During this particular period in 2001 it was a pretty grim time to be a farmer, with the great Foot and Mouth outbreak causing entire herds to be destroyed in an attempt to counter the spread of the disease. Other aspects of life were affected too, with parks being closed, horse racing meetings cancelled for a period, the Six Nations Rugby tournament moved to later in the year and even a planned General Election postponed by a month to avoid problems with people moving around from area to area.
Suddenly however the crisis was wiped from the headlines by a tragic chance event:
This was the Selby rail crash, caused when Gary Hart fell asleep at the wheel of his Land Rover and careered down a railway embankment. It was struck by an inter-city passenger train which then derailed into the path of a freight train coming in the opposite direction. 10 people were killed and 82 suffered serious injuries.
Thank goodness we had the first ever Celebrity Big Brother to take our minds off things. Plus TV stars saying outrageous things and getting the humourless frothing at the mouth. Not a Jeremy Clarkson in sight either…
Time to get back to the music, we’ve dallied long enough. Our chart countdown from March 4th 2001 continues as we arrive in the Top 20. As ever the Spotify playlist is updated, although some rather obscure pop hits in this segment means we have to skip a handful of tracks and YouTube them instead.
Either the zenith or the nadir of Nu Metal depending on your point of view, there was nonetheless a legitimate case to be made for Limp Bizkit being the hottest rock act on the planet at that point. The source of it was their third album, the marvellously titled Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavoured Water which might rank as the rudest innocent sounding phrase ever to land on the charts. Despite their previous album Significant Other having reached Number 10 when released in 1999, Fred Durst’s outfit were without a British chart hit until the release of Take A Look Around a year later, the first single from the follow-up album and a Number 3 smash hit. My Generation made the Top 20 at the back end of that year but it was the third single which sent things stratospheric. The grinding, nagging and insanely catchy Rollin’ proved hard for both radio and record buyers to resist and the track shot to the top of the charts at the end of January to give Limp Bizkit their one and only Number One single. In it’s wake it dragged the parent album back up the chart and to the Number One slot itself, making the group the first heavy metal act ever to top both charts simultaneously. In theory the sky should have been the limit from that point on, but once the album had been milked for hit singles Fred Durst’s egotism got the better of him. Entire albums worth of tracks were recorded and binned in a quest for perfection and when the much-delayed follow-up Results May Vary finally appeared at the end of 2003 the title appeared more prophetic than anyone could have realised. Limp Bizkit still record sporadically to this day, their album Gold Cobra last year having been their first for six years. Not that anyone really noticed or cared.
Remember all those acts who found fame in Britain and Europe before working their magic back home in America? Well these guys are the polar opposite, a British boy band whose greatest success was actually in the States. The trio first emerged in 1999 and were at pains to stress how hard they worked in writing their own material without a trace of manufacturing going on. Debut single Back Here was released in August that year and limped to Number 37 – essentially it was a disaster.
Then something rather curious happened. American radio stations grabbed hold of the single and loved it. The group and their management abandoned any and all plans to conquer Britain and ahead headed across the Atlantic. The net result was BBMAK being heralded as part of a new British pop invasion with Back Here hitting Number 13 on the US chart on the way to becoming one of the most played singles of 2000. Their album Sooner Or Later sold a million copies on the back of the hit as well. It hardly mattered that nobody back home had heard of them.
Still, it was worth giving it another shot and so with the pedigree of Stateside success as a neat hook to hang their story on, Back Here was re-released in Britain where this time it made a vast improvement on its original release and shot to Number 5. Listening back to the single it isn’t hard to see just why American radio loved it so much, the production cleverly aping the breezy Californian pop style that worked so well for the Backstreet Boys. For all that though the trio were never really going to stand out in what was still a crowded pop market, so whilst they landed a second Top 10 hit later in 2001 with Still On Your Side and the much-delayed UK release of the Sooner Or Later album made the Top 20, they continued to concentrate on America where their string of pop hits continued into a second album before they disbanded in 2003.
When it comes to Australian pop stars, with the odd notable exception we in Britain prefer them soap shaped. Hence Aussie pop superstars Human Nature were always going to have their work cut out making their name on these shores. Originally formed as a doo-wop group at the start of the 1990s, the group turned their hand to pop music in 1997 to no small amount of success. An attempt was made at the time to push them in this country too but both of their first two singles fell short of the Top 40. Their one and only British hit came thanks to this track, lifted from their third self-titled album. Penned by the always consistent Steve Mac and Wayne Hector, the track called to mind the thumping beats of ‘NSync, causing it to by no means sound out of place but at the cost of no small amount of originality. For the UK market the video was re-shot to feature a cameo from one Holly Valance, herself a year away from her own British pop career. This not too shabby Number 18 chart entry was the result but it turned out to be their only dalliance with the chart show countdown. When later singles flopped, the great British adventure was abandoned. Human Nature returned back home, still active in the Australian charts to this day. This was a late arrival to Spotify, not present when this article was first uploaded, although it is there now. The video is still worthwhile, even if just to gawk at Holly in the shower:
That’s Dane as in “Bowers”, in case anyone was wondering. The late 90s success of the individual solo Spice Girls was great news for high profile members of successful pop bands, as it became clear there was a record company blank cheque awaiting them if they fancied a shot at a solo career. When Another Level broke apart in 1999 after a two year career which had seen them manage seven Top 10 hits and one Number One, it was the aforementioned Mr Bowers who fancied extending his musical career a little further.
To his credit he didn’t rush to make an album of his own, teaming up instead with garage outfit Truesteppers in 2000 to front both Number 6 hit Buggin’ and more notoriously Out Of Your Mind which wound up in a head to head chart race with Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love) by Spiller, the added frisson being that the Truesteppers single also marked the post-Spice debut of a certain Miss Victoria Beckham. The single peaked at Number 2 in August 2000. Fast forward to 2001 and having dropped his surname he struck out on his own. Debut hit Shut Up And Forget About It supposedly had the backstory of being about the time he was the first C-list pop star to have a relationship with Katie “Jordan” Price (one which they took the time to video). For all that the song was nothing special, an attempt to cast him as a mean and moody R&B star but which reduced his vocals to a sultry growl. Yes, both this single and the summertime follow-up Another Lover made Number 9 but this was almost certainly solely down to the latent fan power from his Another Level years. An album Facing The Crowd was apparently recorded but it went unreleased as Bowers transitioned from C-list pop star to D-list TV star for the rest of the decade. But it is still impossible to shake the image of him putting his toe up Jordan’s… well, THERE. Sorry. Have a rather more tasteful video of his instead.
A second hit single for Italian DJ Mario Piu, a leisurely follow-up to 1999 Top 5 hit Communication which was cleverly based around the interference GSM mobile phones cause to speaker equipment. The Vision was a new entry here this week but its chart career was short and perfunctory. I think more than anything else here, this single demonstrates just how dance music, possibly more than any other genre, is dependent on context for proper appreciation. This record means nothing to me. It didn’t during its brief foray into the sales charts, and 11 years later it carries no resonance, inspires no memories nor tells me anything about how my life was when it was first released. I don’t doubt for a minute that there are plenty of people to whom this record is the manifestation of a particularly perfect night, a club excursion they will never forget, a holiday which lives long in the memory, maybe even the moment they first met the love of their life. I can’t knock that, there are club records from 1988 with which I identify strongly. I didn’t go to clubs or listen to dance music stations in 2001, so why would The Vision have had any impact on my life? I’d genuinely not heard this for 11 years until today. It may be another 11 before I have any urge to hear it again. Does that make it a bad record, or just one that I personally am indifferent to?
15: Stuntmasterz – The Ladyboy Is Mine
My word we are hitting a rich seam of throwaway club records at this point. One of those records you suspect was conceived simply because of the potential for punsome titles which presented themselves, the track by British producers Stuntmasterz was a straightforward mash-up of the vocal lines from Brandy and Monica’s 1998 classic The Boy Is Mine with the instrumentation from Lady which had spent a fortnight at Number One for Modjo in September 2000. Yes it worked (to a point anyway) and one had to admire the technical work which made such a combination happen (not to mention the legal minefield it will have took to release it in the first place) but when it comes to actually how necessary it was for this record to exist, I run out of reasons to articulate it. It hit Number 10 on the chart before this one. If you helped it there, it is all your fault.
For rather longer than they would have been strictly comfortable with, Toploader’s greatest claim to fame was being universally acknowledged as the best band to have not had a hit single. A series of singles released in 1999 had fallen well short of the Top 40 despite much praise for the quality of their work, and for a time it appeared they would never get as far as even releasing their debut album. The breakthrough finally came in March 2000 when a faithful and delightfully twee cover of the long-forgotten King Harvest track Dancing In The Moonlight, which had been an American hit for its authors but a flop on these shores. The Toploader version made a half-decent Number 19 but more importantly finally kick-started their chart career. A re-release of previous flop Achilles Heel made the Top 10 and the album Onka’s Big Mocha went Top 5, just in time for the group to steal the show at any number of summer festivals that year.
To round the year off the group put out a new version of their breakthrough hit, remixed in a curious choice of material by bugeoning Scandinavian producers StarGate. The new mix was subtly done, steering clear of turning Dancing In The Moonlight into a floor-filler but adding some new beats and the odd bit of vocal processing (sadly not on Spotify, so the link above is to the original version). Released at the tail end of November 2000, the single made Number 11 and then floated around the charts at Christmas-time as a pleasing party novelty. By new year it had begun a slow but inevitable burnout.
Then something rather weird happened. The Toploader recording just happened to be the latest in a series of tracks licensed for use in TV commercials for Sainsbury’s as fronted by Jamie Oliver. The ad (which annoyingly I’ve failed so far to track down online) if anyone is interested was the one where the household wakes up hungover after a party and Jamie urges Jools to “go make a nice greasy fry-up” which she proceeds to do using a series of low fat sausages. All with Dancing In The Moonlight playing over the top. For whatever reason the song struck a new chord with the British public, and after spending three weeks locked at Number 21 in mid-January the Toploader single promptly marched back up the charts, rising to a brand new peak of Number 7 in late February 2001, 14 weeks after the remix first charted and almost a year to the week since it was first released. These days we are kind of spoiled for older singles catching fire out of nowhere, for 2001 this was nothing short of extraordinary, particularly when you consider its new surge of popularity came when the single was dead as far as retailers were concerned and stocks were effectively being run down. The new success of the single had a knock-on effect for its parent album as well as it too raced back up the charts to land a brand new peak of Number 4.
From there the sky should have been the limit for Toploader but they made the classic error of forgetting to make their second album Magic Hotel any good when it emerged in 2002. When their label went under the following year the group called it a day as well, before reforming last year to attempt a comeback with a brand new album. If nothing else they have the legacy of this most enjoyable of cover revivals to look back on. After all without it guitarist Dan Hipgrave is just the bastard who made Gail Porter’s hair fall out.
Just for a refreshing change,a club track which does have some genuine artistic merit. The mysteriously named Jakatta was yet another alias of veteran DJ and producer Dave “Joey Negro” Lee who landed himself one of his biggest ever chart hits thanks to this rather inspired piece of work. American Dream was essentially a fusion of two themes penned by composer Thomas Newman for the soundtrack of the acclaimed film “American Beauty”. Dave Lee wove the soundtrack to Kevin Spacey mid-life crisis into a haunting and rather beautiful club track and best of all one that was destined for huge crossover success. American Dream was an instant and deserved Top 3 hit and stands proud to this day as one of his best ever works. In this writer’s humble opinion anyway.
The solo career of Scary Spice got off to a flying start in 1998 when she shot to Number One alongside Missy Elliott with I Want You Back. For whatever reason it took her some considerable time to get around to the messy business of an actual album, releasing a rather lame Top 20 cover of cameo’s Word Up in 1999, a single which was confusingly credited to “Melanie G” as she had elected to take her then husband’s name. Foolish girl. When the marriage to “Goldcard Jimmy” as the press dubbed him dissolved, she reverted back to her “real” name and was finally ready to push the button on her solo career for real. The spiky and spiteful Tell Me shot to Number 4 in October 2000 and the album Hot followed a few weeks later although it failed to impress sales-wise.
Then everything stopped, because the third and final and rather poorly received Spice Girls album came out just a few weeks later. All promotional efforts were diverted into helping Forever into the charts. Despite lead single Holler/Let Love Lead The Way giving them a ninth and final Number One, by the new year the Spice Girls were officially no more, meaning Scary was free to turn back to her own album which had by now sunk without trace. Hence its second single Feels So Good belatedly hit the stores in spring 2001. An attempt at a slick R&B ballad, the jarringly bad production and the way Melanie B’s thick Leeds accent still penetrated through despite her attempts to sound like a Californian soul mama. Try to hear her mumbling “Uh, we’re gonna get all soft an’ smoochy” at the start without cringing. Despite this the single still made Number 5 but sales of the album remained negligible. A third single, the slightly better Lullaby made Number 13 that summer, but essentially that was it as far as Mel B the solo star was concerned. A comeback attempt in 2005 with the underrated Today missed the target as well (the single hit an unlucky Number 41). Still, at least we took her more seriously than we did Victoria.
American made good over here alert! A child prodigy, Kaci Battaglia had recorded and released her first pop album by the age of 11 thanks to the guiding hand an patronage of her mother. Two years later and before anyone could stop to ask “hang on, are you sure this is the way we want to go”, she was landing in the Top 20 of the UK charts with her debut international single. Paradise was an up to date cover of the song originally sung by Phoebe Cates as the theme to the 1982 “teenagers fornicate on desert island” film of the same name. Out of all the countries in the world, Britain was the only one with record labels prepared to chance their arm at promoting a preppy American pre-teen. I cannot for the life of me figure out why either. Her debut album was released here and here alone, failing to chart first time around but eventually being propelled into the Top 50 thanks to a cover of I Think I Love You which made the Top 10 in spring 2002. Now aged 24, Kaci is still attempting to become a proper adult pop star and released a new album a couple of years ago. Maybe one day she will become a well known name, at which point we can look back with bemusement at the time when she became an unlikely British pop star before she had even gone to High School.