While the charts continued to be fairly good representations of what was popular, the introduction of multiple formats and the massive airplay that records received pre-release began to make the top 40 less important as a barometer of the public’s taste. More, what was number one was a barometer of how well record companies were promoting their wares. Sad, really. More and more records began going in straight at number one (a feat that back in my early days of buying records was very rare indeed), which led to a less vibrant chart. No records going up, just new entries and records going down. Never again, I fear, will we see something as joyful as watching Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Relax’ slipping down the charts, then coming all the way back up again to number two, snuggled neatly behind ‘Two Tribes’ at the top.
Oh, and a quick note: there’s not many photos this time cos my camera broke yesterday. Boo.
So anyway, 1992: I bought none of the chart toppers, although an honourable mention should go to Right Said Fred’s ‘Deeply Dippy,’ as I did buy their album a couple of months later after another track had convinced me that it must be a decent album cos there’s already four singles I like.
Take That ‘Babe’
Aaaah, little Mark Owen gets to do the lead vocals on a song, and look cute in the video. One of the loudest noises I’ve ever heard was walking past the crowd outside Assembly Rooms in Derby shortly before the doors were opened to allow in thousands of Take That fans.
Another barron year. However, I do wish I’d bought two of the number ones: ‘Saturday Night’ by Whigfield, and ‘Stay Another Day’ by East 17. Both of which being perfectly poppy. I wonder what Whigfield is doing now. I hope it’s something good.
Take That ‘Back For Good’
The one which even those who disliked boy bands grudgingly admitted to liking. One of the best songs of the decade. Fact.
Oasis ‘Some Might Say’
Not my favourite Oasis song, but not bad either. But, yet again, an awful sleeve. Oasis have never ever had a good record sleeve. You’d think that the law of averages would have given them at least one sleeve that was better than okay; but no. Brian Cannon, the designer of this and many others, is without doubt the worst graphic designer in the world ever.
Blur ‘Country House’
When the self-important Blur vs. Oasis thing happened, I fell on the side of Blur. And still do. A far better band. Rather like a dull World Cup or Champions League final, though, both bands released pretty poor parodies of their work when they went head to head. By this time of my life I was working in a record shop (Radio City in Lincoln – no longer around, sadly) and sales for us were virtually neck and neck. Though, I guess, the two CD single versions of ‘Country House’ was the thing that put it at the top.
Michael Jackson ‘Earth Song’
I seem to remember there was quite a jaunty dance mix on the CD single which is probably what lead me to get this. By this time, though, records didn’t cost very much for me what with working a shop that sold them. No excuse really, it’s still a pretty shoddy song.
Oasis ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’
This one always reminds me of the last scene of a 1996 BBC drama Our Friends in the North. It was a superb series about the lives of four friends from Newcastle that began with how they were in the sixties and finished with the present day. It’s on DVD, and worth a look if your video shop’s got it.
We all loved this one, didn’t we? Scary-looking bloke doing some shouting and some big noisy noises. Brilliant.
Gina G ‘Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit’
The UK’s entry for that year’s Eurovision Song Contest. A strange event, that. I imagine it must seem even stranger for the non-Europeans who see it. I have a feeling that the UK never wins, even with a great romping pop song like this (it came eighth), because all the other countries want to put us in our place what with us being so proud of our pop music heritage.
Chemical Brothers ‘Setting Sun’
I really like the Chemical Brothers. They’ve been fairly consistently good for quite a while now, and good live too. but their insistence on using famous singers often seems like an Achilles heel. ‘The Golden Path’ being the only one I can think of that is truly one of their best songs. This song, though, isn’t; and I imagine only got to number one cos Oasis fans bought it.
Didn’t I just buy this exact same record a few months ago?
Spice Girls ‘2 Become 1’
The last number one I got as a record shop employee, going, as I was, to London to start a new job after Christmas. There was a lovely version of this song on the promo which just had the singing and a string arrangement, I think, by Craig Armstrong.
One of their best songs, and one that completely reminds me of living in my first flat in Forest Hill, London. I lived above a dance studio. I whole-heartedly recommend that you NEVER live above a dance studio. The thundering of a bunch of schoolgirls trying to do tap dancing on a Saturday morning is truly horrible. It was a very cold flat, too; so cold at times that my CD player kept feeling ill and skipping. When I listen to this song now, I still expect the intro to happen three or four times before it begins to play properly.
Chemical Brothers ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’
So, I’m in London now, working for a record distribution company called 3mv. This meant never ever paying for records anymore. Kid/sweetshop. Even records that we didn’t distribute were free, as I could just call one of the sales reps and he’d get it for me from one of the shops he visited. It became a great way to hoard records; acquiring singles I’d normally not bother with and just wait for the album. And what a great album Dig your Own Hole was, especially ‘It Doesn’t Matter,’ their most teeth-grindingly, getting-sweaty, going-mental-in-a-dark-room song.
Olive ‘You’re Not Alone’
A song I’d bought the previous year that, as is the way with some dancey records, ended up being number one ages later. It sounds completely of its time, the synthy noises all so very mid-nineties, but it’s still a pretty song.
Oasis ‘D’you Know What I Mean?’
I’ll tell you a story, a little secret about the music industry. You know those gold discs they make when records sell a bunch of copies? They’re a farce. I got one of them for this single (and I’ve resisted eBaying it, oddly) before it was released. It stated on the little plaque that it was presented to me (and a couple of hundred other music industry drones) in recognition of sales of, I think, 300,000, which quite clearly it hadn’t sold at theat point. They may well have manufactured that many, and they did sell that amount eventually, but still: it’s a lie.
All Saints ‘Never Ever’
Has there ever been a sexier group than All Saints? I can’t really think of any. Melanie was my favourite; I’m a sucker for a good strong nose. And this song is delicious. The very cute spoken intro over the gospely backing vocals and organ melts me every time.
Oasis ‘All Around The World’
Created, I assume, in a laboratory by scientists employed by Noel Gallagher to make a hit Oasis song that sounded as Oasisy as possible. A bit of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger,’ a bit of ‘Whatever,’ and can you make Liam go “sheeeee-ine,” please. Ker-ching! A number one single.
Cornershop ‘Brimful of Asha’
little band that you’d never ever think would have a top 40 hit end up having a number one! How did that happen?
Run DMC vs Jason Nevins ‘It’s Like That’
If I never hear this again it’ll be too soon.
Fatboy Slim ‘Praise You’
One of the joys of working for 3mv was the (admitted very small) part one plays in an artist being a success. I was really really happy that Fatboy Slim was finally a big star. Trying my best to flog his early records when I worked at Radio City, then getting to hear the new songs before they were released working at 3mv was ace. Normally, I’d be sick of an over-played song like this, but I still enjoy it.
ATB ‘9PM (Till I Come)’
Another 3mv distributed number one. It was good to be there when successful things were happening. Mainly, though, because we got decent bonuses when records got to number one.
2000 – 2006
I left 3mv in the summer of 2000, as the slight success of Flip Flop Flyin’ had started to get me a little bit of freelance work. In one of the few moments of my life where I’ve been brave, I quit my job, went freelance, then accepted a job in Berlin. Thus, I had to buy records again. In a shop. God! nightmare! Actually, it wasn’t a nightmare. By the end of my time at 3mv, music had become completely my job, and even records I liked I hardly listened to due to the never ending amount of new stuff that got piled up next to my hi-fi.
2000 had some good number ones, but it bloody well should’ve, considering there were 42 of the buggers. Didn’t buy any, though; I was turning my back on the single and dedicating my music money to albums. Notable number ones this year, though: ‘Pure Shores’ and ‘Black Coffee’ by All Saints, ‘Spinning Around’ by Kylie, and ‘Music’ by Madonna.
And 2001 only had a couple of good number ones (‘Don’t Stop Movin” by S Club 7 and ‘Another Chance’ by Roger Sanchez) until…
Kylie Minogue ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’
So, this is the only UK number one I’ve bought in the 21st century. And as close to perfect as a pop song can get really. I’ve not read that Paul Morley book yet (still sat on my shelf gathering dust) but I believe he goes into some depth about why this song is so great. I don’t have his intellectual brain, so all I can say is it bounces and tingles and fizzes in my brain, and probably will do for the rest of my life.
So that’s it. A bunch of crap songs, the usual supsects who always have number ones doing so, and a handful of belters later, and it’s 2006, and Shakira’s number one. Mmmm, Shakira…