Now this is normally the stage in the proceedings where I recount where I was personally in life when this particular chart was being broadcast and somehow relate the music back to where I was at in time. Somehow this becomes harder the older you get. In summer 2003 I was cheerfully fixing a media company’s computers and mail server during the day and then scuttling off to play at sports radio at night and weekends, during this exact week packing up my entire life to move into the docklands flat with the manic landlady from hell whom I have waxed lyrical about in the past. I don’t really know how relevant the music was to anything I was doing at the time – I just listened because I liked it.
Top 30 time – roll the tape.
Thinking it over, this is actually quite extraordinary. A couple of years ago I wrote in detail about a chart from 1991 and recounted the very start of Dannii Minogue’s chart career. Fast forward to a countdown 12 years later and she’s still clinging on to a life in hit singles. Minogue Jnr’s somehow clawed her way to decade and a half of chart fame thanks to a series of ever more unlikely comebacks, vanishing once the hits dried up to do other things (such as being an F1 driver’s moll) and then wheedling her way back into contention by persuading just the right people that she was the perfect voice for their latest dance project. Her 21st century comeback was sparked by her appearance on a track called Who Do You Love Now by Riva, a hit single which turned into the most consistent run of Top 10 hits of her career. Don’t Wanna Lose This Feeling was the penultimate one of these and her second chart single of 2003, the follow-up to I Begin To Wonder which had reached Number 2 at the start of the year. Both tracks were lifted from her album Neon Nights whose tracks celebrated the dancefloors of the 1980s, five years or so before it became the in thing to do – indeed so seamlessly retro was Don’t Wanna Lose This Feeling that it was spun into a bootleg mash-up of Into The Groove, further expanding its club potential.
Big sister may well have picked up the plaudits, the millions and the adoration but there were times when Minogue Minor was more than a match for her. This single was one such occasion.
There is an underlying theme to this chart of appearances by a series of incredibly well received rock bands who never quite translated the adoring column inches into proper mainstream chart success. Still, we should thank our lucky stars they charted at all given the way the charts of 2011 avoid men and women with guitars like the plague. New York threesome the Yeah Yeah Yeahs released their debut album Fever To Tell in 2003 and immediately attracted attention, not just for their sparky and tightly produced tracks, but also thanks to the rather arresting vision of frontwoman Karen O. The two minute long Pin was their third chart hit and one of a series of hit singles which were little more than one week wonders on the sales rankings. Number 29 was as good as this one got, 13 places behind the peak of its predecessor Date With The Night whose Number 16 peak remains for the moment their best singles chart showing.
Surely if ever there was a reason to love a particular year, to adore one special snapshot in musical history, it is the fact that in 2002 and into 2003, the Flaming Lips were for a fleeting moment actually properly famous, with hit records and everything. Wayne Coyne’s outfit of lavish stage performances and songs that appeared to be penned by people living on an entirely different plane of existence to the rest of us had laboured in semi-obscurity ever since the mid-1980s, only to finally hit their stride with 1999 album The Soft Bulletin which to this day is regarded by some as one of the best albums of that decade. On these shores it became their first ever chart hit, and gave them a first ever Top 40 single as Race For The Prize sneaked to Number 39, but it was the 2002 follow-up Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots which saw them become maybe not quite household names, but certainly properly famous for the stuff they had always been acclaimed for. Admittedly much of the appeal of the Flaming Lips is down to their lavish stage shows, but their singles still showed flashes of brilliance. Fight Test was the third chart single lifted from Yoshimi… and followed the title track into the charts in July 2003. All the usual elements are present and correct, Coyne’s endearing almost but never quite in tune vocals, a gentle, soothing production and quite inadvertently bits of someone else’s song as the melody of Fight Test was shown to bear more than a passing resemblance to Father And Son by Cat Stevens. Coyne held his hands up to the inadvertent plagiarism and cheerfully gave Stevens a share of the royalties and a songwriting credit, but even knowing that the track is partially copied from another does little to diminish its charm. Number 28 simply seems far far too low.
The third and what would ultimately turn out to be the biggest chart single for short-lived American R&B sensations B2K. Britain was late getting into them so all their hits came from their second and final album Pandemonium!, an album which featured not only this Number 10 hit but also its predecessor Bump Bump Bump which even had the added star power of P Diddy on guest vocals. Girlfriend was written and produced by no less a figure than R Kelly which may possibly explain the enthusiastic way it shot up the charts. Most of the members of B2K have faded into oblivion with possibly the sole exception of Omarion who tried a brief solo career and then found himself the subject of lasting ridicule when a rogue PR person released a statement late on July 7th 2005 stating that Omarion had been nowhere near the bombs in London but that his fans should pray for his safety. Even more amusingly his Wikipedia page is the subject of constant battles between British editors wanting to include this detail as the reason he is famous in this country, versus American fans who can’t understand what all the fuss is about.
All good things must come to an end, and looking back the writing was always on the wall for the whole S Club project. First Paul Cattermole quit in 2002, knocking the whole “S Club 7” concept for six (if you’ll pardon the pun) and necessitating a change of name. Then their much-anticipated feature film “Seeing Double” turned out to be a pile of incomprehensible garbage and when its soundtrack album failed to set the charts on fire in the manner that pretty much all of their previous records had done, it seemed the only sensible thing to do was to draw the curtain and exit the stage. So fair play to S Club 7, their departure was on their terms. Summertime single Love Ain’t Gonna Wait For You was bumped in favour of a swiftly recorded swansong single Say Goodbye, the song ostensibly about the end of a love affair but with an obvious underlying subtext – this was the most successful pop band of their generation bidding farewell. This then was their swansong, their own Thank You For The Music and fittingly a Number 2 smash hit, far bigger than any of the other tracks from their final album.
A hat tip to the man who to this day is the only artist to take a pretty much unmolested Bhangra track into the UK Top 10. Mundian To Bach Ke was the track in question, a gloriously inspired worldwide smash hit which took the Knight Rider theme as its base before dragging the famous bassline into exciting new territory. Such was the widespread appeal of the track (a Number 5 hit in the early months of 2003) that a remixed version featuring a new rap line from Jay-Z featured on the flip side of this second hit single. Not that Jogi wasn’t in the Top 30 on its own merits, however, the single possibly the last thing you would expect to see in the UK Top 40 and played on the radio in the afternoon, yet its bizarre fusion of bhangra and hip hop beats worked to near perfection. Rajinder Singh Rai (to give him his full name) continues to make records to this day to a rather more limited audience, but memories of that glorious period when he became a mainstream chart star still live long in the memory.
Back in 1998, Shania Twain and then-husband Mutt Lange had achieved exactly what they had set out to do – record and release the biggest selling Country album of all time. The formula was simple, collect together the best songs possible and then record and mix them in two different versions – a traditional C&W style for the American market and an out and out mainstream pop style for the rather less refined tastes of the rest of the world. Come On Over turned the singer into a superstar and practically spewed hits in its wake. So for the follow-up all they had to do was repeat the stunt, right? Well, it kind of worked. 2002 release Up! admittedly did go on to sell 20 million copies worldwide but that was still only half the total of its predecessor. The songs inside were by and large as sparky and original as before, but the whole project simply had an air of going back over old ground and presuming what had worked before would work perfectly again. The singles from the album performed respectably enough here, tender ballad Forever And For Always was a Number 6 hit as the third Top 10 hit in a row from the album but whereas once upon a time she was hanging around the upper end of the charts for weeks on end, all of these singles made rather perfunctory in and out chart performances, suggesting that by and large she was preaching to the choir. Up! as a whole is the classic example of a record that is simply blah. Musically and lyrically incredibly well made, but with an air of factory line production that by and large made it all feel rather soulless.
As I never tire of pointing out, old pubehead here was never actually the main or even lead singer in ‘NSync, but he was somehow anointed as the one with the charisma and star potential to be thrust into the limelight as a solo star. Boy did that turn out well. One of the signature songs of his early solo career, Rock Your Body was his third Number 2 hit in a row during 2002 and 2003, following hard on the heels of the emotionally intense Cry Me A River which had been a hit in February. Actually of all the singles lifted from his debut album Justified, my favourite was perhaps the less well-received fourth release Senorita which dispensed entirely with song structure halfway through in favour of the singer leading his imaginary crowd in a series of girls v boys call and responses. Somehow it cut through all mental images of his then unfortunate nappy-headed image and made him – as everyone subsequently realised – one of the coolest men on the planet.
One of the longest-running hits on this week’s chart, 50 Cent’s celebrated debut single was this week holding steady at Number 22 in what was its 16th week on the Top 40. All this pre-downloads of course, so every single one of those chart weeks was down to continuing shop demand for his physical singles. Indeed In Da Club during its chart life behaved just like we’d expect a modern-day hit to do, entering at Number 4 before sliding to Number 9 and then steadily consolidating its position to finally peak at Number 3 during weeks 5 and 6 of its chart run. I’ll freely confess that of all the superstar rappers of the last decade, 50 Cent remains the one whose appeal remains to me a mystery, with his music and his lyrics as impenetrable now as they were when he first emerged onto the scene. Nonetheless, it is hard to knock a smash hit such as this one. In Da Club ended the year with a sale of 278,000 copies as the 13th biggest seller of 2003.
A typically efficient chart entry for the Foo Fighters with the third single lifted from their first-ever Number One album One By One. What makes this single more notable as far as this chart countdown is concerned is that its ultimate chart position was the subject of Wes’ “One Big Text” competition which he had been plugging the backside off since the start of the show. To qualify for the big prize question, all you had to do was successfully predict where the single was going to land, and so immediately after it was played out host welcomed “Neil” who then correctly answered a multiple-choice trivia question about Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins and his favourite hobby. Playing golf apparently, so now we know. Neil, a rock and nu-metal fan we were informed, won himself the entire Top 10 albums which admittedly did consist of the likes of Radiohead and the Stereophonics, but also Beyonce, S Club 7 and George Benson. Bet he was secretly thrilled.
There’s more to come from 2003, although next up we hit a decidedly sticky patch of the singles chart, littered with strange one-off singles from acts never to darken our doors again.