Oct 11

TASMIN ARCHER – “Sleeping Satellite”

Popular82 comments • 8,389 views

#681, 17th October 1992

One-hit wonders can catch time in a bottle like no other records, since there’s barely any career context to distract you from your memories. “Sleeping Satellite” feels achingly 90s, but its mix of busker’s strum, baggy backbeat, and surprise-attack solos isn’t itself typical of any trend – except maybe a vague cosmopolitanism that encouraged such mild genre-blending in the first place. Its one-off cousins are 4 Non Blondes, Lisa Loeb, Natalie Imbruglia even – awkward sincerity throwing cool pop shapes.

But Tasmin Archer’s track has a heartfelt push to it even the best of those songs lack. Listening to “Sleeping Satellite”, for a long time I couldn’t work out why Archer was singing such palpable gibberish as if it meant something intensely important. She’s really trying to sell this thing – her enthusiasm and commitment is what keeps the track from gumming up, and what makes the sudden Hammond freakout work too. The fault was mine, though. “Satellite” comes draped in riddles and convolution but I’d never gone much further in than “I blame you…” and assumed this was a break-up metaphor. And not, say, a record about a generation’s post-1969 existentialist crisis. As Jarvis Cocker put it, later and more sardonic: “We were brought up on the space race / Now they want us to clean toilets.”

This, it seems to me, is part of what “Sleeping Satellite”‘s articulating: a sense of disappointment bordering on betrayal that having dreamed of the Moon – or indeed, because it got there – humanity now seems confined to a slowly boiling Earth. This is potent, raw stuff and very difficult indeed to cover effectively in a pop song. And in truth Archer doesn’t cover it effectively – the song’s ambiguous and flowery, its emotional kick comes from Archer’s self-belief more than anything you can read into it. But I have to say I like the idea that she tried.



  1. 1
    Ricardo on 3 Oct 2011 #

    Funny how this song’s lyrics still ring very true, now more than ever. Plus, I don’t really think the song’s production is that dated, really. This would go down a treat next to either The Pierces or Beverley Knight on Radio 2.

  2. 2
    Steve Mannion on 4 Oct 2011 #

    Aggressively hyped on radio iirc (actual adverts for the song, not just A-listed weeks before release), I was surprised it could only manage a couple of weeks at #1 in the end especially given its giant leaps to the top (e.g. #37 to #13 in its third week).

  3. 3
    Erithian on 4 Oct 2011 #

    Don’t remember the adverts, but do remember what a breath of fresh air this was at number one – original, passionate, although as Tom suggests maybe too mysterious for its own good. Many years later I caught up with the parent album “Great Expectations” from a CD library, and what a consistently fine album it was too – pity she wasn’t able to maintain the momentum, with five subsequent hits each smaller than the last. Heartening to see that she still has ambitions – she fancies making a Sunderland Cup Final record, and I for one look forward to hearing it: http://www.tasminarcher.com/pdfs/tasmin_LofL.pdf

  4. 4
    weej on 4 Oct 2011 #

    Isn’t it odd that the UK produced so many fine black pop-soul singers in the 1990s, but managed in each case to grant them nothing more than a brief burst of success with a quick descent into obscurity – I’m thinking Caron Wheeler, Tasmin, Shola Ama, Karen Ramirez. The only one who seemed to get a good career out of it was Gabrielle, and that always seemed like a series of comebacks (anyway, she’s not a patch on the previous four, IMO). This is a bit of a pet theory and quite possibly evidence of nothing more than selection bias on my part, but as far as further evidence goes I’d like to ask who was the most talented singer in Eternal, and was it the one who got a solo career out of it?

  5. 5
    swanstep on 4 Oct 2011 #

    This one’s new to me…. at first listen, just OK, sub-Seal, but then the good stuff: ‘seeeense of adventure wo-woah’ and the organ breaks in (an Apollo 100 ‘Joy’ reference perhaps?) while the vocals blast off into triple-tracking or whatever it is. Neat. Not sub-Seal but Seal-worthy. A solid 6 at least.

    Interesting to pair this song with Bragg’s ‘Space Race is Over’ from 1996: similar ideas surely, but Bragg’s direct and v. sentimental.

  6. 6
    swanstep on 4 Oct 2011 #

    Subsidiary thought: mopey ’90s thought about relatively limited opportunity for manned space flight (say, definitely compared to the movie 2001) seems a little small-minded in retrospect. The ’90s saw the launch of the Hubble and several other important space-telescopes – the beginnings of the current golden age in astronomy (that also drove a lot of new physics after the cancellation of the SSC and before the LHC’s recent opening).

  7. 7
    punctum on 4 Oct 2011 #

    I have an extremely soft spot for the number ones of this period, for reasons that need not concern you, and “Sleeping Satellite” epitomises that welcoming autumn breeze (rather than chill). Some called the young black singer/songwriter from Bradford the new Tanita Tikaram, even though much of her debut album Great Expectations, including “Sleeping Satellite,” was written as far back as 1988. In fact she sounds like a female, softer Seal, radiating the same anxious curiosity of concern in her voice.

    Is “Sleeping Satellite” arguing in favour of or against progress? With its accusatory hook of “I blame you for the moonlit sky/And the dream that died/With the eagle’s flight” there are reminders of my mother and grandmother, both of whom blamed the Apollo flights as precipitatory factors in the subsequent radical changes in the Earth’s weather, the systematic depletion of the ozone layer, and so forth. But she continues: “I blame you for the moonlit nights/When I wonder why/Are the seas still dry?/Don’t blame the sleeping satellite.” In other words, don’t blame the moon for existing, but did we seal our eventual doom by wanting to touch it (“And still we try/To justify the waste/For a taste of man’s greatest adventure”)? Or was it a luxury at the expense of more pressing needs at home (cf. Gil Scott-Heron’s “Whitey’s On The Moon”) – “If the Earth’s sacrificed/For the price of its greatest treasure”?

    The performance balances its various strands of anguish; Archer’s plaintive voice breaking on the first “flight,” her hoarseness straining on “greatest adventure,” her underlying sweetness (especially on the wordless “wo-ho-ooh-wo-oo-ho”s between verses and at fadeout) bringing an older and sadly wiser Kim Wilde to mind – the sudden blossoming of backwards, dreaming harmonies in the middle eight sound like Dollar, but then the lid is roughly closed by two sets of four harsh guitar/piano strums.

    And still Archer believes it might just be worth the price. “And when we shoot for the stars/What a giant step!/Have we got what it takes/To carry the weight of this concept?” The song dissolves between its gorgeous 1967-meets-1982 chords and its shards of organ and lead guitar. “Or pass it by/Like a shot in the dark?/Miss the mark with a sense of adventure?” “Sleeping Satellite” is a polite scream raised under a bluer moon, brilliantly produced by Julian Mendelssohn, which essentially asks its listeners to choose between past and future, expedience and long-term, adventure and safety – but somehow remembers to bear in mind that it shouldn’t really be an either/or situation.

  8. 8
    JLucas on 4 Oct 2011 #

    While Tasmin never did recapture the success of this single, her followup single ‘In Your Care’ did spend 3 weeks in the top 20, and must surely be one of the bravest sequels to a #1 hit of the 90s – being a very raw and plaintive song about child abuse. It was also the official children in need single that year, a far cry from the karaoke cover versions we get now.


    I really liked (and still like) her ‘Great Expectations’ album. She definitely deserved to get more of a career from this.

    Her final top 40 hit was an EP of Elvis Costello covers featuring lovely renditions of ‘Shipbuilding’ and ‘New Amsterdam’ in particular.

  9. 9
    Cumbrian on 4 Oct 2011 #

    A weird thing happened on my most recent holiday – well, not that weird but something I noted in any case. I was over in the US visiting my girlfriend’s parents and, in three separate public spaces, I heard Sleeping Satellite on the in-house music system. I hadn’t heard this song in years – my recollection is that Tasmin Archer disappeared pretty much immediately after this got to #1 (though I note from the replies above that she had some singles come out to diminishing returns afterwards) and I didn’t give her a second thought (until Smashing Pumpkins Tonight Tonight came out and the video, for some reason, reminded me of it but otherwise nothing – looking at it now, it looks a bit more Kate Bush/a bunnyable late 1993 video) until a couple of months ago.

    It seemed to suit the contexts in which I heard it – a restaurant and in a couple of shops – I find it musically inoffensive, even a bit muzaky, if I am to be a bit unkind. Certainly, it flows by and can be put on in the background whilst you’re doing something else. I imagine it was a big hit amongst the daytime radio listeners rather than anyone else – and I’ll wager that they didn’t think about the lyrics too much at all.

    It does have a strong chorus hook though and has been going around in my head for weeks after coming home – to the point where it’s starting to drive me to distraction. Otherwise though, I find it a bit meh. Not one for me, I am afraid.

  10. 10
    Triffid Farm on 4 Oct 2011 #

    I read the edge of an Easter Island warning into the lyrics – that its a waste to indulge yourself with the moon missions when the earth is screaming and sacrificed and so on. The power still comes from the singer’s anguish at man’s self-destructive romance, which she feels herself nonetheless.

    I suspect though that this giant topic wasn’t the reason that it got to number one so much as that its a pleasant and very listenable tune. I think of it as a retail soundtrack really – it was a frequent player in shops, especially clothes shops, for years.

  11. 11
    Tom on 4 Oct 2011 #

    Incidentally – and I know I’ve said this about 5 times already – this should mark the return of a regular schedule to Popular. I started my new job this week, with a 4-day week so I have a day set aside for writing. But believe it when you see it!

  12. 12
    lex on 4 Oct 2011 #

    I remember being very confused by the success of this song. I didn’t really grow up around the radio, but I remember seeing posters for this everywhere in South London, and noting them because of a) the strange title, b) the fact that I didn’t come across Tasmin Archer anywhere else – she wasn’t a subject of playground discussion, I can’t remember whether I was buying Smash Hits at the time but she wouldn’t have been in it, and I’d just started to really follow the charts in 1992 but obviously she’d never had a hit before. So she was a totally unknown factor to me and I remember following this single’s gradual progress up the charts to No 1 with vague astonishment. It wasn’t until it got to No 1 that I heard it, I can’t remember what I thought initially but I grew to really like it – I don’t think I quite got the meaning at the time but I loved the obvious cosmic scope of the thing.

    I agree with JLucas that “In Your Care” is, if anything, even better – it really was astonishingly raw and spare and furious; in contrast to “Sleeping Satellite”s flowery/dreamy lushness, I’ve rarely heard a singer on a top 20 hit spit out a chorus as angrily as Archer did on “In Your Care” – “sonofabitch, you broke my heart”. I remember feeling pretty uncomfortable when watching that on TOTP. Her third and fourth singles were quality as well, with “Lords Of The New Church” tapping into a growing unease about religion that I was starting to feel at the time, and “Arienne” just having the most gorgeous chorus.

    Anyway, I acquired the album (taped off a library CD, I think), later bought it on CD, still have it, gonna dig it out when I get back to London. And indeed I used to have her second album, Bloom, which I remember thinking was even better, though I’ve no idea where my copy is. This was the lead single, “One More Good Night With The Boys” – haven’t heard it in years but I can immediately remember how it goes.

  13. 13
    JLucas on 4 Oct 2011 #

    With singles about the environmental impact of the space race (Sleeping Satellite), Child molestation (In Your Care), Religious exploitation (Lords Of The New Church) and rape (One More Good Night With The Boys) Tasmin certainly had more about her than the likes of Beverley Craven and Dina Carroll who were joining her on daytime radio playlists around the time!

    My favourite track on the debut album was ‘When It Comes Down To It’ which was an absolutely gorgeous ballad about the relatively featherweight subject of her ambivalent relationship with her estranged mother (I think).


  14. 14
    lex on 4 Oct 2011 #

    I guess Tasmin Archer should really have been bracketed with the wave of cathartic, intelligent female singer-songwriters emerging around then, like Tori Amos and PJ Harvey – except being British and black (and having such early mainstream success rather than coming from an indie scene like Harvey) set her apart a bit too much, and it was still some years before Alanis Morissette took that aesthetic into the heart of the mainstream.

  15. 15
    JLucas on 4 Oct 2011 #

    Didn’t ‘Bloom’ miss the Top 200 album charts entirely, despite the Gold-selling success of Great Expectations?

    It’s a bit light on chart-friendly choruses compared to her first album, but that’s still a shocking comedown by any standards.

  16. 16
    MarkG on 4 Oct 2011 #

    Who can say? Maybe she had a taste of grand success and thought ‘you know what? Sod this for a game of soldiers…’

    Or, in effect, this song became more her autobigraphy in retrospect. Shot to the moon too soon? or decided the seas were dry enough.

  17. 17
    Wheedly on 4 Oct 2011 #

    Regarding Punctum’s comment about the backing vocals sounding like ‘an older and sadly wiser Kim Wilde’, it’s a neat little coincidence that she’s recently recorded the song for a covers album.

  18. 18
    JLucas on 4 Oct 2011 #

    I was quite excited for Kim’s take on Sleeping Satellite, but unfortunately it isn’t very good at all.

    Her current covers album is a bizarre old selection though. Everything from the fairly predictable (Diana Ross, Kirsty Maccoll) to the outright mind-boggling (Suede, East 17).

  19. 19
    thefatgit on 4 Oct 2011 #

    At the time, “Sleeping Satellite” never really grabbed me as anything more than a pleasant slice of MOR. The lyrics never struck me as anything more than a subtle whinge. A coffee-shop song, then. But after reading Tom’s take on it, there is some kind of meta-conversation going on here, which I’m sure nobody was having at the time, compared to say, now; with the withdrawal of the Space Shuttle program, the earthquake and tsunami off the east coast of Japan, the freaky weather, the Large Hadron Collider and how SCIENCE and SOCIETY don’t make the most easy-going or comfortable bedfellows. The calming platitudes of Brian Cox nearly 20 years after “U R The Best Thing”, seems to soothe us as he explains how the Universe will eventally cool and contract after every single star has consumed all their energy in a few billion years’ time. Don’t blame any sleeping satellite for that.
    Tasmin seemed to be at the opposite end of this meta-conversation. Don’t interfere, don’t lets get too nosey for our own good. Look at what’s happening here. Let’s solve the problems closest to home before we reach for the stars. In other words: walk don’t run.

  20. 20
    23 Daves on 4 Oct 2011 #

    I actually overheard this record a few months back for the first time in years being played in the background somewhere, and the sudden rush of nostalgia actually prompted me to go to iTunes to buy a copy. My first impressions were bemused, as I didn’t remember it sounding quite like this – the production has dated enormously, with the bottom-heavy nature of the track anchoring some of its desires to truly soar (although I’m quite happy to be told that that the mp3 version has been mixed in some inferior way). In my memory, it always sounded rawer and rougher and more spontaneous, perhaps because I ended up over-emphasising the elements of the track I liked most.

    For whatever flaws it has – and I’ll certainly also agree the lyrics clunk at moments – the record has an incredibly haunting quality for me, and I can’t add much to Tom’s spot-on assessment above. At a time of early nineties dance pop optimism, I seem to remember that it also stood out amongst the crowd, telling us that we weren’t approaching some golden New Age of enlightenment but were instead just existing in the enormous shadow of previous achievements. More importantly, I think this is a strong enough song and topically relevant enough that if you handed it to Adele or someone similar now, it would still have a lot of potency.

    A seven seems about right to me.

  21. 21
    lonepilgrim on 4 Oct 2011 #

    23 Daves captures a lot of my response to this song.
    I liked it a lot at the time and yet when I listened to it again recently it seemed less impressive – perhaps because the production sounds a bit too bland.

    I’ve never bothered trying to interpret the lyrics and I wouldn’t be that sympathetic to an anti space travel sentiment if indeed that’s what it’s about.

    As well as sharing similar titles it’s always reminded me of this:

  22. 22
    swanstep on 4 Oct 2011 #

    The organ part of SS has been reminding me of something: at first I thought it might be Telstar, but I now think it’s the organ part in the opening credits theme of the UFO TV series from the ’70s that I’ve been thinking of (just thought I’d share that in case anyone else is driven crazy with deja entendu!).

  23. 23
    swanstep on 4 Oct 2011 #

    @lonepilgrim, 21. SS has a somewhat similar vibe to The Beloved’s Sweet Harmony from around the same time. When I explored that today on youtube I was led to a later song by them (which was new to me): Satellite from 1996. Since Dave Matthews Band also had a big Satellite song in 1996/1997 I guess there was a bit of glut on this topic throughout the ’90s, I just hadn’t noticed!

  24. 24
    Alex on 4 Oct 2011 #

    Weirdly, heavy J.G. Ballard influence in the lyrics.

  25. 25
    MikeMCSG on 4 Oct 2011 #

    This has always seemed a bit of a watershed number one to me, one of the few number ones of the nineties to get there purely on the strength of the song ( no fanbase, no club exposure, no film/TV/advert tie-ins ) and probably the last time I thought the number one was the best record in the charts.

    The Seal comparisons are very apt; I recall being grateful to both of them that, having no interest in soul, (most) reggae or rap music, I could cite them to escape the R-word.

    I think the “Shipbuilding EP” was a big mistake. Her admiration for Costello was obviously sincere ( she later worked with The Attractions ) but it was too early in her career when she needed new product out. “Bloom” just got lost in the Britpop blast ( see also World Party’s “Egyptology” ).

    #12 “Arienne” did have a great chrorus lex but it was a pretty blatant lift from Dean Friedman’s “Ariel” ( sadly missing any line to compare with – I said “Hi” She said “Yeah I guess I am !” ) Anyhow it’s nice we’re in general agreement on this one.

  26. 26
    lex on 4 Oct 2011 #

    “Ballardian” is #1 most overused descriptor/cross-comparison with literature in all of music crit but I’m pro its use re: Tasmin!

  27. 27
    LondonLee on 4 Oct 2011 #

    This still sounds very new doesn’t it, apart from the rather squeaky keyboard at the end it could have come out last week. That’s either a good thing (it’s timeless) or bad (it’s bland), I can’t quite decide. Luverly tune though, not a million miles from ‘Crazy’

    Was Tasmin’s “space” in the market filled by Des’ree?

  28. 28
    hardtogethits on 4 Oct 2011 #

    #25 MikeMCSG a fine point in the opening paragraph – you beat me to making this observation. Truth is, I didn’t know where to start – there are so many different topics I want to hear views about with respect to this record.

    The “no fanbase, no club exposure, no film/TV/advert tie-ins” is a very succinct description. There are others that later made it, but for me the “get there purely on the strength of the song” argument is (somewhat incidentally) typified by its chart run – after this, there were only 2 more records in the pre-download era that started a climb outside the 40 and made it to number one a matter of weeks later.

    I am sure I would / will have more to write about here than with any other #1. (inc but not limited to: Its lyrical content, the purpose of pop, prejudice in pop, anti-provincialism). I’ll be back later, downthread, for better or worse.

  29. 29
    AndyPandy on 4 Oct 2011 #

    I’ve also particularly disliked this track – the kind of record old style Radio 1 dj’s (Simon Bates,Bruno Brookes, Dave Lee Travis etc) would enthuse about implying it was “real quality music” “not like that modern electronic crap”. I suppose they only had a year or so left at this stage.
    Also found the tune predictable and calculated and the subject matter like she’s sat down and thought “now what (obscure) topic can I write a song about as real songwriters don’t just write about love and dancing do they?”.
    Hate it. One of my rare 1’s the first excluding ‘The Stonk’ since ‘I Don’t like Mondays’ I think.

  30. 30
    Billy Smart on 4 Oct 2011 #

    This might be a retrospective hallucination on my part, but wasn’t a speeded-up ‘Sleeping Satellite’ chorus used in a happy hardcore choon soon afterwards?

  31. 31
    Billy Smart on 4 Oct 2011 #

    TOTPWatch: Tasmin Archer performed ‘Sleeping Satellite’ on Top of the Pops on four occasions. Details of the Christmas edition shall be provided anon;

    24 September 1992. Also in the studio that week were; Messiah, Sade, Boy George, Suede and Mike Oldfield, plus a live performance by satellite from Boyz II Men in New Orleans. Mark Franklin was the host.

    8 October 1992. Also in the studio that week were; M People, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Dina Carroll and Take That, plus a live performance by satellite from Billy Ray Cyrus in Nashville. Tony Dortie was the host.

    15 October 1992. Also in the studio that week were; Sunscreem, Bizzare Inc featuring Angie Brown, Doctor Spin and Boyz II Men, plus a live performance by satellite from Bon Jovi in New York. Mark Franklin was the host.

  32. 32
    Billy Smart on 4 Oct 2011 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Just a handful of UK TV appearances for Tasmin;

    THE BRITS: with Richard O’Brien, Shakespears Sister, Right Said Fred, Annie Lennox, Tasmin Archer, Genesis, The Cure, Erasure, Simply Red (1993)

    LATER WITH JOOLS HOLLAND: with Was Not Was, Smokey Robinson, Tasmin Archer, Baaba Maal & Ooumou Sangare (1992)

    LATER WITH JOOLS HOLLAND: with The Cure, Tasmin Archer, Willie Nelson (1996)

    THE O ZONE: with Pet Shop Boys, Lisa Stansfield, Tasmin Archer (1993)

    THE O ZONE: with Tasmin Archer, The Stereo MCs (1993)

    THE WORD: with Paula Yates, Henry Rollins, Living Colour, Huggy Bear, Tasmin Archer (1993)

  33. 33
    JLucas on 4 Oct 2011 #

    #27 Aside from them both being black British females who had hits in the 90s, I fail to see how Tasmin is in any way similar to Des’ree.

    Although for many reasons I really wish ‘Life’ had been a #1 single.

  34. 34
    Izzy on 4 Oct 2011 #

    For some reason I forced myself to love this at the time and take a very public position that this was exactly the type of proper music that should be topping the charts. But really it was always kind of boring.

  35. 35
    hardtogethits on 4 Oct 2011 #

    #29, You’re probably right about Radio 1’s attitude and what the old guard made of it, but truly Radio 1 gave far, far more airplay to (say) Ebeneezer Goode* before it charted than it did to Sleeping Satellite.

    When Radio 1 finally A-listed Sleeping Satellite (and boy did it support it then) it was already a big hit.

    * I cite this example as I think maybe (in just the way you say) the old guard of Radio 1 DJs may not have approved – but Radio 1 was a pop station and would give early airplay to anything for which it could foresee demand – at this time it was also the first to show support for new material by Deacon Blue, Bruce Springsteen, Bizarre Inc, Bon Jovi, 2 Unlimited, Nirvana – and so on.

  36. 36
    anto on 4 Oct 2011 #

    re 19: I know what you mean by coffee shop song. I wouldn’t say this was clearly a 90s song nor would I say it was harking back to an earlier pop era. If it reminds me of anything it’s the songwriter-of-the-week type music you hear piped into Cafe Nerros.
    I wouldn’t think of it as worthy of veneration or derision. It’s almost a definition of just ok. Also it was the only number 1 of 1992 that didn’t outstay it’s welcome. She has a pleasant voice nad the tune is unmistakably catchy. I’ve never given much consideration to what she was singing about.
    Where on Earth is she now????

  37. 37
    nixon on 4 Oct 2011 #

    Was hoping someone would have answered that question by this point too! Almost the default first question in any piece that begins by talking about a one hit wonder.

    (btw the Glory Days quote is slightly wrong, /pulpnerd)

  38. 38
    thefatgit on 4 Oct 2011 #

    I hope I’m not being harsh by saying she looks like Heather Small’s nerdy little sister in the video. When I say “nerdy”, I really mean introverted. And when I say “introverted”, I really mean studious. And she certainly doesn’t sound like Heather Small, but then it’s only an obsevation.

    She won a Best British Newcomer award at the Brits. When did this start becoming a burden? So many newcomers/breakthroughs have fallen by the wayside haven’t they?

  39. 39
    hilker on 4 Oct 2011 #

    Sampled in “Rush Hour (Last Minute Mix)” by Wishdokta.

  40. 40
    LondonLee on 5 Oct 2011 #

    #33 Really? I thought they were both out the same stylistic cupboard. I just went and listened to ‘You Gotta Be’ to make sure my memory wasn’t deceiving me, but no. The same lightly soulful singer-songwritery sound with gentle grooves.

    Or is it just me?

  41. 41
    MBI on 5 Oct 2011 #

    The connection between Des’ree and Tasmin Archer seems pretty obvious to me — I’d never heard of Ms. Archer before but Des’ree is the first person I thought of when I heard this song.

  42. 42
    will on 5 Oct 2011 #

    Yes, I recall this was enthused over greatly by the old guard of R1 DJs. And like them her career was pretty much wiped out by Britpop a couple of years later.

    I still think is quality though (as is In Your Care). As others have mentioned there’s a mystery and ambiguity to it that Des’Ree’s run of pretty rum singles never possessed. A brilliantly autumnal Number One too.

  43. 43
    lex on 5 Oct 2011 #

    Sonically Archer and Des’ree are within the same very large ballpark but aesthetically, in terms of their songwriting, subject matter etc, they really aren’t similar at all. I quite liked Des’ree too though.

  44. 44
    JLucas on 5 Oct 2011 #

    Yeah I would say Des’ree is a much less ambitious songwriter. I mean I know it’s an obvious comparison but compare stuff like this and In Your Care to

    Oh Life
    Oh Life
    Doo do do doo.

    That said, Des’ree is blessed with a lovely voice and ‘Feels So High’ deserved to be a much, much bigger hit.

    She was of course another example of the BRIT AWARDS curse, although she had at least had a decent run of hits before she vanished post-victory.

  45. 45
    Another Pete on 5 Oct 2011 #

    There was a Tasmin Archer badger on the original Channel 4 Harry Hill series which along with Bo’Selecta’s Craig David has distorted my mental image of both these acts. I did actually hear this song in a cafe not so long ago and had a mental image of puppet badger singing. I agree with Will above this is a great autumnal song. In regards to the Tasmin Archer and Des’ree comparison. I feel that Des’ree should of had the big hit in 1992 and Archer during the Britpop period when being a songwriter coming from the north was considered cool. Unfortunately for both careers it was the other way around.

  46. 46
    JLucas on 5 Oct 2011 #

    Actually it’s interesting that Tom notes that Archer’s vocal is what lifts this track above its complicated lyrical conceit. This is very true – but a similar thing happens with Des’ree. She’s a pretty terrible lyricist, but her gorgeously rich voice can even make flagrant nonsense like ‘What’s Your Sign’ sound quite lovely.

    As I pointed out above though, Archer is a much better songwriter, but not one who writes the kind of stuff you’d expect to hear in the upper reaches of the top forty. Hence the brevity of her chart career I guess.

  47. 47
    Unlogged Mog on 5 Oct 2011 #

    When I was a young Mog I thought this was one of the most moving things IN THE HISTORY OF EVER.

    (there is also potential for an unbearably cute plushie pyjama-Mir)

  48. 48
    Erithian on 5 Oct 2011 #

    Anto #36 – as I mentioned upthread, as of 2009 she was a home-and-away Sunderland supporter! – but she hasn’t released a new album since 2006 and her website hasn’t been updated since June last year. A pity, as I’m sure she still has a lot to offer.

  49. 49
    lex on 6 Oct 2011 #

    I’m listening to Archer’s third single now, “Lords Of The New Church”, and like “Sleeping Satellite” I’m struck by how weirdly topical and prescient it seems now. When I first heard it, being 9 or 10, I didn’t get much further than the religious metaphor, and it’s wrapped up in that enough that it could stand for any kind of cult-like behaviour, but it does seem to target financiers/bankers/the City/Wall Street etc: “here’s the man some believe is a visionary / here’s the man who is driven by greed / he made a fortune overnight / in a deal that he knew was too good to be true / as he bends the rules of play / becomes obsessed with the game / has to go all the way / they feast and they fly / while we pay the real price”. Credit crunch anthem two decades in advance! (er I guess there was a recession back then too)

  50. 50
    Davyboyb on 13 Oct 2011 #

    Like #22 I thought of Telstar (instrumentation rather than melody) when hearing the organ in this song, harking back to the optimism at the start of the space race.

    Liked this at the time and still do when I hear it now and then.

    “Have we peaked too soon?” In your case, Ms Archer – ‘fraid so.

  51. 51
    Wizi on 14 Oct 2011 #

    I suppose the thing is Jarvis Cocker, is that even if we went to live on the moon, then we would still have toilets to clean. The mundane is always there.

  52. 52
    hardtogethits on 14 Oct 2011 #

    #51 Indeed, the mundane is always there in Jarvis Cocker’s work. His ability to articulate poetically the beautiful detail in everyday life is what many people see as his main strength. It’s what the outside world expects and wants from artists from Yorkshire and the Humber; it’s what they do best, in the eyes of the outside world. Be they Hockney, Bennett, Waterhouse, Armitage, Palin, Courtenay or Heaton or Cocker.

    I’ve just finished reading Anthony Clavane’s superb “Promised Land” in which he likens the story of Leeds to the story of Billy Liar “a classic tale of an upwardly-mobile, inwardly-anxious Northern Man”. And indeed, the artistic successes in several forms of several hugely influential characters of the late 20th- and early 21st century are characterised by the look-over-your-shoulder, take-it-with-a-pinch-of-salt, will-they-like-me-in-Capital-City doubt. A paradox that says you won’t succeed if you don’t stay true to your roots, and you won’t last if you do.

    Naturally, most move south, and a disproportionately high number become involved in dissecting and deconstructing the art they (and others) created. It’s a way of coming to terms with the fact that the critics have demystified what was once considered brilliant, and finally told the artist in question they’re on to them. They’ve been found out.

    I’ll relate this to the case of Tasmin Archer later.

    I’m off to club to watch Donny-Leeds.

  53. 53
    wichita lineman on 17 Oct 2011 #

    The chorus is so close to Duran Duran’s View To A Kill that I could never take this at face value. Or is it just me?

  54. 54
    punctum on 17 Oct 2011 #

    Don’t hear it myself, but the TOTP performance has always reminded me obscurely of this.

  55. 55
    wichita lineman on 17 Oct 2011 #

    Blimey, that IS obscure!

    The lines that are almost indistinguishable to my ears are “and the dream that died with the eagle’s flight” (Tasmin) and “one fatal kiss is all we need” (Duran).

    But I think it is just me…

    Tasmin appeared around the same time as Tevin Campbell, a mini-trend in pop star Christian names that didn’t extend to a Termaine, Tamantha, or Ttewart.

  56. 56
    Ed on 3 Nov 2011 #

    ‘Retromania’ has a pretty good riff on this one, making the Archer-Ballard connection (although not even Simon Reynolds knows the name of the rave track that sampled it.)

    There is a whiff of condescension there – he describes Archer as “endearingly earnest” – but he was obviously at least a little impressed: he named his daughter after her.

    (Or at least, she has the same name. But in my book that counts as an homage, conscious or not.)

  57. 57
    hardtogethits on 4 Nov 2011 #

    Goodness me! “Endearingly earnest” Really?

    I can’t pretend to be familiar with the work of JG Ballard, but Tasmin Archer here is very much the 20th Century John Donne.

    O ! more than moon,
    Draw not up seas to drown me in thy sphere ;
    Weep me not dead, in thine arms, but forbear
    To teach the sea, what it may do too soon ;
    Let not the wind
    Example find
    To do me more harm than it purposeth :
    Since thou and I sigh one another’s breath,
    Whoe’er sighs most is cruellest, and hastes the other’s death

    Tasmin Archer’s achievement matches the her glorious ambition, yet it would not be permissible to praise it to the skies. Darn right, Ed #56 that “there is a whiff of condescension”. “Endearingly earnest”? I realise I’m taking the two word phrase out of context (for better or worse) but in itself it exemplifies the attitudes I described at #52.

    “Nice try, but look, love, you’re from Bradford. You want critical acclaim? Come and tell us “It’s Grim Up North”. Come on down and wear the old flat cap.”

  58. 58
    hibbysam on 14 Feb 2012 #

    did no one else pick up on #4 saying Gabrielle “wasn’t a patch” on the other four singers mentioned?

  59. 59
    weej on 14 Feb 2012 #

    I did say ‘IMO’. Just don’t like Gabrielle’s voice. We’ll have plenty of opportunity to discuss it quite soon.

  60. 60
    Cumbrian on 14 Feb 2012 #

    Fairly certain (s)he is referring to the turn of phrase with reference to her sartorial habits, rather than the opinion you were expressing.

  61. 61
    weej on 15 Feb 2012 #

    Not sure if I wrote that consciously or subconsciously… I hope the former.

  62. 62
    weej on 15 Feb 2012 #
  63. 63
    Mark G on 15 Feb 2012 #

    I read #53, thought about it, and yes. Then I read #55, agreed.

  64. 64
    flahr on 9 Aug 2012 #

    Not sure why I passed this when Popular actually met it, but for some reason it popped into my head again recently and I’ve not been able to get enough of it since. Quite apart from the somewhat unique pro-terraforming message (“I wonder why/Are the seas still dry?”) there’s so much going on in this song, and even “Telstar”-invoking intro and organ solo aside it’s surely one of the best sounding vocals of the decade: the sibilance in “this sleeping satellite”, the odd way the rhyme scheme of the chorus is AABBAAB (sky/die(d)/flight/night/why/dry/satellite) but the assonance just carries it over into working; all the tricks of rhythm and internal rhyme played throughout the verses, the passion and enthusiasm of the “GREATest adventure!” et al. It simply sounds beautiful, entirely befitting the themes of self-destructive romance and the sadness that comes from knowing that even if we managed to land on it, this sleeping satellite is still going to be quietly sitting there for years after we’ve gone. Fine. [9]

  65. 65
    hardtogethits on 9 Aug 2012 #

    #64 – flahr, that’s beautiful. As I said at #57, I didn’t think anyone would DARE to praise this song as lavishly as it merits. I’m so glad you made time to post these comments, and so sorry you weren’t able to comment at the time the discussion was liveliest.

  66. 66
    Auntie Beryl on 10 Jan 2013 #

    Re the curse of the Best Newcomer Brit, I think we can sort subsequent careers into three categories, working back from 2008 to give perspective:

    Longlasting success: Arctic Monkeys (if you squint a bit), Keane (ditto), Will Young, Belle & Sebastian, Stereophonics, Oasis, Wet Wet Wet, Human League

    Made it to album two as a force but then faded: Busted, Blue, S Club 7, Supergrass, Gabrielle, Lisa Stansfield, Bros, Housemartins, Go West, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Paul Young, Yazoo

    One album wonders: Duffy, Mika, Fratellis, a1 (good grief), Kula Shaker, Tasmin Archer,Beverley Craven, Betty Boo, Julie Covington

    Sure you could quibble with where some of those sit. The last group is grisly reading, though, isn’t it?

  67. 67
    hardtogethits on 13 Jan 2013 #

    #66. I think I know what you’re getting at, and the quibbling over where acts sit may be the most useful part of the exercise as I think it’d be interesting to define some groupings which could illuminate the picture we call “the Curse of the Newcomer Brit”. As it is, the categories are 1, 2 and >2, which self-evidently is all encompassing for any dataset where n must be at least 1. I’m trying to help, here, (honest!) as I think this could build into something interesting.

  68. 68
    speedwell54 on 13 Jan 2013 #

    Re 66 and 65 “curse of the Best Newcomer Brit” I wish I had more time to study this in detail and it does warrant debate. For now, from me -doesn’t everyone pretty much fit into one of those three categories? I guess the “newcomer” part is asking for some thought as to the future, unlike all the other awards, which look back over the previous year or more. It’s because of that, it is ripe for review and then criticism.

    On a quick look back you can pick stuff out like A1 beating Coldplay, but when Kula Shaker won it, it was pretty open (you could put a decent argument for “Ash” but only in hindsight) Most years change the winner for a nominee and I am not sure there’s a difference.

    I do not think there is a curse, but like Joan Armatrading, I’m open to persuasion .

    A large part of me thinks over the years the Brits have been all over the place, with so many changes to their outputs, most of which are in their control. Things change, I get this, and times have to move on and all that but;

    BPI awards, the Brit Awards, The BRITs
    1977 then not ’til 1982 onwards
    Outstanding Contribution every single year then 2011, nothing, but back again in 2012, off this year!
    No magazine, free magazine, no magazine but a programme.
    Not broadcast ,broadcast.
    BBC then ITV
    Live , not live.
    No radio, then radio.
    We’ll overrun, we can’t overrun!
    We’ll go with a DJ presenting, I mean a comedian, I mean a novice, I mean an Artist, no a comedian etc.

    In a separate category all to itself;
    The CDs from 1989 are ridiculous if you are trying to get somebody to get behind a collection.
    Let’s start with the title/spin title

    The Awards 1989
    The Awards 1990
    The Brits 1991 -the magic of British Music
    The Awards 1992
    The Awards 1993
    BRIT Awards 1994
    The Awards 1995
    the ’96 BRIT Awards
    the ’97 BRIT Awards
    the 1998 BRIT Awards The Album Of The Year
    the 1999 BRIT Awards- Album of The Year
    the 2000 Brit Awards -The Album of the Year
    37 BRITS 2001 HITS -Album of the Year
    38 BRIT AWARDS 2002 – Album of the year
    BRITs25Album. the music event of 2005
    BRIT AWARDS 2010
    BRIT AWARDS 2011
    BRIT AWARDS 2012

    record label goes from Telstar, Polygram,Columbia,BMG,Universal,Sony Music, Rhino
    Fat box until 1995 -fair enough, but then back to fat box in 2005 for one year. Card box from 2009
    Videos then Dvds separate then dvd with cd in 2005,2006, then gone
    2010 onwards triple cd.

    You don’t catch NOW TWICM messing about like that. Branding is really important and it’s all about the detail.

    I think the idea/concept of the BRITs is great and we should certainly celebrate success. We are good at music and we should award,reward,celebrate and show off about it. How we do that isn’t perfect.

    They have stuck to February, so I’ll give them that.

  69. 69
    hardtogethits on 13 Jan 2013 #

    #68, that’s a fantastic, thorough post that must’ve taken some documenting. Some hilarious observations about fairly astounding changes in policy. I think you’re on to something in hinting that the existence of the curse could be explained (away) by looking at the motivation behind the award, and that this will have been as changeable as other aspects of the Brits. Most simply of all, is it for potential (ie Most Promising) or having done such a lot so early? It’s been both, hasn’t it?

    Also, it’s worth mentioning that the gap in Brits between 1977 and 1981 was because “the industry” was quite happy with the British Rock and Pop Awards (aka National Rock and Pop Awards) – an annual event, voted for by the public, which was televised at the time, and promoted through the Daily Mirror, Radio 1 and BBC’s Nationwide, but which last time I tried (ie not just now) was difficult to research by mere googling. I think both BRAPA and the Brits took place in 1982, maybe 83 and 84 – not sure. By 1985 Brits were the only game in town.

  70. 70
    wichita lineman on 13 Jan 2013 #

    Re 68: “I think the idea/concept of the BRITs is great and we should certainly celebrate success”.

    I couldn’t agree less I’m afraid. To me it’s no different the CBI giving out annual BIZZ awards. I think pop, British or American, needs the industry and the artists to rub up against each other with mutual mistrust and disrespect. Without this friction, you might have had Annie Lennox in tears on telly every week instead of every year, or Nick Cave/Swans/Arcade Fire/uncommercial artistes on the radio all day long.

    Still Speedwell, that’s a smashing piece of research which shows just how much of a disorganised mess the music industry already was before changes in technology sent it over the edge.

  71. 71
    thefatgit on 13 Jan 2013 #

    Just remembered Auntie Beryl @66 was answering my question @38. The subsequent discussion is fascinating. Looking back over the other acts that were awarded Best Newcomer, how many of these were fan votes and how many were panel votes? It seems to me fandoms have a vested interest in voting up the likes of A1 and Bros, but I suspect a panel voted for Kula Shaker and possibly Tasmin. I’m supposing a lot of course, but it might help to split that list out a little further.

  72. 72
    Auntie Beryl on 14 Jan 2013 #

    The long list for each category offered up for the panel to choose from is typically twenty five acts – afraid I have no idea how this list is arrived at, but this year’s best album options included the likes of Orbital and Saint Etienne, so not just current major label priority acts.

  73. 73
    speedwell54 on 14 Jan 2013 #

    Re 68 hardtogethits

    Thanks for the info on the British Rock and Pop Awards; forgotten all about that; I’ll let them off that one then. I wish I knew if any guidance was ever given to the Academy voters about this particular award, or if it was self evident in the preamble when they were presented. I agree there is a “potential” element, which may be different from “who’s had the best start then” aspect but I don’t know how this difference is put across. Also I think there is some intention to give a little boost to an act who can then go past “two albums as a force”.

    Re 71 thefatgit, I don’t know about every year but recently the Academy provides a short list and then Radio 1 listeners vote from that, hence JLS in 2012.

    Re 70 witchita
    What are we good at in Britain? Football and music. (not an exhaustive list I know) We get football on television a lot. I don’t wish to start a debate on this music site, but some people go along with the view we have the best league in the world.(let’s not get sidetracked with foreign players) If they don’t agree, they at least know it exists as an argument and it is something worth debate. I believe we need to get that concept across to the general public about music in Great Britain.

    We are good at music, it should be a good news event. There’s enough bad news on the News and programmes like Jeremy Kyle, Crimewatch, Watchdog, Rogue Traders,Tonight with Trevor MacDonald etc etc and a big chunk of the printed media, (not the grundian) can give an unbalanced and distorted view. I know you want to come back with personal responsibility, but if that’s all you see every day when you look out of the window, well, that’s what you see. I get that it is a somewhat self congratulatory event but I think some of them have probably earned it. It does say something to me about my life.

    If you type any single letter into You Tube it is nearly always music that comes up, often British, not football, not anything else. We as a country are fighting well above our weight. This is just one simple measure, but it is global, and it is huge, and it is about the future.

    This is just me as a fan, and I know you have insider knowledge so fair play to you.

    Finally I ought to declare I was a former Academy member in 1996 (Jarvis vs Jackson)

  74. 74
    hardtogethits on 18 Jan 2013 #

    I hope these links work.

    The year given is the year IN which the awards were given – obv they rewarded the endeavours of the previous year:

    Here’s Clive James writing about the 1979 event . http://www.clivejames.com/thatsright

    But look at the embedded links on this! Cor!


    And here’s the Peel / DLT / Lawley / Peebles Dream Team at work in 1980

    1981: Fascinating relic, ruined by DLT. The response? The cool guy ignores him.


    1983 Will Thereza announce the results before the youtube clip runs out?


    1983 These little snippets Radio 1 ran were more entertaining than the awards ceremonies https://audioboo.fm/boos/1064352-british-rock-and-pop-awards-1982

    1984 Still going http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZDjM8gwcOs

    1985 Gone

  75. 75
    speedwell54 on 24 Feb 2013 #

    Re Me at 68, hardtogethits and wichita.

    The Brits were not great this year and more self serving than ever before. Ben Howard or Ben Who?ward is not the Best British Solo Artist; I don’t mind him getting break through act, but what does Calvin Harris have to do?; massive album and singles AND has success in America. Ben had a modest album and barely a hit single at all, anywhere. Nothing against Ben mind.

    Anyway, I won’t go on, and believe you me I could.

    I still like the idea of the Brits even if the execution is poor; one way or another there’s always next year.

  76. 76
    Steve Mannion on 24 Feb 2013 #

    #75 “but what does Calvin Harris have to do?”

    He’d probably have to sing a bit more often as the Best Bloody Bloke gong has always been reserved for those primarily known for their vocals. I know Fatboy Slim and Aphex Twin were nominated long ago (losing out to Robbie each time in a way that only highlights the pointlessness of the process when certain industry favourites are at large – I think one year Robbie actually won based on the same album he’d won the previous year’s award on the basis of?). Mark Ronson did somehow buck this trend a few years ago though. Ideally Aphex would’ve won twenty years ago heh.

    That said this’s year’s nominations seemed odder and more lacking than usual (no Robbie at least). It’s like a complete reversal of the days when Best Female was considered by many to be a weak area. The UK sorely lacks credible+exciting solo male singers (don’t think Dizzee’s been as interested in credibility since the taint of Calvin enabled him to have far bigger hits than he had up to that point – same goes for all the ex-Grime kids…good MCs tho they may remain) and every time Bowie resurfaces it’s a painful reminder. But perhaps those really are barriers to success here. Adele is neither, but nobody seems interested in a male equivalent of Adele or even trying to create a new Robbie (who could at least often charm his way out of his paper bag productions) at this point. Feels like it’s never been harder to take risks (a complaint the Brits always provoke tho).

    Well enough ranting now I must off and hear the new Jamie Lidell…

  77. 77
    Auntie Beryl on 25 Feb 2013 #

    If you want a sanitised, still charming yet less risky new Robbie, we’re talking about the troublemaking, heart-skipping bunnied Essex XF scion aren’t we?

    Pop fact: the only performer whose album sales declined last week despite performing at the Brits was… Robbie Williams. He’s now at the stage where his public appearances are actively putting people off a potential purchase.

  78. 78
    punctum on 25 Feb 2013 #

    So much so that his album climbed from 51 to 42 this week, and “Candy” from 51 to 39.

    we’re talking about the troublemaking, heart-skipping bunnied Essex XF scion aren’t we?

    Please don’t do the “we” thing or presume “we” know whom or what you’re talking about, because I don’t.

    What do “sanitised” and “risky” mean in music discourse? Not the Jim Jones Revue?

  79. 79
    Auntie Beryl on 25 Feb 2013 #

    I made no reference to chart positions, or singles sales.

    To be clear, I was referring to the numbers of CD copies Robbie Williams sold of his latest album in (i) the week before the Brits – just over 2250 compared to (ii) the week of the Brits itself – slightly north of 1600. That’s all.

    Other albums saw greater sales declines as the effects of the Valentine gifting market were absorbed into the week-on-week totals. But the sales figures stand.

    Elsewhere, I’m sorry to read that I came across as glib, or presumptuous in my post at #77. I apologise, and cheerfully withdraw it. Looking back, I tied myself in knots trying to avoid a spoiler, and I can see I was imprecise.

  80. 80
    Erithian on 27 Feb 2013 #

    If you don’t know who Auntie B is talking about at #77, it’s pretty clearly Olly Murs. I don’t think “spoiler bunny” principles preclude our naming him, Beryl!

  81. 81
    Kinitawowi on 1 Dec 2013 #

    #53: The dance posse Aurora, who teamed up with Naimee Coleman to perform a surprisingly acceptable cover of Duran Duran’s Ordinary World in 2000, brought her back to take on Sleeping Satellite a few years later. Somewhat less acceptable, sadly.

  82. 82
    hectorthebat on 4 Apr 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Woxy.com (USA) – Modern Rock 500 Songs of All Time (combined rank 1989-2009) 1192
    Theater van het Sentiment, Radio 2 (NL) – Top 40 Songs by Year 1969-2000 (2013) 7
    Porcys (Poland) – The Best Songs of the 1990s (2013) 59

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