Tom Ewing

16
Dec 14

Jona And The Wassail

FT40 comments • 867 views

cavalry Christmas traditions are funny things – some of the most fixed turn out to have relatively recent roots, and new ones are manufactured all the time. Witness much hand-wringing this year about the import into the UK of Black Friday, a notoriously busy shopping day that makes sense after Thanksgiving in the USA (people have the day off) but far less over here. Still, it worked, and having successfully taken culturally will surely stick around.
Part of the British Christmas has been a canon of Christmas pop songs – Slade, Wizzard, Shakey, Jona Lewie, Greg Lake, Kirsty and the Pogues, Wham! Et al. The Christmas Canon has been a part of Christmas since I was a kid in the 80s, it feels as firmly set a tradition as you might find. But I suspect that’s an illusion: it’s changing, and the canon as we know it is on the way out.

On Facebook I mentioned that we’d know a generation had fallen from cultural influence when Jona Lewie got booted off the Christmas Canon. This was met with much sadness and shaking of heads from fans of “Stop The Cavalry”, but the point wasn’t that I dislike the song. I was 7 in 1980, disliking the song would be like disliking Christmas itself. It was put on the office playlist last week, though, and it struck me how odd it must seem to somebody who hadn’t been around then – this lugubrious, kinda-sorta new-wavey thing that bobs along all about “nuclear fallout zones” and cavalry. It’s like that one ugly bauble you always hang on the tree because you bought it as a kid: the time will come when you aren’t decorating the tree any more, and the bauble might be quietly pushed to the back, then forgotten entirely.

15
Dec 14

GERI HALLIWELL – “Lift Me Up”

Popular24 comments • 1,362 views

#840, 13th November 1999

gerilift Geri Halliwell may have broken away from her former band, but she knew a good release schedule when she saw one: the singles from Schizophonic form a rough parallel to the singles from Spice. The in-your-face pop manifesto; the upbeat follow-up; a smoocher as the nights draw in, and then a bit of disco. But just because she could retrace her steps didn’t mean she should – that master plan held one obvious flaw. When the Spice Girls did their big ballads, Geri was kept firmly away from the vocal limelight. On “Lift Me Up”, she gets a slowie all to herself. It doesn’t go well.

14
Dec 14

FIVE – “Keep On Movin’”

Popular27 comments • 1,202 views

#839, 6th November 1999

FiveMovin Between the smothering devotion of the Irish boyband model, and the slick looks and top-dollar sounds of the American one, a glut of likely British lads struggled for an angle. In general, the Take That vs East 17 rulebook still applied. Groups continued to split between street-smart loverboys (Another Level, Damage, Blue) and wholesome but cheeky (Let Loose, 911, A1). More often than not, bands rose and ebbed with hardly an idea to their name.

11
Dec 14

WHAM! POW! Polls Aren’t Just For Pop Anymore!

The Brown Wedge1 comment • 139 views

B-but Shako... you weren't eligible... n-no... HELP MEEEEEEE

B-but Shako… you weren’t eligible… n-no… HELP MEEEEEEE

As well as the Freaky Trigger pop poll, masterminded by Kat, I thought I’d try something else – a Freaky Trigger COMICS POLL. This will work in exactly the same way – you list up to 20 comics you’ve enjoyed most in 2014 and send them to me before the end of this year. And by “me” I mean freakytrigger@gmail.com (so Kat doesn’t get a load of comics ballots and I don’t get any pop ones).

That’s basically ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW, so get those votes in. But if you CRAVE details like our chief sponsor SHAKO* craves MEAT then there are more below the cut.

8
Dec 14

WESTLIFE – “Flying Without Wings”

Popular26 comments • 1,438 views

#838, 30th October 1999

westlife wings If the abundance of Westlife could be narrowed down to a mere one signature hit, “Flying Without Wings” is it. Written by British ballad king Wayne Hector, it’s the one original song of theirs to become a reality pop staple and be picked up by other singers. It’s audibly more effortful than either “Swear It Again” or “If I Let You Go”, and it pushes Shane and Mark – who, yet again, do most of the vocal work – a lot harder than before. Mark especially takes this as an opportunity to go the Full melismatic Monty, turning his lines into chest-thumping note-drenched cascades of passion. (Their raw gospel power slightly undermined by his pronouncing “morning” like Officer Crabtree off Allo Allo).

7
Dec 14

CHRISTINA AGUILERA – “Genie In A Bottle”

Popular46 comments • 1,987 views

#837, 16th October 1999

aguileragenie When surface-similar acts emerge at the same time, there’s an urge to paint them as rivals – not just personally but aesthetically. A pop moment becomes such when you have points to draw a line between. How much of this is marketing strategy, how much media shorthand, and how much the micropolitics of fandom? It’s hard to say. All we know for sure is that Christina Aguilera’s own strong-willed progression towards a singing career was swiftly and sharply reshaped to fit a story about an emerging generation of new teenpop stars. And in particular, she was compared to Britney Spears: the women’s shared Mouseketeer background making the pairing irresistible.

2
Dec 14

EIFFEL 65 – “Blue (Da Ba Dee)”

Popular59 comments • 2,356 views

#836, 25th September 1999

eiffel65 “Blue” is the crest of the late 90s Europop wave – extravagantly successful not just on the continent but worldwide. Including – most startling of all – the US, where it picked up a Grammy, made the Billboard Top 10, and sent the Eiffel 65 album double platinum. You could draw comparisons with another parochial 90s movement that was big business Stateside for a moment or two: “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” is Europop’s “Wonderwall”.

28
Nov 14

THE VENGABOYS – “We’re Going To Ibiza!”

Popular37 comments • 1,654 views

#835, 18th September 1999

vengabiza The Vengaboys’ revival of Typically Tropical beats “Barbados” in significant ways just by switching locations. At a stroke the song is no longer two white sessionmen pretending to be a black British guy longing to go back “home” (at a time when the far-right would have been keen for him to do just that). Instead it’s just but a bunch of European partygoers wanting to go party. This doesn’t make “Ibiza” distinctive, let alone good, but at least it redeems the very obvious issues with its original. In Tumblr terms, the song is no longer problematic. It’s just somewhat rubbish.

26
Nov 14

LOU BEGA – “Mambo No.5 (A Little Bit Of…)”

Popular36 comments • 1,749 views

#834, 4th September 1999

loubega In the 44 Popular years since I last brushed tuxedos with Perez Prado, his reputation among Western listeners has been on an odd, rambling journey. Knocked out of fashion with the rest of the bandleaders when musics that made more efficient use of the studio came along, he languished, his records drifting gently into charity shop and thrift store limbo. There they were embraced by a surprising new audience – the rejectionists and crate-diggers of post-industrial music. Steven Stapleton, of Nurse With Wound, was a vocal appreciator of Prado. Irwin Chusid, curator of outsider music and art, included tracks by him on his compilations of recovered exotica. From there, Prado’s Mambo recordings crossed back into the semi-mainstream, becoming mainstays of the “space age pop” compilations and easy listening club nights that sprung up in the mid-90s. And – inevitably maybe – we end up here: his music sampled, shot full of steroids and then gored by a parping German he-goat.

25
Nov 14

GERI HALLIWELL – “Mi Chico Latino”

Popular40 comments • 1,873 views

#833, 28th August 1999

gerichico When Geri Halliwell quit the Spice Girls in 1998, pop fans were more than usually curious as to what her next move might be. She had muscled her way to the front of the group, then discarded them, deliberately giving the casual observer the impression that she had been their most important member all along. The obvious comparison point was Robbie Williams, a mercurial presence in a colossally popular band, who – hindsight and Robbie himself sagely agreed – had found his true talents as an entertainer stifled while part of them. On paper, Geri Halliwell could have been the biggest female star Britain had ever produced.

And on paper, in fact, she was – until a couple of weeks ago, when Cheryl overtook her as the British woman with the most solo Number Ones. But Geri’s four come in a burst at a point when the chart was notoriously easily gamed. She has never stopped being famous, but public interest in actually hearing music by her waned very rapidly. And the public are, in this case, no fools. Geri Halliwell’s solo career died away because Geri Halliwell’s solo records are, on the whole, quite bad. It’s the way they’re bad that’s more interesting.