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Nov 11

2 UNLIMITED – “No Limit”

Popular108 comments • 6,670 views

#685, 13th February 1993

Delicious pop memory: Tony Parsons casting this song as an outrider of apocalypse on some late night culture or news show. He read out the lyrics slowly, in a tone of profound regret – how far had we fallen when this.. this thing could stand in for pop?

At University by now, I was watching with friends, sprawled in chairs round a communal TV. Whatever our opinion of the song, there was a general feeling that Parsons was being a chump: if you draw a line between then and now, you’d better be pretty sure you really know what the “now” side means. And he didn’t. Yes, as Spitting Image said, “There’s no lyrics!” – clever wording there, good one, but who exactly was coming to this looking for those?

Of course it wasn’t just the newly-old who detested this. Ray Slijngaard’s “techno techno techno techno” – cut and looped from a longer rap – set him up as the chart’s most effective troll, infuriating a lot of people who’d set value on their ability to parse dance music’s genrescape. Anything “No Limit” did or didn’t owe to techno had been pounded into irrelevance by the time it reached the public. What’s left – and this is what Parsons should have spotted more easily – is riff-driven, lizard-brain jump-around pop, closer in goonish spirit to “Sugar Sugar” or “Rock’n’Roll Part 2” or “My Sharona” than anything Derrick May ever touched.

Though like the best trolls, Ray’s got enough material here to argue the point with: those echoey hi-hat hits and the union of steam-hammer bass and rubber-ball synths carry the industrial, piston-powered aggression of Belgian rave. There’s even a cowbell somewhere at the back. But it’s the aggression of Gladiators on Saturday Night TV, of piledriver jumps off bouncy castle walls – a thin cover for boundless, romping joy.

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Comments

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  1. 76
    Alan Connor on 29 Nov 2011 #

    I have, I think, three main associations:

    1) ‘Wayne Kerr’ on Radio 1 cowing the band into singing “Douglas” after “reach for the sky” to make the song a tribute to Douglas Bader (this must have been in 1994 by my reckoning – time moved more slowly then perhaps);

    2) my band playing it on guitar even though our ‘sound’ was 99% Erasure-inspired keyboards ‘n’ synth drums

    3) Bobby Bluebell singing “techno techno (&c)” as one of the LIVE acts on TOTP, presumably with derision in mind – but possibly fun?!

  2. 77
    Ben Cook on 30 Nov 2011 #

    I think what set 2 Unlimited apart from other boy/girl eurodance duos of the time was that they had charisma and stage presence. They actually performed on the records too. They even wrote the lyrics (even if a lot of them were cut out for the UK..)

    The Real Thing was bloody brilliant.

    Like it or lump it No Limit is an era defining record and a true 90s classic.

  3. 78
    AndyPandy on 30 Nov 2011 #

    Re Rory @63:
    Yes ’19′ may have dated slightly in nearly 27 years many records in the vanguard of any movement do. But as the first hiphop (as opposed to rap)number 1 and the first record to get there using ways that post 1988 were to become common – ie white labels to clubs and pirate radio to build a buzz for weeks before release, little if any reliance on Radio 1 (as an aside I was wondering if it was the first number 1 to get there purely on dance club or pirate play – possibly ‘Double Barrel’ beats it here though)surely its boundary breaking merits and its success almost completely emanating from “the street” are underpresented in its score.

    on a different point did ‘No Limit’ really wind-up purists. Surely only the most humourless techno trainspotters (ie ones who went to clubs to watch the dj rather than dance if they went at all) let this annoy them. It was so not a part of the average dance scene persons world (not played in the clubs/on specialist radio – I don’t even remember if Kiss FM played it)that it wasn’t taken seriously enough to wind people up.

    An example of a record I can remember winding more people up were a record I can’t talk about (by a sell-out rave act “about arson”) that although again not played in clubs on pirate radio was written about in dance magazines (by writers who obviously would have beenn happier writing about rock music) and which was seen as a total sell out by the producer who’d been responsible for so many rave classics.

  4. 79
    wichita lineman on 30 Nov 2011 #

    “We do what we want and we do it with pride” I always found quite a sweet statement of intent, possibly anticipating the Parsons/purist/”it’s all kids’ music” knocks No Limit would get.

    Ray & Anita were pop stars in a way that Capella et al weren’t. Ray’s blanket seriousness was endearingly daft, especially given lines like “Faces faces everywhere!”. Anita looked fierce. I was a fan.

    Hook upon hook, this is a 9 for me.

  5. 80
    Conrad on 1 Dec 2011 #

    Mmm, there’s something slightly too enthusiastic about some of these responses, that it almost borders on the patronising.

    It’s a great riff, a great production, the TECHNO TECHNO bit is pure pop bliss like Mel and Kim’s tay tay tay, but the conventional verse lyric/chord sequence is a cop-out and waters down the impact, and the riff quickly becomes wearing.

    It’s still a lot more enjoyable to listen to than the KLF, but it’s no I Feel Love

    6.

  6. 81
    punctum on 1 Dec 2011 #

    Oh God forbid that we should be “too enthusiastic” about something!

    This notion is one of the reasons why Britain will be in receipt of United Nations emergency food relief parcels before the decade’s out.

  7. 82
    wichita lineman on 2 Dec 2011 #

    Re 80: Baffling. Conventional? Really? And I don’t think it’s I Feel Love, either. But neither is I Feel Fine. Or even I Feel Like Buddy Holly.

  8. 83

    I feel like chicken tonight

  9. 84
    Matthew Marcus on 7 Dec 2011 #

    I hated, hated, hated this when I was 18, but now that I’m a creaky 37 year old it seems more than tolerable. I think it’s easy to like things with the benefit of hindsight: this is the way the world went, the way lyrics and people’s idea of fun went, and history was written by the victors.

  10. 85
    enitharmon on 13 Dec 2011 #

    Haven’t got a Popular review to hook this to so I’ll squat here.

    Today, Kinephile takes a walk on Edinburgh’s wild side.
    http://kinephile.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/trainspotting-danny-boyle-1996-bfi-10

  11. 86
    Erithian on 1 Jan 2012 #

    Just realised I’d not yet commented on this. I like Tommy Mack’s assessment at #64 – “my generation’s Wild Thing” – which is key to understanding its appeal. Big cartoon video, huge riff, lots of urgency and lots of fun, never gets boring despite the gripes over the “lyrics”. Not my kind of thing but I found it impossible to dislike, even if the song didn’t give me as much pleasure as watching Anita sing it!

    Time for the annual review of how far we’ve come in this project. Here’s where we’ve been at the end of each calendar year:

    2003 Great Balls Of Fire (#66, Jan 58 – 5 years 2 months, 66 entries in the year)
    2004 A World Without Love (#167, Apr 64 – 6 years 3 months, 101)
    2005 Eleanor Rigby/Yellow Submarine (#222, Aug 66 – 2 years 4 months, 55)
    2006 Get It On (#302, Jul 71 – 4 years 11 months, 80)
    2007 Lonely This Christmas (#362, Dec 74 – 3 years 5 months, 60)
    2008 This Ole House (#477, Mar 81 – 6 years 3 months, 115 (plus the Pistols!))
    2009 I Want To Wake Up With You (#575, Aug 86 – 5 years 5 months, 98)
    2010 World In Motion (#646, Jun 90 – 3 years 10 months, 71)
    2011 No Limit (#685, Feb 93 – 2 years 8 months, 39)

    It’s the first year that Tom hasn’t averaged better than an entry per week, which shows how much Real Life has slowed things down – and with 32 number one singles in 2011, we’re barely catching up! Good luck with picking the pace up this year, as this is still my and others’ go-to site and the greatest pleasure on the web. Happy New Year everyone.

  12. 87
    Linda on 5 Jan 2012 #

    Seriously, you need to keep up with this blog. I love it too much to allow you to not recognise how great it is. Please continue!

  13. 88
    Tom on 5 Jan 2012 #

    Hi Linda (and Erithian) – I am really sorry for the slackness re. Popular updates: real life has very much intervened. I will have far fewer professional music writing gigs in the coming year, which isn’t necessarily something to celebrate BUT the upside is that I will have more time for Popular.

  14. 89
    Erithian on 5 Jan 2012 #

    Certainly not celebrating that bit, mate – sounds a bit of a downer if you miss out professionally, which is Real Life after all. And I (and no doubt Linda) don’t want to browbeat you over “slackness”, even if we do slip in the occasional unsubtle hint about how much we miss your shaggy dog stories…

    Good to see you and others on the pub crawl too, although do you regret that Kim Jong Deal gag?

  15. 90
    Snif on 5 Jan 2012 #

    Erithian, I’m getting more feeble-minded in my old age….can you please remind me of what each figure in the parentheses represents?

  16. 91
    Tommy Mack on 5 Jan 2012 #

    Re: 86: thanks, Erithian! What I was getting at was that it combines cartoonish garishness with a certain kind of dumb raw power (things I think I like a lot more than Tom from the scores and critique he’s handed out over the years!). There’s another record coming up in a few Pop years (maybe as few as one or two?) that does a similar thing in an even more OMG! splurge of brilliant wrongness, a sort of Surfin’ Bird to No Limits’ Wild Thing, but I’ll avoid the bunny and save my comments for then!

  17. 92
    Tommy Mack on 5 Jan 2012 #

    that is to say, it’s not just lightweight cartoon fun, there’s a feral and primal grind to it under all the light anc coliour

  18. 93
    Erithian on 6 Jan 2012 #

    Tommy M – I see you’ve commented on the “With A Girl Like You” thread, so you’ll have seen Tom’s description of the Troggs as “Hulk form beat group” – brilliant! But please don’t bring “Surfin’ Bird” into this – Mrs Erithian is obsessed with Family Guy, and I’ve been subjected to that particular episode more times than is healthy. (Come to think of it, once is more times than is healthy…)

    Snif – sorry if it wasn’t clear. OK, looking at two lines from the summary:
    2006 Get It On (#302, Jul 71 – 4 years 11 months, 80)
    2007 Lonely This Christmas (#362, Dec 74 – 3 years 5 months, 60)
    – means that the last entry Tom wrote in 2007 was “Lonely This Christmas” (posted on Christmas Eve, cosmically). It was the 362nd UK number one single and of course reached number one in December 1974. Since the last entry of 2006 was “Get It On”, the 302nd number one from July 1971, that meant that Tom had posted 60 entries during 2007, covering 3 years 5 months’ worth of number ones.

  19. 94
    Tommy Mack on 6 Jan 2012 #

    Yeah, I liked ‘Hulk form beat group’, though I don’t think Tom particularly meant it as a compliment! On that note, Wild Thing is far more lumbering and hulkish than No Limit, so in that sense it’s not such a great comparison: maybe this is Surfin’ Bird – sorry!

  20. 95
    Tommy Mack on 6 Jan 2012 #

    There’s a word that sums up everything I’ve been trying to say and it’s thrill-power – which I remember Tom writing about years ago!

  21. 96
    Cumbrian on 17 Jan 2012 #

    Rosie @ 85:

    Wasn’t the Popular hook “Two Little Boys”?

    Good write up by the way.

  22. 97
    Mark G on 19 Jan 2012 #

    Want more popular!

  23. 98
    Auntie Beryl is logged out on 7 Jan 2013 #

    I would seem to be in the minority here, but I far prefer Mr Vain to this.

    Both share a jackhammer velocity (although CB’s Anything is faster still) but there’s a song, a story, at the heart of the Culture Beat single which gave it the edge for me. I was nineteen in 93, and very much attuned to rave / techno at the time, so this wasn’t a generational thing, I don’t think.

  24. 99
    Patrick Mexico on 7 Jun 2013 #

    We somehow get to talk about 2 Unlimited twice on TPL. That’s going to be amazing.

  25. 100
    Patrick Mexico on 21 Dec 2013 #

    Where does the central riff here originate from? Just listened to the Fall’s superb and uncharacteristically hyper-focused “Squid Lord”, which has an almost identical bassline; Mark E Smith once said No Limit was one of his favourite songs but SL dates back to a Peel Session on Halloween 1988. Though I’m sure if it had originated there, this would have already been brought up by now.

  26. 101
    thefatgit on 22 Dec 2013 #

    #100 Patrick, it always reminded me of the theme tune to kids factual television series “How?”, hosted by Fred Dinenage. But that’s just me.

  27. 102
    DanH on 1 Jun 2014 #

    Jock Jam Alert!!

    Yes, this along with the other two biggies by 2 Unlimited (“Get Ready For This” and “Twilight Zone”) are mainstays at local sporting events. However, I only hear “Twilight Zone” as played by our college band at these events. The leader has papers with song titles that they hold up to the band before they play….this one was labeled “Mortal Kombat theme” for some reason…???

    And now “Zombie Nation” seems to be fazing out them all

  28. 103
    flahr on 3 Feb 2015 #

    three-and-a-bit years later I am entirely baffled by my comment at #51 – I am pretty sure what I am implying is that there is a number one single which contains a (possibly fourfold) invocation of its own genre in its lyric, but I can’t think what it is. any ideas anyone?

  29. 104
    Billy Hicks on 4 Feb 2015 #

    103 – I was thinking of one from summer 2001, but that’s more the place it comes from rather than a specific genre.

    And I’ve just Googled it to found out after all that I’d misheard the bloody thing for fourteen years and they’re not referencing anything of the sort.

  30. 105
    flahr on 4 Feb 2015 #

    got it now – we’re talking mid-2010 here – however i am now equally baffled by comment #104! we will reach summer 2001 soon enough though so it can remain a mystery for now

  31. 106
    andsayyoutried on 20 Jan 2017 #

    real Real REAL longshot, but does anybody know why the Radio 1 chart rundown for the fourth week this was at Number One was so wrong?
    It’s strange really: all Top 40 records were actually correct – and the Top Ten was absolutely bang on – but loads of tracks were well out on their eventual official position. Including dear old Jesus Lizard and some chancers called Nirvana being shafted by one place with ‘Puss’/’Oh, The Guilt’.
    Were Radio1 given the Network Chart by mistake or something?

  32. 107
    Steve Williams on 22 Jan 2017 #

    #106 I remember reading about that in diary section of the 1993 Virgin Rock Yearbook – funny how a Virgin Radio publication would suggest a Radio 1 cock-up was one of the most significant pop moments of the year, eh? It was blamed on computer problems, I think.

    There were other occasions of the chart being incorrect – that 1976 chart which announced Manuel and the Music of the Mountains was number one was one of them, plus there was one in 1979 which put Dr Hook at number one a week early. There was also one I remember from early 1995 – like this 1993 example, it didn’t affect the very top, I think 9 and 10 being transposed was the biggest problem. I remember Mark Goodier devoted half an hour of his show on the Monday to announcing the revised chart, with all the jingles and countdowns and everything.

  33. 108
    andsayyoutried on 25 Jan 2017 #

    #107 Cheers! Ah Virgin……

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