Fresh Hits ’99 (Global Television / Sony / Warner ESP, 1999)

Fresh Hits 99

Fresh Hits 99 r

The 37th volume of the Hits series, Fresh Hits ’99, was released in July 1999. Making the “featuring” section of the front cover were Shanks & Bigfoot, Westlife, N Sync, Boyzone, Another Level, Venga Boys, Robbie Williams, TQ, Stereophonics, Lauryn Hill, Catatonia, 911 “and many more.”
14 of the 40 tracks had already appeared on previous compilations:
New Hits ’99: Shanks and Bigfoot – Sweet Like Chocolate.
Now That’s What I Call Music 42: Boyzone – When The Going Gets Tough, Steps, Tina Cousins, Cleopatra, B*Witched and Billie Piper – Thank ABBA For The Music, Vengaboys – We Like To Party, 911 – A Little Bit More, Honeyz – End Of The Line, Emilia – Big, Big World, Robbie Williams – Strong, Armand Van Helden featuring Duane Harden – You Don’t Know Me, A+ – Enjoy Yourself.
Smash Hits Summer ’99: Phats & Small – Turn Around. Fatboy Slim – Right Here, Right Now, Stereophonics – Pick A Part That’s New, Fierce – Dayz Like That.

Here’s where the Westlife story begins. Formed in the summer of 1998 and originally called Westside, they released their debut single Swear It Again around Easter 1999. It’s an unremarkable ballad and typical of the vast majority of their output. Interestingly Brian McFadden changed his first name to Bryan so that it would be easier to sign autographs. The tempo (and quality) increases with N Sync’s delightfully fresh Tearin’ Up My Heart. Only their second 45 and already a slick machine. Next comes Another Level’s soulful From The Heart which appeared on the Notting Hill soundtrack; pretty tender stuff and still sounds good today. Then we have Cher by numbers, the formulaic All Or Nothing which despite its rather robotic and artificial construction, retains a certain charm. To Eurovision ’99 and the winning song from Charlotte Nilsson, Take Me To Your Heaven. It scored an impressive total of 163 points and very much the atypical Scandinavian girly pop sound that won ABBA the contest 25 years before.

Sugar Ray’s breezy Every Morning is like something you’d hear on a Friends soundtrack. The sound of sunny days in the Belgrave Square basement. Time for some substandard R&B from Glamma Kid featuring Shola Ama, the Sade-sampling Taboo. Never fear, the pop sensation of 1999 is here: Hepburn. Debut single I Quit was written by Phil Thornalley who had massive success with Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn. It’s a blast, girl power with fuzzy guitars or if you prefer, foxy fierceness. The video features scenes from Buffy The Vampire Slayer and featured on the soundtrack CD. The NME hated Hepburn and gave the band’s one and only album a nasty and vindictive review: “Music made by morons, marketed by evil morons and designed to be bought by people they hope are morons. . . The most morally and aesthetically repugnant album ever.” That’s anti-pop hipsters for you.

Killing time: Tina Cousins’ Forever is beautifully melodic trance that belies a melancholic and lonely mood. There’s a ghost town vibe in the music video, possibly a metaphor for the isolation she’s feeling. Meanwhile you can’t keep a good ’90s song down as Des’ree serves up You Gotta Be (’99 Mix). Reissued again because of its use in a Ford Focus advert, this became the most successful of the song’s chart runs, peaking at #10. The Blondie rebirth continues with another single, Nothing To Beat But The Girl, which was written by the band’s keyboard player, Jimmy Destri. Despite a single remix, it could not repeat Maria’s success and just reached #26. CD1 concludes with Andy Williams’ vocal version of The Bob Crewe Generation’s Music To Watch Girls By. You’ll know it from the Fiat advertisement.

By the summer of 1999 I almost off the big beat bandwagon. Wall Of Sound had released some fine records between 1995 and 1997, one of them being Executive Suite, the debut LP from The Wiseguys. In April 1998, I picked the 12″ of Ooh La La in Abbey Discs. Orange company sleeve. It sampled Lalo Schifrin’s Jim On The Move and worked really well on the dancefloor. A year later, following use on a Budweiser commercial, it was everywhere. As was the next tune here, ATB’s banging hedonist anthem 9PM (Till I Come), a regular play in Rathmines’ Tram Co. Going back to Belfast 1982: Harry’s Game was scored by Clannad’s mournful lament which is sampled on Chicane’s rather epic Saltwater with Máire Brennan getting a co-credit. Ferry Corsten + Tiesto = Gouryella, a self-titled dance monster that stormed Europe during May 1999. When trance was trance.

The indie sequence kicks off with Catatonia’s beautifully underrated Dead From The Waist Down. “Make hay, not war.” Suede were the difficult fourth album zone and much of Head Music shows the pressure and strain that the band were under – namely Brett Anderson’s crack addiction and Neil Codling’s chronic fatigue syndrome. The album has a more electronic feel than the previous three with lead single Electricity a right old glam racket. Elsewhere Kula Shaker keep the mystique up with the timeless sound and exotic scents of Shower Your Love. And there’s Lit’s My Own Worst Enemy, a neo-90s blast of power punk reminiscent of Green Day and Blink 182. Addictive despite its derivative style. The same could be applied to Shawn Mullins’ stoned drawl groove of Lullaby, a song which is reputedly about “A girl who is feeling depressed, crying out for a life away from her upbringing, a life full of Hollywood days and movie star-filled nights.”

The final stretch kicks off with a second tune from Another Level, a pretty boring cover of Simply Red’s Holding Back The Years. Next comes the slick R&B sound of Tatyana Ali’s Everytime and Lauryn Hill’s deeply eloquent Ex-Factor which describes the pain of the relationship with a narcissist. Neo-soul that cuts right to the bone and a song that will make you google what reciprocity is. Also on a similar type, Bye Bye Baby, a little gem from Compton’s TQ. After achieving global recognition with It’s Like That, Jason Nevins followed up with a string of hip house remixes: Run DMC’s It’s Tricky, 2 Live Crew’s We Want Some Pussy, Insane Clown Posse’s Hokus Pokus (Headhunta’z Edit) and Cypress Hill’s Insane in the Brain which is the closing track on Fresh Hits ’99. Uni-Vs-Al. 4/10.

Favourite tracks
Gouryella – Gouryella

Suede – Electricity

Kula Shaker – Shower Your Love

Lit – My Own Worst Enemy

Shawn Mullins – Lullaby

Lest we forget
Hepburn – I Quit

Missing tracks and other thoughts
It takes a bit of time to get going but for the most part, Fresh Hits ’99, is a good trip. There’s a quite a few tunes here that while fairly well remembered and are not commonly found elsewhere. Here’s a few others that would have fitted in:

Eminem – My Name Is. The arrival. Massive tune that spring.
Blackstreet with Janet Jackson – Boyfriend / Girlfriend. Rip her to shreds.
Offspring – Why Don’t You Get A Job? Outside the Central Bank anthem.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Scar Tissue. Here it comes, the inescapable Californication.
Flaming Lips – Race For The Prize. From the multi-layered symphonic Soft Bulletin.

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Now That’s What I Call Music 1995: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

Now Millennium 1995

Now Millennium 1995 r

The sleeve notes to the 1995 edition of Now’s Millennium series commence by referencing Robbie Williams departure from Take That. They then discuss the rise of Boyzone who had been voted Best Band On The Road at the 1994 Smash Hits road show. Their debut album, Said And Done, went straight into the album charts at #1 in September which cemented their place at the top of the boy band league. Their cover of Cat Stevens’ 1970 hit Father And Son leads off CD2 of this compilation and became the sixth best-selling boy band single of the decade. It got significant airplay in Ireland during the last two months of the year and could be heard at all hours of the day – before breakfast, during my lunch hour at work and even as late as 3.00am over the speakers of Jason’s pool hall in Ranelagh.
“Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go.”

Check out these reviews of mine for more discussion on the following tunes:
Smash Hits ’95 – Volume 1: Strike – U Sure Do*.
Now Dance ’95: Kenny Dope presents The Bucketheads – The Bomb (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind)*, R Kelly – Bump ‘n’ Grind*.
Now That’s What I Call Music 30: Boo Radleys – Wake Up Boo, Mike and The Mechanics – Over My Shoulder, Massive Attack featuring Tracy Thorn – Protection, Portishead – Glory Box, East 17 – Stay Another Day, Freak Power – Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out, Bobby Brown – Two Can Play That Game, Alex Party – Don’t Give Me Your Life, Cher with Chrissie Hynde and Nenah Cherry – Love Can Build A Bridge.
Smash Hits 2: Livin’ Joy – Dreamer**, Edwyn Collins – A Girl Like You**, Oasis – Some Might Say**.
Now That’s What I Call Music 31: Supergrass – Alright, Pulp – Common People, Del Amitri – Roll To Me, Baby D – I Need Your Lovin’ (Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime).
Now That’s What I Call Music 1995: N-Trance – Stayin’ Alive***, The Original – I Love You Baby***.
The Greatest Hits Of ’95: Coolio featuring LV – Gangsta’s Paradise***.
Now That’s What I Call Music 32: U2 – Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Cast – Alright, Tina Turner – Golden Eye, Meat Loaf – I’d Lie For You (And That’s The Truth), Eternal – Power Of A Woman, Shaggy – Boombastic.
The ’96 Brit Awards: Paul Weller – The Changingman, Blur – The Universal****.
Now That’s What I Call Music 33: Boyzone – Father And Son.
Now That’s What I Call Music 34: Lighthouse Family – Ocean Drive.
* Also on Now 30 / ** Also on Now 31 / *** Also on Now 32 / **** Also on Now 33.

CD1 starts with U2’s Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me. Taken from the soundtrack of Batman Forever and one of two missing links between Zooropa and Pop. Other tracks to bridge the gap for U2 are: Night And Day (after Rattle & Hum and before Achtung Baby) and Salome (1992 B-Side between Achtung Baby and Zooropa). Which brings me to Miss Sarajevo which appears further on during the first half; a mixture of Brian Eno’s ambience and Luciano Pavarotti’s emotion. US journalist Bill Carter suggested to Bono an idea to film a documentary based on Sarajevo’s underground resistance movement. From the sleeve: “The camera follows the organisers through the tunnels and cellars of the city, giving a unique insight into life during a modern war, where civilians are the targets. The film captures the dark humour of the besieged Sarajevans, their stubborn refusal to be demoralised and suggests that surrealism and Dadaism are the appropriate responses to fanaticism.” Due to being released in November, the song has a downbeat Christmas feel and slots in perfectly between Portishead’s Glory Box and Tina Turner’s Golden Eye.

I finally ditched my Sony 4-in-1 in 1995. The record player, cassette deck, radio and CD player had served me for nine years with extremely heavy use throughout. As I was now earning a salary, it was time to go to Richer Sounds and invest in proper separates. For the turntable, I chose an Ariston Pro 1200, a solid deck. The first LP I spun on it was The Great Escape, Blur’s fourth album and also known as the final part of their “Life” trilogy. While initially likeable, the album gradually unveiled itself to be a busy, sprawling flawed mess of a record – loads of differing emotions all clashing with each other and preventing the creation of a unified whole. Thankfully Ashley Abram decided to use The Universal rather than the battle-hardened Country House. The video sees the band getting dressed up as droogs like A Clockwork Orange; all in white perfoming at the Milk Bar. The 7″ was only pressed for jukeboxes and did not make it into the shops. Aside from Abbey Discs.

It was the year of Alright. I Should Coco, the debut album from Supergrass, came out in mid-May, around the same time that I was intensely cramming for my final university exams. The vast majority of my friends had decided to defer at that point, figuring that they’d repeat the year and knuckle down during the 1995-96 college year. I carried on regardless and the band’s spiky singles Caught By The Fuzz, Lenny, Mansize Rooster and Lose It are forever associated with that hazy time. Sofa (Of My Lethargy) sounds like a late ’60s psych tune brought right up to date for the middle of the 1990s. However, the fifth single from the album, Alright (released at the start of July), saw Supergrass hit paydirt and immortality. It was in the top 3 for a month. A bona fide teen anthem even though Gaz Coombes remembers otherwise “It wasn’t written as an anthem. It isn’t supposed to be a rally cry for our generation. The stuff about ‘We are young/We run green…’ isn’t about being 19, but really 13 or 14. and just discovering girls and drinking.”

Cast’s debut single, Fine Time, was released on the same day as the Supergrass smash. People hoping for an acoustic-style cover of the New Order Ibiza anthem were out of luck. Comparisons to Paradise City have been suggested for 23 years, but as first singles go, this is a cracking tune that takes me back to extremely warm and bright evenings. Walking down Moyne Road and up Dunville Avenue to purchase 20 cigarettes; toying with Camel Mild (or was it Medium), Consulate, Winston as well as Marlboro Reds. Two months later the heat was still relentless and Cast dropped their second 45, Alright. In the video, John Power is reading Revolution In The Head: The Beatles Records and The Sixties by Ian MacDonald. It remains a Britpop highlight: brash, brittle, toppy and full of energy. The debut LP, All Change, came out in time for my graduation and became the highest selling debut album in the history of the Polydor label. O’Reilly Hall, photos by lake.

1995 was a massive year for Oasis and their story has been recounted on several occasions throughout these pages. Thankfully the far superior Some Might Say gets the nod over Roll With It. Other people will make a case for Wonderwall but by not including it, means that Ashley Abram can throw in the delightful cover version by The Mike Flowers Pops. Led by Mike Roberts, the MFP (a nod to budget label Music For Pleasure), cashed in on the easy listening revival of mid-90s. I got sucked in too, along with another friend, who stunned the crowd in Strictly Fish at Power’s Hotel, Kildare Street when he dropped an exotic version of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. Over the next 12 months, compilations like The Sound Gallery, Inflight Entertainment and The Sound Spectrum opened the gateway into new worlds and labels like Studio 2 Stereo, Circle Of Sound, Stereo Gold Award and the musical delights of Ray Davies and The Button Down Brass. The latter’s 1974 LP Themes From The Exorcist was a key purchase for me in late 1995.

“You have to put the death in everything.”
If you listen to Wake Up Boo! a little more closely, then you’ll realise that it’s about the change from summer to autumn. The lyrics offer two different viewpoints: the narrator’s upbeat positivity contrasted with his companion’s pessimistic outlook. On the album version of the song, the “Wake up, it’s a beautiful morning” refrain is performed as an acappella prelude to the main track; this is absent from the single edit, which is otherwise identical. The second CD single and 12″ feature a version called Wake Up Boo!: Music for Astronauts which later featured on the group’s Find The Way Out best of. Meanwhile the parent album, Wake Up, was one of 1995’s unsung highlights, a true distillation of pop, gleaned from years of listening to Beach Boys and Beatles records. Find the answer within.

Dodgy’s first LP, imaginatively titled The Dodgy Album was released in 1993 and produced by Ian Broudie. It’s a surprisingly enduring record, full of pop blasts and mellow turns. Its successor Homegrown arrived around the same time as Suede’s Dog Man Star and doesn’t mess with the formula. The catchy hooks and quirky melodies are all present and correct with the LP getting some serious turntable action during that hazy late spring of 1995; particularly in mornings as the sun came up. Generally speaking we hadn’t gone to bed yet. The opening track Staying Out For The Summer had peaked at #38 in late ’94. It was remixed and reissued in June 1995, reached #19 and perfectly encapsulates the vibe of that time. They also played at Féile in Cork; still the greatest value for money festival ever.


Favourite tracks
Dodgy – Staying Out For The Summer ’95

Blur – The Universal

Cast – Alright

Passengers featuring Luciano Pavarotti – Miss Sarajevo

Lest we forget
The Mike Flowers Pops – Wonderwall

Missing tracks and other thoughts
The 1995 Millennium edition is definitely my favourite one of the decade. No maybe. It’s extremely well sequenced with Oasis leading the British pop charge that takes in all the expected artists – Supergrass, Boo Radleys, Pulp, Cast, Dodgy, Edwyn Collins, Paul Weller and Blur. On either side of that we get a couple of big movie tunes from U2 and Tina Turner with two trip hop classics from Massive Attack and Portishead. The previously uncompiled gems from Passengers and Sheryl Crow also add a fresh flavour. CD2 is primarily geared towards the dancefloor and oozes good memories of open windows and blaring car stereos. And including Mike Flowers’ take on Wonderwall is a total blast.

In September 1995, there was the last throw of the 10th Anniversary series dice. That release is my favourite of the three “add-on” volumes. If you want to compare with this Millennium release, then note that there there are just 12 overlapping tracks, which is fewer than usual – Freak Power, Boo Radleys, Alex Party, Kenny Dope presents The Bucketheads, Bobby Brown, Strike, Supergrass, Edwyn Collins, Baby D, Livin’ Joy, N-Trance, The Original. There were three regular Now albums released in 1995 and 27 of their songs are featured on this Millennium entry. Caveat: 9 of these first appeared on fellow Virgin compilations under the Smash Hits and Now Dance franchises. Meanwhile, three more would turn up 1996 Now volumes – 33 and 34.

There were 17 number ones in 1995. We get five here while East 17’s Stay Another Day is considered a 1994 chart-topper. I’d have thrown in Fairground, Unchained Melody and Back For Good. Other songs that also really, really could have won are: The Beautiful South – Dream A Little Dream or Pretenders To The Throne (both non-album and bridging the gap between “Carrion” and Blue Is The Colour), Black Grape’s gloriously chaotic Reverend Black Grape, The Charlatans’ groovy Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over, Queen’s spooky Heaven For Everyone, Everything But The Girl’s Missing as remixed by Todd Terry (not Terje), N-Trance’s Set You Free (instead of Stayin’ Alive), TLC’s jam hot Waterfalls, Scarlet’s Independent Love Song (indie fans rejoice) and The Stone Roses’ Ten Storey Love Song. More: The Prodigy’s frantic Poison, Ash’s other-worldly Girl From Mars and lastly Perez Prado’s Guaglione (mine’s a Guinness).

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Now That’s What I Call Music 1994: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

Now Millennium 1994

Now Millennium 1994 r

The 15th entry in Now’s Millennium series sees Jo Payton’s sleeve notes concentrate on the rising Oasis phenomenon, the consolidation of Blur’s position, the arrival of Pulp and the honouring of Crowded House. Elsewhere there’s mentions for Whigfield, R Kelly, Wet Wet Wet, East 17, Shampoo and the proliferation of reggae-influenced cover versions that seemed to be everywhere that year. Take a bow – Chaka Demus, Pliers, Pato Banton, Aswad, CJ Lewis, China Black, Taxi Gang, Jack Radics, Ali Campbell, Red Dragon, Brian Gold, Tony Gold. . . “To match the stardust in your eye.”

Check out these reviews of mine for more discussion on the following tunes:
Now That’s What I Call Music 27: Enigma – Return To Innocence, Chaka Demus and Pliers – Twist And Shout, Reel 2 Real featuring The Mad Stuntman – I Like To Move It, Meat Loaf – Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through, Primal Scream – Rocks, Dina Carroll – The Perfect Year, Wendy Moten – Come In Out Of The Rain.
Now Dance Summer ’94: Carleen Anderson – Mama Said.
Now That’s What I Call Music 28: Wet Wet Wet – Love Is All Around, China Black – Searching, Eternal – Just A Step From Heaven, Let Loose – Crazy For You, Aswad – Shine, CJ Lewis – Sweets For My Sweet, Salt ‘N’ Pepa with En Vogue – Whatta Man, The Prodigy – No Good (Start The Dance), Gloworm – Carry Me Home, Stiltskin – Inside, Tony Di Bart – The Real Thing.
Now That’s What I Call Music 1994: Gun – Word Up.
The Greatest Hits Of 1994: Oasis – Live Forever (also on Now 33), Suede – Stay Together.
Now That’s What I Call Music 29: Youssou N’Dour and Neneh Cherry – 7 Seconds, East 17 – Around The World, Pato Banton with Ali and Robin Campbell – Baby Come Back, Whigfield – Saturday Night, R Kelly – She’s Got That Vibe, Red Dragon featuring Brian and Tony Gold – Compliments On Your Kiss, Blur – Parklife, Brand New Heavies – Midnight At The Oasis, Shampoo – Trouble.
Now Dance ’95: Baby D – Let Me Be Your Fantasy.
Now That’s What I Call Music 30: Boyzone – Love Me For A Reason.

“Like southern England personified.” (Noel Gallagher on Parklife)
It was originally going to be titled London and the intended album sleeve was to be of a fruit and vegetable cart. Instead we got a shot of greyhounds racing while the majority of the photographs in the CD booklet were taken in Walthamstow Stadium. Stylistically, Parklife is all over the place. The lyrics tell many different stories – “It’s the travels of the mystical lager-eater, seeing what’s going on in the world and commenting on it.” We get the synth pop PSB-ish Girls & Boys, a little bit of punk in Bank Holiday, the stoned Far Out, the weird almost cold wave of Trouble In The Message Centre, some almost-lounge The Debt Collector and the deep trilogy of Badhead, To The End and This Is A Low. The title track features spoken verses from actor Phil Daniels, forever associated with the character of Jimmy Cooper in Quadrophenia. And that 1979 film will forever be a bittersweet memory from my university years. 30 of us packed into a small flat watching it on my VCR. Four of us on the couch, me and three others – all who have since passed.

“If ever there was an album designed for listening to alone in your room it was His ‘n’ Hers.” (Rosie Swash as recounted for My Favourite Album, The Guardian)
Some might say that Pulp were gauche when Britpop was at its height. They were but when compared to their pre-1994 incarnation, the His ‘n’ Hers era looks positively swish. The best way to listen to early Pulp is via the Peel Sessions album where the first four tracks all date from 1981 – a beautiful swan in a decade of ugly ducklings. After the weedy debut It, their second album, Freaks, is a stilted and unpleasant affair while 1992’s Separations is uneven and grotesque in parts. Things picked up with the original release Babies in October 1992 and built steadily over the following 12 months with a slew of impressive 45s like Razzmatazz, Lipgloss and Do You Remember The First Time? The album was real navel-gazing stuff, but with the melodies and tunes to match. Like a secret diary of indeterminate age set to music. Babies bounces back again – a remix – as part of The Sisters EP; a record always associated with cramming for English second year exams. Video features Selina from Foxbase Alpha sleeve. Late night sessions fortified by Jolt Cola.

Crowded House released Together Alone in late 1993. Its reputation grew in stature on the college campus and I eventually picked up a copy three months later. Around the same time Pavement played the Rock Garden (ticket number 001). The LP was released on the Capitol label and came from Freebird Records, Eden Quay. I was served by the inimitable Jon Dee; loads of Marlboro Reds and discussions about Sebadoh and Archers of Loaf. Together Alone is a perfectly structured rock record that – despite the tribal atmosphere – oozes pop songs, ripe with choruses and harmonies. Locked Out is on this Millennium entry, all rock energy. Elswehwere there’s the beautiful Walking On The Spot with its laidback piano, the mandolin-driven Pineapple Head and the percussive Private Universe. The album finishes with the spiritual title track which uses a Maori choir. As Neil Finn sings in Distant Sun “I don’t pretend to know what you want, but I offer love.”

“You are entrenched in suede.” (Glam Racket)
1994 saw Suede top the dizzy heights of the previous year. Valentine’s Day brought us a brand new single; the epic Stay Together which ran for over eight minutes. The single edit is included here – half the length. The 12″ – itself an opulent artistic statement with its splendid gatefold sleeve – also contained two blindingly brilliant B-sides, The Living Dead and My Dark Star. It was the last single released while Bernard Butler was still in the band. Fast forward to 21 October when I bought Dog Man Star and went to see Pulp Fiction late on that evening. The album sounded instantly magnificent, grandiose, ambitious and heavily orchestrated. Side 4 consisted of just two tracks, both immense: The Asphalt World and Still Life. Other highlights included the sweeping Wild Ones and The Power. Meanwhile Tarantino’s second film continued to build his legend, a multi-layered classic with a killer soundtrack. At the time, Reservoir Dogs was still banned on VHS while True Romance was also held back. Natural Born Killers had just opened in the US and some J1 students hyped it up. “You know, the only thing that kills the demon… is love.”

“I’m Joe Totale
The yet unborn son
The North will rise again
The North will rise again”

As I write this, I have just learned of Mark E Smith’s death. The end of a 33 year chapter of my life. The Fall have been my favourite band for a long time. I knew MES was in poor health but yet there was an air of invincibility about him; they’d being going for so long that I thought that there were many more years to come. Look at The Fall’s singles entry on The Official UK Charts website, there are just two top 40 entries: There’s A Ghost In My House (#30 in 1987) and Victoria (#35 in 1988). However in 1994, MES guested on the Inspiral Carpets single I Want You which went all the way to #18 and also appeared on Top Of The Pops. He read his lyrics from a piece of paper:
“There are already all those rumours circulating around
I think you should remember whose side you are on”

“The Dutch East India Company and the U.S.A. of A
Think they can fool with their sincere use of your ear”

I first heard The Fall on the John Peel show – where else? – sometime during October 1985. Cruiser’s Creek was the single, a meandering six minute jam. While it was left off their then-new album, This Nation’s Saving Grace, it has been included on subsequent reissues – but in a shorter edit that also crops up on various compilaton albums. “It’s a party lyric with a party twist.” (MES in an interview with Andy Strickland, Record Mirror, 26 October 1985). The promotional video was directed by Cerith Wyn Evans, who also worked with Michael Clark. Cruiser’s Creek reached #3 in John Peel’s Festive 50 for 1985. I ended up getting This Nation’s Saving Grace for Christmas that year. It was a gift from my parents that I had casually asked for a few weeks earlier. My mother went to great lengths to pick me up a copy. Many years later, I learned that she went up to Dublin on 8 December and traipsed around numerous shops until she found the record.

The Fall’s 17th studio album, Middle Class Revolt, was released on 3 May 1994. In the weeks beforehand, Dublin’s Comet Records took a pro-active approach and had a sign displayed on the counter which detailed the upcoming release date and how to reserve your copy of the LP, cassette or CD. This was in contrast to the previous album, The Infotainment Scan, which I picked up in Borderline on release date. They got in one vinyl copy with a slightly dented corner and no other shop seemed to stock the LP for ages afterwards. Despite the fanfare, Middle Class Revolt, just spent one week in the album chart and enjoys a less than stellar reputation within The Fall community. It was preceded by two singles, Behind The Counter and 15 Ways, both which appear here – along with several of their B-sides such as M5, War, City Dweller (formerly Cab Driver), The $500 Bottle Of Wine and Hey! Student. While the majority of these single tracks appear in alternate versions, there was a sense of over-familiarity by the time the album came out.

In recent days, I have revisited Middle Class Revolt, both the original 1994 LP and also the 2006 double CD reissue. The album still feels somewhat unconvincing: “7/10 by their own standards, 8/10 by everyone else’s” (NME) but there’s plenty to enjoy, not least the three cover versions. Henry Cow’s rather humourless War is totally reinvented and was one of the key selling points of Volume 8 (the 192 page magazine and CD combination). Then there’s the bristling almost-grunge sound of The Groundhogs’ Junk Man. Little did MES know that the Seattle scene would have its own implosion that April. And then, old favourites The Monks get dissected on the trash classic Shut Up! Football fans will savour the surreal Symbol Of Mordgan where guitarist Craig Scanlon and John Peel discuss Manchester City with a twang in the background. The reissue is beefed-up with all the Behind The Counter and 15 Ways EP tracks along with Peel session #17 (December 1993) plus some remixes of Middle Class Revolt. Another gem from the era (and only found on one of the many rip-off Receiver compilations, Oxymoron) is Brix Smith’s August 1994 vocal take on the storming Glam Racket. I’ll leave you with a quote from The Reckoning:

“And you’re sleeping with some hippie half-wit
Who thinks he’s Mr. Mark Smith


Favourite tracks
Pulp – Babies

Blur – Parklife

Enigma – Return To Innocence

Baby D – Let Me Be Your Fantasy

Lest we forget
Primal Scream – Rocks

Missing tracks and other thoughts
The 1994 Millennium edition does a pretty good job, albeit with a little too much reggae spice. Love Is All Around is the most logical place to start. Released in May and charting 4 – 2 – 1 where it stayed for 15 weeks. Four Weddings And A Funeral hit the cinemas on 4 June and both are permanently associated with that summer. “We did everybody’s head in then . . . I still think it’s a brilliant record. Its strength is its sheer simplicity. Any band would give their eye teeth to have a hit record like that. I’m very proud of it.” (Marti Pellow). 7 Seconds and Return To Innocence work well in tandem while Let Me Be Your Fantasy is a welcome conclusion to CD1 after much skanking. The second half throws up some decent Britpop memories, rocks out with Primal Scream and Stiltskin and drops dance bangers from The Prodigy and Gloworm. It must be said that I really dig the mellow closing pair of Dina Carroll and Wendy Moten.

Once again, comparisons with the 10th Anniversary series are fairly redundant given the somewhat pointless timing of the latter’s 1994 release. History will record that there there were 17 common tracks – Enigma, Chaka Demus and Pliers, Reel 2 Real featuring The Mad Stuntman, Meat Loaf, Dina Carroll, Wendy Moten, China Black, Eternal, Aswad, CJ Lewis, Salt ‘N’ Pepa with En Vogue, The Prodigy, Stiltskin, Whigfield, Red Dragon featuring Brian and Tony Gold, Shampoo, Gun. There were three regular Now albums released in 1994 and 27 of those songs are featured on this Millennium entry while Boyzone’s Love Me For A Reason came from 1995’s Now 30 – also on Now That’s What I Call Music 1995.

There were 15 number ones in 1994 with seven appearing here. They should have sprung for D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better and Prince’s The Most Beautiful Girl In The World while once again, it’s a Take That-free zone. Other tunes that I’d like to see here include the following: Jimmy Nail – Crocodile Shoes, The Beautiful South – One Last Love Song (remember the success of Carry On Up The Charts?), All-4-One’s soulful I Swear and Ace Of Base’s floor-filling The Sign. There’s a host of Euro dance jams also missing: MC Sar and The Real McCoy – Another Night, Corona – The Rhythm Of The Night, Culture Beat – Anything, Maxx – Get-A-Way. Give us more from Now 29 and less from Now 27 – that means shout outs to Lisa Loeb’s Stay (I Missed You), the Crash Test Dummies and Kylie Minogue’s Confide In Me. Last call (it’s a banjo one): The Grid’s Swamp Thing.

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