The Shot Heard Around The World

Stoke City v Manchester City was one of those football fixtures which didn’t immediately jump off the page as a classic in the making, but faced with selling it as a matchup, it was possible to see how it could provide the required level of entertainment. Champions in waiting against a side notorious for their uncompromising and sometimes rather ugly style of play. It had the potential to be rather thrilling.

When it comes to choosing Premier League football matches to cover, radio pretty much has to trail in the wake of television, as the TV companies choose their live games and thus fix the kick-off times, leaving radio rights-holders to slot in accordingly. Hence ESPN had selected the match at the Brittannia against the wannabe champions to air in their one and only timeslot, and as Saturday evening rights-holders, we at talkSPORT were handed the game too.

The first half was quiet in places, with the odd heart-racing moment as shots were cleared off the line and nailed on chances were denied by some goalkeeping skill, but at half time it was clear that the 0-0 scoreline reflected two teams well drilled in cancelling each other’s threats.

Then, mid-way through the second half, Stoke’s Peter Crouch received the ball about 40 yards out from the opposition goal, swivelled his not insubstantial frame… and caused most people in the stadium to shout with surprise and joy as he volleyed the ball into the net. None shouted louder than our commentary team of Stan Collymore and Sam Matterface who described it in glowing terms as one of the greatest goals of the season, and in the process creating one of the most entertaining radio commentary moments of recent months too.

Within minutes we were flooded with Twitter messages hailing not only the football skill involved but also their startled reaction to the commentary. I decided that the moment deserved an even wider audience. So inspiration struck. I asked the audio producers to turn around a clip of the commentary of the goal in question and stuck it on Audioboo, making sure the upload was automatically tweeted to the watching world:

I don’t think the clip could have gone viral any quicker had I sneezed it. Within five minutes of going live it had been played over 1000 times. As I write this just under an hour later the play total has topped 3000 with new tweets arriving every minute as people send the link on. EDIT: 24 hours later it had grown almost exponentially, with over 13,000 plays, ending up eventually just five short of 20,000.

(I subsequently took the original Audioboo down after my bosses began to get nervous about whether it violated their contract with the Premier League, but you can still hear the audio clip below.)

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If nothing else this just goes to demonstrate the amazing impact that can be had when “old” and “new” media converge. Thousands were listening to the live coverage across the nation at the time, yet with just a few clicks, the most memorable moment was communicated to thousands more across the world. It is all at once quite frightening and not a little humbling to think of the impact what we do can have, and you can guarantee there are hundreds more people tonight who are not only wanting to seek out the footage of the goal in question, but after listening to it also know just what it is we do on air and why we love it so much.

Hat tip to @StanCollymore and @Sammatterface whose voices are those on the clip. I’m just the waiter who puts the plates on the table at the end of the day. They are the artisans at the stove, and thanks to a moment of inspiration from a sometimes underrated footballer, their words and their unabashed joy at seeing something out of the ordinary is for the moment one of the most famous pieces of audio in the world.

Found That Soul Of 2001–Part Four

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.

10: Dido – Here With Me

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.

9: Manic Street Preachers – Found That Soul
8: Manic Street Preachers – So Why So Sad

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.

7: Samantha Mumba – Always Come Back To Your Love

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.

6: Wheatus – Teenage Dirtbag

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.

5: Nelly Furtado – I’m Like A Bird

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.

4: Ricky Martin and Christina Aguilera – Nobody Wants To Be Lonely

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?

3: OutKast – Ms Jackson

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.

2: Atomic Kitten – Whole Again

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:

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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.

1: Shaggy featuring RikRok – It Wasn’t Me

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.

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Found That Soul Of 2001–Part Three

During this particular period in 2001 it was a pretty grim time to be a farmer, with the great Foot and Mouth outbreak causing entire herds to be destroyed in an attempt to counter the spread of the disease. Other aspects of life were affected too, with parks being closed, horse racing meetings cancelled for a period, the Six Nations Rugby tournament moved to later in the year and even a planned General Election postponed by a month to avoid problems with people moving around from area to area.

Suddenly however the crisis was wiped from the headlines by a tragic chance event:

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This was the Selby rail crash, caused when Gary Hart fell asleep at the wheel of his Land Rover and careered down a railway embankment. It was struck by an inter-city passenger train which then derailed into the path of a freight train coming in the opposite direction. 10 people were killed and 82 suffered serious injuries.

Thank goodness we had the first ever Celebrity Big Brother to take our minds off things. Plus TV stars saying outrageous things and getting the humourless frothing at the mouth. Not a Jeremy Clarkson in sight either…

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Time to get back to the music, we’ve dallied long enough. Our chart countdown from March 4th 2001 continues as we arrive in the Top 20. As ever the Spotify playlist is updated, although some rather obscure pop hits in this segment means we have to skip a handful of tracks and YouTube them instead.

20: Limp Bizkit – Rollin’

Either the zenith or the nadir of Nu Metal depending on your point of view, there was nonetheless a legitimate case to be made for Limp Bizkit being the hottest rock act on the planet at that point. The source of it was their third album, the marvellously titled ‘Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavoured Water’ which might rank as the rudest innocent sounding phrase ever to land on the charts. Despite their previous album ‘Significant Other’ having reached Number 10 when released in 1999, Fred Durst’s outfit were without a British chart hit until the release of ‘Take A Look Around’ a year later, the first single from the follow-up album and a Number 3 smash hit. ‘My Generation’ made the Top 20 at the back end of that year but it was the third single which sent things stratospheric. The grinding, nagging and insanely catchy ‘Rollin’ proved hard for both radio and record buyers to resist and the track shot to the top of the charts at the end of January to give Limp Bizkit their one and only Number One single. In it’s wake it dragged the parent album back up the chart and to the Number One slot itself, making the group the first heavy metal act ever to top both charts simultaneously. In theory the sky should have been the limit from that point on, but once the album had been milked for hit singles Fred Durst’s egotism got the better of him. Entire albums worth of tracks were recorded and binned in a quest for perfection and when the much-delayed follow-up ‘Results May Vary’ finally appeared at the end of 2003 the title appeared more prophetic than anyone could have realised. Limp Bizkit still record sporadically to this day, their album ‘Gold Cobra’ last year having been their first for six years. Not that anyone really noticed or cared.

19: BBMAK – Back Here

Remember all those acts who found fame in Britain and Europe before working their magic back home in America? Well these guys are the polar opposite, a British boy band whose greatest success was actually in the States. The trio first emerged in 1999 and were at pains to stress how hard they worked in writing their own material without a trace of manufacturing going on. Debut single ‘Back Here’ was released in August that year and limped to Number 37 – essentially it was a disaster.

Then something rather curious happened. American radio stations grabbed hold of the single and loved it. The group and their management abandoned any and all plans to conquer Britain and ahead headed across the Atlantic. The net result was BBMAK being heralded as part of a new British pop invasion with ‘Back Here’ hitting Number 13 on the US chart on the way to becoming one of the most played singles of 2000. Their album ‘Sooner Or Later’ sold a million copies on the back of the hit as well. It hardly mattered that nobody back home had heard of them.

Still, it was worth giving it another shot and so with the pedigree of Stateside success as a neat hook to hang their story on, ‘Back Here’ was re-released in Britain where this time it made a vast improvement on its original release and shot to Number 5. Listening back to the single it isn’t hard to see just why American radio loved it so much, the production cleverly aping the breezy Californian pop style that worked so well for the Backstreet Boys. For all that though the trio were never really going to stand out in what was still a crowded pop market, so whilst they landed a second Top 10 hit later in 2001 with ‘Still On Your Side’ and the much-delayed UK release of the ‘Sooner Or Later’ album made the Top 20, they continued to concentrate on America where their string of pop hits continued into a second album before they disbanded in 2003.

18: Human Nature – He Don’t Love You

When it comes to Australian pop stars, with the odd notable exception we in Britain prefer them soap shaped. Hence Aussie pop superstars Human Nature were always going to have their work cut out making their name on these shores. Originally formed as a doo-wop group at the start of the 1990s, the group turned their hand to pop music in 1997 to no small amount of success. An attempt was made at the time to push them in this country too but both of their first two singles fell short of the Top 40. Their one and only British hit came thanks to this track, lifted from their third self-titled album. Penned by the always consistent Steve Mac and Wayne Hector, the track called to mind the thumping beats of ‘NSync, causing it to by no means sound out of place but at the cost of no small amount of originality. For the UK market the video was re-shot to feature a cameo from one Holly Valance, herself a year away from her own British pop career. This not too shabby Number 18 chart entry was the result but it turned out to be their only dalliance with the chart show countdown. When later singles flopped, the great British adventure was abandoned. Human Nature returned back home, still active in the Australian charts to this day even if Spotify tries to pretend they don’t exist. Still, at least we get to gawk at Holly in the shower:

17: Dane – Shut Up And Forget About It

That’s Dane as in “Bowers”, in case anyone was wondering. The late 90s success of the individual solo Spice Girls was great news for high profile members of successful pop bands, as it became clear there was a record company blank cheque awaiting them if they fancied a shot at a solo career. When Another Level broke apart in 1999 after a two year career which had seen them manage seven Top 10 hits and one Number One, it was the aforementioned Mr Bowers who fancied extending his musical career a little further.

To his credit he didn’t rush to make an album of his own, teaming up instead with garage outfit Truesteppers in 2000 to front both Number 6 hit ‘Buggin’ and more notoriously ‘Out Of Your Mind’ which wound up in a head to head chart race with ‘Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)’ by Spiller, the added frisson being that the Truesteppers single also marked the post-Spice debut of a certain Miss Victoria Beckham. The single peaked at Number 2 in August 2000. Fast forward to 2001 and having dropped his surname he struck out on his own. Debut hit ‘Shut Up And Forget About It’ supposedly had the backstory of being about the time he was the first C-list pop star to have a relationship with Katie “Jordan” Price (one which they took the time to video). For all that the song was nothing special, an attempt to cast him as a mean and moody R&B star but which reduced his vocals to a sultry growl. Yes, both this single and the summertime follow-up ‘Another Lover’ made Number 9 but this was almost certainly solely down to the latent fan power from his Another Level years. An album ‘Facing The Crowd’ was apparently recorded but it went unreleased as Bowers transitioned from C-list pop star to D-list TV star for the rest of the decade. But it is still impossible to shake the image of him putting his toe up Jordan’s… well, THERE. Sorry. Have a rather more tasteful video of his instead.

16: Mario Piu presents DJ Arabesque – The Vision

A second hit single for Italian DJ Mario Piu, a leisurely follow-up to 1999 Top 5 hit ‘Communication’ which was cleverly based around the interference GSM mobile phones cause to speaker equipment. ‘The Vision’ was a new entry here this week but its chart career was short and perfunctory. I think more than anything else here, this single demonstrates just how dance music, possibly more than any other genre, is dependent on context for proper appreciation. This record means nothing to me. It didn’t during its brief foray into the sales charts, and 11 years later it carries no resonance, inspires no memories nor tells me anything about how my life was when it was first released. I don’t doubt for a minute that there are plenty of people to whom this record is the manifestation of a particularly perfect night, a club excursion they will never forget, a holiday which lives long in the memory, maybe even the moment they first met the love of their life. I can’t knock that, there are club records from 1988 with which I identify strongly. I didn’t go to clubs or listen to dance music stations in 2001, so why would ‘The Vision’ have had any impact on my life? I’d genuinely not heard this for 11 years until today. It may be another 11 before I have any urge to hear it again. Does that make it a bad record, or just one that I personally am indifferent to?

15: Stuntmasterz – The Ladyboy Is Mine

My word we are hitting a rich seam of throwaway club records at this point. One of those records you suspect was conceived simply because of the potential for punsome titles which presented themselves, the track by British producers Stuntmasterz was a straightforward mash-up of the vocal lines from Brandy and Monica’s 1998 classic ‘The Boy Is Mine’ with the instrumentation from ‘Lady’ which had spent a fortnight at Number One for Modjo in September 2000. Yes it worked (to a point anyway) and one had to admire the technical work which made such a combination happen (not to mention the legal minefield it will have took to release it in the first place) but when it comes to actually how necessary it was for this record to exist, I run out of reasons to articulate it. It hit Number 10 on the chart before this one. If you helped it there, it is all your fault.

14: Toploader – Dancing In The Moonlight (remix)

For rather longer than they would have been strictly comfortable with, Toploader’s greatest claim to fame was being universally acknowledged as the best band to have not had a hit single. A series of singles released in 1999 had fallen well short of the Top 40 despite much praise for the quality of their work, and for a time it appeared they would never get as far as even releasing their debut album. The breakthrough finally came in March 2000 when a faithful and delightfully twee cover of the long-forgotten King Harvest track ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’, which had been an American hit for its authors but a flop on these shores. The Toploader version made a half-decent Number 19 but more importantly finally kick-started their chart career. A re-release of previous flop ‘Achilles Heel’ made the Top 10 and the album ‘Onka’s Big Mocha’ went Top 5, just in time for the group to steal the show at any number of summer festivals that year.

To round the year off the group put out a new version of their breakthrough hit, remixed in a curious choice of material by bugeoning Scandinavian producers StarGate. The new mix was subtly done, steering clear of turning ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ into a floor-filler but adding some new beats and the odd bit of vocal processing (sadly not on Spotify, so the link above is to the original version). Released at the tail end of November 2000, the single made Number 11 and then floated around the charts at Christmas-time as a pleasing party novelty. By new year it had begun a slow but inevitable burnout.

Then something rather weird happened. The Toploader recording just happened to be the latest in a series of tracks licensed for use in TV commercials for Sainsbury’s as fronted by Jamie Oliver. The ad (which annoyingly I’ve failed so far to track down online) if anyone is interested was the one where the household wakes up hungover after a party and Jamie urges Jools to “go make a nice greasy fry-up” which she proceeds to do using a series of low fat sausages. All with ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ playing over the top. For whatever reason the song struck a new chord with the British public, and after spending three weeks locked at Number 21 in mid-January the Toploader single promptly marched back up the charts, rising to a brand new peak of Number 7 in late February 2001, 14 weeks after the remix first charted and almost a year to the week since it was first released. These days we are kind of spoiled for older singles catching fire out of nowhere, for 2001 this was nothing short of extraordinary, particularly when you consider its new surge of popularity came when the single was dead as far as retailers were concerned and stocks were effectively being run down. The new success of the single had a knock-on effect for its parent album as well as it too raced back up the charts to land a brand new peak of Number 4.

From there the sky should have been the limit for Toploader but they made the classic error of forgetting to make their second album ‘Magic Hotel’ any good when it emerged in 2002. When their label went under the following year the group called it a day as well, before reforming last year to attempt a comeback with a brand new album. If nothing else they have the legacy of this most enjoyable of cover revivals to look back on. After all without it guitarist Dan Hipgrave is just the bastard who made Gail Porter’s hair fall out.

13: Jakatta – American Dream

Just for a refreshing change,a club track which does have some genuine artistic merit. The mysteriously named Jakatta was yet another alias of veteran DJ and producer Dave “Joey Negro” Lee who landed himself one of his biggest ever chart hits thanks to this rather inspired piece of work. ‘American Dream’ was essentially a fusion of two themes penned by composer Thomas Newman for the soundtrack of the acclaimed film “American Beauty”. Dave Lee wove the soundtrack to Kevin Spacey mid-life crisis into a haunting and rather beautiful club track and best of all one that was destined for huge crossover success. ‘American Dream’ was an instant and deserved Top 3 hit and stands proud to this day as one of his best ever works. In this writer’s humble opinion anyway.

12: Melanie B – Feels So Good

The solo career of Scary Spice got off to a flying start in 1998 when she shot to Number One alongside Missy Elliott with ‘I Want You Back’. For whatever reason it took her some considerable time to get around to the messy business of an actual album, releasing a rather lame Top 20 cover of cameo’s ‘Word Up’ in 1999, a single which was confusingly credited to “Melanie G” as she had elected to take her then husband’s name. Foolish girl. When the marriage to “Goldcard Jimmy” as the press dubbed him dissolved, she reverted back to her “real” name and was finally ready to push the button on her solo career for real. The spiky and spiteful ‘Tell Me’ shot to Number 4 in October 2000 and the album ‘Hot’ followed a few weeks later although it failed to impress sales-wise.

Then everything stopped, because the third and final and rather poorly received Spice Girls album came out just a few weeks later. All promotional efforts were diverted into helping ‘Forever’ into the charts. Despite lead single ‘Holler/Let Love Lead The Way’ giving them a ninth and final Number One, by the new year the Spice Girls were officially no more, meaning Scary was free to turn back to her own album which had by now sunk without trace. Hence its second single ‘Feels So Good’ belatedly hit the stores in spring 2001. An attempt at a slick R&B ballad, the jarringly bad production and the way Melanie B’s thick Leeds accent still penetrated through despite her attempts to sound like a Californian soul mama. Try to hear her mumbling “Uh, we’re gonna get all soft an’ smoochy” at the start without cringing. Despite this the single still made Number 5 but sales of the album remained negligible. A third single, the slightly better ‘Lullaby’ made Number 13 that summer, but essentially that was it as far as Mel B the solo star was concerned. A comeback attempt in 2005 with the underrated ‘Today’ missed the target as well (the single hit an unlucky Number 41). Still, at least we took her more seriously than we did Victoria.

11: Kaci – Paradise

American made good over here alert! A child prodigy, Kaci Battaglia had recorded and released her first pop album by the age of 11 thanks to the guiding hand an patronage of her mother. Two years later and before anyone could stop to ask “hang on, are you sure this is the way we want to go”, she was landing in the Top 20 of the UK charts with her debut international single. ‘Paradise’ was an up to date cover of the song originally sung by Phoebe Cates as the theme to the 1982 “teenagers fornicate on desert island” film of the same name. Out of all the countries in the world, Britain was the only one with record labels prepared to chance their arm at promoting a preppy American pre-teen. I cannot for the life of me figure out why either. Her debut album was released here and here alone, failing to chart first time around but eventually being propelled into the Top 50 thanks to a cover of ‘I Think I Love You’ which made the Top 10 in spring 2002. Now aged 24, Kaci is still attempting to become a proper adult pop star and released a new album a couple of years ago. Maybe one day she will become a well known name, at which point we can look back with bemusement at the time when she became an unlikely British pop star before she had even gone to High School.