Peak UK Chart Position: #7 in July 1995.
One of the few acts to have had two of their singles released three times, D:Ream were based around lead singer Peter Cunnah, who turns 50 today. Professor Brian Cox also featured as keyboardist in the live band (although Cunnah played keyboards on studio recordings).
“U R The Best Thing” was their first single release, but despite huge club success and being Pete Tong’s Essential Tune of 1992, it limped to number 72. Eventually on reissue it made number 19 in 1993, and after a Perfecto remix it got to number 4 in 1994. (Coincidentally, Paul Oakenfold of Perfecto fame turns 53 today.)
Second single “Things Can Only Get Better” fared better, a number 24 hit first time around in 1993. Again, after a remix, it met with considerably better success – indeed, becoming a four-week number one at the start of 1994 (and subsequently a hit again – number 19 in 1997 – after being adopted as the Labour party’s election theme).
The rousing “Shoot Me With Your Love” was an instant hit, and the first release from their second album “World”. Remixed by Loveland, and (here with a typically energetic performance from Cunnah) performed on the 06th July 1995 edition of Top of the Pops. Sharing that eclectic bill were the likes of Shaggy, PJ Harvey, and the Outhere Brothers…
Peak UK Chart Position: #1 in August 2004.
Twelve years ago to the day, this notched up its second and final week atop the UK charts. It was her second release, after the debut single “Single” (ha) got to number three. “These Words” went on to become the seventeenth biggest seller of the year.
Both songs were taken from the album “Unwritten” (with the excellent title track becoming her third consecutive top ten), which managed a solitary week on top of the album chart on release in September 2004, although it stuck around in the top 100 for 39 weeks – becoming a million seller in the process.
In topping the charts with “These Words”, she and brother Daniel became the first brother-sister duo to have separate number one hits in the UK. Daniel first topped the charts in December 2001 with “Gotta Get Thru This”. They performed a duet at the 2009 BRIT Awards, covering the classic Rufus and Chaka Khan track “Ain’t Nobody”. They also both appeared together on New Zealand’s version of ‘The X Factor’ (when Natasha was a guest judge) in May 2013.
Back in time we go, and apologies for hosting the VEVO advert-riddled copy of this (although it is the best quality) – ITV’s Saturday morning pop music offering CD:UK plays host to a brilliant performance by Natasha…
Peak UK Chart Position: #2 in November 1990.
The Stock Aitken Waterman theme unintentionally continues, as it was with them that Kim Appleby – together with her sister Mel – first found success. Known, of course, as Mel and Kim, they would have four successive top ten hit singles out of four, and a number three album.
The track to kick start their fame was “Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend)”, a number three in November 1986 – bettered by the follow-up “Respectable”, topping the charts for one week the following March. “F.L.M” (#7 in July ’87) and “That’s The Way It Is” (#10 in March ’88) complete the quartet.
Mel had received treatment in 1985 for malignant paraganglioma, a form of cancer, on the liver. She was to experience further back pain as a result of a recurrence of the cancer in 1987 (although initially it was claimed to just be a debilitating back injury). 1988 saw them both withdraw from the limelight after their fourth single, Kim looking after Mel up until her tragic death from pneumonia (a side-effect of the chemotherapy) in January 1990.
“Don’t Worry” was to be Kim’s first solo single, taken from an album recorded with the help of boyfriend Craig Logan (ex-Bros), and containing songs that Kim had co-written with Mel for what would have been their second album. Follow-ups “G.L.A.D” and “Mama” were also both top twenty singles in 1991.
Here’s the track, taken from the start of the Christmas 1990 Top of the Pops – and happy birthday to Kim who turns 55 today.
Peak UK Chart Position: #3 in August 1989.
I did promise only a couple of days ago that this would get featured at some point, it being – in my opinion – Stock, Aitken, and Waterman’s finest hour. It climbed seven places to peak at number three on this day 27 years ago.
The track came from the album “Stronger”, which came out in November of that year and got to number seven. The album also featured his previous hit – and 100th single – “Best Of Me”, a track (given the circumstances) widely expected to enter the charts at number one, but was pipped by Jason Donovan’s “Sealed With A Kiss” – making it a rare occasion (at the time) where the top two singles were both new entries.
It wasn’t to be the only time that Cliff had featured on a SAW production; as part of his trilogy of appearances on festive number ones from 1988 to 1990, 1989 saw him contribute to the remake of “Do They Know Its Christmas?”, credited to Band Aid II and featuring many on the SAW payroll (as well as other contemporary artists such as Bros, Lisa Stansfield and Jimmy Somerville).
The track only appeared on Top of the Pops as a video, so we’ll plunder his ‘Countdown Concert’ from December 1999. As good a performer as Cliff is, this is clearly mimed, but it’s such a good song, who cares? Probably last heard on Radio 1 when, in the mid 2000’s, JK and Joel were co-presenting (with Scott Mills, if my memory serves me correctly) a segment of the Bank Holiday ‘Instant Jukebox’ day and persuaded people to ring in and request it. The full extended version got played, which is worth finding for a listen if only for the immense production qualities…
Peak UK Chart Position: #29 in September 1995.
Edinburgh-born Shirley Manson turns 50 today. She became the lead singer of Garbage back in 1994, although her first taste of success came in the eighties as backing singer and keyboard player with Scottish band Goodbye Mr Mackenzie (biggest hit “The Rattler”, indie chart #8 in 1986, UK chart #37 in 1989).
Garbage have had a few hiatuses in their 22-year run, but are currently together and have most recently (in June 2016) released their sixth studio album, “Strange Little Birds”. Their peak came with the album “Version 2.0” in 1998, topping the chart and spawning five top twenty singles – although their biggest hit single came before that, when “Stupid Girl” reached number four in 1996.
YouTube seems to be a minefield for poor quality videos when it comes to Garbage, for whatever reason. Regardless, it’s back to their first UK top forty hit (after the track “Subhuman” peaked at number 50 the previous month) and debut Top of the Pops performance. Sharing the bill – among others – were Menswear, Cast, Simply Red, and TLC. I personally think Ms Manson looks fantastic here…
Peak UK Chart Position: #16 in May 1993.
Nigerian-born Alban Nwapa turns 59 today. He once ran his own dentistry practice, but found bigger fame as a DJ who would sing along to the records he played – ultimately becoming a performing artist in his own right.
“It’s My Life” was a huge success, hitting number one in Sweden, Austria, Germany, Israel, and the Netherlands, but was denied here in the UK, spending three weeks at number two as Shamen’s “Ebeneezer Goode” held the top spot. It was far from Dr Alban’s first hit in Europe though, as songs such as “Hello Afrika” (featuring Leila K of “Got To Get” fame), “No Coke”, and “U & Mi” hit the top ten (and in some cases number one) in various countries.
“Sing Hallelujah” was top ten in most European countries, and his third UK release (the second, “One Love”, only managed to get to number 45). His success continued abroad well into the nineties, and he is still sporadically releasing new material. He failed in his attempt to represent his homeland Sweden at Eurovision in 2014 (with Jessica Folcker) when voted out of ‘Melodifestivalen 2014’ (their equivalent of ‘A Song For Europe’) during the third semi-final.
Here’s the second song this week featuring the word Hallelujah, this performance taken from Pop Explosion ’93. Not the most amazing vocals, it has to be said…
Peak UK Chart Position: #13 in August 1987.
It is absurd to see the magnitude of the list (on Wikipedia) of songs produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman. The introductory text to the list states that it is only partial – and granted, it does contain a lot of album tracks – but it is a substantial amount all the same.
There were a total of thirteen number ones amongst that list; from their first (in 1985) by Dead Or Alive, “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)”, through the biggest seller of 1987 – Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”, to the five chart-toppers that featured Kylie (including their version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”), the last being “Tears On My Pillow” in 1990.
“Roadblock” was originally on a white label record, it was only after gaining airplay and attention from club DJs and the record press that it was revealed to be the SAW trio taking a break from their Hi-NRG music for a bit of rare groove instead. The track was to be the subject of a legal wrangle when sampled by M/A/R/R/S on “Pump Up The Volume”, with Pete Waterman accusing “wholesale theft” of taking place.
Here’s the video, perhaps the trio’s finest hour in my opinion (except for Cliff Richard’s “I Just Don’t Have The Heart”, which we’ll save for another day). Happy birthday to Matt Aitken from the trio, 60 today.
Peak UK Chart Position: #1 in August 1975.
Back forty-one years, and notching up their third and final week atop the UK charts on this day in 1975 were one of Philadelphia’s finest (and most successful) soul groups.
The Stylistics were led by Russell Thompkins Jr, famed for his high-pitched tenor and falsetto vocals (leading my mother to believe, for many years, that they had a female lead singer – reference the album cover below!). Their UK success started with the track “Betcha By Golly Wow” (#13 in 1972, later covered by Prince as ‘The Artist’ and getting to #11 in 1996), and was followed by “I’m Stone In Love With You” which got to number nine and became the first of ten top ten hits.
Over a period of five years, they chalked up an impressive sixteen consecutive top forty hits – including a cover of the Elvis Presley number one “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, with their version being at a much quicker tempo. Their success led them to become one of the few US acts to have two UK number one greatest hits albums. And talking of albums, here’s the one I remember seeing (and listening to) growing up…
The group are still active, but minus Thompkins Jr who left in 2000. He went on to form ‘Russell Thompkins Jr and the New Stylistics’ in 2004, also still active. Here’s a cracking, albeit faster, version of “I Can’t Give You Anything” – their only number one single – recorded on 1st August 1975 at the Cunard International Hotel, London, for television.
Peak UK Chart Position: #19 in December 1989.
Shaun Ryder, 54 today, is still to this day lead singer of the Happy Mondays, a band who have gone through no less than three splits but are still together with what is classed as their “original definitive” line-up (according to their Facebook page, unfortunately nothing can be gleaned from their website as – at the time of writing – it states “website suspended”).
Formed in 1980, they were championed by the late, inimitable music impresario Tony Wilson – and were signed to his Factory records label to boot. 1989 saw them break into the mainstream with the “Madchester Rave On” EP, of which this (“Hallelujah”) was the title track. Despite peaking in the chart on only its second week, it stayed around the top 100 (either in original or remixed form) for the best part of fourteen months. The iconic “Step On”, and “Kinky Afro” were their biggest hits, peaking at number five in 1990. Ryder was to have four further top ten hits with Black Grape, and a number one with Gorillaz on “Dare” in 2005.
It was an iconic edition of Top of the Pops on 23rd November 1989: the ‘Madchester’ explosion was taking place, and both Happy Mondays and Stone Roses (with “Fool’s Gold”) appeared on the same show. Hosted by Jakki Brambles and Jenny Powell – (un)fortunately the intro where Powell cannot pronounce “Hallelujah” properly is edited out here. Kirsty MacColl appears with the band, and Bez has (allegedly) stated that he cannot remember this day at all…
Peak UK Chart Position: #12 in March 1991.
New York City is the home of Living Colour, originally formed in 1984, disbanding in 1995 but reforming in 2000 and still very much active today – with news on their website of the release of a single entitled “Who Shot Ya”, a cover of a Notorious BIG track as an anti-gun violence statement.
Despite all of its accolades, use in films and video games, and also American success, “Cult Of Personality” was never a UK hit despite being released three times – in fact, number 67 was as high as it got over here. Instead, it was this track – remixed in the UK by Soul Power (aka Soulshock and Cutfather) – that gave them their biggest hit, and also helped lift the album “Time’s Up” to number 20. They had a couple more minor hits, the excellent “Solace Of You” (#33, June 1991) and the rockier “Leave It Alone” (#34, Feb 1993).
Here’s their brilliant live performance from the Arsenio Hall show (probably circa 1990/1), truer to the original version, and happy birthday to lead singer Vernon Reid who turns 58 today. Popular age of late on here…