Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 20.

Recently, I was going through a pile of old audio cassette tapes for the first time in a while. Some of them featured various things that were recorded off the radio a long time ago now like adverts and songs, and I had forgotten what was on a lot of them. On one was a show called Kisstory, that used to be on Kiss FM on Sunday evenings in the early-2000s.

This was where lots of old-school dance songs from the 80s and 90s were played, and I thought that this would be a good opportunity to hear some of these songs again to bring back memories (before you could track down just about everything played online), or maybe for the first time (this was clearly a good idea as the Kisstory format has since become a fully-fledged digital radio station in itself).

When going through the tape, I came across a rather bizarre song that I don’t think I’ve heard on the radio before or since, which made me go “huh?”, and trying to find out more about it has just made me go “huh?” even more really. The song was “Mr Kirk’s Nightmare” by British group 4 Hero, which is rather well-known for featuring this sample:

“Mr Kirk”
“Yes?”
“Do you have a son named Robert, Robert Kirk, age 17?”
“Yes”
“I’m sorry Mr Kirk, you’d better come down to the stationhouse, your son is dead”
“Dead? H-how?”
“He died of an overdose”
“Oh my god…”

Now when you put that on a dance song, and mostly repeat the “your son is dead” part over some thumping and buzzing noises, it does become all rather unusual and removes the intended seriousness. Apparently in the early-90s, people in the nightclubs were rather fond of this one. It also proves that anything was fair game to be sampled, however strange it was.

But I did think to myself, where’s that sample from, what’s the original context? Well it turns out that the sample is taken from a song called “Once You Understand” by Think, which was a hit single in America in 1971. It features the lyric “things get a little easier/once you understand” over and over in the background, as various domestic arguments between parents and their children are played out.

It has to be remembered that this was at a time when the generation gap was growing, and older people night not have been able to comprehend the more “psychedelic”-type music that was coming on to scene and being appreciated by rebellious youngsters that wasn’t around in their youth. Comments include “I’ll be expecting you to get a haircut by Friday” and “I don’t want you in that neighbourhood“.

This all abruptly stops for the exchange at the end, and although this was a song that was trying to pass on a serious message, most people seemed to find it all rather ridiculous and unintentionally amusing rather than shocking, and consider this to be one of the worst songs to have made the US singles chart. And there’s another mystery.

When 4 Hero’s song entered the UK singles chart in November 1990 and peaked at no. 73, this was credited as “Combat Dancing EP”. In its second and final week on the chart, this changed to “Mr Kirk’s Nightmare”, even though it was exactly the same song. 4 Hero went on to make some more influential dance songs that were hits in the 90s, but they can’t have been more bizarre than this one.

Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 14.

Here’s an American group that only had one big hit in the 90s, but it was very memorable. They Might Be Giants formed in the mid-80s (and took their name from a 70s film), and there have been lots of members come and go, but the main core consists of John Flansburgh and John Linnell. Some of their songs could definitely be described as “quirky”, with lots of amusing lyrics along with creative videos.

In March 1990 “Birdhouse In Your Soul” was released, and this reached no. 6 to become their only Top 10 hit in the UK (this was also their biggest hit in America). I suppose they are one of those groups where you either enjoy what they do, or you find them immensely irritating to the point that you want to commit random acts of violence, but I know what side I’m on. I’ve always been fond of this and it’s one of the hits of the year for me. vlcsnap-00268

Not long after this, their third of 22 albums “Flood” made the Top 20 (their only album to be a hit in the UK). Probably expecting some further success, in June 1990 the follow-up single, a cover of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” was released, but this reached only no. 61, and their next single missed the Top 75. There wasn’t much heard about them in this country after this. vlcsnap-00269

But then, over a decade later, in July 2001, they almost did a “reverse dumper”, when they returned to the UK chart for the first time in 11 years with “Boss Of Me”, the theme to American sitcom Malcolm In The Middle that was increasing in popularity with viewers around this time after being shown on BBC2 and Sky One, which reached no. 21. It was good seeing them back on the scene, and this song also earned them a Grammy Award. vlcsnap-00271

After this, They Might Be Giants have released many more albums, including some aimed at children (I fear that they may be responsible for that “don’t cross the street in the middle of the block” song that you’ve just got to get up and do a dance to apparently), that seem to have guest vocals by Mickey Mouse, along with all kinds of other bizarre ideas, and they have won a Grammy for these too.

Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 5.

Here’s a look at another group that had a brief but memorable moment of fame, this one coming early in the 90s decade. Candy Flip were a duo who formed in the late-80s, consisting of Ric Peet and Danny “Dizzie” Spencer. In March 1990 they released a rather trippy version of “Strawberry Fields Forever”, originally a hit for The Beatles in 1967 of course, which was already rather out there. This version, which was on the wave of the rise of rave culture and “Madchester” in pop music, reached no. 3, and this led to an appearance on Top Of The Pops, they were so proud.

Now I know I do go on about her a lot, but again I can’t help but be reminded of when also in 1990 Danielle Dax released a rather trippy cover of a song by The Beatles, this one was “Tomorrow Never Knows”, but this wasn’t a hit, Candy Flip had already done a similar thing and were much more successful with theirs. But would they make the Top 40 again? In July 1990 the follow-up “This Can Be Real” was released. Now this was a rather memorable and warm summer, could another helping of their feelgood vibes go down as well? vlcsnap-00086

Well not really, as “This Can Be Real” reached only no. 60, but it did spend four weeks on the chart. The video was shown on The ITV Chart Show, and they also appeared on The 8:15 From Manchester, which I’m sure was very exciting, but it turned out they would only make the Top 40 once. Another interesting thing about Candy Flip is that would you believe they had not one but two Smash Hits covers, making them among a very small group of acts who had more Smash Hits covers than they did Top 40 singles. cf1

Their day-glo shirts or whatever they were called weren’t on the scene for much longer though. “This Can Be Real” turned out to be their second and final hit, their next singles didn’t make the Top 75 at all, and their only album “Madstock… The Continuing Adventures Of Bubblecar Fish” also failed to chart. They did return to the chart almost a decade later in April 1999, when they had a further minor hit, this time under the name Sound5. vlcsnap-00089

Whatever happened to them after this though? Like some other acts that have been featured in this series, after the end of their hits, Ric and Dizzie have gone on to have further success behind the scenes in the music business with production, songwriting and engineering, working with various bands, among their most high-profile work being contributing to a couple of Robbie Williams albums.

Musical Memories – 12 December 1990.

It’s time to go back again and look at another classic top 100 singles chart. This time the date picked at random is 12 December 1990. Let’s find out what the hottest hits were in this week.

1 (non-mover) “Ice Ice Baby” – Vanilla Ice. This was one of the biggest hits of 1990. I wasn’t really a huge fan of it but it was remarkable just how successful this song was at the time.

6 (down 3) “Unbelievable” – EMF. The biggest hit for this band, “Unbelievable” even went on to be a chart-topping success in America. 11560-raw

15 (up 14) “Just This Side Of Love” – Malandra Burrows. I don’t remember this song but there is a curious fact about it – this was a song by an actress who was in Emmerdale at the time, and it was released on the Yorkshire Television label. So my question is, is this the only UK hit single to have been released by an ITV regional company? I can’t think of any others.

17 (up 1) “Sucker DJ” – Dimples D. One thing that I know and really like about this song is that it samples the theme from the 1960s American sitcom I Dream Of Jeannie, and it’s really great.

21 (down 5) “My Definition Of A Boombastic Jazz Style” – Dream Warriors. Another great one, this one remains in my mind because I seem to remember it being played very regularly on the radio at the time for some reason.

25 (up 2) “24 Hours” – Betty Boo. Ooooh Betty! Betty was definitely one of my favourite pop stars for this era and it was always great seeing her in the chart, although she didn’t have many more hits after this. She has gone on to being a successful songwriter though. 11614-raw

41 (down 7) “A Little Time” – The Beautiful South. The only chart-topper for this group who have had lots of great hits over the years, but it was really great seeing them there with this classic, even if it was for just one week.

51 (down 18) “Take My Breath Away” – Berlin. It’s back! A chart-topping single for this group in 1986, it re-entered the top ten four years later and it still sounded great.

54 (down 23) “Power Of Love”/”Deee-Lite Theme” – Deee-Lite. This group were great and “Power Of Love” was another terrific song of theirs, although it wasn’t as successful or memorable as “Groove Is In The Heart”, but then, what is? 11597-raw

60 (down 21) “Step Back In Time” – Kylie Minogue. Kylie just couldn’t stop having top ten hits at this time, and of the ones produced by Stock/Aitken/Waterman I would have to say that this was my favourite one. 50057-raw

I am a fan of a lot of hits from 1990, I do remember this era and I can’t believe how long ago it was now. Unfortunately in this week the top 100 is rather full of re-issues of very old songs from The Righteous Brothers and the like, daft novelty records, and the wave of irritatingly naff Christmas singles is beginning to take over the chart too. There were still a few good ones around though, it’ll be interesting what’ll happen next time.