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A Quickly Written Review: Buddy the Musical

A Quickly Written Review: Buddy the Musical

(Written within 2 hours of seeing the musical in question and this is the one and only draft. Not unlike the script used in the show I am guessing. So apologies for ranting and any mistakes. Rest assured, no matter how it comes across, I had a good night.)

To be gifted with tickets to a musical when you are a musical enthusiast is excellent news. To be gifted with two sets of tickets for two different shows is just gravy. And tonight I put one set to good use by taking myself from the airport (another story) straight to the Empire Theatre in Liverpool to see ‘Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story’ We were pitched in Row Q and our tickets boasted that our view would be restricted. It is rare that a present is accompanied with homework. Trust a teacher.

‘Perhaps you could do a blog piece comparing watching a show from bad seats vs a show from good seats’

So here is Part 1. The Bad Seats.

First of all the good news: The view was not a problem. With a promise like ‘restricted view’ I expected at least a big-fuck-off-pillar in my face or to only see the backs of the actors but all it meant was I would be quite far away from the stage and therefore would be unable to engage in activities such as noting which actor spits/sweats the most. Gutting as this was, I suspected I would be able to struggle through. A more accurate description of the shortcomings of my position would have been: ‘Warning: Some of the women behind you drank before coming out tonight and feel confident that you are equally interested in their interpretation of ‘Maybe Baby’. If any of them happen to stumble across this blog at any point: Fuck you. Seriously, everyone hates you. Not one person respects anything about you. Your parents, your partner, your friends, your children: They all hate and resent you and alcohol won’t change that.

Where was I?

Prior to the show beginning I observed to my viewing partner (due to the macho exterior he gives to the world, I couldn’t possibly reveal his identity) that Buddy Holly died at aged 22 after less than two years of chart success. His legacy is remarkable for those facts, but worthy of a biopic? Wait, hear me out: 22. 22 years old. How much could there possibly be to say about anyone who lived such a tragically short life? My concern was that the show would focus on his death and there would be a tasteless shot of him being heaved by the technical staff over the stage in an angel outfit while the rest of the cast waved and sang ‘American Pie.’ Or something.

I have already discussed my feelings around jukebox musicals. I find them lazy and often tiresome. They cash in on people’s nostalgia with very little creative effort. So between Holly’s short (but sweet) time on this planet and this being a musical biopic with no original songs I was somewhat nervous about how enjoyable this was all going to be. My aforementioned Butch Buddy (hey!) pointed out we could always flee at half time if it proved to be truly terrible.

Ok…First of all. How hard is sound? That is the second musical I have been to in as many weeks where the microphones alternated between too loud, too quiet, too crackly, too muffled and just wrong. Coupled with some very dodgy American/Latino accents it was often hard to make out what they were on about. Sort it out, sound people. All sound people. Just…Sort it out.

I was right to be concerned about the writing. Sorry Alan Janes. I am sure you are a great guy with a dog and a garden and feelings but my God…This show has been around for 25 years. It has been in the West End, Broadway, won awards and toured the world…God knows how much money Alan Janes has made from writing it. So I am sure he won’t care when I say that lazy doesn’t cut it. My little accurate parody I am currently composing that will be posted below must have taken longer than the actual dialogue from the show:

Local Manager: The people don’t want rock and roll Buddy! They want country! Sing country!

Buddy: No.

Local Manager: Ok. Here is a record contract. But you will have to give up your band, the Crickets.

Buddy: No.

Local Manager: Ok.

Recording Guy: What the hell was that?

Buddy: A song I wrote called ‘That’ll be the Day’ Good right?

Recording Guy: That was the worst song I have ever heard! (This actually happens leading to the audience actually booing)

(Buddy becomes a runaway success based on his talent and he sings some songs. Then he goes on to perform at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. He expects to be run out of town for being white but isn’t because he is good at singing songs and playing guitar.)

Two Black Cast Members: Buddy Holly is white and doesn’t know what we mean when we ask for a high five. White people be crazy, amiright Liverpool audience?

99.9% White Audience: * Shifts uncomfortably in seats *

Buddy: Racism can be cured by rock music! Hooray!

Act 2

Love Interest Woman: I like Buddy Holly

Buddy: I’m Buddy Holly. Marry me?

Love Interest Woman: I am a proud Spanish girl. That is literally it for me, character wise. The person who writes this blog can’t even be bothered to look up my name based on how I was portrayed and I bet I deserved better.

Crickets: We quit Buddy

Buddy: I am a bit sad but ok. Good luck to ya. I’m off on tour with the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens.

Love Interest Woman: No I reckon you will die if you do that and I am your wife and I love you. For reasons that have not been made clear in the scene and a half we have spent together.

Buddy: I won’t die. I’m pretty sure that is most unlikely

This conversation is followed by 45 minutes of filler where the house lights comes up and there is some audience banter, someone wins a prize due to having a special programme, and then we get song after song after song with no more dialogue or plot until we are reminded Buddy Holly, Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens all died in a plane crash and then they all sing a Chuck Berry song as quickly as possible so nobody in the audience is left lingering on the fact that Buddy Holly achieved more in 18 months than any of us will in a lifetime.

The End

And that is it. I can’t really put into words how angry it makes me to think that somewhere someone got paid some money for the script I watched getting performed. What passed for laughs included saying things like: ‘You will get famous when that Ray Charles fellow plays the White House’ and mentioning the name Roy Orbison. Yes. Just the fact that Roy Orbison existed was supposed to be enough to convince me to engage in this sloppily edited, spun and produced shlock. I should be GRATEFUL that Alan Janes read a biography on Holly and then told it like it probably happened. He must have done a little dance of joy when they were handing out musical biopics and he got Buddy Holly. Buddy Holly was ahead of his time, he was talented, he became successful and he died too young. That is all he had time to do. So instead of producing a character study, telling a complex story of how money and fame corrupts or, I don’t know, say anything about humans, the nature of success or even music, all Janes had to do was fit some terrible lines in amongst the songs. And he doesn’t even do it well. At all.

So why did I stay till the end? And why did I stand up and applaud and sing with everyone else at the end?

That’s an easy one.

The music of Buddy Holly sounds like this:

And this:

And this:

And the cast, who are also the orchestra, did a pretty good job and that is enough when the music is this great. A special mention is due to Roger Rowley (who alternates the role with Glen Joseph) who brought a huge amount of energy and joy to his portrayal of the scarily professional, bespectacled and much missed Holly. Plus he sings and plays very, very well.

Basically, what I was watching was a pretty good 50’s retrospective performed very well by a fairly accurate Buddy Holly impersonator. In fact, it would seem both actors have spent a good deal longer being Buddy Holly than Buddy Holly did. So why shoehorn in a plot at all? I have been to see a Blues Brothers Concert that was just that: It wasn’t the real John Belushi (believe it or not) and Dan Aykroyd but they were pretty close approximations and I could enjoy their renditions of ‘Soul Man’ and ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ without having to patiently suffer through the Saturday Night Live years performed awkwardly by faux Americans spouting clichés like: ‘The people don’t want X! They want Y Stop rocking the boat!’ before the characters rock the boat anyway like we all know they will because IT REALLY HAPPENED AND WE KNOW IT REALLY HAPPENED AND YOU CAN’T CREATE TENSION THROUGH IRONY IT DOESN’T WORK!

I am going off again but seriously. Two hours have passed and I am still angry by how this was both lazy and bad as biopics go. It stayed comfortably on the surface while coasting on music written years earlier. I only learned ONE new thing about Buddy Holly and even that is dubious as a quick google search can’t confirm that ‘Everyday’ was done in one take on a whim…But even if this turns out to be bollocks this was easily my favourite bit of the show and the moment I decided to stay till the end. As much as I rolled my eyes when audience members were manipulated into feeling something by being reminded that these songs exist, when Rowley started setting it up I felt my face break out in an honest to goodness smile. I beamed. Because it is a beautiful song. And they did a wonderful job.

And then the last 45 minutes or so, the final concert. It was fun. Despite myself, I danced. Because is it even possible to hear ‘La Bamba’ and remain still?

You leave shows like this feeling wonderful. Euphoric. High. And I did. But it is and was artificial. These songs are wonderful and they don’t need a musical, especially ones as awkwardly constructed as this to support them. Call it like it is. If Roger Rowley ever wants to tour as a Buddy Holly tribute act I will be there with bells on. However the next time Alan Janes writes and produces a show I want to be as far away as possible.

I love this song by the way. Rest in peace you magnificent young man. Thank you for making glasses cool, being a skinny teenager and a pin up at the same time without being totally lame and musically paving the way for The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

‘It’s not that I want to be rich. I just want the world to remember the name Buddy Holly’

Your wish is the world’s command, Buddy.

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My Top 100 Favourite Beatles Songs (Part 5)

 

My Top 100 Favourite Beatles Songs (50-41)

Dedicated with some love and a lot of pain to the memory of ACM without whom I never would have made lists with such pleasure, had such a happy introduction to The Beatles or existed.

50. If I Fell (1964)     Rolling Stone List Ranking: 26

Main Composer: Lennon

Another part to this list, another ‘Hard Day’s Night’ memory. I will always associate this song with the above clip where a grumpy Ringo is cheered up by Lennon as the four of them play around in a TV studio. It is both funny oddly appropriate that Lennon would romantically serenade his band mate with a plea to be true to him. They were so powerful and so young and the only people who could have known how that felt were The Fab Four themselves. Without love and dedication to each other, it never would have lasted as long as it did.

Taking the film out of my listening experience, no easy task, this is a beautiful song, an early Lennon ballad that he described as a precursor to some of his more poignant work on Rubber Soul. McCartney has in the past pointed to this as an example of Lennon’s warmth and ability to tap into his emotional side, a trait he was not always credited with. McCartney is considered the sentimentalist and Lennon the wit. And yet I find the lyrical content of this song quite…Unique. For the time. It isn’t just about asking someone to stay true and not hurt him: there are lots of moments where he reflects on how unhappy his ex-girlfriend will be when she finds out he is dating someone else. It is quite a bitter, needy, self involved love song and therefore it stands out for me compared to a lot of other 60’s love letter melodies.

Speaking of melodies, man is the tune not sublime? That combination of melancholy guitar, tight vocal harmonies and genuinely wondrous chords. It is so delicate, well paced, the intro is unique and is a great example of the four of them all working as a team to produce a distinctive sound.

When they toured in ’64 this was their only slow number and it suffered for it: It is hard to play a ballad this soulful when you have thousands of screaming girls rendering you unable to hear yourself sing. I couldn’t even listen to a live version of this, so distracting did I find their overwhelmed and overwhelming fans so God knows how they coped. Well the answer is clear. They didn’t. Soon it would be miming. And then the touring stopped. Mum was right. If you don’t appreciate your toys they get taken off you.

Favourite Bit: Tough one. I love the musical arrangement but I think the intro wins the day as it is what made me fall for the song. In particular the line ’cause I’ve been in love before, and I found that love was more… than just holding hands.’ You don’t say.

49. Got to Get You Into my Life (1966)     Rolling Stone List Ranking: 50 (so close!)

Main Composer: McCartney

This song is so joyful, like someone has just come away from an excellent first date and decided to throw a hopeful parade in celebration of the affection they feel for their new relationship. And that is pretty much what this song was inspired by…Sort of…

Listening to the soaring vocal, the jaunty horns and soulful expression of happiness it all sounds quite innocent, until the refrain of the title: ‘Got to get you into my life’ A trifle menacing, a little bit desperate and shouty…Who is McCartney so keen on? Who has he discovered that he needs every single day of his life?

Check the year. Check the album. Yes, this is a ‘Revolver’ track. You with me? This is a song written by McCartney about his brand new love affair…with drugs. And no, this is not like with ‘Lucy…’ where people have decided what the song is about based on subtext. McCartney calls this song his ‘ode to pot’ pointing out it is the same as someone writing about their love of chocolate.

This admission makes the lyrics, which are already good, even better. His declaration that he wants marijuana in good times or bad, for richer, for poorer, that he basically wants to take pot behind a middle school and get it pregnant, makes the happy clappy tambourine jam suddenly seem quite unhealthy and worrying. And then of course you think to yourself: Why was I ok with this chat when I thought it was about a woman? How is putting your hopes, dreams and fears on another human being any wiser than investing in drugs? Which is more likely to hurt you and leave you fucked in the head? Yeah that is right. I am getting DEEP guys.

I love the way the song fades out to McCartney shouting repeated phrases from the track…It works as a slightly ominous warning to the danger of obsessive love, of any sort. Whether it be a person, weed, food, boxsets, wine or all of the above…You will end up stuck on an endless loop of repetitive and destructive behaviour while trying to convince yourself it is still as good as it ever was between you. Hey, as long as it helps more than it hurts…right?

Favourite Bit: This is a great McCartney vocal throughout, apparently being high as a kite didn’t stop him singing good, but I love his barking delivery of the line ‘Got to get you into my life!’ The 60’s sounded fun. If only some people who were there had some stories about how good it was…

48. Here, There and Everywhere (1966)     Rolling Stone List Ranking: 25

Main Composer: McCartney

Another McCartney penned ‘Revolver’ track about committing to love only this one really was about a woman: Jane Asher. While they spent a lot of time apart pursuing their passions and did eventually split around ’68, she often inspired some wonderfully heartfelt tracks and some of the best work McCartney ever did. This song was penned while he was hanging out at Lennon’s waiting for him to wake up. He sat by the pool, strumming his guitar and it was done by the time his slumber-devoted bandmate emerged.

‘Here, There and Everywhere’ to me is like the audio equivalent of sunshine returning after a dark day. It is cautiously optimistic, like that little sigh after a string of sneezes. So sweet, soothing and contented. There are so many little touches that are simultaneously straightforward musical ideas and truly inspired moments of innovation. I wish I was more knowledgeable about musical stuff so I could tell you exactly what I mean…Ok let me try…How many male singers could get away with singing in falsetto for an entire track without really grating on the ear? Unlike others I could mention (Oh hi Chris Martin, how are the kids?) it doesn’t sound like he is showing off for the sake of it but creating a sound that worked for the tone of the track. McCartney remembers it as doing a Marianne Faithful impression. Look her up. He could have done well good on Stars on their Eyes.

And let’s not not forget his team mates: The other three are doing some solid and very basic back up work that does not overshadow McCartney’s vocal but does enhance the song and sound great. Then there is the wonderful contrast between the major chords in the verses and the tonic minor in the middle 8, that flows so neatly, assisting the narrative of the song, the aforementioned cautious optimism. After all, theirs was not an easy love affair. But it had its moments. This was one of them.

Favourite Bit: I love the shift in the ‘I want her everywhere’ sections, especially the ominous guitar scale running behind the scenes. Just dandy.

47. I Wanna Be Your Man (1963)     Rolling Stone List Ranking: N/A

Main Composer: McCartney (Lennon helped)

It might seem the behaviour of someone who is not well to place this song above some of the previously mentioned tracks. This sounds as rushed as it was and, after all, it is a Ringo vocal. Well I am not going to sit here and try and convince you this song outranks the likes of ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Please Please Me’ musically but then it might take me a while to write anything as hearing ‘I Wanna be Your Man’ always results in me standing up, throwing my head back and forth while dancing like I have been cast in ‘Pulp Fiction’ without pausing for breath for the entirety of its 2 minute run. And joining in the ‘owww!’ moments, naturally. I really like how much fun it is, right from that quick little intro to the yowling chorus…and then it is over. Oh. Ok. Just one more time…Sorry…excuse me…

8 plays later…Oh yeah. This writing…thing. Ok. So. The track was written for The Rolling Stones and they released it rather than The Beatles. This was actually The Stones’ second single. Really think about that. There was a time when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were new to the scene. They were…young. And didn’t resemble haunted trees in an animated film. And were apparently not confident enough in their own penmanship to compose all their own tracks. The story goes that The Beatles were hanging out with The Stones while they were recording (oh to be a fly on that wall) and offered up the half done track. They went off to a corner to complete the song, much the astonishment of The Stones who were inspired by the speed of the dream team and went on to do pretty well themselves as song writers. The early 60’s really were the stuff dreams were made of huh? As long as you were a young skinny white male with a guitar, I suppose.

While Brian Jones’s slide guitar sounds great on The Stones version I don’t like Jagger’s vocal nearly as much as Ringo’s. Ringo’s speed, his distinctive rhythm and his joyful ‘good golly’ Teddy Boy breathless wonderment just sells the hell out of this song for me.

Lennon was not complimentary, pointing out any song that was composed for the purpose of Ringo taking the lead that was then given away to a rival band was never going to be a song worthy of comment. I disagree mate, and here is my comment: It makes me dance all crazy. And Ringo lead to drummers being properly considered part of the band, with his little platform so he could be seen. And I like the song. So there. Ok that was quite a few comments…back to dancing! I wanna be your lover baby…I wanna be your man…

Favourite Bit: How fast it goes! Just speeds by! Wheee! Sorry I am off to dance again…

46. All I’ve Got to Do (1963)     Rolling Stone List Ranking: 97

Main Composer: Lennon

It has been said that this is the first rock and roll track where the bass player played chords as a vital part of the song. It has also been duly noted that this was Lennon trying to do his Smokey Robinson and the Miracles thing. It has been widely acknowledged that all of the guys wanted to be Smokey, and his vocal and musical influence is all over ‘Meet the Beatles.’ Another piece of trivia for you is they never performed this one live as the stop and start thing would have been too complicated to work out what with all the screaming kiddlers ruining the musical nuances parading the work of the Fab Four. It has also been said that another reason they never did it live is the other band members struggled to remember how it went, as they recorded it moments after Lennon played it for the first time to McCartney. It was not rehearsed or anything so nobody really knew what they were doing.

Now we have got all that out of the way let me say why this song ranks in the top half of my Beatles list. Had I been a teenager in the 60’s (wistful sigh) I suspect this track would have been the moment I starting sticking posters of Lennon on my bedroom wall, drawing hearts round his face on my record sleeves and doodling: ‘Mrs Emma Lennon’ on my work books. Seriously. I LOVE this vocal performance. It is just…dreamy. He is singing right at me. All he has to do is call and I will be there and we will kiss and it will be nice. Yeah!

Lennon was not a fan of his singing voice and once he discovered studio trickery would do anything to avoid hearing his voice in its purest form. As I have discussed in previous editions, McCartney had the technically superior voice but both of them had immeasurable strengths as leading men. Lennon’s vocal here carries weight as he has a way of injecting a lot of meaning into his lyrics without ever over egging it. His voice has this wonderful throaty quality that just carries through even when he is talking about the most generic things. And…Sigh. He just had to call on me. He just had to call on me.

Favourite Bit: Easily the emotional kick of the bridge, ‘You just gotta call on me’ and his little cry of ‘oh’ He was one of my first loves. Well crushes. And what is the difference anyway? When you feel it, it is real.

45. I’ve Just Seen a Face (1965)     Rolling Stone List Ranking: 58

Main Composer: McCartney

In the first part of this saga, I admitted that I started working on this list years ago. As a result, the order has shifted about quite a bit but I decided just to commit to the ranking I had chosen. Having said that, I really feel the need to confess that I have grown to adore this song, this song that I had not heard prior to my decision to gather all of their works together and listen to the albums in the order in which they were recorded, making notes as I went. This song. This wonderful, wonderful song. This song that makes my heart bounce. Forgive me James Paul McCartney. This deserves a much higher ranking than 45.

It is a straight up high tempo country song, right down to the slight twang on his Liverpudlian accent. From the intro, to the sing along chorus, the fast paced lyrics to the repeated howl of frustration: ‘Falling! Yes I am falling! And she keeps calling…me back again’ this is as loveable a 2 minute declaration of infatuation that ever I did hear y’all.

The lyrical wordplay matched with the dizzying pace is just perfect: Try singing along. It is harder than it looks. It is a surprisingly complex mash up of words that fall out in perfect order in the recording, but performing it live would be a challenge. McCartney has pointed out that it works because it is instant: Each line demands the next. It is a curious beast, pretty unique in style and execution (it is country/blue grass without a banjos and fiddles) and it stood out to me right away in how unlike the rest of The Beatles sound it is. Maybe that is why it has grown on me. It is not easily mixed up with another song. It is a glimmering jewel that is not trotted out whenever The Beatles get honoured for something. So when it pops up it is a delightful reminder of how easily, how comfortably, they could skip genres.

I always imagine someone singing this in a musical with a long tracking shot and lots of lamppost spinning a la Gene Kelly. That is what I see in my head. Sometimes, if I am in a good mood, it is me.

Favourite Bit: While I love the break neck speed of the verses and the twangy guitar, I get endless joy hollering: ‘Falling! yes I am falling! and she keeps calling…me back again’

44. You’ve Got to Hide your Love Away (1965)     Rolling Stone List Ranking: 31

Main Composer: Lennon

This is a seriously cool song. But I still can’t listen to it without singing in my best Bob Dylan voice. I mean…come on! Lennon went through a prolonged phase of idolising Zimmerman but this almost sounds like he had just given up being John and decided just to be a tribute act to his hero instead. Both Lennon and McCartney commented on it so I am not just being cynical. It really smacks of American folk music and Lennon growls and mumbles like the Godfather of jangly rock himself.

So why do I like it? Pretending to be Dylan kind of suits Lennon. Unlike Bob himself, Lennon can actually hit some notes and inject some honest to God feelings into his words and with the unusual absence of the other boys singing back up (press play again if you want to check) it comes across as a resigned, vulnerable confessional, performed by a folk pro. The chorus is memorable and there are some distinctive choices like the presence of both a tenor and an alto flute, snare, tambourine and maracas. With all of that going on, it should sound like an overstuffed mess but instead it sounds more stripped back and raw than ever. The perfect gazing out of a window while it rains song. And another that is barely 2 minutes long! How do they do that???

Some believe this was written as an ode to The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein who was gay but not openly so due to the fact that, get this, such ‘practice’ was still illegal in the UK at the time. Much has been written about Brian’s relationship with John, none of it conclusive. Some say they had sex, some say Brian wanted him but John wouldn’t hear of it, it has been said that John was so far in the closet that he was chilling with the fawns…I can’t really pretend to have any idea. Still 50 years have passed and there are still people out there who don’t like the idea of same sex relationships for…reasons. Reasons I can’t even pretend to comprehend or relate to but reasons that mean there are still many, many people who have to pretend, confess, tread softly, deny, announce, sacrifice and bury their thoughts and feelings in an attempt to remain on solid ground. So adding Brian’s fear, façade and painfully short life into the mix of what was already a pretty melancholy tune just highlights that Lennon wasn’t the only one needing help when The Beatles were at their height.

Favourite Bit: I love the musical arrangement, the little ‘hey’ in the chorus, but most of all I love the lyrics, especially the line: ‘Feeling two foot small’ It was supposed to be two foot tall but Lennon said small by accident and left it in commenting that: ‘the pseuds will love it’ He had a point.

43. I’m Looking Through You (1965)     Rolling Stone List Ranking: N/A (Seriously?!)

Main Composer: McCartney

I am quite shocked this didn’t cut it for Rolling Stone. So far, I have accepted that perhaps they know more than me but…Didn’t they love snarky McCartney? I LOVE snarky McCartney! It very nearly rhymes and man, was he passive aggressive when Asher had pissed him off. Those frustrated rocker growls at the end of the chorus, his snarling insistence that love has a ‘nasty habit’ of disappearing overnight, and his belief that he has seen though her. Ouch. I really love the melody, the melodrama of the lyric and McCartney’s vocal which has some great screamer moments. Also, Ringo plays a matchstick box. So what’s not to love about that??? Get it together Rolling Stone Magazine!

He actually wrote the song at her family home, where a lot of his post argument compositions came from. The emotional baggage is raw and selfish: She went to have her own career and he felt this meant he was free to find someone else as she was gone. This might be fair (wait for it) if he hadn’t been in the most successful and busy band of all time. And he really complained because she wanted to study acting in another city to the one he happened to be in??? Jeez Macca. Grow up.

In subsequent and countless interviews and biographies McCartney admitted he was very self involved at this age, he was so used to being nakedly admired and desired that he just couldn’t accept it when he didn’t get his way. It must be really interesting to be a musician and to write autobiographical songs like this and listen to it back cringing at your younger self. It must be like having your diary published or something. There you are, forever a twenty something, jumped up, ego maniac, who wasn’t ready to commit to a relationship with someone who didn’t worship you, like you felt you deserved. How do you deal with that? I suppose you can laugh about it. Or you can just convince yourself you are different now so it is ok. We all change and evolve and make room for the possibility that others may be just as important as us. Isn’t that right Paul?

Favourite Bit: Ooh the lower vocal on the bridge: ‘Why tell me why did you not treat me right? Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight’ Just…Just…God…I want to go back in time and slap him.

42. I Feel Fine (1964)     Rolling Stone List Ranking: 42 (Hey!)

Main Composer: Lennon

So was it? Do you know? I don’t.

So here it is. One of the most controversial and possibly ground breaking opening two seconds to any song ever in the whole entire universe.

Was it the first time anyone had ever used feedback on a record?

I don’t know. Nobody is paying me to do this. I am writing it for fun. So I don’t know. But for argument’s sake let us say it was at least one of the first. That is pretty good. Lennon claims it for The Beatles anyway as he defies anyone to find a record that did it deliberately. According to George Martin, feedback was a regular occurrence in Beatles Land as Lennon always turned the volume up too high on the amplifier causing that distinctive grumble that welcomes ‘I Feel Fine’ to the fold.

Let’s leave that particular moment aside and pay attention to what happens next. What a groovy riff. What a cool bit of guitar playing. Harrison is fairly dismissive of his and Lennon’s work on this track, pointing out any blues riff with that tempo sound this way, citing the similarity it has to a wonderful track by Bobby Parker called ‘Watch Your Step.’ He is not wrong. But still, ‘I Feel Fine’ has earned its right to be called unique: it has that wonderful shift in the middle 8 to a real happy ‘early days Beatles sound’ and then back to the runner about his baby loving him and feeling fine about it.

And then there is Ringo. Yes, ladies and gents. It is that time again where I try and convince you that Ringo is a good drummer. Nay, a great one. Open your ears. Look past the gloriously obvious. It is like…properly rhythmically interesting. And unique. And just…Ok guys come on please just admit he is good ok?! He is more than keeping up with the others and even adding some calypso flavouring to proceeding. Credit where credit is due. Plus in one of the promo videos he rides an exercise bike. So there’s that.

I enjoy the smugness of the lyric: ‘She’s in love with me and I feel fine’ Like: ‘Yep…job done’ I feel like it should be delivered by Burt Reynolds while he is reclining on a hammock. It is full of slightly sickly lines about ‘little girls’ (EWWW) but Lennon et co imbue the song with enough enthusiasm to make it a pleasure to listen to anyway. So the feedback was cool, the guitar sounds good, the drums are fantastic, it has elements of blues/rock/pop/folk/country/calypso, the vocals are charming…For once Rolling Stone and I agree and it feels finnnnnnne…

Favourite Bit: Has to be the intro. That riff, that sound…So awesome.

41. Helter Skelter (1968)     Rolling Stone List Ranking: 52

Main Composer: McCartney

While this should have been made clear by now, perhaps it needs to be said in very blunt terms: McCartney was a competitive mofo. Some have credited him with preemptively inventing heavy metal, a claim which is something of a stretch but it is hard to deny that ‘Helter Skelter’ is noisy. One of my favourite facts I have come across so far is that this crazy array of crashing, bashing and smashing was made possible by my other favourite band.

McCartney was farting about in Scotland when he read a piece talking about The Who’s ‘I Can See for Miles.’ Now the story is either that it was a review of the song or Townsend boasting about it and no source seems to share the same quote. But essentially the offending publication claimed that The Who had created the most outrageously loud and raunchy rock n roll track in the history of all the world ever. Intrigued, McCartney sought it out, expecting I Can See for Miles to be teeming with screaming vocals and heavy vibes…He felt underwhelmed by the song, as it was not what he was imagining and so set out to make his own raunchy, noisy mess. The result is of course, ‘Helter Skelter’

Oh and yes I know what/who this song is associated with and no I am not going to talk about it. That’s all I am going to say about that. You want to know more, you know where Google is.

McCartney also resented the stick he got for writing sentimental ballads and wanted to prove there was more to his abilities than that by writing a song about a children’s slide. Fair enough. Another way to read the lyrics is the language of a person who is out of their head on drugs. The boys went a bit method for this and all the people working at the studio, such as the sound engineer, agree that the group were somewhat under the influence during the recording of this song. The documented madness includes Lennon refusing to play the tune right and pissing about on a saxophone, Ringo screams of pain after playing the drums for several hours and Harrison setting fire to an ashtray before wearing it like a hat. It all sounds a bit like the Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland. With extra skunk and a baffled sound engineer looking on.

The Beatles are such a critically acclaimed band that they have become a very easy target for music snobs in recent years: To say you don’t like The Beatles makes a hell of a statement, like you are against the idea of music that people of all ages, backgrounds and interests can relate to and just want to sit in a darkened room enjoying music that only you and a niche group of people ‘get.’ My point is, The Beatles are generally regarded and accepted as one of the best and most important things to happen to music, full stop. That is why it is always interesting to me to come across a track like this one where the critics, both then and now, are divided. The boys have plenty songs that people dismiss as ‘not their best work’ but this one seems to be polarising: People either think it was them at the peak of their innovation with ‘Helter Skelter’ paving the way for Metal itself or they think it the groaning, clumsy work of a bunch of hippies high off their own power. And drugs.

Me? I fall somewhere in the middle in that I love it, I really love listening to it, but artistically I think it is total nonsense. But who cares? I don’t. Not when I get to hear that McCartney scream. As I have said, it is my favourite colour in his vocal, when he really lets rip, and it is on great form here. I love the trippy, out of tune bass and saxophone, I love the way it descends into noisy cymbals and strange gurgling guitars, I love the confident intro, the taunting lyrics, the false ending and the way the noise fades in again and I love, love, love the unprocessed moment of Ringo throwing down his drums sticks, following Lennon innocently asking ‘How was that?’ and howling: ‘I’VE GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS!’ I love that they kept that take, I love they didn’t polish this particular turd, because this song was meant to sound raw and heavy. A furious crashing of buzzing joy, simultaneously a shot of adrenalin and a song that crushes your spirit.

I will always have a place in my soul for ‘Helter Skelter,’ one of the most gloriously untidy songs the Fab Four ever produced. Even though when I am listening to it I am impatiently waiting for that ending…Possibly my favourite way any song has ever concluded.

Favourite Bit: Never has the question been easier. Say it with me now: ‘I GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS!!!’

Next Time…The band flirt with getting political, Lennon thinks his bum looks big in this and the music world is set alight by the arrival of a military man…40-31

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Reviewing Number One Singles from the Year 2002 (Part 1)

Reviewing British Number One Singles from the Year 2002: January-End of June

Welcome back to my journey through the songs that topped the charts when I was a teenager as I look at them with an adult eye and attempt to say whether or not the deserve the unconditional love of nostalgia that my generation currently awards them.

Now in previous versions of this I have included Youtube comments to demonstrate that, yes, people genuinely and without any self awareness try and claim that these songs were so much better than the music of today. However, Youtube has gone a bit weird lately and now the comments are harder to read and therefore I can’t be arsed trying to find funny comments anymore. Sorry. Blame Youtube getting cosy with Google Plus. Sluts.

 

Date of Number 1: 19.01.2002
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Aaliyah
Song Name: More than a Woman
Fact: The first woman ever to have a posthumous chart topper in the UK. She was only 22 when she died in a plane crash.

My Take: My first thought was: ‘This has to be a Timbaland song’ His production touches have a very distinctive stamp and it elevates this song beyond generic RnB with some cool sound effects, a slamming beat and some wacky guitar work.

The internet’s truth on this song is it demonstrates that Aaliyah was a genius. Well…I was not aware of her prior to her death and so coming at it not knowing her back catalogue…The song does not gain anything from her performance. She didn’t write it at all and her vocal is just ok…Not unique, pretty light and frothy, only notable in that she does her best to make it sound like the lyrics mean anything. At one point I was sure she was accusing this guy of having ‘newborns in your closet’ which was a worrying twist but it turns out it was ‘new bones in your closest’ which is actually a bit of clever wordplay and not an attempt at chilling surrealism.

The video is classic 2002: She is on a motorbike, in a futuristic room, then there is the crappy dance routine culminating in trying to be sexy with a hankie…the standard spec. I was laughing until it got to the bit about the video being dedicated to the memory of Aaliyah. That was a bummer.

So, to give her the benefit of the doubt, I went back and listened to some of her other songs and found out she was the 90’s Lorde: A teenage prodigy, self assured and confident beyond her years. Fair enough, she was talented. She has a nice upper range and seemed pretty savvy. But…I just can’t listen to this kind of music with any sort of enthusiasm. Mid tempo RnB is just so forgettable. Even if Aaliyah herself isn’t.

Did I own it: No. I don’t think I was aware of this song at the time either.

Could I sing along now: No. I could give you ‘more than a woman…more than a…hmnhmhm…’ Before launching into the Bee Gees song ‘More than a Woman’ almost by default. Now there is a catchy song.

Worth remembering: Oh God. No. If you like it and miss her then…carry on. It is proper sad that she was not able to keep being alive, what a horrible thing for those who loved her. But the song doesn’t do anything for me.

 

Date of Number 1: 26.01.2002
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: George Harrison
Song Name: My Sweet Lord
Fact: The first time in chart history that a dead singer took over from another dead singer. This is the second time ‘My Sweet Lord’ got to number 1, having topped the charts exactly 31 years earlier.

My Take: What can I say that hasn’t already been said? The answer is nothing so allow me to repeat the obvious: Harrison was just a babby when The Beatles made it big and in a band filled with big egos and lots of strange haircuts he plugged away carving out his song writing voice despite not receiving a huge amount of encouragement from his buddies. When The Beatles ended in a storm of Japanese artists and hurt feelings, Harrison had quite a lot of songs to share with the world.

‘All Things Must Past’ is generally considered the gold standard of Beatle solo albums and with good reason. But ‘My Sweet Lord’ is possibly most famous for the plagiarism controversy that genuinely rocked the musical world at the time. Harrison’s ode to the Hindu God bared more than a passing resemblance to the Ronnie Mack penned Chiffon hit ‘He’s So Fine.’ Whoops. Harrison’s response was that any plagiarism was subconscious as he had actually been intending to nick the melody of ‘Oh Happy Day’ a non-copyrighted classic Christian feel good number. Err…Good point?

Ok, so the similarity is undeniable and it is clear that ‘My Sweet Lord’ is not an entirely original song but I feel it is significant that of the many songs penned by the Quiet Beatle it was this one that was reissued and sent soaring to the top of the charts in the wake of his death. George did not have the strongest vocal and yet here he is powerfully and beautifully capturing the excitement and melancholy of life and death in one assured and well pitched performance. Plus he is an excellent guitar player meaning that the song is elevated beyond a spiritual call to something decidedly more rocky, which is cool. I am deeply moved by this combination, as it is fitting tribute to one of the coolest artist in pop/rock history and an acknowledgement that wherever we go after we die it is a hell of an exciting trip. After a long battle with cancer, I feel Harrison more than earned the right to see whatever he hoped to see.

Did I own it: No although I have it now and also the Billy Preston version from the Concert for George that was put together by his chums. If you watch the concert you see his son Dhani playing guitar and it is spooky how much of Harrison’s double he is. Death is an illusion in many ways. On we go and we go on. Especially musicians.

Could I sing along now: Yes, for the most part. The lyrics are pretty repetitive but I am not one for memorising prayers so I usually just howl my favourite bit about how it takes so long.

Worth remembering: Yes. It is not my favourite of Harrison’s but it is a fitting tribute to the man and his work: He was not always a good guy but boy could he play guitar.

 

Date of Number 1: 02.02.02 (Hey!)
Number of weeks at the top: 4 (Wow. Really?)
Artist: Enrique Iglesias
Song Name: Hero
Fact: His first number 1 but his Dad topped the charts in 1981.

My Take: Wow. I can’t even remember a time when this song wasn’t a punchline. It is the ultimate in saccharine, tacky ballad bullshit and I don’t tend to interact with people who listen to music like this sincerely and as a result I was shocked to see that not only was this song a hit it was popular enough with the masses to remain at the top for four weeks. Seriously?!

It has instant creep factor with him whispering earnestly ‘Let me be your hero’ I had the volume turned up too high by accident and jeez Louise that was sinister. Can we all just stop and consider what a creepy sentiment this is??? Can you even be a self proclaimed hero or is that a paradox? If you start craving attention, credit and reward surely you cease to be, in any way shape or form, a hero? Mr Iglesias seems to be suggesting that if he successfully kisses away my pain and stands by my side then he will be my hero. How arrogant can you get??? I would expect my partner to be emotionally supportive and present in my life without needing a fucking award ceremony for it.

Also it sounds like that kid in class who always wanted to get picked first: ‘I can do it miss! Miss! MISS! I can do it! Let me be the hero yeahyeah yeah…Miss? I cut myself on the safety scissors when I tried to cut my own tongue!’

Oh, Oh and he sounds like one of those guys who is perpetually single but always whining about all the ways he would look after his girlfriend if a real life woman would actually give him the chance. Cause there is nothing sexier than a man who feels the need to assure the various women in his life that he respects women?! Again, this should really, really go without saying.

Oh, Oh, Oh, also, (this is great, this song is so bad it is like Christmas, which gift should I open next???) The whole ‘would you dance if I asked you to dance?… Would you save my soul tonight?… Would you die for the one you love?’ shit is like the kind of things teenagers in their first relationships ask each other to ‘test’ if it is totezforreals. He was in his 20’s. No excuse.

I love that Jennifer Love Hewitt is in this video…Hello 2002! And, I returned to the video at the end of the first chorus only to come face to face with Mickey Rourke which is always startling when you are not expecting it. Mickey Rourke really needed Sin City and The Wrestler didn’t he? Poor bastard…Hold the phone: Enrique just punched Micky Rourke!!! This is my favourite thing that has ever happened!!!

Oh, and he just wants to hold you…all night…yep that’s all…Fast forward 10 years and he is singing about fucking but nope…back in 2002 he just wanted to listen to you read poems from your journal, play with your hair and tell you what a special snowflake you are.

Wait…Did…Did he just die because Micky Rourke punched his necklace off him? And then he waited for the night and rain to actually die cause it was more dramatic?? What is going on????

As you can see I am losing control a bit. There is so much material and so little time. Basically, this song is dreadful. Utter tosh. Nauseatingly tender. You know what though? I hadn’t forgotten it. It has endured. So I will give it that much credit. This song lives on…Even if nobody respects it.

Did I own it: Oh hells no. Cause I am neither a recipient of a lazy Mother’s Day gift nor permanently in an elevator. I used to work in a chemist though. And yes. This album was inflicted on me. A lot. It also had the Spanish version of this song. This did not improve things in my life.

Could I sing along now: Like I said, it is catchy. So I can sing along with the chorus. But only while vomiting.

Worth remembering: Hmmm…I am going to go with no. Don’t worry Micky Rourke. Your career is going to get a second wind. JL Hewitt? I have some bad news…

 

Date of Number 1: 02.03.2002
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Westlife (fucking…Booooo!)
Song Name: World of our Own
Fact: Their 10th number 1 making them one of only 4 artist to achieve double figures in the chart topping stakes. The other 3 being Elvis, Cliff Richard and The Beatles. Screw you record buying public. Screw. You.

My Take: Ahhh…they are trying to be cool. One of them has a fedora. Just…No. No Westlife. Take That are going to come back soon and nobody is going to care about any of you. Even their own Mum’s couldn’t pick them out of a line up nowadays.

Should I attempt to put my petty hatred of Westlife aside and talk about the song? No. As I have explained I can’t tell you how good their music is because I just see them…Their awful, boring, smug faces. Fuck them. Suits…Bridge…Key change…NO! Fuck. Them.

Did I own it: Yes. I listened to it every day and drew hearts around Shane. No I fucking didn’t.

Could I sing along now: Meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh….I assume.

Worth remembering: Already forgotten. When does the Westlife end??? When????????

 

Date of Number 1: 09.02.2002
Number of weeks at the top: 3
Artist: Will Young
Song Name: Anything is Possible/Evergreen
Fact: Stamped all over the Hear’Say record for biggest selling début and was the best selling single of the year.

My Take: Back to life, back to reality…

Nobody saw this coming. Not really. The star of Pop Idol 2002 was indisputably the little 17 year with the spiky hair and the speech impediment. The media knew it. Simon Cowell knew it. Ant and Dec knew it. Even his name screamed pop idol: Gareth Gates.

Then there was the posh guy who was the last auditionee of the show who seemed to be having a laugh, dancing around to ‘Blame it on the Boogie’ Watch that first audition and ask yourself: Would someone that low key, so not fussed even be permitted to cross the threshold of the TV talent market today???

So how did Will Young, against all the odds, become the first of many Reality TV solo artists to win a big prize and a big ‘I did it’ song? Was it his pleasant, versatile vocal? The moment he politely told Cowell that his criticisms were wrong? Or was the TV watching world just so confident that Gates would wipe the floor with any of the competition that it just sat back to wait for his inevitable triumph?

I don’t doubt for a second that if it had been like Hear’Say and the judges got to choose the winner that Gates would have won. The invasion of Reality TV music hadn’t quite got off the ground yet: It was all still very low rent, very simple, the stakes were highish but everyone was just having a nice time…And that was how an upper middle class young man whose dream date was tea with the Queen came to victory.

The fact is…Will Young was the better singer and more accomplished performer. But we know that does not necessarily guarantee success in the craziest of industries. If you listen to ‘Evergreen’ you can hear that is was designed for the forgone conclusion that was Gareth’s victory. From the fact that it is a sodding Westlife cover and Gates sang Westlife at his first audition, right down to the talk of some beautiful girl he wants to impress with his Idol victory. Young came out shortly after the show finished and while his songs are not gender specific most of the time I can’t see him being happy about singing such generic heteronormative lyrics.

‘Anything is Possible’ is even worse though, and I don’t even remember this song being played on the radio at all, despite it being part of a Double A Side that is one of the most successful records of the 21st Century so far. But the songs must have had something going for them to sell so many copies right? You know what? I will let Will Young himself field this one…:

‘I’ve never done ‘Anything is Possible’ live. I hate it. I absolutely hate it…I can’t bear ‘Evergreen’ or ‘Anything is Possible’, they’re absolutely shocking. And you wouldn’t believe the amount of money that was spent on those videos. F**king hell! Dreadful videos. At one moment it looks like I’m in love with a tree! Dreadful. Really odd. Dreadful. No, no, no. No.’

God bless you Will Young. You are pretty awesome and actually talented. You won a TV talent contest without selling out your personal tragedies, difficulties or by crying lots. You patronised the record mogul Cowell by explaining that you were far from an average talent and then beat him at his own game. You did a couple of shit songs and then started doing your own thing. For that and for so much more you have my respect and some of my money. But not for these songs. Never these songs. These songs are everything that is wrong with TV tie-in music. And yet the worst is yet to come…

Did I own it: I may have bought ‘Pure and Simple’ but I have my limits. Neither of these songs are proper songs. Fact.

Could I sing along now: The chorus of Evergreen. Sort of. It was played a lot at the time. He sounds great. Doesn’t save the song though.

Worth remembering: Nope. Will Young’s shock victory is still awesome many years later but the songs have long been relegated to the shoe box of time.

Number of weeks at the top: 4
Artist: Gareth Gates
Song Name: Unchained Melody
Fact: The 4th time this song topped the charts. Also Gates was the aforementioned runner up to Young. Simon Cowell was not going to let this stammering cash cow slip away, second place be damned.

Also, how come the words ‘Unchained Melody’ don’t ever feature in the song? I actually know the answer to this because I am currently attached to an Everything Machine but imagine for a second I wasn’t: Why is it called that??? Why???

My Take: If my chat about Pop Idol bores you…You may want to skip this one. Yes, Simon Cowell did sign the runner up Gates as his plan was to make the kid a star and he wasn’t going to let the small fact that SOMEONE ELSE WAS VOTED THE WINNER OF THE SHOW stand in the way. Gates had performed this song on the show and I am pretty sure he even wore the same white suit that he has on in the video. Bit of a kick in the teeth for the actual victor to release it so close to his own single: Like Cowell way saying ‘No…THIS is a Pop Idol’

And so he is…Kind of. He is singing a very old karaoke standard with boyish enthusiasm with earnest ‘crouching with the microphone’ poses. He has a gappy smile and meaningful eyes but it is very very boring. The song is not one I am especially fond of anyway: It has a cool doo-wop melody but it is often performed so slowly (Like the songs says!) and gets old really fast. Even people who claim to like it, I imagine, can’t sit through the whole thing. This version in particular seems to go on forever. Gates can actually sing but his lack of life experience and -aww-gee-imma-popstar-Maw! delight makes the experience of listening to this as exciting and memorable as eating paper: You might think of it once in a while and go: ‘Why did I do that? It didn’t taste of anything and it took ages!’

See, this kind of single is the reason I have very little respect and quite a bit of contempt for S Cowell and friends. I would not consider myself a musical snob: There are plenty of reality TV popstars whose music I have bought willingly and without regret. Hell, one reality TV act is right up there as one of my favourites of all time. OF ALL TIME. We will get to that later. I am not saying that releasing songs written by other people or getting famous from a format like this means you have to turn in your artist badge. However, I really resent Cowell acting like he knows and understands music. He doesn’t. He knew that if he rushed this release out it would probably do well. This is a tried and tested song performed by a lovely little choir boy. Cha-Ching.

But Cowell isn’t trying to create interesting, innovative or even new music. He promises short term exposure and nothing more. The man got a Number 1 with the teletubbies. And signed puppets Zig and Zag. And gave Robson and Jerome a musical career. This man is not in it for the love of music. He likes money and big numbers. This is what he knows. And even this he had to learn after failing a lot. So why does he act so smug and make declarations like: ‘That song is one of the best songs ever written’ like he KNOWS what makes a good song? He doesn’t. He is a second-hand car dealer at best. He plays it safe and sleazy. And cheap. Really, really, cheap.

I am not telling you anything you didn’t already knows. But think what a man with that much power and influence could do if he had a passion for music? A true love for creativity? But nope. Let’s just release another version of another Righteous Brothers cover and clock off early.

Did I own it: No. I secretly thought Gareth Gates was a bit crap.

Could I sing along now: Yes. Is it possible to go through your life without hearing these lyrics? Most of them have sunk in anyway.

Worth remembering: No. If I could get rid of this song all together I probably would.

 

Date of Number 1: 27.04.2002
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Oasis
Song Name: The Hindu Times
Fact: Their 6th Number 1, 7 years after their first.

My Take: I am not a massive Oasis fan but it was refreshing to have something like this after listening to the clean production that pervades Pop Idol singles. This is a good example of psychedelic rock that has a fresh, happy sound without being too twee. It has a faux nostalgia vibe that I often quite like in my rock songs.

Having said that, I find that Liam’s vocal grates on me pretty much always. I much prefer Noel…In every regard come to think of it. Plus, as with ALL of Oasis’s big hits, this song appears to be a rip off of at least 4 different tracks. I know it is very hard to come up with wholly original material, there are only so many chords I am sure, but Jesus: This is one part Stereophonics, one part Abba (Listen to ‘Does your Mother Know’ and tell me I am wrong) possibly half ‘Street Fighting Man’ by the Stones and, as always, a sprinkling of Beatles. It reminds me of ‘Rain’ in particular. It wouldn’t bother me if they were not so arrogant about their abilities.

This was regarded as a pretty killer comeback song. I am not a huge fan. I would take Beatles, Stones, Abba and Phonics (in that order) over Oasis. But I would take Oasis over Gareth Gates so…Cheers guys.

Did I own it: No but I did buy the album it came from ‘Heathen Chemistry’ It contains the one Oasis song with Liam vocals I actually really like and I still give it a listen now and then.

Could I sing along now: No. Not at all.

Worth remembering: Nope. I am sure Noel Gallagher is crying into his Cookie Dough ice cream somewhere…

 

Date of Number 1: 04.05.2002
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Sugababes
Song Name: Freak Like Me
Fact: This was the first single to contain new member Heidi. It was a cover of a 90’s hit by American singer Adina Howard.

My Take: Ah the Sugababes. They appeared on the scene with a genuinely brilliant slice of electro pop pie called ‘Overload’ presenting a fascinating combination of musical assurance and no desire to be popstars at all. If you go back and watch them on TOTP you see the audience are cheering and dancing while the Babes stare deep into the camera as if daring you to point out that this is all a bit artificial and shit. They look so sodding miserable. Then they slide of their stools and dance awkwardly. It is just wonderful.

The three girls, Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan, had been making music since the age of about 13 and now at the ripe old age of about 15, were ready for the world to hear what they were made of. But teenage girls are not exactly known for being stable and secure in themselves so the horrors of fame hit them hard. Despite the moderate success of their début album One Touch, Siobhan had grown weary of both her bandmates and her punishing management and so legged it. It looked like bye bye to the Babes…

As with Atomic Kitten before them, a blonde Liverpudlian with an average voice was recruited to make up numbers and a killer tune was released just in time to save their career. Phew! Although at what cost?

There is a small number of people with nothing better to do (including myself) who like to argue about which generation of Babes was the best. The answer is, of course, subjective. However it is undeniable that the changing of the guards lead to a shift in sound. Their ‘Freak Like Me’ was a dance number that also sampled a Gary Numan track that was created by underground producer Richard X using the Howard version. But after failing to get permission from her to release the song he recruited the Babes. Mutya and Keisha are both talented song writers who were creatively very involved in their first album…How did they feel about their first really massive hit being a cover version? Did it sting at all? No idea. Does it matter? Not really.

It is a bangin’ (yes bangin’) song and it is hard to object to it on an artistic level: At least they didn’t just copy what made the original successful. It still sounds great, a genuinely slick mash up with a grimy feel that told the world it is ok for girl groups to get down and dirty. Only…Looking back on it their performance isn’t as convincingly nasty as Howard’s (the awesome Mutya comes close to meeting the standard but Heidi and Keisha are pretty light) and it doesn’t seem like the essential listening it did when I was 14. How disappointing.

But don’t worry…The Babes are not done yet…’Overload’ may have got people to sit up and notice them ‘One Touch’ may have done pretty good but ‘Freak Like Me’ had taken them to the big leagues and this was only the beginning.

Did I own it: Yes! I did buy this one and very pleased with it I was too. I still have Freak Like Me on my itunes but, as I said, it doesn’t do it for me the same way it did in 2002.

Could I sing along now: Absolutely. Although I feel silly. Because it is usually on when I am doing dishes in my pyjamas and therefore lines like ‘I’ll take you round the hood on a gangsta lean…’ seem pretty much the most ridiculous claim I can make. I am sure my neighbours mock me.

Worth remembering: Hmmm…Yes. It may not stand out to me as much anymore but that intro alone earns it a spot in the pop history books.

 

Date of Number 1: 11.05.2002
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Holly Valance
Song Name: Kiss Kiss
Fact: The third Neighbours actors to get a UK Number 1

My Take: At the time, I was all: ‘Look! Flick from Neighbours has released a song!’ Because I watched Australian soaps. And I remember there was a mild amount of fuss over her being all sexy and that. I have just watched the video and I don’t really see what the palaver was about. She is rocking the just got out the shower look fine but…Meh. I have worked in retail and therefore have dressed naked mannequins before. It is pretty much that.

So the track, I hear you cry, what of it? This song had already proven to be a tried and tested hit throughout Europe. It was originally performed by a Turkish dude called Tarkan and has been covered by a whole heap of people in a whole heap of languages. It was translated to English in 2001 and released by someone called Stella Soleil. And so this was the song that Holly launched her singing career with. But her version was different cause…She was nearly naked in the video and that.

I don’t like kissy sounds on songs, but I do like dramatic Arabic pop so…I’m torn. I don’t really feel the track overall but it was quite a good grinding on the dance floor number. I bear no ill will towards Holly but there was nothing about this that suggested she was going to be the next big thing. I had forgotten all about it and her until today. Maybe should have stuck with Neighbours. It pays a steady wage, Holls.

Did I own it: No. I remember we danced to it at my Saturday stage school once…How inappropriate.

Could I sing along now: No…I sort of mumbled along with the chorus.

Worth remembering: No. The Turkish version is actually more fun.

 

Date of Number 1: 18.05.2002
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Ronan Keating
Song Name: If Tomorrow Never Comes
Fact: A cover version of a country song by Garth Brooks. Ronan’s third and final (hallelujah) number one.

My Take: So far there have been about 3 completely original tracks as Number 1’s in the year 2002. Jesus. Like I have been saying: people are far too kind about my generation’s music. Case in Point: We were still letting the bland, cheesy, awful vocal stylings of one Ronan Keating top the charts.

While I am sure his version is much worse than the original, a safe bet, I can’t imagine the song working any better as a country track. It is all very middle of the road musings about ‘Gee? What if I die before I show my girl how much I love her?’ and it is very boring but at least it might sound vaguely meaningful if performed well but with all the standard pop production touches like drum beats and strings created by a machine it just sounds dull as hell.

The only advantage of this being on the list was the truly awful video which was made in such a rush that you can clearly see the crew in the shots where Ronan is watching his sleeping love and the car accident green screen effects are pretty appalling. So when his girlfriend reacts in her sleep to his ‘death’ and the crowd of people look horrified I like to think they are actually reacting to the shoddy video and not the untimely end of Keating.

Also when are lyricists going to learn that watching someone sleep is NOT romantic? Just creepy. Seriously. Just weird. Nope. Never cool. Honest. Doesn’t work. Just makes me think the singer is really wrong.

Did I own it: I did not

Could I sing along now: I will not

Worth remembering: Ok…I hate Ronan’s voice and everything he stands for. So no. But I will give him this: This is one of his better vocal performances: he doesn’t overdo it and while it is still crap it is not the worst I have ever heard him do. So well done mate. Now piss off and don’t darken my door again.

 

Date of Number 1: 25.02.2002
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Liberty X
Song Name: Just a Little
Fact: These were the 5 runner ups from the TV talent show Popstars from 2001. They formed a group and got signed by Richard Branson. This was their first and only number 1.

My Take: Now here is another interesting reality TV tale…Once upon a time the producers and judges on Popstars selected 5 people to be in a group. Kevin, Tony, Kelli, Jessica and Michelle (I didn’t need to look up their names. I didn’t pass Standard Grade Chemistry but this I remember) were told: No thanks. They decided they would form their own group and get signed. They soldiered on in the face of media mirth (before they had even released a song they were dubbed Flopstars. Get it?!) and name disputes: They had to change their name from Liberty to Liberty X. Despite such sacrifices they kept going…and the Pop Gods rewarded them with this…

‘Just a Little’ works because it is fun. Kelli, Jessica and Kevin are vocally on pretty good form (Michelle and Tony…were also there) and are clearly having a ball, there is a silly spy video with ridiculous PVC outfits, the lyrics are hilariously patronising to the intended recipient (imagine actually saying to someone ‘you’re so innocent…please don’t take this wrong cause it’s a compliment’) and yet it is…God save me…kind of cool. Yep. I don’t know how or why but it is a groovy pop song. If you can explain it…please do.

In a way, ‘Just a Little’ was the worst thing that could have happened to Liberty X. With this song they surpassed Hear’Say commercially and critically winning a Brit Award and achieving international recognition…But the only way was down and they were not able to reach the dizzying heights of ‘Just a Little’ ever again. The name of the song was fitting. They would be allowed just a little peek into the kingdom of pop royalty…They caught a glimpse of Elton John and Prince chilling in the jacuzzi…Before the door was slammed in their faces. It takes more than one song to make an impressive career.

Did I own it: Not only did I buy it I used to declare it ‘my song’ whenever I went out dancing, which is proper cringey now. My previous flatmates spent quite a long time trying to guess what ‘my song’ was as I promised if they guessed it I would dance on the closest piece of furniture whenever it came on wherever we were. Despite my Rumpelstiltskin type deal with the Pop devils, they never did guess Liberty X. I guess they gave me too much credit. Ha! Losers!

Could I sing along now: Yes. As with ‘Freak Like Me’ I do feel silly but nonetheless…Sexy…Everything about you so sexy…

Worth remembering: Yes. It has dated a bit and it is a better song than the act in question deserved but it remains a good song. Honest.

 

Date of Number 1: 01.06.2002
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Eminem
Song Name: Without Me
Fact: With this, his third Number 1, he became the most successful rapper in UK chart history.

My Take: You got to give it to him: He knows how to make an entrance. It was always genuinely exciting to hear his lead single off of each new album and I vividly recall applauding at my TV at the sound of ‘Guess whose back…back again…’

Having said that I always preferred his ‘serious’ singles and I didn’t tend to buy the ones where he just took random jabs at celebrity culture while dressing up in lots of outfits. ‘Without Me’ is definitely in the same vein as ‘The Real Slim Shady’ in that he complains that he has created an alter ego he can’t control and everyone wants to be as awesome as him but the charts are stale and crap without him…He is not wrong. His flow is still sharp, even if the joke is getting somewhat tired.

Did I own it: No. I enjoyed the Batman and Robin (Dre and Slim) video at the time though.

Could I sing along now: Yes. Na-na-na-na-na…Na-na-na-na-na…

Worth remembering: I suppose so. He has some better ones coming up in the not too distant future…

 

Date of Number 1: 08.06.2002
Number of weeks at the top: 2
Artist: Will Young
Song Name: Light my Fire
Fact: A cover version of a Doors song. The Doors version only got to Number 49 when it was released in 1967

My Take: Oh hi Will that was fast. This was easily Will’s best performance on Pop Idol so it is not that shocking to see it chart not 3 months after his victory. It was probably a smart move on the label’s part to hold off releasing this till a more summary month as it has a very pims in the park feel to it. Will’s voice sounds good and the song itself is a nice track. Not much else to say about it. Still not an especially creative moment but a cooler cover than ‘Unchained Melody’ and a hell of a lot better than ‘Evergreen’

Oh wait, if you want to see Will Young completely mortified watch his performance of this song on World Idol a dreadful idea where all Idol winners from across the globe joined together for the first and final time to compete, Eurovision style, to be crowned the ultimate Idol. Mortal Kombat! Both he and Kelly Clarkson looked like they had been brought there in ropes with their families being held hostage in another room. It is ok guys. You will be free from your contractual obligations soon.

Did I own it: No. Sorry Will, ol’ buddy.

Could I sing along now: I can give you the chorus if you’d like

Worth remembering: I don’t know when I got so keen on Mr Young…I kind of want to say yes but my head says no. In fact, I’d bet even Will would say no. His best is yet to come.

 

Date of Number 1: 22.06.2002
Number of weeks at the top: 4
Artist: Elvis Presley vs JXL
Song Name: A Little Less Conversation
Fact: Released 25 years after Elvis died it became his 18th Number 1

My Take: Damn. Sometimes remixes do work pretty well. One of Elvis’s less well known songs made for one of his many movies, it was brought to the attention of Dutch musician Tom Holkenborg better known as JXL (fair enough) after it was used in the blockbuster Ocean’s 11 in 2001. He lowered Elvis’s vocal, emphasised the funky drumming, added some electronic joy and abracadabra: He had a hit worthy of that rare honour…A pardon from the Elvis Estate. Yep, it became the first song to feature Mr Presley that was allowed to be remixed. Add football to the story and you have a monster of a track on your hands. Yes it didn’t hurt that it was a World Cup Year. And this song is like sporty adrenalin to the ears…Cha ching. Well done JXL.

This is a seriously cool version of this song, I love the horns, the guitars, the drumming, the crazy jumps, the tempo shifts, Elvis sounds great as do the backing vocals and it is just made for mad dancing. This is how you sample a song: You take a famous singer, find a song that nobody really knows by them and you make it modern. I especially appreciate the echoy, ominous use of the King himself…Like he is reaching out from beyond the grave to remind us to drink coca cola and watch football. Aces.

Did I own it: Yes. This grew on me gradually as I recall but I did love it.

Could I sing along now: Yes. But I’d rather dance…

Worth remembering: Yes. It works. Good work summer 2002!

 

 

Next Time… Eminem finds himself a contender for Oscar night, we get a Mediterranean novelty song and Reality TV continues to dominate with the most appalling collaboration I have ever forgotten about and possibly the best début by any group ever…No I am not kidding…I will stand by them forever…The greatest thing to happen to pop since Abba arrives…July-December 2002

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Reviewing Number One Singles from the Year 2001 (Part 2)

Reviewing British Number One Singles from the Year 2001: July-End of December

Date of Number 1: 07.07.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 1

Artist: Hear’Say

Song: The Way to Your Love

Fact: Their last chart topper. But people are still surprised they got two so…good going?

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘HEAR SAY HAVE TO GET BACK TOGETHER!!!!’

My Take: Ok confession: I used up all of my Hear’Say material in my previous post. In my defence, most unimaginative creators of one hit wonder play list would include these guys. Who remembers that they had a ‘good’ 3 or 4 more singles before they broke up?

So let us have a listen…It is telling I couldn’t find the official video. On YOUTUBE. I had to make do with a lyric video. Really think about that. It was not just me who forgot this song then.

Oh God. This is not great. The lyrics are so generic, I am forgetting them while I am listening to the song. It has that pop scrabble bag/bingo card quality:

‘What does the pop magic 8 ball say Bill?’
‘It says: We’ve got each other and that is all I ever need to know’
‘That will do’

One of the girls really can’t sing her verse very nicely, and due to the aforementioned rush to get the album out before we all forgot them there is not time to fix this or even make the orchestration sound better than a grade 5 keyboard player.

Having said that there are two things I like about it. That is right. Two things. At the end of the chorus there is an ominous note before the cheery verses start up again. I like that. It is like it is going: ‘Shit might get real.’ It never does but the promise remains. Also I do enjoy drama in my pop songs and after the middle 8, I was waiting for the dull as hell key change and while I did get it they really turned up the drama a notch with this really OTT break down of the chorus which actually made me sway a bit, like they had turned into a small and not very good choir.

This may have got to number 1 but it sold a 10th of Pure and Simple. Remember Hear’Say, children. If it all feels too easy, if you are handed a pop career and you find yourself going…’All my dreams came true with very little effort or skill. What is the catch?’ this is the catch. Nothing, but nothing, comes this easy without one hell of a fall.

Did I own it: No. Also, having just gone and watched another of their videos (‘Everybody’) which did not get the coveted number 1 spot…they were put together by industry experts after months of searching for the perfect pop band. How come they all, without exception, look really awkward? None of them look right. Is finding 5 people who have chemistry and charisma really that hard? Watch that video and tell me any of them look comfortable in their own skin. Or like they enjoy each others company. Seriously watch it:

Could I sing along now: No. Just finished listening to it and I would struggle.

Worth remembering: The morality tale? Yes. The song? Hells no.

 

Date of Number 1: 14.07.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 1

Artist: Roger Sanchez

Song: Another Chance

Fact: An American DJ, this was his only number 1

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘This song is a masterpiece…makes me feel depressed sometimes though.’

My Take: I used to own an exercise video and this song was used in the warm up. That is pretty much all I have. We haven’t reached my clubbing days. In fact, I am 25 and they have not hit yet so perhaps they never will. I’m alright with it. Ok trance isn’t my thing but this is fairly inoffensive, the beat is nice and even though the singer is wishy-washy it is a relaxing track. Well done American DJ man.

Did I own it: Only on an exercise VHS starring Helen from the second series of Big Brother. That is right. We still had VHS in the naughties.

Could I sing along now: Can’t really hear what the guy is singing so no

Worth remembering: No

 

Date of Number 1: 21.07.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 2

Artist: Robbie Williams

Song: Eternity/Road to Mandalay

Fact: His 4th solo number 1.. Brian May played guitar on it. Bet you didn’t know that!

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘My most favourite person in the whole world. Been a fan since I was 13 I am 23 now’

My Take: Jesus, Robbie Williams used to be in terrific shape. It is odd how you don’t realise how much someone has aged until you have a look back at old photos/pop videos. Anyhoo, the memento mori of Williams’ appearance aside, Eternity is a slushy ballad. The kind of slush you kick along the kerb after the sun comes out in winter. Any substance? The cynical part of me says no but it is a nicer song than the far more popular Angels. Yes I said it. Angels has always seemed so contrived while this song seems to come from something real, like he is thinking of a real person, coming out of a bittersweet break up…oh fuck me it was Geri Halliwell. He was singing about Ginger Spice. Never mind. Next!

RTM was an album track that may well have been added as a B side as an after thought as I don’t remember it getting any airplay and it is certainly not one of his signature tunes. The chorus consists of bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum…Which is…well…lazy to say the least. Hmm. In Williams’ own words I have nothing funny left to say. It is not the worst of his back catalogue but it is hardly genre defining. May I remind you of the chorus again…

Ok confession time: I used to like Robbie Williams. I did not have a huge amount of choice as my sister was a mega fan and we shared a room. But I did enjoy some of his songs and thought he seemed like a funny guy and a good performer. As time has gone on, I see him a desperately needy and mediocre talent who got lucky. What brought on the change? Have my musical tastes become more refined or did he get more annoying? Do I feel embarrassed because the brief shining moment when he was considered a credible artist, and it did happen I was there, was so long ago that it is no longer cool to say you enjoy a bit of Let Me Entertain You? Hard to say. It is odd because while some songs I used to like don’t sound so good now I am older it is rare I do such a 180 on a personality. I have not yet solved the mystery. But I think, I think, It has something to do with the hold he had on teenage girls who had just realised that the vulnerable, funny guy with a guitar in the common room was someone to pay attention to. But then you grow up a bit further. And realise that guy is not so much emotionally mature as he is incredibly self involved. I think that is what happened between me and Robbie. I am sure he is gutted.

Did I own it: My sister did. I know that cause of the overly earnest Williams praying pretentiously on the front cover while sporting a hideous new lion tattoo.

Could I sing along now: The chorus to RTM posed no challenges but Eternity is fairly flat. So overall, not really.

Worth remembering: No. I am sure he has had one or two that stand the taste of time but not these ones

 

Date of Number 1: 4.08.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 2

Artist: Atomic Kitten

Song: Eternal Flame

Fact: A cover of a Bangles song from 1989

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘Atomic Kitten are so beautiful, talented and humble, I still don’t understand why they didn’t attain world domination like spice girls did. It will always remain unbelievable for me.’

My Take: Right…Let us look at the song first. It is a very ballady ballad all over earnest hyperbole and awful sentiments about watching someone while they are sleeping. Yikes. Why do people think that is romantic??? It is in more than one song about love and devotion and it is just creepsome. Although it is supposedly about hanging out at the grave of Elvis Presley and noticing there is always candles burning for him which kind of works.

The original was a little nicer musically speaking, with some 80’s tastic guitars and serious string action…the Kitten track has a rather irksome use of repetition with a drum machine. However I find their cover quite winning and surprisingly it is the girls that sell it. Well one of them. While not as passionate as Susanna Hoffs, the song writer and lead singer in the Bangles, Natasha Hamilton’s confident and powerful belt on the big notes coupled with her chavy appearance is really appealing in its genuineness. She has a nice voice and carries the song to the finish with all the fierce determination of a teenage girl. Which she is. At the start of the video the three of them are all in white and stomping towards the camera looking like the three bitchiest girls at the party. It is quite startling to see how young they actually were when they brought this out. The song works when performed by 3 very young girls singing it like they are really happy to be in their first big relationship. It feels real. And therefore, for me, it is pretty good.

I know I am peddling back a bit on what I said before, when I declared the success of Whole Again nothing to do with the singers. But it was not a one off fluke of a hit. Lightening struck twice. Therefore, Atomic Kitten had a following. And there must be a reason for that, given that covering another girl band is a fairly uninspired idea. So maybe it was them. They felt real and Natasha sang well. And sometimes, that is enough.

Did I own it: I had it on the previously mentioned Funky Divas album.

Could I sing along now: Every line. Although the bit about watching someone sleeping is still icky, even with the back story.

Worth remembering: I think there are better ballads in the world but I do like it, so yes. But if I had to save only one version it would have to be the one done by The Bangles.

 

Date of Number 1: 18.08.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 1

Artist: So Solid Crew

Song: 21 Seconds

Fact: UK hip-hop garage act, their debut single. Over the years there has been up to 30 members of the crew at any one time.

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘So Solid was the shit ages ago! People who are here because of Celebrity Juice don’t understand garage’

My Take: There are rather a lot of them, aren’t there? The superfluous members aside, it is nice to see speed garage crossing over to the mainstream…oh wait. No it isn’t. Again, garage is not for me. The beat is grating and repetitive here and the song outstays its welcome. However there is something about the enthusiasm of the young group that makes the song work quite well. I actually quite enjoy the lyrical premise. They each have 21 seconds to impress, is the idea. Who wins? I think Romeo’s verse is the most charismatic, hence why he was saved till the end. I actually applauded when he spat out a cocky: ‘Romeo done!’ at the end. The chorus is quite good too. But the beat is worse than pointless…Overall I wouldn’t rush to hear it again but it is not terrible. Did that take more than 21 seconds? Emma done!

Did I own it: No

Could I sing along now: I had a vague recollection of the chorus, but no

Worth remembering: I am afraid it is a no, from my perspective. Although having listened to it a few times it is growing on me…

 

Date of Number 1: 25.08.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 2

Artist: Five

Song: Let’s Dance

Fact: Third and final number 1

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘Even though the lyrics are pointless it is better than today’s music!’

My Take: This song is probably best remembered as the beginning of the end for the ‘bad boys’ of pop, as indicated by the fact there were only 4 of them in the video. Youngest member Sean was represented by a cardboard cutout due to him having a nervous breakdown. Ok, the video is annoying cause it keeps interrupting the song to be all meta about the making of the video and it is irritating. So I am going to find a version of the song without all that…

That’s better…Sort of. This song is a fairly standard: ‘Hey guys? How about a party?!’ Track. The raps are forgettable and whenever they need to sing they use the tired and dated computer robot effect. The chorus is actually pretty bitchin’ in the same vein as Don’t Stop Movin’ but slightly more mellow and if it came on at a party I might pretend that it was lame while rolling my eyes but I would be following the instructions and dancing. And I like songs that work that way.

Knowing that this will be the last time we have 5ive (lame 5pelling by the way, guys) on the list I want to try and sum up my feelings about them: They thought they were cool for a boy band. But they were still a boy band. Not very interesting vocalists, not a jot of musical individuality between them, and good looking enough to please the pre teen market but not attractive enough to threaten anyone either. At best they were acceptable pop at worst arrogant wankers destined to be thrown on the boy band heap. To listen to them tell it, their brief foxtrot with fame was the second coming of The Beatles. Only with more drugs. What is their legacy? They sang a staggering number of songs about going up and down. Count them. See ya 5ive. Don’t bother coming back for your 90’s Addis puffa jacket. There was a new boy band waiting in the wings and we have changed the locks.

Did I own it: No

Could I sing along now: I couldn’t remember this one actually, so no

Worth remembering: I really don’t think they deserve too many songs in the vault of time and to me if any of their tracks deserve to survive it would be the genuinely epic Everybody Get Up.

 

Date of Number 1: 08.09.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 1

Artist: Blue

Song: Too Close

Fact: Well that was fast. New boy band, first number 1

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

N/A. All the comments are related to how inappropriate the lyrics were for 8 year old girls to sing…

My Take: Holy shit this song is filthy. I don’t even…It is actually, seriously, not even needing to read too much into it about dancing with a girl and getting a boner. The bridge goes like this…

Girl Vocalist: Step back, you’re dancing kinda close, I feel a little poke coming through…on you…

Blue: Girl I know you felt it, ooh you know I can’t help it…You know what I want to do…Baby when we’re grinding…I get so excited…

I just had a bowl of cheerios and I don’t want to see them again so I am going to go faster…This song is icky and I don’t like it at all. The end.

And their debut single and album are called All Rise. Wow. Just wow.

Did I own it: No

Could I sing along now: Oh I can now. Those lyrics will never leave. Cause my head hates me.

Worth remembering: If only I could forget.

 

Date of Number 1: 15.09.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 1

Artist: Bob the Builder (seriously? Again????)

Song: Mambo No 5

Fact: I hate the UK single buying public. A lot.

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘Best song ever!’

My Take: Oh for fuck’s sake. I just listened to Bob the Builder (aka Neil Fucking Morissey) sing already cheese-tastic Mambo No 5 but with lyrics about building and his buddies like in his first song. I just listened to that. Twice. Why? Why? Had the novelty of a cartoon character singing really not lost its appeal yet? Did we need the second saga? Did we need to find out how they were all doing outside the cartoon? What else had to be explored with these characters? What? Why? Who? What? What? What?

I think that has broken me. Nobody asked me to do this. I am doing this out of methodical interest in pop music. But how can I defend a chart that had a place for this? Not just any old place either. The top of the charts. I’m sad. I’m sad all the time.

Oh God. Now I have just thought of a depressing riddle for you:

Which of the following Bob’s is the odd one out?

A) Bob Marley

B) Bob Dylan

C) Bob the Builder

The answer is C. Because has had a UK Number 1. Two in fact. The other Bob’s have failed to match him in this regard. Also, Bob the Builder is the first non-human character who sang on a record to hit the top spot twice. Well done Bob. You deserve it…Now I give up.

Did I own it: NO

Could I sing along now: NO! NO! NO!

Worth remembering: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Date of Number 1: 22.09.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 2

Artist: DJ Otzi

Song: Hey Baby

Fact: A cover version of a 1962 song done by Bruce Channel. This was his only number 1. Thank God.

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘This is my childhood I love it so much’

My Take: Things have just gotten so bleak…I tried to keep this going. But after Bob the Builder scored his second chart topper I just couldn’t get back to this…And then when I finally do…I get a balding Australian DJ ripping off a 60’s standard and making it into a cheesy disco number. Why have the music Gods forsaken me? The only positive so far is it is listed as his only Number 1 which means when he tried to pull the same trick again with the song ‘Do Wah Diddy…’ the world had the presence of mind to say: ‘Fuck off. We are not buying any more of your crap. Come back when you have done something worth hearing’ And so we never heard from him again.

The vocal is generic, the video is cringey, the beat is awful, it sucks anything that is joyful out of the original and that football chant of a chorus…I want to vomit but I am too sad.

I do not want to be his girl. Not one bit.

Did I own it: No

Could I sing along now: Yes but I really don’t want to.

Worth remembering: Please would someone help me? Anyone? Even…

 

Wait. What’s that over there?

 

Date of Number 1: 29.09.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 4

Artist: Kylie Minogue

Song: Can’t Get You Out of my Head

Fact: Her 6th UK Number 1

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘I was 5 when this song and video first came out. When I first watched it, it was like magic to me. That look, that costume and dancing…I was all fascinated. I’ve never seen something like this before…I will never forget this moment for my entire life.’

My Take:

Thank you.

I…Ok…Words…

This song is magnificent. This song is like crack for the ears. It is like…if a rainbow dissolved into audio form. How does it do it? How does it sound both like robot music and like an emotional break down? I can’t explain why this works where so many other pop/dance tracks fail. I am not intelligent enough. All I know is it came along at the right moment. Look up the list of places it topped the chart: All over the world. 18 different countries. Nobody could get this fucking song out of their heads. And that is where the genius lies…It buries into your veins and won’t come out. The only way to cope is to accept it as part of your being. La la la la la la la la…

It is hypnotic, sexy, addictive, sweet, fun, compelling…Everything a song should be and more. Kylie may not have the strongest voice in pop but she had smart people working for her. She sells the lyrical simplicity and the musical complexity (Don’t laugh…I can’t keep track with how many hooks this song has) with equal success and her reward was the very 90’s ‘I Should be so Lucky’ would not longer be her signature track. No. This was now the gold standard to which all pop had to live up to.

Did I own it: Nope. I couldn’t get it out of my head though. I have it now. I often can’t get it out of my head.

Could I sing along now: la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la…

Worth remembering: YES. THANK YOU KYLIE AND KYLIE’S TEAM. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

 

Date of Number 1: 27.10.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 3

Artist: Afroman

Song: Because I got High

Fact: His only Number 1. Possibly because he got high but this has never been verified.

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

Nope. Just lots of jokes. From stoners mainly.

My Take: 2001 just took a turn for the awesome. Oh come on! Did you expect me to slag this song off? It is brilliantly funny. You get the idea pretty quickly. He was going to do something but then he got high instead and things are not going well but he still sounds like he is having a boat load of fun. It is kind of an anti-drug message After all halfway through the song he ends up in a wheelchair…only…he just sounds so happy…A friend of mine recently told me that he does all the voices on the song meaning his friends laughing and encouraging him are not actually there…It is like The Sixth Sense all over again.

I remember him being on TOTP and struggling to get through the censored version of this song with lines like: ‘I can’t say that bit either…And I know why…’ Eventually he turned to his band and said helplessly: ‘You can’t say anything on this show man!’ It was genius and I am so sad I can’t find the clip online. They should have just let him sing it. There are moral consequences for him after all: He ends up having to jack off cause he is too high to eat her pussy. If that won’t put the kids off then nothing will.

Did I own it: No. Everyone was singing at school though. It was a thing.

Could I sing along now: Yes. Although, brilliantly, I automatically censored myself on the dirty bits because that is how I sang it at 13. Not because I didn’t like swearing but because I genuinely didn’t know what the uncensored version should have sounded like. Thanks Youtube for filling in my educational gaps, you’re a pal.

Worth remembering: Yes. It is a uniquely funny song and is actually quite good. Nothing can ruin my mood now. Except…

 

Wait. What’s that over there?

 

Date of Number 1: 17.11.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 1

Artist: Westlife

Song: Queen of my Heart

Fact: With this, their ninth number 1, they equalled the tally of Spice Girls and Abba

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘So much better than One Direction…And I am a directioner!

What a twist.

My Take: Sigh. I will give them this, watching them in the video trying to sell this dreck with lots of emotional strains right in each other’s faces making it seem like they are insisting that their fellow band members are the ‘Queen of my heart’ was pretty funny.

I am going to be honest. I hate Westlife so much that this could be the greatest song of all time and it would be wasted on me because I just can’t stand them.

I suspect it isn’t though. This is all phoned in. Even the key change happens very quickly after the 2nd chorus like they are trying to get it over with as fast as possible. I have said it before and I may well say it again if these dickheads aren’t going anywhere: They couldn’t have enjoyed singing this stuff could they???

Could they???

Seriously, if anyone could ask them real quick, I’d be super grateful.

Did I own it: NO. As nice as it would have been to have 5 overly earnest, over paid bland-bots telling me, a 13 year old girl, that I was the queen of their heart I chose to let the opportunity go for some reason.

Could I sing along now: meh meh mehmehmehmehmehmehmehmehmehmehblabloopblasmey….

Worth remembering: Could be. But I seriously doubt it. In fact I am quietly confident the correct answer is no.

 

Date of Number 1: 24.11.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 1

Artist: Blue

Song: If You Come Back

Fact: Their second number 1 only two months after their last one.

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘If you are watching this you were born in the best generation of boy bands’

My Take: Oh goodie. Another boy band.
The formula for boy band videos…they are in a ware house when they are together but there are also shots of them looking sad in cafes and while driving around…you know…like regular people. A lot of leaning over like they need to pee just so we understand how super serious they are about wanting to know what they did wrong and that.

These kind of songs annoy me. Where they act all like: ‘No way! You don’t luv me anymore girl? But…But…Ok, if you tell me what I did let us make up and be all in love again please cuz gurl…I luv you’ All 4 members of Blue had babies with girls they then broke up with. Coincidence? Maybe it is irrelevant but it suggests the whole ‘I am a sensitive bloke sometimes’ thing is all a lot of bollocks. It always is. Guys who have to PROVE they are nice and deep are usually exceptionally stupid and lazy when it comes to personal relationships. Watch Blue doing anything and tell me you think any of them are remotely capable of handling an adult relationship built on respect. If I let them back in my life, as the song suggests I should, would they stop being smug cunts? I highly doubt it.

The sentiment annoys me, their whiny vocals are irritating, the beat is boring boy band pop 101, I especially hate the random totally pointless lines in the background like ‘come on…can you feel me…check it out…’ The one thing I will have to admit is, and it KILLS me to praise these self-satisfied spunk bubbles, the four members are at least distinguishable from one another which is better than Westlife. Actually, Lee (blonde) and Simon (black) are both…oh God…Not the worst singers??? Ouch that hurt. Lee is too nasal but his range suggests he could actually be quite good. I have to go shower now…

Did I own it: No. I had one Boyzone tape, one 5ive tape and even one Ultra CD. Remember Ultra? Nope. Not even the members of Ultra remember Ultra. But I never felt Blue. (word play!)

Could I sing along now: I remembered a little of the chorus

Worth remembering: Oh dear me no.

 

Date of Number 1: 1.12.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 1

Artist: S Club 7

Song: Have You Ever

Fact: Their 4th and final chart topper. They split in 2003.

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘So much better than the Bieber Generation. This song got me through some hard times…’

My Take: Deja vu anyone? This time last year (2000) they got to Number 1 with a wintry sad song for Children in Need called ‘Never Had a Dream Come True.’ I suppose if it ain’t broke…don’t be even remotely creatively adventurous. When I reviewed it I pondered the point of having a 7 piece act with only one singer. It is even worse here. I can only hear Jo. In the video the others are sort of mulling about awkwardly while Jo literally harmonises with HERSELF. She has SIX other singers and she is doing back up, riffing and singing lead. I did not hear even the merest hint of a male vocal or indeed anything that wasn’t Jo…

Why 7 of them? Why? Let me TRY to break down the purposes of each one…

Jo: Had a good singing voice.

Bradley: Sang a bit on the party records. Perhaps being the token minority was a significant selling point for him but it was not like the S Club were trying to have street cred… perhaps they wanted to get nominations at the MOBO’s? Although token minority maybe isn’t fair seeing as Tina had the good grace to be mixed race I suppose…Speaking of which…

Tina: Dark hair…um…I can’t be mean about Tina Barrett. I always liked her the best. She was a sweet dancer and always seemed like the posh girl who was being in a pop band for her gap year. She wore a ridiculously revealing dress at their film premier. Observe:

Even the man whose job it is to photograph girls in skimpy dresses doesn’t know what to do…

Jon: He often had floppy hair. Which I think is a marketable quality in a male pop star. Could do a back flip if the occasion called for it.

Rachel: Undeniable pretty. Very pretty. Dead behind the eyes though and quite astonishingly dull in interviews thereby proving once and for all that pretty girls often don’t feel the need to develop a personality. Sang lead on one of their singles. It was not a good vocal.

Hannah: Had short blonde hair so I guess she was supposed to be the fun, cheeky one? I don’t know I am not a miracle worker here…

Paul: Bit lost with this one…He sometimes had a soul patch so was he the…bad boy???

I am weary trying to solve the problem of the 7 piece group with only one singer. It is an easier issue to cope with when they did an up tempo song. They are all leaping about and they were better dancers than most pop groups of that time. But on the slow songs…Jesus Christ, on tour did the other 6 just take a cigarette break? May as well, it is not like they had to care for their voices…

What?

The song? Yeah it is fine. Pretty bland and not quite as sweet as the last slow one they did. Bye bye S Club. Good luck trying to navigate the world without 6 other people to hide behind.

Did I own it: I don’t think so. I seem to remember singing it a lot though so maybe.

Could I sing along now: Yes. All of the chorus but not the verses.

Worth remembering: No. You don’t follow up ‘Don’t Stop Movin” with something this bland guys. Not cool

 

Date of Number 1: 08.12.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 3

Artist: Daniel Bedingfield

Song: Gotta get Thru This

Fact: Dan recorded this at his house as he didn’t have a record deal yet. He got one though don’t worry. Calm down guys he is fine.

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘Man I hear today’s music and listen to this and think God music has gone to the shitter I think we should bring back music like this thumbs up if you agree.’

My Take: He lost two points right away by spelling ‘through’ as ‘thru’ What a twat.

Ok I didn’t really take him in at the time. A lot of people at school were making fun of his girly voice. Whenever I saw his face I felt physically repelled which is pretty harsh but he had these intense little eyes…and always seemed to be posing like it was for a naff calendar. You know, ‘here is Dan, relaxing in his penthouse…’ But I did not have an opinion on his music. I just didn’t like his face.

The vocal is a little unexpected as it does not fit the guy at all but once I got past that…It is a pretty good song. I wouldn’t have listened to it for any other reason than this silly project but the beat is intense and he can sing. I didn’t see that coming…It is possible I am afraid to be harsher than that because one of my friends is a big fan and was very clear that she wouldn’t tolerate Beding Bashing. But I think it is good…ish. It is not the kind of thing I would normally listen to and I still don’t find him remotely appealing but the song is suitably moody. It kind of captures that feeling of being mentally lost but determined to keep going…Plus it is tight, a lot of these kind of tracks are 5 minutes long but this is over after 3 which is just right. The musical arrangement reminds me of ’21 Seconds’ which also grew on me the more I heard it. How about that. I quite like UK Garage.

Daniel Bedingfield: He may be a bit naff but he is better than The Craig David. His voice may be a bit feminine but it conveys emotion well here. He may have been a flash in the pan but he was a talented one. Kudos wee Dan Bed.

Did I own it: No. I got thru it though.

Could I sing along now: The chorus was pretty easy to remember.

Worth remembering: Hmm…I feel I could live without it but I wouldn’t object to it living on.

 

Date of Number 1: 22.12.2001

Number of weeks at the top: 3

Artist: Robbie Williams & (wait for it…) Nicole Kidman

Song: Somethin’ Stupid

Fact: What the hell? Also, this was a cover of a Frank and Nancy Sinatra duet from 1967. It also got to Number 1. Although…it seems like a love duet…Wasn’t Nancy his daughter? It was the 60’s I suppose?

Overzealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘I love this song even tho its really old I played it on my trumpet because I was in a band.’

My Take: Huh. It is an appropriately WTF ending to what was a pleasingly random year for music. Well, compared to 2000. I mean…how did this end up happening? Did they have mutual friends? I suppose he knew Kylie and Nicole is Australian…So maybe they knew each other? I don’t…I just…I forgot ALL about this until today. What a strange time 2001 was: Kidman was a ‘singer’ Robbie though he was Frank (although he is about to release ANOTHER swing album…sigh) and this was Christmas Number 1.

It is hard to object to the track and my only criticism of the song itself is it is not a very interesting duet. It has a pretty melody and an unusual sentiment for a love song but vocally it is not very challenging and not even the star power of soon-to-be-oscar-winner Nicole translates into a memorable record. It borders on novelty actually. She sounds nice and it suits her ‘range’ better than her work in ‘Moulin Rouge’ but…it is such a strange choice. The video is goofy fun and I suppose they have some chemistry considering they probably had just met that morning, although it is hard for Robbie to express desire for someone who isn’t himself…But feel free to watch it if you fancy some PG-13 antics.

So Robbie and Nicole. This actually happened. Goodbye 2001 you wacky son of a bitch.

Did I own it: No. I think even my Robbie obsessed sister drew the line at his self indulgent album of Sinatra karaoke.

Could I sing along now: Yes. In a monotone which is how everyone sings this song apparently.

Worth remembering: No. Sorry Nicole. Music is just not your friend.

 

Round Up

Total Number of Number 1’s:

30. I got my wish for less songs and boy howdy, was I grateful.

 

My hopes for 2002:

Less Westlife. More than two or three brilliant songs would be nice too, but you can’t have everything.

 

Best Song:

Can’t Get You Out of my Head is the only song on the list that I guarantee will still be being played in 10 years time. I struggle to explain why it works but it really does. Don’t Stop Movin’ came a close second though.

 

Worst Song:

There was plenty of shit to choose from but only one can be my winner. Lazy, pointless and just awful. It was so bad, I stopped writing this for MONTHS. And you can enjoy it here:

 

Surprisingly Not Terrible: 

What Took You So Long was a much nicer song than I remembered but it is 21 Seconds that I keep coming back to:

 

How did this happen? Song:

Too Close was confusingly gross but this can only really go to Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman…the duet nobody was waiting for:

 

Nostalgic Overload:

I have a soft spot for the most unexpected success story of 2001. 4 weeks at Number 1! 4 weeks! Well done Kittens. Here is a video of them miming and dancing horribly in the cheapest outfits ever worn. Good times:

 

A Song to save in the time capsule just to confuse historians:

It Wasn’t Me. Obviously. Let’s all join in with Shaggy now! Hfworejfpo45p t045jow….

 

 

Next Time…The Reality TV Pop Stars Invasion continues, a quiet legend dies and the King lives on… January-End of June 2002

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My Top 100 Favourite Beatles Songs (Part 4)

My Top 100 Favourite Beatles Songs (60-51)

60. I Should Have Known Better (1964)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 36
Main Composer: Lennon

This song had me at hello. I love the harmonica right at the start and throughout as well as the twang tastic, Dylanesque blues influence. There is something quite Motown about this too, as it is peppy but resigned with lines like ‘this could only happen to me’ sounding quite defeated in the face of love. Musically this is pretty cool: Harrison brings in a 12 string guitar late in the game and Lennon’s vocals are super and bring a gravelly Britishness to the American sound. I especially like the way he belts: ‘That when I tell you that I love you…Oh…’ For most vocalists an ‘oh’ would be filler and it probably was here but Lennon makes it sound necessary, like he is stopping to contemplate how good it will feel to tell the person that he loves them.

Despite calling it was one of his favourite songs off the ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ album Lennon was becoming a lot harder on himself, declaring the track not about anything. He wanted to be more lyrically interesting like his new hero, Bob Dylan. This naked desire to match Mumble the Zimmer Man as I like to call him would lead to this kind of 2 and a half minute jaunty pop being left behind in favour of more innovative song writing. Because why be the best when you can be legends in your own lifetime?

‘A Hard Day’s Night’ the album has been a long time favourite of mine and I always look forward to this track. I don’t have to wait long either. It is track two. Plus, thanks to their superb first movie outing, I always imagine them sitting playing cards with the Dirty Old Man from Steptoe and Son whenever I hear it. Want to know what the ‘Liverpool shuffle’ is? of course you do! Watch the film!

Favourite Bit: The harmonica. I enjoy it now because it became rare for it to feature in later tracks and as far as I can work out this was the last time it opened a track. Lennon’s peppy vocals are a treat too.

59. If I Needed Someone (1965)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 51
Main Composer: Harrison

As I mentioned in my last set of reviews, I knew right away this track was Harrison as it reminded me a lot of my childhood favourite ‘Only a Northern Song,’ melodically. However this is the superior song both musically and historically as it really sees Harrison coming into his own as a writer. This was the first of his tracks that The Beatles actually performed throughout the world and one of only two tracks from Rubber Soul that they inserted into their live act, demonstrating that McCartney and Lennon were actually impressed with this one. Soon they would grow tired of live performances and quit them altogether so this was the one and only Harrison penned song they performed publicly as a four piece which is quite sad really considering how much better he was going to get.

A couple of other 60’s bands are part of the story of this particular song. The fantastic guitar work was inspired by The Byrds to the point that Harrison sent them the recording with a note to let them know he had nicked their guitar lick for his riff, but as he was a Beatle they were proud and not horrified. (Shame Harrison didn’t try the same trick again later in his career…Maybe Ronnie Mack and The Chiffons would have been all right with it) Mancunian rockers The Hollies actually released ‘If I Needed Someone,’ The Beatles did not, but when it did not do well they were pretty unhappy about it. Why don’t you try, oh I don’t know, writing your own damn music!? There is nothing worse than an ungrateful Hollie…

I looked up their version and even though I am biased I have to say their vocals are horrendously inferior to the detriment of any technical skill. Burn. On The Beatles track the harmonies just soar but don’t overpower the record with Harrison taking the lead and the other two only chiming in at just the right moments, but over his vocal which gives it such a nice sound. I love the bridge and how Harrison goes lower than in the verses, giving the idea of ‘I’m too much in love’ a dangerous edge. I am also a sucker for the not quite rhyme of ‘Carve your number on my wall, and maybe you will get a call…from me’ All in all, a charming and likeable track that hints at the direction Harrison would eventually head. Hint: It’s East.

Favourite Bit: While the vocals are marvellous, the 12 string electric guitar riff with all those fancy key shifts is the star of the all too short show.

58. Twist and Shout (1963)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: N/A
Main Composer: Cover Version

Ouch.

Seriously owww.

As someone who has engaged in her fair share of singing…Seriously. I wince on his behalf. We’ve all done it though. Pushed our voice to the limit in the hope that it will be worth the effort. Is there a better example committed to record of someone nearly taking their vocal chords out of the running forever but it being so, so worth it? As they say, pain is fleeting but art is forever.

It is hard for me to get away from the sound of Lennon’s voice on this record as it is upfront and centre throughout. For some mental reason during the recording of their album ‘Please Please Me’ they decided to leave this, the final track, till the end of the day. Symmetry? For fun? Did they all secretly hate John? I mean, I get why. He was a prick. But still. Listen to him trying to spit out the ‘shake it, shake it, shake it’ at the end. Some would call it rock n roll. I call it a damn nasty cold. Ok, it is both. Martin confirmed that Lennon could not even manage a second take and you can hear him coughing in the background on other songs from the album as everything was recorded on the same day.

Yet the sound is gloriously appropriate for the track, a song that is a standard along the same lines as ‘Do You Love Me?’ and ‘Shake Your Tail Feather’ Yes it is fun and groovy and other 60’s clichés, but would it be worth talking about without this version? This vocal elevates it to something more urgent and desperate, giving it an edge that works so brilliantly with the happy go lucky chiming in from McCartney and Harrison and the joyful bashing and clanging delivered by Ringo. Without that sore, shredded, tonsil throbbing lead vocal this song would have been forgotten. That is my theory. Despite the fact it was a cover and many people have tried it since, this is the definitive version and by far the most successful Beatles song not written by a member of the group. There is a reason. It is perfection. The only reason it isn’t higher is they didn’t write it and they wrote some amazing songs.

It would be remiss of me not not to mention the infamous royal variety performance where Lennon quipped: ‘Would the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewellery’ before closing with this song. I remember watching a documentary on Lennon when I was roughly 11 or 12. When it got to this bit I twigged the reaction of the crowd and the raucous conspiratory laughter from my Father in his chair. I knew it was funny. But I did not get it. Now I do. It is a good line. They never did perform at the Royal Variety show again despite being asked quite a few more times. Lennon claimed in a 1970 interview they never bothered as it wasn’t an enjoyable gig. I suspect it was because he knew he could never top that moment.

Favourite Bit: This is the first song where it is tempting just to say all of it. But I will plump for that little chorus of happiness/pain at around the 1 and a half minute mark. And also his garbled attempt to scream ‘Shake it, shake it shake it baby now…’ at the end. But I never get tired of that first bark of ‘Well shake it up baby, now…’ it just makes me smile so much. As does McCartney’s little triumphant ‘Yeah!’ at the end of the song, possibly celebrating the fact that his friend survived the take. Plus you’ve got to love the ‘ahhhh!’ harmonies. Oh hell. All of it.

57. Baby You’re a Rich Man (1967)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 68
Main Composer: Lennon/McCartney

‘How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?’

A question I have longed to ask a lot of people throughout my life. The 60’s version of the modern judgement ‘check your privilege’ this song is operating at a lot of different levels. On the surface it is a celebration of success but there is a sneer to the words. But even that is too obvious. There is definitely an element of calm acceptance, a sort of don’t worry be happy, just go with the flow, feel almost certainly brought from being part of the Class of ’67 and the cocktail of drugs they were on. A belief that everything will be all right. But it seems like he is trying to convince himself of something he knows isn’t true. Being rich does not make you happy. That much has surely been proven by now. But does it keep you safe from the problems of daily life? In a lot ways, hell yes. But existential fear? Nope. No matter how much you earn that will always catch up with you.

But enough of my freshman human sciences enthusiasm: What does the song sound like? Lennon nails the delivery here. His double tracked vocal is much higher than usual on the verses and gloriously shouty on the chorus. The boys seemed to be playing nice on this one, possibly because they were too high to remember they hated each other, and it gives the vocals a kind of school gang vibe. They really bellow the chorus in a ‘na-na’ football chant way that I enjoy immensely. Hell, even Mick Jagger was there to join in at the end. What a gang. Too cool for school indeed.

And there is the gorgeous heavy piano, bass and clapping hands mix, the braying keyboard that Lennon plays to replicate the sound of a Middle Eastern woodwind instrument and the feedback delay that was used to create that spacey echo on the verses. There is so much to get into and for me it seems to be saying: ‘There is so much to do! The world is full of possibilities! But…Fuck it, Let’s stay in and get stoned again.’ Listen to how it tails off and tell me I am wrong. The life of the rich and the powerful might not be all it is cracked up to be.

Favourite Bit: Got to be the question ‘How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?’ Whether they were getting self congratulatory, getting introspective or getting high it is a deeply powerful question to turn on a person who is never satisfied with their lot. So anyone and everyone really.

56. Can’t Buy Me Love (1964)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 29
Main Composer: McCartney

McCartney would later wearily recant this claim: after a lifetime of fame he had come to realise that money could indeed buy him love. Despite this depressing thought this song is pretty upbeat, an awesome mix of 12 bar blues and 50’s rock but at a dizzying speed. It is the pace of this song that always appeals to me as it seems to match so well with their schedule at the time. The were knocking songs out at an unbelievable rate and this one was another monster hit taking the group to the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was in America where it really took things to another level. When it got to number 1 in America it cinched The Beatles making up the entirety of the top 5. The Beatles made up 60% of singles being sold in America. Seriously. Imagine if you didn’t like them? There was no escaping Beatlemania.

As should be painful clear by now, beneath the good looks and cheeky one liners there is musical skill beyond their years to be found in the early work and beyond. This is no exception. McCartney’s vocal sounds fantastic a great mix of his spot on mid range and some fabulous screamer moments. Harrison’s guitar solo is tremendous, which almost doesn’t need to be said. It is Harrison after all. But listen to that young man play guitar. My God. George Martin deserves praise here too as he stopped this sounding too much like early McCartney work by suggesting they insert a chorus ‘teaser’ in the intro and move some of the phrases around so it didn’t follow the usual format. This works as while it is notably early Beatles, it pushes the sound forward. Ever so gently.

I don’t want to keep harping on about the film. But it is great. And this song is featured in a throwaway scene of them running around a field. So it is associated with energy and fun for me and always will be.

Oh, and it is not about hookers. McCartney has been very, very clear on that.

Favourite Bit: As silly as it might sound it is the drop out between each ‘too’ and ‘much’ that makes me smile most. No matter what I am doing while listening to this song I compulsively have to recognise that choice. By clapping or stamping my foot or something. It just calls out to be acknowledged.

55. Girl (1965)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 62
Main Composer: Lennon

‘Is there anybody going to listen to my story?’ I love that intro because of course we want Lennon to tell us a story. It is an opening that would not seem out of place in a musical, introducing our hard as nails leading man as he takes a chance on us as an audience and spills his soul. Despite his well documented hatred of his own singing voice Lennon’s emotional pitch was always so spot on and his vocal on this is a perfect blend of wistful and vulnerable. Instrumentally, ‘Girl’ is wonderfully inventive, whimsical and melancholy, a sort of Greek Tragedy complete with Greek chorus. (doo-doo-doo-doo-doo) This is another wonderful demonstration of how hard it is to pigeon hole The Beatles: Is this Rock? Pop? Folk? Classical? Why not all of them? A bit of Dylan, a bit of Beach Boys and a whole lot of Beatles.

As cool and well constructed as I think this song is it is the lyrics that really stand out to me. So many songs about love don’t tell you anything about the intricate dynamics of the relationship being discussed. It is just ‘boy and girl meet. Love ensues,’ when it is never that straightforward in real life. The line about ‘And she promises the Earth to me and I believe her…After all this time I don’t know why’ has to be one of my favourite Beatles lyrics. It perfectly captures the baffled resignation of a person in a damaging love affair. There is nothing to fear except fear itself. And humans are terrified of being alone.

In a rare moment of maturity, Lennon admitted he wrote the song about the sort of girl he always wanted but over time he came to realise that archetypal women who rescue/ruin men don’t really exist and he moved on from believing ‘she’ was out there looking for him. In his own words: There is no such thing as the girl-she was a dream’ So did he make his flawed relationship with the mother of his child work? Nope. In an interview in 1980, the year he died, he declared that he did find her after all: Yoko Ono was his dream girl the whole time. Case closed. Humans really, really don’t want to be alone.

Favourite Bit: It has to be the teeth sucking in the chorus. It is just such a wonderful audio expression of love that is more bad than good for you: That kind of ‘well here we go again…’ noise. Such a great song, such a great album.

54. Eight Days a Week (1964)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 34
Main Composer: McCartney/Lennon

Eight Days a Week is charming. It is a happy, clappy, pop song put together with skill and performed with admirable ability. Who could object to it? It turns out Lennon. There is a never ending list of quotes linked to his hatred of this song. He was often dismissive of their music but this is one of the few he actively named as being ‘lousy.’ Did the others stick up for it? Nope. They never performed it live and although it continued their success in America and I first heard it on The Beatles album ‘1’ which contained their chart toppers, it would seem this was one the boys wanted to forget.

Even the origin of that quirky little title has been disputed. McCartney has credited both Ringo and a chauffeur with coining the term. Perhaps the two people/jobs were interchangeable in his mind? Either way it troubles me that both versions of the story are fleshed out with details that one expects of an origin story. How many other ‘and then we wrote a song’ legends are made up of interchangeable bollocks? Maybe Lindsay and Stevie were just good friends and Carly Simon has never been kissed.

Despite McCartney’s memory and Lennon’s sour attitude, I find this song pretty winning. The instrumental fade in distinguishes it right away and, like with ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, I always feel compelled to clap along with the obvious beats. I am a fan of drama in songs and so I love the bit where it turns from peppy to serious with ‘Eight days a week…I lo-ov-ov-e you…Eight days a week…is not enough to show I care’ like the person singing it to their loved one is going ‘In all seriousness I really love you’ while refusing to let go of their hand. This section sounds a little despairing, like they really don’t know how to communicate the strength of their feelings but then it goes right back into the happy verses again.

So what is there to object to? The only explanation I have for their lack of enthusiasm for this lovely song, was they were sick of trying to write ‘hits.’ McCartney brought this to the studio uncompleted and Lennon helped him with it but both of them recalled it not really working and it being a real effort. The album, ‘Beatles for Sale’ was made up mostly of covers as the boys were becoming more drained in their effort to maintain their world wide success. They were no longer a band, but a brand. And this did not seem to sit well with them. I understand why this song must have seemed like a pain…I am sure everyone has had to work on something that just wasn’t coming together and feeling like they had to find a way to make it seem effortless. I am glad the pressure was there though. If repeating their earlier successes had been easy they might not have scorned commercial satisfaction in favour of studio experimentation…and the world would have been a slightly darker place.

Favourite Bit: I just love both the lyric and the vocal delivery of ‘eight days a week…is not enough to show I care’ It is just so earnest and in the hands/voice of Lennon not nearly as cheesy as it could have been.

53. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (1967)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 19
Main Composer: Lennon

Speaking of questionable origin stories…Seriously. I didn’t even plan that. Ok…Is it even worth going over this story? Fine, let’s just pretend that you, the reader, have never heard of The Beatles, or Sgt Pepper and have got lost on your way from the town in ‘Footloose.’ So Lennon publicly stated that this song was inspired by some art from his young son Julian. When he asked young Jules who the girl floating around in the drawing was the little boy replied: ‘Lucy in the sky with diamonds’ How adorable. But Lennon, being a crappy Dad, did not hear his son being charming and think: ‘Perhaps I should spend more time with him seeing as he seems to be a delightfully creative little sod and I should nurture that sweetness rather than leave him as my Father did’ he thought ‘there’s a song in that!’

Perhaps my disillusionment with my own silly hero worship is at fault here but despite Julian confirming the story, Ringo and McCartney both at different times claiming to have seen the picture and Lucy O’ Donnell the classmate, getting a mention on the news when she died in 2009, I really don’t believe this happened. I am not sure why I am so unreceptive to this legend but it just smacks of the aforementioned ‘behind the music’ docusoap stuff. Someone said it and everyone went with it. If you hear enough times that this picture influenced a song and you were there at the time this supposedly happened you might start to get it in your head that you did at some point see the infamous Lucy with her Diamonds. To misquote a probably misquoted Freud (can nobody be trusted to write down things correctly???) sometimes a psychedelic rock song is just a psychedelic rock song.

Lennon swore on countless occasions that the song spelling LSD was not intentional but it was still banned by the BBC while ‘Day Tripper’ and ‘Got to Get You Into my Life’ which were openly about drugs, lived to smoke another day. It is just…so hard to believe. How did nobody spot that? Plus even if I decide to buy the inspiration and the chorus having nothing to do with drugs I refuse to accept that drug culture in the late 60’s had no impact on the lyrical content and musical choices.

Taking my two cent out of this rather tedious argument and using it to phone someone who actually cares what I have to say on the matter…Man, this song is fantastic. While Lennon was ultimately unsatisfied with the arrangement and his vocal (so new, so new) it sounds phenomenal to my ears. McCartney is on an organ, Lennon on electric guitar with the sound fed through a Leslie speaker and Harrison a tanpura giving it a nicely measured Eastern sound. The delivery is slow and slightly nasal until the chorus where it is all enthusiastic bellowing and fun to sing along to. And those lyrics…While I can’t believe drugs were not an influence, the imagery is sublime and so creative and surreal that it almost seems unfair to dismiss them as the work of a man who is off his tits on pills. I see every image in my head clear as day and is still one of the most relaxing songs I have ever heard.

When I was a teenager I adored these lyrics and, having memorised them, wrote them down whenever I was bored in class to remind me that life could be exciting. In IT I once sat and typed them when I was supposed to be doing something else only for the girl next to me to lean in and read what I was saying…She was suitably impressed: ‘Did you just make that up? That is so cool!’ she whispered. Only a few weeks earlier she had stolen my trousers when we were getting changed from PE and ran out the changing rooms with them meaning I had to get back in my PE kit for the next class and now she was sitting reading my ‘poetry’ and trying to engage me in conversation about it. It was odd. And flattering. In that moment it felt like I was the author of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. So I nodded. I never actually said yes. But I took credit for Lennon’s genius nonetheless. It would have been my own fault if she had then ripped off her mask to reveal she was an Apple lawyer.

I would like to take this opportunity to make it right. Lauren if you ever read this: Firstly, I hope you have grown out of stealing peoples trousers, making up mean songs about your classmates and giving people nicknames they don’t want. I didn’t write Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Not even the bit about the rocking horse people and the marshmallow pie, that we both agreed was especially good. Go and buy Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. You won’t regret it.

Favourite Bit: I think it has to be the opening line ‘picture yourself on a boat on a river…’ It has stuck with me all these years and I still go to this imagery whenever I am bored. If you are talking to me and suddenly I appear absent behind the eyes, I am probably on the river with the tangerine trees and marmalade skies…

52. Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and my Monkey (1968)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 73
Main Composer: Lennon

What a title. Before I began this experiment I was not familiar with this one at all and I wanted to know what kind of song could fit with a name like that. I turned it off the first time I started playing it. It was just too noisy, too chaotic, not what had I been expecting and not what I wanted. The bridge between nonsense and poetry, white noise and confessional: I wasn’t sure I wanted to cross.

But I came back to it. After a few listens I grew accustomed to the siren like bell and even noted that it stops not long after it starts, fading to the back of the song. I love how the track sounds like a rehearsal, with McCartney whooping intermittently and the dive into nonsense noises towards the end of the track. It brings a rawness to the production that sounds refreshing at a time where the studio trickery occasionally overtook the musical relatability (is that a word? It is now) of their work. The backing track is thick and heavy and the vocal is sharp and more rock than blues despite the arrangement choices initially leaning another way. It is a lot of fun and pretty cool. Once I got past the clanging bell.

So what of the monkey? Lennon said the monkey was Yoko. Er…How romantic? He said in interviews the song was about how he and Yoko were happy and secure in their love and it was everyone around them who had the problem. If that is the case: I love it. It wonderfully, unbearably smug. They were both well aware that her being attached to him wherever he went was making life difficult for the band and the people who worked with them and not only did they not care but they were proud of the chaos they were causing. I have been around that couple. They can’t have thought we enjoyed their unpleasantly public PDA and insistence that they were soul mates but man, did they not give a fuck.

But with his defiance, came insecurity. McCartney firmly believes the monkey in the song was actually code for heroin. When asked about this Lennon admitted that the he and Yoko indulged in smack to cope with the rigorous hazing his disgusted colleagues put his Lady Love through. So what came first? Were they a co-dependent nightmare so his friends were mean or were his friends mean so they became a co-dependent nightmare? Either way, it would seem they were not as happy in their bubble as they would have people believe…

I appreciate this song a lot more with this context as it adds desperation to his claim that he has nothing to hide. For a while longer, Lennon and his Monkey were going to stay put and there was not a thing anyone could do about it.

Favourite Bit: For a man suggesting I ‘take it easy’ he certainly sounds stressed…I love that chorus.

51. Penny Lane (1967)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 32
Main Composer: McCartney

I have beef with this song. While I want to celebrate it, because is great, it came about as a result of McCartney getting competitive with Lennon after hearing ‘Strawberry Fields Forever.’ Both songs are inspired by childhood nostalgia, often a great creative catalyst, and were released as a Double A Side as they could not decide which song should be the B Side. This is where I get genuinely irritated with McCartney’s ego. There are several examples of his song being the lead single, the A Side over a less commercial Lennon track. But here…To my ears there is no contest. Strawberry Fields Forever is extraordinary…Penny Lane is great but I don’t understand how you could think it was worthy of anything other than 2nd place in this particular battle. Why couldn’t he let John have the A side? Both songs came about thinking about Liverpool but one is better. Sorry JP McCartney. Actually I’m not. You are childish and petty sometimes and you should go to your room and think about what you did. But enough of that…Penny Lane is not at fault here. Ol’ wax work face knows what he did.

I live in Liverpool now. Having been here a while this song is the one I am reminded of most when walking around the city. Sometimes when people get so famous it is impossible to picture them as children because it just seems like they have always been successful, rich adults. Can you picture Barbara Streisand or Frank Sinatra as teenagers? But this song takes you back to when McCartney and Lennon used to meet at Penny Lane to catch the bus together. I wasn’t there and I am guessing you weren’t either. But you can feel it in these words, you can picture the world they lived in. It hasn’t changed that much either. The main difference is the Penny Lane signs get nicked a lot by tourists nowadays. Because those two young men with little else in common except a love of music became phenomenally famous.

The song itself is a great amalgamation of sights, sounds and the slightly surreal. Some have suggested there are a lot more drug references here than in the likes of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. And I don’t even want to tell you some of the analysis I have read for: ‘four of fish and finger pie.’ Like LSD (ha!) the imagery the lyrics create is very strong with the talk of the Barber who McCartney claims was a real dude and the details about the roundabout…The blue skies seem unlikely but even McCartney said that was probably wistful nostalgia that brought that out in him and I get what he means. That is why we smile in photos: We want to secure the memory of happiness even if people rarely have an ideal day from start to finish. It is powerfully evocative.

The music is pretty great too. And complicated. We have three piano parts, tambourine, hand bell, a horn section, bass, guitar, drums, harmonium and a piccolo trumpet solo…Practically an orchestra. Now the boys weren’t interested in touring their music they were able to expand their sound in a way that most rock acts didn’t at the time and it brought about some pretty out there work.

Penny Lane may forever be the B Side in my eyes, but it is whimsical nostalgia at its most creative and joyous and I wouldn’t be without it.

Favourite Bit: The trumpet solo is great, the recreation of the fire truck, the descriptive lyrics, the piano…there is a lot to love. But my personal favourite? ‘Very strange.’ I just love McCartney’s delivery both times and enjoy chiming in with him.

Next Time…Ringo wants to be your lover, Lennon channels Dylan and The Who inspires McCartney to make some noise…50-41

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Reviewing Number One Singles from the Year 2001 (Part 1)

Reviewing British Number One Singles from the Year 2001: January-End of June

Date of Number 1: 13.01.2001
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Rui Da Silva feat. Cassandra
Song: Touch Me
Fact: First Portuguese act to top the UK charts
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘Back in the day when a dance music video wasn’t about pornography’

My Take: Not off to a strong start in 2001. An example of the lyrical wisdom: ‘you’ll always be my baby…I’m always thinking of you baby…yeah, yeah…’ Ok, English ain’t their first language and it clearly functions as a floor filler for a Friday night (that is a lot of f’s) but apart from the delirious cry of ‘touch me in the morning’ it is not especially memorable and the noises behind the vocal that build and build brought on an anxiety attack. Not impressed so far 2001. Not impressed.

Did I own it: Nope.

Could I sing along now: I successfully recalled the ‘touch me in the morning’ refrain. Go me.

Worth Remembering: No

Date of Number 1: 20.01.2001
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Jennifer Lopez
Song: Love Don’t Cost a Thing
Fact: Had two top 10’s in the UK prior to this but this was her first number 1
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘What happened to songs like this? The music now is garbage!’

My Take: Remember back when she was everywhere?? I was her target audience and I couldn’t stand her. I always felt irritated when she was on my TV. Which was a lot. As someone who was very into singing and dancing I felt aggrieved that she was so successful when she wasn’t especially gifted at either. Plus despite her insistence that Love Don’t Cost a Thing and she was Real and Jenny from the Block…she was most famous for marrying/dating lots of rich, famous, profile enhancing people and acting like a diva despite the thin vocals and truly appalling dancing. My childhood friend who called Jen-Jen her ‘idol’ insisted I was wrong about this as J-Lo was a ‘trained dancer.’ My counter argument? Look at the moves she is doing in the video and tell me they are in any way impressive and what you would expect from a professional dancer. She ALWAYS edited the videos to make it look like she could dance but WATCH HER SHE’S TERRIBLE!

Sorry. The song.

It is…ok. The chorus is pretty bombastic and fun, and I remember learning a routine to this song for an audition which was most enjoyable. The message of the song is silly though. Not because it is wrong but because of the messenger. ‘The last thing I need is another bracelet’ she whines in the video, failing to out act a mobile phone. So she shows him by throwing her icky materialistic jewels into the sea. What a woman. And yet her insistence that she is not all about money and status is somewhat undermined by her public persona which, as I mentioned, is as artificial as it gets. So if your soul is as beautiful as you say J-Lo, I am going to go ahead and never buy any of your albums. I know you will love me anyway.

Sorry. The song.

It is fine. End of review.

Did I own it: After all that, yes. Sort of. I didn’t buy the single but I had it on an album called Funky Divas that I got one Christmas.

Could I sing along now: Her voice is so meh it is hard to make out most of the words in the chorus. I am pretty sure she is saying at one point ‘If I wanna floss I got my own’ which demonstrates that although she has taken much from the world at least she takes dental hygiene seriously.

Worth Remembering: Not really no. Sorry Jenny-Jen, you average son of a gun you.

Date of Number 1: 27.01.2001 (Number 1 when I turned 13)
Number of weeks at the top: 2
Artist: Limp Bizkit
Song: Rollin’
Fact: This band are, so I am told, nu metal. At least it is different. And this was their only UK number 1.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

N/A. I checked the first 6 videos and all the top comments are puns on the word Rollin’.

My Take: Huh. This kind of comes out of left field doesn’t it? Was it brought out in association with a film or something? I checked it out and while it wasn’t it did have Ben Stiller in the video. For…reasons. Ok so what do I think? I’m not a fan. I always found Fred Durst a charisma vacuum and the song’s angry bluster is somewhat undermined by its crowd friendly chorus. It all seems very polished for nu metal, although I am not terribly familiar with the genre in all honesty. I’d be interested if anyone who knows more could fill me in on if they were ever respected artists in their time? I can’t imagine it. It is like a metal band as imagined by Hollywood. However I can’t deny that is nice to review something where I get to head bang.

Did I own it: No. I think my brother had their album with the rude name though.

Could I sing along now: I think I have the chorus nailed down, sure.

Worth Remembering: No. Although if I am wrong may Satan shame me when I arrive. (Sorry. I really don’t know what nu metal is)

Date of Number 1: 10.02.2001
Number of weeks at the top: 4 (!)
Artist: Atomic Kitten
Song: Whole Again
Fact: This was their 5th release and a last ditch attempt to win people over before they were dropped by their record label for not selling a lot of songs. It wasn’t looking good when founding member Kerry Katona abandoned ship during promo for the song to have a Westlifer’s baby. But then they brought in another blonde and…
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘Yes! This beats One Direction and Little Mix’

My Take: I liked this song SO much that I bought it when it had Kerry Katona on the song. So before, I think, it hit number 1 with replacement blonde Jenny Frost. And what do I think now? It is a solid three minute pop song with a very sweet chorus, even if the rhymes are strained, with a terribly pleasant and catchy melody. I personally don’t think it was the charisma of the Kittens that made this song a huge success. I think it could have been done by anyone and it still would have sold brilliantly cause it is a nice pop song that has been very cleverly put together despite the CASIO keyboard rhythm section in the background. It wins because it is recognisable, you can learn it after hearing it once or twice, and it is generally quite sincere. I think there are several more songs like that in this era, where the artist got very, very lucky with a great song they didn’t write. I am looking at you S Club 7, Liberty X and many more!

So as you can probably tell I have mixed feelings about this song. It clearly came at the right time, it is still the 4th most successful song by a girl group in the UK, and I do still belt along with it. But it isn’t…special. It is sweet, melancholy and pleasant to the ears (even if you are not a fan of the group, it is hard to object to the vocals even if you cannot be blown away by them) but it has no lasting impact either. I could live my whole life without hearing it again and not be too fussed. Maybe that’s what they should name the sequel.

Did I own it: Yes and still do actually. I rarely listen to it though. Oddly I prefer Kerry’s speak-sing Middle 8 to Jenny’s speak-sing middle 8. I don’t know why. I just think Kerry is more vulnerable. And she was quite sweet when she was 19. It all went a bit odd didn’t it?

Could I sing along now: Yes. And do.

Worth Remembering: Um…Er…Kind of. It is cool it did so well and saved their career and I have a soft spot for girl bands in trackies… and…Oh, ok. Yes. I like it enough to keep it around.

Date of Number 1: 10.03.2001
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Shaggy feat Rikrok
Song: It Wasn’t Me
Fact: This was the best selling number 1 of 2001. Well done everyone.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

There is the usual ‘Still listening in 2013’ stuff but the most intriguing top comment was: ‘You know your song is good when it is loved by Michael Jackson’ Huh? Tell me more mistahiphop flimz, my good man.

My Take: Wow. This song is brilliantly funny. I’d forgotten it existed and then I saw that it was the next song on my list and I got super excited. It is actually better than I remember for 2 reasons…

1. The middle 8. Where Rikrok (the featured artist who does 90% of the vocals) tells Shaggy his advice sucks and he should just apologise to his girlfriend and hope for the best: ‘You may think that you’re a player but you’re completely lost.’ I missed that the first time round.
2. What the fuck is Shaggy saying??? I have heard parodies of this song that don’t even come close to capturing how absurd his vocal actually is.

I hope it isn’t insensitive or mean spirited to say, but Shaggy literally performs his bit with all the fineness of a toddler who has drank too much ribena. And it is glorious. Despite the horrendous and explicit sexist overtones I feel I want to give the duo the benefit of the doubt as it seems to be intentionally ridiculous and over the top. Just to be clear: This does not mean it is not misogynistic and gross. It is. But look at Rikrok. Listen to his voice. Do you really, REALLY believe that guy has ever had sex with anyone up against a counter? He sounds like Carlton from the Fresh Prince. Plus it is funny. The idea that she was filming her boyfriend cheating and he doesn’t look up. And he asks Shaggy to picture his friend butt naked…How is that important to the story? This song is outrageously fun and enjoyable and if that makes me part of the problem then I am sorry. Truly I am. All I can say in my defence is…It wasn’t me. Ha ha ha ha…

Did I own it: No. But as I recall it was always on the radio so I think I heard it a lot.

Could I sing along now: A lot of it even though I didn’t remember how, um, descriptive it was. Maybe there was a radio friendly version. Almost certainly, in fact. Plus I can’t sing Shaggy’s bit but then neither can Shaggy.

Worth Remembering: Yes. It is genius. That is all. Awful, awful genius.

Date of Number 1: 17.03.2001
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Westlife
Song: Uptown Girl
Fact: Their 8th number 1 after their last song, gasp, only made it to No 2. Ha!
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

N/A There are not enough comments to have a top voted comment. Ha.

My Take: Just as I was starting to enjoy myself…They’re back. Not fair. Even though it was for charity it was still ANOTHER sodding cover. Of a Billy fucking Joel song. This was actually a charity song for Comic Relief and yet Billy Joel’s mullet tastic orginal video is a hell of a lot funnier. They can’t even do a funny video well. When they are singing a clearly ridiculous song. It is just bland and uninspired. They annoy me cause they make me repeat myself. They are not even bad enough to bring out the best in me creatively. They just are. Are they even pretty? I never thought so. Bryan in particular always looked especially gormless.

Did I own it: Hell no. Fuck the ‘its for charity’ shit I just bought a red nose and paid my £1 to not wear my school uniform.

Could I sing along now: Only cause everyone knows this song. Not cause Westlife did it. Can’t stress that enough.

Worth Remembering: Come on 2001…no more Westlife. Please? At least me off the hook until summer…

Date of Number 1: 24.03.2001
Number of weeks at the top: 3
Artist: Hear’Say
Song: Pure and Simple
Fact: The biggest selling debut single ever at that point. Also I believe they were the first UK reality TV show creation to launch their song on an unsuspecting world.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

There was the usual crap about childhood memories coming flooding back but my favourite was ’10 years since Iraq’ This guy measures important historical events in Hear’Say songs. I like him.

My Take: At least it wasn’t a cover version. No seriously, their album may have been rushed beyond belief and the marketing plan of picking a pop band through television the start of all hell breaking loose on the charts (more on that in years to come) but at least some people actually bothered to write them a song. That was for them. Or was it? Let me check…

Ok. I take that all back. It was a cover version. Although it was a cover version of a song by a little known girl band called Girl Thing, created by Simon Cowell to make up for the fact that he turned down the Spice Girls. And, oh how cruel, this group were dropped to make way for Hear’Say. That’s show biz kids.

Right so now my respect for the people behind the song has dropped slightly, it is also been brought to my attention that the song bares a startling resemblance to both ‘All Around the World’ by Oasis and ‘Never Ever’ by All Saints. Oh dear. This isn’t looking great is it?

But cast your mind back to this time. Do you remember the programme Popstars? You might think you do. But you probably don’t. While researching (in the loosest definition of the word) this piece I found quite a few bad quality Youtube videos of the show and it was kind of fascinating.

It wasn’t made during the days of X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. There was no Ant and Dec, no Dermot and no Simon Cowell. On screen at least. Crucially there was no public vote. We had no say in the line up and therefore no stake in the outcome. It was filmed in local town halls and sometimes less than 20 people showed up at the auditions. The judges were not big personalities (except possibly Nigel Lithgow who was like a low rent Cowell) and were refreshingly transparent about what they were looking for. Therefore if someone ‘had a great look’ but couldn’t hit those tricky top notes of ‘Reach for the Stars’ they put them through anyway. Cause they knew it didn’t really matter if they could all sing. Just as long as one or two of them could.

The show did not end after the group were informed of their success. They filmed them in their new house, they filmed them hearing they were at number 1, they filmed them making their album…And watching it now it is fascinating to me that when they get their number 1 they act like they have made it and life from now on will be coming up Milhouse. But even if you don’t know any of this, you will at least know what happened next…

Like so many products of pop manufacturing they were worked into the ground and their people panicked trying to get songs out before interest waned and so, tired and fed up, one of them quit to launch a solo career. If you watch the video for Pure and Simple it won’t surprise you which one. Then they tried the ‘mature’ sound and look. Which is never a great idea and always stinks of desperation. And so it all ended. After about 18 months. The dream was over. This won’t be the last time I say this about a reality TV winner.

But was the experiment a success or a failure? Well that is another essay for another day, so what of the song? Well lyrically it has little going for it but melodically it is quite the ear worm but mainly cause it steals from two better songs (and I don’t like Oasis). Even at the time did they really believe in it? Did they think: ‘This song is the start of longevity. A long and prosperous pop career I shall have!’ It is the kind of song you tap on your steering wheel while nodding your head but you are not going to scream the words back to the Popstars during their 8th arena tour while crying your eyes out are you? The vocals are relatively inoffensive, but nothing interesting. The quality of the production is quite cheap and karaokesque due to the rush to get it out an issue that would define the work of the group. So now? It is pure and simple: If you want to be a pop star, slow and steady will often win the race. And Hear’Say learned the hard way that if you start at the top there is only one way it can go.

Did I own it: Yes. Bet you didn’t see that coming! I liked it at the time. I still think it is ok, just in case that is not clear.

Could I sing along now: Yes. Actually every word. Which is worrying.

Worth Remembering: Never Ever is. Pure and Simple is not.

Date of Number 1: 14.04.2001
Number of weeks at the top: 2
Artist: Emma Bunton
Song: What Took You So Long?
Fact: The 4th spice to get a solo number 1
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘When you compare it to today’s music, it is a classic’

My Take: I had mixed feelings about the Spices going solo. Some groups have a stand out performer who it is clear is the star but those 5 were always best together. It is easy to argue that Mel C had the most potential to be a serious artist but I still had the most fondness for her when she was belting ‘groove it!’ at the end of ‘Who Do You Think You Are.’ There was something really special about the girls as a unit: Feel free to try and name another girl group that has achieved worldwide success without an obvious lead who everyone knows above the rest. They were the first girl group to create a brand that was about 5 young women who overcame their manufactured origin story to become friends. Even with the internal power struggle and backstage drama, they had chemistry that couldn’t have been faked because none of them were talented enough. Every girl at my school wanted to be one of them but not necessarily the same one. And so the idea of them breaking off and going solo did not fill me with hope.

I remember being pleased for the Baby one when she donned a very little gingham dress and loaned her soft breathy vocals to a little twangy country pop number. It wasn’t a bad career move, what with Shania Twain having made pop country quite popular at the tail end of the 90’s and Emma successfully dumps the innocent little girl look with ease. In all likelihood because she always looked a bit uncomfortable with always wearing her hair in bunches and carrying cuddly animals around. She seems happy to be liberated in the video. And I was happy for her. But I wasn’t crazy about the song. It was easy to listen to but nothing memorable. I end up saying that a lot don’t I?

OK but I actually like it better this time round…The twangy guitar is very good, I repeated it five times after my initial listen and it did not hurt, and the little drop out after the chorus is one of many nice little production touches. If anything the worst thing about it is Emma. Her voice needs a bit of help to sound like anything on the chorus and she will never be a special singer but she looks great in the video and it is a pretty vocal if nothing else…Oh I like the end of the song too. Good work guitarist! Overall, it is one of the stronger spice solo songs. Although that is not saying that much is it? Looking at you Geri…

Did I own it: No

Could I sing along now: A bit. But not really

Worth Remembering: Actually yes. It is a good song. Most of what came after from Baby Bunton was nowhere near as well done though. (Except 60’s inspired track ‘Maybe’ which is fabulous) I am going to place a bet now that I won’t see her on this list again…

Date of Number 1: 28.04.2001
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Destiny’s Child
Song: Survivor
Fact: The first US girl group to achieve a second number one in the UK. Not even the Supremes did that.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

N/A. Oh dear…I am not touching the comments here as they are Grief Olympics stuff that I don’t need on my day off…

My Take: Oh the drama. I kind of like it. It is all big and silly and it is one of the early examples of the sub genre that has become very, very popular in the social networking era: Calling out your haters. Whether this song is directed at the previous Destiny’s Child members who left (they certainly thought it was and were not happy) or the press or the men that Beyonce sure does love to tease, it is cleverly non specific. This means that we can apply it to anyone or any situation we like as we throw our hands in the air to show that we are survivors and fuck everyone else. That part is not mandatory. But it is expected.

As with all DC work, there is a huge amount of hypocrisy in their empowering lyrics. My favourite is the section I will identify as the ‘I’m better than that’ plot hole. Where they claim they won’t compromise their Christianity. In a video that zooms in on them rubbing sand on their half naked bodies and at the end they run in slow motion down the beach in the tiniest little crop tops you have ever seen. I am not a prude but it all seems a bit predictable and not nearly as liberating as Beyonce would have you believe. As writer Caitlin Moran told her young daughter: You will know Rihanna is truly a powerful woman in a man’s world when she feels able to wear comfy trousers in her videos.

Nonetheless I think this works more than most ‘get lost haters: Wah!’ songs cause it is one of the better pop/r n b products of the time and it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. For example, when they did it live, Beyonce would always adapt the lyric about how much the song earned to factor in the latest sales and add a very loud and triumphant ‘What!?’ to the end of the verse while pulling a funny face. Now to me, that is hilarious and not in a laughing at her way. She has made millions from these kinds of faux empowering songs and there is something about that ‘What?!’ that nearly makes me think she has a sense of humour about it all.

In conclusion, I like this song. If you are going to write an anthem about overcoming pain and betrayal it might as well be one you can really get down to.

Did I own it: I taped it off the radio at the time for a mixed tape. And I bought it once I had Itunes. I am not ashamed. I have gone off it lately but it is still good for a boogie.

Could I sing along now: Yes. Even though some of the lyrics are awful. It is hard not to laugh while saying things like: ‘If I surround myself with positive things…I am going to gain prosperity’ It sounds like a leaflet for Feng Shui.

Worth Remembering: This is always a tricky thing for me to consider. Just cause I like it better than Independent Women Part 1, does that make it worth remembering? If you ask end of decade lists, INWP1 is the better song. And Survivor is kind of stupid…Even though it is enjoyable…I am going to say yes. If only for the memory of Beyonce going ‘Thought I couldn’t sell without you…sold fif-ty million…What!?’

Date of Number 1: 05.05.2001
Number of weeks at the top: 2 (went back to number 1 on the 26.05.2001)
Artist: S Club 7
Song: Don’t Stop Movin’
Fact: 3rd number 1, 2nd consecutive number 1. Also won Record of the Year on that ITV show and I was thrilled cause it was literally the first time it wasn’t fucking westlife or boyzone. Also, did you remember they got a film? It was called ‘Seeing Double’ It was released in actual cinemas. Seriously. This happened.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘The new generation don’t know what they are missing’

My Take: Are you ready for this? This song is fan-fucking-tastic. This is their crowning jewel. This is pure pop at its finest. Every whoop, every whoa, every computer generated use of the word funky is perfectly placed to quite literally make you come alive. I love it. Not ironically, not calling it a guilty pleasure, no shame: This is just right. I wouldn’t change a damn thing.

There is something marvellously sinister about how hypnotic it is, almost like we have a red shoes situation and nobody on the dance floor can actually stop moving without risking grievous bodily harm. Why would you want to switch this off? It is joyous and good natured but there is a darkness to the urgency of the beat and the cold eyed performances. If you don’t dance to this you may well be dead. Not dead inside. Just dead.

Still trying to deny it? Are you a fan of Billie Jean by MJ or is that just crappy pop too? Oh you like that song do you? Listen again…There you go. What is that, they ripped him off? Yes. They did. What of it? Does it change the fact that the song is brilliant? Who am I talking to????

I just looked up the song writers and in addition to pop legends Simon Ellis and Sheppard Solomon, all seven members of the Club are listed as contributers. Bullshit. I refuse to believe they had anything to do with this…If they could write songs anywhere near this good, there is no way they would bother with reality TV and Uni campus tours to earn their keep. Sorry guys. But take comfort: You were nearby when one of the most entertaining pop songs of the naughties was written…That will be something to hold on to be as you continue the march towards death. All alone. Don’t stop movin’ to the funky, funky, beat…

Oh and just in case you were dying to know…Tina. Tina was my favourite.

Did I own it: No. I’m not sure what that is about…I do own the Beautiful South cover version which is truly inspired in a slowed-down-western-drama kind of way. It is on my Poker playlist and none of my hard drinking gambling friends have ever objected.

Could I sing along now: Yes. And dance. You should see me dance to this. In my head I am super cool. And in real life.

Worth Remembering: Oh yes. Feel free to disagree. I won’t be angry with you, just disappointed. Because if I play this and you don’t get up and start moving then you are just ruining it for yourself.

Date of Number 1: 12.05.2001
Number of weeks at the top: 2
Artist: Geri Halliwell
Song: It’s Raining Men
Fact: First solo female singer to have four consecutive number 1’s. Fucking hell.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘FLAWLESS song’

My Take: Every time you start to forget about her…She appears. Like Freddy Krueger. Whenever you think you are safe…How did that old skipping roap rhyme go again?

One, Two, Geri’s coming for you,
Three, Four, used to dress like a whore,
Five, Six, been eating weetabix,
Seven, Eight, cause her abs are great,
Nine, Ten, but can’t sing again…

In all seriousness: she has no voice. Even the backing on this track is struggling to support her thin little wails. Having said that, this song is what is. Cheesy, naff, and perfect for the karaoke portion of the average hen weekend. I am going to try and stop being a snob… after all I just admitted to loving an S Club song. Does this improve upon the original? Not really. But it adds a bit of harmless drama to your average dance floor and as novelty songs go is pretty ok.

Did I own it: You know…I don’t remember buying it. But I remember having it. That’s how sneaky Geri is…Creepy.

Could I sing along now: Yes. Can’t everyone?

Worth Remembering: No. Unless you were a massive fan of Bridget Jones. Which I suppose is fine.

Date of Number 1: 02.06.2001
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: DJ Pied Piper & The Master of Ceremonies
Song: Do You Really Like It?
Fact: A Garage track used on the channel 4 show ‘Fantasy Island.’ No, me neither.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘This is proper music! England at its best, better than the shite we got out nowadays’

My Take: Huh. This wasn’t the song I thought it was. The mellow beginning, my memory told me, was the pace the whole way through. The slightly stoned, summertime breeze and the question and answer in London wide boy dialect. But no. There is rapping. And a frenzied backing track. That I am told is Garage. Ok. Then back to the refrain, that is all slow then it ups it again…It is at least different to what has come before. I genuinely was surprised by the song speeding up after setting a tone and then going back and forth. The duo may have talent. It is hard to tell cause Garage is so outside my wheel house. But they can’t sing very well and they seem to be ad libbing poorly at the end causing the song to fizzle out like flat Tesco brand lemonade. Even their enthusiasm for introducing themselves to the record buying public is performed like they are aware this will be their only hit and they are slightly apologetic for that. It ends with a really sad little voice going ‘ooh-ooh’ Which is funny. I am not quite sure what to make of this one, to be honest. I respect them for doing something different it is a shame they did not do it better.

Did I own it: No

Could I sing along now: I remembered the lovin, lovin, lovin it part. Had no idea it was anything other than that one bit though.

Worth Remembering: No. It a pretty forgettable song apart from that

Date of Number 1: 09.06.2001
Number of weeks at the top: 3
Artist: Shaggy (again?) feat. Rayvon
Song: Angel
Fact: Fourth and last number 1. Phew
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘Good old times, man I miss this kind of music’

My Take: That was fast. I did not expect Shaggy to be back in the charts so quickly. I knew the melody of this one from The Pretenders song ‘Angel of the Morning’ which I had on an album at the time, but it turns out they did not do the original either so my 13 year old self insisting to people who did not care that I preferred the original was pretentious and wrong. It was actually written in the 60’s and has been sang by everyone from Dusty Springfield to Nina Simone. It is a very beautiful song about love that does not last. You should listen to a version of it. Not this one though. Oh God no. They take the story of a break up and change it to say: ‘Closer than my peeps…you are to me…baby’ Ick. It does not even have the comedic originality of ‘Wasn’t Me’ it is just…run of the mill RnB. Not even Shaggys’ ‘unique’ reggae fusion rapping style can salvage what is a yawn inducing mess. Lord knows how it spent 3 weeks at the top of the charts.

Did I own it: No

Could I sing along now: The ‘real’ words yes. Uh oh I am getting up myself again…

Worth Remembering: No. It is really bland. I had forgotten it actually.

Date of Number 1: 30.06.2001
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Christina, Pink, Kim, Mya
Song: Lady Marmalade
Fact: The 900th number 1 in the UK chart. Also the third time this song had charted. The first act to take it to the top 20 was brilliant 70’s girl group LaBelle, the second time it was a version of the song by All Saints in 1998 that successfully topped the charts.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘Christina puts all modern singers to shame’

My Take: I distinctly remember being baffled that this song was being released what felt like so soon after the All Saints version that I really liked and still do. But they at least they do something different. As the All Saints did. Each version of this song is distinctive and unique and takes the material somewhere modern. Which, even if you are not a fan of covers, you have to admit is better and more interesting than just doing a carbon copy of the original arrangement.

Now, how does this version hold up more than 10 years later? Well…it got a lot of attention at the time as it was a big marketing push for two things:

1) Moulin Rouge. The big silly musical by Baz Thingy.
2) The sexually explicit video, especially the whole: ‘Isn’t Christina all grown up? And Hasn’t her hair gotten big?’ scandal. Things don’t really change do they?

Well I say scandal. It wasn’t really that big a deal. Although it did introduce a change of image for her that simultaneously alienated and gained some fans. But we will get to that later. This isn’t just about Christina. Although I understand her management were quick to shotgun her the best bit of the song. But there is a lot to cover with this cover so I will press on…

The song. The song is a classic and this version is not as good as what came before. The production is all style over substance and the ‘clunk, clunk, clunk’ refrains grates on me after a while…you can have too much cow bell after all. It is just so noisy and OTT. There is a great story in this song and a good opportunity to flex your vocal chops so why over do it? Speaking of which…

The vocals. Again, kind of noisy and manic and you lose the melody and the words as Pink and Christina engage in a shouting contest and Lil’ Kim appears to have just woken up. And Maya is there. Or so I am told. Ok, so together it is a garbled mess of disorganised and badly thought out riffs how about the individual sections?

Maya: Kind of nasal and not very confident.

Pink: I really like Pink as a vocalist actually. I think she is an underrated singer. But she is not at her best here. Although she can at least sell it live, her ability to really sing with passion and conviction is muted in her verse although she gets to belt a bit later.

Lil’ Kim: Ugh. Maya may be a piece of furniture but I’d take her average performance over this charming contribution about how they are bad ass chicks who like diamonds, money and fucking. It is not that I object to the ‘sexing up’ of a song about a hooker and I have nothing against rap. All Saints added a rap that I liked fine. But this has nothing to do with the song or even the film really, and is so phoned in it is not even real.

Christina: Her somewhat infamous vibrato is in full force here and while she injects some much needed oohmph to proceedings the words are unintelligible and the bellowing does get old fast.

So I hate it right? Wrong. It is not my favourite version of but it is still a great song and I like aspects of it. At least they can sing even if I am not a fan of all the voices on display. At least it is a pop song about something even if you can’t tell over the riffing. At least it will get you moving even if it just to turn down that fucking racket. And, best of all, at least some of the performers tried to inject some personality and sense of humour into the charts. Because nobody could take this too seriously…right?

I liked it a lot better when it came out. I loved singing along and acting like a diva with the feather boa I had gotten for my 12th birthday. And I loved the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge, a film that had the most exhilarating first 20 minutes I had ever seen in a movie musical. Listening to this version of Lady Marmalade as an adult, I feel a lot does not work about it and everyone involves seems to be trying too hard to win some Grammys. But it still works on the most important level. You will fucking groove to this song.

Did I own it: Yes.

Could I sing along now: Yes.

Worth Remembering: Yes actually. Although I urge you to seek out LaBelle and All Saints versions.

Next Time…July-December 2001 Where I was temporarily broken by a cover version of a cover version by an artist I had not expected to appear in the charts again and a dreadful novelty song that was truly inescapable at the time… but just as I was about to give up and declare the 000’s a disaster zone…She returned. With one of the best songs I had ever heard. Touché chart music. Touché. And thank you.

‘It is often when night looks darkest, it is often before the fever breaks that one senses the gathering momentum for change, when one feels that resurrection of hope in the midst of despair and apathy’

(Hilary Clinton, possibly talking about chart music in the year 2001. But probably not.)

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Filed under Music

Reviewing Number One Singles from the Year 2000 (Part 2)

Reviewing British Number One Singles from the Year 2000: July-End of December

Date of Number 1: 01.07.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Kylie Minogue
Song Name: Spinning Around
Fact: Co-written by Paula Abdul. Ick.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘Kylie Minogue’s ass > Nicki Minaj’s ass’

My Take: Welcome to the millennium Kylie and Kylie’s Bum! I wasn’t terribly keen on this song at the time despite having been raised on Kylie in the 90’s. I was pleased that the little one was doing well and looking good and having a bounce in her video but the song was overplayed and not that interesting. She is spinning around and wants you to move. That is it. Considering I am a self confessed pop enthusiast it may surprise you that I don’t love this, but it is hard to care when I know the best of the best is still to come from wee Minogue…

Did I own it: No

Could I sing along now: The chorus is pretty easy and the middle 8 is kinda the chorus. So more or less.

Worth Remembering: It is one of the biggest Kylie songs ever and her fans loved it. Still you won’t find me fawning over her. Yet.

 

Date of Number 1: 08.07.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Eminem
Song Name: Real Slim Shady
Fact: The video had a bit where a fat lady ate spit covered onion rings. It used to make me feel like I was going to be sick and I still can’t watch it.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘I miss this Eminem. Old but gold.’

My Take: Before he got kinda old and past it (yeah I said it!) Eminem was a breath of fresh but angry air on the stale charts. Parents and politicians fretted despite the fact he didn’t say anything that children did not already talk about by a certain age. From about 7 or 8 I knew all the swear words (except the C word which was still to come) and enjoyed using them in general conversation. And as with Animaniacs before him (Am I the first person to compare the two? Really?) Any jokes that were for the grown ups just went right over our heads.

So what about the tune? The song is good and funny although not the best he can do, from my perspective. Having said that his sense of humour and level of self awareness coupled with his sudden universal appeal does lead to some interesting moments. When it came out I didn’t really take in the moments of cruel bitchiness in his work: There are some sharp barbs directed at the likes of Christina Aguilera who would think twice before poking gentle fun at him on a TV show again.

Occasionally an artist from a very distinct genre crosses over and becomes popular with the masses who don’t necessarily like the world the singer came from. Often it is a song that leads to the cross over but the way I remember it, it was him that people wanted. Yeah the first big hit ‘My Name Is’ was a big hit but it might not have been if somebody else had been the MC. It was the messenger and not the message that people responded to. Like with everything he released at time the chorus and the video has stuck in my head over the years. Whiny, overrated and a bit too up his own ass? It is hard for me to say cause I had never heard anyone like him at the time and I have never let go of that fascination with him. But I suspect yes.
The man can rap though.

Did I own it: You would think after that, but no. I would procure the album a few years later around the time that I started to feel like a really, really angry teenager.

Could I sing along now: A lot of it actually.

Worth Remembering: Yes. Most of his early stuff is.

 

Date of Number 1: 15.07.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: The Corrs
Song Name: Breathless
Fact: This was their first number 1. Who knew?
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘I’m here listening to this song to escape from the pile of mulch that is Justin Bieber and the like’

My Take: Wow I had forgotten this lot. In amongst angry white rappers, bland dance tunes and pop/rnb, Irish fiddles and yodelling vocals also dominated the charts. While this is all very nice and charming it seems odd now that they did as well as they did. What happened? Did they go their separate ways despite being related? Did we finally get bored of their pleasant Irish lilts? Or is there only so many times you can reissue one album? I don’t know but they had better songs so I am sad this rather meh one got to Number 1.

Did I own it: No. I had one version of their previous album Talk on Corners though and I loved it.

Could I sing along now: Only the ‘go on…go on…’ bit.

Worth Remembering: Not really. It was all becoming a bit predictable by this point. I would take their decent cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ their middle of the road love lament ‘What Can I Do’ and especially the delightfully hammy ‘Only When I Sleep’ over ‘Breathless.’

 

Date of Number 1: 22.07.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Ronan Keating
Song Name: Life is a Roller Coaster
Fact: Counting Boyzone, this was his 8th Number 1.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘These were the days of innocence and care free music’

My Take: I am so pleased I no longer live in a world where Ronan is a heart throb. Didn’t like him then don’t like him now. For one thing the song is stupid for another he is a bad singer. Not a singer I don’t like: a BAD singer. I am starting to come across a bit Anti-Irish what with my aforementioned disdain of The Corrs hit and all Westlife but seriously…Keating? Fuck off. Ride your roller coaster over there. Away from me.

Did I own it: Now album, I think. I would have skipped the track though. Full disclosure: I may have disliked Ronan even as a little ‘un but when I do go back to the 90’s there may or may not be a Boyzone song that got to Number 1 with a little help from me…

Could I sing along now: Something about not fighting love and riding a roller coaster. Ick.

Worth Remembering: I can’t say no loud enough.

 

Date of Number 1: 29.07.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: 5ive and Queen (Seriously. This happened)
Song Name: We Will Rock You
Fact: The Queen version may be well known but it was never released as an A Side. Till now.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘Still a better boy band than One Direction’

My Take: That this happened was one of the biggest shocks on the list for me. But why am I surprised? Roger Taylor and Brian May will literally do anything and that has been proven: The Proms, west end musicals with Ben Elton, X Factor…there is no pay cheque too small for these two. You know who I respect? John Deacon. The bass player from Queen who following Freddie’s premature and tragic death promptly retired from show biz. But why do that when you can exploit the memory of one of your friends and ride his ghostly coattails all the way to validation and a shiny new mansion?

Ok enough ranting: Musically this is a stupid idea that is stupid. One of them raps for fucks sake and occasionally shouts ‘Ha-ha!’ as if even he can’t believe this is happening. Although if they were going to pick a boy band to do this song with at least it wasn’t fucking Westlife.

Did I own it: Nope. I had the Queen version on cassette and very happy I was too.

Could I sing along now: Of course. Except the bits they changed. Yes. 5ive heard a song by Queen and thought ‘It’s good…But we can make it better’

Worth Remembering: I had forgotten and with good reason. Shame on Brian and Roger. Unless every single member of 5ive were terminally ill and playing with Queen was their dying wish there is no excuse for them agreeing to this.

 

Date of Number 1: 05.08.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Craig David
Song Name: 7 Days
Fact: Fucking hell, he was only 19 when he did this. 19!!! (also I WISH he would stop putting stupidly long intros on his god dam videos. 1 minute and 15 seconds before I got to the song. They don’t need a plot. Fuck you Craigie Boy.)
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘What happened to music this good? RIP good music’

My Take: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…That sums up how I feel about this song. It is so silly and so tacky and so bad that it nearly becomes good again. Nearly. He is so cheesy in every way. One example: When asked who he would be if he could be anyone he replied he would like to be a Craig David fan so he could experience what it is like to hear his music for the first time as a listener. What a dick. But what a sincere dick.

The lyrics to this song are like a child boasting about how many toys he got for Christmas even though everyone knows his family is poor and he only got a jumper knitted by his drunk Granny. Or something. But in the video of course everyone is really impressed with Mr David and he gets high fives and that. That’s nice for him. So what is my take? It sucks hard, but man it is funny.

Did I own it: On the Now Album. And it featured on at least one mixed tape I made.

Could I sing along now: The chorus and the break down: Yes. Not with a straight face though.

Worth Remembering: For comedy value: Yes. For its contribution to music: Even Craig David might agree, not so much.

 

Date of Number 1: 12.08.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Robbie Williams
Song Name: Rock DJ
Fact: His video involved him taking off his skin. At a roller disco. I still have not seen the whole thing cause it used to get censored for being gross. (NOTE: Just watched it. It was pretty gross)
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
N/A. All the top comments relate to their horror/delight at the aforementioned skin ripping

My Take: I liked this at the time actually. It had a groovy beat and was easy to shout along to. Robbie brought a kind of earnest fun to everything he did, riding high on remarkable chart success… in the UK at least. He was untouchable in that he was a guy with a committed fan base, not considered a wash out by critics, could be funny in interviews and had the local boy done good act down. Thinking about it now, the song is kind of annoying and not that good and his performance of it is kind of annoying and not that good and yet it still isn’t a total fail. Explain that if you can.

Did I own it: It was the first track on Now 47. So there. Oh and my sister had the album. There were better songs on it.

Could I sing along now: Nearly every word.

Worth Remembering: Robbie fans would say yes. Logic says no.

 

Date of Number 1: 19.08.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Melanie C
Song Name: I Turn to You
Fact: Mel C is the first artist to top the charts as part of a quintet, quartet, duo and as a solo artist. All she needs to do is form a trio and she will be unstoppable.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘Incredible song it never gets old’

My Take: I have respect for the Sporty One. She doesn’t chase publicity and crave attention as transparently as the other 4 (well, Emma Bunton seems cool too, but she has been a judge with Dancing on Ice which has fuck all to do with her skill set so I am counting it) I couldn’t tell you if she is married or even in a relationship cause she has never done a glossy spread in Hello or Ok to my knowledge. And when she decided all the Spice madness was getting a bit silly (and causing her an emotional and physical breakdown) she simply informed her 3 remaining band members that she would record her vocals for their third album at a different time to them and set about doing her own thing. Which turned out to be a pleasantly diverse collection of songs. Although they still smack of freshman enthusiasm more than professional skill (The worst track contains the lyric: ‘I could not live without my phone…But you don’t even have a home.’ Deep.) it demonstrated some creative ability outside of being the one who could do a back flip.

This song was the peak of her commercial solo success and listening back it works outside the time in which it was written. It is similar to a lot of pop/dance fusion tracks that were being made at the time: it has a lot in common with ‘Feels so Good’ so why am I enjoying it more? Perhaps it is sentimental. I was always a Spice Girls fan and hearing Mel C belt out triumphant high notes over a banging beat and 90’s-tastic strings is transporting me to a simpler time…Or maybe it is a fine example of the genre. Maybe both.

Did I own it: On the solo album. That I had before. Remember?

Could I sing along now: Yes. I mumbled bits of it but that was mainly cause I couldn’t hit the notes.

Worth Remembering: I think so. Kinda cheesy in sentiment but fun to dance to and besides I just root for her as a singer.

 

Date of Number 1: 26.08.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Spiller & Sophie Ellis Bextor
Song Name: Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)
Fact: A big thing was made in the press of this being released at the same time as Victoria Beckham’s first outing outside of the Spice Girls. Posh Vs Posher. (SEB is the daughter of a former Blue Peter presenter.) This won.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘This is 13 years old and still sounds amazing’

My Take: Back in 2000 or 2001 I watched a talking head list show on channel 4 compiling the greatest number 1 singles of all time as voted for by the public. This song was number 9. Number 9. Out of all the songs ever written that had got to number 1. Wrap your head around that for a moment. This song was popular at the time granted but did nobody have the foresight to imagine that it would date and start to sound like about a million other songs? I remember it though, mainly cause of the press attention it got stopping VB getting to Number 1 with her truly dreadful Dane Bowers collaboration. The post millennium wilderness was a strange time, folks.

But is it actually that good? Well come on, it is far from the 9th best number 1 of all time but as a house/disco holiday song in an era full of them it is pretty marvellous. The catchy riff, the lazy vocal, the memorable hook (which is not the same as a catchy riff, keep up) all blend beautifully. I wasn’t that keen on it then. I like it better now. But it is not the 9th greatest number 1 of all time. Seriously, British channel 4 voting public? Wtf? Were you that happy VB still hadn’t got her greedy mitts on a solo number one?

Did I own it: Yes as part of The Greatest Number One’s CD based on the TV show which I still have. It is the last track on Disc 2. I don’t always skip it but I often do. You have to be in the right mood for it. I.e. On holiday.

Could I sing along now: Every word. Which is not that impressive when you consider 78% is the line: ‘And if this ain’t love…’

Worth Remembering: I am sure the fickle public have largely forgotten it but yes. Kind of.

 

Date of Number 1: 02.09.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Madonna
Song Name: Music
Fact: Ali G is in the music video. Oh Fuck you Madonna.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘Pure genius…this still sounds epic’

My Take: Sorry I am still recovering from having looked up the video. How desperate was she to be cool? And how much money did you get Sacha? How can you satirize it when you are part of the problem? Mind you, this song almost seems satirical. A woman old enough to be my mum (I was 12 when it came out) talking about dancing with her baby while wearing a cowboy hat. She is like that Mum that tries to be cool by giving her teenager and their friends alcohol, like Amy Poehler in Mean Girls. Madonna is that Mother. But yet still has clout in the modern world.

Taking the boring, lame publicity and status seeking attempts out of the critique it is not a bad pop song…Sorry. Hating the video has sucked most of my energy. I am going to be concise: Electro pop with a dense but solid production that draws you in and gets you moving (my foot is currently tapping against the chair against my very will). Well done Madonna. Now try super hard to write, produce and sing without resorting to…well anything other than that. Go on. I dare you.

Did I own it: No. We are in the latter half of the year and I have yet to purchase any of the number 1 singles of the year. I was either too cool for the top 40 or permanently skint.

Could I sing along now: Not really. I got as far as the dooby-dooby bit at the start.

Worth Remembering: I want to say no. But I think this one will endure. Sadly.

 

Date of Number 1: 09.09.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: A1
Song Name: Take On Me
Fact: What? Are you kidding? This happened? REALLY?!
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘I love this version of the song it was part of my childhood…you don’t understand’

He/she is not wrong.

My Take: This was a thing. A1 was one of many floppy haired boy bands that were around then and I remember some of their songs and that their most fancied member was Ben cause he had curtain hair and…I didn’t care for them. But they covered A-ha? When? Man…Why do a cover of a song with one of the most iconic videos ever and not even attempt to make it interesting? They even date it hilariously by doing a whole: ‘A1 as a CD Rom in a PC’ thing and referencing Tron…Oh wait that came back.

Anyways, it is a lame cover as everything that works about the original is put on ice in favour of auto-tune clear up and cheap sound effects. Bad luck A1.

Did I own it: Nope

Could I sing along now: Of course. Not well, but then neither can A1 by all accounts.

Worth Remembering: The biggest shock since I remembered that 5ive did We Will Rock You. The boy bands really did rule the charts back then…

 

Date of Number 1: 16.09.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 2
Artist: Modjo (?)
Song Name: Lady (Hear me Tonight)
Fact: French Duo sampling an old Chic B-Side to create a dance track
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘Who else knew this song before GTA?’ (Another Grand Theft Auto song I guess)

My Take: French Duo sampling an old Chic B-Side to create a dance track. Fair enough.

Did I own it: French Duo sampling an old Chic B-Side to create a dance track. No.

Could I sing along now: Actually the refrain has stuck in my head over the years. Dam you Euro Trash.

Worth Remembering: Nope. I am getting very bored of the dance/pop thing now. Nothing ever happens. What happened to rock n roll? Rap? Indie? Even pop songs with a twist and fun lyrics? I hope this stops soon. This is why I hate clubbing.

 

Date of Number 1: 30.09.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 2
Artist: Mariah Carey & Westlife (Oh fuck me…I take it back. More dance music!)
Song Name: Against All Odds
Fact: You can’t make me listen to this. And I won’t.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
I am not prepared to find out.

My Take: Mariah and the Blandest Boy Band ever sing a Phil Collins song. No thank you. I politely decline. Never. Not if you were paying me to review it. Not if you were holding the answer to life, the universe and everything. I have not heard this version in about 10 years and have possibly never heard it the whole way through but I will not watch it cause while I am happy for youtube to recommend that I might like to listen to other hits by A1 and 5ive I draw the line at Mariah. Plus I know how it goes…

Westlife: Ooh…Ooh…

Mariah: So take a look at me no-ow-ow-ow-ow cause I’ll still be standing HEEEEEEEERE… And you coming BACK to me-e-e-e-is-against-ALL-odds-and that’s a CHANCE I gotta-TAKEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE….

Did I own it: My childhood was never that traumatic, jeez.

Could I sing along now: Only cause my brain hates me and there is about 90,000 versions of this fucking song.

Worth Remembering: This may well be the worst song on the list. I throw up in my mouth just thinking about listening to it. Although we are still just in September 2000.

 

Date of Number 1: 14.10.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: All Saints
Song Name: Black Coffee
Fact: This is neither electro-dance nor a boy band butchering a hit from the 80’s. So I am glad to see it. It was also their last number 1.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘I’m 21 and I miss being 10-11 when the music was so much better and meaningful’

My Take: Thank god for that. I love that there is no dramatic intro…Just straight into a belter of a pop song which proves ballads don’t have to be mushy and packed with purple prose to make an impact. Although it gets a bit repetitive and outstays its welcome the sound is gloriously silky, like being hugged by audio cool. It creates a hush, by keeping it all low key with just a hint of vulnerability and literally nobody ruins their vocals by screaming like a fucking banshee (Mariah…You overrated…gah!) I love the words, the shift in tempo at the end, the bridge, the chorus, how the girls sound, I just really like it.

I actually like it…Look at that. A song on this list I actually like.

Well done All Saints. You proved the sophomore effort of a girl group can mature and sound stronger and…And then they broke up. You know who didn’t? Westlife. I have a lot more cover versions to sit through don’t I? Sigh…

Did I own it: I do now. And I had the album. Which was good. Fucks sake girls, why couldn’t you just have all gotten along?

Could I sing along now: Yes. Can you? Is it just me that likes this song?

Worth Remembering: I think so, yes.

 

Date of Number 1: 21.10.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: U2
Song Name: Beautiful Day
Fact: They were old hats at this…their first hit was in 1981.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘One Direction and Justin Bieber fans can’t appreciate music like this’

My Take: At the risk of sounding like I play Fifa Games and think Bono has some ‘good ideas’ I kinda like it. I would never have listened to it of my own accord. But sitting here…I am smiling. Ok, when Bono starts begging me to touch him and screeching like a large lunged bint I could mention (dam Mariah, dam her to hell) I lost interest but the first time you hear that low voice on the verse lead into the 80’s air punch of a chorus…hell, it works. At some point were they not a legit rock group? Maybe? Either way it has proper guitars and drums and sounds like adrenaline so it gets half a stamp of approval. If the stamp was low on ink.

Did I own it: No.

Could I sing along now: I can give you some of the chorus.

Worth Remembering: Not really. I’d forgotten it until just now. I’d be interested to see if U2 fans like it. You know, as much as The Joshua Tree and stuff.

 

Date of Number 1: 28.10.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Steps
Song Name: Stomp
Fact: Their second number 1. Also there is a mockney hard man at the start of the video that I thought was Jason Statham and I ended up googling: Was Jason Statham in a Steps video?’ while wondering what the fuck I was doing with my life
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘I miss you Steps be back in the music industry please!’

My Take: Oh Steps. They wanted to be our generation’s ABBA. And yet their songs were not quite good enough. I mean the opening line of this one was: ‘Thank god for the weekend…’ Cause it is knackering being in Steps during the week. All that line dancing…Back in the days where an obedient smile and a flat stomach could buy you 2 and a half years of chart success Steps was one of the silliest pop acts ever to grace the charts stopping just short of novelty by the fact that the songs were dam catchy. This was by no means their best and is a paint by numbers party track, but hell it hurts no one and against your better judgement, you may even stomp.

Did I own it: No. I did buy Steps so it is not that I was too cool but I had outgrown them by this stage in their career.

Could I sing along now: I managed ‘Stomp all night…yeah’

Worth Remembering: No. Again not being snobby, but this ain’t no ‘Deeper Shade of Blue’

 

Date of Number 1: 4.11.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: The Spice Girls
Song Name: Holler/Let Love Lead the Way
Fact: Their ninth number one. Also their last.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘I remember all their songs even thought I was only 4 and this one is underrated’

My Take: Well, well well. At their peek they were insanely famous and prolific and I loved them. When I woke up one terrible morning to find that Geri had left the band, I was devastated. I suspected it was my fault for only owning 4 out of the 5 Spice Girls dolls. I was missing the Ginger one…Coincidence? Almost certainly, but at 10, I wasn’t sure. But I was sure The Spice Girls were done taking over the world. And in a way, I was right.

Sure this got to number 1, but It took the 4 remaining Spice Girls quite a long time to reunite and the magic spark that made them work had, without question, gone. That is not to say Geri was talented, clever or even especially charismatic. But whatever made The Spice Girls huge it was not r n b mid tempo tracks about ‘fantasy rooms’ or Jessica Simpson style ballads. Neither track has any oomph at all. They are both so lifeless, like the girls are sleepwalking through them. There is little else to say. Neither song captures the peerless joy of the 96-98 Spice Girls although, anyone would admit, that was a tall order. Farewell girls: Your time was short but man was it sweet.

Did I own it: I bought ‘Forever’ the poorly named final Spice album. Both songs were on it. And I am sad to report probably the strongest tracks.

Could I sing along now: Actually, most of it yes. I must have liked them at some point, I guess.

Worth Remembering: Nope. I believe even the girls themselves suspected this wouldn’t work. They hardly promoted their third album despite their insistence it was a ‘more mature’ sound. Translation: Boring.

 

Date of Number 1: 11.11.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Westlife (For fucks sake)
Song Name: My Love
Fact: Seriously? More Westlife. Their 7th Number 1??? Jesus…
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘This is real boy band. And nobody can’t change this band’ (What? 43 likes this has!)

My Take: Oh lord they are acting in the video…Ok now that is over…How bland…Strings, drum beats, meh harmonies, insincere solos, hallmark lyrics…Did they like singing this dreck? Hard to say. They suck though. Oh mighty me, they suck…Ok I am 2.55 in I have to turn it off before the key change I can’t do it.

Did I own it: No, no, no…

Could I sing along now: Did not remember this one…Until the chorus…Then it all came screaming back…Couldn’t sing it though. Not even half heartedly. Is there any other way to sing a Westlife song? Not according to the sound they produce…

Worth Remembering: Still no. Nothing funny to say. This group…fucking hell. I only hope they are unhappy with their current lives. They deserve it.

 

Date of Number 1: 18.11.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: A1
Song Name: Same Old Brand New You
Fact: 2nd number 1 and not a cover of an A-Ha song.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘One of the most awesome boy bands of all time’

My Take: It is kind of sweet. They want to be N Sync or Backstreet Boys so badly. That kind of whining, nasal singing and the grimy beats with a disco twist. But ‘Bye, Bye, Bye’ this ain’t. And at least ‘Backstreet’s Back’ had a sense of humour about itself. What does the title ‘Same Old Brand New You’ even mean?

I think I get this boy band thing now…They are always either singing about a girl they want to treat right or how confused they are by how a girl is treating them wrong…Teenage girls listen up: Boys. Don’t. Act. Like. This. These boys? I don’t think they are that into you and they didn’t write this song. Harsh but true. Move on.

Did I own it: Nope

Could I sing along now: Didn’t know they were so popular in 2000. In my mind, boy bands were already dead by then. How wrong I was…

Worth Remembering: Better than last time. But no.

 

Date of Number 1: 25.11.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: LeAnn Rimes
Song Name: Can’t Fight the Moonlight
Fact: Only number 1 in the UK, although ‘How Do I Live’ spent 33 weeks in our top 40.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘I am in love with this song it reminds me of when music was good’

My Take: Ok, you got me. I really liked this. It was fun to sing along to. It sounds like it was made for karaoke. It was actually put together by a pop dream team that included super producer Trevor Horn (responsible for many hits, including ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’) and power ballad writer extraordinaire Diane Warren (‘There You’ll Be’ and Aerosmith’s gloriously over the top ‘Don’t want to miss a thing’ to name but two) And Rimes, while not a personal favourite of mine, has a solid voice that builds nicely in this song, without going too over board on the riffing. Although the trousers she is wearing in the video look so uncomfortable that my thighs are sweating in sympathy.

‘Can’t Fight the Moonlight’ was featured in the hilariously awful but awesome Coyote Ugly, a favourite film of mine at the time, which means it gets bonus nostalgia points. The sound is lush and it demonstrates a slight knowing with the not all that innocent lyrics. It would seem I still like it. While I am here, I wonder how much Coyote Ugly is going for on Amazon? It has Tyra Banks in it! I wonder if you could spy the crazy way back when?

Did I own it: On the Coyote Ugly soundtrack and on a Now album.

Could I sing along now: Yes. And I did. And I danced. So there.

Worth Remembering: My inner music snob says no…But the 12 year old in me who wanted to work in a bar where you couldn’t serve water says yes!

 

Date of Number 1: 02.12.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Destiny’s Child
Song Name: Independent Women Part 1
Fact: From the soundtrack for the film ‘Charlies Angels’ Hence their mentioning of the actors and the film at the start. And in the middle.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘I miss when the charts was full of this’

My Take: I don’t want to get up on my soapbox…but…the message of this song is made somewhat weak by the knowledge that Beyonce and co are managed by Beyonce’s Dad. And the song was written by 3 men. And Beyonce. But she is somewhat famed for claiming that she writes her songs when her contribution is contested quietly by those who actually did it. Plus I don’t really feel they capture the spirit of female independence with their talk of diamonds and not so subtle promo of a film where 3 stunningly attractive actresses leap around in various titillating outfits for 2 hours.

Taking that out of it, this is admittedly catchy as hell and a solid contribution to the pop cannon. If you can get past the somewhat confused and patronizing message. Which I can’t. I own a few songs by Destiny’s Child. This is not one of them.

Did I own it: Nope.

Could I sing along now: Yes. Although I feel silly.

Worth Remembering: It did mad business everywhere, especially America where it stayed at the top of the charts for 11 weeks (!) they have produced better songs though.

 

Date of Number 1: 09.12.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: S Club 7
Song Name: Never Had a Dream Come True
Fact: This was a Children in Need single. And their second Number 1.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘I miss this kind of music videos. MTV today is too weird’

My Take: It was a very common thing in the 90’s/early 2000’s, and indeed throughout the history of music, for there to be superfluous band members. Never has there been an odder example of this than S Club 7. Jo O Meara was the lead vocal on 95% of their songs and the other 6 only had to sway in a meaningful way. In fact, I am struggling to hear the 3 boys on this track, even in the background. What did they do when they performed this? I might look up a live performance…Hang on… The camera just focuses on Jo during the verses…And the others ooh…Although the back row of S Club Members look bored as hell…

So why were there 7 of them? Does anyone know? Ok, I am just stalling: I really, really liked this song. It is cheesy as hell and production wise quite cheap. Yet I was just the right age for it…I had loved and lost a lot (or so I believed. And believing makes it so) and really dug the melancholy of the chorus. On this, my re-listen, I am struck by the sentiment ‘Even though I’ll pretend that I’ve moved on…’ being quite honest for a pop song. How many times have you pretended to be over someone before you actually are? It is like, real and stuff. Also, the main Club Member can actually sing quite well. And in the video they all look all comfy in their winter wear…Ah hell. It is nice. It may live.

Did I own it: Yes…Oh my god! I don’t remember buying it but I had it! JESUS CHRIST…With only 3 weeks of the year 2000 to go and we have found the first single I bought! And it is S Club 7. Well done young me. Good effort.

Could I sing along now: Yes. Not well, but yes.

Worth Remembering: No. But S Club will be back on this list with a surprisingly brilliant slice of pop…And that is another story…

 

Date of Number 1: 16.12.2000
Number of weeks at the top: 1
Artist: Eminem feat Dido
Song Name: Stan
Fact: Dido’s bit was taken from her own song ‘Thank You’ which is dreadful.
Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:
‘Nobody tells stories in songs any more…’

My Take: I worked with a man once (a really cool man who makes jewellery: http://www.justified-sinner.com/jewellery.html ) who said this was his least favourite song ever. Eminem and Dido = his own personal hell. And you know, I get it. I heard him. This shit is not for everyone.

Eminem tapped into the pain of teenagers across the world with his angry, chip on his shoulder melodrama and Dido whined her way into many a movie soundtrack at a time when such sounds were appreciated and critically lauded. I cannot remember the last time a Dido song hit the charts (White Flag? Was she really surrendering?) and the latest from Eminem suggests the King of Poor White Boy Idealism is Dead. Their reigns as King and Queen of the pop charts was short. You might even call it a fad.

So does this song live on several years later? Does it deserve music critics nodding seriously over how good he used to be? Honestly? I can’t speak for everyone. But I love it. Having heard the rest of the song the sample comes from, the less said about Dido the better. I just looked her up and it turns out she did release a new album this year. Good for her. I will be sure and check that out…later. But for me this was Eminem at the height of his power. The song is reflective, intelligent and genuinely affecting. Again, I can’t emphasise this enough, I am not confident that this is based on analysis but more my affection for good story telling. Oh God I sound like that youtube comment…But in my defence Eminem is not phoning this in. I felt it then and I feel it now.

What do I feel? I really feel the narrative hook, about an obsessive fan trying to make a connection with Eminem, is a sobering reminder of the pitfalls of celebrity and that the unhinged walk among us, waiting for their passion and aspirations to be recognised. And when they inevitably continue to pass unacknowledged they get mad. Each verse tells us more about this guy, his priorities, his mental state… and the echoy, breathy intermittently sprinkled ‘My teas gone cold, I’m wondering why I got outta bed at all…’ was perfectly selected to work with it, a reminder that monotony is often the reason people lose the plot.

Is Eminem a genius? Nah. Is he talented? Indisputably. Does this song still pack a punch? I just put it on for the first time in ages, much to the annoyance of my boyfriend who is not a fan, and by the time Eminem is gently suggesting Stan get some counselling before realising he is far, far too late…I came to my decision. It is fucking brilliant.

Did I own it: Yes. Two in a row, baby!

Could I sing along now: Yes. Not in front of people though, cause my rapping, while well meant, is offensive to people with ears.

Worth Remembering: I think so. I do get why people don’t like it though.

 

Date of Number 1: 23.12.2000
Number of Weeks at the top: 3 (really people?)
Artist: Bob the Builder
Song: Can We Fix It
Fact: Neil Morissey is the voice of Bob the Builder. Previously more famous for breaking up the marriage of Amanda Holden and Less Dennis. And a sitcom with Martin Clunes. What an obituary he is going to have, huh?

Over zealous top voted Youtube comment relating to how much better music used to be:

‘I love this it is my whole childhood. Kids songs today are not nearly as good’

My Take: Who bought this? Seriously…5 year olds don’t earn that much money do they? This was Christmas Number 1. It seems fitting that this ends what was a displeasing bad year for music. A mixture of uninspired pop and dull as hell dance, it was 12 months of shrugging and sighing for any music fan. So what of this song? What can I say? It is sung by a happy chappy who likes fixing things and…well…Goodbye 2000…The world didn’t end on the first of January but with that much Westlife in the charts, I kind of wish it had.

Did I own it: Three in a row…I’m kidding. No. No to Bob the Builder. No to Dizzy and Wendy. Lofty can go to hell.

Could I sing along now: Well…yes. I’m not a monster.

Worth Remembering: I doubt many people remember how long it was number 1 for. Seriously UK… Are you proud?

 

Round Up

Total Number of Number 1’s: 43

My hopes for 2001: Less songs actually. Very few artists managed to retain the top spot for more than one week. On reflection the few that did included Westlife and Bob the Sodding Builder.

Best Song: For me, Stan has stood the test of time in a way that other songs that year have not. Although there was disappointingly few decent songs in there. Not just songs I loved but even songs I liked. Boo.

 

Worst Song: So many to choose from…I couldn’t even stomach the idea of listening to a version of ‘Against All Odds’ sung by Mariah and Westlife. Out of the ones I actually could listen to…That Bryan Adams remix and the casualty remix were pretty bad. Note to 2001: Please stop remixing things.

 

Surprisingly Not Terrible Song: Rise by Gabrielle was nicer than I remembered

 

How did this Happen Song: 5ive and Queen. Seriously. Still not over that.

 

Nostalgic Overload Song: Never Had a Dream Come True. Back when I wasn’t so cynical I think this song used to make me cry.

 

A Song to Save in the Time Capsule just to Confuse Historians: 7 Days by Craig David. They will take one look at his wanky face on the cover, listening to music through headphones with his eyes closed, and wonder who this sexually successful man he is singing about is.

 

 

Next Time…The 900th UK number 1 is revealed, Shaggy has some relationship advice for us all and the first of many, many reality TV show musical acts shoot for the moon in the hopes of landing in the stars…January-End of June 2001

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