1991 Top 20 Singles

That’s what we’re doing at the moment, spending a couple of weeks transferring the 1991 Top 20 Singles from the old blog. Click on that link back there, and we’ll return to the front page with the 2010 countdown at the end of the month. Triffic.

[1] Rod Stewart, ‘You Wear It Well’

Rod Stewart

Or, ‘Maggie May (Pt II)’. That shouldn’t sound uncharitable – Lord knows there was plenty of mileage left in Rod’s 1971 No.1 even after its six minutes had passed, its pace picking up as it faded, the Faces still sieving gold dust. Here once more, acoustic and electric guitars combine with mandolin to create a rough-hewn folk ambience that, along with Rod’s ever-lived-in voice, basks in an autumn sun. It possesses none of ‘Maggie May”s mean spirits, instead delivering love and cheek – “You wear it well/A little old-fashioned, but that’s all right” – and warm, swinging violin. If anything, it’s more relaxed than its ancestor, breezy and affectionate.

Junior is mildly intrigued that Rod is Nanny’s favourite singer, until she points out, “No one’s singing.” This is the extended intro version from a greatest hits set, bizarrely including ‘Interludings’, the brief pluckings that precede ‘You Wear It Well’ on Never A Dull Moment. They fit, of course, drawing out the stop-starts before the song kicks off all in a rush, as if Rod’s suddenly weary of the shilly-shallying. Junior’s too moody to say anything more, but on a better day she’d bounce with the bonhomie. You could never get bored with this. Tire of ‘You Wear It Well’ and you tire of, well, The Black Crowes. I know, just imagine.

So that was a mere 38 years ago. Next up, a mere no years ago. Now. 2010. THE Top 20 Singles of This Year, coming your way on 29 November (or slightly earlier, and we may republish the 1991 Top 20 first because it’s stuck on the old blog). Clear?

Little Boots, ‘New In Town’/Saint Etienne, ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’

Little Boots
Saint Etienne

*Tap, tap* Is this thing working? One, two, one, two. “When you were yooooouuuung…”

There’s something in the air. Music goes in cycles, doesn’t it? I’m hoping you’ve got some evidence, because I’m whistling in the wind here. Strikes me, though, that the ’91 feeling is abroad, that Balearic’s back, that everything from rock to dance and all grimy stop-offs in between is daubed in pop, in that cred-shedding musical vernacular that makes all good records sound like hits.

Little Boots is exercising her sunny beats just as Saint Etienne are once more hawking Foxbase Alpha around to anyone who’ll listen – mainly 36 year olds who were there the first time, but perhaps a few Boots fans will jump on board too. Victoria Hesketh (er, yeah, Little Boots) is a lovely breathy singer like Sarah Cracknell, a cooing frontwoman for some capital dance-pop grooves and a poster-girl-in-waiting for the shy end of the indie boy spectrum. It’s a link of sorts!

Junior’s no shy indie boy, but she’s sweet on Victoria: “I love her singing, I love the picture.” There’s a story behind Saint Etienne, however, and she wants to hear about how she “saw” them at Koko a few weeks before she was, erm, born. “Was I dancing in Mummy’s tummy?” I rather think she was.

New In Town:

Only Love Can Break Your Heart:

[1] Massive Attack, ‘Unfinished Sympathy (Paul Oakenfold Mix)’

Shara Nelson

“Forced” by public opinion and common decency to drop the ‘Attack’ half from their name for the duration of the first Gulf War, Massive still managed to score their debut hit, almost as if the publicity did them no harm. Cynicism aside, it would’ve been a travesty if this hadn’t troubled the chart scorers. As it is, it only flirted with the edges of the Top 10 when it surely deserved to climb far higher. This is the beefed-up Oakenfold single mix: it kicks off properly rather than ambling in like the album version. Pretty much everything else is the same. Shara Nelson still rules, her abortive solo career just a dull twinkle in the corner of her eye.

Junior has chickenpox and I lost my job last week, so we have plenty of time to sit here and pick over the song and its band. But we took potshots at the post-Blue Lines output in the 1995 rundown; maybe we’ll just enjoy this record. Junior gives it the paradoxically supportive shake of the head and waves around the cow-on-a-stick. This is no faint praise.

Right, we all know the drama and beauty of this track, so let’s concentrate on the trivial. My mate had Blue Lines with the ‘Attack’ intact, mine just said ‘Massive’. He thought his was the better artefact, but history would prove him wrong, no?

While we muse over these matters, and where to go next with this place, we’re playing Bowie’s Hunky Dory. Junior is applauding the Dame.

[All my vinyl rips seem to have corrupted; Top 11 mp3s to follow… later]

[2] The Source featuring Candi Staton, ‘You Got The Love’

Candi Staton

Are we supposed to think that she’s really been rescued? The poignancy of the lyric stretches beyond this redemption; it’s not uplifting. But the record, as a whole, is. I’ve got this nailed, haven’t I?

These so-called “bootlegs” are ten-a-penny these days, with varying degrees of success. This, of course, is the Candi Staton vocal on top of Frankie Knuckles’ acieeed fave ‘Your Love’ and it’s a match made in tearjerker house heaven. It has a profound effect on Junior too, a reaction to surpass all previous. She shakes the head, claps the hands, rocks back and forth, tries to jump out of the ring. You see, she’s heard too many ropey remixes of this song recently and is overwhelmed to hear the original. Sorry, “original”.

The Source geezer has a horse-flogger clause in his contract, compelling him to tweak this just a little every five years to wangle everyone some extra moolah. Seems to work a bally treat. None of the newer versions cut up Staton’s vocals and stick the juddering mesh underneath the main line, as this does in its second half. It makes the pain somehow sweeter.

[All my vinyl rips seem to have corrupted; Top 11 mp3s to follow… later]

[3] Saint Etienne, ‘Nothing Can Stop Us’

Saint Etienne

This was the first self-penned Saint Etienne single, and their manifesto in a nutshell. A breezy mix of Northern Soul, French pop sounds, harmonica, skipping groove, woodwind and lovestruck optimism, it’s impossible to resist. Again, I think it was my age, but this summed up the time for me. A summer when not even the ubiquitous spectre of Bryan Adams could shroud the boundless possibilities before us. No, the fug of alcohol and cigarettes took care of that.

London’s finest are a hardy perennial, in spite of some dicey moments in the mid to late 90s when pursuit of cred threatened to swamp the tunes. Their last three albums are pop gold, fulfilling all of Foxbase Alpha’s promise with a dash of maturity. Pity that hits continue to elude them.

Still, this song’s a big favourite with mum, dad and nipper alike. Junior launched herself right out of the ring, such was her giddy joy. I think I’ve mentioned that Saint Etienne were her first gig, her heavily pregnant mum braving Koko’s swish interiors. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing if they were her pop yardstick.

[All my vinyl rips seem to have corrupted; Top 11 mp3s to follow… later]

[4] Primal Scream, ‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’

Don't Fight It, Feel It

We’d already had single-of-the-90s ‘Loaded’, the astonishing eight- and ten-minute versions of ‘Come Together’ and the dubby psychedelia of ‘Higher Than The Sun’. Now there was the acid techno of ‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’. Should be quite an album, we thought.

A chorus of tuned-up cicadas kept this loopy floorfiller crashing along. Must be a first for popular music, that. Hooked up to the more conventional, soulful testifying from Denise Johnson and the bluesy piano, it made for a sweaty classic. I might just be thinking of the uniquely moist walls of Bristol’s Tube club, mind you.

Still a bangin’ choon (hey!), it had Junior wriggling over the edges of the inflatable, rocking to the pumping beat.

It wasn’t to everyone’s taste at the time, though, I admit. Steve Wright played it on his afternoon show while I was painting my parents’ window frames, and said that everyone was raving about it but he couldn’t understand why. A man sporting that moustache and those sub-Lennon specs was never going to be down with us hepcats.

[All my vinyl rips seem to have corrupted; Top 11 mp3s to follow… later]

[5] One Dove, ‘Fallen’

One Dove

I was 18/19 in 1991, and we were hip young gunslingers still going clubbing, DJing, buying all the platters that matter and walking the walk. It was the fag-end of indie dance, that blew out with the dazzling fireworks of Screamadelica, as its leading lights embraced clubland completely or discovered that they’d “always had a grunge element” to their music. ‘Fallen’ was a comedown anthem, beautiful, lush and warmly groovy.

One Dove were ploughing a Scots furrow of Balearic house, reflective yet sunny. The pop sensibilities of Altered Images came together with studio boffinry and Dot Allison’s breathy vocals to create a record perfect for Ibizan terrace dawns. Premiered, however, in Rimini, it was immediately brought to Andrew Weatherall’s attention and he pledged to help them make the natural successor to Primal Scream’s touchstone.

Shame, then, that it took them TWO YEARS to put Morning Dove White together. One Dove missed that bus.

Two years, even 15 years down the line the song doesn’t date. Dot cries out, and we still want to forgive and to save her. Junior peers over the side of the high chair to see how far the singer has fallen, ready to lend a chubby, helping hand. For the rest of the record, she’s happy to eat her breakfast and wallow in the plush sounds. Now she wants to know what all this Screamadelica stuff is all about.

[All my vinyl rips seem to have corrupted; Top 11 mp3s to follow… later]

[6] A Tribe Called Quest, ‘Can I Kick It? (Boilerhouse Mix)’

A Tribe Called Quest

Since the twin evils of Coolio* and Puff Daddy showed the hip hop world that you could have a hit by mumbling a couple of words over someone else’s entire song, this kind of record has become a thing of the past. Yeah, this is built around ‘Walk On The Wild Side’, but only a loop, and tons of other stuff has been chucked in. The Boilerhouse boys sound like they were having a cracking time, wall to wall ideas.

Made the mistake of lifting Junior over to the stereo for a dance, only for her to stare mesmerised at the spinning turntable. She was even further bowled over by my cack-handed scratching.

‘Can I Kick It?’’s a throwaway, sure. A Tribe Called Quest made other records that appeal more to the purist – even in 1991 – and they’re all great, but this was their pop moment. Or was that ‘Bonita Applebum’? Maybe we’ll do 1990 next.

*I’m baffled by the praise heaped on ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’. A boring rapper, barely ruffling a hair on ‘Pastime Paradise’’s head.

[All my vinyl rips seem to have corrupted; Top 11 mp3s to follow… later]

[7] Young Disciples, ‘Apparently Nothin”

Young Disciples

More real-time Junior reviews, live and direct, as they happen. The Young Disciples apparently inspire nothing less than throwing oneself back in the inflatable and kicking the legs over the side. She’s now sitting up again, yelping, trying to attract attention and find Carleen Anderson.

Released by the Talkin’ Loud label, I suppose this is meant to be an acid jazz record. I don’t think it’s sculpted beard-stroking enough to really fit in – more a razor-sharp funk tune than a Galliano ‘jam’ (man). And, more to the point, it hasn’t dated.

Can’t remember the full story, but I know the band fell out before building on the first album’s success. Maybe it was just Carleen’s pursuit of solo glory. She, of course, was struck down by the Weller Curse. A decent, soulful debut, then an Ocean Colour Scene-assisted second LP. Oops.

[All my vinyl rips seem to have corrupted; Top 11 mp3s to follow… later]