Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 5.

This is someone who almost qualified for my “The One-Hit Wonders” series, but they did go on to have a little more success in the 2000s decade. As I have said before, it wasn’t really until around 1997/1998 that I started to listen to music commercial radio stations more regularly, and this means that I remember a lot more songs from this era from much lower down the chart that only got a little airplay before they left the Top 40.

This is one that stood out to me more than most because it was rather quirky. Imani Coppola is an American singer, who must be unique as someone who is a rapper who also plays the violin (one critic called her genre “folk-rap”). In February 1998 “Legend Of A Cowgirl” was released, which reached no. 34 in the UK, and no. 36 in America. I did like this one, and it never occurred to me at the time that there was a sample used all the way through.

Put it this way, when I finally heard Donovan’s 1966 hit “Sunshine Superman” for the first time, I was rather surprised, it was already familiar. And the video was another one to be directed by McG (who was also behind “The Way” by Fastball’s video that I looked back at recently). “Legend Of A Cowgirl” was taken from her first of 15 albums “Chupacabra”, but that didn’t even make the Top 100 in the UK.

It seems that the only other single released from the album was “I’m A Tree”, which was also rather unusual but didn’t chart in the UK, and once again I was rather pleased to discover that Imani had blue hair in the video, what a terrific achievement. I presumed that was it as far as Imani’s pop career in the UK went, but I was pleased to realise that this isn’t the case, as we did eventually hear more from her.

In February 2001 she was the guest vocalist on “You All Dat” by The Baha Men (yes, they did have another hit after “Who Let The Dogs Out?”), and this reached no. 14. And in August 2008, just over a decade on from “Legend Of A Cowgirl”, Imani returned to the chart again, this time as part of the duo Little Jackie, with “The World Should Revolve Around Me”, and this also reached no. 14. So she had three Top 40 hits in the UK, but her first one will always be my favourite of them.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 4.

This is a group that probably won’t be entering any major pop music hall of fames any time soon, but I did like this one, as it was a bizarre mix of various styles, and it’s another example of a song that came and went quietly and I’d hoped it’d done better, and then it suddenly became much more of a success. Bran Van 3000 were a Canadian group that contained a rather large amount of members, including singers, rappers, and whoever else seemed to be around.

In June 1998 “Drinking In LA” was released and reached no. 34. Well at least this made the Top 40 I suppose, but I realised that I wouldn’t be hearing this on the radio much again, having no more chances to decipher the lyrics. I know that people have varying opinions on such things, but of course if groups do want to get their song noticed, then a good move is to get featured on an advert. vlcsnap-00209

About a year after making the chart, “Drinking In LA” was used on an advert for Rolling Rock lager. And this clearly had an effect. By this point I had access to MTV, and it was great that the video was now being shown much more frequently. I did enjoy this channel at the time, if only I could’ve watched all day, they showed music videos and everything, and it was almost worth the OnDigital subscription money alone. vlcsnap-00212

In August 1999, “Drinking In LA” was rereleased, and this time made no. 3, a huge improvement on last time, being a rather big Top Ten hit that lead to a Top Of The Pops appearance. Well it seems that the plan worked, and I felt the success was deserved. Around the same time their debut album “Glee” just missed the Top 75. BBC Radio 1 also played this a lot, and I remember Mark And Lard complimenting what they called the “Les Dawson piano” near the end (there’s a reference for the teenagers). vlcsnap-00210

I don’t really know much about what happened to Bran Van 3000 after this, although they did have one more minor hit single in 2001, but the formula didn’t work again and nobody really remembers that one by comparison, not even me. They have released four albums, the most recent being in 2010, but none of them were a hit in the UK. I wonder where all of them are now. And I still don’t know who Stereo Mike is.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 2.

This one is interesting because it features a unlikely combination that seems rather odd even now. One notable thing about pop music over the years is just how many careers have been launched by soap stars, with varying levels of success. For a while, people who had appeared in Australian soaps such as Neighbours including Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, did much better than any of the British ones.

By the mid-90s, there had been barely any hit singles released by cast members of Coronation Street. Although after some of the major changes in 1997, there were many more younger cast members, and some of them had a go. These included Tracy Shaw (who played hairdresser Maxine), who released a cover of Lonnie Gordon’s “Happenin’ All Over Again” in 1998 that didn’t make the Top 40, Adam Rickitt, (who played Nick), who had a Top Ten hit in 1999 and also appeared on the cover of Smash Hits, and this one.

In July 1998 Matthew Marsden (who was described by one pop music magazine as “Matthew Marsbar”) who played hunky mechanic Chris Collins (which coincidentally is the real name of Frank Skinner, who did have a chart-topping single in 1998 with “Three Lions ’98”), released his first single “The Heart’s Lone Desire”, which just missed the Top Ten, but it’s the next one that has the most interesting story.

In November 1998 his second and final single, a cover of “She’s Gone”, was released, that was first made famous by Hall And Oates in the 70s. This was a duet with Destiny’s Child, who at this point were still on their original line-up of a quartet, they’d only had one Top Ten hit in the UK, and this was credited to “Matthew Marsden Featuring Destiny’s Child”. About a year or two after this, they would be transformed into high-profile chart-topping superstars. dc

But it is very odd looking back to think that as far as pop music goes, for about five minutes, some bloke off Coronation Street was more famous than Beyoncé. “She’s Gone” reached only no. 24, and not long after this, Matthew was dropped by his label, which was a real shock, although probably only if you read Inside Soap. I’m not entirely sure that his album was ever released. He has gone on to appear in some films though. And the video doesn’t seem to be online at the moment either, what’s that about?

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 1.

This new series (the title stolen from a Mark And Lard feature) will tidy up all the other pop songs I want to write about because I like them or I think they have interesting stories, that don’t qualify for either “The One-Hit Wonders” (because they had more than one hit) or “Down The Dumper” (because their last hit in a decade made the Top 40) from the 80s, 90s, 2000s, and there’ll be a dozen or thereabouts for each decade.

Faith Evans is an American singer who had some minor hits in the UK in 1995 and 1996. In June 1997, she was suddenly put into the spotlight for her contribution along with Puff Daddy to “I’ll Be Missing You”, a tribute to the late rapper Notorious BIG (Evans being his widow). This one spent six weeks at Number One in the UK, and 11 weeks at Number One in America. This was a surprise because Notorious BIG wasn’t really that well-known a figure in the UK, it was more a case of the lyrics about grief and loss connecting with many people. vlcsnap-00156

How could Evans follow a huge hit like this? Next was “Love Like This” which was released in November 1998, and reached no. 24 in the UK, and no. 7 in America. This one sampled “Chic Cheer” by Chic from 1978. Now I wasn’t really familiar with Chic at the time, and I didn’t realise that they’d made so many disco classics. I was always pleased when this came on the radio. This was one of my favourite singles of 1998, and I was disappointed that it didn’t do better, I presumed that after leaving the chart its moment had passed. vlcsnap-00158

So imagine my surprise when five years later in November 2003 an American rapper called Fatman Scoop (real name Isaac Freeman), and not forgetting Crooklyn Clan either, came along and released “Be Faithful”, which was essentially him shouting (that really is the word) over “Love Like This” (“DJ KNUCKLES!!!“), accompanied by a rather weird computer-generated video. And then imagine my further surprise when this became a chart-topper for two weeks. vlcsnap-00155

So somehow, long after I had expected it, “Love Like This” was finally a big success, and in some rather unlikely circumstances. After this, the Fatman did have one more Top Ten hit in 2004, but the last time I heard anything about him was when he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother a few years ago. I can only imagine that he had plenty of great anecdotes about DJ Knuckles to share with his housemates.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 90s Part 5.

There have been several songs over the years that have been successful after being used in an advert for Levis. Indeed, several of them have been chart-toppers, but this doesn’t always guarantee any further success for the follow-up singles (Babylon Zoo are probably one of the best-known examples of this, and I have already looked back at their career). This is another example of one where this turned out to be the group’s only hit in the UK.

Lilys were an American group that formed in the late-80s, whose frontman was Kurt Heasley, who has been accompanied by an ever-changing line-up, it really does seen like dozens of people have been a part of this. Some of their songs could by classed as quirky indie rock, and this one had something of a 60s feel. In February 1998 “A Nanny In Manhattan” was released, and this reached no. 16. vlcsnap-00151

Also notable about this one is that it is not even two minutes long, and was featured on their fourth album “Better Can’t Make Your Life Better” (released in 1996), although they never had any hit albums in the UK. I remember that the advert was shown rather frequently for a while, and the hit led to an appearance on Top Of The Pops (if they had made the song longer they would’ve got more BBC1 airtime, why didn’t they think of that). vlcsnap-00152

But best of all, they also appeared on the show that every big group around at the time wanted to be seen on I imagine, I of course mean The Jack Docherty Show, where they caused chaos. Well Jack didn’t know where to look, honestly. That’s much more of an honour than Top Of The Pops I’m sure. Not much has been heard about Lilys since, although they have gone on to make eight albums. vlcsnap-00154

I can’t recall the last time I heard “A Nanny In Manhattan” on the radio though, it would be good to hear it again as it would bring back memories of the late-90s for me. I suspect that the only stations that would be likely to play it now are maybe BBC 6Music (but only if they’re having a “90s day” or “quirky American indie rock with something of a 60s feel day”), or Absolute 90s. I imagine I’ll have to keep an ear out for that.

Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 10.

Here’s a look back at another group who suddenly got big for a short time. The Boo Radleys formed in the late-80s, and they took their name from a character in the novel To Kill A Mockingbird. Their frontman was known simply as “Sice”, although his first name was actually Simon. And well, as you should know by now, I’m sorry but it’s no good, I’ve got to do it, here goes… vlcsnap-00001

Bid again!“. Now I’ve got that out of my system, their first album “Ichabod And I” was released in 1990. This album didn’t chart, but the few fans it did attract had just one question… which one’s Ichabod? They then released some more singles and albums that did enter the chart, but not the Top 40. In March 1995 they suddenly hit the big time when they released “Wake Up Boo!”, and the video was made at Battersea Power Station. vlcsnap-00138

This is often considered to be a cheery, summer song, with most people not realising that the opening lyric is “summer’s gone“. “Wake Up Boo!” reached no. 9 to become their first and only Top Ten hit. Also around this time their fourth album “Wake Up!” was released, and this was a chart-topper. Part of their newfound success could be because they were grouped in with the Britpop genre when that was on the up, even though they always denied that they desired to be a part of all that. vlcsnap-00136

As well as “Wake Up Boo!” being played on the radio rather frequently, they also got on to the cover of Melody Maker, celebrating the fact that they were now popular, and I remember being rather surprised at how tiny Sice’s head seemed to be in comparison to his bandmate Martin. Their new fans had just one question… which one’s Boo? I can’t believe I did that joke for a second time. br1

The next singles off the album were “Find The Answer Within”, “It’s Lulu” (which features a reference to Smash Hits, and in the video they are briefly seen on the cover, although I’m sure that it’s not real, they never came across as a Smash Hits-type group really), and “From The Bench At Belvidere”. These were also good and they all made the lower end of the Top 40. Their live performances were always enhanced by having some spoons and a trumpeter on standby too. vlcsnap-00139

In 1996 their fifth album “C’Mon Kids” was released (the computer-generated video for “Ride The Tiger” was much praised), and this was followed in 1998 by their sixth album “Kingsize”. The first single “Free Huey” was released in October 1998, and reached only no. 54. Their later singles were much more harder-edged and shouty, but they denied that they were trying to shake off their mainstream “Wake Up Boo!” fans. The ones remaining had just one question… which one’s Huey? Oh dear. The next single was cancelled and The Boo Radleys split after a decade to work on other projects.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 90s Part 4.

This is a group that doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry (when you search for Hillman Minx, you get an article about the make of car with that name, but nothing about this group). I did manage to find out that they were a British/French group, but that’s about it, and even though I doubt that there will be many people who remember this, there are some reasons why I want to tell the story of this one.

Firstly, I’m fairly sure that Mark And Lard on BBC Radio 1 made “I’ve Had Enough” be their Record Of The Week, and most of the songs that they selected for this turned out to be huge flops, so even this one could be classed to be a huge success by comparison. They seemed to be rather fond of the quirky lyrics, where the singer Malcolm lists things in fashion at the time that he’s had enough of. vlcsnap-00053

And you can practically date to the hour when this song released from this. On the list are “laptops, pagers, foreign beers“, and the most amusing for me, which was simply “Jerry Springer’s face“. I also remember the video being shown on one of the final editions of The Chart Show. There were a lot of videos from indie bands shown exclusively over the years, and some bands had (almost literally) five seconds of fame when their video was briefly shown on The Indie Chart. vlcsnap-00045

I’m rather surprised that no-one has created a genre called “The Chart Show indie”, a lot of groups could fit into it, including this one. Also notable about the video is that it starred Angus Deayton, around the peak of his Have I Got News For You fame, he must’ve cost a few quid to hire. Deayton played a TV presenter looking on rather perplexed at this unexpected rant. It goes without saying that nothing like this is shown on ITV on weekend afternoons any more. vlcsnap-00044

I don’t know if there was any other publicity beyond this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were also featured in Melody Maker around this time, and they probably claimed that they were the hottest new group in Britain and it would be a shock if they didn’t go on to bigger than Oasis, as they always did. And also involved on the production team was Dave Stewart. vlcsnap-00059

“I’ve Had Enough” was released in September 1998, and reached only no. 72, becoming a rather small hit. I’m not really sure what happened to Hillman Minx after this, as they were barely heard of ever again, it seems there was an album planned, but it was never released. Thinking about this again though reminded me of just how exhausting it was to live in the 90s sometimes with all these short-lived fads.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 90s Part 3.

It might surprise some people that this group are going to be featured in this series, as they don’t sound much like anything I usually enjoy, but here’s how I became interested in this one. In the summer of 1998, when I was in my early-teens, I was still discovering what radio stations I might like to listen to, and my favourite genres. Even as late as this, I had barely listened to BBC Radio 1 or Capital, but over the next few years I would eventually become a much more regular listener.

Around this time I listened to Virgin, which played new songs along with classic album tracks, mostly in the rock/indie genres. I remember that they played a new song very regularly. It seemed to be on all the time for a while (well not all the time of course, but for a short while they were very keen on it), so this really did begin to grow on me, I always knew it was coming on because of its distinctive radio static opening, and it became something of an earworm (“they’ll never get old and grey!“). So who were they? f1

Fastball are an American trio that formed in Austin, Texas in 1995, and their first album was released in 1996. In October 1998, “The Way”, from their second album “All The Pain Money Can Buy”, was released in the UK, and this was the song that led to their breakthrough in the US, so there was a chance that it could do well over here too, but although they didn’t realise it at the time, this was going to be this group’s only hit single in this country. vlcsnap-00032

They performed this on a few US TV shows including Late Night With Conan O’Brien, they were nominated for a couple of Grammys, and the video, which has had over 2½ million views on YouTube was directed by McG (who would also direct some films including Charlie’s Angels). “The Way” reached no. 21 in the UK, and this earned them a Top Of The Pops performance, although I think the release was just too late for the video to be featured on The Chart Show that had ended a month or two earlier. Bad luck. vlcsnap-00033

Although “The Way” didn’t make the Top 100 in America, it did do rather well in other specialist charts like Adult Rock. This would be the last that we would hear of Fastball in the UK though, their second album just missed the Top 100, they had no further hits, and even Virgin eventually took them off their playlist. They are still together though after more than 25 years, and they have now released seven albums.