Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Best Of 1996 - part 3

JUMP TO: 100-76 II 75-51 II 50-26 II 25-1

Fifty down, 50 to go in my countdown of my favourite songs from 1996. Besides hearing songs out at clubs on a Saturday night, a lot of the music I discovered that year came from working in music retail. And, in 1996, I moved from working in the music section of a department store to a job at a dedicated music retailer.

Garbage: bringing pop and rock fans together in 1996

Well, Brashs also sold electronic appliances like stereos and TVs, but they were also one of Australia's biggest record stores until they went bust in 1998. The main appeal in changing one casual job for another was the discount - I went from getting 5% off all my music to 20 or 30%. Plus, the store I worked in was massive, with an entire room just for classical music. No wonder the company failed.

Number 50 "Love Is Everywhere" by Caught In The Act
Boy bands were big business again in 1996, thanks to the success of Take That and Boyzone - and Caught In The Act were a Dutch-based group who visited Australia on a promotional trip late in the year. Half the line-up was British, while one of the Dutch members, Eloy de Jong, was involved for a period of time with Boyzone's Stephen Gately. Like songs by Bad Boys Inc and Upside Down, as well as early Worlds Apart releases, Caught In The Act's music hasn't dated very well - but I did like this tune, which was one of their biggest hits.

Number 49 "Rock Me Gently" by Erasure
In my 1995 countdown, I mentioned how Erasure's more experimental self-titled album was their first to miss the number 1 spot in the UK since 1987's The Circus. In 1996, "Rock Me Gently" became their first single to not receive a release in Britain and to therefore not make the singles chart there. Edited down from the 10-minute album version, "Rock Me Gently" became more or less a straightforward Erasure ballad in the style of "Am I Right?" or "Stay With Me", and is possibly my favourite of their downtempo songs.

Number 48 "Wrong" by Everything But The Girl
Flush from the runaway success of "Missing", EBTG realised they were on to a good thing with this dance music business - and their Walking Wounded album embraced their new sound. This second single saw Todd Terry, the man behind the "Missing" transformation, once more on remix duties.

Number 47 "Nakasaki EP (I Need A Lover Tonight)" by Ken Doh
I always thought Ken Doh was the name of the singer of this vocal house release, which reached the UK top 10, but it turns out it was a group comprised of Steve Burgess and Michael Devlin. Nominally an EP, it essentially comprised lead track "Nakasaki (I Need A Lover Tonight)" and various remixes.

Number 46 "Surprise" by Bizarre Inc
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 45 "Disco 2000" by Pulp
I've talked about Motiv8 once or twice before on this blog - either in relation to tracks released under their own steam or remixes they did for other artists - and it's a name you're going to hear popping up over and over in the rest of this list. Everyone turned to Motiv8 in the mid-'90s for their trademark galloping bassline remixes - even indie favourites Pulp. I'd never really been aware of Pulp before 1995, even though they'd been recording since the early '80s, but thanks to tracks like "Common People" and the controversial "Sorted For E's & Wizz", they were propelled into the big league in 1995. Even without the Motiv8 remix (which you can hear by following the link in the song title above), "Disco 2000" would have made this list, but it's the version I prefer.

Number 44 "Jellyhead (Motiv8 mix)" by Crush
With fellow Byker Grove stars PJ & Duncan doing pretty well on the UK chart, two female stars of the UK teen series, Donna Air and Jayni Hoy, were launched as Crush - although the original version of this track sounded more like something another British female duo, Shampoo, would release. The song flopped in the UK, but in Australia, the Motiv8 remix was promoted to the main version and it became a modest hit.

Number 43 "Good Day" by Sean Maguire
Another UK soap star, another Motiv8 mix (which you can hear by following the link in the song title above). Sean had appeared on Grange Hill and EastEnders, and had been recording since 1994. His strained vocals were reminiscent of Jason Donovan's, but songs like "Good Day" and his cover of 1970s hit "Don't Pull Your Love" (number 76 on this list) were pretty damn catchy.

Number 42 "Stupid Girl" by Garbage
Becoming far and away their biggest hit to date in the UK and US, "Stupid Girl" really put Garbage on the map, with increased album sales and awards nominations coming as a result. Their self-titled album was also the one CD my rock-loving co-workers and I could agree on playing during a Saturday shift at Brashs.

Number 41 "Un-break My Heart" by Toni Braxton
If the 1980s had been the decade of the pop/rock power ballad, then the 1990s was the era of the pop/R&B power ballad - and there were few better than this monster hit by the frequently bankrupted performer. As was typical in 1996, "Un-break My Heart" came with an upbeat remix (that you can hear if you follow the link in the song title above) - in this case provided by Frankie Knuckles - as well as the dramatic original version.

Number 40 "Stars (remixes)" by Dubstar
Mentioned below

Number 39 "Loving You More (remix)" by BT featuring Vince Covello
Originally released in 1995, this track from trance pioneer Brian Transeau's debut album, Ima, was dusted off in 1996, given a slight remix and as a result improved its UK chart position from the number 28 peak of the original to number 14. Unfortunately for vocalist Vince, his Wikipedia entry seems to have been deleted - not famous enough, perhaps?

Number 38 "Not So Manic Now" by Dubstar
After a slow start in 1995, British synthpop group Dubstar made some progress on the UK chart in 1996, with this track, a cover of a song by Brick Supply, denting the top 20 there. Motiv8 were called in to revamp debut single "Stars" and that remix (number 40 on this list) became their biggest British hit, reaching number 15.

Number 37 "So Pure" by Baby D
This was a third UK top 3 hit on the trot for the breakbeat group, following "Let Me Be Your Fantasy" and a cover of The Korgis' "Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime".

Number 36 "Got Myself Together" by The Bucketheads
Meanwhile, another British dance group followed up "The Bomb!" with this single, which sampled "Movin'", a 1975 hit by Brass Construction. I actually preferred "Got Myself Together" to "The Bomb!", but the charts didn't agree with me, with the song missing the top 10 in the UK and failing to register in Australia.

Number 35 "When I Fall In Love" by Ant & Dec
The pop duo's previous single, "Better Watch Out", had seen a significant branding shift, being the first track released under their real names, Ant & Dec, instead of their character names from Byker Grove, a show they'd long since left. Then, in "When I Fall In Love", Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly released what is, in my opinion, the best single of their relatively short career. The new era was short-lived, however, and in 1997 the pair were let go from their record deal amid allegations of song-stealing. Wonder whatever happened to them?

Number 34 "Say You'll Be There" by Spice Girls
No recap of 1996 would be complete without mentioning Spice Girls, who quickly made their presence felt on charts around the globe. In the UK, “Say You’ll Be There” was the second of three number 1s that year, which also included debut hit “Wannabe” (number 4 on this list) and Christmas chart-topper “2 Become 1” (number 67 on this list). In Australia, we were a little slower off the mark – although “Wannabe” got to number 1, it took two months to get there and this follow-up only reached number 12.


Number 33 "On My Own" by Peach
Like Dubstar, Peach (or Peach Union, as they were known in the US) was a band I read about before I heard - and the involvement of producer Pascal Gabriel suggested I would like their music. And, I did, with this debut single becoming a favourite of mine, even if it wasn't a success in the UK or Australia.

Number 32 "You Lift Me Up" by Rebekah Ryan
With K-klass having finished their run of dance hits, they turned their attention to producing this British singer, who didn't have any major success on the charts, but did well in the clubs with the Hi-Lux mixes of both this and "Just A Little Bit Of Love" (number 120 on this list). The Hi-Lux mix of "You Life Me Up" is below, while there's a link to the music video, which features the original version, in the song title above.

Number 31 "Don't Go (Dancing Divaz remix)" by Awesome 3 featuring Julie McDermott
Awesome 3 had been trying to get "Don't Go" in the charts since 1992. The song bombed on its original release and again in 1994, when it was remixed. The 1996 version finally saw it crack the UK top 30 - two weeks after a rival version of the track by Third Dimension (also featuring Julie McDermott) had entered the UK top 40.

Number 30 "The Lover That You Are" by Pulse featuring Antoinette Roberson
Sources vary about who was involved in Pulse - with David Morales, Jellybean Benitez and Hex Hector all mentioned on different sites. From what I can determine, this song was co-written by Morales, co-produced by Hector and Jellybean was behind the project. A dream team if ever there was one - and another great mid-'90s vocal house track.

Number 29 "Standing Here All Alone" by Michelle
One good vocal house track deserves another - and this song was the latest in a long line of great releases by the Positiva label. Michelle Narine also popped up a decade later on the Big Bass track, "What You Do (Playing With Stones)", which we'll reach whenever I get as far as recapping my favourites from 2007.

Number 28 "Forbidden City" by Electronic
The supergroup formed by Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr (sometimes with Pet Shop Boys) were back with a second studio album in 1996 - and this was the first single lifted from it. The song was a modest UK hit, and the album, Raise The Pressure, was my favourite for the year, with a stack of potential singles on it.  

Number 27 "Ready To Go" by Republica
With numerous mixes and a couple of different music videos in existence, this debut single by Republica was endlessly confusing. My preference, which I think is called the "Original Mix", is below - and has a poppier sound (surprise, surprise) than the more guitar heavy "US Mix". Fronted by Saffron, the British group found success in America with the song and, eventually, in Britain, when it reached number 13 in 1997.

Number 26 "Virtual Insanity" by Jamiroquai
And, here's an act who'd been successful in the UK for years and finally broke through in America in 1996 thanks to the inventive video for this song, the lead single from Travelling Without Moving. "Virtual Insanity" didn't crack the Billboard Hot 100, but the video did win the MTV VMA for Video Of The Year and the album went platinum Stateside. Meanwhile, follow-up "Cosmic Girl" (number 63 on this list) became the group's first single to reach the Australian top 40.

In Part 4: the return of one of music's most successful acts of the previous 15 years and the best Eurovision song of all time (sorry, ABBA).

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