Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 21.

Here’s someone else who briefly found fame on the pop scene in the early-90s. Zoe is a singer who was born in London, and I have read that she used to be a backing singer for Bananarama (maybe she was their secret fourth member all along). In November 1990, her debut single “Sunshine On A Rainy Day” was released, which reached no. 53.

It seems that somebody thought that this one still had the potential to do well though, and in August 1991, a remixed version was released, accompanied by a new video. This “Sunshine On A Rainy Day” reached no. 4, to become her first and only Top Ten hit single in the UK, and also made the Top 20 of the biggest-sellers of the year. And in the years since, this has become acknowledged as something of a summertime anthem.

In 1992, a third video was made in an attempt to try and break “Sunshine On A Rainy Day” in America, but this wasn’t a success. This one has managed to overshadow the rest of her career somewhat, but she did go on to have one more Top 40 hit, when in November 1991 “Lightning” was released (oh no, another black-and-white video!), which curiously spent three consecutive weeks at no. 37, and got her back on Top Of The Pops.

And at the end of 1991, her debut album “Scarlet, Red And Blue” briefly made the lower end of the chart. In February 1992, “Holy Days” reached only no. 72, and this was her final hit single in the UK. She did continue for a while though, and released singles until as late as 1996, and her second and final album “Hammer” was also released in this year, but didn’t make the chart.

In May 2000, “Sunshine On A Rainy Day” was covered by Australian singer Christine Anu, and this made the Top 30 in Australia (although I don’t think that there was a release in this country, and this is the only cover version that I am aware of that had some success). But there is one more part to this story. A while ago, I was going through a pile of some old audio cassettes.

I found one by Zoe (presumably a single or album) that seemed to be signed by the woman herself. Now I don’t know where this came from, I certainly have never met her, and I don’t know anybody who has (who could possibly have thrown it away?). I presume that she must’ve made an appearance at a record store one day or something like that. But on the basis that I would class her as “famous” (well she did have one Top Ten hit single), and I am aware of her songs, it was still one of those weird moments where I felt overawed. I wonder how much this could be worth now, a fortune?!

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 44.

A long time ago now, I remember fiddling about with a big radio/tape recorder thing. I was going through the dial and trying to discover where all of the stations on FM were. I remember coming across the test transmissions for Classic FM, Britain’s first national commercial radio station, which consisted of some birdsong, and as I have very little interest in classical music, this was about the only time that I ever listened regularly.

It was also around this time where I did that thing that so many other people supposedly liked to do, which was trying to tape some songs off the Top 40 as they were announced on BBC Radio 1 on Sunday afternoons. I remember one song particularly striking me, meaning that this really has been rattling around in my head for the last three decades or so now.

Sophie B Hawkins is an American singer, who had a rather distinctive look of long straggly blonde hair, and in July 1992 her debut hit “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” was released. The first video to this was rather steamy, and there was a second made, which was in black-and-white (which reminds me out of nowhere really, does anybody else remember when Trevor And Simon used to host the video reviews on CBBC’s Live & Kicking, and they often complained when a video was in black-and-white?).

This reached no. 14, and this was also her first Top Ten hit single in the USA and Australia. Her album “Tongues And Tails” made the chart not long after. Next in September 1992 was “California Here I Come”, and this was followed in February 1993 by “I Want You”, but neither of these made the Top 40 in the UK. She returned in August 1994 with “Right Beside You”.

This had a rather eye-catching blue-tinted video, which was shown on The ITV Chart Show, and there was a lot of radio airplay. This slowly started to climb up the chart, and eventually reached no. 13, to become her biggest hit in the UK, and this also earned her a few appearances on Top Of The Pops. But rather surprisingly, this one didn’t make the Top 50 in America. It’s definitely among my favourites by her though. Her second album “Whaler” made the chart around this time too.

After this, in November 1994 “Don’t Don’t Tell Me No” reached no. 36, and in March 1995 “As I Lay Me Down” reached no. 24. This was her final hit single in the UK, and her second and final Top Ten hit in both the USA and Australia. She is still around, and her most recent album was released in 2012. She may not be my favourite-ever singer called Sophie (I think you all know who that is!), but it was always good seeing her on the chart in the mid-90s.

It’s “Ballantine”, by the way.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 29.

This is a British group who had various successes, before suddenly hitting the big time, with one hit that will always overshadow their others. By the time that The Lightning Seeds formed, frontman Ian Broudie had already been in the music business for several years. He had previously been in the group Big In Japan (and no, they never recorded a song called “Alphaville”, stop it), along with contributing to several albums (including the one by Bette “Mrs Suggs” Bright).

In July 1989, “Pure” was their first hit single, which reached no. 16, and this was also their first and only Top 40 hit in America. After a few flops in 1990, they returned in March 1992 with “The Life Of Riley”, which reached no. 20. This would eventually become better known as the theme to Goal Of The Month on Match Of The Day, and Danny Baker when he had a career said that he played an instrument on this, but then he once insisted that he was joining EastEnders as Alfie Moon’s brother, so I don’t really believe him.

There were further hits throughout the mid-90s, including “Sense”, “Lucky You” (which was also used as the theme to a game on Mark And Lard’s BBC Radio 1 show, and made the Top 40 at the second attempt), “Change”, “Marvellous” (which seemed to be used on a lot of adverts), “Perfect”, and “Ready Or Not”. But these were all fairly modest successes, plenty of them making the Top 20, but none the Top Ten. Then, in June 1996, Broudie was invented to perform the anthem for England at Euro ’96.

Also contributing would be Frank Skinner and David Baddiel, the hosts of BBC2’s Fantasy Football League. “Three Lions” turned out to be a big success, becoming an enduring chart-topper. Then there was a return to the smaller-sized hits with “What If” and “Sugar Coated Iceberg”. And then in April 1997, “You Showed Me” was released, a cover of a 60s song which had been a hit for Salt-N-Pepa earlier in the decade. This reached no. 8, to become their first and only non-“Three Lions” Top Ten hit. So it was a surprise that next single “What You Say” missed the Top 40.

But then something rather odd happened. In November 1999 “Life’s Too Short” was released, which launched a new sound for The Lightning Seeds, and a new image. This was in much more of a dance direction, and Broudie no longer wore glasses or had a beard, which people thought was rather weird. And they also wondered why Broudie, who was now in his 40s, suddenly wanted to make songs that sounded like Daft Punk and the like, when he was always going to come off second best.

In March 2000 “Sweet Soul Sensations” was released. This got nowhere near the Top 40, but this is redeemed by the fact that him who used to be in Hollyoaks appeared in the video, and anyone who gives him work has to be commended. Since then, Broudie has concentrated on his production work, and every couple of years, “Three Lions”, the song that must now be his pension, returns to the chart as anticipation for another football tournament increases.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 21.

This is another British group who did some interesting things in the 80s, mostly in the electropop genre, which was rather exciting at the time. Heaven 17 were formed by Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware after they departed The Human League, although of course that group did manage to carry on successfully without them. They recruited Glenn Gregory as their singer.

They had four hit singles in 1981, but all of them missed the Top 40. The best of them for me though was “Penthouse And Pavement”, which reached only no. 57. A further single in 1982 narrowly missed the Top 40 too. But they finally made their breakthrough in April 1983 when “Temptation” was released. This featured the uncredited vocal by Carol Kenyon (although she was credited on her later collaboration with Paul Hardcastle).

This reached no. 2, to become their biggest hit single in the UK. At last they were big news, and they also made the cover of Smash Hits twice, which was proof that they had hit the pop jackpot. They followed this in June 1983 with “Come Live With Me”, to make it two Top Ten hits in a row. They had further hits in 1983 and 1984, with “Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry” being another good one.

Their hits had started to drop off by 1985 though. After a quiet period in the late-80s, Heaven 17 would eventually return. In July 1991, Marsh and Ware’s other group BEF (British Electronic Foundation) released a cover of Sly And The Family Stone’s “Family Affair”, which featured a guest vocal from Lalah Hathaway, and reached no. 37, while Gregory also worked with the group Honeyroot.

By this point, I wouldn’t know for sure of course, but they must’ve looked at the growing market of “squeeze one final success out of your career by doing a remix of your biggest hit one decade on”, and realised that there could be a place for them in that. And it would be a rather novel way to rescue them from being Down The Dumper as well.

So in November 1992, a remix of “Temptation” by Brothers In Rhythm was released, and this did indeed make the Top Ten for a second time (although two places lower than the original version). And suddenly they were back on Top Of The Pops, it was poptastic, mate, and it seemed for a moment that the previous decade hadn’t happened. But Carol Kenyon still didn’t receive a credit, and no new video was made.

That a Greatest Hits album was also released around this time wasn’t a coincidence. They decided in 1993 to release some more remixes of their 80s hit singles, but this just resulted in “Penthouse And Pavement” missing the Top 50 for a second time, which was disappointing. And this was also their final action on the chart, but they have now made eight albums.

Great Moments In Pop – The 70s Part 2.

I have decided that I will do a few more pop music pieces about acts that found fame in the 70s. Although I wasn’t around at the time, I have discovered more stories that I think are worth sharing. Squeeze are a group that formed in London in the mid-70s, the main core are Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, although there have been many other members over the years, including Jools Holland, who had perfected his boogie woogie piano style even then.

They soon become well-known for their quirky songs. Their first hit single was in April 1978 when “Take Me I’m Yours” was released. But 1979 was one of their most successful years. In March “Cool For Cats” was released, and this was notable for having a rare lead vocal from Difford. I do have the vinyl single of this, which is a rather weird orange/pink-type colour.

“Cool For Cats” reached no. 2, as did the follow-up “Up The Junction”, which was released in June 1979. They went on to have many hits in the 80s too, but it is a surprise to realise that some of their best-known songs didn’t even make the Top 40, including 1980’s “Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)”, and 1981’s “Tempted” (featuring a vocal from Paul Carrack, who was also the vocalist on Mike And The Mechanics’ “The Living Years”, but let’s not think about that right now…)

Their final Top Ten single was when “Labelled With Love” was released in October 1981. Also notable is 1987’s “Hourglass”, which had an amusing video that was directed by Adrian Edmondson. But strange as it may seem, I first really came across Squeeze in 1992 when “Cool For Cats” was recycled for use in an advert for milk (no particular brand, but the National Diary Council). I feel that I should quote the rewritten lyrics…

Me mum is down the bingo and the old man’s out of town
They said that I could party so I wouldn’t mess around
I spot a little diamond in the corner on her own
The lads all try it on but end up with their fuses blown
And then she eyes me bottle in a way that I condone
So while the party’s raving I said give me some old chat
And let her share me pint of milk because it’s cool for cats it’s cool for cats

I remember really enjoying this advert, but I don’t know if Difford was brought in to perform the rewritten lyrics, or if a soundalike was used in a “Mr Soft”/Softmints style. In April 1992, it was actually decided to rerelease “Cool For Cats”, and the (original) lyrics appeared in Smash Hits, accompanied by some screenshots from the advert. This only reached no. 62 though, definitely not repeating the success of 13 years earlier.

And then in May 1992, a “Greatest Hits” album was released, which did make the Top Ten, although it did seem a little odd that they were trying to kickstart their career off the back of an advert for milk. And then there was a second advert made which had rewritten lyrics too. Squeeze continued to have hit singles until the mid-90s, and since then Difford And Tilbrook have occasionally got back together for various projects.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 90s Part 8.

Was 1992 a good year for pop music? A lot of people don’t think that it was a classic really. But it was a year when genres were developing as quickly as they ever were. Here’s a highlight (well highlight might not be the right word in this case, but I still want to feature this one as I do remember it). A dance genre that came on to the scene around this time was “Toytown Techno”.

This was where old children’s TV show themes were taken, and they were set to dance music (usually rave or techno), and seemingly the more ridiculous the combination, the better. Some of the most successful hits were “Roobarb And Custard” by Shaft, and “A Trip To Trumpton” by Urban Hype, that both made the Top Ten. In July 1992, there was one of the most extreme examples of this.

Smart E’s (whoever they were, the singles chart being rather overtaken by faceless dance acts at this time) decided to take the theme to the long-running Sesame Street, and add some bangs and thumps to it. At this time, this show was still regularly on Channel 4 in the afternoon, so the theme was familiar to many people, including me. “Sesame’s Treet” went on to reach no. 2, becoming alarmingly close to being a chart-topper, and was also a minor hit in America. And they got on to Top Of The Pops, it must’ve been a quiet week.

But I can’t really imagine another time in pop music when an idea like this would’ve been so successful. I can only imagine what the likes of Big Bird made of all this. And as for what happened to Smart E’s after this, well as far as I know they released no more singles, but they’ve probably gone on to remix hundreds of sings since. Not long after this hit, the dance scene moved on to the next craze, and this genre’s novelty fizzled out.

But somehow there is a chance that Toytown Techno wasn’t even actually the strangest dance genre that was around in the early-90s. Because also briefly popular at the time was taking the theme music to various computer games and reworking them as dance songs too. And that means that dance versions of the music for Super Mario Land and Tetris were also Top Ten hits, would you believe it.

Musical Memories – 5 June 1992.

The next date I have picked at random is 5 June 1992 which is the earliest one to have come out so far, from when I was just eight years old. The Official Charts site seems to be frustratingly inconsistent on whether it lists a Top 75 or a Top 100 singles chart, for this week it is only a Top 75, so if there is anything interesting in the 76-100 positions I won’t know about it. But let’s make a start.

1 (non-mover) “Please Don’t Go”/”Game Boy” – KWS. A lot of people think that 1992 wasn’t a very good year for chart-topping singles. This one for example was a cover of an song by KC and the Sunshine Band that was number one for five weeks.

2 (up 2) “Jump” – Kris Kross. This was another big song at the time from a duo who had a rather distinctive look, they liked to wear their clothes back-to-front and I think that they were both about 13 as well. It really was a song that did seem to be all over the place and it was even a chart-topper in America, but they weren’t heard of much after this success.

7 (non-mover) “On A Ragga Tip” – SL2. Around the 2001-2002 mark there was a great programme on late-night ITV called The Dance Years, where Dave Pearce who has been a presenter of dance music radio shows for many years looked back at ten of the best dance hits from each year from the late-80s to the early-00s, and there were lots of contributions from people in the industry and fans, and it brought back lots of memories, and also helped me to learn a lot more about the development of the dance genre. Around 1992 there were a lot of Rave hits in the chart, and I do remember this one well, it had a rather simplistic lyric but it was a big success. SL2 did have another hit with “Way In My Brain” which is great too. A remix of “On A Ragga Tip” was a hit in 1997.

9 (new entry) “Something Good” – Utah Saints. Another dance classic from around the time which samples “Cloudbusting” by Kate Bush and it’s another of my favourites from this year. A remix of “Something Good” put the Utah Saints back into the Top Ten in 2008. 12558-raw

15 (down 13) “Raving I’m Raving” – Shut Up And Dance. Another song that is considered a to be classic in the Rave genre and there is an interesting story behind its chart run. This was its second and final week on the chart. “Raving I’m Raving” sampled “Walking In Memphis” which Marc Cohn didn’t see the funny side of, meaning that the single was hastily withdrawn and vanished off the chart after just two weeks. I do remember though that the song was recently played on Radio 2 during Pick Of The Pops which was a rather odd experience.

24 (new entry) “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” – Incognito. Another great dance song, this was by the group who are best remembered for “Always There” but this was easily as great and deserves more credit. 12563-raw

29 (non-mover) “Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)” – Benny Hill. The famous funnyman had died earlier in the year, and his 1971 chart-topper was re-released as a tribute, it was definitely odd seeing this song in a chart with so many Rave hits but it was great that it was a hit again 21 years on. 


That’s it for now, there will be more chart memories from me soon.