Monday, August 8, 2011

Forgotten # 1's: UK Edition (The 1990's)

Besides Oasis, Britpop (A conglomeration of artists equally indebted to the sounds of the recent underground and British rock of the 60's) never entertained more than a cult following here in the States. Sure, there was a random burst like the unexpected Blur hit or Pulp murmuring in the pages of Rolling Stone or Spin, but our charts were filled with hip hop, light alternative and pop, pop, pop. Come to think of it, a lot of these albums still went platinum in the US, but back then you had to do so 8 times before being considered a success. Times certainly do change don't they?

Anyhoo, record sales' digressions aside, today's list of number ones include pop gold, reggae institutions, a graduation speech, the third lead singer of Genesis and Brit-poppity goodness. Let's be honest: The 90's rocked. Enjoy!

1.) Blood On the Dance Floor - Michael Jackson (April 27, 1997)

Michael hadn't had a number one hit in America since 1995. This song didn't change that fact, only hitting number 42, one of Jackson's lowest charting singles ever. It should have fared better. It was a throwback to the Dangerous era, before the trials, the interviews and the marriage. Unlike History's tracks, it wasn't an angry pop confessional, it was a rockin' dance song, which has always been the man's strong point. The UK got that, and they took it straight to the top of the charts.

2.) Inside - Stiltskin ( May 8, 1994)

The UK love the songs in television commercials!! This blast of by-the-numbers grunge was written for a Levi's advertisement which inexplicably became so popular it had to be released as a single. Stiltskin was formed out of the necessity that guitarist Peter Lawlor needed a group to perform his song. He hired some musicians, including the future Phil Collins replacement in Genesis (for one album), Mr Ray Wilson, and the rest is pop history. If more promotion had been put behind it in the US, I feel it would have been a huge hit here in those grunge hungry time. I mean, it's better than pretty much any Seven Mary Three song!

3.) A Little Time - The Beautiful South (October 21, 1990)

If you're in the mood for a timeless piece of relationship gone sour pop, you need look no farther than The Beautiful South. After leaving the successful 80's British band  The Housemartins (which also featured Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim on bass!) Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway have written scores of classics in that sub genre, all the while avoiding US success. This song from their second album Choke is their only number one to date, but it is a sure -fire crowd pleaser for any late night cocktail soiree. I guarantee!

4.) Firestarter - The Prodigy ( March 24, 1996)

For about two years, every American music journalist said that Electronica was going to be the third British Invasion of the American pop charts. It never quite happened, but for those of us who came to fruition in those times, it embedded a love of electronic dance music into our minds and hearts that lingers today. In other words,The Prodigy is the reason why, at 31, I enjoy Lady Gaga so much. MTV played the proverbial "skata" out of this gem, and Madonna signed the band to her Maverick record label, but it never rose above 30 in the pages of Billboard. It still holds up though, which I of course believe is completely attributed to its tasty Breeders sample :)

5.) Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen) - Baz Luhrman (June 6, 1999)

Ladies and gentlemen, The weirdest number one song.....EVER (You're off the hook "Mr. Blobby"!)!!!
The story of this faux commencement speech set to a song from the Romeo & Juliet soundtrack and its rise to the top of the British charts (number 45 in the states) is convoluted at best, but Wikipedia makes excellent sense out of all of it so I must defer you to them. Back in the olden days of middle aughts regional dinner theatre, this was a staple song to put on to show that the late night party was winding down, and that the morning sun would soon be on its way. My group of friends would usually place our arms around each other, stand in front of the stereo and sway to the danceable life lessons that permeated the air. Good times indeed.

Two music videos....ah ah ah ah ah!

6.) Innuendo - Queen (January 20, 1991)

Freddie Mercury was dying of AIDS when this song topped the UK charts. May we all be this powerful in the waning days of our existence. Innuendo is one of Queen's most underrated achievements, and deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as Queen II, A Night At The Opera and A Kind Of Magic. Plus, this song's got Steve Howe from Yes and Asia on Flamenco guitar. Prog opera heaven!!!!!

7.)  Oh Carolina - Shaggy (March 14, 1993)

Two years before he reminded the US about Reggae with his monster hit "Boombastic", Shaggy topped the charts in England with this cover of a Folkes Brothers' genre classic. It's better than anything else this Caribbean popster ever did, and even managed to sneak into limited US airplay at the time, rising to # 59.

8.) Country House - Blur (August 20, 1995)

Blur's first number one single in the UK came during a heated made-up "battle" between themselves and Oasis to see who could top the charts when their respective new releases.  Blur won. Albarn's on-going genius is on vivid display here with a tight melody, sarcastic lyrics and a wonderful horn chart.

9.) Abba-esque - Erasure (June7, 1992)

In the UK, an EP can top the singles chart, so I now present all 4 wonderful covers from Erasure's Abba tribute in their full glory. What a wonderful job Vince and Andy do. Give them their props!!!

10. All Around The World - Oasis (January 18, 1998)

I'm strange about my Oasis. Be Here Now is generally considered their worst album, a decadent, overblown drug addled mess that even Noel has dismissed as "f&$king s*%t". Strong words from the man who created it. I have to disagree. Be Here Now is everything that the band was building up to be on their first two discs: to be the greatest rock band in the world. If you go back and read contemporary reviews of the disc, it is universally praised. Only in retrospect has it become such a stigma.
It's incredible.
And the Gallaghers silence all Beatles illusions made by the press in one fell swoop by actually writing a Beatles song that could have been the B-side to "Hey Jude". Just as epic in scope, it is the strongest song the brothers ever recorded in my humble opinion, and its video deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as "Thriller", "Sledgehammer" and "Tonight, Tonight" for its cinematic greatness. While missing the hot 100 entirely and only rising to 15 on the Billboard alternative charts, this is the song that gave me a life-long love for the band that grows every year, not "Wonderwall". Their breakup only makes those treasured track grow in stature for me. GREATEST FORGOTTEN NUMBER ONE OF THE DECADE!!!!!

The aughts await, and England went through some odd ones in the last ten years.. See ya soon!

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