Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 42.

I thought that I would have one final look back at the dance music scene in the early-90s. As I have said before, I first came across lots of songs from this era when I listened to Kisstory on radio station Kiss in the early-2000s. I remember really enjoying “Sweet Harmony” by Liquid, and I was also fond of a song by this group, who were another lot of pioneering button-twiddlers.

Shades Of Rhythm were an English production group who formed in the late-80s, and they were definitely a big part of the rave scene that would be all over the chart by the early-90s. Their first couple of hit singles in 1991 missed the Top 40. But in July 1991, “The Sound Of Eden” was released, which reached no. 35, and this is the one that I really liked (although I can’t find a video online).

It was also around this time when their self-titled album made the lower end of the chart. Next in November 1991 was “Extacy” (pronounced “Ecstasy”, hmm…), which was their most successful hit single, and the only one that made the Top 20. This definitely raised their profile, and even earned them an appearance on Top Of The Pops. They then returned to the chart in 1993 with another minor hit.

But then, in September 1993, “The Sound Of Eden” was re-released, maybe because this had now been established as an anthem in the clubs, and it was hoped that this could do better than first time round. This didn’t actually, but still reached no. 37, meaning that this was a Top 40 hit for a second time in two years. They then had some more minor hits, the last being in 1997.

But one reason why it is clear that “Sound Of Eden” is so influential is because this has been a hit single a further three times in cover versions, although none of these made the Top 40 (and rather curiously, all three covers had different titles too). First in May 1997 was “Sound of Eden” by Casino, which reached no. 52, and was the biggest of their two hit singles.

Then in May 2002 (coincidentally around the same time that I discovered the original), “Sounds Of Eden (Every Time I See The Girl)” by Deep Cover reached no. 63, and was their only hit. And in April 2007, “Every Time I See Her (Sound Of Eden)” by Another Chance reached no. 62 (although they later had a much bigger hit under the name Bodyrox). All of these covers were rather good, but the original will always be the best for me.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 19.

When I was watching The Chart Show online again recently (for a nice change), I came across a video for a song that I liked, so I might as well do the story of this one. Split Enz were a group that formed in New Zealand in the mid-70s (and they must definitely be among the greatest pop culture exports that country has produced along with Shortland Street and The Tribe).

They are best known in this country for their 1980 hit “I Got You”, and for 1982’s “Six Months In A Leaky Boat” being banned by the BBC. By the mid-80s, they had evolved into Crowded House. Their only UK hit single in the 80s was 1987’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, which is arguably their best-known song, and this came very close to being a chart-topper in America too.

Their next hit in the UK wouldn’t be until June 1991, when “Chocolate Cake” was released. The rather bizarre video was a “Hot Shot” on The Chart Show, and the fact box informed us (so it must be true) that the idea for the song came from overhearing a woman in a New York restaurant saying “shall I get the bill or have another piece of chocolate cake”. It’s hard to believe that this reached only no. 69!

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The lyrics to this one were rather witty (there is also a “moo” sound for no particular reason), and Danny Baker (when he had a career) was rather fond of playing this on the radio. One day he interviewed a member of Crowded House (it might’ve been Tim Finn, or maybe his brother Neil) in the studio, and asked if he was namechecked in the song, but it turned out that it was “Tammy Baker” all along.

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Those that are namechecked though include Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Andy Warhol, and Elvis Presley (that could be a good Only Connect question… or maybe not). I remember Danny also asked him what that strange noise was at the start of later hit “It’s Only Natural”. But he didn’t ask him though if everywhere he goes he always takes the weather with him, because he really hates that!

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I am also reminded of one of the most popular videos uploaded by Michael Rosen, where he told the story of when he was a boy, and he had all of these slices of cake in front of him and he couldn’t stop himself, he definitely had another piece of chocolate cake! Crowded House had more hits in the 90s, including “Weather With You” (their only UK Top Ten hit single), “Fall At Your Feet”, and “Pineapple Head” (probably not about a failed Nottingham Forest footballer).

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They also won a Brit Award in 1994. When Crowded House split in 1996, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” was rereleased and was a Top 40 hit again, presumably to say “we might be back one day”. Their best-of “Recurring Dream” also topped the album chart for two weeks. A later best-of also featured the fascinating “My Telly’s Gone Bung”, where the drummer lamented about his broken television.

It was really enjoyable to look back at one of their more underrated songs that is now three decades old. Crowded House did indeed eventually return as was hoped with various line-ups, and they have gone on to release more acclaimed albums, right up to this year. And such is the odd cycle of pop music, one of them is now in Fleetwood Mac.

More TV Memories – Top Of The Pops 1991 Relaunch.

Following on from last week, there was a lot of anticipation for the new look Top Of The Pops. But things would be so different, this relaunch ended up being described as “Year Zero”, with the biggest changes in the show’s history to date. Some insist that this is the day that Top Of The Pops went rubbish, but let’s take a look at what exactly happened on 3 October 1991.

This was an attempt to finally bring the show into the 90s, with the new opening theme “Now Get Out Of That” (which was used until January 1995), which was definitely an attempt to embrace the “rave culture” that was about the sweep the singles chart. There was a new studio (no more neon lights now!), which was rather noisy and resembled a lively nightclub, and everyone had to sing live. vlcsnap-00413

And there were new features and a wave of new hosts, who weren’t also on BBC Radio 1. We begin with Tony Dortie and Mark Franklin, who had little previous TV hosting experience. There would be more new hosts introduced later, but these were the only two who lasted for a long time, until January 1994. Erasure had the honour (if that’s the word) of starting off this new era. vlcsnap-00414

And then there’s a look at the Top Ten, now featuring a short clip of the video instead of a still picture, and there was no voiceover announcing these one-by-one (this later changed to being shown nearer the end of the show, with voiceover, and 40-11 being shown over a video). Next is Voice Of The Beehive, what have they let themselves in for. They are followed by the soulful sounds of Kenny Thomas who is a big climber. vlcsnap-00416

Then there’s a look at the US chart. I don’t remember this feature lasting long, you’d think they’d concentrate on the UK. Belinda Carlisle is in the studio, and is briefly interviewed by Mark whilst looking mildly embarrassed. Then there’s an exclusive video by Stevie Wonder. Back in the studio, there’s Julian Lennon, who is also briefly interviewed by Mark, just let him get on with it! vlcsnap-00417

Then there’s a look at the albums chart, featuring Status Quo. I thought that this was supposed to be a show aimed at teenagers! Then there’s the Breakers (now with an introduction again) featuring Carl Cox and Monty Python. We finish with Bryan Adams, who is still Number One. “Bryan continues his bid for the Christmas Number One”, says Tony, making the show’s most amusing comment. vlcsnap-00415

There’s much more to come next week, I’m sure that people will be very eager for more. Tony then finishes off by saying “laters!”, definitely an attempt at a catchphrase. The credits are then shown over the closing sequence (this would later change to being shown over a video). And finally there’s a trail for Number One magazine which wasn’t too far off closing down at this point.

More TV Memories – Top Of The Pops 1991.

When did the 1980s come to an end? Well obviously it was 31 December 1989. Although if you watched Top Of The Pops regularly you might think differently, indeed you could’ve thought it was actually on 26 September 1991 (hopefully this edition will be shown on BBC4 soon!). Top Of The Pops was a show that had to be on BBC1 every week, all year round, there couldn’t be a break at any point because pop music always had to be covered.

This meant that its look got rather tired more quickly than other TV shows. Top Of The Pops did seem to have been stuck in the 80s by this point, still using “The Wizard” theme that had been introduced in April 1986, and an opening sequence introduced in January 1989 (although this did have minor changes by this point). And the studio was still full of pink and blue neon flashing lights. vlcsnap-00390

This was to be the final edition hosted by the long-serving Gary Davies (who by now was high up in the studio away from the crowd), and also the final edition before the big “Year Zero” relaunch the following week. There are a lot of songs squeezed into the 30 minutes, and the studio:video ratio is rather curious. We begin with PJB in the studio. Yes, PJB! Remember them? Not really. There are also plenty of silly graphics flying around everywhere. vlcsnap-00391

This is then followed by the video of the highest new entry, by The Scorpions. The Top 40 was only read out one-by-one by the host on the show for about a decade, by this point the 40-2 songs scrolled along the bottom of a video, someone clearly realised that you could fit in one more song this way. And we are also without Gary’s “and there’s a new entry at number furdy-four”-type comments on them which had become rather grating (this is why Matthew Bannister had to happen etc.). vlcsnap-00393

Next is Rozalla who sings live in the studio. I thought that rule wasn’t introduced until the relaunch, but this always seemed to be rather inconsistent. This is followed by videos from REM and Tina Turner. Then Bizarre Inc. are in the studio. Then there’s a video from Marc Almond, before Sabrina Johnston also sings live in the studio. This is followed by three Breakers with no introduction by Fish, Ozzy Osbourne, and Belinda Carlisle (this was still in the days when singles went up the chart). vlcsnap-00395

Bryan Adams’ very long run at Number One continues, and his video is shown. Then next week it’s new opening, new studio, new hosts, new songs, new everything. Gary says goodbye, and when BBC Radio 1 presenters returned to the show in February 1994, he had long gone. The “end of the 80s” feeling is emphasised by finishing off with the video for the final hit single by Bros, who had been huge barely three years earlier. vlcsnap-00394

Things would be very different the following week…

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 7.

Do you remember the first time you saw The Simpsons on TV? For me, it was probably the first time that I saw the video for “Do The Bartman”, which was on The Chart Show‘s special when they previewed some of the songs that could be hits at the start of 1991. I think I’d heard a little about the show, but I hadn’t ever really seen any of the characters in action before, so this caught my interest.

In January 1991 “Do The Bartman” was released, and this came about halfway through the second series (the majority of the vocals were performed by Bart, as he was the main character in the earliest episodes, supposedly being the ultimate mischievous boy). The video looks remarkably scruffy by today’s HD standards. This turned out to be a chart-topper for three weeks in the UK (and for nine weeks in Ireland), and this was a surprise for several reasons.

Firstly, the only way that you could see full episodes in the UK at this point was on Sky One, when there still wasn’t really a huge amount of viewers (The Simpsons didn’t come to BBC1 until November 1996, although you could buy episodes on VHS before that). This means that the success of the song was rather out of proportion to how many people were actually regular viewers. And this wasn’t even a hit single in America, which really is a shock.

What probably did help steer “Do The Bartman” to some success was the debate about whether there was an uncredited contribution by Michael Jackson (it turns out he was one of the backing singers and co-producer, but it might be stretching it to say that this qualifies as an outright Jackson song). It also meant that characters such as Principal Skinner and the like were suddenly on Top Of The Pops!

In February 1991 the album “The Simpsons Sing The Blues” was released, and this made the Top Ten too. Next in April 1991 was “Deep Deep Trouble”, which featured a main vocal from Homer as well as Bart, and also made the Top Ten (and was a chart-topper for four weeks in Ireland, making it 13 weeks altogether for the two songs). I remember when I saw the video for this for the first time I found it rather scary, I still don’t like to look at it much now.

Was this really all three decades ago now? Well, yes. Surprisingly, there were no more hit singles after this, unless you count “Spider Pig” from the film, but they had made their impact, and proved that they were here to stay, on TV, if not the singles chart. There have now been over 700 episodes of The Simpsons, and the 33rd series starts later this year.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 6.

Here’s someone who did well in one area, and then unexpectedly did well in another. There have been plenty of comedians who have also released singles over the years, and this is another example of that. Vic Reeves is someone who had been on the comedy scene since the mid-80s, and in 1987 he appeared in a Shakin’ Stevens video. In 1990 he suddenly hit the big time when his comedy show launched on Channel 4.

Vic was the self-styled “top-flight entertainer”, and his rather bizarre range of characters and sketches did rather well with viewers. In April 1991 Vic launched a pop career too, fancying himself as something of a crooner, his first hit being a cover of “Born Free” which reached no. 6. He was accompanied by The Roman Numerals who were presumably his backing singers, and there was also a performance of this on Top Of The Pops that was just lovely really.

That wasn’t the end of the joke, there was more to come. Because in October 1991, Vic released a cover of “Dizzy”, and this turned out to be a chart-topper for two weeks (Vic was one of the few people in 1991 who wasn’t Bryan Adams to have a Number One single). Among the notable things about this are the guest vocals from indie band The Wonder Stuff (and this was their biggest hit by some distance), and there were a lot of washing machines in the video, probably because of the lyric “like a whirlpool, it never ends“, how terrific.

There was then a whole album of this, when in November 1991 “I Will Cure You” was released, and this reached no. 16. By now Vic was an established name, and he toured the country and performed his blend of comedy and music to much acclaim. He would have one more moment of chart success in July 1995 when a cover of The Monkees’ “I’m A Believer” was released, and this was the final time he made the Top 40.

This time Vic’s mate Bob Mortimer also contributed some vocals, along with indie band EMF (this puts them in an amusing position of their three Top Ten hit singles in the UK being “Unbelievable”, “I Believe”, and “I’m A Believer”). After this, along with several more various bizarre comedy shows, Vic has also had some success as an artist and an actor, he really can do it all.