rollo Armstrong and occasional vocal contributor to some of his productions) had signed a deal as a solo artist with Arista records in 1998. The album ‘No Angel’ was delivered for release a year later, but for whatever reason only the American arm of the company elected to release it. No European imprint was interested. Her only notable work to that date was the track ‘Thank You’ which had worked its way onto the soundtrack of the 1998 film ‘Sliding Doors’ and which was serendipitously playing on a commercial for the film seen by Eminem. Flash forward to 2000 and ‘Thank You’ is the core of the biggest hit of his career and suddenly the whole world is wondering just who the chick in the song is (with Dido herself playing the role of Stan’s girlfriend in the video for the song in a cute nod to its origins).
Attention was thus reawoken in ‘No Angel’ which began to sell in America and was finally picked up for European release. It made it to British shelves in late October 2000 but as this was before ‘Stan’ had been a single it was still barely noticed. Nonetheless when asked at a party around the same time what the hot tips for the future were, I put forward the opinion that Dido was set to become a huge star in 2001.
Which is exactly what happened. Rather than immediately go with ‘Thank You’ as an obvious choice for a single, she instead released the more strident ‘Here With Me’ which stormed the chart at Number 4 upon release and was still just about in the Top 10 here three weeks later. ‘Thank You’ eventually followed as a single release later in the summer and went Top 3 in its own right, by which time sales of the parent album were reaching Adele level stupidity. ‘No Angel’ wound up as the second biggest selling album of the 2000s, with British sales to date now in excess of 3 million and its worldwide sales total currently standing at 21 million. Worth noting that at the time of writing Adele’s ‘21’, the modern day equivalent, has only managed 17 million. Make no mistake, Dido was massive.
The Manic Street Preachers arguably didn’t need gimmicks to sell their new album. Their 1998 album ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’ had spawned Number One singles and pushed them once and for all over the top to mainstream music stardom. They had rounded off the 1990s with a Millennium Eve concert in Cardiff and started the 21st century with a good old fashioned chart ambush as one off single ‘The Masses Against The Classes’ became one of the first new Number One singles of the new year in 2000. Despite this, they cooked up a wheeze. Ahead of the release of new album ‘Know Your Enemy’ they would release not one but two singles, both on the same day. Could they stage the greatest coup of all and land at both Number One and Number Two simultaneously?
The Manics weren’t the first act to try the stunt, with Lush having attempted a similar trick in 1994 when both ‘Hypocrite’ and ‘Desire Lines’ appeared on the same day in June that year. Those singles made a rather disappointing 54 and 60 respectively, leaving the way clear for the Welshmen to become the first act to have proper hits with such a simultaneous release.
The two tracks were carefully chosen to better show off the two sides of the Manic Street Preachers’ musical personality. ‘Found That Soul’ was an edgy, noisy post-punk track with the group in full on ‘You Love Us’ intense mode. ‘So Why So Sad’ was their poppier side, a chiming and appealing wall of sound anthem in the style of ‘Everything Must Go’. Inevitably it was the latter which emerged the sales winner, selling 37,000 to the former’s 33,000. Observant minds will have spotted that the eventual chart placings of 8 and 9 were some way short of the simultaneous Top 3 success widely predicted when the news of the dual release was announced. Make your own guesses as to what happened here – did people pick and choose their favourite and ignore the other, thus dividing the potential sale of what would otherwise have been a single brand new Manics track, or was the double release just too gimmicky for most people to properly buy into it? Whatever the reasons, this kind of chart stunt has not been attempted since, and with album releases now enabling ten or more potential hits to land on the singles chart at once, the novelty of having two singles available at the same time has rather worn off.
Not everything Louis Walsh turned his hand to was Westlife-level blandness or Jedward-level garbage. Plucked from the Irish TV talent show “Let Me Entertain You” at the tender age of 15, Samantha Mumba was carefully guided to a short but respectable pop career which saw her chart with several worthwhile pop nuggets. ‘Always Come Back To Your Love’ was her third chart hit and her second to go Top 3, hitting Number 3 the week before this chart was compiled. It was one of no less than five Top 10 hits to be taken from her debut album ‘Gotta Tell You’ which was released at the tail end of 2000 and went Top 10 itself. Yet oddly enough that was pretty much all she wrote as far as Samantha Mumba’s pop career went. A one-off new single ‘I’m Right Here’ emerged at the end of 2002 and it too made a non too shabby Number 5 but a second album never materialised and the next we saw of Mumba the pop star was on the 2008 documentary series “Get Your Act Together” as Harvey Goldsmith attempted to kick-star her career once again. Mumba has instead turned her talents to acting and has appeared in a selection of films over the years, most notably the 2002 remake of “The Time Machine” wearing the most extraordinarily memorable chain mail top in cinema history.
In an era of memorable and radio-friendly rock hits, Wheatus’ debut single ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ was easily one of the most famous. Telling the story of the high school loser who eventually gets the girl in the most unexpected of circumstances, ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ proved irresistible to both radio programmers and music buyers alike with the track spending a fortnight at Number 2 in February 2001, an impressive nine weeks in the Top 10 (this in an era when quick enter-high and exit-quickly chart performances were still the norm) and close to five months on the Top 75 itself. Although the American film “Loser” was something of a flop over here, the use of ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ on its soundtrack meant that the accompanying video had the bonus of featuring the reunion of American Pie stars Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari who lip-synched their way through the song whilst acting out its story. If this track was good, then Wheatus’ next single was an inspired joy, a metal romp through the old Erasure hit ‘A Little Respect’ which similarly went Top 3 later in the summer. Their self-titled debut proved to be their one and only commercial hit in this country, but five studio albums and a handful of lineup changes later Wheatus are still active and pop up at rock festivals with reassuring regularity.
Five years before she became Timbaland’s favourite muse and hit proper superstardom with the ‘Loose’ album, this was Canadian singer Nelly Furtado’s chart debut with a track which now sounds atypically light and breezy compared to some of her later output. Still, at the time all this was ahead of her and there was nothing wrong with the impact ‘I’m Like A Bird Made’, debuting here at Number 5 after several weeks of airplay buildup. Her debut album, the punningly titled ‘Whoa Nelly’ was released a fortnight later and eventually peaked at Number 2 during a year on the charts, during the course of which it also spawned Number 4 hit ‘Turn Off The Light’. A great way to open your account then, but naturally even bigger things lay in wait.
I don’t remember this record at all. Which is odd when you think about it. Ricky Martin was here just under two years removed from global smash hit ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ (a Number One hit here) which turned him in to a star in the English speaking world as well as the Spanish one and was also following up the equally extraordinary ‘She Bangs’ which had been a Top 3 hit at the tail end of 2000. ‘Nobody Wants To Be Lonely’ was thus the second single from Martin’s second English language album ‘Sound Loaded’ and as far as its chart placings were concerned performed more than adequately, becoming a hit in all the territories it should have done and Ricky Martin’s fifth and final Top 10 hit in this country. For guest star Aguilera it was her fourth Top 10 single and effectively a final drawing of breath for her before the ‘Dirrrty’ era saw her vamp up her image and cement her status as a pop icon.
Yet for all that, for all its undoubted pedigree, ‘Nobody Wants To Be Lonely’ is surely one of those great lost records, barely given a second thought once its 12 week chart run came to an end, rarely mentioned in dispatches as one of the most memorable hits of either artist and as far removed from classic status as it is possible to get. Yes, it was one of the biggest new releases of the week, storming the chart at Number 4… but 11 years later – can anyone honestly say they have had it stuck in their head since?
Almost ten years since they first paired up and five years since they broke through in the hip-hop world as a name to take note of, OutKast finally achieved a smash overground pop hit just as they were on the verge of running out of steam as a pairing. Fate can be like that sometimes. Lifted from their fourth album ‘Stankonia’, the single ‘Ms Jackson’ was to say the least an eagerly anticipated released, charting from early February onwards thanks to imported copies which climbed as high as Number 48. With the single finally released it made a fresh debut, storming straight to Number 2 and introducing the mainstream to the work and sound of Andre 3000 and Big Boi for the first time ever. The track itself is semi-autobiographical, the Ms Jackson of the title reportedly the mother of Erykah Badu whom Andre 3000 had been dating, but the sentiments of expressing regret about the demise of a relationship to your estranged mother-in-law date back years in song form. Few would disagree that ‘Ms Jackson’ is the spiritual descendent of the old Dr Hook song ‘Sylvia’s Mother’ which weaves a similar tale.
I mentioned the duo being about to run out of steam. They followed the ‘Stankonia’ album with the globe-buggeringly successful double album ‘Speakerboxx/The Love Below’ two years later, but no secret was made of the fact that these were in fact two solo albums with one man making guest appearances on the other’s record, albeit released together under the group name. OutKast still technically exist as a group and have a record deal to their name, but meanwhile we creep ever closer to there having been a decade since their last original work together.
By the end of 2000 few would have disagreed that the Atomic Kitten project hadn’t worked. Former OMD star Andy McCluskey’s bold idea of plucking three Liverpool lasses from obscurity and handing them a series of disco-pop songs that he would not have been able to pull off performing himself had produced some very good records but precious little in the way of strong sales. Their first three singles had all performed reasonably well, with ‘Right Now’, ‘See Ya’ and ‘I Want Your Love’ all going Top 10, but a fourth ‘Follow Me’ had stalled just inside the Top 20 and their debut album ‘Right Now’ had spent just two weeks in the charts when finally released at the end of October 2000. They had one last chance to resurrect things, and so the slushy ballad ‘Whole Again’ was selected as the fifth single with the three girls – Liz, Natasha and Kerry – booked onto TV shows to start the process of hyping up the release just after Christmas.
Then on January 10th 2001 this story appeared in the newspapers:
Yes like the good little Catholic boy he was, Bryan of Westlife had knocked up Kerry Katona, the most charismatic member of Atomic Kitten, and in the process propelled them both onto the front page of the tabloids. Yet suddenly Atomic Kitten now had a genuine publicity hook. They weren’t just another nonentity pop group on the verge of flopping, they were at the heart of a proper story. We’ll never know just how well ‘Whole Again’ would have done without the pregnancy tale – history records that in the wake of the tabloid stories the single flew to the top of the charts and stayed there for four weeks, selling in huge numbers in the process.
The one complication was that Kerry had elected not to follow in the footsteps of members of the Spice Girls and All Saints and gave her notice to quit the group, her final day of work being the very day that ‘Whole Again’ was set for release. To plug the gap, fellow Merseysiders Jenny Frost was parachuted in, her performing credentials based on having been a member of 1999 Eurovision entrants Precious. However Kerry’s voice was still all over the hit single, particularly in a cute spoken section in the middle, so the girls swiftly recorded a new vocal take which they used for promotional appearances thereafter. I’m trying desperately to recall if radio stations were furnished with the “Jenny” version for their own use, on the tape I have here the chart show was still playing the “Kerry” take the week the single was deposed from the top of the charts. The phasing in of the new lineup even extended to Jenny Frost being spliced into a new edit of the video for the track, one which replaced the original the moment it was ready to go. Just to demonstrate how subtly it was done, one creative person with time on their hands has even edited the two together to show the old and new versions side by side, which is actually a worthwhile watch, even if it does appear to make the song go on FOREVER:
So what if you suddenly decided that the Atomic Kitten album was a worthwhile listen? Well you had to be quick, as the original version of ‘Right Now’ was swiftly deleted, its last final wander around the bottom end of the album chart during February thanks to the last remaining sales of the original issue. Now under new management and with a new, softer, country-pop direction the Mark II Atomic Kitten re-released the album later in the summer with most tracks re-recorded, save for the handful of Kerry-featured early singles which were bundled together on the running order as the “Back Then” collection. Atomic Kitten spent the next four years as one of the biggest pop groups in the country whilst Kerry Katona herself spent the next decade veering from TV sweetheart to reality TV basket case and back again, with her entire life played out on the pages of Hello! magazine.
With the news that the Kittens are planning a comeback, a few weeks ago the Official Charts Company revealed that ‘Whole Again’ was just 20,000 copies short of becoming a million seller (it sold 934,000 in 2001 alone to become the fourth biggest seller of the year). Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room though, you can change the lyrics to they become “you can fill my hole again” which means the song to this day appeals to juveniles of all ages.
So to the single making its “debut” at Number One on this chart. I’ll explain the quote marks in a moment.
Not for the first time in his career, Orville “Shaggy” Burrell was on his uppers. Despite his second album ‘Boombastic’ having given him a worldwide smash hit in the form of its title track (a second Number One hit for him here), by 1997 he was out of contract and out of a deal. He signed a new deal for America and recorded a new album ‘Hot Shot’ which was set for release there in August 2000. Just before it was officially available however it was leaked online, where Hawaiian DJ Pablo Sato downloaded it from a source he to this day has refused to name. Spotting that the track ‘It Wasn’t Me’ was the standout cut, he aired it the very next day to a rapturous reception.
Such was the demand for ‘It Wasn’t Me’ that the hand of the label was forced and the track was pushed as the first official single from ‘Hot Shot’, the subsequent buzz ensuring that Shaggy was suddenly hot property and with the album licensed for release across the world. The single was set for release here in early March 2001 but such was the hype that stores imported their own copies, particularly from America where it had topped the Hot 100 with ease in early February. This led to the single spending three weeks on the Top 40 before it had even been released, coming to rest at Number 31 for week ending March 3rd 2001.
You would have thought that these three weeks of early availability would have dulled the edge of the official release of the single wouldn’t you? Not a bit of it. The fully available ‘It Wasn’t Me’ stormed to Number One with a huge sale of 345,000 copies – at the time the highest first week sale of any single since Britney Spears did 464,000 copies of ‘Baby One More Time’ two years earlier. The biggest single on the planet at that moment was far and away the biggest deal in Britain as well.
The single is so famous it hardly requires a recap here, although it was a curious production given that Shaggy was effectively a guest star on his own track, appearing on vocals for less than a minute of the production and allowing guest star RikRok to do most of the work. The single edit contained one crucial change from the album track, substituting RikRok’s description of how he and his girl were “both caught naked, banging on the bathroom floor” to the rather wimpier “both caught making, love on the bathroom floor” although it was entertaining to note that most radio stations started out playing the uncut version without any complaints before switching to the properly available one. For all its huge sales, ‘It Wasn’t Me’ was to only spend a single week at Number One, dumped down into second place by Westlife a week later. No matter, the track would eventually go on to sell 1.151 million copies to become the biggest selling single of 2001 and is to date one of the Top 60 biggest selling singles of all time (at the time of writing it is Number 54 on what is a remarkably fluid list). As comebacks go, that takes some beating.
With that, it is time to bid a fond farewell to the memorable and extremely enjoyable music of 2001. The Spotify playlist is now as complete as it can be for anyone else who wishes to relive the countdown, and it only remains for me to note before packing the cassettes away for another decade that the first track played on Dave Pearce’s Dance Anthems after the Top 40 show that week was the sodding Ladyboy Is Mine track again. I’ve now heard it twice more than I ever wanted to again.