In the 90s, there were a lot of boybands. You might remember *NSYNC, who were one of the big American ones. They did some catchy songs like Bye Bye Bye and It’s Gonna Be Me and they won eight Grammy awards for their trouble. Then they split up, and their lead singer, Justin Timberlake, went on to have a hugely successful solo career. What you might not remember is that *NSYNC had another lead singer, who co-wrote a lot of the songs with Justin Timberlake, and his name is JC Chasez. He too launched a solo career after the band split up, and his 2004 debut album was called “Schizophrenic”. This is it.
A good cover version can make the world a better place. One talented artist taking the work of another, and filtering it through their own lens, can bring new depth or a different sound to something familiar. The best cover versions take something wonderful and turn it in new and unexpected directions to produce something else that’s wonderful. Have you ever heard Stevie Wonder’s version of “We Can Work It Out” by the Beatles? Have you heard David Bowie covering The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset”? A good cover version can be glorious.
A bad cover version, on the other hand, adds nothing. Singing your way through someone else’s song just to say you’ve done it will only make your audience wish they were listening to the original, because the original is associated with happy memories and was made with a conviction that the cover is entirely missing.
If you would like to listen to twelve cover versions in that second category, plus a badly made “megamix” and one track of library music that seems to have got lost and arrived here by mistake, then the album for you is Discomania, a compilation of genuinely dreadful music released by Mercury Records in 2004 when they could have just as easily not bothered.
Occasionally, over the years, I’ve found myself in a conversation about what was at number one in the charts when I was born. These conversations come up from time to time, probably more often than they deserve to, usually prompted by a DJ on the radio talking about it.
For a long time my answer has been “Hello” by Lionel Ritchie, number one in the UK charts in early May 1984. That’s quite a fun song to be at the top when I was born and usually gets a laugh. Great. Everyone’s happy.
Yesterday I looked it up to see what else was in the charts that week, and was dismayed to find that I had somehow got it wrong.
“Hello” was a UK number one single, and Lionel Ritchie with his blind student making a creepy clay head had a run of six weeks at the top of the charts in spring 1984. But that run ended in April, and by Sunday 5 May Lionel’s informal greeting based ballad was only just in the top ten. The number one single when I was born was actually “The Reflex” by Duran Duran, which is nowhere near as much fun. As you can imagine, I was distraught.
To cheer myself up, I decided to see if my birthday number one was better than yours.
Let’s hope Kev is a fan of Frankie Goes to Hollywood because they were apparently everywhere in late July 1984. They were at number one with “Two Tribes”, and also at number three with the famously banned orgasm themed classic “Relax”. The rest of the top ten is mostly forgettable; at number two is a novelty single spin-off from The Young Ones, and the rest include Tina Turner, Cyndi Lauper and Shakatak. I feel like I’m on safe ground here.
Well, this is disappointing. Number one in mid-November 1983 was “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel, a massive singalong smash hit. Adding insult to injury is the rest of the top ten, which contains at least another five stone cold hits: “Say Say Say” by Paul McCartney (and Jacko, but we’ll skim over that); “Love Cats” by the Cure; Men Without Hats’ ridiculous “Safety Dance”; “Karma Chameleon”; and even “All Night Long” by the very same Lionel Ritchie who callously abandoned me on my birthday.
In summary, then, I am disappointed that my birthday number one turns out to be a Duran Duran single, and not a very good one at that, and thanks to the fact that he basically cheated by being born in 1983, Ian wins.
Ah! Celine Dion. Sometimes the random albums that arrive on my doorstep are a bit of a mystery, but we all know Celine Dion. One of the most popular artists the world has ever known, shifting more than 200 million albums worldwide, she isn’t just one of the biggest selling English acts of all time (although, yes, she is), but she achieved that having only learned to speak English around the age of 20, four or five years before The Colour of My Love was released, and continued releasing French-language albums in between her English releases. She also speaks and performs songs in Spanish, Italian, German, Latin, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese. (Thanks, Wikipedia.)
What we have here is her second English language album, released in 1993, and the source of several of her biggest hits, The Colour of My Love.
After four long months – that’s over nineteen weeks, if you’re counting, or more than a third of a year – I have finally returned home. Just temporarily, for now, you understand: Steve Stevingtons has an important three week “Malcolm in the Middle” conference to attend, so the place is empty. But temporarily or not, here I am. And if I am back at my desk again, you know what that means: it’s time to grit my teeth and endure another dreadful album of unknown provenance. Today, we subject ourselves to Bobby Brown’s 1986 debut album, King of Stage, released when he was just 17.
Newsboost is going to be 11 years old this year. I watched it again recently and I’m still pretty pleased with it now, but back when we made it, it’s fair to say it was the crowning achievement of my life.
Obviously we wanted to do another one, and for a while there was a short-lived plan to follow up the news bulletin Newsboost with a late night current affairs programme called Newsboostnight.
It was going to be a special programme looking in depth at a scandal surrounding The Papples. This was when the only Papples album was “Masterpiece”, and we’d realised that all the songs on that album basically had the same tune.
Since there’s nothing in my life at the moment, and I have nothing much to write about, I thought I’d post the three pages of script that were written for Newsboostnight so you can enjoy them.
Are you a fan of Our Cheryl? I have to admit I didn’t know much about her before 3 Words, her debut solo album from 2009, plopped onto my doormat in a padded envelope. Cheryl Cole (previously Cheryl Tweedy, now Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, future changes of surname TBC) started out in Girls Aloud, a band created by the ITV series “Popstars”. She then went solo and is now an X Factor judge.
As I pulled into the car park, locked the car and headed into Asda I knew I was in a rush. I grabbed the beer I was looking for, paid and made my way back to the car. Asda Radio has a habit of playing a bizarre mix of music no matter what time of day you are there. Running late to a friend’s house the unmistakable tune of ‘Ooh Aah… Just a Little Bit’ by Gina G was audible over the hubbub of other patrons of the supermarket. It took me back to 1996 when this was our entry in the Eurovision Song Contest…
Now we’ve all seen how much of a shambles Eurovision is, perhaps some more than others. As a young impressionable 13 year old I had a lot of free time on my hands. I do remember watching the whole thing because I was convinced that this song, this catchy piece of fluff, created in someone’s studio by faceless music executives and sung by an Australian, not even a native Brit, was going to win. I had a lot of faith at 13; I wonder where it went? I expect it also had a lot to do with the fact that I found Gina G insanely attractive (I was going through a red-head phase, something that has continued to this day). Still, it wasn’t enough for me to actually go out and buy the damn single when it was released, not that it mattered because it went straight to #1 anyway.
Does anyone remember what position the UK got in the 1996 Eurovision song contest? Nope, me neither. I had to look it up but I did know that we didn’t win. The lovely Ireland claimed the crown that year. In my confused teenage rage I drew a picture of a person, possibly me (?), kicking an Irish elephant in the groin. Now this does raise a few questions, the main ones for me are:
- Why didn’t I draw an animal that was native to Ireland in the first place?
- Was I convinced that elephants came from Ireland or was it the first animal that came to mind?
- I can’t draw elephants now; how on earth did I manage to draw one from memory without the aid of Google?
I can still see that elephant now, hands clutching where it’s penis should be, in extreme pain because of my kick to the cohonies. It is as if it’s been etched to the back of my mind, ready to haunt me when the time is right. Yes, I believe the elephant also had hands. Perhaps this is a rare instance of British pride where I wanted to believe that we were good at something and to share that with the rest of Europe.
By the way, have you ever read the lyrics to ‘Ooh Aah… Just a Little Bit’? My favourite line is:
“I’ll give you love you can’t ignore.”
What kind of love is that? The one where you send bits of yourself through the post? The one where you set yourself on fire and jump off a building? It seems a bit full on for what is essentially a song about having a shag with someone.