1000 Number 2s: 1995, Part 2 – a sample

Posted: August 11, 2016 in Music


Here is the second part of my sample of the 1000 Number 2s project, for my money one of the most interesting runs of number 2 hits since the chart began in 1952. Again, any feedback is much appreciated.

#593: The Original – I Luv U Baby

Label & Cat No.: Ore AGR 8CD
Producer: Giuseppe Nuzzo, Walter Taieb
Writers: Giuseppe Nuzzo, Walter Taieb
Weeks at No. 2: 1 (13th-19th August 1995)
No. 1: Take That – Never Forget

Everett Bradley has had an enormously varied career in music. Amongst other things, he has worked on Broadway, co-creating the musical Swing!, and has worked with percussive dance performers Stomp. As well as having his own band, he has worked with a host of well-known artists such as David Bowie, Hall and Oates, Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen, as an additional member of the E Street Band.

However, in chart terms, his biggest success was performing vocals on this song, working with Paris-born producer Walter Taieb. This song was only a big hit in the UK, and even then on the second attempt, after a first release in January 1995 stalled at #31. Their only other chart hit was follow-up single ‘B 2 Gether’, which stalled at #29, though Taieb and Giuseppe ‘DJ Pippi’ Nuzzo also released ‘On the Top of the World’ in 1998 under the name Diva Surprise, featuring American singer Georgia Jones; this also got no higher than #29.

#594: Oasis – Roll With It

Label & Cat No.: Creation CRESCD 212
Producers: Owen Morris, Noel Gallagher
Writer: Noel Gallagher
Weeks at No. 2: 2 (20th August-2nd September 1995)
No. 1: Blur – Country House

August 1995 is now regarded in hindsight as the apex of Britpop. A year earlier, Blur and Oasis had released their seminal albums Parklife and Definitely Maybe respectively. The enormous success of both albums, which both made #1 on the UK albums chart, had made the pair the biggest bands in Britain, and they were soon pitted as chart rivals.

Both bands had initially found singles chart success hard to come by, with both albums producing just two top 10 singles; for Oasis, these were ‘Live Forever’ (#10) and ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’ (#7). Their biggest single success of the year was non-album single ‘Whatever’, which reached #3 in December 1994. This would turn out to be the first of 18 consecutive top 5 singles for the band over the next 13 years. Soon after, work began on songs for their second album; little did they know this would be the one that would send them into the stratosphere.

April 1995 saw the release of ‘Some Might Say’; while this was destined for the upcoming album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, this wouldn’t be released itself until October, so was initially a stand-alone release. It became Oasis’ first #1 single, the first Britpop chart-topper. The release date for the next single from the album, ‘Roll With It’, was pegged by label Creation Records for 14th August 1995.

Soon after, Blur’s record label, Food Records, moved the release date for ‘Country House’, the first single from their upcoming album The Great Escape, to the same date. This led to the inevitable media sensationalism, with the event being dubbed by the music press as the ‘Battle of Britpop’, perhaps the most high-profile chart battle of all time. As much as anything, it was seen as a clash of styles under the overall heading of Britpop: the brash Mancs of Oasis versus the southern, more intellectual Blur.

Amidst intense interest, it was announced on Sunday 20th August that ‘Country House’ had beaten ‘Roll With It’ for the #1 spot, with sales of 274,000 to 216,000: a convincing victory for Blur. Oasis blamed the defeat on the ‘Country House’ single being £2 cheaper (£1.99 versus £3.99) and having multiple versions for sale with different B-sides which encouraged collecting. The singles held these positions for the following week.

But while Blur had won the battle, this was just the start of the war. Though sales were good, The Great Escape failed to live up to Parklife, while (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? became one of the most iconic and biggest-selling albums in British music history. Another two singles would be released from it, #2 hit ‘Wonderwall’ (#600) and ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, which reached #1 in February 1996.

#595: N-Trance ft Ricardo da Force – Stayin’ Alive

Label & Cat No.: All Around the World CDGLOBE 131
Producers: Dale Longworth, Kevin O’Toole
Writer: Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb, Dale Longworth, Kevin O’Toole, Ricardo Lyte
Weeks at No. 2: 1 (10th-16th September 1995)
No. 1: Michael Jackson – You Are Not Alone

You may not know the name but if you’re a fan of 1990s pop and dance music, you have almost certainly heard Ricardo da Force in action. Born Jervis Ricardo Alfonso Lyte, the British-born performer was launched into the spotlight as the lead rapper of the KLF, taking prominent roles on the group’s #1 hit ‘3 a.m. Eternal’ and #2s ‘Last Train to Trancentral’ (#522) and ‘Justified and Ancient’ (#532).

When Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty disbanded the project after their dramatic exit in the 1992 Brit Awards, Ricardo appeared on numerous minor dance songs before joining N-Trance for their album Electronic Pleasure. Though a regular performer with the group in the mid-to-late 1990s, his starring on their take on ‘Stayin’ Alive’ was the only one in which he received full credit on the single release.

The song was of course an interpretation of the Bee Gees classic from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, which was first released as a single in December 1977 and peaked at #4 in the UK and #1 in the US. The N-Trance version retained only the famous bassline and falsetto chorus, but this was enough for the Gibb brothers to pick up another major hit as songwriters, even if they weren’t credited as performers (the chorus was a re-recording for the single, not a sample of the original). As well as adding Ricardo’s rapping, it also added gunshots, which surely would have been more controversial if released today. It was a top 10 hit around the world, topping the chart in Australia and peaking at #2 in Finland, Italy and Switzerland as well as the UK.

The single marked a change in style for N-Trance, who went on to release similar versions of further disco classics, Ottawan’s ‘D.I.S.C.O.’ (#11 in 1997) and Rod Stewart’s ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ (#7 later that same year). The group last made the UK top 10 in 2002 when ‘Forever’ reached #6. Their most recent album was The Mind of the Machine in 2009. Dale Longworth left the following year, but Kevin O’Toole continues to perform under the N-Trance name. Sadly, Ricardo da Force died of a brain haemorrhage in 2013 at the age of 45.

#596: Pulp – Mis-Shapes / Sorted for E’s and Wizz

Label & Cat No.: Island CID 620
Producer: Chris Thomas (both tracks)
Writers: Nick Banks, Jarvis Cocker, Candida Doyle, Steve Mackey, Russell Senior, Mark Webber (both tracks)
Weeks at No. 2: 2 (1st-14th October 1995)
No. 1: Simply Red – Fairground

While hosting Top of the Pops on 19th October, comedian Stewart Lee dubbed this single ‘the nation’s rightful #1’, but sadly by that point it had already dropped to #6, after becoming Pulp’s second consecutive single to stall at #2. ‘Mis-Shapes’, the opening track of Different Class, was promoted as the main song of the single. Like many of the other tracks on the album, it reflects on differences in culture and class in a town or city between the clever and the fashionable; the nightclub-based video further reinforces this.

‘Sorted for E’s and Wizz’ was somewhat different, being a satire of the drug-fuelled rave culture of the early 1990s which was slowly dying out, ‘E’ referring to ecstasy and ‘wizz’ to amphetamines. The title was inspired by a girl Cocker met in Sheffield, who had been to the Stone Roses’ outdoor gig at Spike Island in 1990. Though technically the secondary song, it still receives airplay.

However, at the time, the title caused a media furore when the Daily Mirror accused the song of being ‘pro-drugs’, despite all the lyrical content of the song suggesting otherwise, and suggested the paper pouch on the single cover was intended for teenagers to use to hide illegal substances, both of which Cocker denied, though the single cover was modified.

A campaign by the newspaper to get the song banned failed, and pre-release orders soared. The episode was the result of amusing satire in its own right in Chris Morris’ Channel 4 series Brass Eye, where band Blouse and their Cocker-esque lead singer Purves Grundy found themselves in hot water over their new single ‘Me Oh Myra’, a paean to the serial killer Myra Hindley.

A month after the release of the single, Different Class reached #1 on the UK albums chart for the first time. In September 1996 it was awarded the Mercury Music Prize, beating Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? and Manic Street Preachers’ Everything Must Go amongst others; Pulp’s previous album His ‘n’ Hers had been nominated for the award in 1994 but was beaten by M People’s Elegant Slumming.

They returned to music in 1998 with the release of sixth album This is Hardcore, a much darker album which the critics appreciated, leading to another Mercury Prize nomination (losing out to Gomez’s Bring It On), but the public struggled to buy into it to the same extent as Different Class. The band’s final album, 2001’s We Love Life, was also acclaimed by the critics, but sales declined again. They then began a decade-long hiatus before returning to performing for two years from 2011 with the classic Different Class line-up. Cocker, who launched a solo career during the interim period, has always been a popular figure in the media and today hosts his own radio show on BBC 6 Music.

#597: Def Leppard – When Love & Hate Collide

Label & Cat No.: Bludgeon Riffola LEPCD 14
Producers: Def Leppard, Pete Woodroofe
Writer: Joe Elliott, Rick Savage
Weeks at No. 2: 1 (15th-21st October 1995)
No. 1: Simply Red – Fairground

After three enormous global successes with Pyromania, Hysteria and Adrenalize, and the huge tours that followed, Def Leppard took something of a break from recording, releasing only B-sides and rarities compilation Retro Active in 1993 in the gap. This was quite fortunate, as the early 1990s rock fashion saw a jolt away from the glam metal the band was renowned for and towards grunge. By the mid-1990s, the band looked like granddads compared to the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

In 1995, the ban chose to release their first greatest hits album Vault, mainly made up of songs from their three most successful releases. However, it came during a difficult period for the band: bassist Rick Savage was suffering from Bell’s palsy, Phil Collen was in the process of a divorce, and Rick Allen had been arrested for assaulting his wife. These, combined with the changing fashions, can perhaps explain why the song recorded for and released with Vault was somewhat melancholy, unusually so for a band that normally celebrated the joys of love and all it entails.

Nonetheless, this was not a new song penned during their times of strife. ‘When Love & Hate Collide’, a string-driven ballad about the pain from arguments in a relationship, actually dated back to the Adrenalize sessions in 1990. Recording began with Steve Clark, and there is a demo version with his guitar work included. The song resurfaced when the band were working on what would become their next studio album, Slang, which would be released in 1996, but they decided it was more appropriate for Vault instead due to the song originating from the period before Clark’s death in 1991. It was thus their first release featuring Clark’s replacement Vivian Campbell.

The commercial response in Britain and Ireland was good, reaching #2 and #1 there respectively. However, it bombed in their normally reliable territory of the US, reaching only #58. Vault did somewhat better there, eventually going 4x Platinum, while in the UK it reached #3 on the albums chart and went Platinum. Even so, the band could not escape changing fashion, despite trying to counteract with Slang by attempting to embrace grunge. But in the years since they have sustained steady performances with recent albums, with all bar one of their post-Adrenalize albums making the UK top 20. In 2008, the band was introduced to a new audience when, as part of CMT’s Crossroads series, they performed an eight-song live set with 19-year-old Taylor Swift; one of those songs was ‘When Love & Hate Collide’.

#598: Meat Loaf – I’d Lie for You (And That’s the Truth)

Label & Cat No.: Virgin VSCDT 1563
Producer: Ron Nevison
Writer: Diane Warren
Weeks at No. 2: 1 (22nd-28th October 1995)
No. 1: Coolio ft LV – Gangsta’s Paradise

Marvin Lee Aday (at least until 2001, when he changed his first name to Michael) has been performing until the name Meat Loaf since the late 1960s, when he was a member of the band Meat Loaf Soul, though his first release under that name as a solo artist was 1971’s Stoney & Meatloaf. However, it wasn’t until the release of second album Bat Out of Hell in 1977 that all the years of struggle finally reached fruition…and then some.

Bat Out of Hell became one of the best-selling albums of all time, with it’s over-the-top melodramatic power ballads (emphasis on the power) and grandiose Wagnerian instrumentation from writer and producer Jim Steinman, like Springsteen with additional testosterone. However, after Mr Loaf briefly lost the ability to sing after the punishing tour to support the album, his partnership with Steinman ended, and the 1980s was a less successful period for him commercially after the highs of the end of the 1970s, though in the UK he still picked up four top 10 albums.

However, in 1993, Meat Loaf released a new album with Steinman as producer: the long-awaited Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell. The album and its lead single ‘I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)’ reignited Meat Loaf’s career, both topping the charts around the world. But again, as after the first Bat Out of Hell album, he opted to work with other producers for his next album, with only two Steinman compositions included.

Welcome to the Neighbourhood was released in November 1995, largely produced by Ron Nevison and with additional work and appearances from the E Street Band’s Steven van Zandt and Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar. The much-anticipated lead single ‘I’d Lie for You (And That’s the Truth)’ was written by leading pop songwriter Diane Warren (who also contributed two other songs including second single ‘Not a Dry Eye in the House’) and featured long-time Meat Loaf collaborator Patti Russo on joint-lead vocals. The song’s video was presented as a direct continuation for Michael Bay’s well-received video for ‘I’d Do Anything for Love’, although it was a much more substantial and overly dramatic production, seemingly inspired by the Indiana Jones films.

Both the single and album performed well in the UK compared to elsewhere. #2 on the singles chart was the best position ‘I’d Lie for You’ reached globally, though it still fared well elsewhere; in the US, it reached #13 on the Hot 100. ‘Not a Dry Eye in the House’ went on to reach #7 in February 1996. Welcome to the Neighbourhood reached #3 on the British albums chart, though landed at a disappointing #17 in the US. And while his commercial fortunes at home have continued to be up and down, British fans remain loyal; …Neighbourhood is the second of an ongoing streak of six consecutive top 10 albums, the most recent being 2012’s Hell in a Handbasket, and it seems likely that the upcoming September 2016 release Braver Than We Are will continue that run.

#599: Queen – Heaven for Everyone

Label & Cat No.: Parlophone CDQUEEN 21
Producer: Roger Taylor, David Richards
Writer: Roger Taylor
Weeks at No. 2: 1 (29th October-4th November 1995)
No. 1: Coolio ft LV – Gangsta’s Paradise

Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991 seemingly brought to an end Queen as a recording artist, just months after the release of #1 album Innuendo. In the months leading up to his death, Freddie had been recording prolifically in order to commit to as much to tape as possible, initially for the album but then extras after. This, said the promotional material, formed the basis for 1995 album Made in Heaven, the last Queen studio album.

In actual fact, a lot of the material for Made in Heaven was cannibalised from already-released songs or old outtakes. Only ‘Mother Love’, ‘A Winter’s Tale’ and ‘You Don’t Fool Me’ came from those late recordings. The title track and ‘I Was Born to Love You’ were remixed versions of songs on Freddie’s Mr Bad Guy solo album. ‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’ had been left off The Miracle. ‘My Life Has Been Saved’ was originally the B-side on the ‘Scandal’ single, while ‘Let Me Live’ was recorded during the sessions for The Works in 1983, originally intended to be a duet with Rod Stewart.

The lead single, ‘Heaven for Everyone’, was another to have already been released in a subtly different form. It was originally recorded by Roger Taylor’s side project, The Cross, and its first album Shove It. Two versions of the song were recorded: one with the drummer singing the lead vocals, which released as a UK single, and one with Freddie singing lead, which was included on the album. The latter would be remixed, with added instrumentation from the rest of the band, to form the Made in Heaven version, a suitably mellow song to promote the album.

As the first single released from the album, it was the band’s first new release (excluding the ‘Five Live’ EP with George Michael and Lisa Stansfield) since the double A-side ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ / ‘These Are the Days of Our Lives’ single released shortly after Freddie’s death. It was held off the top spot by one of the biggest-selling singles of the year before slipping away, though the album did reach #1 shortly after, the fourth consecutive Queen album to reach this spot.

‘A Winter’s Tale’ (#6), ‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’ (#15), ‘Let Me Live’ (#9) and ‘You Don’t Fool Me’ (#17) gave the album a total of five top 20 hits. In 1997, the last recording to feature the three surviving members was released: ‘No One But You (Only the Good Die Young)’, which reached #13, was the last single to feature John Deacon, who retired after this. This leaves Brian May and Roger Taylor to continue to fly the flag into the 21st century with live performances and collaborative releases, including the album Rock the Cosmos, the only album to bear the Queen name but also starring former Free and Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers.

#600: Oasis – Wonderwall

Label & Cat No.: Creation CRESCD 215
Producers: Owen Morris, Noel Gallagher
Writer: Noel Gallagher
Weeks at No. 2: 1 (5th-11th November 1995)
No. 1: Robson and Jerome – I Believe / Up on the Roof

Another #2s landmark and another classic: ‘Wonderwall’, arguably the song of the 1990s. For over 20 years, this has been one of the songs of choice for late-night drunken attempts of karaoke, but more than that, it represents the cultural high watermark of Britpop. For all of Blur’s faux-intellectualism, it is the loud, obnoxious Manchester lads who created the song that resonated most amongst the British public, which will last decades. It was even recognised as much at the time, as demonstrated by the success of the immediate cover version (#603).

‘Wonderwall’ was the third single released from (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, and the first released after the album’s release in October, having been recorded a few months previously at Rockfield Studios near Monmouth, one of the spiritual homes of British rock music. Ostensibly it is just a simple love song, despite Noel Gallagher’s post-divorce denials of this; in 2001, he claimed it was about an ‘imaginary friend who’s gonna come and save you from yourself’.

The third track on the album, it was very different in tone to the songs on Definitely Maybe, which were almost entirely upbeat rock songs; this, by contrast, was a slower ballad driven by the iconic acoustic guitar riff and piano outro. Noel offered the song to Liam to sing in exchange for getting the chance to sing ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, which became the fourth single from the album in February 1996 and reached #1 for a week. Both are deceptively difficult songs to sing well (hence the many drunken attempts), which is a reflection on the jobs the brothers did on them.

Released on 30th October, it immediately entered at #2, being unfortunate to be stuck behind TV due Robson and Jerome’s second single release. ‘Wonderwall’ then spent 11 of the next 12 weeks in the top 10, initially dropping out in its sixth week in the chart before steadily climbing back as high as #5 in January before finally dropping out on the top 10 in February. By this point, it was already certified as a platinum single, was given a second platinum certificate in July 2013. Total UK sales are estimated at around 1,320,000, making it one of the biggest-selling #2s of all time. Morning Glory‘s total sales are thought to be around 16 million copies worldwide.

The success of Morning Glory, ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ proved to be the launch pad for an enormous world tour for Oasis, peaking with the concerts at Knebworth House, where the band played to a total of over 250,000 people over two days on 10th-11th August 1996. They were supported in this by some of the other leading bands associated with Britpop, such as Ocean Colour Scene, Cast, Kula Shaker and the Charlatans, as well as Manic Street Preachers, the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy. Such was the commercial pulling power of the band, they were essentially headlining their own rock festival. This would then carry into the release of third album Be Here Now, which in 1997 became the then-fastest-selling album in British music history.

#601: The Beatles – Free as a Bird

Label & Cat No.: Apple CDR 6422
Producers: Jeff Lynne, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Richard Starkey
Writers: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Richard Starkey
Weeks at No. 2: 1 (10th-16th December 1995)
No. 1: Michael Jackson – Earth Song

Late 1995 saw the much-anticipated release of the first new Beatles song since 1970. The Anthology project had been ongoing since the band’s demise, but finally took shape in 1994-95, taking the form of a documentary television series and three accompanying Anthology albums which included various outakes and demos from throughout the band’s career and two ‘new’ songs: much like Queen’s Made in Heaven, these were both John Lennon demos from the late 1970s with instrumentation and vocals added by the surviving three members of the group, and production work by Electric Light Orchestra front man Jeff Lynne, a friend of Harrison’s who had worked with him on solo album Cloud Nine and as part of the Traveling Wilburys.

‘Free as a Bird’ was the first of these to be released. This was initially recorded as a demo by Lennon in 1977, and was reworked to take the form of a stereotypical Beatles song, almost to the point of being funny; instead of sounding timeless as the band wanted, it just sounded very dated. It was thus no surprise that reviews were initially negative, with critics dubbing it as a dreary gimmick. Even so, it still later won a Grammy Award for the Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

It was released as a single two weeks after Anthology 1 was released, which may have impacted singles sales. Nonetheless, it still reached #2, with the world’s most famous band being denied their first #1 in 26 years by the King of Pop (who of course was the owner of the publishing rights of many Beatles songs by this point) and the six-week chart-topper ‘Earth Song’.

However, it still fared better than second Anthology single ‘Real Love’, released three months later. Faced with controversy about being left off the BBC Radio 1 playlist which had caused a huge fan backlash, the single only reached #4. Despite this, it is arguably now a better-known song than ‘Free as a Bird’, which has largely been forgotten by all but Beatles aficionados and chart historians.

#602: Boyzone – Father and Son

Label & Cat No.: Polydor 5775762
Producer: Cat Stevens
Writer: Ray Hedges
Weeks at No. 2: 3 (17th-23rd December 1995; 31st December-13th January 1996)
No. 1: Michael Jackson – Earth Song

Boyzone followed up the strong performance of debut single ‘Love Me for a Reason’ with further top 10 hits in 1995. Second and third British singles ‘Key to My Life’ and ‘So Good’ both reached #3 in the charts; both were also surprisingly written by the band members themselves, as they would quickly become associated with covers like their next big hit.

‘Father and Son’ was released 11 months after their first #2, and was the first single released after the release debut album Said and Done, which reached #1 on the album chart and would later go 3x Platinum. As with ‘Love Me for a Reason’, it would spend several weeks bouncing around the top 10, entering at #8 before climbing to #2 for the first time in its fifth week on the chart. It then dropped to #3 for Christmas week after being overtaken by the next #2 (#603), before jumping over it back to #2 for another two weeks into January.

Like previous covers, this was one which updated a well-known song into a contemporary 1990s style. In this case, it was a 25-year-old song by folk star Cat Stevens, who first included the song on his critically-acclaimed 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman. While he had originally written the song for his aborted Revolussia project, it took on added significance when it was recorded for the album after Stevens suffered from an acute bout of tuberculosis. Despite not being released as a single, it became one of the best-known songs from the album, along with ‘Wild World’ (another song known for a popular cover version, in this case by Maxi Priest).

While Boyzone’s could never capture the message of the song at the turbulent time in which it was written, both within the global picture and Stevens’ own life, Boyzone’s version proved very popular, particularly for the vocals by 18-year-old Ronan Keating. The legacy of this was a further cover by Keating in 2004 with guest vocals from Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, with profits donated to Band Aid. It again reached #2 over the Christmas period (#810).

#603: The Mike Flowers Pops – Wonderwall

Label & Cat No.: London LONCD 378
Producers: Adrian Johnston, Mike Roberts
Writer: Noel Gallagher
Weeks at No. 2: 1 (24th-30th December 1995)
No. 1: Michael Jackson – Earth Song

Less than two months after the original (#600) entered the singles chart at #2, the first cover of ‘Wonderwall’ did likewise for Christmas week. The Mike Flowers Pops was a 13-piece band fronted by Mike Roberts who exclusively performed cabaret and lounge music covers of popular hits; the initials of the name, MFP, was a parody of the music label Music for Pleasure, which became known for its budget covers of well-known performers in the 1960s and 1970s.

The group rose to fame in the weeks leading up to Christmas on BBC Radio One. Producer Will Saunders and the late DJ Kevin Greening recruited Roberts to perform covers of the ‘Hits of 1995’ for Greening’s Saturday show. ‘Wonderwall’ was the first of these, and became an immediate sensation; fellow Radio One DJ Chris Evans made it his ‘single of the week’ on the Breakfast Show, telling the audience that it was the ‘original’ version of the song.

The single was hastily released by London Records, including completion of a video which showed the group in typical 1960s fashion, including Roberts in a blond bowl cut hairdo which has become his trademark. While it fell short of the Christmas #1 spot, it did match the peak chart position of the original, which itself rose two places to #7 the same week; it seems likely that the popularity of the MFP version may have prolonged the Oasis version’s chart run and cemented its place as one of the classic 1990s pop and rock songs.

As for the MFP, they benefited enormously from the hit, with tours, performances and an album, A Groovy Place, released in June 1996. However, follow-up singles ‘Light My Fire’ and a dance cover of ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ (which included a bizarre take on ‘Macarena’), reached only #39 and #30 respectively. They ended 1996 touring in support of Gary Glitter, and in 1997 their take on Petula Clark’s ‘Call Me’ made the soundtrack for Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

  1. Gable says:

    An interesting project, and I was enjoying reading your reviews until I reached Free As A Bird, a song which I rather like but which you panned. “Oh” I thought, yet another trendy telling me what I should and should not be listening to” and I read no further.
    On reflection, it’s inevitable that we will all disagree what is or isn’t much cop, but it occurs to me that if a song has reached Number 2 then that’s a real achievement whatever we may think of it, and ideally every review in your book should be from a positive point of view. I might strongly disagree with entries praising the Surf or Birdie Songs, but it would feel far less alienating than being told how rubbish I am for liking Randy Scouse Git or Just An Illusion.
    On an unrelated matter, I notice your list of the first 1000 Number 2s includes the re-release of Albatross between #238 & #239. This reminded me of occasions when a Number 1 has dropped out of the Top 10, only to rise back to almost the top on the same chart run (specifically Rivers Of Babylon and Relax, but there may have been others.) Surely these deserve inclusion, even if not a full review? Likewise, if a song made Number 2, and then years later was re-released and got right to the top (not sure this has ever happened), then it’s place in the Number 2 listings shouldn’t be deleted – as it should be viewed as an honour in itself, not a consolation.
    Couple of minor suggestions: perhaps on each entry give the list number of that artist’s previous and next Number 2? And maybe a small symbol beside entries that entered the chart at Number 2 and then rose no higher.
    I did read the rest of the reviews in the end, and glad I did. I look forward to seeing the book when it comes out, especially if it can find a little love for Free As A Bird.

    • Thanks for taking the time to read this and comment. I genuinely appreciate that. I’ve no idea how you found this but it gives me a bit of hope that the project can have as much of an impact as I hoped it would when I started writing it.

      You’re absolutely right – getting to number 2 is an achievement and I hope to reflect that in the book when I’m writing it up (although it’ll be a while until it’s done due to work commitments at the moment). I wanted it to have elements of being both a historical account and an honest appraisal. I’d want to judge all songs on their merits in their respective genre, be it My Generation or Agadoo. For the most part, these songs are good at what they do. I guess what the difference is with Free As a Bird is that it got to number 2 from being a Beatles release, rather than because of its merits as a song – I like the Beatles a lot but this was a naked cash-in on the Beatles name using old John Lennon material he didn’t think was worth releasing with some instrumentation over the top (Queen did much the same with Made in Heaven at the same time and even as a Queen fan it makes me a bit uncomfortable). In fact I’d argue that it underperformed only reaching number 2 at a time of relatively low single sales, which says a lot. I think Real Love is a much better song which has proven to be a lot more durable, and it’s a shame they released them in that order, especially as Free As a Bird being so disappointing led to them canning Real Love from the Radio 1 playlist.

      In terms of non-number 2 number 2s, there will definitely be some reference to that. There are a few examples – Albatross got to number 2 on re-release, as you say; Honey by Bobby Goldsboro and Madonna’s Crazy for You both got to number 2 twice; Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl peaked at number 2 on initial release and got to number 1 later on; the a couple of the Elvis re-releases in 2005 also peaked at number 2 and the OCC counts that as a separate release, but I don’t see the point. Rivers of Babylon is an interesting one because it basically came back up the charts because Brown Girl in the Ring on the B-side started getting played – you could class Brown Girl in the Ring as a number 2 but it’s difficult to justify. Relax hadn’t really dropped away that much.

      Ultimately, what this comes down to is that a) in my opinion it’s the song and not the single release that counts, which is different to the OCC’s interpretation (this also factors into my other project, the Unofficial Number 1s), and b) I don’t want to create too much extra work on this – writing 1000 entries is a lot of work as it is! But there will definitely be reference to the oddities.

  2. Gable says:

    I turned up your blog after searching for a list of Number 2s, on which there is precious little online. What prompted me was watching the Top of the Pops repests on BBC4. Now that they are covering a period that I saw the first time round, I feel like I already know all of the Number 1s, but some of the Number 2s still surprise me. It’s also interesting how they often hold the runner’s-up seat for a much briefer time, only a week or two, so that even though the spot is also being filled by future and past Number 1s, there are usually just as many Number 2s in a year and it feels like a whole other set of iconic songs from the period that tell the story of their time just as much as a list of Number 1s would. You could probably say the same with Number 3s, but then when would you stop?

    Another idea I had from watching old Top of the Pops is wondering which songs had the most staying power. If we were to ask iTunes and classics radio stations which songs from 30 years ago they sold or played the most in the last twelve months, I think it would look rather different from the biggest sellers at the time, though others would have become instant classics that never went away. Now how might one get all of that data ?

    • I find number 3s a bit different – I’ve got the full list of those as well (and 4s and 5s). It has a lot fewer absolute classics, and a lot more obscure tracks that have been totally forgotten, which is interesting of itself but not really representative. Number 2 does seem to be the most interesting chart position in terms of the songs that make it there, and the full list gives a very different (and probably more accurate, imho) picture of British music taste over time. But overall I prefer my Unofficial Number 1s as a concept as it’s a mix of everything, and it covers the vast majority of the great artists and iconic pop songs. Limiting everything to one week as “number 1” makes it a lot more representative. I’m just trying to work out a way to use all of this – I think the Unofficial Number 1s has potential to be a fun aside in the same way as the Unofficial Football World Championship

      In terms of staying power, I’m not sure where you’d get the data but I find YouTube hit counters useful for that sort of thing – particularly if a song doesn’t have an official video through its record label on there; that’s usually quite a good indicator, especially as the number of hold-outs against digital music has declined dramatically; now even some of Prince’s are up!

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