After the lacklustre Hitz Blitz, Global Television needed a shot in the arm if the series was to make any headway agaiznst the Now Machine. In mid-December 1995, some five weeks after Now 32, the bold Hits ’96 landed in the shops. “The biggest hits in the universe” were spread over two CDs, the compilers wisely sticking to 40 tracks. And in a nice touch, they were divided into four parts of 10 songs each – loosely lumped together by theme or genre. Competition time: the inlay had a questionnaire where you could win the latest controlled Midi Hifi System with £50 cassette or CD vouchers for the runners-up.
Part 1 starts with Robson and Jerome’s second of three singles; I Believe, most famous in its Frankie Laine rendition. The Soldier Soldier nostalgia-mongers give it a pleasant lift; a palate cleanser before Enya’s maze of moments Anywhere Is. EBTG: in August ’94, Amplified Heart begat Missing, a troubled tune of romance gone sour. #69 in the charts. Step forward Todd Terry [not to be confused with Todd Terje or Teddy Riley or Terry Callier] who gives it a much-needed sunrise to sunset shot of dance energy, an absolute classic that reached #3. Next comes the swirling carnival samba sound of Simply Red’s Fairground. Want some TLC? The sophisticated R&B of Waterfalls tells a story of how people chase impossible dreams. A sobering finale: “Three letters took him to his final resting place”. Cee-Lo Green sang backup; later to be a member of Gnarls Barkley.
Eurodancers Corona eschew fame on the surprisingly restrained I Don’t Wanna Be A Star. A burst of familiar club tunes: N-Trance – Stayin’ Alive, Berri – Sunshine After The Rain, The Original – I Love You Baby. Then the obscure holiday banger from Dorothy, What’s That Tune? And we’re onto Part 2: Take That’s sweeping Never Forget followed by Frank Bruno’s beaming boxing mash Eye Of The Tiger. De’Lacy drop the mesmerising Hideaway while Michelle Gayle goes +++ on Happy Just To Be With You. Delightful. Bang on with Mr Roy’s Something About U, Happy Clappers’ I Believe and Molella with The Outhere Brothers. More interesting is Motiv8 and Kym Mazelle’s Searching For The Golden Eye. Topical Bond melancholia. Novelty rock: Perez Prado’s lounge act / Guinness advert Guaglione and Roy Chubby Brown vs Smokie, an abysmal face-off.
Part 3: a fix for Britpop junkies. Oasis’ heartfelt Wonderwall; the two singles after the LP better than the pair before. Pulp’s epochal Common People sails into Supergrass’ shiny anthem Alright. To Iceland for a rare misstep from Bjork, It’s Oh So Quiet. Back in the groove, Garbage’s edgy Magazine-like Queer. Next: Echobelly’s thrill-a-minute jangler King Of The Kerb and Edwyn Collins’ masterful A Girl Like You. Meanwhile Erasure made the album of their career in ’95: the sensational Fingers And Thumbs gives me the memory chills 20 years on. Too Young To Die was the title of Saint Etienne’s singles album. He’s On The Phone is a poptastic rush like no other. Classic Motiv8 blasts to ward off romance blues. Bow down to Louise Wener’s Sleeper; the driving What Do I Do Now?
Part 4: Cher’s righteous update of Marc Cohn’s Walking In Memphis and Annie Lennox’s laidback cover of Waiting In Vain. Move over darling, it’s Seal’s gloomy but glorious Prayer For The Dying. Then Suggs’ take on I’m On Sleeping, a staple of ’95 comps. The M People juggernaut keeps running; this time it’s the awesome foot-tapper Love Rendezvous. The beats grind more slowly as the R&B button gets switched on. Jodeci’s agony in the garden Love U 4 Life. Two more covers – Mary J Blige’s sweet (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman and Louise Seville’s madcap Yah Mo B There. R Kelly also drops in and croons You Remind Me Of Something. Last men standing are Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince and the ’95 remix of Boom! Shake The Boom. Street justice, there’s no stoppin’ us.
Oasis – Wonderwall
Erasure – Fingers And Thumbs (Cold Summer’s Day)
Garbage – Queer
M People – Love Rendezvous
Everything But The Girl – Missing (Todd Terry Club Mix) (Blanco/Eternal Radio Edit)
Lest we forget
Saint Etienne – He’s On The Phone
Missing tracks and other thoughts
Hits ’96 sees the series get back on a solid footing with a neat selection of the wild and wonderful songs of 1995. Here are five more tracks that got overlooked in the rush.
Reverend Black Grape – In The Name Of The Father. Ruthless.
Alanis Morissette – You Oughta Know. Infatuated.
Janet Jackson – Runaway. Diamond.
Menswear – Stardust. Disco.
Ash – Angel Interceptor. Glitter.