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.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 16.

Here’s another all-female group that came on to the pop scene in the late-90s, and once again, there’s a few reasons why they stand out to me. Hepburn were a group that formed in 1997, they all played various instruments, and this was just about in the era when people still seemed to be surprised by that. I suppose they could be grouped in with the likes of 21st Century Girls and Thunderbugs who were also on the crowded scene around this time.

In May 1999 their debut “I Quit” was released, and this was their first and only Top Ten hit single. I’m sure that around the time of this, someone told me that Hepburn had performed at my school, presumably as part of a promotional tour. But I have no memory of ever seeing them, and goodness knows why they would’ve wanted to come round here at all, and as they were now a success, they probably wouldn’t be returning any time soon. vlcsnap-00417

And this was around the time that I started to do my GCSEs. So maybe while I was in one room trying to do an exam, they were upstairs performing their hit. I do doubt it though. “I Quit” also became popular after featuring on the soundtrack to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and there was a second video made for this too. Next in August 1999 was “Bugs”, which made the Top 20. vlcsnap-00418

There was some surprise that the chorus to this one was “bugs on the windshield“, these Americanisms definitely made this seem like another attempt to be successful on the other side of the Atlantic. In September 1999, their first and only album, also called “Hepburn” was released, this just made the Top 30, receiving mixed reviews, and they all looked rather pouty on the cover. vlcsnap-00420

And in February 2000, “Deep Deep Down” was released, which also made the Top 20, but this was the end of the pop road for them, and they split not long after. It’s a shame that they didn’t get their own TV spin-off series just like another female group of the time, then they could’ve been coming atcha, just like Cleopatra, and they would probably still be chart megastars to this day.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 15.

This is another female/male duo whose songs I have enjoyed to the point where I might do a detailed single-by-single look back at their career eventually, but for now I’ll concentrate on the moment when they suddenly, but rather deservedly, hit the big time. Moloko formed in the mid-90s, consisting of Mark Brydon (who had already worked with various dance groups going back to the 80s), and singer Roisin Murphy.

Their first album “Do You Like My Tight Sweater?” was released in 1995, but that wasn’t a hit. In February 1996, “Dominoid” became their first hit single, although it was a rather minor one. It was in May 1996 when they made the Top 40 for the first time with “Fun For Me”. The next hit “The Flipside” wouldn’t be until two years later in 1998, but this missed the Top 40 too. In September 1998 second album “I Am Not A Doctor” was a minor hit. vlcsnap-00418

Then in March 1999, “Sing It Back” was released, and this reached no. 45. There must’ve been some frustration that this wasn’t a big hit, this deserved more. But then in September 1999, this one was given a second chance when there was a remix by Boris Dlugosch, which reached no. 4, at last they had made the Top Ten. Even the group themselves seemed shocked by the transformation of this into a classic, and were satisfied with their success. vlcsnap-00419

I know that it is something of a cliché, but this was a terrific song that seemed to be all over the place and really did enhance the summer for many people. The video was also very frequently on MTV, and I was always pleased when this came on, and it was around this time that I began to realise what the phrase “heavy rotation” meant. I’ll always remember those days. vlcsnap-00420

It seemed to me that Roisin had finally become a pop star with a level of fame that she had long deserved, which was pleasing. After this, Moloko went on to have more chart success in the early-2000s, with some more great songs that made the Top Ten, and in more recent years Roisin has gone on to release some albums that capture her typically quirky and enjoyable style.

Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 16.

This is a group who were briefly big in the late-90s. Barenaked Ladies are a Canadian group that formed in the late-80s. It could be said that some of their songs contained lyrics that were rather quirky and humorous, right in the “you’ll either find it very funny or very annoying” category. And indeed none of them were ladies, and they weren’t barenaked either as far as I know. They must be very difficult to find on Google as well.

It took about a decade for them to find some success in the UK, I remember my sister told me once that she had a Canadian pen pal who told her all about Barenaked Ladies and how popular they were in Canada, when they were still unknowns in the UK (although in 1994 their second album “Maybe You Should Drive” was a minor hit).

It wasn’t until February 1999 that they finally had some success on the singles chart when “One Week” was released, which became their first and only Top Ten hit in the UK. This was on the radio for a while rather frequently… indeed too frequently it could be said. I remember one day on Virgin there was a technical error and the beginning of this one kept playing over and over before being cut off, and nobody seemed to notice for a long time.

I’m not sure if it was the emergency tape misfiring or not, but for a brief moment, they had the radio station all to themselves, that’s probably why can I remember the lyrics so clearly. “One Week” also rather appropriately spent one week at Number One in America, and the video was directed by McG. In March 1999 fourth album “Stunt” made the Top 20. Next in May 1999 was “It’s All Been Done”, but this turned out to be their second and final Top 40 hit single.

They went on to have two more minor hit singles in 1999 with “Call And Answer” and “Brian Wilson” (their celebration of the Beach Boys musician), which reached only no. 73. And that was it. Apart from fifth album “Maroon” becoming another minor hit in 2000, Barenaked Ladies didn’t make the UK chart again. They are still together, and along with providing the theme to US sitcom The Big Bang Theory, they have now made 16 albums.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 90s Part 9.

I’ve never really been that interested in boy bands and girl groups, but then they have never really been aimed at me. But one thing that is notable is just how many of them were on the pop scene in the late-90s/early-2000s, usually featuring people barely out of their teenage years, or maybe still in them, and maybe they weren’t ready to be put though the unforgiving music business, but this group did better than most, even if they did only have one hit single.

Recently when I was looking back at some old Smash Hits online from this era, and I was rather surprised by just how many adverts there were for girl groups that I don’t remember who never had a hit. They were promised that they would be famous, but there were so many manufactured groups at this time that for many them this never happened. But this group had more hype than most, and it seemed like they would do well, there was no doubt about this one. girls0001

21st Century Girls were going to be a girl group that would be different from the others, but then aren’t they all. They’re the next big thing and are here to stay. This was a quartet from England that consisted of Leanne, Fiona, Kate, and Meriam. I remember that among the publicity push there was an interview in the Official UK PlayStation Magazine that I was a regular reader of around this time. vlcsnap-00242

In June 1999 their debut single “21st Century Girls” was released, and this rather surprisingly didn’t make the Top Ten, reaching no. 16. This must’ve been a disappointment for them to some extent, even though they’d already done better than most groups. I think they appeared on Top Of The Pops, and I would hope that pop stars from this era still considered this to be something of an honour, even if there only were about 12 viewers left by this point. vlcsnap-00245

But then, that was it. There were no further singles from them, their album wasn’t released, 21st Century Girls split shortly after, and the project was considered to be a flop. The strange thing about them is that they actually didn’t get as far as releasing any singles in the 21st century. I don’t know much about what happened to them after this though. I suppose it’s proof that not every group’s dreams can come true.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 90s Part 6.

I have already looked back at one song that became a chart-topper off the back of being used on a Levis advert (so many singles found success in this way). In 1999 there was a Levis advert that memorably featured Flat Eric, who was a yellow puppet thing (this is just about the best description that I can make). Eric was in his car enjoying a rather squashed and squelchy song. And yes, I did get caught up in all of the hype somewhat, finding this to be a rather strange yet cuddly character.

So in April 1999 the song in the advert “Flat Beat” by Mr Oizo (who was a French producer whose first name was Quentin) was released, which was just about an instrumental (there was a brief piece of dialogue at the start), and this was a chart-topper for two weeks. Eric also starred in the video. Hearing this in full though, it did seem to be rather repetitive and ran out of ideas rather quickly. vlcsnap-00226

I remember when this was played on the radio once around the time of its success, and the presenter said afterwards “a lot of people will have bought that single and then thought to themselves, is that it?”. This could be considered to be another triumph for marketing over music. Indeed, for a short while you could even buy a Flat Eric, and yes, I did have one. vlcsnap-00227

And while he was the, er, puppet of the moment, Eric was also interviewed in various magazines, although he didn’t have much to say for himself. Mr Oizo would go on to have no more hits in the UK after this though, meaning he joined a rare group of pop acts who were not just a one-hit wonder, but also a chart-topping one. Many years later Eric went on to appear in some more advertising campaigns, and it was great to see him again. vlcsnap-00273

From what I can make out though, it seems that Mr Oizo (who has gone on to make several albums) and Flat Eric are still good friends all these years on, and at least he hasn’t been left in a dusty old cupboard. I’m not sure how many people would remember them now though, this is a rather perfect example of a cultural reference point that was popular for about three minutes. But I will always consider Eric to be a star.

Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 12.

This is a group that had some success in the late-90s. Apollo 440 were a British dance group that formed in 1990, and some of their songs found fame by being used on adverts, computer games, and film soundtracks. Although their first hit single was in 1994, the first time I remember coming across them was in 1996 when they released “Krupa”, a celebration of a famous drummer. They went on to have their first Top Ten hit in 1997 with “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Dub”. In 1998 “Rendez-Vous” was used as the theme to ITV’s coverage of the World Cup in France.

But their biggest hit was in August 1998 when “Lost In Space” was released, which was also the theme to the science-fiction film, and this reminds me of a rather odd coincidence. For a while, The Chart Show had a page on Teletext, that would list various things including what exclusive videos would be featured that week, and once (I remember watching this edition) three videos called “Lost In Space” were shown. vlcsnap-00206

Along with Apollo 440, there was also Lighthouse Family, and briefly popular indie band Electrasy. They had three hits, along with “Lost In Space”, I remember there was “Best Friend’s Girl” where a world record was set in the video, and “Morning Afterglow”, that upset a Melody Maker critic because the singer couldn’t pronounce “frightening”. But wait, this piece isn’t supposed to be about them! vlcsnap-00208

“Lost In Space” reached no. 4, and this was followed in 1999 by “Stop The Rock”, another great single that also made the Top Ten, and the video was shown rather frequently on MTV. Also around this time the third of their five albums “Gettin’ High On Your Supply” was released, which was the only one to make the Top 20. By now they were successful and were beginning to be known as that dance group that people often got mixed up with Basement Jaxx. vlcsnap-00207

And yet, in November 1999, this good run suddenly ended when “Heart Go Boom” made only no. 57. This was something of a disappointment as I felt that it was up to the standard of their bigger hits. They were not really heard of much after this, and they went on to have only one more minor hit in the 2000s decade. Apollo 440 have continued though, having made remixes for several other groups, and released their most recent album in 2012.

Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 11.

Here’s yet another group who only had a brief moment of pop music fame. The Wiseguys were an English dance duo that consisted of Touché and Regal. They released some singles and an album in the mid-90s, but the first time they made the Top 75 was in 1998 when “Ooh La La” reached no. 55. The follow-up single also in 1998 was “Start The Commotion” which reached no. 66, but I imagine they’d hoped for more. Both of these featured on their second album “The Antidote”.

About a year later “Ooh La La” was featured in an advert for Budweiser that was rather popular at the time and featured some talking frogs. This led to a rerelease in June 1999, and this time this one went on to do much better and was not far off being a chart-topper, reaching no. 2. So it seemed that it would be a sensible idea to give “Start The Commotion” another go, as it was felt this one definitely had the potential to become a big hit too. vlcsnap-00126

I remember that the video had a rather interesting idea. For every instrument that was played in the song, the same clip was always played. So whether it was the flute or the guitar, the clip would be played over and over again. I thought that this was very creative myself, I’ve not seen another video like it. I’m not sure how much of the music was sampled either, but somehow it all worked. In September 1999 “Start The Commotion” was rereleased and this time reached no. 47. An improvement, but still a disappointment to some extent, so shortly after they had made their breakthrough. vlcsnap-00127

Then about a year or two later, this one had another wave of interest when it was featured in a car advert in America, and it was also on the soundtrack of several films including Zoolander. It was odd seeing the video suddenly coming back to TV again, but this time it contained some clips from that film, meaning that the original repetition idea was now all broken up and didn’t work. vlcsnap-00128

However, it did mean that “Start The Commotion” made the Top 40 in America, even if it never did in the UK. I did think for a while that this would be released for a third or even fourth time in an attempt to became the big hit that this deserved to be for me. “The Antidote” album never made the Top 100 though. Not long after this, The Wiseguys came to an end, although they have continued to work on other projects with various dance music acts. G-roovy!

Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 6.

This is another group who briefly had some huge success in the 90s. New Radicals was essentially a solo project for the American singer/songwriter Gregg Alexander, who was also rather fond of wearing a hat. Although he had been around since the early-90s, it was when his single “You Get What You Give” was released in April 1999 that he found some success, and this song seemed to take on a life of its own.

Around this time, when I went through the dial, this song really did seem to be on a radio station somewhere every five minutes, and became much-praised for its lyrics. Despite the seemingly endless airplay, the video also being regularly shown on music channels and featuring in films, “You Get What You Give” reached no. 5, never really challenging for the Number One position. In America this reached only no. 36. Also in April 1999, the album “Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too” was released and reached no. 10. vlcsnap-00092

How can you possibly follow up a song that had been so successful though? Well as the album didn’t do too badly, maybe it was worth releasing another single, it can’t be that bad an idea really. So in September 1999 the next single “Someday We’ll Know” was released. I did hear this on the radio (although to nowhere near the extent of its predecessor), it was rather downbeat and thoughtful, and I do remember the lyric “someday we’ll know why the sky is blue“. Er, I thought we did know that. vlcsnap-00090

This one was never really going to have any chance of being as fondly thought of as “You Get What You Give” though, and reached only no. 48. Having seemingly realised that his success will probably not be repeated again, and having only just avoided being a one-hit wonder, it was around this time that Alexander announced that he was bringing his New Radicals project to an end. vlcsnap-00094

This definitely wasn’t the last that we would hear of Alexander though, and he definitely still had the music in him, as he went on to be a songwriter for other singers including Ronan Keating, and he had some more Top Ten hits this way. And I imagine that all these years on, there must still be a radio station somewhere in this country currently playing his big hit, I hope that he would be pleased about that. The whereabouts of his hat are currently unknown though.