Junior just stood in the middle of the room, flexing her knees. She could’ve been an Appleton.
I used to think this record sounded fairly lush, but it’s a typically clinical late 90s production. The lushness more likely stems from Mel Blatt’s honeyed vocals and, erm, Shaznay Lewis’ honeyed vocals. It’s a doo-woppy song, beguiling in its languor, effortlessly catchy, and for a little while it made me think that the Saints were better than the Spices.
And maybe they were, with their hoity toity Lahndan sophistication, just for a few months. The competition was ‘Spice Up Your Life’, and you won’t be finding that in the Top Three.
You’ll be finding a trio of astonishing singles in the Top Three. Believe me, 1997 was good after all.
I don’t know why I hated the Super Furry Animals. Maybe it was because they had marijuana bore Howard Marks on their album cover. God, where did he pick up his cachet? I had the ill luck to see him live in a Central London bar, where he treated us to 90 minutes of tedious aren’t-drugs-cool? stories, all lapped up by his zany student/70s casualty following.
Anyway, something must have clicked between me and SFA. Years later I owned all their albums and could be found singing an impromptu ‘Golden Retriever’/’Day Tripper’ medley in Inferno, hellish Clapham nightspot. You don’t want to know.
‘Northern Lites’ is a typically directionless tune, perked up by horns and steel drums. It’s a mess, but an endearing one, and it makes you flap your arms up and down until your bouncy chair is a bucking bronco.
Now, this wasn’t strictly originally released in 1989, but then techno stuff took so bally long to get from Detroit to London that it’s a moot point. Not to mention the final leg up the A41 to some Hemel Hempstead garage. That’s a garage with tools and half-used pots of paint, not a genre-forming hotbed of soul-infused house music.
It says 1989 on the label of the 12” slapped down on the right-hand wheel of steel this morning, for Junior’s listening pleasure and hardnosed assessment. The vinyl’s a bit worn now, so she hardly noticed the subtle piano washes before the beat made her jump. Then she sat and chewed the kangaroo that looks worryingly like one of those soluble bath soaps. Ah well. She wouldn’t be the first person to foam at the mouth while dancing to impeccable acid-tinged techno.
This record’s a sacred cow, Derrick May a revered pioneer. Which is why it’s so obvious that a bunch of troglodytes called Soul Central should decide a year or so back that what the song needed was to be beaten to death with bland, and then desecrated with a pointless vocal track. Cool.
Today’s digression: Virgin Radio just played Bowie’s ‘China Girl’ for at least the second time this week. It was one of the first couple of dozen singles I bought, so I’m warm towards it, but it’s hardly some canonical classic that deserves frequent airplay 23 years later, is it? I’ve noticed this trend on stations like Heart and Magic. They’ve decided, say, that Atlantic Starr’s ‘Secret Lovers’ is one of the all-time greats – kind of an alternative to the ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is the Greatest Single Of All Time universe. Dunno who’s right; I suspect it’s neither, but at least ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ has some kind of sales/polling pedigree, usually lacking in the Heart and Magic faves.
Jukebox Junior FM coming soon, playing wall-to-wall Prefab Sprout. It’s What The Public Wants.
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]