Fresh Hits ’96 arrived in the shops at the end of August, just three weeks after its rival Now That’s What I Call Music 34. The Hits compilation included seven crossover tracks [Peter Andre – Mysterious Girl, Louise – Naked, Livin’ Joy – Don’t Stop Movin’, Underworld – Born Slippy, Suede – Trash, Ocean Colour Scene – The Day We Caught The Train, Space – Female Of The Species]. The traditional four part format remained.
Part 1: A R&B heavy-hitter and #1 for five weeks [4+1], the Fugees’ cover of Killing Me Softly covers all bases. The Score take. Macarena fans can rejoice – the superior Los Del Rio rendition is present and correct. Mark Morrison’s Crazy comes with a decent bassline while Mysterious Girl writhes like a snake. Ant and Dec’s Better Watch Out is singalong pop with a retro [even for 1996] edge. There’s a weird early fade of the Tony Rich Project’s Nobody Knows followed by Toni Braxton’s moody blues You’re Makin’ Me High. Celine Dion and Simply Red bring out the tears on Because You Loved Me and We’re In This Together while Backstreet Boys drop a funky bomb on We’ve Got It Goin’ On.
“Thirty years of hurt, never stopped me dreaming”
The official anthem of the England football team for the 1996 European Championship was Three Lions, written by Fantasy Football League presenters David Baddiel and Frank Skinner with music by the Lightning Seeds. The involvement of the latter – at the height of Britpop – meant that the song would have enduring and wide appeal. It had a pessimistic tone with the usual optimism set aside for the discussion of failure, particularly at the beginning with negative predictions from Alan Hansen, Jimmy Hill and Trevor Brooking. Hopes were raised on 18 June when England hammered Holland 4-1 in a display of total football with Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham scoring two apiece. And then dashed eight days later in a penalty shoot-out. Gareth Soutgate. Grey shirts. Germans again.
Part 2: Louise and the mighty sensuality of Naked. Hey Freedom! George Michael’s 1990 hit had just been covered by Robbie Williams and nabbed by the Now team. A 4:25 edit of the original. Also shorn were Livin’ Joy and D’Lacy’s wildstyle That Look – so old habits were creeping back. Meanwhile Everything But The Girl’s star continues to rise with the atmospheric drum and bass epic Walking Wounded. Eternal’s snappy Good Thing is followed by another Robert Miles epic, this time known as Fable. The dreamy X-Files cover by DJ Dado naturally follows; pity both tracks are faded prematurely. Meanwhile Alison Limerick’s strident Where Love Lives gets a ’96 rebirth courtesy of the Dancing Divas. Having it large are Apollo 440 and the percussive Krupa with Born Slippy to close.
Part 3: The Britpop section starts with A Design For Life, the Manic Street Preachers’ exquisite rant against class privilege. Ash’s lazy summer anthem Oh Yeah is followed by Kula Shaker’s underrated fuzz ‘n’ pedals ’60s throwback Tattva. These guys were hated by the cool kids. Sliding in are Suede and the searing ’70s glam of Trash. Check out its CD1 for the original Europe Is Our Playground, much better than the version on Sci-Fi Lullabies. Ocean Colour Scene pop up with The Day We Caught The Train while Sleeper nail it on the absolutely fabulous Sale Of The Century. While not an actual UK 45, Oasis’ made a video for album-closer Champagne Supernova and it got caned on radio and television. Lush’s renaissance continues with 500 (Shake Baby Shake), Space lay down the agreeable Female Of The Species. Do we need the grotesque Peaches by those Presidents?
Part 4: First up – 3T’s smooth 24/7 which betrays their talented musical heritage. Equally slinky is the Lighthouse Family’s Lifted; the 7″ is on Now That’s What I Call Music 33. M-Beat cracks on with Jamiroquai on the blunted Do You Know Where You’re Coming From. (Suge) Knight riders: Busta Rhymes Woo-Hah! coupled with Bone Thugs -N- Harmony sweetly delivered Crossroads. The R&B force is strong on SWV’s You’re The One and R Kelly’s restless I Can’t Sleep Baby (If I). There’s a rapid change of pace for the finale; the Divine Comedy’s sleazy and endlessly inventive Something For The Weekend. The opening track on the superb Casanova LP. The squib belongs to Robson and Jerome and their cloying Daydream Believer. Switch the order for maximum impact.
Sleeper – Sale Of The Century
Everything But The Girl – Walking Wounded
Fugees – Killing Me Softly
Divine Comedy – Something For The Weekend
Oasis – Champagne Supernova
Lest we forget
Baddiel and Skinner and Lightning Seeds – Three Lions
Missing tracks and other thoughts
Great fun but disappointing to see the edits creeping in. On the bench, warming up:
Alex Reece – Feel The Sunshine. The greening of jungle.
Collapsed Lung – Eat My Goal. Inspired by The Day Today.
Black Grape, Joe Strummer and Keith Allen – England’s Irie. Another football ditty.
Cher – The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore. Can’t wait to hear her do Tilt.