24
Sep 10

SOUL II SOUL ft CARON WHEELER – “Back To Life (How Ever Do You Want Me)”

Popular101 comments • 5,600 views

#630, 24th June 1989

What’s remarkable about “Back To Life” is its self-sufficiency: surrounded by records so very eager to please, this is a track which stands out for its restraint. It’s become a ‘classic’ almost to the degree “Like A Prayer” has, but that record makes more sense the more public it is. Caron Wheeler, on the other hand, sounds more private and her song is more self-contained. It’s an ultimatum of sorts, but not a desperate one: this is real life, not fantasy, and integrity is more important than drama, so take your time.

That’s what the song sounds like, too: a voice, then a breakbeat, but no hurry. A switch to gospel vocalising just as that rich, rolling house piano line comes in – and then the strings…. there’s so much going on, but so much space too, and for all that Wheeler’s terrific performance centres the song, it’s worth thinking about how Soul II Soul construct that space.

A breakbeat isn’t just a steady rhythm or even a pattern, it’s a time-loop. It gains a lot of its power from the combination of the illusion of humanity (the sample coming from real drummers) and the comfort of inhuman steadiness. But more subtly it creates interest by what’s swept up in the loop, the crackles, ambient sound, and other instrumentation producers lift when they sample a beat. So here there’s that tiny glisten of treble at the end of the breakbeat, adding bewitching colour to the track but also drawing discreet attention to its modernist, slice-and-splice origins. The way it sounds like there’s been a cut between “Back” and “To Life” works in a similar way, and the video takes it further, cutting to and fro with abandon, never settling. This track was influential enough, but pretty much every dance performance on TV or video for the next five years looks a bit like “Back To Life”.

The great moment in the song is vocal, though: the sweep upward for “I live at the top of the block / No more room for trouble or fuss”. “Urban” has become a genre grab-bag at best, feeble racial coding at worst, but this is urban music – even without the beats, those lines are as vivid about city living as anything we’ve discussed since, oh, “West End Girls” (and that was from an observer’s point of view). “Back To Life” sounds self-sufficient because it sounds local and placed. This points towards the upside of the phenomenon Marcello identified in the comments on Jason Donovan – the way the charts in the 90s became a parade of one-week wonders, thrown to number one by a fanbase. Manufactured and fan communities could act collectively to bag a chart-topper, but so could more organic or physical ones, and if the acceleration in the turnover of hits creates a lot of forgettable ones, it also creates several welcome flukes.

So in a lot of ways “Back To Life” is one of the great turning points on the road to modern British pop – in terms of importance, it’s a 10. But my personal reaction to it has always been a little less enthusiastic, mostly because it gets overshadowed in my listening. The stuff it might serve as a gateway to – the contemporary world of hip-hop – seems more exciting, and the music it helped inspire perfected its ideas: “Back To Life” never chills or transports me like “Unfinished Sympathy” can. But very little does, so this is hardly a criticism: on its own terms, “Back To Life” is a huge and vital success.

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Comments

  1. 1
    punctum on 24 Sep 2010 #

    The story of Britfunk and British soul remains the secret story of the eighties. The explosion presumed with the emergence, in and around 1981, of the likes of Light Of The World, Beggar and Co, Incognito, Imagination, Central Line, Junior Giscombe and Linx – supple, rhythmic and utterly relevant – never really came to pass, despite the best efforts of the Norman Jays and Paul Wellers of that world, and by the mid-eighties the “movement” as such had dwindled to a hardcore fulcrum on which balanced the likes of Loose Ends and I-Level. Although the former in particular were a group of rare power and originality – “Hangin’ On A String,” though produced by the American Nick Martinelli, remains one of the greatest and most startling soul records ever to emerge from a British studio – the fluffier teenpop variant of Five Star was the preferred mainstream option.

    But the story, though relegated to the background, remained a vital undercurrent; both Camden’s Soul II Soul and Bristol’s Wild Bunch developed an awesome reputation through their sound system DJ all-nighters, utilising their love for the undertold story of eighties pop – an eighties of Odyssey’s “Inside Out,” Evelyn King’s “Love Come Down” and Thelma Houston’s “You Used To Hold Me So Tight” – and mixing it with the residue of spirits from dub and post-punk to work towards a mix which could rightly be claimed to be their own art, their music.

    To appreciate the full impact of “Keep On Movin’,” the third Soul II Soul single but the first one to cross over into the Top 40, you really needed to have ambled through the imposing terraces of Belgravia, or Kensington (South or North), in that enlightened spring of 1989, since the overwhelming impression given by the record is one of elegance – an unhurried walk through the patience of reason. It slowed pop back down, made it breathe again rather than hyperventilate, even if the “keep on movin’, don’t stop” motif was non-specific when it came to directions; the perfect soundtrack for an idle wander around the outskirts of the Circle Line on an empty, cloudy Bank Holiday Monday, but much, much more as well.

    “Back To Life” was their moment of eternal summer. Despite the lyric’s urges of “back to reality” and “back to the here and now” (yeah) there seems something wonderfully unreal, something evocatively 1967, about the record’s straight delineations; as with “Time Of The Season” the absence of a musical centre – no guitars, hardly any chords or harmonies except for the occasional and thoroughly relevant interceptions of piano – widens the song’s emotional space. For large stretches there is nothing to the record beyond Caron Wheeler’s sublime, expansive lead vocal, a bassline and a drum program, but its movement remains sultry, decisively carnal but sociologically generous, coloured in at precisely the right moments by those Oriental strings – brilliantly remembering their Chic – drawing watery lines of art across the song’s benign canvas. Wheeler, too, is patient: “However do you want me, however do you need me” – she both wants and needs her Other, but she is prepared to wait, smiling and welcoming (despite her “Let’s end this foolish game” asides), until he’s fully ready to embrace her spirit.

    Of course, such references as “take the initiative,” “make a change, a positive change” and “I live at the top of the block” (though the piano chords accompanying that line are the record’s punctum) betray evidence of a businessman writing a song, and indeed Club Classics Vol One proved a major disappointment, largely consisting of Jazzie B drawling glorified advertisements for his clothes shop and club nights. And perhaps the success of their two great singles was ultimately down to producer Nellee Hooper – the far from missing link between Soul II Soul and what was about to evolve from the Wild Bunch into Massive Attack – whose intimate and instinctive understanding of space and structure helped lead to the latter’s string of masterpieces, starting with Neneh Cherry’s startling “Manchild,” also a top five hit that spring (a co-production by Hooper and Cameron McVey, who between them paved the way for New Pop Mk II). But “Back To Life” stands tall as the last great number one of the eighties, summer seeping through its grooves like honey through a brightly coloured ladle of hope.

  2. 2
    sonnypike on 24 Sep 2010 #

    About six years ago Crystal Palace had a popular Finnish player in their team named Aki Riihilahti. At one of their games I was delighted to hear a small group of supporters singing “Back to life / back to Rii-hil-ah-ti”. 9 for the chant, agree with 8 for the song.

  3. 3
    Steve Mannion on 24 Sep 2010 #

    Nice observation about the breakbeat and that machine-y wince around the fourth beat – I always found this a particularly striking sonic detail.

    But that and Jazzie’s keytar bopping in the video aside, Wheeler owns this effervescent club classic.

  4. 4
    Tom on 24 Sep 2010 #

    #3 thanks, though if Marcello’s right and it’s programming not a breakbeat then that whole section is nonsense ;) (well, not nonsense, but as applied to THIS track it is).

  5. 5
    pink champale on 24 Sep 2010 #

    really splendid tom and punctum write-ups. thought this’d be a definite ten, though for me too, it isn’t *quite* – think i’d stretch to a nine though. Best bit not already nailed (that underlying house piano! the chic strings! top of the block!) is the lovely squelch that comes with the beat arriving for the first time under the intro.
    the first major nme cover story on flowered up (by indie traitor jack barron?) the following summer had their singer liam (now sadly no longer with us) raving deliriously to and about ‘back to life’ in his local estate pub – for some reason this has never quite left my mind.

  6. 6
    Erithian on 24 Sep 2010 #

    Looking at that video again – there’s the anticipation as the camera sweeps down silently, the electrifying moment when Caron Wheeler opens her mouth and those beautiful eyes, Jazzie B literally kicks things into gear and we’re off for a few minutes in the company of the coolest people we could wish to know. It’s not the style of music I normally go in for, but this is an utter classic – the epitome of summer ’89, making the top of a London tower block seem the place to be. This is how to take a groove and develop it, add to it, play with it and have it take over. The best black British single of the decade, and one of the best – black, white or whatever – of all time.

  7. 7
    Venga on 24 Sep 2010 #

    I remember watching the video of this on TOTP when it was number one and thinking what a pristine, modern, exciting record it was and that after the slough of despond that was the mid 80s we had now entered some kind of golden age. Neneh Cherry was also rocking the hell out of my cassette player at the time.

    Looking back, the only thing that could have topped this for me would have been if one of those stupendous 88/89 Inner City singles had got to No1.

    10

  8. 8
    pink champale on 24 Sep 2010 #

    i *think* my squelch is something slightly different than tom and steve’s wince…

  9. 9
    Steve Mannion on 24 Sep 2010 #

    Your squelch is my crunch.

  10. 10
    Tom on 24 Sep 2010 #

    Get a room.

  11. 11
    MikeMCSG on 24 Sep 2010 #

    I’ve never been a soulboy but did recognise that this was a significant step up from those mostly forgetteable bands that Marcello listed upthread (Linx being the exception).

  12. 12
    Steve Mannion on 24 Sep 2010 #

    #6 I also like how the camera starts on the tree leaves – hints at and compliments the freshness of the music.

    It’s not quite a 10 for me because I enjoy the approach to space and electro-ness of the decade’s finer, earlier equivalents that bit more but there’s not much between them.

    Remember really hoping that the follow-up ‘Get A Life’ would top the charts at the end of the year – one of the best (least annoying!) uses of a chorus of kids ever perhaps, and it would’ve been a great note for the decade’s charts to finish on (a cute unintentional nod to ‘Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) even!). But thanks to the increasing market for crappy Christmas cash-ins this was not to be.

  13. 13
    MichaelH on 24 Sep 2010 #

    More than house, this felt to me like a turning point. I’d been paying more attention to hip-hop than house, partly because I listened to Peel, partly because the evangelistic nature of house’s following turned me off rather than on. But hip-hop remained a US thing, with the UK responses never hitting the spot. This seemed like the first convincing homegrown response to US hip-hop and R&B – the first time a UK group and producer managed a sound that was new, distinctive, and British. In a summer when I was listening mainly to horrible American noise bands, this and Keep On Movin’ were just about the only British songs to make it regularly to my turntable: they sounded like distilled optimism. But rarely did two songs promise so much from a group that went on to deliver so little.

  14. 14
    Steve Mannion on 24 Sep 2010 #

    #13 Is there anything particularly British-sounding about the early SIIS singles tho, apart from Jazzie’s own accent (where he does rap)? I would’ve thought even in the context of the 80s Brit funk/soul lineage there may have been surprise from some listeners when they learned the act were London-based.

    The reason I say that is because much UK hip-hop at the time tended to be so indebtted to American (or Jamaican) characteristics both vocally and musically that the common flaw must’ve come down to the quality of writing and mic flow, which is fair enough and not really a big deal (imitators fail to match originators scandal!). The gap was closer when it came to production tho, at least wrt trying to sound like the Bomb Squad.

  15. 15
    Dominic on 24 Sep 2010 #

    I remember seeing Caron Wheeler, years later, performing just two songs (IIRC this one and “UK Blak”) outside Westminster Abbey, at a very brief gig (alongside Des’Ree and Joan Armatrading) organized by a friend to mark both International Women’s Day and Commonwealth Day – lots of Commonwealth leaders had just been to a service in the Abbey, Tony Blair, and the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in presence too. So, a small and select crowd, I very much the interloper.

    Just before the drum machine started up for this, Caron Wheeler stepped up to the mic, and shouted “I hope the Queen – feels the bass – in her womb!”.

    Not the usual royal protocol, then.

    But otherwise, a great summer track; yes, not absolutely breathtaking (I think at the time I preferred “Keep on Movin”, but this has aged better), but wholesome summer fun.

  16. 16
    rosie on 24 Sep 2010 #

    Unusual for me: not only one I remember from the time but one I actually liked at the time. I’m not sure the electronica had much impact on me (it wouldn’t, would it?) but the vocal bowled me over.

    Remind me, because I’m feeling too lazy to check: is this the first number one to feature the sweaty ‘ft’ in the title? I assume there’s some copyright reason behind the trope but, old sixties slapper that I am, I can’t help giving Caron Wheeler second-class billing to her backup seems wrong somehow since it’s her record.

    An 8, borderline 9 from me but no 10 since it ain’t no Good Vibrations or House of the Rising Sun.

  17. 17
    Paytesy on 24 Sep 2010 #

    #4

    It’s inspired by the Ashley’s Roadclip break famously sampled on Eric B & Rakim’s Paid In Full. Soul II Soul’s break is made with a drum machine and has an extra production ‘flourish’.

    http://www.whosampled.com/sample/view/494/Eric%20B.%20%26%20Rakim-Paid%20in%20Full_The%20Soul%20Searchers-Ashley's%20Roachclip/

    However, the Soul II Soul version (with the twiddle) became so sampled itself in 89/90 that it became known as the “Soul II Soul Beat”.

  18. 18
    Steve Mannion on 24 Sep 2010 #

    Her credit is based on her being a guest vocalist albeit a returning one. She may actually be the only Soul II Soul vocalist to have been credited (unless Victoria Wilson-James got it for ‘A Dream’s A Dream’).

    Not sure where I stand on this but spare a thought for Massive Attack’s array of guest vocalists, none of whom ever got a text credit.

  19. 19
    lex on 24 Sep 2010 #

    I think this might be the first No 1 I recognise from the time, though it’s less a specific memory and more a sense that I’ve always known this song, when I first “consciously” heard it I knew every note already. I guess it was fairly omnipresent in south-west London, where I was still at primary school, and my living situation at the time would definitely have been conducive to hearing it all the time.

    It’s so timeless, and I mean that in the best possible sense: that vocal line, it’s like everything in the world is in it, it makes sense wherever and whenever you hear it, and it’s so unifying. This year alone, sampled in three very different hip-hop singles – Fat Joe ft. Young Jeezy’s “(Ha Ha) Slow Down”, where it’s looped and turned into this airy backdrop/counterpoint to the booming beat and gully rapping; Big Boi’s “Shutterbugg”, where it’s this sudden splash of recognition in the middle of a sweaty house party; and Estelle’s “Freak”, where it’s a slightly desperate attempt to salvage a weak song with a sample that everyone knows and loves already. (The Big Boi and Fat Joe singles are GREAT, though, check them out.)

    But it’s also so personal and self-contained – it’s fundamentally a love song, and from my favourite perspective of all – the non-committal fronting like it doesn’t matter that can’t quite mask the longing. It still pops up in my head unbidden to this day, but it’s not an annoying earworm, it’s an old friend, and it’s the most natural thing in the world to just nod along.

  20. 20
    Tom on 24 Sep 2010 #

    #16 According to Everyhit it might be “I’m Walking Behind You” by Eddie Fisher featuring Sally Sweetlands!

    (Wichita Lineman – do you have the record of this to check?)

    Otherwise yes, this is the first to have “featuring” rather than the previously used “with”. Much more on the ethics of attribution in three number ones time, I suspect.

  21. 21
    lex on 24 Sep 2010 #

    @18 a few Soul II Soul vocalists are credited on the Club Classics Vol. One album – Caron Wheeler on this and “Keep On Movin'”, Rose Windross on “Fairplay”, Do’Reen on “Feel Free”.

    It’s only in the past decade or so that “feat.” has become de rigueur – on ’90s hip-hop CDs, guest rappers will rarely be prominently credited. I approve, it’s mystifying to me the antipathy some people have towards “feat.”.

    Talking of the album, I didn’t know until I bought it that the version of “Back To Life” on it (w/o parenthetical title extension) is almost all a cappella, with the beat only arriving at the very end! (And IIRC the “haha” vocal bit that Fat Joe samples, linked in my previous post, is only in the album version.) Prefer the single version but both are interesting.

  22. 22
    punctum on 24 Sep 2010 #

    #19: the Comic Relief “Living Doll” was credited to “Cliff Richard and the Young Ones, featuring Hank Marvin.”

    Can’t stand “featuring” myself since it turns musicians into brands rather than people. I mean, “David A Stewart featuring Candy Dulfer” – what, was she glued to his forehead?

  23. 23
    lex on 24 Sep 2010 #

    (My previous post that is “still awaiting moderation” (uhhh what? why isn’t my second one then?) so I guess you’ll have to wait to see it.)

  24. 24
    Billy Smart on 24 Sep 2010 #

    The whole construction of the single feels monumental, impressive, sultry, cool… But my response to it has always been to be impressed, rather than moved. I’ve never really been able to find much heart in the song.

  25. 25
    Billy Smart on 24 Sep 2010 #

    Number 2 Watch: A week of Prince’s quite atrocious Batdance, then a week of The Beautiful South’s calculating Song For Whoever.

  26. 26
    Billy Smart on 24 Sep 2010 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Soul II Soul were generally too cool for mainstream TV appearances;

    BEHIND THE BEAT: with Prince, Burning Spear, Just Ice, Soul II Soul, Phil Bent (1988)

    BIG WORLD CAFE: with Eagle Eye Cherry, Mariella Frostrup, Soul II Soul, Carmel, Paul McCartney (1989)

    BIG WORLD CAFE: with Eagle Eye Cherry, Mariella Frostrup, Ten City, Soul II Soul, Les Negresses Verte (1989)

    PARAMOUNT CITY: with Arthur Smith, Mark Thomas, Cathy Ladman, Richard Jeni, Lenny Kravitz, Soul II Soul (1990)

    THE SMASH HITS POLL WINNERS PARTY: with Bros, Jason Donovan, Phillip Schofield, Kylie Minogue, Neneh Cherry, Big Fun, Soul II Soul, The London Boys, Sonia, Transvision Vamp (1989)

  27. 27
    Steve Mannion on 24 Sep 2010 #

    “LOL kids” watch: ‘Batdance’ (and most of the Batman soundtrack) was a total thrill to me at the time and vied with Bobby Brown’s ‘On My Own’ (also from a summer blockbuster, altho Ghostbusters 2 wasn’t released until Xmas here) for my most-listened to song of the time. The Ghostbusters 2 soundtrack may technically be the first album I ever bought (or got my Mum to buy, really can’t recall these crucial details).

  28. 28
    Tom on 24 Sep 2010 #

    I liked the brazen-ness of Batdance but I would fear revisiting it now.

    Batman, though – that was occupying as much of my brain as any pop music in summer 1989, certainly. Had the Stone Roses album come out by now, though?

  29. 29
    Billy Smart on 24 Sep 2010 #

    It had – in about May IIRC. Jazzie B commented: “The Stone Roses – It’s not like music you hear in a *real* club, is it?”

  30. 30
    Tom on 24 Sep 2010 #

    The Beautiful South, of course, referenced this song on one of theirs – in fact it’s all I can remember about it (title included): Paul Heaton going “Back to bed, back to reality”, a grim memory.

  31. 31
    Tom on 24 Sep 2010 #

    #29 He wasn’t wholly wrong. Though my first experience of seeing a DJ playing live was at the Roses’ Alexandra Palace gig that November: it was very much “two steps back” for my still-nascent interest in dance music, since the acoustics were truly godawful.

  32. 32
    Billy Smart on 24 Sep 2010 #

    ‘My Book’, their first flop single and not one of Paul Heaton’s better moments – At least Soul II Soul got songwriting royalties from it, though!

  33. 33
    Billy Smart on 24 Sep 2010 #

    My favourite contemporaneous Stone Roses criticism came from young Lloyd Cole, unhappy to now find himself as yesterday’s man in January 1990. “They have a single called ‘Sally Cinnamon’, don’t they? I am *never* going to listen to band who can give a song a title like that!”

  34. 34
    Billy Smart on 24 Sep 2010 #

    Of course, the third part of the trinity of albums that South London hipster teens were playing alongside Soul II Soul and the Roses that summer was ‘3 Feet High & Rising’ by De La Soul.

    I myself at this time was listening to ‘Disintegration’ by The Cure more than anything else…

  35. 35
    lex on 24 Sep 2010 #

    @29 Jazzie B OTMFM. Fuck the Stone Roses forever.

    Also I totally hear a ton of heart in this, it’s such an affecting song!

  36. 36
    Tom on 24 Sep 2010 #

    Out of respect to the Lex I will save my reminiscin’ about what I was actually listening to in 1989 for a later thread.

  37. 37
    Steve Mannion on 24 Sep 2010 #

    Was Jazzie referring specifically to ‘Fool’s Gold’. I don’t know the full extent of it’s portability to and appeal in London clubs but the popular remix did have that great breakbeat similar if not the same as the one used on a hit that was probably more up B’s street – ‘Heaven’ by The Chimes.

    I’m sure I linked it elsewhere on FT but Morley’s Showing Off with Jazzie B is worth a look: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/feb/19/paul-morley-jazzie-b

  38. 38
    Steve Mannion on 24 Sep 2010 #

    #34 De La album means a lot more to me personally than those other two LPs and I usually cite is as first album I bought tho it wouldn’t have been until late ’89 at the earliest, if not early ’90 (following the release of ‘The Magic Number/Buddy’ which was definitely my first (cas)single).

  39. 39
    Billy Smart on 24 Sep 2010 #

    24/35. Yes, I’ve been trying to work out why I can’t find this quality of heart. I think its because, as a song, I get a strong sense of situation from ‘Back To Life’, but not of a distinct personality other than that Caron Wheeler is a tremendously able singer… I don’t have this problem with Manchild or Unfinished Sympathy!

  40. 40
    Tom on 24 Sep 2010 #

    I’m sort of with Billy – not so much on lacking heart but (as the review says) I respect the importance of the record more than I actually ever play it. To be honest I was expecting to give it a 7, and then the wonderful video brought more of its quality home to me (and triggered the memory a bit) so it was an easy 8.

    Also, listened to in the context of most of 1989’s No.1s it’s infinitely classier.

  41. 41
    Steve Mannion on 24 Sep 2010 #

    I actually found ‘Manchild’ too bleak and depressing-sounding a record at the time and just couldn’t listen to it. Half-baked theory is that I first heard it while nauseous so would associate it with that for some time thereafter. I had a similar reaction to some Boards Of Canada stuff at first – tho I often love sad or menacing synths and strings, seems as if I’ve just been oddly sensitive to certain chord sequences and progressions (and each example I can think of is actually an amazing piece of electronic music in one way or another).

    It was frustrating in the former’s case tho what with the song climbing the charts, harder to avoid and perhaps the most unconventional top 5 hit since ‘O Superman’ (depending on the broadness of your definition there). I always recognised it as remarkable but ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ went down much much more easily.

  42. 42
    lex on 24 Sep 2010 #

    “Safe From Harm” > “Back To Life” > “Unfinished Sympathy”

    (all would get 10/10 from me, maybe “Unfinished Sympathy” might be “only” 9/10 some days)

  43. 43
    lonepilgrim on 24 Sep 2010 #

    I loved this at the time (and would have given it a 10) because it seemed to capture such a positive urban summer vibe. Appropriately enough given when it hit number one the video always suggested a black version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (with Jazzie B as Bottom, maybe).
    Nowadays I’d agree with the 8 mark because the S2S beat and vibe became so overfamiliar (almost as quickly as JBs croaky ‘raps’).

  44. 44
    will on 24 Sep 2010 #

    Christ, this thread is making me nostalgic…and slighty sad at the fact it’s now more than two decades since the summer of ’89. Soul II Soul, De La Soul, Stone Roses, ‘Manchild’, The Pixies’ Doolittle. Bliss was it to be alive in that dawn, but to be 19 etc etc.

    9 for Back To Life from me. Keep On Moving would have been a 10 though.

  45. 45
    thefatgit on 24 Sep 2010 #

    KOM and BTL, are the sublime highlights of CC Vol 1 and some not unpleasant, but unmemorable filler, but there is an intention to form an identity
    through it’s music, and importantly it’s updated, re-imagined hippy philosophy, so maybe the 2nd Summer Of Love is just as significant here.
    Camden may be the heart of Soul II soul, but it’s face was Covent Garden’s Africa Centre. Jazzie B’s club nights there mixed up
    the ingredients that formed the Soul II Soul sound. Little wonder Jazzie B was proud of it enough to promote it on the album. The clothes range
    you’d have to put down to Jazzie B’s entrepreneurial streak. Who can blame the chap? Is he not a pre-cursor to the likes of Jay Z?
    BTL is undoubtedly important. The timing is almost spot on, as around 89 Kiss gains it’s commercial radio licence. Kiss have managed to legitimise
    their formerly pirate status, and the likes of Soul II Soul and songs like BTL and KOM are key to Kiss FM retaining it’s pirate audience and gaining new
    listeners. With Rap spanning East and West Coasts in the US and fledgling dance movements forming out of the output from bedrooms
    across the UK, BTL stands maybe not as the first footprint on the surface of a newly conquered moon, but perhaps the first
    deployment of the Lunar Rover.

  46. 46
    Billy Smart on 24 Sep 2010 #

    46 And that’s not all! Two other epochal singles were also in the charts during the reign of Back To Life – Public Enemy, ‘Fight The Power’ and A Guy Called Gerald, ‘Voodoo Ray’!

  47. 47
    lex on 24 Sep 2010 #

    @45 Wow, that’s remarkably similar to what’s happening NOW – Rinse has just legitimised its pirate status, songs like “Katy On A Mission” will be key to retaining its old listeners and gaining new ones, hip-hop is…in a really interesting place, at least, with the best rap mostly not speaking to a chart audience, and fledgling dance movements are being formed and shaped in bedrooms across the UK and world, those connections being facilitated by the internet…

  48. 48
    Rory on 24 Sep 2010 #

    I hadn’t heard this before today – it only reached number 45 in Australia, which may be why – but I like what I hear. Given the diet of sawdust and rabbit that surrounds it in 1989, “Back to Life” is positively Michelin-star-worthy, but I’d have to live with it a bit longer to go to an 8 or above, I think. For now, a definite baseline of 7.

  49. 49
    CPB on 25 Sep 2010 #

    Of course, as anyone who was listening to the Golden Hour on Radio 1 will know, ‘Fool’s Gold’ is shall we say, heavily inspired by the Young MC’s ‘Know-How’. I wouldn’t know but I’m guessing some people were playing that in clubs.

    As for this track (and indeed ‘Fool’s Gold’) I think I might suffer a little from having been too young to appreciate it properly when I first got to know it. I can tell instinctively that it’s at least an 8, and I certainly know now why it’s important, but whenever I hear it, it somehow doesn’t quite hit the spot.

  50. 50
    swanstep on 25 Sep 2010 #

    Agree with the consensus about this track: unbelievably important as a landmark, but not 10-worthy on its merits (the ‘tower block’ middle eight feels to me underdone musically). So, yeah: (a high) 8.

    I guess I loved how non-gimmicky this record felt compared to earlier House-ish dance records (even stuff I’d loved like Paid in Full or Buffalo Stance). It felt like a new normal was being asserted and had arrived.

    And, ahem, the hell with Batman. This very week (June 23 ’89 in the UK and June 30 ’89 in the US) saw the release of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing w/ Public Enemy’s Fight the Power as its big soundtrack hit. Epic stuff, and again a kind of new musical and cultural normal seemed to be being asserted and exemplified.

    The vids for BTL and Fight the Power were played a lot on MTV in the US during the very hot summer of 1989. The future was here and seemed to promise a very satisfying fusion of the carnal and the brainy. Yay.

    Semi-amusing note: I was not really a single-buyer at this point and so my response to seeing the BTL vid was to purchase the album. I was genuinely peeved that, as Lex mentioned above, its only version of BTL was essentially beatless!

  51. 51
    Erithian on 25 Sep 2010 #

    #32 the “My Book” lyric “Mother played by Peter Beardsley, father by John Cleese” was a treat though, as well as a good one for a lyric quiz!

  52. 52
    Rory on 25 Sep 2010 #

    What intrigues me is that this hit number 4 in New Zealand and stayed in their charts 25 weeks, compared to its 7 weeks spread over 7 months of dropping in and out of Australia’s in the high 40s. Sometimes comparing national charts feels like that experiment someone did where they gave arbitrary groups of similar students the same songlist to play and rank over time, and watched entirely different charts emerge.

    I’m liking this more and more now, getting to the point where if I were still in the singles market I would have bought the single, so I should nudge my mark to 8.

  53. 53
    Rory on 25 Sep 2010 #

    That silhouette shot in the video of the dancer swinging her hair around reminds me that 1989 was also the year of Milli Vanilli. A shame “Blame It On the Rain” didn’t top the charts in the UK… that would have been a fun discussion.

  54. 54
    Steve Mannion on 25 Sep 2010 #

    ‘Blame It On The Rain’ didn’t even go top 40 here but the also terrible ‘Girl I’m Gonna Miss You’ was their biggest hit as well as their last one.

  55. 55
    Mark M on 25 Sep 2010 #

    I popped back to London from Milan around this time – it’s hard to remember any song seeming to completely own the moment the way Back To Life. It did seem like Soul II Soul were about transform British pop culture… London seemed relaxed and vibrant and fun, despite the tube strikes and the fag end of Thatcher. Highlight of the week was going to see Do The Right Thing at the now defunct cinema on the south side of PIccadilly…

  56. 56
    LondonLee on 26 Sep 2010 #

    This was THE sound of London at the time, ‘Club Classics’ seemed to be pouring out of every car car stereo and storefront that summer. I was having some of the best years of my life then, at the start of a relationship that would last three years, going to great clubs and great music everywhere. Bliss it was to be alive.

    A 9 from me but only because I need create some space between it and the magnificent ‘Keep On Moving’ which is a sold gold 10 for me. Though it wouldn’t be long before the “remixed by Nellee Hooper” credit became a bit too ubiquitous on 12″ singles.

  57. 57
    Jimmy the Swede on 27 Sep 2010 #

    GOODBYE DALE! I’ve just learned that Dale is leaving “Pick of the Pops” at the end of October, which is fair enough since he’s had a decent stint. The alarming news, though, is that of his replacement. It is none other than the “sensational” Timmy Bannockburn. Dear God, not him again!

    Radio 2 are idiots. They should have held out for the uber-cool David Milliband. Now that’s a thought, Popular Pals!

  58. 58
    flahr on 27 Sep 2010 #

    B-but how will we know whether each entry was a “good record” or not?

    As it happens the next edition of POTP will focus on the music of October 1989. I don’t know if Spoiler Bunny has jurisdiction over The Winton.

  59. 59
    Billy Smart on 27 Sep 2010 #

    I predict that ‘Sweet Surrender’ by Wet Wet Wet, ‘Right Here Waiting’ by Richard Marx, and ‘Simply The Best’ are most likely to be proclaimed as “good record!”s, come Saturday. I’d most like to hear Dale play ‘Kennedy’ by The Wedding Present on that chart, but won’t be holding my breath…

  60. 60
    Jimmy the Swede on 27 Sep 2010 #

    # 58 – The Spoiler Bunny has jurisdiction over everyone, flahr. He’s omnipotent is Bun.

    I wonder if anyone can remember Dale ever saying: “that’s NOT a good record”? Or: “And that’s why we DIDN’T love it”?

  61. 61
    Billy Smart on 27 Sep 2010 #

    Dale doesn’t like The Temperence Seven, or SL2, or ‘The Beatles Movie Medley’. And I think that I detected withering sarcasm in his “What a *great*! way to start the week ending September the 25th 1993!” when he was unexpectedly compelled to play ‘Jewel’ by The Cranes – “That was the only hit they had!”.

  62. 62
    punctum on 27 Sep 2010 #

    I’m fully behind Blackburn’s appointment and may even start listening to the programme again. Let’s hope he continues to bash Phil “The ” Swern into the ground with his useless (and frequently inaccurate) stats as per his recent Bank Holiday performances (“Don’t know about you but I’m losing the will to live here,” he commented after one splurge of pseudo-info).

    I’m all for Pick Of The Pops Bingo, though. We all know that Dale is apt to skip past anything in any given chart that we might want to listen to and play all the dreary AoR stuff (well, it is Radio “Compliance Please Sir Don’t Take Away Our Pocket Money” 2). We ought to set up a sweepstake.

  63. 63
    flahr on 27 Sep 2010 #

    He skipped over “The Message” on Saturday. I was livid.

    Did play “All Of My Heart” though (‘beautiful’).

  64. 64
    Mark G on 27 Sep 2010 #

    Well, here I am, way too late to offer something profound, except for:

    The first time I heard this, I thought “Blimey, Bros have made a decent record!”

  65. 65
    Jimmy the Swede on 27 Sep 2010 #

    One thing about Tony is that he’ll never pretend to be something he isn’t, bless him. And MC’s right, perhaps he might be more objective than Dale. My great hero, Johnnie Walker, of course would have been all wrong for POTP, simply because he would have repeated his comments about a certain Scottish outfit who had two number ones in 1975, which precipitated his departure from Radio 1 all those years ago.

    I’m personally surprised that the Beeb didn’t give the job to Stephen Fry. The pompous, sanctimonious bore seems to have hijacked everything else at the Corporation!

  66. 66
    Conrad on 27 Sep 2010 #

    Tony Blackburn is a fantastic choice for POTP. I will have to start listening again. He’s a very underrated broadcaster, but one of the very very best at what he does.

    Anyway, Soul II Soul. Appreciate what it is trying to do, admire the originality. But find it really rather boring, so a 6.

    There were some terrific records around summer 89 though. The De La Soul and Stone Roses albums almost single handedly reinvigorated my interest in contemporary music after a five year hiatus.

    And Batdance is very silly indeed – but entertainingly so, like another of my favourite singles from this time – Love in an Elevator

  67. 67
    Dominic on 27 Sep 2010 #

    #66
    Love in An Elevator is one thing (I can kind of see its appeal, but am not really into it big-time), but its followup (that made number 76 in the charts!), “Janie’s Got A Gun” – to me that’s the real deal. Original, melodically, and a real “story” song, too (girl takes vengeance on a man who abused her as a child). I kind of guess the lyrics meant that it was not really radio-friendly, but to my mind one of the best singles in a rather good year musically.

  68. 68
    Gavin Wright on 27 Sep 2010 #

    I think this has to be the first 1989 entry that fits in with that year as I remember it – around that time I became very aware of things (clothes, buildings, cars, electrical appliances) looking or feeling *new* and ‘Back To Life’ really taps into that, it just sounds so effortlessly modern. It’s a 10 for me – I initially went for 9 but after reading the rest of the responses here I’ve had it stuck in my head all afternoon to the point where I really really want to hear it again, immediately…

  69. 69
    wichita lineman on 27 Sep 2010 #

    Yes, newness. This was the first number one in years that had a bass-heavy production, no chickety-chickety tin drums, and no gated snare. Hurrah! So, the beginning of a new decade. I preferred Keep On Movin’ for its gauzier chords and lyrics – just as urban, but “yellow is the colour of sunrays” is gorgeously vague and evocative of the best summer of your life.

    I’d venture the strings and stripped production owe as much to Brit soul’s most underrated act Hot Chocolate as they do to Chic.

    Tom, I’ll check that Eddie Fisher 45 when I’m back home tomorrow!

  70. 70
    wichita lineman on 27 Sep 2010 #

    Now! watch – “Back To Life” opened Disc 2 of Now! 15, followed by Neneh Cherry’s “Manchild”, Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step” and Inner City’s “Do You Love What You Feel”, a splendid run of moderne soul.

  71. 71
    anto on 27 Sep 2010 #

    Strangely part of me is gonna miss Dales auto-pilot professionalism.
    Surely ” so there’s a strong record at number one ” must be an official catch phrase – a bit bland maybe but he says it often enough.
    Having read Victoria Woods comments about BBC interference in the Guardian today I began to wonder if Dale was restrained by that mysterious Swern character signalling at him to finish the link and play the next one ” we have to get to The Goombay Dance Band sharpish if we’re to hit the news on time etc “. Dale audibly winced at anything a bit punkish or avant-garde but he always made a point of mentioning if a particular song had been a hit in the clubs. I know he’s a Northern Soul afficienado so he might be more at home on a niche-based show.
    What sort of memos do Radio 2 presenters receive anyway? Are they told to follow Steve Wrights example ie talk about Elvis and The Beatles (or the Beeedllles as Dale calls ’em) as though they’re the only ones who really matter and stick on that ugly recorded clapping when they introduce todays special guest. Is Jeremy Vine told to screen the calls so that only people too provincial for their own good or too metropolitan for their own good can get through? What about Ken Bruce? Do the bosses notice that he only played Beyonces latest 7 times last week and Alesha Dixon just twice? They must take a dim view of that.
    I would still stick up for Pick Up For Pops. For anyone who visits this blog it’s useful for context. It’s also good for brushing up on pop history. On Saturdays show the first hour was the chart from this week in 1964 and it was surely one of the best charts ever. There were at least 15 brilliant tunes in the top 20 and 2 gems by Lesley Gore and The Searchers amongst the climbers. The sort of thing that makes me envy my parents generation.
    Anyway what are we meant to be talking about? Back to Life. Good tune,very much part of the zeitgeist when it was at number one.
    Caron Wheelers replenishing vocals are what make it. I agree with Punctum that Nellee Hooper probably had as much a role in the sound as Jazzie B. Those strings are certainly one of Hoopers motifs.
    For all that the whole Rare Groove thing has a you-had-to-be-there vibe and clearly a lot of people were. It’s been a pleasure to read the reminisences about this track, but I wasn’t there myself.
    What can I say? Born too late for 1964 and too soon for 1989. Sometimes the future feels like being kicked in the face by Scouting For Girls forever.

  72. 72
    Chelovek na lune on 27 Sep 2010 #

    #70 Oh yes it strikes me that in many ways 1989 was on the same phase of the eternally twisting pop music cycle of creativity and inertia as was 1981 – masses of fantastic, innovative, wonderful stuff out there (ah, my favourite of them all would have been bubbling in the lower regions of the top 50 round about this time, or possibly slightly later in the summer – Kariya’s “Let Me Love You For Tonight”, with its subtly distinct X-side and Y-side mixes on the 7″, a great deep house number, haunting and melodious)

    Although thinking especially of the next-but-one number one after this one (among others -and it would appear to be germane NOT to mention the type of creature known to get upset with such references around here on this specific occasion) there are other parallels with 1981 too…

    I’d be hard-pressed to say 1990 was quite the equal of 1982, though.

  73. 73
    Vince Modern on 28 Sep 2010 #

    A couple of things to add…

    1. The opening beat (after Caron Wheeler’s first two a capella lines) is particularly sublime. I still can’t work out if it’s a beat reversed, or the sound a beat makes when you ‘shut down’ a record deck. Maybe it’s both, all I know is it’s pertty clever.

    2. Referring back to Lex’s comments @19 about how widely this has been sampled this year made me think of one or two other tracks that have sampled BTL. I had a look on whosampledwho.com and there’s tons of em. And they’ve even missed a few (Black Eyed Peas interpolated the “Steady are you ready” vocal from the a capella version on their rather dire ‘Hey Mama’ from 2004).

    Here’s the list in full:
    http://www.whosampled.com/sampled/Soul%20II%20Soul

    Obviously it’s Caron’s memorable vocal they sample, rather than the beats.

    Wonder if this makes the BTL the most sampled UK number one?

  74. 74
    Steve Mannion on 28 Sep 2010 #

    “Sometimes the future feels like being kicked in the face by Scouting For Girls forever.”

    Yeah you don’t even notice it happening.

  75. 75
    Steve Block on 28 Sep 2010 #

    This is a ten. It’s the best song of the best year of British music in my lifetime. I can’t compete with the posters above, but this song is like one of many culminations of everything that had been happening musically over the last ten years. I also can’t help but feel it is in some way a response to Good Life by Inner City, the good life is over, it’s back to reality. But 1989, what a year, when artists actually cared about the music they were making rather than the product they were selling.

  76. 76
    anto on 28 Sep 2010 #

    Re65: Thank you for saying it. Some people seem to genuinely think Stephen Fry is right about everything just cos he has a plummy voice and digs technology.

  77. 77
    Erithian on 29 Sep 2010 #

    #57: before time moves on and we forget the Miliband soap opera being hyped up the way it is now: thought should be given to the sadly neglected third Miliband brother, Steve, who hasn’t had a hit in years. (Come on, I like the gag and it won’t be topical for long!)

  78. 78
    punctum on 29 Sep 2010 #

    Oh, Erithian, you’re such a joker.

  79. 79
    lex on 29 Sep 2010 #

    @65/76 totally agree, Stephen Fry can and should fuck off forever.

    I don’t get the Miliband joke :(

  80. 80
    thefatgit on 29 Sep 2010 #

    I guess that one flew like an eagle over your head, lex ;)

  81. 81
    Mutley on 29 Sep 2010 #

    #20. Re first use of the term “featuring”. I think this goes back to the time of the big bands (Count Basie etc) when they featured singers with star – or soon to be star names (Ella Fitzgerald etc). I’m sure there would be quite a few examples on records, although the only instant internet evidence I could find was at http://www.discogs.com/viewimages?release=2085848 which has an image of an LP cover and label of Count Basie and his Orchestra featuring Joe Williams from 1959.

  82. 82
    Dominic on 29 Sep 2010 #

    #79 Abracadabra is the magic word you might be looking for. (I would say “I wanna reach out and grab ya”, but well, that would be a bit familiar to someone I don’t know.)

    #65/76/79 More agreement on Stephen Fry. His much vaunted imitation of Oscar Wilde shows ever less understanding of why Wilde is remembered fondly, and frequently quoted a century after his death, and why that won’t be the case for Fry. Utterly overrated, all style, no substance, and frankly the style is not impressive.

  83. 83
    rosie on 29 Sep 2010 #

    No, thefatgit, it hopped over lex’s head like a rabbit.

  84. 84
    wichita lineman on 29 Sep 2010 #

    Re 81: Not sure about that. Quite often the vocalist would get no credit at all on a 78, just the band leader. If they were credited it would usually say “vocal – Jo Stafford” rather than “featuring”. That Count Basie album is a re-issue, so isn’t a reliable source. But I may well be wrong, not being at home with my useless boxes of 78s.

    Re Fry, for someone supposedly so smart, the twittering tart doesn’t seem to have any concept of overexposure killing his career. Hugh Laurie, on the other hand, is one of those lucky chaps who gets better looking with age, and is presumably now far more popular in the US than Fry.

    I’m very pleased to see the backlash starting on Popular : )

  85. 85
    thefatgit on 29 Sep 2010 #

    Far be it from me to split hares.

  86. 86
    Jimmy the Swede on 29 Sep 2010 #

    A: Lex – Have you got the joke yet?

    B: Would someone more computer literate than I be able to send this thread to “Stevie” Fry on his Twitter page or whatever the hell it’s called? But first let’s lay into the tosser some more!!!!

  87. 87

    i: the Lex getting this joke is actually the opening of one of the mid-table seven seals
    ii: Fry is fine on QI — he is our Robert Robinson, no more, no less, a cuddly pedant in a tiny world of useless facts (on QI I can even tolerate Jimmy Carr)

  88. 88
    wichita lineman on 29 Sep 2010 #

    I wish Robert Robinson had been asked to say “Happy new millennium” to the nation.

  89. 89
    lex on 30 Sep 2010 #

    I am no closer to getting this joke :(

  90. 90
    flahr on 30 Sep 2010 #

    We’re almost exactly a year away (Popular time) from you getting this joke :)

    (at least we are given that we’ve just discussed “Swing the Mood”)

  91. 91
    Chelovek na lune on 30 Sep 2010 #

    Are there no midnight tokers present, or does everyone get their lovin’ on the run ?

  92. 92
    Rory on 30 Sep 2010 #

    When I found myself feeling overexposed to Fry’s tweets, I discovered this really helpful button called “unfollow” that made everything better… isn’t QI also something that you can not watch if you don’t like it? It’s not as if he does the voiceovers at the end of every programme.

    I’m overexposed to that northern bloke who says “4-oh-deayyyy” on Channel 4’s online promos.

  93. 93
    wichitalineman on 30 Sep 2010 #

    I don’t use Twitter, I don’t watch QI, but I’m aware Stephen Fry is “officially a national treasure”.

    Erithian, before it fades from public memory entirely, I’ve been trying to think of a Popular entry to which I can attach something about David Miliband and his “nibbles”. I wonder how many union barons’ votes they cost him. I’ll bet Baron Bob Crow wouldn’t bring the nibbles out if you went to one of his houseparties. Nothing but Party Seven in tankards, Slade on the stereo.

  94. 94
    Mark M on 30 Sep 2010 #

    I have a feeling that there is an expectation in certain quarters that when this joke is eventually explained, Lex will go “d’oh” and he baffled he didn’t get from the start, whereas I’m fairly sure he’ll be none the wiser.

  95. 95
    rosie on 30 Sep 2010 #

    wichitalineman@93

    As a Bristol City Councillor in not many more years now Popular time, I still had to contend with the rump of the old Tobacco Workers Union (who hated my guts as an upstart from London with dangerously Livingstoneite tendencies towards empowering the individual members). At mayoral receptions they scorned the Cava and smoked salmon roulade and had to be provided with their own barrel of cider and plates of faggots[1] and peas.

    Mind you, there’s nowt wrong with proper cider with faggots and peas.

    [1] For the benefit of our Leftpondian readers, faggots and peas is a Bristol delicacy otherwise known as meatballs served with boiled leguminous seeds of a bright green colour. And not what you first thought.

  96. 96
    Chris Gilmour on 2 Oct 2010 #

    A bit late to this one, but had to add my twopenneth; a fabulous, fabulous record, hinting at the excitement that was to come at the turn of the decade. Love Caron Wheelers vocal and another vote over here for all the rhythmic squelches and ‘tape stop’ sounds.
    Living up north, this, along with the likes of the Cookie Crew and D-Mob ( I was mad about ‘It Is Time To Get Funky’), made London seem a very exciting place to be. This would prove to be ironic a few months later, living a half hour bus ride away from Manchester….

  97. 97
    lonepilgrim on 24 Oct 2010 #

    ‘Close to you’ by Maxi Priest just popped up on iTunes shuffle today and stuck out as a blatant copy of the production on this tune – with the same string arrangement

  98. 98
    Billy Smart on 27 Dec 2010 #

    MMWatch: Everett True hardly gave the single the attention that it warranted. June 3 1989;

    “Soul II Soul weigh in with a silky, “Back to life/ Back to reality” (a note states: AVOID THE OBVIOUS) which tumbles as it grooves, smooth female voices doing some serious damage to my libido.”

    True awarded single of the week to ‘In-A-Live’ by The Clean. Also reviewed that week;

    Bangles – Be With You
    REM – Orange Crush
    Soundgarden – Flower
    Cliff Richard – The Best Of Me
    Karyn White – Superwoman
    UB40 – I Would Do For You

  99. 99
    mapman132 on 28 Jul 2014 #

    The summer of 1989 was significant for 16-year-old me for my trip to England which was also my first trip overseas of any kind. I was one of a group of students from my school who spent a couple weeks with host families in Salisbury. Quite an experience being in a foreign country away from my family. As they say, “separated by a common language” indeed :) Anyhow…

    I think I first heard “Back To Life” on one of those airline music stations (Virgin Atlantic in this case). Surprisingly I wasn’t into music charts yet, but I knew enough pop music to be familiar with “Keep On Movin”, their current US hit at the time. BTL must’ve made enough impression on me over the next two weeks because when it appeared in AT40’s year-end countdown for 1990 (by which time I had become obsessed with the charts), I was quite surprised as I strongly associated it with the summer of 89.

    So BTL’s kind of one of those touchstone music/travel combined moments for me, much like the no longer bunnied “Believe” would be nine years later. Unlike “Believe” which had to grow on me, I liked BTL pretty much immediately for many of same reasons given by other posters. Also like “Believe”, it was no longer #1 (going by w/e dates) at the time I arrived in Britian. Which I guess means I’ll have to comment on the next record too….

  100. 100
    hectorthebat on 2 Mar 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1-1001
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Pause & Play (USA) – Songs Inducted into a Time Capsule, One Track at Each Week
    Soul Bounce (USA) – The Top 100 Soul/R&B Songs (2008) 16
    Gary Mulholland (UK) – This Is Uncool: The 500 Best Singles Since Punk Rock (2002)
    Mixmag (UK) – Nominations for the Greatest Dance Track of All Time (2012)
    NME (UK) – The 100 Best Songs of the 1980s (2012) 56
    Q (UK) – 100 Songs That Changed the World (2003) 67
    Q (UK) – 50 Greatest British Tracks (2005) 38
    Q (UK) – 50 Years of Great British Music, 10 Tracks per Decade (2008)
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 534
    Q (UK) – The Ultimate Music Collection (2005)
    Vox (UK) – 100 Records That Shook the World (1991)
    Panorama (Norway) – The 30 Best Singles of the Year 1970-98 (1999) 8
    Theater van het Sentiment, Radio 2 (NL) – Top 40 Songs by Year 1969-2000 (2013) 36
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    Village Voice (USA) – Singles of the Year 17
    Face (UK) – Singles of the Year 2
    Melody Maker (UK) – Singles of the Year 12
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 8
    Record Mirror (UK) – Singles of the Year 1

  101. 101
    irishbearaz on 1 Apr 2019 #

    Don’t let the username fool you, I’m a Yank. But I think I love you already, Freaky Trigger.

    I have loved this song since I first heard it on vacation in August 1989. “Keep On Movin'” was still climbing up the US chart at #15, but for some reason this little rural town (which I ended up moving to) had a cassette single of “Back To Life”. I’d never heard it, but I was a good sport back then. When I did, I was struck by the fabulousness of what I heard, and it should be noted the single back then edited out the first verse, so it wasn’t until the video hit the US that I fell in love with the whole thing. The breakbeat, the glory of Caron Wheeler’s voice, and that feeling of joy in the middle section, the whole bloody thing.

    I pretty much ate up anything Soul II Soul-related for the next 4 years. But of course, I had to, because Virgin Records in the US messed everything Soul II Soul-related up. Club Classics Vol. 1 wasn’t a letdown, per se, it was…different. The album didn’t have the single mixes on them, so there was a certain sense of betrayal. A friend who was trying to be a DJ did pick up the 12-inch vinyls of the singles, though, so I didn’t miss out. It was an eye-opener on how happy music can make you, and it opened me up a bit to British pop, which I didn’t know a whole lot about as a teenager. All I knew was what crossed over to US radio (Stock-Aitken-Waterman stuff, interchangable stuff). If not for the Internet, I might not have found out that SAW really did kinda suck after a while.

    Anyway, I’m bookmarking the site. I know some of the songs that charted here which didn’t chart in the US, so I’m not at much of a disadvantage…after 1986. anyway. That you rated “Back To Life” so highly indicates there’s a wealth of good taste to be found. That is, until the next song, probably.

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