Now That's What I Call Music 18
Now That's What I Call Music! 18
If you thought previous release NOW 17 was pretty plain, then 18 trumps that. With the huge white NOW! lettering taking up the whole cover, it's certainly clear that this is a NOW release. However, due to its size there's no room for the series' number. 18 does appear on the sleeve, but only in the background as numerous, hard to see, purple and blue '18's. One notable omission is the famous NOW 'balls'. NOW 17 would be the last time we'd see the red, blue and green orbs and we would never see them adorn a NOW again. Until of course, 100...
01 – The Beautiful South – A Little Time (#1)
The Beautiful South, a male/female duet, a song about a rowing couple, no it's not 'You Keep It all In', but in fact the slightly more tender number 'A Little Time', which perhaps a little surprisingly became the band's first and only No1 single. One can only assume the tale it tells struck many a chord with general public. A tale, that to my eyes/ears appears at least seems to be of a married man who claims he needs 'a little time' away from the relationship – or in another words, a chance to shag about/see if he can do any better. When he realises he can't get anything else, he comes back to his wife but she quite rightly tells him to do one. Dressed in a subtle jazzy arrangement, the song knocked Maria McKee's 'Show Me Heaven' off the throne in mid October, but could only manage one solitary week there before being unseated by another ballad from a film, 'Unchained Melody'. Despite being released on the back of a No1 hit, subsequent singles from the No 2 album 'Choke' failed to make the Top 40. The upbeat and 'Terry & June' name-checking 'My Book' fell three short of the forty, whereas the elongated and rather pretentious ballad 'Let Love Speak Up Itself fared even worse, peaking at No51. Such was their song writing abilities however, this was not the end of the road for the band by any means.
02 – The Steve Miller Band – The Joker (#1)
Towards end of the decade the charts and these compilations were being invaded by any random old record that for some reason people felt moved into purchasing purely because of their inclusion in an advert. Usually for a specific product. This specific product – Levi's – for some reason chose The Steve Miller Band's 1974 US No1 hit as the soundtrack to their latest pretentious attempt to sell incredibly plain jeans. The record itself is a smug and sleazy slice of bluesy rock and is a fitting anthem for the bellend in said advert, who rides his stupid great motorbike out of a lift and then proceeds to ride it about an overly-populated office, collects a woman after making her put some jeans on, before the pair ride off. Having reminded myself of it via YouTube just now I am left wondering how on earth the prat managed to turn his motorbike around in the lift, and also, how the woman got those slim fitting 501s over her heels, and so quickly? Of course, the advert could've been about anything, the same sheeple would have bought the record featured in it regardless. And buy they did as it surged to No1, knocking Timmy Mallett's 'Bombalurina' off the top and depriving Deee-Lite of reaching the hallowed summit – something that it really shouldn't have done. You see somewhat unbelievably, both 'The Joker' and 'Groove Is In The Heart' sold exactly the same amount of copies – believe that if you will – and due to a chart rule created some years earlier, the record that seen the biggest increase in sales would be handed the crown. So we ended up with a record people were buying solely because of an advert at No1 as opposed to a unique piece of psychedelic dance pop. Deee-Lite were rightly aggrieved and after complaints from Elektra - their label - the rule was scrapped. Which of course was a fat load of use for Deee-Lite. I don't know why someone at chart central didn't just pop out to Our Price and by 7” of 'Groove Is In The Heart' for their mother - problem solved. Having vented my spleen I'd now like to congratulate myself for not making the 'Ed Milliband's other brother' joke...
03 – Elton John – Sacrifice (#1)
Time for another obscure pop memory. I remember once reading an interview with Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant where he stated that they tend to write lyrics first and then put them to music, as opposed to writing music and trying to crowbar words into the melody. He then used Elton John's first solo No1 as an example and John ended up singing “Saca-ri-fice”. Seeing as Reg's first hit was in 1971, it is indeed surprising that it took nineteen years for the legendary musician to reach the top. The single was a double A side along with 'Healing Hands'. Both songs had been released separately the previous year – both songs had failed to make the Top 40. Unfunny British radio staple, Steve Wright was moved to start playing 'Sacrifice' on Radio 1 – no idea why – and this prompted a re-release. This unexpected hype helped the sweet and thoughtful ballad spend an impressive five weeks at the top of the hit parade, in which time it denied both Luciano Pavarotti and Craig McLachlan a No1 What a time to be alive when those two are fighting it out with Elton John for the No1 spot. I have to confess here that back then I thought Elton was referencing a place called 'Cocoa Hall'. He is in fact singing 'cold, cold heart'. - naturally. Quite why a song about the break-up of a marriage would mention 'Cocoa Hall' I've no idea. Having registered a first No1 with a record that spent fifteen weeks on chart, normal service - for then at least - was resumed soon after when the un-hyped follow-up 'Club At The End of The Street' flopped at No47.
04 – Roxette – It Must Have Been Love (#3)
The rather downbeat start to NOW 18 shows no sign of letting up with the monstrous power ballad from Swedish pop-rockers (prockers?) Roxette. I always found Roxette's attempts at upbeat pop a little corny and that tracks like 'It Must Have Been Love' were where they were at their strongest. The song is now best known for featuring in the hit film – which I've never seen – Pretty Woman. It began life however some three years earlier in 1987 as a Christmas song, entitled 'It Must Have Been Love (Christmas For The Broken Hearted)' which was a hit in their homeland. In truth, this original isn't really that different and nor is it especially Christmassy. A slight edit and rewrite and a request from Touchstone pictures to contribute something to the Pretty Woman soundtrack and here we are. The song is a real heartbreaker, but there's also an element of acceptance and an indication that things will probably be alright in the end. It was certainly alright for Roxette as it gave them their biggest UK hit when it reached No3 in early summer. Outside of the UK it did even better – hitting the very top in Australia, Denmark, Canada and the US, to name but a few. In 1993 the song was re-issued in the UK and again made the Top 10, but only just, peaking at No10 in the September. It would be the final time they would visit the Top 10 and throughout the rest of the nineties there were more misses than hits. The closest was in early '99 when 'Wish I Could Fly' reached No11. The duo continue to record and release to this day, however, vocalist Marie Fredriksson can sadly no longer tour due to declining health. We wish you well Marie.
05 – Phil Collins – Something Happened On The Way To Heaven (#15)
This track aside, the first eight (count 'em) tracks on this NOW are all downtempo ballads, so this mid-tempo rock pop piece from Phil 'Slaphead' Collins is perhaps some welcome respite. It could well have been a ballad as – like most of Collins' output – it's about a failed relationship. I've certainly been in Phil's probably quite small shoes as I've been ditched out of the blue when I thought we were on our way to heaven. So much so that I actually sent her a link to the song and asked her to listen to the words. Her response? “I've never liked Phil Collins”. Now that you've finished laughing I'll carry on. 'Something Happened...' is a decently rocky and brassy affair with its title featuring in the verses rather than the chorus, which is a pleasant change. Like 'I Wish It Would Rain Down' – but not quite as much – it does again sound like he's been drinking from George's pink furry cup, particularly when he says “Ooh yes I'm sorry”. I'll tell you now though Phil, I can do his voice better, OK?On the charts, it didn't fair too badly considering it was the third single from '...But Seriously'. Subsequent singles, the schmaltzy anti-war ballad 'That's Just The Way It Is' and the upbeat but forgettable 'Hang In Long Enough' didn't do quite so well (#26 and #34). Still, the first three singles were very good, especially 'Something Happened On The Way To Heaven' – a song that is also the only pop video – to my knowledge at least – that features a dog have a shit. A dog that looks remarkable like Pippin. “Oh Pippin!”
06 – Wilson Phillips – Hold On (#6)
With parents in the Beach Boys and the Mamas & Papas, the ingeniously-named all-girl trio Wilson Phillips should have music in their DNA. Along with producer Glen Ballard, one Wilson and one Phillips came up with the ultimate 'pull yourself together' anthem. 'Hold On' is a beautiful, touching and inspiring song and there are genuinely a number of testimonies to be found online in which folk tell of this very song pulling them back from the very brink, such is its power to touch. It is interpreted as being a song for women, but it needn't be as the lyrics are somewhat ambiguous. Having hit the top in the US, 'Hold On' went on to chart highly across the globe although perhaps its No6 placing here is a little disappointing. An eponymous LP followed hit on 'Hold On's heels and spent a decent enough 32 weeks in the charts, peaking at No7. Singles-wise though, there would be little more success. Back in the US though, the trio managed two further No1 singles, but we weren't quite so generous. 'Hold On' follow-up 'Release Me' only made No36 and fourth single 'You're In Love' fared slightly better by seven places. The ladies made a second NOW appearance with 'You Won't See Me Cry' in 1992. In all fairness, it wasn't very good and now, thanks mainly to the 'el vino' brigade and the film 'Bridesmaids', 'Hold On' will be all they'll be remembered for.
07 – Sinead O'Connor – Nothing Compares 2 U (#1)
Some big names in pop have converted to Islam: Cat Stevens, Sinead O'Connor. Mark Morrison has as well. I'm not sure how my mother is going to deal with calling Allah's latest disciple 'Shuhada' as she still can't get her head around pronouncing 'Sinead'. She also has similar problems with Celine Dion – and Ibuprofen. 'Nothing Compares 2 U' then... Originally written by Prince for a side-project of his, The Family, the song became a worldwide phenomenon when the then-Ms O'Connor decided
to record a version for her second LP 'I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got'. Apart from acknowledging the genius of Prince's writing, we should also tip our hats to 'Sinead' for well and truly making it her own – something that's not always easy. Prince was a bit of a knob about it mind as he was apparently not a fan of her cover, due to the fact that he didn't like anyone covering his music unless he had asked them personally. It is a great record though, its sluggish pace and icy ambience all add to its effectiveness. On the surface it is of course about someone missing someone and finding that nobody can ever replace them. I however have my own added interpretation for your consideration. I feel that the song is perhaps about how one feels at the very start of a break-up period. Usually, thoughts immediately turn to wanting them back and that they're irreplaceable – you don't want anyone else, only they will do. But as time moves on you begin to realise that in reality nobody is irreplaceable. I draw your attention to the opening line to back up my argument – the song is reflecting on things at a time when things are still very raw. I seem to be saying this a lot at the moment, but such as song will always strike a chord with people everywhere and so naturally the song was a huge, huge hit. In the UK it reached No1 in the first week of February, making Sinead the second O'Connor, after Des, to score a chart-topper. Seeing as it was a hit in February, it really could/should have been on NOW 17 which came out in the April – not quite sure why it wasn't. As ever it's nice to see which songs are denied the top spot and on this occasion Shuhada stopped Technotronic from bettering the No2 peak of 'Pump Up The Jam' when she refused to let 'Get Up (Before The Night Is Over)' take over.
08 – The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody (#1)
And those ballads keep on coming! 'Unchained Melody' is a song that should need very little explanation, but I'll give you something anyway. The unusual title comes from the fact that the song first appeared in the 1950s prison-based film 'Unchained' where it was sung – rather badly – by actor/singer Todd Duncan. An epic and largely instrumental recording was subsequently released as a single in the US by band leader Les Baxter – this reached No1. A vocal version also appeared stateside – recorded by Al Hibbler – this reached No3. Both versions were then released in the UK, along with a further reading by Jimmy Young, plus an overblown piano version from Liberace. For all the versions – four of which have made No1 in the UK - it is of course The Righteous Brothers who are most synonymous with the song. Until then however, it was only Jimmy Young that had taken the song to the top and The Righteous Brothers' recording had stalled at No14 in the late summer of '65, some ten years after. Since 1990, both Robson & Jerome and Gareth Gates have taken it back to the very top with equally pointless and inferior note-for-note copies. Both of those hits owed their success to TV, whereas The Righteous Brothers owed theirs to the larger, silver screen. Its inclusion in the hit film 'Ghost' was responsible for the Brothers' version finally reaching No1 - another big film that I've never seen. Whilst we're on the subject of hit songs from films, I may as well admit that I've never seen The Bodyguard or Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves either. Ghost's continuing popularity at the box office in turn helped the brothers stay firmly at the top, shaking off top spot challenges from Kim Appleby and Gazza & Lindisfarne. After four weeks though, the chaps relinquished their grip on the prize and handed the baton to one Robert van Winkel – Vanilla Ice to you and I.
09 – Belinda Carlisle – (We Want) The Same Thing (#6)
After all those love songs, my good old teenage crush is here to liven things up a bit. Even though we were now into late 1990, Belinda was still churning out content from her 1989 LP 'Runaway Horses', this being the fifth. It is perhaps surprising that Virgin got as far as releasing this as the last three singles had reached 38-40-41, so why they thought another single would do better I'm not sure. One could argue that '(We Want) The Same Thing' is a far better song – and it is – but then if they thought that, why not release it sooner? There's also the fact that this single version was vastly different from the one on its parent album, and vastly better too. This new version had more 'oomph', depth and all-round appeal, what with its crashing drums and raucous shout outs. Such a transformation was well-received and '(We Want)...' reached a well-deserved No6 in October 1990, giving Belinda her fifth Top 10 hit, which I don't quite understand because surely she's only ever had one hit – 'Heaven Is A Place On Earth'? As I've begun to notice, I think I know where a lot of this comes 'one-hit-wonder' rubbish comes from. Because this country is so influenced by social media and the internet, which is in turn influenced largely by the US, people are taking in a lot of American thought and culture without realising. Surprising as it may seem, in her homeland Belinda Carlisle hasn't had that many hit singles and we are by far her most successful market. But like Erasure, Haddaway and Aqua to name but a few, having just one solitary hit in America seems to have seeped into the consciousness of the people of the UK and make them incorrectly believe the same applies here. So because they see Erasure for example being labelled 'one-hit-wonders' on US-based sites, they start accepting it as true here too. And I believe that same unconscious thinking affects Belinda as well. One single that the US did receive was the hugely underrated 'Summer Rain' where it climbed to No30 on the Billboard 100. In the UK, it became the sixth single from 'Runway Horses' and fared reasonably well all things considered when it reached No23 over the festive season. She may well be 60 now, but I'd still love to find her underneath my tree come Christmas morning this year.
10 – Status Quo – Anniversary Waltz (Part 1) (#2)
I can't imagine anyone on the planet has ever thought this, but if you're someone who heard Jive Bunny and thought “Ooh I wish Status Quo were singing all these” then you're in for a real treat here. Quite what 'anniversary' the Quo were celebrating remains unclear. The band formed in 1962, so 1990 would've been two years short of their 30th anniversary. They were getting on a bit, so maybe a combination of drugs and old-age had them forget when they'd actually formed. To mark this unknown occasion the band treated the public to what they decided to call a waltz and not a medley or megamix as everyone else might. In this 'waltz' were a number of old Rock 'n' Roll standards and because I know you'll be desperate to know which songs they were, I'll list them for you now: 'Let's Dance', 'Red River Rock', 'No Particular Place To Go', The Wanderer', 'I Hear You Knocking', Lucille', 'Great Balls Of Fire'. By segue-ing all these songs together, the Quo managed to suck all the identity out of them and made them sound like one boring, well, one boring Status Quo song. Not content with inflicting such nauseating toss on us once, Rick and Francis decided to subject us to a second 'waltz'. This time it contained different tracks all made to sound the same and you'll be pleased to know I'm rapidly losing the will to live, so I won't be listing them separately too. Part 1 had reached a bewilderingly high No 2 and this remains their second best ever chart placing – tied with 'What You're Proposing' and 'In The Army Now'. Part Two however reached a less impressive No 16, so even Quo fans were getting bored – and that's saying something.
11 – INXS – Suicide Blonde (#11)
The sleeve notes for this entry give us an amazing factoid. “INXS were formed in Sydney, Australia in 1977 – the 1990 line-up is exactly the same”. Because we were all wondering weren’t we, if the current band members were the original. The slightly unpleasantly named ‘Suicide Blonde’ then. A quick burst of harmonica starts us off before seconds later a slightly similar to 'Need You Tonight' riff joins the party on this, the first single from the album 'X'. The main hook of the track is indeed the harmonica which returns throughout the track, giving it some much-needed extra identity. Returning to the title, it was apparently inspired by Michael Hutchence's then lover, one Kylie Minogue who had become blonde for her not very good performance in not very good film The Delinquents'. Minogue also has something to say about the couple – well, Stock Aitken Waterman did on her behalf – when she released ‘Better the Devil You Know’ earlier that year. A song that was rumoured to be about her tempestuous relationship with Hutchence. At the time, the subject of blondes and suicides for Michael wasn’t terribly alarming, but in the here and now it is perhaps eerily ironic that some years later the poor guy committed suicide himself, before his blonde lover did that same a few years later, leaving the song coated with an unshakeable sadness.
12 – Public Image Ltd – Don't Ask Me (#22)
Far from hanging out of the back of John Lydon and calling him a legend like I'm supposed to, I'm quite happy to label him an utter prick. But let's put that to one side for a moment and focus on the track in question. ‘Don’t Ask Me’ was released in October 1990 to promote the band’s forthcoming compilation, the rather foolishly optimistic ‘The Greatest Hits, So Far’. PiL had one further charting single after ‘Don’t Ask Me’, although that charted outside of the main Top 40. In fact having ‘greatest hits’ in the title is pretty generous seeing as only half of the 14 tracks included even made the Top 40 and only two were Top 10. ‘Don’t Ask Me’ was a brand new single and that only made No22 and perhaps the most surprising thing about the track is how ‘pop’ it is and certainly a long way from the punk that made Lydon. The lyrics are rather relevant today when you consider the world we live in today – this was some 28 years ago – and if you do fancy checking it out, then head to YouTube to enjoy the cinematic video clip. His voice is as unmistakable/fucking annoying* as ever but with its contemporary percussion, crunching guitar and half-buried sitar it’s quite listenable – just as long as you can stomach the barbed vocals of “charismatically notorious” Lydon – as the sleeve notes call him. Whilst I’m in the booklet again, unlike INXS, PiL’s line-up was ever changing, but the people at NOW don’t seem interested in that. Come on, we need to know. If you’re going to mention changing line-ups, do it for all of them. Actually don’t. They’re a dull enough ‘read’ as it is.
*Delete as applicable.
13 – Talk Talk – It's My Life (#13)
It took 'It's My Life' three attempts to become a UK hit having previously failed in 1984 and 1985 respectively and despite only becoming a hit in 1990, seems to be regarded as an 80s classic. It doesn't sound especially 80s or in 90s, such is its distinctive and unique sound. Beginning a little too instantly, the song crashes in with those instantly recognisable fuzzy synth stabs and synthetic seagulls. It then meanders wistfully into a chime-led bridge and chorus, in which lead singer Mark Hollis reminds his beau that his life is in indeed his and that “it never ends”. Saying that, in February of this year, Hollis' life did end aged 64 after 'a short illness'. “It's My Life” though remains his legacy – being Talk Talk's most successful recording - and a fine legacy it is too. 'It's My Life' is not to be confused with the Eurodance smash of the same name by everyone's favourite Nigerian dentist Dr. Alban - trust me, it does happen – although both have appeared in television adverts over the years. I don't need to remind you what the Dr was used to sell. Aside from commercials, the song has re-entered our consciousness on several occasions, most notably when it returned to the charts twice in the same year - 2003. Firstly in the guise of a not very good cover by not very good California ska-rock outfit No Doubt and secondly in the form of an unexpectedly restrained dance remix by Liquid People, which far from trashing the original simply leaves the track as was, adding little more than a dancier rhythm track. Respect.
14 – The La's – There She Goes (#13)
The La's hailed from Liverpool and were fronted by vocalist Lee Mavers, who looked like a cross between David Bowie and John Noakes. 'There She Goes' was the band's sole chart entry although it almost wasn't. Originally released in early '89, the song peaked at a lowly No59. One slight remix later in late 1990 and the song rightly became a Top 40 hit, reaching No13 in the November. It's a very simply constructed song as it doesn't contain any verses to speak of – just the chorus and bridge – and with a running just over two and a half minutes, the song is a perfectly-formed little package of indie pop. It probably isn't, but to me it's always felt it was about unrequited love. Maybe because that's something I've felt an awful lot in my lifetime and have made it relative to myself in that respect, I don't know. Another suggestion is that it's about heroine, although I'd have thought heroine would've been 'it' rather than 'she'. But then of course a heroine is of course female. I might be thinking far too much into this I now realise. Some nine years later a much-maligned version was recorded by Sixpence None The Richer as a follow-up to their mega-hit 'Kiss Me'. It almost bettered the original, peaking just one place lower at No14. To be fair, it's not terrible, just a bit pointless as I can't think of any occasion when you'd want to play their version over The La's – which itself was re-released at the time to cash-in. It flopped though, charting lower than its original 1989 run.
15 – Tina Turner – Be Tender With Me Baby (#28)
Regular readers will no doubt know just how much I cannot abide this rough old trollop and here's another NOW LP that has had one of her nasty old turds deposited in it. On this occasion we have a god-awful attempt at some sort of power ballad, which I have to say is clearly based on 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale'. I can't though accuse Ms Turner of plagiarism herself because as ever, she had nothing to do with the writing or production, which is incredibly cliched and boring. This lack of originality continues with the song's promo video which is of course the archetypal 'live' performance on stage. Unsurprisingly it did little to help the song's promotion as 'Be Tender With Me Baby' stalled just inside the Top 30, making it the second-lowest-charting track on the album. Lyrically it's essentially a 'plea' from a woman, who despite being a bit of a pain in the arse begs not to be fucked about and hurt, which is fair enough I suppose. Although I particularly like the irony of her asking for tenderness and then being as un-tender as possible by shouting for the best part of the disc, like some laryngitis inflicted lion with its bountiful balls caught in a bear trap. I'd love to meet someone who actually enjoys listening to this and just ask them “why?”.
16 – Robert Palmer and UB40 – I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (#6)
Comedian Rob Newman – once of Newman and Baddiel fame – said of Palmer “when you look at Robert Palmer, don't you just think there's a fourth division football club somewhere, missing a manager?” Whilst Newman was correct in this analysis, it is perhaps a shame that something similar can't be said for today's chart-dwellers. All that one can say these days is “when you look at absolutely anyone in the charts nowadays, don't you just think there's an awful lot of children's TV channels missing presenters?”. Not trying to be especially funny there, but then satire doesn't always have to be. Joining Palmer on the touchline here are UB40 – well, it is a cover after all. Wisely they elected to take away the nauseating country twangs and folks roots from the original – a Bob Dylan ditty which first appeared on the 1967 album 'John Wesley Harding' – and have replaced this with a rather production-line, Casio-reggae backing. The song itself is rather simple and self-explanatory – basically a bloke trying it on with someone and trying to get them pissed. Lead singer Ali Campbell doesn't appear at all – a sign of reunion tours to come perhaps – with all vocal duties growled by Robert himself. This might be because it was more 'his' track, as it was the debut release from Palmer's tenth studio LP 'Don't Explain'. The single gave the bloke from Batley his fourth of only five Top 10 hits, although it did though hit the top spot in New Zealand - something he never achieved here in the UK in his all-too-short life.
01 – Pet Shop Boys – So Hard (#4)
Pet Shop Boys ended the previous decade with a No2 LP and a No5 single – namely ‘Introspective’ and ‘It’s Alright’. ‘So Hard’ was the first release of the new decade and with its electro-squelches, laser blips and bold brassy 'very Pet Shop Boys' stabs, it was an upbeat and positive start to the 90s. Rhyming ‘faithful’ with ‘fatal’ ‘So Hard’ is an ode to couples who constantly antagonise each other with their ‘behaviour’ and suggests some sort of truce and an end to all the affairs and games. Being a shiny new single not yet on an album, ‘So Hard’ naturally hit the Top 5, but after the release of what I consider to be the boys’ finest album, ‘Behaviour’, things took a bit of a nosedive chart-wise when fan and band favourite ‘Being Boring’ limped to a disappointing No20. A third single was plucked from the LP – which in my opinion should have been ‘End Of The World’. It was instead ‘How Can You Expect To be Taken Seriously’ which was remixed and selected as the AA side of double A side single. The A was something not included on ‘Behaviour - the intriguing melting together of ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ and ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ which somehow worked. This amalgamation of three songs gave it the longest title of a single release in chart history and unlike ‘Being Boring’ hit the Top 10 - matching the No4 peak of ‘So Hard’. I have a nagging memory that back in 1990 the duo’s record company Parlophone put out promotional ‘So Hard’ boxer shorts. This could though have been something that I dreamt, which begs all sorts of questions about what goes on in the deeper places of my mind...
02 – Bass-O-Matic – Fascinating Rhythm (#9)
Bass-O-Matic or Bassomatic was a project of unsung musical legend William Orbit. The act released two albums but it was this funky slice of electro-pop was their only success. First single ‘In The Realm of The Senses’ was a sort of S-Express/Adamski soundclash and missing a definitive pop hook. The more downtempo follow-up single ‘Fascinating Rhythm’ however had hooks a-plenty. With its escalating piano, cut and paste samples, Soul II Soul beats, a rap – plus soaring vocals, the song tapped into several genres, giving it mass appeal. The title however doesn’t make up the songs main refrain, with “I’ll be with you whenever you need me” providing the meat of the chorus. It poked its head just inside the Top 10 in September ‘90, but climbed no higher than No9 during its eleven weeks on chart. As well as this, it also found itself featured in that years Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special, ‘Rodney Come Home’ during a night club scene. There would however be no further commercial success – third single ‘Ease On By’ peaked at No61 - and after two albums, Orbit moved on. Throughout the nineties his writing and production skills were showcased across the pop spectrum, most notably perhaps in 1997 when he co-wrote and co-produced Madonna’s ‘Ray Of Light’ album. He later enjoyed more chart success of his own in 2000 – although this was largely down to the talents of trance maestro Ferry Corsten. Corsten remixed two tracks from Orbit’s classical album ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’. The first of these - ‘Barber’s Adagio For Strings’ became an instant club classic and a Top 5 chart hit. It also shits on DJ Tiesto’s subsequent trance reading of the piece I might add. Further credits and awards came, with Orbit working again with Madonna, as well as U2, P!nk, Britney Spears, Blur to name but a few. Despite the Grammys and Ivor Novello awards however, none of these achievements come close to his writing and production work on Harry Enfield’s novelty classic – and Top 5 smash - ‘Loadsamoney (Doin’ Up The House)’.
03 – Soul II Soul – Missing You (#22)
The first thing I simply must draw your attention to here is the accompanying photograph that NOW have decided to include alongside the inner sleeve’s blurb. I’m sure Jazzie B’s publicist has plenty of posed promo pictures that they could have acquired. Failing that, the sleeve for the single would have sufficed. But no, NOW have chosen to feature a photograph of what can only be described as Jazzie himself being made aware mid-gig that he has pissed himself and is incredibly annoyed at realisation. I’ll include said image in the post along with the main album artwork so you can enjoy it as much as I have. Leaving piss-soaked slacks to one side for a moment, ‘Missing You’ was Soul II Soul’s fifth UK Top 40 entry, but the first to miss not just the Top 10, but the Top 20 also. It’s not difficult to see why as it’s not a track that one instantly remembers when hearing the name Soul II Soul. Only the line “that’s the way I’m missing” nudging any kind of remembrance in the brain and the rest of the piece is fairly nondescript and bland in all honesty. The fact that it’s almost five minutes long doesn’t help things and just drags it out. Why it wasn’t trimmed down to about three and half minutes I’ve no idea – it sure as hell should have been. That said, it’s not a bad record by any means, just not as punchy and immediate as previous releases. This lacklustre feel is probably why ‘Missing You’ was only the third (and final) choice single from ‘Volume II: 1990 – A New Decade’. In fact, their efficacious phase was almost over and Mr. B and friends would register just one further Top 10.
04 – DNA featuring Suzanne Vega – Tom's Diner (#2)
“I was standing in the corner, searching for my Rizla'”. Ravers like me will always associate 'Tom's Diner' with Ratpack's inexplicably allowed skank of said track. Vega either didn't hear it (unlikely) or, like in this instance - where DNA completely remade her song without prior approval - she approved. It’s probably a little-known fact that this memorable ode to tedium began its life as two minute acappella - an acappella that released as a single no less. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it failed to catch the public’s imagination and despite being the follow up to the No23 entry, the heartbreaking but compelling ‘Luka’, it peaked at No 58 in the early stages of summer 1987. The song itself was apparently written by Vega after a friend told her that due to his work – a photographer – he felt that he was watching life from behind a pane of glass and that he was a witness to so much without being involved in it. Some years later, production duo DNA decided took the song and, pinching some beats from Soul II Soul, cobbled together a rather impressive bootleg. This went out as a white label, titled simply ‘Oh Suzanne’. Vega’s record company A&M got wind of the track and when Suzanne herself gave it her approval, signed the bootleg and gave it an official release. Due to the buzz caused by the white label, coupled with new interest from airing and official version, ‘Tom’s Diner’ became a huge hit, peaking at No2 in the UK, almost five years exactly from its first issue. Along with Madonna’s ‘Hanky Panky’ it was denied No1 status by Partners In Kryme ‘Turtle Power’. Yes I know.
05 – Sting – Englishman In New York (#15)
Continuing this disc’s trend of remixes becoming hits we have this piece from one Gordon Sumner. Initially, the track appeared on yoga-practising Newcastle Untied fan’s second solo LP ‘Nothing Like The Sun’. Although the album hit No1, lead single ‘We’ll Be Together’ missed the Top 40. As did ‘Englishman In New York’, followed by ‘Fragile’. Some two years after ‘Fragile’ had scraped into the Top 75 and with a new studio album on the horizon, just like they did with DNA, A&M records picked up a remix of the track for a single release. According to the NOW sleeve notes however, the mix was released “due to public demand”. I think we can take that with a pinch of salt though. It’s more likely that record companies were jumping on the relatively new culture of the remix and A&M were making the most of it. The remix in question was produced by Dutch knob-twiddler Ben Liebrand and apart from a few unnecessarily wild drum fills, it sort of just freshens up the arrangement as opposed to changing it hugely. It gave the track the pop potential that the original Police-ish version lacked and having originally hit No51, the digits were reversed in late summer ‘90 when it climbed to No15. A further three years on, never-popular Jamaican baldy – known artistically as Shinehead – took it upon himself to rework the track. By changing the lyric from being about legendary raconteur Quentin Crisp to himself, he was able to retitle it ‘Jamaican In New York’. The track peaked at No30 and he never troubled the charts again. Saying that, future Sting singles never really worried that pop charts either, but being an MOR artist it was always about the albums which almost always charted in the Top 5.
06 – The Cure – Close To Me (Remix) (#13)
And the remixes continue… This time it's kooky indie goths The Cure to receive this exciting new treatment. Hailing from Crawley, the band formed in the latter half of the seventies and were fronted by one Robert Smith – an interesting baggy-jumpy sporting chap who woer make that looked as though it had been applied by Stevie Wonder on a moving tube carriage. He remains an interesting character to this day and recently featured in a viral video in which he brilliantly shoots down the over-the-top fake excitement of an American 'journalist'. I won't spoil it for you, just Google 'Robert Smith viral'. Back to the song in question then and by replacing the ‘Walking On Sunshine’-esque beats of the original ‘Close To Me’ with a slowed-down, trippy breakbeat, Paul Oakenfold gave the single a new lease of life and The Cure another Top 20 hit. He didn’t though turn the track into ‘mainstream dance’ as the NOW sleeve notes claim. It’s not remotely dancey, even less so than the original. Someone should have told NOW that simply using synthesized beats doesn’t automatically create dance music. ‘Close To Me’ began its life as a track on the 1985 album ‘The Head On The Door’. It peaked at No24 when it was released as a single a few weeks after its parent album had made No15. Fast forward to 1990 and we had a new, blissed out version on release to promote new compilation album ‘Mixed Up’. New track ‘Never Enough’ (also on the compilation) had already made No13 and ‘Close To Me’ followed suit. Of the two versions, both are decent enough but I think I’d head for the original due to its faster pace and eighties feel.
07 – Neneh Cherry – I've Got You Under My Skin (#25)
In between 'Raw Like Sushi' and 'Homebrew', Ms Cherry was asked to contribute to AIDS charity album 'Red Hot + Blue'. This was a compilation put together by the Red Hot Organisation which aimed to “fight the mass misinformation that surrounds AIDS and also to continue to educate people about the disease”. She was joined on this admirable album by all manner of established acts, such Erasure, U2, Thompson Twins, Fine Young Cannibals, Lisa Stansfield and Annie Lennox - to name but a few. They were all asked to record their own interpretation of a Cole Porter classic. This particular reading of 'I've Got You Under My Skin' was the only single to be plucked from the compilation and in hindsight wasn't the most electrifying choice. Thing is though, seeing as their aim is to educate, Cherry's treatment included a hard-hitting AIDS-specific rap, so naturally this fitted the bill. Taking the track as a piece of pop though, it is in all honesty rather sparse and dull and I'm not really surprised it failed to break the Top 20. A production line hip-hop beat, a mild bass rumble and some rather unsure synths and aside form Neneh's vocal, there's very little else going on. In some cases that might be enough but 'I've Got You Under My Skin' isn't really a strong enough song to pull it off. I appreciate that a record for such a cause isn't likely to sound like 'Agadoo', but it doesn't have to be outright boring. The public clearly weren't overly taken with it either and it climbed no higher than No25 and spent just five weeks in the Top 75. Following this somewhat underwhelming effort, she made a return to the charts in '92 with her second LP and single 'Money Love' – a single that despite being the first from a new album did little better than this charity effort, peaking at No23 in the October of that year. She would also again do something for 'charidee' in 1995 with something much, much worse than this that. Rest assured, I shall address this horror when we reach NOW 30.
08 – Blue Pearl – Little Brother (#31)
Having hit the Top 5 earlier in the year with the slighty-too-slow dance anthem 'Naked In The Rain', Blue Pearl elected to put something out even slower for their second take on the pop charts. Normally dance acts put out out something a bit more similar before moving on to the token downbeat release, but this more moody, soulful affair is a poor follow-up in comparison. Everyone seemed to be after a slice of the market Soul II Soul had created and this track was clearly aimed at those people, although it missed by some distance. 'Little Brother' seems to tell the tale of someone 'reaching out' to their younger brother, whom it appears has gone of the rails somewhat and as their sibling, they want bro to know they're here for them. Don't be fooled by the lyrics of the chorus because if you're not really paying attention it's easier to think the beautiful woman with the ugly name (Durga!) is singing the alarmingly incestuous declaration of “let me be your lover”. Even though it rhymes with brother, it isn't what she says. I don't know what it is mind you, and the best I can fathom is “let me be your light for life”. I haven't bothered looking up the lyrics online as all lyrics sites on the internet are as reliable as a girl from Aylesbury called Nadine I once knew. A new single '(Can You) Feel The Passion' appeared the following year. This was received far more favourably, reaching No14, but aside from a rather pointless remix of 'Naked In The Rain' in '98 they never troubled the charts again.
09 – Kylie Minogue – Step Back In Time (#4)
Another song with lyrics that make one do a quick double-take is this fun and punchy pop thumper. I will clear things up straight away and tell you that amongst the ravey beats that make up the introduction is the word is 'FUNK', OK? “Funk”. “F,F,U,F,U,N,K”. Although that actually spells 'ffufunk' I grant you – but it certainly isn't fuck. As if the squeaky clean soap songstress would be so mucky. 'Step Back In Time' was the second single to be taken from Minogue's third album 'Rhythm Of Love' and followed 'Better The Devil You Know' and into the Top5. Still under the wings of Pete Waterman's SAW bird, the little lady was given a funky, upbeat homage to the seventies to get her oversized teeth into. Amongst the lyric, Ohio's very own disco funksters The O'Jays are chosen for a name-check. Despite neither Minogue or her fans being old enough to remember them, they do of course make a marvellous rhyme for 'old days'. There's also references to songs such as 'Float On' – something else that listeners wouldn't have heard of. Two more singles from 'Rhythm Of Love' charted – 'What Do I Have To Do' (#6) and 'Shocked (#6) but it's only really 'Better The Devil You Know' that is remembered from this batch. A shame really as 'Step Back In Time' is still something that can get you moving. I often use it as a 'bridge' track to mix from early nineties to disco when DJing. Trust me, it's a good one for getting down. So next time you're at a wedding, ask that lazy old bloke with a laptop if he can click his computer and play it for you. Hopefully he'll be someone that does “remember the old days”.
10 – Kim Appleby – Don't Worry (#2)
Having had the prospect of a solo career unfairly foisted upon her, in late 1990 Kim confidently stepped out on her own. Appleby was at the time dating Bros drop-out Craig 'Ken' Logan and it was he who helped her with songwriting duties and together they penned a message of encouragement, advising a friend that although they've been dumped, it happened to us all and they shouldn't worry as it'll be fine in the end. An alternative title might be 'Get Over It For Fuck's Sake'. 'Don't Worry' got Kim's solo life off to a flying start when it flew all the way to No2 – with only The Righteous Brothers denying her a debut No1 – before one Robert van Winkle (Vanilla Ice to you and I) jumped over both discs with his shitty Queen-sampling rap. Despite not being a SAW production one would be forgiven for thinking that it was and definitely the right sound for Kim's kick-off. It's an upbeat, slick and brassy affair, punctuated with drum fills and organ notes and had it managed to secure a No1 slot I'm sure it'd receive a lot more playing time these days. It did though achieve such status in Zimbabwe of all places. An album 'Kim Appleby' (rolls eyes) was released in time for Christmas and many of the tracks included had originally been pencilled in for the second Mel & Kim LP, and follow-up single 'G.L.A.D.' was clearly one of them. With late sister Mel a co-writer it's hard to think of it not being a hark back the duo's 'F.L.M.' single. 'G.L.A.D.' – good loving and devotion – followed 'Don't Worry' into the Top 10 (just) but third single 'Mama' stalled at No19 and subsequent singles until 1994 all failed to chart.
11 – Technotronic – Megamix (#6)
As well as remixing two-year-old pop records to turn them into hits, there was also a growing trend in popland that was the megamix. Once you'd had four hit singles you were entitled to make a fifth by mixing four of them together. Sometimes this worked really well (Technotronic), sometimes it was fucking disaster (Corona). Admittedly in the case of Technotronic the fact that all four tracks included use exactly the same sounds helps, but it's still wise to keep to the original arrangements of the track you're going to use – Corona take note. It's also important to sequence the songs properly one by one and not continually jump backwards and forwards between songs the whole time – Corona take note again. So what we have here are four hit singles 'This Beat Is Technotronic', 'Get Up (Before The Night Is Over)' and of course 'Pump Up The Jam' all glued to together with some nice links inserted to join them together seamlessly – all squeezed into 4.17. Not a bad effort all-in-all and proof of its quality was confirmed when it hit No6, giving Jo Bogaert's baby a fourth but final Top 10 entry. I say 'final' because that pretty was time up for the Belgian. The next batch of singles weren't a patch on the first with most missing the charts altogether – only the completely forgettable 'Move That Body' did anything of note by peaking at No12 in late Spring '91. In fact, listening to it now I'm amazed it did that well.
12 – Bombalurina – Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini (#1)
Normally NOW like to make the most of the fact they've secured as many No1s as possible on a release and they are usually placed at the start of a disc. It is perhaps telling that musical snobbery is at play here as Oxford United superfan Timmy Mallett's No1 pop smash is tucked away on Disc 2 in 12th position. At the time of writing Oxford United are also stuck in 12th position so it is perhaps fitting. I also have to mention my ex girlfriend Abbie here as much to her amusement – although probably not any more – 'Itsy Bitsy...' was No1 at the time of her birth. It's not quite as funny as previous ex Laura, whose then best friend was born with Spitting Image 'The Chicken Song' at the summit. I think the biggest surprise here isn't that it got to No1, but the fact that Mallett can actually sing rather well. On the production side, it is rather cheap sounding, but admittedly effective. The pumping pop stomper also brings those 'Wooh! Yeah!' (Lyn Collins) and 'Ah Yeah!' (Public Enemy) samples back to the charts – because we were missing them weren't we... Bombalurina was a project for Mallett along with either Nigel Wright or Andrew Lloyd-Webber – or both I'm not sure it matters really. Timmy was the front for it regardless. Having had a smash with a cover of an old hit.,there wasn't really anywhere for Mallet and Martin to go after this except loads more covers of fifties and sixties classics. So along came an album of such and a second single – a cover of 'Seven Little Girls Sitting In The Backseat' – a song whose title has somewhat different connotations here in 2019. The single made No18 and the album No55, so somebody somewhere decided that was enough and Bombalurina were no more. Mallett continues to pop up in the public eye here there, whether its showing off some of his incredibly good oil paintings or having his bicycle stolen. If I were to mention the loon to my mother she would no doubt remind me that he used to go out with my infant teachers' daughter and at the time he had blue hair. At the time he was also a disc jockey on Radio Oxford with a show called 'Timmy On The Tranny' – which again has rather different connotations in 2019.
13 – Betty Boo – Where Are You Baby? (#3)
In my youth I was an avid Smash Hits reader. For some reason, certain things that I read in the paper stay with me to this day. One such memory is the fact that the third bloke from Right Said Fred that nobody remembers once said that he had a crush on Miss Boo and that she had “blossomed rather nicely'. I'm pretty sure this admiration wasn't mutual as he looked like a cross between Jeremy Clarkson and Richard E. Grant. I have to say that I completely agree with him – she was/is gorgeous. Speaking of Clarkson, Betty's real name is in fact Alison Clarkson and Betty Boo was her 'alter ego'. It was initially Betty Boop, but the 'p' was lost due to copyright worries. It's a good job really as Boop is much harder to rhyme than 'boo'. I'm not sure 'Doin' The Doop' might've worked quite as well. Musically she was like a sort of cartoon Neneh Cherry, in that her raps and rhymes were a lot more fun. 'Where Are You Baby' is a fast-paced, sixties-influence shuffler with a funky bassline and whistling-a-plenty and gave the gal from Kensington not only her third Top 10 hit, but also the biggest. Having enjoyed her best bit of chart success, things sadly began to drop off. Debut album' Boomania' had made No4 but follow-up to 'Where Are You Baby' - the hugely underrated '24 Hours' – only got as far as No25. In 1992 she came back with the sampling laid back summer vibe of 'Let Me Take You There' which she took to No12 but even though the standard was still pretty good, next singles 'I'm On My Way' and 'Hangover' failed to chart inside the hallowed forty. A shame as she had more to give us. In fact she did give the world of pop more, writing hits for acts such as Hear'Say, Girls Aloud, Sophie Ellis-Bextor. And The Tweenies.
14 – The Adventures of Stevie V – Dirty Cash (Money Talks) (#2)
Not just Stevie V, but his 'adventures' too. The adventures apparently referred to the fact they were an outfit and not just a solo artist. Hmmm, bit arrogant really. I once heard the big-headed producer referred to as 'Stevie 5', but seeing as his real name is Steven Vincent, I think we're on safe ground to call to pronounce it as veeeeeee. This debut release from the ensemble was a cracking start, with its honking sax, crunching hip-hop beats, eery synths and distinctive bassline, 'Dirty Cash (Money Talks)' still has the ability to get the room jumping. Charting in late April the track climbed all the way to No2 – barred from the top spot by Adamski – and spent a creditable thirteen weeks on the charts. The adventure continued with 'Body Language' which followed a similar formula but lacked the hook and novelty value of 'Dirty Cash'. In fact it did well to chart at all – reaching No29 in late September. A third single from the unadventurously-titled LP 'adventures of Stevie V' was tried – 'Jealousy' (which sounded even more like 'Dirty Cash') – but it flopped and aside from the occasional shit remix of their debut popping up, the adventure turned out to be a rather short-lived one.
15 – MC Hammer – Have You Seen Her (#8)
“Aah yeah. I'm glad I put this tape in”. Yes, that really is the opening line to this utter stinker from Mr Stanley Burrell. Doing what most rappers do and taking an old song – in this case 'Have You Seen Her' by The Chi-Lites - and then merely talking bollocks all over it, 'The Hammer' created something that can only be described as vomit-enducing. Basically 'The Hammer' is looking for his dream girl in all sorts of places. A closer examination of the lyrics unearths some more detail of where he thinks she might be. Not only does our lovesick loser look for his fantasy female at the movies or the club, he also thinks she might be in his car (?) or at a filming of The Cosby Show no less. Going back to his search of the club, Stanley also suggests someone might've seen her when she's out buying something. If you trust internet lyric sites it says she's buying 'dub' – it seems unlikely that she'd be a fan of a sub-genre of reggae and spends her hard-earned cash on the latest releases. If you trust my ears then she's buying 'dove' – or perhaps Dove. She may be getting on after all and is keen to keep her skin youthful. Whatever the correct word is, it's still utter bollocks. Alarmingly, people bought this and gave the golden-panted idiot his second of four Top 10 hits. To be fair it was released off the back mega-hit 'U Can't Touch This'. By the way, he doesn't seem to have found her by the end of the record, mostly because she doesn't fucking exist – he's simply seen her in his dreams. So how the buggery bollocks anyone else might have seen her is anybody's guess.
16 – Jimmy Somerville – To Love Somebody (#8)
And we reach the end of a somewhat hotch-potch second disc, where after the cringe-worthy pap that MC Hammer served up, things become a little more sophisticated as we round things off. Somerville was a kind of one-man UB40, in that he seemed unable to have a hit single unless it was a cover and 'To Love Somebody' was yet another. Not only that, but on this occasion he's chosen a pop reggae arrangement and if you took his high pitched warbling out one could easily imagine Ali Campbell in his place. I think I'd prefer that to be honest. Written by and first performed by the Bee Gees, the song is apparently the one that Barry Gibb was most pleased with. I'm not sure what he made of our Jimmy's version, which was released as a promotional tool for a 'singles' collection. A singles collection that was largely made up tracks by groups he'd been in and not a great deal of his own work, funnily enough. In fact he did the same some eleven years later with another best of which again included Bronski Beat's work because in that time he still hadn't really produced any more chart smashes. I'm probably being a bit harsh on the old spud here as this version of 'To Love Somebody' isn't all that bad, it's just like so many of his records it'd be so much better if it wasn't one of his records.
Released – November 1990
High Points – ‘Hold On', 'Fascinating Rhythm', 'So Hard', 'Step Back In Time', 'Tom's Diner'.
Low Points – 'Have You Seen Her', 'Be Tender With Me Baby', 'Anniversary Waltz (Part 1)'.
Song Count – 32
Number 1s – a rather hearty six, although there was about seven months between 17 and 18, so there was plenty to choose from.
Flops – No really failures here, although Blue Pearl register the lowest charting track with 'Little Brother'.
Notes – The standard CD/LP/MC release, plus a 15 track VHS featuring a good selection of the best tracks from the audio edition, and Tina Turner.
Overall Mark 7/10
Here's the picture of Jazzie 'wet pants' B as promised...