Tom Ewing

26
Nov 14

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

Popular25 comments • 691 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”

Popular38 comments • 1,215 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.

21
Nov 14

Going Back To My Routes: Hoenn

FT3 comments • 229 views

pkmnruby This is part of a series of critical essays on the Pokémon games. This one is about Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, the third “main games” in the series, and unavoidably contains LOTS of spoilers for the remakes of those games released this month.

A BREAKING POINT

Pokémon games are consciously built by developers Game Freak around very high-level themes – single words that are meant to capture the spirit of each game and the region it’s set in. With X and Y the theme was “beauty” – for Black and White it was “cool”. In discussing the imminent remakes of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, and their home region of Hoenn, a spokesman suggested the idea behind the games had always been “abundance”. And you can see their point. Hoenn is a region bursting with life and incident. It offers a lush range of new environments and new ideas, a rethinking of the series’ established use of rivals and villains, and a sudden expansion of the franchise’s gameplay in terms of breadth (a whole parallel career path in the form of Contests) and depth (the introduction of Natures, Abilities and Double Battles). Not everything comes off – in fact the crowding-in of ideas means few of them completely work – but the bright ambition of Ruby and Sapphire is delightful.

13
Nov 14

WESTLIFE – “If I Let You Go”

Popular23 comments • 1,520 views

#832, 21st August 1999

westlife if “If I Let You Go” and “When You Say Nothing At All”, back-to-back number ones from the Louis Walsh stable, each have a job to do. Westlife’s song needs to cement the success of “Swear It Again”, Ronan’s has to establish him as a credible solo star, and make a case for what kind of solo act he’s going to be.

And “When You Say Nothing At All” absolutely does establish what kind of solo act Ronan is going to be. A very boring solo act. It’s the simple blueprint Boyzone used on “You Needed Me” – take a big-hearted country ballad and let Keating loose on it. Not that Ronan is precisely a ‘loose’ kind of a singer. His reading of “When You Say Nothing At All” is tediously measured, evoking not a love so strong it needs no words but a more complacent, contented silence: a couple secure in one another’s inertia.

RONAN KEATING – “When You Say Nothing At All”

Popular39 comments • 1,777 views

#831, 7th August 1999

ronan “You say it best when you say nothing at all.”

Fair enough. I can take a hint.

12
Nov 14

The UPDATED Secret History Of Band Aid

FT + New York London Paris Munich/12 comments • 8,167 views

The Secret History Of Band Aid

Everybody remembers Band Aid. And – despite everything – most people remember Band Aid 2. And now we have Band Aid 20 30. Which rather begs the question – why does nobody ever talk about Band Aids 3 to 29? Take a trip down memory lane as we remind you of the charity singles we all forgot.

Band Aid 3: Recorded in a secret corner of the Hacienda, “Baggy Aid” in 1990 melded social conscience with a wah-wah break and found Shaun Ryder offering to feed the starving his melons. That Line was sung by Bobby Gillespie, but nobody heard his reedy mewlings and the single flopped.

Band Aid 4: Top One Nice One! Altern8, Shaft, The Prodigy and many more superstars got together to give the classic tune a new boshing 90s sound – though it was B-Side “E For Ethiopia” that found favour with the DJ community. But a secret orbital party for famine relief was busted and the marketing juggernaut found itself turned back at a police roadblock.

11
Nov 14

RICKY MARTIN – “Livin’ La Vida Loca”

Popular47 comments • 1,974 views

#830, 17th July 1999

vidaloca It’s a curious rule of the British public and charts that we don’t care much about Latin music – its rhythms and stars remain strange to us when we’ll embrace (and try to absorb) almost anything else. But very occasionally, our aloofness slips. In the USA, “Livin’ La Vida Loca” punched through from Latin charts to pop ones and began a small explosion of interest in Latin music. And even here we felt the shockwave: “Livin’ La Vida Loca” is the first of a handful of Latin – at a stretch – number ones in 1999. But it matched an uptick of interest outside pop – that summer my office ditched the usual team-building paintball for a compulsory salsa dance class. An experiment, like Ricky Martin as the UK’s Number One, that was raucously entertaining but still never repeated.

10
Nov 14

Who-ular ’14

Do You See13 comments • 316 views

I know that some of the visitors to this site ALSO watch Doctor Who. So as an experiment to see whether a) this is true and b) what sort of Doctor Who you lot like, here’s a poll on the season that finished on Saturday. I have set the bar pretty low as far as tickability goes, if you would like to be a little more stringent than “Any Good At All” you might imagine you’re giving marks out of 10 – tick ones that get 6 and over (a la the Popular year polls).

Which of these Doctor Who stories was Any Good At All?

View Results

Poll closes: No Expiry

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If you can’t remember which episode was which, there are reminders (spoilers!) below the cut:

6
Nov 14

Ragnarok And Roll

The Brown Wedge//Post a comment • 152 views

The Mighty Thor, by Walt Simonson

thunder frog I got into comics in the 80s, a copy of Walt Simonson’s Thor was one of the first Marvel Comics I bought with my own pocket money. (#359, where Thor is ensnared by a LOVE POTION brewed by The Enchantress’ sister) Years later I went back and read foundational 60s greats like the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four, and the Steve Ditko Spider-Man, but at that time they either weren’t available or just didn’t feel current. Simonson’s Thor was my Kirby.

The other comics that were exciting and praised at that time – Daredevil, Uncanny X-Men, later on things like Watchmen and the post-Watchmen DC stuff – they were all built on interrogating or complicating the last 20-30 years of comics, which was an awesome thing to come in on (yay! punk!) but also made me feel I’d arrived a little late – in time for the downfall of something I’d never really known to begin with.

5
Nov 14

ATB – “9PM (Til I Come)”

Popular72 comments • 2,250 views

#829, 3rd July 1999

atb The story of breathy trance* hit “9PM (Til I Come)” begins with producer ATB bringing his girlfriend to his studio to check out his instruments. And it continues with him ignoring her and working on an awesome guitar sound until he looked at his watch three hours later and named the track. The vocals he ported in afterwards, from a TV show he was watching. The girlfriend’s response is unrecorded. (Why did he even mention her in the first place, you might ask. I’m not sure. A demonstration of the monkish dedication of the true dance auteur, perhaps?)