Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 19.

This is a British group who briefly livened up the chart in the mid-90s. Formed in the early-90s as FRISK, they soon changed their name to Sneaker Pimps, and hired the rather glamorous Kelli as their singer. In August 1996, their debut album “Becoming X” made the chart, and this was an indication of what further success was going to come from them.

In October 1996, they had their debut hit single with “6 Underground”, which reached no. 15. Now this is one that I do remember being rather fond of at the time. Next in March 1997 was “Spin Spin Sugar”, which reached no. 21. This was often described as being in the “Trip-Hop” genre, although nobody has ever seemingly been able to define what this exactly is, or even if it ever existed at all.

Their next move in June 1997 was something of a surprise, when “6 Underground” was re-released, and this time reached no. 9, to become their first and only Top Ten hit single in the UK. The reason for this was because this had been featured on the soundtrack to the film The Saint, and seeing this suddenly reappear and do even better than first time round was very satisfying.

Next in August 1997 was “Post-Modern Sleaze” which reached no. 22. And then in February 1998, “Spin Spin Sugar” was also re-released, this time in remix form. I wonder what non-existent genre this would be classed as being in now. But this reached only no. 46. And it was around this time that Kelli departed to launch a solo career, although I don’t think that she went on to have any further hits.

She was replaced as singer by Chris, and the new-look Sneaker Pimps returned in August 1999 with “Low Five”, which reached no. 39, although this would turn out to be their final Top 40 hit single. It was also said that when they weren’t hard at work in the studio, they liked to play tennis against the guy who used to be in The Mighty Boosh, which is nice.

They made the chart for what turned out to be one final time in October 1999 with “Ten To Twenty”, but this only reached no. 56. Their second album “Splinter” did not do well either, and their days of making the Top Ten turned out to be long behind them by this point. Some of them got back together recently though, and their fourth album was released last year.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 39.

Following on from Groove Armada, this is yet another British dance production group, who released plenty of hit singles that definitely got many a dancefloor wiggling. Basement Jaxx are Felix and Simon (bid etc), who formed in the mid-90s. As they have had a rather large number of hit singles, I have decided to pick out some of the highlights.

Although their first hit single was in May 1997, it was in May 1999 when they really became noticed, when “Red Alert” became the first of their five Top Ten hit singles in the UK. When people played this one, there was no doubt that it was party time. In August 1999 “Rendez-Vu” reached no. 4, to become their highest-peaking single on the chart.

And they rounded off a successful year in November 1999 with “Jump ‘N’ Shout”. I remember the video to this being one of the first things that I recorded off the terrific digital channel UK Play. Did I eventually get rid of the tape? Yes. Am I daft for doing this, losing a lot of would be rather now rare archive? Yes. And their album was also doing well around this time.

In June 2001 “Romeo” made the Top Ten, and somebody went on to do a “mash-up” of the vocal of this, with the instrumental of The Clash’s “The Magnificent Seven”, which is one of the best that I’ve heard. “Jus 1 Kiss” and the rather popular “Where’s Your Head At” went on to do well in 2001 too, and in 2002 they won the first of their two Brit Awards.

Their only hit single in 2002 was “Get Me Off”, which was another good one. In 2004, they had hits with “Good Luck”, and “Plug It In”, which featured a guest vocal from the guy in NSync who wasn’t Justin Timberlake. This was followed by a re-release of “Good Luck” just six months on. This was because this had been adopted by the BBC as their theme to coverage of that year’s European Football Championships, and made the Top 20 for a second time.

Also in 2004, they won another Brit and a Grammy too. In March 2005, “Oh My Gosh” became their final Top Ten hit single. Later that year, although this had already been around for a few years, “Do Your Thing” became a hit in rather odd circumstances. This had been used to soundtrack a special trail to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ITV, where lots of people managed to interact with stars from years earlier, which was mildly creepy.

In July 2009, “Raindrops” would become their final hit single, but unfortunately this was all but ignored as this entered the chart in the same week that Michael Jackson kicked the bucket and a huge amount of his hits swamped the Top 40. Since then, Basement Jaxx have concentrated on their remix work, although a lot of their more recent singles have flopped, and they have made six acclaimed albums.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 38.

This is yet another British dance production duo, but they were behind a great amount of successful singles. Groove Armada were Andy and Tom, and they formed in the mid-90s. They released their first singles in 1997, and they became known for using a rather creative variety of samples, meaning that even the likes of Status Quo didn’t sound out of place.

But their first success came in May 1999, when “If Everybody Looked The Same” was released, which reached no. 25. This was also used on an advert, and was the theme to a show on MTV. Next in August 1999 was “At The River”, which reached no. 19. This was first released as a single in 1997, and by this point was already considered to be a chillout classic. Look out for those quaint little villages here and there.

Next in November 1999 was “I See You Baby”, which reached no. 17. This one was definitely given a boost by the Fatboy Slim remix, back in the days when this would guarantee success. They returned in August 2001 with “Superstylin'”, which reached no. 12, to become their biggest hit so far. And then after this was a quiet period, when none of their singles made the Top 30.

The most notable was 2003’s “Easy”, which featured an uncredited vocal from Sunshine Anderson, best known for her hit single “Heard It All Before”, and I do hope that her shoulder is better now. And then, almost five years on, in October 2004 “I See You Baby” was re-released, following a revival in popularity after being used on an advert, and this time reached no. 11, a six-place improvement. Vocalist Gram’ma Funk must’ve been thrilled.

In May 2007, “Get Down” was released, featuring rapper Stush, which reached no. 9, meaning that they had their first Top Ten hit single about a decade on from their debut. It was definitely worth the wait though and well deserved. And in July 2007, “Song 4 Mutya (Out Of Control)” reached no. 8. This featured an uncredited vocal from Mutya Buena.

Mutya wasn’t in Sugababes at this time, although she is again now (unless they’ve split yet again). This was definitely as great as anything else that they had done. But this was it, Groove Armada haven’t appeared on the chart since, placing them in the rather unusual situation of their final single being their biggest hit. They are still together though, and they have now made eight albums.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 37.

I have decided to feature this group, because even though they did have some mainstream success at first, their career then took a rather bizarre and unexpected turn, and I always find stories behind 90s hits fascinating. Sixpence None The Richer were a group from Texas, and their frontwoman was Leigh Nash. In May 1999 “Kiss Me” was released, and this was their first and only Top Ten hit single in the UK (and also in America).

Now this was one of those songs that really could be described as “radio-friendly”, and this is probably still played on Heart ten times a day to this day. Don’t forget to bring your flowered hat. And this led to their second album making the Top 30 around the same time. But although “Kiss Me” didn’t get me too excited, what they did next was something of a surprise.

In September 1999, “There She Goes” was released, to become their second and final Top 40 hit single in the UK (and again, also in America). This was a cover of a song by the English indie band The La’s. The original version was first released in 1988, and this seemed to be re-released about every other week until this finally was a success and became a deserved Top 20 hit in 1990.

This has since become one of the most acclaimed hits of its era in the indie genre, although their rather enigmatic frontman Lee Mavers meant that they only ever released one album, but John Power would find further fame in the late-90s as the frontman of Cast (and indeed this entered the chart yet again in October 1999 after the success of the cover).

But there was always much tittering from critics who wondered if this rather religious group hadn’t released that “There She Goes” has often been said to be about heroin addiction (although the members of The La’s have constantly denied this over the years). Well either way, although I doubt that this one was ever on Heart that frequently, it earned them another appearance on Top Of The Pops.

But even better than that, “There She Goes” also featured on the “Hits 2000” compilation, bringing us into the new millennium apparently. Sixpence None The Richer would go on to have one more minor hit in America with their cover of Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, and they split in 2004. They reformed a few years later, and they have now made six albums.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 36.

This is another one of those British production duos who have barely ever been seen by anybody, but they had a brief but very enjoyable time on the chart. Shanks And Bigfoot were Stephen and Daniel, but they first came on to the scene under a different name. In November 1998, “Straight From The Heart” was released, under the name Doolally.

This reached no. 20 and featured the uncredited vocal of Sharon Woolf. This also turned out to be one of the earliest Garage singles on the chart, a genre that would become much more prominent a year or two later. There was no video made for this though. But then in May 1999, they released their first single under the Shanks And Bigfoot name.

“Sweet Like Chocolate” turned out to be an instant classic, and there was a huge amount of interest. This did reach Number One in its first week on the chart (although this was in the era when this happened so frequently that it wasn’t too much of an achievement). But what was impressive was that this sold more than the Top Five put together. Again, Sharon Woolf was the uncredited vocalist.

And there was also the famous computer-generated video, which featured a lot of chocolate. Mmm, chocolate. I remember that this was released around the time that I left school. Did I spend the time listening to this or revising for my GCSEs? Well I think that you know that answer to that one. And then in August 1999, “Straight From The Heart” was re-released.

This was mostly because this could now be promoted with a “this is Shanks And Bigfoot too!” angle, and this time reached no. 9, an improvement of 11 places. Although they are considered to be a one-hit wonder by many, in July 2000 they did have one final hit single when “Sing-A-Long” reached no. 12, and this featured a different uncredited vocalist.

Around this time they also won a few awards. They then released their album “Swings And Roundabouts”, followed in 2001 by one more single which was “Trust In Me”, but neither these made the chart, and after a few years, Shanks And Bigfoot came to a quiet end. But they paved the way for so many other Garage acts, and “Sweet Like Chocolate” definitely has to be one of the best chart-toppers of its era.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 25.

Having looked back at the careers of just about all of the quirky American indie/rock groups that I have wanted to, I thought that it’s now time to look back at, er, a Canadian one. I know that sometimes these pieces seem to be a little repetitive, because a lot of these groups go through the same cycle of “release a single/manage to get played about 1,000 times a day on the radio/appear on Top Of The Pops/vanish”, but this was just about how it really turned out for this one.

Len had actually been going for a rather long time by the time of their biggest hit. It is rather hard to determine how many members they have had over the years, although they have included such people as The Burger Pimp and The Drunkness Monster, and no, I don’t think that there have been any of them who were actually called Len, how fascinating.

I suppose that Len can be described as an indie/rap group, if it is possible for those genres to collide. And this just happens to be yet another group who were at the upper end of the final singles chart of the 90s, so I do associate them with the millennium feeling that you only get once in a millennium. They probably soundtracked many a party at the time, and had a million miles of fun.

In December 1999 “Steal My Sunshine” was released, and this really did suddenly take off. This was from their third album “You Can’t Stop The Bum Rush”. Part of this song’s success is the simple idea of the sample, which is just about three seconds of Andrea True’s disco hit “More More More” looped (Bananarama did a cover once, you know!). I don’t know what half the lyrics are on about, but did this meet the “entering your head and never leaving” challenge.

“Steal My Sunshine” reached no. 8, and this was their first and only Top Ten hit single in America and Canada, as well as the UK. Now most people think that Len were a one-hit wonder, but this isn’t actually the case. In June 2000 “Cryptik Souls Crew” was released. This was never really going to be as successful as their first hit, but this did reach no. 28, to become their second and final hit single in the UK.

But that really was it for Len. They have released five albums, and I don’t think that they’re currently active, but I’m sure that The Drunkness Monster is proud. All they have to look forward to now is people doing “reaction” videos to their song where it looks like their eyes are going to pop out of their head with shock. They really can’t believe that people used to live like that back then.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 90s Part 11.

I don’t usually do pieces about here today/gone tomorrow faceless dance acts, because however much I might like the songs, there isn’t much of a story about the people behind them. But I have decided to review this one, because I did find it all rather bizarre. Firstly, this is a song by a British production group called Progress Presents The Boy Wunda.

Now I don’t know who “The Boy Wunda” is really, but it was nice of them to present him to us. What is also notable about “Everybody” is that this was released in December 1999, meaning that this was on the final chart of the 90s, and I have said before about the rush by many acts to feature on this significant chart, which ended up unfortunately ended up scuppering a few promising careers, including Thunderbugs.

When I heard “Everybody” on the radio, I did notice a few things. Firstly, this sounded rather similar to the introduction to Madonna’s hit “Papa Don’t Preach”. I’m not sure if it was a direct sample, as I always thought that the original sampled a piece of classical music itself, I’m not sure (you can clearly tell that I’ve spent a lot of time researching this).

There were also some rather cheap-sounding keyboard noises, along with somebody randomly shouting “Everybody“. This didn’t really sound as if it was a big-budget production. But then I saw the video, featuring old ladies miming along to the music, along with some men in hard hats doing a dance, but it was clearly a winning formula that delighted the public.

I also saw somebody say that “Everybody” was a “pumpin’ house stomper”, which I think means that they liked it. This clearly did attract interest from a lot of people though, as this reached no. 7, to become the first and only time that they made the Top Ten (or Top 75). This led to an appearance on Top Of The Pops, featuring a rather curious interpretation of all this.

But I suppose that if you are really ever only going to appear on this show once, then you might as well make the most of it, and get people talking and wondering what it was all about, if they weren’t all too dizzy from anticipating that millennium nonsense. I don’t know where The Boy Wunda is now though. Maybe he works at The Carphone Warehouse.

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 18.

Here’s the story of yet another late-90s act who suddenly hit the big time on the chart when it looked like his moment had passed. Les Rhythmes Digitales was a producer who used the name Jacques, although he was actually the French-born but English-raised Stuart Price. In August 1997 “Jacques Your Body (Make Me Sweat)” was released, but this barely made the Top 100. This one would eventually become more famous though.

In April 1998 he made the Top 75 for the first time with “Music Makes You Lose Control”, which was followed in October 1998 by “(Hey You) What’s That Sound?”, and then in June 1999 his second album “Darkdancer” just missed the Top 50. By he really caught my interest for the first time in August 1999 when “Sometimes” was released, which featured a guest vocal from Nik Kershaw (not to be confused with Howard Jones), and reached no. 56. vlcsnap-00433

I became familiar with this one after seeing the video on MTV, when I had access to that channel in my mid-teens, and I barely watched anything else for about two years. Among the various shows on that channel at the time was one hosted by Zane Lowe. And if like this one, you got your song endorsed by Zane and the video was on his show, then you really were rather trendy. vlcsnap-00435

I also group this one in with “1st Man In Space” by All Seeing I which was released around the same time, because like “Sometimes”, that featured a guest vocal from an 80s pop star, who in this case was Phil Oakey. And despite having plenty of success as a producer and songwriter, it had been a while since Kershaw had a big hit single, so it was good seeing him and Oakey back on the scene again. vlcsnap-00436

And then in October 1999 “Jacques Your Body” was rereleased, doing a little better this time, reaching no. 60. I did like this one because it had something of a synthpop vibe, and I don’t think that Daft Punk themselves could’ve done any better really. I could only imagine what his recording studio looked like at the time, it was probably full of shiny keytars. The big hit that I felt he had deserved still eluded him though by the end of the 90s. vlcsnap-00437

And then, over eight years on from the original release, In September 2005 “Jacques Your Body” was rereleased yet again after being used in an advert for Citroen, and reached no. 9, to finally earn him a Top Ten hit, just when I thought that this one would remain a 90s lost gem. By this point, he had gone on to work on several other musical projects, and he was also a much in-demand producer, including being one of the few people on Madonna’s rolodex, and he has also won some Grammy Awards.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 17.

Something rather strange happened on the singles chart in the late-90s. Any song that seemed to get a half-decent amount of radio airplay and had been a success in the clubs for a while seemed to instantly go to Number One. I didn’t really plan to do many pieces about various dance production groups, but this is one that I think actually has a story worth featuring.

Wamdue Project were American, and I don’t know what a “Wamdue” is. “King Of My Castle” had already been around for a couple of years or so when there was suddenly a big stir around this one following a remix. In November 1999, an imported version made the lower end of the chart, showing that there was now much anticipation and some couldn’t even wait for the British version to be released.

And then a week later, this became a chart-topper for one week. “King Of My Castle” is notable for having a rather distinctive sound, including what I always thought sounded like some bus doors closing. And there was also a female vocalist, who informed us “must be the reason why I’m free to mud wrestle“, or at least that’s what I think she said, maybe it was something else.

With a few weeks of the 90s decade remaining at this point, this was a rather unusual way to finish things off. It all seems so long ago now. And after this, it was presumed that there would be a lot of interest in what they would do next. In April 2000, “You’re The Reason” was released, and this reached no. 39, which was rather a large drop-off from their recent success, and I wonder how many people now even remember that they had a second hit single at all.

I remember seeing the video for this on the music channels, and would you believe that this one sounded exactly the same as “King Of My Castle”! I know that if a dance group lands of a successful sound, there seems to be little reason to change the formula, but this has to be one of the most blatant examples of just doing the same thing again. Wamdue Project went on to release many more singles (under various names) over about a decade, hopefully some of them sounded a little different.