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May 14

THE TAMPERER featuring MAYA – “Feel It”

Popular47 comments • 2,334 views

#791, 30th May 1998

tamperer An Italian chop-shop job, lashing together riffs and a bassline from The Jacksons’ bombastic “Can You Feel It?”, verses from an obscure club track (“Drop A House” by Urban Discharge), bludgeoning 4/4 beats, and even a bit of crude speed garage style vocal stretching. None of which it’s at all famous for: “Feel It” is remembered mainly, if not only, for Maya’s iron-voiced question on the chorus: “WHAT she gonna look like with a CHIMNEY ON HER?”

It may only be a black eye, but from the force Maya gives it I’m seeing entire smokestacks toppled in vengeance upon this man-stealing hussy. (You certainly feel the fella in question has got away remarkably lightly). That image of destructive wrath is fully backed by the fantastic time-stretched segment, where Maya’s voice hulks out in distorted electronic rage.

The whole thing is remarkably crass – and the formula would topple into total cheapness a record later, with the Madonna-biting, amusingly-titled “If You Buy This Record Your Life Will Be Better” (I did! It wasn’t!). But for this moment, it worked – “Feel It” appeared, shot to the top for a glorious and arbitrary instant, and then vanished before I could get sick of it. Its main weakness is that Maya’s vocals on the borrowed verses are sometimes a lot flatter than the chorus, but that aside it’s fine gonzo fun, the model of a one-week wonder.

Still, it’s not the first money-minded house respray we’ve bumped into in 1998, so I’ll try and answer the question: what makes this better than Jason Nevins, whose remixing was even more brutally straightforward? More imagination – not just the chimney, but working out how good the brisk anger of “Drop A House” would sound welded onto a pop song.

But it’s also the right pop song. “Can You Feel It?” is a gorgeous record, one I like more than “It’s Like That”, but its triumphalist utopian disco suits a full-on hard-house makeover a lot more than the cavernous noise of early rap. The rhythms match better, and the decadent pomp of the Jacksons’ song – released in the overripe autumn of the disco boom – can be turned towards violence surprisingly well. The Tamperer also borrows the right bits – the massed fanfares of “Can You Feel It”’s chorus, and the bassline (here oddly rubberised). Things that fit alongside a beat, in other words, rather than get smothered by it. Though on this showing, even the hardest beat seems unlikely to get in Maya’s way.

6

Comments

  1. 1
    MarkH on 14 May 2014 #

    But what was the ‘chimney’ in the lyric? I thought at the time it might be a tombstone. Is it slang for a black eye?

  2. 2
    lonepilgrim on 14 May 2014 #

    for me, the lyric always evokes the witch crushed beneath Dorothy’s house in The Wizard of OZ – it’s a wonderfully over the top expression of anger that Maya snarls with righteous contempt. The vocal variations also help to enliven the repeated backing samples

  3. 3
    Tom on 14 May 2014 #

    It may or may not be a black eye. That was the “word on the street” at the time, and I see it’s repeated in Urban Dictionary, but whether Maya or the Tamperer would have known it I have no idea. I’m a bit suspicious – and besides, far more entertaining if it’s literal.

    #2 Weirdly it takes the verse lyrics from “Drop A House” but not the chorus, inventing the chimney line out of whole cloth. Since they seem to have dodged giving songwriting royalties to Urban Discharge I wonder if avoiding quoting the chorus is how…

  4. 4
    thefatgit on 14 May 2014 #

    Is this the first Handbag #1? It has all the hallmarks: disco backing, battle-ready female singer, thumping 4/4 beat. The “chimney” just adds a little bit of surreality to the whole thing. I’m sure it must be slang for a black eye, but you could imagine a woman’s vengeance strong enough to bring down a whole roof (chimney-stack an’ all) upon her love rival. (8)

  5. 5
    Tom on 14 May 2014 #

    It’s a bit past handbag’s prime – it’s definitely in that ballpark though. ISTR making a tenuous handbag link a few Popular years ago, god knows what to.

  6. 6

    it’s rhyming slang: chimney = fred dibnah –> stick a chib in har

  7. 7
    JLucas on 14 May 2014 #

    Love this. Featherweight but great fun – and yes, it’s all about Maya’s scarily committed vocals.

    Fun fact: After sampling Madonna herself on the hilariously shameless ‘If You Buy This Record…’, their third and final UK hit ‘Hammer To The Heart’ originally beat her to the ABBA Gimme Gimme sample – although the sample was blocked so the radio version is a rather inferior, rockier version of the song.

  8. 8
    swanstep on 14 May 2014 #

    Amazingly, ‘Feel It’ manages to be a minute longer than ‘Can you Feel It’ but to have only a third of the vocals: only about 60s total! No matter how fun the ‘Chimney’ line is, it’s spread far too thin for this record to work. As a result FI sounds like an early demo to me; just not finished. One thinks fondly by comparison of the ‘No Limit’ crew dutifully writing raps to bulk out and ‘finish’ their beat-foregrounding and lyrics-light record, to make it hit-worthy, and not *just* a big beat:
    4

    @Lonepilgrim, 2. I too have always free associated from the ‘chimney’ line to The Wizard of Oz scene you mention!

  9. 9
    Matt McConkey on 14 May 2014 #

    I seem to remember Maya in full Dorothy drag on the Christmas TOTP, so the Wizard Of Oz connection is probably on the mark.

  10. 10
    Kinitawowi on 14 May 2014 #

    Shite. It was total cheapness right now; If You Buy This Record hit number 3, the Abba-robbing Hammer To The Heart was number 6. The joke hit the top once and never again, because people realised it wasn’t funny.

    The latter records only make this one worse, because it establishes the formula of “take another, superior, more famous song entirely and shout crap over it”, the exact same problem I had with I’ll Be Missing You. And at least IBMY’s heart was in the right place. I honestly can’t imagine anybody whose life would be better for buying a record by this mob.

    1.

  11. 11
    thefatgit on 14 May 2014 #

    #10, Oh dear, we have a lot of examples of the sort of thing you describe in Popular’s future, emerging post-Miami Winter Music Conference and hitting the top of the charts come early-spring, sort of from now onwards.

  12. 12
    mapman132 on 14 May 2014 #

    Not quite feeling it. 4/10.

    Now if “If You Buy This Record Your Life Will Be Better” had hit #1, that would’ve been funny. The most self-referential record of all time? BTW, I’d never heard “Feel It” until last night, but IYBTRYLWBB did appear on my US radio once or twice back in the day.

  13. 13
    Tommy Mack on 14 May 2014 #

    Like Jason Nevins, this record means one thing to me: you are seventeen, you are dancing in a shit provincial nightclub and you are not going to pull any girls because there is no way of a seventeen year old boy dancing to this without looking like Inbetweeners’ Will trying to ape his mate Neil’s moves.

  14. 14
    anto on 14 May 2014 #

    I couldn’t remember whether this got to number 1 or not so it’s sprung a surprise on me here just as it did when it suddenly pounced out of nowhere in 1998.
    I still kinda like it – sheer unabashed camp that gleefully inverts the one-world vibes of ‘Can You Feel It’ with silly studio gimmicks, an absurdist non-sequitor as it’s second hook and the raunchy charisma of Maya. Exceptional.

  15. 15
    Kinitawowi on 14 May 2014 #

    #11: I am painfully aware of that. :-p And their wildly variable quality, natch.

  16. 16
    Chelovek na lune on 14 May 2014 #

    Stunning bit of entertainment. Brash, ballsy, in your face, and intensely enjoyable. Quite, quite, fabulous. 9.

  17. 17
    wichitalineman on 14 May 2014 #

    So who was The Tamperer? I remember being in a writing session set up with him by our publisher, in a Maida Vale flat. He was a nice chap. In my memory he looked like the artist Rodney Graham and was, I’d guess, in his 40s. The only other thing I remember about the session is that his way of writing a melody was to hum it under his breath, barely audible, but looking quite intense. Needless to say, no Popular entries were written that day.

    Feel It, though, is marvelous and one of the most off the wall (soz) Popular entries to date. Crucially, it doesn’t outstay its welcome, and that time-stretch-terror breakdown makes it just when you think its twin Jackson/chimney* tricks might run out of steam. Surreal, and a genuine novelty.

    *to me, the “chimney on her” line sounds like dynamited masonry crushing a love rival, rather than a mere black eye.

  18. 18
    wichitalineman on 14 May 2014 #

    (sorry, repeated myself there).

  19. 19
    daveworkman on 14 May 2014 #

    I think this was genuinely the first song I considered to be my ‘favourite of all time’ (we’re looking at about a year’s worth of No.1s being the other contenders), so its always had a soft spot for me. Again, like All Saints, I wasn’t aware of the original, but heard bits about it being something to do with Michael Jackson.
    And yes, I just like to think it is about Maya hauling a piece of masonry onto her cheating other half’s mistress.
    And I seem to remember the video having a ‘twist’ ending, but wondered whether that was at all controversial at the time, even for the late 90s?

  20. 20
    bounder on 14 May 2014 #

    Birmingham City did, and maybe still do, run out onto the pitch to an instrumental mix of this. I have idea what this means for the record or the football team.

  21. 21
    nixon on 14 May 2014 #

    Jog my memory – in my head, this didn’t go straight in at number one but rather a week or two later, with everyone I knew (including me) apparently suddenly realising “hey, this record is actually great fun” when it was already in the charts, buying it, enjoying it for what it was/is, and then moving on again en masse. But it’s possible literally none of that happened.

  22. 22
    swanstep on 14 May 2014 #

    For those who really like FI, isn’t the fact that it contains only 1 minute of vocals and then 4 minutes of pure, not especially distinguished backing track any sort of problem?

  23. 23
    Tom on 14 May 2014 #

    #22 I suspect they/we are reacting to the radio version, which was either 3 or 3-and-a-half minutes according to Wikipedia (I assume 3-and-a-half as we got the “European” not the “French” CD single). Certainly the 5 minute original was never played on the radio (purely for the clubs, I assume). That makes the ratio rather more vocal-friendly.

  24. 24
    23 Daves on 14 May 2014 #

    I actually started listening to this one again around the end of last year, while desperately scrabbling around in my iTunes library for some good songs to exercise to (a tricky balance to strike and a tedious project which normally revolves around me loosely thinking about bpms). Luckily for me, it forced me to remember how ace it is.

    It possibly seems as if it has no right to be. Even I’ve always pegged it as being one of the most basic cut-and-paste jobs in dance music, a lucky match between tracks which just happens to work. But sometimes pop music’s like that – The Trashmen came up with “Surfin’ Bird” in almost the length of time it took to record it, and “Feel It” also has a sense of brilliant (and bizarre) effortlessness about it.

    This also brings back fond memories for me. A good friend of mine would frequently encourage us all to do aggressive, furious dancing to this track (in the privacy of our own houses after pub hours, not in the local discotheque – in-jokes never work well there). The visual joke can’t be replicated here and probably doesn’t translate at all well outside our social group, but I’ll always have that association of giddy drunkenness with it, as I’m sure other people will for slightly different reasons.

  25. 25
    Cumbrian on 14 May 2014 #

    Can I feel it? Yes.

    I probably like this more than the Jacksons’ song that provides the main hook. I don’t quite know what it is – maybe it’s the slightly more bouncy feel to the bassline Tom identifies – but I just find it that little bit more danceable. Mya’s vocal sells it too – not someone I’d want to mess with on this evidence, lest the masonry start falling on me. An odd match of aggression and fun that the right thinking part of my brain thinks shouldn’t work but the rest just goes with.

  26. 26
    iconcoclast on 14 May 2014 #

    Aside from the bits stolen from elsewhere, this is almost completely without any merit whatsoever. It doesn’t even manage to be properly annoying. THREE.

  27. 27
    swanstep on 15 May 2014 #

    @Tom, 23. Ok, thanks, that makes sense. Vaguely relatedly, Track 4 (‘Bring The Sun / Toussaint L’ouverture’) on Swans’ latest is over 34 minutes long. The Topographic Ocean sends hugs.

  28. 28
    Doctor Casino on 15 May 2014 #

    I don’t mind this but I’ve never LOVED it, probably for the reasons others are identifying – it really does run out of new things to showcase after minute one. The video version wraps it up in 2:26, staggeringly short for this era but absolutely the right choice – leaves you actually kind of interested in sticking around to see if they play it again. Six is too generous IMO – would rate this a 4 probably, 3 maybe more appropriate to its ambitions but a little too cool versus how I feel about the song. Just wish there were more surprises, more of a build, something. Just take it through the Norman Cook mill, even.

  29. 29
    leveret on 15 May 2014 #

    Can’t think of this now without bringing to mind the fine cover version by Mulligan & O’Hare…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hOIPM0LVfI

  30. 30
    James BC on 15 May 2014 #

    This reminds me of Horny by Mousse T, a sort of similar track that got to number 2 about the same time. There are lots of similarities: sample from prior obscure dance track, shadowy producer, eye-catching vocalist, not-much-there verses, killer clever-stupid chorus. I think Horny is a lot better though, and probably much more remembered.

  31. 31
    Auntie Beryl on 15 May 2014 #

    I’d call out the time stretched vocal as an important part of this hugely enjoyable 8/10 number one. It calls back to Goldie and Inner City Life three years earlier; it harks ahead to a soon-come veteran artist enjoying a surprise hit and the birth of a new production powerhouse.

    This sits in the middle, all innocent like. It’s one of the best number ones of the year.

  32. 32
    Auntie Beryl on 15 May 2014 #

    #30 Not much there verses? For me, with this particular record, the verses are memorable in that they tell a story and set up the chorus punchline.

  33. 33
    Mark M on 15 May 2014 #

    I would’ve expect a slightly higher mark from Tom for this, but that could be working on the wholly faulty reasoning that Tom likes this kind of stuff, I don’t normally, so if I quite like it, then Tom should really like it. I wondered whether this was because I had remembered it as better than it was, but no, I still like it. As Tom says, it does well with what it samples and how, which – contrary to the opinion of luddites – is not easy.
    If you’d asked me two weeks ago, I would have said that the beat on this and the one used by Jason Nevins were completely different, but it turns out they aren’t. But, again, I agree with Tom, it’s just a much better fit here.

  34. 34
    Tom on 15 May 2014 #

    I very nearly gave it a 7, then the final play made it fall a little flat: just that bit better in my memory than when I hear it.

  35. 35
    Paulito on 16 May 2014 #

    #30: Like you, my memory always pairs this and “Horny” together, and I agree that the latter is superior and probably more fondly remembered. And with good reason: where “Feel It” is a sullen stomper with rather nasty lyrical sentiments, “Horny” is bouncy, funny and good-natured – not to mention ludicrously catchy. Shame it won’t be getting a Popular entry.

  36. 36
    Billy Hicks on 16 May 2014 #

    ‘Horny’ is one of those songs that exists in two similar but noticeably different mixes, both of which were on the UK CD and it’s probably 50/50 to which one I’ve heard. One is the Boris Dlugosch mix (3:43) and the other is the ‘Horny ’98′ mix (3:07). The Boris mix – first on the CD tracklist – starts with some echoed “I’m horny all night long” vocals before the main riff comes in and generally has more of an upbeat deep house sound to it, while the original goes straight into the riff and has lots of bubble sounds over the chorus which the other removes. Most confusing of all is that both exist in edits opposite to each others timings – both a longer version of the ’98 mix (as used on the video) and a shorter version of the Boris mix exist on various countries’ releases.

    Otherwise pretty subtle, Youtube seems almost entirely full of the ’98 mix but here’s one example I found of the Boris mix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMWIoXd5yrE . One of many of the ’98 mix videos can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH8WvayAo1M .

  37. 37
    swanstep on 16 May 2014 #

    @Billy Hicks, 36. Thanks for those links, but I can’t say ‘Horny’ does anything for me in either mix. Bring on Binary Finery I say.

  38. 38
    Tom on 16 May 2014 #

    I have a mild soft spot for “Horny” because it’s one of the few holiday Euro hits I heard when actually on holiday. But I don’t like it as much as this – it’s something about the vocals, they’re a bit harsh and nasal for me.

    As someone mentioned a while ago, though, it is the First Hit To Mention The Internet.

  39. 39
    Steve Mannion on 16 May 2014 #

    I am always mentioning that, although I still can’t quite believe it to be the case.

  40. 40
    James BC on 16 May 2014 #

    Hot ‘n’ Juicy were trailblazers in various ways. Their TOTP appearance was also the first time I’d seen a woman rocking the underwear-visible-over-trousers look (though MN8 had broken down that barrier for men some three years earlier).

  41. 41
    DanH on 17 May 2014 #

    When I was sampling U.K. #1′s a while back, this one stuck out, found myself really liking it in spite of myself. I later found out why…most prominent sample of “Can You Feel It” (it’s all in this song’s title “Feel It,” so a duh moment for me). Gonna be controversial and say that “Can You Feel It” is my favorite Michael Jackson-involved song ever. A sports arena played it a lot years ago, and I was shocked to find that it did jack here in the U.S. (but obviously much better in the U.K.) It could be more of me going for the underdog instead of the big overplayed MJ hits…but there’s something uplifting and great about it.

    Back to this song…it’s got a thomping galluping beat, the ‘chimney’ hook, and at least the mix I have, some weird voice (John Waters at 33 RPM?) saying “is it sexxxxx/or is it looooove.’ But those sound oh so good with that sample. Shame U.S. never caught on to it…but by mid 1998 I was rebelling by hating anything that was remotely popular, so I would have passed on it at the time anyway.

  42. 42
    punctum on 19 May 2014 #

    Enter, in earnest, bootleg pop, and the question is immediately raised: when you combine two samples to make something reasonably new, does it have a greater impact, or even sound newer, if you’re utilising elements two thoroughly familiar tracks or balancing the well-known with the obscure? That question is unlikely to be answered properly for a few more Popular years until what may still be the greatest example of the latter technique reaches number one. “Feel It” certainly has no fear on that front; while everyone would immediately recognise the backing track from the Jacksons’ then eighteen-year-old “Can You Feel It?,” albeit beefed up considerably by hard 1998 block beats and a subliminal trace of the Daft Punk drumming-as-game-of-volleyball approach, but few would be able to ascribe the vocal track to its original source, namely “Wanna Drop A House (On That Bitch)” by Urban Discharge featuring She – and yes, I had to look it up.

    As with Livin’ Joy, The Tamperer masked an Italian production team with an imported American singer – one Maya Days – to recreate the original bootleg mix; and while the tale of two-timed spleen is initially quite fetching when set against the unforgiving beats, and eventually rather sinister and threatening with the refrain of “What’s she gonna look like with a chimney on her?” – especially in the record’s centre when the vocal is slowed down to a grinding, inhuman sprite – the overall architecture of the track lets it down; while demonstrably great to dance to, it doesn’t fulfil its original promise, or threat. Instead of spreading out like a fearsomely gigantic peregrine falcon to visit apocalypse on pity-free prey, it sets up its stall and then more or less stays there, eventually petering out into a not-very-much-of-anything fade. Subsequent freelance hellraisers would not repeat that mistake.

  43. 43
    ciaran on 20 May 2014 #

    For something that was so unavoidable at the time it seems to have been totally forgotten. Anytime I heard the Jackson Five version in the years passed I don’t ever think about the connection with this.

    Repetition of the Chimney line aside it’s got me nodding along to it today.Incredibly short aswell for a single in the CD era.The sample does overshadow everything else a bit but the video does fit in very well with it. 6 is just about spot on.

  44. 44
    weej on 1 Jun 2014 #

    Like some commenters above I mentally classify this with ‘Horny’ ‘Remember Me’ ‘Sex Bomb’ and ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ as the soundtrack to crap nights in provincial nightclubs, but unlike ‘Remember Me’ I’ve almost come round to it now. Yes, it’s not much more than a vocal laid on top of an obvious sample, but Maya’s vocal easily does enough to sell the concept, and it (the video version at least) doesn’t overstay its welcome.

  45. 45
    Rich on 7 Oct 2014 #

    #21 indeed, Feel It took six weeks to reach the top (3-4-3-5-2-1); a very rare thing between 1997-2006.

  46. 46
    Russell on 21 Oct 2014 #

    Just to put this straight, the verse lyrics are DIRECTLY SAMPLED from the Urban Discharge track- they have not been resung.

  47. 47
    punctum on 23 Oct 2014 #

    Were you in a bad mood when you got up on Tuesday morning?

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