As is traditional let us note the news stories making headlines in this week back in 2003. Hen-mania was in full swing but admittedly in its dying throes as Tim Henman marched into the Wimbledon quarter finals, but got no further. A seemingly innocuous two-way conversation on the Today programme in Radio 4 about the Iraq War dossier made Alastair Campbell see red and ended up with far-reaching consequences for all involved, all the mid-market newspapers got very excited about the prospect of a cut in interest rates to an historic low of… 3.5% and for those of us in the media world a rather fascinating court case came to an end, with unfortunate consequences for the plaintiff:
Other than that frankly the newspapers were crammed with garbage. Please, whatever you do, don’t ever be tempted to spend time in a newspaper archive for the start of July 2003. There’s only so many references to long-forgotten Big Brother contestants you can stomach.
Hello new readers by the way, welcome to the third part of our wander through an archive Radio One Chart show, this for Sunday June 29th 2003, not the 30th which I insisted it was for some strange reason at first. I mean it’s not as if the date isn’t written on the tapes or anything…
Spain’s DJ Sammy had shot to fame back in 2002 thanks to what turned out to be a rather inspired cover of the Bryan Adams single Heaven. Trance and club versions of older pop hits had been done many times in the past, but somehow DJ Sammy hit just the right note with his reworking, preserving everything that was good about the rock ballad and transplanting its successfully to the dancefloor with a female vocal to boot. After that single topped the charts in December 2002 he followed it with another Top 3 cover version of The Boys Of Summer before finally turning to some original material with this third single. You know what, just before hearing it again for the first time in eight years I fully expected to hate it, another drippy trance anthem full of the usual clichés – you know the kind of thing I mean. Yet I didn’t, because Sunlight for one reason or another is so perfectly pitched and so magnificently produced that as the rain battered down on the rooflight window above, I found myself yearning for the warm Ibiza beachside sunrises that the single is designed to soundtrack. For the longest time Sunlight was absent from online services, a situation now corrected. I still kind of think it is appropriate to share again the hypnotic time-lapse video which accompanied the track. It all helps add to the magic.
Oh now this is interesting. This was the much-anticipated and enthusiastically hyped debut solo single from Siobhan Donaghy, aka the funny looking one from Sugababes Mk1 and who jumped ship after their first album and before they became really, massively successful. After battling the depression that had resulted from her falling out with her bandmates in such spectacular fashion, the talented singer was groomed and prepared for what was generally assumed to be her inevitable solo success. Cameron McVey [Daddy of Mabel, fact fans] (who had also helmed the one and only Sugababes album on which she appeared) produced this solo debut, as well as many of the tracks on her first album Revolution In Me, yet despite this pedigree, despite her status as a priority artist for the label, despite everything, the whole project bombed. Overrated limped to Number 19 and then vanished whilst the album didn’t even reach the Top 100 when released that September. After London records ditched her she resurfaced in 2007 with a self-recorded new album Ghosts which even produced a Top 30 single Twist Of Fate but still major chart success eluded her. When the Sugababes finally rotated their entire line-up altogether, there was talk that the three original girls might get back together to bring the whole project full circle. In a way it would be nice if they did [it did happen, after a fashion even if nobody eventually cared] – rescuing Donaghy from her status as the most talented nearly woman of 21st century pop.
We’ve talked already about acts who burned both brightly and briefly, and was there an ever more apt description of the meteoric rise and fall of The Darkness. Justin Hawkins et al shot to fame in 2003 by simply doing everything that was assumed not to be cool any more. Big hair, big chords, guitar solos, falsetto choruses and even at the end of the year a Christmas single which was in strong contention to be the festive Number One. Growing On Me was the track that kicked it all off, their second single and the first to reach the Top 40, hitting Number 11 in late June. Whilst they weren’t a comedy act, The Darkness were still a joke that you had to get enthusiastically, and when third single I Believe In A Thing Called Love hit Number 2 in October, you kind of got the feeling that a large number of people had enthusiastically jumped on board. Sadly their dedicated pursuit of rock cliches meant drugs and alcohol excess and a bloated and noisy second album in 2005 which wasn’t actually as good and led to Hawkins trying his hand at a variety of other acts. Early in 2011 however The Darkness announced they were back together with a new album being worked on. Now that should be interesting if it ever appears.
This pair were Roisin and Mark, two sweethearts from Sheffield who first started making records in the mid-1990s and who shot to chart fame in 1999 when the singles Sing It Back and the rather glorious The Time Is Now were massive Top 10 hits. By 2003 however the romantic partnership had ended and whilst the making of final album ‘Statues’ was amicable enough, the whole affair was more of an exercise in contractual obligation than anything else. Forever More was the second and last chart hit from the pair, entering the charts here at Number 17 and progressing no further. Roisin Murphy went on to a moderate level of solo success afterwards, but she hasn’t been seen on the music charts since her 2007 solo album Overpowered.
Let’s not beat about the bush. Scooter at their very best are utterly, phenomenally amazing. Their relentless and rarely evolving formula (thundering happy hardcore beats, HP Baxxter ranting at the crowd, samples that sit on the edge of familiarity) has rather meant they have dipped in and out of fashion at semi regular intervals over the years. 2002-3 was arguably the peak of their British appeal as out of nowhere in 2002 they shot to Number 2 with a cover version of The Logical Song and proceeded to follow it up with tracks that were almost as identical and yet ever more exciting with each passing minute. The Night was the final exclamation point of this 12 months of success, based around what was for a brief time their trademark of a speeded up sample from an older hit – in this case a track also called The Night as recorded by Italian star Valerie Dore in 1984. Whilst the original was a moderately famous classic of its time on the continent it was unfamiliar to everyone on these shores and so for all we knew the warbled vocals could have been from anywhere. After The Night peaked here at Number 16 the pendulum of popular taste swung back the other way and Scooter singles struggled to chart until they made a brief comeback with Jumping All Over The World in 2008.
I think this follows the Janet Jackson rule that thy album shalt always have a rock chick track just for the sheer hell of it. One of the best tracks from her second album Stripped, this was Christina Aguilera’s second chart hit of 2003, hard on the heels of smash hit Number One ballad Beautiful. Every bit as classic as its predecessor, Fighter was her chance to growl her way through some crunching rock guitars and give it the full on black leather treatment. One of her best singles ever.
A teenage prodigy, one of Amy Studt’s self produced demos found its way to no less a figure than Simon Fuller when she was just 15 years old, causing him to snap her up to turn her into a superstar. Her first single Just A Little Girl came out in 2002 and was a notably odd affair, shifting gears from a cutesy little girl sing song voice to a full on balls-out song full of attitude. Maybe the intention was to be arresting, but at the time I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to spoof singer Shona McGough from the first episode of “Knowing Me, Knowing You” (look it up). Although that debut single made a respectable enough Number 14 in July 2002, a rethink was clearly required and so Studt disappeared for a year, returning with this rather more improved sound. The intention behind Misfit was to cast her as the British Avril Lavigne and the sparky and rather engaging pop record made a far more manageable Number 6 and appeared to be setting her well on the road to stardom proper. Even so, the album False Smiles hardly set the world on fire and after being dumped by Polydor she wound up as yet another act relying on her management to release her records for her, as 2008 follow-up My Paper Made Men came out on 19 Records and promptly sank without trace. Rumours of her re-emergence continue to circulate online. Misfit proved she had the pipes and the songwriting talent to be the star she was always supposed to be. Maybe one day she will still pay off that potential.
For so many years the butt of plane crashing jokes and known only to music fans as the chap who emerged with a new remix of Cars every few years, the early years of the 21st century proved to be uncommonly kind to Gary Numan. First Basement Jaxx turned an old album track of his into Where’s Your Head At for one of their biggest hits, then the Sugababes shot to Number One using Are Friends Electric as a backing track and then a whole string of acts came forward citing him as one of their greatest influences. This prompted the creation of Hybrid, an album featuring some innovative new mixes of older tracks but also a handful of brand new pieces helmed by some of the biggest names in dance music. Hence this single Crazier which shot to Number 13 and became his first Top 40 hit under his own steam (and which wasn’t a remix of Cars) since way back in 1986. Proper mainstream pop stardom was perhaps still never going to be the outcome here, but this single stands tall as testament to the brief moment nearly 25 years on from his debut that Gary Numan became properly cool again.
12: Tommi – Like What
Yeah, you may well ask “who?”. To explain all, I think it is best here to dig out the exact words I wrote on this single on dotmusic back in June 2003:
We should have had a competition really, giving people a chance to guess what kind of act Tommi are just from the name. Girl group with street attitude is the answer in case you are wondering, the five 18 year olds are being launched with high hopes that they can become the next big thing in female pop. Their sound is unashamedly urban but with deep commercial appeal built in. Their cachet comes from the writing credits of this new single which credits both T-Boz and Kandi as authors and the track is produced by Ms Dynamite's producer Bloodshy. Want the truth? This is actually a very good single and nothing short of a breath of fresh air. A fair number of people will be quite disappointed that it could not do better than a Number 12 entry.
So there you go, they were a five piece urban girl group (although Wikipedia only lists four members - Lil Chill, Mi$ THing, Bambi and Peekaboo so maybe I was mistaken at the time) about whom we were all keeping an open mind when their debut single appeared. Yet in researching this I simply could not turn up anything else about them, no mentions on newspaper pop pages, no media references other than their names listed on the bill of just about every radio station sponsored summer party going that summer. After this one and only single they vanished utterly without trace. Save for this video:
11: Jennifer Ellison – Baby I Don’t Care
Yes that’s right. At one stage somebody actually thought this might possibly be a good idea. Jennifer Ellison had been a star of the TV soap Brookside since she was a teenager, so her departure from the show in 2003 seemed the perfect opportunity to show off what were theoretically her other talents. So she was signed as a pop star and handed this rather offensive and anaemic cover of the 1989 smash hit by Transvision Vamp for her debut chart single. I mean she wasn’t exactly a terrible singer, but for sheer pointlessness you would be hard to find any record on this Top 40 which comes even close to this one. Despite reaching Number 6 it was decided not to proceed with the project after this single, and so the blonde scouser retreated to a potentially lucrative career posing for a series of scantily clad but resolutely nipple-free lads magazine shoots. Strange to relate though that Ellison was back on the chart again a year later, this time after going mainstream as the winner of the first ever UK series of Hell’s Kitchen, prompting the idea of Jennifer the pop star to be resurrected with Number 13 hit Bye Bye Boy. Thankfully it proved to be her chart swansong. If I told you that Baby I Don’t Care isn’t on any of the streaming services either, would you believe me? Of course you would. Here’s yet another video if you can stomach it.