By 1997, the Smash Hits franchise was struggling. Its heyday had been the 1988 – 1993 era, each annual instalment a vital snapshot of the year’s pop highlights. Now the sleeve design was a moody purple and orange space theme with hardly any artist photographs (just six on the back inlay), song notes or biographies. Ashley Abram was still dealing the cards in association with Virgin Commercial Marketing.
Consequently the vast majority of the tracks had already been snapped up as follows:
Now That’s What I Call Music 36: Kavana – I Can Make You Feel Good, Blur – Beetlebum, No Doubt – Don’t Speak.
Smash Hits – Summer ’97: Damage – Wonderful Tonight.
Now That’s What I Call Music 37: Ultra Nate – Free, Fun Lovin’ Criminals – Scooby Snacks, Coolio – C U When U Get There, Boyzone – Isn’t It A Wonder, Texas – Halo, Seahorses – Love Is The Law, 911 – The Journey.
Pure Hits ’97: The Cardigans – Lovefool (Tee’s Radio – original on Now 37), Blackstreet – Don’t Leave Me, Peter Andre – All About Us.
Fresh Hits 1997: Rosie Gaines – Closer Than Close.
Now Dance ’97: Spice Girls – Spice Up Your Life, PF Project featuring Ewan McGregor – Choose Life, Chumbawamba – Tubthumping, Hot Chocolate – You Sexy Thing, George Michael – The Strangest Thing ’97, Gala – Freed From Desire, N-Trance featuring Rod Stewart – Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?, Bellini – Samba De Janeiro, Moby – James Bond Theme.
The Greatest Hits Of 1997: Backstreet Boys – As Long As You Love Me, N-Tyce – We Come To Party, Conner Reeves – Earthbound.
Now That’s What I Call Music 38: Sash featuring La Trec – Stay, 911 – Party People, Friday Night, Janet Jackson – Got Til It’s Gone, Eternal – Angel Of Mine, Meredith Brooks – Bitch, Oasis – Stand By Me, All Saints – I Know Where It’s At.
“What do I get, oh-oh, what do I get?”
Let’s Go Round Again was a late disco smash for the Average White Band in 1980 – even though it sounded like something from 1974. Sadly Louise’s cover lacks the sparkle of the original; the most memorable thing about it is choreography in the video which looks like it was shot in a nuclear power station. Equally uninspired is Shaggy’s watery take on Piece Of My Heart. Of more interest, Bamboo’s Bamboogie; funky house with a video of 1930’s cartoons such as Techno Cracked (1933), Insultin’ the Sultan (1934), Pup’s Picnic (1936), The Hound and the Rabbit (1937), Pup On A Picnic (1955), Paw’s Night Out (1955).
Here comes a soulsaver: Robbie Williams’ Angels – a hot new track in December 1997 – stopped his career from floundering and became the biggest selling single of his career. The monochrome video was largely filmed from the air; Robbie walks around a beach, stares at the sky, kicks a football and rides a motorbike with a woman whilst a helicopter flies around them. At the 2005 Brit Awards, Angels was voted by the public as the best song in the past 25 years of British music. In a survey by UK digital television station Music Choice, Britons chose it as the song they’d most like to be played at their funeral. Not bad for a tune about condoms.
Romo time: so who can recall Catch? Fronted by 18 year old Toby Slater, whose father was in The Mojos. Bigged-up on Radio 1’s Evening Session and a memorable appearance on Top Of The Pops where their neon logo stood out – 1997 and they already had a # Hashtag in their name. They were from a future we couldn’t even imagine. Bingo is a deadly pop tune, delivered in laid back style. Elsewhere Kavana makes a second appearance with the cryptic M.F.E.O. while Aaron Carter’s weirdly-sung cover of The Jets’ Crush On You is repellent with its chipmunk style vocals. The cringe is definitely real.
Robbie Williams – Angels
Bamboo – Bamboogie
Sash featuring La Trec – Stay
All Saints – I Know Where It’s At
Moby – James Bond Theme
Lest we forget
Catch – Bingo