Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 31.

This is an American singer who has done some rather quirky things over the years, and he became known for his songs that were little like anything else on the chart at the time, accompanied by his bizarre lyrics. But although he has never had a Top Ten hit single in this country, he has been acclaimed, and he has achieved some amount of mainstream success.

Beck first appeared on the UK chart in March 1994 when “Loser” was released, and this reached no. 15. I do remember when Nick Abbot was on the radio on Saturday evenings, and wondered what the National Lottery result was, and after discovering that as usual he had no numbers, he would get rather annoyed, and play a short burst of “Loser”, which is definitely an interesting interpretation of this one.

This was also used on a trail on MTV that was shown rather frequently, and this was almost as amusing the 100th time you saw this, as it was the first. And when Danny Baker was on the radio once and asked people what the best opening lyrics to song were, he felt that few could match “in the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey“. How marvellous.

Beck would have further success in 1996 with “Where It’s At” and “Devil’s Haircut”. He’s got two turntables and a microphone apparently. More hits in 1997 were “The New Pollution” (which made the Top 20), “Sissyneck”, and “Deadweight”. By the end of 1997, everybody wanted to namecheck him as an influence, and collaborate with him, and he was starting to win Grammy and Brit awards.

Music magazine Select did a list of The 100 Most Important People In The World, the hottest people who were going to lead us boldly into the next millennium and that, and ahead of all of the footballers, scientists, comedians, and so on, Beck came out on top. Some critics were surprised by this, arguing that he was so trendy and in demand that they just wanted to look good by choosing him.

He often appeared in magazines, but he was something of an eccentric interviewee, and several writers found it hard to track down where his head was exactly at any point. His next hits were “Tropicalia” and “Sexx Laws”. In NME, there used to be a column called Why I Love…, where people explained their fondness for a musician. One week, Harry Hill went for Beck.

He said that at one point he liked to perform “Sexx Laws” as part of his stage show, although most of the crowd looked on baffled by this. Beck went on to have a few more hit singles going into the 2000s including “Mixed Bizness” and “Girl”. He definitely is someone who has made a unique contribution to music, and he is still making successful albums, maybe he isn’t such a loser.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 26.

Following on from my piece on Len, this is another Canadian group who were briefly famous for their memorably quirky songs (Barenaked Ladies who I looked back a while ago also fit into this category of course). Crash Test Dummies were a rock group, but incredibly, none of them were actually crash te… no, I should stop doing that joke really.

Their frontman was Brad Roberts, and they had already been together for about five years, when they hit the big time. In April 1994 “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” was released, and this reached no. 2. Now this is another one of those songs where you either liked it or found it immensely irritating. You might start to think that I like songs that could be classed as “irritating”, but that’s not always the case!

They would go on to win the 1994 MTV Europe Music Award for Breakthrough Artist. I also remember seeing a trail online for ITV’s Stars In Their Eyes from March 1996, featuring some of the pop stars who were going to be imitated in that edition. They were all namechecked, apart from one who was captioned “Crash Test Dummies”. Now many not too many people might know the name of the group’s singer.

It did seem to me to be a little odd though. But I suppose that it was good that there was someone who was aiming to imitate Brad’s rather distinctive deep voice. He didn’t win, though. I imagine that Crash Test Dummies are another one of those groups where people think that they were a one-hit wonder, but this isn’t the case. Their album also reached no. 2 in 1994.

And in July 1994, “Afternoons And Coffeespoons” was released, and this reached no. 23. And next in April 1995 was “The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead”, which was a cover of an XTC song that had been a minor hit in 1992. This also featured on the soundtrack to the film Dumb And Dumber. This reached no. 30, and turned out to be their third and final hit single in the UK. They have now made eight albums.

Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 18.

This is a group that had a great hit single, but all of the follow-ups struggled by comparison, and they vanished off the scene fairly quickly, before they went on to achieve something that is not unique, but definitely very rare in UK chart history. Sub Sub were a trio that formed in Manchester in the late-80s. They released a single as early as 1991, which wasn’t a hit but got them noticed on the dance scene.

But it was in April 1993 when “Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use)” was released, and this featured a guest vocal from Melanie Williams, who had previously been in the group Temper Temper, which had a single that made the Top 100 in 1991. This reached no. 3, and this is definitely one of my favourite hits from this year, and maybe even all of the first half of the 90s decade.

There’s no doubt that this one got them going on the dancefloor. But their next singles were nowhere near as successful. In February 1994 “Respect” was released, which sampled The Fatback Band’s “Double Dutch” from 1977. This reached only no. 49 though. In August 1994, “Angel” reached a disappointing no. 88, and a few other later singles didn’t make the Top 100 at all.

A few years on from this, their studio caught fire, and they lost a lot of their equipment. They decided to use this setback as an opportunity to regroup and start again. They decided to change their name, and they also changed their genre, now having more of an indie sound. They would now be known as Doves, and they were soon winning acclaim for their songs all over again.

After making the lower end of the Top 40 a few times, in April 2002 “There Goes The Fear” was released, and this reached no. 3, although this was deleted on the day of its release, which resulted in a high entry on the chart, and then falling down the Top 40 very quickly afterwards. But almost a decade on from their first success, they were back at the higher end of the chart. A remarkable resurrection from the dumper!

This meant though that they had a Top Ten hit single under two different names, and with the same line-up. I can only think of The KLF as another group that has achieved this, are they any others? Would Liberty X count too? They would have one more Top Ten single in 2005, and they have also had three chart-topping albums, the most recent of these being only a couple of years ago.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 24.

I know that I have said before that I am not really interested in the rock or metal music genres, but I felt that I had to do a piece on this group because this was one of those moments in the 90s that made me (and probably many others) simply go “huh?”. Whale (not to be confused with later group Noah And The Whale) were a rock group from Sweden.

In March 1994 “Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe” was released. This was a song about, it says here, “effluent women who bring homeless men home to have their way with them”. The video was soon saturated by MTV, which meant that this was shown rather frequently, and this was also a winner at the 1994 MTV Europe Music Awards. I bet Beavis and Butt-Head were fans. This reached no. 46 in the UK, and no. 102 in the US.

In July 1995, “I’ll Do Ya” was released, which reached no. 53, and in August 1995, their debut album “We Care” just missed the Top 40. But for some reason, somebody clearly felt that “Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe” still had the potential to be their big breakthrough hit that would make them stars. So this was then re-released in November 1995, and this time reached no. 15.

This turned out to be their first and only Top 40 hit single in the UK. But this did lead to a memorably shambolic performance on Top Of The Pops, and they must be the only act in that show’s history to attempt some crowdsurfing, although they weren’t having any of it. I don’t know if this was intended to be amusing, but I remember just laughing at all of this, it was definitely one of the more bizarre hits of this era.

As far as Swedish rock groups go, it was rather unlikely they were going to be as successful as Roxette or The Cardigans. Whale returned in July 1998 with “Four Big Speakers”, which reached no. 69, and in August 1998 “Crying At Airports” reached no. 94. Both of these were a collaboration with Bus 75. Whale split not long after, but they definitely did something rather different.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 22.

This is a British R & B singer whose career took in some good songs along with a few unusual turns in the 90s. Desiree Weekes (wasn’t 80s singer Princess’s real first name also Desiree?) was born in London, and in August 1991, her debut hit “Feel So High” was released, but this reached only no. 51. It was determined that this could do better, and this one eventually managed to gain some more exposure.

At the end of 1991, Des’ree featured on The ITV Chart Show end of year special as one of the acts to look out for in 1992 (they usually got their tips of the big time totally wrong, but they turned out to be fairly successful in this case). In January 1992, “Feel So High” was released again, and this time reached no. 13, to become her first Top 40 hit single.

Her first of three hit albums (which all made the Top 30) was released not long after. I also remember that “Feel So High” featured on one of those CDs that were given away free with weekend newspapers when there was a brief craze for that. It was good to hear this again, and it’s one of the few songs on those compilations that I felt was worth listening to more than once.

After two minor hits that missed the Top 40, in June 1993, “Delicate” was released, this was a duet with Sananda Maitreya (as Terence Trent D’Arby would prefer you to call him now), and this reached no. 14. I remember that this often turned up fairly late at night on some local radio stations for a while, but it was always nice to hear this whatever time of day it was.

In April 1994, “You Gotta Be”, which is one of her more famous songs, was released, and this reached no. 20. After two more minor hits that missed the Top 40, in March 1995, “You Gotta Be” was released again, and this time did a little better, reaching no. 14. That big Top Ten hit single was still elusive though, and she released no singles in 1996 or 1997.

She returned after her break in June 1998 with “Life”, and this reached no. 8. It’s rather unusual for an act to have their first Top Ten hit single seven years on from their debut. However, the lyrics were much mocked, and they even won a competition to determine “the worst pop lyrics ever”. She was probably disappointed by all this, and then in November 1998 “What’s Your Sign” reached no. 19.

But she did go on to have the last laugh somewhat and probably didn’t worry about the stir around “Life” much more when she won Best British Female at the Brit Awards in 1999. And then, in April 1999, would you believe, “You Gotta Be” was released for a third time, and this time reached no. 10, to become her second and final Top Ten hit single in the UK.

It was great that this one had finally got there, although it was a little odd seeing a now five-year-old song in the Top Ten. I’m just surprised that they didn’t take the opportunity to give “Feel So High” a third go too, that should’ve been a bigger hit. But Des’ree never made the Top 40 ever again after this. And I got through this piece without making a joke about toast. Oops!

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 9.

Having enjoyed watching Ant and Dec on TV over the years, I thought I’d take a look back at their pop music career. Although their songs weren’t exactly aimed at me, and maybe not everything they did was exactly terrific, they always did it with charisma, and they seem to be mildly embarrassed about it all now, when they shouldn’t be really. I’ll pick out some of their highlights.

Ant and Dec went on to have 15 hit singles, and here’s how it all started. In the early-90s, they were best known as PJ and Duncan in CBBC’s drama series Byker Grove. One day, PJ’s eyes memorably exploded which was rather nasty (and for a long time after I had to remind myself that Ant wasn’t blind for real). In one episode in 1993, they performed “Tonight I’m Free”. This was released as a single, and reached only no. 62.

This wasn’t an indication of what was to come though. They tried out lots of ideas, and well, their commitment to having all of their singles peak at no. 12 or thereabouts over the next four years really was very admirable. In 1994 they appeared on the cover of Lookin (a lot of people seem to think that magazine closed in the 80s, but it didn’t), although it is odd to think that those eras overlapped.

In the summer of 1994 they had their first Top Ten hit with “Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble” (there is a reason for why there is a rogue “H” in the title, but it’s a long story), and this is arguably their most famous single. Later in 1994 their first album “Psyche” made the Top Ten. 1995 brought us “Our Radio Rocks”, by which point they were appearing on the cover of Smash Hits.

I remember “U Krazy Katz” caused something of a stir, because it was at this point that Ant stopped wearing a hat all the time. Really, Ant was never seen without a hat before this, so this was a big moment in pop culture. In 1995 second album “Top Katz” was released, but this didn’t make the Top 40. Into 1996, and their cover of “Stepping Stone”, a song made famous by The Monkees, was their final hit to be credited to PJ And Duncan, even though they had left Byker Grove years ago by this point.

Their first single credited as Ant And Dec was “Better Watch Out”, which featured an image change (Ant had slightly shorter hair). They finished off 1997 with more hits including “Shout”, and third and final album “The Cult Of Ant And Dec”. After this, they went off to concentrate on their TV presenting careers, that were quickly on the up, leading to SM:TV and the like. And yet, their biggest hit singles were yet to come. Wait, really?

By the early-2000s, Ant and Dec were hosting shows including Pop Idol, featuring the search for the next generation of singing stars, and began to win several high-profile awards. They were persuaded back on to the pop scene in 2002 for “We’re On The Ball”, the official song of the England team at the World Cup. This reached no. 3, outperforming all of their 90s hits.

And after they were encouraged on Saturday Night Takeaway to roll back the years and perform “Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble” (and Ant even got his hat out again!), this was rereleased in 2013 and became a chart-topper! So almost two decades after their first hit, they finally reached the top, and many people felt that a pop music injustice had finally been righted. Well, probably. And of course, they’re still on TV regularly together.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 90s Part 1.

Let’s continue this series into the 90s, with a look at some more pop acts who only had one hit single, and probably should’ve had further success, but didn’t for various reasons. If you’re a regular reader of my music blog pieces, you should know that I am not really a fan of music in the rock/metal genre, but even I have a fondness for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, a hit in 1991 that became a sensation and one of the most important songs of its era.

Could anyone ever possibly dare to cover this one, and not only that, in a totally different genre? Well someone had a go. Abigail Zsiga is an English singer who came on to the music scene around 1992, and released cover versions of famous songs including KD Lang’s “Constant Craving”, REM’s “Losing My Religion”, and Barry Manilow’s “Could It Be Magic” (the story goes that Barry was so impressed by her version he congratulated her personally, and used a similar arrangement on tour). vlcsnap-00022

And then her version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was released in July 1994, and this reached no. 29. Some people really did think that even going anywhere near this song was rather scandalous. I’m not sure how much publicity was done for this, but the video was shown on The Chart Show (on my birthday), which featured some cheerleaders (almost certainly a reference to the original video). vlcsnap-00023

Another notable thing about this one is that this sounds rather similar to “18 Strings” by Tinman, which was on the chart around the same time. I don’t know if it was sampled, or if it was a coincidence, it could’ve been one of those “all those songs sound the same” moments that happen a lot. Abigail didn’t have another hit single though, in November 1994 the follow-up “Don’t You Wanna Know” was released, but this reached only no. 94, and her first album “Feel Good” didn’t chart either. vlcsnap-00026

Some more singles were released into the mid-90s, but Abigail would not have another hit single in the UK, only being known for this unusual cover version. In more recent years though, she has continued to work as a singer, and has gone on to perform on stage around the world, once again I was rather surprised at how much she has done beyond her only hit, and there are even fansites where you can find out all about her career.

Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 8.

Now here is an example of a group that had a really big hit, never went on to reach those heights again, and why that’s a disappointment. Deee-Lite (yes, three e’s) were a multinational trio who formed in the late-80s. In August 1990 “Groove Is In The Heart” was released, and this almost instantly became a dance classic. I thought that it was great at the time, and I still do now.

As well as the various samples, there were also contributions from Bootsie Collins and A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip. And there was the memorable video that proved that this was a very stylish group. “Groove Is In The Heart” narrowly missed out on being a chart-topping single in the UK (very narrowly, in fact it really should’ve been Number One actually, but that’s another story). This also reached no. 4 in America, and No. 1 in Australia.

“Groove Is In The Heart” is still held in very high regard, frequently featuring on greatest dance and 90s hits lists, and they also went on to appear on the cover of various magazines, including Smash Hits, what an honour. In September 1990, their first album “World Clique” was released, which reached no. 14. In November 1990 they released “Power Of Love”, which reached no. 25. This is their only other Top 40 hit in the UK, but it’s been completely overshadowed by their biggest success.

Deee-Lite did go on to release further singles, but by this point they were missing the Top 40, and in July 1992 their second album “Infinity Within” was released which reached no. 43. They continued though, and what turned out to be their final hit single in the UK was released in July 1994. This was “Picnic In The Summertime”, but this only made no. 43, and their third and final album “Dewdrops In The Garden” didn’t chart at all.

Not long after this, Deee-Lite went their separate ways. It might be a surprise to some people that they were still making singles as late as the mid-90s, and some of them are great disco-style songs, just like the famous one that everyone always wants to hear. They then went on to work on several more music projects, including songwriting, Djing, and much more.