Feb 13

WHIGFIELD – “Saturday Night”

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#710, 17th September 1994

209390716;encoding=jpg;size=300;fallback=defaultImage DEE DEE NANANA!

“Saturday Night” has two big things going for it. The main thing is that it’s one of those iconically simple pop hits, like a “Louie Louie” for the Thomas Cook set. How can you tell when something is iconically simple and not just, er, simple? I’d say when it never actually ends up irritating you. Obviously that’s entirely subjective and I expect to be swamped with annoyed Whigophobes in the comments, but for me this record has lucked onto something sweet and primal. Not, though, irresistible – I’ve generally been pleased to hear “Saturday Night” and am content that it has made the world a happier place in some small fashion, but I wouldn’t own it, or put it on for fun, or even learn the dance. If anything, I like this most for its influence – the enduring post-Whigfield school of plinky-plonk smilecore Eurodance which produced feelgood gems (Ang Lee’s “2 Times”, ATC’s “Around The World”) through the rest of the decade.

But actually “Saturday Night”‘s resistibility is its second fine quality. It is that rare holiday smash which doesn’t hustle its listener. Most of them – from Conga to Macarena – carry a strong tang of coercion amidst the Piz Buin and Pina Colada, a vampiric need to co-opt their audience into the Fun. Not so “Saturday Night”, which is charmingly unassuming, thanks mainly to Whigfield’s matter-of-fact performance. If you do stick around, your reward is a lovely bit of house piano heading for the fade. But this song is never pushy. It’s Saturday night. Whigfield is having a great time. Maybe you are too. You don’t have to be. It won’t spoil anything. Have fun if you like. It’s up to you.



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  1. 1
    Tom on 24 Feb 2013 #

    I am almost certain that this wasn’t the UK sleeve, by the way, but I can’t remember which of the many cleavagetastic shots of Ms Whigfield was.

  2. 2
    lonepilgrim on 24 Feb 2013 #

    there’s a generosity of spirit about this which makes it hard to resist – the singer invites us into her world and is happy to share – like an interior monologue from Abba’s Dancing Queen.

  3. 3
    Kat but logged out innit on 24 Feb 2013 #

    After a semi-crap first year at secondary school (like everyone else’s, I guess), my second year seemed packed full of new friends, better classes and stupid crushes on boys who couldn’t care less. Saturday Night went down a treat at the Lower School Disco (ages 11-14), in that it was the only song that the majority of kids danced to, because they could copy someone else in a socially acceptable way. I made a point of memorising the routine so that when the jump-jump-jump-CLAP bit rotated me 90° and put me on the front row, I’d still know what to do without having to steal a glance either side of me. DON’T LOOK WEAK.

  4. 4
    Steve Mannion on 25 Feb 2013 #

    I do like that duck sound (altho not so much Black Duck’s ‘Wiggle In Line’, a shoddy rip-off of this that charted lower down a few weeks later).

    The ‘Nite mix’ of ‘Saturday Night’ is a ravier affair – I turned on The Big Breakfast one morning to see Carl Cox in playing it in the show set’s back garden, and if it was good enough for him it’s at least a 5 and a half from me.

    PLUG: Local talent and comrade Bobby Whirlwind’s debut album includes a ‘Sunday Morning’ which serves as some sort of sequestered sequel to ‘Saturday Night’, at least opening with the same bassline in tribute. http://bobbywhirlwind.bandcamp.com

  5. 5
    swanstep on 25 Feb 2013 #

    Jesus, 7/10. I despair. This is a song fragment posing as a song. The track’s not finished; it’s barely even been begun.
    “a lovely bit of house piano heading for the fade”
    Really? I didn’t notice anything.

    SN is a 2 or 3 tops in my books, and not worth discussing. 4 weeks at #1 – unbelievable!

  6. 6
    Chelovek na lune on 25 Feb 2013 #

    I remember dancing to this at the “megabop” in St Andrews as an undergraduate.

    I’m afraid I will have a big stone labelled “Whigophobe” tied around my neck, and I will then be cast into the sea and left to drown, if I say very much more about this song, however. Although in fact a reacquaintance with the track did make it appear less objectionable than I had categorised it as being in my memory.

    The record it reminded me at the time of – maybe in quality (palpable musical thinness, and in being mildly irritating, the mildness of which was probably actually more annoying than if it had been a full-on gimmicky track) was Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman (La Da Dee)”.

    I am prepared to grant that “Saturday Night” has a certain innocent, good-natured cheery charm about it. But still, in general I’d gladly not hear it again, and there are countless other tracks I’d rate over it for “retro sentimental dancing purposes”.

    I might give it 5 if I were being generous. Very generous indeed.

  7. 7
    voicesby on 25 Feb 2013 #

    Brings back immediately some very strange memories of nightly entertainments at Haven holiday camp, dancing to this & various other Eurodance numbers with (I think) large furry animal mascots. (Was 6 or 7, not sure.) Anyway, listening to it again the last 45 seconds or so are really lovely.

  8. 8
    23 Daves on 25 Feb 2013 #

    I think I initially regarded this song favourably purely and simply because it knocked The Wets off the top of the charts (I’m sure I can remember Tony Mortimer of East 17 hosting “Top of the Pops” for the final week of their reign and predicting that Whigfield would finish them off, and I actually got slightly excited). Then that goodwill gave way to irritation, and eventually to extreme dislike.

    The problem with very minimal, repetitive songs is that if you don’t like them, you somehow begin to find a bottomless well of details you find aggravating despite their slender construction. For me, the annoyance started with the bloody irritating noise in the background (which I always thought might have been influenced by Rotterdam Termination Source’s “Poing”) then it became the way Whigfield sang “Baby” (“Bay-baaaay”) then the “dee naa naa” bits, then the bassline… but I knew (and still know) people who swear this single is a perfect piece of pop, my wife for one. Perhaps it’s an all-or-nothing deal – in minimalist songs you either adore the central hooks, or you don’t like them in the first minute and find them increasingly wearing thereafter, because there are no additional flourishes or details to distract you. I’ve certainly never met anyone who feels indifferent to this single.

    2 from me, I’m afraid. I really can’t hack it. It’s annoying me now just thinking about it.

  9. 9
    hardtogethits on 25 Feb 2013 #

    #6. Chelovek … I was about to respond by quoting what ‘someone’ had said on the Gabrielle/Dreams thread, when I realised the ‘someone’ was you. It reminded me of Crystal Waters, too, and Gabrielle. This was because they were, respectively, the first female solo acts to debut at 3 and 2 in the charts, and Whigfield the first to go straight in at 1. And in each instance, large numbers of the population were left wondering what the heck all the fuss was about.

  10. 10
    D.C. Harrison on 25 Feb 2013 #

    I wish I could write something meaningful here… but it reminds me of being on holiday aged 13, in Spain (I can only assume it was knocking around Europe before it was brought back to the UK like some horrific disease), and this song was sodding everywhere. I wonder if my misanthropy began around here, as I watched people do whatever the synchronised dance to this song.

    1/10 if that’s the lowest we can go. Just for the bad memories alone.

  11. 11
    23 Daves on 25 Feb 2013 #

    Actually, I do have an unpleasant memory associated with this song as well! I was actually chatted up by a woman at a party (note – this almost NEVER happens, and when it does I’m normally flattered beyond belief) while this was number one, who was determined to drag me on the dancefloor to do the “Saturday Night” dance. I was polite enough not to tell her that I hated the song, but I did (honestly) say that actually I didn’t know how the dance went. This she found unbelievable and was incredulous, but continued drunkenly and unsubtly coming on to me, at which point I had to (honestly) say that I was spoken for by somebody else in my university town.

    This lead to ranting, raving, mocking and general invective (“You’re ugly anyway, and you’re so up yourself”, etc. etc.) which her friends actually had to talk her into stopping. It was almost like the sort of thing women have to put up with in clubs every weekend, except I was finding myself on the receiving end instead. Genuinely interesting, but a bit worrying. It was an incident people reminded me of for years afterwards, but today is the first time I’ve thought about it in an age.

    And I never did learn the “Saturday Night” dance, either. Sorry if the above is of interest to no-one.

  12. 12
    JLucas on 25 Feb 2013 #

    I have a fascination for the oft-forgotten follwup to the big Europop record.

    Whigfield, like many of her ilk, followed up with a record that sounded almost exactly the same (Another Day) then used the time she’d bought to come up with something better.

    To this day I believe that ‘Think Of You’ (her third and final top ten hit) is a marvellous piece of throwaway pop music.


    “It’s like resurrection, I’m calling your name…”

  13. 13
    Auntie Beryl on 25 Feb 2013 #

    She did horrible things to Last Christmas as the shepherd’s crook appeared from stage left.

    I have no problem with cheesy dance music in theory, but sometimes in practice the records just aren’t good enough. No more than a 3.

    I was on a clubbing hiatus for financial and behavioural reasons when this was big, so never witnessed ‘the dance’- which from memory of TOTP was close to line dancing. I may be conflating this with another, bunnied, abomination though.

  14. 14
    flahr on 25 Feb 2013 #

    Not that I was sapient at the time but I’ve seen 7″ copies of it about in charity shops since – wasn’t the original UK cover a sort of diagram of a spaceship on a mint-green background?

    Also: Ang Lee, “2 Times” indeed. Not that Spielberg needed any more trophies on his mantlepiece.

  15. 15
    punctum on 25 Feb 2013 #

    It was key that Whigfield seemed to a great extent reluctant to show herself to her public. The video for “Saturday Night” has her in front of her dressing table mirror, happily getting herself ready and singing to herself as though she were all she needed; she looks so knowingly happy one wonders whether she even needs or wants to go out. On TV performances she hid half her face beneath a baseball cap with such regularity that her record company eventually had to order her to take it off on pain of immediate excommunication.

    Both connected phenomena would explain why it’s hard to get a grip on this record. It was 1994’s Eurodance smash, sung by a Dane and written and produced by Italians (the same team responsible for Spagna’s 1987 number two hit “Call Me”) which came with its own inbuilt Club 18-30 line dancing routine; shamelessly artificial, monotone and plastic, it seemed the ideal record to dethrone “Love Is All Around” since it represented everything Wet Wet Wet weren’t, or at least pretended very hard not to be.

    But where is Whigfield, a.k.a. 24-year-old Sannie Carlson, in all of this? Her vocal is reedy and evidently speeded up, with the consequence that she sounds like a newly-stranded Martian urgently trying to learn the planet’s language from a nearby sixties bubblegum compilation; pop tropes dart around the track, not especially joined up (“I’ll make you mine,” “I’ll take you to the top,” “I’ll drive you crazy,” “It’s party time,” “Be my baby,” and so on and so forth, as well as the obligatory Euro-syntax slip of “And not one minute we can lose”) and making no great sense. The music doggedly runs along its pre-built line of post-House pop, building up exactly as one would expect, albeit with some interesting birhythmic crosscurrents in the final minute, with a retrospectively indispensable hook (I hesitate to call it “punctum” in this context) of what sounds like an anxious and hungry duck quacking for its mother all the way through. It’s reasonable enough, doing what it says on the cover and no more, but there’s a protective layer of aspic around its curvatures which means, at least for me, that it’s impossible to access; the toe may tap but the heart can never believe, or even connect.

    (Oh, and I think Eddy Grant would still like a word about an old Equals song called “Rub-A-Dub-Dub”…)

  16. 16
    James BC on 25 Feb 2013 #

    New entry at number one!

    In my mind at least, this song is a chart watershed. Before it, a new entry at number one wouldn’t happen once in a few years. Not long after it, they were crashing in every week whether you’d heard of them or not.

  17. 17
    punctum on 25 Feb 2013 #

    Hmm, let’s have a look at the stats:

    Prior to Whigfield two other singles in 1994 had debuted at #1 (Mariah Carey and Take That).

    In 1993 there were four – one was “Five Live,” the other three were by Take That.

    In 1992 there was just one (Erasure).

    In 1991 there were five – Elton/George, U2, Michael Jackson and two by Queen.

    In 1990 there was just one, Iron Maiden (hang on a minute – nope, entered the chart 30 December 1990).

    So it probably escalates from hereonin but really had been there for some time.

  18. 18
    Weej on 25 Feb 2013 #

    23 Daves @ #8 – ” I’ve certainly never met anyone who feels indifferent to this single.”

    Well, I’m one. It’s not bad, not that annoying, the ending is nice enough, Christ, I’m straining to have an opinion about it at all besides “yeah, it’s ok”

    According to wikipedia, “Whigfield was the first act to debut at number one in the UK charts with their debut single.” – this is referenced with ’1000 UK Number One Singles by Jon Kutner & Spencer Leigh’. Is this true or is it a wikifact?

  19. 19
    will on 25 Feb 2013 #

    Re 5: That is exactly what I thought about this song. Whoever wrote it couldn’t actually be bothered to finish it, and that prevented me from enjoying it in the way others evidently did. My reaction was always ‘huh, is that it?’

    Really, compared to 2 Times, Call Me or even the contemporaneous Rhythm of the Night it’s pretty flimsy. 4 from me.

  20. 20
    anto on 25 Feb 2013 #

    Out of context this sounds grey and dreary and has a cold, anonymous hotel bathroom feel to it. In the setting it was meant for – a dancefloor- it’s been a success but I just find it that little bit too repetitive.
    Mind you I’ve never liked “Louie Louie” either. I seem to be the only person on the planet who can’t stand that song.

  21. 21
    Tom on 25 Feb 2013 #

    #14 Amazed that it took 14 comments for someone to mention that.

    #19 Well obviously it’s nowhere near as good as “Rhythm Of The Night”. :) What a record!

  22. 22
    thefatgit on 25 Feb 2013 #

    There’s something about “Saturday Night” that makes me feel quite warm and cosy. Maybe seeing my 7 year old daughter learning the dance moves, watching a new generation getting their own handle on this “pop” thing, is fused in my memory whenever I hear it. Then thoughts turn to remembering myself attempting some basic Jackson 5 moves or some easy to copy Glam stomp. Yeah, so a thumbs-up for Whigfield. For the purposes of Popular, I’m willing to give it a 6, maybe a 7 on a good day.

    Whigfield’s voice (speeded up it seems, according to Punctum) sounds awfully similar another bunnyable Dane.

  23. 23
    Steve Mannion on 25 Feb 2013 #

    #18 It is true. I wonder about the increased anticipation at the time as to who was going to be the first act to do go straight in at #1 with their first single. What’s interesting is that:

    a) it took a complete bolt from the blue to dislodge Wet Wet Wet (it was a huge help that LIAA had been deleted on its 15th week – it could well have beaten Bryan Adams record otherwise unless Take That had lined something new up sooner).

    b) the aformentioned precursors of Crystal Waters (who’d just had her biggest hit since her debut with the very good ’100% Pure Love’) and Gabrielle suggesting that a hitherto-unknown solo woman with a club-friendly track was more likely of achieving the feat than any other kind of act (harder to imagine the guitar bands on the verge of becoming the country’s biggest managing it in those days). Just coincidence tho I guess – maybe Stiltskin would’ve done it in a different week.

  24. 24
    Billy Hicks on 25 Feb 2013 #

    The original UK cover, as #14 mentions, was indeed some odd generic green machinery thing with no picture of Whigfield or indeed any indication other than the title that this was the song you were looking for: http://www.mix80.com/dimages/cds_whigfield_saturday.jpg

    I can’t really remember a world without this song as it hit the top during my 6th birthday, still an age before I paid attention to the charts themselves and simply heard songs around a lot, whether on Live & Kicking or the radio or just out and about – this one, like ‘No Limit’ stuck in my mind more presumably because it was played everywhere for about a year.

    As a fan of this sort of thing I do love it and 7 is a fair score. Maybe a bit on the long side at 4:10 but a fun listen, and almost every year has one of these huge novelty summer hits (usually with their own dance) from now on. Sadly we won’t be seeing the Macarena here as it only got to #2 two years later, but in a couple of decades we’ve got W* N* S**** A******** and G****** S**** to look forward to.

    Although I do have one query – similar to ‘YMCA’, the distinctive dance doesn’t actually appear in the video, so where did it actually come from?

  25. 25
    D.C. Harrison on 25 Feb 2013 #

    #24 “Although I do have one query – similar to ‘YMCA’, the distinctive dance doesn’t actually appear in the video, so where did it actually come from?”

    I’m wondering that myself now, as I’m sure I saw (English) people doing the dance, in I think it was Gran Canaria, at least a month before it hit #1 here.

    But now I’m worried my memory has more holes in it than Dr Sam Beckett’s.

  26. 26
    Tom Lawrence on 25 Feb 2013 #

    It’s 1994, I am eight years old, and this is where my pop-conciousness truly begins. I remember earlier number ones, of course I do – the lengthy reign of Wet Wet Wet was unmissable in the worst sense, I recall novelty hits like Mr. Blobby and probably my earliest number one memory was Right Said Fred. But here, with Whigfield, I encountered a number one I recognised as directly marketed to people around my age, at the same age as the very earliest beginnings of pubescence led to an interest in “discos” and just what might be playing while you were in them.

    I recall the video, I recall the dance, I recall the girls doing the dance while the boys charged around the edges of the room. I recall performances on kid’s Saturday morning TV show Live and Kicking.

    As such this record is immortal to me, and defies rigorous analysis in its brutal wrenching memory-tunnel.

  27. 27
    Mark G on 25 Feb 2013 #

    There’s this thing in some of these ‘european’ ‘feel=good’ hits, of “Party Time”, which you don’t get in UK or USA hits of the same, um, feel.

    That DJ Otzi waits until 3/4 way through before announcing “ok, everyone it’s party time!!” like it wasn’t before.

    At least W mentions it in verse one, so we know where we are, or where we are supposed to be. Then again, where is that? Venue details not forthcoming…

  28. 28
    MikeMCSG on 25 Feb 2013 #

    It’s interesting to note the shift in the cultural landscape since the 80s. This is the nineties equivalent of “Agadoo” or “The Birdie Song” which were excoriated at the time – they weren’t “iconically simple” or “smilecore Eurodance”. Post-rave anything vaguely club-favoured gets a green light as long as it doesn’t stick around too long.

  29. 29

    One of the facts of this shift is that an entire dance-weaned generation learned — by club-based osmosis as much as anything — how simplicity can be a glacial mesmeric virtue rather than a soon-maddening vice. There’s no sense that either the Tweets or Black Lace had given this possibility a second thought, or even — possibly more to the point — had unconsciously picked up tips towards effecting same. Not everyone agrees Whigfield had done so either, I suppose*, but whether or not this is actually enough to redeem it, it seems to me measurably and musicologically more considered than Agadoo or (especially) The Birdie Song.

    (The latter is anyway a relic of a Swiss 50s drinking song, “Der Ententanz”, composed — I think you can hear this as soon as you learn the fact — on an accordion, by one Werner Thomas. It’s true that in a very loose sense all three come from Euro-party culture, but by the 90s this was actually quite a roomy and a diverse world.)

    *Personally I’m not so over-familiar with Saturday Night that it’s ever begun to disagree with me (1994 was the first year of my pop purdah): mileage will vary no doubt according to exposure, and then to how well they achieve the glacial mesmerism thing,

  30. 30
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 25 Feb 2013 #

    (empirical studies prove, however, that if you happen to listen to all three on a loop for an hour while you research backstory and analyse chord patterns, the the birdie song will be the one that sticks in your head)

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